Vietnamese Buns

My cousin Tamara was in town recently and that means we get to indulge in Asian flavours as we both love that style of food. This night we went to our neighbourhood Vietnamese hangout called Pho Huo’ng. The restaurant is on the corner of Pacific Ave and Dundas St. West and is a real local spot in the Junction. The restaurant is always busy but we always manage to get a table as the turn over is quite fast.

When you sit down they hand you menus and an order sheet where you write  down what you want.  The waiter swoops back and picks up your order, brings you a lovely tea and within 5 minutes your order arrives – fresh and delicious.

This night I had the lemongrass chicken bun and Tamara had the grilled chicken and pork with a spring roll bun.  Oh so good!!! Including tip and tax the meal is between $9-$10.  How can you go wrong?

For those not familiar with what a “Bun” is – it is “everything in a bowl” – fresh steamed rice noodle vermicelli on the bottom with sliced cucumber, sliced lettuce, bean sprouts, pickled carrots along with whatever grilled protein you order. You pour a vinaigrette over top that is a bit sweet and a bit tangy. Then you dig your chopsticks into it and enjoy.

Highly recommend this restaurant!

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Leftover Brisket with Friends

As many of you who read this blog will have figured out by now, I love sharing food with friends.  It is one of my favourite things to do.

This time the sharing took place with my friends and neighbours just a couple of doors over. Zannat (who writes a great blog I follow “food 4 happiness“), made steamed collard greens with garlic – of course anything made with garlic in my books has to be good. I brought over leftover BBQ brisket and sweet potato and cauliflower mash.  The great thing about brisket is, it is always better the next day or even two days after. Below is how I made the potato mash.  See the beef brisket link above for the brisket recipe.

brisket

Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Mash – perfect comfort food

1 potato per person

1 handful of cauliflower pieces per person

Boil or steam both the above ingredients till soft enough to mash (you may need to drain them well so mash is not too watery)

Combine both in a bowl and add a spoonful or two of yogurt and a handful of grated old cheddar cheese (yes that is the secret ingredient!)

I use a hand mixer to really blend the ingredients well. Mix till fluffy and there are no lumps.

Serve and enjoy!

Brisket in BBQ sauce – Slow Cooked

After a big storm here a couple of weeks ago we had a power outage for two and a half days!  While the things in the freezer stayed pretty well frozen I had a brisket in there that started to get a bit of freezer burn so I decided to cook it. As you may know, a brisket is quite a bit of meat so I figured I needed help eating it.  I invited my friends/neighbours over for dinner to help out (including sending them home with a care package). I was still left with half a brisket that was very very tasty.  The next morning I got a call that a cousin in law passed away and I went over that night to be with my cousin and family and brought the rest of the brisket for everyone to have for dinner – nothing was wasted and it was perfect comfort food.

Below is the recipe I used for this brisket – please note that I pretty much make it up as I go so every time I make it, it is a bit different. This was a BBQ style brisket cooked in a slow cooker.

Brisket

Ingredients

1 brisket (whatever size you want)

1 tin of finely diced tomatoes

2 tbsp of harissa spice mix (if you don’t have this then just add a pinch of cumin, cardamom, mustard powder, black pepper and a bit of cayenne (really you can’t go wrong so mix spices as you like)

1/2 cup of your favourite BBQ sauce

1/2 cup of sweet chilli sauce

1/4 cup of water or beef broth

1/4 cup of brown sugar

2 tbsp of steak spice

1-2 large onions sliced thinly

1 tbsp chopped garlic

Directions

Trim excess fat off brisket leaving a thin layer. Mix all dry spices and rub into meat and let sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours up to overnight (I leave it overnight).

Brown onion (thinly sliced) and add garlic when onions are almost done.  Pour into a slow cooker. Add half the wet ingredients (sauces and tomato) to the onion mix at bottom of pot.

Sear meat on both sides in a large pan browning the outsides a bit.

Put meat on top of sauce and onion mixture and pour the rest of the sauce over top.

Cover slow cooker and turn to “low” heat and cook for 7 hours.

After 7 hours in the slow cooker – turn meat over and leave on warm for an hour or two.

When ready to serve, slice meat against the grain and pour sauce from pot over top.  If the sauce has too much fat on top skim it off with a spoon before serving.

