06 December 2015

26 years...

...and not forgotten

Geneviève Bergeron (1968–1989), civil engineering student
Hélène Colgan (1966–1989), mechanical engineering student
Nathalie Croteau (1966–1989), mechanical engineering student
Barbara Daigneault (1967–1989), mechanical engineering student
Anne-Marie Edward (1968–1989), chemical engineering student
Maud Haviernick (1960–1989), materials engineering student
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (1958–1989), nursing student
Maryse Laganière (1964–1989), budget clerk
Maryse Leclair (1966–1989), materials engineering student
Anne-Marie Lemay (1967–1989), mechanical engineering student
Sonia Pelletier (1961–1989), mechanical engineering student
Michèle Richard (1968–1989), materials engineering student
Annie St-Arneault (1966–1989), mechanical engineering student
Annie Turcotte (1969–1989), materials engineering student

I'm a quill for hire!

29 November 2015

One month to Christmas, I come bearing chocolate gingerbread cake

151129 Nigella ChocoGingerbread 2

It feels a bit early for me to start thinking of Christmas. Drifts of research and reports surround me; calendar reminders twinkle on my screen, and it wasn’t too long ago when a hard thump of an icing sugar duster covered my garden with snow. Maybe it’s not too early for me to start thinking of Christmas.

Two things easily get me into the Christmas spirit—music and food.  While I am prone to belting out “Do They Know It’s Christmas” in June, I’m not quite ready to put my Christmas CDs in the mix just yet. The Christmas Pud has been stirred, steamed and safely out of my mother’s reach (really, it’s not hard as she’s 4’10” (maybe)).  While I’m beginning to plan out my baking, it’s hardly a Bing Crosby existence, rumpapumpumming to David Bowie.


I used this week's visit with some favourite people to get me further into the festive spirit.  How better than with a cake? Preferably something aromatic that hints at the weeks to come.

I thought the Chocolate Gingerbread Cake from Nigella Lawson’s Feast would be perfect with our tea, as we chat next to a roaring fire. I paired the smoky-rich chocolate spice cake with the salted brown butter caramel icing from Shuna Fish Lydon’s Caramel Cake.  For a bit of texture, amidst all that soft lusciousness, a generous handful of roasted spiced pecans was scattered on top.

By my standards, it’s a sweet enterprise, but all that means is I'll have a smaller slice.   But it is a dark, damp and rich cake, spiced with flavours familiar to the Yuletide season, with the added bonus of chocolate.  And salted caramel.  And crunchy pecans.

A couple of notes about the cake:
  • The full cake recipe is enough for two 20cm x 20cm (8"x8") pans, so if you only need a small cake, halve the recipe.
  • Instead of treacle, I used cooking molasses, which is a mixture of regular and blackstrap molasses.  My molasses-loving friends liked it, but next time I’ll use a lighter variety.
  • For one 20cm x 20cm cake, use about one-third of the icing specified in the recipe (or more, or less, I'm not going to judge).

151129 Nigella ChocoGingerbread 1-1
Ginger spiced roasted pecans
50g/125ml/0.5c chopped pecans
one heaping teaspoon icing sugar
0.5 tsp ginger powder
cayenne pepper, to taste
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 180C/350F and line a baking tray with parchment or tin foil.

Mix the nuts with the sugar, spices and salt.  Drizzle in enough water so the nuts are coated with a glaze.  Toss the nuts and spread on the prepared baking tray. 

Bake for 10 minutes.  Let cool before sprinkling on the cake.

Recipe Links: 

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19 November 2015

From my PR blog: You're an expert. Cool.

Hello all my lovely people.

The other day when I read this Globe and Mail article about how Canadians cook, this exchange leapt out at me:

Calder: Cookbooks, at least in the English tradition, usually came from someone who’d been cooking a long time, so now we get chef cookbooks but you also get a bunch of cookbooks from 22-year-old bloggers, who... 
Hunter: Know nothing. 
Calder: Quite frankly, what’s the palate? Do they know how to write a recipe? Now that every blogger’s got a book I think, where’s the authority? I think we’re missing a sense of authority right now because everybody’s an expert. Everyone’s a photographer, everyone’s a writer, everyone’s a curator.
There's more than an ounce of truth in those words, if my inbox is indication.  It got me thinking of about how it seems everyone is trying to position themselves as an expert, regardless of their actual knowledge or skill.

