Monday, 31 December 2007

Baked Bone-In Ham with Maple-Mustard Glaze

I had a hankering for ham for Christmas dinner and this is the recipe I used. A good bone-in ham can be hard to find but persevere, because it is such an enormous improvement over deboned or spiral-cut hams, which are often also processed in other ways that are not conducive to good eating. In particular, ham is very prone to being soaked in brine, gelatine and preservatives to increase the weight, but which of course makes it soggy, salty, and bland with that nasty preservative aftertaste. Smoked but uncooked is what you want. Most people prefer the shank end as being easier to deal with, and it seems to be much the easiest to find as well.

In spite of the higher-quality of most bone-in hams, they are likely to be cheaper than the more processed versions, since you are basically buying a recognizable chunk of smoked pig. You will have a little more waste however; there is the bone, and also you will likely need to trim off quite a bit of fat. I would not allow less than 1 pound per person when calculating how large a ham to buy, and twice that if you want left-overs. Which you do, I would think. To some degree, the smaller the ham, the more waste there is. And then of course, you can make stock with the bone which is great in soup or risottos.

10 to 20 servings, depending on size of ham
20 minutes per pound - plus 20 minutes prep time

Baked Bone In Ham with Maple Mustard GlazeI had somewhat different results with my two hams this season, even though both were bought at the same place and made with the same recipe. Whether the difference is in the oven, or in the ham itself - the first was a shank end, and the second a butt end - I don't know. The second one was much moister, and instead of needing to add water to the pan as it roasted, I needed to remove it. However, both were perfectly done and delicious.

Baked Bone In Ham with Maple Mustard GlazeTo Start the Ham:

1 5 to 6 kilogram (10 to 13 pound) smoked but uncooked bone-in ham
2 tablespoons whole cloves

Preheat the oven to 325°. Cut the skin and most of the subcutaneous fat from the ham. Leave a thin layer of the fat on the meat, to keep it moist, but it can be quite thin or even intermittant. Stick the ham evenly all over with the cloves at a distance of 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart. A neat diamond pattern is traditional, but it hardly matters. Put the ham, cut end down, in a roasting pan, and add water to come up about 1 inch. Cover the ham loosely with heavy foil, and place it in the oven. Roast it for 20 minutes per pound, roughly. I say roughly, because if I have bought, say for example, an 11 pound roast, I will likely have removed at least a pound of fat and skin, and so I would calculate for 10 pounds, which would be 3 hours and 20 minutes.

When the ham has one hour left to bake, remove it from the oven. Discard the aluminum foil, and cover the ham as evenly as you can with the glaze. Check the water level, and add some more if needed. You do not want to bring it back to the one inch level, but the bottom of the pan needs to be covered. You don't want the water to go completely, or the glaze and fat on the bottom of the pan will scorch. On the other hand, if there is still a great deal of liquid in the pan, you may wish to remove some, to bring the liquid level down to 1/2 inch or perhaps a little less. Do so before you put on the glaze, and save the liquid - it is the start of your ham stock.

To Make the Glaze:

1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup hot mustard powder
2 tablespoons chick-pea flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, ground
1/2 teaspoon salt

When the ham goes into the oven, mix the above ingredients and let them sit as the ham cooks. Glaze as described above, when the ham has one hour left to cook.

To Finish:

When the ham comes out of the oven, let it rest for about 10 minutes before you carve it. While it does that, scrape out all the drippings from the pan into a gravy boat, de-fatting the sauce as much as possible. It will be more intensely flavoured than gravy, and should be applied discreetly. If it is too thin, put it in a pot and boil it down a bit. If too thick, add a little water and simmer until smooth.

Roasted Maple Butternut Squash and Pears

Eeek! I forgot to take a picture of this dish. Fortunately, one of my shots of the ham had quite a bit of the squash in it as well, and with a bit of judicious cropping you can get the general idea.

This is a bit sweeter than most of my squash dishes, but it makes a nice change.

4 servings
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time

Roasted Maple Butternut Squash and Pears
1 kilogram (2 1/4 pounds) butternut squash
2 tablespoons walnut, hazelnut or almond oil
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 large ripe pears, Bosc or Bartlett
3 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Remove the seeds from the squash, and peel it. This was half of a very large squash, if you are wondering. Cut it into 1 centimetre slices, and toss it with the oil, pepper, salt and nutmeg in a large shallow roasting pan, such as a lasagne pan.

