30 June 2008
So...while you wait for me to upload the round-up, here's an easy-peasey one-stop for the run up to Mmm...Canada: The Savoury Edition.
22 June 08: Honibe Honey Drops (Product Review)
23 June 08: Spiced Blueberry-Maple Syrup (Mmm...Canada: SHF submission)
24 June 08: Ontario Lamb (Lamb Curry)
25 June 08: Yukon Gold Potatoes (Potatoes, Cabbage and Cauliflower thing)
26 June 08: Oats (Fruit and Nut Granola)
27 June 08: Cheese (a small sampling)
28 June 08: Bacon, Ramp and Mushroom Swirls (Mmm...Canada: The Savoury Edition submission)
And yes. The astute amongst you realised that I tried to do a post for each of the food groups on Canada's food guide...Meat & Meat Products (lamb); Fruit & Veg (Potatoes...if not then the cabbage and cauliflower count); Grains (oats); Dairy (cheese) and other (honey).
Please note: I've replied to every entrant with a savoury post. If you haven't a note from me, please resend your info to me.
See you tomorrow with the event round-up.
29 June 2008
But...ummm...all the Danish braids I've ever had were shop-bought things that were either bready or flaky. So how am I to figure out how my attempt fared against what it was supposed to be? But then again...does it really matter?
What I mean is...many recipes I try are ones that read well. The final product has an interesting title, has ingredients I have on hand (or ones I can easily get), is something I've heard of in legend (or on a blog somewhere). Stylized, retouched, pixelated purveyances generally don't lure me (I say *generally* I have my moments of weakness). Basically, if the end result is something I like, then I think it's successful. Full stop.
So when I tackled the recipe, the only clues I had to how it might turn out were the yeast (bready?) and Ben's comment about making puff pastry by hand (flaky?).
The filling I chose was a combination of pluot and granny smith apples. I'd not had pluots at all before, but they were ripe and available. Prepped them quite simply--sliced the pluots in wedges and interspersed them between slices of peeled apple, and then topped the fruit with brown sugar.
My only tip is to tightly plait the strands--don't do a haphazard brand, otherwise the strips will dislodge and leave you with something that looks more akin to a ribcage after the rise...fine if you were making a cadaver for a Hallowe'en party, but not really for this.
Oh, and how did it taste? Buttery, not too sweet, a bit spicy. Oh yes...and the texture? The bottom was a bit bready and the plaits were a bit flaky...
Normally I don't post the DB recipes and just send you to the host's site, but this time I am for two reasons--one: I wanted to provide the recipe for a single braid or at least six smaller pastries and two: the cardamom comes through really nicely...and I've been a bit remiss in cooking with cardamom over the past...well...while.
adapted from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking; makes one braid
½ Tbsp dry yeast
60ml full-fat milk
finely grated zest of half an orange
- Whisk together the yeast and bowl. Then add the sugar, zest, cardamom, vanilla, egg, and orange juice and mix well.
- Sift together the 230g flour and salt in a separate bowl. Pour in the liquid and deftly mix together. When incorporated, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and kneed until smooth and easy to work with, adding more flour if the dough is sticky.
- Wrap in cling and chill for half an hour.
- In a separate bowl, beat together the rest of the measured flour with the butter until smooth and lump-free. Set aside at room temperature.
- After the dough (the detrempe) has chilled, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the to 45cm x 32cm (18"x13") rectangle approximately 1cm (¼") thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour.
- Spread all the butter (the beurrage) evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. This is the first single turn. Mark the dough by poking it once with your finger to keep track of your turns. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap in cling, and pop into the fridge for half an hour.
- For the second single turn, place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface, with the open ends at your right and left. Again, roll out the dough into a 45cm x 32cm (18"x13") rectangle approximately 1cm (¼") thick. And again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. Poke it twice and wrap in cling and refrigerate the dough for half an hour. Repeat twice more for a total of four single turns, adding a poke each time.
- After the fourth go round, refrigerate at least five hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it by rolling the dough out to about 2.5cm (1") thick, wrap tightly in cling, and freeze; defrost in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.
