How is it already thisclose to being June? I'm holding tight to the well-worn marks of weekly routines to remind myself of the borders between these days, rather than accepting them as a smear across the calendar.

I am happiest with a schedule, and yet want Monday to feel different than Wednesday. Saturdays are for the farmer's market and tacos for breakfast, Tuesdays are often a standing bibimbap lunch, and Sunday night is when I make granola.

Emma Galloway's Tahini and Orange Granola from her book "My Darling Lemon Thyme" | Tara O'Brady + Seven Spoons

When I was fine-tuning the recipes for my book, certain ones that had always been part of my weekly to-do list became even more so entrenched in the way we do things around here. The soft sandwich bread took over the bread box, instead of sharing the space with the milk-and-honey-enriched loaf that was our alternate. I was giving away jar after jar of the pickled strawberry preserves. I had a freezer's worth of variations on the Walnut, Cherry Butter Tart Pie (there was one with milk chocolate, one with bittersweet, and one with cacao nibs; then one with pecans instead of the walnuts, another with bourbon, and one with dried cranberries, and every permutation in between).  The clumpy granola became our one and only, and it was made with such devotedness that there was usually a surplus stashed in the pantry.

Once the book was done and out in the world, I took a break from many of those recipes, first off because—and nobody tells you this—while you're promoting a book you end up doing very little cooking. Then it was summertime, when our schedule had only the loosest of parameters. Slowly, slowly with fall and winter and school and holidays, I found my way again to the little ceremonies of my kitchen.

I'm back to a varied bread baking program, and the yeasted ones from the book are supplemented with a rye-heavy sourdough on the regular. The butter tart pie was was on the table at Thanksgiving, and it'll be shuttled to the cottage this summer. 

Now the granola has its antithetical compatriot sharing a shelf. While mine is rough with clusters, this one from Emma Galloway's My Darling Lemon Thyme, is snappy, crackling and light. Hers is a toasted muesli, with a combination of flaked grains, coconut, seeds, and nuts, plus such a collection of dried fruit that each bite is a change from the one before. The kicker really is Emma's ingenious binding agent; tahini, mixed with coconut oil and honey. The resulting syrup is rich without going overboard, and not overly sweet. It is fragrant yet not sickly, evocatively savoury almost. In short, it's compellingly good. 

Sarah wrote about this recipe just last month, so I consider this adding my voice to the chorus of praise as this muesli is one for encores. 

Emma Galloway's Tahini Orange Muesli from "My Darling Lemon Thyme"| Tara O'Brady + Seven Spoons

EMMA GALLOWAY'S TAHINI, ORANGE + COCONUT TOASTED MUESLI

"Muesli-making was always my dad's domain when we were little. Late at night he would set himself up in the kitchen, toasting and chopping like a mad man, before decanting the goods into his giant glass muesli jar. I remember him saying how expensive it was to make but, and this is a huge BUT, homemade muesli beats that store-bought sweetened stuff hands down. This is my favourite version, and it's filled to the brim with the goodness of quinoa flakes, shredded coconut, nuts, and fruit all bound together in a sweet (but not in-your-face-sweet) mixture of coconut oil, tahini, honey, and orange zest. To keep things strictly mean you can use pure maple or brown rice syrup in place of the honey. Also, whole-grain oats can be used in place of the quinoa flakes."

— From My Darling Lemon Thyme: Recipes from my Real Food Kitchen by Emma Galloway (Roost Books, 2015)

Makes 1.5kg | 2 pounds

INGREDIENTS (please see below and the note for my changes)

  • 5 cups | 500 g quinoa flakes 
  • 2 cups |180g unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut (I used both)
  • 1/2 cup | 65g cashews, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup | 75g whole raw almonds, roughly chopped (I used flaked)
  • 1/2 cup | 65g pumpkin (pepita) seeds
  • 1/2 cup | 60g sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup | 35g sesame seeds
  • 1/3 cup | 80ml virgin coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup | 80ml un-hulled tahini
  • 1/3 cup | 80ml honey, pure maple or brown rice syrup (I used maple)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • The finely grated zest of 2 oranges
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup | 200g natural raisins or sultanas 
  • 1 1/2 cups | 165g dried cranberries
  • 1 cup | 95g firmly packed dried apple slices, roughly chopped 
  • 1/2 cup | 80g pitted dried dates, roughly chopped

METHOD

Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C. Combine quinoa flakes, coconut, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower and sesame seeds in a large bowl using your hands to combine thoroughly. Combine coconut oil, honey or syrup, tahini, vanilla, orange zest and sea salt in a small pan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring constantly until melted and combined. Pour over dry ingredients and mix well.

