Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy All Hallow’s Eve to all Goblins!

The autumn is such a wonderful time of year in this part of the world (Eastern Canada). The wonderful colours of the leaves in the forest and on the large tress lining our streets, ranging from yellow ocher, burnt orange, to fiery red, are so rich and cheerful! And the outdoor markets are filled with colourful seasonal produce, including all the different types of winter squash that are wonderful to use in cooking and decorating!
That's me, a few years ago, with a bunch of squash "geese" in Montreal's Jean-Talon Market!  Pumpkin anyone?!
While the evenings get a little cooler, there are still lots of warm sunny days ~ just perfect for preparing all sorts of comforting dishes, hearty bakes, harvest breads, cakes, cookies, and other baked goodies. Then of course, there is one of the world's oldest holidays, All Hallow's Eve or Halloween as it's more commonly called ~ a great reason to have fun!

Two lovely ladies adding to the cheerfulness of Montreal's  Jean-Talon Market.
The essential elements of Halloween, such as costuming, trick-or-treating, lighting bonfires, telling ghost stories, and attending community parties can be traced back 2000 years ago to the ancient Celtic festival called Samhain (SOW-in or SOW-an), which means “summer’s end.” As the second major seasonal festival of the year (the first was called Beltain, celebrated around May 1st), Samhain marked the death of summer and the beginning of the Celtic New Year (Rogers 2002). As a moment of change, Samhain was viewed as a night of magic and power. [source: Random History]
Naturally, one of the most fun elements of Halloween for any foodie like me is making all sorts of goodies for  the little and bigger goblins around us! This year, I took a cake decorating course at the Academie Culinaire in Old Montreal, and we created a Halloween themed cake. Our Chef, Eleni, was great fun and as sweet as the cakes we were decorating! She suggested a spider and cobweb design, so here is my decorated cake:

The cake is a light genoise which I split into 3 layers. I sandwiched the layers with vanilla pastry cream, then covered the cake in Swiss meringue buttercream, before decorating it with thin fondant. The body of the spider is almond paste that I molded by hand. Yummy and quite light!

I also made dozens of large and mini Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream (all home-made of course, including the caramel à la fleur de sel), which I distributed to friends, family and neighbors. And oh my! These were such a huge hit! The cupcakes were based on a Martha Stewart recipe, although I changed the preparation technique completely (I'll be posting the recipe in another post on my gourmet webzine,; and the icing is a simple buttercream blended with lots of salted caramel (i.e. caramel à la fleur de sel). I found some fun decorations this year ~ little pumpkin food pics and the tiniest black candy bats for decorating cakes ~ so this is what my mini Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream looked like:

Last year, I had made these cute little mini dark chocolate cupcakes, and had lots of fun making tiny almond paste pumpkins to decorate them:

The recipe for these intensely fudgy, chocolate cupcakes was from Martha Stewart, and I decorated them with a very light vanilla buttercream; sure to tame even the most evil of witches and goblins!

So here's wishing you all a fun, sweet, and slightly spooky Halloween!

Monday, September 17, 2012

My Darling Mom ~ 80 & Still as Fab as Always ♥

My darling Mom ~ Still Young and Fabulous at 80! 

It was my mother's birthday August 3rd, 2012. Two weeks before her birthday, having pondered what I should do to help her celebrate, I finally decided to have a surprise party for her at our home.

The festive buffet table, filled with tempting verrines & cocktail bites, all made by myself or our dear friend Sue, who prepared four of the dishes.  Some of the goodies you see: Tiny Marinated and Bar-B-Que'd Chicken Tikka skewers which I served on a fresh Cucumber Mint Raita in small verrines (these are on the square serving platter front left); Smoked-Salmon and Fresh Dill Canapés on thin Rye Bread spread with Lemon Pepper Butter (center front); miniature Vol-au-Vents filled with Ratatouille that I prepared with fresh herbs from my garden and veggies cut in brunoise (seen in the small rectangular serving dish, center); Sue's Deviled Eggs; tiny Cheese, Jalapeno, and Olive Empanaditas in a Cheese-Butter Crust (seen on the small glass cake pedestal behind the Deviled Eggs) ...
It took quite a lot of planning, but with the help of friends and family, we managed to ensure it would be a totally unexpected surprise. Mom's birthday was on the Friday, but I wanted to have the party on Sunday so it would be easier for more people to be there. One of our relatives had already planned a small dinner party for her on the Thursday night. Dreaming up a little white lie, I told her I would have to be in the Eastern Townships until the Saturday night (to accompany my sweetheart at a fundraiser his sports club was organizing). Have to admit that I felt a pang of guilt about telling her I'd miss her birthday (even though I was planning a special treat for her) but she assured me it was OK, and I promised I'd have a small but special private dinner for her on the Sunday.

