Monday, February 27, 2012

My mothers red bean stew

My mother was quite an adventurous cook and would often try recipes from all over the world, we did not eat a lot of standard English fare, in fact I was a food snob from a very early age. One day when I was only about 4 or 5 I went accross the road to where my friend lived and asked if I could come for dinner because we were having "English" food for dinner, obvouisly not up to my sophisticated standards.  Mrs Stanley my friends mother was from Budapest and was a wonderful cook and always cooked interesting unfamiliar food which she was happy to share with me.

However one of my mothers standby's that I was particularly fond of was beef stew with red beans.  I am sure the red beans were some frugal Yorkshire trick to make the beef go further, but never the less I always enjoyed it.  As this weekend was particularly horrible, rainy and cold I remembered of this stew and thought it would be the comfort food that I needed.

To feed 4 with left overs or 6

1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 onion chopped
6 cups of cubed stewing beef cut up
2 cups of red beans soaked for one hour in boiling water
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon of dried basil
2 cups of beef stock.
1 can of crushed tomatoes
Handful of chopped parsley

Add the oil and onion to a large pot, I used my mothers Le Crueset which is what my mother always cooked this in.  Cook until the onion is translucent then add the beef.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A little education and a little Society

Saturday morning I woke to the worst of Vancouver winter weather, pouring rain, gray almost dark skies and not an end in sight.  So My friend and I decided to make the best of it and drive in to town and visit some of indoor sites that we had not seen before.  The weather was starting to clear up a little (only drizzling not raining) as we pulled up to the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at UBC.

My Father had been here when it first opened and raved about the building and the whale skeleton.  He was right it is a beautiful simple building and what greets you at the entrance is an enormous blue whale skeleton.

It is very striking and in a small theatre they have a movie telling the story of finding and restoring this amazing exhibit.  We joined a tour that just happened to be starting as we arrived and spent a very interesting 40 minutes learning a little about the collection and evolution.  I would highly recommend a visit especially if you are at all interested in the story of how we ended up where we are today.

Having thoroughly enjoyed our visit and with our brains brimming with interesting facts and information that sadly would vanish with no trace in a couple of weeks, we decided to go to Yale town for drink and some appetizers.

It had started to rain again and we stumbled in to Society this restaurant is part of the glowbal group of restaurants specializing in childhood-inspired menu. Pizza twinkies, cotton candy, meat loaf and fried chicken. The drink special was a strawberry mojito with cotton candy on top.

We were sitting up at the bar (as the restaurant was fully booked) and the couple sitting next to us not only let me take a picture, but even gave us a little cotton candy to taste.  Who doesn't want a little cotton candy as an appetizer. We on the other hand were very boring and ordered a half litre of very nice red wine.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Roast beef with mahogany gravy

This is not so much a recipe as a technique for a great rich dark full bodied beef gravy.  I saw this done by a friend in England last time I was there and ever since this is how I have been cooking my roast beef.  I can not give quantities as it really varies depending how many juices come out of the beef, how much gravy you want, and whether the moon is full or not.  Actually not the last one or least I don't think so.

finished gravy sitting in a perfect Yorkshire pudding.
Before placing the roast in the roast in the roasting tin place an onion (or two) roughly chopped in the bottom and then place the roast on top.  In this case this roast was to feed 6 and I used one large onion.

Sprinkle the roast liberally with salt and pepper and if as was the case with this one there is not a lot of fat on the outside, pour a little olive oil over.  Roast as you normally do to the doneness that you like, then when you remove the beef to rest you are left with a roasting tin with not only some lovely drippings but also some wonderfully caramelized onion.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

bacon and egg salad

I have been working long hours the last while due to year end and other complications at work. Often I get home after everyone else has had their dinner. Frankly I do not want to know what that dinner consisted of, and as we are all adults now I trust them to make wise choices.

I however do want to have something tasty but speed is of great importance, so if I do not have any convenient left overs or something made ahead, I often opt for a quick stir fry or salad.  This a bit of a rift on the warm salads that are popular in France, but using the ingredients that are always in my fridge.

