Friday, 27 February 2015

Flourless Peanut Butter & Honey Cookies

Here is a classic cookie, simple and wheat-free. As usual I have adjusted the original recipe, by replacing the sugar with honey, and a lot less of it than originally called for. As usual, it's still plenty sweet in my opinion. 

These are rich and filling, and not inexpensive to make, it must be said. Still, they are really delicious and worth making on occasion.  The peanut butter should, of course, be the kind that consists of peanuts.

45 minutes - 20 minutes prep time
28 - 30 cookies


2 cups peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking tray with parchment paper. 

Mix the peanut butter and honey in a small mixing bowl. Sprinkle over the baking soda and break in the egg, and mix again until everything is well incorporated.

Scoop the mixture out by tablespoons, spacing them fairly widely. You will likely need to bake the cookies in two batches. Bake each batch for 13 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges. Let cool on the tray for 10 minutes before removing to finish cooling.




Last year at this time I made Beets with Yogurt & Garlic

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Honey Spice Roasted Parsnips

These are quick and easy to put together, and since they have a nice hit of spice they will go very well with some plain baked chicken or fish, and a green vegetable, making a simple but satisfying menu. Plus it's always good to have another recipe for parsnips, which I think tend to be a very underrated vegetable.

4 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 15 minutes prep time


2 teaspoons fennel seed
1 teaspoon caraway seed
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
2 teaspoons rubbed dry mint
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon honey
450 grams (1 pound) parsnips

Grind the fennel and caraway seeds, and mix them with the remaining seasonings. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Put the butter and honey into a shallow roasting pan, into which the prepared parsnips can be put in a single layer. Put the pan in the oven until the butter is melted.

Meanwhile, peel and trim the parsnips, and cut them into long narrow pieces. Toss them in the roasting pan with the melted butter and honey, then toss them again with the seasoning mixture. Spread them out to a single layer. Roast them for 1 hour, stirring once in the middle of cooking them, until tender and lightly browned.




Last year at this time I made Spelt & Rye Bread.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Bean & Cabbage Salad

Here's a very simple salad; to me one of the main attractions is that I grew every vegetable in it, including the beans. And if I'd been a bit more organized, I could have said that about the herbs too; they are all in the garden, anyway. I hasten to add that it also tastes good.

This is a salad that can be used as a substantial side salad, or as a meal in itself. Or an almost-meal in itself, with a little grated cheese, hardboiled egg, or tuna salad served with it to just give it that little push over the top.

20 minutes prep time, not including cooking the beans
4 to 6 servings


Make the Dressing:
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
3/4 teaspoon rubbed thyme

Whisk or shake the ingredients together in a small bowl or jar.

Make the Salad:
1/2 medium onion
2 cups cooked white beans
3 cups finely chopped green cabbage
1 cup grated carrot

 Peel and slice the onion, and put the slices in a bowl, salting each layer as you go. Let rest for 1/2 hour, then rince and drain them well, and chop them finely.

Mix them in a bowl with the drained white beans, the finely chopped cabbage and the grated carrot. Toss with the dressing.




Last year at this time I made Roasted Garlic & Bean Soup

Friday, 20 February 2015

Eggs in Purgatory

I'm calling for certain quantities of certain ingredients here, and they should work just fine - why not - but this is the kind of dish that is very flexible. Use shallots instead of onion; use chopped or diced tomatoes thickened with dry tomatoes or tomato paste; add mushrooms or not, a little celery or carrot even; spice it with dried chile flakes, or your favourite hot sauce, or just use a little Hungarian paprika and keep your purgatory on the mild side. Cook it a little thicker or a little thinner, according to your preference and available tomato products. Usually this is cooked on the stove-top, but once the eggs are dropped in, it could go into a preheated 375°F oven and bake until the eggs are set to your liking; probably 10 to 15 minutes.

North Americans first came to know this dish as Uova in Purgatorio; an Italian dish. The Spaniards make Huevos en Purgatorio, and recently versions have been popular under the name of Shakshouka; a Tunisian (or Algerian, or Moroccan, or Libyan, or Egyptian) dish that has emigrated to Israel. In Turkey, they make Menemen, which is heavy on the peppers, and the eggs may be scrambled, but is basically this dish. In other words, it is popular all around the Mediterranean. The question of who invented it first (the Italians and Tunisians are going head to head) is no doubt the subject of a great deal of enjoyable bickering, if you happen to enjoy bickering. Personally I will stick to cooking it.Yum.