A close friend had already planned to invite her out for her birthday on the Friday for lunch, and when I explained my plan to yet other friends, they decided to invite her to dinner on the Friday night. In addition, she'd already been invited to a darling friend's 104th Birthday on the Saturday night (yes, that's correct - 104 years young!), so she had no time to feel lonely!

With all that celebrating during the week, she could not imagine what surprise awaited her at our place when she arrived with her friend Rita! All the friends who'd celebrated with her during the week and other family and friends were there, waiting to greet her. Mom was not only surprised ~ the gleam in her eyes and her contagious laughter said it all! It made all the effort so worthwhile ♥ Like a typical lady, her only worry was that she was dressed too casually, but we all assured her she looked great

Mom and some of the guests shortly after Mom had arrived. We ended up being 23 in all ~ 
Below is a photo of the large 11 x 15 inch, two-layer lemon-scented butter cake I created for her.  Filled and frosted in Italian limoncello-flavoured buttercream, topped with a layer of almond paste, then covered in limoncello flavoured fondant to give the cake a mirror-like finish, I then wrapped three fresh white roses with pink ribbon and placed them on the cake. These added a special touch, not only because of their beauty but because my Mother's name is Rose-Blanche, which means white rose!

Unfortunately, I ran out of time to make more buttercream (which takes quite a while to make) and had to make due with what I had left to decorate the cake. Then a little hole appeared in my small piping bag and my writing ended up a little wonky, but with the fresh roses, everyone thought it was quite pretty nonetheless! I must say that the flavour, delicate and not too sweet except for thin layer of fondant and almond paste, was the perfect pairing for the sparkling Rosé we served with it

The Limoncello-flavoured birthday cake with fondant icing which I created for Mom, decorated with 3 fresh white roses.
In addition to the Birthday Cake, I also made a dozen small Lemon Sour Cream Bundt Cakes in pretty shapes (which you can see below), some of which I decorated with fresh rosebuds and placed in tall glass petite cake pedestals with glass domes to decorate the table; I later gave some away to friends who had helped either making food or assembling the verrines and platters

Small Lemon Sour Cream Bundt Cakes in pretty shapes sit under glass domes.
Mom, below, looking  positively radiant as she reads her small booklet of personal greetings written by all who were at the party.

One thing is for sure, I could never have organised this so successfully without the help of all our wonderful friends and family! Huge thanks go out from my heart to my sweetheart Claude, Solange (merci mille fois pour toute ton aide!), Sue Potter-Lee (thank you so much for all the help and the wonderful dishes you prepared), Marielle, Claude, & Rita (pour votre amour et votre complicité!), and to everyone else who lent a hand here and there ~ I love you all!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Danish Ebleskiver & Basil Raspberry Compote

Many years ago, I had seen these pans with seven little spherical indentations, and had wondered what they were for. Then one day, while visiting a Danish friend, I was flipping though some of his interesting recipe clippings and saw these cute, puffy little balls, stuffed with blueberries and served with a dollop of cream. He explained they were Æbleskiver, or ebelskiver as they are more commonly known in North America. 

Raspberry Basil Compote Ebelskiver ~ Delish!
My Raspberry~Basil Compote Ebelskiver ~ Delish!, a photo by ©EpicureanPiranha ~ on Flickr.

Ebelskiver are Danish pancakes that were traditionally stuffed, and served, with apples ~ in fact, æbleskiver means apple slices in Danish. But now, these small golden spheres, that look like perfect dumplings but are lighter than the usual pancake, are stuffed with all sorts of goodies from sweet to savory.

