sopa de Salta


Travelling through the Salta province in Argentina, we pulled over at the side of the road near the town of Cafayate to sample a regional specialty: llama salami. Served alongside local quesos de cabra (goat cheese), the cured llama meat had a darker, earthier flavour than traditional pork. We couldn’t come up with a good reason not to buy some, so we purchased a link. I hadn’t quite figured out what to make of my llama salami that reminded me of its presence each time I opened the fridge. A friend mentioned she was preparing chorizo lentil soup for dinner and I thought, well, why not llama and lentils. This is a hearty soup to warm your belly on a cool fall evening. You can certainly substitute cured chorizo in the recipe below.

TIP: when chopping the salami and squash, think about spoon size. The pieces don’t need to be tiny, but they should fit into a spoon for easy dining.


1 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
250g llama salami
a good glug (about 1/2 cup) of red wine, Malbec suggested
2 400g can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups lentils
1 cup diced acorn or butternut squash
5 cups (1250ml) chicken stock
roughly grated Reggiano cheese (or firm Argentinean goat’s cheese if you are trying to stay true to terroir)

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add shallot, garlic and salami. Fry for about 10 min, until shallot is softened and salami fat has started to render.

Add red wine. Cook off for about 5 minutes.

Add canned tomatoes, lentils, squash and chicken stock. Cook at a gentle boil for about 20 minutes, until squash is tender and lentils are al dente (you don’t want them to turn to mush!).

Serve with grated cheese on top and crusty bread on the side. If you can source it, a slightly chilled glass of Colomé Estate Malbec would pair nicely.

Cafayate poached egg with garlic spinach


Sometimes, when you just want something light, warm and comforting, a poached egg on toast really hits the spot. While traveling in the Salta region of Argentina, we spent one night in the town of Cafayate. The area is a semi-desert that seems almost inhospitable to growing anything, and yet it produces some mighty fine wines, predominantly from Malbec or Torrontes grapes. Staying at an estancia on the outskirts of the town, we weren’t up for the walk to the main square, followed by the search for a restaurant that always takes far longer than desired (and we had already had our fill of empanadas). When we saw that the small in-house dining menu offered up a poached egg on a bed of garlic spinach, we released a happy sigh…sometimes things just work out. Enjoyed in the quiet of our room, this dish proved to be just what we needed. Here is my take on the recipe, as inspired by the kitchen at Patios de Cafayate.


3 handfuls baby spinach, rinsed, stems removed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 whole almonds (unsalted)
2 eggs
dash lemon juice or white vinegar
1 English muffin (or 2 slices of whole grain bread)
1/4 cup Reggiano cheese, coarsely shredded
salt and pepper to taste

In a deep-sided frying pan, heat water until it almost starts to boil. Add spinach. Blanch for 2 minutes and then drain in a colander. Press the spinach with the back of a wooden spoon or spatula to remove excess water.

Empty the water from the frying pan and dry off. Add olive oil to pan and turn to medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the minced garlic. Fry for a couple of minutes and then add the whole almonds. Add the drained spinach to the pan. Toss to coat and allow to cook for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat water in a small pot just until it starts to boil. Add a dash of lemon juice or white vinegar. Crack egg into a small bowl and gently slide into pot of just boiling water. Repeat with the second egg. Turn the heat off.  The eggs will only take 3-5 minutes to poach, depending on how runny you like your yolk.

Toast your English muffin or whole grain bread. Place one half (or slice) on each plate. Add grated cheese to the spinach and mix in. Spoon spinach and almonds on top of English muffin. Using a slotted spoon, remove poached eggs from water and gently place on top of spinach. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Enjoy (maybe while wearing your pyjamas)!

savoury bread pudding

IMG_7119 - Version 2

Bread puddings, often served as a sweet dish for dessert, also make for a great savoury side or a way to stretch a few eggs and a little bread to feed a crowd for brunch. And the leftovers are good cold the next morning too for a quick breakfast or simple lunch. This version uses a hearty combination of mushroom, sausage and potato. But there are lots of flavour pairings to experiment with. I have suggested some others below, so you can use the basic bread and egg base, and then add whatever mixture you like best.


