Butternut Squash & Apple Soup

Butternut Squash & Apple Soup
Recipe by Dragon

I love this time of year because I get to make warm nourishing soups! I'm partial to pureed soups because to me they are comforting and can be enjoyed in a bowl or sipped in a cup. The sweetness of the butternut squash is balanced beautifully with the tart apples and smoky bacon in this soup. A dollop of Greek yogurt also tempers the sweetness of the butternut squash and adds a little creaminess to the soup. Enjoy!

Serves 4

6 slices smoked bacon, cut into matchstick pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
5 cups chicken broth
Salt and Pepper to taste
Greek yogurt, to garnish

1. In a large pot, cook the bacon over medium heat until it is crispy. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel lined plate and reserve. Leave the bacon fat in the pot.

2. Reduce the heat to medium low. Add olive oil, onions, carrots, celery and bay leaf to the pot and cook until the vegetables have softened.

3. Add the cinnamon and cook for another minute.

4. Add potatoes, apples and butternut squash. Season with a little salt and pepper. Add the broth and increase the heat to high. Bring the soup to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked. Discard bay leaf.

5. Puree soup in batches in a blender (caution hot!) and return the soup to the pot. If you want a thinner consistency, add water. Adjust the seasoning of the soup with salt and pepper to taste. If you want, add a little more cinnamon but not too much.

6. Serve the soup topped with Greek yogurt and reserved bacon.

Bolognese Sauce

Bolognese Sauce
Recipe by Marcella Hazan

I wanted to try Marcella's Bolognese recipe for a long time now and I was so happy I did. It was delicious and I can't rave enough about it. Don't change a thing here....it is perfect the way it is. It takes about 4 hours to make but most of it is just giving the pot a stir once in a while. Well worth the effort and your house will smell divine. I served it with fresh made pasta because a sauce this good requires the extra effort of fresh pasta. Enjoy!

Serves: 4-6

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter plus 1 tablespoon for tossing the pasta
1/2 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup chopped celery
2/3 cup chopped carrot
3/4 pound ground beef chuck (or you can use 1 part pork to 2 parts beef)
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
1 cup whole milk
Whole nutmeg
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds pasta
Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese at the table


1. Put the oil, butter and chopped onion in the pot and turn the heat on to medium. Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent, then add the chopped celery and carrot. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring vegetables to coat them well.
2. Add ground beef, a large pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork, stir well and cook until the beef has lost its raw, red color.
3. Add milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. Add a tiny grating -- about 1/8 teaspoon -- of nutmeg, and stir.
4. Add the wine, let it simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients well. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface. Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While the sauce is cooking, you are likely to find that it begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat. To keep it from sticking, add 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary. At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.
5. Toss with cooked drained pasta, adding the tablespoon of butter, and serve with freshly grated Parmesan on the side.

Cinnamon Spiced Hot Chocolate

Cinnamon Spiced Hot Chocolate
Recipe by Dragon

Real hot chocolate is a beautiful thing and something everyone should enjoy over the holidays and all winter long.  I love this spiced version because cinnamon and chocolate are a wonderful combination. Enjoy!

Serves 4

3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup table cream (18%) or heavy cream (35%)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 oz shot of espresso or strong coffee
1 tablespoon vanilla
pinch of salt
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (if you want it extra sweet, use semisweet chocolate)
1 cinnamon stick
Garnish: whipped cream and/or cinnamon sticks


1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together milk, brown sugar and cream until mixture begins to simmer.

2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and whisk in cocoa powder until it is incorporated. Add espresso, vanilla, salt, chocolate, and cinnamon and stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Strain through a fine sieve and serve hot. This can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. Just reheat before serving.

Chocolate Chai Ice Cream

Chocolate Chai Ice Cream
Recipe by Dragon

I am in love with this ice cream. The complex flavour is rich, warm and cool all at the same time. Try it and I guarantee you'll fall in love as well. Enjoy!