I'd fogotten all about these little pancakes until a shopping trip some time ago, when I found a traditional cast iron ebelskiver pan (see the image below) and just had to buy it. A few weeks ago, I finally decided it was about time to try making some of these!
You start by making the batter, which is very much like a pancake batter, except that the eggs are separated and the whites, beaten until stiff, are then added to the batter which makes it quite light. Then you melt a little butter in each cavity of the hot pan, and wait till it starts to sizzle ...
Traditional Æbleskiver Pan ~ by ©EpicureanPiranha ~
Once the butter is very hot, you pour in a little batter - not too much because it will overflow as it cooks!
 Attempting to make ebleskiver by ©EpicureanPiranha ~
Attempting to make ebleskiver, a photo by ©EpicureanPiranha ~ on Flickr.

I used about 12 ml (about 3/4 Tbs) to fill the indentations two thirds full. Now cook this for about a minute and a half until the bottom starts to get golden, then add a small teaspoon of filling and top it up with a little more batter; continue cooking another 30 seconds or so (ie: about 2 minutes in all for the bottom side); then using two chopsticks (or two wooden tooth picks), catch the crispy edges on either side of a little sphere and flip around to cook the other half for another 2 minutes or so until golden (NB: Cooking time depends on size of indentations and amount of batter used, and assumes cooking on medium heat. Please see note below).

Sound tricky? Well, it's not really, because of the butter which prevents the batter from sticking, and the round cavity which makes the whole process really easy. You'll find they flip very easily once you get the knack (after doing two or three!).

Danish ebleskiver ~ almost ready!
Danish ebleskiver ~ almost ready, a photo by ©EpicureanPiranha ~ on Flickr.

Traditionally sprinkled with icing sugar, my favourite way of serving them that day was filled with my fresh raspberry-basil compote, which I also served alongside. I tried adding some black chocolate to this filling, but preferred them without. And I also made some with sour cherry preserves ~ deelish!
You can see the final result in the first image at the top of the page. It was my first try and I used a little too much batter for the bottom half I think, so they weren't as perfect as they could have been. Later batches looked much better but by then we were into devouring, as opposed to picuture-taking!

The recipe I used for the batter, below, is from Williams-Sonoma :

Ebelskiver Batter (35 to 40 ebelskiver):

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. granulated sugar
4 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for cooking


In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and granulated sugar. In another bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks, then whisk in the milk and the 4 Tbs. melted butter. Whisk the egg yolk mixture into the flour mixture until well combined; the batter will be lumpy. Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff but not dry peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the whites into the batter in two additions.
PS This recipe is light and delicious but makes a lot! In fact, the recipe and pan should come labelled with the warning that these little stuffed pancakes are addictive!

Note that my ebelskiver pan has smaller indentations than some, so I found I had to use a little less batter - about 23 ml in all (ie: 1  1/2 Tbs). If you use 30 ml batter in all (ie: 2 Tbs) to fill the indentations (ie: 15 ml to fill it two thirds full, then another 15 ml batter on top of the filling), then you will need to increase baking time to about 3 minutes for each side.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Happiness ~

Happiness ~ by ©EpicureanPiranha ~
Happiness ~, a photo by ©EpicureanPiranha ~ on Flickr.

...we all have it within our reach!

Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by ♥ Have a delicious day!

~ marie, the EpicureanPiranha

Monday, September 12, 2011

~ 9 11 2011 ~ We Remember

~ a small but heartfelt tribute ...

A personal thought ::

Is remembering enough?

No. We should all remember and strive for greater peace and harmony in this world, starting with the smallest things. Peace and harmony with the people around us;  the people we see everyday. Deeply ingrained beliefs are hard to change, but we must start somewhere ...

Friday, July 1, 2011

My Fresh Raspberry & Basil Coffee Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream

Luscious, juicy, fresh ruby-red raspberries, and the sweet taste of fresh basil ~ the flavours I used in one of my latest creations, a scrumptious, rich (but NOT heavy!), coffee cake.

♥ This is one of the most delicious coffee cakes I’ve ever made ♥
The marriage of fresh raspberries and basil is perfect! It was inspired by a delicious raspberry-basil jam I purchased from a lovely auberge in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. To make it even more special, I made a rich cream-cheese frosting which I flavoured with fresh lemon zest and vanilla.

Perfect for breakfast, brunch, or afternoon tea in the garden!