Transfer to a large deep baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until toasty and golden brown. Watch those edges like a hawk as they have a tendency to burn. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Stir in the dried fruit and transfer to a large glass jar or airtight container. Will keep for 2-3 weeks as long as airtight.

NOTE FROM TARA:

Instead of quinoa alone, I used 3 cups rolled oats11/2 cups quinoa flakes, and 1/2 cup buckwheat groats. I tailored the fruit to my sons' preferences, using 1/2 cup sultanas1/2 cup chopped figs1 cup dried cranberries1/2 cup dried cherries1/2 cup dried blueberries1/4 cup minced candied ginger, and 1/2 cup pitted dried dates, chopped.

Last but not least, thank you for the generosity of your kindness in response to my post about my grandfather. You guys are the absolute best. xo

Halcyon Gate | Tara O'Brady

Phone calls to India used to necessitate a crackling pause after you finished speaking, over which you could hear the faint echo of your own voice before any response came from the other end.

I'd imagine my words travelling along the phone line like a blip of light racing across wires, in a direct path from here to there, from day to night or the reverse, dipping under inky waves to zip across crags of the ocean floor, breaking the surface on the some far shore to scale the heights of airless mountains, carrying whatever sentiment within a incandesent bubble of breath, travelling across all those miles to end against the ear of the listener. The distance could have been the width of the universe. 

Late last month, my maternal grandfather passed away. He was 99 years old, and lived just outside Dehradun in Uttarakhand, India. Within 24 hours of receiving the news, I was on my way there.  

The road to Dehradun | Tara O'Brady
Bougainvillea | Tara O'Brady

His house is called Halcyon. 

At the side of the house | Tara O'Brady

When we arrived, the last of the pomelos still clung heavily to branches, and the mango blossoms were spent.

Calcutta brand fan | Tara O'Brady

We ate meals at the same table from my childhood, cooked by the same cook. Her chapatis were as perfect as ever. The pink gingham curtains my grandmother made hung from the windows. My grandfather's chair was still beside the toaster, his marmalade still on the table.

Sagumburi in the kitchen doorway | Tara O'Brady
Her arm while she cooks | Tara O'Brady
Aunty Dolly | Tara O'Brady

I spent days reconciling memory with fact, and filling in the greyed out details in technicolour. 

I remember his big green car; it was the perfect shade of green, a refined deep-toned emerald with the gloss of a wet leaf. I remember the warmth of his chest through the scratch of a wool sweater. His love of golf, and dogs, and how he'd shade his eyes from the sun with an unfolded newspaper for a nap. 

Those memories butted up against the tree from which the swing once hung. The water pump halfway down the slope behind the house. Straight pins in a tiny jam jar on his desk. The box of photographs that chronicled lifetimes. The fine-toothed comb on his dresser. His red jacket on a hook on his dressing room door. 

Halcyon Garden | Tara O'Brady

Mum and I would wake in the early hours of morning. If we'd left the window between the two beds open, the room was cold in the indigo light, and the breeze so heavily perfumed with flowers it was as if you could taste their scent.

She'd go to the kitchen and make tea with milk and cardamom, and then we'd lay in our respective beds, with covers pulled high and hands around hot cups, listening to the end of the night birds' song and the beginning of those from the day. When the first hint of dawn pierced the horizon, we'd hear a call to prayer. 

I missed my grandfather before we got there—such as it is when you live at a distance from others. At Halcyon I looked for him, expecting him in his favourite seat on the verandah or to hear him one room over. I expected to find him in the midst of the routines of his years. Instead he reverberated in all corners of the house, all the way up to where the wall and ceiling met and past that still. 

