Saturday, 15 December 2007

Cranberry and Orange Friands

Adapted from the Women's Weekly "Cafe Cakes" book

185g butter, melted
125g (1 cup) ground almonds
6 egg whites, beaten lightly with a whisk
240g (1 ½ cups) icing mixture
75g (1/2 cup) all purpose flour
rind of 1 orange, finely grated
100g cranberries, frozen or fresh

Preheat oven to moderately hot (400-425F). Grease 12-16 1/3 cup friand pans (or use small muffin pans instead), and arrange on a baking tray.

Set aside 2 whole cranberries for each friend pan. Chop remaining cranberries in quarters.

Combine butter, almond, egg whites, sugar, flour, orange rind, and chopped cranberries in a medium bowl and stir until just combined. Divide among prepared pans. Cut remaining cranberries in halves, and place 4 halves, cut side down, on top of each friand.

Bake about 25 minutes, then allow to cool in pans for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Chai Spice Mix

I really like Chai tea, but I'm not a fan of the concentrated variety. An easy option is to make your own spice mix. At home I mix the spices and tea just before adding the hot water, but for work I just add tea leaves to the spice mix and it's ready to use.

Chai Spice Mix

2 tsp ground cardamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Mix ingredients and store in an airtight container.

To make tea, add 1 tsp loose leaf black tea and ¼ tsp spice mix to a tea infuser. Steep about 5 minutes. Add milk and sugar to taste.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Lemon Bacon and Olive Pasta

Lemon Bacon and Olive Pasta
Serves 4

500g dried pasta
250g pitted kalamata olives, chopped in quarters
250g bacon/prosciutto/pancetta, chopped the same size as the olive pieces
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped fine
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil

Cook pasta as directed. Meanwhile, fry bacon until crisp and drain on paper towel. Combine bacon, olives, lemon rind, thyme, and pepper in a bowl.

Add an equal volume of olive oil to the lemon juice, and whisk together until the mixture thickens. Drain pasta, add the lemon/olive oil mixture, and stir until the pasta is well coated. Stir remaining ingredients through and serve.

This is a very flexible recipe – adjust all the ingredients to taste, substitute different meats or olive varieties, try fresh pasta. The only constraint seems to be the lemon juice/olive oil ratio. Too little olive oil and the mixture won’t emulsify and thicken. Even this doesn’t really matter – the lemon flavour will be more pronounced, and the sauce much thinner. For whisking I highly recommend this little gadget, found at the MoMA design store in NYC.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

River Café

Prince's Island Park, Calgary
The River Café in Prince's Island Park is considered one of the best restaurants in Calgary, so when a good friend suggested a celebratory lunch there I was quick to agree. The restaurant is in a beautiful location - Princes' Island in the Bow River, just a short walk from downtown Calgary. With the autumn trees in full colour it's the perfect location. And the food? Spectacular!

We started by sharing the Fish and Game Platter - Native Candied Trout, Wild Boar Rillettes, Salt Cured Bison, Pork & Game Terrine, Smoked Rainbow Trout, Grilled Apple Turnip Relish
Red Onion Marmalade, Brassica Mustard & House Made Crackers. The rillettes were amazing - a little odd to look at , but delicious.

We both chose fish mains - I enjoyed the salmon special served with seafood risotto and grilled vegetables. The risotto was particularly good, creamy and full of clams and mussels. My friend chose the Pikerel, also very good.

For dessert (yes, we managed to cram in the ultimate indulgence), we both tried the roasted plum and ginger crème brûlée. A gorgeous contrast of the sweet creamy custard with tart roasted plums.

At $75/each for lunch, the River Café is not going to be a frequent indulgence, at least not for me. But for a special occasion, this restaurant delivers amazing food and impeccable service - well worth the splurge.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Out of Town Eats

Right now I'm packing for vacation, so with places other than Calgary on my mind, I thought I might mention a few out of town places I've enjoyed recently.

New York City

Eight Mile Creek - They have beer from home, emu carpaccio and kangaroo. What more can I say? The upstairs dining room is small and cosy, with a lively bar downstairs. Well worth the visit.

L'Ecole - The restaurant of the French Culinary Institute, this is beautiful food at a down to earth price. The menu has 5 courses, most with a choice of 2 dishes, and matched wines for a little extra. You need a reservation - make it online or by phone.


Bin 941 Tapas Parlour - A tiny, busy little place, expect a long wait unless you arrive really early. Tiny portions of exquisitely presented food, extensive wine list, and delicious desserts.