Peel the pears, core them, and cut them in eighths, and toss them in with the squash. Drizzle the maple syrup over them. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, until tender and perhaps a little browned around the edges.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Rutabaga with Caramelized Onions

Here is a somewhat simplified version of this recipe, from Epicurious, which was not a wildly complicated recipe to start with. I think it is improved by a generous garnish of parsley, if you have it, which unfortunately I didn't. The rich, caramelized onions go beautifully with the rutabaga. The caramelized onions do take some time to make, and require persistant stirring. The results, though, are well worth the effort.

4 servings
1 hour - 15 minutes prep time

Rutabaga with Caramelized Onions
1 large onion
2 tablespoons butter

4 cups diced rutabaga
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper

Peel and dice the onion. Put it in a large skillet with the butter over medium-low heat, and cook, stirring frequently, for about 45 minutes, until the onions are golden-brown. It may be necessary to reduce the heat to low towards the end of the cooking period to prevent them browning too much.

Meanwhile, peel and dice the rutabaga, and put it in a pot with water to cover. Bring to a boil, and boil gently for about 30 to 40 minutes, until tender. Drain it of all but a couple tablespoons of the cooking liquid, and mash it with the butter and salt and pepper.

Top with the caramelized onions, and a good sprinkling of parsley if liked and if available.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Spinach, Avocado & Mango Salad

This is, alas, neither local nor particularly seasonal. However, it is one of the best salads I have ever devised, in my less-than-humble opinion, and I made it to go with a Christmas dinner that was otherwise pretty much on-track. I made Winter Tomato Soup, Scalloped Potatoes, and a Baked Bone-In Ham with Maple-Mustard Glaze, as well as steamed Brussels sprouts. I didn't get any photos of the ham, but it was good enough that I plan to make it again soon, and hopefully without the madness of a family Christmas in full swing it will be easier to photograph and post.

But back to this salad: I love the combinations of the sweet and the slightly bitter, the smooth and the crunchy, the bright greens and yellows with the red and purple. This is definitely one of those things too good not to make once in a while.

4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Spinach Avocado and Mango Salad6 ounces baby spinach leaves
4 to 6 leaves of radicchio
8 to 12 small red radishes
1 small ripe mango
1 medium ripe avocado

the juice of 1 valencia orange
3 tablespoons hazelnut, walnut or almond oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed

Wash the spinach, and dry it well. Put it in a salad bowl, or individual salad bowls if you prefer. Wash and dry the radicchio, and tear it into bite-sized pieces. Mix it in with the spinach.

Wash the radishes, slice them and sprinkle them over the top of the salad(s). Peel the mango and avocado, and slice them, and arrange them over the salad.

In a small bowl or jar, mix the orange juice, oil, mustard, salt and pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the salads.

Kochtopf's Best Recipe of 2007 Event

Kochtopf is asking food bloggers to send in their best recipe for 2007, and I thought I'd give it a try. How very difficult it has been to choose!

To me, the best recipe is the one that uses food that is local, and in season, grown and produced by people who care about what they are doing. How else do you get that freshness and flavour? How else do you feel aligned with the yearly cycles of work and nature; in tune with the weather and the seasons as you cook and eat? In July, when I started this blog, light salads and dishes made with the long-awaited asparagus and strawberries were the best. Now the best recipes are ones that keep the kitchen, the body and the soul warm with long slow cooking and rich flavours that make you happy to snuggle inside, or give you the energy to get outside and engage the icy elements.

However, after some consideration, I have decided to re-post Cream of Celery Soup, which did not get nearly the attention during the year which I think it deserves. I don't know that I can say it's my best recipe, but it is certainly excellent, and exemplifies my attitude to food: simple food is the best food, if it is made with love, attention and good quality ingredients. (And, psst! I think it would make a great first course to a dish of Macaroni and Cheese!)

Cream of Celery Soup

4 to 6 servings
2 hours - 30 minutes prep time

1 large bunch celery
1 large onion
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour

4 cups ( 1 litre or 1 quart) chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dillweed
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup light cream

Wash and trim the celery, and chop it, leaves and all. It can be somewhat coarsely chopped; it's going to be puréed. But first it's going to be sautéed, so don't chop it too coarsely. Likewise peel and chop the onion.

