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Trifle, Italian style

Lemon Blackberry Trifle

Lemon Blackberry Trifle

This recipe comes to me by way of the priestess, nay, the goddess of the kitchen, Nigella Lawson.  I’ve been a fan and fanatical advocate of the raven-haired Brit since her show Nigella Bites, with her impeccable style, spot on palate, and slightly subversive humour.  And no one can make love to a spoon the way she can.  I did meet her once and we had a little chat.  To be perfectly accurate, I met her along with maybe 3000 other fans at a book signing.  Despite the mob, she remained regal and warm in her chartreuse twin set, offering a genuine smile to all.

Nigella LawsonI must admit her cookbook prose have had a profound inspiration on my own desire to write.  I’ve savoured each and every one of her publications, reading them more like novels rather than as a resource.  I enjoy her informative preambles mixed with the regional vernacular (splodge, nubbled, blitzed) and simple recipes with inspired flavours.  She blends cultures and style with no apology.  One region she loves to explore is Italy, from crostini to dolce.  …Hence, this recipe, slightly modified, from her publication Forever Summer…

jam sandwiches

This is everything a trifle should be:  rich, oozing, cool, and creamy.  It’s also easy to make (please forgive the ready-made ingredients) and best if made well ahead of serving, rendering it perfect for easy entertaining.  The Italian inspiration comes from the ingredients: crunchy amaretti biscuits, sweet and puckering limoncello, and standing in for custard is a silky mascarpone mousse with blackberries providing a blistering contrast. 

blackberries 

The measurements are offered more as a guideline, with the size of your trifle bowl influencing the proportions.  For these photos, I used my oval porcelain casserole dish that I usually employ for mac and cheese, although it is most presentable in a glass trifle bowl (my own having disappeared after attending a potluck and not to be seen since).

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Hummus

Lemon Artichoke Hummus
Lemon Artichoke Hummus

This Mediterranean dip born of chickpeas and sesame is also known by its other iterations such as houmous, humus, hoummos, humous, or most accurately, حُمُّص بطحينة.  While no one knows its historical origins, folklore often insists hummus is one of the oldest-known prepared foods.  Many cookbooks and recipes have survived since antiquity, but hummus was not mentioned until the 18th-century in Damascus sources.  Many scholars have dismissed its more modern routes by arguing that hummus has been such an everyday staple, writing down a recipe for it would be akin to a recipe for boiling water.

Middle Eastern debates aside, the puree has always been popular with the granola set in the West and really hit its stride with the cocktail crowd and suburban families alike in the past decade or so.  One may find the dip upon every party table, garnished with cilantro, drizzled with olive oil, or sprinkled with cumin and always always always served with pita (and sometimes sturdy vegetables for scooping).

hummus in processor

Presently, humus is accessible in any of its mutations at virtually all grocery stores in flavours like roasted red pepper, roasted garlic, jalapeno, carmelized onion, sundried tomato and on and on.  And while it’s easy and convenient to buy, the taste and texture leaves a lot to be desired.  Fortunately, it’s also easy to make at home; the ingredients are simple and you’ll have fun coming up with your very own signature hummus once you’ve mastered the basics.  The recipe I have on offer is a lemon artichoke version but simply eliminate artichoke and lemon zest to create the basic gold standard.  It’s inspired by a Cooks Illustrated recipe but with such simple ingredients, one hardly needs a recipe at all.  Lemony, garlicky, salty, silky, substantial perfection.

chickpeas

Finally, a word about chickpeas:  if you’re going the homemade route, go all the way and use dried chickpeas (see note following recipe).  They’re cheaper than canned and you’ll have the pleasure of creating something right from scratch.  Take this with a grain of salt, though, because I have been known once upon a time to bake a loaf of bread to make my own croutons for a caesar salad.  I know.  Crazy.  But you can make all kinds of other fun things with the extra legumes, including my vegetarian butter chicken (no butter and no chicken…recipe to come).  Anyway, happy dipping…

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Honey Crackle Granola

Ryan's Honey Crackle Granola

Honey Crackle Granola

I love granola.  It connects perfectly with my preference for crunchy things.  I fondly look back at one of my favourite childhood breakharvestcrunchfasts and remember a bowl of Quaker Harvest Crunch with some cold milk poured over the top.  Not being one for mushy foods (don’t get me started on over-ripe bananas), I especially enjoyed how the cereal retained its special crunchiness, truly living up to its name, right to the last bite.  For any non-Canadians who might be reading this, the cereal is essentially crunchy nuggets of rolled wheat and oats with brown sugar, coconut, almonds and honey.

As an adult with an expanding waistline, however, one pays slightly more attention to the nutritional value and calorie count on boxed cereals.  I was interested in making my own crunchy granola with a dream-list of ingredients, throwing in some heart-healthy additions to boot.  After much consulting and many attempts, I am pleased to present a recipe that has grown to be much-requested.

 Of course one can use any ingredients available in the pantry, and indeed every time I make granola, it’s different in subtle ways from the previous batch.  So feel free to experiment with different ingredients like hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pistachios, wheat flakes, bran flakes, or anything else that catches your eye at the health food store.  And while you’re mixing things up, play with the ratio of sweetness to your own liking, or swap out the honey with an amber maple syrup for a deeper sweetness.  

Granola Recipe

 But if you can, please use the Maldon salt.  It counters the sweetness and brings out the flavour of the nuts and seeds while the white flakes almost burst on the tongue in the most satisfying way.

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Clementine Almond Cake

Clementine Almond Cake

Clementine Almond Cake

This recipe has been haunting me from the pages of a Nigella Lawson cookbook for some time.  It’s a fairly simple recipe with a little twist…whole boiled clementines are a required ingredient.  I love the taste of orange and almonds are one of my favourite baking ingredient, but for some reason, the cake hasn’t made it into my repertoire.  Until now.   My parents were heading over for a visit and I was looking for something easy and flourless that we could nibble on after dinner, with tea, or if we just wanted something a little sweet.   I remembered this recipe, tinkered a bit with the ingredients and instructions…I never have been one to leave things alone…and came up with a winner.  Let me know what you think.

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