31 October 2010

Sponge Toffee

If you ask me, I'm not a Hallowe'eny person. I don't carve pumpkins, I don't decorate the house with cobwebs and I generally don't give out candy.

But the thing is if you give me the opportunity to appear in fancy dress, I plan and dream for weeks. It could be one of my foofy tafetta gowns for a swanky doo or it could be an opportunity to don my red sequinned devil horns, striped leggings or even kitten ears, the chance to wear something a bit out of the ordinary just gets me giddy.

This Hallowe'en saw me in shades of black and gold, with glittery deelybopper antennae and glittery wings.

Yup. I was a bumble bee. Complete with tiara...which made me a Queen B.

I've always wanted wings...and glittery wings just made it better.

To keep with my sweet dress-up theme I decided to make some honeycomb candy to take into the office. I'm not much of a candy maker--far too finicky for me--but Nigella's hokey pokey recipe seemed so easy not even I could mess it up--simple caramelise sugars, whisk in bicarb and pour onto a greased pan and let cool.

But mess it up I did...the first time. In hopes of a larger surface area of candy, I spread out the foamy goo. The foamy goo deflated to a sheet of sticky sweetness...which later turned into crunchy sweetness.

My second attempt was far more successful. This time I substituted honey for half of the needed golden syrup and increased the amount of baking soda and poured it out and let it sit on its own. Honey definitely improved the flavour, making the candy taste a bit earthier and smokier than purely sweet.

Hokey Pokey
Adapted from Nigella Lawson's recipe in Nigella Express

yield approx. 125g

100g (0.5c) sugar
2Tbsp golden syrup
2Tbps runny honey
1dspn (2tsp) bicarbonate of soda

Grease a tin foil-lined cookie sheet

Mix the sugar, syrup and honey together as best as you can. Put on the hob, over a medium flame and let it sit there--untouched, unswirled and unstirred--until the sugars are melted and are a medium-light amber colour. This happens rather quickly (2-4 minutes, depending upon the strength of your flame), so don't take your eyes off the pot.

Immediately take off the heat and quickly whisk in the bicarb. It will foam and become moussey. Pour onto the prepared pan. Do not spread it out as the bubbles will burst and you'll lose the lovely honeycomb effect. Let cool thoroughly before breaking into pieces.

Store in an air-tight container.

cheers!jasmineWhat I'm reading: I'm a quill for hire!

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24 October 2010

Baba Ganouj

I treat election nights as many others do the Oscars, Grammys, or World Cup or Stanley Cup Finals. I barricade myself in the TV temple, a friend or two at my side watching names and numbers scroll across the screen as talking heads and experts try to explain how things will be different in the morning.

I yell at the television when the other side looks as if they'll win. I try and physically push the pixels so the person I voted for gets in. I hold my breath. I hide behind the cushions. I stay up as long as I can to watch final numbers.

Tomorrow is municipal election day in Ontario. Hopeful mayors, councillors, school trustees are all on the ballots, as are various questions about this that and the other. I've read the literature and the newspaper articles. I've made various decisions and will exercise my right.

Our local races aren't overly contentious. Okay...that's my opinion. Others won't agree and are doing their best to draw attention to heinous wrongs and/or if the rest of us don't acquiesce to their obvious superiority our area will go to Hell in a handbasket.

So I'll be home Monday night, and will flick on the returns while tucking into nibblies. This year I'll have a bowl of baba ganouj (or baba ganoush, if you will): creamy, garlicky goodness, oozing over mini pitas and raw veggies.

Good baba ganoujs I've had have all been made with fire-roasted aubergines--the smokiness permeates the flesh and imbues the dip with an extra savouryness that other versions just...lack. I don't have a gas hob, a barbecue, or a blowtorch, so I oven roast the eggplant until the skins char.

Baba ganouj is easy to put together and can be made a couple of hours in advance and left to sit in the fridge so the flavours marry. I don't use as much tahini as some recipes do--just enough to impart its sesame flavour, but I lighten the texture with sour cream. You can use less garlic if you wish, but I tend to add more.

Baba Ganouj
Yield: approx: 1 cup

One large purple aubergine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp Tahini
2 Tbsp Sour Cream
juice from half a lemon
Extra virgin Olive oil
Toasted sesame seeds (for garnish, optional)

Preheat oven to 170C/350F. Line a baking tray with foil, smear with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Slice the aubergine into 5cm/2" thick discs and arrange on the prepared tray. Rub oil over top of each disk and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the flesh yields to a knife point and the skin has blackened. Remove from oven and let cool.

Scrape the innards into a bowl and stir in garlic, tahini and lemon juice. Balance flavours to taste. Cover and let sit in fridge until ready to serve.

