Sunday, 30 April 2017

Herb Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Red Wine Butter Sauce

Sorting through the fridge I came up with a whole lot of items to use with the pork tenderloin...fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, open red wine, some thyme honey butter, a small piece of blue cheese, a carrot and half an onion, and some fresh green beans. I knew there was also one russet potato...a plan started to form in my mind.

The potato would be great mashed with the blue cheese. The carrot and onion would be used as aromatics for roasting the pork, along with the fresh herbs. The wine and thyme honey butter would be added to the pan juices to make a sauce. Steamed green beans and we were all set...

Turn the oven on to heat up to 350F.

Lightly season the pork tenderloin with salt and pepper.

In a smoking hot pan, with a bit of olive oil, sear the pork on all sides.

Remove from the pan and set aside until needed.

Keeping the heat at medium high, add:

1 carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled

Cook until the onion starts to soften, and the vegetables start to colour.

Turn off the heat and add the herbs:

4 - 5 sprigs fresh rosemary
5 - 6 sprigs fresh thyme

Place the pork on top of the vegetables and herbs.

Place the pan into the oven and roast until the pork is done to your liking.

While the pork is roasting, boil a russet potato until tender. Drain and return to the pot. Mash as you usually would.

Stir in:

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

Keep warm, or reheat when you are ready to serve the pork.

When the pork is done, remove the pan from the oven. Put the pork onto a plate, keeping it loosely covered, and place it in a warm spot near the back of the stove to rest while you make the sauce.

Place the pan with the roasted herbs and vegetables onto the stove, at a medium high heat.


1/3 cup red wine

Allow the wine to bubble and reduce by half.

Turn the heat down to low, and whisk in:

2 tablespoons cold butter

Turn off the heat. Strain the sauce to remove the herbs and vegetables.

Slice the rested pork, and serve with the red wine butter sauce, alongside the blue cheese mashed potatoes and steamed green beans. The potatoes and sauce were tangy, but there was a hint of sweetness in my sauce as I had used a honey butter. The herbs and vegetables add a ton of flavour to the pork during roasting, and then to the sauce.

  • This recipe can be made with any roast...chicken, turkey,beef, pork or lamb. The roasting time would need to be adjusted to suit the type and size of cut you are using.
  • Using vegetables such as carrots, onions and garlic adds flavour to the meat and any sauce or gravy you make with the pan juices. Other vegetables that can be used include celery and leek. The same applies to the herbs, and any fresh, woody herbs can be used. They release aromas and flavours into the meat. Other herbs that can be used are sage, bayleaf or tarragon.
  • I know it seems like a waste to throw the vegetables out, but they have released their flavour and nutrition. If you want to keep the vegetables to serve as a side to the meat, cut them into larger pieces so that they retain some of their texture and flavour.
  • No red wine? Use white wine or brandy; you may also use chicken or beef stock.
  • I use butter and a bit of milk, as well as salt and pepper when I make mashed potatoes. Whether you use milk or whipping cream, buttermilk or sour cream depends on you and what you have available.
  • Adding the crumbled blue cheese as soon as the potatoes are mashed and still hot will start to melt some of the smaller pieces; you will still have pockets of unmelted cheese. Any cheese can be used...cheddar, pepper Jack, goat cheese, Asiago, Parmesan.
  • The thyme honey butter I used in the sauce was left from the Pepper Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Apple Thyme Waffles. 
  • Plain butter can be used, however if you have a flavoured butter go ahead and use it.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Lemon, Pepper and Thyme Crusted Scallops

This dish was not just about the scallops, it was also about the warm potato salad, and the green bean, grape tomato and avocado salad that I served it with. The salad allowed me to introduce some colour, texture and freshness, as well as to use up half an avocado and my red skinned potatoes.

It's that time of year when herbs are sprouting, giving so many opportunities to add brightness and flavour bursts to everything you make. I used some fresh chives in the salad, and some fresh thyme on the scallops.

The thyme was added to the remaining zest of an already half zested lemon, and some of the four peppercorn blend used in the post Pepper Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Apple Thyme Waffles.

I had bought a bottle of roasted garlic dressing at a farmers' market, and there was about 2 tablespoons left...I added some Balsamic vinegar and olive oil to this and used it to dress the warm potatoes, and the beans, tomatoes and avocado.

Make the rub for the scallops by combining:

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon ground 4 peppercorn blend
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon olive oil

Clean 10 scallops by removing the muscle on the side of the flesh, still attached. This is the little white bit in the front of the scallop in the picture.