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If I make it to the early yoga class, things line up so that I head in with unadulterated darkness behind me, but come back out to sun. It's a fleeting thing, but the contrast is especially bolstering. It adds to that ta-dah feeling of doing meaningful work to start your day. Crazy as it sounds, the making and eating of today's soup affords a similar feeling of goodwill. 

Nigella Lawson's Chinese-inspired Chicken Soup | Tara O'Brady + Seven Spoons

It's the Chinese-inspired Chicken Noodle Soup from Simply Nigella, a book which includes this cake — the most beautiful bundt imaginable, but also one so dulcet with the persuasive combo of five spice and apple cider that it's looks are rendered a second billing. Since the book came out late last year it's shouldered itself comfortably into a spot in my regular rotation. 

When it's me alone for lunch, brothy soups are my ideal. I make up some stock early in the week or late on the weekend, and then reheat it by the bowlful and cooking whatever add-ins I have around directly in my serving. Lawson's soup keys in on all that's appealing of that habit. The process is thoughtful and still the particulars are forgiving to fiddle to suit your likes.

Two days ago Sean brought home a plump but petite organic chicken, the perfect size to tuck snugly into a 4L cococtte. After a moment of bronzing, followed by a Shaoxing deglaze, the bird was joined by cilantro stalks, celery, and carrots, then water, garlic, ginger, soy, lime, and dried chiles. From there all is trusted to slowest blip and burble that can be maintained, under a lid clamped tight. But this, this is where it all shifts, goes sideways, and changes. What begins as intensely heady and clear, simmers into a with a wholly different character — one of redolent singularity rather than disparate components. 

The chicken came from its soak, pale and splendidly tender. The broth, deeply flavourful with supple weight on the spoon was a triumph, the ideal example of the alchemy of slow cooking. I ladled a clear, steaming cupful and drank it standing by the stove, in raspy slurps so that the air would cool it just enough to save my mouth. It made me feel lit up while soothed, like medicine and precious reward all in one.

When it came time for a proper serving, I laid a bed of noodles in my bowl then nudged some shredded chicken up beside. I brought the soup to another boil, and added leeks followed by Shanghai bok choy; first the stalks, then the leaves, so that the former was poached but the latter only wilted. At the table there came radishes, sesame oil, more soy sauce, the leaves from the cilantro now, and sesame seeds. The garnishes accentuated the broth — think of turning up the light rather than stealing the spotlight— and the slipping, tangled slide of noodles and vegetables went down with ease.

As an epilogue, the leftovers lasted three meals more, which made Monday's endeavour feel especially productive and satisfying. I hope you're having a great week. 

A quick endnote — Simply Nigella was photographed by my friend Keiko Oikawa and a public hooray for her felt apt. K, you've been such an inspiration for so many years, and you did an expectedly bang-up job with this. xx

One more — my cookbook was included in Food52's Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks this month, and while I was kicked out in the first round, to lose to Ruth Reichl hardly feels a loss at all. And, the nomination was truly the most unexpected honour. Cheers and thanks for that. 

 

CHINESE-INSPIRED CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP

"Actually, there are dual inspirations for this soup, for it really a version of My Mother's Praise Chicken from Kitchen infused with Chinese flavours. What you end up with is the sort of soup you want to eat in bowls held up inelegantly close to your mouth so that you are in easy slurping distance. I am embarrassed to say that I can't use chopsticks, unless they're the children's sort held together with a piece of card and an elastic band, but this soup really makes me want to learn.

I always recommend organic chicken (or organic meat generally) but I am mindful of the fact that not everyone can afford the luxury. Even so, if you use an intensively farmed chicken here (and the lack of taste is only one concern), you just won't get a flavoursome enough soup, in which case some bouillon cubes or concentrate in the water. 

