06 December 2013

24 years...

...and not forgotten

Geneviève Bergeron
Helene Colgan
Nathalie Croteau
Barbara Daigneault
Anne-Marie Edward
Maud Haviernick
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz
Maryse Laganière
Maryse Leclair
Anne-Marie Lemay
Sonia Pelletier
Michèle Richard
Annie St-Arneault
Annie Turcotte

Canadian Press: Canadians mark 24 years since massacre at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique

Rabble.ca: Remembering the Montreal Massacre on campus: problems and possibilities in 2013


22 November 2013

Fish fingers and custard with smashed Sontarans

If I say “fish fingers and custard” what pops into your mind?

No.  I’ve not joined some weird food blogging event sponsored by a multiconglomerate of processed “food” manufacturers daring participants to combine two unlikely products and pretend that they are fit for human consumption (individually or together).

No.  I’ve not accidentally typed “fish” when I meant “lady.”

No.  I’m not pregnant (but yes, I am still looking for a decent guy…in case anyone out there knows of one).

Yes.  I’m a Whovian. 

So what’s the big deal with Doctor Who?  Why has this TV series about a Time Lord and his companions hurtling through time and space in the TARDIS captivated so many worldwide? It’s not a big US “a big budget automatically makes it good” production--in fact, production values are traditionally low.  Really…have you seen a Dalek?  They look like overgrown pepperpots with a toilet plunger as one arm and a paint roller (or is it an elongated eggbeater) as the other, with a camera lens on a stick as an eye.  That's what they look like. In reality they're heartless, angry squid creatures who hide out in the pepperpot shells.

I think it works because when you strip away the sexy fish vampires, killer mannequins, battle-obsessed potato people, farting aliens, and cyborgs at its heart Doctor Who is about a drifter with a dark and mysterious past, who when he sees bad things happening, does something about it.  His friends and comrades are often recognizable to the average viewer—students, shopgirls, people just trying to get their act together—and together they get to the bottom of issues and generally make things better.

And for me…the cleverness of the baddie pretence is irresistible.  For 50 years writers have taken everyday items and made them terrifying: shop mannequins, stone angels, your neighbour's voice crying for help, your television set.  I've always known diet pills are evil.  As to The Doctor: he's eccentric. And he's smart.  How could I not be attracted to that?

Throughout the past half-century the Doctor has remained an enigma.  In as much as he’s an optimist, he reveals himself in bits and pieces.  Sometimes he references the Time War or other fights he’s been in.  Sometimes he talks about the people he’s lost. Sometimes his reactions tell the tale.  Whatever it is…there's a lot of darkness that he keeps at bay.

One of the things I find interesting is how fans interpret the words and deeds found within the canon.  Many have extrapolated life lessons, such as the ones I found that speak to PR and strategic communications.

Okay fine.  But what does all this have to do with fish fingers and custard?

Well…the Doctor has a few food peculiarities.  Pears are bad.  Jammy Dodgers save the day.  He likes to offer people Jelly Babies.  Celery is a boutonnière.  And then there’s the entire banana thing.

Long story short, after regenerating into the 11th Incarnation, the doctor got hungry and after rejecting many foods, he was satisfied with fish fingers and custard.

I’m sure Stephen Moffat came up with that combination to see what Whovians would do with it. And yes, a number of people have created their own recipes, including Alton Brown, this sweet version using cookies.

So…a challenge.  And I’m up for it in honour of Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary celebrations this weekend.

The fish part is a fairly easy non-recipe recipe: dust fish goujeons with seasoned flour, dip in an egg wash and then coat in panko crumbs mixed with herbs (such as parsley or dill).   You could also just go out and buy a packet of fish fingers…but where’s the fun in that?

As to the custard, I knew I didn’t want to play around with a savoury milk pudding spiked with saffron, turmeric or mustard.  So I took the easy route and zhuzhed up a homemade aioli.  No my custard (or TARDIS sauce) isn’t electric yellow, nor is it cooked, but it does have dairy and egg.  I will say, the sauce is also good with roast potatoes.

And well…what’s fish without chips? You could do fries or good, chunky chips…but given how battle-loving the potato-like Sontarans are, I decided to make some crispy, smashed Sontarans. 

