Quick and Dirty: Potato Cheese Tart

It’s World Food Day and much of the talk around food these days is about the incredible waste. Food that doesn’t look perfect or is on the verge of beginning to spoil is being thrown away by the ton. Lots of great people are working very hard to stop this… I have a friend who picks up food from supermarkets that was destined for the landfill and delivers it to groups that help those in need. My own part is much smaller in trying to reduce waste in my own home. I used to grocery shop 3-4 times a week and a portion always languished in the crisper until I finally threw it away. I now grocery shop once a week and force myself to use what I can find in the pantry and fridge.

Last night’s dinner was a great example of this because it has been 9 days since I did a grocery shop… 9 days! I volunteer for a local rescue society and this past weekend I took on another pup and didn’t want to leave her alone to go grocery shopping so I dug through my fridge to cobble together a meal. This tart came together using a few stray vegetables, 3 different bits of leftover cheese, and some meat from my freezer. It’s amazing how inventive you can get!

This is a Q&D recipe because I wasn’t planning to post this “throw together meal” until I had my first bite and knew I had to share it with you. In the spirit of World Food Day and reducing waste, I suggest you dig through your own fridge! I lined my tart pan with prosciutto to make a “crust”, then used thinly sliced layers of potatoes, vegetables and grated cheese. You could use some other potato-like vegetable such as sweet potatoes, yams, or squash. Add something aromatic for flavour. I used half a leftover onion but shallots, minced garlic, leeks, or diced green onion would also work. Then dig through your cheese drawer and use up any old bits you have hanging around. I used cheddar, parmesan, and crumbled some blue on top after the tart was finished cooking. Brie would have been good. Or feta. And dot with goat or Boursin after cooking?!…mmmmm! Use up any other bits of veg in your crisper. I had a single sad carrot that I thinly sliced but I kept thinking how delicious fennel or shaved brussels sprouts would be. You could use a real crust of frozen pastry, a frozen tart shell, or dare I suggest bacon?!?! Or nothing! What’s that, you say? Forget about a separate crust… grease your pan well and those potatoes will bake and brown forming their own lovely crust.

I started by lining my tart pan with tinfoil for easy cleanup. Let the tinfoil come up the sides to make the pan a bit higher. You want to build up the layers as the tart will collapse by about half as it cooks. Spray or oil the tin really well with cooking oil. If your tart pan has a removable bottom I recommend putting it on a cookie sheet while baking just in case it leaks. I covered the tart with a piece of parchment paper and then a lid to weigh it down while cooking for about 2 hours, then removed the lid and parchment for another 20 minutes to brown. It seems like a long time to bake but you really want those layers to cook together. I hope you try some version of this “refrigerator” tart.

Preheat oven to 350F.

5 or so medium potatoes or other vegetable as suggested above
half an onion, or leek, or some minced garlic, or chopped green onion
other vegetables as desired such as carrot, thinly sliced
about 2 cups of grated cheese
Salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil for each layer

Thinly slice all your vegetables (enough to make 5 or 6 layers in your tart pan). Grate all your cheese (I had about 2 cups in total plus some blue I crumbled on top after the tart was finished cooking). If you are using something as a base or crust, start with that in a well-oiled pan. Then build your layers of potatoes and vegetables. Season each layer with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil, and top with a layer of cheese. Repeat until all your ingredients are gone. Finish with a layer of potato. I suggest covering with a piece of parchment and weighing it down with a lid. Bake for approximately 2 hours, until the tip of a sharp knife easily slips through the tart. Remove the lid and parchment and let brown for another 20 minutes. I served with a few slices of steak on the side.

Instant Pot Beef Bourguignon

I have an Instant Pot. Yes, I do. For the past couple years I have been using it to cook dried beans, some long-cooking vegetables such as beets, and I make yoghurt on a regular basis. I also tried an “all in one” meal with mashed potatoes, beets, and meatloaf… yes, cooked together ALL IN ONE POT. And do you know what?!… it was pretty good! I have been quite happy with my Instant Pot but people online can’t seem to stop talking about how amazing it is to cook almost ANYTHING (seriously… cheesecake?) so I need to branch out.