I've given an exuberant list of ingredients for sprinkling on at the end, as I love that final fling of flavour. And though I haven't added them here, should you be making a fresh foray to an Asian food store to make this, and you see Chinese flowering chives about, they would be a real treat, and are so beautiful. Despite the Asian inspiration for the soup's flavour, I make a steep geographical about-turn and use golden nests (one per person) of an egg-enriched tagliolini for the noodle element, though I do also love this with those very thin mug bean or rice vermicelli. In fact, I just can't think of a bad way of eating this: even noodle-less, and thus rather not living up to its title, this is bliss in a bowl. "

— from Simply Nigella, by Nigella Lawson (Appetite by Random House, 2015)

Serves 6 to 8

INGREDIENTS FOR THE SOUP

  • 3 leeks, cleaned and trimmed
  • 3 carrots, peeled and trimmed
  • 3 stalks celery, trimmed
  • 3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 small or medium chicken, preferably organic
  • 1 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup Chinese (Shaoxing) rice wine
  • tied stalks from a bunch of cilantro, plus leaves to serve (see below)
  • 2 1/2 quarts cold water
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes or kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoons Szechuan pepper or crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce, plus more to serve
  • 2 fat cloves garlic, peeled and finely grated or minced
  • zest and juice of 1 lime, preferably unwaxed
  • 10 ounces baby bok choy, tatsoi, choi sum, or other greens of choice 
  • 4 ounces radishes
  • 2 ounces dried fine egg noodles or vermicelli per person
  • salt for noodle water to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil, plus more to serve (see below)

TO SERVE

  • Asian sesame oil
  • 2 (or more to taste) fresh red chiles, seeded and finely diced (optional)
  • leaves from a bunch of cilantro (see above)
  • finely chopped chives (optional)

METHOD

Slice each trimmed leek in half lengthways, and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Set aside. Cut the carrots into 1 1/2-inch lengths and quarter each log lengthways. Chop the celery into 1/2-inch slices, reserving any leaves to add to the soup at the end. Grate the ginger onto a plate for the time being. I use a microplane grater and get 4-5 teaspoons of fiery pulp out of this. Don't wash up the grater yet, as you'll need it for the garlic and lime later.

Now, with your vegetables prepped, untruss your chicken, cut off (but do not discard) the ankle part of the leg (I find kitchen scissors more than adequate to the task), and put the chicken, breast-side down, on a cutting board, then press down until you hear the breastbone crack — perhaps I shouldn't like this as much as I do — and the chicken is slightly flattened. Wash your hands, and then warm the tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pan that comes with a lid and that's big enough to take all the ingredients comfortably; I use a saucepan of 12 inches in diameter, 5 inches deep, which is a tight, but good, fit. 

When the oil hot, put the chicken in, breast-side down, and leave to brown for 3 minutes; the heat should not be too high for this or it'll start burning. Turn the chicken the other way up, then turn the heat to high and chuck in the rice wine. While it's bubbling, throw in the chicken ankle pieces along with the tied cilantro stalks, sliced carrots, and celery. 

Pour in the water, then add the sea salt flakes, Szechuan pepper (or crushed red pepper flakes), soy sauce, and finely grated ginger. Add the garlic, then grate in the zest of the lime, and squeeze in the juice of half of it. Let this come to a boil. 

Once it's bubbling, clamp on the lid, turn the heat to low, and let it simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Once the hour is up, take the lid off, then turn up the heat and bring it back to a boil again, and, once it is, add the leeks you sliced earlier. Cover partially with the lid and cook for 10 minutes, then let the broth simmer uncovered and confidently for another 10 minutes. This is to let the broth strengthen a bit. Then turn off the heat altogether, though keep the pan on the stove, clamp the lid back on, and leave for at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour. While this is going on, I'd put a saucepan of water on to boil the noodles later, and salt it when it comes to a boil.

When you want to eat, remove the chicken to a board: it may be falling to pieces, but so much the better. Remove the chicken skin (I discard it, as for me there's no joy in chicken skin unless it's crisp), then take the meat off the bone and shred it. And by the way, should you not use up all the chicken for the soup, know that it is magnificent — flavoursome and tender — in a salad or sandwich the next day. 