Every day I receive pitches from publishers, PRs, and marketers telling me about their latest cookery expert, nutrition expert, lifestyle expert, agriculture expert and other experts related (and some not related) to the food industry.  I also get messages directly from unknown experts trying to convince me I should write or tweet about them, let them write for me or recommend them for media interviews, panels and other brand-building exercises.

Unfortunately, many aren't experts.  Yes, they've mastered free, low-barrier publishing and sharing platforms, amassed followers and have a self-published book on Amazon, but these points don't really mean much if these "experts" don't have the chops.  It's as if they bank on being the smartest person in the room when they don't know whom else is here.  It's really as if they're looking for a shortcut to the twinkly rooms of legitimacy and celebrity where champagne flows freely and life is just one big, never ending party with Idris Elba as the DJ.

I jotted some thoughts on my PR blog about what I see as the cult of expertism.  It may help to explain why influencers--including the media--ignore many pitches about experts.

I'm a quill for hire!

18 October 2015

We're in this together: Middle Eastern shepherd's pie

151012 Middle East Shepherd's Pie 4

Tomorrow is election day in Canada. 

It’s been a long campaign. It’s been an aberrantly and abhorrently caustic campaign. 

As we waded through attack ads, endured dog whistles, and sifted through fictions presented as facts, many of us remembered what it was like to be Canadian. 


Not the hawkish, divisive and belligerent archetype some try to frighten and bully us into being, but the humanitarian, inclusive and reserved people we have been and (I believe) still are.

Throughout the past 78 days I saw people hold true to the unspoken but understood simple truth about Canadian society, that Calgary mayor, Naheed Nenshi, addressed at the LaFontaine-Baldwin Symposium:

Nous sommes ici ensemble.
We’re in this together.

We are our shared experiences and shared emotions.  Our neighbour’s pain is our pain.  Our neighbour’s strength is our strength. Our neighbour’s joy is our joy.  It doesn’t matter what we look like, where our parents or grandparents came from, how we worship, whom we love—or any other artifice of division or classification encoded upon us—we all deserve to live a great Canadian life, in the Canada we hope for. 

As Michael Rowe wrote, in Canada the words “take our country back” are not a right-wing rallying cry of reactionary racism that celebrates and prioritizes white, Christian, heterosexual hegemony.  In Canada, “take our country back” is the cri de coeur for a return to an era when being Canadian meant aspiring to something greater than it currently is.  Something greater than decimating, selling and shedding the entities and endeavours that help to define Canadian culture and identity—the CBC, the Wheat Board, environmental protection of thousands of our rivers and lakes, peacekeeping.

I saw many people take our country back during the campaign period.  People stood up to bullies and called out fibbers.  Religious freedom was defended when peddlers of fear vilified women in veils.  Average people stepped in and sponsored Syrian refugees because the government stepped out and fell down.  Democracy was revived through new and innovative get out the vote programs for marginalised populations.

In their own ways, they were rebuilding our society to one that resembled more closely the Canada we hope for.

In his speech, Nenshi recounted a family devastated by the 2013 Calgary floods. As they sat in their nearly destroyed home, they didn’t focus on what they no longer had.  They focussed on what were about to have: a hot, homemade shepherd’s pie.  One of the relief effort’s thousands of community volunteers cooked and delivered a hot meal to this family.  It was that unspoken but understood simple truth about Canadian society.

So today I offer you a shepherd’s pie in anticipation of tomorrow’s vote.  It’s warm and comforting, and with Middle Eastern flavours, it celebrates the multicultural mosaic that makes our country stronger and better.

Parce que nous sommes ici ensemble.

