Friday, November 6, 2009

How to make perfect sushi rice

How to Make Perfect Sushi Rice
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Sushi, like most Japanese things, is made using exact skill and precision. But don't let this scare you from making your own sushi. In this recipe I will outline the exact steps to take in order to achieve proper sushi rice. For this recipe I will be using a rice cooker. I suggest that you purchase one of these handy kitchen appliances if you don't already have one. They can be purchased for a minimal price. Mine cost about $12 and can cook 6 cups of rice at a time.

It is important before you begin that you start out with the correct type of rice. You must use short grain Sushi rice or Calrose rice. Other types of rice will not work as well, and some won't work at all.

You can also make your life easier by purchasing "Seasoned" rice wine vinegar. Seasoned rice wine vinegar has the salt and the sugar already mixed into it.

Yield: With this recipe you should be able to get about 3-4 sushi maki rolls out of one cup of rice.

- 1 Cup of Sushi Rice
- 1 Cup of Water (plus 10% more water)
- 5 squirts of Seasoned Rice Vinegar (or 2 parts rice vinegar, 2 parts sugar and 1 part salt)

- Rice Cooker
- Wooden or Plastic Spatula
- Large bowl (for rinsing the rice)
- Large baking sheet or serving tray (for cooling off the rice)
- (optional) an electric fan for cooling off the rice

Step 1:
Put the rice into the bowl and rinse it under the sink using cold water. You want to rub and stir the rice with your hands so that a lot of starch comes out of it. Rinse it about 4 times until the water runs almost clear. Drain.

Step 2:
Put the rice into the rice cooker, add the water, put the lid on, and set the cooker to cook the rice.

Step 3:
As soon as the rice is ready, scoop it out of the rice cooker with the wooden spatula and spread it gently onto the
tray for cooling. It is important that when you're working with the rice you be very gentle with it and careful not to smush the rice into a ball of gluten. Pour the seasoned rice vinegar and over the rice and gently fold the rice with the spatula so that all the grains of rice have come in contact with the vinegar. At the same time, your other goal is to cool down the rice as fast as possible. I like to turn on a table top fan and let it cool the rice off as I fold the mixture. But you can take a magazine or paper plate and fan with your hand as you fold the rice instead. You do not have to fold the rice during the whole cooling period, but you may want to turn it over every few minutes to let the heat escape.

Step 4:
Once the rice has cooled to room temperature it can be used to make sushi, or you can seal it into a plastic bag and put it in the fridge for later use. It will keep for 2 days max. But ideally, you would want to use it that same day. You want to end up with glossy, shiny rice (due to the vinegar mixture) with grains that are still in one piece (you don't want a white mushy pile of rice).

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bruschetta Caprese recipe

Bruschetta Caprese
Recipe by: Chef Cristian Feher

Yield: 10-16 portions

- French Baguette or any long Bread
- 1 Jar of store-bought Basil Pesto (OR, CLICK HERE FOR PESTO RECIPE)
- Fresh Basil Leaves
- 2-3 Roma Tomatoes
- 4 - 8 Bocconcini Cheese Balls
- Salt and Pepper


1. Prepare the following and set aside:
- Slice Tomatoes
- Slice the Mozzarella
- Slice the bread on an angle
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees

2. Spread a small amount of basil pesto onto each slice of bread and place on baking sheet.

3. Put a slice of tomato, basil leaf and cheese onto each slice of bread.

4. Roast the bruschettas in the oven for 7-10 minutes until cheese melts. Serve and enjoy!

Caprese salad recipe

Caprese Salad
Recipe by: Chef Cristian Feher

Yield: 4 Portions

- Fresh Basil Leaves
- 4 Tomatoes
- 4 Large balls of Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese, or several smaller balls of Bocconcini Cheese
- 2 Cups of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2/3 Cup of your favourite Vinegar
- 1 Tbsp of Grain or Dijon Mustard
- Salt and Pepper


1. Prepare the following and set aside:
- Slice Tomatoes
- Slice the Mozzarella or Bocconcini Cheese

2. To prepare a basic vinaigrette, you will put the olive oil and vinegar into a mixing bowl. You will then add the mustard and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix the vinaigrette vigorously with a metal whisk until mixture has thickened. NOTE: You can add a few drops of cold water while whisking to make it thicker and keep the thickness longer. Set aside.

3. On each plate, arrange the cheese slices, tomato slices and basil leaves as you wish. Use your imagination and make a nice, uniform pattern!

4. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and serve!

Italian Chicken Caprese Recipe

Chicken Caprese
Recipe by: Chef Cristian Feher

This is a very easy and satisfying Italian entree. You can try different variations by substituting the chicken with veal, or pork cutlets. My favourite way to serve Caprese Chicken is over a bed of Angel Hair Pasta with Basil Pesto and Plenty of Parmigiano Regiano cheese! But you can cut the carb content by serving it with a hearty green salad, Caesar Salad or Oven Roasted Vegetables.

Yield: 4 Portions

- 4 Skinless, boneless chicken breasts
- 3 Eggs
- 4 Cups of Italian Bread Crumbs
- 2 Large Balls of Buffalo Mozzarella
- 2 Large Tomatoes
- Fresh Basil Leaves
- Salt and Pepper to taste


1. Prepare and set aside the following:
- Butterfly the chicken breasts
- Crack and beat eggs in a bowl
- Pour Italian bread Crumbs into a bowl or large plate
- Slice Tomato and Mozzarella Cheese
- Pre-Heat oven to 380 (convection oven) or 400 (regular oven)

2. Sprinkle salt and pepper onto each chicken breast. Dredge the each chicken breast through the egg mixture making sure to coat both sides. Then place the chicken breasts into the bread crumb mixture and pat it down on each side so that the crumbs stick to the breasts on both sides. Place breast onto the baking sheet.

3. Place the chicken breasts in the oven and bake for approximately 20-25 minutes. Every oven is slightly different, so keep an eye on your chicken so that it doesn't burn!

4. Take chicken breasts out of the oven and top each breast with a couple of slices of tomato, a couple of fresh basil leaves and a couple of slices of mozzarella cheese. Bake for another 7-10 minutes until cheese is melted.

5. Serve each chicken breast over your favourite pasta or side dish. Enjoy!

Cheese Fondue Recipe

Cheese Fondue Recipe
Recipe by: Chef Cristian Feher

Fondue is a great method of cooking. Especially if you're goal is to entertain your guests! There are several ways to make fondue, and there are many different ingredients that one could use. I will be giving you a basic recipe utilizing Colby jack cheese and dark beer. However, you can experiment with MANY different cheeses, and many different bases (wine, beer, stock, etc). It's important to note that different cheeses will give you different tastes and textures. Some may even split, ball-up, or become really stringy.

To fix a fondue that is too stringy, you can add a few squirts of lemon or lime. Although this may not fix the stringiness altogether, it may cut it down somewhat. If your cheese splits or balls up (there is liquid and cheese separately) you can sprinkle some corn starch a little at a time while mixing, until your mixture comes together again. I actually make a habit of coating the cheese in a bit of corn starch before starting the cooking process.

You can use the traditional "fondue pot" that most people get as a wedding gift, or passed down from a relative. But I make it on the stove when I feel like a quick fondue. As long as you keep the heat low, you'll be fine.

There are some Swiss traditions in "fondueing" that I would like to pass onto you: 1) Traditionally, you would use day-old, slightly stale bread (trust me, it works out great!). 2) If you drop your bread into the cheese everyone must take a drink. And 3) If you double-dip and get caught, you must buy everyone a round of drinks.