Chop the stems of the greens you're using, and put the leaves into a separate pile. Quarter the radishes top to tail. Bring the pan of soup back to a boil, add the stalks of the greens and the quartered radishes, and let it come back to a boil once more. At the same time, add the noodles to the pan of boiling salted water, and cook them (if you're using the fine noodles or vermicelli they shouldn't take more than 2-3 minutes). 

Add the leafy parts of the greens to the bubbling soup and drain the noodles. Put the noodles and shredded chicken into your serving bowls. Taste the soup for seasoning, and add more salt (or soy) and the juice of the remaining half of lime, if you think it needs it. When satisfied, ladle the fragrant broth, with its vegetables, on top of the chicken and noodles, add a drop of sesame oil to each bowl, then sprinkle with chopped chiles, cilantro, or chives, as you wish. Bring the bottles of soy sauce and sesame oil, and some more of the chopped chiles and herbs to the table for people to add as they eat. Warning: don't burn your mouth; this soup smells so good, I'm afraid it's easy to be dangerously impatient and eat while the soup's still scaldingly hot. 

STORE NOTE:

  • Transfer leftover cooked chicken to a container, cover, and chill within 1 hour. It will keep in refrigerator for up to 3 days

FREEZE NOTE:

  • The cooked and cooled chicken can be frozen, in airtight containers or resealable bags, for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in refrigerator before using.

NOTE FROM TARA:

  • Because I'm probably the only fan of radishes in my household (I'd be sad, but it means more for me), I left them out of the soup pot and added them instead to my serving alone.

 

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Over the holidays, my brother gave me a box of family photo albums he's had since our maternal grandmother passed away in the summer of 2012. Between pages sticky with scratchy lines of yellowed glue and crackling sheets of protective plastic was a photo of grandma, younger than I can remember her, cooking with Aunty Surinder. Aunty was a close family friend, if not an actual relation.

How good it is | Tara O'Brady

The shot belongs with a few others in sequence. My grandfather, dressed in a pale yellow golf shirt with the collar neat, sitting with his elbows on a table, talking to a man whose back is to the camera. Another with grandma and aunty outside a small cottage, wearing sunglasses and smiling broadly at the photographer. My mother thinks the cottage must have been a rental of some sort, a forgotten holiday somewhere. Wherever it was, it looks green and temperate. And they look happy. 

That one photo has stood out to me for the last two weeks, how the highest points of their smiles are just visible, the way their attention is on the stove and to each other. The particular blue on the carton and the eggs in the pan. Friends are going to India in a few weeks, and talk of their trip has had me thinking about my childhood visits there. I've been missing my grandmother in that hollow, aching way that comes with time, especially the feel of the skin on the back of her hands, her laugh, and her way with a good scramble. That photo, among all the others, even the ones where she's fully facing the camera, shook any dust off her memory.  

WINTER SQUASH SOUP WITH CURRY AND COCONUT MILK from Lisa Moussali and Molly Wizenberg | Seven Spoons

Benjamin and William know of our friends travel plans, and that some others are newly engaged, and that another couple just bought a house. While the boys don't call Sean and my friends aunties and uncles, they do call them mister and miss. So it's Mister Jason, for example — I can't get past my upbringing of children not calling adults by their first names alone. What's more, in the naming of their misters and misses in the world, I hope the boys feel they've claimed the adults that are theirs, besides just Sean and I, our parents, and their aunts and uncles by blood. 

WINTER SQUASH SOUP WITH CURRY AND COCONUT MILK from Lisa Moussali and Molly Wizenberg | Seven Spoons

For the last little while, William has held the firm belief that yellow soups are his favourite. I often make ones with squash or carrots, garlic, ginger, and cilantro, then chilies and coconut to take us somewhere in the area of Thailand, if not quite there. After last week's successful khao soi/squash experiment, I continued the streak with this Indian curried one.

Molly wrote about this soup more than two years ago; it is as simple as you'd want yet so bang-on exactly what it needs to be. The oomph comes from curry powder (honestly, I keep curry powder in the house for the aforementioned khao soi, mum's dry fried noodles, and this soup), but then its made all the  more interesting by a partnership with maple syrup (!) and fish sauce. The maple syrup, and grade B is really the way to go here, has a darkness that is brought out by the savouriness of the fish sauce, so its sweetness melts into the background. Lime juice and Sriracha further sharpens the focus right at the front. It is the type of soup you make with such regularity that you take for granted how good it is. Which I totally did, until I was texting about it Sunday night. I'm glad I remembered. I won't soon forget. 

