Monday, 21 April 2014

Lamb (Steak) & Kidney Pie

Certain parts of the lamb tend to linger in the freezer longer than others. I actually had 4 sets of kidneys in there, which at the rate of 1 lamb per year, well... you work it out. Some of them were old.  I just can't feed them to Mr. Ferdzy. Fortunately, they had been well-wrapped by the butcher, in brown paper, and they had kept much better than should have been expected.

We had invited an English guest over for dinner, and I strongly suspected that he would enjoy a version of this classic English dish. (Yes!) I got the recipe originally from my stepfather, Jack, who was also English. He made his the traditional way, with calves kidneys and beefsteak. What was sitting in my freezer, though, was the afore-mentioned lamb kidneys and lamb stew meat. Well, traditions are there to be adapted! There is no reason not to revert to the original beef though, if that is what you want, or can get.

Jack's recipe is unusual in that it calls for a generous amount of rosemary, which I think goes amazingly well with the kidneys. It didn't call for any flour to thicken, but I thought it could use some, and put in a tablespoon. Having done so, I conclude it could have used even a little more, so I'm calling for 2. Many people like to replace some of the broth with beer. That's up to you, but I'm putting it out there. I'd probably be more inclined to do that with beef than with lamb. And finally, that's my favourite biscuity crust for meat pies (again). It's easy, and flaky without any fancy technique required.

6 to 8 servings
2 hours - 30 minutes prep time - done in stages


Make the Meat Filling:
450 grams (1 pound - about 6) lamb kidneys
900 grams (2 pounds) stewing lamb
2 medium onions
4 stalks celery
2 medium carrots
2 tablespoons bacon fat or other oil
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon rubbed rosemary, ground
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups lamb or beef broth, or water
2 to 3 bay leaves

Cut the kidneys into bite-sized pieces, discarding the white fatty cores and any stringy bits. Trim excess fat and gristle from the lamb, and make sure it is cut into bite-sized pieces as well.

Peel and chop the onions. Wash, trim and chop the celery. Peel and dice the carrots.

Heat the fat or oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the lamb stew meat pieces, and brown them , turning to brown them evenly. When they are browned, add the onions, celery, and carrots. Continue cooking and turning, until the vegetables are softened and slightly browned. Add the lamb kidney pieces, and mix in well.

Sprinkle the flour over the meat, along with the rosemary, Worcestershire, and salt and pepper. As ever, the amount of salt depends on your broth - up to 1 teaspoon if it has none; adjust that amount down as needed, to zero if the broth is salty. Once the flour has been mixed in and absorbed, pour in the broth and add the bay leaves. Stir well to make sure nothing is sticking to the pan. Simmer for 30 minutes or so, until the sauce has thickened and the meat is cooked. Stir regularly.

This can be done a day ahead if desired; bring it out of the fridge half an hour before the crust is put on and the pie baked, to get the chill off before it goes into the oven. Either way, the stew should be put into a large, deep pie plate or a 2 quart casserole dish to be covered with the crust and baked.

When ready to make the crust and finish the pie, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Make the Crust:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

The butter should be very soft. Mix it with the oil and buttermilk. The butter can be in fairly large lumps.

Mix the baking powder and salt into the flour.

Mix the flour into the wet ingredients. Stir until everything is amalgamated. There should no longer be large lumps of butter, but small lumps or streaks are not only fine, but good.

Put the dough out on a piece of parchment or waxed paper a little larger than the casserole dish, and roll out the dough until it will cover the casserole. If your casserole dish has a lid, this is useful for using as a template for the dough.

When you are ready to cover the casserole, lift the paper to the edge of the casserole, and turn it over so the dough sits on top of the casserole. Peel off the paper and discard it. Poke holes in the dough with a fork to allow steam to escape.

Bake the pie at 350°F for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on how warm (or not) it was when it went into the oven. The crust should be nicely browned and the filling hot and bubbling.




Last year at this time I made Pasta alla Pierogi.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Rhubarb & Carrot Muffins

I was quite pleased with how these turned out. I was afraid I was putting in a lot of rhubarb, but it was really quite subtle, and did not overwhelm the spices which then played their part very well. I did find that I had to bake them longer than expected - mine took the full 30 minutes - but I used frozen rhubarb and was not careful about draining it well. I expect the amount of liquid in the rhubarb could make quite a difference in how long it takes to bake them, so check them at the 20 minute mark and take it from there. 

