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Posts tagged ‘Toronto’

Gateaux Basque

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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.

YEAH, OF COURSE I SHOULD, JESUS. TERRIBLE IDEA.

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

Ingredients:

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)

Directions:

  • 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.

 

 

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Bacon & Cabbage with Parsley Cream Sauce

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Ah, Paddy’s Day.

Those Facebook memories that keep popping up remind me that St. Patrick’s Day isn’t just a fun family holiday. Things just seem to happen for me around this time of year – good things.

Luck of the Irish? Perhaps. Or maybe we’re all just in better moods because the sun tends to come out in March. The trees start to bud, my garden starts to grow, the end of calving season (and; therefore, around-the-clock cow monitoring) is in sight and the air feels significantly warmer.

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Patrick with some Irish fans in Yogyakarta – our most booze-free Paddy’s Day

This time eight years ago, Patrick and I were embarking on a three-month-long backpacking trip around Southeast Asia. Facebook tells me we were in Java, Indonesia. We just climbed Gunung Bromo, a small active volcano, and were en route to Yogyakarta – a city we absolutely loved.

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Paddy’s Day Parade in Seoul, South Korea, 2008 (strange, no?)

This time four years ago, we were getting ready to leave Toronto for good. I was very excited and a little bit worried. After all, I was nearly six months pregnant and we were both leaving good jobs behind, with no work prospects in Ireland. I loved my work in Toronto but didn’t love living in the city. I couldn’t deal with the prospect of raising my kids so far away from family. Moving to Ireland, as you may have guessed, has worked out brilliantly. We are happy and thriving (and working!).

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Beautiful Porto. Take me back!

This time three years ago we were in Portugal on our first-ever family holiday with Maeve. She was seven months old and we had a wonderful time in Lisbon, Porto and Aveiro. The weather was warm and sunny (but not too hot) and we visited with friends I hadn’t seen in years.

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Maeve and her cousins, eating green pancakes.

And this year? One of my best friends is coming to stay with her 10-month-old baby boy. When they go home, Patrick and I are going to Galway for a few nights to eat, drink and relax sans children. So yeah, March brings good things, and St. Patrick’s Day is just one of them.

I remember Paddy’s Days of the past. In university, in Korea, in (yes!) Yogyakarta and, of course, here in Ireland, I’ve had some crazy times. These days our Paddy’s Day tends to be quieter and more kid-focused. Coffee at a friend’s house, taking the kids to the parade, making green pancakes for breakfast – all of these things are quickly replacing the pub breakfasts and day-long drinking sessions of the past.

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Bacon and cabbage is becoming tradition, too. While North Americans gorge themselves on corned beef, the Irish will generally sit down to a family meal of just about anything (Chinese takeaway? I wouldn’t say no). At our house, I usually make a big feed of bacon and cabbage for us and any other family members milling around the farm.

The parsley sauce is entirely optional, but I like it. A lot of people eat their bacon and cabbage with a schmear of English mustard or the ubiquitous brown sauce, but I think it’s more of a complete meal with the parsley sauce (also, it will impress your friends if you want to make this for a Paddy’s Day dinner party). It tastes fancy but is so easy to make.

The dish is called Bacon & Cabbage, but it wouldn’t be the same kind of bacon you have with your scrambled eggs. Here, a loin of ham is called a joint of bacon. You can get them smoked or unsmoked. Just ask your butcher, or, when in doubt, get some uncooked ham. It’s basically the same thing. Bacon and cabbage is usually served with mashed potatoes, but I love boiling new potatoes with the skin-on this time of year.

Whatever you end up doing for Paddy’s Day, I hope it’s great and full of delicious food, drink and loved ones. Sláinte mhath!

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Bacon & Cabbage with Parsley Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

Bacon & Cabbage:

1-2 kg ham/bacon joint (cured and uncooked, ask your local butcher!)

1-2 large head savoy or green cabbage

4L chicken stock

1-2 bay leaves

2-3 sprigs fresh thyme

Parsley Sauce:

½ cup butter

1 clove garlic, minced

¾ glass dry white wine

1 cup heavy cream

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Directions:

  • In a large pot, bring the ham, stock, bay leaves and thyme to a simmer. Simmer the ham/bacon for about 1 hour – or until the ham is cooked through.
  • While the ham is cooking, prep your cabbage: using a large knife, cut out the core and slice the head of cabbage into large wedges. Leave the wedges whole and set aside while the ham cooks.
  • When the ham is cooked, remove the ham, bay leaves and thyme from the pot. Add the cabbage to the remaining broth and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Make the parsley sauce: in a hot saucepan, add the butter and garlic. Cook for 30 seconds – don’t let the garlic brown. Add the wine and reduce by half, then add the cream. Let the cream boil and thicken for a few minutes – you want the sauce to coat the back of a spoon.
  • When the cream is thickened, add the chopped parsley and season with Dijon, salt and pepper.
  • Slice the ham and add it back into the broth with the cabbage wedges, just to heat through.
  • Depending on the size of your bacon (I usually buy a 1kg joint), this will feed 4-6 people. Serve hot with boiled or mashed potatoes.

A Gastro-Weekend in Cork

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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.

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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.

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Pieriogi-Style Kimchi Potstickers – Patois, Toronto

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?).

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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).

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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!

 

 

 

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