Category Archives: Soups and Stews

Roasted Cream of Asparagus Soup

Do you have certain foods you like to have in the different seasons?  One of the springtime treats in my house is asparagus.  Last spring I paid a visit to local asparagus grower, Tim Dixon, of North Tryon.  You can read the story here.  There is something about buying locally-grown foods at the farm gate – the freshness can’t be beat.  I recently dropped by Tim’s farm to pick up my taste of Island-grown asparagus.

Asparagus is a very versatile vegetable and one of the first available in spring in our Maritime climate.  Asparagus is lovely served with a Hollandaise sauce, in a quiche, wrapped with goat cheese in proscuitto and roasted, or in a myriad of other ways.  One of my favorite ways to serve asparagus is as a cream soup.  I like to roast the asparagus first as I find the roasting brings out the nutty, earthy flavors in the asparagus.  Today, I am sharing my recipe for this soup.  While it does take a bit of time to make, the end result is so worth the effort.

Roasted Cream of Asparagus Soup

1 lb asparagus
1 leek, white and light green parts only
1 stalk celery
1 garlic clove
1 potato
Olive oil
2 cups chicken stock
1 bayleaf
¼ tsp dried dillweed
¼ tsp dried basil
¾ cup whole milk
¾ cup evaporated milk
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp parmesan cheese
½ cup grated cheddar cheese

For garnish:
Asparagus tips
Olive oil


Preheat oven to 425ºF.

Assemble ingredients.

Trim asparagus ends. Cut leek in half. Cut celery stalk and potato into 2-4 chunks.

In large bowl, combine asparagus, leek, celery, potato, and garlic clove. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and toss vegetables to ensure they are well coated with the oil.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place oiled vegetables, single layer, on foil-lined cookie sheet. Roast in oven for about 20- 30 minutes or until vegetables are fork-tender. Remove vegetables from oven and cool slightly.

Loosely chop vegetables into chunks and place in bowl of food processor.

Pulse until vegetables are puréed.

Transfer puréed vegetables to large pot.

Add chicken stock, bayleaf, dillweed, and basil.

Whisk flour into milk until smooth. Pour into soup mixture.

Season with salt and pepper.

Mix ingredients well over medium-low heat, stirring regularly to ensure mixture does not scorch.

When hot and thickened to desired consistency, add Parmesan and grated cheddar cheese. Heat just until cheeses are melted.

Serve hot garnished with croutons and 2-3 steamed asparagus tips. Lightly drizzle a good quality olive oil around the garnish.

Yield: 4-6 servings

This soup is lovely served with a good quality rye bread.

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Hamburger Soup

As I write this post, it is a stormy day on Prince Edward Island with high winds and lots of snow – brrrrrrrrrr.  Most of the Island is shut down, including the Confederation Bridge which links us to the mainland in New Brunswick.  Roads are filling in as soon as the plows clear them.  It’s a stay-at-home day, for sure.   Stormy days always put me in the mood for good old-fashioned homemade soup — dinner in a pot and it smells sooooo good simmering away on the stove.

Hamburger Soup
Hamburger Soup

This is the recipe I have been using for years for hamburger soup.  It is very mildly seasoned so the taste of the vegetables comes through.  This is a true comfort food soup.  Like any soups, if you don’t care for a particular vegetable omit it and replace it with one you do like.

I make this soup and freeze it in individual containers to have ready for weekday lunches at work (it reheats well in the microwave).  For this reason, I don’t use potato in this soup because I don’t find potatoes freeze well (they tend to go grainy and mushy).  If you are planning to eat this soup as soon as it is made, then potatoes may be added.  For the freezer version, I replace the potatoes with a pasta – today it was macaroni I used.

Hamburger Soup


1-2 tbsp oil

1 lb extra-lean ground beef

1 cup chopped onion

¾ cup diced celery

⅔ cup diced turnip

¼ cup diced green pepper

1¾ cups diced carrots (about 3 medium-sized)

½ cup diced parsnip

¼ tsp garlic powder or garlic salt

1½ tsp dried basil

1½ tsp dried parsley

6 whole allspice

¼ – ½ tsp salt

Fresh ground pepper, to taste

6 cups beef stock

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 – 19 oz can diced tomatoes with juice

1 – 10 oz can mushrooms, drained

20 oz. tomato soup

1 large bayleaf

1 tsp sugar

¼ cup long-grain rice

½ cup diced zucchini (with peel)

1 cup raw macaroni


Assemble ingredients.