Fish fingers
500g (1lb) firm white fish such as cod or haddock, cut into finger-like pieces.
All purpose flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 beaten egg
100g (1.5 c) panko breadcrumbs mixed
1Tbsp  chopped fresh herbs (such as dill or parsley)
Oil, for frying

Lightly salt the fish fingers and refrigerate, uncovered for 20 minutes.

Heat  enough oil so you can either deep fry or shallow fry the fish. 

Dab off any wetness from the flesh, then dredge in the seasoned flour, dip in egg and then cover in the herbed panko crumbs.

Fry until the fingers are cooked.

Custard Sauce/Tardis Sauce
For the Aioli
1 egg yolk
2 grated garlic cloves (as paste-like in consistency, as you can get it)
7.5ml (0.5Tbsp) Dijon mustard (smooth or grainy)
60ml (0.25c) flavourless oil
60ml (0.25c) extra virgin olive oil
7.5ml (0.5Tbsp) warmed white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Combine egg and garlic with mustard, salt and pepper.  Whisk in the oils in a steady stream.  Keep whisking until fully incorporated and then whisk hard for about a minute to make the mix thick and glossy.  Add the vinegar and whisk some more.  Balance flavours to taste.

You’ll get about 125ml (1/2c) of aioli from the above recipe

To turn the aioli into TARDIS sauce, mix together the following ingredients
60ml (0.25c)  aioli
60ml (0.25c) sour cream
7ml (1.5tsp) prepared horseradish
5ml (1tsp) Dijon mustard (smooth or grainy)
5ml (1tsp) prepared English mustard
2ml (0.25tsp) cayenne pepper (or to taste)
2ml (0.25tsp) onion powder

Balance flavours to taste.

Smashed Sontarans
Again, this is another non-recipe recipe.

Baby potatoes (about 5cm/2” in length) OR regular potatoes, cut  into 5cm/2”  chunks. Leave the skins on
Salted water (for boiling)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Other seasonings, you see fit.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.  Slick a cookie sheet with olive oil

Parboil the potatoes in the salted water.  Drain and tumble onto the oiled cookie sheet.

Press the down on the potatoes with a  spoon, fork or the bottom of a sauce pan.  You can smash flatish or just press down enough to rough up the surface.

Sprinkle with salt, pepper and other herbs and spices as you see fit. 

Drizzle more olive oil on top.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until the potatoes are cooked, with crispy brown bits.

I'm a quill for hire!

15 November 2013

Daring Bakers, Tribute To Lis: Hot Buttered Soft Pretzels

La Mia Cucina's Lis Cifelli, Daring Bakers and Daring Kitchen co-founder died  of a heart attack earlier this week.  She was 46.

Many things flicked through my mind when my BlackBerry binged about a dozen times over the course of a few minutes.  That only happens when something's very wrong…but when I saw a distribution list of a couple dozen foodbloggers, including old-school names, my heart stopped.  We lost one of our own.

Later that  evening a few of us who were part of foodblogging's salad days were in a twitter chat about those old days, especially the Daring Bakers' early days.

The Daring Bakers started off in 2006 as two online friends--Lis and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice--daring one another to try the same recipe and post their results.  It looked like fun and fit in well with foodblogging's early days which were marked by fun, encouragement and a prevailing feeling of "we're all in it together."  Many of my foodblogging friends were in the first groups and I was christened a DB within seven months of the Lis and Ivonne's inaugural challenge.

As the group grew, so did our collective skill, knowledge and well as our individual friendships.  Apart from encouraging me to bake my first macarons and try my hand at pasta making, I also found my go-to cheesecake recipe and made some good friends.  In 2009 I even hosted a the Bakewell Tart challenge--ably assisted by my dear Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar.

Time and energy are limited, and I (like several early members) simply faded out of the challenges so we could concentrate on what we wanted our lives and blogs to become  and left the DBs to the next generation who continue to to challenge each other with new adventures (yes, I did peek at this month's challenge recipe: it looks like an amazing one).

So when that FB chat turned to how we could memorialise Lis and all she did to contribute to foodblogging's community building, we decided to brush off our DB skills and return to a challenge recipe, prepare it and post it in her honour.  But which one to choose? If I were to do one that makes me smile every time, it would be my friend Shuna Fish Lydon's Caramel Cake

Given what Lis and Ivonne did for foodblogging, and the memories Lis' passing brought me, I thought it was appropriate to post the very first Daring Bakers' challenge: Hot Buttered Soft Pretzels.