Makes: 1 1/2 quart

2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cup whole milk, divided
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder
3 tablespoons honey
6 tablespoons loose chai tea
2 strips of orange rind (no pith)
3 tablespoons vanilla4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
2 oz. dark chocolate, grated

1. Heat heavy cream and 1/2 cup milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder, espresso and salt. Stir until the cocoa powder is completely dissolved. Add honey, tea, orange rind and vanilla. Bring to a boil, remove pan from heat and let steep for 1/2 hour. Strain and refrigerate the cream mixture for about 2 hours.

2. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until pale yellow. Add remaining milk to a saucepan over medium low heat. When the milk has warmed, slowly whisk in the egg mixture so the eggs don’t solidify. Cook over medium low heat, stirring constantly, until almost simmering or it reaches170F (the custard should be thick enough to coat a spoon). Strain the custard into a bowl and transfer to a cold water bath to cool down. When the custard has cooled down, refrigerate for 2 hours.

3. Stir the chilled cream mixture into the chilled custard. Adjust the ice cream base with vanilla and honey if needed. Churn base in an ice cream machine until almost frozen (or put in a suitable container and freeze, giving it a good stir every half-hour or so). Fold in the grated chocolate. Transfer ice cream to a container and freeze for at least 4  hours. (Remember to remove it from the freezer 10 minutes before you serve, so it softens.). 

Lavender, Thyme & Savory Roast Chicken with Honey

Lavender, Thyme & Savory Roast Chicken with Honey
Recipe adapted from Relish Cooking Studio

I've become a real fan of cooking with lavender and this beautifully moist and flavourful roast chicken is the reason why. The key to cooking with lavender is to not use too much. A dish can go from floral to soapy with just a touch too much lavender. So be sure to measure your lavender carefully and trust your tastebuds and nose.

Spatchcocking a chicken allows it to cook faster and keeps the meat moist. Because of the even exposure to the heat, the thighs, legs and breast cook more evenly than when cooking a whole chicken. You could ask your butcher to spatchcock a chicken for you but it is pretty simple to do on your own. Using sharp kitchen scissors, cut the chicken down each side of backbone and remove bone (keep the bone for stock). Turn the chicken over, breast side up and press firmly on the breastbone to flatten it. You'll hear the bone crack. Flatten the chicken and tuck its wings behind the breast. It is as easy as that! You can find many videos online showing you this technique. Here is one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72dQonQa9jE. Enjoy! 

Serves: 4- 6

2 teaspoons fresh lavender blossoms or 1/2 teaspoon dried blossoms
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons fresh winter savory or 1 teaspoons dried savory
12 peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt or fleur de sel
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 roasting chicken, 4 to 5 lbs, spatchcocked (ask your butcher to do this)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons lavender, acacia or other local honey

1. Preheat the oven to 475F.

2. Using a mortar and pestle or an electric spice grinder, grind together lavender, thyme, winter savory, peppercorns and kosher salt. Transfer to a bowl and add the softened butter.  Mix until well combined; set aside.

3. Gently easy your fingers under the chicken’s skin to separate from the bird, creating a cavity across the top of the breast and around the legs.  Using your hands, spread some of the butter under the skin, smearing any remaining butter over the top, massaging it around the legs and wings and generously season the skin with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

4. Place chicken in roasting pan, breast side up. Pour white wine and water into pan.

5. Place chicken preheated oven immediately reduce the heat to 375F. Roast for 20 minutes.  Remove chicken and brush the outside skin with 1 tablespoon honey then return to the oven for 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven and, using a large spoon, baste with the pan juices, now mingled with the honey. Return to the oven and roast for 10 minutes again. Remove the chicken again, spread with the remaining honey. Roast for 10 minutes more, then baste again with the pan juices. Sprinkle the skin with a little more salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook for 5 minutes more and remove from the oven. The chicken is done when the juices run pinkish clear when the breast is pierced at its thickest part with the tip of a knife, or an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 165°F. The skin should be crisp and golden brown.