2 to 4 servings
40 minutes prep time

Eggs in Purgatory, also known as Uova in Purgatorio, Huevos en Purgatorio, and Shakshouka

1 medium onion
1/2 large red or green pepper
a few button mushrooms, optional
2 to 3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon flaked red chile (Aleppo pepper)
1 teaspoon rubbed oregano
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups tomato sauce
4 to 6 large eggs

Peel and chop the onion. Trim and dice the pepper. Clean and quarter the mushrooms, if using. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook the onion, pepper, and mushrooms until soft and fairly reduced in volume, stirring frequently. They should not really brown.

Add the garlic, red chile flakes, oregano, salt, and pepper, and mix; cook for another minute or two then add the tomato sauce and bring the mixture to a simmer. Break in the eggs, keeping each in it's own little spot as much as you can. It helps to break them quite close to the surface.

Cook the eggs until done to  your liking; probably 6 to 14 minutes. Yeah, yeah; I know. The thing is though, much will depend on how hot you have them simmering, and whether you like them quite runny as I do, or petrified very firm like Mr. Ferdzy does.  I find it also useful to have a lid to put over them as they cook; this helps them cook from the top as well as the bottom. Check regularly to make sure they are simmering steadily rather than boiling too hard. If, like Mr. Ferdzy, you like your eggs well done it makes sense to turn them at some point, although they will not be as attractive that way. That is the price you pay for killing your eggs though.

When the are ready, serve them on toast, polenta, rice, noodles, hashed potatoes, or even a naked plate, although personally I think they are best on something... polenta or toast for me, depending on whether I am in a soft or crunchy mood.





Last year at this time I made Date & Banana Loaf.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Spicy Roast Sweet Potatoes

Save your sweet potatoes from the horror of marshmallows - serve them tossed in a dressing of garlic, ginger, soy, and hot sauce. Deeeelicious! I toyed with the idea of adding a tablespoon of peanut butter to these, but maybe next time.  

4 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Spicy Roast Sweet Potatoes

500 grams (1 pound) sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
3 to 4 cloves of garlic
1" x 1" x 3" piece of ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon chile-garlic or other hot sauce


Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Wash and trim the sweet potatoes, and cut them into bite-sized chunks. Toss them in a shallow roasting pan with the oil, and roast them at 375°F for 20 minutes.

Peel the garlic, and peel and slice the ginger. Mince them together very finely. Mix them in a small bowl with the soy sauce, vinegar, and hot sauce. 

When the sweet potatoes have roasted for 20 minutes, toss them in the ginger-garlic mixture, and continue roasting them for another 40 minutes. Stir once in the middle of that time. 





Last year at this time I made Roasted Carrots on a Bed of Lentils, which I recommend highly. 

Monday, 16 February 2015

Parsnips au Gratin

These crisp and crunchy parnip wedges are a great addition to baked chicken or fish, and a simple green vegetable. 

4 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Parsnips au Gratin

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
450 grams (1 pound) parsnips
2 tablespoons cream
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Put the butter in a shallow roasting pan, and put it in the oven to melt.

Meanwhile, peel and trim the parsnips, and cut them into thin wedges 2" or 3" long. When the butter has melted, add the cream and toss the parsnip pieces in the butter and cream until evenly coated. Bake for 20 minutes.

Grate the cheese, and mix it with the breadcrumbs and pepper.

Toss the parsnips with the crumb mixture, and sprinkle any remaining of it over them. Return them to the oven for another 40 minutes, until they are tender and the coating is golden-brown.




Last year at this time I made Smoked Trout Barley Kedgeree.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Tartar Sauce

This is a pretty simple recipe, but it has been a bit of a revelation to me this winter. I have always been under the impression that I hated tartar sauce. However, one day I was serving some pan-sautéed fish with steamed potatoes and vegetables and thought it sounded thoroughly dull, so I looked at a few tartar sauce recipes, and whipped up my own interpretation. Wow! It was good! I've been making it again and again all winter.

There are two problems with most iterations of tartar sauce, in my opinion. The first is the tartar sauce itself, which consists of uninspired white flop full of sugar and unidentifiable lumps of dubious origin. The second is that it gets served with deep fried fish. I have never understood the impulse that says, here is a lump of very greasy dough; what could be better with it than more fat emulsified with egg yolks? No thanks; pass the lemon juice or even vinegar in a pinch. So I've been serving my tartar sauce with baked, poached, or pan sautéed fish, and... not putting any sugar in it. There, that wasn't so hard, was it?