Ingredients for Hamburger Soup
Ingredients for Hamburger Soup

Heat oil in saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the ground beef, breaking it up with a spoon.  Fry beef for about 4-5 minutes or until beef is no longer pink.

Drain off, and discard, excess liquid.

Add onion, celery, turnip, green pepper, carrots, and parsnip.  Cook over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add garlic powder or salt, basil, parsley, whole allspice, salt and pepper.  Stir and sauté for 6-8 minutes.

Add beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, tomatoes, mushrooms, tomato soup, bay leaf, and sugar.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20-30 minutes.

Add rice and zucchini and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Lastly, add the macaroni and simmer for an additional 10-12 minutes until the macaroni is cooked.

Remove and discard whole allspice and bayleaf.

Ladle soup into bowls and serve with baguette slices, crusty rolls, or crackers.

Freezes well.

Yield:  10-12 servings

 My featured Island product in this recipe was ground beef from KJL Select Meats in Charlottetown, PEI.

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Chili After the Sleigh Ride

Sleight Ride at Potts Farm, Bonshaw, PEI
Sleigh Ride at Potts Farm, Bonshaw, PEI

Yes, it can be chilly after a sleigh ride and there is nothing better to warm up with than a bowl of hot, homemade Chili Con Carne afterward!  Nothing stirs up a great appetite better than lots of fresh country air!

Homemade Chili
Homemade Chili

PEI has seen its fair share (well, some might say, more than our fair share) of snow this winter.  While, for some of us, the snow means work shoveling and challenges getting around and planning for events, for others it means business.

Waiting Patiently for Passengers to Load the Sleigh

There are a number of farms on the Island that offer sleigh rides throughout the winter months.  Thanks to Mother Nature sending lots of snow to the Island, this year has been exceptionally good for the sleigh ride business.

The photos of the sleigh ride that appear in this posting were all taken at Potts Farm in Bonshaw, on the South side of PEI. Their sleigh rides take you through fabulous trails of the woodlands of their farm.

Before we headed out to Potts Farm, I made this big pot of my favorite chili to have ready when we got home.


A chili con carne meal is very easy to prepare because it, essentially, is a meal in one pot.  One of the things I like about chili is that it can be adapted according to ones likes and tastes.  For example, if you don’t like green pepper, simply leave it out.  To achieve a mild or spicy chili according to your taste preference, adjust the amount of chili powder and garlic added.  I like my chili mild-flavored and full-bodied (as opposed to “runny”), meaning I like to add lots of ingredients like onions, celery, green pepper, fresh mushrooms, canned tomatoes, and kidney beans so that it is a nice, thick, chili but still has some juice to it.  I also like lots of tomato flavor so, in addition to the canned tomatoes, I add both a can of tomato soup and one of tomato paste.  Once all the chopping of veggies is done and the cans opened, it’s pretty much just a matter of combining them all in a soup pot and letting them simmer for a good hour or more to allow the flavors to mix and mingle.

Chili freezes well and I freeze it in individual, portion-sized containers to have ready for quick packing of the lunch bag on those weekday mornings when time is always at a premium.  Add a crusty roll, bread, or biscuits, and it makes a substantial tasty and filling lunch.

My recipe for chili follows.  My featured Island product in this recipe is the ground beef which I purchased at KJL Select Meats butcher shop that is co-located with Riverview Country Market in Charlottetown, PEI.  If you are on PEI and have not yet had a chance to visit this butcher shop, I would encourage you to do so.  They have great Island meat available.