6. Let chicken rest for 10 to 15 minutes, covered with foil, before carving.

Scalloped Potato with Thyme & Parsley

Scalloped Potato with Thyme & Parsley
Recipe by Dragon

Sometimes you just have to give yourself permission to indulge in decadent food and this is one of my favourite ways to indulge.  This combination of potato, cream, cheese, butter and herbs makes for a rich and delicious dish. If you question whether or not to make these, just take some advice from the lovely and wise Julia Child; everything in moderation, including moderation. Enjoy!

Servings: 10-12

3 pounds yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/8 inch rounds
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups grated Gruyere cheese, divided (1 1/4 cups for layering in gratin and 3/4 cup for the top)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Fill large bowl with cold water and place potatoes in bowl with water. Combine cream, milk, butter, and garlic in medium saucepan; bring to simmer. Remove from heat. Mix all herbs in small bowl.

2. Butter 13x9 inch glass baking dish (or you can do individual ramekins). Drain potatoes, then pat dry. Transfer 1/4 of potatoes to the prepared baking dish and spread them out evenly evenly. Season with salt & pepper. Sprinkle 1/4 of the herb mixture over the potatoes. Sprinkle with 1/4 of the grated cheese. Repeat another 3 times with potatoes, salt & pepper, herb mixture, and cheese (4 layers).

3. Pour cream mixture over the gratin, pressing lightly to submerge potato mixture as much as possible.Cover gratin tightly with foil. Bake 45-60 minutes or until the potatoes are almost tender. Check by inserting a knife in the middle of the gratin, the potatoes should be almost tender. 

4. Uncover the gratin and sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese. Bake for an additional 30 minutes or until the top of the gratin is golden and most of liquid is absorbed. Let the gratin cool for about 15 minutes before serving. This will allow the gratin to absorb all the liquid before serving. Serve hot or warm.

Garlic Confit Toast

Garlic Confit Toast
Adapted from Bon Appetit

This is not your ordinary garlic bread. It is a decadent and luscious combination of Parmesan, confit garlic, butter, lemon and red pepper flakes.  I could easily become addicted to this. My advice is to use the best Parmesan you can find for this bread. You won't regret it. I will add some fresh chopped parsley to the mix next time for a little more freshness. Enjoy!

Servings: 4

1 head garlic, cloves peeled
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup grated Parmesan (use the real thing!)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 baguette


1. Cook garlic in butter in a small covered saucepan over medium-low heat until golden brown and very soft, 15−20 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl; let cool. 

2. Add Parmesan, oregano, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes to garlic and mash to a paste; season to taste with salt and pepper. 

3. Heat broiler. Slice baguette in half lengthwise, then crosswise. Broil, cut side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet until golden brown, about 2 minutes (watch carefully). Let cool slightly, then spread cut side with garlic paste. Broil until cheese is golden and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Slice.

Semolina, Coconut & Marmalade Cake

Semolina, Coconut & Marmalade Cake
Recipe adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi

I am still thinking about this cake, weeks after I've made it. It haunts my dreams and I can't wait for another chance to make it. The combination of flavours in this dense and oh so moist cake will blow you away. The cake is wonderful on its own but I encourage you to add the yogurt topping with orange blossom water and honey.  Enjoy!

Note: One thing to remember about this cake is that it gets better the longer you leave it. I make it at least the day before I want to serve it but it is at its best 2 days after baking.

Makes 1 cake

For the Cake:
3/4 cup sunflower oil
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup orange marmalade (fine-cut or without peel)
4 large free-range eggs
grated zest of 1 orange
1/3 cup superfine sugar
3/4 cup shredded dried coconut
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons semolina
2 tablespoons ground almonds
2 teaspoons baking powder

For the Soaking syrup:
1 cup superfine sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 to 2 teaspoons orange blossom water depending on how much you like orange blossom water

For the Topping:
1 cup thick Greek yogurt
1 or 2 teaspoons of orange blossom water depending on how much you like orange blossom water
2 tablespoons honey
Toasted coconut for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together the oil, orange juice, marmalade, eggs, and orange zest until the marmalade dissolves. In a separate bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients and add to the wet ingredients. Mix until well combined. The mixture should be runny.