Melt the butter in a large skillet, and sauté the onion and celery for 5 to 10 minutes, until they are soft and limp, but not browned. Sprinkle the flour over and cook until well absorbed and lightly browned in spots; a few more minutes.

Meanwhile put the chicken stock in a large pot with the bay leaves and dill. Grind the remaining spices as finely as possible, and add them as well. Add the celery and onion mixture. Simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the celery is very tender.

Purée the soup in batches that will fit into your blender or food processor, then return the soup to the pot. Mix in the cream, and reheat the soup until steaming hot. Do not let it boil or even simmer, or the cream will likely curdle. Serve at once.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Classic Baked Beans with Pork

Yes, I made old-fashioned baked beans for (one of) my Christmas dinner(s).

How many people have actually even had this dish, nowadays? Most people have eaten the version that comes out of a tin. It's not bad, for tinned food, but made-from-scratch baked beans are a revelation. Wow! So simple and so good. Of course I have my own little tweaks, the main one of which is the addition of some GINGER. Yeah, yeah, whotta surprise. I have also replaced the traditional salt pork with bacon. It is easier to find and far less likely to consist of 97% fat. Mind you, for once don't get the leanest bacon you can find - you definitely want some fat in there, to make these smooth, rich and tasty, and get you through a day of drawing water and hewing wood in the Canadian winter. Well, it's true these are not exactly low calorie. They cook for loooong time by themselves though, so they really are ideal for when you have been outside running around all day. Or perhaps you will just need to be a little discreet. *

They are very easy to make, but do take some time, what with the soaking and pre-cooking of the beans, and then their long final bake. Start them 2 evenings before you plan to eat them, or the morning of the day before.

4 to 8 servings
2 days - 20 minutes prep time

Classic Baked Beans with Pork2 cups (450 grams; 1 pound) dried white pea (navy) beans
1 large onion
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup Sucanat or dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons hot dry mustard powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 cup light molasses
1/4 cup tomato ketchup
1/2 pound smoked bacon

In the evening, put the beans in a large pot with plenty of water to cover, and bring them to a boil. Turn the water off, and let them soak, covered, overnight.

In the morning drain off the soaking water. Return them to the pot and cover with water again. Bring them to a boil, then simmer them until they are just tender. Stir occasionally.

You could also soak the beans in the morning, and cook them in the evening. At any rate, the next morning, drain the beans, reserving the cooking water. Preheat the oven to 200°F.

Put the beans in a fairly deep casserole dish. Peel and chop the onion, and mix it with the beans.

Mix the salt, Sucanat, mustard, ginger, molasses and ketchup in a small bowl. Heat up the bean cooking liquid, and add one cup of it to the mixture in the bowl, stirring to dissolve. Stir this into the beans. Add more of the bean cooking liquid, until it looks like the top layer of beans is floating in it. Settle the bacon down into the middle of the pot.

Cover the dish and bake at 200°F for 6 to 10 hours. Seriously. I used to put this in the oven before I went to work, and come home to baked beans. Because of the very low oven temperature, they can stay in for a long and fairly flexible amount of time. If you want them faster, you can turn the temperature up to 325°F, and bake them for 3 to 4 hours, but I do think they turn out better with the long, slow cooking.

To serve, take your kitchen shears, and snip the bacon into inch-long pieces. Give the beans a good stir, and away you go. Great with cole-slaw and lots of hot buttered toast, because you haven't had enough fat and calories yet.

* Ha, ha. Good luck with that.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Chocolate-Ginger Graham Squares

I adapted this recipe from one I clipped from Canadian House and Home Magazine a few years back. Of course, I realized shortly after that that I should not be eating wheat, so this was the first time I have made them. I used my own graham crackers, which made them wheat-free. I also could not resist increasing considerably both the number and volume of other goodies in there with the crumbs. Why not, they are already pretty decadent! Might as well go all the way.

36 squares
45 minutes - not counting making the graham crackers, but allowing for crushing them. Also not counting the various cooling/chilling periods.

Chocolate Ginger Graham Squares3 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup finely chopped nuts (your choice)
1/2 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut
1/2 cup finely minced preserved ginger
1/2 cup finely chopped dried fruit (your choice)

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
3 to 4 tablespoons butter

Prepare an 8" square pan by lining the bottom of it with parchment paper.

