We are rebuilding our front deck. Yesterday was demolition day, and today we loaded all the wood and other debris into a trailer for the landfill. And it’s Monday. There are always loose ends, and surprises, and a big to-do list on Mondays. So I decided we needed a boost.
One of my favourite desserts as a kid was my mom’s Chocolate Pudding Cake. I have spoken of Mom’s Lemon Pudding Cake before; it is a delicate, tangy soufflé. The chocolate version is on the other end of the scale – rich with oozing decadence, the original lava cake.
The good news is, pudding cake is easier to manage than lava cake, being a bigger entity. It’s a straightforward recipe to assemble. The trickiest part is planning to have the first portion warm, but to wait long enough so you don’t burn your tongue.
As I finish this last paragraph, my tummy is all warm inside. I feel a bit like Winnie the Pooh after polishing off a pot of honey. The muscles I worked out lifting boards and branches feel a bit better. I am sure I will have pleasant dreams.
I hope you do too. If not, try making Chocolate Pudding Cake tomorrow.
This time of year is when I really feel like I deserve a treat. With the cold wind blowing during my walks with Ella this week I must have burned extra calories.
Sweets offer us a boost in energy. Numerous ingredients gives a combination of flavours and benefits. A decadent dessert is comfort food on steroids. Therefore, making Millionaire Shortbread is completely justified. What is Millionaire Shortbread, you ask? Let me tell you…
Martin and I discovered this wonderful dessert in Scotland a few years back. We were there in March and it was bone-chilling damp cold (I don’t know how kilts can keep anyone warm in that kind of weather!)
We ducked into a cozy cafe in Edinburgh after having visited the Surgeon’s Hall Museums at the Royal College of Surgeons.
(It might sound creepy, but this place is well worth the visit if you are in Edinburgh, full of interesting exhibits and amazing facts. ) Amidst the aromas of black tea and coffee in the cafe we spied a row of squares among the usual pastries, layered and elegant. Once I saw the name I knew we had to sample one.
I can’t find any information on where the name Millionaire Shortbread comes from – it must be just because the layering of shortbread, caramel and chocolate all in one bite makes you feel like you’ve struck it rich.
I didn’t get the recipe from the cafe, and the ones I found needed tweaking so I added my own Scottish-Canadian twist. They aren’t hard to make, all they take is a bit of patience as the layers set. While you wait I recommend thinking of with whom you will share them, as they are addictive and one really is sufficient.
Once you have settled in with your hot beverage and squares of decadence, you might want to continue the Scottish theme. There are many topics of discussion – one of my favourites is the Outlander series of books, written by Diana Gabaldon – which have now also become a TV series. (If you’ve been in a hole and haven’t heard of Outlander, these stories tell the tale of the love between a post-war nurse and the Highlander she meets when she tumbles through time to the 18th century. Their love stands not only the test of time but also numerous historical events.) What better way to while away an afternoon with a friend than to muse on possible alternate lives and love that transcends all obstacles?
By now you are probably thinking I’ve gone overboard, but that’s because you haven’t tasted Millionaire Shortbread. Just go make some. Then you’ll know what I mean.
Okay, that got your attention, didn’t it? The expression was one used by a friend on our recent trip to Vegas, where we enjoyed a number of meals that were absolutely wonderful. I think what she meant to convey was that feeling you have when something is so close to perfect it makes you hold your breath. There is a euphoria that comes over you as you soak in the experience. I’ll try to show you what I mean with my next few posts. I will start with the classic foodie “wow” and then proceed with other special experiences.
One night we booked at a restaurant owned by a chef my husband has followed since he started working in kitchens. For 30 years Martin has been looking through Joel Robuchon’s cookbooks and following his restaurant endeavours. Of course, Chef Robuchon was not in the kitchen the night we were there, but his touch was in every dish. A kitchen that arranges salad leaves with tweezers is not your everyday kind of place.
We really wanted to sample a range of items, so we booked at L’Atelier, where the a la carte menu is larger.The kitchen is open so that you can see much of the work as it happens. There is also the potential to spend a little bit less money, although this is not a cheap evening. But then like I said, we don’t eat like this every day!
We all chose a few courses, and decided to have wine with dinner. As we sat marveling at the room with all its food displays, we truly felt in the presence of greatness. The sense of anticipation was exciting.
They set the tone with an “amuse bouche” and boy, was this first taste amusing! A parfait with foie gras and milk foam. Not for the faint at heart, certainly, but that’s one of the reasons we work out, after all.
My first course was “Soy glazed kampachi with endive salad and light mustard dressing”. Kampachi, or kingfish, is a beautifully tender and flaky white fish. The glaze was perfectly balanced with the dressing in the salad, both providing intense flavours to lift the more delicate fish and salad but not overpower them. Martin had a classic dish, “Traditionally poached chilled duck foie gras”. It was served simply with a few toast points that were perfectly crisped. Such decadence is almost enough to make one feel guilty, it’s so enjoyable…At least with your clothes on! But we had only just begun.
We went on to our second courses, and our friends had similar moans of delight with their dishes. How could pork chops be so delectable? Martin’s Crispy langoustine fritters with basil pesto” was ethereal they were so crispy. I had “veal sweetbread with fresh laurel and stuffed romaine lettuce”… yes, stuffed lettuce! I adore sweetbreads, and they are not an item on many menus. They were crispy on the outside and deliciously melt-in-my-mouth rich and smooth on the inside. The lettuce had a complimentary savoury flavour to it, I believe created by the foam they had made for it. I was in heaven.
