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millet & honey banana bread {and pour over coffee}

March 30, 2014

honey and millet banana bread

As a proud Kiwi, there are a number of Canadian traits I don’t buy into. Don’t get me wrong -  Jesse and I love Canada. We truly do. We love the people, the welcomeness, the extreme weather, the opportunities for adventure. We take joy in adapting to the Canadian cultural norms, jokes and cuisine.

However there are some practices we have had to draw the line at.

the beginnings of banana bread

To mention a few…

- Kraft Dinner (and its beloved cousin, Hamburger Helper)
- Doggie bags for restaurant leftovers (don’t get me started!)
- Supersized everything (is it really a good bargain if you can’t fit your supersize Mayo in your fridge?)
- Not calling a spade a spade (are you really using that room to wash, or rest, or take a bath?)
- Tim Hortons. The worst of them all.


We had our first Tim Horton’s experience the moment we landed in Canada for the first time (two years ago today!). Having heard so much about Tim Horton’s coffee we naturally (ignorant Kiwi’s) assumed it was a top notch coffee roaster that had sent the Third Wave of coffee viral in North America.

We were terribly horrified a little disappointed on the first taste. Ylech! This is Canadian coffee?


millet and honey banana bread

And so we embarked on seeking out what New Zealanders consider a cafe experience – quality beans, roasted locally, ground perfectly and prepared by a qualified barista (commonly in the form of a Flat White) in a boutique cafe served (always with a teaspoon) alongside homemade scones or fresh muffins served with yogurt.

No paper plates, no neon OPEN signs, no artificially-flavoured, dairy-free, hyrdrogenated-oil based French Vanilla creamer, no deep-fried mass produced donuts.

pour over

Our first month, spent in Vancouver, was less than fruitful, not knowing anyone in the coffee industry or down which alleyways the boutique cafes were hiding. Our following 18 months in Norman Wells, NWT were no better, where the only cafe in town serving quality coffee beans was mine. And I am certainly no barista.

pour over
What a relief to move to Calgary and discover not only true cafe experiences, but outstanding local roasters, perfected espressos and award winning baristas.

Our two favourite roasters in Calgary (really the only two competitive ones) are Phil & Sebastian (roasted at the end of our street) and Rosso (roasted in the neighbouring community). We had Rosso’s Nicaraguan beans on hand this last weekend and a friend (who also happens to be a barista at Rosso) treated us to a lesson in pour over coffee.


A new experience for us, pour over has quickly become a favourite alternative to espresso. This Japanese-style method is quite the art, producing a coffee where the flower and the fruit of the bean can be easily depicted and appreciated.

pour over

While it snowed outside, we enjoyed our pour-over coffee in the comfort of our home, alongside warm banana bread fresh from the oven, studded with crunchy millet and sweetened with creamy honey. Home baked goods, like this crinkly banana bread leaves any Tim Horton’s donut in the dust.

banana bread with crackles

Honey & Millet Banana Bread
Recipe slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Unfortunately out of the 8 or so cafes that serve good coffee in Calgary, few have nailed the food side of things. Most import baked goods from another bakery or an external kitchen, never will your carrot cake be served with raspberry coulis and natural yogurt and good luck finding a gourmet savoury muffin with a homemade chutney. Until this improves we are happy providing our own baking, de la casa.

3 large ripe bananas, mashed
1 large egg
1/3 cup coconut oil, warmed until it liquefies, or olive oil
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup creamed honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch salt
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup uncooked millet

Preheat your oven to 350°F and butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan. Place mashed bananas in a large bowl. Whisk in egg, then oil, brown sugar, honey and vanilla extract. Sprinkle baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves over mixture and stir until combined. Stir in flour until just combined, then millet.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake until a tester comes out clean, about 40 to 50 minutes. Cool loaf in pan on rack.

sourdough pesto irish soda bread

March 20, 2014

soda bread with pesto

As part of this month’s Sourdough Surprises, I was challenged to create an Irish Soda Bread using my sourdough starter. A contrary concept – making a quick bread using a slow rise levain – but a very simple and very tasty one. Soda bread, traditionally risen using the activation of baking soda is basically a scone. In this recipe, yogurt is used for moisture and flavour, as well as a good dollop of pesto – a bit of a lame attempt at working in the St Patrick’s theme to an already Irish good..

irish soda bread

Check out other Irish Soda Breads from the Sourdough community at the link below.

