My grandmother was born on St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin. She loved a good loaf of bread, not so much the typical Irish soda bread but one made from heavier dough with lots of flavours added in. This pull-apart loaf, an homage to her, is exactly that.
It starts with the same base as the mouthwatering deep-fried nodini (literally, little knots) served at Bar Buca in Toronto: pizza dough. (You can use fresh or frozen; I prefer whole wheat, but white is also fine.) I use the same method Bar Buca does of shaping the slices into little knots, though the bread here is baked, not fried.
Using store-bought pizza dough means the loaf comes together quickly, and the umami hit of the tomatoes, cheese, capers and garlic makes it hard to stop eating.
If Irish cheddar is unavailable, you can substitute old cheddar. And don’t worry about the chili flakes – rather than making the bread hot, they give it zing.
Serve this with beer as a party snack or alongside a green salad or bowl of thick, Irish potato-and-spinach soup for brunch or supper.
These chickpeas are rich, spicy and delicious. The recipe calls for four different types of peppers, which offer a deeper flavour, but feel free to use whatever you can find. You may also substitute the hot peppers with 1 to 2 teaspoons of cayenne, depending on your heat tolerance. Bitter and peppery, the arugula adds a fine contrast to the heat. You can serve this as a side dish with pulled pork or other pork dishes, but it’s also wonderful on its own with garlic bread and a cheese-and-roasted-fennel salad as a meatless-Monday vegetarian dinner. Canned, rinsed chickpeas are an easy substitute for dried. Just add them to the pepper mixture.
This hearty winter soup has enough flavour to complement the sandwich. The barley absorbs a lot of stock and when left to sit overnight, absorbs even more. Add water if it gets too thick. If you have no leeks, increase the onion. I tear rather than cut mushrooms because I like the unusual shapes I get. The mushrooms are all fresh. I also like a touch of cayenne at the end, but that’s a personal preference.
Baked pasta is my idea of real comfort food. It’s easy to cook and can be prepared well ahead of time, making it a go-to dish for families (especially since it also freezes well). Served with a good salad, it becomes soul-satisfying. This recipe is a good basis for adding other vegetables that you like: broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, kale or anything else in your vegetable drawer. If you like smoky flavours, smoked provolone cheese lends a more complex taste than provolone.
This recipe comes from one of my students at the Stratford Chefs School.
“Full of sharp, bitter and bright flavours, this crisp salad is perfect for pairing with traditionally heavy winter meals,” says Sam Bavaro, a second-year student. “Serve this salad with attitude. Use a plate and let the salad fall naturally, showing height and body. Set the table with a fork and knife to cut the big leaves and roots,” he says. Use purple and yellow carrots for colour contrast.
I recently had the fortunate experience of teaching Stratford Chefs School students as the Joseph Hoare Gastronomic Writer in Residence. Their project was to develop and write a recipe and then make a video. Not one of the 66 students had ever made a video before, but their work was humorous and smart. I wanted to share a few of the best recipes, but I have so many good ones that I will continue to share them as the seasons change.
“Perfectly cooked Arborio rice, suspended in a creamy sauce consisting of flavourful meat stock and butter is a tough combination to beat,” says James Toenders, a first-year student. “That is, unless you need to avoid animal byproducts.”
As his girlfriend is a vegan, he had to get creative. “It’s a common misconception that vegan food isn’t flavourful. All of the richness and flavour of butter, cream and meat can be achieved using alternatives,” he says. He uses vegan Earth Balance or Becel to replace the butter and enriches the packaged vegetable broth by simmering it with hearty dried mushrooms.