Mix the graham cracker crumbs with the chopped nuts, minced preserved ginger and dried fruits - as ever I am partial to dried cranberries or cherries, but nothing wrong with raisins, apricots, pears, etc. Set aside for the moment. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and the vanilla extract. Set aside.

In a large pot - it's all going in, sooner or later - slowly melt the 1/2 cup of butter. As it melts sift over the cocoa powder and sugar. Stir constantly. When the mixture is smooth and very hot, with the sugar and butter completely melted (but not boiling) remove the pot from the heat.

Beat in the eggs, then stir in the graham crumb mixture thoroughly. It will be quite stiff. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan, and press it down as flatly and evenly as possible. Let it cool.
Melt the chocolate gently with the remaining butter, stirring frequently. When it is melted, pour it over the mixture in the pan. Spread it out smoothly and shake the pan a little from side to side, in order to get a nice flat surface. Let cool, then wrap and chill for 2 hours, or up to 2 days.

To cut, set out for 15 minutes to warm slightly, then cut into squares. I think it is best to keep them in the fridge, bringing them out to warm gently just before being served.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Winter Tomato Soup

Using both canned tomatoes and dried tomatoes gives this soup a rich, intense tomato-ey flavour. An assortment of other vegetables add complexity and smoothness. Add that it's very quick and easy to put together, and you've got yourself a staple winter dish. Classic with a grilled cheese sandwich.

8 servings
45 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Winter Tomato Soup1 large onion
3 or 4 stalks of celery
OR 2 cups diced celeriac
2 large carrots
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 cups (1 litre, 1 quart) chicken stock
1 594 ml (28 ounce) tin diced or crushed tomatoes
50 grams (2 ounces) sundried tomatoes
1 large potato
1 teaspoon rubbed basil
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Peel and chop the onion. Wash and chop the celery. Both can be somewhat coarse. Peel and slice the carrots. Peel and slice the garlic.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Sauté the onion, celery, carrots and garlic until soft and lightly browned. You may need to do this in several batches.

Meanwhile, put the chicken stock, tinned tomatoes, dried tomatoes, the potato which has been washed and diced, the basil, pepper, salt and sugar in a large pot. Bring to a simmer.

Add the sautéed vegetables when they are ready. Simmer the soup for 20 to 25 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

Purée the soup until very smooth. Adjust the seasonings if necessary. Reheat the soup, and serve.

This keep quite well in the fridge - up to a week, no problems.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Ginger Apple Salad

Here's an simple salad that is very refreshing with a nice ginger bite. Has anyone noticed that I am a fiend for ginger? If the Australian Ginger Marketing Board wants to hire me for 6 months to write them a cookbook, I want them to know I am absolutely available. Call me, eh mates?

Apples are Fresh Produce of the Month at An Italian in the US; this is my submission. If you are looking for more apple dishes, check them out and don't forget to check my other posts on Apples, Pears and Quinces as well.

6 servings
20 minutes
Gingered Apple Salad1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup orange juice

2 stalks of celery
1/2 cup dried cranberries or cherries
1/2 cup walnut pieces
4 large apples
4 leaves of lettuce

Grate the ginger into a medium sized bowl. (All the ingredients will end up in it.) Mix in the honey and the orange juice, until the honey dissolves. I find that one of those little Moroccan tangerines give just the right amount of juice.

Wash and chop the celery and add it to the bowl. Mix in the cranberries and walnuts. Wash the apples, core them and dice them. Mix them into the salad.

Wash and dry the lettuce leaves and arrange them on the serving bowl or plate. Pile the salad on top to serve.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Icebox Cookies in Four Variations

Well, I have been trying hard to ignore the impending arrival of Christmas, but it seems my steadfast refusal to face its existance has done no good, and it is just about here anyway. I did try. But last Saturday, we were obliged to gird up our loins and do some shopping, and this week I made some cookies, with perhaps a few more to come if I get ambitious. I used wheat flour, as mine is not the only face I have to feed with this venture. Besides; January already sucks, so I might as well go around with a red spotted face as not.

I like this recipe, because making it can be spread easily over two days or longer, and with one recipe you end up with four quite different cookies, all of them good. This is an old-fashioned "ice-box" cookie - the name tells you just how old fashioned - where the dough is rolled into a cylinder, chilled, then sliced and baked. Very easy, and you can bake fresh cookies in dribs and drabs, as the dough, if well wrapped, will keep in the fridge for a week. It could also be frozen for longer storage.

