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Friday, 31 December 2010

Goodbye 2010

2010 was sent away in a warm, pleasant and effortlessly floating evening around the fireplace. The evening comprised of a series of food savouring that started at 7:00 pm 2010 and stopped at 1:00 am 2011. The theme was somerville hearth - initiating an experiment of using the fireplace to grill food, starting with chestnuts.

Platters of international hors d'oeuvres kept floating till around 10 pm, including:
  • Deviled eggs with shredded carrots and cwikla (beets with horseradish)
  • Mini European weniers grilled in the fireplace and served with German mustard and swiss cheese
  • Leaks and oriental noodles fried dumplings with chili relish and pickled green beans
  • Hawaiian pizza bites with marinated artichokes

Cleansing the palates by a lovely simple salad bursting with different flavours: greens, blue cheese, pecans and home made poached anjou pears in marsala with the sauce used in the vinaigrette.

At 11:00 pm, the feast was served in artisan Iranian hand engraved white brass platters, brought directly from the Great Imam Bazaar in Shiraz - Leg of Lamb with rosemary prune sauce, creamed spinach, roasted potatoes and cauliflower/broccoli in white cheese sauce.

Midnight fireworks drew us out into the neighbourhood wishing neighbours happy new year to return and warm up with a tray of home baked goods and a platter of "Eish El Sarayah" (Bread of the royalties) - bread soaked with sugar syrup covered with cream and pistachios.

Happy New Year! Hello 2011...

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Dining on Pieces of Art

A dinner invite at the home of a talented artist and author of cooking books is not to be missed. Not only the food was amazing, the presentation of everything, including the dishes of prep ingredients, made for a dinner appealing to all our senses.

As a true artist, she does not use recipe books and creates all her recipes from scratch. 

Dinner started with a salad with endive, oranges, blood oranges, peppers and home-made candied kumquat sprinkled with pecans, dates, mint and sea salt flavoured with Lady Hannah's tea.

An aromatic and flavourful soup followed. This was a thai inspired chicken/beef broth soup. 

The soup was decorated with fresh lime leaves, shredded carrots and delicata squash florets. 

The main meal was a delectable stuffed pork roast served with a vegetable medley (squash, beats and Brussels sprouts) and red rice. The pork was stuffed with a mix of anise-fig bread cubes combined with orange peels, candied fruits, walnuts and pine nuts spiced up with star anise, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper and Szechuan pepper. It was then marinated with tamarind and lime sauce. 

And no reason for dessert not to be as appetizing and appealing as everything else.

Pears stewed in spices with vanilla yogurt and candied kumquats served with a sparkle.

Thank you JaG!

More on the artist at:

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Cookin' With Jesus

I found this Christmas card in San Francisco. It included recipes for a Mt. Olive Loaf, Bethlehem Lamb Stew, and Mary Magdalene's Holiday Tarts.

Without scrutinizing the content, I thought it will be fun to try these recipes during the holiday and feature on the blog.

But tonight, when I opened the card to make one of the recipes, the joke caught up on me. Recipes called for wild ingredients such as donkey and camel meat or ground palm leaves; and cooking instructions that included simmering for 40 days and 40 nights (original recipes featured below).

However, I was determined to make this work and the Bethlehem Lamb Stew seemed most promising.

I simply replaced the 3 jugs of red wine with half a can of Guinness beer, used only one bay leaf instead of 3 and one cup of water instead of the one quart of the Nazarene lamb broth.

Finally, rather than simmering for 40 days and 40 nights, I simmered for 40 minutes covered and another 40 minutes uncovered. 

For the more adventurous readers, here are the authentic recipes. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Festivities Continue Chinese Style - Part 2

After all this feasting (see yesterday's entry for Part 1), it was time for dessert. But first, and given who the hosts are, a perfectly brewed Shaktea vanilla honeybush tea was served (more on this tea at Shaktea vanilla honeybush).

