nav-left cat-right
cat-right

Home Made Pumpkin Pie.It’s Easier Than You Think...

The Magical Pumpkin

The Magical Pumpkin

Pumpkins ARE magical. They have pleasing shapes, are beautiful shades of orange and they smell of Autumn when you cut into them. Of course one of the best things about pumpkins is the way they taste! There are so many wonderful things you can create with pumpkins – never mind carving them into Jack O’Lanterns!

I am saddened by how many people throw away the seeds when they are carving their pumpkins. These seeds are not only good for you – they are absolutely delicious. All you need to do is clean them off and pop them in the oven for 20 minutes or so and presto – you have a snack that you won’t want to share with anybody else!

Luna Raye’s Perfect Roasted Pumpkin Seeds.

Ingredients

A pumpkin of course!

Directions

While you’re scooping all the gloop out of your pumpkin make sure to have a bowl handy in which you can reserve the seeds.

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees.

When you are finished with your pumpkin (carving it or preparing the flesh for a recipe) go back to the seeds and clean off as much of the gloop as you can, but don’t be too worried if there is a small amount left around the seeds.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper and spread the seeds out.

Lightly salt them and put in the oven. There is no need to add any oil.

Keep checking on them and giving them a swirl around the tray to make sure they are toasted on both sides.

When they are crisp to the bite take them out and serve them up.

You will wonder why you ever threw them away!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

So what else can you make with pumpkins?

• Soups.

• Stews.

• Curries.

• Roasted in the oven with some butter and maple syrup or brown sugar.

• Mashed on its own (or with potatoes) with lots of black pepper and some butter.

• As a filling for pasta, pasties and rotis (the best I ever had came from a little newsagents shop in Fiji).

• But my all time favourite recipe for pumpkins is the mighty pumpkin pie!

The UK is not big on pumpkin pie. It is near impossible to buy the usual canned pumpkin that many people use back in Canada or America. I have seen it in specialist stores but it usually requires a small bank loan just to purchase one can.

Most of my friends in the UK make funny faces when I talk of my love for pumpkin pie (they start talking about weird North American foods like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or egg-y waffles (eggo waffles) with maple syrup and crispy bacon).

Maybe it’s the Canadian in me but it just doesn’t feel like Autumn without pumpkin pie. This year for Thanksgiving I was determined to make one from scratch. I thought it would be impossibly difficult, but I found the most amazing website which talked me through the whole process. I am not much of a baker but I am pleased to say the pie (well I actually had enough mixture for 2 pies!) came out beautifully. The website said that once you have tried pumpkin pie made from scratch you wouldn’t want to go back to the canned version and I absolutely agree!

Please follow this link for their really easy to follow and fun to read recipe for the perfect pumpkin pie made from real pumpkin.

For those of you who have never tried this wonderful dessert (usually served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream) then give it a try. You will love it!

Yummy Pumpkin Pie

Yummy Pumpkin Pie Made From Scratch.

My Grandmother’s Spinach Soup Served with Hard B...

My Grandmother is an excellent cook and I absolutely adore her food! Every meal she prepares is done so with love and care and is always full of the most beautiful flavours. A few years back when my husband and I were visiting Canada, she made this spinach soup and it has been on our minds ever since. I finally got a hold of the recipe and thought this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend was the perfect opportunity to give it a try. It was just as good as I remembered although I did go a tad heavy on the salt. Never mind, next time I will be much more careful!

This soup makes a great lunch or light supper and it can even be used as an elegant starter – although I haven’t quite mastered the art of making a pretty flower out of hard boiled eggs yet (but I will keep working it!)

So here it is Raija’s Spinach Soup.

Ingredients

1 large Spanish onion finely chopped.

350 – 400 grams of fresh spinach well washed.

1 ½ – 2 tsp butter or a drizzle of olive oil (for sweating the onion).