Restaurant Review – Hopgood’s Foodliner (Toronto)

Had a wonderful day one Saturday with my friend Anne.  We decided to stroll around a section of Toronto’s west end called Roncesvalles. Little did we know that the day we went was their music and arts street festival.  Great music, interesting booths and stores all along the street.  We had a great walk around and then settled on having dinner.  Several places where completely booked (understandable given it was a festival and a beautiful day…).  We managed to snag 2 seats at the bar of a restaurant called Hopgood’s Foodliner. I know it is an odd name but it is inspired by the Maritimes and serves great food that is East Coast Canada inspired.  Here is what we had :

• Bacon wrapped giant scallops

• Steak with sweet onion and arugula

• A serving of “pickles” which was pickled beets and turnip

• Anne had a glass of white wine and I a “Howe Sound Lager” – never heard of this before but it was one of the best beers I have ever tasted!

scallop

Steak dinner

HoweSound Beer

We shared everything and including tax and tip the bill was $38 each.  Not bad.  We had nice service (love sitting at the bar and smoozing with the staff behind the bar.  I would say this was a really good restaurant – one that I would certainly go back to.

Went for another walk after dinner and all in all had a great day!

Summer BBQ with Friends

Had dinner the other night at my favourite spot to eat – my friends Ted and Judy’s house.  Some of you may remember a few blogs I have posted of extraordinary meals I am lucky enough to partake in when I eat at their place.  It is always a gourmet feast. The other night was no exception!

Menu: sirloin beef kabobs, vegetable kabobs, grilled asparagus and a seared/baked potato dish – all tasting amazing.  We had a watermelon salad that I made to go with the meal but will blog that next week. I am including images of each food item with a short description of how they were made.  Not overly fancy  and complicated in prep but a visual feast – just a good use of ingredients that made the meal.

Veg kabobs 1

Vegetable kabobs – marinated in the same sauce as the beef – teriyaki sauce, sesame oil and orange juice.

Beef kabobs 1

Cooked to perfection! Same sauce as the vegetables

asparagus grilled

Grilled with a bit of olive oil and then finished after cooking with a touch of really nice balsamic vinegar.

potato dish

Potatoes – These were melt in your mouth delicious!.  Potatoes were cut into 1 inch rounds, placed in a non stick pan with some olive oil till it completely filled the base.  A small amount of chicken broth was added to the pan so the potatoes fry and steam at the same time. Half way though, garlic cloves still in their skin where added and pushed in between slices until the bottom was cooked and browned.  Then the whole dish was flipped (using a second plate to turn over potatoes keeping them all together). The plate was put in the oven to finish cooking.  Half way though the garlic was soft and taken out and put in a bowl with some olive oil and mashed till pulpy.  Then this slurry was brushed over the potatoes while in the oven to give flavour and help them brown even more.  Sounds like  fair bit of work but it is so worth it!

Outstanding meal once again – for some reason both Ted and Judy didn’t take me seriously when I mentioned renting out my house and coming to live with them – I promised I would only come upstairs for meals 😉

Check out my next blog for the watermelon salad.

Dinner with Friends

Well this is the second or third post I have done about dinner with my friends Ted and Judy (the fabulous cooks who years ago inspired me and my love of cooking).  The other night (the day after Judy’s birthday) I went over for a relaxing evening of amazing food, good wine and great company. Little did I know I was going to get a meal fit for a queen!  My mouth is watering just remembering it.

Here are a couple of pictures of the dinner along with a description that will make your mouth water too!

Dinner T&J

dinner T&J 2

Now for those of you who don’t eat meat – I understand the meat portion won’t be of interest but for those of you who do – what can I say….. I don’t eat red meat very often but this was outstanding.

Here goes….. Mashed sweet and white potatoes mixed with lobster meat and roasted garlic and a touch of olive oil (instead of butter).

Filet of aged beef  grilled to perfection (although Ted thought it was about 2 minutes too long – both Judy and I disagreed) topped with seared foie gras and au jus.

The beef was placed on a bed of baby kale, spinach and swiss chard sautéed with vegetable broth and garlic.

We all thought the idea of mashed potatoes with lobster was brilliant – I got to take home leftovers 😉 so you know I was a happy camper.