I'll admit to not really being a pretzel-eater, simply because My Dear Little Cardamummy never kept them in the house (truthfully, she thought they were dog food and was repulsed by the idea that anyone would eat them).  But these aren't those hard, dry twigs.  These are soft, bready and buttery….and really, really easy to make.

But not so easy that I couldn't make a couple of oopsies.  Apart from missing the 15-minute rise before baking, after I pulled them out of the oven I realised I used bread flour instead of AP.  Quite honestly--the oversights weren't showstoppers and I really don't think the pretzels suffered from my inattentiveness.

The recipe called for an optional salt sprinkle, which I did, but I also decided to take a couple of liberties with some of the breaded knots and made rosemary-black pepper-Parmesan and  cinnamon-sugar toppings,  and made little sesame seed-coated twisted pretzel sticks.

Recipe: Hot Buttered Soft Pretzels
DB Challenge Recipe: Cream Puffs In Venice: Perfect Pretzels
Original Recipe:  King Arthur Flour: Hot Buttered Soft Pretzels


I'm a quill for hire!

30 October 2013

On opportunities for "great exposure"

Hello all

As many bloggers know, marketers and social media outreach specialists love asking us to write for their sites, for free.  I've just posted a note directed at companies, marketeers, and all those lovely people who think "exposure" is perfectly acceptable remuneration for work provided.

Here it is:


  I'm a quill for hire!

29 September 2013

Happy Blogaversary to me: Macalaya

130929 Macalaya 1 Good gravy.  Has it really been eight years since I started this blog?  I guess it has been.

I must admit I've been wondering about what to post for a good long time.  Weeks of time.

Then I met someone at a party and we started talking about mac and cheese and I recalled this recipe I in winter's waning weeks.  Of course I searched for it on this blog.

Wait.  What?  I didn't post it?

Oh yeah.  I've been a bit preoccupied.

Then I realised this would be a great recipe for my blogaversary post. No, it's not a fancy-schmancy recipe. That explores a cuisine or marks an adventure. It's simply the result of two simultaneous cravings: jambalaya and mac'n'cheese.  Hardly ground breaking or earth-shattering.  But it's good, unpretentious food.

Isn't what this blog is about? Food-based diarisation of my kitchen adventures--how I feed myself and my friends and family, devoid of marketing and and groupthink influences?  And how better to feed my favourite people, but with experimental hearty comforting food that combines ideas?  After all, if you can't experiment on friends and family, then whom can you experiment on?

For those of you who are list-phobic, you may be hyperventilating at the prospect of organizing 30 ingredients, and making two components (well, three) to make one dish.  But it's all manageable: make a simple Creole-influenced mixed meat stew, then make a cheese sauce, then mix with pasta and bake.  Easy-peasy.

The end result is perfect as cold weather sets in--warming, spiced and perfect shared with favourite people, or curled up on the couch with a very good book.

130929 Macalaya 2_edited-1
Macalaya (or Jambalaya with Macaroni & Cheese)
Serves 4-6


120g (~4.5oz) peeled & deveined shrimp, cut into 1cm/~1/2” pieces
120g (~4.5oz) chicken (dark &/or white meat), cut in 2.5cm/1” cubes
olive oil
1Tbsp tomato paste
½ medium onion, cut into 5mm/1/5” dice
½ medium bell pepper (green/red/yellow), cut into 5mm/1/5” dice
1 celery rib, cut into 5mm/1/5” dice
200g chicken or andouille sausage, innards removed from casings
3-6 garlic cloves, minced (to taste)
120g (125ml) tomatoes, diced (1.5 Roma, 1 beefsteak)
2-3 bay leaves hot sauce (to taste)
5-15ml (1-3tsp) Worcestershire sauce (to taste)
250ml (1c) chicken stock

Jambalaya spicing: 
3.75ml (3/4tsp) paprika
2.5ml (1/2tsp) salt
2.5ml (1/2tsp) garlic powder
1.25ml (1/4tsp) black pepper
1.25ml (1/4tsp) onion powder
1.25ml (1/4tsp) dried oregano
1.25ml (1/4tsp) cayenne powder
1.25ml (1/4tsp) dried thyme

225g (0.5lb) rigatoni or elbow macaroni (see notes)

Cheese sauce: 
28g (1oz/2Tbsp) butter
28g (1oz/3Tbsp) ap flour
1/8 tsp cayenne (or to taste)
300ml (1c + 4Tbsp + 1tsp) half &half
85ml (1/3c) chicken broth

Cheese mix (see notes): 
100g (3.5oz/1c) shredded old cheddar
100g (3.5oz/1c) shredded mozzarella
100g (3.5oz/1c) shredded Gruyere

salt and pepper (to taste)

Start with the jambalaya:
Toss the chicken and shrimp into the seasoning and let sit as you prepare the rest of the jambalaya--be sure to put the shrimp in a separate bowl as it's one of the last ingredients used. Pour heat a bit of oil in a pan, add the tomato paste and fry until the paste tinges to a brick red. Remove from pan.

