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My Travel Notebook: Day Trips from Barcelona - Girona and Tarrogona

brightly coloured facades of the houses overlooking the Onyar River

If you are in Barcelona more than a few days, you are missing out if you don't plan at least one day trip, depending on your interests.

My Barcelona Notebook: Ten Days Of Joyous Eating, Drinking and More Eating

It would be an understatement to say that we probably ate some of the best food in recent memory while we were in Barcelona. Unlike Paris, where I found that between the fabulous sandwiches that we would grab from any old boulangerie and some bazillion dollar 2 Michelin star restaurant, the food was inconsistent and often not very good although always expensive. Sorry people, you can send me all the hate mail you like, but all three of us agree on that point - the restaurant food was expensive and disappointing more often than not.

Pressure Cooker Thai Red Curry Beef

I've gotta be honest, I have not loved my attempts at making Thai beef curries in my pressure cooker up until now. It just always felt like the sauce was a little too thin and it lacked body but I didn't want to add more coconut milk and then dilute the red curry flavour.

What to do?

This time, after it was done the initial pressure cook, I threw in some potato and sweet potato and when it was done, much of the sweet potato had kind of broken down and melted into the sauce, thickening it up nicely without diluting the intensity of the red curry paste. I also really like the sweetness it adds - it really balances out the heat of the red curry beautifully and kind of mellows it slightly without diluting the flavour, which is exactly what it was missing.


Another recipe finally converted to work in the Instant Pot (you can make it in any brand of electric pressure cooker, of course). This curry usually simmers for at least two hours on the stove top so cutting that time by about 60% is a pretty nice bonus too. Feel free to leave out the broccoli and substitute some green beans or frozen peas if you don't have any broccoli, just make sure that you add those delicate vegetables after the pressure cooking is over and let them cook gently in the residual heat of the curry for a few minutes with the lid on before you serve it.

Pressure Cooker Thai Red Curry Beef

serves 6-8

1 tbls of vegetable oil
2 small or 1 large onion, cut in rough wedges
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2" piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into coins
1 piece lemongrass, smashed and cut into 3" pieces
2 kaffir lime leaves
1 can of coconut milk (don't shake as you will use the cream from the top of the can)
4 tbls of red curry paste
1 tbls fish sauce
1 tbls soy sauce
1 kg (2 lbs) stewing beef
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup chicken stock
3 or 4 small waxy potatoes, cut in large bite size pieces
1/2 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into large bite sized pieces
2 tbls lime juice
about half a head of broccoli cut into flowerets

cilantro, lime wedges, rice

Salt the stew beef and set aside.

Heat the pot using the saute button until it says hot before you add in the oil and cook the onion, garlic and ginger for a few minutes, until starting to get a bit of colour.

Push the onions to the side, scrape the solid cream off the top of the can of coconut milk and add that to the pot. Stir in the red curry paste and fry in the coconut cream for about 5 minutes, slowly incorporating the onions into it and keep cooking until it starts to turn a much darker brownish red.

Add in the lemongrass, lime leaves, coconut milk, chicken broth, fish sauce, soy sauce and the beef and stir until everything is well coated.

Lock the lid on and either hit the meat/stew button or cook on manual HP for 35 minutes.
When the time is up, do a quick release, add in the potato and sweet potato, lock the lid back on and cook for 3 minutes at HP.

Do another quick release, throw in the lime juice and the broccoli, put the lid back on and let it sit for five minutes while you get the bowls, rice and garnishes together so the broccoli can cook in the residual heat.

Serve over rice, garnished with chopped cilantro and serve with a lime wedge or two.

March means Supper Club and Cooking Classes

I am back from a ten day trip to Barcelona and man, am I fired up! I just spent 10 days eating and drinking and exploring, I lugged home three sizes of paella pans, cazuelas, spices, dried peppers, black sea salt and a brain overloaded with ideas. 

Keep your eyes peeled for my upcoming posts about my trip, about what we ate, what we saw and where we went, but, for now, here is what is happening in the upcoming month:

For our March Supper Club, I am going to do a bit of a Mexican/Greek mash up. There will be tasty cocktails, great food and great dining companions, as always, so go reserve your seat now
Get your tickets for our March 18 Supper Club Opaaa!

Upcoming Cooking Classes for March

For the cheap and cheerful crowd, I have two What's For Dinner Classes at the Musgrave Loblaws in March. You pay $15 and get a $15 dollar gift card for your trouble.

March 8
March 22

Also, my next series of Instant Pot classes this month will be taking place at The Depanneur. Workshops are $60 each and start at 6:30pm 

 March 25 will be another Intro to Instant Pot Class
If that sells out, as they often do, I will be repeating the class on March 26

On March 27 I will be teaching an Instant Pot Pasta hands on workshop
This class is a new one for those of you who have taken the intro class OR are getting comfortable with your wizard pot and want to start branching out from beans, soup and hard boiled eggs


January Supper Club at The Kingston Social - Peruvian Flavah

Okay, Toronto Peeps, it's a new year and we are starting up our monthly Supper Clubs at The Kingston Social House, in Toronto's East East End.

