Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Toronto’ Category

Gateaux Basque


When I was younger and living a different life in the hustle and bustle of Toronto, I was on the opening team for the restaurants that were part of the TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) Bell Lightbox.

This was one of the most difficult (but character building) chef jobs I have ever had. While the main restaurant where I worked was large and could seat many people at one time, the kitchen was quite small. There were lots of us cooks running around all day, so we would continually bump into each other, get into altercations over whose turn it was to mop (or organize the walk-in, or go upstairs to the storeroom for potatoes, or clean the mussels – we argued a lot) and generally drive each other crazy for hours on end.

I should also say that I made a lot of close friends working there. We got through a lot of difficult, busy situations together, hence the character building. I also learned a lot about food and the restaurant industry there.

There was another strange little benefit to working in this particular restaurant. During the international film festival, we would often hear tell, of or even serve the celebrities who were there promoting their films. We never took advantage of these situations. We were well-trained in customer service and always kept our cool.

Except for me, this one time.

Part of me can’t even believe I’m writing this, because to write down the words means I have to relive the story. But, the thing is, I relive this story every time I make a Gateaux Basque, and those delicious little cake/pastries are always on our curriculum for Modern Skills for Modern Chefs, the course I co-tutor at the School of Food.

Anyway, this is one of the most embarrassing experiences of my life. And it involves Gateaux Basque, one of my most favourite desserts of all time.

One day, I arrived at work at around 2:30pm. I was working the night shift, which started at 3pm. As I walked behind the hot line in our open kitchen, where I was working the pasta station, I saw a group walk into the otherwise empty restaurant. This was our quiet time, after lunch and before dinner.

My friend Jesus was their server and sat them directly in front of my station, and that’s when I realized who had just come into our restaurant. It was The Decemberists.

Here’s the thing: I LOVE THE DECEMBERISTS. They might not be as well known as other bands, but just a few months ago they were playing a gig here in Ireland. They are a very famous band in their own right, and their songs are very clever and well-written. I’ve always liked them a lot.

I was never starstruck before this moment. We had a few celebrities in, but I was usually too busy to notice they were even there and most of the time I wouldn’t have been too fussed. This time, I hyperventilated. They were sitting mere feet away from me; about to eat my cooking.

The chef who was on with me looked concerned when he saw me hyperventilating. He thought something was wrong.

“Did someone at that table do something to you?”, he asked, very seriously, when all I could do was point silently at the table. He obviously wasn’t a fan.

When I finally told him who they were, he laughed at me.

“Yeah, OK. I’ve never heard of them.”

Neither had anyone else in the kitchen. Jesus hadn’t either, and he was the only server on at the time. He told me they were a really lovely bunch and I should come over to say hello.


But I gathered my courage, managed to get the chef to agree to send them a few free desserts, and I brought the Gateaux Basque tartlets over to the table with Jesus when they had finished their mains. I wanted them to try these tartlets – crumbly, delicious sablee pastry tarts filled with perfectly luscious creme patissiere – because when I first tried them, they were an absolute revelation.

“Oh, hi,” I awkwardly addressed the table. “I wanted you to try these Gateaux Basque for dessert I’m a really big fan I really love your music I really wanted to make it to your concert last night but my credit card bounced when I tried to purchase tickets my friends went though and they said it was an amazing concert anyway thanks for coming in I hope you liked your food and yeah I hope I get to your next concert OK bye!”

The verbal diarrhea. It was so, so bad. It was so humiliating. The band was staring at me like I had seven heads. Only the drummer was smiling with encouragement and nodding at me, which only made things worse. Those several minutes were among the most awkward and painful of my life.

I walked away, flushed red and feeling so, so uncool.

As the band were getting up to leave, the chef came over to me with a spoonful of liquid.

“Hey, can you try this and check it for seasoning?”

I took the entire spoonful into my mouth before realizing he had given me a spoonful of dirty dish water, as a joke. Just as I spat the liquid out of my mouth and shouted “THAT IS F&*&%$^^ DISGUSTING!”, the band walked by, taking their leave.

The looks on their faces as they left. I’ll never forget it.

