Category Archives: Soups and Stews

Cock-A-Leekie Soup

Cock-A-Leekie Soup
Cock-A-Leekie Soup

Cock-A-Leekie soup was on the menu during my first cruise in 1991 and I have loved this simple fare ever since.

While its origins are unclear, this savoury broth soup is most often associated with Scotland.  In particular, it is often standard fare as a starter on menus for “Burns Night” dinners which, of course, celebrate the birth of Scotland’s famed poet and lyricist, Robert Burns (aka Rabbie Burns) on January 25th. Burns, as you may know, wrote many famous poems and lyrics during his short life and one you may most recognize would be “Auld Lang Syne” which is often sung on New Year’s Eve.

And, as a wee bit of soup trivia, “Cockie Leekie” was also one of two soup options on the Titantic’s  First Class Passengers’ lunch menu on the  day the ship sank in April, 1912.

Earliest tracings of this soup date back to the 1500s. Of course, with Scottish ancestry, I am wondering if my ancestors from the Isle of Skye may have dined on Cock-A-Leekie soup. As I write this posting, it is the eve of “Burns Night” so it seems apropos that I would do a posting with a Scottish flavour.    I am, therefore, sharing my recipe for Cock-A-Leekie soup.

Cock-A-Leekie Soup
Cock-A-Leekie Soup

So, what’s in Cock-A-Leekie soup? Well, the answer is, not much, actually.  As its name suggests, the two main ingredients are chicken and leeks – in fact, you may hear the soup called “Chicken Cock-A-Leekie” or “Chicken and Leek Soup”.  Original recipes also called for the addition of prunes in this soup and it’s unclear as to why unless they were added for extra nutrition.  Barley is often added to the soup to act as a filler and to provide some natural thickening to the broth.  Rice is sometimes used instead of barley.  Very little seasoning is added to a traditional Cock-A-Leekie soup, often nothing more than a bit of thyme and parsley.

Over the years that I have been making this soup which, by the way, freezes well, I have “jazzed” it up a tad to add some additional flavour. By adding some parsnip, carrots, celery, and rutabaga, nutritional value is increased and the soup is more filling and can, in fact, be used as a main meal for lunch, as opposed to a starter.  My recipe also has some flavour boost from minced garlic, allspice, and Herbes de Provence.  I don’t add a lot of any of these but just enough to increase the flavour a bit.

Cock-A-Leekie Soup
Cock-A-Leekie Soup

I use chicken breasts with bone in for this recipe.  In my view, any meat or poultry with the bone in has more flavour than boneless versions. Because chicken is one of the main ingredients in this soup, about 2 cups of meat will be required.  Generally, about 1 1/4 lbs of chicken breast, bone in, will yield around 2 cups of cooked chicken, diced. I also add a bay leaf, some liquid chicken bouillon, and a handful of celery leaves to the chicken as it cooks – the leaves from 2-3 stalks of celery will suffice.  I find chicken can be very bland unless it is given a flavour boost.

The chicken for this recipe can either be diced or shredded. My preference is to dice the chicken (as shown in the photo below) as it makes a tidier soup and I find the shredded chicken to be too stringy for my liking.

Cock-A-Leekie Soup
Cock-A-Leekie Soup

The different vegetables in this soup require different cooking times so, parsnips and rutabaga and celery get added first to give them a head start on the cooking process.

Because this soup does not need to cook for hours on the stove, I recommend the use of pearl barley over pot barley because it cooks quicker.  In addition, I have added some split red lentils to the recipe as they, along with the barley, help to naturally thicken the broth without adding any other thickening agent (such as flour or cornstarch). Lentils belong to the legume family and are edible pulses which are crops harvested solely for the dry seed.

Split Red Lentils
Split Red Lentils

Because the split red lentils cook quickly and the idea is that they not turn to mush in this recipe and detract from the soup’s broth texture, add them near the end of the soup cooking process. Lentils are, of course, rich in fibre, have a high protein content, and are a good source of vitamins and minerals all of which naturally lead to numerous health benefits. So, they are a good contributor to healthy soups.

This soup can be served with crusty rolls, baguette, biscuits, crackers, or with traditional Scottish oatcakes as I have done here.

Cock-A-Leekie Soup
Cock-A-Leekie Soup

I hope you will try Cock-A-Leekie soup and that you enjoy it as much as I do.