For the Danish braid.
1 recipe Danish Dough
1 cup filling of choice
1 beaten egg
Putting it together
- Line a baking sheet.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 20cm x 25cm (8"x10"), 1cm (¼") thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.
- Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5cm (2") long cuts at roughly 1cm (¼") to 2cm (¾") intervals with a knife or rolling pastry wheel. Repeat on the opposite side, taking care to ensure you line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.
- Spoon the filling down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling.
- Fold the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished, as if you are braiding hair. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.
- Brush, lightly with the beaten egg to coat the braid.
- Cover with a greased sheet of clink and proof until doubled in size and light to the touch. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 200C (400F) and position a rack in the center of the oven
- Bake for 10 minutes.Lower the oven temperature to 180C (350F), and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown.
- When done, remove to cool on a wire rack.
- Serve still warm from the oven or at room temperature.
- The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to two days, or freeze for month.
To read what the other DBs did with this challenge, take a meander through our blogroll.
Edit: For those of you wondering about pluots, I've written a short post abou them here:
28 June 2008
In my entry for Jennifer's event, I stated that I think Canadian cuisine (savoury or sweet) developed through adapting family and cultural dishes using a mixture of indigenous and introduced foods. For that post, I made spiced blueberry-maple syrup that combined indigenous ingredients (maple syrup and wild blueberries) along with introduced flavours (cinnamon and black pepper).
For my own event, I'm keeping within that theme and expanding it a teeny bit.
In May a good friend of mine left a box of wild bounty she collected from her properties for me. My, those were some lovely looking ramps.
My idea was quite simple: work with flavours that play well together to bring out their oniony-garlicky best. Essentially what I think of as the basic tenet of cooking (Canadian or otherwise)-- simple homey cooking that's unfettered by fashion that uses what's easily available in a tasty way that's not only soothing but also makes you glad you're home.
In researching the various rampy treats, I came across a a recipe for a savoury ramp strudel. With a few tweaks (aided by a bit of a stromboli fascination), I decided to make savoury, swirly buns, using bacon, cheese and mushrooms. It sounds like a lot of elements, but really, it isn't. Plus, it combines those ingredients in a way I think of as Canadian in substance and spirit:
- Pigs were brought over fairly early in our history,
- Quebec has a great cheesemaking tradition, and we do make our own versions of American and European cheese
- Mushrooms are both harvested wild and cultivated
- Prairie wheat was used to mill my flour
- Herbs and spices from Europe and Asia
Again, this is a recipe that really doesn't need one. Okay...the bun part does. If you don't have a recipe you like, I made mine based on Edna Staebler's Neil's Harbour White Bread (and I used one-third the recipe).
- streaky bacon, chopped into bits
- ramps (spring onions, green onions, globe onions or leeks will also do), green and white bits, chopped
- chopped mushrooms
- salt, pepper, thyme
- softened cream cheese (any soft or melty cheese will do)
- one beaten egg
- Parmesan cheese
Make the dough. During the first rise, fry the bacon until crisp and evacuate the bits to a bowl, leaving the fat in the pan. Fry the ramps and the mushrooms in the fat--add some oil if you need to. Season with salt, pepper and thyme. Reintroduce the bacon to pan and give it all a good stir. Remove contents to a bowl and set aside.
After the dough has doubled, role it out to a 24x30 cm (8"x12") rectangle. Smear with cream cheese and spread the rampy-baconny-mushroomy topping over the cheese. Roll the sheet up, so you have a 30-ish cm log. Slice in 12 rolls and place in a baking tin. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Let rise until doubled in size.
Heat oven to 200C/400F and bake for 10-15 minutes or until done.
Check back on Canada Day (01 July 2008) to see Mmm...Canada: The Savoury Edition's round-up)
27 June 2008
For those of you who aren't fully aware...I am part mouse. Yes, I know, I know...I don't look as if I should be a Mousketeer, nor do my dental features particularly resemble a certain Mr. Peter Pettigrew. But I do have a cerain affitinty for cheese.
