I have never had bread pudding before. Stale bread just doesn’t seem that fun for dessert, to be honest. But food blogging tends to push you into new directions. I stumbled upon an Egyptian Bread and Butter Pudding, called Om Ali, while flipping through The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden.
Also called Umm Ali or Omm Ali, it literally translates to Ali’s mother. There are different stories as to its origin, but it sounds like Ali’s mom whipped up this delicious dessert from staples in her kitchen. Indeed, one of the reasons I tried it was because I had all these scraps of phyllo dough after trimming them from the baklava and some cream left over from a chocolate fondue feast. It was the perfect leftover throw together dessert.
Indeed, it is the scraps of phyllo (or puff pastry) that sets this dish apart from other bread puddings. In fact, I hesitate to call this a bread pudding, despite it being a pudding with bread in it (phyllo dough, rather). Instead of a bread-heavy dish, it is more of a creamy pudding. It is mixed with crunchy toasted almonds, sweet raisins, and topped with a dusting of cinnamon. This reminded me more of a creamy, baked rice pudding, sans rice, but with other delicious additions. In any case, it is delicious, and easy to make. Let it convert all the bread pudding haters.
This recipe was adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden.
This is my submission to My Kitchen, My World for Egyptian travels.
Living in a city as nice as Toronto, I am surrounded by many great restaurants. I try to cook at home most of the time, for health and economic reasons, but I am slowly scoping out delicious, cheap places to meet over food prepared by someone else.
Currently, some of my favourite places to eat out, if I must, include:
Folia Grill – excellent home-grown Greek fare with a delicious chicken gyro pita for $4
Sky Blue Sky – a quaint sandwich shop, with all under $5, including the suprisingly filling pulled pork sandwich. Chatting with the owner about the trendy (pulled pork) and less popular (cashew butter and cucumber) sandwiches is equally amusing when selecting your choice
The Fish Store – delicious fish sandwiches prepared from your choice of fresh fish, all under $10, and a delicious homemade lemonade for $3
Manpuku – my long-time favourite for Japanese, but you won’t find any sushi here. Their nikku udon (beef soup with udon noodles) is a great heart-warming dish for under $6
Guu – still Toronto’s newest sweetheart, with a second location expected in the Annexe, this is a popular Japanese izakaya (aka tapa-style bar). Everyone is welcomed as soon as they enter and leave the resto and the dishes have yet to disappoint me. All dishes are under $10, but the sizes are smaller and meant for sharing.
Pomegranate – a newer find that complements my latest love of Middle Eastern food. This is Persian food at its finest, at reasonable prices around $15.
Amaya – A bit of a splurge restaurant (mains under $20), especially since it is Indian, but I am enthralled by their butter chicken. If only I knew how to make it myself!
Canoe – This is arguably Toronto’s best restaurant and it has the price-point such that it is very elitist, and limited to special occasions only. You get what you pay for, and it is lip-smacking delicious. I really appreciate their use of local, unique ingredients, prepared, oftentimes, in a myriad of ways. I know these are dishes I would have a difficult time recreating at home, which is important for my restaurant adventures. While the written menu did not immediately appeal to me, I just had to ask the server to explain what each dish entailed. It is here that I had a surreal mushroom soup that tasted like apple due to the varieties used, and I had squab prepared in 3 different ways: marinated with Newfoundland screech, drenched in a Saskatoon berry sauce and served with a side of dinosaur kale.
Enough gushing over Canoe, because I like to post things I make myself on my food blog. Imagine my surprise when I saw Canadian Living had Canoe’s recipe for wild rice pudding with a rhubarb compote. I could now bring the taste of Canoe into my own kitchen.
It boasted a baked rice pudding with short-grain and wild rice within a orange- and cinnamon-scented creamy base, topped with a sweet-and-tart rhubarb compote.
While I have not had this at the restaurant, I might have to go there to try it out because my kitchen adventures were not as successful as I’d hoped. The rhubarb compote almost seemed to be in excess with the delicious flavours from the pudding. The wild rice added a nice crunch and the orange and cinnamon flavours blended well together, but my pudding was too thick for my liking. I wonder if there was too much evaporation during the baking? I think my substitutions were legit, but you never know. Maybe the recipe was meant to be a teaser, just to bring us back into the restaurant?
