Creamy seafood chowder and oregano biscuits

This past August, my husband and I traveled to Prince Edward Island to celebrate the wedding of my best friend and her husband.  We were lucky enough to get a few extra days off work, giving us the opportunity to travel around the province a little before heading back home.  Aside from the beautiful landscape and charming people, we experienced an abundance of fresh seafood prepared in a variety of delicious ways.  One of the dishes PEI is known for is their seafood chowder, and after one bowl we were hooked (in fact, my husband requested this for his birthday dinner).  My best friend’s Aunt has her own delicious version and, although I didn’t use her recipe, I was inspired by her advice: when using delicious seafood, who needs potatoes?  There are many recipes of this dish online: mine is inspired by them and utilizes our favourite seafood selections.  If you choose, you could use different fish or remove/add another type of seafood to add your own spin on the chowder.  This is a very versatile recipe so be creative and have fun!

6 cups stock (I used chicken, but a pescetarian could substitute vegetable)
3/4 onion, diced
2 carrots, chopped into 1 cm chunks
2 stalks of celery, chopped into 1 cm chunks
1/2 lb salmon, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 lb scallops, cut in half lengthwise
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined (I purchased frozen shrimp and defrosted them)
1 lobster tail, chopped into bite sized pieces
Bag of mussels (I believe the bag was approximately 2 lbs)
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups ‘half n half ‘cream
1 cup butter, cut into 1 inch chunks
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Large pasta pot

Add your stock to the pot and bring it to a boil.  Add your chopped onions, carrots and celery and cook until the vegetables are tender; about twenty minutes.

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Next, add your seafood (minus the mussels) to the pot.

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Turn down the heat to medium and cook until your salmon is firm but slightly translucent in the middle; about ten minutes.

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Next, add your mussels and both kinds of cream.  Finally, top off with the chunks of butter and season with salt and pepper.  Cover your chowder and let it simmer, stirring occasionally, until your fish is fully cooked; about twenty minutes.

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While your chowder is simmering, pre heat your oven to 425 F and prepare your delicious fluffy biscuits.

2 cups AP flour, plus extra for rolling and cutting your biscuits
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp white sugar
1/2 cup butter, cold
1 cup milk
Large glass or biscuit cutter
Baking tray
Parchment or Silpat mat

In a large bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients.  Next, grate your cold butter into the dry ingredients and mix with your fingers until the mixture resembles a course meal.  Add your milk and stir until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of your bowl.

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Knead your dough (either by hand or with your mixer) until it has fully come together in a smooth ball.  Turn your dough out onto a floured board and roll it out to 1 inch thick.  Dip your glass rim into flour then use it to cut circles out of your dough.  Continue, reusing the extra, until all the dough is used.  Lay your biscuits onto your baking sheet.

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Bake your biscuits for 13-15 minutes; until golden brown and fluffy.

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Serve your biscuits fresh out of the oven with a large bowl of hot chowder.  Enjoy!

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Shrimp pad thai

One of my favourite meals is pad thai from Kao San Road in downtown Toronto.  Something about the sweet and spicy sauce mixed with the tangy citrus of freshly squeezed lime is absolute perfection.  As much as my husband and I love it, the restaurant is too far from our home to allow for regular visits so I decided to try my hand at homemade pad thai.  I looked up some recipes and after finding several, some with disconcerting ingredients like tomato sauce, I found a few that I adapted to make this one.  My pad thai is no where near as delicious as Kao San Road and if you are ever in the Toronto area I strongly recommend a visit, but it’s a pretty tasty substitute.  You could easily make this dish with chicken or tofu instead of shrimp depending on your tastes.

Package Thai rice noodles
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tsp cornstarch
3 tbsp soya sauce
1 tbsp tamarind paste disolved in 1/4 cup warm water
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp Sriracha
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/8 tsp white pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
Red bell pepper, thinly sliced
Handful of cilantro, chopped
2 chives, minced
Canola oil
Peanuts, chopped
Lime
Large pot
Wok (you can also use a regular frying pan, but this will likely be harder and more messy)

First, dissolve your cornstarch in the soya sauce then mix with your shrimp and set aside.

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Next, mix your tamarind, fish sauce, brown sugar, Sriracha and white pepper and set aside.  This will be the sauce for your pad thai.

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Finally, chop up your veggies and set aside.  This dish cooks very quickly and if you have to chop as you go your noodles and shrimp will become overcooked.

