Friday, 30 June 2017

Fruity Molasses Country Style Pork Ribs

New house, new barbecue, and a scraping of molasses at the bottom of the container equals these tender, juicy and full of flavour ribs.

I hardly ever use molasses and was starting to get tired of looking at an almost empty container, so I used it to brine the ribs, and then reduced it to make a dipping sauce. I usually use blackstrap molasses which is darker and not as sweet as other types of molasses; the cut up orange and apple juice added sweetness.

After a long bake in the oven, the ribs were finished off on the barbecue, basted with the reduced brine, and served with the remaining brine as a dipping sauce. Messy? Yes. Tasty? Yes.

First start the brine. This should be done at least 4 -6 hours before you start cooking the ribs.

                                                                                                                                                              Whisk together, until the salt and molasses have dissolved:

1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
200 ml apple juice
Enough water to give 3 cups of liquid
2 teaspoons kosher salt


1 orange, cut into chunks
2 bayleaves, broken into pieces
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed with the back of a knife

Place the brine into a resealable plastic bag, along with:

6 country style pork ribs

Remove as much air as possible from the bag, seal and refrigerate for 4 - 6 hours.

Heat the oven to 350F. Place an ovenproof dish large enough to hold the ribs and brine onto a baking sheet (to catch any drips).

Place the ribs into the dish, tucking the oranges between them, and carefully pouring the brine over the top.

Cover with foil.

Bake covered for 3 hours.

Remove the foil and continue to bake until the ribs are very tender, about another 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and take the ribs out of the liquid. Reserve the liquid.

Let the liquid sit for a few minutes, allowing the fat to rise to the surface. Carefully skim as much fat off the top as you can.

Place the liquid, along with the oranges, into a pan, and place onto the stove to reduce.

Reduce until it is thick enough to use as a sauce; I had about 1 cup of sauce.

Put the cooked ribs onto a hot barbecue to finish them off, basting with the reduced liquid, and turning them often, until they are crispy on the outside but still tender and juicy inside.

Serve the ribs, passing the extra sauce at the table. I used it as a dipping sauce, and served the ribs with grilled corn on the cob, and a grape tomato and avocado salad. Don't forget to have lots of napkins on hand!

  • Any type of ribs can be used...I like country style ribs as they have more meat on them. 
  • Molasses is a by-product of sugar production, and the various types available (blackstrap, fancy, cooking) have different amounts of sugar in them. I prefer to use blackstrap as it has a more robust flavour, is not as sweet but is slightly bitter and nice and dark, giving baked goods such as gingerbread a lovely deep colour. The sweetness in molasses is not as obvious as in other sweeteners, but be aware that it does contain a reasonable amount of sugar.
  • Cutting up an orange allowed the flavour and juice to become part of the brine. If you want a more intense orange flavour, add the zest before cutting the orange up.
  • Use rum for part of the liquid if you like. 
  • If you have a smoker, the ribs can be smoked long and slow, basting often, until they are sticky and tender.
  • Any leftover meat can be shredded and used on pizza, in wraps or sandwhiches, added to baked beans.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Caramelized Rhubarb Cake

Rhubarb has to be one of my favourite "fruits" to bake with....the tangy, sourness is a perfect complement to the sweetness of caramel. This cake is an upside down cake, with the rhubarb caramelizing on the bottom of the pan while the cake bakes on top. Flip it over and you are looking at tender rhubarb, sweet caramel and moist cake.

I wanted to use some of the rhubarb in the garden, but also saw an opportunity to finish off the sour cream in the fridge.

Turn the oven on to 350F while you make the cake. Assemble a 10" springform pan and wrap the bottom in foil to catch any caramel drips. Place the cake pan onto a baking sheet.

Start the caramel over a medium low heat:

3 ounces butter
3/4 cup brown sugar

When the butter has melted, increase the heat and whisk to incorporate the sugar into the melted butter.

Once the sugar and butter have emulsified, allow the mixture to come to a boil.

Whisk in:

1 tablespoon dark rum

Scrape the caramel into the prepared springform pan, swirling the pan to spread it evenly.

Place 1/4" - 1/2" thick rhubarb slices on top of the caramel.

Set aside while you make the batter.

Cream together until light and fluffy:

3 ounces softened butter
3/4 cup brown sugar


2 eggs
1 tablespoon rum
1 teaspoon vanilla

Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl down in between.

Add half of the dry ingredients. The total dry ingredients are:

1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix until just combined.


6 tablespoon sour cream
2 tablespoons milk

Add the remaining dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Scrape the batter onto the rhubarb.

Carefully spread the cake batter evenly over the rhubarb, being careful not to disturb the pieces of rhubarb.

Bake until the cake is golden and a wooden skewer comes out clean when you test it, about 22 - 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool for 5 minutes.

Run a knife around the sides of the cake, releasing it from the pan. Place a plate on top and carefully invert it, allowing the cake to fall onto the plate. Remove the foil, and then the springform pan. Cool to room temperature.

The cake is best served warm, with some ice cream or whipped cream.

