Mulligatawny Stew

Mulligatawny Stew

In the damp grey days of late winter, Mulligatawny stew provides the comfort of a worn sweater. It’s a rustic stew of root vegetables, tart apples, fresh ginger, and fragrant Indian spices, made rich and silky, with the addition of coconut milk.

Like all stews (or soups, if you add additional liquid), Mulligatawny is made for tinkering, so feel free to improvise. A little more pepper, a little less vegetable, a handful of lentils, some rice, or diced chicken … all these work with this recipe. And, as with all stews and soups, the flavours only get better after a day or two in the fridge.

Delightful on its own, or served atop a tangle of warm rice noodles. Shabby sweater optional.


makes about 11 cups

1 tsp whole mustard seed

1 tsp whole cumin

1 tsp whole coriander

1 Tbsp curry powder

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp kosher salt

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 onions finely chopped

2 tsp minced fresh ginger, about 1 inch piece, grated on a microplane

2 tsp minced garlic

1 Tbsp minced jalapeño pepper, about one medium pepper

2 400 ml (14 fl ounce) cans coconut milk (not light)

1 796 ml (28 fl ounce) can good quality (San Marzano type) tomatoes, crushed with a fork

1 large carrot, diced

2 cups peeled and diced sweet potato, about 1 medium

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced, and sprinkled with 1 tsp fresh lemon juice

2 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade), vegetable stock, or water, plus more as required

1 cup diced kale

1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas


1/2 cup roasted pistachios or cashews, chopped

Place the mustard seeds, cumin and coriander in a dry skillet and toast over medium-high heat until aromatic, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and process until finely ground. Tip the spice mixture into a small bowl and add the curry powder, cinnamon, turmeric and salt. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion until translucent and just starting to brown around the edges. Add the ginger, garlic, jalapeño pepper and spice mixture, stirring constantly, until aromatic, about 30 seconds.

Add the thickest portion of the coconut milk (the part that floats to the surface of the can), about one third from each can, to the onion spice mixture. Simmer the mixture for about five minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

Add the remaining coconut milk, tomatoes, carrot, sweet potato, apples and stock or water. Simmer uncovered until the vegetables and apple are cooked through.

Taste the stew, adding additional salt, or lemon juice, if desired.  Thin with additional water or stock, if you prefer a lighter stew.

A few minutes before serving, add the chopped kale and chickpeas and warm though.  Serve in warmed bowls and garnish with roasted pistachios or cashews.









Dolma with Lemon Sauce

I was first introduced to dolmadákia, or dolmas, at Colossus of Rhodes, a Greek tavern in Mississauga, Ontario. My best friend and I, big-haired and single in those days, loved the place and enjoyed coaxing gossip from the bartender about the dark, handsome, and very single owner, Manny, who made us feel as if we were his special guests. (We later learned the bartender was Manny’s father.)

I’ve made dolmadákia, or dolmas, over the years but none compared to Manny’s, so I tracked him down (yes, he remembered me!), and he kindly agreed to pass along the recipe. Which he did. Sort of. His recipe contained a list of ingredients, but no quantities, and vague instructions. It seems his skilled dolma maker, of 35 years, does not follow a recipe. Naturally.

After a bit of tinkering, I think I’ve come pretty close to the dolma of my dreams. Thanks to Manny, for the dolma ~ and the great memories.

makes about 46 dolma


56 California vines leaves, from a jar

1 pound (raw) ground beef or lamb

1 large egg

2 cups finely chopped onions, about 2 medium onions

1/2 cup fresh dill, finely chopped, stems reserved

1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped, stems reserved

1/3 cup dried mint

1 Tbsp cumin seeds, finely ground with a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle (if using a mortar and pestle, tip the ground seeds though a fine-mesh strainer to remove any large pieces)

2 cups Arborio (short grain) rice, uncooked

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp dried chicken broth mix (preferably Knorr brand)

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 lemon, thinly sliced

4 cups chicken stock or water, plus more as needed  (chicken stock yields great flavour)

Lemon Sauce

3 large eggs

juice from three lemons

1 1/2 cups of cooking liquid from the dolmas

1 ½ Tbsp cornstarch

2 ¼ tsp dried chicken broth mix


lemon slices


Unfurl about 56 vine leaves (some will be damaged), place in a colander and rinse.  Put the rinsed leaves in a large saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil, uncovered. Boil gently for about five minutes. Drain the water and allow the leaves to cool.