 

(ROASTED) WINTER SQUASH SOUP WITH CURRY AND COCONUT MILK

I like this soup with accompanied by a little bulk — a rag of griddled naan, a mound of brown rice or crisped quinoa in the bottom of the bowl. Or, as shown, with chubby cubes of firm tofu slathered in the same flavours as the soup (maple, Sriracha, fish sauce) then bronzed in a hot skillet until leathery-edged. I had the last of some cooked lentils knocking about, so stirred them through with yogurt, cilantro, mustard sprouts and a pinch of Kashmiri chile powder, then spooned them over the tofu for another collection of textures. Cashews worked over in a mortar and pestle would also be nice. 

The method for the soup was barely changed by me in roasting the squash first, but everything else is an adaption by Molly Wizenberg from a recipe in Better Homes and Gardens via Lisa Moussalli's own adaptation. I agree with Molly in that butternut is the best squash for the task, but red hubbard and butterkin aren't bad. Acorn makes the soup a bit more khaki and it somehow tastes it, too. The ace method for roasting squash entirely from Molly Hays at Remedial Eating. The squash is roasted whole — no peeling! No hacking! No scraping of seeds still stubborn! Wins all around! — then split once soft enough to do so without resistance. It is brilliant.

INGREDIENTS

  •  1 winter squash (about 2 pounds / 500 g), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  •  1 medium or large yellow onion, chopped
  •  3 or 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  •  1 tablespoon curry powder
  •  1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
  •  2 cups (475 ml) chicken or vegetable broth
  •  1 tablespoon maple syrup
  •  1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
  •  1 teaspoon Sriracha or other Asian chile sauce
  •  Juicy wedges of lime, for serving

METHOD

Preheat an oven to 400°F. Place a whole winter squash on a rimmed, parchment-lined baking sheet (see note, below). Bake the squash until tender enough to be pierced deeply with the tip of a knife with only modest resistance, about 30 minutes. Carefully split the squash down its length, being careful of the steam. Flip the squash facedown on the pan and pop back into the oven for 15 to 20 minutes more until squash tender but still firm. Turn the squash so their faces are now upturned, and roast for 10 minutes more. Set aside until the squash are cool enough to handle. 

Meanwhile, warm the olive oil in a 4 to 6-quart Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until they are softened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for a minute or 2 more. Sprinkle in the curry powder, and stir around for 1 minute. Pour in the coconut milk and scrape any stuck bits from the bottom of the pan. If using an upright blender, transfer onions and coconut milk to its carafe, along with the broth. Scrape the seeds out of the squash and discard, then spoon the flesh into the blender as well. Purée until smooth and velvety (alternatively, do all of this in the pot with an immersion blender). Pour the soup back into the pot, stir in the maple syrup, fish sauce, and Sriracha, and check for seasoning. Bring the soup back up to a simmer, then serve with fresh lime wedges alongside for squeezing on top. 

NOTES:

  • When I roast winter squash this way I tend to do a whole bunch all at once — basically however much my oven can hold. This way it justifies turning the oven on, and then I'm set for soup (or whatever use you might have for roasted squash) for the week. 

This afternoon's plan was to share a recipe, as I've got one waiting in the wings, but that isn't happening. What is happening is me on the couch, with my laptop, phone, various remote controls, an ice pack and a hot water bottle (and unfortunately without those doughnuts up top, which were from another day.) I wish I could say I did something exciting to warrant an injury, but I can't. Instead, it's simply that I've gone and tweaked something in my back, and so here we are. 

As a positive, my couch session affords the opportunity to tell you a little about what I've been cooking and eating lately, aside from doughnuts, and the recipes that I've got bookmarked for next.