Sourdough Pesto Irish Soda Bread
Recipe adapted from Allison and Simon Holst’s NZ Bread Book
Makes 1 20cm boule

This is a super simple and super quick loaf! Warm from the oven with a pat of butter and a smear of pesto… perfect for a cozy evening in while the snow (continues to) fall.

1 cup sourdough starter
2 cups standard plain flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
2/3 cup milk
2 Tbsp basil pesto
1/2 cup plain unsweetened yoghurt

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Sift the flour, salt, sugar, baking soda and cream of tartar into a large bowl.
Measure the sourdough, milk, pesto and yoghurt into a small bowl and stir to combine.

Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and gently fold the mixture together, trying to combine it evenly but without over-mixing.

Tip the dough onto a lightly floured board and shape it into a ball. Flatten a little until it is disc-shaped and measures just over 15cm across and place it on a lightly floured or baking paper lined baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, cut a deep cross (about halfway down) into the dough so it opens nicely during baking.

Bake in the middle of the oven at 350°F for 45–50 minutes or until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped.

corn pikelets with salmon & sourcream

March 15, 2014

A kiwi classic that appears at many high teas, barbeques or dinner parties is the corn fritter. In New Zealand, a corn fritter is a savoury pikelet – a basic pikelet recipe with the addition of fresh or frozen corn.

Pikelets are New Zealand’s (and Australia’s) take on the scone – tiny, barely sweet, flat pancakes topped with cream and jam and typically served at morning or afternoon tea time. It is the first thing many Kiwi kids learn to make, whipping together the simple batter, flipping them as bubbles appear and eating them hot off the griddle with a smear of butter.

I’ve yet to make traditional jam and cream pikelets for friends in Canada. However, the savoury version (aka corn fritters) served with salmon and creme fraiche have gone down quite a treat here. Although I have had to change the name from corn fritter to blini or corn pikelet as ‘fritter’ in Canada is associate with deep fried batter, not the sweet, light delights that these are. Excellent served as an appetizer or as finger food for a dinner party. I’ve been known to bring the batter over to BBQs to cook on the flat plate – which I quickly learnt doesn’t work in Canada – for some reason Canadian BBQs only have grills! How would you cook the onions at the sausage sizzles??

Salmon and Sour Cream Corn Fritters

Corn Pikelets
Makes 20
Recipe adapted from Edmonds Cookbook

The pikelet recipe used most commonly by New Zealanders involves self-raising flour – a low-gluten flour with the addition of a raising agent like baking powder. I’ve never looked for this flour in Canada but I imagine it is available, likely called ‘self-rising’ flour instead. I have adapted recipe below for those using standard flour.

1 cup standard plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon each of sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 egg
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup milk, approximately
1 cup frozen (or fresh) corn kernals
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped
finely chopped spring onion

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. In another bowl whisk together egg, sugar and milk. Add to dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold through the corn, herbs and spring onion. Drop tablespoons of the mixture onto a hot, lightly greased pan. Turn pikelets over when bubbles start to burst on top surface. Cook second side until golden.

Serve topped with sour cream mixed with cilantro, salt and pepper with a roll of smoked salmon on top. Garnish with thinly sliced spring onions.

corn pikelets with salmon

goats cheese stuffed turkey burgers with honey mustard dressing

February 28, 2014

I am a supermarket cashiers worst nightmare. The lady with a trolley load of bulk-bin bags and fresh grocery items, all requiring the punching in of a ‘bin code’ or a produce name.

When we do the weekly shop, Jesse and I purposely avoid the self checkouts for this reason. Foolishly we sometimes succumb to the temptation of the shorter aisles at these checkouts but without exception we spend far longer impatiently keying in the (often incorrect) code and trying to decipher between organic yams, non organic yams or sweet potato (what’s the difference!?) than if we just relied on the old school, experienced, man-labour; the cashier.

goats cheese stuffed turkey burger with portobello

Back in New Zealand I was told once that supermarket cashiers are on timers. I thought this was pretty radical, that staff have to scan a certain number of products per minute. What if it’s a quiet day? Does the cashier lose wages if they don’t reach their target? Should cashiers be promoting their aisle in order to hit more scans per minute?

But now I get how valuable that was.

