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696 Queen West, Toronto

Quirky setting, comfy couches, mismatched china.  An elegant take on High Tea. Not to mention the spicy lunch time bento boxes, seriously fancy cakes (not always as delicious as they look though…) and delicious chai latte. Floating star anise to boot.

One of my favourite french bakery treats is a canelé de Bordeaux. These Bordelais mouthfuls are soft, chewy and custardy on the inside and crispy the outside. Seemingly people have a lot of trouble making these.  I didn’t, I think  simply because the batter was allowed to rest in the fridge for almost 3 days before baking (and I was using my mother-in-law’s fabulously reliable fancy oven in Toronto!).

Looking far more intricate then their fabrication, making them consists merely of a batter and chilling it before baking it for a long (very long…) time. Watch cooking times depending on your oven.  This is probably where the making of these could be the most problematic. The bottoms (upward facing in the moulds) should be burnt and dark looking when they are done.

The recipe here is courtesy of Clothilde at the great Chocolate and Zucchini. Whenever I’m seeking a traditional French recipe I know I’ll find a usable, reliable one on her site. I had a hankering to make them once I found a silicon mould in the right shape although seemingly a copper mould would produce even better results.  For a very elaborate recipe and a great sense of the politics and history of the cannele, try this one at  Paula Wolfert.

A sprinkling of sugar in the greased mould helps to caramelise the outside. Historically pâtissiers used beeswax to line the moulds before baking. Instead of sugar I drizzled maple syrup into the moulds before pouring the batter. (Well I had to get it in there somewhere…)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 liter milk
  • 30 g semi-salted butter, diced
  •  1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
  •  100 g (3/4 cup) all-purpose flour
  •  180 g sugar
  •  3 eggs
  •  80 ml (1/3 cup) good-quality rum

Making

Over a low heat bring the butter, milk and vanilla to a simmer. Set aside. In a seperate bowl whisk the eggs. In yet another bowl beat the flour and sugar. Add the egg mixture to the flour – don’t mix. Then pour the milk mixture over the flour and eggs. Whisk to a batter-like consistency and add the rum stirring gently. Let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for 24 hours or up to 3 days.

When it comes to baking time, butter the moulds and I drizzled them with maple syrup before pouring the batter into each one almost filling to the top. (The batter will have seperated a bit in the fridge so give it a gentle whisk before using).

When the time comes to bake, heat the oven to 480 and bake the canelé for 20 minutes at 480 then 40-60 minutes at 400. Time taken will depend on your oven. The canelé are done when the bottoms are dark and almost burnt looking.

Makes 12 good-size canelé.


Eating in the couscous restaurants of Paris, there are very often carrot salads on the menu – simply done, crunchy barely cooked carrots with a simple cumin and parsley dressing.  Heading over to a friends for lunch one day I wanted to make a hearty salad that wasn’t composed entirely of green leaves and tomatoes so I decided to use roasted beets, red peppers and ‘just cooked’ crunchy carrots as the base and see what seeds and spices could be used to make an equally solid dressing that could stand up to the root veggies.

My husband had recently brought home various spices and mysterious looking bags of foodie treats from his Tunisian bachelor party. Tunisian flavours come most often from the use of the following spices as well as the all important harissa;  garlic, anise, saffron, cinnamon, caraway, coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, ginger, white pepper, black pepper, red pepper and cloves.  Tabil or galat dugga are two typical Tunisian spice mixes commonly used.The toasted spice mix for this salad uses North African inspired tastes but it’s easy to mix and match pantry staples to come up with your own flavours to mix into the dressing.

In a large bowl, mix the roasted, chopped beetroot, the sliced carrots, the chopped pepper, the sultanas and the cucumber.  Fold the toasted seed mix into the oils and the other dressing ingredients and mix well. Toss the salad in the spicy oil mix for a couple for hours before serving so the flavours can envelop the vegetables.

Ingredients

  • 2 beetroot  – boiled (or used pre-cooked) and roasted for about 20 minutes
  • 4 carrots -steamed just so they lose their raw edge but are still crunchy
  • 1 red pepper – chopped
  • 1 red onion – diced
  • 1 tablespoon golden sultanas
  • half a large cucumber sliced and diced

For the spice mix and dressing: toast the seeds you’re using in a dry pan until fragrant and just starting to ‘jump’. Then crush roughly in a pestle and mortar.