12 muffins
45 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Rhubarb & Carrot Muffins

Mix the Dry Ingredients:
2 cups soft whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
8 pods green cardamom, ground

Measure the ingredients into a small mixing bowl. When you get to the cardamom, crush the pods, remove the green papery hulls, then grind the remaining seed finely before adding it to the bowl.

Mix all the ingredients lightly and set aside. 

Mix the Wet Ingredients, and Finish:
2 cups grated carrots (2 medium-large)
2 cups finely chopped rhubarb
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a muffin pan with paper muffin cups. 

Peel and grate the carrots and put them in a larger mixing bowl. Add the rhubarb, making sure it has been well drained first. Add the oil and honey, and break in the eggs. Mix well.

Add the dry ingredients, and mix. As they are absorbed and the batter gets dry, add the milk. Mix until well blended, but no longer. Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared muffin pan.

Bake the muffins for 20 to 30 minutes, until firm and lightly browned.


Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Parmesan Roasted Potatoes

Well, I admit it! These aren't on the diet. But I had to do something to stave off an attack by a grilled cheese sandwich, which absolutely isn't on the diet. 

There isn't too much to say about these, apart from the fact that they are really, really good. Really.

6 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Parmesan Roasted Potatoes

1.5 kilograms (3 pounds) potatoes
100 grams (3 ounces) Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 to 5 tablespoons unsalted butter

Peel the potatoes and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Put them in a large pot with water to cover and bring them to a boil. Boil for 8 to 10 minutes, then drain them well.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking tray with a sheet of parchment paper. Grate the cheese very finely (I grated mine on my finest grater, then chopped it some more on the cutting board). Mix it in a small mixing bowl with the flour, paprika, salt, and pepper.

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in another small mixing bowl.

Once the potatoes are boiled and drained, put them in batches - you will have 5 or 6 batches - into the butter and turn them to coat them evenly with the butter. Carefully lift them out, draining off any excess butter back into the mixing bowl, and put them in the bowl of grated cheese. Turn them carefully in the cheese mixture as well, then lift them out carefully, shaking any excess cheese back into the bowl, and place them on the prepared sheet of parchment. Continue with the remaining potatoes,  until they are all done. You may need to melt another tablespoon of butter to finish, if you run out before you are done.

Bake the potatoes at 400°F for 45 minutes, until golden brown and crunchy. Gently stir them once while they cook, at the 20 or 25 minute point.





Last year at this time I made Maple Sponge Pudding

Monday, 14 April 2014

In The Rapidly Changing Garden


I took these photos on Thursday or Friday - they are already out of date. Almost all the snow has melted. I took the photos as we did our first walk-around of the garden for the year. Since then, we've been able to get into the garden and do some work. Already, as you can see, we have a rudimentary "greenhouse" set up on the driveway, so we can bring out our seedlings to get real sunlight and warmth that doesn't involve a staggering Hydro bill. 


The ex-ice cream freezer is now a mini greenhouse as well. We did not get it planted as early as we had hoped, because it stayed cold for so long. Even once it had warmed up enough for us to plant it, we had wild temperature swings, where it would get up to 20°C in the day, and then go down to -20°C at night in the freezer. In spite of those extremes, things are sprouting nicely and growing well. There is broccoletto (rapini), miner's lettuce, bok choy, and mache in there. I'm seeing probably everything but the mache, and in the last few days there has been another rash of sprouting, so I'm hoping that turns out to be it.


 Here are the wet beds, showing how they got the name. It's still far too squishy to really even get near to them, never mind work in them. When I took this photo, we were afraid that my lovely Turkish leeks were all dead, but since then they have had a miraculous recovery, and are starting to stand up and green up again.


We had two hoop houses up with greens under them over the winter. They both collapsed. Some of that conduit (the hoops) may be salvageable, but about half of it probably won't be. Same with the wood. After considering the situation, Mr Ferdzy thinks that his supports might have been strong enough if he had used longer screws. I talked him out of completely replacing them with metal conduit, better wood, etc - we are not aiming to produce the world's most expensive vegetables here, and sometimes you get an unusually bad winter. Them's the breaks.

This is our spinach; you can see how one side had the plastic right on the bed with the snow on top. In spite of being completely flattened, the spinach is already recovering.  


Many of our little fruit trees and shrubs are badly broken. The combination of heavy snow and wind early in the winter followed by cold temperatures that lasted all winter without a thaw meant that things were flattened early, and never had a chance to get back up. I think most of them will survive, but they will definitely be set back quite a bit. 


 One of the broken hoop houses.