I hope you have as much fun as I've had when experimenting with all the different types of cheeses. Treat fondue as an adventure, and you will never be disappointed.

Yields: Fondue for 4-8 people

- 1 - 2 Cups of White Wine or Beer of Choice
- 5 - 8 Cups of Cheese of Choice
- 1 Tbsp of Dijon Mustard
- 1 Clove of Garlic
- Cubed Bread of Choice
- (optional) Fruit or Berries
- (optional) Corn Starch
- (optional) Lime or Lemon


1. Prepare and set aside the following ingredients:
- Peeled and halved garlic clove
- Wine or Beer
- Cubed or Shredded Cheese
- Cube and skewer the bread, and/or fruit

2. Bring the pot to low heat on the stove top (or follow the instructions on your fondue pot). Once pot is hot, rub the inside of the pot with the halved garlic clove (this is called "seasoning" the pot). The purpose of this is to make a base of garlic particles on the bottom of the pot. This will flavour your pot and will help to keep the cheese from sticking to the bottom. Discard the clove after you're done rubbing the pot.

3. Add the liquid and bring to a low simmer. This should happen momentarily.

4. Start adding the cheese one cup at a time and stir with a wooden spoon as it melts. If the cheese splits or balls up, read the notes at the beginning of this recipe to fix it. Do not bring the cheese to a boil. Keep the temperature so that the cheese is melting, but not boiling.

5. Once all the cheese is melted you can stir in the mustard.

6. If your mixture is too thick, just add more of the liquid, and if it's too thin, you can add more cheese. Make sure to have extra of both just in case. Note that as the fondue renders down over time, the flavours will become bolder and richer!

7. Bring your guests into your kitchen and have fun dipping the bread into the cheese with the long skewers!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Basa Fish: A welcome impostor!

Basa Fish: A Welcome Impostor!
By: Chef Cristian Feher

I walked into the seafood store the other day to pick up some Salmon and Tuna for Sushi. I always enjoy looking through the glass and seeing all the different varieties of fish. I have been fascinated by fish ever since I was a kid. I can spend hours just looking at fish, whether it be at the pet store, at the aquarium, fishing magazines or when I'm fishing or snorkeling in the ocean. This interest has come in very handy in my career as a Chef in getting to know the who's-who list of fish. The fish monger, however, is not as enthusiastic as I am, and usually becomes quite impatient with my loitering back and forth across his displays.

I spotted some familiar looking white fish fillets next to the Salmon being sold as "Swai Fillets". I smiled to myself and wondered, "How many more names can this fish possibly have?" I recognized the Basa fillets right away, and asked the fish monger (for my own amusement) to tell me about this fish. Instantly he went on a sales pitch about this new, rare and delicate fish from Australia called Swai and suggested that (at $5.95 per pound - dirt cheap by Floridian seafood prices - but expensive for what it is) I must try it. I then remarked how "I can get these Basa fillets in Toronto for $1.99 per pound!" He sunk down for a few moments and then confessed, like every contraband dealer eventually does!

The real name for this under cover fish is Basa (actually, its Scientific name is Pangasius Bocourti) It is a white, almost odorless, firm fleshed fish. It is a beautiful fish to cook with, as its firm flesh holds together well and is yet delicate enough to incorporate into fine recipes. You can fry it, broil it, batter it, poach it, and incorporate it into rice dishes (such as Paella), Sauces and Soups. (Now I sound like Bubba Gump!) Most of it comes from fish farms and rivers in Vietnam and recently it's coming from Australia too. But this is the type of fish that I would rather expect to find at a knock-off market in Hong Kong next to the fake Gucci wallets and Armani Suits. It is a fish that, due to its wide versatility in texture and taste, can and has been passed off as many other fish and goes by several different names. I have personally bought this fish as Basa, Smooth Dory, Swai, Catfish, Vietnamese Catfish, and Pangasius. And I have been the knowing victim of Chefs trying to pass it off as Snapper, Bass, and Black Cod. I'm sure it goes out in restaurants all over the world, dressed in many different costumes by many different names. It's the quality of this knock-off that is its saving grace.

When first introduced into the American market they threatened to put the cat fishing industry out of business by being sold as "Catfish" to unsuspecting buyers. If the American cat fishing industry hadn't fought back so swiftly and sternly to boycott the sale of basa as "Catfish", I'm sure they would have been finished. To tell you the truth, I would rather eat a mild tasting, fried Basa fillet any day than a stringy, mud flavoured cat fish fillet! But I guess you have to defend your local crop - don't get me started on the blunders we have committed to keep the American corn farmers in business (High Fructose Corn Syrup, and Ethanol but to name a couple).

In short, I am actually very much a fan of the Basa. Not only because of the exciting, under cover, knock-off life it lives, but also because when push comes to shove, its quality is superior to many other fish worth two or three times as much. So the next time you're in your local fish store, give Basa a try. You won't be disappointed!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Five things you didn't know about food

Five Things You Didn't Know About Food
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Nothing is more entertaining at a social gathering than paying close attention while someone divulges previously unknown facts about a certain subject. We've all gathered around in a circle to listen to that certain person tell us what our suit jacket has in common with the space station, and how the shoes you're wearing can help provide energy for a small town in Africa. And although I don't plan on sharing those particular tidbits with you, here are five things about food that you can enlighten your friends with at your next gathering!

Why is beef tenderloin so soft? Any butcher will tell you that the muscles that are most used turn into the toughest cuts of beef. By that same token, the muscles least used in the animal will yield the softest cut. Both, cows and bulls, have tenderloin muscles. The purpose for that muscle in a bull is to mount the cow during mating. However, the cow is female and therefore does not mount anything, so that muscle remains virtually unused by the cow, making it the softest muscle and providing you with delicious, tender steaks!

What does 'No MSG' really mean? By now most of us are aware that a preservative and flavour enhancer called MSG (Mono sodium Glutamate) is not very good for you. And many people try to avoid it by purchasing food products labeled "NO MSG". But did you know that MSG has many different names? MSG can be made many different ways and, chemically speaking, is made from hydrolyzed vegetable protein. So the next time you buy a 'No MSG' product, read the ingredients carefully, because you are most likely to find that it does contain MSG in it. It's just named something different, such as: "Hydrolyzed corn protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, spice, or hydrolyzed (ANYTHING) protein. And it's how those sneaky food manufacturers have been getting away with it up until now.

How can people in hot climates eat such spicy foods? It seems that the closer to the equator you go, the spicier the food gets! Take countries like India, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Thailand. Not only does the weather get extremely hot, but so does the food! As a tourist, you may wonder why people would do that to themselves. You can see them sniffling and sweating while they eat, and it's 100 degrees out! But the truth is that hot peppers containing substances like capsicum cause the body to sweat, which actually cools you as you eat. And many hot spices will also thin out your blood, lowering your body's core temperature.

What did people do before refrigerators? There are many other ways of preserving food. Many cultures used strong mixtures of spices to preserve meats and grains. The spice mixture we know today as "curry" was used in the past by people to preserve meats, and even to cover up the unsavoury taste and smell of slightly rancid food. Spices such as garlic, cinnamon, mustard, cloves and oregano have such high concentrations of anti-microbial (germ killers) that they have been clinically proven to kill the salmonella bacteria.