2. Grease and flour a bundt baking pan. Fill the pan with batter. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes (depends on your oven, check after 45), or until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean and the top browns.

3. Near the end of the baking time, place the syrup ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, then remove from the heat. As soon as the cake come out of the oven, start pouring (very slowly) the hot syrup all over the top of the cake (in the pan), allowing the syrup to soak in for a minute or two before you carry on pouring with more syrup. Make sure you use up all the syrup and it is absorbed into the cake. Once the cake has cooled down a little, remove it from the pan and leave to cool completely.

4.To make the topping, combine yogurt, orange blossom water and honey. Adjust the honey and orange blosssom water to your taste. Refrigerate topping until needed. Serve the cake with the yogurt topping and garnish with the toasted coconut.

Crispy Potato Galette with Creamy Scrambled Eggs & Smoked Salmon

Crispy Potato Galette with Creamy Scrambled Eggs & Smoked Salmon
Recipe by Dragon. Scramble egg technique adapted from Gordon Ramsay

When I want to spoil myself or company on a lazy weekend morning, I make this dish. Elegant, decadent, beautiful and so delicious.....its a perfect way to start the day.  Enjoy!

Serves: 2


For Pickled Red Onion:
1/4 small red onion, very thinly sliced,
1/4 cup Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
pinch of salt

For the Galette:
1 large russet potato or 2 medium
4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, divided
1 green onion, chopped (greens included)
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1 large egg
2 teaspoons corn starch
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the Eggs:
4 large eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley

3 oz Smoked Salmon. sliced
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley, for garnish

1. In a small bowl, combine red onions, vinegar, sugar and salt. Make sure the vinegar completely covers the onions, add more vinegar is necessary. Soak the onions in the vinegar mixture for 15-20 minutes then drain. Reserve the onions.

2. Peel and grate the potato using the large holes of a box grater. Rinse the grated potatoes with cold water which will wash off any excess starch. Spread the grated potatoes out on a few paper towels and pat them very dry. Extra liquid will lead to soggy galettes.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Combine potatoes with green onions, parsley, egg, cornstarch and salt & pepper; add to the skillet. Using a spatula, gently press potatoes into a flat round, molding to fit skillet. Cook until the edges are golden and crisp, about 8-10 minutes. Shake the skillet occasionally to make sure it is not sticking.

4. Place a plate, turned upside down, over the skillet and invert the skillet with plate, allowing the potato galette to fall onto the plate. Carefully slide the galette back into the skillet. Add remaining butter around edges of the galette and continue cooking until the galette is crisp on the bottom, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer the galette to a baking sheet and season with some more salt and pepper. Keep the galette warm in a low oven while you make the scrambled eggs.

5. Break the eggs into a cold heavy-based non-stick saucepan. Place the pan over a low heat and add half of the diced butter. Using a wooden spoon, stir the eggs frequently but not constantly, just to combine the yolks and whites.

6. As the eggs start to scramble, take the pan off the heat and use a spatula to scrape the egg from the sides and base of the pan. Return the pan to the heat and keep stirring and scraping until the  texture of the eggs is like soft curds. This should take 5–6 minutes. Don’t overcook the mixture or you won't get soft creamy eggs.

7. When the eggs are nearing the end of cooking, take the pan off the heat, stir in the remaining butter and season salt and pepper. Return the pan to the heat and stir in the cream. Once the butter has melted, take the pan off the heat and gently fold in the parsley.

8. Spoon the scrambled eggs onto the warm galette, drape the slices of smoked salmon and top with the pickled onions. Garnish with a sprinkle of parsley. Serve immediately.