The asparagus supports are also pretty smashed up. Lots of clean-up work to be done, once the snow melts. This is the one spot where there is still a noticeable amount of snow - this set of beds is in more shade than is strictly ideal. Still, it's melting and we will be able to get at it within a week, if not in a couple of days.


A view inside the other collapsed hoop house. This one has lettuce and miner's lettuce in it. We seeded heavily, but as usual with lettuce in our garden it germinated pretty spottily. We should have removed the plastic right away after I took this picture, but we left it on until the next day - and it got so hot that quite a lot of the lettuce was frizzled! Not so frizzled it won't recover. I'm hoping to eat a salad from the garden within a week, between the lettuce and the spinach.

Meanwhile, we have planted two beds with short determinate peas (Tom Thumb and Strike) One more to be done by the 15th, as these three beds will be pulled out and replanted with beans around July 1st. We'll cover them with hoop houses if it looks like getting too cold again. Other peas can be planted in a more leisurely fashion. We've also planted a bed with bok choy, mizuna (new to us), mache, miner's lettuce, tat-soi, and green onions - all the walking onions I left in the garden last fall are now sprouting, and rather than compost them all I decided to save some for green onions. You can expect to see a bunch of green onion recipes here in about a month, I guess.

Lots of rain expected this week so things will probably slow down again. We were pleased and relieved to be able to get out and get as much done as we did in the last few days. We are not actually that far behind schedule as a result, in spite of how very late this spring has been.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Chicken with Rhubarb

Obviously, this is inspired by various more-or-less Chinese dishes that combine chicken with fruit, such as pineapple, or lemon sauce. Why not rhubarb? Well, why not!? It's very good, as a matter of fact.

I used frozen rhubarb from my garden, but there is local forced rhubarb out there now, if you can track it down. I used nice bright red pieces, and was a bit dismayed to find that they really didn't keep their colour. That was the only disappointment with this dish though; it tasted as good as I had hoped.

2 to 3 servings
45 minutes prep time

Chicken with Rhubarb

Make the Sauce:
2 to 3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2/3 cup water or unsalted chicken stock
2 teaspoons arrowroot or cornstarch

Mix the hoisin with the honey in a small bowl, then mix in the soy sauce. Once the honey is well dissolved, mix in the water or stock a bit at a time until it is all incorporated. Mix in the arrowroot or cornstarch. Set aside until needed.

Make the Chicken with Rhubarb:
500 grams (1 pound) skinless, boneless chicken pieces
6 to 7 stalks of rhubarb
2 medium onions
1" x 1" x 2" piece ginger
4 to 6 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and set it aside. Clean the cutting board, then trim and chop the rhubarb into bite-sized pieces. Peel the onions, and slice them into similar sized wedges. Peel and mince the ginger. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the chicken pieces, and sauté them until they are seared on all sides, and about half cooked. Add the onions and rhubarb, and cook until softened and slightly browned, turning and stirring contantly. Add the ginger and garlic, and continue cooking for another minute or two, until very fragrant and well mixed in.

Pour the sauce into the pan, and mix it in through the other ingredients thoroughly. Once it has thickened and the mixture has simmered for a minute or two, it is ready to serve.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Victorian Cottager's Pie with Bacon, Mushrooms & Onions


In the last few weeks I have been going through lots of old cookbooks on Internet Archive, and found a recipe for a Cottager's Pie that was quite different than any I have ever seen before. Naturally, I did not record which cookbook it was in, and now I can't find it. I have a vague idea that it dated back to the 1870's but I'm not even sure about that.  In typical old recipe style, it didn't give quantities, or call for it to be seasoned, beyond perhaps saying, "season". It just called for bacon, mushrooms and onions to go under the usual mashed potato topping.

I thought that sounded unusual, delicious, and perfectly simple all at once - exactly what I like in a recipe - and so I made it. Very successful!

I am calling for quite divergent amounts of bacon, because it will depend on what kind you use. I used a back bacon that had practically no discernible fat so there was no waste, and the 375 gram package was fine. If I was making it with regular streaky bacon, from which I expected to decant a fair bit of fat, I would use the larger amount.

It exasperates me how reticent old (anglo-ish) cookbooks tend to be on the subject of seasoning. They know it's going on, but they refuse to recognize it or endorse it, because polite and refined people don't do such things! Fortunately, I am vulgar and unrefined, and have no qualms about letting you know how I season my food. I did try to have it in keeping with the seasonings that might have been used at the time, even though the mushrooms would most certainly not have been shiitakes. 

