29 October 2008

Daring Bakers: Basic Pizza Dough

OOPS! Okay...I'm late...profuse apologies. I thought this month's DB post was due on Thursday 30 Oct...not Wednesday 29 October...and technically, it still is the 29th...

Oh well...that's what happens when you're off in all directions.

As you've probably noticed, many home pizzarias magically popped up this week, thanks to the late, great Shar of What Did You Eat? and the very wonderful Rosa of Rosa Yummy Yums. They decided to challenge us to make pizza dough by hand, and in the fashion of true pizzaiolos.

I have a favourite pizza dough recipe, courtesy of (the once divine, but now demoted since her last cookbook) Delia Smith, but every once in a while go in search of another. When in those moods I whole heartedly approach the new recipe...only to quickly morph into my comfort zone.

Yes, I followed the DB recipe...okay, I halved it, and used my handy pan, but still it was followed. Much to my surprise it worked...even the special flippy pokey tossy method. It didn't fall to the floor and it didn't end up on the ceiling...okay...no worries about that, I am 5'1". Instead of making three pizzas, I decided to make two largish ones...heck...it was eDay...and well, you know what I think of eDays (and yes, I'll probably treat the US election in a similar fashion).

The dough was thinnish and tasty and held the far-too-many toppings I loaded onto it. I'll probably come back to it and play with it some more.

And my toppings? Well...I went for pickable--as in bits I can pick off the top as I'm transfixed to the results ticker, and then wolf down the bready bit during lulls. Salami, onions, black olives, garlic, jalepenos, cheese and tomato sauce. If I had anchovies, they'd be added as well...

From this:

To this:

And here's how:


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26 October 2008

Playing ketchup

If you ever have dinner with my parents, you'll inevitably be asked "do you want ketchup?"

It doesn't matter if you are having hamburger or roast turkey, the question will be asked by My Dear Little Cardamummy. If your plate arrives without ketchup, my father will ask my Mum why she didn't give you any ketchup.

Quite honestly, I think they substitute "ketchup" for any sort of flavouring condiment: mustard, pickles, barbecue sauces, gravy, (etc). But they do seem to go through an awful lot of squeezy bottle ketchup. An awful lot.

I've never had anything but store-bought squeezy bottle ketchup, either in squeezy bottles or in little packets. I'm not a big fan--far too sweet for my liking.

When I went on my canning and preserve-making spree this year--and asked our lovely Dana for some advice. She pointed me to homecanning.com's pages for advice and recipes. And there, while perusing, I found a recipe for tomato ketchup.
Well...it was tomato season...so why not? As per my other canning adventures, I made a half-batch of ketchup.

It's a very easy process, in line with making tomato sauce--different spicing of course. Unlike storebought ketchups, this one is thickend the old fashioned way...by reducing the volume insted of using thickeners such as cornstarch.

My word...it takes a long time. And it's quite messy. Well, no...ketchup isn't messy, I'm messy. I suppose it's a good thing I didn't take my camera over...no evidence as to the reddish-orange splotches and spills all over my mum's nice white tiles.

Even my mother was getting tired of waiting. Her seemingly unending aria of "Is it done yet? Is it done yet?" came in through the doorway. I turned it into a duet, with my counterpoint of "No, it's not. No, it's not."

The diva she is (hey, I had to get it from somewhere) made the declarative statement while stomping her little feet "This takes too long and it's not worth it."

I looked at her and said "Let's see how it tastes." She harrumphed.

Well...a week later we tried it.

"Oh! This is so much better than what we get in the store. I'm glad we did this," was my Mum's response.

"It needs more sugar, " declared my (diabetic) father.

It is good ketchup. It's not too sweet and you can taste the cloves and allspice (and the hot chilli pepper I tossed in). It has pizzazz and personality. In fact I call it "the good ketchup," to be used only when it can show itself off and not just for any old hamburger or Milk Calendar Recipe.

I'll be using it judiciously this year--next year I'll make a whole batch.

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23 October 2008

So...how does one say

"No, Darling. I make lemon cake from scratch," without sounding like a snobbish, self-aggrandising foodish twit?

I suppose I could drop the "Darling."

Did I actually say the above? Ummm...I think so.

A wonderful and delightful friend of mine and new blogger called me up last week looking for a recipe for lemon pound cake that used lemon-flavoured gelatine powder...and I believe the above was my answer.

May I please hide behind my laptop now?

Gosh...I know certain people in my life think I'm a bit of a food snob--which I vehemently deny--but gee...the above, while not damning evidence, doesn't look very good.

Truthfully, I've only made lemon loaves with real lemons. I'd never even thought of using flavoured gelatine in a cake. I Googled it and sent her this recipe--which I think suited her needs. Heh...you learn something new every day.

But now I have a bit of a palate-worm going...lemon loaf...actually, a lemon poppyseed loaf, to be specific. To be even more specific, a lemon poppyseed loaf with cream cheese icing.

The problem with plalate-worms is they are never satisfied until they are satsified. And they can't be fooled with substitutes. In other words, a lemon drop after a sandwich won't send mine on its merry way. If anything, these pallid substitutes only anger it and make the craving even more specific.

Early on, it could disappear by virtue of getting the specific foodstuff, premade from the grocer's, made from a pouchmix or tumbled out of a gas station vending machine. But palate-worms have incredible stamina...and they seem to get stronger with each passing day...hour...minute.

Mmm....lemon poppyseed loaf. Whereas lemon-flavoured powdered gelatine is not in my pantry, lemons, poppyseeds, flour, eggs, butter and yoghurt are....well, the dry goods are in my pantry--the rest live in the refrigerator.

I have several lemon poppyseed cake recipes--some are like a light, slightly lemony angelfood, studded with seeds, while others have a heavier crumb. I settled on a slight modification of Nigella's Lemon-Syrup Loaf Cake. The result was a sunshiney crumb, soaked in glisteny, extra lemony goodness. I also decided to forego the cream cheese icing--the syrup glimmered so nicely, I didn't want to cover it up.

The palate-worm, I'm happy to say, has been sated and is off to find its next victim...

Oh...and for those of you who are wondering...yes, I made this during
the craptastic weekend, between the serrated knife incident and the fire. Yes, I wore one of those thin, surgical glove-like things, to protect my booboo from the lemon juice. Which really didn't help at all, as I clipped the end of the finger (I have small hands and even the size small gloves have too much room) and the juice worked its way in...

Lemon Poppyseed Loaf
adapted from Nigella Lawson's Lemon-Syrup Loaf Cake, from How To Be A Domestic Goddess, p13.

125g unsalted butter
175g sugar
2 eggs
1 lemon, zested and juiced
170g cake flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp salt
1 dspn poppyseeds
60ml plain yoghurt
75g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C/375F; butter and line a 23cm/9" loaf tin with parchment and set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in the poppyseeds and set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs and zest. Mix in the yoghurt and then fold in the flour mixture. Pour into the loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes.

About 20 minutes in, start making the lemon syrup by melting sugar into the lemon juice over medium-low heat.

When an inserted cake tester comes out cleanly, take the loaf out of the oven and prodigiously perforate it with your weapon of choice. Pour the syrup overtop and let it all soak in. Let the cake cool in the tin before removing it otherwise you run the risk of the cake falling apart.


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20 October 2008

Milk Calendar Mondays: Sweet potato bake with crispy garlic topping

So...have you yet recovered from last month's MCM guest blogger's post?

Yeah...it was pretty...wretched... the food, not the post.

Fearless, yet fatigued, with this project...okay..., that's not quite right. I am afraid of this project. I'm afraid of lost time and ingredients which I'll never regain nor resuscitate. I'm afraid of what horrid little prank will be played upon me, my sometimes guest and everyone else who innocently tries one of the recipes. It really is quite hit-or-miss as to whether I'll be able to stomach the results.

Anyway...where was I...

Fearless, yet fatigued, with this project I spied the October recipe: Sweet potato bake with crispy garlic topping and thought...hmmm...it looks okay...and it reads okay...but is it really okay? The answer: Yes. It was okay.

In the grand scheme of things, this was an okay recipe. In the grand scheme of the Milk Calendar recipes, it was a phenomenol recipe. It was easy. It was garlickly. It had textures that varied from soft to crunchy. There was even a bit of tang. The only thing I would probably change is to use roughly half the amount of topping. Just too much breadcrumbs. And maybe lower the milk to about one cup's worth.

But that's not the story I'm going to tell you....I'm going to tell you about my craptastic kitchen weekend.

Yes. It's a word. Look it up.

It's also proof that things happen in threes.

Craptastical event 1:
I awoke at 5am (yes, 5am) for no apparent reason. Couldn't get back to sleep, and read a chunk of the fabulous book that lay by my bed. After a while I decided to do something useful with my time and decided to bake yet another banana bread (three breads in one week). Everything was going well until I put my sugar jar back on the shelf.

And it broke.

A 128 fluid ounce jar.....shards of glass...grains of sugar...everywhere...in my pantry, on the floor.

I loved that jar. I really did. It was big and had a big mouth so I could scoop or pour. But now it's in the bin...along with about 2kgs of sugar.


Craptastical event 2.
Sunday morning I had a craving for a toasted Montréal-style bagel schmeared with cream cheese. Mmmmm....One of the local bakeries pays homage to the infamous M-style bagel and I happened to have picked some up.

I don't have a bagel slicer...but I do have a very sharp serrated knife.

At some point my knife mistook my left hand's middle finger for the bagel.

10 minutes of profuse exsanguination and who knows how many litres of water later I decided against stitches...at the very least, the blood loss left me a bit woozy so driving myself to hospital may not have been a wise idea.

Do you see how many Es, Ds and Cs there are in this post? I hope you appreciate how much pain I'm enduring to type this. I will say I'm a ridiculously fast healer when it comes to things like this--34 hours later and you can just barely see the gash...but I can really, really feel it.

Owie owie owie owie.

Craptastical event 3:
Needless to say, I was pretty useless in the kitchen, so the exbf had to prepare much of it. Kind of like another cooking by proxy exercise. No big worries. This was a pretty easy recipe (the rest of the meal was slightly more complicated). Everything was going well until I decided to follow the recipe and turn on Beelzebub's broiler.

I'd never used it before.

And what follows is entirely my fault. Not his...either one (exbf or the stove).

It didn't take long to put out the fire. It was pretty small and the universal lid pretty much smothered it. The house was filled with smoke and I had to run around and open windows and turn on the bathroom and kitchen fans (owieowieowieowie). The exbf took care of the smoke alarm...and scraping the charred crust off the gratin.

I suppose that much breadrcumb topping was necesary...otherwise the entire dish would have been ... well ... charcoal. See the little black specs in the photo? Not all the charred bits were removed.

The taste, although barbecuey, wasn't bad...but it would be better without the carbon...both in the air and in the dish.

Oh well...today was a much better day....


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13 October 2008

Tuesday is eDay

To all my Canadian readers of voting age,

Tomorrow is the federal election.

Go. Vote.

I don't care for which party you vote (actually I do, but that's beside the point). Just go out there and cast your ballot.

If you don't, and you complain about the outcome, I will find you. I will bring you over here. I will feed you something from the $1.39 menu from the fastfoodarama minimall. And then I will make you clean out the kittybox...not sure if you'll get the scooper.

If you don't know who your candidates are, where to vote or have any other votey-type questions, go to the
Elections Canada web site...they have all the answers...I'm sure of it.

I treat political events (elections, budgets, crises etc) in the same way others feel about the Stanley Cup Playoffs or the Superbowl. I absorb as many of the stats that come my way, read as many articles and listen to the interviews. I follow the polls and make note of whose lawns are studded with signs and if they are the same signs as the last federal or provincial run. I practically live at Barry Kay's web site. This year I've been in double euphoria since I'm also following the American race (and yes, I chose to watch the VP debate as opposed to the Canadian party leaders' round table).

Tomorrow night I'm camping out in the TV temple, in front of the great illuminated altar, with CBC:Newsworld as my celebrant. Granted, the nature of our electoral process means that we (ahem) generally know who won (ahem) by the end of the evening. But still I watch the returns, note the belleweather ridings along with those of interest for other reasons. I hide behind the cushion when the wrong party wins and I try and physically move the televised vote ticker towards one colour over another. Heck...I've been known to gasp, squeal and ...um...yell very unladylike words...at the updates. The next morning I read all the analysis and then partake in various conversations about what happened and why.

People who've never watched an election with me are quite shocked as to how involved I am when it comes to merely watching the results. Some people find it amusing...others wonder which alien race has shapeshifted one of their own to replace me.

Since I treat election night results as a big sporting or awards night, I eat the same way. This election, I'm having the October DB selection...which I'm not allowed to tell you about. Well...that's not fair is it? Well, those are the rules. Other foods that have graced the centre table include natchos, chips and dip, stuffed jalepenos, chicken wings, cake, ice cream...

This year apart from the DB selection there will be chips and dip, and sweet potato pie. Yup. The leftovers from Thanksgiving lunch will be snarfled up in anxious moments between returns.

Normally we have apple pie or even pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, but this year I decided to go for a sweet potato pie after seeing and reading about them. I didn't tell my parents what I'd bring, only that I'd bring something. They looked and automatically assumed it was pumpkin. Then they tasted it...they still thought it was pumpkinny but a little different. Boy, were they shocked when they found out it wasn't.

I made a double batch of filling--half went into a 9"/23cm pie and the other half filled nine tartlettes. It's quite easy and quite delicious.

Sweet Potato Pie
makes one 9"/23 cm pie or nine tartlettes
675g sweet potatoes
125ml half and half
30g softened butter
30g brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 tsp cinamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 ginger powder
ground seeds from one cardamom pod
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp vanilla salt
shortcrust pastry made of one part (by weight) butter and two parts plain flour
egg wash

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F and line a baking tray with tin foil. Slice the sweet potatoes into wedges and bake until fork-piercingly soft. Let cool to room temperature. Scoop out the flesh and stir in the half and half and set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar and beat in the egg. Stir into the potatoes and mix in the spices, vanilla and salt.

Pour into th pie shell (tart shells), brust the pastry with the egg wash and bake until the filling is lightly browned and slightly poofy (pie--about an hour, tarts--about 35 minutes).

Let cool thoroughly before serving with sweetened whipped cream or ice cream.


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10 October 2008

Happy Thanksgiving and Maple Syrup & Poutine's 100 Canadian Foods to Consume

Hello all -- long weekend over here (Canadian Thanksgiving), so I'm just going to crash and take care of things around here...and hopefully come up with a tasty dessert for the turkey dinner.

In the meanwhile, Danielle from Maple Syrup and Poutine has come up with her own version of the VGT's Omnivore's 100 (my score is here). I think it's a great list...here's how I've done...The way I've done it is to grey out the ones I've not eaten (can't figure out the strikethrough command), the bits in blue are things I won't have and what's in pink are my comments.

Maple Syrup & Poutine's 100 Canadian Foods to Consume
1. Arctic Char

2. Ketchup flavoured chips
3. Wild Rice Pilaf
4. Caribou Steak
5. Gourmet Poutine
6. Screech
7. Beaver Tails
8. Maple Baked Beans
9. Bison Burger
10. Bumbleberry pie
11. Nanaimo bar
12. Butter Tarts
13. Cedar Planked B.C. Salmon (allergies)
14. Wild Blueberries
15. Pure Local Cranberry Juice
16. Chocolate from Ganong or Purdy’s
17. A cup of warm cider from your local orchard
18. Caesar
19. 4 of the following types of apples (Cortland, Empire, Golden Delicious, McIntosh, Spartan, Greensleeves, Liberty, Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Honeycrisp, Golden Russet, Idared, Gala
20. Freshly foraged mushrooms
21. Dinner cooked by Michael Smith, Susur Lee or Rob Feenie
22. Fondue Chinoise
23. Dish created from a Canadian Living Magazine recipe
24. Peameal Bacon Sandwich from St. Lawrence Market in Toronto (other places, yes, but not there)
25. Lobster bought directly from a boat in a Maritime harbour
26. Handmade perogies from your local church or market
27. Alberta Beef at an Alberta Steakhouse (I think so...I had Alberta beef in Alberta...can't remember if it was in a steakhouse, though)
28. Leamington Tomatoes
29. Roasted Pheasant
30. Wild Game hunted by someone you know
31. Ice Wine
32. Habitant Pea Soup – entire can
33. Any Canadian Artisinal Cheese
34. Bannock
35. Tourtiere
36. Flapper Pie
37. Jellied Moose Nose
38. Saskatoon Berries (qualification: in tea form)
39. Fish and Brewis
40. Screech Pie
41. Fiddleheads
42. Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich

43. Flipper Pie
44. Montreal Bagels with Smoked Salmon
45. Toutins
46. Jam Busters
47. Bakeapple Pie
48. Bridge Mixture (ooh...so addictive)
49. Canadian Style Pizza (bacon, pepperoni. Mushrooms)
50. Shreddies
51. A cone from Cow’s Ice Cream (they didn't have ice cream when I went to the one shop, but have had the candies and the hot chocolate.)
52. Lumberjack or Logger’s Breakfast
53. Jigg’s Dinner
54. Rappie Pie
55. Pemmican
56. Lake Erie Sturgeon Caviar
57. Belon Oysters
58. Brome Lake Duck
59. Beer from a stubby bottle.
60. A beer from Unibroue or Phillips Brewery.
61. Salt Spring Island Lamb
62. Fry’s Cocoa (Hey! What happened to the decent-sized cannisters? I can only find little ones now)
63. A bag of Old Dutch Potato Chips
64. Every Flavour of Laura Secord Suckers
65. Chicken Dinner from St Hubert’s or Swiss Chalet (blech)
66. Hickory Sticks
67. An entire box of Kraft Dinner (a serving...not a whole box)
68. Candy Apples (NOT caramel apples)
69. Corn from a roadside stand
70. A meal at Eigensenn Farm (it's on my list to do...)
71. Okanogan Peaches
72. Berkshire Pork
73. PEI Potatoes
74. Something cooked in Canola oil
75. Figgy Duff
76. Blueberry Grunt
77. High Tea at the Empress Hotel

78. Fresh maple syrup hardened on the snow
79. Oreilles de Christ
80. Nova Scotia Beer Warmer
81. A cheese plate containing Bleu Bénédictin, Friulano, St. Maure and Oka.
82. Black or red currant jam
83. Maple glazed Doughnut from Tim Horton’s with a Large “Double Double”
84. A glass of Mission Hill’s “Oculus”
85. Alberta Pure Vodka
86. Chokecherries
87. Canada Day Cake
88. Boulettes
89. Canadian Iced Tea
90. Mead
91. Fricot
92. Grandperes
93. Local honey
94. Creton on toast
95. Glen Breton Rare
96. A whole box of Smarties, where the empty box is then used as a kazoo (oh my dear...I haven't donte that in years)
97. Grilled cheese made with Canadian Cheddar
98. A meal from Harvey’s
99. Lake Erie Perch
100. Red Rose Tea

Have a great long weekend for those of you who have it...see you next week.


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07 October 2008

Give a little bit...

I think it was the late great James Barber I first heard say "do the best you can with what you've got."

Many are taking the meaning of that advice to heart, even if they'd never seen his TV show The Urban Peasant: some hang on to their current car or eschew the once de rigueur gas-guzzling behemoths, brown-bagged lunches replace cafeteria or some restaurant lunches and (unfortunately) people are
paring back on their charitable donations.

It's a sad reality: When money is tight, the "extras" go away. And to many people, this includes donations to charity. Unfortunately, it's times like these where community organisations such as food banks and soup kitchens are hit especially hard: increased usage and decreased donations. They too, must do the best with what they've been given.

I think Supertramp sang it best:

So give a little bit
Give a little bit of your time to me
Now’s the time that we need to share
So send a smile, we’re on our way back home

I'm pretty proud of being with a group of people who believe in community. Each year a gang gets together and participates in a Habitat For Humanity build. Each year they seem to get involved in different stages of the build. Sometimes they frame, sometimes they landsape, sometimes install windows. Notice I say "they."

Truth be told, I'd love to participate, but allergies and a bad back keep me from weilding a hammer, filling a wall with insulation or cutting bits of wood. Whenever I'm asked if I'll participate, I answer "What, do you really want me with power tools?" Ironically the mental image of me with a table saw or drill seems to strike panic in the hearts of many. Here's a secret: I may not be the best with corded tools, but I'm not the worst...definitely not worst...but I don't like to tell people these things.

Since I can't be on site, I still find a way of giving a little bit to the effort. I bake for the crew. Each time I've done this, I try and come up with a batch of something sweet and another batch of something savoury. My thinking is a) not everyone likes sweet (or savoury) and b) since these builds can happen on very hot days the savoury is probably a good alternative to the inevitable bar cookies and tarts that the very lovely and diligent church ladies provide as part of lunch.

This year's H4H build took place a couple of weeks ago. Instead of doing sweet and savoury muffins, I decided to play with my basic scone recipe. Well...it's not my basic scone recipe...it belongs to Tamasin Day-Lewis. The first batch was a pretty standard currant scone, sprinkled with sugar. Don't get me wrong--it was good and people liked it.

But apparently it was the savoury version that won the day...well, snacktime.

This year's savoury was an impromptu treat--put together with what I had lying around...doing the best with what I had, so to speak. Curried apple with cheddar.

Although I think of it as a pretty standard flavour combination, it was a pleasant surprise to many. Spicy, tangy and just a little sweet, these scones are a nice change from the same-old, same old.

Curried Apple and Cheddar Scones
Makes about two dozen, depending upon the size of your scones

butter and oil for sautéing
1 dspn curry powder, divided
1 onion, diced
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 garlic clove minced
1 Tbsp sugar
150ml plain yoghurt mixed with 150ml milk
1 dspn cream of tartar

450g plain flour
85g cold butter, cut into cubes
1 dspn bicarbonate of soda
100g cheddar, grated
one well beaten egg

Heat the butter and oil and then stir in one teaspoon of curry powder and fry for about 30 seconds. Add the onions and keep stirring until soft. Add the apples and cook until soft. Add the cinnamon, garlic and the rest of the curry powder. Let everthing cook through and taste, adding as much sugar and salt as your palate dictates. Take off the hob and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F. Line and butter a baking pan.

Mix the cream of tartar with the liquid and set aside as you sift together the flour, 1/2 tsp salt and bicarb. Quickly rub the butter into the flour with the tips of your fingers, as if making pie crust. Add all the liquid to the flour to make a spongy dough.

Spread the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and spread the curried apples and cheddar. Lightly knead the dough so the apples and cheese are well contained. Roll out to about a 2cm thickness and cut with whatever sized cutter you wish.

Transfer to the buttered baking pan and brush with the beaten egg. Let stand for 10 minutes. Bake for 10 minutes before cooling.


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03 October 2008

I relish these hot dogs

I was never a real fan of hot dogs--their flavour and texture never quite did it for me and I never quite figured out why my childhood friends or my parents ate them. Add a secondary school trip to one of the local meat processing plants when we learned how sliced meats and hot dogs were made, and I pretty much didn't attempt to eat them for more than seven years.

When I worked in Toronto, we had a first warm weather day tradition of heading out to a hot dog cart and getting some street meat. I the aromas got me and I partook. I fully admit to liking those offerings a bit better, but I still wasn't convinced I should be eating them. As dumb as it may sound...I think what made me think kinder of vendor vittles were the self-serve pots of condiments -- onions, relish, sauerkraut, pickled peppers and of course the mustard and ketchup. I think only I would derive pleasure from dressing the dog.

So when I saw the recipe for Hot Dog Relish in Anita Stewart's Canada, I was torn. I don't like hot dogs, but I wanted to make the relish. And yes, I know you can use it on foods other than hot dogs. But she wrote about her memories of making relish each autumn, and how it differed to the almost electric green, bottled bits of sweetened cucumbers. Hmm...I fully believe that homemade foods can be much tastier than store bought...why not?

So, fresh from my victory over peach chutney, I decided to head back to My Dear Little Mummy's kitchen to make the relish--like the chutney and the rest of my canning and preserving this year, I made them at my parents as my mum is more experienced at such things than I (well, depending upon what we're making) and, well, she's got the canning gear. I just have to buy the ingredients and some jars and snap lids.

At the recommendation of several Mennonite women at the market, English cucumbers were put aside for salads and I bought several kilos of little pickling cucumbers. It makes perfect sense because well, cucumber relish is sortakinda like chopped pickles.
As we don't have a grinder, all the cutting was done by hand...and of course, I decided to brunoise...everything. I don't know if it would be more tedious to mince four large cucumbers as opposed to the...dozens...of little cucumbers, but chop into teensy-weensy cubes I did...and then the tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, Thai chillis and celery. Unfortunately, all that mincing left me with one, somewhat gloriously deep cut...which the chilli pepper then wormed its way into. Owieowieowieowieowie....

I must admit I was a little concerned after I tasted the pot remnants --it was a bit sweeter than I'd hoped (but not as sweet as the store-bought kind). Yes, I know that it would take some time for the flavours to meld and settle, but my imagination ran unchecked, convincing me I'd made jars and jars of green, acidic ice cream topping.

Am happy to say, that my impatience in opening the relish a few weeks (perhaps two or three) squelched the taste of vanilla and relish from my imagination's palate. Am very happy to say that the sugars mellowed and it was quite good -- nicely balanced between salt and sugar, a bit sour and just spiked with enough heat to make it clear it wasn't the ususal store-bought relish.

When it came time for its premiere serving, I felt obligated to have it with...you guessed it, hot dogs. Who knows. Maybe I'll actually like them.

Well...I did.

No, I'm certain this isn't magic relish that turns everything that's reminiscent of leftover animal parts into a palatable meal--I simply bought a different brand to what I grew up with...sometimes the most obvious solution is never as obvious as it should be. But it's pretty darned good relish.

Hot Dog Relish
adapted from Anita Stewart's Canada
yield: four litres

1.5 kg pickling cucumbers, tipped and tailed, minced
500g green tomatoes, chopped finely
2 green bell peppers, seeded, minced
2 red bell peppers, seeded, minced
2 Thai chillis (or to taste), seeded (optional), minced
3 large yellow cooking onions, minced
60g pickling salt
1L pickling vinegar
1 celery rib
700g sugar
30g flour
1 Tbsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp turmeric

Combine the the cucumbers, tomatoes, bell and hot peppers and onions. Sprinkle with salt and give it a stir before covering with cling and letting stand overnight.

When you're ready to make the relish, drain the liquids from the veg. Tip the cucumbery mix into a pot, add vinegar, celery and 600g sugar. Give the mix a stir and bring to a boil over a medium flame. Reduce the heat and let boil gently for 20 minutes while stirring often.

Combine the remaining sugar with the flour, mustard and turmeric. Sprinkle a spoonful at a time onto the cooked relish, stirring between additions. Return to the hob and cook for a few minutes until bubbling and thickened.

Ladle into sterilised canning jars, seal and store somwhere dark and cool.


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