Wednesday, June 29, 2011


A couple of weeks go marked the first "Cookbook Club" dinner with about six of my friends from chef school. Once a month we decided get together and cook. The host chooses a cookbook and each person is responsible for preparing one of the parts of the meal! 

The first cookbook chose was French Taste by Laura Calder. I made the appetizers, which I will later share, but one of the dishes that really stuck with me was my friend Kyle's orange & fennel salad. Two fabulously fresh and interesting ingredients. The purple flowers that garnish the photo below (of Kyle's dish) are chive flowers, and I think an absolutely gorgeous touch to a summer fresh dish.

Fennel & Orange Salad

- 1 fennel bulb, fronds reserved (this is just the fennel hairs on the top of the bulb)
- olive oil for frying
- sea salt, and ground pepper
- 1 orange
- 1/2 small red onion
- handful small black olives
- handful toasted pinenuts
- zest and juice of 1 lemon

- Trim the fennel, reserving a handful of green fronds. Cut into slices about 1/4-inch thick. Heat a little olive oil in a saute pan, and, working in batches and seasoning with salt and pepper as you go, fry the fennel on both sides until golden and tender. As the fennel is done, arrange it on a serving platter.
- Zest the orange and set the zest aside. Remove the skin with a sharp knife, taking care to remove all the white pith from the fruit. Discard the peel. Cut out the orange sections, arranging over the fennel, and squeeze the orange juice over the whole salad.
- Slice the onion into paper thin rings and arrange over the salad. Scatter over the olives and pine nuts. Squeeze over lemon juice, to taste.
- Drizzle over a little more olive oil. Finally, scatter over the reserved fennel fronds. Serve.
photo credit: moi!


Summer is finally here, and one of my loves of summer is the BBQ! Last week I decided to make some delicious BBQ chicken kebabs, courtesy of Jamie Oliver! I love the barbecue for so many reasons, I think the flavour you get out of a bbq is second to none. A bbq, summer weather and eating outdoors... it's pretty hard to beat.

The chicken ones are the top left!

These kebabs were so easy to make but just jammed packed with flavour. I find that I don't always have time to let things marinate, but this is one of those times that I was so thankful I did! The flavours of the herbs really penetrated the chicken and after the bbq they were extremely moist and tender.

Jamie O's Chicken kebabs
Makes 6-8 kebabs

- 4 or 5 free-range boneless chicken breasts
- 3 or 4 zucchini, sliced very thinly lengthways
-  6–8 skewers or sticks of fresh rosemary, lower leaves removed, tips kept on

for the marinade
- 1 handful of fresh coriander
- 1 handful of fresh mint
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 6 spring onions
- 1 red chilli
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- olive oil

- Cut the chicken into 2.5cm/1 inch cubes and place in a bowl.
- Blanch the courgette strips in salted boiling water for 30 seconds then drain and allow to cool.
- Blitz all the marinade ingredients (except the olive oil) in a food processor, then loosen to a paste with a little olive oil.
- Add the marinade to the chicken pieces and mix well. Allow to sit for up to an hour.
- Then weave the courgette strips in between the chicken pieces on the rosemary sticks or skewers.
- Grill for around 5 minutes, turning regularly, until cooked.
- Feel free to cut a piece open to check if they're done.

photo credits: jamie o & me!

Monday, June 13, 2011


Arctic Char is a saltwater and freshwater round fish that is an ever popular choice on today's fish menu! It is a fish that is very similar to slamon and trout, as it is related to them! The flesh is pinky, like salmon but with less fat.

Last week in our culinary skills classe we made potato crusted arctic char with a beurre rouge (a red wine butter reduction!). I will share with you, as this is one of those recipes that would be sure to impress anyone! And cooking fish is so great, because it literally takes only five minutes, so the prep time is so much less!

Potato Crusted Arctic Char (Serves 4)
- 4 filets of Arctic Char
- 1 yukon gold potato thinly sliced into rounds (best done on a Mandolin)
- Vegetable oil
- Splash of lemon juice
- Salt and pepper

- Cut the potatoes into thin thin rounds (you want them paper thin)
- Season the filets with the lemon juice, salt and pepper and then arrange your thin potato rounds on top of the char forming a sort of "crust"
- Heat a splash of oil in a saute pan until reaching the smoking point
- Remove the pan from the heat, and turn to low
- Add the char to the pan (presentation side down) and return to the heat
- Pan dry gently to ensure the potato crust is cooked and golden brown
- Once potatoes are cooked through carefully flip the char to finish cooking it all the way through
- Serve immediately with the beurre rouge

Beurre Rouge (Red Wine Butter Sauce)
- 100ml red wine
- 30g shallots (chopped)
- 150g butter
- 1/2 lemon (juice)
- salt and pepper

- Reduce the wine, shallots and half of the lemon juice by 2/3rds (on medium high heat)
- Cut the butter into small cubes
- Swirl in the butter cubes into the read wine and let melt, while continually swirling or stiring with a wooden spoon
- Add salt and pepper and adjust seasoning if necessary
- Strain and serve with char

photo credit: carl of course!


