Category Archives: spring

Green Tea Green Apple ‘Gimme That’ Mini Bundt Cake

I’ve been planning to join the Matcha tea craze in baking for a while and have finally come up with this mini cakes creation: worth every penny. Not only it’s a super-cute dessert with presence and pizazz, it is a moist and dense flavor bomb with a perfect match of green tea, green apple, maple syrup ingredients enhanced with the secret organic STASH tea powder to also include: hibiscus, orange peel, chamomile, pomegranate and raspberry flavors. The later ingredient is optional, although it works as a great taste booster and saves you lots of trips (and cash) to groceries for special ingredients if you happen to have it already. Pure Matcha tea powder alone is also good, packing the cakes with the one and only delicate taste of Japanese tea, along with its powerful health benefits.

If you feel hooked, dear reader, let’s buckle up for a quick food journey, play some Lilly Allen and agree the ‘Life for Me’ can totally include these treats.
Of all my previous mini cakes, muffin or cupcake experiments, I had the most fun with these ones. Whether you are a pro in your own kitchen or just an amateur of an easy, but special kind of dessert you never tried before, but were potentially curious about; the texture and aroma of which would be surprising; the taste of which would linger long after the first bite; and which can be re-heated a week later to reveal even more flavor – this is your thing.  These little sweet babies are the result of my light bulb moment re-purposing the Keurig-style STASH organic tea cups, which later became a pure Matcha tea cakes experiment. Four green apples are included and maple syrup is not forgotten. Believe me, if I’ve done them 3 times in the last 30 days that means they are obsessively addictive. The mini Bundt cake pans are procurable at many places today: from Walmart to Winners, but you can as well have these cakes in the cupcake or muffin shapes.
The spring has sprung, the Easter times go on and the beautiful city of Montreal is finally awakening from the never-ending cold slumber. What a Joy! You can gauge this excitement by the special things cooking on the stoves and special desserts baking in the ovens. The green tea + green apple cakes make a perfect ode to celebrate spring and nature’s renewal…
If you plan a trip to a potluck party this week-end, these will literally sell like hot cakes. No need to advertise, just wait to watch the face expressions while the cakes will be disappearing with cosmic speed.

There are two options to finish the cakes: drizzling with the maple syrup or dusting with confectionary sugar. I prefer to do both. There’s an indefinite number of garnish: from trendy pistachios, to other nuts, to spices like cinnamon or cardamom, to fruits, to whipped cream, jams, even fresh cheese or exquisite savory ingredients like foie gras or smoked fish if you’d like to stretch them to an upscale tapas party territory.

The cakes also make a perfect picnic or Easter basket companions.  These are easy and fun to make in advance and keep for a few days or up to a week in a fridge. If you decide to revive them into something especially impressive, just warm them up in  pre-heated oven (375F) for about 10-15 minutes to have that newly developed crisp crust, which you will re-drizzle later with maple syrup and re-powder with sugar.  Amazing!

It all began with giving a new purpose to the STASH tea cups with 100% natural green tea, hibiscus, orange peel, chamomile, pomegranate, raspberry flavors and Matcha. The idea of using Matcha in dessert has been rattling around my brain for a while. I was going to make the usual apple cinnamon cakes and then noticed the ingredients written on the STASH tea cups. As Deepak Chopra says, ‘intention brings attention’ and eventually ‘brings the process to fruition’: I broke the seal on the cup to see the inside and the tea mix looked like a perfect ingredient to me.  In the first batch I used only two cups of STASH tea powder. I was very impressed with the taste, but felt like it can take on much more tea ingredient.

The next batch I made was with the load of pure Matcha: 3 tablespoons of Japanese Green tea and Matcha mix, which I powdered in the mortar with pestle. In the third batch I used both, STASH tea powder and Matcha and the result was outstanding: cakes bursting with flavors you always look for when ordering desserts at coffee or tea house (and often fail to find).

Tip: squeeze some apple juice out (and drink it) from the pulp to make the texture of the cakes less dense…

Give the cakes a generous maple syrup drizzle on a patriotic whim; dust with powder sugar  and garnish with crushed pistachios. Voila, your green tea cakes are ready to impress the palate.
First time I tasted it I was just struck how incredible a mouthful of green tea the cake can be.
Everyone agreed. Try it with you favorite tea or coffee and you won’t be missing anything…


Enjoy your Easter baking and have a great week-end!

