Orzo with Brussels Sprouts and Sausage

While we lived in London we made every effort to say yes.  Yes to invitations to party invitations, to random events happening in the city (how else does one end up on a bee-keepers cooking course in South London), and to social situations that may otherwise send me running scared.  I am, by nature perhaps, a somewhat reluctant social mingler.  Saying yes however, resulted in some of our very favourite memories.  It’s how I ended up joining Thane Prince’s cookbook club and having the opportunity to hear the brilliant Paul Young speak about his experience as a chocolatier in England and it’s how I ended up meeting Nigel Slater at a New Years Day party without actually knowing at the time, who Nigel Slater was (we were pretty fresh off the plane to be fair).

Nigel’s recipes have quickly made it into my regular repertoire and perhaps even more so now that we’ve got a 23 month old and a newborn crying for attention.  His most recent book Eat is stuffed with accessible (relatively quick to put together with ingredients I typically stock in my pantry/fridge) recipes.  Nigel includes variations to many of the recipes which I find helpful particularly when I am light on one ingredient or am wanting to push my toddler’s meal acceptance boundaries!  Nigel also writes a weekly column in the Guardian.  It’s here where I found a new favourite recipe.  His recipe for orzo with brussels sprouts and sausage was fast, easy, and very flavourful.  I used a spicy Italian sausage from our local butcher and some wine that needed to be opened.  Check out the recipe link above for the recipe itself.

The finished product

The finished product



When we were living in the UK we had an opportunity to visit the Umbria region in Italy.  It was there that we first tried Porchetta.  A rather hardcore Italian pork roast, porchetta isn’t the type of thing I would endeavour to recreate at home.  Thankfully Bon Appetite has that covered for me.  Their week night version was very easily recreated within the context of having a new baby at home.  I’ve made a very simple change, using very thinly sliced pancetta instead of the recommended bacon.  I found it just added more flavour than standard bacon.

Bon Appetit’s Weeknight Porchetta

4 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 tbsp coarsely chopped rosemary, plus 4 sprigs
1tbsp fennel seeds, lightly toasted
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 lb pork tenderloin
4 slices pancetta

Preheat the oven to 425. In a mortar and pestle, combine the garlic, rosemary, fennel seeds, salt, pepper, and 1 tbsp olive oil and grind until combined.  Rub this mixture over the tenderloin, leaving it to marinade as long as you have available (overnight ideally, but I had only 30 minutes).  Wrap the tenderloin in the pancetta slices, and place on top of sprigs of rosemary in a large baking pan.  I used a cast iron fry pan.  Drizzle with the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil.  Roast in the preheated over until an instant read thermometer registers 145degrees. Let rest for 10-15 minutes, slice and serve.

Consider making a pan sauce, removing the pork tenderloin, rosemary sprigs and placing the pan over medium high heat.  Add 1/2 cup of white wine, scraping up the flavour bits from the pan until the wine has reduced by at least half.  Then add another cup of chicken or vegetable stock, again cooking until reduced by half.  Remove from heat, stir in 1 tbsp of butter, check seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Lentil Soup

So we’ve moved back from England, renovated a house, moved in, gone back to work, had another baby and that’s about that.  I’m still cooking, but am more in need of somewhere to download recipes I’ve found.

This Lentil Soup is amazing.  It uses up whatever vegetables are in your fridge, is hearty without meat, and perhaps most importantly to me at the moment, my 23month old daughter will eat it.  Hurray for proteins she’ll actually consume.  This recipe is from my very lovely cousin Heather.  It is therefore, Heather’s Lentil Soup:

Heather’s Lentil Soup

1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 ribs of celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1/2 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
6 c stock (chicken or vegetable)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 1/2 c red lentils
any other soft vegetables you have lying around – peppers, zucchini etc
1 tbsp parsley – I rarely have this on hand so leave it out
1 tbsp lemon juice

Combine the onion, garlic, celery, and carrots in a large, heavy bottomed pot over low heat.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the thyme, bay leaves, stock, salt and pepper, and lentils.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.  Add any other vegetables, cooking an additional 2-3 minutes as needed.  Add the parsley and lemon juice.  Serve as is or blend using an immersion blender or food processor.

Chocolate Pudding Cake

I don’t like fish.  Full of good Omega-3 fats and generally healthy, I know it’s something I should like.  I just don’t.  I do however, want the baby Brit to like fish.  I am therefore trying to eat fish more regularly.  I started last Friday.  Fish Friday.  We got some line caught mackerel (I know, mackerel!), baked it in the oven, and served it with caramelised potatoes and onions.  I ate two fillets of mackerel.  

In celebration of achieving my goal (cook fish and consume a portion within two weeks of my sister’s visit) I made this dessert.  It’s retro.  It’s unhealthy.  It’s delicious when served with salted caramel ice cream.  

Just thought you should know.

Chocolate Pudding Cake adapted from thekitchn 

1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (6 ounces) white sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup (4 ounces) milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine the ingredients dry ingredients by sifting together into a large bowl.  Combine the wet ingredients.  Mix together the dry and wet ingredients until there is no flour showing.  Pour into an 8×8″ pan.