The "all natural" claim is not so fresh! Marketing companies are constantly throwing you catchy words in order to convince you that something is good for you, when in fact, it's vaguely true at most. Did you know that the marketing term "all natural" really doesn't mean anything? It certainly doesn't mean that what you're eating is good for you. Here are some things that are "all natural": Arsenic, Opium, Snake Venom, Mercury, Death Cap Mushrooms, Atropine, Tetanus, and Strychnine.

Now that you have learned some juicy morsels of moderately important information, go out there and show your friends how smart you really are!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Spaghetti with Yellow Tomato and Bacon

Spaghetti with Yellow Tomato and Bacon
By: Chef Cristian

Today I found some beautiful yellow tomatoes at the local farmer's market. They were too ripe for salad, so the farmer sold them to me for $0.50 per pound! Needless to say, I bought a lot. Over-ripe tomatoes are perfect for sauce, and that's just what I did with them.

Yellow tomatoes are less acidic than the red varieties, and I thought they would be perfect with some sugar and the smoky taste of bacon. The sauce turned out rich orange color and tasted great!
- Spaghetti (I used Dreamfields low carb spaghetti)
- 1/2 Lb of Smoked Bacon Sliced into Lardons (match sticks)
- 1 Small Onion Diced
- Handful of Basil Leaves (or 1 Tbsp of Dried Basil)
- 2 to 3 Lbs of Fresh Yellow Tomato Diced
- Salt and Pepper to taste (This recipe took a lot of salt!)
- Raw Cane Sugar (I used about 3 Tbsp)
- Pinch of Oregano


1. As with all my recipes, the first step is to prepare all your ingredients so that they are ready to go! This means chopping, slicing, dicing, mixing, portioning all the ingredients.

2. Sautee the bacon and onion in a sauce pan until the bacon is rendered and the onion is translucent. About 10-13 minutes. During this time you want to get your pasta water to a rolling boil and keep it on stand-by.

3. I chopped the tomatoes in a food processor along with 3 cloves of garlic and basil, and then added them to the sauce pan. Add sugar, pepper, salt and oregano and simmer until most of the water from the tomatoes evaporates. I cooked the sauce for an hour.

4. When the sauce has thickened and most of the water has evaporated, check the seasoning and add more salt and sugar if you'd like.

5. Cook your pasta according to package instructions and enjoy with the yellow tomato sauce!

Monday, June 1, 2009

10 Ways To Make Life Easier In The Kitchen

10 Ways To Make Life Easier In The Kitchen

By: Chef Cristian

This article requires little introduction, as we can all benefit from having it easier in the kitchen. Here are some tips that I have learned over the years as a chef. I hope this will make your life a little easier in the kitchen!

10. Use good quality cooking pots. Have you ever burnt your dinner? Tired of scraping your breakfast from a sticky pan? Ever melt the plastic handles? My clients always ask me what type of cooking pots I recommend, and this is what I always tell them: You want to choose a set of pots that have a thick, heavy metal plate stamped on the bottom of the pot. This helps to distribute heat evenly (so that your food cooks at the right temperature) and prevents your food from burning. A thin bottom will almost always burn your food if you're not careful. The pots should be made of steel, as aluminum is cheap and tends to warp with use. A good set of heavy, stainless steel pots and pans should last you a lifetime. The handles on the pots should be made of metal, so that you can stick the pots in the oven without having the handles melt. You should have at least one good quality non-stick Teflon pan, which you should only use with plastic or wooden spoons to prevent scratching (never use a metal tool with it). All it takes is one scratch on a Teflon pan to begin the deterioration process. The lids can be tempered glass, but I prefer a solid metal lid, with metal handle that can go in the oven when I need it.

9. Use a good quality food processor. A food processor is an appliance which uses rotary blades inside of a cylinder to chop food. This saves you time. A food processor is not only used to chop foods. Some processors can shred cheese, mix dough, slice vegetables, make dressings, soups and sauces. When choosing a food processor it's always important to get one with a big motor. Get the heaviest unit that you can find, as this denotes a bigger, more powerful motor. There is nothing more unsavoury than an under-powered appliance. I actually bought an old Cuisinart food processor from the 1980's at a thrift shop, and it's the best kitchen appliance I own! It's very heavy and powerful and its simple construction means that it never breaks down. You can save your money and health by making your own fresh dressings, sauces and save time in the kitchen by letting the food processor do all the work for you.

8. Use thick plastic or wooden cutting boards. Never use a glass or stone cutting board. I am not quite sure why they are manufactured. They are loud, they allow your blade to slip all over the place, and they dull your knives faster than any other material I have ever seen. You should only use thick plastic or wooden cutting boards in your kitchen. They offer a sturdy base on which to cut your food, your knives sink slightly into the material (this prevents your blade from slipping), and they don't dull your knives nearly as fast as glass of stone. The plastic boards are also very hygienic and easy to keep clean. I use plastic boards for meats and fish (as they do not absorb liquids), and the wooden ones for everything else. I recommend you keep 2 to 4 boards around the kitchen (2 small ones and 2 big ones).

7. Use a good set of cooking knives. This will be an article all in itself, but I will give you a basic overview of the types of knives which will make your life easier in the kitchen. At the very least, you should be using an 8-12 inch chef knife (The now-popular Japanese Santoku knife is an acceptable substitution - especially if you have small hands). Get used to using this knife for most of your slicing, cutting and chopping. I use my 10 inch chef knife for about 85% of all food processing. You should also have a small, razor-sharp parring knife, a serrated utility knife about 7 inches long (great for dismantling vegetables), serrated bread knife (also the best knife for cutting Tomato), and a boning knife with flexible tip for precise butchering of meats and filleting fish (although I often fillet fish using my chef's knife). I will write a more detailed article on how to choose a set of knives soon. I often observe people preparing their foods using the wrong knives. This causes them to waste more time, ruin the ingredients, strain their wrists, and sometimes even cut themselves. Cooking can be a real pleasure when you're using the right knives!

6. Keep your knives sharp. Would you drive a car with flat tires? Well, using dull knives are sort of the same thing. You tend to squish the food apart rather than slicing through it, and you use way more physical effort and energy than you would with sharp knives. So make your life easy and keep your knives sharp. Learn how to use a wet stone, or buy a knife sharpener from your favourite store. I would also like to point out that a sharpening steel (that long metal stick that comes with most knife sets) is not actually for sharpening your knives. I know many of you like to swish your knife back and forth on it - but the sharpening effect is only a placebo! Its proper use is for making the sharpened edge of your blade straight AFTER you sharpen your knife. The name "sharpening steel" is popular - but technically wrong. Its proper name is a honing steel. And the definition which applies to 'honing' for this tool is: to improve or make more effective (not to sharpen). So running your blade along the honing steel is doing two things - it's making the dullness straight, or it's making the sharpness straight. So make sure to use the honing steel to straighten the edge on a sharpened knife.

5. Keep a roll of aluminum foil. A roll of aluminum foil can make your life easier when you use the oven or grill. Every time I use a baking sheet, I cover it with a layer of tin foil. This prevents the food from sticking to the baking sheet, and also makes cleaning up very easy! Always remember that foil generally has two sides, a shiny side, and a dull side. The dull side is the non-stick side. After many years in the kitchen I memorized this pun, "the non-shiny side is the non-sticky side!". Aluminum foil is also used to stop the surface of foods from burning in the oven. For example, if you are baking a pie, and the top is browning too fast, you can put a piece of tin foil over it to slow the top surface from burning. This ensures that the center of the pie can cook all the way before the top burns.