In a medium bowl combine the beef or lamb, egg, onions, dill, parsley, mint, cumin, rice, 2 Tbsp oil, dried broth mix, and salt. Mix with a large spoon, or your hands, until well combined.

Place four to six vine leaves on your work surface, smooth side down, leaf base facing towards you. Remove the small stem at the base (it’s too tough to digest). Portion about 1 Tbsp of filling near the base end of the leaf. Place the bottom margins of the leaf over the filling, then the left, then the right, then roll the leaf away from you, creating a neat little bundle, as you roll. Place the bundle, seam side down on a baking tray and continue with the remaining leaves and filling. Set aside any broken or damaged leaves.

Layer a heavy-bottomed saucepan or dutch oven with any broken or damaged leaves and the reserved dill and parsley stems. Carefully place the dolmas, seam side down, in a neat circular pattern, starting at the edge of the container and moving inwards, stacking one layer on top of another, if necessary. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp oil, scatter lemon slices on top, and cover with just enough water and/or chicken stock to cover the dolma. Place a pie plate or dinner plate on top of the dolmas to ensure they stay in place (rather than bob to the surface and unfurl).

Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 45 minutes or until the rice is just tender.

Lemon Sauce

In a food processor or blender on low speed, or by hand, mix the eggs with the lemon juice and cooking liquid until well combined. Add the cornstarch and chicken broth, mix until completely dissolved. Transfer the mixture to a small saucepan and gently warm it, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not overheat the mixture; otherwise the egg may curdle.

Serve the dolmas with the warmed sauce. Garnish with pan-seared lemon slices, if desired.










Parisian Potatoes

Parisian Potatoes

Parisian Potatoes may sound elegant but they’re just everyday potatoes shaped with a dollar store melon baller.  It’s a simple trick that transforms ho-hum potatoes into a dressy side-dish for steak, roast chicken or pork. The potatoes can be sautéed in any sort of fat but duck fat transcends all others.

When you shape potatoes in perfect little orbs, you’ll have enough odd-shaped  leftover trim to use in potato salads, soup, frittatas or savoury croquettes.

Serves 4

6 large Yukon Gold potatoes, rinsed and dried with a clean towel
Vegetable oil, rendered bacon fat or duck fat*
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, finely chopped.
Pinch of dried oregano
Kosher salt

Using a melon baller, carve as many balls from each potato as possible, saving the leftover trim in cold water for future use.

In a heavy skillet or cast iron pan, add about 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil or fat and heat until shimmering.  Add the shaped potatoes in batches, being mindful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook on medium heat, shaking the pan now and then, to ensure even browning on all sides. Test the potatoes with the tip of a knife; they’re done when crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.

Season with rosemary, oregano and Kosher salt.   Serve immediately.

* The last time I checked, duck fat was sold at  Choux Choux Charcuterie and Slaters First Class Meats in Victoria and Oyama Sausage Company at Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver.

Potato Gnocchi & Sage

Potato Gnocchi with Sage Butter

You can spend your entire life without these little dumplings and not even know what you’re missing. I thought gnocchi were heavy, starchy dumplings that I could live without. A trip to Italy changed all that and now gnocchi is part of my standard repertoire.

If you enjoy working with dough, as I do, making gnocchi is especially satisfying. The soft dough is kneaded when the potatoes are still warm, which pleases my thick hands.

Gnocchi can be prepared in advance and re-heated just before serving. If I’m serving more than two, I make it in advance, so I’m not stuck at the stove, fishing dumplings out of a boiling pot, while my hungry guests wait.

Gnocchi goes well with just about any sauce imaginable but sometimes I like it with a simple brown butter flavoured with sage leaves and topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Recipe adapted a potato gnocchi recipe from Rosso & Lukins’ The New Basics Cookbook.