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Previously, around this time of the year:
BBQ Lamb Chops
Eggs Asparagus Ham Tart
Savory Easter Cypriot Bread
Lentil Avocado Spread

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MATCHA GREEN TEA & APPLE MINI BUNDT CAKES

Yields: 5-6 cakes depending on the bundt pans’ size
Ingredients:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, OR gluten-free flour for gluten-intolerant
2 tablespoons Matcha green tea powder (plus 1 extra tablespoon to replace the STASH tea if necessary)
2 contents of tea bags or Keurig-style cups of STASH Pomegranate Raspberry Green tea with Matcha (optional)
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 stick butter, ½ cup, or 118 gm
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup, plus extra for drizzling
3 eggs, beaten
4 green apples, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon lemon juice to spray the apple pulp with
Confectionary sugar for dusting
Slivered nuts for garnish
5-6 mini bundt cake pans
Instructions:
Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
Wash, peel and grate the apples. Squeeze the juice out (to drink or discard) and drizzle the pulp with lemon juice to prevent from browning.
Unless you already have Matcha powder, ground the green + Matcha tea mix in the mortar.
Sift the flour into a big bowl and add the green tea and STASH mix tea, if using.
Beat the softened butter and brown sugar in a separate bowl with mixer.
Whisk the maple syrup and beaten eggs well.
Grease and flour 5-6 mini bundt cake pans and spoon the cake batter into.
Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes before inverting them onto the wire rack.
Glaze the cakes with maple syrup and/or dust them with confectionary sugar.
Sprinkle with pistachios, almonds or other slivered nuts.

Pick-Me-Up Spinach, Egg Drop & Parmesan Toast Soup Recipe


How should I explain better my appreciation of this soup in a few words? Umm, remember when Chef Sean Brock is reminiscing about his favorite mom’s chicken soup dumplings ‘In the Mind of a Chef ’ saying it’s the best dumpling dish he ever had? This dish is better, period. A bowl of it will make you feel as good as gold…
I make this vivid green soup at least four times a year, mostly around mid-seasons: summer and winter solstice; spring and autumn equinox. It is one of my favorite complete meals which never fail to surprise with the taste, texture and color. The consistency and color of it can vary depending on the amount of ingredients (which you can modify according to your taste – more/less spinach, greens, eggs, stock or Parmesan bread). This soup is very forgiving: the different stages of the eggs’ coagulation depending on a temperature or cooking method would deliver smooth, ragged or clouded broth. Nevertheless, all forms of it deliver a fine bowl of comforting, homey goodness: full-bodied yet very light. If you like the Greek soup Avgolemono , this egg drop soup might be your next favorite. If the Avgolemono’s color is pure yellow, this one is bright green and always reminds of the nature’s renewal. Which we are still some ten weeks (hopefully less) away from…
This soup is an immune system booster and will pick you up fast whenever you need. We felt we badly needed it last Sunday upon coming back from St-Paddy’s parade in a form of half-humans/half-icicles who haven’t felt their toes up until dinner. It brought us back to life fast.  
I can’t exactly state the origin of this soup other than disclose that this recipe is coming from the magazine clips of the cooking journal of my dear French Canadian mother-in-law. It is very close to Italian egg drop soup called Stracciatella and may be it is, by virtue of its ingredients including Parmesan, although most of the Italian versions have some pasta and/or herb in it instead of the Parmesan toast and spinach. I tentatively tag it as an Italian dish, but if you happen know the exact origin of it, I am all ears.  
I couldn’t resist messing with the egg’s chemical formula having studied its molecular magic as an ingredient. Few times, instead of following the recipe (below) method, I would mix fresh, spinach, herbs and eggs with a bit, or a lot of warm stock in the blender. It makes some white foam on top, which I discarded carefully. Other wise, it makes absolutely stunning emerald-colored mix, which when warmed through under the boiling point, would granulate into tiny green egg drop microspheres giving luxurious velvety texture and feel to the dish. I warm it through whisking carefully, without reaching the boiling point; then place it in the 400F oven for 15-20 minutes topped with Parmesan toasts. Voila – viva the cooking experiments!
This method delivers bright green, grainy texture that is really worth showcasing. Not bringing the soup to the boiling point also helps to preserve a lot of healthy enzymes in the dish, which you will find packed with flavors. Equally, I sometimes swap spinach for kale, Swiss chard or arugula, add a bit of garlic and sometimes, during the flu season, a dash of minced ginger. Spinach version is my favorite however because it doesn’t overpower the delicate taste of eggs and stock. You may wish to follow or not these leads, the results will be great anyways.
Complex in taste and highly invigorating, it is yet very simple and fast to pull off. Eggs, fresh spinach, home-made broth, sliced baguette (or other kind of stale bread of your preference) and Parmesan are five core ingredients to it. I like to also add a big bunch of parsley to bring the nutritional and detox value of it to even higher level.
Sometimes I use this simple trick to cut the rounds of the stale bread with the shot glass to have a better appeal and coverage especially if you are serving the soup to the guests.