151012 Middle East Shepherd's Pie 2
Middle-Eastern shepherd’s pie
Yield: Serves 6

For the mashed potatoes:
450g/1lb Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
55g/60ml/0.25c butter, melted
100ml/a generous 0.33c buttermilk, plus more, if needed

For the filling
Olive oil
450g/1lb ground lamb
1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
35g/2Tbsp/30ml tomato paste
1tsp/5ml ground cumin
1tsp/5ml ground allspice
1tsp/5ml ground coriander
1tsp/5ml cinnamon
0.5tsp/2.5ml pepper
1 pinch ground nutmeg
50g/75ml/6Tbsp sultanas, plumped in water
0.5c/125ml beef stock, lamb stock, or water
1Tbsp/15ml Worcester sauce
30g/60ml/0.25c toasted pine nuts
1 handful chopped parsley

Make the mashed potatoes in the usual way.  Set aside.

Brown the lamb and remove from pan, leaving any fat in the pan. Sweat the onions, celery and carrots in the lamb fat. Add the garlic and stir until the air is perfumed with its scent. Remove the veg from the pan.  Add some olive oil and fry the tomato paste until it deepens in colour.  Return the sweated veg to the pan and add the cumin, allspice, coriander, cinnamon, pepper and nutmeg.  Stir for about a minute before returning the meat to the pan.  Tumble in the sultanas and stir well.

Add stock and enough water to cover the mixture.  Pour in the Worcestershire sauce.  Stir and bring to a boil.  Let boil for a few minutes before slowing the hob to a simmer and let blip (uncovered) until a thick sauce clings to the meat. 

While the mixture reduces, preheat the oven to 190C/375F.

Add the nuts and work through the parsley.  Balance flavours to taste.

Tip the mixture into an ovenproof pan or dish.  Top with the mashed potatoes.  Fluff and style the potatoes in the usual way, so as to create as many opportunities for browned, crunchy bits. Drizzle with olive oil.  Bake until the potatoes are burnished to satisfaction.

Let cool for about 5-10 minutes before serving.

  • Instead of lamb, used minced beef (or a combination of the two).
  • Almonds can be substituted for pine nuts.
  • Use the raisins’ plumping water when cooking the meat mixture as it will add some of the raisins’ sweetness to the dish.
  • If you're lucky to have celery with its leaves, mince those leaves and stir through with the parsley.

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05 October 2015

Worts and all: Beer with the Culinary Historians of Canada

Kitchener-Waterloo's 180-year brewery history is dotted with legendary names.  George Rebscher started Canada's first lager brewery in what is now downtown Kitchener.  David Kuntz's brewery became Carling-Kuntz, then Carling, then Carling-O'Keefe and finally Labatt's.  Jim Brickman is credited with not just founding Ontario's first craft brewery but triggering the Canadian craft brewing renaissance.

This tradition continues today in our start-up city.  In amongst the several hundred app-building, drone-designing and whoseywhozzits-making tech startups, a new group of small brewers set up shop.  I think this is why our Waterloo Region Museum set up an exhibition that celebrates our fizzy and worty nature.

The Culinary Historians of Canada came out to catch the exhibition, partake in some Waterloo County fare, and tour one or newer breweries, Block Three. I recently became a member of the CHC and joined them for the day--and I'm glad I did as I got to meet and hang out with some lovely people who are keenly interested in Canadian foodways.

Of course, my camera came in tow, which was put away during lunch (yes, I did).  Sorry: no pics of the cream of tomato soup with mushrooms and peas, mixed greens salad with orange-saffron dressing, glazed Atlantic salmon, schnitzel with sauerkraut, chicken breast stuffed with prosciutto and Swiss, penne with chèvre, Dutch apple pie or triple chocolate mousse cake.  Maybe next time.

From Beer! The Exhibit
The Regional Museum is one of my favourite spaces in Waterloo Region. It's multicoloured exterior always makes me smile, and I'm usually there for an event hosted by an awesome organization. We've got a good team who puts together thoughtful exhibitions, and this one is no different.   They informed us about how beer is made, and our local brewing history, including The Heuther, The Brick, Kuntz and Carling, as well as Block Three, Abe Erb, Waterloo Brewing and others.  There were displays of the various styles (ales, porters, stouts, wheat, &c) and societal happenings such as the Victorian beer saloon, prohibition, and KW Oktoberfest.  They also gave space to The Empty Shoes Project.