I love hard boiled eggs in a salad and am always drawn to them on a menu.  So this is my very quick and easy weeknight breakfast salad for one.

1 hard boiled egg
3 rashers of bacon
3 or 4 green onions chopped (or 1/4 sweet onion thinly sliced)
2 or 3 cups of salad greens (I really like either arugala or the mixed with herbs)
2 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Easy chicken lettuce wrap

One of the dishes that I almost always order in Chinese restaurants is lettuce wrap. It is tasty, fresh and I do not think that it can be too loaded with calories.  Iceberg lettuce is one of my least favourite lettuces, but it works very well in this dish, I think the only substitution for iceberg would be romaine (or cos as they say in the old country).

I decided to make a quick weeknight version for dinner and this is what I came up with. I used ground chicken thighs, but ground turkey, pork or even beef would work as well.

For two
1 tablespoon of olive oil
About 2 cups of raw ground chicken
1 bunch of green onion chopped
1 large garlic clove finely chopped
2 inch piece of ginger finely chopped
3 tablespoons of light soy sauce
1 cup of steam fried noodles
1/2 cup of prepared hoisin sauce
1 Iceberg lettuce.

Heat the oil in a frying pan, then add the ground chicken.

Cook until the chicken has lost it's translucency, then add the green onion, garlic and ginger.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Ferry Plaza farmers market

This was the first time that I had been to the farmers market in San Francisco and it was well worth the effort.  It is situated at the end of Market street in and around the historic ferry building. I expected this market to be quite big, as California is a large producer of fresh produce, and I was not disappointed.

The fresh fruits and vegetables were plentiful and of a good quality including some of the most beautiful radicchio I have every seen.

Radicchio disguised as roses

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Saloon and The Glide = The best music in San Francisco

My husband and I stumbled upon The Saloon blues bar several years ago when visiting San Francisco.  It is the oldest bar in SF and will be celebrating 150 years in October! It is now along with the Glide our favourite venue for music in San Francisco, maybe any where.

It is a small venue an as far as I can figure the bands play for tips, half way through a set one of the members of band had to leave "to make some real money." Both the musicians and the audience are here for the music, there are no fancy drinks and certainly no food but there is some great music.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Greens Restaurant San Francisco

If you are going to San Francisco, as well as wearing some flowers in your hair, you really should go to Greens Restaurant for lunch.

I say lunch because the view of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge is priceless.  I went to Greens for the first time about 20 years ago, and I have been back every time I have been to San Francisco. We went on Saturday lunch time and luckily we had a reservation, because even after all these years you still do need a reservation.

Greens Restaurant is located in a converted warehouse at historic Fort Mason only a 15 minute walk along the waterfront from our hotel adjacent to Ghiradelli Square. It was a beautiful sunny day and we were lucky to get a table right at the large window which takes up the entire wall facing the Golden Gate Bridge.

View from the table
Saturday and Sunday at lunch time the menu is in fact a brunch menu. Greens is a Vegetarian restaurant that serves creative vegetarian cuisine using seasonal organic produce. The restaurant maintains a close relationship with local farms and endeavours to serve fresh local and in season.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Hotel Argonaut - San Francisco

We chose Hotel Argonaut for our long weekend in San Francisco as much for the location as anything else and we were right it is an amazing location right next Ghiradelli Square, steps away from the cable car and across the road from fisherman's wharf.

The building is an old warehouse that has been re purposed and it is part of the American National Parks system, and therefore has kept much of its original character with internal brick walls and wonderful old beams.

The other factor that enticed us to stay here was the fact that they host a free wine reception every day at 5:00. Now I have never been known to turn down a glass of wine, and this was a great way to meet people in the same way as you do when staying at Bed and Breakfasts.

Happy hour in the lobby
We did partake of the free wine on two of our four days staying here and they served decent California wine each time.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Leaving my heart in San Francisco

Enjoying a gleass of wine in San Francisco with no computer for the weekend :(