Other than cooking/baking/eating, another one of my new passions is cycling. A year ago I was using my 19-year old mountain bike (it looks like this one on Craigslist) for commuting to work. A year later, after saving my money from a lack of bus passes, I purchased a snazzy road/hybrid and I have been flying ever since. A nice, light bike makes a complete difference and I went from enduring cycling to really enjoying it.
My newest cycling goal is a double imperial century ride between Ottawa and Cornwall in September with my family. I have been slowly working my way towards the grueling 100 mile (162km) bike ride for each day. This weekend, I cycled between Burlington and Niagara Falls with a group of friends through the Toronto Bicycle Network. Our my first day, I cycled 128km and almost cried when I arrived at the falls, glorious in all its splendour, complete with a rainbow, but mostly proud of my achievement.
One of the snacks I munched on through the day were homemade almond chocolate Lärabars. The ingredient list for Lärabars are surprisingly sparse (eg., dates, almonds and bananas) and quite a few recipes are online for many of the different Lärabars flavours (and here, too). In the end, I decided to go all out with Chocolate & Zucchini‘s gourmet chocolate Lärabars with almonds, date paste, cardamom, cinnamon, cocoa, and cacao nibs. They were delicious but a bit crumbly, especially once on the road all day. I think I needed to soften my date paste, which I will do next time. For a while I was confused with the flavours in the bar. It tasted kind of minty but I know I didn’t put any mint in it. I think it was the magic of cardamom. I approve, and will definitely try out other combinations of nuts, fried fruits and spices throughout my summer rides.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to bike back from Niagara falls to Burlington, after I fell off my bike the subsequent morning. Thankfully I am doing well, took the train back to Toronto, bought a new helmet and will be riding off to work in a few minutes.
Hi. My name is Janet. And I am a hoarder.
I like to buy things on sale. I like to buy things for dishes I plan on making. As such, I have purchased seemingly obscure ingredients and spices for ethnic dishes.
I try to cook with fresh ingredients, so my fridge is usually packed with food and my freezer is filled to the brim. My excuse is that I have a condo-sized fridge, which I feel is not much bigger than a beer fridge. One year ago, this is what my fridge looked like, when I was profiled on blogto.com.
Since I have a tiny kitchen in a tiny apartment with limited storage, I have kitchen appliances and food stashed in each room.
I realize this can be a problem, but I still begged my mom to bring me more fresh rhubarb from her backyard. I used the last batch to make a sinfully delicious baked rhubarb and apples with earl grey tea, cardamom and orange zest, a savoury Indian-spiced lentil and rhubarb stew and rhubarb baked oatmeal. And I still had more recipes to try…. so it was justified to ask for more, right?
I figured I would also try to help clear some room from my freezer when I saw the blueberry rhubarb crisp with a pistachio crust from Gourmet (June 1999). I knew I had frozen blueberries, so I was off to the races. But then when I measured them out, I was a cup short. Oh no! What to do?! Luckily, fruit abounds in my freezer, so I had to decide between mango and cranberries. In the end, I used cranberries to add to the blueberry/rhubarb mixture. And you know what? It was perfect. Sometimes the wacky impromptu substitutions work well!
This seemingly odd combination of tart, soft baked rhubarb with not-so-sweet blueberries and even more tart cranberries was wonderful. The pistachio crisp topping had just the right amount of sweetness for the base and since I squished the topping together, there were nice hearty globs of topping for the fruit filling. The only thing I would do differently next time is increase the fruit filling.
This was delicious slightly cooled from the oven as is, but the leftovers were perfect with vanilla yogurt the next day. The warm crisp with lightly melted vanilla ice cream is an equally decadent treat. Dessert? Breakfast? Sometimes I can’t decide.
I had been hearing great things about the olive oil granola originally posted by the New York Times, and also spotted on many other food blogs. People rave about homemade granola, and then there’s raving about granola! Olive oil granola has a fan club!
I love eating granola with Greek yogurt and fruit for breakfast, and I am constantly trying new granola recipes. Homemade granola is great because you can modify the flavours to suit your palate. Now that I have started to dabble in Middle Eastern cuisine, do you think this could be considered a Middle Eastern-inspired granola, with its added fixins? I love dried cranberries, coconut and almonds, which is why they were included in my previous granola recipes, but I rocked the boat to include Turkish dried apricots, Iranian green raisins and pistachios instead. It was delicious!