Just to tempt you, here are a few more photos:

The fresh tastes of summer! Juicy, ruby-red raspberries, and fresh basil.
 The cake is easy to make. It has a wonderful texture, somewhere between a cake and a buttermilk muffin, which is divine when it's warm from the oven. It you want to serve it warm, then serve the cream cheese buttercream in a bowl on the side.

Impossible to resist with a perfect cup of tea or a delicious latte!

Here is the link to the recipe on my gourmet webzine:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Richly Spiced Cambodian Chicken Curry

Cambodian cuisine is less known than that of its neighbours, Thailand and Vietnam. It is a colourful cuisine whose style and ingredients reveal strong influences from its neighbouring countries. Influences can also be seen from the period of French occupation (though less spicy in general), China (including the use of caramel in certain dishes and eating curries with toasted baguette) and India (many Cambodian curries contain Indian curry powder and black pepper as opposed to chilli, which is served separately).

There are many curries and stir-fries in Cambodian cuisine, and most dishes are served with rice (hundreds of varieties are grown there). This delicious Cambodian curry contains a number of spices and herbs, including Indian curry powder, as well as nuoc mam (or Thai fish sauce) and coconut milk. Lemongrass, lots of fresh basil and coriander, fresh galangal (or ginger if you can't find galangal), and the addition of dark caramel (which you can see in the top-right portion of the image below) impart a special warmth to the fragrant sauce.

The recipe also calls for sweet potatoes, so all that’s needed to accompany this dish is some Thai fragrant rice and a green vegetable. In the image below, I chose to serve it with lightly stir-fried bok choy, which I first cut in half and then served sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.

This is another shot of the same dish, which I had prepared with new potatoes and parsnips this time (replacing the sweet potatoes). When preparing a recipe like this, don’t be afraid to substitute certain ingredients depending on what you have on hand. As long as you preserve the “essence of the recipe”, the dish will be slightly different, but equally delicious!

The recipe for this delicious curry is now published on my gourmet webzine ::
Richly Spiced Cambodian Chicken Curry

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Message of Love on Mother's Day ♥

Mother's Day is a very special day for me, because I have the dearest, most loving Mother one could hope for!

Always my champion, Mom has been my staunchest supporter and ally, in everything I've undertaken. When others failed me, she's always been there with warm words of support. She's been the first to celebrate my victories, and always been my guiding light in my darkest hours ...

♥ Mom holds me tenderly in her arms ~ Christmas 1956, I was 15 months old ♥

More than a Mother, she is is a close friend and confidente. A beautiful, strong woman, who radiates sunshine and warmth all around her when she laughs or smiles ~

Christened Rose-Blanche, which means white rose, she could not have been called by a sweeter name! She wears it so well, because she's the Sweetest Rose I know!

"A mother holds her children's hands for a while...their hearts forever."

~ Author Unknown

♥ In Celebration of All the Wonderful Women I Know ♥

Alas, I'm not a professional writer, and far from being a clever wordsmith! So I've tried to find words that could express my feelings for her from the many beautiful things have been said about mothers ...

"A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials, heavy and sudden,
fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends
who rejoice with us in our sunshine, desert us when troubles thicken
around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts
and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts."

~ Washington Irving (1783-1859)

Epi's Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins with Caramelized Lemon Glaze

I'm sending You all my Love on Mother's Day, Dearest Mom ♥ You will always be so very close to my heart!

And I wish all mothers a Very Special Day this Mother's Day!


marie, the EpicureanPiranha

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Wonderful Surpise Tasting Gift!

Via Flickr :
Last week, after creating my official EpicureanPiranha Page on Facebook, the charming owner of É Café Canada, Michel Alloul, left me a message to say how much he enjoyed my gourmet webzine. We started chatting on Facebook about food, coffee, and coffee beans, and Michel said he’d send me some of their coffee for me to try.

I had been expecting a few small samples ~ so imagine my delight and surprise upon receiving a large box containing a selection of four 454 g bags of their coffees, a package of dark chocolate covered coffee beans, a package of dark chocolate covered cranberries, and a package of assorted biscotti!

I’ll be writing up a review and posting a new article on my webzine about all the É Café goodies and coffees I received, so watch out for it soon!