  • Start the caramel off slowly, allowing the butter to melt, and then whisking to incorporate the sugar as is dissolves. If you turn the heat up too soon, the sugar could burn.
  • Once the caramel has come to a boil, remove it from the heat before adding the rum as it will bubble up.
  • Do not touch the caramel when you pour it into the pan!!! It remains very hot for a while.
  • Rhubarb is technically a vegetable, as it is the stem of the plant, but is often considered to be a fruit. It can also be used for savoury applications, such as in the post Grilled Chicken with Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce.
  • Any seasonal fruit can be used...try apples or pears; peaches or necatrines; plums or apricots; bananas or pineapple.
  • Sprinkle roughly chopped nuts over the caramel before adding the fruit if you wish.
  • Other complementary flavours for rhubarb are fresh or dried ginger, orange zest, nutmeg or cardamom, maple syrup.
  • If you do not have sour cream, use plain yoghurt or buttermilk.
  • The rum can be omitted. Use orange juice instead.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Flank Steak, Caramelized Onion and Cambozola on Baguette

A slightly stale baguette, some open red wine and a piece of Cambozola cheese inspired this Sunday night dinner.

I used half the baguette for the sandwhiches and turned the rest into crackers by thinly slicing them, and drying them in a low oven....perfect for serving with cheese.

I used the wine to marinade the flank steak, adding in some rosemary, fennel seeds and fresh garlic. I chopped the rest of my fresh rosemary and added it with lots of fresh ground pepper to the mayonnaise.

Toasting the baguette refreshed it, the mayonnaise and caramelized onions and peppers added some extra moisture...pretty hard to tell it wasn't fresh!

For the marinade, combine the following, and pour into a resealable plastic bag:

1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Add the meat:

12 ounce flank steak

Remove as much air as possible, and place in the fridge for 6 - 8 hours.

Caramelize 1 thinly sliced onion in a bit of olive oil.


1 sweet red pepper, thinly sliced

Cook until the pepper starts to soften. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside until needed.

To make the mayonnaise, combine:

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 - 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Turn the oven on to 350F. Slice half a baguette into two pieces, and then cut each horizontally and place on a baking sheet.

Spread each piece of bread with the rosemary-black pepper mayonnaise.

Divide the onions and red peppers between the four pieces of baguette.

Top this with thinly sliced Cambozola cheese, and place into the oven to heat the bread, onions and peppers and to melt the cheese.

Cook the flank steak, using the marinade to baste it as it cooks.

Remove from the heat and allow the meat to rest for 5 - 10 minutes before thinly slicing it.

To finish off the assembly of the warm sandwhich, add some shredded lettuce to the bread, and then add the thinly sliced flank steak. Serve with plenty of napkins.....

  • Fresh bread would be even better for this sandwhich, but by spreading slightly stale bread with mayonnaise and heating it you can't tell the difference as the bread becomes crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.
  • Flavour the mayonnaise to your liking by adjusting the black pepper. I used just over 1 teaspoon for mine. 
  • Use different herbs if you wish...basil, parsley, chives, tarragon.
  • Instead of flank steak try hanger steak, ribeye steak or chicken breast. The marinade can also be used on chunks of beef, chicken or pork to make kebabs.
  • No added oil is needed when cooking the flank steak, as there is enough in the marinade.
  • Consider cooking the steak in the same pan that the onions and peppers were cooked, for added flavour. It can also be grilled.
  • The cheese can be added at the end with the steak, and left to melt slightly from the heat of the meat.
  • Any cheese can be used...cheddar, swiss, soft goat cheese, blue cheese.
  • Arugula or baby spinach can be substituted for the shredded lettuce.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Savoury Tomato Jam and Goat Cheese Tart

A combination of me buying tomatoes when there were already tomatoes at home, and the memory of the appetizer I had at my cousin's wedding in Ireland in May are responsible for this tart. I was quite happy with the way it turned out, but it was nothing like the one we had at the wedding!

Making a tomato jam is an easy and very tasty way to use up extra, or soft tomatoes. The riper they are, the sweeter they will be, which means less added sugar...always a good thing in my opinion.

I took the opportunity to use up some ricotta cheese and tomato paste that were in the fridge too.

To start off, make a roasted garlic shortbread crust , following the recipe in the post Roast Garlic Shortbread Quiche Crust.

While the tart shell is in the fridge chilling, make the tomato jam.

In a deep sided pot, combine:

3 cups roughly chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup diced onion
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
pinch of chili flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt


1 cup of water

Turn the heat on to high, and bring it to a boil. When it starts to boil, turn the heat down, and simmer until the liquid starts to evaporate and the mixture begins to thicken.


2 or 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary

Continue to cook, stirring often, and keeping a close eye on the jam, as it can scorch very quickly at this point!

Cook until all of the liquid has evaporated, and the mixture is sticky and jammy.

When it starts to catch on the bottom of the pan, as shown, remove from the heat.

Discard the rosemary sprigs, and spread the hot jam onto a plate to cool.

When it is cool enough to taste, do so and adjust the seasoning. I added 1/2 teaspoon of honey to mine, as it was a bit too acidic.

Heat the oven to 350F and if you haven't yet baked the chilled tart shell, do so now.