Cock-A-Leekie Soup

Ingredients:

5 cups water
2½ tbsp liquid chicken bouillon
1¼ lb. skinless chicken breasts, bone in (should yield apx. 2 cups diced chicken, cooked)
1 bay leaf
Handful of celery leaves

1 small parsnip, sliced thinly
1 celery rib, sliced
2/3 cup rutabaga, diced
2 tbsp pearl barley
¾ tsp salt
1 medium carrot, sliced
2 cups sliced leek (white and light green parts) – apx. 1 large leek
1½ tsp minced garlic
1 tsp brown sugar

2 tbsp split red lentils
1/8 tsp allspice
¾ tsp Herbes de Provence
¾ tsp dried parsley

Sour cream, parsley, and truffle oil for garnish (optional)

Method:

In medium-sized soup pot, bring the water and chicken bouillon to a boil. Add chicken breasts, bay leaf, and celery leaves. Cover. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a slow simmer and cook until chicken pieces are cooked, using a meat thermometer to check doneness.

Remove chicken pieces from broth and transfer to heat-resistant plate to cool slightly before removing meat from the bones. Remove and discard celery leaves.

While chicken is cooling, add the parsnip, celery, rutabaga, barley, and salt to the broth.

Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low and cook vegetables for about 10 minutes then add the carrot, leek, garlic and brown sugar.

Sliced leek for Cock-A-Leekie Soup
Sliced leek for Cock-A-Leekie Soup

Return mixture to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low and cook for about 15 minutes. Add the lentils, allspice, Herbes de Provence, and parsley. Cook for approximately 8-10 minutes, just until lentils are tender but not mushy.

Split Red Lentils
Split Red Lentils

Dice, or shred, chicken and add to soup. Heat gently for about 5 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf.

Ladle into bowls. Garnish with a dob of sour cream, fresh parsley, and a drizzle of truffle oil, if desired.

Yield: Apx. 6 servings (1 cup each)

Cock-A-Leekie Soup
Cock-A-Leekie Soup

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Cock-A-Leekie Soup

Yield: 6

Serving Size: 1-cup

A tasty broth-based soup filled with nutritious ingredients and flavour.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups water
  • 2½ tbsp liquid chicken bouillon
  • 1¼ lb. skinless chicken breasts, bone in (should yield apx. 2 cups diced chicken, cooked)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Handful of celery leaves
  • 1 small parsnip, sliced thinly
  • 1 celery rib, sliced
  • 2/3 cup rutabaga, diced
  • 2 tbsp pearl barley
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced
  • 2 cups sliced leek (white and light green parts) – apx. 1 large leek
  • 1½ tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp split red lentils
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • ¾ tsp Herbes de Provence
  • ¾ tsp dried parsley
  • Sour cream, parsley, and truffle oil for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. In medium-sized soup pot, bring the water and chicken bouillon to a boil. Add chicken breasts, bay leaf, and celery leaves. Cover. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a slow simmer and cook until chicken pieces are cooked, using a meat thermometer to check doneness.
  2. Remove chicken pieces from broth and transfer to heat-resistant plate to cool slightly before removing meat from the bones. Remove and discard celery leaves.
  3. While chicken is cooling, add the parsnip, celery, rutabaga, barley, and salt to the broth. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low and cook vegetables for about 10 minutes then add the carrot, leek, garlic and brown sugar. Return mixture to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low and cook for about 15 minutes. Add the lentils, allspice, Herbes de Provence, and parsley. Cook for approximately 8-10 minutes, just until lentils are tender but not mushy.
  4. Dice, or shred, chicken and add to soup. Heat gently for about 5 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf.
  5. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with a dob of sour cream, fresh parsley, and a drizzle of truffle oil, if desired.
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Cock-A-Leekie Soup

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Cock-A-Leekie Soup
Cock-A-Leekie Soup
Cock-A-Leekie Soup

 

Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup

Roasted Cream of Tomato Soup
Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup

One of my all-time favorite comfort soups is homemade tomato soup.  I have been working for the past couple of years to develop a tomato soup recipe that uses the right blend of ingredients and spices to achieve a balanced tomato soup that is pleasing to my palate. Recipe development can be a lengthy and tedious process and the recipe I am sharing today is the result of my efforts.  Once I crafted the final version of this soup, no canned tomato soup will now do!

Roasted Cream of Tomato Soup
Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup

The tomatoes I recommend to use in tomato soup are the plum tomatoes, sometimes referred to as the “Romas” or “Italian tomatoes”.

Roma Tomatoes

These are an oblong, almost egg-shaped, tomato and they are a firm tomato, quite meaty, and less watery with fewer seeds than other tomato varieties.  They also have a gorgeous vibrant red color that translates into wonderful color for soups and sauces. They are ideal for roasting because of their thick wall of flesh that does not break down and collapse quickly.  For these reasons, the Romas are often used in canning, soup-making, and for making tomato sauce and paste.