Here is a link showing how to clean and prepare scallops for cooking:

Gently rub the lemon zest, pepper and thyme all over the scallops.

Leave to marinate while you prepare the salads.

In a pot of lightly salted, boiling water, cook until just fork tender:

2 small red skinned potatoes, diced

Drain, and leave in the strainer for 2 - 3 minutes, allowing excess water to drain and evaporate.

Place the warm potatoes into a bowl and toss with chopped fresh chives and vinaigrette. Season to taste.

In a separate bowl, combine:

a handful of grape tomatoes, halved
a handful of blanched and cooled green beans, halved
half an avocado, diced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
Salt and pepper to taste

Gently toss with the same vinaigrette

Heat a pan, with a teaspoon of olive oil, until it is smoking hot.

Add the scallops, and cook, turning once, until both sides are golden and the scallops are just cooked, about 1 - 2 minutes per side, depending on the size.

Remove from the pan.


1/4 cup dry white wine to the pan.

Boil until the liquid has reduced by half.

To plate, place a handful of warm potato salad in the centre of each plate, mounding it slightly.

Top that with a handful of the green beans, grape tomatoes and avocado salad.

Place 5 scallops per plate around the salads.

Drizzle the white wine reduction over the scallops.

  • Scallops can be intimidating if you have never cooked them before, as they cook very quickly and become quite rubbery and unpleasant if overcooked. High heat, for a short amount of time is the answer to allows the outside to caramelize, seals in the moisture and flavour while giving the centre of the scallop enough time to cook. This should take between 1 - 2 minutes, probably around 90 seconds on average.
  • There are three main types of scallops that are commonly used for cooking...the large ones I used are sea scallops, and are great for searing, grilling or using for kebabs....the small bay scallops are a good choice for adding to pasta sauces, seafood stews, soups or stirfries just before serving; they need almost no time to cook....calico scallops are still in the shell when you cook them they need to be steamed in order to open the shell, similar to mussels and clams.
  • Scallops have a mild, sweet taste. They do not need to marinate for tenderness, just to add flavour, so 30 minutes is sufficient.
  • These scallops can be served with a risotto, pasta or mixed green salad instead of the potato and green bean salads I served.
  • The lemon, pepper and thyme rub can be used with prawns; peel them first and rub it onto the flesh, before pan frying or grilling them. It can also be used on fish such as salmon or halibut.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Apricot Mango Chicken Skewers

My daughter gave me two very ripe mangoes; we had planned to use them for smoothies, but never did get around to making them. I used them to marinade my chicken breast, which I skewered with some dried apricots. I used the marinade, along with some extra apricots, to make a barbecue style sauce, and served it all up on basmati rice. Delicious!

When making the marinade I added some apricot wine from the open bottle in the fridge. This was not a dessert wine, actually it was relatively dry, but added to the apricot flavours in the dish.

Using a hand blender, puree:

2 small ripe mangoes, peeled
2 tablespoons apricot wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cut 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts into 10 cubes each. Place them into a resealable plastic bag, together with the marinade.

Place in the refrigerator overnight.

Pour boiling water over 16 dried apricots, and leave to soak, covered, overnight. They will plump up nicely, and the remaining water will be infused with the apricot flavour.

Turn the broiler or grill on to heat.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, saving the marinade for the sauce.

Remove the apricots from the soaking water, reserving the water for the sauce.

Skewer 4 pieces of chicken and 2 apricots onto each skewer.

Using the hand blender, puree the remaining soaked apricots, along with the reserved water.

To make the sauce, place the reserved marinade and pureed apricots and water into a small saucepan, together with:

2 teaspoons blackstrap molasses
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
a large pinch of chili flakes

Bring the sauce to a boil, and then simmer until it reaches the desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Broil or grill the skewers until the chicken is fully cooked, turning occasionally.

I served the skewers on top of basmati rice, with the barbecue sauce on top, and accompanied by grilled asparagus and sweet red peppers.

  • Mango contains an enzyme called protease that helps to break down meat protein, tenderizing it. Other fruits that also contain this enzyme are papaya, kiwi (see the post Grilled Rack of Lamb in a Kiwifuit and Herb Marinade  and pineapple.
  • The marinade can be used for other meats such as chicken thighs or drumsticks, pork tenderloin, or ribs. These do not need to be skewered, just marinated and grilled. If you use the marinade for fish, use a firm fleshed fish such as halibut, and marinade for around 30 minutes (see the post Mango - Coconut Halibut Skewers).
  • The apricots can be replaced with vegetables such as peppers, zucchini, onion, mushrooms. 
  • Soaking the apricots rehydrates them, softening them and allowing them to be cooked without becoming hard and dry.
  • It is important to bring the sauce to a boil as you are using the marinade from the raw chicken.  Another alternative is to make the sauce using the pureed apricots and some more mango, or mango juice.
  • Any white wine can be used; apple, orange, mango or apricot juice can be substituted.
  • Use leftover chicken for chicken salad in sandwhiches or wraps. This can also be made and eaten cold for a picnic lunch.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Baked French Toast with Mixed Berries

Easter always means hot cross buns, but when there are more than a few left over at the end of the weekend, it's time to do something other than toast them!

