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Why you should grow garlic [reason:ONE]

5 Apr

garlic scape botanical drawingI ran out of home grown garlic two weeks ago.  It’s been terrible. I bought some grocery store crap, and threw half of it away in frustration.  I even forked out $14.99 a kilo at The Root Cellar for some Russian hardneck.  (That’s works out to an insane $1 per clove BTW).

Then I remembered I had a secret weapon stashed away in my freezer – garlic scape pesto.

Garlic scapes are basically the flower part of the garlic bulb (kind like the tulip).  Scapes are harvested to stop sending energy into the flower production, and back into the bulb.  So they’re actually just a by-product.  Lucky for us, they also taste delicious.  Wikipedia can tell you more.

They’re very recognizable in the garden by their pig-tail curls.  In the shops, they are usually accompanied by an equally cute price.  Especially at organic markets.  If you need to buy some, then find a real farmers market (not the hipster kind, they’ll charge you double), or head to China Town where they sell them at a reasonable price.


garlic Scape pestoGARLIC SCAPE PESTO

Rinse and dry freshly cut scapes.
Puree along with some olive oil in whatever machine you prefer.
Use enough so that you’re left with a paste strong enough to stick to a spoon held upside-down.
Portion into small freezer containers or cubes (probably not the same container you make ice in).
Label and freeze for up to 9 months.

TO USE: Defrost in the fridge and use a teaspoonful as needed where you might otherwise use garlic or pesto.  As with a pesto, use in applications that don’t involve direct heat to avoid burning or loosing the bright green color.


I have a couple dozen bulbs growing in the back yard.  I’m REALLY looking forward to harvesting the scapes later this spring. I’ll share some recipes.  If your really smart, you’re already growing garlic.  If you might have overlooked this in your extremely busy life; I understand completely.  But if there is only one thing you plant in a garden, it should be garlic in the Fall.   Don’t worry, I’ll remind you again.  And in the meantime, I’ll see how many people I can convince with at least five more good reasons to grow garlic.

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The Best Steak and Guinness Pie. Ever.

23 Jan

Best Steak and Guinness Pie

First: don’t plan on making this after work on a Tuesday.  It’s a dish you’re going to want to save for a dreary winter weekend.  The kind of day you want to stay home, but need to do something to feel productive.  And if you’re going to make one pie, you might as well make four because they freeze incredibly well for up to three months.  I’ve noted the quadruple quantities in brackets.

Best Steak and Guinness PieIngredients

  • olive oil
  • 3 red onions, peeled and chopped (12)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped (8)
  • 2 sticks celery, trimmed and chopped (8)
  • 30g butter, plus extra for greasing (120g)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped (12)
  • 1 cup brown mushrooms, peeled and sliced (4 cups)
  • 1kg beef brisket or stewing beef, cut into 2cm cubes (4kg)
  • a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large can of Guinness (4 cans)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons plain flour (1/4 cup)
  • 200g Cheddar cheese, grated (800g)
  • 1 package puff pastry, defrosted (4 packages)
  • 1 large egg, beaten (4)

Preheat your oven to 375ºF. In a large ovenproof pan or Dutch oven, warm a good pour of olive oil on the stove top over medium-low heat.  Add the onions and cook just until they are translucent, about 10 minutes. Then turn the heat up to medium-high, add the carrots, celery, butter, garlic, and mushrooms.  Give it a good stir then add the beef, rosemary and a little salt and pepper.  This should really liven up your kitchen with the fabulous sounds and smells of sauteing vegetables and searing beef!  Let this fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to give everything a chance to brown.  Meanwhile, crack open that can of Guinness (take a good swig to make sure it’s fresh) then pour the rest into the pan.  Scatter in the flour and stir it into the mix, then add just enough water to cover all the beef and veg.  Bring it to a brief simmer then cover the pan and put it into the oven.

Now you can take advantage of a day at home and relax for a few hours.  Be as productive or as lazy as you wish-the aroma coming from the kitchen will remind you of your virtuousness.  Check on the stove every hour or so, giving the stew a stir each time.  After 2 ½ to 3 hours the stew should be velvety thick and dark and the beef should be fork tender.  A few tasting spoon fulls would be prudent at this point to check the seasonings.  If the stew is a bit too watery for your liking put it back in the oven for 30 minutes or bring to a simmer on the stove top.  Once the stew has reached a lovely thick consistency, remove it from the heat and stir in ½ of the cheese.  Set it aside to cool for 30 minutes.  If you need to step out to run some errands, this would be a good time.  You could also refrigerate the stew at this point, and finish the pie the next day.

Continuing on with the pastry portion of this recipe, cut off about a third of puff pastry from the package.  The smaller third will be the top of the pie, while the larger piece will cover the bottom.  Lightly flour a clean work surface and roll both pieces out evenly with a floured rolling pin (remember not to fold or knead the pastry).  Check to make sure that the pastry will fit the deep pie dish you’ll be using.  Butter this dish well, then lay in the larger sheet.  You’ll want to leave an inch or two overhanging the edge of the pie dish.  Carefully pour the stew into the dish and even it out before sprinkling over the remaining cheese. Brush the outer edge of the pastry with some beaten egg.  Place the other sheet of pastry over the top of the pie dish and fold the overhanging pastry on to the pastry lid.  Go ahead and be a little creative with the top.  Use a sharp knife and lightly carve your initials into the dough.  Use some dough scraps and a cookie cutter to add a seasonal touch (‘glue’ down with a little egg wash).  Then brush the top with more egg.

Here’s where you can bake or freeze this pie. To bake, pop into a 375ºF oven for 45 minutes, or until the pasty is puffed and golden.  If you want to freeze, cover first with aluminum foil, then secure against freezer burn with a good layer of plastic wrap.  Don’t forget to label it, and note the baking instructions.  When you want to bake one, take it out of the freezer in the morning , remove plastic wrap and foil and pop it into a cold oven.  Then set the delay start on the oven and you’ll come after work to an amazing Tuesday night dinner.

Serve simply with some steamed vegetables or a good winter salad.  Garnish with some fresh herbs if you want to be fancy.  Try not to fight over the leftovers. Continue to feel virtuous because you’ve got more in the freezer.

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Here’s a tool I’d like…

2 Nov

Further to my last post rant I have found one item that I would happily receive from friends or family.

This product – if it works – would be a fantastic kitchen tool.  I’m particularly excited about it’s relatively small size – because in my kitchen there is no room for a mammoth like the the Sous Vide Supreme.

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