17 April 2011

Dessert for Breakfast: Breakfast Berry Crisp

The difference a week makes.

The sun shone last Sunday, the temps were within spitting distance of 20C and the plants in my little front garden were poking through the soil.

Today's clouds block the sun, the mercury barely touches the freezing point and I can almost see little green shoots for the lightest dusting of snow.

Welcome to spring in southwestern Ontario.

A week ago I was bouncing about the place, filled with energy, tackling a number of housey projects I've either put off or have been too busy to tend to.

Today I'm bundled in blankets with a cold little nose and a voice that can't decide if it really should be with Marcel Marceau or Bonnie Tyler: when it exists, it's as raspy as if I've lived a life deserving of whisky and cigarettes.

Last week I wanted a barely sweet crisp. This week I still want a crisp, but I want something on the syrupier side of things. I want to remind myself that summer will arrive with punnets of berries, bursting with colour and sweet juices.

We're not quite in the nadir of local berries, but we may as well be. In a few weeks (okay a few months) I'll be at Herrle's, deciding which containers of fruit will be mine. But now, I'm at the bigscarymegamart, poking through transparent clamshells of underripe, trucked fruit more reminiscent of vinegar than of honey.

Many mornings I breakfast on some combination of yoghurt, fruit and granola. Today when I stood before my fridge's cavernous belly I had a difficult choice to make: use the fruit for breakfast or for a crisp.

Then I asked myself: why choose?

Many crisps are simply fruit stewed under an oatmeal crust. A main ingredient of my homemade granola is rolled oats. Why not top my crisp with unbaked granola?

Why not have this granola-topped crisp for breakfast, with a dollop of yoghurt and a drizzle of honey?

Given the pancakes for supper precedent many of us enjoy, why not? More to the point...given how many people have thinly disguised cakes as muffins for breakfast, why not granola-topped stewed fruit for breakfast?

The result? Well, I'd eat it for breakfast and dessert.

Breakfast Berry Crisp
Serves 6-8

for the fruit:

600g (1L/4c) mixed berries
50g (0.25c) brown sugar (or more, depending upon how sweet the fruit is)
2dspn (1.5Tbsp) cornflour (cornstarch)
the juice of one orange

For the topping:
60g (0.5c) rolled oats
40g (0.3c) sweet desiccated coconut
20g (2Tbsp) pumpkin seeds
20g (2Tbsp) sunflower seeds
20g (2Tbsp) sliced almonds
25g (2Tbsp) brown sugar
pinch of salt
pinch of nutmeg
0.5tsp cinnamon
0.25tsp ground ginger
3Tbsp maple syrup
2Tbsp soft butter
0.5tsp vanilla
yoghurt and honey for serving

Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Butter a 2.5L (11c) baking dish.

Mix fruit with 50g brown sugar, cornflour and orange juice. Tip into the prepared baking dish.

Mix the topping ingredients together, rubbing in the butter, to make a nubbly, rubbly topping. Strew onto the fruit.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the fruit blurbles and boils and the the topping has turned a golden brown.

Serve warm or cold with yoghurt and honey (or sweetened whipped cream or ice cream).

I'm a quill for hire!

10 April 2011

Maple-berry apple crisp

It's cold. It's warm. It's cold. It's warm.

It's maple syrup season.

Cold nights and above freezing days mean sugar shacks are in full boil. And for those of us luck enough to know someone with a sugar bush, visions of golden, mapley goodness dance in our heads...and our palates.

I'll pour it on sweet fritters, warm corn bread, ice cream and yes...pancakes.

Unlike "table syrup" in all its cloying viscosity, I'll use it as a more subtle sweetener--one that lends a deep smoky sweetness to whatever I use it in.

Normally when I make a crisp, sugar abounds: the apples are tossed in it, the topping has one or two types and usually the dessert is served with a dollop of sweetened cream, a generous spoon of custard or a healthy scoop of ice cream. This time I wanted the Granny Smith's tartness to shine through and be more of a feature against the sweetened accompaniment.

I'm fairly happy with the results--the apples are tart with a hint of maple. I like how the crisp nubbly topping contrasts against the softened apples and melting rivulets of ice cream. I will play with it some more--the topping could do with some playing -- maybe plump up the fruit before baking and maybe use a mixture of both whole wheat and ap flours...but for now, here's my maple-berry apple crisp.

Maple-Berry Apple Crisp
Serves 6-8

For the topping
70g (5Tbsp) butter, softened
65g (0.33c) brown sugar
40g (0.25c) dried cranberries, finely chopped
40g (0.25c) dried blueberries, chopped
40g (0.33c) chopped walnuts, toasted
55g (0.5c) rolled oats
75g (0.5c) whole wheat flour
finely minced zest of one orange
0.5tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

For the apples
juice of one orange
180ml (0.75c) maple syrup
pinch of salt
6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 3mm (1/8") slices

Preheat oven to 190C/375F. Butter a 23cm x 33cm (9"x13") pan.

Mix the topping ingredients together, until crumbly and set aside.

Mix the juice, syrup and salt together. Tumble the sliced apples into the buttered pan and por the syrup mixture over top. Strew the topping over the apples.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the topping is golden and the apples yield to the point of a sharp knife.

Let cool a bit before serving. Serve with custard, ice cream or cream sweetened with maple syrup.


I'm a quill for hire!

03 April 2011

Corned beef Hash

Even though I was careful to not have a whopping huge hunk of corned beef, I had more than enough for a couple of suppers and sandwiches.

The most obvious solution to my embarrassment of cured beef riches was, as you've probably guessed by this post's title, corned beef hash.

Then again, I may have embarked on a 14-day brining adventure just to make this crisped potatoey-beefy-oniony conglomeration.

Like so many foods created to use up an odd bit of this or that, this, again, is a non-recipe recipe. I don't think there's a hard and fast rule about corned beef hash: chopped up left over boiled potatoes, chopped up left over corned beef, mixed with chopped onion, garlic and spices, fried, an served warm for breakfast lunch or supper.

Browned hashed potatoes with bits of spiced cured beef, topped with a soft boiled or runny poached egg, with butter toast to sop up the golden goo...what more does one want for a lazy Sunday breakfast, or a midnight nosh when back from a night out sampling the local pub's liquid offerings? Not much, I think.

Corned Beef Hash
Serves 2-4

Butter and or olive oil, for frying
1 onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
250g (1.5c) boiled potatoes, finely chopped
100g (1c) corned beef, finely chopped
0.5tsp mustard powder
1tsp vinegar

Heat fat in a cast iron pan until quite hot. Saute onions until transluscent. Add garlic and stir until its scent is released.

Tumble in chopped potatoes and meat, a pinch of salt, two of pepper and the mustard powder. Sprinkle with vinegar and stir well and press into an even layer in the pan.

Fry until the bottom is crisp and golden. Turn, in sections, to crisp the other side. If it sticks, add more fat to the pan. Fry and turn again (or as often as needed) until the potatoes and meat are lovely and crispy.

Dollop some sour cream along the side and garnish with chopped chives or spring onions.

Serve with eggs (soft boiled, poached, fried, or whichever way you wish), baked beans, fried tomatoes and or fried mushrooms.