Tuesday, January 2, 2018

More Tagine Experiments

My Le Creuset Tagine 
Encouraged by a Chef I admire I decided to make my second attempt at using the Tagine to be a dessert - specifically a Fragrant Spiced Rice Pudding from Chef Gordon Ramsay that I have been dying to try now for a while. 

I was inspired to try this dish based on the Moroccan based spices I have been reading up and inspired by. I have the book The Spice & Herb Bible 3rd Edition that I have really just started using to create on my own (Christmas Roast Carrot Soup).  In any event I was reading up on Cardamom, Star Anise, Allspice, Cinnamon, Cumin etc. and it made me think of steeping the spices in milk and then infusing them in to a Bread Pudding. However, it is amazingly cold outside (-30 something plus a windchill) and I didn't have the bread to make bread pudding so I turned to thinking about rice pudding.

Then it hit me the Fragrant Spiced Rice Pudding from Gordon Ramsay's book "Home Cooking: Everything you need to know to make Fabulous Food" (which I have already said if you don't have you need to get).

Condensation on the Lid
Now a Tagine seems tricky to work with - but what I have read the rules are basic: low and slow cooking over a long period of time. Don't lift the lid unless absolutely necessary. (I am sure there is more to learn but those are the ones I have picked up so far). Basically the magic of how the Tagine works is the special shaped lid.  It stays cooler than the rest of the dish so when the liquid in the tagging is hot enough to boil it turns to steam and then condenses on the lid raining back down on the dish. (Think like a slow cooker in a way). 

Final Product from the Oven 

Serves 6 - 8

2 Cardamom pods, lightly crushed (I have black and green - based on the Spice Bible I used green) 
1 Vanilla Pod, split open and seeds scraped out
3 cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick, napped in half
14-ounce can Coconut Milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tbsp heavy cream
Zest of 1 1/2 limes
1 cup short-grain white rice
2 egg yolks
2 heaping tbsp Mascarpone Cheese

  1. Preheat Oven to 400F (because I used the Tagine - I put it on the stove over Medium-high heat to heat while I prepared the spices).
  2. Put the Cardamom pods; vanilla pod and seeds in a 9-inch overproof baking pan with the cloves and cinnamon stick. Place over medium heat and toast for 2 minutes until aromatic. (I placed these in the tagine while it was heating with the lid on - the best smell ever when I lifted it up).
  3. Add the coconut milk, sugar, milk and heavy cream and bring slowly to a boil, stirring gently as you do so. Add the zest of 1 lime, then taste adding more if you like. (Frankly I didn't bring the mixture all the way to a boil only because I was going to be cooking it longer in the Tagine on the stove. Also I did not like the flavour of the milk with the zest of the lime added). 
  4. Pour in the rice and mix well. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook gently for 20 minutes, stirring constantly, until most of the milk mixture is absorbed and the rice is softened. (I stirred mine once every 10 minutes and let it cook for about 40 minutes on with the lid on - I was careful to lift the lid straight up and let any condensation fall back into the Tagine). 
  5. Mix together egg yolks and mascarpone and add to the rice mixture off the heat, making sure it is well combined. Wipe the sides of the pan of any liquid so id doesn't burn in the oven. Sprinkle with the remaining lime zest over the top of the dish and place in the over for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown on the top and the rice is cooked through. (I skipped the lime zest and cooked for an additional 10 minutes on the stove before I put the Tagine into the oven - I just put the base though so that the top would brown.) 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Years!

It is a New Year and so many people take the opportunity to make reflections on the last year, what has happened, what is to come and things they want to change. I have made resolutions before and admittedly I'm terrible at keeping them - but yet I keep making them and this year will be no different in that I will be making them and I anticipate that it will be no different in the fact that I will have difficulty living up to them.  But I think that may just be the point of resolutions and the new year.  It is an opportunity to reflect.