The accompanying desserts' theme was "competition of the bakeresses" (yes, the term exists, at least on Wiktionary)

An Anita Buche de Nöel - a chocolate one to weaken one of the hostesses to vote in favour of this one (and little did I know that this same hostess had also a weakness for marzipan, which the mushrooms surrounding the cake are made from)...
...Versus a newly featured bakeress - Jackie - and her cardamon cake - deliciously stuffed with walnuts and a nice spicy drizzle on top. You can sample more of Jackie's baking at Shaktea (see menu at Shaktea Desserts).
Well, after tasting each one and re-tasting, it was very difficult to vote given how different each was. Anita dazzled us with design, chocolate and cream while Jackie bewitched our taste buds with spices and old fashioned cake texture. So we opted to just forget about the competition with cognac flavoured with ginseng, gooseberry, and long'an, - soaking for three years now. What a wonderful treat!

Thank you again TaM!

Monday, 27 December 2010

Festivities Continue Chinese Style - Part 1

Holiday festivities continued tonight with a home-made authentic Northern Chinese food dinner made from the host's family recipes. It could not have been a more perfect meal and evening.

Dinner started with a tomato, potato and egg soup. Light onion and ginger flavour that comes from the base before quickly frying the potatoes and adding the broth and tomatoes. Eggs are added at the end. Subtle, simple and scrumptious.

We then munched on salty duck eggs. Despite the warning of not eating the full piece in one bite, I did so and enjoyed the saltiness high. These eggs are wrapped in salt for at least 148 days then boiled for 3 hours. Salty, sensuous and succulent. 

Siu means BBQ in Chinese - so it was not surprising to learn that siu yo and siu ngap referred to BBQ pork and BBQ duck respectively - served with their corresponding sauces.  

Crunchy, crispy and succulent.

And for greens, we had stir fried choy sum. These greens were stir fried in oil and garlic. Dainty, delightful and delicious.

This would probably be the only dish I will attempt replicating.

But the highlight of the meal were those time consuming hand made tofu wraps. Cooked tofu with green onions, ginger and dry shrimps wrapped in soft dough and fried. I lost count of how many I ate.

Look for Part 2 - the digestive and desserts - in tomorrow's posting.

Thank you TaM!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Boxing Day Brunch

The holiday festivities continued for the third day with a lovely boxing day brunch. The hosts welcomed us into a beautifully decorated home including this gorgeous hand-made gingerbread house.

The meal started with a festive looking healthy fruit salad followed by two platters of "strata".

Strata, I learned today, is an overnight breakfast casserole. The brunch featured two of them; a ham and cheese one and a salmon, capers and cream cheese one.


What made these strata even more special is that they were made with an old fashioned home made white bread. 

This bread is from an old no-knead recipe and includes rising in the fridge in a process that takes two days to complete. 

And as if all of the above was not novel enough for my "searching for culinary variety" spirit, the dessert was a delicious sauerkraut chocolate cake - yes, that is not a typo!

 Thank you GaK!

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas Dinner

Christmas dinner was a traditional North American one (which to me is "ethnic" food). As regular readers would have seen before, chicken is somerville kitchen's turkey. And tonight was no exception; roasted stuffed chicken with all the traditional accompaniments...

 ...including, from right to left:

  • coleslaw (see Soup & Salad entry for recipe)
  • boiled purple yams and parsnips (see Parsnips entry for recipe)
  • mashed potatoes
  • two carrot-based mashes: Turnips and carrots mashed with butter and lemon juice; Carrots yam mash (see Let the Festivities Begin entry for recipe)

My childhood Christmases always included a Buche de Nöel for dessert and I have not had a decent one in over 20 years. Anita came to the rescue this year with a delicious lemon walnut Buche de Nöel covered with chocolate shavings and surrounded by marzipan mushrooms.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas Eve

Christmas eve was celebrated Lebanese style at somerville kitchen. Festivities began with Arak, a Lebanese drink that is similar to Ouzo but with unsweetened anise flavour base. You add some water, then ice (in this order) and you have a tasty, albeit strong drink, to go with your meals. Never drink it as a shooter - you will become incoherent in 2 minutes...