So what is so great about this olive oil granola? It achieves the perfect balance of salty and sweet. I usually don’t add so much salt to my granola, but the salty tang complemented the sweet aspects of the granola perfectly. I also loved the flavour and textural contrasts with the plump apricots and green raisins, with the soft yet crunchy pistachios, combined with the sweet maple syrup and coconut and it was all tempered with a salty kick.
Perfect with yogurt, but also great on its own as a bit-sized snack. Your test will be when you decide to stop munching on the addictive granola!
It is no secret that I love tea (in addition to visiting Penzeys when I went to the States, I came back laden with tea from Teavana). I only drink herbal and caffeine-free teas (er, tisanes) but I confess that I have one black tea in my collection. It is Earl Grey Cream. It brings Earl Grey with its hint of bergamot orange to the next level with vanilla and cream. It is also wonderful to incorporate into dishes while cooking and baking. I have used Earl Grey in delicious (and not as delicious) shortbread cookies and here it is paired elegantly with baked rhubarb.
Let me preface this by saying this baked rhubarb is stupendously good*. It helps that it has a lot of my favourite flavours mixing sweet and sour perfectly. The rhubarb and apple are baked until softened, but not mush. Pick an apple that holds its shape, like Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp (one of my my favourite apples!), Gala, Northern Spy, etc – unless you prefer apple sauce. The fruit is lightly sweetened and the flavours abound with citrus (lemon juice and orange zest) that complements the pool of Earl Grey sauce. Cardamom adds the finishing touch. Perfect! Bliss!
I originally served it warm from the oven over chilled vanilla yogurt, and I am sure it would be delicious over ice cream as described by Chez Danisse where I found the recipe. The next day, the sauce thickened slightly and was wonderful for breakfast with yogurt again, but also served over oatmeal. If you prefer more of a smoother sauce, zap it in the microwave for 2 minutes and it disintegrates into a thick sauce.
PS. Does anyone know where to get a good decaf Earl Grey Cream tea that ships to Canada? Bonus if in Toronto!
*It was so good that I called my mom past her bedtime (and past mine) to tell her how awesome it was. Thankfully I didn’t wake her up. It was also too late to share it with all of you, as I try not to photograph food without natural light. I knew I’d have to wait until the morning before I could snap some photos!
This is a story about how to win friends and how to lose friends. All through brownies. Brownies are that powerful. OK, I am exaggerating but these brownies are that good.
I was visiting a friend who was recovering from surgery and while she barely had mustered up an appetite all week, when I asked what I could bring her, she immediately exclaimed: “CHOCOLATE!”. What better way to satisfy a chocolate craving than through fudgy melt-in-your-mouth brownies? Well, when they are all spiced up! Consider this akin to the Mayan Chocolate Haagen-Dazs. These brownies, which are sinfully delicious as pure chocolate brownies, are elevated to the next level with the addition of cardamom, cinnamon and paprika. I opted to use a smoked sweet paprika, which lacks the true oomph of a chili powder, but I enjoyed the quiet subtleness of spice amongst the chocolaty goodness.
So these brownies made their rounds and received many praises. But how could I lose friends through brownies? Well, let’s just say I was never more insulted when a co-worker asked whether they were made from a box. Do brownies that taste like this come from a box? I don’t think so!! 11 ounces of dark chocolate came from a box, though… two boxes, actually.
While in Turkey, I had wonderful Turkish rice pudding (Sütlaç) that was silky smooth and sprinkled with cinnamon. I never liked rice pudding as a kid (sorry Mom!) but can I blame that on my own bland taste buds as a child or the rice pudding? My brother loved the stuff, so I don’t know.. In any case, this, my friends, is a delicious grown-up rice pudding. I approve.
