Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Spice Hunters - Spicy stir-fried shrimp with green beans and tomatoes

It is a warm autumn day and I am making an Indian shrimp stir-fry recipe. The smells and aromas fill the house and a favorite memory comes back of the spice bazaars in Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia which I have visited during my travels. I have lived 19 years in Egypt where I had a real passion for visiting bazaars and discovering the hidden treasures they enclosed. I was especially fond of Khan El Khalili as it reminded me of the old Sindbad movies or 1001 nights stories of Scheherazade.  I always felt like a time traveler while walking in the covered streets of the Khan.

Khan El Khalili bazaar is so large that it is divided in many smaller bazaars. So you have the Gold bazaar, the Copper and Stones bazaar, the Silver bazaar, the souvenir bazaar and the spice and perfume bazaar. Small serpentine streets filled with all types of crafts and finds. You might get lost if you don't know the place well. I was always amazed by the spice bazaar as the spices are displayed in big jute bags and identified by simple hand written tags. Nothing too fancy but the colors and smells grab your attention.

Egyptians use a lot of spices in their cuisine and I have learned to enjoy spices and herbs since my tender age. Egyptian cuisine is very similar to the Indian cuisine in their use of spices and heat. When you think spicy I am quite certain that you suppose I mean heat. Not at all. Spicy means use of spice. Mild or otherwise. And the best way of using spices is by adding them in your hot oil at the beginning of the recipe. The heat of the oil helps the aromas and taste to develop. 

So when I first tried the Indian spice mix called Dhaba Masala I was reminded by several dishes I tasted in Egypt. Three years ago I purchased the Épices De Cru Kit. It is a kit prepared by the Spice Hunters which includes about 6 spice blends and a small recipe and travel Notebook. The whole kit looks so exotic and I could not resist buying it. I tried several recipes from the Notebook and I was hooked. All were exotic, delicious and easy to make. The charm lay in the spice blend and aromas coming from the small box. Ethné & Philippe de Vienne are both spice hunters who travel the world in search of new spices, mixes and recipes. Philippe is also a great chef who teaches the use of spices. Ethné owns two spice shop in the Marché Jean Talon in Montreal (Food Olives et Epices & La Dépense). The couple has also a food and travel show on ARTV that would make you want to travel every day. All their imported spices are fresh and natural. No additives or artificial flavors. Visit their website to know more about the spices, courses and more.

The Spice Hunter Spice Kit with Recipe book

One of the recipes I love to make from the Spice Hunters Volume II kit is the Stir-Fry shrimp with green beans and tomatoes. A recipe that is very fragrant and exotic. There is only a touch of heat. 
So you won't need gallons of water after every bite. In the recipe you need the Dhaba Masala spice blend which is basically:
2 tbsp mustard seeds (pan fried and roasted)        
1 ½ tbsp coriander
1 ½ tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 ½ tsp dried red chillies

I have made this recipe several times and it always came out great. You can replace the green beans by firm mango pieces and you will get a whole new recipe. It creates an even more exotic taste I believe. You could also add some coconut milk for a creamier sauce. 

Stir-fried shrimp with green beans and tomatoes

for 6-8 people

1 lb shrimp, peeled and well cleaned
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cracked black pepper
2 cups fresh green beans
3 tbsp trying oil of your choice (olive oil is a good choice)
1 bay leaf                 
½ tsp lemon zest (grated)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 green shallots, chopped
2 tsp Dhaba Masala, ground (use a mortar and pestle or a spice mixer)
1 cup ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
2 tsp honey or sugar
salt to taste
some parsley or basil chopped for garnish (optional)

1. Rinse and pat dry the shrimp with a paper towel. Marinate them with the lemon juice and cracked black pepper for about 10-15 min. Set aside.
2. Clean and cook the green beans in salted boiling water until they are crunchy (about 5 min) and set aside.
3. Heat a large pan or a wok on high heat. Pour in the oil and the bay leaf. Pan fry for a few seconds.
Add the lemon zest, garlic, shallots and ground Dhaba Masala and fry for a few seconds in the hot oil.
4. Add the marinated shrimp and stir-fry for 1 minute. (do not over crowd the pan)
5. Add the tomatoes, honey and salt. Mix well and then add the green beans.
6. Cover and cook for 2 more minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley or basil and serve with white rice.
Enjoy, Bon Appétit, Sahten.

