The Daring Cooks’ April 2012 Challenge – Create Your Own Recipe!

Our April 2012 Daring Cooks hosts were David & Karen from Twenty-Fingered Cooking. They presented us with a very daring and unique challenge of forming our own recipes by using a set list of ingredients!

This has got to be one of the most interesting daring cooks challenges so far. The idea of creating your own recipe from a list of ingredients reminded me of chopped “the TV show” with the exception of the fact that we were given a month to come up with our recipes.

David and Karen were kind enough to give us some tools and guidance. They provided us with three lists of ingredients from which we were asked to create our meal. The lists were intended to be a source of inspiration or a starting point for us to build out recipes on. Of course, this a challenge, so there had to be a catch and the catch was that you have to use at least one ingredient from each of the three lists – this will force you to think carefully about flavor combinations.

The three lists were

List 1: Parsnips, Eggplant (aubergine), Cauliflower
List 2: Balsamic Vinegar, Goat Cheese, Chipotle peppers
List 3: Maple Syrup, Instant Coffee, Bananas

The thought process:

I wrote down all the available ingredients, we don’t get parsnips here and chipotle peppers was out of the question too because I can’t stand the heat.The next step was to think of all the possibilities for each ingredients, should I grill it? fry it? mash it? stuff it? After that came the combinations, what were the flavours and textures that worked together to form a main meal?

Take one

My first take on the challenge was a salad, I love serving salads as a main meal and I thought I should start with one. I started with the eggplants and thought of what flavors, textures and other ingredients to add to build a harmonious salad. I know from one of our favorite recipes “Turkish pilaf” that eggplants go really well with chickpeas and tomatoes. I used some roasted tomatoes I had on hand (they were roasted with olive oil and thyme and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar). I added lettuce and fried pita for crunch and goat cheese to add a creamy and light note to the salad.

1/2 big eggplant cut into cubes

1 cup goat cheese cubed

1 cup roasted tomatoes (you can replace them with sundried tomatoes)

3 cups romaine lettuce

1 cup chickpeas

1 pita bread cut into slices

Salad dressing

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 clove garlic minced (optional)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Fry the eggplant in oil till it is golden brown (for a healthier version you can grill or roast the eggplant), drain, set aside.

Layer the lettuce in your serving dish and add the other ingredients

To make the salad dressing

Whisk the vinegar, maple syrup,lemon juice,garlic, paprika, salt, pepper then slowly drizzle the olive oil while whisking. You can also add all the ingredients in a jar and then cover it and shake till the dressing is well combined

Drizzle with the salad dressing and top with the fried bread.

Take two

I knew I wanted to make something with chicken, maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. My initial thought was to make something similar to my honey glazed chicken or my 5 spice honey chicken but then decided to make a spinoff chicken adobo which is a popular Filipino recipe. I was first introduced to chicken adobo through Korena’s post and I fill in love with it just by reading the recipe. I decided to try replacing balsamic vinegar instead of regular and adding maple syrup for a hint of sweetness to balance off the vinegar. I served this with baba ghanouj and  rice. The meal was a hit and a definite keeper

4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs and breasts

4 tablespoons soy sauce

1 can of coconut milk

6 tbsp balsamic vinegar

4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

1 tsp  whole pepper corns

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2-3 bay leaves

1 tablespoon soya sauce

In a ziplock bag or bowl, combine the chicken and soya sauce.Marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Remove the chicken from the soy sauce, let the excess drip off, and place the chicken, skin side down,in a pan or pot. Reserve the soy sauce in a bowl.

Cook over medium heat until the chicken skin is golden brown , 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the reserved soy sauce with the coconut cream, garlic, pepper corns, vinegar, maple syrup, the additional tablespoon soya sauce and bay leaves

When the chicken has browned, remove it to a plate and pour the fat out of the pan. Return the chicken to the pan, skin side down, and pour in the soy-coconut-vinegar mixture.

Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.

Turn the chicken over and simmer for another 15 minutes, or until the chicken reaches 175˚F on a thermometer.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve with steamed rice

For the eggplant component of the meal, I made baba ghanouj. The famous Lebanese dip. It is one of my favorites dip to make, along with mutawam “rosted zucchini garlic yogurt dip”.You can serve it with pita bread, crackers, toast, sliced baguette, celery, or cucumber slices. It also makes a wonderful companion to any meat or chicken dish.

Baba ghanouj


1 large eggplants

1/4 cup tahini sauce

Juice of one lemon – less thank 1/4 cup

Salt to taste

Olive oil for drizzling

1 Tbsp torn mint leaves


Poke the eggplant in several places with a fork

On the stove top, roast the eggplant on the open flame and turn it every couple of minutes untill it is  all soft and charred.

Place the eggplant in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and allow to steam for 5-7 minutes

Peel the eggplant (you can keep a little of the charred peel for more smoky flavor)

Chop the eggplant finely,then mash it a little with a fork. You can do this in a food processor but don’t make it too smooth. Baba ghanouj is supposed to be chunky

In a bowl, mix the tahini sauce with the lemon juice and salt. At first the mix will be flowy but with mixing it will thicken .

Add the chopped eggplant to the tahini and mix to combine

Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with torn mint.