I guess, though, if you like a sweet note in your tartar sauce, you could use bread and butter pickles or chow chow instead of the pickle. You want about 1/3 cup once diced, although I just use a big fat pickle and don't worry about the exact volume. A little lemon juice helps it, but if you don't want to cut open a lemon for a teaspoonful of juice, use a little pickle brine instead. On the other hand, if you are also going to pass lemon wedges, use lemon juice.

Interestingly, tartar sauce was not devised to serve with fried fish (see! see!); it was devised for steak tartare. Huh! That makes sense! I would also serve it with shrimp (a different shrimp cocktail!) How about sliced avocados, or baked potatoes? I enjoyed it in a chicken sandwich, but thought it fought too much with tuna. I know a lot of people like tartar sauce with french fries, but again, I will pass on extra fat with my grease. Except I would probably turn around and put it on a hot dog, if I ever ate hot dogs any more, which I don't. A good sausage on a bun, then. Or even tofu. Where do you like your tartar sauce?

5 to 10 minutes prep time
4 to 6 servings

Tartar Sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise (low fat is fine)
1 large dill pickle
a sprig of fresh dill, parsley, or chives if possible
OR a teaspoonful of some mixture of the above, dried
1 teaspoon pickle brine or lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
a dash of hot sauce, if desired,
OR a little horseradish, ditto

Put the mayonnaise into a small mixing bowl. Chop the dill pickle quite finely, and add it. Finely mince the fresh herbs, if you can round them up. Add them or the dried substitutes to the bowl, along with all the remaining ingredients. Mix well, and transfer to a serving dish.




Last year at this time I made Beet, Bean, Apple, & Belgian Endive Salad

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Quick 'n' Dirty Pan-Braised Cabbage

Well this is ridiculously simple, and one of those things I just do all the time, and then one day it occurs to me that yes, this is a recipe. Of sorts.  For a lets-just-get-some-food-on-the-table,-like-right-now thing, it's surprisingly good.

You need to be cooking some sort of meat in a frying pan to do this. Chicken pieces, pork chops, lamb chops, beefsteak; any of those will do. Fish? Maybe. But I tend to think meaty things, that will leave a meaty residue to add to the flavour of the cabbage, are definitely the best.

The only trick is to watch it carefully at the end. You want it to get fairly dry, but don't let it scorch. Browned cabbage is the nasty. You also need to have added enough water at the beginning to let it cook through - this is not a crunchy, barely cooked dish - you want that cabbage braised through, even if it is only for 5 or 6 minutes.

Most pan-cooked meats will do very well with a 5 minute rest before they are served, so that's another way this works out well. They will get it while the cabbage cooks.

You could throw in a little chopped onion and/or grated carrot with the cabbage if you like, but since I am generally in a tearing hurry when I make this, I rarely do.

per serving
10 minutes prep time

Quick 'n' Dirty Pan-Braised Cabbage

2 to 3 cups chopped cabbage per person
pan drippings
2 to 3 tablespoons water or broth
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Wash, trim, and chop the cabbage.

Remove whatever meat you are cooking from the large skillet in which you cooked it, and put it on a serving platter to rest while you cook the cabbage. Tip in all the cabbage, and pour the water in with it. Stir vigorously, scraping up any bits of meat stuck to the pan, and continue cooking and stirring until the water has evaporated/been absorbed, and the cabbage has wilted thoroughly and is about half cooked. This should take 2 or 3 minutes, over high heat.

Sprinkle with the soy sauce and vinegar, and continue cooking, stirring a little less often, but still watching it, until they are also absorbed or have evaporated, and the cabbage gets fairly dry. Try not to let it brown though. Serve it up at once.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Beet & Potato Salad

I was inspired to make this by the recipe at the bottom of this post at The Old Foodie.  The Old Foodie (it is the food that is old; not she, I hasten to point out) says that this is the earliest recipe for potato salad that she has found so far, although it undoubtedly existed for some time before then, then being April 2nd, 1842.

That date sent my thoughts immediately to the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840's. It did not start until 1845, although localized crop failures were already quite common, and the Irish were living on a knife edge, and knew it, to some degree. But in 1842 that was still in the future, and for those who did not have to rely on it utterly, the potato still had the charm of novelty; a hard thing for us to imagine, especially those of us who grew up on meat with two veg, one of which was guaranteed to be potatoes, and the other of which was not guaranteed not to be potatoes.