I couldn’t listen to The Decemberists for a long time after this incident. I couldn’t eat Gateaux Basque, either. I soon moved on to another restaurant and left TIFF behind, along with the painful memories.

In the last year or two, I’ve kinda gotten over it. I started making Gateaux Basque again, and, more recently, have been teaching the recipe to my students. It truly is a special cake… pastry… thing. And The Decemberists? Maybe I’ll have enough on my credit card to make it to their next Dublin gig. It might still be too soon, though.

Gateaux Basque


For the Sablee:

1/2 cup/125g softened butter

1/3 cup/35g powdered sugar

1 large egg yolk

Pinch of salt

1 1/4 cups/160g plain flour

1 Tbsp milk, if needed

For the Creme Patissiere:

5 egg yolks

1 cup/250g granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla

½ cup/60g plain flour

400ml milk

2 Tbsp butter

1 tsp cinnamon

Zest of ½ lemon

½ tsp almond extract

Fresh pitted cherries (optional)

Egg wash

Icing sugar, for dusting (optional)


  • Make the sablee: with a mixer, beat the butter and powdered sugar until well-combined. Add the egg yolk and mix. Add the flour and salt. Mix until combined, do not over-mix, you do not want to develop the gluten in the flour.
  • Wrap the sablee in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Make the creme patissiere:
  • In a bowl, whisk the egg yolk, lemon zest and sugar until light, pale yellow and ribbony.
  • In the meantime, heat the milk, cinnamon, almond extract and vanilla on med-high until it reaches boiling point.
  • Add the flour to the egg and sugar and mix until just combined.
  • Temper the egg mixture with the hot milk by adding a small amount and immediately whisking vigourously. Then, add the rest of the hot milk and mix to combine.
  • Return the mixture to the pot and return to the heat. Whisking constantly, bring the mixture up to a boil until it’s thick and glossy.
  • Add the butter and mix well. Set aside.
  • Roll out or press half of the sablee into the bottom of a tart pan. Add the creme patissiere to the tart, adding the cherries here if you’re using them. Roll out the other half of the sablee and cover the top of the tart pan. *PLEASE NOTE Depending on the size of your tart pan, you may have to double the sablee recipe.
  • Trim the excess pastry and brush the tops of the pastry with egg wash
  • Bake at 190˚C (375F) for about 45 minutes (check after 30 – some ovens are hotter than others).
  • Cool and serve with a dusting of powdered sugar, ice cream, compote or whipped cream.




A Gastro-Weekend in Cork


I can’t believe it, but I’m officially on maternity leave. This pregnancy has completely flown by, and I’m feeling a bit unprepared, so it’s a good thing that I have a few weeks off work before Christmas to try and get my life – not to mention, this blog! – organized.

I spent a weekend in October in Toronto. It was my first time back since Patrick and I moved in 2013. I was so excited to see my friends, my brother, my sweet baby nephew. One of my dearest friends got married in a beautiful ceremony and I’m so glad I could be there.



Hong Kong-style Fried Chicken & Waffles – Patois, Toronto

Another chef-friend had opened a gorgeous little restaurant specializing in Caribbean-Asian cuisine, so of course I ventured over for brunch and ate everything on the menu (I’M PREGNANT, OK?). Patois is a great spot – I still dream about the fried chicken and Hong Kong-style waffles and Kimchi “pieriogi-style” potstickers.


Pieriogi-Style Kimchi Potstickers – Patois, Toronto


Cookie Butter-Stuffed French Toast – Patois, Toronto

Despite getting to see everyone and eating delicious food, I was really happy to get home to Tipperary. Who knew how impatient I’d gotten with traffic? And cities in general!


Wandering Kilkenny Castle’s grounds

We also went, once again, to the Savour Kilkenny Festival of Food over the October long weekend. It was great, as always. Maeve had a great time, Patrick & I went out to Zuni for a delicious dinner and we all enjoyed the sights and sounds.


Enjoying the food at Savour Kilkenny!

More recently, Patrick and I took a weekend away to get some Christmas shopping done and some kid-free time to ourselves before #2 arrives in early Janurary. We spent the night in Cork and enjoyed some amazing food.