  • 2 tablespoons walnut oil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon zaatar
  • half a teaspoon salt (if not using zaatar)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • half teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • half teaspoon cinnamon
  • half clove of fresh garlic – crushed
  • a couple of pinches of white pepper

Moist, green flecked breakfast bread with a nutty bite. Finding a good grainy flour really makes a difference.  I first came across zucchini bread years ago while working on Martha’s Vineyard for a summer. We would bike over to Morning Glory farm in the mornings just to get some of their zucchini bread for breakfast eaten while rocking on their front porch watching the pumpkins sprout. It just seemed so perfect to use courgettes in baking. Easily combined with carrots, chocolate, lemons…..

So I played around with recipes and used a nutty flour here – a multi-grain with various cereals. If you don’t find such a flour easily just add a handful of sunflower seeds, flax, quinoa or other cereals. As for the oils, nut oil adds a nice rich flavour.  For a sweetner, here I stuck to regular brown cane sugar but maple or agave syrup or honey could easily substitute for health and sweetness. The poppy seeds give great texture – just watch out for seeds in your smile afterward!


Ingredients

  • 1 large courgette – finely grated (skin on)
  • 2 eggs
  • 200 gr sugar
  • 125 gr vanilla yogurt
  • 60ml sunflower oil
  • 60 ml nut oil (walnut)
  • 200 gr flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Butter for greasing tin

Making

In one (big) bowl cream the eggs with the sugar. Then add the oils, the vanilla essence, the grated zucchini and the yogurt. In another bowl combine the flour with the other dry ingredients. Fold the dry mixture into the wet without over-mixing. Then pour the resulting batter into a greased loaf tin. Bake at about 190  for about 40 – 50 minutes depending on your oven.

If only to have an amazing bowl to lick clean these bite size chocolate treats are worth the very little effort they take to make and are a great gift if you’re going to dinner at a friend’s. The only time consuming part is waiting for them to set in the fridge. Just a simple ganache with some added ingredients – you decide what…. Roll them in toasted nuts, coconut, toasted sesame seeds maybe? Or add a little piment despelette to the mixture before setting for a grown-up kick.

Chocolate truffles look like their earthy white or black namesakes, rough lumps of treasure rooted out by pigs and dogs to be sold for outrageous prices to restaurants and consumers around the world. The chocolate version is rather more accessible and a lot tastier in my book.

Ingredients

  • 200 gr good quality chocolate – what you like to eat…not too bitter
  • 180ml pouring cream
  • 30 gr butter
  • zest of half a large orange
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder for dusting

Optional ingredients

Toasted chopped nuts, coconut, sesame seeds, liqueur…

Making

Chop the chocolate into small pieces in a bowl and set aside. Put the cream and butter in a pan and bring slowly to a boil. Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and stir in the orange zest until the chocolate is melted and the mixture smooth. cover and put in the fridge for a few hours until the mixture is hard enough to handle. Prepare a sheet of parchment paper or a tray of mini cupcake cases. Then take a spoon and scoop out small balls of mixture. Use your hands to roll them into roughly hewn ‘truffles’. Then roll in the cocoa powder before placing in the cases or on the parchment paper ready to be refrigerated. They’ll need at least 4 hours in the fridge or better still leave them overnight before serving.

Moutabal’s no good without something to scoop it up with…..

Although pita breads work for this, it’s better to seek out a more traditional middle eastern flat bread such as lavash often available in larger supermarkets. Cut into triangles and rub with olive or nut oil. Dust with a few teaspoonfuls of fragrant zaatar and roast for a max of ten minutes until golden and crispy. Otherwise soft tortilla wraps could work well as an alternative. Just lay out flat, cut into pieces and oven bake. Let cool and serve with dips and drinks.



In Paris variations of ‘caviar d’aubergine’ are becoming ubiquitous. Any kind of aubergine dip is pretty amazing so the more the merrier. Traveling around Lebanon and Jordan recently meant a lot of it was consumed so I figured it was time to start working out what all the different mezze were and how they could be made at home.  The cuisine of the Levant is a favourite of mine. Its nutty, spicy flavours along with an approach to eating that is truly Mediterranean being wonderfully family oriented lazy, lengthy grazing.

A middle eastern favourite dished up  in one way or another from Greece to Israel to Beirut, moutabal is most often served as one of many cold mezze. Commonly referred to as Baba ghanoush, in Syria and Jordan this is almost always called moutabal and baba ghanoush is an aubergine salad not the smoky creamy sesame infused dip that is moutabal. In most other middle eastern countries it’s baba ghanoush. Many menus will have both listed to add to the confusion. Baba ghanoush is actually a salad of roasted aubergine flesh with lemon juice , tomato, hot peppers, garlic and onion.

