Monday, May 30, 2011

Lemon Meringue Pie (Gluten-free)

I don't know why, but lemon meringue pie has always been my favourite. And any time I've had the craving, I've always resorted to the neon yellow instant pie version (confession: I've even purchased pre-made crusts - never again!) But this new discovery of homemade lemon meringue pie - from scratch! - has made it so that I may never be able to go back to instant again. This recipe is not for amateurs, but it is completely worth it if you have the time and patience. I will try to make it as easy as possible - in 3 steps. Let's do it!

What you'll need:

Crust (Gluten-free)
  • 1 cup white rice flour
  • 1/4 cup finely crushed almonds
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup butter
Lemon filling
  • 1/2 can evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2/3 cup boiling water
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • juice of one lemon
  • grated rind of one lemon
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

STEP 1: Crust

In the interest of not making this post too long, click here to see how to make an excellent gluten-free pie crust from my previous Pumpkin Pie post.

STEP 2: Lemon filling

Whisk together the evaporated milk, sugar, salt and corn starch.
Stir in boiling water and boil over gentle heat. Watch as it magically thickens into a luscious custard (it will take about 5 minutes).
Prepare your eggs; put the two egg whites aside for later, and beat egg yolks.
Once you've achieved custard status, remove from heat and add the egg yolks. Cook and stir over low heat for 2 more minutes, but do not boil.
Prepare your lemon juice and rinds (this is something can be done before you start the stovetop work).
After the yolk is blended, add the lemon juice and rind and give it one final stir.
Allow filling to cool for 5 minutes, and then pour into your crust.
Put crust and filling in the fridge to cool for at least an hour.
STEP 3: Meringue (preheat oven to 350 degrees)

Oh meringue... Meringue is a beautiful thing, but it is not always easy to achieve. I have experienced some major meringue flops; here are a few general tips I have discovered to achieving meringuey perfection:
  • always use fresh eggs
  • make sure egg whites are at room temperature
  • stainless steel bowls work best (no plastic)
  • avoid making meringue on high humidity days
  • more is more: most recipes call for 2 egg whites - use 4 egg whites (you'll thank me later)
So to start, blend the 4 egg whites (2 from before, 2 new) on high until they become white and frothy.
Then, slowly start adding the 1/2 cup of white sugar, about a tablespoon at a time. As you blend, try to introduce air by raising and lowering the beaters, rotating the bowl as you do so.
The goal is to achieve firm, glossy peaks - it can take 5-10 minutes. Magic takes time.
And then, let the meringue pour onto your cooled filling.
Um, yum.
Spread the meringue right to the edge of the crust with a spatula (this is key to sealing the pie), but try do it in as few strokes as possible (meringue tends to deflate the more it is touched). Then, place the pie in your preheated oven and back for about 10 minutes, or until the peaks become golden brown.
And here is our finished lemon meringue pie. Serve with lemon balm tea on a warm summer evening and enjoy!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Turkish Coffee

For some reason, it's been kind of a coffee week on the blog. So I thought I'd round out the week and show how to make one of my favourite caffeinated beverages, Turkish coffee. After trying Türk kahvesi for the first time on my recent trip to Istanbul, it has become my new morning staple. Besides the fact that I reminisce about my trip every time I sip it, I absolutely love the rich, sweet flavour, and find that it doesn't give me the jitters that espresso or drip coffee can give me. Plus, it's so easy, fast, and comes in a nice, small portion.

Hers's what you'll need:

To prepare Turkish coffee, you will need one of these little pots called a cezve. They are often made of copper because of its even heat conductivity. If you can't get one in Turkey, you should be able to find one at most fine cooking supply stores.
Technically, Turkish coffee is a method of preparation, not a "kind" of coffee. The key is that the coffee grounds must finely ground - as finely as possible. You can use any coffee beans you might have around the house, but if you want to be authentic, I'd highly recommend finding some Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi coffee. This blend is roasted, ground and packaged in the heart of Istanbul (right beside the Spice Bazaar). Again, if you can't fly to Turkey in the near future, you should be able to find it at your local imported goods store. (You might even be able to buy it online.)
Once you have these two things, you're ready to go! Into the cezve goes 1 teaspoon of ground coffee, 2 ounces of filtered water (or, the filled amount of your demitasse), and any desired sugar. In Turkey, there are four degrees of sweetness. The Turkish terms and approximate amounts are as follows:
  • sade (plain; no sugar)
  • az şekerli (little sugar; half a level teaspoon of sugar)
  • orta şekerli (medium sugar; one level teaspoon)
  • çok şekerli (a lot of sugar; one and a half or two level teaspoons)
For 2 ounces of water, I like about half a teaspoon of sugar. But it's totally based on personal preference.
Now, place your cezve on the stovetop and heat at medium, and bring to a slow, rolling boil. Stir occasionally.
This part is a little tricky, and will depend a lot on your stove's intensity. My stove usually takes about 3 1/2 minutes, but you should keep an eye the first time you do it. You absolutely do NOT want to burn the coffee. If the coffee gets to hot or boils to long, it will just taste burnt and gross. The goal should be to achieve a lovely, golden crema on top, *right* before the moment it starts to boil intensely.
And there you have it! Turkish coffee is best sipped while hot, and served with Turkish delight, pistachios, or dried apricots. If you want to be super fancy, you can also add one cardamon pod during the boiling process to add an exotic spicy flavour (heavenly!) But please note: unlike the similar-looking shot of espresso, you do NOT drink the entire contents of the cup - you will find a thick layer of sludgy grounds at the bottom of the cup which is not meant to be consumed.
(The final glamour shot is courtesy of my talented photographer friend and gastronomic expert, Frances!)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Chicken Biryani