2 Tbsp butter for making a roux.

2 Tbsp flour.

Chicken stock (approx 2 ½ – 3 cups) – I used Vegetable stock for mine.

Double cream.

Pinch of nutmeg.

1 clove minced garlic (optional).

Pinch of white sugar which helps give the soup some smoothness.

4 hard boiled eggs.

Directions

Melt the 1 ½ – 2 tsp or drizzle of olive oil in a pan. Be careful not to let the pan get too hot if you’re using butter as it may burn.

Add the finely chopped onion and mix well. Put a lid on the pot and allow the onion to sweat for a few minutes. Don’t let the onion get any colour. (I read somewhere that adding salt will prevent the onion from colouring and this is where I went wrong with my seasoning – I added too much salt at this stage! – so be careful).

In a second pot heat the spinach carefully – don’t add any water, butter or oil to the pot. The moisture in the spinach will be enough. The spinach should just go very slightly limp.

Once the spinach is just limp remove it from the pot and squeeze out as much excess liquid as you can.

Chop the spinach into small pieces and set aside.

Now it’s time to begin the roux. In another pot melt the 2 Tbsp of butter and then add the flour.

Do not let this mixture turn brown. Keep it on a moderate heat and gradually add the stock.

Mix it well and allow it to cook for approximately 3-5 minutes as you stir continuously.

Add the chopped spinach and onion to this mixture. Allow it to cook gently for another 5 minutes or so.

You can grate some nutmeg into it, or add some minced garlic at this stage. Also a pinch of white sugar will help give the soup some smoothness.

While the soup is cooking you can prepare the hard boiled eggs. Peel them and cut into halves or quarters.

When you just about ready to serve the soup stir in a good drizzle of double cream and mix well.

Serve with some freshly ground black pepper and the hard boiled eggs pieces arranged in the form of a flower.

Enjoy!

Or as my Grandmother would say in Finnish

Nautiskella!

Spinach ready – now it’s time to make the roux!

The Autumn Harvest: Last Tomatoes Of The Year...

Well it’s that time of year again. The nights are drawing in. There’s a noticeable chill in the air. Leaves are falling from the trees. Chestnuts are strewn along the ground. Birds and squirrels are busy fattening themselves up for the winter months. All of nature is readying itself for winter.

My garden is beginning to show signs of the cooler days and nights. Leaves are turning brown and my once prolific tomato plants are no longer producing the lovely juicy tomatoes that we enjoyed so much these past few months. This is what I believe to be my final tomato harvest of the year and I would like to do something special with them.

When I was younger I had an allergy to tomatoes. Fortunately this was an allergy I ‘grew out of’ because I adore tomatoes. I have a few favourite recipes for fresh tomatoes.

One is a simple – VERY simple pasta sauce that I sometimes make for lunch when I feel the need for a Mediterranean boost.

Luna Raye’s very simple tomato sauce for one.

Ingredients

A handful of cherry tomatoes (approximately 8-9).

1 clove of minced garlic.

Drizzle of olive oil.

Pinch of salt.

Directions

Heat a drizzle of olive oil (about 1- 1 ½ tsp) in a pan over moderate heat.

Add the tomatoes. You can put them in whole or chop them in half if you prefer.

Turn down the heat, add the salt and allow the tomatoes to reduce (10 minutes or so).

Give them a stir every so often and about half way through add the minced garlic.

It will smell fantastic!

Meanwhile put on some water for pasta – Penne is a good choice for this sauce – and cook the pasta according to packet directions.

Once the pasta is cooked drain it and add it to the pan with the tomatoes and garlic and give it a quick mix on the heat.

Season with black pepper and more salt if desired.

Tuck in and enjoy!

Tomato Sauce Extras

The thing about this sauce is that you can keep it very simple. However you can also add some extra ingredients such as caramelized onions, a splash of red wine, fresh basil leaves or parmesan shavings. It does work extremely well though with just the fresh tomatoes and garlic.

