Raised Vegetable Garden

It's been a joy and truly a labor of love piecing our raised bed garden together. We learnt a lot from our last/first attempt at gardening and this time we were better planned.

The Best Pizza Dough

We got a bit tired of our whole wheat pizza dough I think we got too accustomed to it and decided it needed some tweaking.

US Road trips

We've made a few road trips around the US. There's a lot to see here and a lot of distance to cover. Here are some of our trips on the east coast.

Panama

Panama's carnival celebration in Panama City are supposed to be the second largest in the world. Enjoyed this big party with fantastic street food, dozens of stages and loud music blaring at every corner.

Canada

Canada has some of the most beautiful sceneries and landscapes. I hope to drive across to the West coast some day but till then here's a glimpse of Toronto and beyond.

Vanilla Rolls and Bear Paws

This Christmas we made some traditional Czechoslovakian cake recipes. Amongst them were vanilla rolls and bear paws. These are nice light and nutty cakes which look and taste great!

[Top] Vanilla Rolls and [Down] Bear Paws




Ingredients:-
  • Flour, 330 gr.;
  • Unsalted Butter, 220 gr;
  • Icing sugar, 120 gr;
  • Ground nuts, 120 gr;
  • 1 egg;
  • 1 sachet vanilla sugar.

Procedure:-
  • Make dough, wrap in foil and place in refrigerator for at least half an hour.
  • Prepare a large baking plan and place baking paper on it.
  • Remove dough from the refrigerator and divide into several pieces. 
  • Roll each piece into rolls roughly the thickness of your index finger, and chop into pieces of equal length. 
  • Bake at 160 ° C (320 F) for about 20 minutes.

Bear Paws

Ingredients:-
  • Flour, 400 gr;
  • Butter, 240 gr;
  • Icing sugar, 240 gr;
  • Ground nuts, 100 gr; 
  • 1 sachet baking powder;
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa;
  • Cinnamon;
  • Lemon peel.

Procedure:-
  • You will need bear paw moulds *
  • Make dough (Sift the cocoa), wrap in foil and place in refrigerator for at least half an hour.
  • Shape the dough by stamping into the moulds.
  • Bake at 160 ° C (320 F) for about 20 minutes.


Niagara falls on boxing day

Took a few pictures at Niagara falls. It was so terribly cold that I could just about get my hands out of my gloves for a few seconds!

Merry Christmas from this winter wonderland

It's the day before before Christmas. The massive ice storm that hit Toronto has caused havoc leaving hundreds of thousands without power and added chaos on the roads. We were really lucky to be amongst those not affected.

Despite the thick ice layered pathways, we ventured out in true holiday spirit. Here are a few pictures that catch the beautiful side of extreme weather.

Savoury Pastries

Had our first snow fall this morning which really brought out the Christmas spirit at home. We started to polish up our baking skills. These savoury treats turned out pretty good! Will upload the recipe soon..

Savoury Pastries



Paneer Makhani Butter Masala

Paneer Makhani is one of the best Indian cottage cheese recipes out there. It also happens to be quite unhealthy as it's loaded with butter and cream. I ain't going to try and take that sheer happiness away in this recipe but will tilt the balance towards a healthier alternative. I started off with the humorous Vahchef's version and tailored it down. A word of caution, this is rather spicy given we don't tame it with cream. so reduce the chilli if you're not up to it.

Paneer Makhani Butter Masala




Ingredients:-
  • 4 cloves;
  • 2 onions;
  • 4 cardamom;
  • 3 bay leafs;
  • A can of diced tomatoes;
  • 1 tsp Kasuri methi;
  • 7 dried red chilli;
  • 3 fresh green chilli;
  • 400gm Paneer or more;
  • 50gm butter;
  • Salt to taste.

Preparation:-
  • Chop onions fine and fry in  butter. You can do so directly in the open pressure cooker. 
  • Add in the red and green chilli.
  • Wrap the bay leaves, cloves and cardamom in a thin cotton cloth and place in.
  • Once the onions turn translucent add in the tomato and seal with the lid. 
  • Boil for 25 minutes approx 4-5 whistles.
  • Strain the clear broth into a cooking pot. Blend the remaining to the a pulp and add to the pot.
  • Dice the paneer into 2cm cubes and fry in butter till they have a nice crisp layer.
  • Bring the pot to a boil and add in fried paneer.
  • You may optionally add in some peas too if you like.
  • Serve with garlic naan.
For the original recipe you can watch Vahchef in action below

Minestrone

I hate vegetables in general and especially if I'm served a vegetable soup that usually freaks me out. Here's an exception to that though. A lovely Minestrone recipe by my wife.