Okay...When My Darling Michael and I saw Ratatouille he giggled away ...because (apparently) I get the same look on my face as Rémy did when we found a wonderful flavour combination.
Nothing wrong with that.
Anway...cheese. As I've mentioned a couple of times this month, Canada has a proud cheese-making history, and our cheeses are becoming better known. To celebrate and support cheese manufacturers, The Dairy Farmers of Canada hold The Canadian Cheese Grand Prix every other year--we have more than 200 cheese manufacturers who make more than 200 types of cheese. You can find more information about the Grand Prix, along with past winners here
I think my love of cheese is genetic. My mum is known as the little mousie at home because well...it's amazing how quickly a large hunkahunka cheesey goodness can disappear if she's in range. As for me, I listed cheese on my you are what you eat meme response and I try to have several types on the go in my fridge.
I'm lucky in that the swankyfooderie has a pretty decent cheese case. I can go in at any time and explore a new fromaggie treat from many places in Europe or North America. When I realised I'd be doing a post a day featuring Canadian food and food products, I headed over and bought a trio of Canadian cheeses:
Made in Québec, this is a semi-soft, surface ripened washed-rind, cow's milk cheese with a pale, creamy texture. I'll admit that I could instantly tell when the cheese was unwapped...it is a bit whiffy. But the taste was simply lovely--mild and creamy it melts well but slices well, so it could easily find a home on a cheese tray or on a sandwich.
Apologies: I tried looking up some information on this one, but I can't seem to find anything...which makes me wonder if it's from a very small manufacturer or if it's just misnamed. Oh well. This is a mild and very soft, almost melty goat's milk cheese. The cheese itself is snowy white and the thin rind is covered in ash. I could easily see myself using it in a mango or strawberry salad.
Madagascar Green Peppercorn Cheese
There were two things that made me buy this one...first was the green peppercorns. I love the juniper-like taste they have. Second...it was from Manitoba. Don't get me wrong, but I normally see Ontario and Québec cheeses in the cold case so when I saw something from Manitoba, I had to add it to my cart. It was my favourite of the three. The cheese is about as firm as a mozzerella and very mild, letting the peppercorn taste come through. Great for a swanky pizza, melted over chicken, or in a sandwich.
Actually...I prefer cheese on crackers...or with more cheese.
If you are interested in learning more about Canadian cheese, the dairy people have started a podcast series on cheese. But first go through the landing page...the current campaign is a "duets" concept...it's a scream...but I like cheesey things like that.
Edit: Well...I just found out that the 2008 Grand Prix has been postponed by a year...
26 June 2008
About two months ago, when I outted myself as a pinhead, I mentioned my sudden craving for granola.
Our dearest Ivonne visited me about a year ago and brought with her a parcel filled with homemade granola. It was so good--sweet and crunchy, studded with cranberries and blueberries--I had it with milk, yoghurt and ice cream...I was even grabbing handfuls as snacks. Wanting to satisfy my craving, I emailed her for the recipe and she obliged.
That's one of the things I really like about being a part of the food blogging community. We can ask each other for hints, recipes, techniques and even the occasional ear or opinion and it's generally freely given. No questions asked.
We visit each other's pages and riffle through their recipe books and pantries. We ooh and ah at intricate pastries and commiserate over horrible casseroles. Our dishes span many cuisines and courses, not to mention lifestyles and preferences. We dare each other to expand our horizons and invite one another to create new foods.
We can say "Hey! I want to do an event featuring my home country and I want you participate--you don't need to find it on a map, or have visited or anything, but I just want you to join in on the fun."
And for the most part they'll say "Hey! I can find it on a map and YES I'd love to take part."
Better yet, we can say "Hey, I'm going to be in your neck of the woods...wanna hang out?" and you can usually find a dining companion...
And like many RL communities, word spreads about our joys and our pains. We find little gifts in our mailboxes (real and virtual). We support freely and we are supported unexpectedly.
Most of this without ever meeting each other face-to-face.