Some time ago I spotted this recipe for pressure cooker beef stew and it got me thinking about beef bourguignon with the wine and pearl onions and mushrooms. Mmmmmmmm, rich comforting flavourful beef stew in about half the time? Count me in, man! (Did I just say “man”?!?!).

The inspirational stew made (almost) according to the recipe was very good but I have continued to fiddle with it because I wanted something much closer to traditional beef bourguignon and I still don’t COMPLETELY trust the “dump and go” method in most Instant Pot and slow cooker recipes. I think flavours need to be layered. My favourite part of beef bourguignon are the little onions braised in dark stock and the mushrooms fried in butter so instead of simply cooking them in the stew I used Julia Child’s recipes for Oignons Glaces a Brun (brown braised onions) and Champignons Sautes au Beurre (sauted mushrooms in butter) and add them in at the end to re-heat. Granted it does take extra work, but not extra time because you do it while the beef is cooking.

The inspirational recipe calls for 4 packets of gelatin which gives body to the stew but I cut this down to one packet because my stock is homemade and already has the velvety mouth-feel. You can increase this if your stock is store-bought. I also nixed the extra carrots, potatoes and celery because those are not traditional in beef bourguignon but I did keep the soy sauce, anchovy paste and fish sauce… also not traditional but I think they really add to the umami quality of the stew. I also threw in some frozen green peas just because I like them. :)

Despite failing to jump on the whole “all in one” bandwagon, I think my recipe is now pretty close to traditional beef bourguignon while streamlining the process to use only one additional saute pan (with no washing in between) for all the searing, braising of onions, and frying of mushrooms. I have divided the ingredient list below into the separate cooking steps to help you organize better as you cook. It’s still probably not a weeknight meal but it will definitely cut your weekend beef bourguignon down to at least half the time letting you arrive home mid-afternoon (after a day of skiing? mountain climbing? parasailing? reading a good book that you can’t put down?) and still deliver a meal to the table that looks and tastes like you cooked all day… win, win!

2 cups homemade or store-bought chicken stock
1 packet powdered unflavored gelatin (7 g) (you can use up to 4 packets if your stock is store-bought)
2 TBS tomato paste
1 TBS soy sauce
2 tsp anchovy paste, or 2 mashed anchovies, or 1 TBS Asian fish sauce (I used both anchovy paste and fish sauce)
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce

2 TBS vegetable oil
3 pounds whole boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 3 steaks
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 TBS flour

1 large or 2 medium carrots, cut into 1″ pieces
1/2 large or 1 medium yellow onion, cut in half pole to pole
3 medium cloves garlic, unpeeled

1 cup red wine or sherry (or a mix of both)
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs thyme

1 cup (about 6 ounces) frozen or fresh pearl onions (thawed if frozen, peeled if fresh)
1 TBS butter
1 TBS vegetable oil
1 cup beef stock (ok to be made from good bouillon)

10 ounces white button mushrooms, quartered (or in sixths if large)
2 TBS butter

1 cup (about 4 ounces) frozen peas (optional, but I like them)

Fresh chopped parsley to garnish (optional)

Put stock, gelatin, tomato paste, soy sauce, anchovies and worcestershire sauce in a bowl or large measuring cup and whisk to combine. Set aside.

In a skillet, heat 2 TBS vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Season beef on both sides with salt and pepper and sear on each side until a nice dark brown crust forms, about 5-6 minutes per side. Remove from skillet into large bowl. Sprinkle with 2 TBS of flour, stir and set aside.

In the same skillet (add another splash of oil if necessary), add carrots, onion (cut side down), and garlic cloves. Turn vegetables as they start to brown. Once they are browned on a couple sides, remove and set into Instant Pot.

Add sherry and or wine to skillet. Scrape up any fond and let alcohol reduce about one-third. Pour into Instant Pot over vegetables. Set skillet aside without cleaning… you’re going to use it again soon.

Cut seared beef into largish chunks (about 2 inches) and add to Instant Pot along with any beef drippings. Pour stock mixture into Instant Pot and add bay leaves and thyme. Set on manual high pressure for 35 minutes. (If you are using a stovetop pressure cooker, process for 30 minutes).