4. Have the right oils. If you like to cook, you probably use oil in many different dishes and for different uses. I always have good olive oil which I use when I need to make savoury foods, marinade, sauces, and salad dressings. I use corn or vegetable oil for lubricating surfaces (like baking sheets and cooking pans, etc), and I use peanut oil for frying. Peanut oil can take a lot of heat and is less likely to burn and go bad as quickly as other oils. So it's a very good choice to put in your deep fryer, or to use for pan frying foods. NOTE: Taste your olive oil for freshness. If it's bitter and burns the back of your throat, it has gone rancid. Rancid oil is bad for the body and you should always make sure that you're using fresh oil.

3. Have your fridge set to the right temperature. Make sure that you control the temperature on your fridge often. A fridge that is too cold can freeze foods and spoil them. This is especially true with vegetables. They die and go limp as soon as they get too cold. A fridge that is too hot will cause food to spoil quickly. So to save money and food, make sure that your fridge is as close to 37 degrees as possible. Keep your vegetables in the crisper, and your meats and cheese in the coldest part of your fridge. Keeping a thermometer in your fridge will allow you keep track of the temperature. Remember that it takes about 24 hours for the temperature to change after you've adjusted the controls.

2. Keep a roll of plastic bags. Have you ever seen those rolls of plastic bags in the produce section of the supermarket? Not the micro-thin, impossible to open ones - the good quality, thick plastic ones. I keep a roll of these in my kitchen (I got them from an Asian market). They are great for marinading meats, and storing foods (both solid and liquid). You can store way more baggies of food in a small space than you can using plastic containers. They are also good for throwing out juicy things in the garbage. And they take up way less room than drawers full of plastic containers. If you have a small kitchen that is being over-run by plastic containers, these bags will save you a lot of space.

1. Hire a personal chef! The best thing you can do for yourself is to hire a personal chef. We learn about your eating habits, favourite foods and become your own private restaurant. We do the menu planning, shopping, and provide you with top notch gourmet food right in the comfort of your kitchen! We even clean up our own mess! Our service is reasonably priced and made to work with your lifestyle.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Where Does Your Salmon Come From?

Where Does Your Salmon Come From?

By: Chef Cristian

The sushi chef has prepared a beautiful plate of Salmon Sashimi (raw sliced salmon). Trusting its quality and freshness, you dab a little Wasabi on it, dip it in the soya sauce and toss it back. The buttery flavour melts in your mouth, and after $50 worth of sushi you realize, once again, that you've had way too much! Did you ever stop to think where that salmon came from?

Now picture yourself walking through the fresh wilderness of British Columbia. You come to stand on a pile of mossy rocks. Behind you stands a forest of tall pines hiding in the mist, and before you is the cold Pacific Ocean. You take a deep breath of fresh air and think, "Man, this is nature at it's best!" You walk along the rocky shore and spot one of British Columbia's salmon farms off in the distance. You go in for a close look expecting to find salmon swimming busily about in their natural habitat. Instead, you find out something not-so-natural...

Thousands of salmon are thrashing about in an enclosed pen of brown, murky water. The stench is similar to that of a pig farm, and you pinch your nose for a closer look. The water is brown from the salmon's feces and at the bottom of the ocean floor is a thick layer of feces and un-eaten food. This creates a dead zone for any creatures that once inhabited this ocean inlet. It is now a toxic wasteland of murky water and thrashing salmon. The same salmon that might end up at the business end of your chopsticks. They spend so much time breathing and swimming in this water that their flesh (normally orange-red from a natural diet of crustaceans and sea life) is now a pale brown, and must be chemically colored back to orange to make you buy it at the store! This is "farm raised salmon."

I was as surprised as you are when I discovered this, and although not all fish farms may operate this way - many do. I have since made sure that any salmon that I eat is wild caught only. Luckily you can still find wild caught salmon at your local fish store, and awareness of this situation is slowly reaching the general public. This is not a call to stop eating salmon (as there are many benefits to eating this nutrient rich fish) it's just an article to better inform you what you are eating, where it comes from, and what effects it may be causing to the environment.

I have had much success with wild caught Alaskan salmon and believe it to be a superior product in terms of quality, taste and texture over conventional farm raised salmon. So don't be shy about asking where your salmon comes from!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Dijon Crusted Lamb Chops

Dijon Crusted Lamb Chops
By: Chef Cristian

These succulent lamb chops have been such a success for me that I feel almost ashamed to give away their secret - which, really, is just their simplicity. Of all the dishes I have ever made, (and as a chef, I have made MANY) these lamb chops have never failed to satisfy my guests, and I continue to receive rave reviews on them regularly.

You can serve this dish as a beautiful appetizer or a stunning main course. And I have have also served these as hot appetizers at cocktail parties with a spicy Dijon dip. The frenched bone makes them very easy to pick up and eat with your hands!

Yield: 4 Portions

- 2 Racks of Lamb (Frenched - Meaning that the bones have been scraped of meat and skin and are exposed)
- Red Wine (I use Shiraz for this recipe)
-3 Sprigs of Fresh Rosemary (bruised - meaning that you hit the plant with the back of a knife to bruise them)
- 4 Cloves Fresh Garlic roughly chopped
- 2 Cups Italian Breadcrumbs
- Dijon or Meaux Mustard (also known as whole grain mustard)
- About 1 cup of Olive Oil (you may need more)
- Horseradish (optional)

As with all of my recipes, the first step is to prepare all of you ingredients and have them ready to go! This could mean mixing, chopping, pouring, cutting, dicing - you get the idea.

Step 1.
Cut the rack of lamb into individual chops and marinade them in the wine, Rosemary and garlic. Add enough wine so that the chops are covered. I like to use plastic bags to marinate instead of bowls because I find that the marinading liquid is in much closer contact with the meat. Marinade anywhere from 1 hour to 4 hours.

Step 2.
In a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, Dijon mustard and olive oil. If you like, you can add horseradish to this mixture, but this is up to you. Mix thoroughly. This will be your crust, so make sure that it is moist enough so that when you press the mixture into a spoon with the palm of your hand, it sticks together and doesn't easily crumble apart.

Step 3.
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay the individual chops on a baking sheet lined with non-stick aluminum foil. Scoop a heaping spoonful (using a regular soup spoon) of the breadcrumb mixture onto a spoon and compact it by squeezing with the palm of your hand around the spoon. Then transfer the crust from the spoon onto one lamb chop and press it into the lamb with your hand so that the top side of the lamb chop has an oval layer of Dijon crust on it. Repeat this for each lamb chop.
Step 4.
Roast lamb in oven for 15-20 minutes (depending on how well done you like your lamb). Take out of the oven and transfer onto a platter, appetizer dish of main course according to how you will be using this versatile dish!


Friday, May 8, 2009

Snow Crab Legs with Tequila Mary-Rose Sauce

Snow Crab Legs with Tequila Mary-Rose Sauce

By: Chef Cristian

There is nothing quite as refreshing as eating crab legs by the sea. I was inspired to create this appetizer for a couple of clients who were vacationing at a beautiful beach house on Clearwater beach. The sun was shining, the breeze was tropical, and you could hear the waves lapping on the shore as crab legs were busily cracked and enjoyed!

This recipe offers an easy way to satisfy your guests. The sweet sauce has a kick of tequila that will keep your guests wanting more! I had lots of fun designing this dish, and was able to use sea shells right from the beach, along with a half coconut to hold the dipping sauce! Be sure to put out a big bowl for the cracked shells.