After making the Mango Sticky Rice and Mango Shrikhand, I decided that mango, coconut and cardamom work really well together, so I rearranged them a bit to make this wonderfully delicious (and easy!) coconut rice pudding that was topped with a mango puree. The coconut rice pudding was delicious on its own, with flavours bursting from the coconut and cardamom with the creamy rice speckling the pudding. I mashed half a mango and added it on top of the pudding, which was great, but certainly do not hesitate to make this pudding without the mango. You can eat it plain or top with other fruit – banana, raspberries, kiwi, etc. The nuts are totally optional as well. I used chopped macadamia nuts but think toasted pistachios would have been better, or simply not use any nuts at all. It can be served cold or warm. Personally, I couldn’t wait long enough before diving in, so I had it warm… Eating it chilled would be just as delicious and perfect for a cool summer day.
O mango, how sweet you are!
I must admit that I was a late bloomer when it came to mango loving. I will blame it on the lack of decent mangoes where I used to live. However, once I moved to Toronto I scoured Chinatown last year and devoured the Ataulfos. This year, I was on a mission to find the even sweeter Indian Alphonso mango. While I escaped Turkey unscathed from the erupting volcano, the Alphonso mangoes did not share the same fate. Their shipment had been delayed and I initially couldn’t find any at the Gerrard India Bazaar (aka Little India). Luckily, when I came back last weekend, I scooped up a case, split them with a friend and have been enjoying them all week. Arguably the best mango.
I used to wonder why mess with mangoes when they taste so good all by themselves? I love pretty much all (heat tolerable) dishes with mangoes, but when I have delicious fresh mangoes, I just want to eat them the way they are. I find it hard to incorporate the mangoes into a dish that may mask their flavour. No worries with Mango and Sticky Rice, because mango and coconut are simply meant to be together. They are definitely better than the sum of their parts alone. The sweet coconut creaminess envelopes the juicy Alphonso mangoes on a bed of creamy, yet sticky, coconut-flavoured rice. The benefit of making this dish at home, is that you can make the dish as sweet as you want. Not much sugar was needed to be added when the mangoes are brimming with taste. There are many recipes for Mango Sticky Rice, but I adapted my version from Taste Buddies.
Mango shrikhand is an Indian dessert, popular in Gurjarat (incidentally where mangoes are grown). Cool, strained yogurt is mixed with cardamom, saffron, sugar and (in this version) pistachios as well. It is topped with the sinfully juicy mango slices with a sprinkle of chopped pistachios. The Alphonso mangoes, utterly sweet, really shine in this dish.
This recipe is adapted from Closet Cooking, and is really, really good. I know it is important to have the proper consistency of yogurt, which is why people recommend to drain it in a cheesecloth overnight, but I used Greek-style yogurt instead. It was thinned with the additional ingredients. Definitely taste as you go, adjusting the sweetness based on your ingredients.
Alphonso mangoes are arguably the sweetest mango you can find. They are imported from India, and only recently, in 2007, did the United States lift their 18-year import ban. The recent volcanic eruption in Iceland caused a glut of Alphonso mangoes at the Gerrard India Bazaar in Toronto but I found some at the Cash and Carry over the weekend. They are definitely worth the extra price as they are just bursting with juice. Every time I cut one, I did it over my dish to catch all the runaway juices, and then proceed to lick my fingers clean as to not miss any of the sweet mango goodness.
Crêpes are incredibly versatile as they can envelope any good food and make it taste great. There are restaurants entirely devoted to crêpes with different fillings. In fact, one of my favourite places for crêpes in Toronto is the Art Square Cafe, across from the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), where they have imaginative and tasty crêpes like grilled chicken and mayan organic dark chocolate (yes, they are together!). I also really like their chocolate and pistachio dessert crêpe. I can only eat one or the other though, as they are so filling. Incredibly yummy with the real chocolate!
When I am at home, though, sometimes I like to keep things simple with my crêpes. As a child, I used to layer the crêpe with homemade jam before rolling it up, or use canned peaches as a filling. I suppose my tastes were quite bland as a kid! Now, I love to use Nutella (a chocolate hazelnut spread) as a base to line the crêpe, then top with seasonal fruit and sprinkle with toasted sliced almonds. You can add the Nutella to a warm or cold crêpe, and find yourself with melted or normal Nutella – tasty either way! Kiwi is one of my favourite pairings with Nutella in a crêpe, but other fruit works well too, like mango, strawberry, banana, blueberry, apple, etc.
These crêpes are great for sweet fillings as they are light and fluffy. I wonder whether anyone can recommend a good whole-wheat crêpe recipe? Do they exist?