30 June 2010

Mmm...Canada: Newfoundland Fries

Happy Canada Day!

Has it really been two years since our dear Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess and I cohosted a Canadian food event called Mmm...Canada (she, with sweet entries and I with savoury entries)? Really?

We tried to organise it this year, but our lives are turvey-topsey, bisy backson with barely a chance to sit down and have a cup of tea. And really...if we can't set the time aside for a cup of tea how can we do this land justice in a foodish way?

We'll bring it back. Really. I promise.

When I stepped into my kitchen to offer a Canada Day treat, so many foods came to mind. So many in fact I was practially beside myself with what I should do. Sweet? Savoury? Something regional? Something with indigenous ingredients? Something with a memory?

Yes. All of the above.

It could have been latent guilt playing upon me for not doing an event, but I think it was the sheer breadth of foods that gave me bursts of energy and creativity. Over the month I'll post as many as I can. Some are sweet, others are savoury. Some are ingredient focussed and some, are a regional treat. Some are fabulous for hot and heady summer days and others, like today's recipe, are I think best suited for cool autumns and frigid winters.

A few weeks ago I wrote about poutine, the fabulous Québecois dish that is, according to a favourite colleague, the ultimate comfort food. Newfoundland fries continue in this tradition of embellished french fries.

My area of the world is dotted with the occasional chip wagon: a parked caravan offering sizzling fresh, deep fat fried potatoes. With a sizeable community of Maritime emmigrés--specifically Newfoundlanders away from home--these wagons' signs often boast "Newfoundland Fries."

French fries, turkey stuffing, peas, gravy, cheese curd and sometimes chunks of the bird itself, Newfoundland fries are like the best of a formal Thanksgiving dinner with the informality of a plateful of chunky chips.

Such fare is not for the feint of grease, the watcher of cholestorol or the minder of salt.

No matter. The peas make up for it, of that I'm more than certain.

Newfoundland fries, like poutine are a non-recipe recipe and good use of bits of leftover dinner, in this case a roasted chicken or turkey meal.

Newfoundland Fries
Serves as few or as many as you wish

French fries
Cheese curds
Roasted chicken or turkey
Stuffing from said bird
Hot gravy (chicken or turkey)

Tumble cheese, meat and stuffing onto the fries. Ladel on the hot gravy and sprinkle with peas.

If you are still hungry—or curious about what Canadians eat--take a meander through my list of Canadian food blogs--it’s a pet project of mine, I've been running for about six years and updated whenever I can--just let me know if you want to be added.


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20 June 2010

Lemon-Cherry Muffins

Sunday morning baking is a not-so-secret pleasure of mine. Apart from lazily leafing through books and magaines for an inspriational recipe, there's a sense of calm that comes from weighing out flour, grating zest and whisking eggs with milk.

This is the time when I play with ingredients and flavours, tweak an old favourite and dare I say it...gild the lily. Sometimes things work, sometimes things don't. And sometimes things are so elusively close to where I want them to be, they become an obession of sorts.

Lemon-cherry muffins are my latest obsession. The recipes I've tried have been too cakey, too sweet, too lemony. Normally I can easily doctor or tweak something an get *exactly* what I want.

Operative word is "normally."

This quest is far from normal...I've been *this* close a few times but each subsequent attempt, although good, leaves me thinking "next time I'll just try this" or "next time I need to decrease this or increase that."

I'll revisit and tweak some more. When they are at that seemingly elusive happy point, I'll let you know, but for now here they are.

Far from perfect, they are perfectly serviceable. They may not proffer poofy domes that other recipes do but then again they aren't meant to be miniature cakes like the glaze-dipped offerings at chain coffee shops. They are sweet, but not overly so; they are moist, but not overly so. Since I'm looking for something that's closer to an old-fashioned muffin, with a heartier texture with warm nooks and crannies where lashings of butter melt into at breakfast or at afternoon tea.

Lemon-Cherry Muffins
Yield 18

150g (1.5c) sugar
grated zest and juice of one lemon
220ml (1c less 2Tbsp) buttermilk
60g (4Tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
2dspn (1.5Tbsp) flavourless oil
2 eggs
280g (2c) ap flour
1dspn (2tsp) baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1pinch salt
200g (1 heaping c) cherries with their stones removed

Preheat oven to 190C/375F. Paper the muffin-tin bowls.

Rub the lemon zest into the sugar and set aside. Mix the buttermilk and lemon juice in a measuring jug and let sit. Sift flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt together.

Beat sugar, butter, buttermilk mixture, oil and eggs.

Quickly incorporate the dry ingredients, leaving some pockets of flour. Fold in the cherries until it all just comes together--you aren't looking for a smooth batter.

Fill prepared muffin tins and bake for 20-30 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out cleanish.



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15 June 2010

Food to mend a bruised heart: Part Three: Maple-glazed peppered bacon

There's nothing like a good breakfast to start a new adventure.

Granted, I'm not trekking through deepest, darkest Peru in search of the spectacled bear (or any other of Paddington's relatives); I'm not off to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, and I've not applied to CSIS (but really, if they need an accusedly adorable short chick who can not only string words together well but bring in the occasional cupcake, tart or biscuit to share, all they need to do is call. Besides, can't you see me as a Miss Marple (à la Margaret Rutherford)-meets-Thursday Next-meets-Nora Charles (especially when she gives that look when people are being idiots and she can't say anything...like the look I give the exbf when he's half-way through a sentence) with a bit of Nero Wolfe thrown in for good measure? See...I'd be perfect there).