Indian Baked Beans | Tara O'Brady for the Globe and Mail

 We started October with the Indian Baked Beans I wrote about in the Globe and Mail. They are a mashup of chole (channa) masala and traditional baked beans. Besides on toast, I like them tucked in naan with a slice of grilled halloumi. Or, I top a bowlful with a pile of bitter greens (frisée is especially good), a squeeze of lime or lemon, fruity olive oil, and some flaky salt. 

I went on a falafel kick after that, wholly inspired by the recipes in the book Honey & Co: Food from the Middle East by Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer (Little, Brown and Company, 2015). There are three recipes in the book; Jerusalem-style (for Itamar), Haifa-style (for Sarit), and Yemeni (for the family roots). I made the Haifa-style, also known as the one for purists, as it is a rather robust fritter full of cumin and coriander. Paired with a lemon-sharp tahini dressing, they were ideal. Bon Appétit featured the falafel in their last issue, along with two more — kuri squash and red pepper. I'm looking to have go a the squash, and I'm pretty into the spiced tahini from the same issue, as well as the feta and spring onion bouikos from the book. (Sara put her trademark spin on the falafel and created a baked variation.)

Over the weekend I made Martha Rose Shulman's Mexican Black Beans. Following Molly's advice, I soaked the beans longer than I usually would — a full 24 hours instead of overnight. I followed the recipe, with the addition of a minced chipotle in adobo at the start, and then half a fresh jalapeño (left whole) when the cilantro went in. I'd planned on following John Thorne's low and slow oven method for cooking the beans that Molly described, but due to an oversight in timing, I needed the oven for other things. So, I split the difference and cooked the beans on the stovetop, with the heat on low and only the faintest of burbles. They were done in about 3 hours, and while they were good that first day, I cannot tell you how much better they were the second. So, if you can, plan ahead and let them cool completely before stashing them in the fridge for a rest. Even once reheated, the broth from the beans was velvety, deeply flavoured and not at all murky, and the beans themselves still held together. Sean and I had them for lunch yesterday, with brown rice, avocados, pickled things, and sprouts.  

Spoonable meals are what I'm continuing for November. Yotam Ottolenghi's roasted pumpkin soup with harissa and crisp chickpeas looks rather enticing (scroll down once though the link), and the yam and peanut stew from Gena Hamshaw's new book Food52 Vegan (Ten Speed Press, 2105), is unreservedly great. And oh, if you're on Gena's site, her nut milk creamer is one to try. When I'm looking for extra soothing delivered via  mug, I make the Golden Milk from my own book and bulk up the liquid with some of her creamer.

And last but not least, the first cookbook my friends Nikole Herriott and Michael Graydon photographed is now out — the highly-anticipated Gjelina: Cooking from Venice, California by LA-based chef and restaurant owner Travis Lett (Chronicle Books, 2015). The photographs look as remarkable as would be expected from those two and I can't wait to get stuck in to the recipes. Congratulations, guys.

The kettle just clicked off, so I should go attend to that. Talk soon soon. xo

 

 

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When leafing through The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak last week, I kept coming back to the page for her cinnamon buns. 

no yeast cinnamon buns from Violet Bakery | Tara O'Brady + Seven Spoons

If you've been around here for a while, you might know that one of my favourite breakfast pastries are sugar buns (Tartine Bakery's morning bun made with a whole-wheat variation on Nigella Lawson's Danish dough, and laced with almond and orange). Besides bostocks, they are usually my holiday morning go-to, and it is rare that I stray from that habit.

However (!), Ptak's recipe is made without yeast; the dough gets its rise from baking powder instead, like the cousin of a scone or sweet biscuit. That was enough to intrigue. Plus they were pretty; perfectly golden arabesques dusted with sugar. Total lookers. So curiosity got the better of me.

You make the dough in a stand mixer, crumbling up cold butter into the dry ingredients, then adding milk until a dough curls up around the paddle. Simple. The dough rolls out smooth and supple, twirls back up into an impressive swirl, then bakes into delicate layers with just a touch of elasticity for some chew. 

The cinnamon swirl is backed up in spice by some cardamom in the dough and the combo comes off friskier than either on their own. It's exactly right. And, if you can find Ceylon cinnamon, this is the time to use it. 