The dinner was Moughrabieh, the middle-eastern version of the North African couscous (In fact, North Americans refer to it as Isreali couscous). 

It is mainly semolina, salt and water that is made into these tiny balls, typically by hand (mine were store bought). Just imagine the hours it would take middle eastern women to roll enough of those to serve a big family over a holiday dinner.

You then boil chicken with lots of onions, and use the broth, including the onions, as the base for a stew that goes over the Moughrabieh. 

The broth is flavoured with salt, cinnamon, all spice and caraway. The smell of this meal when you walk into the kitchen is simply heavenly.

Close to midnight, a typical Lebanese holiday (Christmas or New Year) dessert - Knefeh - was served. This is simply two layers of shredded dough (sold in Greek stores as Kataifi) with heavy cream (Iranians refer to it as "Puck") in between (more on this cream at  September 12 entry - Sunday Morning Snack). This is then baked and served soaked with Kater - Lebanese syrup made with sugar and water and flavoured with a bit of rose water and lemon juice. Knefe is also popular as breakfast in Lebanon, so left overs will be the Christmas breakfast tomorrow.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Simple Pasta & Caesar Salad Dinner

Given all the upcoming festivities, a simple dinner was in order tonight - Spaghetti with simple tomato sauce, pickles and Caesar salad.

The sauce and pickles are made by one of my work colleagues and donated as part of Ipsos Charity Fund silent auction (see December 18 entry - Caring Souls).

The Caesar salad was a fun experiment since I have never made it before. 

The recipe I used was a Martha Stewart one (all the recipes I found were the same, but she is somewhat credible after all). 

I made the croutons from scratch - toasted bread cubes with pepper and olive oil. 

The dressing was crushed garlic, salt, pepper, dijon mustard, egg yolk, lemon and olive oil. Mix the dressing, lettuce and croutons and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and you are set.

Did you know that this salad was created by an Italian-origin Mexican restaurateur called Caesar Cardini in 1924? Fascinating story at Wikipedia - Cesar salad

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

More Holiday Baking

What to do with all this eggnog piling up in the fridge? Well, eggnog cookies it is! Described as "great", "have a sweet ginger taste", "delicious", these cookies are easy to make and store well. The recipe is a mix and match from the hundreds of eggnog cookies' recipes on the net, which, by the way, all share the same ingredients to a large extent.

  • Cream 1.5 cups butter with 2.5 cups sugar
  • Add 1 cup eggnog, 2 tsps vanilla and 4 egg yolks, beat at medium speed with mixer until smooth
  • Mix in a separate bowl 4.5 cups flour, 2 tsps ground nutmeg, 2 tsps baking powder and 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Add flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined, do not over mix
  • Drop by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets, 1 inch apart
  • 300 oven, 20 - 23 minutes

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Exotic Sushi Dining in San Diego

Who would ever think that an exotic award winning sushi restaurant is to be found in a business-park area of La Jolla (San Diego). Dinner at Cafe Japengo was a feast to the eye and the taste buds. One sushi roll after another kept us going, but the highlight were the duck potstickers served with coriander-mint pesto and spicy ponzu. I could have dined on those alone!

And then came thhe irresistible dessert menu. My choice was the pan-fried chocolate chips bread pudding, a perfect treat for carb and sweets lovers (a.k.a I). But I also sampled the cinnamon dusted tempura banana and my guest was polite enough to let me take a picture of his tengu trio - a tasting of chocolate lava cake, pan-fried pudding and a selection of sorbets.

Cafe Japengo
La Jolla, California


Monday, 20 December 2010

Holiday Baking

Thanks to Kim and a 1962 Chatelaine recipe, these Granny's Shortbread Cookies were described as "those bouchon things are really good, Kim is such a superb baker". Well, I am grateful for the cookies and an agreement to share the recipe on somerville kitchen.