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Cottage Pie with Bacon, Mushrooms & Onions

Make the Mashed Potato Topping:
1 kilogram (2 pounds) potatoes
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash and trim the potatoes - peel them if you like - and cut them into evenly sized chunks. Put them in a large pot with plenty of water to cover them, and bring them to a boil. Boil them until they are tender, 15 to 25 minutes depending on the size, then drain them well and mash them with the remaining ingredients. 

Make the Filling and Assemble the Pie:
4 medium onions (500 grams; 1 pound)
250 grams (1/2 pound) button mushrooms
OR 450 grams (1 pound) shiitake mushrooms
375 to 500 grams (12 to 18 ounces) bacon
1 tablespoon bacon fat or other oil IF needed
1 teaspoon rubbed thyme
1/2 teaspoon rosemary leaves, ground
1/4 teaspoon celery seed, ground
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup water or broth
1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika

Peel and chop the onions fairly coarsely. Clean and trim the mushrooms, and cut them in halves or quarters. If you use shiitake, remove and discard (you know my thoughts on this subject!) the stems, and halve or quarter the caps. Cut the bacon into bite-sized pieces.

Heat a large, heavy skillet. If using streaky bacon, add it first and cook it until fairly crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, leaving behind the fat. Drain off most of it, leaving just enough to cook the onions and mushrooms. However, if you are using a lean bacon such as back bacon or peameal bacon, it should be added last, and the onions and mushrooms cooked in a little fat or oil acquired by some other method.

At any rate, now cook the mushrooms and onions until softened and slightly browned. Add in the bacon, either already cooked or to be cooked, and mix in well. If you have added the bacon raw, cook until the bacon has changed colour indicating that it is mostly done. Mix in the seasonings and the flour. Cook for another minute or two, stirring constantly, until there is no sign of the flour, then slowly mix in the water or broth. Simmer and stir until everything is well amalgamated and the sauce thickens.

Transfer the bacon, onion, and mushroom mixture to an 8" x 11" shallow baking (lasagne) pan and spread it out evenly. When the mashed potatoes are ready, spread them evenly over the top, then sprinkle them with the paprika. (Or if your skillet can go in the oven, you could just spread the potatoes out over the mixture in the skillet.)

Bake for 45 minutes,  until the pie bubbles around the edges and is perhaps lightly browned. You can make it in advance then re-heat it, but take it out of the fridge half an hour before baking it, and allow an hour and a quarter to bake it.




Last year at this time I made Tomatoes Stuffed with Egg Salad.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Maple Scones

The maple in these is rather subtle, since I'm still trying to eat healthily - so whole wheat flour, and not too much butter or sugar. Still, it came through quite nicely. Use as dark a maple syrup as you can find - it comes through so much better in baking. 

I happened to have a little maple sugar I found at the back of the cupboard. If you don't have any, you can use Sucanat or dark brown sugar instead. If you want a sweeter, more emphatically maple finish to your scones, you could top them with a Maple Caramel Topping from the Maple Cream Puffs instead of just sprinkling them with the sugar; if you do that wait until the scones are cooled before glazing them.

8 scones
45 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Maple Scones

2 1/4 cups soft whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup dark maple syrup
2 tablespoons maple sugar (or Sucanat)
1 large egg
1/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon maple sugar

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking tray with a piece of parchment paper and sprinkle a little flour over it. 

Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small mixing bowl. Cut the butter, which should be fairly soft, into small cubes, and rub it into the flour, until sandy in texture but still with small lumps of butter visible.

In another, slightly larger bowl, mix the maple syrup and maple sugar, then whisk in the egg. Mix the flour and milk into it alternately, until you have a firm dough. Turn it out onto the lightly floured piece of parchment, and pat the dough into a neat circle, about one inch deep. You will likely need to flour you hands to keep them from sticking. Sprinkle it with the remaining tablespoon of maple sugar.

Cut it into 8 wedges (a pizza cutter is ideal for this) and separate the pieces slightly. Bake for 22 to 28 minutes, until firm and lightly browned.




Last year at this time I made Spicy Cucumber Salad

Friday, 4 April 2014

Toasted Barley Flour Soup with Vegetables

There is very little in this soup, and yet it seems rich and creamy in texture. That comes from the technique of toasting the barley flour before using it to thicken the soup. I seasoned it fairly lightly; you may want to add a bit more in the way of herbs and spices. Some chives or garlic might be a good addition. My chicken stock was unsalted, and so I found I needed to add about a teaspoon of salt.