Cookie baking in process, above, and baked and ready for storage, below.

In the back left there are oatmeal cinnamon cookies, next to them are the cranberry (or cherry) and lemon ones. In the front, coconut and ginger on the left, and chocolate on the right.

A closer look. Note the difference in sizes. This is a result of some of them being baked straight out of the fridge, and some of them having sat out for up to an hour while the others baked. If you want big, spready cookies, take the dough out of the fridge an hour in advance. If you want smaller, daintier ones, take out each roll of dough only as you use them. Note that the cranberry-lemon dough should be fairly well chilled though, as it has the most propensity to spread.

Okay, shall we?

96 cookies, at least; probably a few more
1 1/2 hours - 45 minutes prep time, not including chilling

Cookie Base:

4 cups soft, unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking soda

2 cups (450 grams, 1 pound) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup Sucanat or dark brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 extra large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Measure the flour and stir in the salt and baking powder.

Don't forget to take the butter out of the fridge in plenty of time for it to soften. It's a lot of butter to be creaming. So, cream the butter, and beat in the two kinds of sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla.

Mix the flour into the wet ingredients until well amalgamated. Divide the dough into 4 equal parts. Put one part in a smaller bowl.

Variation #1:

1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Add these to your one quarter of the dough in the smaller mixing bowl. Mix well. Turn out onto parchment or waxed paper, form into a cylinder, and roll up. Tuck in the ends to seal, and tape it closed if you don't plan to bake the cookies within the next little while. Put in the fridge to chill, preferably on a plate so you don't get a line of little grooves all along the bottom of your cylinder.

Variation #2:

1 cup dessicated unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup preserved ginger, minced

Put the next quarter of the dough into the small mixing bowl - I don't bother washing in between, it really shouldn't be necessary - and repeat the above procedure of mixing, rolling, wrapping and chilling.

Variation #3:

the grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice, generally the content of 1 large lemon
1 cup dried cherries or cranberries, chopped a little if you like
1/4 cup soft unbleached flour

Again, plonk your third quarter of the dough in your small mixing bowl. Grate in the lemon zest, and mix in the lemon juice and dried fruit. Mix in the 1/4 cup of flour. Roll, wrap, chill.

Variation #4:

3 ounces good semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 teaspoon mint, orange OR almond extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder

The final quarter of the original dough goes into your little bowl. Melt the chocolate at low temperature, and mix it into the dough with one of the extracts (I am partial to mint, myself) and the sifted cocoa powder. Roll, wrap and chill.

To Bake:

I find I need to remove the roll to be baked from the fridge at least 15 minutes before it is to go into the oven; otherwise it is hard and apt to crumble rather than slice. Frozen rolls should probably be out for at least half an hour. Either can be out for up to an hour with the exception of the cranberry-lemon variation, which should only be out for the 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Unwrap the roll of dough, and cut it into 1/4 inch slices. Try as I may, I can never get the ends quite flat, and so I just press the end slices to make them the same thickness as the rest of the cookies. They may come out a little funny-looking. In which case, the cook will just have to eat them herself; too bad, such a pity.

Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, until just very lightly browned. Don't crowd them; they do tend to spread. Also be aware that the baking time may vary according to your oven, and the exact thickness of the cookies, so watch them carefully, especially for the first batch. Let cool, and pack in tins or otherwise keep well wrapped until wanted.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Slave Labour That Shames America

Here's one reason to eat local food; unless you live in Florida that is:

Slave labour that shames America

And of course, I just posted a recipe calling for lemons - and ate a bunch of it, too. Gag. I try to console myself with the thought that they were organic lemons. But the reality is, that with the current state of organic regulation in the U.S., that doesn't necessarily have much impact on how the people who picked them are paid and treated. Most employers don't treat their agricultural workers quite as badly as the men in this story, but the trouble is, decent people who want to treat their employees decently have to compete with others who are using slave labour. And of course, they can't. They are either out of business, or have to find some other angle (such as organic) to justify a higher price.

I'd be boycotting Burger King, but oddly enough, I've never been in one in my life. Well, and that ain't gonna change any time soon.