3 cups stale bread, cubed
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups milk
pinch each of salt and pepper

1 tbsp grainy mustard
2 tsp fresh thyme
1 sausage
1 large potato
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms, rehydrated and chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350F (175C).

Roughly cut or tear stale bread into 3×3 cm (1 inch) cubes. You can collect up random bits of bread from different loaves, cube them, and keep in the freezer until you are ready to make a pudding. I include the crusts, especially when they have tasty sunflower or pumpkin seeds on them that will add flavour and texture. Spread your stale bread in an 11”x7” pan (or similar size pan that holds approximately 6 cups). If your bread is not nice and dry (quite stale), give it a quick toast under the oven broiler. Drier bread will better absorb the egg.

In a bowl, whisk eggs, milk, thyme, mustard, salt and pepper.

To cook your sausage, you can pan fry or grill it. Once cooked, cut into ½ cm (1/4 inch) slices, and then cut in half again horizontally.

To cook the potato, wash and then cut into thumbnail-sized pieces. Place into a pot of salted water. Being to a boil and cook until the blade of a knife slides easily into the center. You want the potato to be cooked, but still hold its shape. Drain potatoes and let rest for a few minutes so that excess water dries off. Heat oil in a pan. Add potato pieces. Fry, turning occasionally, until they have lightly golden and crispy outside.

Add rehydrated mushrooms, sausage, and potato to the bread cubes, spreading around to evenly distribute in the baking dish. Sprinkle in the Parmesan cheese. Pour egg mixture over baking dish to cover all the yummy contents. Give it all a gentle stir to make sure all the bread is moistened by the egg. You can sprinkle a little extra cheese over the top for a toasted cheesy crust.

Bake in the oven for 35-40 min until egg is set.

Other combinations to try:
oven roasted tomatoes (or store-bought sun-dried tomatoes)
black olives
goat cheese


roasted sweet potato and parsnip

caramelized onion

bacon egg pikelet stacks


One day’s leftovers become the next day’s delicious breakfast treat. With the extras from a batch of these pikelets, we created some hearty bacon egg pancake stacks. They were quick to make, and a fun twist on a breakfast sandwich.


4 cooked pikelets (pancakes)
4 slices bacon
2 eggs
1 tbsp butter
salt and pepper
2 tbsp maple syrup (optional)

Preheat oven to 250F (120C).

Wrap the cooked pikelets in foil and warm in the oven.

Cook up the strips of bacon. I do this in a frying pan, and then use the same pan to cook up the eggs (less dishes to wash!).  Place the strips in a a room-temperature pan and then heat it up to medium heat. I find this allows the fat to cook more evenly with the meat to give you crispy bacon. Transfer cooked bacon to a plate lined with paper towel (to absorb the extra grease) and let rest while you cook up the eggs. If you have quite a bit of grease in the pan, pour some off, but keep enough to cook your eggs. Crack the eggs into the pan and fry until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny. Crack some fresh pepper and a sprinkle of salt over the eggs while cooking.

To serve, remove your warm pikelets from the oven and brush with butter. Build your stack – pikelet, bacon (I break one strip of bacon into two pieces so it fits on the pikelet), pikelet, bacon, all topped with an egg. If you’re feeling adventurous, drizzle each stack with a tbsp of maple syrup!

Greek yogurt pikelets


Many of my favourite recipes are born out of a lack of ingredients, and the need to be creative in order to pull it all together. While staying on a remote sheep farm in the Canterbury High Country in NZ, we had to bring in all our provisions for eight days. When we decided to extend our stay by two additional days, we needed to reevaluate our menu plan and stretch our materials. Craving pancakes one morning, but not having much milk to spare and only one egg, I experimented with the little milk and lots of Greek yogurt we did have in the fridge.