Parsley is a known kidney tonic and the powerful antioxidant along with spinach, which also boosts the iron stores in the body, they help strengthen bones, detoxify and heal. The eggs nourish liver, heart and kidneys, while the home-made stock comforts and supports the stomach and digestive tract with minerals, glucosamine (in case of chicken stock), iodine, etc. 

Should you wish to make this soup a real taste bomb, try to assemble it with the ingredients of possibly highest quality, including: free range eggs, spinach and parsley from your own garden, stock made with organic chicken/veggies and so on. Ahhh, I can’t wait to welcome spring to our territory…
Bon Appétit!

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SPINACH, EGG DROP & PARMESAN TOAST SOUP
Yields: 4 portions
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons butter or ghee
6 cups packed, rinsed and minced spinach leaves, equal to 1-2 bunches fresh spinach, OR 10 ounces frozen spinach
1 cups fresh parsley, minced (optional)
Salt and freshly ground (preferably white) pepper
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
6-7 cups of hot broth, chicken or vegetarian
4 bread slices (or more depending on a size), grilled (* select gluten free if necessary)
½ cup Parmesan, shredded
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 400F. Add butter to a big sauce pan or Dutch oven and heat to medium high. Add the minced spinach and parsley, stir for 1 minute. Add one cup of stock, mix and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.  Beat the eggs in a bowl and gently stir them into the spinach mix with the whisk.  Add the rest of the hot stock, mix well with the spinach-egg mix and check the seasoning. Place the grilled bread on top of the soup and sprinkle generously with Parmesan. Place into the pre-heated oven uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the bread and Parmesan dumplings are golden brown. Ladle into the bowls and serve immediately.

Why Don’t You Go to St. Paddy’s Parade with Us?


St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC © letsheatit.com

I asked my daughter the other day and she said: ‘Thanks Mom, but NO – it’s too cold outside to be able to enjoy things.’ Fair enough. In more ways than I care to admit, I absolutely loathe humid cold and ice wind.  Imagine facing a combination of both standing at the corner of Saint Catherine and University (OOPs, I think it was renamed recently into Robert Bourassa Boulevard, so tourists have less hard times to read French maps of the downtown Montreal), underdressed for an hour – you get the picture. The nose and ears take some good few hours to defrost after. 
St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC, 2015 © letsheatit.com
And yet, we did go to the parade.  How can we miss all that buzz and honking of ceilidh ceremony? It’s festive, it’s fun, it’s traditional and there’s always something new to discover.  Like, when else can you see an openly drinking, pot-smoking crowd in front of the tons of police without being disturbed? Now, that’s the power of Saint Patrick who drove the snakes out of Ireland.
Bagpipe Musicians at St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC © letsheatit.com
The bagpipe musicians, leprechauns, princesses, munchkins and all other fairy tale characters from  the Emerald Island were there facing the severe cold with us.
St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC © letsheatit.com
St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC © letsheatit.com
After, we were planning to join Freeway and Natasha from Virgin radio at the Irish pub for brunch, but the freezing cold and wind completely coiled us so we went home instead. It felt like the only person who was dressed properly for the weather at the parade was this highly respected Irish participant in the traditional Canadian beaver coat.
Man in the Beaver Coat, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC © letsheatit.com
The cold reminded us of how good a bowl of hot soup with dumplings can be. No beer would taste as good as this soup to bring us back to life from the mess of the freezing torture. In my head I was already half-way to this bowl. The soup had to be green in honor of the shamrock and all things Irish. And it was. Stay tuned for the must-try vivid green Spinach Herb & Egg Drop soup which will follow shortly.
Spinach Herb & Egg Drop Soup © letsheatit.com
Irish Flag, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal QC © letsheatit.com
Cheers to St. Paddy!