I used ours to make a baked French toast for breakfast, adding in some frozen berries, and serving it with maple syrup and a bit of cream cheese icing left from icing the crosses on the hot cross buns when I made them.

I baked this in a bundt pan, as I had visions of turning it out and presenting it at the table, cutting large wedges out for people to eat. Needless to say, I didn't pack the custard soaked bread firmly enough into the bundt pan, so the unmoulding part of the vision failed.

Using a spoon to scoop it out worked, and everyone still had their share of crispy-on-the-outside, soft and creamy on the inside baked French toast, full of hot cross bun spices and slightly tart berries.

In a large bowl, place:

8 cups cubed stale hot cross buns, approximately 1" cubes

Whisk together:

1 1/2 cups milk
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar

Turn the oven on to 350F to heat, and grease a bundt pan.

Pour the liquid ingredients over the bread cubes, and gently toss until all of the liquid has been absorbed.

Put a quarter of the soaked bread cubes into the bundt pan, pressing gently, and top with:

1/2 cup frozen berries

Repeat until all of the bread has been used, ending with a layer of bread cubes.

Bake until the top of the French toast is golden and the centre is set and hot, about 40 - 45 minutes. Allow it to rest for 5 minutes before serving, with maple syrup and whipped cream cheese icing being passed at the table.


  • In order for the French toast to unmould nicely from the bundt pan, make sure to press the bread gently into the pan so that it forms a solid layer. This French toast can also be baked in an ovenproof casserole, and served directly from there.
  • Another option is to grease the pan well, and then coat the inside with sugar or ground nuts before adding the bread.
  • The bread can also be sliced into 1" thick slices, and placed in a buttered ovenproof dish, slightly overlapping. Pour the custard over the bread and leave it to soak up the liquid before baking.
  • Any bread can be used; stale works best as it absorbs the custard well. I like to use breads that have fruit, nuts or sweet spices such as cinnamon in them as this adds flavour to the French toast.
  • The custard can also be made with orange juice instead of milk, or a combination of the two. You can also substitute half and half or whipping cream for a richer custard.
  • Try folding in some diced bacon, cooked until crispy for a sweet and salty flavour contrast.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Pepper Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Apple Thyme Waffles

Who says waffles are just for breakfast? They make an excellent starch on a dinner plate, lighter than potatoes. They can be adapted by adding different spices, herbs, fruits, vegetables or nuts. Leftovers can be used to make breakfast sandwhiches...and if you are serving gravy as part of the meal, they provide a way to mop up all the last drops!

This meal was my way of using an apple that was being ignored; pork and apple are a good pairing. Then I remembered the thyme honey in the, thyme and pork...what more can you ask for?

I ground up some four peppercorn blend to make a crust for the pork, adding some heat to the dish. The waffles had the sweetness of the apple and honey; this was a nicely balanced meal as far as flavours went.

Heat the oven to 350F. Grind some four peppercorn blend; you will need about 2 tablespoons.

Press the peppercorns onto the outside of the pork tenderloin. You control the heat here; add as many or as few peppercorns as you would like.

Heat some olive oil in an ovenproof pan, until it is almost smoking hot.

Add the pork, turning it to sear all sides.

Place the pan into the oven and roast the pork until it is done to your liking.

While the pork is in the oven, make the waffles. Turn your waffle iron on to heat up.

Measure the dry ingredients:

1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

Whisk together the wet ingredients:

1 cup milk
1 egg yolk
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

Add this to the dry ingredients and whisk to combine.

Fold in:

1 apple, peeled, cored and grated

Whip to firm peaks:

1 egg white

Gently fold into the batter, being careful not to deflate the egg whites too much.

Cook the waffles in the hot waffle iron until golden brown and crispy.

Remove to a rack and place onto a baking sheet.
The waffles can be heated in the oven just before serving.

To make the honey butter, combine:

2 tablespoons soft butter
1 tablespoon thyme honey

Whip until they are well combined. Set aside until needed.