In a more cheerful vein, the author of this recipe recommends it as a Continental style salad, to be served with salmon or other fish, "or indeed any thing else". Which should give you plenty of scope. The author called for plain sliced beetroot, but cooking one or two beets for a salad seems like an unnecessary pain, especially when I have jars of pickled beets in the pantry. They added a nice zip and I think they are an improvement anyway.

The salad dressing, made with hard-boiled egg yolk, made me think of Sydney Smith's Salad Dressing, although this is simpler, and I said to hell with historic accuracy and broke out the electric mixer. And finally, of course, if I have 2 leftover hard boiled egg whites, I am going to chop them and put them on the salad. No duh. I thought the result was quite pretty (and tasty) and a little festively deployed parsley or olive slices would make it even prettier.

Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 hour prep time, in 2 distinct sections of 1/2 hour each


Cook In Advance:
450 grams (1 pound) waxy or other firm potatoes
2 large eggs
1/2 small onion
OR 1 shallot

Put the eggs in a small pot with water to cover; bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover the pot; let sit 10 minutes. Drain, cool, and peel.

Meanwhile, wash, trim, and dice the potatoes. Put them in a pot with  water to cover and boil them  until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and let cool.

Peel and slice the onion or shallot, and lay the slices in a dish with plenty of salt between each layer. Let rest for 30 minutes, then rinse and drain well, and chop finely.

Make the Dressing:
the yolk of 2 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Mash the egg yolks in a small mixing bowl, and set the whites aside to use as a garnish on the salad. Add the oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Beat the mixture with an electric mixer until thoroughly blended and emulsified; about 5 minutes.

Finish the Salad:
about 1/3 cup pickled beet pieces
parsley or olives to garnish, if liked

Mix the cooled, dry potatoes with the chopped and well drained onion or shallot. Toss with the dressing. Arrange this mixture on a serving plate, and garnish with bits of the pickled beet and the chopped egg white. Parsley would be nice, but not at this time of year. Perhaps a sliced olive or two could be used if you would like it. It does the salad no harm to made an hour or so in advance.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Bableves - Hungarian Bean Soup

The local grocery has been selling some Hungarian style cold cuts and sausages lately, and since we have loads of dried beans from our garden, this seemed like a good idea. I don't know that this is a super authentic recipe, as in my customary style I have had my way with it.

Most recipes do call for the addition of some vinegar, but I had sauerkraut to use up, and a jar more full of brine than dill pickles. Dill is certainly used often in Hungarian cooking and fits in well here. I'm saying you could use sauerkraut brine, but I have to confess that most sauerkraut doesn't seem to have much.  I started putting in a quarter of a cup of dill pickle brine at a time, but this is a big pot of soup and I ended  up adding 3/4 of a cup. Start with a bit less and remember my motto - you can always add more, but once it is in, it is in. If you don't have brine and want to add vinegar, use less - start with half and taste before adding any more.

Mr. Ferdzy liked this just fine which makes me  happy as, unlike me, he is not a big (or any) fan of sauerkraut. I'm sure his Lithuanian ancestors are all turning in their graves as I type that. I'm going to convert him yet, though. Just wait and see.

If you can't get a Hungarian sausage, Kielbasa would do in a pinch.

6 to 8 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time
NOT including cooking the beans

Bableves - Hungarian Bean Soup

450 grams (1 pound) dried beans
4 cups ham or chicken stock
2 medium onions
2 cups peeled, diced celeriac or chopped celery
2 medium carrots
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons bacon fat or vegetable oil; or a bit more as needed
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
450 grams (1 pound) smoked Hungarian style lean pork sausage
2 cups drained sauerkraut
1/2 cup sauerkraut or dill pickle brine (or more, to taste)
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
some yogurt or sour cream if you would like

Rinse and pick over the beans, and put them in a large soup pot with plenty of water to cover. Bring them to a boil, then cover them and turn off the heat. Leave them for an hour or two. Repeat 2 or 3 more times, until they are tender. Do this the day ahead.

When ready to proceed, drain off excess cooking water until the top layer of beans are just uncovered, with the rest sitting in the cooking water. Add the ham or chicken stock, and bring them back up to a simmer.

