A Year in Lucy’s Kitchen, by Toronto superstar Lucy Waverman, has it all. Divided by month, it showcases seasonal ingredients and comfort foods, highlights individual recipes but also puts togethers 2- 3 menus per month, and tops it off with Lucy’s husband Bruce adding innovative wine pairings. Themes of dinners run the gamut from Cooking for the Cousins (when Lucy’s family comes to town) to Paris in the Spring, and the recipes smack of creativity and taste. A lot of love and work clearly went into this.
I’ve always been a little intimidated by Lucy. As the food editor for the Liquor Board of Ontario’s Food & Drink magazine, and a weekly food columnist for The Globe and Mail, her recipes look complex, though well worth the time, I’m sure. So I was excited to give this book a try.
I decided on Thai Chicken and Tomato Stew and Easy Chocolate Slices, featured in the December section. Not the hardest-looking recipes of the bunch, but I had some Thai red curry paste I needed to use, and who doesn’t love chocolate? The explanation was intriguing- an Australian specialty, something that’s found everywhere? Hmmmm. I’ve been to the land down under but was too busy trying to figure out vegemite to look for chocolate slices.
I was, as usual, tempted to change a few things as I went along, but decided to stick as close to the recipe as I could. I had my doubts about the plastic wrap, for example, that lies between the baking dish and the chocolate- won’t it melt when the hot chocolate is poured on it? Won’t it stick to the bottom? Best to stay with it though, since I haven’t had much success with recipes that use waxed paper either.
The Thai Chicken and Tomato Stew is an easy crowd pleaser. If I hadn’t read the title and cooked it myself, I wouldn’t have identified it as Thai- perhaps more curry paste or the addition of fish sauce and other Thai staples would remedy that, if desired. The measurements were difficult to work with- how many onions is two cups of onions exactly? how many cloves equal one tablespoon of garlic?- so I altered them to be more shopper-friendly. I omitted the salt in the first step since the curry paste has salt, but don’t forget to season the chicken, it makes a big difference. Lastly, I exchanged the coriander for Thai basil since I grow it in my kitchen herb garden.
The Easy Chocolate Slices consist of a base of melted chocolate chips mixed with butter, corn syrup, and crushed shortbread cookies. The top layer contains melted chocolate bar pieces poured on top, then chilled and cut into bars.
The amounts in the recipe were a little tricky. The base made a lot of liquid so I wound up adding an additional 50 grams of crushed shortbread cookies. The top layer didn’t seem to be enough for the bottom layer. Lucy calls for 200- 300 grams of chocolate; I used the full 300 and still suspected there was too much base. Granted, I could have used different flavoured chocolate chips to make it more interesting; she does suggest a few options for the cookies and chocolate bar. I used semisweet chips, guessing the milk chocolate bar on top would balance nicely. For the top, I used Fruit and Nut Toblerone, and Fruit and Nut Dairy Milk, gambling that fruit and nut pieces would be a welcome addition.
My worries were for naught. The Chocolate Slices were awesome. They’re rich and yummy and the two kinds of chocolate balance beautifully. It’s best to leave some cookie pieces in the base as bigger chunks; they were a delight to bite into. No problem with the plastic wrap either, it worked perfectly. The only flaw? The recipe leaves your pot a mess- it’s going to be fun to clean that up.
Both recipes were hits, and I think I’m now brave enough to work through a few more.
All recipes adapted from Lucy Waverman’s A Year in Lucy’s Kitchen.
Thai Chicken and Tomato Stew
2 tbsps olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp gingerroot, grated
1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1 can coconut milk (Lucy calls for 1 cup, my can was a little more- approx 13 oz)
1 can chopped tomatoes (Lucy calls for two cups- again my can was bigger, approx 540 ml. I drained off some of the juice but not all)
1/2 cup water (I would omit this in future)
2 tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp sugar
Approx. 1 1/2 lbs/ 750 grams boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, cut in half and trimmed of excess fat
salt and pepper to season chicken
a handful of fresh Thai basil, chopped
Heat oil over medium heat in large skillet. Add onions and cook for approx. 10 minutes, until golden. Add garlic, ginger and curry paste. Cook, stirring, for approx. 2 minutes. Lucy notes that if the spices stick, you can reduce the heat and add a little oil. Mine didn’t stick.
Add coconut milk, tomatoes, water (if using), lime juice, and sugar. Scrape up any bits stuck to bottom. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer approx. 10 minutes. (Note: in future I will simmer a little longer as I found there was a lot of liquid left, probably because the amounts I added are more than what Lucy calls for).
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken pieces to pot, cover, and cook for 8- 10 minutes over medium-low heat until chicken is cooked through. Stir in basil. Serve in bowls over rice (bowls hold the broth better than plates).
Easy Chocolate Slices
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/3 cup corn syrup (Lucy calls for Lyle’s Golden Syrup, if you can find it)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (can alter flavour if desired)
1 pkg/ 350 grams shortbread cookies, broken into coarse crumbs and chunks (can use other types as well- Lucy suggests digestive, oatmeal or chocolate chip)
1- 300 gram chocolate bar, broken into pieces (I used fruit and nut milk chocolate Toblerone and Dairy Milk, feel free to use whatever pleases you)
Melt butter and corn syrup in large pot over medium heat. Stir in chocolate chips until melted. Add cookie chunks and stir to combine.
Pour mixture into 8-inch baking dish lined with plastic wrap.
Melt chocolate bar pieces over medium-low heat. Immediately pour over chocolate-cookie base. Chill until set. Cut into bars. Eat as many as you can- yum yum.