Note: Snow Crab legs usually come in clusters. Each cluster is made up of 3 to 5 legs. The base of the legs is full of juicy meat, so make sure to eat that too! You should portion one to two clusters per guest as an appetizer, and more if it's the main course. The best tool to get crab meat out of the shells are single wooden chopsticks. Lobster picks work too. Nut-Crackers may be provided for your guests, but most people can crack crab legs with their hands.

Snow Crab Legs (one to two clusters per guest)
2 Lemons
Louisiana Hot Sauce
1.5 Cups of Mayonnaise
1.5 Cups of Tomato Ketchup
2 oz of Tequila (your favourite Tequila)


1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut two lemons in half and put them in the water along with a generous amount of salt. Add the snow crab legs to the water and boil for 15 minutes. Set aside.

2. In a bowl, mix the following ingredients: The mayonnaise, ketchup, hot sauce and tequila. Add as much hot sauce as you like. Mix thoroughly until it becomes a uniformly pink sauce.

3. Arrange Crab legs on a platter and serve with dipping sauce on the side.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Apple Cider Vinegar: From headaches, to salads!

Apple Cider Vinegar: From headaches, to salads!
By: Chef Cristian

I am very interested in the effects that foods can have on the body, and am always excited when I get to experiment with their effectiveness. I moved from Toronto to the Tampa Bay area in Florida. It's been said that Florida has 360 days of sunshine per year, and although it's a welcome change from the Canadian climate, I have been finding that the heat is quite something to get used to! Especially since I've been getting headaches (from too much heat and loss of minerals through sweat). So I decided to be my own Guinea Pig and try to see if a natural solution was to be found.

I never take drugs, but I do pay attention to how some of them work. I could have easily taken some Aspirin or Tylenol to get rid of my headache, but would never want to rely on man-made drugs to survive the Florida heat. So I started to search for a natural food that would have the same effect and would relieve my headache.

When you sweat a lot, your body loses vital salts and electrolytes. So I started by taking some salt and potassium pills to try to replenish the loss. And although they sometimes work, the headache was still there. I knew that I had not kept myself hydrated properly over the past few days and it would probably take more than some salt and water to get my body back to normal in this heat (it's not even summer here yet!). A drug like Aspirin is a type of acid, and from what I understand, its main effect in getting rid of pain is the fact that it thins out your blood. So in order to thin out my blood and get rid of this headache without using drugs I was looking for a food that is very acidic and contains lots of minerals. So I started to rummage through my kitchen and finally found some organic apple cider vinegar in my fridge. This seemed to fit the description. I diluted a couple of tablespoons in a glass of water and chugged the disgusting mixture down. Low and behold! The headache had dissipated and was gone within a few minutes!

After a few pain-free hours, the headache came back slightly, so I decided to try the vinegar again - this time, with half a teaspoon of baking soda to mellow out the acid and see if it would still work. So I mixed approximately one tablespoon of vinegar in 6 ounces of water, added a half a teaspoon of baking soda and drank it while it was still fizzing. Headache was gone in 5 minutes, and my neck muscles felt more relaxed. It worked again!

So my conclusion is that the apple cider vinegar has just enough acidity to thin your blood, and just enough minerals and electrolytes. Which combined, worked like a pain relief drug to get rid of my headache and relax the muscles in that area. And apparently, it works even when you mix a little baking soda to mellow out the PH.

I would like to make this ingredient taste good for you. So I will include a couple of recipes so that you can get rid of your heat headache and enjoy it at the same time!

Headache Buster Salad Dressing:

- 3/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/4 Cup Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
- Pinch of Himalayan, or Raw Sea Salt to taste (sea and Himalayan salts tend to have more mineral content than regular iodized table salts)
- Black pepper to taste
- 1 Tbsp of Dijon Mustard
- Pinch of Cayenne Pepper (also known to be a natural pain killer)
- 1 Clove of Finely Minced Garlic
- 1 Tsp of Dried Parsley Flakes

Mix together and keep in a squirt bottle. Shake well and pour onto your favourite salads. It feels good to eat a nice, fresh salad on a hot day! This keeps your electrolytes in and may prevent, or aleviate, a heat headache. This will keep in your fridge for a few weeks.

Headache Buster Apple Tea Cocktail!

- 1 Cup of Apple Cider or Apple Juice
- 1 Cup of Iced Tea (sweetened)
- 2 Tbsp of Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
- Ice Cubes
- Cocktail Shaker

Pour all these ingredients into a cocktail shaker with some ice and then serve in a Martini glass. Enjoy this in the backyard with a cocky smile as the Sun looks down!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Macadamia Crusted Black Grouper with Jasmin Coconut Rice
By: Chef Cristian

This meal was inspired by a client of mine who lived in Hawaii for many years and requested a cooking lesson with a Hawaiian theme. I immediately asked myself what I could prepare with Macadamia nuts, and came up with this recipe. I like using these nuts because of their high monounsaturated fat content, which happens to be very healthy for you. I also think it's a great tasting nut, and pairs well with the aroma or garlic and parsley.

I will be using a fresh Black Grouper fillet from the Gulf of Mexico. But you can substitute any white ocean fish that you like.

YIELD: 4 Portions

- 4 Black Grouper Fillets
- Half a tin of Macadamia Nuts
- 1/2 cup of Parsley
- 3 Cloves of Garlic
- Olive Oil
- 1 lemon or 2 Limes cut into wedges

Ingredients for Jasmin Coconut Rice:
- 2 Cups of Jasmin Rice
- Water
- 1 Cup of Coconut Milk (you can buy this canned if you don't have it fresh)
- Tsp of Salt


1. The first step in all of my recipes is to prepare all of the ingredients. This means that you mix, chop, cut, and dice everything that you're going to need! For this recipe you should prepare:
- Minced Macadamia Nuts
- Minced Parsley
- Minced Garlic

2. Pre-heat your oven to 400. Have a baking sheet ready (preferably non-stick). You can put non-stick tin foil on your pan and rub it with a little vegetable oil so the fish won't stick to the pan.

3. Mix the Macadamia Nut, Parsley and Garlic and swirl about 1/4 cup of olive oil into the mixture. Mix well.

4. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper on the fish fillets. Then put the macadamia nut mixture on the fillets by pressing down with your hands or a spatula to make a crust that covers the top of the fish fillet. The crust doesn't have to be thick.

5. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes until fish easily flakes. Make sure not to burn the Macadamia Nut crust.

6. Serve with Coconut Rice (Directions Below)

NOTE: This fish goes great with some fresh lemon or lime squeezed on it once you're ready to eat it!

Coconut Rice Directions:

1. Add 2 cups of Jasmin Rice to rice cooker or rice pot. Add 1 cup of Coconut Milk and 1 cup of water to rice. Add a teaspoon of salt. Stir once.

1a. If using a slow cooker, place the lid on, and turn the cooker on. Wait for the rice to be ready.

1b. If using a rice pot, bring the rice and coconut water to a boil. As soon as it boils, turn the temperature down to low heat and cover with a lid. Cook for 20-25 minutes. Do not uncover while rice is cooking. Enjoy.

NOTE: In Hawaii you would be looked upon as a foreigner for eating rice with butter! Traditionally, it's OK to squirt some Soy Sauce on it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What do I do with this avocado?

What do I do with this avocado?
by: Chef Cristian

You were walking down the produce isle and spotted a mob of people busily squeezing a case of avocados. So naturally, you got in there and started squeezing some yourself. You noticed that some were rock-hard, and you put them back. Others were way too soft and smelled a little rank. Those went back too. But this one, oh yes! This one! Glorious leathery skin, nice heavy weight, and its semi-soft flesh gave in reluctantly to your gentle squeeze. So you whisked it away and gave it a good home on your kitchen table. Now what?