But there was still more. The service team would be gliding back in to deliver more delights. They were practically invisible until we needed them, and their knowledge of the food was impeccable.
For the last savoury course, I chose “Caramelized quail stuffed with foie gras served with mashed potato”. Martin had “Maine lobster salad with a sherry vinegar dressing”. Our friends enjoyed a sea bass in a coconut curry (poured over the fish at the table, enveloping us all in its exotic aroma), and more foie gras (why not!) My quail was exquisite, delicate and rich at the same time with the foie gras stuffing and the potatoes that were whipped within an inch of their life. I felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland, eating this miniature dish. Martin’s lobster was prepared “a la minute”; you could practically smell the sea air. We hummed as we ate, we were so contented.
Of course, I could not leave without having dessert. And really, at such a place, why not order the souffle? “Green chartreuse soufflé, pistachio cream” was the description on the menu. I was completely intrigued. It is prepared to order, so we sipped the last of our wine as it cooked, and then had just started stirring our cappuccinos as it arrived, like a piece of art to a museum exhibition. The ice cream was in a frozen ceramic egg, and the souffle was still rising as it arrived I’m sure. We all gasped in awe as it was set down. I took the first bite of souffle, and drifted away on a cloud with the elegant texture and subtle liqueur flavours in my mouth. The ice cream was an exciting contrast to taste, being richer and cold versus hot. I felt as though I had just watched the grand finale at a Broadway show. I was completely satiated.
We spent hundreds of dollars for dinner that night, and it was worth every penny. It’s not something we do often, but that’s okay, because the memories last a lifetime. To share the evening with friends who were equally as interested and impressed with the experience was also a real treat.
Cheers to the fellow foodies out there who love this kind of stuff. For anyone who thinks I’m a bit nuts, well I hope you can appreciate this as an enthusiastic hobby, just like a football fan or a keen scrap-booker 🙂
It’s birthday season in my world it seems. I just wrote a post remembering my Dad’s birthday. Now I have another day of note worth mentioning, so I hope you’ll indulge me, and my loved ones.
Today is Simon’s birthday. He is 10 years old today. Everyone deserves to be celebrated on their birthday, even someone as egocentric as Simon. You see, Simon is my husband’s German Short Haired Pointer.He is a well-trained and handsome dog, but he loves me for my throwing arm. So, any tribute I make in this article is directed much more towards MY best friend, Ella, the Chocolate Labrador you see gracing my photos in this blog. She is the one who nurses me through my sinus infections in winter, and watches over me when I garden in the summer, and always looks back when we walk to make sure I am still there. (Simon, on the other hand, could care less till it’s dinner time where I am.)
In honour of all four-legged best friends, I am contributing a recipe for healthy dog treats to my archives. You can just feed your dog popcorn as a natural treat, or slow roasted sweet potato slices (cook them in the oven at 200F, or a dehydrator, for about 6 hours). This is a fun recipe to do with kids, and it gives them great practice at kitchen skills. It’s also a great gift to give a fellow dog owner. I once even hosted a canine birthday party at the local park where we walked our dogs, and gave out homemade dog treats as a take-away. Dog owners tend to be really sociable people; it was a fun party!
Of course, if you’re not a dog owner, your best friend would likely enjoy a more decadent birthday treat. For this kind of celebration, I suggest chocolate. One of my favourite special desserts is my husband’s Chocolate Souffle. If your friends are more into simple fare that is not so decadent, how about Pavlova? It’s even gluten-free, for those who don’t eat wheat.
Whether your friends are two-legged or four, you could hold a party with just balloons and still elicit many smiles. But I am a firm believer that birthdays deserve a cherry on top, if you know what I mean. Gathering people together to share a taste of something special makes for a great memory.
Here’s to doing back flips for birthdays!
I wanted to create a post that would showcase something elegant for a summer garden party. I was thinking of keeping up to Martha Stewart and all her beautiful flower arrangements amidst pastel-coloured cocktails, or perhaps Alice Waters-style with sprigs of just-snipped herbs on every plate. Well, I never got the time to put an idea together. Instead, here are my impromptu notes…
At Rabbit Hollow we have what we call an edible fence. Our property line is covered on one side of the yard with all kinds of fruit trees and berry bushes. The most prolific of these are the golden raspberry canes that are now in their fourth year here. They are wonderful fruits, a bit less tangy than red raspberries and certainly more exotic to look at. The ones we have are everbearing, so from June through November we get to nibble on these little delights every morning if we want. I usually sneak a few after I walk the dogs and water the garden in the morning. There is something wonderfully rebellious about stuffing mouthfuls of raspberries into your mouth even before you’ve put your business clothes on 🙂
The catch is, the little bit of nibbling is not keeping up with production anymore. As a result, I have started to look for recipes that highlight their delicate flavour, and Raspberry Financiers are just about perfect. They are a lovely afternoon tea treat, but I have found that they make a decadent Sunday breakfast. You can be lazy and add them to pancakes, but this recipe is sure to impress everyone at the table.
So, this post is a reminder for you to combine the irreverent and the elegant occasionally, just for fun. Be serious about having fun. Life is short and it is meant to be enjoyed and shared. Have an extra mouthful of berries and let yourself smile.