Seriously; Canada, and Ontario, do not have stellar records when it comes to agricultural labour. But our problems are nowhere near this level, and by buying from local producers - preferably small local producers whom we can visit - and by making our desire for food produced under decent conditions clear to our elected leaders and our food suppliers, we can not only avoid such horror stories but also improve the situation.

Yes, we will pay more money for our food. But we will quite literally be saving lives, or perhaps more accurately, not killing other people with our cheap diet. I think that's worth a little money myself.

Edited to add: Bugger, that article seems to have disappeared. However, here's a link to a blog post by Nezua Limón Xolografik-Jonez, which quoted it extensively: Culture Kitchen.

Edited again: Okay, article is now back.

Apple & Lemon Bread or Rice Pudding

This is a very versatile pudding, but always delicious with its big hit of lemon flavour. I use rice because of my problems with wheat but bread would make it a more local dish. I'm classifying this as an all-year dish, because when apples are not in season it would be just fine made with other fruit instead, providing they go well with the dominant lemon theme. I make this quite often. It isn't particularly glamourous, but oh boy is it good.

The recipe also makes quite a lot; if you aren't pudding hogs like us you might want to cut it in half. It would probably take slightly less time to cook (but not half) so you would need to watch it.

I'm also sending this pudding in to Sugar High Friday with their theme of pudding for the month. Check it out. I sure plan to; puddings are probably my favourite type of dessert.

1 hour 20 minutes - 20 mintues prep time (not counting cooking of rice)
8 to 10 servings

Apple and Lemon Bread or Rice Pudding4 cups day-old bread, cut in cubes
OR 4 cups cooked rice (1 1/3 cups raw, about)
the finely grated zest of 2 lemons

1 cup sugar
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt

6 medium-large apples

the juice of 2 lemons (about 1/2 cup)
4 extra large eggs

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Put the bread cubes or cooked rice in a large bowl, and add the grated lemon zest.

Put the sugar, milk, butter and salt in a pot and heat, stirring regularly, until the butter and sugar melt and the mixture is steaming. Pour it over the bread or rice, and mix well. Set aside to cool.

Peel and core the apples, and cut them into thin slices, or dice them if you prefer. Put them in a large shallow casserole dish. I use my large lasagne pan.

Beat the eggs, one at a time, into the pudding mixture. Pour the pudding mixture carefully over the apples, and gently mix them in.

Bake the pudding for 1 hour at 325°F. Serve warm or cold.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Roasted Butternut Squash and Shallots

More amazing roasted butternut squash! The rich flavours of the shallots, Sucanat and vinegar really go well with it.

By the way, if you can't find the Sucanat, you can use dark brown sugar. Not quite as good, in my opinion, but a perfectly acceptable substitute. That applies to any of my recipes that call for it.

4 servings
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time

Roasted Butternut Squash and Shallots1 kilogram (2 1/4 pounds) butternut squash
8 shallots
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Sucanat
1 teaspoon sea-salt
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Peel the squash, remove and discard the seeds, and cut it into 1 centimetre thick slices. I also cut it so that the slices from the dense, seedless end are quarter circles, and the rest of the squash in sizes that match.

Peel the shallots, and cut them in half lengthwise. They tend to be flattish, and I cut them so that the halves will be as flat as possible.

Toss the squash and shallots with the oil, Sucanat, salt, pepper and vinegar in a large, shallow roasting dish, such as a lasagne pan.

Roast for 4o minutes, until the squash is tender and the shallots are browned. Stir once, halfway through the roasting time.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Sautéed Parsnips

Parsnips are a vegetable I am iffy on. Sometimes I really don't enjoy them very much, other times I think they are delicious. One sure way for me to think they are delicious is to cook them like this.

2 to 4 servings
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time

Sauteed Parsnips4 medium-large parsnips (450 grams or 1 pound, about)
2 tablespoons butter
salt & pepper

Peel and slice the parsnips diagonally into 1 centimetre slices. Put them in a pot with sufficient water to cover them, and boil for 25 to 30 minutes, until tender but firm (not mushy.)

Drain the parsnips. They should sit for a minute and get quite dry.

Heat the butter in a large skillet, and sauté the parsnips over moderate heat until lightly browned on both sides. They should caramelize a little, as they are rich in sugars. Try to keep them in a single layer.

Season with salt, pepper and a little freshly ground nutmeg (and a sprinkle of parsley, if you have it.)