In our Banquet & Production class at school, each week we are given a certain protein. For example pork. And with this protein we use our butchery skills to butcher the piece of meat into workable sizes to produce about four different dishes. Last weeks lab was pork. The best part about this class is our chef challenges us to make one more dish using any of the extra ingredients we have or any of the spice supplies in the lab. I took on this challenge and was inspired by last weeks Top Chef Canada where Connie showed supermarket goers how to make sausage at home! I settled on making a pork sausage, seeing as we had leftover ground pork, apples, onion and sage.

A classic pairing combo with pork is apples (pork & applesauce), so I cut up some apples and onions into small cubes, brunoise as its called and sauteed them off so they were a bit soft. I then mixed in chopped sage, some white pepper, garlic powder and a pinch of nutmeg and salt. Before making them though, I fried off a piece to make sure they tasted alright, and I must say, they really were delicious! As Connie showed us on Top Chef, you can easily make your own sausages by rolling out a long tube in a piece of plastic wrap and then poaching in simmering water on the stove! It was incredibly easy, and you really could do this at home!

Here is a picture of my dish! The sausage shape is not the finest, but at least it tasted great!

photo credit: carl & the iphone

Monday, June 6, 2011


If you know Toronto's food scene, you know that The Black Hoof if now one of the best spots in town, loved and adored by the critics. I have been itching to go for months now, but was always nervous to try it on a Friday or Saturday since they don't take reservations! I finally went! With my three classmates from George Brown on a Monday night, at 6pm. By 6:25, the place was almost full - on a MONDAY!

The Black Hoof is cozy on the inside fitting about 25 including bar seats, decorated with dim lighting, rustic wood and tin. The kitchen is open and the smallest I have ever seen. Four of them squeezed into a tiny cube with an old-school electric oven that one would expect to see at a cottage. As someone learning to be a chef, the respect I felt for that team after seeing that was insane!

As the Monday I went was a gorgeous night we decided to sit on the patio that had recently just opened. The patio is constructed of beautiful wood with a large image on a pig on one wall and two chalkboard menus, one for the drinks and one for the wine. We started with the Hoofs creative cocktails, a basil fawlty (gin, orange blossom water, lime, simple syrup and basil), a tequila Maria and two lemon meringue-inspired cocktails sweetened with a lavender simple syrup called lillypies.

We instantly devoured the menu and settled on ten different sharing plates. The Black Hoof is really a place where you go to share food. The dishes are meant for that, as the mains are smaller then one might expect a typical main to be. We started off with house-pickled vegetables, warm marinated olives, a cheese board and of course the famous meat platter. On the meat platter we had a wild selection! Genoa salami, duck proscuitto, fennel salami, sopressata, spicy sausage and horse mortdaella. The meats were arranged carefully on a beautiful wooden plank and served with grainy mustard and lavendar lard. A crazy duo but one that worked very well! The thing I loved most about The Black Hoof was the time they took to make their food pairings perfect. For example on the cheese board, the cheese were paired accordingly with a red current and rosemary jelly, a nutmeg and blueberry jam and a hazelnut and vanilla sauce with a bourbon glaze on the apples. Each component on their own was as lovely as when they were paired with the specific item. The originality behind the flavours at The Black Hoof is sheer culinary genius, as we all agreed at the end of the meal.

 Marinated Olives
 The Cheese Board
The Charcuterie Board

The complexity yet simplicity is apparent in each dish, and with every dish presented on a different type of plate, there was just such excitement when each dish was brought to the table! The real winner of the meal was the fried sweetbreads finished with fiddleheads (in season right now!), sautéed ramps, fingerling potatoes finished with a velvety butter sauce. My other favourite was the  N'Duja and brussel crostini with a parsley pesto, fried parsley and fresh Parmesan (N'Duja is sort of like chorizo in my mind, a bit spicy!) You can tell that the quality of the ingredients used is there, and when we talked with one of the owners, Jen she told us that they are constantly changing the accompaniments of each dish according to the season.

 N'Duja Crostini
 Tongue on Brioche
The concept behind The Black Hoof is meat, taking on the philosophy of snout-to-tail (aka using the whole animal, not just one piece.), where they use different sorts of meat and make the off cuts available to the general public. For example on their menu is horse, beef heart, sweetbreads, cod collar, fois gras, duck liver, tongue and pig belly. What a crazy selection! But they know what they are doing, and their execution is perfect. Never have I tried horse or sweetbreads, but both were extremely pleasurable to eat, something I would have never imagined!

The mood in The Black Hoof was calm but you could just feel all of the love and passion from everyone working there to those eating. The general manager and part owner Jen just finished off our meal perfectly by talking with four star struck chef school students on our way out. I will most definitely be heading back to the Hoof as soon as possible. 

And as my classmate, friend and fellow blogger Carl put it, The Black Hoof - "Where capicollo, chorizo and prosciutto happily clog the menu and your arteries."

photo credit: carl and his cool iphone