26 July 2011

My Darling One: Four Years

In as much as I imagine Michael's long suffering sigh as (yet again) the volume goes up when Depeche Mode, The Cult or Amy Winehouse comes on, I also hear his little clucky noise as (yet again) I serve something that isn't beef, chicken or pork. I giggle when I remember his enthusiasm at wonderful things and I smile when I think of how strong and comforting his arms were when I needed them most.

But I know he's not here. I won't hear him trundle down the stairs, I won't find him snoozing on the couch, and I won't catch him snooping in the kitchen, hoping to figure out what it is I'm planning to serve us for supper.

Four years on. It doesn't get easier. It just gets less difficult.

cheers!jasmineI'm a quill for hire!

18 July 2011

Mmm...Canada: Vietnamese-inspired steak salad

I know I get on a bit of a soap box when I talk about Canadian cooking. The fact is it's a cuisine so heavily influenced by all the cultures who come here, that it's hard not to like it.

Yes, I know...many people would argue that there is no Canadian cuisine, save the usual: maple syrup, beer, poutine, smoked salmon and butter tarts. But I think a lot of Canadian cuisine is about how people come here and adapt their home cooking to what's readily available...making a far-off place not so far away.

The other week I found some gorgeous Grey County, grass fed and barley finished flank steaks at my favourite butcher. I bought a piece, marinated it and grilled it. My word it was buttery-lovely.

This weekend I went back for more and came back with a bavette steak. Bavette, his assistant told me, is just behind the flank, and is much more tender, which means it needs less marinating time. When figuring out what to do with it, I thought of this year's Canadiana series and realised I could probably pull together a great example of what I think of as new Canadian cuisine.

One of my favourite Vietnamese dishes is beef salad. A southeast Asian flavoured grilled steak, thinly sliced and served with crisp, cooling veggies.

My rendition marinated, grilled and thinly sliced that lovely bavette and served over equally lovely locally-in season veggies: crisp and spicy radishes, sweet carrots, sweet-tender lettuce and sliced spring onions and finely minced garlic scapes. The recipe I provide gives you more veggies than this, but add whatever you have on hand.

Is it "authentic" as only those food snobs who've scaled unheard of mountains and waded through far off streams to get real food as only prepared by a singular cook in a singular subset of a singular culture? Far from it. But does it evoke a far off place, made not so far by what my country market has to offer.

Vietmamese-inspired flank steak
serves two

350g (12.5oz) flank steak or bavette steak
2Tbsp (30ml) olive oil
1.5Tbsp (22ml) runny honey
1Tbsp (15ml) nam pla (fish sauce)
1Tbsp (15ml) soy sauce
1tsp (5ml) sriracha, chilli garlic or hot sauce (to taste)
0.5tsp (2ml) garlic powder
0.5tsp (2ml) onion powder
0.25tsp (1ml) black pepper
0.5tsp (2ml) dried basil

Mix all ingredients together and marinate six to 12 hours.

Grill the steak to your pleasing. Let rest 15 minutes or so and then thinly slice

Vietnamese-inspired Dressing
juice of one lime
1.5Tbsp (22ml) runny honey
2Tbsp (30ml) fish sauce)
2Tbsp (30ml) olive oil
1tsp sriracha, chilli garlic or hot sauce, or 1 minced fresh chilli

shredded lettuce
thinly sliced spring onions
radishes, cut into thin matchsticks
carrots cut into thin matchsticks
thinly sliced cucumber
thinly sliced mushrooms
finely minced garlic or scapes (or chives)
Thinly sliced red or yellow bell peppers

I'm a quill for hire!

10 July 2011

Mmm...Canada: Saskatoon Berry Salad

Punnets of deep blue awaited me at Trevor's. No, not blueberries, but Saskatoon berries.

Little, midnight blue and bursting with flavour, Saskatoon berries are a fleeting summertime treat. A fleeting summertime treat made even moreso as I'm not in Saskatchewan.

My Most Marvelous Manager told me about them ages ago--they sounded wonderful, but I thought I'd never see them here.

Never say never.

I was so happy to find them at Herrle's last year. A couple of punnets came home with me and I spent a week making muffins, tarts and sauces followed. I could see why MMM remembered them fondly.

This year's punnet would still be used for baking, but I wanted to play with the savoury side of these berries. With summer's heat upon us, a salad seemed to be the way to go.

I don't know if people usually complement these berries with arugula and goat cheese, but they were the first things to come to mind. Add some thinly sliced red onion (or shallots) and toasted almonds, and it all worked so very nicely--bitter pepperyness from the greens against the sweet berries, tangy cheese, sharp onions, crunchy nuts and the sweet and sour vinaigrette easily came together for a lovely summer salad.