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Chili Con Carne

2 tbsp oil

1 cup onion, chopped

½ cup green pepper, chopped

1 cup celery, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1½ lb lean or extra-lean ground beef

1 – 28 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice

2 – 14 oz. cans kidney beans, undrained

1 – 10 oz. can tomato soup

1 – 5½ oz. can tomato paste

Pinch cloves

Pinch pepper

1 – 2 tsp chili powder, to taste

3 tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (I use oregano flavoured from our local Liquid Gold store)

1 tsp liquid beef bouillon

1 bayleaf

4 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced


Assemble ingredients.

Ingredients for Chili
Ingredients for Chili

In large pot, heat oil.  Add onion, green pepper, celery, and minced garlic clove.

Quickly sauté over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add ground beef and cook until browned.

Add remaining ingredients (including the canned tomatoes, kidney beans, tomato soup, and tomato paste and seasonings) except the mushrooms which will be added later.

Adding the Seasonings

Bring ingredients just to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to simmer.  Cover and slowly cook the chili for about 30 minutes, then add and stir in the sliced mushrooms.

Adding Mushrooms
Adding Mushrooms

Cover and simmer for another 30-40 minutes.  Serve hot with French bread, crusty rolls, or homemade biscuits.  If desired, garnish each serving with a dollop of sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, and/or sliced green onions.

Yield:  8-10 servings


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St. Patrick’s Day Dinner – 2012

Irish Coffee

So, St. Patrick’s Day 2012 has come and gone.  A belated Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all.   We are all a wee bit Irish on March 17th, aren’t we – either Irish by heritage or Irish at heart!

My St. Patrick’s Day Menu this year consisted of Prince Edward Island Blue Mussels steamed in Guinness, herbs, and vegetables and served with Cows Creamery Sea-Salted butter, melted; Spirited Irish Stew served with Irish Soda Bread; Irish Cream Cheesecake; and Irish Coffee as an after-dinner drink in front of a cozy fireplace.

PEI Blue Mussels Steamed in Guinness

PEI cultivates great mussels.  Local supermarkets sell them bulk by the pound which is good because I am the only one in the household that likes them.  The key to steaming mussels is to use very little liquid and steam them just until their shells open.  If you use too much liquid, it will dilute the flavour of the mussels and they will have a very bland taste.  I have steamed these shellfish in water, beer, and in wine in the past.  However, the Guinness I used yesterday, along with the vegetables and herbs, made the mussels a very rich and delightful treat.  The mussels were infused with the Guinness and herbs but not so much that the seafood taste of these tasty morsels was lost.

So, for one serving, this is what I used:

2 Tbsp carrots, very finely chopped

2 Tbsp celery, very finely chopped

2 Tbsp. onion, finely chopped

½ tsp garlic purée

½ tsp. dried dillweed

1 – 1 ½ Tbsp butter

Melt butter in saucepan and sauté ingredients 2-3 minutes, then add:

1 cup Guinness

Bring to a boil

Add 9-10 oz. PEI mussels (about 15).

Cover pot.  Reduce heat to medium.  Steam approximately 3-5 minutes or until shells are open.  Using slotted spoon, remove mussels from liquid and transfer to plate, discarding any unopened shells.  Serve with melted butter.

PEI Blue Mussels Steamed in Guinness

 Irish Stew

Spirited Irish Stew

According to legend, traditional Irish Stew was made with cheap cuts of mutton or lamb and basic root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, onions, and turnips. Years ago, these would have been ingredients that were, no doubt, simply what would have been available in Ireland where sheep were raised for their wool and for food and, before the potato famine, potatoes were a primary Irish crop.

Over the years, Irish Stew recipes have changed according to the locale and what was available in the cook’s local area.  For example, beef is often used in North America today instead of lamb in Irish Stew and other ingredients are added to make a more flavourful, hearty stew as opposed to a broth-like dish.  Purists might argue that these changes result in a new stew recipe altogether and is something entirely different than the original Irish Stew.  Regardless what it is called, I like my version of a Spirited Irish Stew.  It has a nice rich, robust flavour and a splendid reddish-brown color that comes from the addition of tomato paste.  Using Guinness and red wine helps to tenderize the meat and also adds to the flavour of the stew.  I don’t add huge amounts of either as the intent is not to “drown” the natural flavours of the beef and veggies but rather to blend and enhance flavours.  The nice thing about Irish Stew (once you have all the veggies cut up) is that it is an all-encompassing meal with all the vegetables in one dish (no worries about getting different pots of vegetables all cooked at the same time and a real bonus of only having one pot to wash).  It really needs nothing more than a slice of warm Irish Soda Bread, fresh from the oven and slathered with butter and perhaps some homemade mustard pickles on the side.