I could tell you many things about the avocado. I could tell you that the ancient Aztecs called it ahuacatl (testicle). I could tell you that the Jamaicans call it the Alligator Pear due to it's tough reptilian-like skin. I could also tell you that the Berkley Campus of the University of California claims to have the oldest avocado tree dated back to 1879. But I'm sure you're hungry, and that avocado is strutting around your kitchen making you look weak in front of the other food! So let's get down to business.

I'm going to give you four quick ways to enjoy that avocado. And I will also give you a couple of tips that you may find helpful!

To ripen an avocado faster, place it in a paper bag. When an avocado is ripe, place it in the fridge to slow down the ripening process. If you have too many, you can mash them and freeze them, adding one tbsp of lemon juice per avocado so they don't turn brown. A zip lock bag works perfectly for this. Thaw it out in the fridge, or run the bag under warm water if you're in hurry.

Avocado Guacamole:
The ingredients can be minced with a knife, but you can do it faster with a food processor. Mash a couple of avocados in a bowl with a fork, and add some minced parsley, garlic (2 cloves), and half a red pepper (minced). Add salt and pepper to taste and mix a couple of swirls of extra virgin olive oil in there. A squirt of lemon juice keeps it from turning brown. Add minced hot chilies if you like it spicy!

Avocado Toast:
Toast your favourite piece of bread, spread butter on it, spread a generous amount of ripe avocado, and sprinkle some sea salt and fresh ground pepper. This brings back memories of breakfast in Tobago!

Avocado with Mary-Rose Sauce:
Slice some avocado and arrange the slices on a plate along with slices of fresh tomato. Mix one part Mayonnaise, and one part Tomato Ketchup with a squirt of hot sauce. Pour sauce over the avocado and tomato and you're done. You can also reward yourself for being such a good avocado picker by adding freshly boiled Tiger Shrimp!

Avocado Milk Shake:
Yes, that's right. Avocados are used in many countries as part of delicious sweet drinks and desserts. And this one is one of my favourite summer recipes. In a blender, pour 2 cups of milk, 2 large scoops of vanilla ice cream, and 2 large avocados and 3 Tbsp of Cane Sugar. Blend and serve in tall glass. Top with whipped cream and chopped mint (optional) and enjoy! If it's not sweet enough for you, add a couple of tbsp of sugar or condensed milk to taste.

Now, go show that avocado who's the boss! And invite some friends (they might bring you more avocados).

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Choosing Between Nuclear Oranges, and Organic Apples

Choosing Between Nuclear Oranges, and Organic Apples
By: Chef Cristian

With all this talk about Organic foods versus Genetically Modified and Irradiated foods, people are still left wondering, "What am I eating?". Most of us can agree that not enough research has been conducted on the effects of eating genetically-modified (GM) foods. We simply have not been eating this stuff long enough to know the true effects that it may have on our genetic make-up. For example, geneticists have come up with something they call "Bt-corn". It's a corn plant that they have genetically modified to produce it's own poison - yes, that's right, the corn makes its own insecticide. So when bugs eat it, they die. Although it's sold as "safe for human consumption" I am still left wondering if a product like this would be safe over time.

Irradiated produce is given low doses of radiation at the time it's harvested to kill off any insects, and fungus. Would you be comfortable feeding this to your family? Being a Chef, I always try to find the healthiest foods for my family and my clients, and I try to stick to Organic and conventional produce. I find that a little pesticide washes off a lot easier than radiation or genetically manipulated DNA!

You may be the type of person that buys produce in the "Organic" section with the confidence that you're feeding your family a safe-to-eat product. But how do you really know? Well, luckily there is a way to know exactly what type of produce you are feeding your family.

Every fruit and vegetable you buy at your local grocery store has a PLU code (Price Look Up) printed somewhere on the product packaging, or on the product pricing tag. This PLU is used by the food industry (and your grocery store) to identify what type of produce it is, how it was treated and where it came from. And now you can use it too.

How to read PLU codes:

  • Conventional Produce has a four digit number starting in 4. Bananas, for example, might be 4042.
  • GM, or Genetically Modified produce has an 8 in front of the four digit number. GM Bananas would be 84042.
  • Organic produce has a 9 in front of the four digit number. Organic bananas would be 94042.
  • Irradiated produce has a four digit code that starts in 3. So irradiated bananas would be 3042.
Now that you know how the food industry labels its products, you can shop with more confidence and feed your family what you originally intended them to eat.

Calorie Counting Is Not For Rocket Scientists Anymore!

Calorie Counting is Not for Rocket Scientists Anymore!
By: Chef Cristian

The basic tools of losing weight are actually quite simple, as long as you understand the mathematics of weight loss and weight gain. I have written this article to show you how you can use the mathematics of calories to reach and maintain your ideal body weight.

A calorie is a unit of energy. Simply stated, each food will furnish your body with a different amount of energy. We measure this energy in units called Calories. For example, a small apple will have less calories than a big bacon cheeseburger. Your body needs a certain amount of food energy each day to stay healthy. If you feed your body too many calories, it probably gains weight. If you don't feed your body enough calories, your body loses weight. So how many calories do you need each day?

Thanks to Scientists with horn-rimmed glasses and dateless Friday nights, certain formulas were invented a while back. And although they were invented by smart people, these formulas are easy to use. You will use this formula to figure out how many calories your body needs in order to stay the same. This is called the BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). The BMR is just the amount of calories that your body needs to eat in order to stay the same weight (not gain or lose weight) each day. Once we figure out the BMR we can then plan how many calories you will need to eat in order to lose weight, gain weight or maintain your current body weight. I would like you to keep in mind that one pound of fat is made up of 3500 calories. This will become useful to you in a moment.

Here are both BMR formulas for men and women:

  • Women: BMR = 655 + ( 4.35 x weight in pounds ) + ( 4.7 x height in inches ) - ( 4.7 x age in years )

  • Men: BMR = 66 + ( 6.23 x weight in pounds ) + ( 12.7 x height in inches ) - ( 6.8 x age in year )
Now that you know what your BMR is, you will need to go a step further. Different people do different types of activities throughout the day. Some of you are athletes and some of you are couch potatoes! So if both of you have the same BMR, you will still need different amount of calories to have your bodies stay the same weight.

Here is the activity level formula:

  • If you are sedentary (little or no exercise) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.2

  • If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.375

  • If you are moderatetely active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.55

  • If you are very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.725

  • If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.9
Now that you know a more exact BMR, we can go on to the weight loss part. So let's say that your BMR was 2000 calories, and after doing the activity formula you found yourself being lightly active and your BMR is now calculated to be 2400. Now you know that if you want to stay the same weight, you eat 2400 calories per day. But I know that most of you want to lose weight, so this is how you do it.

Doctors recommend that a safe rate of weight loss is 1 to 2 Lbs of weight per week. They also say that you should not cut out more than 1000 calories from your BMR. Always consult your doctor before beginning a calorie restricted diet. With that being said, let's do a plan for you to lose weight.

We will use the example of a Larry who has a BMR of 2400 calories per day. We know Larry wants to lose 2 Lbs per week. We know that each pound of fat is made up of 3500 calories, so two pounds of fat would be 7000 calories. This means that Larry would have to eat 7000 calories less for the week if he wants to lose 2 Lbs. This can be done by having 1000 less calories each day. So the daily amount of calories that Larry would need would be 1400 calories. If Larry finds that it's too hard to cut out 1000 calories from his diet each day, he can eat more calories BUT he must now exercise more. For example, he could cut only 500 calories per day from his food intake (instead of 1000), and go to the gym and burn the other 500 calories by running on the treadmill. It's actually recommended that you mix diet and exercise together for best results. If you cut too many calories from your diet, your body goes into starvation mode and slows down your metabolism. You do not want your body to do this, so you should balance exercise and diet.