Savory Potato Boxty Bread Recipe


This winter is the neverending story, and today we had yet another mini snow storm. However, it is St. Patrick’s Day, about the time we invite some spring into our lives and table travel to the Emerald Isle of soda bread and potatoes.

The apple tree branches I put in the water last week upon pruning our fruit trees have given tiny pastel green burgeons. They make some wonderful spring house decorations and an amazing background to feature the Irish savory potato soda bread called Boxty we baked for today’s particular occasion. Ready to follow? Buckle up to this fine old school gem of Sleepy Maggie’s Canadian rendition performed by an icon fiddler Ashley MacIsaac and scroll the images first to determine if this recipe will hook you up.
The word Boxty stems from the old Irish bacstaí, which means ‘poor house bread’ and pertains to the mix of flour and potato from which you can make a pancake or bread.  This Irish rural recipe is believed to have been created during the times of famine to feed big families and make potatoes, which were the only means of survival, stretch further.  The pancake or loaf was served with milk and salt and Irish kids used to call it ‘dippity’. Today Boxty is a huge come back food trend in Ireland and potato bread and pancakes are served in restaurants all over the country.
Obviously, the Boxty Bread is a tribute to the Irish terroir, which includes:
STARCHY POTATOES
WHEAT FLOUR, MILK & BUTTER
DILL or CARAWAY seeds, sea salt, pepper, BAKING SODA
Mixed together, they make quick and tasty savory bread. Note: you do need to prepare a piece of cheesecloth to drain the grated potatoes for the recipe.
Without yeast as a leavening agent, the Boxty soda bread is very easy and fast to knead and pull off.  

It tastes amazing with some extra butter or the rarebit cheese melt and pickles when freshly baked. Or in the form of Croque Monsieur or mini-pizza with all kind of garnish the day after.

I also love to add it to all kinds of pan-fried or baked breakfasts and brunches, from omelet to frittata.

This bread keeps up to one week in the fridge and slices better when cold. 

BOXTY BREAD IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST TRY IF YOU LOVE POTATOES!
It is said to have inspired the following folk rhyme:
‘Boxty on the griddle,
boxty on the pan,
If you can’t bake boxty
sure you’ll never get a man…’

Check if it’s true and stay tuned for more Irish soda breads.

PS: A friend of mine has just sent me a nice St. Paddy’s greeting, here’s mine in return-
‘May you live a long life
Full of gladness and health,
With a pocket full of gold
As the least of you wealth.
May the dreams you hold dearest,
Be those which come true,
The kindness you spread,
Keep returning to you.’
Happy St. Paddy to You All!
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Former St. Paddy’s Recipes: Dublin Lawyer
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IRISH BOXTY BREAD
Yields: 4 small loaves
Ingredients:
7 (about 1 ¾ pounds) starchy potatoes
2 tbsp lightly salted butter, plus extra to serve*
2/3 cup of milk*
2 tsp sea salt
½ tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1 ½ tsp dill seeds OR caraway seeds
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
5 tsp baking powder
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 375F. Peel four of the potatoes, cut them into even chunks, cover with water, add the heaped teaspoon of salt and bring to boil in a medium-size saucepan. Cover and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, until tender. Drain and mash with butter until smooth pure.
Peel the remaining three potatoes and grate coarsely. Wrap in a clean piece of cheesecloth and squeeze tightly to remove the moisture. Put the grated potatoes in a large bowl with the milk, ¾ teaspoon of salt, pepper and dill seeds. Beat in the mashed potatoes.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and remaining salt onto the potato mixture. Mix to smooth dough, adding a little more flour if the mixture is too soft.
Knead lightly, then shape into four flat, round loaves, about 4 inches in diameter. Place on a non-stick baking sheet. Mark each loaf with a large cross. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until well-risen and golden brown.
Break each loaf into quarters. Serve warm, spread with butter.
Adapted from: The Irish Pub – Fabulous Food from the Emerald Isle, Parragon Books, 2012