History of Beer Timeline  Water+Malt+Hops+Yeast=Beer  Heuther merchandise

 Illuminated Beer Bottle Wall Wall of brewery merchandise in beer casks

Prohibition Victorian beer saloon 

Kuntz Brewery items Kuntz & Carling merchandise

KW Oktoberfest Wagon Empty Shoes Project

From Block Three:
Block Three is one of those cool spaces tucked into an unassuming building.  Open the door and you find yourself in a publet.  A tiny little pub, where everything on offer is brewed on-site and the selection changes every week. After gliding by the merchandise counter where you can buy jugfulls of beer, soaps that look like beer, or branded coasters or T-shirts  (yes, a bright pink one came home with me), is the pub.  On the back wall, behind he bar a chalkboard lists what's available on tap or by the bottle, and a case of hand-thrown clay cups line shelves, ready for their owners' next visit. Those of us of a certain age think we've entered a bit of a time warp as there's a proper old-school record player spinning vintage vinyl, along with a collection of board games available to be played. There were four beers available for sampling: King Street Saison (available year-round), Jane Blonde, Blocktoberfest, and (my favourite of the four) Frankenstout.  For those in Ontario, but not near St. Jacobs, the Saison is available in the LCBO. We stepped into the brewery where they had a number of fermenters on the go, and tucked into a corner was a special order for a local high tech company.

Little sample snoots of Block Three beers Block Three's record player Special bottling for a client

At the publet Where the regulars keep their glasses

Block Three's barrel "Things" Block Three fermentation tanks

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12 September 2015

Holy smokies. Has it really been 10 years?

150908 Edna Staebler Sticky Buns 4

Has a decade passed since I started writing this blog?

I guess it has.

I'll set some thoughts to pixels about the past 10 years, but not today. Yes, I've got something up my flour-dusted and sauce-splattered sleeve--but I need to get a wiggle on to get it sorted.

The past week has been filled with happy things: apart from Cardamom Addict's anniversary, I've also marked my birthday (really, every year is a significant year) and celebrated as my dear friend exchanged "I dos" with his beloved. It's always a special thing when two people who are totally and utterly in love make a commitment to one another. They are both kind and giving souls and I wish them all the happiness in the world.

For three days we fested in a bucolic setting, complete with bright blue skies, a babbling waterfall, green fields, shady trees, storybook black and white Bessies keeping the grass at bay, and a horse who occasionally marked his glee by waggling on his back in his paddock.

As with many such events, not everyone who should attend, can attend. Tucked into a display of photographs of family who have passed away, but not passed in memory, was a photograph of a familiar face with twinkly eyes. You see, my friend who was getting married, was the same person who introduced me to our dear Edna Staebler. While he was not born into Edna's family, he became one of hers.

Edna was a local treasure, literary trailblazer and the woman who introduced the world to the Mennonite cookery of our area, Waterloo County. Regular readers know I've written about her before. In fact, today is the ninth anniversary of Edna's passing.

In honour of Edna, and what she meant to my friend, her recipes were curated by Rose Murray into the weekend's menus: Good As Gold Soup; Ol’ Walper Hotel’s Spinat Salad coquette on German Red Cabbage with Apples & Bacon; Herb & Peppercorn Sirloin with Red Wine Demiglace; Roast Pork with German Mustard, Pepper & Rosemary, with an Apple-Cranberry-Sweet Onion Chutney, Mixed Veg; Loaded Mashed Potatoes, and (of course) the sweets--pies, cookies, butter tarts, and sticky buns.

I could not think of a more perfect edible collection for this celebration.

While I hemmed and hawed about my tenth anniversary post and what would busy my kitchen, I took inspiration from these celebrations and decided to make Edna's sticky buns from her second cookery book, More Food That Really Schmecks.  

And really, how better to recognize Cardamom Addict's milestone than by recognizing a lovely and amazing local home cook--one without airs or pretension--who loved to write?