For all its simplicity, a pancake is not just a pancake. Be it a flapjack (North America), pannenkoeken (Netherlands), or serabi (Indonesia), many countries have put their spin on this basic round flat treat. The Kiwis call them pikelets. Usually made with flour, milk, eggs, and icing sugar, they are small and often served with butter or whipped cream. We had our pikelet pancakes for breakfast, and enjoyed them with butter and a syrup we made from Mauka honey (necessity really is the mother of all invention!).


1 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
2 – 4 tbsp milk (will depend on how thick your Greek yogurt is)
1 egg
2 tbsp butter, melted + additional butter to grease your frying pan
1 tsp vanilla extract (I didn’t have any on hand, but know it would only make it better)
1 tbsp granulated sugar or liquid honey
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
handful of blueberries (optional)

Preheat oven to 200F (approx. 100C).

In a small bowl, combine yogurt, 2 tbsp milk, egg and vanilla extract. Whisk until blended together. Allow melted butter to cool slightly and then whisk in. If using honey, combine with the wet ingredients.

In a separate medium-sized bowl, combine flour and baking soda. If using sugar, add it to the dry ingredients. Stir to combine.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and use a spatula to stir until all blended together. This recipe makes a fairly thick batter. If you need a little more moisture to absorb all the flour, add a couple more tbsp of milk. Don’t over mix, but you do want to make sure all the flour is incorporated and that there are no lumps.

Melt a small amount of butter in a flying pan over medium heat. When the pan is nice and hot, use a soupspoon to measure out spoonfuls of batter into the pan. This batter creates smaller, but nice and thick, pancakes. If you’re making blueberry pancakes, drop a few blueberries into the batter in the pan. After about a minute, check to see if the first side has cooked and then flip. If your pancakes are really thick, press them down after you’ve done the first flip, wait a minute or so, and then flip again so that any raw batter from the middle that has come out when pressed has a chance to cook on both sides. Transfer cooked pancakes to an oven-safe plate, wrap in tin foil, and place in the preheated oven to keep warm while you make each batch. You may need to add a little more butter to the pan between batches to keep them from sticking.

Serve warm pancakes with butter, jam, real Canadian maple syrup (we didn’t have any, so we made a syrup from equal parts Manuka honey and water, cooked down in a small saucepan) – whatever you like best!


zucchini crostini


This recipe is inspired by a dish from the Boat Shed Cafe in Nelson, New Zealand. Sitting on the covered porch, overlooking the Nelson harbour, our brunch started off with a fresh summer crostini of zucchini and mint. Later that week I was invited to join the Gourmet Sailing team aboard their boat for an evening BBQ, so I made up some zucchini crostini of my own to share with the group. This flavour combination reminds me of late summer in Ontario, when there is an abundance of zucchini…and the ongoing challenge of how to find fun ways to serve it. Look for smaller zucchini, as they are younger and have more flesh and less seeds. If you’re not a fan of goat cheese, you can substitute feta.


3 small zucchini
half fresh red chili pepper
zest of one lemon
small handful mint leaves (about a dozen large leaves)
2 tbsp + 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of one lemon
freshly cracked black pepper
sea salt
3 tbsp semi-firm goat cheese, crumbled
fresh baguette, thinly sliced

Cut off the two ends of the zucchini and discard. Cut zucchini lengthwise into long slices about ¼ cm (1/8”) thick. Stack the slices and cut again lengthwise to create shoestrings. Then cut in half horizontally so that you now have matchstick-size pieces.

Remove seeds from chili. You only want to use the red outer flesh. Make sure to wash your hands and knife afterwards, so as not to transfer the spicy oils from the seeds to other ingredients (or to yourself!). Transfer chili to a mixing bowl. Add lemon zest, mint, and 2 tbsp olive oil. Add zucchini and toss to coat.

Slice the baguette and toast each slice to make your crostini. I find the easiest way is to lay all the slices on a baking sheet and lightly broil on the top rack in the oven. Just keep your eye on them – they can go from toasted to burnt in seconds.

