CHICKEN LIVER PATE WITH FRESH HERBS . . . easy to make and costs next to nothing

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You know when Edith Piaf is singing in your kitchen something wonderful will be cooking on the stove.   But first you must wander into the garden and snip a basket of fresh herbs … some sage, a little marjoram and a few branches of thyme. These fragrant herbs are the stars of this chicken liver paté that is dead simple to whip up, costs next to nothing and is very, very French.

HERBED CHICKEN LIVER PATÉ is best served a day or two after you’ve made it.   You can transfer the puréed  paté into two  1 cup crocks or 4 small ramekins.  You can also freeze the recipe, which makes it just about the most perfect “appy” to have on hand.

This recipe has you simmering the chicken liver in melted butter just until it turns pink. Then everything is turned out into a food processor and puréed until silky smooth. It really is easy as one-two-three. Serve it with lots of crusty bread or crackers.

Bring your basket of herbs into MRS. BUTTERFINGERS kitchen and whip up this elegant chicken liver paté.

EXOTIC ASIAN PORK RIBS . . . ROXY’S BISTRO STYLE

There’s always a back story to opening a restaurant.  Some one thing or person who influenced you.  Andy Chan was such a person.

When my husband and I were courting our favorite restaurant was not a white tablecloth, fine dining restaurant.  It was  a takeout Chinese hole-in-the-wall.   The menu featured the usual dried ribs, chicken balls and stir-fries.  But there was a second private menu.  Exquisite food prepared for a different clientele.  Late night mah-jong players.    Andy Chan was the brilliant chef.  His dishes were sublimely exotic.

We hung out in Andy’s kitchen, sitting on what Andy called  Chinese Chesterfield’s (rice bags).  This amazing man shared his recipes and  his knowledge with us.  He related  how  he started out sweeping floors and scrubbing pots in restaurants in Hong Kong.    How secretive their chefs would  be.  Striking him if they thought he was watching how they cooked.    He  persevered and acquired great knowledge.     Andy emigrated to Canada and Regina.      He did well, and eventually moved his Chinese take-out restaurant to a new location on Hill Avenue, in Regina, Saskatchewan.  He called it PEARL RIVER.

More than forty years ago our restaurant,  ROXY’S BISTRO,  served French cuisine with a decided Asian flavour.  Today they call it fusion.  We called it “Andy’ style”.   WHERE TO EAT IN CANADA listed ROXY’S BISTRO as one of the top one hundred restaurants in Canada.    We will be forever grateful to Andy Chan for his dishes like “fish in the  sink”  and  “fish cooked three times”,  and for filling our courtship days with the flavours of ginger, star anise, sesame oil and exotic vegetables.

This is not a complicated recipe.  The secret to irresistible, tender and succulent  ribs is  braising the ribs first  and then the slow, low temperature cooking in the oven.  You can use any type of pork ribs  when you make  ASIAN PORK RIBS .

THIS ORANGE CHOCOLATE BUNDT CAKE IS A SNAP TO MAKE

In  my favorite movie, The Wizard of Oz, the Cowardly Lion says “I’ll fight you with one paw tied behind my back.”   This cake is such a no-fail snap to make I swear one could make it with one hand tied behind their back.  The combination of sweet, fresh orange and decadent ganache glaze turns this simple cake into a special occasion treat.

Bundt cakes generally have a dense crumb the better to hold the exotic turban shape of the bundt pan.  This is also the reason that bundt cake pans have a centre hole.  It allows the cake to bake more evenly.  If you haven’t a bundt cake pan an angel food cake pan will do the job.

To show off the bundt cakes beguiling curves we serve the cake up-side-down.  If the cake cooks too quickly or the oven is too hot the cake will develop a decided hump on the top crust.   You’ll have to slice this off but it does make nice nibbling for the cook.  Baking this cake ( or practically any other cake) at a 325F temperature instead of the suggested 350F generally eliminates this problem.  Start checking your cake after 35 minutes to see if your tester comes out dry.  Be prepared to bake your cake (depending on the size) for up to an hour or more.    When you start smelling the delicious aroma of  cake you know yours  is just about ready to  come out of the oven.  The cake should have shrunk ever so slightly away from the edges of the pan and be a little darker in colour.