Another dish I like to make with fresh tomatoes is a chunky salsa sauce for corn chips. This is a great Happy Hour snack. It is tastier (and healthier) then store bought brands and is once again a very simple recipe.

Luna Raye’s very simple chunky salsa served warm (for two).

Homemade Chunky Salsa and Tortilla Chips

Homemade Chunky Salsa and Tortilla Chips

Ingredients

A handful of cherry tomatoes chopped in half (approximately 8-9).

½ Spanish onion chopped in long thin strips.

1 tsp brown sugar.

1 pepper chopped in bite sized chunks. (green or orange peppers are great for added colour)

½ fresh chilli (or a pinch of dried chilli flakes).

1 ½ Tbsp of frozen sweet corn.

1 clove minced garlic.

Drizzle of olive oil.

Salt and Pepper to taste.

Directions

Heat a drizzle of olive oil (about 1- 1 ½ tsp) in a pan over moderate heat.

Add the onions and the brown sugar. Mix well and allow the onions to caramelize. Make sure the heat isn’t too high.

Once the onions have softened gradually add the minced garlic, a pinch of salt, and the chilli.

Stir until mixed in and then add the tomatoes and pepper.

Cook over a moderate heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

At the last moment add the frozen sweet corn and mix in well.

Season with salt and pepper is desired.

Turn off heat and cover the pan.

Allow the mixture to rest while drinks are prepared.

Serve on individual plates with a side of plain salted corn chips.

Enjoy!

I am still undecided as to what to create with this final harvest of tomatoes! Sometimes however, it is nice to just enjoy the simple flavour of something as beautiful and perfect as a tomato grown in your own garden. I may just eat them exactly as they are while dreaming of what next year’s harvest will bring!

I wish all my fellow Canadians a happy, peaceful and abundant Thanksgiving weekend.

Final Tomato Harvest of 2010

Final Tomato Harvest of 2010

Mum’s Marvellous Muffins: A healthy snack and a ...

Well I have been back from Australia for just over 5 weeks now and I am still trying to get myself settled back into a daily routine. Fortunately Nutmeg hasn’t been having the same problems. Once we picked her up from the cattery and brought her home she hopped straight up onto the sofa wanting nose rubs and cuddles. All seems to be forgiven – which when dealing with cats is a good thing, however I am still sleeping with one eye open – just in case!

The time spent with my parents was very special. My husband and I spent time in Sydney, Brisbane and Airlie beach. There were some wonderful trips to nature reserves where we saw some amazing (if not slightly terrifying) wildlife. We also helped my parents move house which was an adventure in and of itself. There were restaurant visits of course but what we really enjoyed was cooking together and sharing our meals at the dining room table.

While my Dad and husband were in charge of making cocktails and occasionally throwing something on the barbeque, it was my Mum and I that did the majority of the cooking. She shared many wonderful recipes with me – some were old favourites that I hadn’t had since I was a child. Others like this muffin recipe were new to me.

I have to say this muffin recipe is one of my favourites and I have made them several times since arriving back in the UK. They are so simple to make and are perfect for breakfast or as a healthy snack during the day. They are nothing like the ’cake’ style muffins we get here in the UK and I am delighted. If I wanted cake I would eat it – but muffins should taste like muffins!

So here it is, my Mum’s Marvellous Muffin Recipe.

Ingredients:

2 ½ Cup of Raisin Bran Cereal

¼ Cup All Bran Cereal

5 dried apricots chopped in large chunks (one apricot chopped into 3 pieces works well)

5 dates chopped (same as the apricots I like to chop each date into 3 large pieces)

¼ Cup walnuts

¼ Cup dried blueberries OR cranberries

1 ½ Cup of low fat milk (I actually use 2%)

2 ½ tbsp of Oil (you can use vegetable oil or canola)

1 egg

1 ¼ Cup self raising flour

¼ Cup brown sugar

3 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp dried ginger

¼ tsp nutmeg (the magic ingredient!)