To serve, add the lemon juice, salt and pepper to the zucchini mix. Taste and adjust as necessary. Drizzle the toasted baguette slices with the remaining olive oil, then top with zucchini and crumble goat cheese over top.

boat shed

salsa verde


When you have fresh herbs on hand, this pesto-like sauce is a quick way to add flavour to many dishes. This version is a bit like Argentinean chimichurri. If you like a little more kick, you can add about ½ tsp red pepper flakes. Or make an Italian-style version and add capers and dollop of mustard. Work with the herbs you have, so play with substituting parsley for the chives. Or add in some arugula for a peppery bite.

3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbso white balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp lime juice
½ tsp salt
1 tsp (generous) cracked black pepper
½ tsp cumin
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup chives
1 cup cilantro

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, limejuice, salt, pepper, and cumin. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Your next steps will depend on whether or not you are using a food processor.

Food processor method:
Smash garlic cloves. Peel off papery skin, cut off bottom, and remove the shoot that runs up the center of each clove. Roughly chop chives and cilantro, including stems. Place all into food processor bowl. Add seasoned oil mixture. Pulse until you have a sauce. I like to keep the sauce a little textured so that people can see bits of the herbs. Add a little bit of water if it is too dry. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Hand chopped method:
Not to worry if you don’t have a food processor. Mince your garlic cloves (if you have one, get out your garlic press for this). Finely chop your herbs, including some of the cilantro stems. This will be a more rustic sauce, but equally delicious. Add seasoned oil mixture to chopped herbs. Stir to combine. Add a little bit of water if it is too dry. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Allow sauce to rest in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving. I love to pair this with grilled flank steak, but it’s also good on grilled vegetables, and on fish or chicken.  I’ve never tried it as an accompaniment for a firm cheese, but I bet that would be good too.

IMG_6176 - Version 2 IMG_6188 - Version 2

tukituki burgers


The burger: such a simple meal, yet there are so many opinions as to what makes the ‘best’ burger. I think if you start with a homemade patty, you’re well on your way. You can smother it in all the toppings you like, or keep it very simple, as long as you have a good base. A gently packed, homemade patty is much tastier and more enjoyable in its texture than the compressed, thin disks you’ll find in the store (especially if you’re buying frozen). I change up what I use to flavour burger patties depending on what I may have on hand, but always start with the same base – sautéed onions and garlic, salt and pepper. From there, you can experiment to find your best burger. Here’s my basic recipe, with a twist we prepared one night while traveling in New Zealand, where we enjoyed our burgers overlooking the Tukituki River in Hawke’s Bay.


base burger
½ kg (500g / 1lb) grass-fed ground beef
you can use lean, but skip extra lean in this case
half a small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic
1 egg
¼ cup breadcrumbs
2 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp salt
olive oil

tukituki flavours
1 tbsp grainy mustard
1 tbsp finely chopped chives
dash soya sauce

to serve
4 soft hamburger buns
toppings of your choice: thinly sliced cheddar cheese, ketchup, mustard, pickles, sautéed onions, caramelized onions, sliced tomato, tomato chutney, lettuce, …

Remove meat from fridge and set aside while you prepare your seasonings. Over medium heat, heat olive oil in heavy bottomed fry pan that can go in the oven (you may reuse this pan later for the burgers, so this will reduce the dishes to be washed). Add onions and garlic and sauté for a few minutes until the onions soften. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

If you already have breadcrumbs on hand, grab ‘em. If not, a slice of stale bread, lightly toasted, and pulsed in the food processor (or roughly crumbled by hand) will do it.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine all base burger and flavouring ingredients. I find it’s best to get in there with your hands and massage until the egg has been absorbed and all the goodness is evenly distributed throughout the meat.


Separate the meat into four equal portions. Gently shape each into a ball, and then flatten to make a patty about ¾ inch thick. The patties will be soft, but should hold together. You want your burger to fit inside the bun, so take a look and make sure the final round patty is appropriately sized. It will shrink a bit when you cook it. Place burgers on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes. These can be made the day ahead. Bring back to room temperature before cooking.

