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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Byblos Cafe- Restaurant Review


A few weeks ago I went to a cafe called Byblos in Montreal’s Plateau neighbourhood with a friend.



Byblos is a very cute Persian cafe with a really cozy atmosphere. The menu isn’t large but it’s divided into main courses, a brunch section and a section with yogurt and legume based dips.


To start off, I ordered a rosewater sherbet. The syrup was at the bottom and you had stir it to mix everything up before drinking it.


The little black bits are chia seeds. I really enjoyed this as I like rosewater but the flavour can sometimes be so overpowering that it feels like you are drinking perfume. This was perfect, not too strong and not too weak.



My friend Alex had a mint tea which came with lumps of sugar. I wanted to try this but the day we went it was 35 degrees outside and there was no air conditioning in the restaurant.


We ended up ordering a few items to share. This was a trio of dips: hummus, a lentil and eggplant dip and another lentil dip. The first two were good but the last one was really bland. Neither of us liked it.


This was a trio of yogurt dips: a beet one, a spinach one and another one which I can’t remember. We liked all of these; very refreshing in the hot weather.


There was also a generous amount of pita bread.



We also ordered these chicken and mushroom pastries. These were a tad overdone and the filling was very dry. In general a lot of restaurants tend overcook chicken, unfortunately.

I would go back again. I liked the atmosphere and some of the menu items were rather unique. I liked the commensality of sharing dishes as it’s a fun way of trying new things. The service was a little slow and I had to flag down waitresses more than once to make sure we were able to order or get more water. The prices were fair and it’s a nice place to go catch up with a friend.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Okonomiyaki- Japanese Savoury Pancake


This my friends, is Okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake that usually comes filled with cabbage, green onions, pork or seafood. This is super quick to make at home and while it might require a trip to an Asian supermarket you can make this without the harder to find ingredients and it will still be delicious.

You will need:

Roughly 2 cups of flour Roughly 2 cups of water
Japanese or regular chili powder Bonito (dried fish flakes)
1 or 2 eggs Nordic shrimp
A head of Chinese cabbage Green onions
Sliced pork cutlets 1/2 of Panko
Tonkatsu sauce or BBQ sauce Japanese or regular mayo
Furikake or seaweed flakes  



To start off you mix 2 cups of flour with 1 cup of water or dashi stock (Japanese stock). I actually used chicken stock but plain water is fine.


As you can see it’s not the smoothest dough at this point. Since you’ll be adding a lot of wet ingredients it is better to leave it on the dry side at this point.


Next you add in your shrimp.



The panko. This is actually a substitute for tenkasu which are little fried bits of tempura batter since I couldn't find them.


One head of Chinese cabbage, chopped.



Japanese chili pepper.


For four portions I used 4 thin pork cutlets cut into strips.


At this point you mix everything together. You will need to add more water to get everything to stick; the batter should glue everything together and shouldn’t be too runny. I actually ended up adding a bit too much water and had to add a little more flour.


I cooked this in a crepe pan. If you don’t have one try to use a low sided pan. Cook it on medium and put a lid on it. This helps the inside cook since you want to make sure that your pork is thoroughly cooked.


After 8-10 minutes remove the lid and check the bottom to see if it is browned.


I use the “cover the pan with a plate and flip method”. I’m always scared I will drop something but it generally works. At this point cut two slits in the pancake and do not cover it so it won’t get soggy. In another 10 minutes it should be done.


The toppings: bonito flakes, furikake, tonkatsu sauce and Japanese mayo. If you can’t find these products just use some BBQ sauce, regular mayo and crumble some seaweed on top.





Layers of toppings.




This is one of my favourite Japanese meals. The toppings really make the meal and it is really filling with the shrimp, pork and cabbage. This would make fun party food with an electric griddle. You could have everyone cook their own pancake and customize them. This recipe make enough to feed an army so you will have plenty of leftovers. Tags:

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Italian Poached Eggs


In the list of things that are tasty but photograph badly Italian Poached Eggs are pretty high up. This is one of those recipes for which anyone can eyeball the proportions, no matter how little cooking experience you have. This is extremely hard to mess up and oh so tasty. If you have practically nothing left in your fridge I can guarantee you will probably have the ingredients to make this. You will need:

-Tomato sauce, or the ingredients to make one
-Fresh basil (nice but not absolutely necessary)
-Cheese, I like smoked gruyere but you could use any Italian or non Italian cheese
-A nice baguette for mopping up the tomato sauce



I rarely have pre-made sauce on hand since making some is rather easy. After I browned an onion and some garlic I poured in some pureed tomatoes and let it reduce. Once that was done I cut some fresh basil in a chiffonade and seasoned with salt and pepper. If you have pre-made sauce just throw it in the pan, heat it and add the fresh basil if you are using it.


At this point you crack your eggs into the hot sauce, spacing them evenly apart. I was serving them for brunch so I used two per person. Bring the sauce to a boil, cover and then crank down the heat.


The eggs only take about 5 minutes to cook. Before they’re done take your grated cheese, distribute it on top and let it melt.


This isn’t going to grace the cover on any magazines any time soon but it is really good. It’s fun to grab a piece of bread and get all the sauce or you could make some polenta and ladle this on top. Either way it’s a really quick and delicious brunch main course. Tags: ,

Friday, July 2, 2010

Honey Cake


I have a deep abiding love for Bundt cakes. Maybe it’s the texture? I do love cakes with something of a heft in them so when I saw a recipe for Honey Cake in a recipe book and offered to make it for The Husband he was enthusiastic. Apparently he had been reading a fantasy book in which the elves ate honey cakes to sustain themselves which made him want to try a real one. Yes, we are geeks and have a basement full of Star Wars posters to prove it.

The recipe I used is a lot like this one except I used coffee instead of milk, beat the egg whites separately and didn’t use whiskey. I’d type the one I did use but I don’t want to have to pawn off my KitchenAid mixer should I get sued for copyright infringement.


Whipped egg whites.


Flour, cinnamon, ground ginger and nutmeg.


I just had to show you guys the pretty hand painted jar in which the honey came.


Milk. The colour looks weird because I had measured the honey in there as well.


Wet and dry ingredients plus the egg yolks.


All mixed up together.


Carefully cutting the egg whites in.


Ready to go in the oven.


Since I am incorrigible I made a glaze with icing sugar, honey and some milk.


Before icing.


After. I made too much glaze and it ended up running off the plate. I took one for the team and ate the excess off a spoon.


This cake was delicious. Usually I’m a chocolate dessert kind of girl but the spices and the honey went together wonderfully. It was very moist, dense and kept really well. The Husband was very please except he was expecting mini cakes since apparently that is what the elves in the fantasy book ate. No, I am not making this up, even after 10 years, he still cracks me up. Tags: ,
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