Fruit and Nut Granola
adapted from Stonewall Kitchen Favourites
125g rolled oats
55g pinhead oats
50g sweetened shredded coconut
50g sunflower seeds
50g pumpkin seeds
50g whole almonds
35g brown sugar
¼ tsp nutmeg
75ml maple syrup
1tsp vanilla extract
100g dried fruit
Putting it together
- Preheat oven to 150C/300F and line a baking tray with foil or parchment
- Mix all the ingredients together, spread evenly on the prepared tray and pop into the oven for 30-40 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes or so, so the granola doesn't clump together. The granola is ready to come out of the oven when it's a lovely golden colour
- Remove from oven and put the tray on a cooling rack. Stir once or twice until cool
- Keeps in an airtight container for up to six weeks.
25 June 2008
I can't remember who included Lets Call The Whole Thing Off in his stand-up routine, but I still smile when I think of it. Instead of the usual "You say potato, I say potaeto/You say tomato, I say tomaeto," he sang "You say potato, I say potato/you say tomato, I say tomato"...tee hee...okay...maybe you had to be there.
I'm a bit of a potato freak. As someone who grew up with rice at every evening meal, I saw potatoes as something wonderful and special. I know there are others who see things exactly opposite to me and yawn at potatoes but are very pleased to see a little mound of rice on their plate. That's fine...you can have your rice, I'll have my potatoes, please.
Mashed, boiled, roasted, fried, baked, rosti...I love it all. And for me, Yukon gold is king. Unfortunately, it's getting harder and harder for me to find my favourite potato in the bigscarymegamart or even the mediumscarymegamart. In fact, I'm finding it difficult to find varietals at all. It seems as if the store's (or maybe the potato marketing board, if there is a beast) marketers see fit to just call them white potatoes, red potatoes, or this newfangled "yellow flesh" potatoes.
On the weekend a friend asked about Yukon golds and the stock boy told him that yellow flesh are the same as Yukon gold and he had no idea why the name change.
My guess is they're going to be switching over to a cheaper, less harmoniously sounding spud so it's easier to call them by a generic name, but still charge YGP prices
Smarmketers. (Oh wait, was that me being snarky? Just a tad...it's been a day).
When I made the lamb curry I decided to forego the rice and make Aloo Gobi--a potato and cauliflower dish spiced with cumin and coriander. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough cauliflower on hand. A quick check of the fridge proffered the last leaves of my Chinese cabbage, but not enough to substitute for the caulifower in my recipe....so used up the Chinese leaf and topped up on cauliflower.
The flavours and textures work well together--the potatoes are soft and yielding and the cauliflower has a bit of crunch and the cabbage...well...the cabbage is cabbagey. The dish itself is cumminy and slightly zingy from the pepper. Plus the turmeric tinges the potatoes and the cauliflower with happy. What more could you want?
I don't have a name for this dish...so for now I'm going to be more than a tad boring...and obvious. If you can come up with a better name, let me know...
Potatoes, Cabbage and Cauliflower
¾ tsp black mustard seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ onion, sliced
400g potatoes, in 1cm cubes and boiled until tender in salty water
2c julienned cabbage
2c cauliflower florets
1½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp tumeric
¼ chilli pepper powder
1½ tsp salt
Putting it together
- Heat oil over medium heat. Add mustard and cumin seeds and toast until the mustard seeds begin to pop (you might want to lid the pot...or you could just live dangerously...it's up to you). Add the onions and fry until golden and soft.
- Add cauliflower and stiry for a few minutes--basically heat it through. Tip in the cabbage shreds and then the potatoes. Add the coriander, turmeric, chilli pepper and salt. Stir again and add a spoonful of water and give everything a good stir so that the potatoes and cauliflower take on the tumeric's yellow. Season to taste.
24 June 2008
You know how sometimes...just sometimes...you eat a food that leaves you so unsatisfied that you know you have to make it yourself just to prove that there can be a good version of it...somewhere?
My most recent example of this was inspired by June's Milk Calendar Monday offering. Yes. I know, I know...in certain circles even mentioning that something doesn't taste good because it really doesn't have a passing resemblance to the food its supposed to be is a no-no, since it shrieks not only of an honest knowledge of that food, but also schmecks of foodish elitism.
But you know...sometimes a rendition is just plain, old...bad...and shouldn't be recommended or replicated. This is how I feel about a couple of recipes in this calendar (the "curry" and the jambalaya)
I've posted a couple of chicken curries on this blog...the mild vanilla kurma and my (dare I say successful) attempt at butter chicken. This time I wanted something different and--thanks to a great price reduction on a boned leg of lamb--I found it.
Normally I stick to chicken or veggie curries, so this one was a bit of a departure for me. My Dear Little Mummy's (whom I'm thinking of renaming My Dear Little Cardamummy) mutton curries are quite good, but she doesn't make them very often--they are dry (as opposed to swathed in gravy) coconutty and gingery. I wasn't really in the mood for that sort of curry, so I checked out a few recipes and came up with my own variant...it's part rogan josh, part something I can't remember and part something I saw on Meena's site.
Like all good curries I've had (and I'll add this to the list) this one does not come together in 30 minutes, nor is it constrained by a maximum number of ingredients, assisted greatly by a jar of pre-made stuff. It takes a certain amount of time, but I think for something like this, it's time well invested.
This is a saucy curry-chunks of tender lamb blanketed in a tomatoey gravy. There are little spikes of heat, thanks to the green chilli pepper and the ground chilli peppers and the ginger.
I served some to the same friend who tried the other "curry" and he much preferred it to the Dairy peoples' one ("I thought it was really good. It was what a lamb curry should be.")
Beforewarned: this is a first-time made and straight to the blog concoction, so it's bound to benefit from some tweaking...if you try it, please let me know...
750g lamb, cubed into 2.5 cm pieces
6 green cardamom pods--seeds only, ground
4 whole cloves
10 whole peppercorns
1 5cm shard of cinnamon
1 bay leaf
1½ onions, sliced
3 Tbsp hot garlic and ginger paste, made of
- 1 Tbsp minced ginger
- 1 Tbsp minced garlic
- 1 green minced chilli pepper
1½ Tbsp tomato paste
1 175g pot of plain yoghurt
Masala--grind together the following and set aside:
1 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp cumin seed
1 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp chilli pepper powder
1½ tsp salt
Putting it together
- Take about a spoon's worth of the masala and sprinkle it over the meat cubes. Let sit for at least an hour, or overnight.
- Over a medium flame, heat the oil until it shimmers. Brown the meat in batches and remove to an awaiting dish.
- Add the cardamom, cloves, peppercorns, cumin seeds, cinnamon shard and bay leaf to the oil; stir and fry until the spices' aromas begin to waft and the bay leaf changes colour. Add the onions and fry until soft and golden.
- Add the garlic and chili paste. Stir for about a minute or so and then add the rest of the masala and fry while stirring for about a minute or so.
- Tip in the meat and its juices, along with the tomatoes, paste and water. Stir well. Ad the yoghurt and stir. Increase the flame to medium-high and bring the pot to a boil. Turn down the heat, cover and let the pot simmer and blurble for about 45 minutes (stirring every once in a while), or until the meat is nice and tender.
- Taste the gravy at about the 30 minute point to check for seasoning. Adjust to your palate.
- Remove the lid, give it a good stir and turn up the flame to medium. Stir constantly while allowing the gravy to reduce so it's thick, velvety and wants to cling to each piece of meat.
- Don't trim all the fat off the meat. It adds flavour, and well...flavour.
23 June 2008
Earlier this month Jennifer and I issued a challenge to the foodblogging (and foodblog reading) world. We want to know what Canada tastes like to you. She's interested in all things sweet and I'm interested in the savoury side of life .
For me, savoury or sweet, Canadian food draws upon a mixture of indigenous and introduced foods. And I think this makes sense, given our national history. Settlers and immigrants came here to start new lives, but at the same time wanted to maintain their own cultural identities. Wave after wave came, bringing their own seed and livestock, building upon this land's foods. Some introduced flavours have been here for centuries, while others for only a few years.
With every group of settlers--whether they arrived in the 17th century or the 21st, adaptation was was important. Apart from the weather (-30C in winter and +40C in summer) and eventual cultural, social and political changes, they also needed to find ways of eating that reminded them of distant family and friends with ingredients that were available here.
To be honest, when I first thought of Canadian confections, I thought of two things: maple syrup and wild berries. I know it's a bit cliché on a couple of fronts. Maple syrup because, well, it's maple: we produce 85 per cent of the world's maple syrup and the leaf is on our flag. Wild berries, because they are directly linked to our forests and untamed areas, homesteaders, bears and all that.
Sigh...you'd think I'd do better than that, wouldn't you? I mean, Canadian sweets are plentiful--butter tarts, Nanaimo bars, sugar pie, fruit pies, anything appley, ice cream (I can go on and on)--to immediately leap to two obvious ingredients was a little...anticlimactic.
To paraphrase the late, great James Barber, aka The Urban Peasant and a favoured Canadian cook: "You do the best with what you've got."
How perfect a food theory is that? And how à propos to apply it to Canadian cuisine--I mean it's what we've been doing for years, is it not?
My entry for Mmm...Canada: The Sugar High Edition is my spiced blueberry-maple syrup.
It's a simple twist on two very Canadian ingredients (Elmira purveyed the syrup and the blueberries were harvested last summer from Sudbury, Ontario). Add to that the ubiquitous, familiar and exotic cinnamon and black pepper, and we've got a meeting of East and West, indigenous and imported and sweet and spicy...
Yeah, I think this sweet says Canada to me...
This is one of those bits of instinctive cooking that really doesn't call for precise measurements.
Spiced blueberry-maple syrup
Blueberries (fresh or frozen)
Black pepper (optional)
Add all to a sauce pan and bring to a boil while stirring. Lower the flame and let as much of the liquid boil off, leaving as thick a syrup as you wish. Refrigerate any leftovers.
Pour it over buttery pancakes (as shown), over ice cream, fruit fritters...whatever you want.
Check back to Jennifer's site for SHF 44's round up on Canada Day (1 July 2008).
22 June 2008
There's something very soothing about a honeyed tea. Unfortunately, runny honey is a bit sticky--anyone venturing into my kitchen after I've made tea with honey can easily spot the teeny, sticky dribble trail from the honey pot to my mug. It's slightly annoying, but a fact of my tea-making life.
Prince Edward Island's Island Abbey Foods has come up with an alternative to traditional liquid honey, made especially for tea and coffee drinkers: The Honey Drop. Thanks to John, its inventor, I found product samples in my mailbox.
Honey Honey drops are blister packed solid honey losenges. Each drop is equal to about a teaspoon's worth of honey, and dissolves easily into hot liquid, with a bit of stirring.
What's nice about it is that it doesn't have the associated sticky, drippy, dribbly issues that runny honey has. Simple peel open the blister pack and drop it into your drink and stir.
Yes, I know you can get those teeny packs of liquid honey. Apart from the dribbles, they can squoosh if they're in the bottom of your purse, or have something heavy (like a stapler) drop on them...not that I've had that lovely experience...
And very important (to me, at least) is that it's made of pure honey--no additives, no artificial flavours. Honey Drops comes in two versions -- regular honey and honey and lemon--and yes, the lemon is pure lemon and not syntethic.
I'm going to classifiy it as a traveller's nice to have sort of thing. I'll still keep my honey jar for baking and buttery toasts, but these losenges are good to keep in your desk drawer for your 2 o'clock cuppa or if you're the type to doctor your own take-away beverages.
As an aside...
When I was exploring their website, I found that you can order not only the Honey Drops, but also various varietals of creamed and runny honey...something to look into if you want more than the standard offerings from your own bigscarymegamart.
20 June 2008
Now that I'm back, and happily studies-free, I'm bringing back Savour the Season...just a little differently than first intended.