Cream of Leeks, Potatoes & Foraged Greens

Easy, fast and to the point, this soup is a take on the classic cream of leeks and potatoes. Sorrel adds a touch of tartness; nettle brings a touch of delicate tanginess and both make an extra nutritious boost to the meal. Creamy and hearty (without a cream), this light starter is an excellent spring tonic. And if you have no foraged greens, no biggie: use spinach or parsley or both instead for equally delicious and nutritious result. The cream of leeks, potatoes and foraged greens goes very well with more flavor-complex crunchy quesadillas, like the ones with a smoked salmon, or goat cheese, olive oil dried tomatoes, both of which add remarkable rich-salty-savory and texture contrast to the soup.  This soup also pairs fantastically with crisp salted cod croquettes such as these wonderful accras de morue bites. OR, bacon, for that matter…

For the first time my monumental yearly battle with weeds in our backyard is turning into something beautiful. Learning to enjoy some of the wild nature’s gifts, I’m totally in Redzepi’s state of mind wandering in the garden of weeds and collecting dandelions, violets, burdock, clover, and other lush green edibles.  Up until recently, the foraging knowledge and skills have all but disappeared from our lives, but now that the foraging trend got back on a horse, it helps to reinstate the nutritional and medicinal importance of the wild plants in our daily regimen. I’m happy about it and so I’m picking the nettles and sorrel like its nobody’s business for my soup of the day.

IMPORTANT: Always wear gloves (to not be stung) and use cutter (not to spoil the tender leaves) when foraging stinging nettle and select the youngest species that have no flowers yet.

Although sorrel has been used in European cuisine for centuries and has been admired by many, from Monet to Julia Child, it is somewhat of an acquired taste because of its lemon sourness, so if you are the beginner, you might wish to start with a smaller sorrel batch in the soup not to overpower the nice and creamy leek-potato background taste. The same with the nettle: although it incorporates very well into an array of soups, its hardening taste is quite particular, so, again, begin with a moderate amount and let the leeks shine through.

Garnish the soup with a little quail egg (eggs work very well with sorrel sourness) and/or chopped chives, parsley or other greens of your choice. Optionally, you can add a dollop of sour cream or cream, or lace your soup with some olive oil. Serve with above suggested quesadillas (see the smoked fish post), home-made crackers, toasted baguette, and/or maybe some crispy bacon on a side or freshly crumbled (my favorite). Enjoy!

What is next on my foraging agenda?  How about dandelion wine? I recently tasted it at the party and got very curious about it. There are so many recipes on the Internet, but my principal question is: is it regular active dry yeast like in Chef Ricardo’s recipe or special wine yeast like in many othersthat we should use?  If any of you, dear readers have some successful experience with dandelion wine making, please let me know. 

That’s about it for my most recent foraging practice and interests. I hope you will find some of use. Cheers!

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CREAM OF LEEKS AND FORAGED GREENS
Ingredients:
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2-3 cups or 3 medium-sized leeks (white and light green parts only), washed and sliced
3 cups potatoes (baking kind), peeled and cubed
½ cup or 1 celery stalk, chopped (optional)
8 cups chicken, or vegetable broth, or water
1 bouquet garni (1 thyme spring, 1 bay leaf and few parsley springs tied with kitchen spring) (optional)
1 cup (2 big handfuls) fresh sorrel leaves, stems and tough ribs removed
1 cup (8 oz) fresh nettles or spinach
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup chives or parsley for garnish, minced
½ cup crème fraiche or plain Greek yogurt for garnish
Instructions:
Melt the butter in a large pot, add leeks and cook over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes. Add potatoes, celery and chicken stock (or water), bouquet garni, bring to boil and simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add sorrel, nettles or spinach leaves and cook just until wilted for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Puree the soup in batches in blender. Reheat if necessary or serve cool garnished with chives or minced parsley and a dollop of crème fraiche or plain yogurt.