Minestrone









Ingredients:-
  • dry white beans, 100 gr.;
  • 1 clove of garlic;
  • 1 small onion, 70 gr.;
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil;
  • 2 stalks celery pieces, 100 gr.;
  • 1 medium carrot, 80 gr.;
  • 1 small zucchini, 100 gr.;
  • green beans cut into 1.25 cm pieces 70 gr.;
  • 1 tomato paste, 80 gr.;
  • 1.5 L chicken broth (or bouillon and water);
  • 4/5 teaspoon oregano;
  • 2 tablespoons parsley;
  • 1.5 tsp basil;
  • small pasta, 30 gr.;
  • Parmesan cheese to sprinkle;
  • pepper, salt.

Procedure:-
  • Pressure cook the beans.
  • Fry the onions, add the garlic, celery, carrots and cook for 3 minutes.
  • Gradually add other vegetables.
  • Stir in broth and tomato paste. Cover and slow cook for 15 minutes.
  • Stir in chopped herbs, season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the white beans and pasta. Simmer 15 minutes.
  • Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan.

Fall Colours in Ontario, Canada

Took a drive down the country side over the weekend to enjoy the colours of Fall. We passed some beautiful farms and lakes along the way. This country has beautiful nature that's for sure.






Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

We cooked a fantastic turkey for this thanksgiving. This was a 16 pound bird and baked to perfection inspired by the lively Italian Laura Vitale who has some fantastic recipes.

Laura Vitale's Thanksgiving Turkey






Ingredients:-
  • Turkey;
  • 1/2 block of butter;
  • Home grown rosemary and thyme;
  • 2 onions;
  • 1 head of garlic;
  • 3 carrots;
  • 4 stalks of celery;
  • Salt, pepper;
  • Chicken stock;
  • Olive oil.


Preparation:-
  • Wash and dry the turkey.
  • Finely chop the rosemary and thyme and mix with butter,salt and pepper to form a thick paste.
  • Apply most of this marinade under the skin of the turkey and the rub the remaining on the surface evenly.
  • Chop the carrots, onions, celery  and garlic coarsely and place in the baking pan. 
  • Sprinkle in some salt, pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Pour in some chicken stock.
  • Now place the turkey on top of the vegetables and you are set.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  • Cook the turkey uncovered for 2 hours at 350 F.
  • Once done, Bask well in the juices, cover with tin foil and cook for another 90 minutes. Make sure to bask the turkey every half an hour during these 90 minutes.
  • Once done, uncover and brown for 10-20 minutes to get that perfect colour. 
  • Remove the turkey from the oven and cover with tin foil and let it rest for 2-3 hours. This is important to ensure your turkey stays nice and moist.






Crispy Chinese Five Spice Duck with Czech Knedlíkem a Zelim

Here's a new version of my Bohemian-style roast duck with dumplings and cabbage Pečená kachna s knedlíkem a zelim with a twist. Instead of the traditional seasoning I'm using Chinese Five Spice which gives duck that perfect crisp heavenly taste. Also a big change is the baking time. This new recipe is quicker with better results.

Chinese Crispy Five Spice Duck




Ingredients:-
  • Duck;
  • Chinese Five Spice
  • Boiled potatoes, about 750 gr.;
  • 2 eggs;
  • 1 head of red cabbage;
  • 1 large onion;
  • 1 lemon;
  • A twig of Rosemary; 
  • Cumin;
  • Olive oil;
  • Ground black pepper;
  • Salt;
  • Semolina 100 gr.;

Procedure:-
  • Wash and dry your duck. Score the skin on both sides and season well with salt, pepper and Chinese Five Spice inside and out.
  • Stuff the duck with a lemon halved and some rosemary.
  • Place the duck in a roasting pan, breast up and cover with foil or a lid.
  • Bake at 375° F for 2.5 hours without opening the lid / foil.

We are going to serve this duck with (Knedlik A Zeli) dumplings and cabbage. Start to prepare the dumplings and cabbage now.


  • Once the duck is baked, remove the lid and set the oven to broil. I would recommend carefully watching this process than setting it on a timer as it is a bit subjective. You want to get that skin nice and crispy and not totally charred. Typically it would take anywhere from 3-7 minutes on each side to get that perfect crispy skin!