If you are going to pan fry, preheat the over to 375F. Heat your heavy bottomed frying pan (the same one used earlier for the onions and garlic) to high. Add the burgers and turn the heat down to medium high. After about 3 minutes, flip. After about another 3 minutes, transfer the frying pan to the oven to finish cooking the burgers. It should take another 5-8 minutes. Check to see if they are done by making a small cut into the middle of the patty. A little pink in the middle is okay, but I like my burgers cooked to medium-well. If not cooked to your liking, place back in the over for another couple of minutes.  Better to have a little cut in the burger  – that you’ll never see under all the toppings – and know that they’re cooked the way you like.

If you are going to BBQ, oil the grill and preheat to high. Place burgers onto grill and turn heat down to medium high. They should take about 4-5 minutes per side, but check for doneness by cutting into the middle to make sure. Grill longer if necessary. Your burgers may be a bit thicker or thinner; your BBQ may be a little hotter or cooler.

Have your assortment of toppings ready. Warm or toast your burger buns. Build your burger and enjoy!


Big Tree Farms chocolate factory


You don’t need a golden ticket to visit this chocolate factory, but you do have to be able to find it. If you’re not paying attention, you’ll drive right by the Big Tree Farms chocolate production facility, housed in the world’s largest commercial building built of bamboo. Make sure to watch for the big banyan tree, where you’ll turn off the main road, and there, tucked back in the village of Abiansemal, you’ll find Big Tree Farms.

We’re here for a tour, to learn about the company, about the building and its unique design, and about the approach to chocolate making that differentiates Big Tree Farms. Of course, we’re hoping to taste some chocolate too. Our friendly and enthusiastic guide, Ningseh, gives us a quick overview of the factory while we enjoy a complimentary warm chocolate drink (although it’s a humid 30+ degrees so we don’t need any further inspiration to warm up). Energized by the chocolate, and dressed in our mandatory ‘oompa loompa’ sanitation hats, we’re now ready to explore the factory.

Even though the grand opening took place in November 2011, the factory is still a work in progress. The current building houses a warehouse for raw ingredients, production and packaging facilities, and Big Tree Farm’s Indonesian head office. A retail store, commercial kitchen and café are being built out back to better facilitate consumer interest and tours like the one we’re taking.  Designed by an American architect, now relocated to Bali, and built with the guidance of a Balinese Master bamboo builder, it’s an unconventional structure, but it works. The walls are woven from strips of bamboo, allowing air to flow through for natural ventilation, and the third floor atrium with its tented roof is completely open, creating a cavernous loft in the treetops. Production areas all have internal glass windows so everyone can see each other. It’s part of the Big Tree Farms belief in transparency.

From a business that started out in 2000 as an organic produce farm on just under an eighth of an acre, Big Tree Farms has grown into a vertically-integrated, multi-product food company with over 14,000 local farming partners and customers around the world. The philosophy is to build a business that works both economically and ecologically, not just for the owners, but for the farmers and communities Big Tree Farms relies on. As we wind our way through the factory, seeing chocolate making in action, we can appreciate the emphasis on transparency and sustainability at every step of the process




To make their organic chocolate products, Big Tree Farms works with over 2,000 farmers on the island of Bali, and another 1,000 farmers in Aceh. The ‘beans’ (which are actually seeds from the cocoa pod fruit) are harvested, fermented and then dried. To keep their products ‘raw’ (raw foods are thought to maintain more of their nutrients that their cooked counterparts), Big Tree Farms never heats the beans above 45 degrees C. Then the beans are crushed to remove the skins and turn the whole beans into nibs. I tried to do this manually – which Big Tree sometimes does at the request of certain customers – and couldn’t even get one flake of the skin to come off. It takes practice and patience to peel the beans. The nibs are inspected and sorted – by hand – for quality control to ensure all the skin has been removed. Approved nibs are then pressed for 8 hours to make cocoa powder, and then further refined for 12 hours to create an even smoother paste. From here, the paste is pressed to separate out the excess oils. This is where the cocoa butter you find in lotions comes from. The cocoa paste is mixed with the right balance of oil and sugar and then tempered to prepare it to be transformed into consumer products. In addition to chocolate bars, Big Tree Farms sells raw cocoa powder, whole cocoa beans, and cocoa nibs.