When the pork is ready, remove it from the oven and allow it to rest for 5 - 10 minutes before slicing.

I used this time to reheat the waffles, making sure they were piping hot.

Serve the hot waffles, with a dollop of the honey butter, and the sliced pork. I grilled some asparagus, zucchini and red pepper to serve with the pork, and made a simple onion gravy....adding the pan juices from the resting pork to the gravy.

  • The pork can be crusted with any type of peppercorn...dried green or pink are good choices. You can use as much or as little as you like.
  • If you would rather not have all the heat of the peppercorns, crust the pork with nuts; herbs; brown sugar and a bit of pepper or just season it with salt and pepper and roast it.
  • Other meats that can be used include pork chops; rack of lamb; chicken breast; beef tenderloin to name a few.
  • The waffles can be adapted to what you have available. Try herbs such as fresh rosemary or sage; spices such as cayenne pepper, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce or crushed fennel seeds; nuts such as pecans or peanuts; grated pear or fresh berries; grated cheeses such as Parmesan or cheddar; folding in some cooked wild rice or crisp cooked bacon; grated zucchini or frozen corn.
  • The honey butter melts into the hot waffles; warm honey or maple syrup can be drizzled over the waffles instead. The honey or maple syrup can also be added to the gravy if you prefer.
  • Use waffles as bread for a sandwhich; serve with soup; or use as a base for serving leftover chili.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Gouda and Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breast

There was a piece of gouda sitting in the fridge; I bought it with something specific in mind, but for the life of me cannot remember what that was. I did not want to leave it there while I tried to remember...who knows how long that would be?!

I used it, together with some fresh baby spinach to stuff chicken breasts, and served them on top of soft polenta, and sauteed broccolini. Yum!

The spinach and cheese helped to keep the chicken nice and moist, with the cheese adding saltiness and a creamy, gooey texture to the meal.

Make a pocket in each chicken breast by using a sharp knife to cut in from the 'straight', or breastbone side of the breast.

You will effectively be cutting the chicken breast in half horizontally, without cutting right through.

Open the pocket and season lightly with salt and black pepper.

Cut 6 pieces of gouda, and place one in each pocket, as shown.

Gently pack a small handful of washed baby spinach leaves into each pocket. Tuck them into the pocket as firmly as you can, without bruising them.

Top the spinach leaves with another 2 slices of gouda.

Tuck everything into the pocket, and close it over the filling. Use toothpicks to keep the edges of the chicken together.

Lightly season both sides of the stuffed chicken breasts with salt and pepper.

Rub a drizzle of olive oil onto the chicken.

Sear the chicken on both sides in a hot pan; I used a grill pan.

Put the pan of chicken into the oven, at a temperature of 375F to finish cooking.

Remove from the oven and leave the chicken to rest for 5 - 10 minutes.

While the chicken is resting, blanch and then saute the broccolini in olive oil. I also added some diced red peppers for colour. To serve, place the soft polenta onto the plates, top with the broccolini and then cut each stuffed chicken breast in half, revealing the filling. Place the chicken on top of the broccolini.

  • Thick cut boneless pork chops will be another option for stuffing this way; you can also try pork loin chops, lamb chops or turkey breasts fillets.
  • Instead of spinach leaves you can use beet greens, swiss chard or arugula. If you use greens such as kale or collard greens, keep in mind that they are tougher greens and would benefit from being cooked before using for the stuffing.
  • Fresh herbs can also be used, but you would be using only a few leaves, as the flavour in leafy herbs such as basil, sage or tarragon is much stronger than that of spinach. Consider using a combination of spinach and a couple of herb leaves for the flavour.
  • Cheese is a personal choice; try and use something that will melt and give that gooey, meltiness that is what makes this chicken so good. Cheeses such as Swiss, mozzarella or provolone, brie or goat cheese are some to try.
  • Smoked cheeses such as gouda, gruyere, mozzarella or cheddar will add some smokiness to the stuffing if you have one of them available.
  • The chicken can be stuffed ahead of time; keep it wrapped and refrigerated until it is time to cook it. The stuffed chicken can also be frozen; defrost before cooking.
  • Consider adding other stuffing ingredients such as roasted red pepper, cooked mushrooms, roasted garlic, caramelized onions, thinly sliced apple or pear, dried fruit.
  • For added crunch, bread the stuffed chicken by dipping it into flour, then egg wash and finally seasoned breadcrumbs. Make sure you chill the chicken for at least an hour once it has been breaded, and then proceed with cooking. The chicken can be browned in a pan and then baked, or it can just be baked.