Recipe for Czech dumplings (Prepare the dough for about 3 dumplings)
  • Cut the potatoes into chips and boil them in water  for approx. 20 minutes or till soft.
  • Mash the potatoes and add semolina, eggs and salt.
  • Prepare the dough and shape into long bread-roll shapes.
  • Place these rolls in boiling water and cook for about 25 minutes.
  • Drain the dumplings once done. You can check if they're done by piercing with a toothpick.

Preparing the Cabbage
  • Finely chop the onion and red cabbage into thin strips. 
  • Fry onions in oil until golden brown.
  • Add cabbage, salt, and add ground cumin.
  • Pour a little water and simmer about 25 minutes.

Crispy Chinese Five Spice Duck with Czech Knedlíkem a Zelim


How to bake the perfect Roast Chicken | Jerk Chicken recipe

It's been a while since I've baked a whole chicken. Partially because I've been making a lot of Indian/European chicken recipes. But when it comes to making Jerk chicken It's best to go native and roast the whole bird. Having brought back a lot of Jerk spice I thought it best to go about it in style!

I had to drive through some lovely farmlands to locate a Mennonite organic meat store. At first I thought the distance might not make this worthwhile on a regular basis but after seeing their fresh hormone-free produce I think I've just found my new meat source!

Whole roasted chicken with Jerk spice | Jerk Chicken






I picked up a nice farm grown big bird just over 3 Kg. When it comes to spicing up a chicken you can't really go wrong as a good bird has so much flavour itself. So you can use your own marinade or just follow mine.


Ingredients:-
  • Whole chicken 
  • Jerk spice
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 2 twigs of fresh rosemary 
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Salt to taste
  • Olive oil to drizzle 

Preparation:-
  • Peel and slice the onion into discs/ do not separate rings. Set the onion as a base in your baking dish.
  • Wash the chicken and place on the onions.
  • Rub the jerk spice all over the chicken. 
  • Use the garlic cloves and lemon to stuff the chicken. Tie the legs with cooking twine to keep things in place.
  • Drizzle the bird with olive oil and cover the baking dish with foil or a lid.
  • Now you're set. 
  • Pre-heat the oven to 425 F and then place the bird in for an hour and 45 minutes.
  • Once done set the oven to grill, remove the lid and let it grill for about 6 minutes. You might want to supervise to get the perfect crust.


Ochos Rios, where the river meets the sea

The biggest attraction at Ochos Rios and apparently amongst the top in Jamaica is climbing Dunn's river falls. It was quite a lot of fun and relatively easy.  The view of the river and the ocean together was quite stunning!

We visited the Coyaba gardens which had a great view point of Ochos Rios. I'd have loved to explore a little more of this quaint town but most of our spare time was spent shopping and downing all the Jamaican liquor we could get our hands on.
Dunn's River

Hilltop view of Ochos Rios

Where the river meets the sea. Dunn's River Falls is one of Jamaica's national treasures

Coyaba gardens

Basking in Jamaica

We spent a fabulous week in the district of Saint Ann, the largest parish in Jamaica. We were really lucky to get some great weather and covered Runaway bay and Ochos Rios.

Snorkelling at Runaway bay was sheer bliss with beautiful fish and coral. I even spotted some snakes.

This is Jamaica! Reggae music by the beach



Climbing Dun's river falls was great and a must do activity when visiting Jamaica.

Most of our time at Ochos Rios was spent shopping and downing all the Jamaican liquor we could get our hands on . I'd have loved to explore a little more of this quaint town.

I liked the carefree attitude of the locals we met. It kind of rubbed off on me. On our way back to the airport, it was pouring and our bus skid right over the divider into the oncoming traffic and almost turned on it's side. I'd normally have freaked out but after my temporarily acquired Jamaican attitude, I actually shrugged my shoulders and was OK with it.

Here are some pictures capturing the highlights of our trip.

The beautiful beaches at Runaway bay


Climbing the famous Dunn's River Falls

Jamaica's famous Jerk Chicken and Curry Goat


Evening cocktails

Fire dancers

No problems in Jamaica!

Cruising around Centre Island, Toronto

Cruising around Centre Island, Toronto

Redpath Waterfront Festival: Tall Ships at Toronto's harbour

Toronto Skyline
Porter Airlines


Marble cake with Jamaican Rum, Pecans and Cocoa

Here's a delicious recipe for Marble cake! It's light and loaded with some chocolate rum and nuts.

Marble cake with Jamaican Rum, Pecans and Cocoa



Ingredients:
  • 6 eggs;
  • lemon-orange peel, 100 gr;
  • rum, 2 tablespoons;
  • walnuts, 2 tablespoons;
  • cocoa, 3 tablespoons;
  • butter, 200 gr;
  • sugar, 400 gr;
  • semi-wholemeal flour, 500 gr;
  • water, 2 dcl;
  • baking powder;
  • a pinch of salt.