Clearly Canadian cashiers are not on timers. Priority is not on getting you through the checkout asap. It’s to hover in the checkout, fingering the stacks of candy bars and junky magazines, eyeing up what others bought that you should have, remembering items you have forgotten and dashing back down the aisles, ie: spending more money in store. It’s infuriating to have the cashier pick up your bag of brown rice and ask what it tastes like. Or inspect each one of your dozen eggs, as if you haven’t already done so. Hey why not check the expiry date on my yogurt? And pour yourself a glass of almond milk while you’re at it.

When I am in need of a dash-in-dash-out shopping experience I strictly avoid Superstore and head to Calgary Co Op instead. Although their cashiers too like to amble through their scanning, it is always a far more satisfying shopping experience. A great range of locally raised chicken, antibiotic free steaks and bulk containers of natural yogurt. With a pound of ground turkey from the packhouse a few streets back from my home, a roll of fresh goats cheese, freshly baked local Ace Bakery buns, local Portobellos and homemade caramelised onions it was turkey burgers on the menu for us.

turkey burger with portobello and honey mustard dressing

Goat’s Cheese stuffed Turkey Burgers with Honey Mustard Dressing
Makes 5 or 6 burgers

500g ground turkey breast (or dark meat)
bunch fresh herbs (I mixed cilantro and rosemary)
2 tsp whole grain mustard
chopped spring onion

6 slices of goats cheese (Chèvre)

6 portobello mushrooms, dirt wiped off with dry paper towel
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
20g butter, chopped into cubes

fresh buns
caramelised onions
alfalfa sprouts
roasted kale to accompany

Preheat oven to 350˚F with baking tray in centre of oven ready for the patties and the mushrooms.

Rip up kale leaves and place in a lightly sprayed roasting dish. Season generously and place in oven for 20 minutes until golden and crisp.

Thoroughly mix together turkey, herbs, mustard and spring onion. Divide into 5 or 6 (depending on preference for burger size) and shape into disks. Press a slice of goats cheese into the centre of each disk and fold over the edges to enclose the cheese.

Heat a lightly oiled frying pan over high heat. Grill patties on each side until golden. Transfer to hot baking tray in oven to cook through. Meanwhile, scatter chopped garlic over gills of the upward facing mushroom. Dollop over the butter and add to baking tray with turkey patties. Cook for 10 minutes until turkey is cooked through and cheese is melted. Mushrooms should be dark and start to release their liquids. Remove from the oven.

Prepare fillings, ie, lightly toast ciabatta buns and spread with avocado. Top with caramelised onion, mushroom, turkey patty and alfalfa sprouts. Drizzle over honey mustard dressing and serve with kale chips.

Honey Mustard Dressing

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon clover honey
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
squeeze lemon juice
1 tablespoon natural yogurt
salt & freshly ground black pepper

Mix together and refrigerate until ready to use.

black forest crepe cake

February 21, 2014

black forest crepe cake

I’ve never been a fan of Black Forest cake. I grew up with a distaste for whipped cream and funnily enough, chocolate cake. I did, however have a thing for those sticky, sweet, ‘unbelievably’ bright red cherries..

spread with cream cheese and yogurt

Having been introduced to the joy of fresh, Canadian cherries, those artificial candies garnishing the Black Forest cake (and studded through Christmas cake) have quickly lost their appeal. Alberta and BC are known for producing some fantastic fruit come spring and summer. Needless, we are pretty excited for some Okanagan roadtrips to collect such cherries, peaches, plums, berries..

chocolate crepes

In the meantime, it’s jarred or frozen cherries for us. Once stewed with a little sugar and a squeeze of lime, this cherry compote brings the Black Forest essence to this stack of crepes. In place of whipped cream (I’m still not a total fan) I’ve used whipped cream cheese mixed with a little natural yogurt for that tart but creamy layer between the chocolate crepes. A dark chocolate ganache completes this fun, simple and visually appealing take on the classic cake.

TIP: For a more traditional Austrian version of Black Forest Cake, brush each crepe with rum before spreading over the cream cheese and yogurt mixture.

stewed cherries with lime

Chocolate Crepes
Supposedly makes 20 but I only got 12…
Recipe from Ambrosia Baking

4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup water
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
85g melted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in blender. Leave in fridge for at least an hour. Heat large frying pan or griddle and lightly grease (unless it is non-stick). Pour on approximately 1/4 cup batter, swirling pan to coat evenly – batter should be thin enough to spread without holes. Cook until bubbles appear – flip and cook the other side. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Continue until all batter is used.

