I got it from my mama! A Mother’s Day post & a currant scone recipe

There’s a comfort in baking that I find difficult to put into words. Maybe it’s the memory I have of my mother immersed in her dough-making process in our flour-dusted kitchen. Or maybe it’s because as a young girl, my eager little hands would wait in anticipation to indulge in the fruits of her labor. Running to the kitchen at the first whiff of freshly baked bread, I can still remember how happy she was when she baked – singing and smiling like she was in her own secret world. For my mother, baking was an outlet that went far beyond cakes, cookies, and pies. Less about the end result, baking was a creative, soul-quenching time that gave her the chance to disconnect and let her imagination run wild and free.

Now fully immersed in the throes of motherhood, I find the same comfort in the kitchen that my mother did (although my singing voice isn’t nearly as good as hers). When I bake, time could literally stop and I probably wouldn’t notice. Yes, I really do find it that therapeutic! Whether it’s something as simple as whipping up a batch up fresh scones, or a bit more elaborate like a four-layered cake dripping in puddles of chocolate ganache, I find solace in folding fresh cream, melting chocolate, and swirling my whisk through ribbons of sugar and softly whipped egg yolks.

in the kitchen making scone dough

lidija and scones

A tiny part of me hopes my children will have the same memories that I have of my mother – with our flour-dusted kitchen table and my mama-bear-hands covered in dough.

I got it from my mama, and I know she would be proud.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Classic Currant scones

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 & ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 140 grams unsalted butter, cut into ¼ inch cubes and chilled
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup buttermilk (alternatively you can use ¼ cup full fat plain yogurt or cream mixed with ¼ cup milk with a squeeze of lemon juice)
  • ½ cup dried currants
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* note that this recipe can be easily doubled if needed

Directions:

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Set aside.

Put the flour mixture in a food processor fitted with a steel blade (you can also do this with an electric mixer or by hand). Pulse a couple of times to distribute the ingredients.

Add the butter to the flour, pulsing several times (as many as 40 times if your butter is super cold!). Remember not to run your food processor or mixer continuously at this point. You need to see little lumps of butter in the mixture.

Combine the milk, cream, egg, and vanilla in a bowl and mix until all the ingredients have been incorporated well.

Add the wet milk/egg mixture and the currants to the flour mixture.

With your hands, combine all the ingredients together without over-mixing.

Put the dough onto a large, lightly floured surface and form into a rough shaped disk, measuring approximately 2 to 3 inches high.

Cut rounds out of your dough using a fluted cookie cutter (alternatively, make free-form balls).

The amount of scones your dough will yield depends on the height of the dough and size of your scone cutter. This batch makes roughly 8 large to 14 small scones.

Place your shaped scones you’ve made on a parchment lined baking tray, and freeze for AT LEAST 30 minutes or longer (I usually make my scones the night before I serve them, and keep them in the freezer until ready to bake. You can also freeze the dough shapes for up to a month and use as needed. Remember to store them in airtight freezer bags if storing for a long period of time. you can bake the scones directly from the freezer).

scone dough shaped on a baking tray

Preheat your oven to 200 C (400 F) and position your baking rack in the center of the oven.

Bake the scones for 25 to 30 minutes (time varies depending on size), until tops are golden brown and the smell emanating from your oven is insanely delicious.

currant scones on cooling rack

hot scones ready to eat

Serve hot, cold, or in between.

scone tower part two

Bon appétit!

Photos by Tara Atkinson Photography 

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A tuna niçoise salad recipe

My culinary management skills were put to the test last month when I was invited to an early-evening cocktail party across town. I happily accepted, made a mental note, and filed it away in my memory until the date of the event. The morning of the party, I realized I had already extended a dinner invitation to friends for that same evening. Note to self, next time use google calendar and avoid double booking!

With no time left to bow out gracefully, the only choice was to rise to the occasion and honour both commitments. I carefully mapped out my dinner menu as well as my route to the first party. I also added a pit stop to grab a ball of buratta on my way across town (what can I say – I like living on the edge!). Timing is critical, especially when you don’t have much to spare, so I put my party clothes on and set off on a mission to prove that the time gods were on my side. It turned out that they were! I got to the party, mingled with guests, and enjoyed a lovely cocktail with our hosts before heading back.

Making it home by the skin of my teeth, I slipped into the kitchen to finish off what I started. Prepping my dishes in advance turned out to be a very wise move. Salads were pre-assembled and tartares were left un-tossed and ready to serve at the last minute. In the end, my slow-cooked beef short ribs saved the day, as I left them to cool in their braising liquid while I attended event number one.