Even though research is one of my favourite parts about writing about food (there's just something about reading about food migration and how home cooks have changed how they prepare an ingredient that appeals to my geeky side), sometimes I just don't have the time to pore over books and sift through (and evaluate) web pages. So, rather than give up on the entire series, I'll start identifying seasonal ingredients as such and post the "bookish bits" as and when they happen.
Gosh, that was a long-winded introduction...
When I was younger I really didn't like asparagus. The only times I remember having it was when I'd attend swanky-ish dinners, and the chef would boil the living daylights out of them. On my plate would lie flaccid, waterlogged spears. I'd cut a bit off eat it and then, pretend they didn't exist while my attention turned to its platemates.
Since then, I've developed two theories about food:
- If you don't like an ingredient, try it in a different way (don't like it boiled? Try it roasted or baked in a tomato sauce or steamed or...)
- Pretty much everything is improved with bacon.
When it comes to asparagus, I've learned that I prefer spindly spears to those that rival my vacuum's pipe. I also have learned that the only way I really, really like them is roasted. I've tried them boiled, steamed, in soups and in risotto. Roasting wins hands down.
I can't remember when I first tried roasted asparagus spears. They were prepared really simply: tossed in a bit of olive oil and then liberally seasoned with salt and pepper. Wow. They were good. Asparagus went off the "politely nibbled on" list to being the recipient of my Ms Pacman impression.
Add this revelation to trying them roasted and wrapped in pancetta...and I was in springtime bliss. So when this year's asparagus crop started appearing at the bigscarymegamart, I knew what I'd be doing...
Out came the rashers of streaky bacon from the freezer, to bundle up four or so spears, depending upon their thicknesses. I drizzled them with olive oil and sprinkled them liberally with salt and pepper before popping them into a 180C/350F oven, until done.
Yummy yummy yummy.
I took some into work for lunch the next day and some of my workmates wondered which cafeteria station served them up...I suppose I should stop teasing them in that way...especially when I reheat them on the stoneware dinner plates...
16 June 2008
And this blog is pretty much about feel-good tummies.
As Elizabeth noted during May's post, June's offering is the Super-fast chicken and vegetable curry. She wasn't the only one afraid to look at the recipe.
I really tried to go into this month's recipe with an open mind and receptive tastebuds. But the truth is My Dear Little Mummy is the best-ever South Indian cook. Period. She makes the very yummiest curries--hot, mild, swathed in gravy, thickened juiced clinging to each and every piece of meat--she has never, ever, ever made a bad curry (spaghetti, muffins, and the occasional soup can be different stories). Yes, I do make my own curries--while not quite as good a Mummy's, my offerings do have their fans.
As expected, the dairy people provided a very, very, simple "curry." You aren't making your own masala, nor are you really layering any flavours. Such exercises take time, and I suppose if one of your objectives is to quickly pull together a meal (and when I say quickly, I do mean a combined prep and cooking time of less than 30 minutes), such tasty things are sacrificed. Also, Indian food carries the unfortunate stigma of being complicated with long ingredients lists. For the novice, uncertain, or lazy amongst us, spying half a dozen spices could be off-putting.
For me, the off-putting parts were *surprise* the half-litre of milk and the cornstarch. I know why the milk is there (the half-cup of yoghurt probably wouldn't be enough to warrant its calendar placement), but, again, I think it's a waste of good milk. I know the cornstarch is there to mimic the effects of long-cooking--to produce a clingy gravy--but the starch combined with the milk made is seem rather nursery-food like to me.
And yes, I went the "adventurous" route (sans coriander leaf--totally forgot to pick some up, and as it wasn't in the main recipe, I didn't feel like nipping out to the shop) and used fresh ginger and chillies. The other changes I made were using hot curry powder, instead of mild (I don't have any mild right now and didn't feel like making some) and toasted almonds instead of peanuts..and I used more nuts than called for.
I served it to a friend (one who is not Indian). He thought it acceptable in a non-curry-like way. To him it was perhaps a soup; it could be a stew. He admitted that if he went to a restaurant and ordered a curry and received what this recipe produced, he'd probably feel misled.