Combine the following ingredients:
1/2 cup (4 ounces) white sugar
1/2 cup (4 ounces) brown sugar
1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder

Sprinkle the combined white sugar, brown sugar and cocoa powder over the cake batter.  Over all of this, pour 1/2 c of cold water.

It’ll look weird.  Don’t stir it together.  Just leave it.

Bake at 375 for 45 minutes.  It’s done when the edges of the pan start to caramelise.  

Serve immediately with salted caramel ice cream.

Quick and Dirty

So we’ve been a bit busier now that the baby brit has arrived on the scene.  This post is mostly just to ensure that I don’t lose the recipe for a chicken soup that I really enjoyed.  

And that’s it.

Chicken Harira with Spinach and Lemon (Chicken Soup) adapted from Waitrose Magazine, June 2013

1 tbsp olive oil
small bunch of coriander stalks and leaves separated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
5cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tin, chopped tomatoes (400g)
800ml chicken or vegetable stock
100g bulgar wheat
250g leftover cooked chicken (I used two chicken breasts)
100g spinach
4tbsp natural yogurt

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, adding the chopped coriander stalks, garlic, ginger and lemon zest.  Stir fry for two minutes.  Stir in the cumin and paprika, cooking for an additional minute.  Next add the tomatoes, bulgar wheat, and stock.  Cover the pan and simmer for 8 minutes until the bulgar is just tender.  Stir in the chicken and spinach, letting the spinach wilt.  Dress with torn coriander leaves.  Season with salt and pepper, adding lemon juice to taste.  Top with 1tbsp yogurt.

Three Years and counting

I would like to wish mr416expat a happy three years in England.  He’s now lived in the UK longer than he lived in our house in Toronto.  He’s well on his way to having lived in the UK as a married man longer than he lived in Toronto as a married man.  Time flies!

Despite having lived in the UK for 3 years, it’s still shocking/annoying when I go to the grocery store or market in search for, what I thought was, a universally available item.  Today’s case in point?  Spaghetti Squash.  I love that stuff.  I use spaghetti squash when I want to have a slightly lighter (less carby, more veggies) meal.  I have, in my 2 1/2 years here (I moved to the UK 6 months after mr416expat), seen only one spaghetti squash.  When I saw that solitary spaghetti squash at a market in East London, I bought it on sight.  The market vendor informed me that he wouldn’t grow them next year as no one was buying them.  It was a sad day.

2 1/2 years later I still haven’t seen any more spaghetti squash in London.  Maybe they’re out there somewhere, but not at any of my regular haunts.  This absence of course, made making The First MessSpaghetti Squash Noodle Bowl quite a challenge.  I love a challenge.

Quinoa and Broccoli Bowl with Peanut and Lime Sauce – Adapted from The First Mess

120g quinoa (cook in 1L boiling water until soft – approximately 10 minutes)
1 broccoli cut into florets
1 shallot, sliced thinly
1/2 c toasted sunflower seeds
handful of chopped herb (I used parsley because I had it on hand)
2 cups spinach (fresh)Codd
1 tbsp chia seeds (optional)


1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tsp thai hot sauce
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 lime, peeled + chopped
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp honey
1.5 tbsp soy sauce
tiny splash of toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup grapeseed oil

Cook the quinoa in 1L boiling water until soft – approximately 10 minutes.  Drain.  Put the spinach in a large bowl, pouring the hot quinoa overtop.  The heat from the quinoa will wilt the spinach.  Steam the broccoli florets.  While the broccoli is steaming combine all the dressing ingredients in a blender, mixing until combined.  Add a few spoonfuls of the dressing to the quinoa and spinach, tossing together.  Top the quinoa with the steamed broccoli, shallot, toasted sunflower seeds and chia seeds.  Drizzle additional dressing on top, season with salt and pepper.

Carrots with Chilli Peppers and Sunflower Seeds

So over here in England Gwyneth Paltrow gets a pretty bad rap.  Granted she’s living in LA now, so she’s not really a UK problem, but she still pops up in the media from time to time.  Most recently Ms. Paltrow has courted controversy with her new cookbook, “It’s all Good” where she provides recipes that “are just right for the way we are meant to be eating these days – cleaner and healthier, without sacrificing any flavour or satisfaction.”  In a country where, according to Suzanne Moore of the Guardian, food is now the ultimate class signifier, Paltrow’s recipes have a tendency to come across as somewhat preachy and unattainable for those on fixed or low incomes.  That said, I came across some of her recipes on goop and couldn’t resist giving them a go.  Unfortunately when it came to trying out her recipe for Carrots with Black Sesame and Ginger, I had neither black sesame or ginger.  Here’s what I came up with:

Carrots with Hot Red Peppers and Sunflower Seeds

1 chilli pepper, sliced into rings (remove the seeds if you’re afraid of too much heat)
1 tbsp olive oil
6 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks (I used the medium blade on my mandolin)
2 handfuls of snow peas, cut on a diagonal into roughly matchstick size
coarse sea salt and pepper
a few drops of sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
4 tbsp toasted sunflower seeds

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan, adding the chilli peppers to flavour the oil.  After the peppers have sizzled in the oil for a minute or so, add the carrots and snow peas, tossing to coat with the oil.  Cook the carrots and snowpeas for a minute or too until they just start to soften.  Stir in the sesame oil, soy sauce, and sunflower seeds.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve warm or cold.