I like to slow-cook this stew in the oven at 325ºF for a couple of hours as opposed to cooking it on the cooktop.  I find oven-cooking allows the flavours to slowly blend and the stew to become nice and thick.  Recipe follows at end of this blog posting.

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread is a quick bread in which baking soda, and often baking powder, are used as the leavening agents as opposed to yeast.  My research revealed that ingredients for a basic Irish Soda Bread would include flour (often both all-purpose and whole wheat), baking soda, baking powder, salt, buttermilk, and molasses.  More elaborate breads might include raisins, currants, or nuts.  I also learned that it was not uncommon for the soda bread to be cooked on a griddle although I am not sure how the bread would have gotten baked all the way through without first getting burned on the bottom!

Soda bread dough is not kneaded like yeast breads and, in fact, it is recommended that the dough not be handled any more than is necessary for the dough to stick together.  In this respect, it is somewhat like tea biscuit dough except that it is a heavier, denser texture.

Irish Soda Bread Dough

Some recipes suggest that Irish Soda Bread should be baked in a pan or casserole dish for a softer crust or, for a more crispy hide, baked on a parchment-lined baking sheet which is how I baked mine.

Irish Soda Bread Ready for the Oven

The Irish Soda Bread recipe I used comes from Tea Time Magazine.  I found the bread was a good accompaniment for the Irish Stew but it is a dense, heavy bread and one that is probably best eaten fresh, warm from the oven, and on the day it is made.

Irish Soda Bread

 Irish Cream Cheesecake

I figured if I was going Irish on this St. Patrick’s Day, I might as well go all out and make a cheesecake that had Irish Cream Liquor in it.  I have often relied on recipes from Company’s Coming Cookbooks because I find them quite reliable, not containing ingredients I either wouldn’t have in my pantry or be able to readily source locally, and the directions are presented in a clear, easy-to-understand format.  That’s why I turned to Company’s Coming for the recipe for the Irish Cream Cheesecake.  I didn’t want a large cheesecake so I halved the recipe and used a 7” springform pan.

Irish Cream Cheesecake

I could not have been more pleased with the result.  The cheesecake had a lovely smooth texture, not over-powered by the Irish Cream Liquor but yet with a pleasing taste.  I served it simply with a dob of whipped cream, a drizzle of rich chocolate syrup, and a chocolate.  A superb and fitting finish to my St. Patrick’s Day meal!

Slice of Irish Cream Cheesecake Drizzled with Chocolate Sauce

My Island Bistro Kitchen's Spirited Irish Stew

By Barbara99 Published: March 18, 2012

  • Yield: (5-7 Servings)
  • Prep: 30 mins
  • Cook: 2 hrs 0 min
  • Ready In: 2 hrs 30 mins

A rich hearty stew with beef, a variety of vegetables, and flavoured with Guinness and red wine



  1. Ingredients for Spirited Irish StewAssemble ingredients.
  2. Vegetables for Spirited Irish StewChop stew meat and vegetables into bite-size pieces
  3. Browning Meat for Spirited Irish StewBrown meat in 1 - 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil.
  4. Place vegetables and meat in roaster.
  5. Spirited Irish Stew Ready for the OvenIn large bowl, combine sugar, herbs, garlic, tomato paste, beef consommé, Worcestershire Sauce, red wine, Guinness, and water. Whisk in flour until smooth. Pour over vegetables in roaster. With large spoon, stir mixture to combine. Add bayleaf.
  6. Spirited Irish Stew - CookedCover roaster and place in pre-heated 325F oven. Cook for approximately 2 hours or until vegetables are fork-tender when tested.
  7. Spirited Irish StewServe with Irish Soda Bread, rolls, or French Bread.

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