It's Thanksgiving coming up, and we are going apple picking sometime this week — I'm toying with the idea of a second go with these for the holiday weekend, this time wafer thin slices of sautéed apples and blitzed almonds wrapped up in the coil. I think that might be a good idea. Still, I didn't want to hold out on you on the recipe, so here they are. 

Happy start of the week, talk soon.


VIOLET BAKERY'S CINNAMON BUNS (yeast free)

"Of course a soft yeasty bun can be a wonderful thing, but at Violet we have never had enough space to work with yeasted bread doughs. They take up more room and need larger machines. I came up with these yeast-free buns in my home kitchen by looking back through the cookbooks of the 1950s, when everything was about how to make things more quickly. Quick breads, as breads leavened with baking powder or baking soda are called, were an alternative to the time-consuming yeast or sourdough breads. Truly, they are something altogether different. They both have their place on the table. This recipe can also be made ahead then frozen in the muffin tin until ready to bake."

— from The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak (Ten Speed Press, 2015)

Makes 12 buns

FOR THE FILLING

  • 75g (1/3 cup) unsalted butter
  • 250g (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

FOR THE CINNAMON BUNS

  • 560g (4 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 240g (1 cup plus 1 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes)
  • 300g (1 1/4 cups) cold milk
  • sugar, for dipping
  • butter, for greasing the pan

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 200°C/390°F (180°C/355°F convection).

Butter a 12-cup deep muffin pan.

First, prepare the feeling. Melt the butter and leave in a warm place so that it remains liquid. Mixed together the light brown sugar and cinnamon until no lumps remain, then set aside.

Now make the dough. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combine all the dry ingredients with the cubes of butter and mix until you have a coarse meal. Slowly pour into cold milk while the mixer is running, until dough forms into a ball and comes away from the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and leave to rest for a few minutes. Fold the dough gently over itself once or twice to pull it all together let the dough rest a second time, for 10 minutes.

Clear a large surface, dust lightly with more flour, and roll out the dough into a large rectangle until almost 5mm (1/8 inch) thick. Brush the surface of the dough with the melted butter and, before the butter hardens, sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on to the butter. You want a good, slightly thick layer.

Now roll the long side, keeping it neat and tidy. Gently tug the dough toward you to get a taut roll while rolling away from you in a spiral. Once it’s all rolled up, gently squeeze the roll to ensure it’s the same sickness throughout. Use a sharp knife to cut the roll crosswise into 12 even slices. Take a slice of the cinnamon roll, peel back about 5 cm (2 inches) of the loose end of the pastry and fold back under the roll too loosely cover the bottom of the roll. Place in the muffin pan, flap side down. Repeat with remaining slices.

Bake the buns for 25 minutes. As soon as they're out of the oven, flip them over onto a wire cooling rack so that they don't stick to the tray. Dip each cinnamon bun into a bowl of sugar and serve right away.

NOTES FROM TARA:

  • There seems to be an error in the volume conversion in the book for this entry — the flour is listed as 560g or 1 1/2 cups, but that weight is actually about 4 1/2 cups and I've changed the recipe to reflect that.

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Russeted pears | Tara O'Brady

Hey guys! There's a slight change of plans. Due to concerns about the weather, the Terrain's Autumn Festival and my event tomorrow (4 October) at their Glen Mills, PA location has been postponed to the 17th of the month—as of now the timing should be the same, but I'll keep you posted on any other changes! For now, east coast pals, stay warm and dry, and will see you in two weeks. 

In case you missed the initial announcement, I will be hosting a brunch at Terrain with the meal inspired by my cookbook; there will be a cocktail, drinks, some favourite dishes and I'll be on hand to chat and visit, and to demonstrate a recipe. The brunch requires RSVP, and some tickets are still available if you're able to come! The brunch starts Terrain's Autumn Bounty Festival, a full day of activities to kick off the season. 

Hope you can make it, and more events for the east are in the works! That recipe I promised will follow this announcement shortly, and it's kind of a game changer. Stay tuned. 

xo

 

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