Now that you know how many calories you will need to eat in order to lose weight, how do you calculate the amount of food to eat? Luckily for you, almost every food product comes with nutritional information printed on the package which tells you how many calories per portion the food is worth. For example, a can of tuna might say 240 Calories per Cup. And your bag of rice might say that it's 140 calories per Cup. You will need to start calculating food portions, and although it may get annoying, it will ensure that you reach your weight goals. There are calorie guides you can buy at you local bookstore, and there are a great many resources that can be found on the internet which tell you the caloric values of each food.

Although the formulas are all laid out for you, some of you still may find it too tedious to keep track of how many calories you are eating every day. In this case, I recommend hiring a personal chef that will be able to measure out your food portions to create your ideal calorie diet. I have helped many clients with their weight loss goals by saving them time and providing them with carefully portioned meals. I hope that you have found this article helpful!

Coq au Vin Recipe

Coq au Vin Recipe
By: Chef Cristian

Coq au Vin is a classic French dish that translates simply to "Chicken with Wine". Although it's not for the calorie concious, it's certainly good for your soul! Rich sauce, pearl onions and the unmistakable aroma of herbs and bacon bring this chicken dish together. This is a good opportunity to use some of that left over cooking wine, and to use fresh herbs.

For this recipe you can use either white or dark chicken meat. I prefer dark meat because it's moist and more flavourful than white meat. But if you have picky guests, you can cut up a whole chicken into quarters and serve them white meat.

If I was serving this dish for a dinner party, I would roast some Cornish Game Hens (what the French call "Poussin") and serve this sauce over them for a fabulously French dish! No need to wear your Beret, this dish should Frenchify your evening all by itself!

- 4 Chicken Leg Quarters (or a whole chicken cut into 4 quarters)
- 2 Cups of Red Wine (or any left over wine you have around your kitchen)
- 2 Cups of Chicken Stock
- 1 Cup of Pearl Onions
- 1/2 Lb of Smoked Bacon
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 1 Sprig of Thyme
- Parsley
- 1 Cup of Small Button Mushrooms
- 2 Cloves of Garlic
- Flour
- Vegetable Oil
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 Tsp of Paprika


1. The first step in all of my recipes is to prepare all your ingredients. This means, chopping, dicing, peeling, slicing, washing, everything you're going to need. You will prepare the following:
- Make the stock (either from scratch or from bullion) and keep it warm.
- Cut your chicken up into quarters if using a whole chiken and keep the skin on.
- Wash the mushrooms and, if small, keep them whole.
- Chop some parsley for garnish.
- Thaw the pearl onions if you bought them frozen.
- Mince the garlic cloves.

2. For the classic French recipe, you would first blanch (quickly boil) the bacon before slicing it. This takes some of the salty taste away. But I enjoy the full taste of the bacon, so I omit this step. Slice the bacon into thin slices called "Lardons". Add these to the pot and begin to cook them. Do this until some of the fat begins to render out of them, about 7 minutes.

3. Add the chicken to the pot and make sure to fry both sides. Do this for another 5 minutes.

4. Add the pearl onions, bay leaves, thyme, paprika and mushrooms. Add some salt to the chicken. This will help to bring the flavour out. Cook together for another 5-7 minutes.

5. Add the wine, stock and garlic and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

6. Mix a Roux in a small bowl by combining one cup of flour with enough oil to form a paste the same consistency as toothpaste. Mixing this with a fork works well. You will use this mixture to thicken the sauce.

7. Once the chicken is cooked through, remove it from the pot. You will be left with the sauce gently simmering. With a whisk, start adding a bit of roux and mixing it thoroughly until the sauce is thick enough for you liking. Use small amounts of roux at a time so that you don't over-thicken the sauce. Mix the roux into the sauce quickly using a whisk so that you don't get any lumps. Once you have reached your desired thickness, adjust the salt and pepper to taste and add the chicken back to the sauce. Cook for another 10-15 minutes on med low heat.
8. When ready to serve, remove the bay leaves and sprig of thyme from the sauce. Sprinkle with fresh Parsley. You can serve this dish with creamy mashed potato, fragrant rice pilaf or any starchy side that will absorb the sauce. Bon appetit!

Braised Lamb Shanks Recipe (using slow cooker)

By: Chef Cristian

Braising is an excellent method of cooking when working with tough meats. Braising is classically done by, first, browning the meat on all sides on a hot skillet. This helps to seal the moisture inside the meat. The meat is then placed in a pot with a lid and is cooked with a small amount of liquid for a long time at low heat. This method of cooking results in a juicy, tender dish with rich flavour and moisture.

For this particular recipe I will be using a slow cooker, or “crockpot”. This is an appliance which cooks food at very low temperatures for a very long time.

This recipe is very similar to my Osso Bucco recipe (Braised Beef Shanks) and you can substitue Beef or Veal Shanks for the Lamb and make a tasty Osso Bucco.
I would serve this dish with creamy mashed potatoes if cooking this dish at home. But if I was trying to wow a crowd (I wouldn’t have to try hard with this dish) I would serve it on a bed of Spatzle or Pearled Barley with Herbs, which would absorb much of the rich sauce. As for a wine pairing; Any wine that you enjoy is the perfect wine! However, a bold Red Wine such as Shiraz or Merlot would go quite nicely with this saucy dish.

6 Lamb Shanks
3 to 4 Cups of Beef Stock
3 Tbsp of Tomato Paste
2 to 3 Cups of Red Wine
2 Large Bay Leaves
A pinch of dried Rosemarry, Oregano and Thyme
1 Medium Onion Diced
3 Celery Stalks Sliced
2 Medium Carrots Diced
Vegetable Oil
Salt and Pepper


1. The first step in all of my recipes is to prepare all your ingredients. This means that you mix, chop, cut, dice, and prepare everything you’re going to need! For this recipe you should have ready to go:
- Prepared Beef Stock
- Tomato Paste Ready to go
- Diced Vegetables

2. Add the lamb shanks, beef stock, bay leaves, red wine, and dried herbs to the slow cooker and cover with lid.

3. Turn the slow cooker on low and cook for 7 hours. Once you have placed the lid on the slow cooker and turned it on, do not uncover it. The slow cooker takes a long time to heat up and you could lose much of that heat by uncovering it. Once the lamb is cooked. Take the shanks out of the slow cooker and keep them on the side while you work on the sauce. Keep all the liquid that is in the slow cooker. You are about to make a sauce with it.

4. Bring a sauce pot to medium heat, add a small amount of vegetable oil and start to cook the diced onion, carrot and celery. Cook for about 15 minutes until onion is translucent.
Add the liquid from the slow cooker into the sauce pot. Add the 3 Tbsp of Tomato Paste and mix with a whisk or spoon. Bring to a simmer.

5. While you are waiting for the sauce to simmer, add a cup of flour to a bowl and add vegetable oil to it. Mix it with a fork. Add just enough vegetable oil to the flour so that it creates a paste the consistency of tooth paste. This is called a roux and it will be used to thicken your sauce.
Once the sauce has come to a simmer, turn the heat down low and begin to add the roux with a whisk (make sure to mix thoroughly and quickly). Add a little roux at a time until desired thickness has been reached in the sauce (you don't have to use all the roux). Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Cook sauce at low heat for another 15 minutes. Once the sauce is ready, combine the shanks and the sauce together and enjoy with your favourite side dish such as: Mashed Potato, Pearled Barley or Spatzle.