Cheesy Pasta with Bread Crumb, Nut & Parsley Topping

Cheesy Pasta with Bread Crumb, Nut & Parsley Topping
Recipe by Dragon, adapted from Jaime Oliver

This grown up version of cheesy pasta is pure comfort on a plate. It is also a great way to use up any leftover firm cheeses you may have hanging around your fridge. Mix it up and change the flavour combination to make this your own. My favourite part is the gorgeous crunchy topping.  Enjoy!

Serves: 2 or 1 hungry Dragon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus more to drizzle
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
3 tablespoons pine nuts
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup grated aged cheddar cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
1/4 lb spaghetti or linguini
Salt to taste

1. To a  small frying pan over a medium heat, add olive oil and heat for 1 minute. Add the bread crumbs, garlic and nuts. Fry for 5 minutes, or until the nuts are toasted and the bread crumbs are crispy. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool. Toss in the parsley and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and place a large heatproof bowl on top, essentially make this a double boiler. Add the mascarpone to the bowl along with the other cheeses. Stir until melted. Carefully remove the bowl from the heat and set aside, then turn the heat up to high.

3. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until it is al dente. Reserve a cupful of cooking water. Drain the pasta and add it to the to the bowl of melted cheese and toss to coat. Add a splash of the reserved cooking water to loosen, if needed.

4 Transfer pasta to a serving dish, drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle the top with the reserved bread crumb/nut mixture. Serve immediately.

Apple and Olive Oil Cake with Maple Icing

Apple and Olive Oil Cake with Maple Icing
Recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi
Photo Credit: Christina Kakaletris

The olive oil gives this cake extra depth and intensity. This cake just gets better with time, so always make it at least a day before you're going to serve it. The maple icing is one of the best things I've ever eaten but this cake is amazing on its own. But really, don't deny yourself the maple icing. It is quite the treat. Enjoy!

Serves 8-10

heaping 1/2 cup / 80 g raisins
4 tbsp water
2 1/4 cups / 280 g all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup / 120 ml olive oil
3/4 cup / 160 g superfine sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 3/8-inch / 1-cm dice
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 free-range egg whites
confectioners' sugar for dusting (optional)

Maple Icing:
7 tbsp / 100 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
scant 1/2 cup / 100 g light muscovado sugar
scant 6 tbsp / 85 ml maple syrup
8 oz / 220 g cream cheese, at room temperature

1. Grease an 8-inch / 20-cm springform cake pan and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper. Place the raisins and water in a medium saucepan and simmer over low heat until all of the water has been absorbed. Leave to cool.

2. Preheat the oven to 325°F / 170°C. Sift together the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and baking soda and set aside.

3. Put the oil and superfine sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or use a whisk if you don't have a mixer). Slit the vanilla bean lengthwise in half and, using a sharp knife, scrape the seeds out into the bowl. Beat the oil, sugar, and vanilla together, then gradually add the eggs. The mix should be smooth and thick at this stage. Mix in the diced apples, raisins, and lemon zest, then lightly fold in the sifted dry ingredients.

4. Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl, either by hand or with a mixer, until they have a soft meringue consistency. Fold them into the batter in 2 additions, trying to maintain as much air as possible.

5. Pour the batter into the lined pan, level it with an icing spatula, and place in the oven. Bake for 50 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the plan.

6. Once the cake is completely cold, you can assemble it. Remove from the pan and use a large serrated knife to cut it in half horizontally. You should end up with 2 similar disks. If the cake is very domed, you might need to shave a bit off the top half to level it.

7. To make the icing, beat together the butter, muscovado sugar, and maple syrup until light and airy. You can do this by hand, or preferably, in a mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the cream cheese and beat until the icing is totally smooth.

8. Using the icing spatula, spread a layer of icing 3/8 inch / 1 cm thick over the bottom half of the cake. Carefully place the top half on it. Spoon the rest of the icing on top and use the icing spatula to create a wavelike or any other pattern. Dust it with confectioners' sugar, if you like.
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