My delicious masala dosa from Ayer’s Cafe – picture taken at Ballymaloe Litfest, May 2015

While we’re spoiled for fresh ingredients here in Tipperary, we are definitely Asian-food-deprived (unless you count the local Chinese & Indian takeaways… which we don’t).

For lunch, despite Storm Desmond wreaking havoc all over the country, we trudged through the wind and rain to get to Iyer’s Cafe on Pope’s Quay. I love Iyer’s! I first tried their dosas and samosas at Ballymaloe Litfest 2015 – they tasted so amazingly authentic; I couldn’t get them out of my mind. As soon as we had Cork booked, I knew I’d be taking Patrick there for lunch.

We had a samosa chaat bowl (samosas with fresh chickpea, veggie and popped rice salad in a big bowl), masala dosa (a type of Indian crepe made from a batter of soaked lentils, served filled with spiced potato, chutneys on the side and a bowl of soupy masala sauce to pour over) and fried chili gobi (spiced cauliflower fritters) to share and were not disappointed. Iyer’s specializes in Southern Indian cuisine, all vegetarian or vegan, all authentic.


Chicken Gyoza – Miyazaki, Cork

And speaking of authentic… later that evening, on the tip of fellow food blogger and my buddy Cork Billy, we went to Miyazaki Takeaway on Evergreen St. for some Japanese food. This was one of the best meals I’ve had in Ireland, and some of the best Japanese food I’ve had… well… ever! That’s including what I’ve eaten in Japan (is that blasphemous?).


My Tempura Prawn Roll – Miyazaki, Cork

This place is tiny with minimal seating (there’s a counter with a few stools if you want to eat in). BUT the kitchen is open-concept and you can watch the very-talented chef at work while you wait for your yaki-udon and katsu-don.

I need to make this clear: Miyazaki’s food is Michelin star quality. My tempura-prawn roll was filled with fresh veggies and microgreens (not just for garnish; where they can be annoyingly superfluous – they added SERIOUS FLAVOUR to the roll).


Japanese-style Fried Chicken don buri (front), pork yaki-udon (back) – Miyazaki, Cork

We had one of the evening’s specials – Japanese style fried chicken don buri (in a rice bowl with fresh veggies, egg, broth), pork yaki-udon (stir-fried noodles), chicken gyoza (dumplings) and a hand-roll each. It was the best date we’ve had in years – sitting on a few stools at the counter. The only thing missing? Some ice cold Sapporo.

Our Cork weekend, despite the terrible weather, was a total success: we relaxed, ate amazing food and got a huge chunk of our Christmas shopping completed (with minimal arguing!). It’s a very easy 1.5 hour trip from the farm, so we’ll be back for more food really soon.

*Look, I don’t normally do gushing reviews like this as an entire blog post, but the places mentioned above do wonderful work. I will say that I wasn’t asked to write any of these reviews; I was just really impressed and wanted to share my opinion. I hope you get to check them out, too, and let me know what you think!




Summer Berry Cobbler


When I lived in Toronto, I did my best to have a balanced diet. Patrick and I would grocery shop every Saturday or Sunday and sometimes I’d be able to make it down to the farmer’s market for produce. I worked in very busy restaurant kitchens until just before I got pregnant, and then, with the same restaurant company, moved to the marketing team so I wouldn’t have to lift 20kg bags of flour every day. The move also meant a lot more food writing, an opportunity to learn and grow and much  less snacking during my workday. It was a great experience.

I admit, the constant taste, season, taste, season aspect of being a professional cook had me a bit blobby around the edges. So much cream, butter and, my personal favourite, poutine (the last restaurant where I worked has a duck confit poutine pizza on the menu – so, so wrong and yet, so right). And then, coming home from a long work day, Patrick and I would often opt for a dinner of takeout Thai, pizza, or, on our better days, we’d walk to the Korean restaurant down the road for their amazing kimchi jiggae (I’m telling you, Torontonians, Makkal Chon is the best Korean restaurant in the city).