Slick the bottom of the pan with oil and sweat the onion, celery and bell pepper. Once translucent, add the sausage and par cook. Add garlic, stirring until the air becomes fragrant with its oils. Add fried paste, tomatoes, bay leaves, hot sauce, 5ml/1tsp Worcestershire sauce and chicken stock. Bring to a boil while stirring.  Once it bubbles, turn down heat and let simmer for about five minutes add the chicken and coat with the sauce, stir and cook until the chicken is cooked. Turn hob to low, balance flavours to taste.

Prepare the pasta cooking water as you get on with the cheese sauce:
You can either use salted water or use ratio of 1:1 water to chicken stock. Regardless, the water should be as salty as the sea. Once the liquid comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook to al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving about half a cup of cooking water.

For the cheese sauce:
Mix the cream with the chicken stock.

Melt the butter over high heat until foamy. Stir in cayenne and flour and cook until the mix I blonde (well, strawberry blonde, given the cayenne). Slowly whisk in the stock mixtures until smooth. Bring to a boil and then reduce the flame to medium. Let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the mixture is slightly thickened. Remove from heat, add cheeses, a pinch of salt and a couple of pinches of pepper and whisk until melted. Balance flavours to taste (keeping in mind the pasta and jambalaya are already seasoned). Keep warm until baking.

Time to bring it all together:
Preheat oven to 200C/400F; 180C (fan-assist)/375F(fan-assist)

Butter a 3L/3Q (eg: 33cmx23cm/13”x9”) oven proof dish.

Mix the hot cooking water into the jambalaya. Add the shrimp. Mix with the cooked pasta. Tumble into prepared dish and pour the cheese sauce onto the pasta. Swirl it all together so the macalaya is well mixed. Bake for about 20 minutes. Turn off the oven and let sit for another 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven let cool on the counter for about 15minutes before serving.


  • Pasta: You can cook it in the usual way, or you can cook it in a weaker broth in a 1:1 ratio of water to chicken broth
  • Cheese mix: flavours aren’t set in stone, but you want a combined volume of about 3c
  • Jambalaya spicing: if you don't want to make your own masala, then use 15ml/1Tbsp of your favourite Cajun spice mix.

I'm a quill for hire!

07 August 2013

Canada Food Day: A tray full of sunshine: Jamaican Beef Patties

I know there are those who complain this summer is too cold.  We've only had one heat wave, the lawns are still green and relatively few people have collapsed of heat exhaustion.
And they think this is a bad thing.
Me, I LOVE this year's summer.  It's been a comfortable temp, I don't really have to have my air conditioner on, my little front garden is plumptious with blossoms and well...I'm still on my first bottle of sunblock.  The sun is shining and the birds are singing.  What more can I ask?
This past weekend was the August long weekend and it was gorgeous (again). Perfect to celebrate Canada Food Day.
What I really like about this day of food is that whatever you decide to make is perfectly okay. As far as I can tell, there aren't any real rules, except it must be food and part of the Canadian fabric.  And really...with a country that's embraced multiculturalism, that means every cuisine is welcome.
I'll admit this year, I decided to satisfy a bit of a craving I've had for a while: Jamaican patties. A friend made some last month, and I realised it's been a couple of years since I last had good Jamaican patties. Almost every patty has come from the freezer aisle of the decidedly non Jamaican market.  Having my friend's version sort of set off a lightbulb...I could make my own.
Jamaican patties were never something I'd contemplated making...and gosh...they're just savoury handpies.  I've had some good ones--flavourful and zingy...and I've had some bad ones--bland, tough...I even had ones that were decidedly sour.
So after some research, I came across this 2005 recipe from the New York Times and decided to give it a go.  It's pretty easy--no curveballs thrown.  But then I tasted it during the simmering stage.  Hrmm...it was decidedly lacking, if not a little boring--don't get me wrong.  It was hot, but that's all it really was. It needed a bit more sweet, a bit more sour and some deeper flavours.  Out came three bottles: nam pla, HP sauce and Worcestershire.  Et voila...my first Jamaican patties.
A relatively quick trip into the oven and out popped trays full of spice sunshine.  Nummy, nummy spicy sunshine. A friend who's favourite snack are these zesty little handpies tried one.  His opinion: definitely better than the grocers and he preferred my pastry because the others are too flaky for his liking.  I'll take that victory