Fiddlehead Joe's - A lovely waterside restaurant with a heated patio for outdoor dining. The food was excellent, service was good, and watching the boats in the sunset was magical.


Bison Mountain Bistro - Canadian food in a famous mountain village. The menu features ingredients from all over Canada, including wild salmon, bison, scallops and lamb. The Lavender Smore for desert was fantastic!

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Camping Food

We have had several weekend camping trips this summer, and I've been trying to develop a menu that has interesting and tasty food, but is easy to prepare and cook. The current breakfast staple is a variation on bacon and eggs - 2 eggs stirred with a fork and cooked in a silicone egg ring, a few slices of bacon, and HP sauce, all on a bread roll. Only one frypan needed, and not too many dishes to wash. Lunch time usually comes in the middle of a hike, so it's sandwiches and dried fruit bars. Dinner present the biggest challenge! Last weekend we enjoyed chicken and vegetable kebabs with potatoes roasted on the fire. A little time consuming (especially as I assembled the skewers in situ), and next time there will be separate chicken and vegetable skewers so that the chicken cooks evenly. Another favourite is hamburgers, with patties made and frozen at home. The new star from the weekend is chilli, left over from a meal during the week. It freezes well, and doubles as an ice brick in the cooler. To serve, just heat up and add a crusty bread roll.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Homemade tortellini with roasted tomato sauce

An original in progress
I was given a pasta maker about a year ago, so I've been experimenting with home made pasta. This one is a labour of love (allow 2-3 hours if you attempt it) but the process is fun, and the eating is worth the fuss (in my opinion). Keep in mind that this recipe is a work in progress - there will probably be leftover pasta filling, and you might want to increase the sauce volume if you decide to bake the pasta instead of boiling it. The tortellini in the picture was made with wholemeal flour, but white flour works well too.
Roasted tomato sauce

12 ripe medium sized tomatoes
1 head of garlic
1cm thick slice prosciutto end (about 15cm long); substitute any cured meat
handful fresh basil leaves
extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Cut the tomatoes into halves and remove the brown core. Place cut side down on a baking tray covered in non stick paper. Cut the garlic head in half across the cloves, and place cut side down on the baking tray. Bake about 30 minutes then reduce the temperature to 250F/120C and bake a further hour. Meanwhile, cut the prosciutto into 0.5cm cubes, and fry until crisp. Drain excess fat.

Allow to cool slightly, then scoop the roasted garlic out of the skin into a small bowl. Mash with a fork, removing any hard pieces. Peel each tomato half, and scoop out and reserve the seeds. Chop the peeled seeded flesh and add to the garlic along with any juice. Strain the reserved seed into the garlic and tomato mix to collect as much juice as possible. Coarsely chop the basil and add to the tomato mixture along with the prosciutto and a splash of olive oil. Stir. The sauce can be kept in the refrigerator overnight.

Pasta Dough

2 cups plain flour
3 eggs (or 4 small ones), lightly beaten with a fork

Measure the flour into a large bowl, and make a well in the centre. Pour in the egg mixture, and stir with a fork until as much egg as possible is incorporated into the flour. Knead the dough for around 10 minutes, until it becomes smooth and elastic. Wrap in plastic wrap, and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile make the filling.

Tortellini Filling

1/2 cup ricotta
1/4 cup ground(or finely chopped) walnuts
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan parmigiano reggiano (or substitute about half the volume of pre-grated cheese
1 egg white (if making double just use the whole egg)
fresh ground pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until ready to use.

Assembling the Tortellini

Take a quarter of the pasta dough and roll through a pasta machine at the thickest setting. Fold the dough in half and run through the roller again. Repeat for each narrower setting until you get to the second narrowest width. Roll the pasta sheet through a few times, then lay out on a clean bench.

Cut circles approximately 8cm in diameter. Place a teaspoon of filling slightly off centre, brush the edge with water, and fold into a semi circle, smoothing the edges together and making sure there are no air bubbles inside. For more compact tortellini, pull the pointed edges together and press to seal. Place each completed tortellini onto a greased baking dish, and repeat the process until all the pasta dough is used.

