This blog has now been folded over into "The Left Chapter", a blog dedicated to politics, art, writing & food!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Leftover Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad

Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad with Watercress & Sprouts
Today we have a quick and easy idea for using up chicken leftovers. Often, to save money, we buy club packs of chicken thighs or drumsticks, cook or BBQ them and find that we have a few still left a day or two later in the fridge.

Leftover chicken, of course, is often quite delicious cold with a salad or some rice. But if you want to try something different, try a Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad.

This recipe is for around 750g of rotini. Cook the rotini to al dente and let cool for a few minutes in a large serving bowl.

Then, take all of the leftover chicken off any bones by hand and rip into nice rustic style pieces. Be sure to include any attached skin. Add to the pasta. Add around 200-250 ml. of pesto sauce. Then add 12-24 cherry tomatoes, a cup of shredded or cubed feta cheese, salt and pepper to taste, a tablespoon of Italian Seasoning, and several dashes of Tabasco. As an option you can add freshly chopped parsley and/or croutons.

Toss all of this thoroughly and serve as a side dish or as a hearty main. It goes great with garlic bread and red or white wine.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Basa Fish Seasoned, Pan-Fried and in a White Wine Shallot Sauce

Recipe by Natalie Lochwin
Basa is an Asian catfish that has become very popular of late due to its mild flavour, (which makes it very versatile to different types of cuisine), its boneless fillets and its low cost. It often costs much less than other fish does. It is becoming more widely available in grocery stores, and is common to those with a wide selection of fish or those that specialize in Asian food.

This recipe can also be used with other firm, white fish with a milder flavour.

First you prepare a seasoned flour mix to coat the fish. This recipe is for 3-4 medium sized fillets. These are generally sold cut thin.

Batter Ingredients:

1/2 Cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme leaves crumbled
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp hot paprika

Mix all ingredients together with a fork in a bowl until thoroughly blended.

Pat dry the fillets. Spread the flour batter on a large plate. Meanwhile heat 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil and 1 tsp butter in a medium-hot pan that is large enough to accommodate 2 fillets at a time.

Press both sides of each fillet into the flour mixture until covered. Then fry in the pan over medium-high heat until golden brown around 5-7 minutes a side. A lot depends on how you like your fish, but overcooking a fish fillet makes it very dry.

When the fillets are cooked place on a heat proof dish and keep warm in a low oven while you prepare the sauce.

Sauce Ingredients

1 shallot minced

1 clove garlic minced
small handful of dill weed chopped.
3/4 cup chicken stock (reduced sodium if available)
1/4 cup white wine
1 tbsp. butter
pinch of turmeric
small pinch of cayenne

De-glaze the pan that you just fried the fish in with the wine for a minute or so over medium heat.  Add the butter and cook  down a little. Then add the garlic, shallot, cayenne and turmeric.

Add the stock and continue to allow the mixture to simmer until further reduced slightly.

Add the dill weed.

Remove fish from oven and serve topped with the sauce and with rice and lemon wedges. Basa goes perfectly with a nicely chilled white wine.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Romertopf Cooking is Fun with French Onion Soup, Brussels Sprouts and Lancashire Hot Pot

Vintage Cookbook: Romertopf Cooking is Fun, Wendy Philipson
Publication Details: Various editions, 1960's-1970's

Any follower of this blog knows that I am a big fan of clay baking as a cooking method. I have written posts on the basics of clay baking (please do read if you are a clay baking beginner as it includes some essential tips on cleaning and rules like NEVER placing a clay baker in a preheated oven) as well as on how to cook a deliciously moist whole chicken in one (in terms of moistness, clay baking a chicken is hard to beat).

Clay baking also has the virtue that it is relatively easy, even for total cooking novices, and produces great flavours out of "inferior" cuts of meat.