Spanish Seafood Paella with Jasmin Rice Recipe

Spanish Seafood Paella with Jasmin Rice
By: Chef Cristian

When I find fresh Seafood, the first word that comes to my mind is "Paella!". This dish brings back childhood memories, and after all these years it's still one of those dishes that I find exciting to cook and delicious to eat.

A Paella is a baked (or charcoal simmered) rice dish typical of Spain. The basic Paella would be a white rice simmered in saffron infused stock, sauteed onions and peppers. From this versatile base people started coming up with all sorts of different variations. You can add anything from chicken wings to the classic mixture of seafood to this dish. Maybe that's why after all these years I still find the Paella an exciting dish to prepare. You can always add different ingredients to it.

In this recipe I will be using fresh seafood as the main flavouring ingredients. I will also be using Jasmine rice to add an exotic scent to this dish. I was out of White Rice one day, and decided to use Jasmin Rice instead. To my surprise, it turned out to be a fantastic combination of scents and flavour. I hope you will agree with me!
Make sure that you have a roasting pan with a lid that you can use, both, on the stove and in the oven.

NOTE: When buying Shrimp, you will often see numbers such as 8/12, 16/20, 31/40, etc writen on the package. That means "Shrimp Per Pound". So the smaller the number, the bigger the shrimp. For example, in a package of 8/12 shrimp, it would only take 8 to 12 shrimp to make a pound. Whereas it would take 31 to 40 Shrimp to make up a pound in a bag of smaller Shrimp.

YIELD: 6-8 portions

2 Cups of Jasmin Rice
4 Cups of Chicken, or Fish Stock (I used Fish Stock)
1 Lb of Tiger Shrimp shelled and deveined (I used size 21-24)
1 Lb of Squid cleaned and cut into rings
.5 Lb of your favourite fish fillet cut into 1 inch cubes (I used Cod Fillets)
(optional) 1 Lb of cleaned Mussels and/or Pasta Clams
.5 Lb of Sea Scallops
1 large Spanish Onion Diced
2 Large Red Bell Peppers Diced
1/2 cup of peas
1 handfull of chopped Parsley
1/3 cup of Manzanilla Olives with Pimentos Chopped
2 Tbsp of Capers
3 cloves of Garlic minced
Very fragrant olive oil (I recommend Greek or Portuguese olive oil)
Salt and Pepper to taste


1. The first step in all of my recipes is to prepare all your ingredients. This means that you mix, chop, cut, dice, and prepare everything you’re going to need! For this recipe you should prepare:
- The fish or chicken stock
- The seafood should be prepared and stored in fridge until ready to cook
- Diced Onions, Olives, Peppers and Minced Garlic

2. Place roasting pan on stovetop (if it's large, you may have to use two burners at the same time) and bring to med high heat. Pre-heat oven to 360 degrees.

3. Add enough olive oil to slightly coat the bottom surface of the pan and add the onions, peppers, garlic, capers, olives and parsley. Sautee the vegetables for 10-15 mins until the onions become translucent. Keep things moving with a wooden spoon to avoid burning the garlic.

4. Add all the seafood and sautee for another 15 minutes until it has released all its liquid. You will see the pan start to fill up with water. These are the juices of the seafood and will be one of the main flavourings of this dish. At this point you can add the pinch of saffron. Notice the color change to a nice yellow or orange.

5. Add the rice followed by the stock and the peas. Adjust the salt and pepper (make sure it's very flavourful). Bring to a simmer. As soon as it starts to simmer, give it one big stir, place the lid on the roasting pan and place it in the oven. Cook for 30-40 mins. Do not open lid during this time.

6. Remove the pan from the oven and open up the lid. Add a couple of swirls of olive oil and stir once. Let the paella rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Dried Porcini Mushroom and Boursin Cheese Risotto

Dried Porcini and Boursin Risotto
By: Chef Cristian

Risotto is like a white canvas. It's a creamy and satisfying base which allows itself to be painted by a chef's immagination. It's not something I like to have too often, but it's certainly a dish I look forward to making. And each time, I like to re-create it, as I would a painting, with a new combination of ingredients. Dried Mushrooms develop an unmistakable earthy flavour which I think is perfect for flavouring a creamy risotto. I will also be adding a creamy, garlicky Boursin cheese just before serving it!

Risotto cookery is not hard - but you do have to follow a few rules. 1) You must use a very starchy rice (Arborio Rice) that will develop that typical creaminess that risotto is renown for. 2) Don't walk away from your risotto. You must be able to stay with it through the cooking process. Those of you with commitment issues might want to try an easier dish! 3) Risotto should be served immediately for best texture. I wouldn't serve a risotto to guests that is older than 15-20 minutes. (although I have found that microwaving the next day with a little water, does bring it back a lot of its creaminess... but don't tell anyone!)

Yields: 3-4 portions

- 1.5 cups of Arborio Rice
- 4-5 cups of Mushroom or Chicken Stock (it's ok if you make too much)
- 2 Shallots
- 1 Cup of dried Porcini Mushrooms
- 1/2 Cup Minced Pancetta or Bacon (optional)
- 1 Cup of regular White Mushrooms
- 1/3 Cup of fresh Chopped Parsley
- White wine of choice
- 1 little box of Boursin Cheese
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and Pepper to taste


1. The first step in all of my recipes is to prepare all your ingredients. This means, chopping, dicing, peeling, slicing, washing, everything you're going to need. You will prepare the following:
- Make the stock (either from scratch or from bullion) and keep it warm
- Dice Shallots
- Soak the dried mushrooms in a little bowl with water until they get soft (keep the water)
- Slice the pancetta or bacon into thin slivers
- Chop up the white mushrooms into pieces
- Wash and chop the parsley

2. Put a cooking pot on the stove and bring it up to med high heat. Pour in a swirl or two of olive oil. Add the Shallots, and Bacon and sautee until the shallots are translucent and you have rendered most of the fat out of the bacon. About 10-12 mins.

3. Add the white mushrooms and the parsley and sautee for another 5 minutes or until the
mushrooms start to release some of their liquid.

4. Add the Arborio Rice and stir immediately so that it doesn't burn. You can let the rice toast for a minute. After this, add about a 1/2 to full cup of white wine and stir for another minute. Add the Porcini Mushrooms and the brown water that has formed in the bowl (make sure that there is no silt or sand in the bowl. Dried mushrooms will sometimes have sand stuck to them. If this is the case, it's better not to use the liquid in the bowl.)

5. Now comes the technical part - Add stock just enough to slightly cover the rice and bring it to a simmer. For the next 25 minutes you will keep adding stock slowly and stirring the risotto. Always keep just enough stock in the risotto to just barely cover the top layer of rice, don't drown it. You want to keep this at a temperature where the dish is gently simmering (not boiling violently). You will notice that the rice absorbs a lot of stock, so keep adding when you see it getting low on stock, and keep stiring often so that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. At the end of the 25 minutes you want a rice that is soft when you bite through it (some people like it a tiny bit hard in the middle - this is called "al dente"). As soon as you have a creamy and soft rice take it off the heat. At this point, add as much Boursin cheese as you like and stir it in quickly so that it incorporates into the creamy risotto. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately and enjoy!