Me...I thought it had as much bearing to curry as Chef Alphadoodlio's canned kiddie-friendly pasgetti does to anything Mama Cream Puff makes for our favourite Cream Puff.
And again, I have no idea what I did wrong, but this recipe made so much I could have easily filled my sink basin with the "curry." In fact, I swear it kept reproducing in my wok...regardless of how much of the stuff I dished out, the quantity never seemed to change. I even checked underneath the wok to see if there was some sort of tube system hooked up to it to automatically refill my vessel with the stuff. Nope...no tube system...just a lot of "curry."
We both agreed that something was missing--it was definitely lacking in something. I began listing the ways I would fix this recipe, and try and keep it within the easy, commonly pantrifed and thoroughly dairied mandate the recipes seem to follow. Get rid of the half-litre of milk and the corn starch (but keep the yoghurt). Tweak the spicing with some black mustard and fenugreek...maybe some others. Add fried onions along with an acid--lemon or lime juice.
But then I realised my version might actually take some effort...which would make it palatable...and perhaps people would like it...which doesn't seem in keeping with several of the recipes I've tried thus far...
13 June 2008
At the same time, I've received notes from people who'd like to participate, but because they've never visited Canada, they're not sure what "Canadian food" is.
Well, you know...there are Canadians who aren't sure they can answer that question, so don't get too stressed about it (okay, I don't expect anyone to get stressed about it...this is supposed to be fun, and hopefully tasty).
Here's where I'll try and offer a bit of guidance. Instead of only giving you links to sample dishes, I'll just give you some raw ingredients...all Canadian-grown...All you need to do is be creative in how you use them. This by no means is a complete list, so if you know of something that I'm missing or you think would be a good addition, please leave a comment...
Dairy & Eggs
- You probably don't need me to tell you about eggs, cheese, cream, milk, sour cream or yoghurt...and not all dairy products are made with cow's milk
- You should know that we've a rich cheesemaking history.
Fish & Seafood:
- Dulse (okay, it's a veg, but still)
- East Coast Diver's Scallops
- Manitoba Gold Eye
- Pacific oyster
- Apples: Cortlands, crabapples, Crispins, Empires, Golden Delicious, Gravenstein, Idareds, McIntosh, Northern Spy, Red Delicious, Spartans
- Berries: blackberries, blueberries, cloudberries, cranberries, currants, elderberries, gooseberries, raspberries, saskatoon berries (or service berries), strawberries
- Mellons: muskmellons, watermellons
- Pears: Anjou, Bosc, Clapp, Bartletts
- Stonefruits: apricots, cherries, chokecherries, nectarines, peaches, plums
Meat & Poultry
- Beef and Veal
- Berkshire Piggies (and other breeds)
- Foie gras
- Mutton and Lamb
- birch syrup
- maple syrup
- sugar (from sugar beets)
- Aubergines (eggplants)
- Beans and Peas
- Broccoli and cauliflower
- Courgettes (Zucchini), Cucumbers
- Globe onions, green onions, leeks, ramps
- Leafy things: cabbages, Chinese cabbage, lettuces, mustard greens, radicchio, rapini, spinach, celery
- Peppers: sweet and hot varieties
- Potatoes: sweet potatoes, Yukon Gold
- Pumpkins and squashes: acorn, buttercup, butternut, hubbard, pepper, spaghetti
- Root veggies: beets, carrots, parsnips, radishes, rutabaga
- Beers, wines, spirits
- Canola oil
- Red River Cereal
- Beef Information Centre
- BC Tree Fruits
- Chicken Farmers of Canada
- Dairy Farmers of Canada
- Foodland Ontario's Seasonal Availability Guides and Recipes
- Growing Alberta Recipes
- NewBrunswick.net Recipes
- Ontario Cheese Society
- Québec Wines (in English)
- Prince Edward Island Visitor's Guide about island food
- Société des Fromages (Quebec cheesemakers, in English)
- Taste of Nova Scotia Recipes
Related Post: Invitation: Mmm...Canada