Cooking the dish

If you’re better at this than me, the tortellini can be cooked briefly in boiling slated water and topped with sauce. Every time I try this, I end up with empty tortellini and boiling water full of ricotta mixture. So for foolproof tortellini, pour the sauce over the tortellini (best to make them flat rather than compact) in the greased and bake at 350F/180C for about 40minutes until the pasta is soft. This quantity should serve 2-3 as a main dish.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Bangkoknoi Thai Restaurant

1324 D Centre St NE
A good local Thai restaurant has been part of my life for many years now, so I'm a little ashamed to confess that it took almost 6 months in Calgary to try out Bangkoknoi, which is just a few blocks from home. Sadly it was snowing the night we visited, so we had to drive rather than walk.

The restaurant itself was a pleasant surprise, with cozy booths around the edge, and Thai style decorations. We started with Toong Tong, a pork mixture wrapped in wonton pastry and deep fried. Served with plum sauce, they were crisp and delicious. Next came two test dishes - beef panang and pad-sie-ew. Test dishes because they are long time favourites, and really, if they aren't fabulous it's time to find somewhere else to eat. Bangkoknoi did well on both. The panang sauce was not quite as thick as I'd like, but the pad-sie-ew was fantastic. I was pleased that coconut rice was available as well as the usual steamed.

In spite of being quite full (and having asked for half the main dishes to be wrapped to take home), we tried the mango sticky rice for dessert. It was a lovely contrast of sweet rice and tart fresh mango, and a perfect end to a wonderful meal. And so, after 6 months, we have a local Thai restaurant, and the universe is back in balance.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Phil & Sebastian Coffee Company

Calgary Farmers Market
Phil and Sebastian were an early find in my quest for good coffee in Calgary, recommended by my barista friends back at Gimme! in Ithaca. They are a small operation, initially offering very freshly roasted beans (all bags marked with the roasting date), which you selected from a weekly email description. The beans were then home delivered.
The newest development for Phil and Sebastian is a stand at the Calgary Farmers Market, where they now offer espresso drinks as well as the beans (now chosen after sniffing beans in large jars). The beans are excellent, as were the 2 lattes I’ve had. A visit to the Farmers Market has always been worth the drive; Phil and Sebastian make it even better!

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Apricots and Golden Raisins

Adapted from Canadian Living Comfort Cooking Winter 2007
This stew is a new favourite for me. It takes a few hours to prepare and cook, but freezes well. The recipe calls for lamb, but it works well with pork too.

Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Apricots and Golden Raisins
(serves 8)

1.5 kg boneless lamb shoulder
2 tspn ground cumin
1 ½ tspn cinnamon
1 tspn each salt and ground ginger
½ tspn each turmeric and pepper
2 cups low salt chicken stock
3 tbspn olive oil
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 carrots, sliced diagonally
1 cup sliced dried apricots (the Turkish variety)
½ cup golden raisins (or sultanas)
1 tbspn liquid honey
1 tbspn dried mint
¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted, to serve

In a large bowl, combine cumin, cinnamon, salt, ginger, turmeric and pepper. Set aside 1 tbspn, and add the rest to a large bowl. Trim fat from lamb, and cut into 3cm cubes. Toss in large bowl with spice mix.

Heat 1tbspn of the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Brown lamb in batches, adding up to 1tbspn extra oil if required. Transfer lamb to a plate. Add remaining oil to pan, then fry onions, garlic and reserved spice mix over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft; about 5 minutes.

Return lamb and any juices to pan. Add stock mixture and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lamb is just tender; about an hour. Add carrots, apricots, raisins, honey and mint; cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender; about 30min.

Uncover and boil over medium heat until thickened to the consistency of gravy, about 5 minutes. Serve sprinkled with almonds.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007


101 8 Ave SW
There are two major industries in Alberta, oil and beef. The oil industry has taken off in recent years, bringing prosperity (and many new residents) to the province. But beef is strong in the history of Alberta, and it is only fitting that Calgary boasts lots of fancy steakhouses. Saltlik is right in the middle of the downtown core, on the corner of Centre St and 8 Ave. The atmosphere is inviting; dark timber, subdued lighting, and cozy tables. The back of the restaurant is dominated by an intricate glass sculpture hanging from the elevated ceiling.