Spread the tomato jam evenly over the bottom of the baked and cooled tart shell.

To make the goat cheese filling, whisk the following together:

4 ounces ricotta cheese
4 ounces soft goat cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 egg

Carefully spread the goat cheese filling over the tomato jam.

Place the tart onto a baking sheet, and bake at 350F until the goat cheese filling is puffed, slightly golden and set in the middle.

Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 5 - 10 minutes before removing it from the tart shell and cutting.

I served the warm tart with a spinach, strawberry and toasted pumpkin seed salad, using a simple Balsamic vinaigrette.

  • Any type of tomatoes can be used, the riper and softer the better....roma, grape, cherry, heirloom, yellow or red.
  • Tomatoes naturally contain sugar, and the sweetness increases as they ripen. This being said, some varieties are sweeter than others...this is the reason that I tasted and adjusted the tomato jam after cooking. My tomatoes were more acidic so I added some honey; add more vinegar if the jam is too sweet for your liking. A lot of this is personal taste.
  • There is no need to peel the tomatoes; the skin contains a lot of goodness and flavour, and breaks down enough during cooking to give the jam a chunky texture. I did remove the stem / core before chopping the tomatoes. 
  • The hot jam can be pressed through a sieve after cooking if you would prefer a smooth jam.
  • Red onion can be used instead of white.
  • The rosemary can be omitted during cooking, and chopped fresh rosemary stirred in at the end...this will give a bright, fresh rosemary taste. I wanted the rosemary to be in the background, that is why I infused it and removed it.
  • Feel free to add garlic, or other herbs and spices...why not try fennel or thyme?
  • I chose balsamic vinegar as it is a natural with fresh tomatoes; use apple cider or red wine vinegar instead.
  • Serve the jam as an accompaniment to grilled or roasted meats or fish.
  • I considered using all goat cheese for the filling, but felt it might be too overwhelming; I also had some open ricotta cheese to use.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Baked Cod with Crispy Gnocchi, Green Beans, Grape Tomatoes and Pesto

Inspired by a potato that was getting a bit soft for anything other than mashing, I came up with this idea. I turned the potato into gnocchi to use as the starch for our fish. Going one step further, I made some spinach and basil pesto (using the basil I have growing in the kitchen window).

I added fresh green beans, the last of them, and some very sweet grape tomatoes, to the gnocchi and then tossed it all with a bit of pesto before serving.

The fish was simple...a bit of salt, pepper and cayenne pepper, a thin strip of zucchini wrapped around the middle, seared and then popped into the oven to finish cooking.

What a great way to use up an old potato and some green beans!

To begin, boil the potato, mash and cool, and then add an egg yolk, salt and pepper. Gradually add enough flour to make a soft dough. Roll into long ropes, and cut off 1/2" lengths to make your gnocchi.

Add them to lightly salted, barely boiling water and cook until they float to the top. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on an oiled baking sheet to cool.

Turn the oven on to 350F.

Pat the cod dry, and lightly season both sides with salt and pepper, and a light sprinkle of cayenne pepper.

Cut a thin strip of zucchini for each piece of fish. Do this by cutting along the length of the zucchini. Use a very sharp knife if you don't have a mandoline, and cut as thinly as possible.

I tucked the thin ends of my fish under to obtain an even thickness.

Wrap a zucchini strip around the centre of each piece of fish and secure with a toothpick.

In a hot pan, using a bit of olive oil, sear the first side of the fish.

Turn the fish and place the whole pan into the oven to bake until done.

While the fish is baking, finish off the gnocchi.

Heat some olive oil in a nonstick pan, and add the gnocchi. Keep the heat medium high.

Season with salt and pepper, gently stirring or tossing to prevent sticking.

When the gnocchi are warmed through, add:

Blanched green beans

Season with salt and pepper, and continue to cook, stirring often.

When the gnocchi are golden and crispy, and the beans are heated through, add:

1/4 - 1/3 cup of spinach and basil pesto

Stir to coat the gnocchi and beans.


A handful of grape tomatoes

Stir to coat the tomatoes with pesto. Taste and adjust seasoning.

To serve, divide the gnocchi, green beans and tomatoes between the plates, and place a piece of the hot, baked cod on top. Garnish with toasted pinenuts if you wish, and a lightly sprinkle of grated Parmesan over the gnocchi.

  • Purchased gnocchi can be used.
  • I used the gnocchi cooking water to blanch the beans before cooking the gnocchi.
  • The heat from the gnocchi and beans will warm the tomatoes. This was a compromise between my wanting to add them to the beans and gnocchi and cook them through, and my husband wanting them to be cold. The choice is yours.
  • The amount of pesto you add depends on how much you want on your gnocchi. Any pesto can be used...basil; spinach; red pepper; sundried tomato.
  • I folded the thinner edge of the fish over to create a more even thickness, which helps the fish to bake more evenly. 
  • Wrapping the fish with zucchini is optional. It can also be wrapped with bacon or prosciutto, or left plain.
  • The cayenne pepper gave a suggestion of heat in the background, a nice contrast with the sweet tomatoes.
  • Any fish can be used; try chicken breast, pork, beef or lamb tenderloin, prawns or scallops.