Jamaican Beef Patties
adapted from Jamaican Beef Patties by the New York Times.  
Yield 12
500g (860ml/3.5c, less 1Tbsp) ap flour
1.5tsp (10ml) salt
1dsp (10ml/2tsp) turmeric
1tsp (5ml) curry powder
250g (320ml/1.25c plus half tablespoon) lard (see notes)
100ml ice water
500g (1lb+ 2oz) lean ground beef (see notes)
15g (1Tbsp) butter, melted and cooled (see notes)
1dspn (10ml/2tsp) dried thyme
vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Scotch bonnet pepper, seeded and finely chopped, divided
0.5tsp (2.5ml) paprika
0.5tsp (2.5ml) ground allspice
0.75tsp (3.75ml) salt
1tsp (5ml) black pepper
1tsp (5ml) sugar
1tsp (5ml) nam pla
1Tbsp (15ml) HP sauce
1dspn (10ml/2tsp) Worcestershire sauce
375ml (1.5c) water

Pour the melted butter over the meat and sprinkle with thyme. Lightly mix and set in refrigerator for at least five minutes or until the butter is solid
For the pastry:
Mix flour, salt, turmeric and curry powder in a large bowl.
Grate in fat and rub together with flour, until the mixuture looks like fine rubble, with some pieces the size of peas, and others smaller.
Pour in iced water and lightly mix with your hands or a couple of forks, adding more ice water, a tablespoon at a time, until mixture forms a slightly sticky dough.
Knead dough for two minutes, form into two disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate while you make filling.
For the filling
Slick the bottom of a large pan with oil and heat over a medium flame. Add onion, garlic and half the chili pepper. Sweat the ingredients, stirring often.
Add paprika and allspice and stir to coat. Add beef mixture, breaking up any lumps.
Add enough water water to cover meat. Mix in salt, pepper and sugar. Bring mixture to a boil and set to simmer for 30 minutes.
At the 15 minute point, stir in the nam pla, HP and Worcestershire sauces, and chilli. Adjust flavours to taste--it should be slightly sweet, earthy, hot with a hint of acid. Simmer until the meat is soft and the gravy reduces to a clingy sauce-- about another 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool.
To make the patties
Heat oven to 190C/375F/moderately hot oven/ Line two cookie sheets with aluminum foil. Pour some water into a small bowl and have a fork on hand.
Remove one disc of dough from the refrigerator and divide in half.
Lightly flour the board and quickly roll out the pastry to about 2mm thick or large enough to cut three 15cm/6" circles (approximately the size or a teacup's saucer).
Divide the filling into 12 equal portions (approximately two generous tablespoons). Place one portion of filling on the lower half of one circle.
Damp your finger with the water and run it around the edge of the circle. Fold over the pastry, so you have a half moon (or rising sun!). Crimp the edge with a fork and transfer to a prepared pan.
Repeat with remaining dough and filling to produce 12 patties.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until the top is firm and slightly tinged with brown.
Serve warm, or in a soft potato or hamburger bun.


  • The Jamaican patties I've had have had a flaky pastry. This pastry is more like a shortcrust, than a flaky crust--to add flake, use half lard and half butter.
  • If you have a flaky pastry crust you like, make enough for 1kg/2lbs of pastry, adding the salt, turmeric and curry powders to the mix. 
  • If you are using regular minced beef, do not add butter.

26 July 2013

My Darling One: Six Years Later

Six years ago today the man I loved passed away.

I was at my stylist's the other day and mentioned the anniversary. She stopped primping.

"Wow.  Has it been that long?"

Yup.  It has.  

Six years is a long time...but at the same time it's not.  