The ganache glaze is a doodle to make.  Dark, seductive chocolate and a little cream takes this bundt cake to delicious heights.  Just be sure to pour on your chocolate glaze as soon as it is ready.

I use my double bundt pan often.  I like to share my joy of baking and surprise friends with their very own  smaller version of CHOCOLATE ORANGE BUNDT CAKE.

Start zesting oranges and join me in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.  I love your company.

 

THE DARK AND DANGEROUS SIDE OF A BEAUTIFUL GARDEN

All is not as it seems in the beautiful garden.  Danger lurks.  Someone has murder on their mind.    In Agatha Christie’s detective fiction,  A Pocket Full of Rye, the dastardly murderer brews up a batch of yew leaves.  Adds it to a pot of marmalade.  And it was toast for the unsuspecting victim.

The yew trees rotten reputation was saved  in the l960s when an extract from the plant was discovered to have tumour-fighting compounds and was developed into cancer medication.

The castor bean is another baddie.  It contains a deadly toxin ricin.  It put an end to the writing and everything else for journalist and communist defector Georgi Markov.  His vitriolic  comments ended when a pellet containing ricin was fired into his leg by  an umbrella wielding  assassin associated  with the Bulgarian Secret Police.

The euphorbia belongs to the same family as the caster bean but it is a more kindly cousin.  It’s not deadly,  just plain irritating.  Its  milky sap can cause rash or welts, and the leaves and flowers can irritate the skin and eyes.

One must  admire this heavenly blue perennial splashing its colour along herbaceous borders each summer.  But beware.  It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  It goes by two names,  monkshood and wolfsbane. The entire plant is very dangerous to touch and to eat.  Its poison (aconitine) was originally used to kill wolves.  It will cause numbness and stop the heart!  Arm yourself.  Wear gloves when handling the plant and keep it out of reach of unsuspecting guests.

Dog lovers beware of the flirty, beguiling cyclamen.  All parts of it cause severe discomfort if ingested by humans, and can bring on convulsions and paralysis in dogs.

Snowdrops.  The little darlings of spring.  So delicate, sweet and assuming.  But one must take great care when planting.  The bulbs may irritate the skin, and cause a mild tummy upset if eaten.  It can happen if  forgetful gardeners drying onions in their sheds confuse the two bulbs.  Yes, it has been known to happen.  Where were their heads?

Without alliums in the kitchen food would be pretty ho hum.   Garlic, onions, chives and leeks are deliciously edible for us but be wary of the ornamental types.  They flaunt their gorgeous heads of colour but they can be nasty and cause skin allergies.  All parts of ALL alliums are poisonous to cats and dogs.  They contain a chemical that causes anemia and is toxic in high doses.

They trumpet their exotic outrageous beauty in the most magnificent manner.  Tall, stately amaryllis command attention .   Beware of these beauties if you are a dog owner.  The sap and bulb are poisonous.  It can cause mild tummy upset in humans.  But they can be fatal for dogs bringing on lethargy, shock and coma.

The list goes on.  Every part of the foxglove is quite poisonous.  The good news is that its properties  are used to make the cardiac drug Digitalis.  The red berries of the  holly we adorn our home with at Christmas are unpleasant. If eaten by dogs can cause tremors, seizures and loss of balance,  and give children a serious tummy ache. Consider yourself warned! There’s more than one hundred dangerous plants growing in gardens and fields.