Black Forest Filling
1 large jar cherries (not cherry pie filling)
sugar to taste (approx 2 Tbsp)
squeeze lime
2 Tbsp corn starch

1 x 225g block cream cheese, room temperature
100g butter, room temperature
3/4 cup powdered (icing) sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (optional)
3/4 cup natural unsweetened yoghurt

chocolate ganache (100g dark chocolate, melted into 1/2 cup warm cream)

In a saucepan, simmer cherries with sugar and juice until soft. Taste and add more sugar as required. Mash slightly, leaving some cherries whole. Dissolve cornstarch in a little hot water and stir through cherries. Continue simmering until juices have thickened slightly.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together butter and cream cheese. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat in the yogurt until smooth. Taste and add a touch more sugar if necessary.

To assemble
Place first crepe on cake stand. I like to lay four strips of parchment down to make clean up easier. Spread over 2 – 3 tablespoons of the cream cheese and yogurt mixture. Top with crepe and repeat. Once 4 crepes have been layered, spread a third of the cherries (with the thickened juices) over cream cheese and yogurt mixture. Continue layering crepes and cream cheese mixture. At crepe 9 or 10, repeat with another third of the cherries. Continue layering crepes and cream cheese mixture. Finish with a crepe and pour over the chocolate ganache. Garnish with stewed cherries and dark chocolate shavings.

black forest crepe stack

Some more crepe cakes on De La Casa

Chocolate Kahlua Crepe Cake
kahlua crepe cake

Banana Nutella Crepe Cake
banana nutella crepe cake

Bruleed Mocha Crepe Cake
bruleed mocha crêpe cake

red wine chocolate quinoa cupcakes

February 10, 2014

An amalgamation on my two favourite cakes – Red Wine Cupcakes and Quinoa Chocolate Cake – these Red Wine Chocolate Quinoa Cupcakes certainly take the cake. I’m all about things in moderation, but dark chocolate (and perhaps, maybe, sometimes, red wine) are the two that require brute force to keep in moderation.

red wine chocolate quinoa cupcakes

For those who will be celebrating Valentines without their love this year (me!), embrace that this recipe serves 15 and get amongst a casual group dinner party. As our least favourite (being ridiculously commercialized) holiday, we can hardly resent being apart for Valentines. No pink, no love hearts and no candy to be found in our home this weekend! Just purplish, red wine tinted cream cheese swirled over rich chocolate oh-so-moist quinoa cupcakes.

red wine chocolate quinoa cupcakes

Chocolate Quinoa Cupcakes
Recipe adapted from Quinoa 365
Makes 15 cupcakes

2/3 cup quinoa (this time I used red quinoa)
1 1/3 cup water
1/3 cup red wine
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup butter, melted and cooled
1 cup raw cane sugar (or white)
1 cup cocoa
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt

Bring quinoa and water to a boil. Cover, cook for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and leave for another 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and let cool.

Preheat oven to 180˚C (350˚F). Lightly spray a 12- muffin pan with baking spray or line with cupcake liners.

In blender combine 2 cups cooked quinoa, red wine, eggs and vanilla. Add the melted butter and blend until smooth. Add sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt to the blender and blend until well mixed. Pour into muffin pans and bake for 20-25 minutes until knife inserted in centre of a cupcake comes out (fairly) clean. Transfer to wire rack. The cupcakes will sink a little on cooling.

Red Wine Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes enough for 12 cupcakes

3/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup sugar

1 (8oz) package cream cheese, room temperature
100g butter, softened
3/4 cup powdered (icing) sugar

Place red wine and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until thick and syrupy – it should make about 1/3 cup total. Transfer to bowl and let cool to room temperature.

In a stand mixer, beat together butter and cream cheese until smooth and fluffy (ensure no lumps). Add powdered sugar until desired sweetness – I find 1/2 cup to be enough. Slowly pour in red wine syrup, reserving 2 tablespoons.

Frost cupcakes with piping bag. For an effective spiral appearance, drizzle a tablespoon of the syrup into the piping bag before dolloping in the cream cheese frosting. Gently squeeze in a spiral pattern over cupcakes. Garnish with a chocolate heart (aww) or a red grape.

grape topped red wine chocolate quinoa cupcakes

pumpkin chocolate brownies

February 6, 2014

pumpkin and chocolate layered brownie

It was time to whip out the studio lights this week – not ideal but despite living in the sunniest city in Canada it is still darn-well pitch black by the time I finish work and take public transit home (never thought I would be a daily public-transit-er! However, I never thought I would live in a real city either..)