(You can also add wheat germ or any other nuts or dried fruits you like. I did use fresh blueberries which also worked well. It made the muffins really moist)

Directions

Heat the oven to 180 degrees.

Grease the bottom of 12 medium sized muffin tins (or see my Mum’s Top Tip below)

Mix the Raisin Bran and All Bran in a large bowl and slowly add the milk.

Let this stand until the cereal has softened (about 5 minutes)

Muffin Mixture After Adding Milk

Muffin Mixture After Adding Milk

Gradually beat in the oil and egg.

Mix the remaining ingredients (including the flour) in a separate bowl and gently stir into the cereal and milk mixture.

Mix until everything is just moistened.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin tins.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove muffins and place on cooling rack.

Enjoy for breakfast with some fruit yoghurt on the side or in the afternoon with a cup of tea!

Top Tip

Greasing muffin tins is not only messy but it adds unnecessary calories to your cooking.

I have never felt comfortable cooking with parchment paper but my Mum showed me a really easy way to use it.

Cut some squares of parchment paper (I use 4 inches by 4 inches)

Fold the paper over the end of an upturned glass (my Mum used a can of olive oil spray)

Top Tip For Lining A Muffin Tin

Top Tip For Lining A Muffin Tin

You get a nice little ‘cup’ of paper that neatly slots into your muffin tin.

Getting The Muffin Tins Ready

Getting The Muffin Tins Ready

Carefully spoon the batter into each cup.

Mum's Marvellous Muffins About To Go In The Oven

Mum's Marvellous Muffins About To Go In The Oven

Once the muffins are cooked the parchment paper peels off really easily.

There was no mess and no fuss!

Mum's Marvellous Muffins

Mum's Marvellous Muffins

Happy Hour Cocktail: Mackay Martini...

My parents house move was successful and they are now busily settling in to their new home.

One of the house warming gifts they received was a bag of bush lemons from a friend’s garden. I had never heard of them before and they are certainly strange looking things.

They have a very intense lemon flavour which adds a wonderful fresh zing. I use lemon zest on pasta, in salads, soups, in muffins, breads and on yoghurt. It really brings a fresh summery pick me up to so many dishes.

Lemon juice is ideal for salad dressings, marinades and as an addition to drinks – particularly cocktails.

Last night for happy hour I decided to make one of my favourite drinks: a gin martini. A martini needs a good helping of lemon peel and it gave me a great excuse to try the bush lemons.

It was lemony and delicious and provided a welcome happy hour break from unpacking boxes!

Luna Raye’s Mackay Martini

Ingredients

1 ounce good quality gin ( Bombay Sapphire or Tanqueray are ideal choices)

1 capful of dry vermouth

3 generous strips of bush lemon peel (if you can’t get ahold of bush lemons use the peel from regular UNWAXED lemons).

Add about 1 tsp of fresh lemon juice.

Directions

In a glass add 3 ice cubes.

Add the capful of dry vermouth and swish around the glass coating the ice cubes and bottom half of the glass.

Add the ounce of gin.

Add the bush lemon peel and juice.

(If you aren’t using bush lemons then add the unwaxed peel and juice of a regular lemon).

Enjoy!

If only the oven was working I would love to use the lemons to make a lemon drizzle cake.

Bush Lemon

Bush Lemon an essential ingredient in the Mackay Martini

Mackay Martini

Mackay Martini

Smoked Salmon Pasta...

Last night my mum made her famous smoked salmon pasta. She put us all to work in the kitchen and the result was a delicious meal with plenty of laughs and stories along the way.

I did make a version of this dish awhile back but I used inferior smoked salmon which resulted in an unpleasant fishy mush. So if you do decide to make this dish it is worth getting organic ethically sourced salmon.

The original recipe is from Simply Recipes and is for two people. We just doubled everything and there was plenty for the four of us.