Edna's sticky buns are made from "Mary Ann Martin's Magic Buns, Doughnuts, and Rolls."  We all need a mother recipe that's easily adaptable--and this one is.  Apart from sticky buns, instructions are given for cream buns, Chelsea buns, long johns, and honey-glazed doughnuts.

The original mother recipe calls for more than 1kg of flour. To make the sticky buns, we are instructed, as any good home baker would, to follow as you would for the Chelsea buns, but use maple syrup and cream instead of butter, sugar and raisins at the bottom of the pan. How much dough to use for the Chelsea buns (and hence the sticky buns)? A piece, of course.

Edna Staebler Sticky Buns 3

Maple Pecan Sticky Buns 

Adapted from Edna Staebler's recipe in More Food That Really Schmecks 

Yield: One 23x30cm (9"x12") pan


For the dough
0.25tsp/1.25ml sugar
3Tbsp+1tsp/50ml hand-hot water
1dspn/10ml/7g yeast 1c/250ml water
0.25c/60ml/50g sugar
3Tbps/45ml/40g lard (see notes)
0.25tsp/1.25ml salt
1 beaten egg
3-4c/750ml-1L/450-600g all purpose flour, as needed

For the syrup (see notes)
Maple syrup
Cream or butter
Pecans salt

For the filling (see notes)
Melted butter
Brown sugar
Plumped sultanas

More melted butter


Start with the dough by blooming the yeast in 50ml hand-hot water, mixed with a quarter-teaspoon sugar. A frothy head should appear after 10 minutes.

While the yeast is frothing, turn on the hob to melt the lard, sugar and salt in the water--even using frozen lard, it doesn't take more than five minutes. Cool the water to not much above a lukewarm temperature.  Temper the egg with this sugar-water solution, mixing well before adding the egg to the pot. Whisk in the yeast.

Create a soft--if slightly sticky--dough by mixing in several heaping spoonfuls of flour at a time--the amount of flour you'll need will be dependent upon your kitchen's mood. When the dough is of a good consistency, give it a light knead before plopping it into an oiled bowl. Set the bowl in a warm, draft-free space until the dough doubles in volume (about one hour).

While the dough is rising, butter the baking dish.

Make the syrup by melting the butter into the maple syrup. Give it a good stir and pour into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Tilt the dish so the bottom is fully coated with the buttery maple syrup. Strew nuts on top and give it a light sprinkling of salt.

When the dough is ready, punch it down and roll it out to about a 1.25cm (0.5") thick rectangle. Slather generously with the melted butter and sprinkle with a few handfuls (or more, or less), of brown sugar. Lightly dust with cinnamon. Strew sultanas before tightly rolling the sheet as you would a jelly roll. Pinch the edge to the log to form a seam.

Cut the log into even 3cm-4cm (1"-1.5") stumps and place cut-side down into the prepared pan. Brush the exposed bottoms with any remaining melted butter (or melt some more), cover the dish with cling film and prove the buns until they double in volume (again, about an hour).

Preheat oven to 190C/375F and bake, uncovered, for about 20-25 minutes or until your kitchen is scented with baking and the buns are golden. Remove from the oven and immediately place large baking sheet over the baking dish. Grasp the blisteringly hot dish and baking sheet together (using oven mitts, of course) and turn the buns over, releasing buns and topping onto sheet, so that the nuts and and sticky sauce are now on top.

Let cool five minutes before serving. Serve warm.


If you don't use lard, use the same quantity of shortening--the original recipe called for either fat. 

Re: Syrup:
Edna's recipe calls for maple syrup and cream (without quantities). Here's what I did (give or take)--you may want more or less for your buns:
  • A scant 0.5c maple syrup 
  • 2Tbsp butter 
  • Several Jasmine-sized handfuls of pecans (in other words, use your judgement) 

Re: Filling:
Again, Edna doesn't provide quantities, because you really don't need them. I didn't measure, so these are approximations. Again (again), you may want more or less for your buns:
  • 2-3Tbsp butter, (melted)
  • 1 generous cup of dark brown sugar (enough to opaquely cover the sheet) 
  • 1tsp cinnamon -- Perhaps less. Perhaps more. 
  • 0.5c dried sultanas, revived in hot water and drained 
  • I also used a light sprinkling of both black pepper and hot chilli pepper in the filling--I like it, and I think Edna wouldn't mind.