Drizzle olive oil over and sprinkle sesame seeds on top before serving with pita breads/chips, flat breads and/or crudité.


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17 October 2010

Hobble. Cough. Sniffle

If you've followed my Twitter feed for the past couple of weeks, you know that I've spent more time wrapped in cuddly blankets and an ankle propped on a pillow than causing the usual chaos and mayhem (not to mention hunger pangs for those all around me).

Yup. I've turned my ankle--not as badly as a few years ago, but bad enough that carrying out my usual kitchen business just isn't happening. For a brief second I thought about bringing back Cooking By Proxy, but the exbf (who was part of it last time) made it more than clear that he would not go through that again. Apparently in my hobbled state I am just as scary weilding Pokey the Walking Stick as I am weilding my favourite kitchen knife.

So I ate frozen leftovers and splashed out on enough Chinese food to feed the Red Army.

Things were going well enough until they weren't: scratchy throat, tightwire walking a fever, drippy nose, and a cough reminiscent the soundscape of San Francisco's Pier 39. Yup. I've caught the flu...or something.

My Dear Little Cardammumy's nurse's training has kicked in, plus her "my only baby is sick and needs to be better" instincts. Yes...a combination of scary and comforting.

So again, I'm not in the kitchen, save for boiling a kettle or preparing a few very easy things like tinned soup and a sandwich or two. Which means I have nothing foodish to really share with you other than something that's become a recent go-to meal, completed with a cup of tea:

A buttered, lightly toasted bagel with ribbons of paper-thin proscuitto tumbled atop each slice.

Easy delicious.


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11 October 2010

Happy Thanksgiving: Starved for Attention

A very happy Thankgiving to all my fellow Canadians. I hope you'll share a meal with whomever means the most to you and share some joy.

A couple of weeks ago Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (
Canada/USA)asked me to let you know about their Starved For Attention campaign. For purposes of disclosure, I've previously donated to them and, as such, I support the work they do.

Given Thanksgiving symbolised with a table heavily laidened with a cornucopia of delicious and nutritious meals, I thought it fitting to let you know of the campaign.

Starved for Attention is a campaign focussed on childhood malnutrition. According to their site, almost 200 million of children younger than five years are malnurished (the majority of whom are in sub-Saharan Africa and in south Asia). The effects of this impairs immunity, and as a result is directly linked to childhood mortality. Several countries, such as Thailand, the UK and the US have taken steps to address this, but there are many more who haven't.

Given this planet has so much food, it's more than disheartening to know that so many are ill and dying as a result of not getting the right foods to eat.

Starved For Attention's campaign site has an online petition you can sign, if you wish--if you don't sign it you can still access the their information. If you can, please visit them and learn more about this issue.

If you happen to be in Ottawa from 13-31 October, St. Paul University is hosting a free multi-media exhibit that exposes the crisis of childhood malnutrition. It features photography and video, featuring the work of award-winning photojournalists from the VII Photo Agency. These people traveled to malnutrition “hotspots” around the world to shed light on both the causes of the crisis and approaches to combating this condition.

A public talk by Marilyn McHarg (MSF Canada General Director) and Susie Tector (MSF doctor) will be held at the university's ampitheatre on October 13th, from 6.30-7.30pm. To register your attendance, please
register here.

Starved for Attention Exhibition:

October 13-31, 2010
Saint Paul University
The Atrium, Guigues Hall,
223 Main Street, Ottawa

Panel Discussion
October 13,
6:30 - 7:30 PM
in the amphitheatre

Other events, like one in Milan, Italy are also planned. Please
visit this link for information about what's happening elsewhere.

Thanks so much,


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09 October 2010

Dirt and Worms Cupcakes

This weekend was one of foodbloggerdom's biggest annual hootenanies (yup, you guessed it, BlogHer Food '10). Many are in San Francisco at panels and outings.

Those of us not in SF are left to press our cybernoses against the windowpanes of online culinary kewlery. Many delegates tweet what they're up to. It goes something like this:

"Oh SQUEE! I'm having so much FUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"


"That was such a great session about...!"


"Who else is going to...??"


"Can you believe .... did ....?!"


"I finally got to meet ...! I'm so thrilled!!!"

Alas, not everyone can attend: money, cat flossing, the fact that this is Canada's Thanksgiving weekend and many of us north of the 49th parallel have familial obligations (read whatever tone and inflection you wish into that last phrase).

Yeah...we're sad and rather pathetic as a result.

So sad and pathetic we started a support group.

BlogHer Food '10 Pity Party (#BHF10PP, for those of you into hashtags) started off as a joke by the fine people behind The Peche, but soon took on a life of its own: movie trailers, themed menues, a drinks competition...seminars about how to make a habanero martini, doing fancy things with chocolate and strategies for dealing with dirty dishes were streamed as well. But really, what many of us did was tweet about how sad and pathetic we are and what we're doing to deal with it. Alcohol figures prominently (and yes, I did get some poutine).