4 to 6 servings
45 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Toasted Barley Flour Soup with Vegetables

1/3 cup barley flour
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 or 3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon rubbed savory
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 medium onions
2 cups diced peeled celeriac
OR 2 stalks celery
1 large carrot
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. When it is hot, add the barley flour, and stir it with a large wooden spoon or spatula for about 5 minutes, until it has changed from a creamy white to a light buff colour throughout. It will take a few minutes to start toasting, but once it starts, it will go very quickly - this is why you must stand over it and stir it constantly. Don't let it get too dark.

When the flour is toasted, dump it at once into a large soup-pot, and let it cool. (This won't take more than a few minutes.) When it is cool, stir in a little of the cold chicken stock to make a smooth paste, and then stir in the rest, keeping the mixture smooth. Add the bay leaves, savory, salt, and pepper and simmer for about 20 minutes until thickened. Stir frequently.

Meanwhile, peel and dice the onions. Peel and dice the celeriac, or trim and dice the celery. Peel and dice the carrot.

Heat the oil in a large skillet (rinse out the flour dust if you are using the same one you toasted the flour in) and cook the onions, celeriac, and carrot over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until softened and slightly browned in spots. Add them to the soup, and continue simmering the soup until the vegetables are done to your liking; another 15 to 20 minutes. Add a little Worscestershire sauce if you like. 





Last year at this time I made Turkish Red Cabbage Salad.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Cabbage with Fennel Seed & Hot Pepper Flakes

I am so desperate for spring! The red-winged blackbirds arrived on the week-end. Their arrival is when I declare spring officially here, but I would really love some actual warmth. It seems to me they were a good solid week or 10 days later than  usual, and while it is finally getting somewhat mild, there is still at least a foot of snow to melt, and that's where it hasn't been piled up. I am just so tired of it.

Anyway, food-wise it's another very simple vegetable dish. Cabbage, carrots and onions are the stalwarts of late winter, and fennel seed and hot pepper flakes are a classic duo. As ever, exact quantities depend on how hot you want it, and how hot your pepper flakes are, so adjust the quantity as you see fit. Any kind of hot, but not-too-hot pepper flakes will work. I used Aleppo pepper, but Korean pepper would work, or even just the big flakes you get in packets at the grocery store.

2 to 4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Cabbage with Fennel Seed & Hot Pepper Flakes

1 large or 2 medium onions
1 large carrot
4 cups chopped cabbage
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1/3 to 1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper (chile) flakes
salt to taste

Peel and chop the onions. Peel and grate the carrot. Chop the cabbage.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Bruise the fennel seed while it heats. Add the onion, carrot, and fennel seed to the pan, and cook, over medium-high heat, stirring regularly, until softened and very slightly browned. Add the cabbage and the water - just enough to barely cover the pan - and continue to cook and stir until the water has evaporated and the cabbage is cooked. If it is not sufficiently cooked when the water is gone, add a little more. Once the cabbage is fairly dry, add the hot pepper flakes and a pinch of salt, and continue cooking and stirring  until the pepper is evenly distributed and the cabbage looks done to your liking.





Last year at this time I made Liver Albanian Style.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Maple-Balsamic Glazed Onions

Our stash of onions has been shrinking and as the large ones have been removed, either to the basket to be planted for seed or for cooking, many of the ones that are left are starting to look small.  These may be too small to bother to cut up for regular cooking, but they make a great vegetable dish on their own.

Most of the small onions you can buy will be larger than mine, but use the smallest you can find. Three or 4 per person should be a generous serving; if that seems too much I think your onions are too large. Although these are so delicious, it may not be as much too much as you think. Obviously, the larger your onions the longer they will need to boil to become tender.

2 to 4 servings
40 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Maple-Balsamic Glazed Onions

8 to 12 small onions

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Peel the onions, but leave them whole. Put them in a pot, where they cover the bottom in a single layer, but fit reasonably snugly. Cover them with water, add a pinch of salt, and bring them to a boil. Boil gently but steadily for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are tender enough to be easily pierced with a fork.