Makkal Chon, Scarborough, Toronto

Makkal Chon, Scarborough, Toronto

Having moved to Ireland, our diet has gotten exponentially better. A big part of this is the fact that there is no poutine in Waterford (yet… gimme a few years!). Another reason is that I haven’t really met anyone or made any friends, which means eating out is not something we often do. I don’t mind, I know I’ll meet people eventually, and for now the quiet time is nice since in less than two months I’ll be busy with a newborn baby.

The third, and my favourite, reason our diet has gotten better is because it’s IRELAND. We have access to such delicious fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat here. My father-in-law has a deep-freeze full of lamb joints that I am always encouraged to help myself to. When we’re in Tipperary on the weekends, we are frequently gifted with fresh eggs (both chicken and duck). Patrick and I love trying the different artisanal food products – the jams, jellies, compotes, sauces, baked goods and cheeses, all pesticide and preservative-free – that are abundant here.

Even though I’m baking a lot more, it’s not having too much of an adverse affect on our diet. Since I’m not “working” I have plenty of time to grow some of our own food, maintain a sourdough starter and make healthy dinners every night. Patrick often gets a good workout on the farm most weekends and we go walking regularly on nice evenings. So while we may be indulging a bit more than we’re used to, we’re also using better ingredients. It’s a nice balance.


I wanted to make blueberry grunt last night, but that can wait for my mom to arrive, who will hopefully be sourcing some Nova Scotian wild blueberries for me (fingers crossed!). I had some blueberries and strawberries lying around and decided, instead, to make a cobbler for dessert. A grunt is similar to a cobbler, but the dumplings usually get steamed instead of baked.

This cobbler is a great summer dessert. I sprinkle slivered almonds over the top before baking for a little added crunch and flavour. Cobbler is great on its own, but with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream (or Haagen Daas, whatever you have) it reaches dessert perfection. Serve it warm for complete satisfaction.


Summer Berry Cobbler


2 pints fresh blueberries

1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and halved

1/4 cup orange juice

3/4 cup icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

3 Tbsp sugar or honey

1/2 cup cold butter, cubed

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup slivered almonds

sugar, for sprinkling

milk, for brushing


  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees (190 degrees Celsius, no fan).
  • In a baking dish, arrange the berries so they’re evenly spread out.
  • In a small bowl, mix the icing sugar, orange juice and vanilla. Drizzle over the berries and lightly toss to coat in the glaze.
  • In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Rub or cut in the butter until the mixture is coarse and crumbly, with the butter well incorporated.
  • At this point, if you’re using honey instead of sugar, mix it in with the milk. Add the milk to the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. If the mixture is looking too dry, add a bit more milk to reach the right consistency. It should look wet and sticky but still hold it’s shape, like scone dough.
  • Drop the batter by wooden spoonfuls onto the berry mixture. You can choose to spread the batter to cover the berries entirely, or maintain the shape of scones, leaving some room for the berries to bubble up while baking (I always do this because I find it easier to portion once baked).
  • Brush the tops of the scones with a bit of milk, then sprinkle a bit of sugar on top (brown or white, your choice). Sprinkle the almonds over the tops of the scones.
  • Bake for 30-45 minutes, checking after 30. The scones should be golden brown and crunchy on top and the berries should still be whole with a nice, bubbly sauce.


Buttery Brioche


Up there with basic sourdough and the bread from The Herring Choker in Cape Breton (they not only make the best bread on the island, but the best lobster sandwiches, too), brioche is one of my most favourite breads of all time.


The lobster sandwich at The Herring Choker in Baddeck, Cape Breton Island

I first learned how to make brioche (surprise, surprise) in culinary school. Brioche was one of the classes in my introductory pastry course. Our chef was a small, no-nonsense German-Canadian woman who enjoyed using harsh language and making fun of her students. I loved her.

She was incredibly blunt. During our class on brioche, we, as always, watched her do the demo before attempting a loaf ourselves. She threw the measured ingredients into the stand mixer and sent the hook attachment flying.



I remember asking her how to make brioche without a stand mixer, since I was a poor student at the time and had to make everything by hand.

“You don’t”, she bluntly replied.