I write of the final stage of bruised heart-mending: getting over him and considering returning to those murky dating waters again.

And they are murky.

I peeked into the online dating site where I met Dear Soul.


About half the guys were there two years ago--including *gasp* the superficial and rude ones. Many of the newer ones don't post photos and the "in thing" seems to be leaving a blank profile. Glah. I've even perused some picture-free, information-free theoretically wannabe half-of-a couple candidates whose 100 words mostly comprise of "I'm good looking and fun. Looking for the same. No pic, no response--fair is fair" Umm. Yeah. Good luck with that.

I'm not quite ready to go back out there yet, but at least I can bring myself to thinking about possibly maybe finding someone...at some point...later.

But before I do that, a good breakfast is in order. Not one of those poncey fruit and yoghurt with wheat grass juice dealies. I'm talking of real breakfast. The type that sends farmers off to the fields. The type that makes oleophobes quake in their boots. The type that gets you going the morning after the night before.

You know it:

Maple glazed peppered bacon.


Pumpernickel toast with butter and marmelade.

Fried mushrooms.

Hash brown potatoes


Heaven on a plate. Pure and simple. It's the breakfast I have before I explore the country or a metropolis. When I meet with foodbloggers, it's pretty darned close to my standard order when at my favourite Toronto brunch spot. It's my favourite breakfast on a lazy Sunday morning at home.

Maple-glazed peppered bacon is another of those non-recipe recipes I love so much. There's nothing to it--bacon, maple syrup, and freshly cracked black pepper--but when combined, the result is smokey, salty, sticky sweet and spikey...just enough to remind you that life is actually... good.

Maple-glazed peppered bacon

Rashers of streaky bacon
Maple syrup
Freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 160C/325F. Line a baking tray with foil--if you have a cooling rack that fits the tray, set it on top of the lined tray, if not, don't worry about it.

Brush the rashers with maple syrup. Sprinkle with pepper.

Lay the rashers on the rack (or on the foil) and pop into the oven. Bake until done. How long will that be? It depends on a number of things: the bacon's thickness, how much fat there is, the state of your oven. It can take 15 minutes or longer...just keep an eye on them...the time between cooked and charred isn't really that much.

Related Posts:
Food to mend a bruised heart part one: Poutine
Food to mend a bruised heart part two: Choco-fudge cake with peanut butter icing

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06 June 2010

The contraption: Olive and lemon meatballs with tomato sauce

Computers. I love them and hate them all at once.

As a writer and editor I love how they can make my lot a bit easier—distributing drafts, tracking changes, sending off the final version—its all easy, peasey, pudding and pie. Add the Web and all the electronic loveliness that comes with it, and there’s little doubt that this collection of plastic and wires is rather spiffy.

But when things go awry…say when my wretched ISP goes down, speed becomes a crawl (thanks to multiple “critical” patches) or for whatever reason an app no longer does what it’s supposed to…and I just want to chuck this thing out the window and go back to quill and ink.

This is one of those moments. My six year old laptop is now showing signs of age…grindingly slow, Sahara-like heat and now it just shuts down whenever it gosh-darned feels like. These I can handle. What I’m having issues with is the spontaneous key-popping.

Yes, key-popping. There I am, happily Tweeting or emailing and all of a sudden keys started flying off and clattering all around me. Square tiles jettisoned like quills off a territorial porcupine. Right now the bane of my existence is the letter “I” that keeps leaping off ¡nto the w¡ld blue yonder.

Well, until I can afford a new machine, Zippy will have to be mended. A keyboard transplant is in the works and for the next while I’ll be computer-less. I hope to have Zippy back before long, but it all depends upon how long it takes my repair shop to get in the replacement part.


Before I take this machine off to the shop, here’s the next part of my slow cooker series. Enjoy…

This is what I’ll call a “transition recipe,” the type of recipe that bridges warm and cool weather, one that’s just hearty enough to feel fed, but not so much to leave you feeling lethargic. It’s also a bit of a transition from the slow-cooked meats that marked my earlier slow cooker adventures.

I must admit that when I saw slow cooker meatball recipes, I really didn’t see how a slow cooker made the process easier for the home cook. You still have to make and cook the meatballs separately as well as start the sauce off on the stove. Really, it would be much simpler—including a couple fewer pieces to wash—to do it all by stove top.

Regardless if you use a contraption or a covered Dutch oven, this isn’t a bad recipe. Adding lemon and olive to the meat mix adds an earthier but at the same time a bit of a refreshng flavour to the meatballs.

Olive and lemon meatballs with tomato sauce
Adapted from Sara Lewis’ Ultimate Slow Cooker, p68
Serves 4

50g (0.5c) chopped black olives
grated rind of 0.5 lemon
500g (1lb) ground beef
1 egg yolk
salt and pepper, to taste
1 onìon, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
375ml (1.5c) canned, puréed tomatoes
125ml (0.5c) chicken or beef stock
0.5tsp dried basil
dried chili flakes (optional)

Mix olives, lemon zest, beef, salt and pepper together. Form meatballs (this recipe will form about 20 tablespoon-sized meatballs). Let rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes.

Fry in olive oil until cooked. Set aside.

To make the sauce, sauté the onion in the oil and beef drippings, add the garlic, tomatoes, stock, salt and pepper. Let come to the boil.

Transfer the meatballs and sauce to the slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours. About an hour before it's done, stir in basil and pepper flakes and continue cooking.


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