The key to the moutabal flavour is  chargrilling the aubergines until the skin is about to fall off – otherwise you miss the amazing smoky flavour characteristic of this staple mezze. Nonetheless even oven roasting the aubergines will get you a garlic spiked dip that’s a great alternative to cheese and crackers…


Ingredients

  • 2 medium/small aubergines
  • 1/2 clove garlic (crushed)
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 250gr (2 small tubs) plain yogurt

Making

Roast the aubergines in tinfoil (prick them all over beforehand) for at least an hour until soft and mushy. Let them cool then take off as much of the skin as you can. While they’re cooling mix the tahini, yogurt and garlic together with the oil. Take the cooled aubergines and with the skins off mash the flesh up as best you can giving it a swirl with a hand mixer if necessary but no need to make it a puree. Mix in with you yogurt mix and add salt to taste.  Serve with warm flatbreads.

To make baba ghanoush, add one finely chopped tomato, hot green pepper and onion to the roasted aubergine flesh and stir in. Crush 2 garlic cloves with a teaspoon of salt and add to 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 of lemon juice. Stir the liquid into the vegetables with a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh mint and garnish with parsley to serve.

(Cookbooks and references – ‘Modern Mezze’, Anissa Helou/’Classic Lebanese Cuisine’, Kamal Al-Faqih/’The Petra Kitchen’, Jordan)

The reason for the lack of posting, the lack of cooking, the altered taste buds…the altered everything…..is here!

Nicely marinaded in maple syrup for 8 and a half months, he is already showing signs of being a serious gourmand…

A crunchy, dense, no-rise, no-fuss loaf that’s done and dusted within an hour.

Experimenting with different flours is always fun. In France, flours tend to have less gluten and so home bread making has a different dimension.  Seek out a strong bread flour for these kinds of quick breads, even if they are labeled for the machine you can still use them for baking by hand. Look for a high ‘T’ number – the higher the T the higher the gluten content. If you don’t find a flour with muesli already added use a combination of rye and wholewheat flours and add seeds, nuts, dried fruits as you wish separately. Dried cranberries and raisins are good plus the usual mix of sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

Ingredients

350 gr flour (rye/muesli/plain) – often half rye and half wholewheat or another multi-cereal bread flour works best

1 tablespoon sunflower seeds

250 gr natural yogurt (Greek yogurt or other plain yogurt..)

2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons raw oats

3 tablespoons honey/maple syrup/agave nectar

1 tablespoon nut oil or olive oil

1 tablespoon corn flour or flour (for kneading)

dried fruits and seeds as wanted ( 1-2 tablespoons)

Making

Preheat your oven to at least 200°C.  In a large bowl, mix the flours, the seeds, the oats, the dried fruit and the baking soda. Separately, mix the yogurt, water, honey or maple syrup together.

Slowly, slowly fold in the liquid to the flour until it forms a breadcrumb like mixture.

Pull it together until a rough dough holds together then turn it out onto a floured surface (use the cornflour – scatter it onto your work surface). Knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball coating your hands in the olive oil while shaping the dough into an oblong loaf.  Using a knife score a few lines down the middle or cross-ways.

Bake in a hot oven (200°C) for about 30-40 minutes – you can check by tapping the base – a hollow sound indicates that the bread is done.

Turn out onto a rack and allow to cool. Keeps for a week in a dry airtight place. Excellent when toasted or served with hummus, cheese or marmalade.

Pear and almond tart is a classic dessert. Almond paste is easily located in supermarkets and poaching pears is a quick and easy way to several desserts, accompaniments and a breakfast or two.  Recently, I bought 200 grams of matcha tea almond paste and mulled over ways to use it…

Poached pears, matcha almond paste and good quality cocoa powder make for a sinful dinner party dessert.  Matcha tea is a Japanese delicacy and has been a darling of western baking scenes for years.  It has a subtle taste and while not overbearing definitely adds something to the tart and goes amazingly with the dark chocolate flavour of the cocoa powder.

Ingredients

One tart base – pre-baked

Filling

200 gr matcha tea almond paste (or regular almond paste)

3 tablespoons rich dark natural cocoa powder (good quality makes  a huge difference)

1 tablespoon flaked almonds

4 poached pears

1 tablespoon maple syrup

2 teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon flour

1 egg

1 egg white

Making

Beat the almond paste with the sugar, syrup, flour and cocoa powder. The add the butter and egg and egg white forming a smooth paste.

Spread the paste onto your tart base and then place a layer of pears fanning them out evenly.

Sprinkle with almonds and bake for 40 – 45 minutes at 180°C

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