As I mentioned last year, so many things have happened in the first five years--new home, new job, new opportunities, new romances--with more in the last year--my three feline companions, Hagia, Zeus and Bean, passed away, but two kittens entered my life (more on them later); after my job was squooshed in a global resizing I hung out my shingle and started Peacock Blue Communications, my own PR and Communications consultancy and through it I've met and worked with some great people, and heck...I've even become a wee bit more adventurous in my gardening.   Yup.  Life is still good....although I could be posting recipes and other foodish things here more often.

Yes, I do miss Michael, but I know he's not coming back and some things end sooner than we'd like, and in ways that we never really thought of.  That said, I know he's watching over me...and I swear I could feel him recoil at the retro-inspired paint colours for the kitchen (he wasn't a fan of blue, and really...that particular shade of teal would have been met with some great opposition).  He's still cheering me on and offering encouragement.  I still find pennies in the oddest places in the house.

I've often said that I believe people leave us when they have learnt all they have to learn and they have taught all they have to teach. As long as we continue to pass on those lessons we've received, those who have passed on have never truly left any of us.


01 July 2013

Happy Canada Day! Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians, where-ever you are.  Hope you'e doing something special today, whether it's watching fireworks, getting together with friends or simply raising a glass or lifting a fork.

A few weeks ago, Jen, my friend who's half the team behind The Smile Epidemic put together the #CanadaSmiles Twitter Campaign, to highlight what distinctly Canadian things make people smile.  I turned it into a 30-day mission, looking at innovation, music, people, writers, and of course, food, and posting my thoughts onto my @PckBlue account, and retweeting to @cardamomaddict.

All in all, it was a great little exercise.  Half the fun was winnowing down my list to 30 tweets--no small feat, I tell you.

One of the more interesting things I found out was the process to make modern peanut butter was patented by a Canadian, Marcellus Gilmore Edson.   He was a chemist (pharmacist) who developed this as a way to feed people who had problems eating solid or hard food.

Good gravy.  That's simply awesome.

Quite honestly, this put a little spring in my step.  I can't explain why.  I do like peanut butter, but I don't really eat a lot of it.  Regardless, this little find got my brain thinking about my Canada Day post (yes I've been remiss in keeping this space regularly updated).

One of my favourite ice creams is peanut butter ice cream but I never thought of making my own.  Until I learned the above tidbit.  After a little research, I found this Saveur recipe.  The only modification I made was to not do the swirl--I'm just not a swirly person.  Oh...and I didn't include chopped nuts in the final product--mostly because I find most of the nuts available are old and beginning to think of possibly turning.  Apparently I've got great set of tastebuds...

The recipe is custard-based and super easy to make.  The final product is good, but a little rich for me...not that it's a bad thing.  When I make this again I probably won't use heavy cream, but instead 18%.

My favourite way of having peanut butter ice cream is with fudge and salted caramels sauces...it kind of makes like a Wunderbar (Starbar, for those in the UK and in Scandinavia)...but without the crunchy bits.   Maybe that will be my next stage of peanut butter ice cream making...Wunderbar ice cream...hmmmm

Regardless...Happy Canada Day!

Recipe link: Saveur.com ~ Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream

  I'm a quill for hire!

20 May 2013

Mr Bean, our little boy

Long time Cardamom Addict readers know this handsome boy to the left--this is, of course, Mr. Bean.  If you follow my @cardamomaddict Twitter account, you know things have been rough for this dear old cat these past few weeks.  Unfortunately, one week after being diagnosed with both liver and pancreatic cancers, this lovely boy passed away.

Mr. Bean (Beanie to those who knew and fed him best) was a regular presence here posting his own views of the world and his food dish, occasionally explaining my absences.  He was a fun-loving big boy with a bigger personality than his generous frame betrayed.

Beanie was born under a wheelchair ramp across from the exbf's store.  This pitch black kitten was full of spunk and won admirers at moment one.  His first home was with the exbf's neighbours but they brought him back because...erm...he terrified their dog.  No, I don't quite understand what happened, but all I know the little kitten literally scared the pee out of their dog.

I brought him to mine as I knew My Dear Little Cardamummy always admired black cats. It was love at first sight.  We had just plucked Zeus and Hagia from our garden and given away their littermate Scutterbotch.  Zeus instantly attached to My Big Strong Cardapoppy and Hagia decided I was the best thing since sock drawer organizers, this little black kitten with the teeny patch of white on his chest, soulful green eyes and long tail (affectionately known as the flagpole tail, as it was always in "happy position," soon attached himself to Mum--for the past 17.5yrs he did everything he could to be by her side.