Biryani is a Middle-eastern dish that originated in Persia, but has many regional variations. One of our favourites is Iranian-style chicken biryani, often garnished with fruit (cooking dates, raisins, or pomegranates) and roasted nuts (cashews are great). You also have an excuse to use saffron, the world's most expensive spice (by weight). You only live once, right?

What you'll need:
2 cups cooked basmati rice (leftover is even better!)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch ginger, minced
1 green chili, chopped (optional if you want to tone down the heat)
3 tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
4-6 chicken breasts, cubed
3 tbsp curry paste
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric
3 bay leaves
6 cardamom pods
6 cloves
a few strands of saffron (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F.
As usual, prep all your ingredients in advance for easy access.
Saute your onions for about 5 minutes in olive oil.
Have your garlic, ginger and chilies ready, and...
...add them to the onions, frying for about 2 minutes.
Take your chicken pieces...
...and add them to the pot. Let the flavours marry for about 5 minutes.
Next, add your salt, garam masala,
curry paste,
and stir well. Cook for another 5 minutes.
At this point, your kitchen should start to smell delicious.
Now, add your remaining vegetables...
...give it a good stir, and let this simmer for 5-10 minutes (until the tomates begin to soften and fall apart).
Now it's time to prep your rice. Take a large casserole dish or pan, and lay out your rice.

Add the tumeric,
bay leaves, cloves,
and saffron (if you have it).
Give it a good stir until the turmeric begins to stain the rice yellow.
Now, carefully pour the chicken and vegetables into you dish.
Stir in with the rice until everything is evenly distributed.
Place in the oven for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
You'll know it is ready when everything when moist of the moisture evaporates and it starts to turn golden.

Garnish with dried fruit and nuts (I suggest chopped dates and cast iron pan-roasted cashews), and serve with chutney and yogurt or tzatziki. Prepare to be transported to a foreign land with this extravaganza of exotic flavours. Delicious!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pumpkin Pie (Gluten-Free)

I love pumpkin pie. And 'tis the season of pumpkins. This is, by far, one of my favourite fall desserts, courtesy of my friend Melanie.
What you'll need:

Pie Filling
  • 1 pie pumpkin
  • 1 can condensed milk (go full fat, or go home)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
Crust (Gluten-free!)
  • 1 cup white rice flour 
  • 1/4 cup finely ground almonds
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup butter
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Let's start with your pie filling.
Cut and clean your pumpkin (keep those seeds for roasted goodness!)
Cut your pumpkin into eighths and steam in a shallow dish in the microwave.
I find three 5-minute sessions (rotating each time) works perfectly.
Let the pieces cool, and then scrap all of the pumpkin goodness into a bowl.
(*Trick: put the pieces in the freeze for 10 minutes to cool them quicker!)
Next, mix in the sugar, spices and egg.
Finally, stir in the condensed milk. Deeelicious!
Finally, for the perfect pie filling consistency, purée in the food processor for a couple minutes. Once you've finish this step, put your filling aside (in the fridge) while you prep you crust.
To start the crust, blend your butter and egg.
Golden yellow deliciousness!
In a separate bowl, sift your rice flour, baking powder, sugars, and salt.
Add dry ingredients to wet in two batches.
The key here is not to overwork your pastry crust. Fold in only until the dry ingredients have disappeared.
Then, press into a greased pie pan (8" or 9" is fine).

Once your crust is just right, bake in the oven at 425 for 10-15 minutes (until the edges start to brown).

Here's how it should look!
You're almost there! Reduce your oven to 350 degrees. Pour your filling into the baked pie crust, and once your oven is cooled, place in the oven again for 45-55 minutes (test centre of pie with a toothpick).
And, voila!

Serve with fresh whipped cream, or vanilla bean ice cream. The thing I love about this recipe is that the filling is wonderfully dense (like a butter tart).
And, your kitchen will smell delicious for at least a day or two!

(Tip: This little pumpkin yielded a bit more filling than the pie crust allowed. The next time I make this pie, I will be sure to spread the crust all the way up the sides of the pie pan, so as to accommodate maximum pumpkin goodness.)