Procedure:
  • Prepare 2 bowls, Add 3 eggs to each bowl. In the first, add the lemon zest. The second add rum, chopped walnuts and cocoa.
  • In both bowls, add butter (100 gr.), 2/3 cup of sugar (200 gr.),  1 cup of flour (250 gr.) and 1/2 sachet of baking powder. 
  • Mix the contents in each bowl until smooth. Pour 1 oz of water if too thick. Add a pinch of salt.
  • Glaze the Baking pan with butter. Pour the mixtures from each bowl in layers. 
  • Bake for 30 minutes at 190 ° C (375 ° F) and then 30 minutes to 175 ° C (350 ° F).

Algonquin park trails

Distance: 550 Km.

Length: 2 days.

Here are some pictures taken from our weekend at Algonquin park. This was the first provincial park in Ontario and has some really great trails and camping sites. It will take some convincing to try the camping option though :)

On  the Mizzy Lake trail. Spotted a lot of moose trails

Beautiful forests at Algonquin Park

At Canoe Lake, Algonquin



Québec City

Distance: 1864 Km.

Length: 3 days.

This has got to be one of the craziest ideas for a road trip. The Victoria weekend caught us by surprise and as usual we decided at the 11th hour to head to the much talked about french Quebec. We drove  ~ 1800 km for just a day. But then again, Québec City was quite worth it!

Château Frontenac

The Québec City skyline from the plains of Abraham


The Édifice Price Price building.


French onion soup Soupe à l'oignon and Crêpes,in Vieux Québec



Spicy Indian Meat Ball Curry Recipe

Here's another delicious meat ball recipe! I last attempted a Goan version of meatballs which is ideal when served on it's own.

This recipe is tangy and best accompanied with some Dal lentil curry and rice.

Spicy Indian Meat Ball Curry Recipe



Ingredients
  • Lean ground beef 500 gm;
  • 3 green chilies
  • 2 onions
  • 4 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 tsp garlic ginger paste
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tomatoes diced fine
  • 2 Tbsp of chopped coriander
  • salt to taste

How to make Meat Ball Curry
  • Mix in a bowl the ground beef (minced) with a tsp of garlic and ginger paste and an egg.
  • Finely chop 4 garlic cloves, 1 onion and 2 green chili and add to the beef mixture.
  • Add salt and shape into meat balls the size a bit smaller than a golf ball.
  • Fry the meat balls briskly in a hot pan with olive oil just to brown them.
  • Set aside the meatballs in a cooking pot.
  • Now to make the curry,  Freshly grind cumin, coriander, turmeric, anise and garlic. 
  • Drain out any excess fat from the hot pan where you fried the meatballs.
  • Add in the mix of spices with a finely chopped onion and chili.
  • Once golden brown, add in 4 diced tomatoes and  let it boil. 
  • Add in the meatballs and let it simmer till the meat is well cooked..

Meat Ball Curry goes brilliantly with Dal and rice


The best Lasagna recipe!

The perfect Lasagna recipe


Lasagna is one of those dishes that unfortunately tastes better when you load up on cheese and all those creamy flavors with aren't really healthy. I scanned a dozen Lasagna recipes with Ricotta, Cream and other sinful ingredients. Why can't there be a nice crispy melting cheesy delightful Lasagna recipe out there?

Well.. Now there is.. I've used NO OIL at all.

Ingredients:-
  • Lasagna, 250 gr;
  • Bio beef mince, 500 gr;
  • 1 onion;
  • 2 cloves of garlic;
  • 3 small chilies;
  • 2 carrots;
  • 3 stalks of celery;
  • 2 small zucchinis;
  • Tomato-basil sauce;
  • cheese cut into cubes or grated, 250 gr;
  • salt and pepper.

Preparation:-
  • Fry the beef in a nonstick pan. 
  • Add in the finely chopped onion, garlic and chili peppers.
  • Peel and cut the carrots, zucchini and celery stalks small pieces. 
  • Add the carrots and celery to the meat mixture and cover with tomato sauce. Simmer 5-10 minutes. 
  • Parboil the slices of lasagna according to package instructions. 
  • Turn off the heat for the meat mixture and spread a thin layer of this on a baking pan.
  • Put the first layer of lasagna. Add the meat mixture, sprinkle with small pieces of zucchini, salt and pepper. Repeat the same for another 2 or 3 layers
  • After addition of the last layer sprinkle cheese on top and place in a preheated oven at 180 ° C (350 ° F) for about 18 minutes. 
  • To brown the cheese and give it a lovely finish raise the temperature to 260 ° C (500 F) and bake for about 3 minutes.