One of the best clay baker cookbooks, and the one that really got me rolling on clay baking, is the handy, pocket book sized "Romertopf Cooking is Fun" published in the 60's and 70's. Romertopf is the German brand name for a type of clay baker, that are still made, and that are among the best and easiest to buy new (although I have bought all my clay bakers used and, therefore, "pre-seasoned").

With over 350 recipes, from soups, to meats, to game to vegetarian, this largely un-illustrated book is a fantastic resource. I have made countless of its recipes and some are family favourites.

While usually we share two recipes, today we will share three from this classic volume, as always exactly as originally presented). They are all excellent, and the French Onion Soup is a standout.

French Onion Soup

1 lb. onions
2 tbs. butter
2 pints stock
4 slices white bread
2 cups grated cheese
pinch sugar
pinch curry powder

Chop the onions finely and fry until golden brown. Pour the stock into the soaked Romertopf and add the onions. Sprinkle with curry powder and sugar. Cover and cook in a hot oven (400F - Gas mark 6) for at least 1 1/4 hours. Then remove the lid carefully, place the bread in the soup and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Put back into the oven without the lid and cook for a few more minutes, until golden brown on top.
The bread will be delightfully crisp on top if toasted before being put into the soup.[Editor's Note: DO pre-toast the bread!]
As an alternative seasoning add a few drops of vinegar and a crushed clove of garlic. [Editor's note: DO THIS!]
And one especially fine alternative: use 1 1/2 pints stock and 1/2 pint white wine [Editor's note: Again DO THIS!]

Brussels Sprouts

1 lb. sprouts
2 small onions
3/4 cup stock
1 tbs. butter
grated nutmeg
2 tomatoes
2 tbs. sour cream
1 tbs. flour
salt and pepper

Put the cleaned sprouts, the skinned and quartered tomatoes and the sliced onions into the soaked Romertopf. Grate on lots of nutmeg. pour on the stock and add the butter in small pieces. Cook in a hot oven (400F - Gas mark 6) for 1/2 hour. Stir the flour into the cream and blend into the liquid in the pot.

Lancashire Hot Pot

For six good helpings

2 lb. lamb
1 1/2 lb. potatoes
1 cup stock
2 onions
1 tbs. butter
salt and pepper

Dice the meat, wash and slice the vegetables. Arrange the meat. Place in the soaked Romertopf in layers, first potatoes, then meat and onions, sprinkling each with a little salt and pepper. Finish with potatoes. Pour on the stock. Cover and cook in a hot oven (400F - Gas mark 6) for 2 1/2 hours. Remove the lid during the final ten minutes to allow to brown on top.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Dominion's "Its Mainly Because of the Meat" Cookbook with Vegetables and Short Ribs & Veal Goulash Paprika

Vintage Cookbook: Dominion's "Its Mainly Because of the Meat" Cookbook
Publication Details: Published by Dominion Stores Ltd., 1969

The Dominion chain of grocery stores was once Canada's largest and dominated the supermarket scene. It was far larger than any of its rivals, but it, for a variety of reasons, basically collapsed in the 1980's and now the only stores that still operate under the Dominion name are in Newfoundland.

One of Dominion's ubiquitous advertising slogans was "Its Mainly Because of the Meat". I remember the TV ads that ran with this slogan and a smiling butcher from when I was a kid, but the slogan ran back to before I was born. Hence 1969's "Its Mainly Because of the Meat" cookbook that was released by the chain and available at its stores.

This cookbook is really worth tracking down as a throwback to a different, and certainly not always better, era of cooking in Canada. The cookbook has a certain camp value, with some of the least appetizing  and unintentionally bad photos of  dishes to ever appear in any cookbook that I have ever seen, and some truly awful (as well as some very good) recipes. These recipes, however, act as a window to a style of cooking and retain their charm, even if one would never make them.

The worst of the book's dated moments are centred around two areas. In an attempt, presumably, to appear "sophisticated", the cookbook includes some faux "International" recipes spread throughout that are humourously inauthentic. The "Pork Chop Suey" springs to mind as does what has to be the most atrocious recipe for "enchiladas" ever put to page. One need only glance at it to know that it should not be prepared.