Here is the original recipe for two people.

Ingredients

8 ounces spaghetti or linguine

Salt

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/3 cup chopped shallots

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup dry white wine (can substitute pasta cooking water with Tbsp of lemon juice)

1/4 cup cream (mum uses low fat sour cream)

1 Tbsp lemon juice

2 Tbsp lemon zest ( divided into 2 separate servings)

2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley or dill

4 ounces smoked salmon cut into bite sized pieces

Fresh ground black pepper

Optional 1/2 cup lightly steamed broccoli cut into small pieces

Directions

Heat to boiling a large pot of salted water.

While water is heating lightly toast pine nuts in a single layer in a large skillet.

Once pine nuts are lightly browned remove from heat and set aside.

Once water is boiling add the pasta according to package directions and cook till pasta is al dente.

While the pasta is cooking prepare the sauce. In a large skillet heat olive oil and add the shallots and garlic. Cook these over a medium heat for approximately 2 minutes or until softened.

Then gradually add white wine, lemon juice and 1 Tbsp of the lemon zest.

Increase the hear and let it boil down by half.

Then, for a slightly creamier sauce, add the cream and let it boil for a further minute.

The sauce should be done at the same time as the pasta. If not simply remove it from the heat.

Once the pasta is cooked remove a cup of the cooking water before draining it.

Drain pasta and add it to the skillet with the sauce. If it’s dry then just add a little bit of the reserved pasta water.

Add the smoked salmon, toasted pine nuts, parsley and the remaining 1 Tbsp of lemon zest.

If using broccoli you can add it at this point.

Season with freshly ground black pepper.

Enjoy!

Happy Hour Cocktail: Negroni...

Happy hour is a family tradition. After the day’s work is done we gather together for a cocktail (or two) before dinner.

We talk about the days events, have a laugh and sometimes even indulge in a tv show. While in Australia my husband and I have become addicted to The Millionaires Hot Seat.

Today we settled in to watch the show with a fantastic cocktail called a Negroni. My dad first made these for us many years ago and we were instantly taken with the crisp bitterness of the drink.

This isn’t a traditional recipe in that we use slightly less Campari and Sweet Vermouth but these measurements are a personal preference. For a more traditional Negroni just use equal measurements of Gin, Campari and Sweet Vermouth.

Luna Raye’s Happy Hour Negroni

Ingredients

1 ounce good quality gin
1/2 ounce Campari
1/3 ounce sweet Vermouth

Directions

Mix ingredients over ice in a small tumbler

Stir with swizzle stick

Enjoy!

West Side Story And Peppercorn Sauce...

Musicals have never been one of my favourite things but when I was given the opportunity to see West Side Story at the Lyric Theatre in Sydney’s Star City I couldn’t refuse.

Although I wasn’t really familiar with the story I knew it was based on Romeo and Juliet. I was surprised when I heard so many songs that I knew; I Feel Pretty, Somewhere and America are songs I have hummed in the kitchen while cooking. At least now I know where they come from!

The production was wonderful and the cast brilliant. Alinta Chidzey who played Anita was absolutely terrific and for me was the real star of the show. Another treat was the presence of an orchestra which really added some extra magic to the musical numbers.

The show was part of a dinner theatre experience. We were treated to steak with salad, potato wedges and a rich creamy peppercorn sauce. I decided that I wanted to try to make the sauce when I next got the chance. Tonight my dad threw some steaks on the barbi so it was the perfect excuse to make the peppercorn sauce.

It was much easier to make then I thought and what I loved was that it gave me a chance to cook with a new ingredient; green peppercorns in brine. This was delicious on steak and on the accompanying boiled potatoes.

Fortunately for everyone in the kitchen I refrained from humming any songs (I was too busy licking the spoon).

Luna Raye’s recipe for creamy peppercorn sauce.