My reflection started earlier than New Years this year. It started in October when I found out I was going to need to have a minor surgery and then I got more reflective once the surgery date was scheduled. I had a similar style of minor surgery (laparoscopic) in 2011 and my life changed immensely after that. Now I feel that in order to understand where I might be now in life you need to understand me then. I was not happy in many ways in 2011 and I knew it but I didn't do much about it. After my surgery, I had an unintended consequence of my eyes swelling which affect my ability to see, read, be alone. After the surgery I had a major emotional break down and was devastated knowing what my life had been and what it might not be if my eye sight didn't get better. 

My eye sight slowing got better but I made a decision to say screw it and be happy - to look after me. I did so very selfishly with little regard to the consequences and fall out.  The end result of changing my life, my partner, my career could have been achieved in a much better fashion. That being said I made a promise to myself that I would take advantage of my life and live my life and I mean really live the crap out of it. 

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. ThompsonThe Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967
I found that quote and I wanted to live by it and for a while I did. In 2013 I took chances and it lead my to amazing things - I found my now husband - we took a month and travelled around Europe. I risked losing my job to take the month off but knew it was worth it. I got to see family who was very important to me I hadn't had the opportunity to see in many years (decades). I found a what feels like second family (Annie, Frank, Louise, Jowie) had amazing experiences. In 2014 we moved out into my first apartment, I married my husband in two amazing ceremonies one thrown together in about 24 hours; I started a different job taking a major risk; I started to really follow my passion for cooking. In 2015 I took a chance getting a different job and buying a house (which is a place of our nightmares and dreams). I loved that job and in 2016 it lead to my current job which is in a way a dream job.

In 2017 we traveled to see family again - this time my daughter and I left my husband in 1 country and went to visit family in 2 other countries on our own. I will say it was very scary and my brave monkey just 11 1/2 helped me a lot - she's an amazing kid really I'm blessed but I almost past on the opportunity because i was so scared. 

However, staring down the eyes of surgery again I looked at my life and had a really hard time answering the question "Have you lived your life? and I mean really lived your life?"

And the answer is I have and I haven't. In many ways I am like a piece of drift wood in the river being taken wherever the current takes me at times having a glimpse of living my life. I took time off after my surgery and I mean really took time off - I was off for 3 weeks and I barely did anything - answered a few emails and phone calls, cooked some traditional Tortiere, napped, watched Netflix and really just relaxed. It gave my unprecedented perspective on my work and life balance. 

This leads me to my resolutions:

1. Continue to work on the 366/52 Challenge - I no longer feel that I need to complete it during the year. Honestly, given the challenges that are coming this year I know I'm not going to achieve that. which leads to next goal. 

2. Cook at home and eat out less - trying to eat out once every two weeks. It is so easy to stop for something on the way home especially after it has been a long day at work and things are busy. But I need to be frank some days I'm too tired to really cook so I give myself more permission to use short cuts - remade pasta and sauces when doing anything more seems too complicated. It has been the downside of the cooking goal - I sometimes feel like it always has to be fancy or difficult but it really doesn't have to be. 

3. Work out more. I know - I really need to work on this one and I need to be accountable and I need a group of people to support me. I would like to get into a consistent routine of at least 3 times a week but I think if I found a way to do a minimum of 30 minutes a day it would be great. 

4. Watch what I eat. It is ok to be lazy and take short cuts when I'm too tired - eating consistently is the most important thing for me. That being said - I need to consider easy and healthy options that I know I actually like. 

5. Work on my Marriage. I love my husband to bits and it is easy to let a relationship slid especially when life gets crazy and it is about to get crazier considering he is starting school tomorrow (OMG! excited). So we need to make sure we take time and focus on our relationship - this means brining back the 1 date a week rule. 

6. Live my life. I need to ask myself at the end of the day have I done everything that I could to make sure if it was my last I would look back and be happy. This is going to be the most difficult and I think back to "How I Met Your Mother" where Barney tries to make every night legendary - if every night is legendary then isn't legendary the ordinary. I think for me it means that some days will be out of this world legendary and other days it means doing what makes me happy (like cooking or working out.) 

That's it - pretty typical right.