Note: If you choose to add coconut milk (1/4 cup), do so after you add the tomatoes. If you want to have a more exotic dish replace the green beans by firm mango slices.

 Le coin francophone

Recette de Dhaba Masala:

2 cuillères à soupe de graines de moutarde ( et rôti à la poêle)
1 ½ cuillère à soupe de coriandre
1 ½ cuillère à café de cumin
1 cuillère à café de curcuma
1 ½ cuillère à café de piments rouges séchés

Sauté de crevettes aux haricots verts et tomates
pour 6-8 personnes

1 livre (1/2 kilo) de crevettes, pelées et bien nettoyées
2 cc jus de citron
2 cc de poivre noir concassé
2 tasses d'haricots verts frais
3 cs d'huile de votre choix (l'huile d'olive est un bon choix)
1 feuille de laurier
½  cuillère à café de zeste de citron (râpé)
2 gousses d'ails, hachées
2 échalotes vertes, hachées
2 cc du mélange Dhaba Masala moulu (utiliser un mortier et d'un pilon ou d'un mélangeur d'épices)
1 tasse de tomates mûres, hachées finement
2 cc de miel ou de sucre
sel au goût
un peu de persil ou de basilic haché pour la garniture (facultatif

1. Rincez et épongez les crevettes avec un papier. Les faire mariner avec le jus de citron et le poivre noir concassé pendant environ 10-15 min. Réservez.
2. Nettoyez et faites cuire les haricots verts dans de l'eau bouillante salée jusqu'à ce qu'ils soient cuits mais encore croquants (environ 5 min) et mettez les de côté.
3. Chauffez une grande poêle ou un wok à feu vif. Versez l'huile et ajouter la feuille de laurier. Cuire pendant quelques secondes . Ajouter le zeste de citron, l'ail, les échalotes et le mélange d'épices Dhaba Masala moulu et faites frire pendant quelques secondes dans l'huile chaude.
4. Ajouter les crevettes marinées et égoutter et faites les sauter pendant 1 minute. (ne pas trop surcharger la poêle)
5. Ajoutez les tomates, le miel et le sel. Bien mélanger, puis ajoutez les haricots verts.
6. Couvrez et faites cuire pendant 2 minutes de plus. Garnir de persil haché ou de basilic et servez avec du riz blanc. Bon Appétit, Sahten.

Remarque: Si vous ajoutez du lait de coco (1/4 tasse), faite le après le rajout des tomates. Si vous voulez avoir un plat plus exotique remplacer les haricots verts par des tranches d'une mangue ferme.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Cake Mania at the Cake Show in Montreal

Last week I dropped by the cake show of Montreal with my friend Marie. Both loving cakes and baking decided to check it out. We were not disappointed as there were amazing cake designs on display. Some for weddings and others for birthdays or for special events. A mind blowing show of yummy goodness laced in sugar and fondant. We were inspired!


I could not stop taking pictures and be amazed of the intricate detail work spent on each cake. Cake decoration is a real passion and worth every penny. So when you order a cake, such as these, for your next special event, don’t be surprised by the price. You will be paying for a piece of art and numerous labor intensive hours of creativity and detail work.

When Louboutin meets Martha Stewart cake creation
Marie and I stood in ah before the interesting fondant, cake and sugar shoe sculptures. I guess it is a trend now to eat designer shoes if you can’t afford the real stuff. 

At the show were also several crafts retailers and cake decorating tools manufacturers present. So gadgets, molds, and tools were plenty. I was quite amazed of what you can do with all that. Although I always decorate the birthday cakes I bake, I still find it really time consuming and hectic. You need to be in the right mood and frame of mind to be able to decorate a cake.
Crème & Cassonad (www.cremecassonade.com)

Kitchen Jukebox (www.kitchenjukebox.com)
Kitchen Jukebox (www.kitchenjukebox.com)
Cake N’ Supplies  (http://cakesbyximena.com/catalog)
Choco Délice (www.lecoindelafete.ca/boutique/)

Micheals Canada

So if you need more information about the Cake Show, here is the link http://cakeshowmontreal.com
I want also to share with you some of the amazing cake supply retails that caught my interest at the show. FYI most of them also give cake decorating classes.

Happy Baking!!!