The best Lasagna!


How to make Paneer - Indian Cottage Cheese | Paneer Bhurji Recipe

I've steered away from making Paneer as it always seemed like too much trouble. But after seeing bags and bags of milk spoil time and again I decided to turn that around with this simple recipe to make Indian Cottage Cheese, Paneer.

How to make Paneer - Indian Cottage Cheese




The only ingredient is milk really and If you're using fresh milk you will need a drop of lemon juice to break up the milk.

All you need to do now is set the milk to boil. The milk will start to separate from the water. If not add that drop of lemon juice.

You then need to strain the water out from the forming Paneer. the easiest way to do that is with a porous cloth. You will need to apply some weight on the cloth as well to separate the water.

In about 10 minutes your Paneer will be ready!


Paneer Bhurji Recipe

Paneer Bhurji


Paneer Bhurji is one of the simplest and yet tasty recipes you can make.

Ingredients:-
  • Paneer
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 Tomato
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 Green Chili
  • Olive oil

Preparation:-
  • Chop up the Onion and Tomato and Chili
  • Heat a pan with a spoon of Olive oil and stir fry the chopped onion tomato and chili.
  • Add in the Paneer and stir well.
  • Serve with Naan

Polenta Cheesecake with Strawberries

Polenta Cheesecake with Strawberries



Ingredients:-
  • 2 cups Ricotta, 450 gr
  • 2 cups Mascarpone
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon crushed anise seeds
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 3/4 cup Polenta
  • Strawberries
  • Red wine
  • Icing sugar

Procedure:-
  • In a bowl, mix the Ricotta, Mascarpone, sugar and anise seeds. 
  • Drizzle with vanilla and stir Polenta.
  • Preheat oven to 150 ° C (300 ° F). 
  • Glaze the baking pan 23 cm (9 inches) with butter and then fill in the mixture. Bake for 1 1/4 hours.
  • In the meantime clean the strawberries, cut into slices and place in a small bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and pour in the wine. Brew for 40 minutes and then chill in the refrigerator
  • After baking is complete,  Preheat the oven to 260 ° C (500 ° F) and zap the cake for about 3 minutes. 
  • Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with strawberries.

Canh Chua Ca | Vietnamese Sour Fish Soup

With my friend travelling in Vietnam, I decided to get a glimpse of what i'd be missing out on food wise. Here's a delicious Vietnamese recipe, Canh Chua Ca

Canh Chua Ca Vietnamese Sour Fish Soup


To make it as authentic as possible, I bought fresh fish instead of the more convenient frozen steaks. The fish picking and cutting experience was rather amusing and eventful. It always is..



Ingredients:-
Dried squid and Fresh Sea Bass
  • 2 fresh sea bass
  • olive oil, salt and pepper
  • 3 spring onions sliced
  • 2 shallots halved
  • 2 Thai green/red chillies
  • 3 lemon grass stalks crushed
  • 4 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 5 tbsp fish sauce Nuoc Mam
  • 1 fresh pineapple peeled and diced
  • 10 cherry tomatoes halved
  • 4 cm fresh root ginger peeled and chopped
  • 25 g of dried squid. Soak in water for 30 minutes.
  • 100 g canned sliced bamboo shoots drained
  • a handful of fresh coriander finely chopped
  • bean sprouts to garnish

Preparation:-
  • Cut the fish into bite-size pieces. Set the head, tail and bones aside for the stock
  • Marinate the bite-size pieces with 2 tbsp Nuoc Mam fish sauce and garlic
  • Drain and rinse the soaked dried squid
  • Heat oil in a wok and stir in half the spring onions, the shallots, ginger, dried squid and lemon grass
  • Add the fish heads tails and bones and saute for a minute. Then add just over a liter of water, bring to a boil and then-simmer for 30 minutes
  • Strain the stock into a pot that you will make the soup in.
  • Bring the clear stock to a boil and add in the tamarind paste, chilies and 3 tbsp Nuoc Mam
  • Add in the pineapple, tomatoes and bamboo shoots and simmer for 3 minutes
  • Now stir in the fish pieces and cook until the fish turns opaque
  • Season to taste and pour the soup into bowls
  • Garnish with fresh coriander and beansprouts