Misery loves company, as the saying goes.

Me. I'm here.
In my basement.
Tending to a sprained ankle.
The liquor cabinet is upstairs.
Nobody loves me.
Everybody hates me.
I think I'll eat some worms.

Hence the most obvious of treats, grownupified by the addition of whisky. It's a non recipe-recipe. You don't have to use the attached cupcake recipe--any chocolate cupcake will do. Heck. If melancholia has taken hold of you to such an extent that spending 35 minutes to make and bake cupcakes sends you into a downward spiral of sad kitten eyes and reciting bad poetry, then go ahead an buy a packet of uniced cupcakes and turn them into dirt and worms.

My cat's breath smells like cat food..

Dirt and Worms Cupcakes
One dozen chocolate cupcakes (recipe follows)

Chocolate cookie crumbs
Gummi Worms

Cut the domes off the cupcakes. Take four domes and crumble them into dirt clods. Mix in about an equal amount of cookie crumbs. Set aside

Sprinkle as much whisky onto the cupcake stumps. Spread caramel on top. Tumble the cake-cookie crumb on top and nestle a worm into the dirt.

Chocolate Cupcakes
adapted from Edna Staebler's Devil's Food Layer Cake in Food That Really Schmecks
Yield: 12 cupcakes

125ml (0.5c) milk
0.5tsp vinegar
0.5tsp bicarbonate of soda
165g (1.25c) cake flour
0.5tsp baking powder
0.25tsp ground cinnamon
55g (0.25c) butter
100g (0.5c) white sugar
100g (0.5g) brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
30g (1oz) bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1Tbsp whisky

Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Line a 12-bowl muffin tin with papers.

Mix the milk and vinegar together and let sit for about 10 minutes. Stir in the bicarb and let sit.

Sift together flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Stir in egg and melted chocolate. Mix in the flour and soured milk in the usual alternating way (dry-wet-dry-wet-dry). Stir in the whiskey.

Divide batter into prepared bowls and bake for 20-25 minutes. The tops will be springy and an inserted skewer will come out clean.

Let cool to room temperature before adding the dirt and worms.

Eat the remaining cupcake tops.


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03 October 2010

The contraption: slow cooked vanilla poached peaches

After a summer off from my slow cooker to contemplate the contraption I'm back, determined to see this blogging project through to the end.

Every attempted recipe has been meat-focussed...and maybe that's the problem. Apart from pulled pork and ribs, nothing it's done has made me cotton to it, and only leaves me to wonder why so many people are enamoured with the beast and its kin.

With this in mind, this month I decided to eschew the contraption's carnal side to experiment with the sweeter side of its personality.

Poached fruits was the obvious first step for me--whole specimens left to blurble in a sweet syrup shouldn't push the machine far beyond its capabilities.

By the time I mustered up the energy to pull it off the shelf and prepare this month's offering, local peaches had their day and all I could easily find were sad, softball-like imports. The only positive comment I can say about these truck-driven specimens is they retained some semblance of fragrance.

It doesn't take a genius to poach fruit. Whip up a poaching liquid, spiced as you wish, and then let the prepared fruit simmer away until it's reached to the point of doneness. Again, I'm not convinced that using a slow cooker helped in any way, and in fact just gave me an extra couple of pieces to wash (the cooker insert and lid).
Normally when I poach fruit, I use water or juice but this time I decided to use a vidal from Norfolk County's Florence Estate Winery. By the time the fruit was done, the seed-speckled liquid was heady with peach and vanilla and retained a bit of the wine's crispness.
Poached fruit is wonderful on a cool night, especially now as the seasons turn. Will I do this again? Definitely, but I'll save myself dish rack space and leave the slow cooker out of it.

Vanilla Poached Peaches
Serves eight

8 ripe but firm peaches, halved and stoned (skinning, optional)
250ml (1c) sweet white wine
250ml (1c) water
80ml (0.33c) honey
1 vanilla pod, slit in half lengthways OR 1dspn (2tsp) vanilla paste

pouring custard, whipped cream, heavy cream or ice cream, for serving (optional)

Preheat slow cooker, if its manufacturer's instructions dictate.

Heat wine, water, honey and vanilla until bubbling.

Arrange peaches in slow cooker, pour vanilla syrup overtop. Cover and cook on low for 90 minutes. The fruit should be firm, but yield to an inserted blade.

Remove peaches from cooker and pour syrup into pan. Over a medium-high flame, reduce liquid by about half.

Serve warm: two halves per person with syrup dizzled over top. serve with custard, cream or ice cream, if you wish.


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