I was taken aback. I then asked how they did it before stand mixers existed.

“As far as you’re concerned, they didn’t”, she said.


So I, stupidly, never attempted brioche at home until I received my Kitchenaid stand mixer as a wedding gift last summer. Now that I make it regularly, I can see how it would be slightly more complicated if one were to make it by hand. That said, it isn’t impossible, as I was always led to believe. It’s just sticky. If you don’t have a stand mixer and still want to make brioche, there’s an excellent recipe here, via La Tartine Gourmande.

I think, if you’re a beginner bread maker, it’s always best to make your loaves by hand at first. It gives you a much better understanding of bread in general. You can literally feel the gluten in the flour transform from lumpy and sticky to smooth and tactile. And it’s fun to knead dough by hand! I still like to do it for most types of bread.




4 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

2 packages dry active yeast (about 1 Tbsp)

2 tsp salt

4 large eggs at room temperature

1/2 cup whole milk (full fat) at room temperature

1 cup unsalted butter, cubed, slightly cooler than room temperature (soft but not oozing)


  • Using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, slightly mix the flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Add the eggs and milk and mix with the paddle for about 1 minute.
  • Remove the paddle attachment and add the dough hook. Mix the dough with the hook for 2 minutes on medium-low. Scrape the bowl, then mix for 2 more minutes, again on medium-low. The dough should be firm and slightly elastic at this stage (if it isn’t, don’t worry, there’s lots of mixing yet to come).
  • With the hook again on medium-low speed, add the cubed butter one cube at a time until half the butter has been incorporated into the dough. Turn off the mixer, scrape the bowl, and knead by hand a bit to help incorporate the butter. Turn the mixer back on and add the rest of the butter.
  • When all the butter has been incorporated, increase the mixer speed to medium-high and mix for ten minutes, scraping the bowl when needed. The dough will look sticky and will slap against the sides of the bowl when ready.
  • Take it out of the bowl and briefly knead by hand. Shape into a ball. Cover and let rise in a warm, dry place for one hour.
  • After an hour, punch down the dough, reshape into a ball, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  • The next morning, bring the dough to room temperature. Punch and knead the dough briefly before portioning (this will make two regular sized loaves or about 16 rolls). Once portioned, butter your loaf or roll pans and place the portions in the pans to proof. I proof my room temperature dough for about 1 hour, but this could take more or less time. When the portions have doubled in size, they’re ready for baking. *Proof in the oven with the light on for best results.
  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees (190 degrees Celsius, no fan) and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until the top of the bread is golden brown.

Luscious Lemon Loaf


I love lemon loaf.

My earliest memories eating this sweet/tart/cakey treat involve older women force-feeding it to me every time my mom would bring me along to their houses for tea. I don’t think I loved it then, but I didn’t hate it. It didn’t have any big chunks of fruit. It wasn’t overly sour. It was often preferable to a slice of fruit cake, or even gumdrop cake (which I have never been a fan of).

A few summers ago I was feeling nostalgic and looking for something to do while waiting for my company’s next restaurant to open. I started making old fashioned Cape Breton baked goods and selling them at a farmer’s market in Unionville, Ontario. Biscuits, Fat Archies, Cape Breton Oakcakes – all the baked goods I didn’t really like when I was a kid. I also started making this lemon loaf. I had cute mini-loaf pans and would halve the recipe to make mini-lemon loaves, perfect for two people to consume in one sitting.



I was amazed at how popular these baked goods were, and how quickly they would sell. It seemed that everyone else was feeling as nostalgic for old-fashioned goodies as I.

The lemon loaf was especially popular. Originally, I wouldn’t give it a glaze. Instead I would just mix the juice from a lemon with 2 Tbsp of sugar until the sugar dissolved, then would spoon it over the hot loaf like a syrup. That’s the traditional way to do it. Now I make a glaze for it in addition to soaking it in the lemon juice syrup. It balances out the tartness a little, which I like. If you like it tart, stop at the lemon juice syrup!