Ingredients

3 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp butter
6 Tbsp dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp green peppercorns in brine (drained and 1/2 of them crushed the other 1/2 left whole)
3 – 4 Tbsp of thickened cream

Directions

Heat butter in frying pan and add shallots and garlic.

Cook a few minutes until softened but be careful not to burn the butter.

Add the white wine and the chicken stock.

Cook until the liquid has halved.

Add the Dijon mustard, peppercorns and cream.

Cook for a further 2-3 minutes and season with salt.

Serve with steak, on burgers or over potatoes.

Enjoy!

Home Cooked Favourites: Calgary Pot Roast....

After more than a week of travelling through Sydney and Brisbane, we have reached our final destination of Mackay, Australia.

My family has always moved around a lot. We lived in Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Quebec. I eventually moved to the UK and my parents have been living in various parts of the South Pacific for the past 12 years.

We are still very close despite the many miles that separate us. Although we may not get the opportunity to see one another as often as we’d like when we do get together we always have a great time.

Preparing good food and enjoying fine wines (plus a martini or two) is something we ALL enjoy! We like to try new recipes but more than anything we like to cook some old family favourites that remind us of past times and places we have lived.

To celebrate ‘coming home’ to Australia my mum made one of my all time favourite meals; Calgary Pot Roast. It is a big tasty plate of home cooked comfort and a wonderful meal to share with friends and family.

It was a typical Sunday night meal we would have when we lived in Quebec. Usually served with green beans and mashed potatoes and a hearty red wine. Afterwards we would watch All Creatures Great And Small and I would dream of going to live in England and my dad would reminisce about the country where he was born.

For me this meal was not just about wonderful flavours. It was about being with my family, remembering good times and creating happy new memories too!

Luna Raye’s Mum’s Recipe For Calgary Pot Roast.

Ingredients

1.5 Kgs (3 1/2 lbs) of boneless beef
5 ml (1 tsp) dry mustard
2 ml (1tsp) salt
125 ml (1/2 cup) onions finely chopped
1 can (213 ml or 7 1/2 oz) tomato sauce
25 ml (2 Tbsp) white wine vinegar
2 ml (1/2 tsp) thyme (we used fresh)
1 ml (1/4 tsp) black pepper
2 cloves garlic minced

Directions

Preheat oven to 160 (325).
Place beef in casserole dish.
Rub mustard and salt into surface of the meat.
Top with the chopped onions and minced garlic.
In separate bowl combine the tomato sauce, vinegar, thyme and pepper.
Once mixed pour over the beef and cover tightly.
Bake for approximately 3 hours.

Serve with mashed potatoes and green beans.

You will have plenty of sauce left over in the casserole dish which can be put in a gravy boat and poured over the mash.

Another tip is to add about a 1/2 cup of sliced mushrooms and a glass of red wine about 2 hours into the cooking time. It just gives the dish an even deeper and richer flavour.

Enjoy!

Showing Kindness To Snails: Let Them Eat Beans!...

As I went out into the garden this morning I spied a few snails happily munching away on my beans. My basil, which is finally doing well, was also under threat from a wee baby snail.

Most gardeners would think I am crazy but I actually don’t want to harm the snails. To be honest though I also don’t really want them eating all the beans or terrorising my basil.

As a kitchen witch it’s important for me to find a balanced solution. Killing them just because they are eating my plants doesn’t feel right to me. After all they are only doing what is natural to them.

So when I see them on my plants I pluck them off and move them much further down the garden. This morning one snail was so engrossed in eating a bean that I cut the bean off the stalk so he could finish his breakfast.

I actually love watching the snails. I find them very restful and they are also quite amazing little creatures. While they are welcome in my garden it’s important that we have an ‘understanding’ about things. For the most part they do leave my plants alone but every so often I catch 1 or 2 having a sneaky snack and that’s when I have to take them on a journey to the end of the garden!

« Previous Entries Next Entries »