I like to roast the vegetables for this soup because the roasting draws out and heightens their flavour,  making a more flavorful soup.  It’s important to coat (but not drench or soak) the vegetables with a high quality olive oil before roasting them.  This will help to keep the vegetables from drying out during the roasting process. Although a plain olive oil can certainly be used, I like to use a flavored oil such as oregano or herbes de provence, for example, as this adds additional flavor. The only vegetable I find difficult to get roasted soft is the celery so, for this vegetable, I recommend cutting it into small chunks about 1″ long.  Through the roasting and cooking processes, the celery will eventually soften but it does take more time (but it is necessary for the flavor it provides to the soup). Use care not to burn or over-char the vegetables — there is a definite line between vegetables that are well-roasted and those that are burned. The goal is to have a flavourful soup that uses roasted vegetables but has no ‘burnt’ taste to it.

Use the freshest of ingredients you can find for this soup; it matters.  Using fresh herbs is essential for the best flavor of the soup and add them near the end of the cooking process so their flavor will be more intense and true.

I use a hand-held immersion blender to purée the vegetables although a standard food processor would also work.  How smooth to purée the mixture is a matter of preference.  For a more refined soup, purée the mixture until very smooth then strain it through a fine wire-mesh sieve; for a more rustic, artisan soup, purée less and don’t strain through a sieve.

While whole milk by itself can be used in this recipe, I like to add a mixture of whole milk and blend (or, if I want to be really extravagant, whipping cream) because it gives better flavor and texture to the soup.  I make this soup in large batches and freeze it. It will not freeze well and maintain its quality texture if anything less than whole milk is used and it freezes even better if blend or whipping cream is used along with the whole milk.

This is not a highly spiced soup because my intent is that it remain very much a tomato-flavored soup. Any ingredients added are intended to compliment and enhance the soup’s flavor, not mask or overpower the tomato flavor.

Roasted Cream of Tomato Soup
Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup
Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup

Ingredients:

1 medium-sized carrot
1 medium-sized onion
1 leek
½ celery stalk
1 – 1½ oz piece of fennel bulb
2½ lbs ripe plum tomatoes (Romas)
4-5 garlic cloves, unpeeled
Olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp liquid chicken bouillon
2 cups hot water
1 tbsp ketchup or tomato paste
1 tsp sugar or honey
1 bay leaf
3 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1¼ cups whole milk
½ – ¾ cup blend or whipping cream
Sea Salt
Pepper

Sour Cream (optional)
Seasoned Croutons (optional)
Fresh Herbs (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 450°F. Place oven rack in center of oven.

Peel carrot, onion, and strip outer layers from leek – use only white and light green part of the leek. Cut carrot, leek, and celery into chunks about 1” – 2”. Chop fennel bulb into 2-3 chunks. Cut tomatoes and onion into quarters. Place vegetables into a large bowl and add unpeeled garlic cloves. Drizzle vegetables and garlic cloves with enough olive oil to coat and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Toss gently to coat mixture with oil. Place vegetables and garlic, single layer, on greased tinfoil-lined baking pan.

Roast, uncovered for apx. 45-60 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked soft (do not burn them). Remove vegetables from oven and split garlic peeling to extract garlic.

Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the roasted vegetables and garlic along with the liquid chicken bouillon, hot water, ketchup or tomato paste, sugar or honey, and bay leaf.  Stir. Cover. Bring to a boil then immediately reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes. In the last 10 minutes of simmering, add the fresh basil, oregano, and thyme.

Let mixture cool to lukewarm. Remove bayleaf, then purée mixture with immersion blender or in a food processor to desired consistency/smoothness. For an even creamier texture, strain the mixture through a fine wire mesh sieve and discard any remaining solid bits.

Return puréed mixture to large pot. Add milk and blend (or whipping cream). Stir well.

Heat gently, over medium-low heat, stirring often to prevent scorching. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with sour cream, seasoned croutons and fresh herbs, if desired.

Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup

Yield: Apx. 6-8 servings

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Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup

Yield: Apx. 6-8 servings

A flavorful homemade tomato soup filled with goodness.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium-sized carrot
  • 1 medium-sized onion
  • 1 leek
  • ½ celery stalk
  • 1 – 1½ oz piece of fennel bulb
  • 2½ lbs ripe plum tomatoes (Romas)
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp liquid chicken bouillon
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 tbsp ketchup or tomato paste
  • 1 tsp sugar or honey
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1¼ cups whole milk
  • ½ - ¾ cup blend or whipping cream
  • Sea Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sour Cream (optional)
  • Seasoned Croutons (optional)
  • Fresh Herbs (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Place oven rack in center of oven.
  2. Peel carrot, onion, and strip outer layers from leek – use only white and light green part of the leek. Cut carrot, leek, and celery into chunks about 1” - 2”. Chop fennel bulb into 2-3 chunks. Cut tomatoes and onion into quarters. Place vegetables into a large bowl and add unpeeled garlic cloves. Drizzle vegetables and garlic cloves with enough olive oil to coat and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Toss gently to coat mixture with oil. Place vegetables and garlic, single layer, on greased tinfoil-lined baking pan. Roast, uncovered for apx. 45-60 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked soft (do not burn them). Remove vegetables from oven and split garlic peeling to extract garlic.
  3. Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the roasted vegetables and garlic along with the liquid chicken bouillon, hot water, ketchup or tomato paste, sugar or honey, and bay leaf. Stir. Cover. Bring to a boil then immediately reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes. In the last 10 minutes of simmering, add the fresh basil, oregano, and thyme.
  4. Let mixture cool to lukewarm. Remove bayleaf, then purée mixture with immersion blender or in a food processor to desired consistency/smoothness. For an even creamier texture, strain the mixture through a fine wire mesh sieve and discard any remaining solid bits.
  5. Return puréed mixture to large pot. Add milk and blend (or whipping cream). Stir well. Heat gently, over medium-low heat, stirring often to prevent scorching. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with sour cream, seasoned croutons and fresh herbs, if desired.
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Tomato Soup

Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup

 

Cream of Roasted Asparagus Soup

White bowl filled with Cream of Roasted Asparagus Soup with marble rye bread on breadboard in background
Cream of Roasted 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.

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.

White Bowl Filled With Cream of Asparagus Soup
Roasted Cream of Asparagus Soup

[Printable recipe follows at end of post]

Roasted Cream of Asparagus Soup

Ingredients:
1 lb asparagus
1 leek, white and light green parts only
1 stalk celery
1 garlic clove
1 potato
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
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:
Croutons
Asparagus tips
Olive oil

Method:

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.

Cream of Roasted Asparagus Soup

Rich, velvety Cream of Roasted Asparagus Soup is a springtime treat when the local asparagus is in season
Course Soup
Keyword asparagus, soup

Ingredients

  • 1 lb asparagus
  • 1 leek white and light green parts only
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 potato
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 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:
  • Croutons
  • Asparagus tips
  • Olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425ºF.
  2. 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.
  3. Place oiled vegetables, single layer, on foil-lined cookie sheet. Roast in oven for about 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.
  4. Transfer puréed vegetables to large pot. Add chicken stock, bayleaf, dillweed, and basil. Whisk flour into milk until smooth. Pour into pot. 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.
  5. Serve hot garnished with croutons and 2-3 steamed asparagus tips. Lightly drizzle a good quality olive oil around the garnish.

 

For other great asparagus recipes from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:

Lobster and Asparagus Crepes
Asparagus Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Asparagus Quiche
Asparagus Bundles

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Cream of Roasted Asparagus Soup

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.

Chili
Chili

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.

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

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
1 tsp liquid beef bouillon
1 bayleaf
4 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced

Method:

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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Chili

Chili Con Carne

This tummy-warming tasty chili con carne recipe is sure to become a family favorite. Serve with crusty bread, rolls or biscuits.
Servings 8
My Island Bistro Kitchen Barbara99

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • ½ cup green pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 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

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. Add ground beef and cook until browned, stirring frequently.
  3. Add remaining ingredients except mushrooms. Bring mixture just to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to simmer. Cover and slowly cook the chili for about 30 minutes, then add the sliced mushrooms. Cover and simmer for another 30-40 minutes.
  4. Serve hot with bread, rolls, or biscuits. If desired, garnish each serving with a dollop of sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, and/or sliced green onions.

Recipe Notes

Yield: 8-10 servings

Chili

 

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

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Assemble ingredients.
  2. Chop stew meat and vegetables into bite-size pieces
  3. Brown meat in 1 - 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil.
  4. Place vegetables and meat in roaster.
  5. In 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. Cover roaster and place in pre-heated 325F oven. Cook for approximately 2 hours or until vegetables are fork-tender when tested.
  7. Serve with Irish Soda Bread, rolls, or French Bread.

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