The cookbook's entire "Sausage" recipe section contains one recipe after another that are so bad they are almost long as one were to never actually try them! The "Mock Spaghetti" recipe (that uses hot dogs) and the "Pilaf with Franks" (a name that rather speaks for itself) are particularly heinous.

However, there are lots of really good classic recipes, dozens of them, especially when it comes to steaks, roasts and stews. The cookbook also contains very useful charts related to cuts of beef, roasting times, storage of meat, etc.

Today we are, as usual, sharing two recipes exactly as they originally appeared, both of which stand up well, over forty years later.

Vegetables and Short Ribs (Serves 4)

3 to 4 pounds beef short ribs
salt and pepper
1 onion, sliced
1 cup tomato juice
8 small white onions, peeled
4 medium potatoes, halved and peeled
8 carrots, sliced
3/4 pound whole green beans

- Brown ribs slowly on all sides; pour off fat and season with salt and pepper.
- Add sliced onion and juice; cover and simmer for 2 hours or until tender.
- Add whole onions and potatoes; cover and simmer for 30 minutes, basting several times with liquid in pan
- Add carrots and beans, cover and simmer until meat and vegetables are tender

Veal Goulash Paprika (Serves 8)

2 tablespoons butter or margarine [Editor's note: Do NOT use margarine!!!]
3 cups thinly sliced onions
3 pounds shoulder of veal cut in 1 1/2 inch cubes
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup hot beef broth
1 cup julienne cut green peppers
1 cup peeled, diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 cup sour cream
cooked egg noodles

- Brown onions and meat in kettle over medium heat, stirring to brown all sides.
- Add paprika, salt and broth; cover and cook over low heat 30 minutes
- Add green peppers, tomatoes and caraway seeds; recover and cook 30 minutes longer or until tender
- Blend in sour cream. Serve with noodles

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Chilaquiles Inspired Black Bean, Cheese & Salsa Verde Bake

Submitted by Natalie Lochwin

This slightly spicy baked entree is inspired by a traditional Mexican dish, Chilaquiles, and is a truly delicious way to use leftover tortillas or salsa.

  • 10-12 corn tortillas
  • 1 cup salsa verde (for this one I used La Costena brand Green Mexican Sauce, of which I am very fond)
  • 3/4 cup low sodium vegetable or chicken stock.
  • 3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese.
  • 1/2 cup black beans
  • 1 fresh jalapeno
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic (local if possible)
  • 2 smallish onions
  • cilantro
  • dried oregano

Preheat oven to 350 degree, and put the corn tortillas in on a baking tray to dry them until they are almost leathery. This will take around 7 minutes or so.

Meanwhile pop the cheese into the freezer for a bit to make it easier to shred.


Dice the onion and garlic and seed and dice the  jalapeno. Chop one handful of fresh cilantro and set aside. Fry the onion, garlic and jalapeno in 1 Tablespoon of olive oil until soft. Add 1 cup of the tomatillo salsa.  Add most of the stock and simmer for about 10-15 minutes.


Break or tear about half the tortillas into pieces and put them into the simmering sauce which will begin to thicken immediately. Add the remaining stock. Take the cheese out of the freezer and shred.

Grab a casserole dish. Ladle 1/2 the sauce into the dish. Add the beans, scattering them evenly over the sauce, add a layer of cheese and sprinkle with some cilantro. Dip the whole tortillas in the sauce left in the pan for a moment and lay them out like you would a lasagne over the cheese and beans. Cover with remaining sauce and top with another layer of cheese.

Bake at 350 for 10 or so minutes until sauce is absorbed and the cheese is golden and bubbly.

This dish can be eaten on its own, with some extra salsa and some sour cream on the side, or served with pulled chicken or scrambled or fried eggs.

Serve hot topped with cilantro. Enjoy!