While the meat is cooking, make your pearl onions. If you are using fresh I have found the easiest way to peel is to blanch for 1 minute, then run under cold water until they are cool enough to peel. Melt 1 TBS each butter and oil in your skillet over medium-high heat until foamy. Add onions and let cook, tossing every couple minutes until they have started to brown. Add in beef stock and let simmer until the onions are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. If you are using frozen this takes about 10 minutes, fresh can take 20-30 minutes depending on their size. Scrape onions and any leftover liquid into bowl and set aside.

In the same skillet add 2 TBS butter and let melt until foamy. Add mushrooms and toss every couple minutes. They will first absorb the fat, then let go of their liquid and become quite wet, and finally the liquid will evaporate allowing the mushrooms to brown. This takes about 10-15 minutes for me. Set mushrooms aside.

When the beef has finished in the Instant Pot allow the pressure to naturally release for at least 15 minutes, after which you can manually release if the pin hasn’t dropped. If you have time, you can let sit up to a couple hours until you’re ready for dinner.

Remove the whole onion, bay leaves, and garlic cloves from stew and discard. Let sit for a couple minutes to let the fat rise to the top and skim. (Tip: If you find the thin layer of fat on top hard to skim because those pesky vegetables are getting in the way, just lay a paper towel across the top of the stew and it will soak up the fat!) Turn on saute function and add reserved mushroom, pearl onions, (and green peas, if using) to heat through. At this point you can also adjust the thickness of your stew if desired by making a slurry of flour or corn starch and water and stirring into the stew. Now is also the time to taste and re-season. I find a TBS each of fish sauce and balsamic vinegar really brighten the flavour and add depth to the final dish.

Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with crusty bread and a salad or over potatoes or pasta. Leftovers are even more delicious. Yum!

Roasted Carrots with Lentils and Soft Cheese

I made soup last week and bread this week. Fall is definitely here. I’m still not quite ready to go full on “braise” but roasted veggies, especially over something hearty but still healthy… yup, I’m down with that.

I was at Costco last week and bought a “YUGE” bag of carrots for, like, zero dollars and went decidedly French by pairing them with Puy lentils. You guys, if you haven’t added those tiny, green French lentils to your repertoire you are missing out. They are so easy to cook properly if you soak, then steam them (just say no to mushy lentils) and they are delicious warm or cold. Use them as a base for almost any roasted vegetable as I did here, or toss them in a salad. (Or simply season them and add a fried or poached egg on top… oh yes I did!). And they’re healthy. I almost hate to say that because it’s beside the point. They are delicious… just go with that.

This dish is hearty enough for a vegetarian main but it can also be served alongside some protein (or that egg we just discussed). I served mine with a couple pieces of chicken confit I had in the fridge which I simply reheated by adding to the tray of carrots when I removed the tinfoil. Anything to save washing another dish!

1 1/2 cups green French Puy lentils

Carrots:
2-3 pounds of carrots, washed or peeled and halved lengthwise
1 tsp cumin seeds, roughly ground with mortar and pestle
1 tsp coriander seeds, roughly ground with mortar and pestle
1 tsp dried thyme leaves, roughly ground with mortar and pestle
1 tsp kosher salt
Red chili flakes, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 TBS red wine vinegar
1 1/2 TBS olive oil
1 whole lemon, peel zested and lemon halved

Vinaigrette:
2 TBS red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 TBS tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp anchovy paste
pinch of salt and few grinds of fresh black pepper
1/3 cup good fruity olive oil

To finish:
fresh chopped basil or other herb of your choice (optional)
1 8-oz ball of fresh mozzarella (optional, but seriously…)

Make dressing by combining all ingredients except olive oil. Slowly drizzle in oil while whisking until emulsified. Set aside.

Cook lentils to your liking. I soak mine for at least a few hours or overnight, then steam for 15-30 minutes (depending on how long you have soaked) until just tender but not falling apart. Put drained lentils in a larger wide bowl (enough to accommodate the carrots) and stir in 3 TBS of dressing while they are still warm so the lentils absorb the flavour. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Combine your spices in the bottom of a bowl along with minced garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil and lemon zest. Add carrots and toss to coat. Place on oiled cookie sheet along with your zested lemon halves (cut side down) and cover with a piece of tin foil. Roast for 20 minutes. Uncover, toss and roast another 15-25 minutes until carrots are tender and browned in spots. Remove from oven, squeeze over juice from roasted lemon.

Putting it together:

Taste and re-season lentils if necessary (they may need more salt, especially if you skipped the anchovy paste). Tip carrots over lentils and gently toss. Tear fresh mozzarella over the dish and drizzle with remaining vinaigrette to taste. Scatter fresh herbs on top if using and dish up!

Quick & Dirty: Roasted Grapes and Goat Cheese

Hey, remember that time I invited people over for drinks and all I had to eat in the fridge were some old grapes and goat cheese?…

Well, it turns out you can make a mighty fine appetizer with almost nothing. The first time I made this I used pepitas instead of walnuts (one of the guests had an allergy) and the second time I used the walnuts plus added in some fresh rosemary. Both times were delicious. I have also cut down on the oil from the original recipe significantly. And for the drizzling olive oil over the goat cheese, feel free to use flavoured oil if you have it. I used Persian lime olive oil and it was delicious. Next time I’m thinking a pinch of hot chili flakes would not go amiss. Happy appy!

1/2 cup toasted, chopped walnuts (or other nut)
3 cups red seedless grapes
2 tsp plus 2 TBS good, fruity olive oil (divided)
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary (about 3″), leaves removed
1/2 tsp sea salt (divided)
1 log fresh goat cheese (250-300 grams or 8-10 ounces)

Preheat oven to 350F. Toss grapes, thyme sprigs and rosemary leaves with 2 tsp olive oil. Place on parchment covered baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt. Place in oven and roast for 45-55 minutes until grapes are soft and skins are bursting. This can be done a few hours ahead of time.

While grapes are roasting (or 45 minutes before serving), slice goat cheese in 1/4 inch rounds and arrange on serving dish. Drizzle with 2 TBS olive oil (flavoured if you wish).

When grapes are finished roasting, let sit until no longer hot (can be room temperature). Spoon over goat cheese and scatter with toasted, chopped walnuts. Sprinkle on remaining 1/4 tsp salt. I served this with crackers but you can also use a sliced baguette.

Quick & Dirty: Caesar Salad Dressing

It’s been hot here on the West Coast and I am loving it! I have been eating salad after salad chock full of lovely garden tomatoes, cucumbers, legumes, with tons of herbs and bright, zesty vinaigrettes and they have been yummy! I don’t know why but Caesar salad never seemed like a summer salad to me. When all the fresh vegetables have faded away and the cold, damp days of winter move in, that’s when I think of that heavier, cheese laden dressing that will smack you across the head with just the right amount of pungent garlic and creamy mayonnaise.

But it’s +28C outside today and I’m still craving a crispy romaine Caesar salad, with some cold chicken folded in and topped with crunchy croutons and fried caper flavour bombs. Eat your heart out, Winter! :)

1 clove garlic, minced (or more, depending on your taste)
1/2 tsp dry mustard
lots of pepper
1 1/2 tsp worchestershire
2-3 TBS fresh lemon juice (depending on your taste)
1 tsp anchovy paste or 1 anchovy filet mashed with a fork (optional but HIGHLY recommended)
1 tsp Knorr Aromat or Accent seasoning (optional)
1/4 cup good fruity olive oil
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 oz grated fresh Parmesan (about 1/2-3/4 cup, depending on size of grate)

Combine first 7 ingredients in bowl. Slowly whisk in olive oil until emulsified. Fold in mayonnaise and fresh Parmesan. You may only need a portion of the dressing for your salad depending on the amount of greens you have. The rest will stay good in the fridge for 3 or 4 days.

Grilled Corn and Chickpea Salad with Smoky Lime Vinaigrette

Yesterday morning before I went out to meet a friend for coffee I put a batch of chickpeas in my Instant Pot to cook. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them but cooked beans are always a great thing to have in your back pocket (just don’t sit down. HAHAHA… sorry). They are healthy, filling, and will sit in the fridge for a few days until you need them. Mine didn’t sit because on the way home I stopped at the market and spotted some fresh corn and some lovely ripe mangos. Throw in some filler vegetables and amp it up with a zesty smoky vinaigrette and you got yourself a yummy Southwestern inspired salad.

The ingredients below are what I had on hand but it is infinitely adaptable. Use black or white beans instead of chickpeas. Add sliced radishes, diced bell pepper or kohlrabi. Try a different cheese. Shower with mint and basil instead of cilantro. And as always, enjoy sitting outside on your patio with a beer. Cheers!

Vinaigrette
juice from one fresh lime (about 2 TBS)
2 tsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup good fruity olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Salad
1 cup dried chickpeas (to make 2 1/2 cups cooked, or you can use canned)
2 fresh cobs of corn
handful cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 English cucumber, seeded and diced into bits-sized pieces
1/4 cup pickled onions
1 ataulfo mango, peeled, seeded and diced into bite-sized pieces
crumbled feta (garnish)
handful chopped cilantro (garnish)

Cook chickpeas using your favourite method. I do mine in the pressure cooker with a clove of garlic and bay leaf.

Make vinaigrette by combining all ingredients except olive oil in a bowl. Slowly drizzle in oil while whisking. Taste and re-season if necessary (add more ingredients to your liking). Set aside.

Preheat BBQ grill. Shuck and grill corn, turning until blistered in places (about 10 minutes). Let cool enough to handle. Remove kernels with a knife. Set aside.

When you’re ready to eat, combine chickpeas, corn kernels, and the rest of the salad ingredients (except feta and cilantro) in large bowl. Drizzle with half the vinaigrette and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning adding more vinaigrette or salt and pepper. Garnish with crumbled feta and chopped cilantro. We enjoyed this with grilled bread.

Summer Potato Lentil Salad

I just got back from traveling AND EATING for almost a month and am trying to get over jet lag along with a terrible cold I picked up somewhere between Rome and San Sebastian (aka pasta and pintxos heaven). The last couple days of traveling and the flight home socked me good. But I’m still hungry! Have I mentioned before that when I get sick I’m not one of those people who eats a half piece of toast and “can’t eat another bite”? I hate those people. Nope, when I’m sick I NEED ALL THE FOOD!

One night in San Sebastian I had a pintxos (basically a small snack served on a slice of baguette alongside a drink) of a beautifully rare bite of steak sprinkled with salt. Yesterday I was craving that steak but not the heavy potatoes and sour cream that usually accompany it. What did I think about a lightened up potato salad? Salad sounds good. What about adding healthy French lentils to counteract the eating of the last month? I could go for that. And how about elevating it with something punchy like chopped gherkins or pickled onions? Suuuuure! And should I throw in some radishes and peas from the garden? Why not?! Anything else I need to use up? I do have those garlic scapes…

As you can see, I’m simply using what I have on hand. I love to cook this way in the summer. Use the potatoes, lentils and vinaigrette as a base and add whatever is available to you. Little tomatoes would be delicious. Fresh green beans that have been cooked to just tender-crisp. Oooooh, maybe some olives to make it a bit “nicoise-y”. Or some hard-boiled eggs for a more traditional potato salad. Oh, and wouldn’t the salty bite of some goat or sheep feta be lovely??? The world is your oyster (mmmmmmm, oysters). ;)

Vinaigrette:
2 TBS white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 TBS tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp anchovy paste (you know you want to!)
few grinds of fresh black pepper
1/3 cup good fruity olive oil

Whisk together all ingredients and set aside.

1 cup dry French (Puy) lentils
1 lb small new potatoes
handful of fresh parsley leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
6-8 chopped sour gherkins and/or sweet pickles (optional)
1/4 cup pickled onions (optional, but HIGHLY recommended)
handful of radishes, washed and sliced (optional)
handful of sugar snap or snow peas, chopped (optional)
Garlic scape, tender bits thinly sliced (optional)

Cook lentils until tender but not mushy, using your favourite method. I soak mine for about 4 hours then steam them until tender… 15-30 minutes depending on how old the lentils are. Drain and turn into a large bowl. Stir in 1 TBS of the vinaigrette to season the lentils. Set aside.

Scrub new potatoes. Leave whole if small or cut in half if larger and cook in simmering water for about 15 minutes until just tender. Drain and cut in half (largish bite-sized pieces). While still warm, place the cut potatoes in the bowl with the lentils. Fold in 3 more TBS of the remaining vinaigrette and let sit so the warm potatoes and lentils absorb more of the dressing. Salad can sit at room temperature for a couple hours.

When you are ready to eat, add the chopped parsley and your other additional ingredients from the options above or your own choices. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette and gently stir to combine. Taste and re-season with salt and pepper if necessary. We ate this with BBQ steak and grilled asparagus. Sooooo good.

Rhubarb Compote

My rhubarb patch is absolutely bursting and besides giving away several pounds, I’ve made numerous galettes, muffins, and I have a scone recipe waiting in the wings, but it appears that the simplest preparation is sometimes the most favoured.

At Husband’s request I have been making homemade yoghurt (“I miss the tangy yoghurt in Mallorca” he lamented… *insert rolling eyes here*) and a few weeks ago he was craving dessert so I suggested he stir a couple of tablespoons of rhubarb compote into his yoghurt…

And I have been struggling to keep up with the making of the yoghurt and rhubarb compote ever since.

There are tons of things you can do with this compote. Spread it on toast or on top of a bagel with cream cheese, dollop on to grilled or fried pork chops, add it to whipped cream, serve over ice cream or pavlova, add to your morning oatmeal, fold it in to berries for shortcake, and of course, stir it into plain yoghurt. We like it not too sweet so I use 3/4 cup of sugar but you can start with that and taste and add more sugar throughout the process. And don’t be afraid to use a pinch of hot pepper flakes, it won’t make it spicy, it will just give it a deeper, rounder flavour.

2 pounds (about 7-8 cups) fresh rhubarb, 1/2 inch slice
3/4 cup sugar (you can add more at the end if you like it a bit sweeter)
6-8 thin slices fresh ginger (about 1″ total)
1 TBS balsamic vinegar
pinch of hot pepper flakes (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy bottomed pot and let stand for at least 30 minutes until the fruit has released some liquid.

Place pot over medium-high heat until liquid comes to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Stir every minute or so until rhubarb is very tender and starting to break down and the compote starts to thicken, about 10-12 minutes is perfect for us but you can decide what texture you want. Taste and adjust sweetness by adding in another tablespoon or two of sugar if you wish. Remove from heat and let cool.

I store mine in a large glass jar in the fridge. It will keep for a few weeks but ours usually disappears before then.

Bacon Orange Baklava Tarts

Oh yes, you read that correctly. And I’m not even going to try to convince you except…

Bacon.

Orange.

Baklava.

That is all.

1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup pistachio nuts
4 ounces chopped bacon
1/3 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
1/8 tsp red chili flakes

1/3 pckg filo dough (6 sheets)
1/2 cup (4 ounces) melted butter
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/4 cup orange marmalade
1/4 cup honey
1 TBS orange flavoured liqueur, such as Cointreau (optional)

Fry bacon until crisp. Drain and let cool. Set aside a small handful to decorate the top of your tarts, the main portion will be added to the nut mixture below.

In a food processor pulse the nuts until they are broken up, but not turned into meal. Add the larger portion of bacon, brown sugar, and chili flakes and pulse a few more times until the nut mixture is finely chopped and evenly blended.

Preheat oven to 350F.
Butter or oil muffin tins (I used the fat leftover from frying the bacon… ooops ;) ).

Melt butter and whisk in ground cardamom and ginger. Place one sheet of filo pastry on a flat surface and brush lightly with butter. Set a second sheet of filo on top of the first and brush with butter. Repeat with a third sheet. Phyllo sheets are usually about 12 inches by 18 inches so cut sheets into 3 inch squares (3 cuts along the short side and 5 cuts along the long side) to make a total of 24×3″ squares.

Press one square (3 sheets thick) of filo into each muffin cup. Top with 2 scant teaspoons of the nut mixture. Press another square of filo into each cup over the nut filling. Top with another 2 scant teaspoons of nut mixture.

Repeat. 3 more sheets of filo brushed with butter and cut into 3 inch squares. Press into muffin cups on top of your last layer of nuts. Top with the remaining nut mixture and press in your last squares of filo.

Carefully (or not) with the tip of a sharp knife cut a cross into the middle of each tart, trying not to cut through the bottom layer. This may frustrate you but it’s really no biggie. Just make some cuts so that when you pour over the syrup after the tarts have finished baking it will soak through all the layers. No matter how messy your cuts are the finished baklava will still be gorgeous… trust me.

Place in oven for 25 minutes, turning halfway through to ensure even baking. Check your tarts regularly starting at the 15 minute mark. The edges of the filo are very thin and will darken quite quickly. If they are getting too dark for your liking simply tear off a big piece of tinfoil and throw it over the entire muffin tray in the oven to deflect the direct heat.

While the baklava is baking, heat the marmalade, honey, and liqueur (if using). At about 25 minutes the baklava should be nicely dark golden and the tarts cooked through. Remove from oven and immediately spoon 2 teaspoons of warm marmalade honey sauce over each tart right to the edges. Let sit for at least an hour for the syrup to soak through.

Instant Pot Beef Stock

While prepping my ingredients for dinner yesterday I discovered that my supply of frozen homemade beef stock had disappeared (what the?!?!) so I spent some time in the afternoon making another batch. I keep telling you guys not to use that terrible canned/tetra pack stuff but have never told you how EASY it is to make your own beef stock in an Instant Pot (or other stove-top pressure cooker). It takes a few hours but most of that is hands off, and what you end up is so much more than the sum of its parts.

I save all my beef bones and scraps in the freezer, and supplement them with bones from the butcher. I think I pay around $10 for 6 pounds of organic beef bones and once I supplement with a couple pounds of bones and scraps from dinners here and there I have enough to make 2 batches of stock. Very economical considering the quality.

You may notice I don’t add any salt to my stock while making it but that’s just a personal choice. I like to wait to season the stock so I can customize it to whatever dish I’m using it in but you can season with salt at any time. Remember this when you taste the final stock from the pressure cooker. You’ll think, OMG it needs salt! Yes, yes it does! :)

4 pounds of beef bones and scraps
8 cups of water (my general rule is 2 cups per pound of bones)
1 TBS tomato paste
1 onion, unpeeled but rinsed and quartered
1 TBS apple cider vinegar
1 tsp whole peppercorns

Optional add ins:
5-6 thin slices ginger, or 1 piece star anise
1 carrot (cut into a few chunks)
1 stalk celery (cut into a few chunks)
1 bay leaf

Blanch the bones by placing in a pot and cover completely with cold water. Bring to boil and let simmer for a couple minutes. Dump the water and rinse the bones. This gets rid of any impurities and makes a cleaner final stock.

Heat oven to 400F. Place blanched bones and any meat scraps on a large cookie sheet. Brush bones with tomato paste. Add quartered onion (with peel, this helps colour the broth) and ginger, carrot and/or celery (if using) to the tray. Roast for 30 minutes.

Once roasted, place the entire contents of the tray in your Instant Pot. Add apple cider vinegar and peppercorns. Pour in 8 cups of cold water. Pressure cook on high for 30 minutes and then let natural release for 20 minutes. Repeat twice more but let the pressure naturally release on the final cycle until the pin drops. Your final cooking time for the stock will be 90 minutes on high with 20 minutes of natural release between each cycle, plus about an hour at the end for the pressure to release naturally (about 3 hours altogether). Sounds weird, I know, but this cycling of the pressure makes a much more flavourful stock than just simply cooking for 90 minutes straight.

Strain stock pressing on solids to extract as much flavour as you can. You should get about 8 cups (7 cups after you have skimmed the fat). I sometimes put mine in the fridge overnight which makes it very easy to lift off the fat (remember to save that fat in your fridge for all your delicious frying needs!) If you had a good mix of bones and cooked it long enough you should have a wonderful jelly-like stock once it has cooled. The jelly means you have achieved greatness… give yourself a pat on the back. :)

I freeze the broth in 1 and 2 cup containers, plus one ice cube tray (throw the frozen cubes into a plastic freezer bag for easy storage). Those itty bitty broth cubes (standard size ice cub is 1 ounce or about 2 TBS) are great for recipes that call for a small amount of broth. You can also throw into stir fries, use to make pan sauces, or add to water when making rice or beans for another level of flavour. (You can even throw a cube into your dog’s water dish as a special treat… who, me?!?!)