Peel and chop the onions. Peel and dice the celeriac, or trim and chop the celery. Peel and dice the carrots. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the fat or oil in a large skillet, and cook the onions, celeriac, and carrots until softened and reduced in volume; stir frequently. While they cook, cut the sausage into large bite-sized chunks.

When the vegetables are ready, add the garlic and the paprika, and mix in well; cook for another minute or so then add them to the beans. Add the sausage to the skillet, with a little more fat if it seems necessary, and brown the pieces of sausage on both sides. Add them to the beans. Add the sauerkraut, chopped up a bit if it seems coarse, and the brine. Taste the soup and add a bit more brine if you want it and have it, or start seasoning the soup with salt (and pepper) to taste. As ever, much will depend on your stock, and also the saltiness of the sauerkraut and brine. There should be enough sauerkraut/brine flavour to give a good background tang.

Simmer the soup for 20 minutes to half an hour before serving. Also as ever, bean soups are best reheated the next day. Serve it with a dollop of thick yogurt or sour cream, if you like. A lot of the recipes I've seen call for dumpling or noodles, but that seems like overkill to me. This will fill you up and stick to your ribs just as it is.




Last year at this time I made Beans Stewed with Cabbage & Mushrooms, and Mexican Rice Pudding.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Growing Potatoes from Seed

Potato plants grown from seeds

Nothing to report on the cooking front around here - for the last week I have had one of the several nasty colds making the rounds this year and still feel pretty wiped out, although I am definitely starting to mend. Mr. Ferdzy, on the other hand, is just starting up with his, so he has a full week of being sick to look forward to yet.

We have ordered our seeds so that bit of gardening excitement is also over for the year. I think we will plant our onions and celery a little later than usual this year - early March instead of mid-February - so the only gardening thing we have going on at the moment is the one tray you see above, which contains potato seedlings.

This is the second year we have tried growing potatoes from seed. As I'm sure everyone reading this blog knows, potatoes are normally grown by planting chunks of potato; in other words each variety of potato is a clone. However, while many modern potato varieties are sterile, others are not and may produce seeds in a little green seed ball about the size of a marble. They look like little green tomatoes or tiny round green eggplants. The seeds inside look like tomato or eggplant seeds too, they are just much smaller.

In the fall, once the fruits have been allowed to ripen, we open them up and rinse the seeds out into a very fine (very fine!) strainer. They are allowed to dry out, but we decided to plant ours very early, just after Christmas, because we are hoping to gain a year in growing these out. When you grow potatoes directly from seed, the plants and potatoes stay fairly small. That is one of the main reasons no-one grows potatoes for food directly from seed. When our plants go dormant later this winter, we will sort through the resulting mini potatoes and select the ones that look the most promising to grow again. They will be stored in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 months as an artificial winter, then planted outside to grow for the rest of the summer. In the fall, when they die down again, they will be dug up and assessed. By this time, they should be getting close to producing the size and volume of potatoes we can expect in future years. That is also the second dormant period for these potatoes this year, so we will have gained a year in growing them.

I won't get too much into the details of starting potato seeds here. If you have some to grow out, here are some  very good instructions by Tom Wagner, breeder extraordinaire of open-pollinated  potatoes and tomatoes.

(If you want to grow potatoes from seeds in the future, select and order varieties of potatoes this spring to plant together. Research the varieties you are considering, and find out if they have any fertility, because many potatoes do not; those ones will be of no use to you. In the fall when the potato plants start to die down, collect the seed balls and proceed.)

Some potatoes forming

When I lift out the root balls, I am finding little potatoes forming on some of them. For some reason, all the potatoes forming in this batch that I have seen thus far are variations on pink skins. The mix of parents is, I would have said, pretty similar to last years, and include Alaska Sweetheart (pink skinned), Envol (beige skinned), Russian Blue, and Purple Viking (both purple skinned). Last year we got a mix of those colours in the skins of the offspring. This year it seems the Alaska Sweetheart colouring has taken over. No idea why the difference, other than who fertilized whom and who we collected berries from has clearly changed more than we realized.

When we go to select which potatoes will get planted on and observed, we will be looking for a few things. The first thing we will look for will be multiple potatoes per plant - this is an intimation that the plant will be a good producer. Two small potatoes will rate more highly than one larger one, although two larger ones will be better than two smaller ones.