This recipe appeared in EAT Magazine Mar/April 2011

Yield: 6 – 8 servings


  • 1 kg Russet potatoes (about 5 large potatoes), washed but not peeled
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten


  • A ricer for processing the potatoes. If you do not have a ricer you can use a food mill, or cheese grater, but a ricer makes the lightest gnocchi.
  • A slotted spoon or small sieve for removing gnocchi from boiling water.
  • A gnocchi paddle, optional (but a lot of fun)

The potatoes can be baked or boiled in their skins, until tender.

Baked: Place (whole) potatoes on a rack in a preheated 375F oven until tender, about 45 minutes.

Boiled: Place the (whole) potatoes in a large pot of cold water. Bring them to a gentle boil and cook until the potatoes can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife, about 45 minutes.

When the potatoes are cooked enough to work with, peel them. While the potatoes are still warm, press them though a ricer, food mill or cheese grater. Place the milled potatoes in a large bowl. Add the whole egg and about half the flour. Mix together with a fork until a soft dough forms. Turn the dough onto your work surface. Pour the remaining flour on a work surface near the dough. (You may not need all the flour.) Using your hands or a pastry scraper, gradually incorporate just enough flour to form a soft, pliable dough. Gently knead the dough until soft, about two minutes.

Divide the dough into 8 portions and roll each portion into a rope about ¾” thick by 12” long. Line up the “ropes” and cut into 3/4” pieces. You may leave them shaped as is for a rustic look or you can press them with the tines of a fork or a small wooden gnocchi paddle. (The indentations help the capture the sauce.) Lay the pieces on a floured baking sheet, with enough space between them so that they are not touching.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and, with a slotted spoon nearby, gently drop the dumplings into the boiling water in batches being careful not to overcrowd the pot. The gnocchi cook very quickly — this is not the time to pour another glass of wine. If you don’t retrieve the gnocchi as they float to the water’s surface, they’ll fall apart. Have a slotted spoon ready and don’t leave your station. There’s time for wine later.

If not serving immediately, toss the just-cooked gnocchi into a bowl of ice water, drain it and toss with a bit of oil. They hold up for days in the refrigerator or weeks in the freezer.

When you’re ready to serve, simply reheat the gnocchi in a saucepan with a bit of sage (or plain) butter. For a change, I sometimes sauté the gnocchi in a bit of oil until crisp and golden on the outside.

sage butter

  • 1 bunch sage leaves (approximately 10 leaves, left whole)
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese

Melt half the butter in a large sauté pan over high heat. Cook the butter until it begins to foam and turn brown. Add half the sage leaves and reduce the heat to medium. Continue to cook until the leaves are crispy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the leaves and add about a cup of gnocchi to the butter and swirl in the pan until the dumplings are coated and heated though. Repeat with the balance of the dumplings and sage.

Serve in warmed bowls. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and garnish with the crispy sage leaves.


Lemony Chicken Pot Pies

Lemony Chicken Pot Pie

I rediscovered these delicious pies when a kindly neighbor, someone I barely knew, knocked on my door and presented me with a wooden tray of still-warm chicken pot pies. I had just returned from the hospital and answered the door balancing a wailing infant in each arm. Every time I tuck into a chicken pot pie, I remember my neighbor’s kindness and the simple comfort of an old-fashioned savoury pie.

Those wailing babies?  They’re now chatty, leggy teens, who order up chicken pot pies whenever they’re given the choice.  

Pies can be made in any size if container. During a home exchange in Bordeaux one summer, I found in a cupboard a beautiful blue terrine, pictured below.  My globe-trotting friend, Caroline West, was there to capture the image and enjoy the pie.

This is not a difficult recipe but it does take time to prepare. I prefer to prepare my pastry in advance, leaving only the filling to prepare. You can use ready-made pastry dough but nothing compares to homemade.

For the flakiest crust, I use lard and have consistently good results from the recipe on the back of the Tenderflake box.

The key to making flaky pastry is a light touch and not adding too much flour. This is easy when you roll the dough between a sheet of parchment and plastic wrap (plastic on top, so you can see what you’re doing). This prevents the dough from sticking to the table, which means you don’t need to add additional flour or handle the dough excessively. If you’ve ever been frustrated by making pastry, this simple tip will solve your pastry woes.