Lemon Loaf


1/2 cup butter, melted

1 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

rind of one lemon

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup buttermilk


2 heaping Tbsp sugar

juice of one lemon


1/3 cup icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 Tbsp heavy cream


  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (190 degrees Celsius, no fan). Butter and flour one loaf pan.
  • In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer), cream together the melted butter and sugar. Add the vanilla and lemon rind. Mix well.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, mixing briefly after each.
  • Add all dry ingredients at once; mix until just combined (don’t over-mix).
  • Add the buttermilk and mix on high speed for 30 seconds until everything is combined well. The mixture should be slightly thick, but light.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 35-45 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean when inserted into the center of the loaf.
  •  Make the syrup: mix the lemon juice and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Pour over the top of the hot loaf. Allow the loaf to cool for 15 minutes in the loaf pan, then remove loaf from pan and cool completely on a cooling rack.
  • Make the glaze: mix the three glaze ingredients together, adding more cream if the glaze is looking too thick. You want the glaze to be slightly runny, but easy to spread. Spread the glaze over the top of the cooled lemon loaf.


Post-Move Struggles

When preparing for the big move to Ireland from Toronto last month (was it really just last month?) I didn’t think I’d have any problems. I mean, this is not my first rodeo. Patrick and I met while we were both living and working in South Korea as ESL teachers – I had moved right after graduating from university.

It was my first time leaving Canada (I had never even been to the USA at that point, or further west than Toronto in my own country) and while it was, at first, a major shock to the system, I quickly adapted in the way young twenty-somethings tend to do: by finding a bar, partying with other foreigners on weekends and getting settled into the wonderful, crazy world of teaching kindergarten. Meeting Patrick six months after I arrived, Korea (and that bar I liked to frequent) quickly became my adopted home. We stayed for nearly three years.


One of my favourite Korean students, Toby, in my classroom in Suwon, South Korea.

Moving back to Canada was a lesson in reverse-culture shock. I had never lived in a city like Toronto. Its multiculturalism is, in my opinion, unparalleled to any other city in North America. Being a white girl whose family came to Canada hundreds of years prior, I was in the minority. This was OK, since I was also a very visible minority living in Korea and was well used to it. What was not OK were my constant accidental slurs – asking strangers on the street if they spoke English before asking them for directions, speaking extremely slowly and my frequent lapses into “Konglish” – which made me sometimes look like a racist fool. This lasted several weeks while I grew accustomed once more to life in Canada.

Toronto City Hall, where I taught Patrick how to ice skate

Toronto City Hall, where I taught Patrick how to ice skate

Moving to Ireland would be easy by comparison, I thought. And in many ways, it has been. Immigrating to Ireland is a great deal easier than immigrating to Canada, particularly if your spouse is Irish. I had virtually no problem getting my passport stamped and my PPS number, which enables me to work in the country. Having moved internationally already, I knew how to research shipping companies, how to move my cat and how to move house quickly and efficiently.

The weirdo cat we picked up in Korea and shipped all over the world, Ha Jin

The weirdo cat we picked up in Korea and shipped all over the world, Ha Jin

What has not been easy for me are the grocery stores. And the ovens. And I’m heartbroken without my Kitchenaid appliances, which came to Ireland with me but will not respond to the electrical voltage here. In Canada, I knew where to get the best kitchen supplies, how to make the perfect cake and where to get those hard-to-find ingredients.

Here, I find myself clumsily pushing buttons in my kitchen until things start working – the dishwasher, the washing machine, the oven. I can’t find flour in a bag larger than 2kgs and yesterday I almost broke down in the middle of Dunnes Stores when I asked a clerk where the curry powder was and he couldn’t find any (I eventually found it on my third trip down the international foods aisle). As a professional cook, these problems make me feel a bit inadequate. I’m developing a complex.

Have I mentioned I’m six months pregnant? Gotta love those hormones.

I was initially repulsed by Korean food. This was my first bar snack: squid jerky!

I was initially repulsed by Korean food. This was my first bar snack: squid jerky!

It takes time to adjust to a new country. This is something I’ve experienced before as well, but always seem to forget about once I get settled in. For now, I’ll keep bumping my way around the kitchen. Soon enough, I’ll get it.

%d bloggers like this: