30 March 2009

Roast chicken and young love

"You know, under that crusty and cynical exterior is a soft and glooshy romantic."
-- my former colleague and (still) dear friend Helena

Never say I don't do things for young couples in love.

Late Friday I received an email from one of the women I work with. Her brother-in-law entered a contest in his local paper to perform the perfect proposal. The prize is a gorgeous ring. The winner is decided by on-line voting and although he was doing well, he wasn't in first place. Could we please vote for him?

He has absolutely lovely things to say about her: beautiful, hard-working, realistic (and by inference: patient). They've just graduated from uni, bought house and are starting their lives together. Unfortunately the house has turned into a money pit (no matter which way you slice it $60K in repairs is cause to say "ouch.") and a cause for a delayed engagement ring.

What does his perfect proposal include? Asking her father's permission is first and foremost. We hope Daddy says yes. Assuming that happens, proposal day (their anniversary) begins with a dozen roses delivered to her work, followed by a champagne-flowing limo ride to one of London (Ontario's) best restaurants. The table is decorated with her favourite flowers, white orchids. Her boyfriend is no where to be seen...

Then in walks a giant chicken.

The chicken approaches other women at the restaurant. Some laugh (hey, it is London...not a place known for a healthy sense of humour), but they aren't whom le grand poulet's looking for.

Giant chicken approaches the lonely diner, and hands her a card asking if she is the women he is looking for. One hopes she nods "yes."

The chicken hands her another card saying that he has been sent to her by someone very special.

The chicken then hands her a third card saying that he is sorry that he has been such a chicken for so long.

The chicken then hands the young woman a paper bag with a small engagement ring like box inside, with another card which reads "I love you."

The chicken mask comes off, he goes down on one knee and proposes to her.

Gosh...isn't that just so...sweet?

Although Cupid recently decided to bruise my own heart, I couldn't help but let my usually well-hidden glooshy side out for them. So I voted for him.

Normally I don't ask you to do this sort of thing, but I'd really like him to win the contest, the ring and the girl. If you can, please vote for him on this site:

You do have to register an email address, but you can check the "please don't email me" ticky box to not be bothered by the newspaper and its partners. You can vote a maximum of once/day per computer (yes, we know people who are voting at home and at work). Voting closes on 6 April, so there's still some time...and I'll let you know if he wins.

In exchange, I offer you a compound butter that's a great baste for roast chicken. Simply mix all the ingredients together and squoosh some between the skin and meat and again on the skin. Sprinkle the skin with salt and pop into a 350F/180C oven. As the butter and chicken fat melt out, slurp the flavourful fats with a baster and baste the chicken (I do this every 10 minutes or so), until the chicken is cooked.

Ginger-Lime-Coriander Compound Butter
3 Tbsp butter
half a thumb ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
2-3 generous pinches black pepper
Zest and juice of half a lime

2 Tbsp finely chopped coriander leaf
0.25 tsp chilli garlic sauce

edit: One of my readers has requested a video of the proposal if he wins the ring...I have forwarded this to the powers that be...


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29 March 2009

Daring Bakers: Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna

• Recipe's origins: Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from "The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food"
• Recipe's orginator: Lynne Rossetto Kasper
• Our hostess: Mary of Beans and Caviar

• Our co-hostesses Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

As much as I love being a part of the Daring Bakers, I've often felt there's too many challenges involving sweet baking. Don't get me wrong, I love cakes and cookies and pies and whotnots, but I think it's important to remember that savoury baking can require just as much skill and patience as sweet offerings.
Is savoury baking the poor cousin to much-loved and sought-after sweet baking? Not in my books.
Needless to say, I was doing a little dance of joy when I found out our lovely hostesses chose home made pasta as an integral part of our challenge.
My Dear Little Cardamummy once attempted homemade pasta. It was...umm...disgusting. I don't think she followed a recipe and what she produced was doughy and stodgy and sat in my tum like a lead-lined brick. I did my best to discourage further experiments. Whether or not she continued, I don't know as I think I've blocked all other attempts at feeding me her pasta have been blotted out of my memory.
Fast forward to this past Christmas. The lovely people at KitchenAid met with me as a follow up to their 2008 Kitchen Trends Report (Adobe Acrobat required), which I co-authored, and offered me a pasta machine attachment for my stand mixer. Of course I accepted and immediately thought of a couple of things I wanted to try it out on...pasta and non pasta alike.
Yeah, I didn't roll the pasta sheets by hand, as required in the challenge. But I had a new piece of equipment and I so very much wanted to try it out. For those of you who have been salivating over the attachment--I'm quite happy with it--after hand kneading the dough, I ran it through the rollers a few times and came up with a very lovely product.
Home made pasta is quite easy (and I'm sure if Mum had a recipe, her attempt would have been much more successful). The only thing I would do differently is purée the spinach instead of finely chiffonading it. The chunks were a bit large and I think was the cause for a few nervous moments of dough tearing during early rolling stages.

I used the challenge's bechamel, but substituted half the milk for heavy cream--I had some in the fridge that needed using up. My word the sauce was good. I had to be careful to keep from...ahem...oversampling.
The ragu was my own which I made and froze a few weeks before I knew about this month's challenge. Quite simply: soften diced onions, carrots and celery in olive oil, add a small tin of tomato paste and fry for a bit. 300g each ground pork, beef and veal, then a 798ml tin of unspiced puréed tomatoes and a good glug or two (or three) of red wine. Add salt, pepper and basil, stir well so the meat is nicely mixed, cover and set simmer for about an hour or so. Stir every once in a while. Check for doneness and flavour, spice as you see fit.
I didn't want an overly tall dish, so I limited my layering, reserving the rest of the pasta and sauces for future use. The finished lasagne was delicious--one of the best I've had.

To see what the other Daring Bakers did, please visit our blogroll.


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27 March 2009

Fishy Fridays: Calamari with Peppers

I'm sure I've mentioned more than once that my preferred cure for a cold includes copious amounts of chilli peppers. Now that this cold is old enough to write a driver's exam, hot and spicy foods are pretty much a mainstay in my diet.

Then again, when are they not?

And no, this is not going to be the post on how I dimwittedly welcomed back this cold with open arms. Well, not so open arms as I will, at some point, reveal.

Anyway...hot peppers. Love them. Absolutely love them. I prefer the fresh, green heat of bird's eye chillis--especially with eggs and in Pad Thai--but there there's also room in my pantry and gullet for pickled peppers...preferably prodigious pecks of pickled peppers.

Back when I could afford to eat out more than I currently do, my dearest TFE and I would occasionally have dinner at one of those chain roadhouses that overplays a theme. Now, as you know, he wasn't called The Fussy Eater for nothing. On his list of inedible foods was all things that came from or near the water. Yes, it could be frustrating, but really all it meant was I didn't have to share bowls of mussels, platters of crab and lobster dips or platefuls of deep fried calamari. One of my favourite appetiser-for-a-meals was a sizzling plate of calamari with hot banana peppers.

Earlier this week I had a craving for that meal. But quite honestly I didn't feel like trekking out to that restaurant and paying $10 to satisfy my craving...not when I could make it for much, much less.

As it's been a while since I had it, I had to go with taste memory: crispy squid with bell and hot pickled peppers. I'd have this as a meal, but it would easily be appetisers for two or three people.

Calamari and Peppers
50g flour
1 dspn Old Bay Seasoning (I used the lemon and herb kind, but regular would work as well)
1 dspn sweet paprika
salt and pepper
150g calamari rings
peanut oil for frying
half an onion, slivered top to tail
1 bell pepper, slivered
1 garlic clove, minced
pickled banana peppers, to taste
1 tsp pickling vinegar from the peppers
sweet chilli sauce

While heating the peanut oi, mix together the flour, Old Bay, paprika, salt and pepper. Dredge the squid in the spiced flour.

When the oil is hot enough, drop the dredged squid bits, in small batches, into the oil and fry for two-three minutes. Remove from oil and drain on paper towelling. Sprinkle with salt.

Sauté bell peppers and onions. Add garlic and stir for a minute or two, add banana pepper rings. Tip in the calamari, stir and add a squirt or two of chilli sauce and the vinegar. Stir and sprinkle with additional Old Bay and salt.


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24 March 2009

Mayonnaise and tartar sauces

For reasons which I'll explain at another time, I...umm...encouraged my cold to return

It's not as bad as it was last month but the right side of my head is back to feeling like it's filled with panna cotta.

Anyway, so not to leave you without a foodish post for an inordinate amount of time, I'm leaving you with the mayonnaise recipe I used as the base for the sauces for last week's fish cakes post.
Basic Mayonnaise
makes about 300-325ml
2 egg yolks
125ml canola oil mixed with 125ml peanut oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar, warmed
salt and pepper

Whisk together the yolks with some salt and pepper. In a thin but steady stream, slowly pour in the oils while whisking. When you've blendeded everything together, give it a taste and adjust seasoning. Whisk for another minutes or so.

Tartar Sauce variant: add chopped capers, chopped cornichons or cucumber relish with a squirt of chilli garlic sauce to the mayonnaise.


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20 March 2009

Fishy Fridays: Fish cakes

For newsfreaks, this week left some of us wishing for extra sets of eyes, smudge-free newspaper inks and finer controls to our PVRs. We grabbed for our boo bricks and generally debated over pints of Guinness, boxes of Timbits and or plate or two of moussaka (okay, it was mass market cafeteria moussaka, but it was still supposed to be moussaka).

But isn't that what good journalism is supposed to do? By holding up a mirror to the powers that be audiences are enlightened, enraged, encouraged. We want to know more about our political and physical environments. We want to know why a decision made in a not-so-distant past and in a not-so distant place means we're paying only about 25 per cent less for petrol than a year ago while oil prices are roughly half what they were a year ago, how our home values have dropped and the reasons we might want to avoid certain brands of processed meats.

I'm appreciative of good journalism: reporters who research well, find credible sources, legitimately prove what they've discovered seven ways to Sunday and present information in a fair and balanced way. Good journalists can do this and make it look easy. They need to be smart, skeptical, ingenious, trustworthy, determined, fast, patient, fearless, resourceful and value the truth.

News delivery methods don't really concern me (online vs paper vs radio vs TV-- although paper is easier on the eyes than staring in to light beams)...what bothers me is that journalistic skill and experience seem to be pushed aside for cheaper alternatives who quite simply write good or appeal to a certain demographic. Sure some of us think we have the stuff to to keep democracy in check, and have been approached to "contribute" to news outlets...but how many of us could replicate
Woodward and Bernstein to the same level of effectiveness?

I think, because it looks so easy and is so nicely packaged, many people take decent reporting for granted, leaving some unable to differentiate between analysed information and glitzy packages. Foodish analogies point towards differences between
Julia Child and Sandra Lee or Martin Yan's Chinatowns and Road Tasted.

The issue of journalistic standards came to the forefront not so long ago, as Ian Brown put it, it took a jester to point the finger. Yes, I refer to Jon Stewart's televised vivisection of CNBC's Jim Cramer and that television network's business reporting in general. For those of you who missed it and/or cannot access the videos, essentially Stewart took Cramer and CNBC's money honeys to task about the quality of their reporting before the stock market plunged lower than my neckline.

Yeah...when Stewart's team assembled and aired supporting clips, it was pretty obvious that there was something fishy going on...

Almost as fishy as a recent opinion column that included a line from an expert who "chirped" about the "beneficial effects" of being jobless, what got me was the opening para in which the writer confesses she and her husband paid $235 for a sushi dinner for two before moaning on about the virtues of frugality, practically begging for approval for not spending money at the mall.

Here's a bit of advice: spending $235 for two people (whether last week or two years ago) on a few pieces of fish, some mounds of rice and a bits of seaweed kinda sorta negates the overcoming mall temptations/aren't I a virtuously fiscally responsible person thing...a lot

So...for those of us who are honestly trying to be frugal, but still want fish in our diets, I offer you one of the most cost-effective fish dishes I know of: fish cakes.


Roughly equal weights of tinned tuna and leftover cooked potatoes, spices and egg. Mix it all together, form a disc and coat it in cornmeal, flour or breadcrumbs before frying. I chose cornmeal because I wanted the cakes to keep their crunch without the risk of getting soggy.

Yes, it may lack a certain je ne sais quoi usually associated three-figure dining, but you can zhuzh it up swanky greens with foofoo dressing, and or serve them with whatever sauce you wish--I chose flavoured mayonnaises--simply add curry powder or chopped jalepenos to mayonnaise, a roasted pepper sauce, or ketchup..purple ketchup, if need be.

Fish cakes
makes six to ten cakes, depending upon your generosity

340g canned tuna
340g cooked potatoes, riced
1 egg, well beaten
a couple pinches, onion powder
2 Tbsp minced parsley
salt and pepper
cornmeal for coating
peanut oil for frying

Mix tuna, potatoes, egg, onion powder, parsley and salt and pepper together.

Make patties by portioning mixture into patties that are two to three tablespoons of filling each. Coat in cornmeal.

Heat oil and fry patties until golden brown, being careful when flipping them over.

Serve hot with curry or jalepeno mayonnaise or tartar sauce (or any other sauce you wish).


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16 March 2009

Comfort and Restoration: Steak and Guinness Stew

Okay...I know what some of you are thinking...why on Earth would the daughter of an excellent South Indian cook find Steak and Guinness Stew comforting? No, I have no relatives from the Emerald Isle lurking in the deep recesses of my lineage (yet about 15 St. Patrick's Days ago, I was declared Irish by an employer at his annual St. Patrick's Day sloshfest (really...lawyers throw the best parties)).

But comfort lies within habit and tradition.

Whether it's the first cone of the season at the local independent ice creamery, the unwavering Thankgiving menu, annual food fests (like the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival) or even those weeks when shop shelves are laidened with seasonal goodies like Cadbury Creme Eggs, there's a sense that most (if not all) is right with the world when certain edible things appear when they should. Yes, seasonal eating--spring asparagus, summer cherries or October cranberries also count.

Then again, there's an equal sense that all (if not most) is right with the world when certain edible things we'd rather never see again appear when they should (or shouldn't). For some it's Christmas fruitcake or perhaps endless piccalilli canning sessions...for me it's birthday foreboding fed by my mother's obsession with Black Forest gateaux (shudder).

For the past half-decade or perhaps longer, March seems incomplete without Steak and Guinness Stew. It's warming and hearty and leaves the house smelling absolutely heavenly. Yes, it started off as part of a St. Patrick's day thang--and it still is. But now the chocolate-mint cakes and hot chocolates are secondary to the day's foodish symbolism in my mind. It also helps that I absolutely adore Guinness...but that's neither here nor there...or maybe it is.

The first time I had Steak and Guinness pie in our local pub I fell in love with it. Or should I say...I fell in love with their original version. That was when they first openened and were a bit more...creative with their food and used...umm...better...ingredients. After a year or two economics or boredom or a new chef (or perhaps a combination of any of the aforementioned) found the recipe changed...the gravy was no longer as unctuous, the filling no longer as mushroomy, the steak no longer as steaky (beefy:yes; steaky: no). It was no longer the dish I fell in love with...so I decided to create my close-to-perfect love with very satisfying results (how many women have not so secretly wished they could engineer such a feat? Trust me, it's easier with food than it is with men).

Like all favourited recipes, there have been tweaks over the years--sirloin steak instead of stewing beef, moving most of the cooking time to the oven instead of leaving it on the hob. My veggie mix changes, depending what needs to be used up in my veggie drawer. Peas, carrots, parsnips all work well. This year I planned well in advance and popped the marinating cubed meat in the freezer, thawing it the night before I made the stew. Like all soups and stews, this is tastier a day or two after cooking.

Steak and Guiness Stew

1 fat clove garlic, minced
1Tbsp mustard powder
1tsp black pepper
1 440ml tin Guinness

1.25 kg steak, cubed
500g mushrooms, cut into chunks
1tsp salt
1tsp black pepper
4 medium globe onions, slivered nose-to-tail
2 fat cloves garlic, minced2 celery ribs, diced
750g mixed vegetables
1 798ml tin diced tomatoes (get the type without added herbs and spices)
1 440ml tin Guinness
500ml beef broth
1 156ml tin tomato paste
1tsp paprika (hot, preferably)
3 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
2 bay leaves
4Tbsp soft butter
3Tbsp ap flour
3Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Mix marinade ingredients together in a zippy bag and add steak cubes. Let marinate overnight at the very least, but I've frozen the meat in the marinade with wondrous results.

In your Dutch Oven, sear the cubes on all sides and set aside--depending upon how much fat there is in the meat, you may need to glug a little oil in the pan beforehand. Do not throw away the marinade.

Melt oil and butter together; add salt and pepper. Tip in mushrooms and sauté until lovely and soft. Remove the fungi from the pan and set aside.

Tip in the onions, adding more fat, if required. Caramelise to a light golden colour. Add garlic to the pan and mix. When the kitchen is perfumed with garlicky goodness, stir in the celery for a few minutes, before adding the mixed veg. Cook for 10 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 140C/275F.

Add the seared meat, with its juices to the vegetables. Pour in the marinade along with the diced tomatoes, Guinness, and enough beef broth to cover. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the papricka, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves. Stir well. Let the mixture come up to a boil and keep it there for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Lid the pot and pop it into the oven for 90 minutes.

Just before your timer dings, knead the butter and flour together.

After the dinger dings, put the pot back onto a medium-low flame on the hob. Remove about a cup's worth of liquid and mix it with the beurre manié (the kneaded butter and flour) and pour back into the stew. Stir well. Add the mushrooms and Worcestershire sauce and simmer for 20 minutes before serving.


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13 March 2009

Fishy Fridays: Chilli garlic shrimp

This one I fully credit the palate worm.

I've been craving many things this month. No. I'm not pregnant...at this point such a feat would be indicative of Divine intervention...and although Loki seems to have taken residence at mine, we're just good friends.

This wretched cold of mine (yes, I'm still suffering residual coughs and sneezes...and my sinuses haven't been helped by the wacky weather we've experienced) left me craving foods I was too tired to make myself and to lazy to find someone who'd make it and deliver to my doorstep.

What I wanted was a combination of the salt and pepper squid my favourite dim sum-ery makes and Thai sweet chilli garlic shrimp. A combination of the salty goodness of those crunchy coated squiggly tentacles and the sticky heat of shrimp. Yes, I know the sauciness of the dish would probably negate the crunchiness of deep fat frying, but the palate wants what the palate wants.

It's really easy to put together--basically all the wet ingredients can be measured out with a shotglass. I chose to marinate the shrimp before dredging and frying. I just figured it was the best and easiest way to get as much flavour into the meat, and not have the sweet-saltiness just sit on top. I had them with glass noodles (fast and easy), but I think rice would be a nice pairng as well. To keep the heat bright, I sprinkled the minced chillies just before serving.

Yes, it's fried. You can deep fat fry the shrimp if you wish, but I just shallow fried them. It's not scary. Really. Don't look at me that way.

Chilli Garlic Shrimp

4 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbps honey
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
2 Tbsp nam pla
1 Tbsp black vinegar
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb ginger, minced
2 green chillies, minced (or to taste)
500g raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
cornstarch, for dredging
peanut oil, for shallow frying

Mix together soy, honey, oystersauce, nam pla, vinegar, garlic and ginger. Divide mixture between two bowls and let shrimp marinate in one bowl for at least 15 minutes.

Dredge shrimp in cornstarch while you heat the oil in a wok until shimmery.

Fry shrimp in batches until cooked.

Tip out oil and clean out the wok. Tip in the unused marinade and let bubble. Tip in the cooked shrimp and coat well. Let sauce reduce to desired thickness before serving over noodles or rice. Sprinkle with minced chillies.


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09 March 2009

I'm no angel

Churning litre upon litre of ice cream had one predictable surprise: abundant quantities of abandoned egg whites.

Abandoned, but not for long.

Unfortunately, as it was at the start of my month-o-phlegmy-grossness, my culinary fantasies of macarons, marshmallows and coconut macaroons-on-their-ways-to-becoming-home-made-Bounty-bars were not to be. I was (and still am) tired, and not yearning to be creative or daring or even interesting. I also didn't want to bin (or shall I say pour out) the egg whites...that would be wasteful.

I was looking for maximum bang for my cluck with relatively minimal effort. Yes, I could make a week or two's worth of egg white omelettes and play with the fillings and flavourings, but...meh...I just wanted to be done and over with as many as possible, as quickly as possible. I suppose their viscosity too closely resembled...well...you know.

Yeah, nothing like thinking an ingredient reminds you of snot to make you want to get rid of it in an appropriate way...not that I'd consider using real snot as an ingredient...maybe when I was two-year old, but not now that I'm a multiple of...two. So, in this case, an appropriate way does not include tissues or zippy white pills that add a bit of pep to my step...it involves baking.

I must admit that it's been a long time since I last had angel food cake. A really long time. So long ago that I'd forgotten how...ummm...unmemorable these cakes are...when served on their own.

But I suppose their versatility makes angel food cakes popular. They really don't need to be iced or frosted or dusted. A cake with a bright white and tender crumb is a lovely thing, but well...it needs something--fruit (either fresh or in a coulis) or even a few moments on a hot grill. Heck, these cakes are really very marshmallowy like. A thick slice, grilled then served with a raspberry coulis or lemon curd would go very nicely.

Admittedly, I'd lost my va-voom a few days after I made the cake, so I wound up having it with warmed caramel or hot fudge sauce...which may have been a bit of a boo-boo...you try snoozing off a cold when totally loaded on sugar-covered sugar.

Angel Food Cake
adapted from Spiced Angel Food Cake, found in Alton Brown's I'm Just Here For More Food, p270-271.

13 egg whites
75ml water
1.5 tsp cream of tartar
390g sugar
0.25 tsp salt
125g cake flour
splash orange extract

Preheat oven to 180C/350F.