Saltlik is all about steak, although the menu makes some effort to tempt the “I don’t eat red meat” crowd. Vegetarians (who probably know better than to eat at a steakhouse) should stay clear. We shared the Mediterranean God’s Dips - tarama, feta, and artichokes served with flatbread - between three people. A delicious start, and plenty of food. Main course steaks are served with a loaded baked potato. With the smallest steak weighing in at 8oz, and the potatoes twice the size of my fist, a single meal could easily feed two people. Steaks arrived cooked as ordered. The béarnaise sauce on the petit filet was fantastic. Citrus rosemary butter on the rib eye was disappointing and tasted mostly of garlic. Fortunately the steaks are good enough that sauce is really unnecessary. I can’t comment on the desserts. I love food, but after that much steak and potato not even I have room for the sweet stuff.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

Lemon Vodka Risotto

Adapted from Vogue Australia Wine and Food Cookbook 1995/96
This recipe is an old favourite from my undergraduate days when I subscribed to Vogue Entertaining and Travel. It was the first risotto I ever cooked, and probably the first I ever tasted. The lemon flavour is quite subtle, and blends very well with the stock. I happily eat the risotto by itself for dinner, but it would make a nice starter for a more substantial meal.

Lemon Vodka Risotto

(serves 2 for a main meal, 4 for a starter)

3 tbspn (45mL) olive oil
1 small brown onion, peeled and chopped finely
200g Arborio rice
1.25L reduced salt chicken or vegetable stock, warmed to near boiling
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 tspn dried mint flakes
finely grated zest of one lemon
4 tspn freshly squeezed lemon juice (or more, to taste)
50mL vodka
1 tbspn (15mL) unsalted butter
15g freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan, add the onion and fry until softened. Add the rice, and stir until all the grains are coated. Continue cooking until the grains are lightly toasted. Add 1 cup of the hot stock and cook the rice, stir often until all the stock is absorbed. Add another half cup of stock and cook until it is absorbed. Repeat, until all the stock is absorbed. Never drown the rice by adding too much liquid at a time. Taste the rice, it should be tender, but still a little firm. Add a little extra stock or water and cook longer if necessary.

When the rice is cooked, remove the saucepan from the heat and add remaining ingredients. Stir, then cover the saucepan and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Sunday, 11 February 2007

Good Earth

7 Ave SW @ 6th St
Calgary is not exactly known for its coffee, but there are some good options if you look around a bit. Good Earth is a Calgary based chain that specialises in serving nutritious food and excellent coffee. In terms of food, I’ve only tried their scones, which are really good. Not too dense or dry, and good sweet and savory flavours.

The coffee is a bit hit and miss. My first visit was very disappointing, but the 7th Ave store is very handily located between work and my French classes, so I gave them another chance. A good thing, since the barista who usually works around 6pm is pretty good. My skim latte has nicely textured milk with foam rather than bubbles. The espresso is good too; strong but never bitter. Overall a pretty decent place to buy an espresso based drink.

I also tried drip coffee from the University of Calgary location – not so great.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Simple Simon Pies

Calgary Farmers Market
The humble meat pie is an Australian institution sadly unappreciated by our North American friends. I have to admit that the situation in Calgary is much better than in Ithaca, with frozen meat pies of reasonable quality readily available in the supermarket. However a weekend lunch of hot meat pies from the local bakery is generally not an option.

Simple Simon Pies brought a happy end to my meat pie wasteland theory. A trip to the Calgary Farmers Market is well worth the effort for the pies alone. I walked up to the counter and was immediately offered a taste. My request for “something that tastes like an Aussie meat pie” brought two offerings, steak and tourtiere. The steak pie was a fantastic open faced pie filled with real pieces of meat in enough (but not too much) gravy. Tourtiere is a French-Canadian pork, beef, and potato mixture, which was delicious in a lidded pie. Simple Simon make fruit pies too, and the mango pie we tried was a welcome taste of summer in the cold weather. Not too sweet, but sticky enough to satisfy.

We came home from the markets with a dozen frozen pies, and it won’t be long before we go back for more.

Friday, 2 February 2007

Tea and Collection

1623 Centre St, NW
A detour on my way home brought me to Tea and Collection, a Chinese tea shop in a tiny mall. I'd noticed the building from the road, but it was only when I walked by that I realised there were shops inside - these include an Asian market, a shop selling prepared dim sum, and a candy store.

As I browsed the cannisters in Tea and Collection I was offered a cup of delicious tea. Very good tea, I was told. $90/100g tea! It tasted lovely; I think it was a black tea, but the flavour was subtle and the smell slightly sweet. Beautiful as it was, I went home with Dragon Ball tea, also delicious, and a more affordable $10 for a small pack.

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

New home, new adventures

Finding your way around a new town is both exciting and terrifying. There are great days, when the prospect of discovery spurs bold explorations and exhilarating finds. There are dismal days, when your journey leads only to disappointment. And there are all the crazy moments in between. These are the stories of my adventures as I eat/drink/cook in Calgary.