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Put a large pot of water on to boil, then add your noodles and cook for 3-4 minutes (or the time on the bag).  The noodles should be cooked through, but essentially al dente.  When they are finished, rinse immediately with cold water to prevent sticking and set aside.  Next, heat some oil and the minced garlic in your wok at medium heat until fragrant, then add your shrimp and cook.  The shrimp are finished when they become entirely pink.  You do not want your shrimp to be completely curled up, this means you’ve overcooked them and the result will be the texture of rubber and less flavourful.

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When your shrimp are cooked, add your noodles and pad thai sauce.  Mix and cook for 2-3 minutes then add your peppers and cook for another 1-2 minutes then turn off the heat.  Taste your dish to decide if you’d like more fish sauce at this time, I sometimes add another tablespoon or two.  Finally, squeeze half a lime over your pad thai and mix.

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Portion your pad thai into servings and top each bowl with some chives, cilantro and peanuts (plus more lime juice).  Enjoy!

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Spicy shrimp with green bean curry and rice

Ever since meeting my husband almost five years ago I have loved Sri Lankan food.  When he was a child, his mother used to make separate “North American” food for him because he would refuse to eat the curries and rice she cooked daily.  Ironically, he now asks for Sri Lankan food all the time.  When he first asked me to try cooking Sri Lankan food I was very nervous: it is a complicated cuisine with many ingredients and spices in each dish.  In addition, Sri Lankan meals always include rice and numerous curries; meaning several dishes need to be made each time.  I wanted to respect the culture and refused to try to make the food until I could research some recipes and techniques.  My mother in law insists that it is completely contrary to Sri Lankan cooking to even use a recipe: she tells me everything is “a bit of this” and “a taste of that”.  When I showed her some recipes I planned to try and asked if it was like anything she made at home, she told me it sounded familiar but her recipes were in her head.  The shrimp and green beans in this meal are both recipes from cookbooks, while the rice is an adaptation of a dish made by my mother in law.  The recipes are listed in order of preparation, although you should prep your shrimp before cooking your rice.  Warning: this meal is very spicy, if you aren’t used to heat I recommend halving the chillies!

1/4 tsp saffron threads (you can buy saffron at Loblaws but it is much more affordable from a Sri Lankan or Indian store)
1/2 cup coconut milk, warmed
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup of onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups of basmati rice (my mother in law taught me to rinse my rice several times to increase fluffiness)
4 cardamom pods, crushed
2 cloves
2 1/2 cups of vegetable broth (I used homemade stock I keep in the freezer)
Sauce pot (preferably with a glass lid)

Place the saffron and warm milk in a bowl and let stand for at least 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat your oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally until caramelized then transfer to a bowl.  Place your well rinsed rice in a saucepan with the saffron mixture, cardamom, cloves and stock. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low and cook for 12 minutes or until steam holes appear on the surface and rice is tender.

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Remove the pot from the heat and set it aside, covered. Gently fluff rice with a fork. Stir in the caramelized onions and serve.

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Several large handfuls of green beans (washed and chopped)
3 tbsp olive oil (or coconut oil)
1 cup of thinly sliced onion
Sprig of curry leaves (you can buy these in any Indian or Sri Lankan grocery store and freeze them in Ziploc bags)
1 piece of rampe (see above)
Small tomato, chopped
2 green chillies, sliced thin
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp fenugreek (in a pinch, you can substitute celery seeds but the original can be found in Sri Lankan and Indian stores)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
1/2 – 3/4 cups coconut milk
Heavy bottom frying pan

String the green beans, wash and cut into 3cm pieces.  Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and add the sliced onion, curry leaves and rampe. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the coconut milk) and toss for a few minutes.

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Next, add the coconut milk and bring the curry to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 7 minutes.   The beans are best undercooked with a bit of crunch left.

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(adapted from Sri Lankan Flavours by Channa Dassayanaka)

1- 1 1/2 lbs of shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt, to taste
2 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp lime juice
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup onion, thinly sliced
5 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 green chillies, sliced
1 small cinnamon stick
1 tsp black pepper
Small tomato, chopped
Sprig of curry leaves
Frying pan

Rub the shrimp with the salt, chilli flakes, turmeric and lime juice and leave in a bowl to marinate for at least 20 minutes.  Heat your oil in the pan on high heat and quickly stir fry the shrimp until half-cooked, about 2 minutes.  Set your shrimp aside.  Fry the onions, garlic, chillies, cinnamon, pepper, tomato and curry leaves until crispy.  Add the shrimp and their juices back to the pan and finish cooking, about 3 minutes.  Serve immediately.

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(from Sri Lankan Cooking by Douglas Bullis and Wendy Hutton)

Spicy deliciousness!

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