To sweeten the chocolate, Big Tree Farms uses organic coconut palm sugar, another one of their food products. As it is unrefined and has a lower glycemic index, coconut palm sugar is the current darling of nutritionists. Dr. Oz and other high-profile health experts are touting it as the next ‘big ingredient’ and suggesting it is a better choice over traditional refined cane sugar (your basic white sugar used in many commercial food products and one of the targets in the obesity crisis).



Organic, raw, nutritious chocolate – is this the ultimate feel-good, guilt-free indulgence? You’ll have to try it and decide for yourself. Big Tree Farms is certainly working hard to give you as many reasons as they can to help you feel good about their sustainable food products.  And they might just be having a little fun while doing it. Willy Wonka would be proud.


Here is a recipe from Big Tree Farms for their Spicy Morning of the World hot cocoa drink.

This is the Jamu of Cacao that gets our blood flowing in the morning.  Morning elixirs are an important for the majority of we humans, everywhere.  Every culture, in their own way, greats the morning with some kind of ritual that bridges the dream time to the awake time. Our morning ritual uses our cold pressed raw cacao powder, our SweetTree coconut palm sugar and various spices that not only awakes the mind, but also invigorates the body.  Cacao is a stimulant in that it is one of the best vasodilators in the world, which means it expands your veins, allowing more oxygen to flow into your body.  So your cells feel alive and awake without the jittery caffeine manky manky.

Recipe (always adjust for personal preference):

2 cups hot water
4 heaping tablespoons Big Tree Farms raw cacao powder (6 tablespoons if you like it really rich)
4 tablespoons SweetTree coconut palm sugar (or sweeten to taste)
2 tablespoons CocoHydro coconut water powder (original flavor)
1 Pinch of Big Tree Farms Balinese sea salt
2 Pinches of cayenne pepper
Dash of freshly ground nutmeg
Sprinkle of cinnamon

Stir the above ingredients in an oversized mug that requires you to use 2 hands to bring it to your lips.  After all, this is a morning ritual and using two hands tends to make you appreciate the moment all the more. We love using coconut milk to give it a little bit of extra richness and mouth feel, but you can you use whatever kind of milk you prefer.

raisin walnut soda bread

In a pinch, soda bread saves the day. It’s quite simple to make, requires only a few ingredients, and takes less than an hour start to finish. Basic white soda bread can be used as toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, a few slices with some romesco sauce as a snack. You can also build off the base recipe and start to have some fun. Here I am adding cinnamon, raisins and toasted walnuts to make a delicious breakfast loaf.


450g (1lb/4 cups) all-purpose flour
1 level tsp white granulated sugar
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 cup toasted walnuts, finely chopped
1 cup raisins
350-425ml (12-15fl oz) buttermilk or sour milk

Preheat the oven to 425°F (230°C).

Place walnuts in a small pan on medium heat. Toss walnuts every few minutes to allow them to toast, but not burn. When walnuts are warm and lightly toasted, remove from pan and allow to cool. Finely chop.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add toasted walnuts and raisins. Make a well in the center. Pour in most of the buttermilk (leaving about 60ml/2fl oz in the measuring jug). Using one hand with your fingers outstretched like a claw, bring the flour and liquid together, adding more buttermilk if necessary. Do not knead the mixture or it will become heavy. The dough should be fairly soft, but not too wet and sticky.

When it comes together, turn onto a floured work surface and bring together a little more. Pat the dough into a round about 4cm (1½in) deep and cut a deep cross in it. Some say this tradition of cutting a cross in the top is to let the fairies out before baking.

Place on a baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 400°F (200°C), and cook for 30 minutes more. When cooked, the loaf will sound slightly hollow when tapped on the base and be golden in colour.

Allow to cool on a wire rack. Serve warm with butter, honey or your favourite jam.