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01 August 2015

Food Day Canada: Mmm..Canada Blackcurrant Buckle

150719 Blackcurrant Buckle 2

The first Saturday in August means different things to different Canadians.  For many of us, it's the start of a three-day weekend.  Although different parts of the country call it by different names, for most of Ontario, it's the Civic Holiday long weekend (with Monday being the Civic Holiday).  I say most of Ontario as Burlington calls it Joseph Brant Day,  Ottawa calls it Colonel By Day, Toronto calls it Simcoe Day, and Vaughan calls it Benjamin Vaughan Day.

But the first Saturday of August is also Food Day. Over the past dozen years or so it has morphed from a beefy barbecue to support the Canadian beef industry to a nationwide celebration of Canadian food.

Personally, I think it's a fitting combination of celebrations. It's a reminder of what, traditionally, it is to be Canadian: keeping an eye out for one another, and doing the right thing, and welcoming new people and ideas.  It's also about celebrating Canadian food: from farmers who grow our food, to chefs who work with amazing local ingredients, to cooks who adopt and adapt foods to feed their families and friends.

My offering for Food Day Canada is a very homey blackcurrant buckle--a lumpy-bumpy cake topped with fruit and a sweet topping.  Depending upon where you are, you may call it a crumble.

I've posted buckles recipes before, but they were both blueberry-based: peach-blueberry and lemon-blueberry.  This one features locally-sourced blackcurrants.  More tart than sweet, the small onyx orbs paired nicely with the tangy, lemon-scented buttermilk cake.  Of course, if the cake is *too* tart for your palate, you can drizzle an icing glaze on top, dust the cake with icing sugar or snuggle a billowy cloud of ice cream or chantilly cream along side your slice.

150719 Blackcurrant Buckle 1

Blackcurrant Buckle

Yield: One 20cm/8" cake


For the topping:
65g  85ml  0.33c   sugar
50g  85ml  0.33c   ap flour
40g  45ml  3Tbsp  cold butter

For the cake:
100g  125ml  0.5c    sugar
55g      62ml  0.25c  butter
20ml  2dspn   4tsp    flavourless oil
2 eggs
Finely grated zest of half a lemon (optional)
165ml  0.66c  buttermilk (plus more, if needed)
265g   440ml 1.75c ap flour
10ml 1dspn  2tsp baking powder
1.25ml  0.25tsp   salt
210g  500ml  2c blackcurrants

Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Butter and paper the bottom of an 20cm/8" high-sided springform pan.

Rub the zest into the sugar, infusing the lemon oils into the sugar. Set aside.

Sift together the flour and baking powder and set aside.

Start with the topping by rubbing together the sugar, flour and butter so everything is combined, but in varied pebbly sizes (from grains of sand to no bigger than a pea). Set aside.

To make the batter, cream together the sugar, butter and oil. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the flour and buttermilk in the usual way (dry-wet-dry-wet-dry), scraping down the bowl's sides between each addition.  If necessary blend in more buttermilk until the batter reaches a dropping consistency.

Pour into prepared pan and level the batter. Tumble the blackcurrants on top, so they are evenly distributed on the batter. Cover the fruit with the topping.

Bake for 60-75 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out with cooked cake crumbs clinging (it can be hard to tell as the skewer will have to travel through the cooked currants). The cake will begin to pull away from the sides and the crumble will be a light golden colour.

Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

Serve, if you wish, with ice cream or chantilly cream.

  • Taste your blackcurrants before baking with them as they can range from tart to sweet.  If they are tarter than you’d like, then you can
    • Drizzle an icing glaze overtop the cooled cake
    • Dust the cooled cake with icing sugar
  • You probably wouldn't go wrong with adding more fruit than the two cups listed.  You'll get more of bursted, somewhat jammy fruit top, and I can't think of how that could be a bad thing.

Previous Food Day Canada Posts:

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