Over the years he, like his two adopted siblings, became a foodish cat.  But unlike Zeus and Hagia,  who preferred a select number of "people foods," Bean simply loved food and developed a taste for a wide variety of flavourful dishes.  Poached chicken or a simply roasted joint would elicit a "why are you being so mean to me" look. Long-cooked and deliberately spiced foods were what he wanted--coriander chicken, beef and pork curries--although he wouldn't say no to bacon, oatmeal or a bit of meatloaf.  By far chicken was his favourite and would let out a special "chicken miao" and danced frantically whenever some was brought into the house (raw or cooked).

Unfortunately, Beanie's legendary appetite became quite fickle in the past few weeks, and although his blood work was fine, Xrays and an ultrasound showed different.

His final days were spent with me, as my parents are away.  He adjusted to his unfamiliar surroundings--a different house and two two strange kittens, along with familiar humans.  Mum gave me instructions to make his favourite foods and pick up his favourite junk food (KFC...yes, really).  So this week, I made my own versions of mum's coriander chicken and beef curry, as well as my own ribs.  He happily nibbled what he could.  When he could no longer have solid food, I warmed thick cream sweetened with honey or melted ice cream for him to lap up. When he could no longer do that, he seemed to be content following the aromas that came from my kitchen.  

He spent his last night on my couch, snuggled up against me, purring. If it were up to him, he'd still be here, but his liver had other plans.  On Wednesday, I called Mum, so she could say goodbye.  I set the handset on the floor, next to the still majestic, but very tired cat.  Bean responded to his mama's voice, pulling the receiver closer to him and cuddling it as she promised to be home soon.

Beanie passed away on Friday, snuggled in a warm towel, on his way to Dr. Bonnie's.

Bean was loved and liked by many (including by those who read Cardamom Addict).  He was warm and dry with soft cushions on which to sleep, windows that let him safely watch the world and, of course, an amazing home cook who was always willing to share.  Goodnight, Beanie Boy.  Sleep well.

I'm a quill for hire!

24 February 2013

Real pancakes, from a box

That's what she said.  And she meant it...without irony.

I suppose the phrase wouldn't have struck me if she and her troupe hadn't just spent the previous so many minutes trying to convince the rest of us that they were so much more advanced than us in every way: general sophistication, professional knowledge and the almighty and indisputable measurement of Twitter followers.  One even made a veiled comment on those of us sipping cups from a nearby coffee shop by calling a disaster when her ceramic travel mug from her favourite ubiquitous overpriced coffee house tumbled and smashed upon landing on the icy pavement.  Yeah, you know the type.

It's amazing how one little phrase, not intended to be heard by anyone other than the two who accompanied her, can not so much chink an armour, but tear a hole in dollar store tin foil.  No, I didn't buy their earlier assertions of superiority: her phrase simply confirmed my first impressions.

I know there are people who don't cook.  And I know there are people who think heating a frozen dinner and serving it in china serving dishes is counts as cooking, or filling frozen pastry shells with tinned pie filling is scratch baking.  I'm fully that there are those who, because of an accident of wealth, think their opinions are worth more than those who don't have the means to buy top end ingredients or eat at the finest restaurants.

I also know that someone's inability to make pancakes from scratch does not mean s/he is any less capable in areas that really count in life.

But really...these are pancakes.


The above is my version...I'm sure there are versions which don't use eggs, milk or other ingredients.  And I'm positive there are versions that add fruit, nuts, spices and other flavours or textures.

It's not as if you need esoteric equipment or source an ingredient that's only available in a remote region half a world away to make nummy nummy pancakes.  Heck, I'd argue using a box mix is probably a guarantee that you won't get nummy nummy pancakes.  Just pancakes.

But it was Pancake Tuesday and I was already in a pancakey-type mood.  Instead of either following Nigella Lawson's recipe or finding my lost recipe for blueberry buttermilk pancakes or even going back to my ricotta pancakes, I decided to trawl the web for something new.

With a small tub of cottage cheese in my fridge (why, I no longer remember), I decided to follow Whole Foods' recipe, but add a splash of vanilla to the batter.

Delicious, creamy and so easy to make.

No box needed.

Recipe: Fluffy Cottage Cheese Pancakes

 I'm a quill for hire!