Like many salads I make, this is a non-recipe recipe. Add as much or as little of each ingredient as you like. Serve on its own or with grilled chicken or a some poached or seared white fleshed fish.

Saskatoon Berry, Arugula and Goat Cheese Salad

Soft goat cheese
Saskatoon berries
Thinly sliced onions
Toasted almond flakes
Balsamic vinaigrette

I'm a quill for hire!

06 July 2011

Mmm...Canada: Crabcakes

Pattycake, pattycake,
Baker's man!
Bake me a crabcake as fast as you can.

I knew I wanted to continue my Canadian food journey with something from the East Coast, but I really didn't want anything big. I just wanted something to nibble on, along side some leafy greens.

When I think of the Maritimes, lobster is the first food to come to mind. Maybe one year I'll boil a lobster but not this year. I wanted something seafoodish, but little and fun to make.

Crabcakes fit the bill nicely. What I like about these is they aren't deep fried--simply browned in a pan and then finished in the oven for a few minutes. I served them with a mustardy mayonnaise, but you can choose whatever sauce you wish.

Yield approximately 20 small cakes

450g (1lb) cooked crabmeat, drained
0.5 bell pepper, finely diced
6 spring onions, finely sliced (greens and whites)
1 Tbsp (15ml) minced parsley
30g (0.5c) dried breadcrumbs (plus more for coating)
0.5-0.75tsp (2-4ml) finely minced lemon zest
1tsp (5ml) Old Bay seasoning
1 egg
1Tbsp (60ml) mayonnaise
1tsp (5ml) Worcestershire Sauce
a good squeeze of lemon juice
a few drops of hot sauce (to taste)
oil for frying

Mix together the crab, pepper, spring onions, parsley, half cup of breadcrumbs and zest. In a separate bowl, mix together the Old Bay, egg, mayonnaise, lemon juice, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Pour over the crab mixture and gently combined. Fry a little bit of the crab mixture, taste and balance flavours to taste.

Form patties by pressing together two tablespoons' worth of crab. Refridgetate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Line a baking sheet with tin foil and grease lightly.

Heat a little oil in a pan. Coat the patties in bread crumbs and fry for about 3 minutes on each side. Arrange on the prepared tray and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Serve warm, with flavoured mayonnaise (curry, lemon-dill, chipotle, etc) or tartar sauce.

I'm a quill for hire!

01 July 2011

Mmm...Canada: Quick Rhubarb Chutney

Happy Canada Day to all my fellow countrymen and women!
My month of Canada-focussed cooking kicks off with a seasonal, local ingredient, prepared in a way borrowed from a couple of cultures that have shaped and are shaping Canadian culture--English and East Indian. What makes this lovely is that the finished condiment goes well with another (in my eyes) quintessentially Canadian ingredient, pork.

My previous recipes focussed on the sweeter side of this tart stem. Today I offer something on the savoury side of the plate, that pairs well with grilled or roast pork.

I had visions of photographing a lovely browned pork chop, slathered with a a spoon of chutney. I had the lovely browned pork chop and a bowl of freshly made chutney. Put them together and...well...I had a plateful of brown. Not necessarily an appetising picture (but then, I find meat difficult to photograph well).

Yet again, I provide you with more evidence that appearances can be deceiving. The chutney was tart and spicy with a hint of sweetness--the perfect accompaniment to what can be a rather bland meat.

I based it on other chutneys I do, and tried to keep as much of the rhubarb's signature tartness at the forefront. I think I did well

What I liked about this was how quickly it came together--unlike other chutneys I make, this can be served immediately, and doesn't need to be set aside for a few months. That said, this version does need to be refrigerated and used up within a few days.

Quick Rhubarb Chutney
Yield approx 500ml/ 2c

3Tbsp (45ml) brown sugar
2Tbsp(30ml) red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 thumb ginger, finely grated
75g (125ml/0.5c) sultanas
0.25tsp (1ml) salt
0.25tsp (1ml) ground chilli pepper
0.5tsp (2ml) cinnamon
0.25tsp (1ml) ground cloves
0.25tsp(1ml) ground cumin
oil, for frying
1 onion, finely chopped
125g (250ml/1c) rhubarb, chopped in 1cm (0.5") pieces
1Tbsp (15ml) mustard (Dijon, whole grain)

Combine sugar, vinegar, garlic, ginger, sultanas, salt and spices and heat until the sugar melts. Add onion and a spoon or so of oil and saute until soft and translucent. Mix in the rhubarb and cover. Simmer over a medium flame until the rhubarb is tender. Stir in the mustard. Balance flavours to taste--it should retain the rhubarb's tartness, but have an slight, underlying sweetness.