Whip together egg whites, water , orange extract and cream of tartar until white and foamy. Add sugar and beat to medium peaks.

Sift remaining dry ingredients together. Gently fold the flour mixture into the marshmallowy mixture, about one-quarter to one-third at a time, until all the dry ingredients are fully incorporated.

Spoon the batter into an ungreased 4.5 L tube pan, being careful to not deflate the mixture. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool for at least an hour in the pan before turning out.


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06 March 2009

Fishy Friday: Pissaladiere

Yes, yes...normally at this time of year I mention Tim Hortons' annual caffeine-fest*, filled with hopes that I'd actually win something...anything. Well...the competition is about two weeks old and I've not won anything...trust me, Timmys are what are keeping me going right now (that and the way-buzzy cold meds I'm on), so I thought I'd won at least twice by now. Meh.

No. I shall not at length about how unfair this marketing ploy is, commenting about how one can get much better coffee at a much lower price by, um, making it oneself, or even flesh out my theory as to where all the winning cups are going. Instead, I'll drone on about a self-imposed dietary tweak.

Yes: it's Lent. Yes: I'm doing fish on Fridays. No, I don't expect any of you to do this.

Even though I enjoy most seafood, I don't eat nearly as much of it as I'd like. Cost is a bit of an issue, probably because I'm not adjacent to an ocean and this essay, hosted by the University of Guelph's website, summarises the state of the Great Lakes fisheries.

I am trying to find cost effective ways of introducing fishy goodness into my regular diet...with a minimal reliance on reconstituted fish flakes covered in unidentifiable gloop. My Dear Little Cardamummy made fish and shrimp wet curries as well as dry spicerubbed fish fries. I'm not saying I'll be able to replicate those, but I'll be looking for non ketchup-dunking fare...and yes, I did stock up on a couple of sales at the mediumscarymegamart, so I've a kilo or two of shrimp in my freezer along with some catfish fillets.

So, what's my Fishy Friday meal this week? Pissaladière.

As its name suggests, it's a rather pizza-like dish found in southern France. Unlike most pizzas found here in North America, it's a white pizza, devoid of a tomatoey sauce. The toppings are few, but combined combined have a lovely balance: sweet caramelised onions, slightly bitter black olives and salty anchovies.

Yes. I said anchovies. No. Don't run away. I know many people seem to be phobic of these wee little fishies...why, I'm not entirely sure. I think they suffer from bad PR--just the mere mention of anchovies will leave CERTAIN people recoiling with disgust. I have been known to add them to dishes and feed them to CERTAIN people...who didn't complain...when they didn't know. Heck one person is now a convert (I think...I'm not forcing the issue).

I happen to like them and will use them for a bit of oomphy depth of flavour in pasta sauces. As a semi-regular pizza maker of semi-regular pizzas, I'll add them to a pie with sausage and hot peppers.

Pissaladière is at once effortless and effortful.

Sure, you can buy a a disc of dough and a jar of caramelised onions and pop the entire thing into an oven and have one in hand within a half-hour. But really...the therapy derrived in the simplest of actions is worth the effort: kneading dough and stirring ever-softening onions proffer greater pyschological benefits than a 55 minute session on a far to shiny leather couch.

My version probably wouldn't count as a "true" version, I admit, as instead of using black olives, I grabbed my jar of tapenade. And I used a whole wheat crust (not sure if the traditional dish uses "regular" flour or not). Like many things in life, it's the spirit that counts...right?


For the dough
100ml hand-hot water mixed with 0.5 tsp sugar
0.5 Tbsp traditional yeast
175g bread flour
50g whole wheat flour
1tsp salt
1 egg
olive oil

1-2 Tbsp black olive tapenade
4-6 Tbsp caramelised onions
anchovy fillets

For the dough
Bloom the yeast in the sugrar water for 15 minutes, or until a frothy head appears. Mix into flours and salt. Add the egg and knead, adding more water or flour as needed. When the dough is nice and soft (like the proverbial baby's tushie), transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and let sit an a warm, draft-free space until doubled in size--a couple of hours or so. After rising, punch it down and knead for about five or ten minutes and let rest for a couple of minutes

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F.

Oil a pizza or cookie tray. Stretch out the dough and let rest for a couple of minutes. Slather the top with tapenade and cover with onions. Form Xs with two anchovy fillets, one per slice. Drizzle olive oil over top and bake for about 20-30 minutes, or until done.

* Yes: I know you can drink decaf...but who really wants to?


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