The first dinner of the year, this Sunday, January 21, will feature one of my favourite meals to cook and eat - my Peruvian Flavah dinner. We start with Aguadito de Pollo, a hearty chicken soup that is full of cilantro, white rice as well as black rice, chicken, aji amarillo all topped off with crispy chicken skin.

Pressure Cooker Seco de Carne - Peruvian Beef Stew

You may have noticed that I am not keeping up with my regular pace on the blog. For the last 8 years, I've tried to add at least 1 or 2 recipes a week but my own cooking gigs have kept me out of my own kitchen since the fall.

Turkey Pot Pie - Take a Walk on the LIght Side

I get it, I don't always feel like cooking some huge holiday meal either. I find, as my son gets older, we do less and less Christmasy stuff and spend the time off hanging out together. We go to movies, we play inappropriate games like Cards Against Humanity and visit friends because nobody has time to get together apart from Christmas.

Aguadito de Pollo with Crispy Chicken Skin- Peruvian Chicken Cilantro Soup in the Instant Pot

The Kingston Social and I are teaming up again for the new year and resurrecting our monthly Supper Clubs, starting in January. For my first menu, I will be doing a Yum style Peruvian dinner. My MVP pop up was one of my most popular of 2017 but, not one to rest of my laurels,  I really wanted to add something new to the meal and because it will be in January, soup just makes sense.

Sous Vide Crema Volteada - The Peruvian Style Flan You Have Been Waiting For

It's no secret that I am a lover of all things custard and caramel.

Creme brulee? I'm there
Creme caramel? Can't stop me.
Dulce de Leche? Hold my earrings

Sticky Instant Pot Asian Ribs

Holy crap, I have been so busy cooking for other people that I have not even had time to cook at home, apart from a grilled cheese here and there. I have a few down days before plunging back into the fire next week so, in an effort to practice what I preach, it's time to get into my own kitchen. I have some interesting recipes that are not quite ready for prime time that will be coming soon, but, in the meantime, I am still going through some of my favourite crock pot recipes and adapting them to the Instant Pot since it is supposedly almost mid November and should be feeling like winter by now.

I know that most of you think of ribs as a summer BBQ dish but for me, it's always been more of a winter thing so I have started eyeballing the pork ribs at the butcher.

I used to either do them slow and low for hours and hours, wrapped in foil in a low oven or all day in the crockpot for days when I am going to be out too long for that. The problem with the crockpot is that, although convenient, the ribs ALWAYS overcooked so that instead of just barely falling off the bone, I often ended up with a heap of boneless rib meat on a platter by the time I tried to transfer them from the pot to the baking sheet. 

Thanks to the pressure cooker, I can grab ribs at the store on the way home from work and have them on the table in an hour, from start to finish. For these ribs, a family favourite, the ribs benefit from a bit of a marinade with the paste so when I can actually get my act together, I coat them in the paste in the morning and leave them in the fridge all day but even if you just let them sit for ten minutes before popping them in the pot, you are still going to end up with a tasty, sticky finished rib.

Sticky Instant Pot Asian Ribs

serves 3-4

4lbs pork side ribs

3 tbls brown sugar
2 tsp grated ginger or ginger paste
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp sesame oil

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup mirin
3/4 cup water
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbls ginger paste
2 tbls soy sauce
1 tbls ketchup
1 tbls smoky bbq sauce like Bullseye
1 tbls cornstarch

If your ribs are in long racks, cut them into smaller sections because it's easier to fit them in the pot that way. Make the paste and coat the top sides of the ribs. If you can, let them sit for an hour or even more but if you can't, they will still be tasty - as always, if you can let them marinade a bit, the flavour is always intensified.
Put a cup of water, about 1 tsp liquid smoke in the bottom of your pot, and then put in the trivet. Arrange your ribs by wrapping them around the inside of the pot, on top of the trivet, standing on their sides with the meaty side to the walls of the pot adding a second layer until you have got them all in there.

Lock the lid in, make sure the valve is closed and program them for about 20 minutes on HP. I like my ribs very soft so I usually do between 20 and 25 minutes although other people cook them for as little as 15 minutes but if you want them to fall off the bone, start with 20 minutes - you can always add a couple of minutes if they are not quite soft enough for you after the time is up. Basically 20 minutes will give you very soft ribs and 25 should be leave you with ribs that are literally falling off the bone. 

While the ribs are cooking, put all of the sauce ingredients, except for the cornstarch, into a pot and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and let it just barely simmer while the ribs are cooking.
Right before you are going to brush it on the ribs, add the cornstarch and let it simmer for another minute. Remove from the heat.

When the timer goes off for your ribs, preheat the broiler and let the pressure on the Instant Pot release naturally (NPR)When the pressure has released, carefully remove the ribs to a parchment or foil lined pan very carefully so they remain intact. Brush the ribs with the sauce and broil them until the sauce starts to brown and bubble up - between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on your broiler and the distance between the meat and the element. Just keep a close eye on them as they will burn quickly.

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