pumpkin chocolate brownie

It is also darn well freezing. We truly believed we had left the -30s behind when we departed the Northwest Territories 4 months ago. Not so – Calgary has hit some frigid temperatures this last week in stark contrast to the positives we had all the week prior. The Canada Goose has emerged from storage and the desire to stay home, drink tea and nibble baked goods besieges.

turning brownies into circles

Pumpkin Chocolate Brownies
Original Martha Stewart recipe adapted into a high protein dessert The Iron You and ever so slightly adapted here

120 grams butter
170 grams dark (70%) chocolate, chopped
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
2 scoops (¼ cup) protein powder (either vanilla or unflavored)
1 tsp baking powder
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup raw (or dark brown) sugar
8 egg whites (or 4 large eggs)
1 ½ cups (or 320 gram can) pure pumpkin puree
1 tsp each ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C) degrees. Lightly grease or line a 9-inch square baking pan.

Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl, set over a pan of simmering water, stirring until smooth.

Place sugar and eggs in blender and blend until fluffy. Add flour, protein powder, baking powder and cayenne pepper and blend until smooth. Pour half the batter (about two cups) into the chocolate mixture and mix well. To the remaining batter in the blender, add the pumpkin and spices. Blend well.

Pour half of the chocolate batter into the prepared pan, spreading to the corners with a spatula. Pour over all the pumpkin batter and again smooth to the edges. Dollop on remaining chocolate and smooth over into even layer. The layers will mix slightly but this just adds to the marbled layer effect.
Bake until the top is just set and beginning to crack – about 30 minutes. Check that the center is cooked with a cake tester. Let cool in pan and refrigerate overnight or serve warm with yogurt and fresh fruit.

These are great straight from the refrigerator with a dense, fudgy texture and a hint of warming spices.

sourdough crumpets with whipped blueberry butter

January 28, 2014

Of the many fond childhood memories I carry, that which I often reflect on is afternoon tea time. Afternoon tea in New Zealand (and I suppose the UK too) is a meal. It’s a 3 o’clock sit down, with a tea for the adults and an afternoon school ‘snack’ (as they call it here) for the kids. It’s a time to debrief about the day, take a break and refuel in order to make it through the following three hours until dinner time.

sourdough crumps and blueberry butter

Here in Canada, Jesse and I have continued the morning tea (10.30am), afternoon tea (3pm) and evening tea (8pm) ritual whether we are at home or at our workplace, whether its tea, coffee or a shake. And although it’s a little out of place here (“you have a set time for your snacks??”) it works perfectly for Jesse and I who struggle to go 3 hours without our next meal, and if we took the ‘snacking’ route we would probably find ourselves nibbling. All day.

crumpets from sourdough starter

My favourite afternoon tea as a child was crumpets. Returning home from school to warm, toasted crumpets, smeared with butter and drizzled with honey, the sweet syrup dripping through the holes and down the sleeves of my school uniform. The crinkle of the plastic Golden wrapper (which always tears), that distinctive soda flavour, the deep cavities for the honey or jam to nestle in.

blueberry butter

To make crumpets from scratch is incredibly satisfying. It is a super simple recipe, no waiting, kneading or resting as the batter is instantly activated by the mixing through of baking soda. Throw spoonfuls onto the hot skillet and watch them rise and bubble. Because I have a sourdough bubbling away, requiring emptying and feeding, I figured I could use all sourdough starter instead of yeast as I usually would when making these. It worked, but they didn’t bubble as much as expected. Mind you – the sourdough flavour is well worth the lack in bubbles.

Sourdough Crumpets
Recipe from The Fresh Loaf
Makes 8

1 1/2 cups leftover 100% hydration starter (straight from the fridge works best)
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Mix it together and watch it bubble!

Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Spray crumpet rings (or egg poaching rings) generously and place on skillet to heat. Pour in enough batter to fill rings, about 1/4 inch thickness. As bubbles begin to form, remove rings and repeat with remaining batter. (Bubbles may need a hand popping with something sharp). Flip and toast briefly on other side.

Serve warm with honey or whipped blueberry butter (recipe below)

Whipped Blueberry Butter
1/2 cup blueberries (frozen)
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
120g butter, room temperature

Heat until blueberries have thawed and softened. Bring to a simmer and let cook (about 5 minutes) until thick and syrupy. Transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, beat butter until smooth and creamy. Add cooled syrup and beat until combined. Toss through some fresh blueberries and serve alongside crumpets.


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