For a walk on the wild side you can visit a poison garden in Northumberland, England.   The  Duchess of Northumberland took a little trip to Italy.  Instead of a souvenir mini statue of David she brought back the concept of a poison garden.  The Medici Poison Garden in Padua was the inspiration for the”world’s most dangerous garden”,  The Alnwick Garden.    You’ll know you are in the right place when you see the locked gate embellished with skulls and crossbones.  Mind how you go and stay close to the guide.

HIPPEASTRUM (Amaryllis)  ACONITUM (Monkshood, Wolfsbane)  ILEX (Holly )  EUPHORBIA (Spurge)  TAXUS (Yew)  GALANTHUS  (Snowdrop)    CYCLAMEN  (now you know one Latin plant name)  )  ALLIUM (and a second)

 

 

 

 

 

PUT A LITTLE SPICE IN YOUR LIFE WITH THESE CRUNCHY CHICKPEAS.

I always put out  a few nibbles  with our before dinner drinks.   Something to take off the hunger edge but not spoil you for dinner.  This is a Mediterranean version of Japanese wasabi peas.  Perfect for serving with cocktails.   They are salty, spicy, lemony and loaded with fresh herbs.   It’s a “wiggle and a shake to make”.   An addictive alternative to store-brought crunchies.     My herb garden is lush with  aromatic herbs, a perfect time to whip up  this recipe and serve it with a well chilled bottle of rosé wine.   Make a double recipe and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Put on your apron and slip into MRS.BUTTERFIELD’S kitchen for this recipe for CRUNCHY SPICED CHICKPEAS.

 

 

 

BRING A RICH, DARK, SALTY AND SWEET TREAT INTO YOUR KITCHEN . . . DOUBLE CHOCOLATE FLEUR DE SEL COOKIES

 

French bakers have always known that a whisper of salt brings out the very best in dark, rich chocolate.    This decadent little cookie is a riff on the  fleur de sel  double chocolate cookies  created by my most favorite bakery in Toronto – Bobbette and Belle.

It has a quiet, unassuming almost old-fashioned appearance  that ends with the first delicious, crumbly addictive bite.  This is not your mother’s chocolate cookies!  It reminds one a rich short bread cookie.  The first nibble  of double layers of chocolate and the exquisite drift of sea salt  takes you to the moon and back.

This superb cookie benefits from baking a day or so in advance of serving.  The chocolate flavour intensifies as it rests quietly in the cookie jar.    It’s unique salty sweet flavour is the perfect ending for any dinner party  especially when you add a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.

FLEUR DE SEL DOUBLE CHOCOLATE COOKIE  recipe awaits you in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.

 

 

SO VERY FRENCH LEMON TART . . . the perfect Easter dinner dessert!

This lemon tart, a  sublime combination of buttery crisp cookie-like crust,  silky lemon filling and decadent freshly  whipped cream is the perfect ending to Easter dinner.  The nibbling of chocolate Easter eggs.   The second helping at dinner.  All is forgotten.  All is forgiven when lemon tart is served.  Lemon cleanses the palate and refreshes the soul.  Later you may not remember the meal but you NEVER forget a truly amazing dessert.

The traditional  French dough recipe  is not difficult to make.  You must use a stand-mixer.  A hand-held mixer is not heavy enough to mix the dough.  The buttery dough makes a  delicate, crisp  crust.    Make the pie crust  a day ahead of time and the filling the next day.   The recipe makes enough for two pie crusts –  use one now and freeze the other for a delicious tart in your future.

Pierre Hermes is the inspiration for this stunning, sublime lemon cream (think curd) filling.  Hermes, a French pastry chef,  is famous for his unusually flavoured macaroons. The addition of a little orange zest calms the sharpness of the lemons.   The tart filling  has all the ingredients of the  traditional lemon curd but it is lighter and silky smooth.  The secret is the method used when adding the butter. It is simple to make,

I am repeating this dessert recipe  but when a recipe is good it bears repeating and remembering.   It is preferable to serving  store-bought pie unless you have access to a French patisserie.  See and read the how-to in the kitchen of MRS.BUTTERFINGERS.