Drain the onions well, but leave them in their pot. Add the butter, maple syrup and vinegar, and return them to the stove. Cook them over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring very gently but frequently to constantly towards the end, until the syrup thickens and coats them. Watch them carefully; they will do nothing much for the first 5 minutes, then they will achieve sticky perfection, and 10 seconds after that they will be irremedially burnt. As soon as they are ready, turn them into their serving dish.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Kinda, Sorta, Mapo Tofu

Since I was thinking of things to do with tofu, it occurred to me that I haven't had a good Mapo Tofu in years. I have to say, I still haven't had one. This was very tasty, but extremely not authentic. It was, however, what those of us out in the sticks are reduced to. Real Mapo Tofu requires doubanjiang, a fermented paste of fava beans and chiles. We actually drove down to Barrie (with a list of other chores too!) to look for this stuff, but the store I had located on-line had inconveniently neglected to mention that it had gone out of business, so I was out of luck.

I did have miso, and since that's at least fermented, I combined it with my chile-garlic sauce and hoped for the best. Also, I used white peppercorns since I had no Szechuan peppercorns. Apparently Bulk Barn does carry Szechuan peppercorns, but whether you can find it in stores outside of the large cities I don't know. Probably not.

I used half a package of ground turkey - and all packages these days seem to be about 1 pound, take it or leave it, and it seemed to be a bit too much meat. I recommend using more like a quarter of a package.

4 servings
1 hour prep time

Mapo Tofu

Prepare the Tofu:
400 - 450 grams (13 to 16 ounces)  firm tofu
4 cups boiling water

Rinse the tofu and cut it into fairly small bite-sized dice. Put it in a bowl and cover it with the boiling water. Set it aside as you prepare the other ingredients. 

Make the Sauce:
1 to 2 tablespoons dark miso
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns (or white peppercorns)
about 1 tablespoon chile-garlic sauce
1 teaspoon Sucanat or dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon 5-spice powder

Thin the miso with the vinegar in a small mixing bowl, then grind the Szechuan or white peppercorns. Mix the pepper, plus all the remaining ingredients into the miso and vinegar.

Finish the Dish:
4 to 6 cloves of garlic (1 head)
a 4" piece of ginger
3 to 4 green onions
OR 2 large shallots
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
100 to 250 grams ground lean beef, pork or turkey
2 teaspoons arrowroot or cornstarch
2 cups water or broth

Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and mince the ginger. Trim the green onions, and finely chop the white and green parts, keeping them separate, or if they are not in season, peel and mince the shallots.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. When hot, add the ginger and white onion parts, or shallots. Cook, stirring for a couple of minutes until softened. Add the garlic, and continue cooking for another minute or so. Crumble in the ground meat, and mix it in well, cooking and stirring until it shows no signs of rawness.

Drain the tofu well, and mix it into the skillet. Add the sauce ingredients and mix in well. Dissolve the arrowroot or cornstarch in about 1/4 cup of the water, and set it aside. Add the remaining water to the skillet, and mix well, making sure nothing is sticking to the pan. Once everything is well-amalgamated and simmering along nicely, quickly mix in the starch and water, and continue cooking and stirring until the sauce has thickened and cleared, just a minute or two more. It should be fairly soupy. Garnish with the green onion tops, if you have them, and serve with steamed rice.




Last year at this time I made Turkish Lentil Soup with Mint

Thursday, 27 March 2014

First Gardening Post of the Season - What Season?


Springtime in Canada! Ain't it grand? Can't say I'm impressed so far...

That photo was taken on Tuesday, March 26th. Compare it to photos taken about the 16th of March in 2012. Just a little different!


We do have a little gardening going on outside though. It's in our old ice-cream freezer that we are using as a little greenhouse. In spite of overnight temperatures as low as -20°C since we have planted it, some seedlings are sprouting. These are bok choy, mostly. We also planted some miner's lettuce and mache, but no signs of those so far. I hope they are okay - the freezer can get up to +20°C, easily, on a nice sunny day even if it's pretty chilly out - those are some wild temperature swings.


Inside, we have been proceeding as if summer is eventually going to come, lack of evidence notwithstanding.  (And I said summer, not spring - you know how it's going to be in a year like this one: -5°C one day, 25°C within a week and never looks back. Ugh!) Anyway, we've started celery, celeriac, onions, leeks, sweet potatoes, and potatoes.


Yes, that's right! Potatoes! I've been threatening to try to grow potatoes from seed for as long as we've had potatoes that produce fruits. It will probably be next year before we know if any of them are all that interesting, assuming any of them live that long. There's many a slip, etc, and we've never grown potato seedlings before. So far they look very healthy and there's lots of them. One in particular is very large, but it looks oddly un-potato like. I don't see how anything else could have gotten into the seeds though. Nothing to do but wait and see what happens.

In the meantime, I hear it's supposed to get above freezing today. Go, spring, go! Or is that, come on, spring, come!