The savoury filling is adapted from a chicken potpie recipe from Rombauer, Becker & Becker’s Joy of Cooking.

Serves 8 depending on the size of containers

pies can be made in advance

Photo by Caroline West


  • 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ lb lard
  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 eggs (1 for the dough, 1 for brushing the pastry)
  • ice cold water


  • ⅓ cup unsalted butter
  • ⅓ cup flour
  • 2 ¼ cups chicken stock (plus more if required)
  • 1 cup whole or 2% milk
  • ½ cup 35% cream
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 ½ tsp salt (½ tsp if using store-bought stock)
  • 1/2 tsp finely crushed, dried red pepper (or more to taste)
  • 2 cups roasted or poached chicken, diced or shredded into bite-sized pieces
  • ⅓ cup unsalted butter for sautéing vegetables
  • 4 shallots, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced ¼” thick
  • 2 celery stalks, peeled and diced ¼” thick
  • ⅔ cup frozen peas, thawed
  • salt to taste
  • 3 Tbsp fresh herbs, finely minced: parsley, dill, chives, tarragon, thyme (use one or a combination of herbs)

Special Equipment

Photo by Caroline Wes

  • 8 oven-proof ramekins or one terrine
  • Parchment paper
  • Plastic wrap


Place the flour and salt in a large bowl and mix well. Cut the lard into 1 – 2” pieces and add it to the flour mixture. Using two knives or a pastry blender, cut the lard into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. The mixture should not be uniform; it’s best to have some larger pieces of flour-coated lard along with the finer particles.

In a 1 cup measure, combine 1 egg with the vinegar and add enough cold water to equal 1 cup. Gradually stir in half of the liquid into the flour. Add only enough water to make the dough cling together.

On a lightly floured sheet of parchment, shape the dough into a disk and gently roll it into a circle approximately 1/2” thick. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes before using. Continue to roll out the pastry dough, starting in the centre, to a thickness of approximately1/8”. Cut the pastry into rounds that are about 1/2″ larger than your ramekins. Cut small holes or vents into each circle. Stack the pastry rounds, with a layer of parchment between each, in plastic freezer bags and store in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use. Pastry, wrapped in plastic, can be stored in the freezer for 6 – 8 weeks.

Preheat oven to 375°F.


Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until the flour and butter mixture is golden in colour (this is called a “roux”).  Add the chicken stock, milk and cream to the roux and whisk until heated through and mixture starts to thicken; this will take several minutes. Continue whisking to ensure there are no lumps. The sauce should be thick enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon. Add the lemon juice, cheese, salt and crushed red pepper. If the mixture is too thick or heavy, add a bit more stock.

Seasoning the sauce is the most important part of the recipe so be patient – taste it frequently and fine-tune it with additions of salt, lemon juice and freshly ground pepper. (If the sauce tastes good before you add the chicken and vegetables, imagine how great it will taste when all of the ingredients come together!)


To ensure each vegetable is properly cooked, it’s best to cook each variety separately. (Carrots, after all, take longer to cook than celery.) Heat one large spoonful of butter in a large saucepan and add the diced shallots with a pinch of salt. Cook the shallots until transparent, adding more butter if necessary. When the shallots are cooked, place them in a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl to drain any excess butter. Repeat the process with the celery and carrots, seasoning each variety lightly with salt and taking care not to overcook them. The frozen peas do not need to be cooked.

Chicken Pot Pie 4

Photo by Caroline West

Add the cooked vegetables, peas, diced chicken and freshly minced herbs to the sauce. Taste the mixture and season, if necessary, with additional salt, lemon juice and pepper.

Assembling the pot pies

Remove the pre-cut pastry from the fridge or freezer (if frozen, thaw before using). Place your ramekins on a baking sheet and fill each one with the creamed chicken and vegetable mixture. Brush the rims of the ramekins with the beaten egg. Place the pastry rounds on top of the ramekin and press the edges down with your fingers, crimping the pastry as you do so. Cut vents into the pastry, if you have not already done so. Brush the top of the dough with the remaining egg.

Bake the pies until the chicken mixture is bubbly and the pastry is browned, approximately 25 – 30 minutes.

Note: If you freeze unbaked pies, allow them to thaw in the refrigerator before baking them.