  • Combine 3.5 cups flour, 1.5 cups chopped pecans and 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate 
  • Cream 1.5 cups of butter, and gradually add half tsp salt and 1 cup icing sugar
  • Cream till fluffy
  • Add 1.5 tsp rum extract and 4 tsps cold water, mix well
  • Gradually add flour mix and blend
  • Mold into balls or crescents and bake on ungreased cookie sheets
  • 350 Oven, 25 - 30 minutes
  • Roll in icing sugar once cooled completely
Thank you Kim.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Masi Brunch

Sunday brunch chez Masi, Beirut Style!

While the croissants, buns and omelette may be influenced by the French occupation, the other three items on the menu are very much typical of a middle eastern brunch:

- Feta cheese soaked with olive oil
- a platter of olives, peppers and green onions
- Foul - fava beans mixed in a lemon-olive oil-garlic sauce

Served with sweet tea by beautifully manicured fingers. Thank you Masi.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Caring Souls

Every holiday season, Ipsos Charity Fund runs a silent auction where employees donate whatever they want for sale by auction to other employees. All funds raised go to charities chosen by us. 

I annually donate a Lebanese feast delivered to the buyer's home. This year, it was my pleasure to prepare a feast for one of somerville kitchen's followers who donated hundreds of dollars in return for this meal. 

The package included:
- Drinks: Arak to start (with the appropriate glasses) and a bottle of award-winning Lebanese wine;
- Six "mezza" (appetizers) and pita bread (see Lebanese Feast) with mezza plates to serve them in
- Rice and chicken cake with salad (see Lebanese Feast)
- Baked meat Kebbeh with yogurt
- Lebanese sweets

All was packed in a box and delivered to her home with two pages of instructions on wrapping up the cooking and serving. I hope it was a pleasurable evening.

 Food and More for Sale
The above package is available for sale via somerville kitchen as of January 2, 2011. $325 for four people, $400 for six people, inclusive of all of the above and delivery within the city of Vancouver. Special rates for somerville kitchen public followers. To order or for more information, please write

Friday, 17 December 2010


I was invited to a lovely home made pork roast dinner tonight, thank you.

Simply baked, nicely cut and presented, and served with mashed potatoes, parsnips, coleslaw, and the roast jus. The parsnips were done in a way I have not tried before and they were delicious. Here is the recipe:

- Cut the parsnips lengthwise in half
- Put in a pan on top of the stove, cover with boiling water
- Bring the water to boil again 
- Turn the stove off and leave them to poach for five minutes
- Salt, pepper and serve


Thursday, 16 December 2010

Deutsches Haus

I cannot believe that, with all my fascination with anything and anyone German, it took me 133 days, 20 hours and 51 minutes to at last feature my favourite German restaurant on somerville kitchen.

Deutsches Haus, at the Vancouver Alpen Club, is by far the most enjoyable and authentic German dining experience in the city. 

Schnitzels of all kinds served with homemade Spätzle, Sauerkraut, and potato salad are just a few of my favourites here.

Combine this wonderful food with the efficient and friendly service of the German waitresses and you have a formula for a great dining experience. Top that with home made Black Forest Cake and the night is heavenly. 

Deutsches Haus
4875 Victoria Drive
Vancouver, BC
Ein Restaurant sehr empfehlenswert! 



Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Let the Festivities Begin

The first non-work holiday event kicked off today and, if this is the trend, I am going to have to shed quite a few pounds in the new year.

A complete old-fashioned turkey feast with mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, carrots/yams and salad. 

But the most interesting accompaniment was the carrots/yams. This was a delicious combo of cooked carrots and yams, green onions added to the mix before mashing, then mashed with milk and butter just like you would for mashed potatoes. The combination of flavours was amazing. I will sure try this before the end of the year.

And as if two servings of turkey and all was not enough, a dessert spread showed up at the end of the nigh including:

- mocha mousse cake

- chocolate lemon cake
- home made date squares
- and an Anita cranberry, chocolate and walnuts cake.

Thank you Alice and Laura!