Other qualities are more subjective, and until we have sufficient quantity of any one kind to eat a few, and until they have grown in the garden long enough to give an idea of their general good health (or lack thereof), a bit arbitrary. I have to admit good looks count. Last years batch included some luminous peach potatoes that were really lovely. I'm a bit annoyed to realize I took no pictures of them; however, there are a number of them planted in the garden and I hope they will survive the winter and carry on. So far there are none that look like that this year; the potatoes are surprisingly uniform.

What I am noticing this year is an amazing variation in the leaves. Some are pale and some are dark. That was expected. What was unexpected was that some have surprisingly narrow leaves and form short dense plants, and others are sprawling, very vine-like, and sending out surprising numbers of aerial roots. They will be a bit of a tangled mess to sort out once they die down. I wonder if this is a sign of a plant that would produce a lot of potatoes once planted out and hoed up (I don't think they will have the time or space to do it in our little seed tray). There is only one way to find out...

So why grow potatoes from seeds? This is how new varieties are created. They may taste excellent, they may store well, they may be very productive, they may be disease resistant. They may not be any of those things, either. The odds are very good that our new potato varieties will be mediocre at best. However, they will give us an entertaining project to follow, a good few dinners hopefully, and an opportunity to gain some knowledge about potato genetics. And you never know, we may win the potato genetics lottery and come up with something very interesting. Because they are recently grown out from seed, too, they will be freer of viruses and fungi than older varieties, which tend to accumulate problems as time goes on.

There are some potato breeders working on creating varieties of potatoes that can be grown from seeds giving offspring essentially identical to the parents, thus ensuring that the variety can be continued with minimal disease load. It's also a lot easier to transport potato seeds than seed potatoes, making them much more mobile; important in times of changing climate and political unrest.

Europeans (and North Americans) were introduced to potatoes through a very narrow selection of varieties, and have consequently a very narrow idea of what potatoes should be like, with too much reliance on potatoes from a small and impoverished genetic stock. In their original homelands of Peru and Bolivia and beyond, there are thousands of potato varieties, in multiple species.  Potato breeders are working to incorporate the strengths of these little known but often very robust potatoes into commercially viable and useful strains. In particular, potatoes are always at war with late blight, the fungus that famously caused the Irish potato famine of the 1840's, and potato growers need more resistant varieties. I'm not engaging in anything so considered or vital - I'm just growing potato seedlings for my own entertainment and edification.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Buckwheat Crepes

It's crepes again! The recipe is essentially the same as for wheat flour crepes, the only difference being that less flour is required. Buckwheat gives them a robust and distinctive flavour that is really delicious. They are very appropriate for savoury fillings, or you could match them with buckwheat honey and butter for a sweet treat.

8 to 12 crepes - 4 to 6 servings
45 minutes prep time


I find the crepes much easier to turn if I leave a little space along one side to allow me to get the lifter in under it. It's not as elegant as a perfectly round crepe, but since I serve them folded or rolled, it is not that noticeable.


4 large eggs
2 cups low-fat milk (skim to 2%)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup buckwheat flour
about 2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Whisk the eggs and milk together thoroughly in a mixing bowl. Whisk in the salt and buckwheat flour, to make a smooth, thin batter.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Pour about 2 tablespoons of oil into a saucer or other small dish, and dip one corner of a piece of folded up paper towel into it. Use this to smear a film of oil over the bottom of the skillet. If you want to finish the crepes faster, you can heat 2 skillets and keep them going - a crepe will cook on the first side in about the time it takes to prep a pan, so you can switch between them. You may want to use just one pan the first time though, so you can really get a feel for them.

Pour about 1/3 of a cup of the batter into the skillet, and AT ONCE swirl the batter to cover MOST of the bottom of the pan. I find if I leave a stretch of naked pan about 1" wide and 6" long along one side of the crepe, it becomes far easier to get the lifter under it and loosen it. You will need a good wide but thin metal lifter for this. About a minute after the crepe has been formed, start running the lifter under the edges, all around the crepe, then working it in to the centre, particularly from the bare spot in the pan. Once it is completely loosened - and you will not be able to loosen it completely until the bottom is firmly cooked, so be patient - flip it over. It will then need only about 30 seconds to finish cooking on the second side.

Remove it to a plate set in a cool oven (200°F is the lowest mine goes, but it could be 175°F if yours will do it) and keep the finished crepes warm while you make the rest of them. Whisk up the batter before ladling out each crepe; it's so thin the flour tends to settle to the bottom of the bowl.