Sunday, October 24, 2010

White bean soup

This white bean soup is easy to make, delicious to eat and very pretty to look at! It's my new favourite thing for lunch on the weekend. White beans are tasting so good right now. They have a mild, earthy flavour that's a great comfort on a cool fall day.

I adapted this recipe from Laura Calder's chickpea soup on her show French Food at Home. She uses presoaked chickpeas, but I've made this with all kinds of canned white beans, including navy, white kidney and cannelini beans. And instead of just thyme sprigs, I've also been adding fresh oregano and sage because we grew these herbs on our balcony this year.

White bean soup
serves two

1 can of white beans: navy, white kidney or cannelini
one onion, diced
bay leaf
a handful of fresh herbs (sage, oregano or thyme)
chicken stock to cover
pinch of cumin
sprinkle of paprika
drizzle of olive oil
salt and pepper

Rinse the beans well in a colander and put them in a small soup pot with the diced onion, bay leaf and fresh herbs. Pour over enough chicken stock to cover the ingredients. Turn up the heat and let simmer for 20 minutes, or until the herbs have turned olive green.

Take the pot off the heat and discard the herbs and bay leaf. Carefully blend the soup with an immersion blender. (I usually do this in the sink in case it splatters.) Add a pinch of cumin to the soup and warm it up on the stovetop again.

Ladle the soup into bowls and season with salt and pepper. Add a sprinkling of paprika on top and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with baguette.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Beef stew

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Tis the season for comfort food! I've been making a lot of this beef stew lately. It's enriched with red wine and beef broth, and lots of aromatics give it depth of flavour.

My beef stew obsession, although always lurking in the background, was recently reawakened following a trip to Calgary where S's dad made us a to-die-for oxtail stew that just rocked my world. (His guest post on it is coming soon.) When we returned home, I was inspired to make a signature stew of my own. I've tried it a few times now, and I think I've finally found my stewing groove in this recipe that follows.

Beef stew
Serves four to six

1.5 kg stewing beef, cut into large cubes
1/2 cup flour for dredging
2 carrots, finely diced
2 carrots, cut into large cubes (~3 cm wide)
2 celery ribs, finely diced
2 small onions, finely diced
2 sweet potatoes, cut into large cubes (~3 cm wide)
4 cloves of garlic, finely diced
4 bay leaves
1 Tbsp herbes de Provence
a pinch of hot pepper flakes
1 cup red wine
2 Tbsp tomato paste
3 cups beef stock
1 parmesan rind
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
chopped parsley for garnish
salt and pepper

Dredge the meat cubes in the flour and dust off. Heat some olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan on medium to high heat. Add the meat cubes and brown on each side, seasoning with salt and pepper and turning the heat down as necessary. You want to caramelize the surface, not cook them through. Take the meat out of the pan and set aside. You will now have a deliciously dirty pan with lots of black bits on the bottom (and black bits = flavour!)

Add more oil to that pan, and toss in the finely diced carrots, onions, celery and garlic. Soften while stirring for about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the red wine and lift those brown bits off the bottom of the pan with a spatula. Add the tomato paste, bay leaves, hot pepper flakes and herbes de Provence.

Return the meat back to the pan and add just enough beef stock to almost cover. Add in the parmesan rind, which will dissolve to impart a salty hit and deepen the flavour. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to low and simmer for about an hour.

After an hour, add the large cubes of potatoes and carrots and more beef stock or water if necessary. Cover and cook for another half hour to an hour on low heat until tender.

Just before you are about to serve, take out the remains of the parmesan rind and stir in the balsamic vinegar. It lifts off any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan again and brightens the flavour of the stewing juices. Plate the stew into bowls, garnish with chopped parsley and serve with baguette.

Monday, October 11, 2010

À La Maison Campbell in Quebec's Eastern Townships

S and I visited Quebec's Eastern Townships this summer and stayed at À La Maison Campbell, a charming bed-and-breakfast that was highly recommended by two of our friends who love good food.

As you can see from the photos, the breakfasts at Maison Campbell are delicate works of art — ideal subjects for a food blogger's camera — and mouthwateringly delicious.

The B&B is run by Jean and Danielle Goyer, who are both incredibly warm and welcoming. Danielle is an artist and a self-taught cook. She prepares the breakfasts every morning and Jean serves them in their sunny dining room.

I don't know how they serve so many people in style every morning, but I'm glad they do because all four courses are wonderful!

The breakfast starts with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice that contains a secret ingredient to make it creamy and fizzy. This is followed by a yogurt cup that is always different from day to day — sometimes with meringue, other times with berry crisp — and showered with lots of pretty petals and leaves from the edible flowers in their garden.

Then you are offered croissants with butter and jam, and a final pièce de résistance, le plat principal du jour. While we were here, this varied from a goat cheese omelette (my favourite), crepes or scrambled eggs, eggs florentine or benedict, and French toast with hazelnut chocolate spread and almond paste.

It was a perfect way to start the day. I really recommend this B and B if you are ever in the Eastern Townships because you will be treated so well and never be hungry! Danielle and Jean even offer their guests a complimentary glass of Port each night, and access to their long, rambling garden, which has a little vineyard and lots and lots of reading nooks. We had a wonderful time and hope to return someday soon :)

À La Maison Campbell
68, rue Bellevue
Magog, QC

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