I would be lying if I said that rushing back home from the other end of the city and putting my hostess hat back on was a breeze, but I must admit that it was much easier than I thought it would be. The finishing touches took only a few minutes, and it looked like I had been in the kitchen for hours.

Taking a few minutes to step back, plan, and prepare really does make life easier, whether it be in cooking or just in life in general. I love advanced preparation in the kitchen, especially when hosting a party. Not only does it save a lot of last minute stress, but, more importantly, it gives you the freedom to enjoy the company of your guests.

My rendition of a classic Tuna Niçoise Salad is the perfect make-ahead dish that works beautifully for lunch, dinner, or even as part of a weekend brunch. The tuna can be seasoned and seared several hours before serving. I usually leave it in the freezer to let the fish firm up. This makes it easy to cut into even and uniform slices. I plate everything ahead of time, which means I only need to dress the salad at the last minute. Use the biggest platter you can find to showcase the beauty of this dish – the “oohs and ahhhs” from your guests make it all worth it.

ingredients for tuna ncoise

Tuna Niçoise Salad – serves 4

Ingredients:

For the tuna:

  • 500 grams fresh, sashimi quality tuna (2 ½ to 3 inches thick)
  • Maldon or Sea Salt
  • I tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped (white and green parts)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra olive oil for searing the tuna

For the salad:

  • 200 grams baby gems lettuce (or any other lettuce of your choice)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard (a l’ancienne)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons runny honey
  • 2 teaspoons canola or grapeseed oil (or any neutral flavored oil)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Dressing – whisk together both mustards with the oil. Add honey and the lemon juice to combine. Set aside until ready to drizzle over the lettuce.

For the eggs and vegetables:

  • 4 organic eggs
  • 200 grams fine green beans, stems removed
  • 300 grams baby new potatoes
  • Dijon mustard
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 10 caper berries (optional)
  • A handful of black olives (optional)

Directions for each ingredient:

Preparing your fresh tuna – Let the tuna loin sit for 15 minutes at room temperature before cooking. If you’re wondering why the tuna in the photos has squared off edges, it’s because I trim it to ensure that all sides cook evenly. I save the “scraps” for another use like tuna tartare or fish cakes. You can disregard this step, but it does make for a visually appealing presentation.

Lightly coat with olive oil and sesame oil all over the tuna, season with salt on all sides.

Add the green onion, making sure it sticks onto the tuna’s surface. Then pat on the cumin powder and season with black pepper. Make sure all the sides have been coated and seasoned well.

Heat olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add the tuna, and cook for forty-five seconds to one minute per side.

Do not fidget with the tuna until it is ready to turn – what you’re looking for is a nice, brown sear on the outside with a beautiful, rare pink interior. The whole process takes 2-3 minutes, so don’t step away from the stove.

Remove from the pan, let cool, and cut into slices. For perfectly even slices, freeze the tuna for a couple of hours, then slice through with a sharp knife. If you’ve frozen it for too long (it can happen!), let it thaw slightly before cutting into it.

slicing seared tuna 2

slicing seared tuna 1

sliced cumin crusted tuna

For the perfect runny eggs… Fill a pot with water, bring to a rolling boil (just make sure there is enough water to just cover your eggs). Carefully add the eggs, one at a time. Allow eggs to boil in the water for exactly 1 minute. Remove pot from heat, cover, and let the eggs hang out in the water for exactly 6 ½ to 7 minutes. You’ll need a timer for this. Once the time is up, immediately plunge the eggs into a bowl of very cold water to stop the cooking process. Peel, split in half, and add a pinch of salt over the yolks when ready to serve.

For the green beans, blanch in boiling salted water for 3 to 4 minutes, then plunge into cold water to stop the cooking. Drain, and toss the green beans in a bit of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Season with salt and pepper.

For the potatoes, clean off any debris. Boil or steam the potatoes until cooked through. For the dressing, whisk together 1½ tablespoons olive oil with 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon cider vinegar or lemon juice and a fat pinch of salt. Cut the potatoes in half, and while still warm, toss the potatoes with the dressing. This will make sure all the liquids soak into the potatoes.

For the salad dressing, whisk together both mustards with the oil. Add honey and the lemon juice to combine. Set aside until ready to drizzle over the lettuce.

To assemble:

On a large plate or platter, arrange the tuna slices in a domino fashion exposing the rare, interior part of the tuna as well as the seared crust.

the making of a tuna nicoise recipe.jpg

Group each ingredient individually around the plate. Drizzle the vinaigrette on the salad, and you’re ready to go.

tuna nicoise with organic eggs, green beans, and lettuce

tuna nicoise platter with capers, potatoes, beans and eggs

Bon Appétit!

Photos by Tara Atkinson Photography

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