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Sweet Potatoes with a Spicy Ginger-Garlic Sauce

The sauce for this dish is not the most beautiful, being rather dark and lumpy, but it tastes great, and saves your sweet potatoes from the indignity of eternal sweet gooey toppings. The sauce is easily increased for the number of sweet potatoes you wish to bake.

2 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Sweet Potatoes with a Spicy Ginger Garlic Sauce2 medium-large sweet potatoes

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 dried hot chile
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 large clove garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Wash the sweet potatoes, stab them several times with a fork, and put them in a pan to roast. Roast them until tender, about 45 minutes to an hour.

When they are very nearly done, peel and mince the ginger and garlic. Heat the oil in a small skillet with the chile, over medium-high heat, until the chile changes colour all over. (Turn it over as it cooks if it is not completely submerged.) Remove and discard the chile.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the ginger and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic shows signs of browning. Add the salt and the vinegar, and reduce the heat to minimum.

Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven, split them open and break up the flesh a bit, then drizzle the sauce evenly over them. Serve at once.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Barley & Salsa Pilaf

Here's a ridiculously simple dish that makes a great accompaniment to chops or steak, or broiled chicken or fish, or really, all kinds of things. And did I mention it's ridiculously simple? Leftovers can also be mixed with chicken stock for instant soup.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour - 5 minutes prep time

Barley and Salsa Pilaf1 cup pot barley
1 1/2 cups prepared salsa
2 1/2 cups water

Mix the above ingredients in your rice cooker, and turn it on. When it turns itself off, in about 1 hour, it is done.

Um, that's it. You can give it another stir before serving, if you like.

The amount of salt will depend on how salty your salsa is, so check it. It will need some. If you don't have a rice cooker, you could mix this in a deepish covered casserole dish, and bake it at 350°F for 1 hour.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Scalloped Potatoes

This is somewhat time-consuming, pot-dirtying and definitely very rich, with the result that it is made mostly for special occasions and guests. However, it can also be done in several steps, and assembled in advance, which makes it a low-stress dish for company. I like to make the sauce the day before, and just heat it enough to be spreadable when I layer it with the potatoes. This in turn can be done several hours before the casserole goes into the oven (refrigerate it in the meanwhile) although you will need to add, say, 15 minutes to the baking time to allow for taking the chill off. The one thing you should not do is let the sliced potatoes sit out of the sauce for any period of time, or they will darken and deteriorate.

I do like to make this just for the two of us sometimes, and in that case I am likely to treat it as the main dish of the meal. And also to cut the recipe in half, which it does very easily.

8 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Scalloped Potatoes2 medium onions
2 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons butter
4 cups milk
salt and pepper
200 grams old cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon savory
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon celery seed, ground
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, ground
1 teaspoon salt

8 medium potatoes

1/2 cup breadcrumbs, or more grated cheese,
or a combination of crumbs and grated cheese

Peel and chop the onions, and cook them very slowly in the 2 tablespoons of butter, until soft and golden.

Meanwhile, make the white sauce: cook the remaining butter with the flour until well amalgamated. Slowly whisk in a little of the milk, working out any lumps as you go. Continue until you have a mixture that is smooth and not too thick, then whisk in any remaining milk. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly. Stir in the seasonings and the cheese, and continue to keep over low heat, stirring frequently, until the cheese is melted. Add the caramelized onions.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Wash the potatoes, trim them of any bad spots, and slice them thinly. Spread about one quarter of the sauce in the bottom of your baking dish - which should be large and shallow such as a lasagne pan - and top with a layer of about one third of the potatoes. Follow with another layer of sauce, another of potatoes, more sauce, the final layer of potatoes, and top with the last of the sauce. Sprinkle the crumbs and/or remaining grated cheese over the top of the dish. Cover with foil, and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes, until nicely browned.

This can also be cooked at a lower temperature, to accommodate other dishes being baked at the same time, but it will take longer - at 325°F you can expect it to take twice as long. For 350°F I would allow another half hour.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

We Decorated The Gingerbread

With much more co-operative weather, we were able to have our annual Christmas pot-luck at Meeting today, along with my Sunday-school class that was cancelled last week.

As hoped, we had a fabulous time flinging icing and trimmings consisting mainly of sugar and industrially produced dyes and chemicals at the gingerbread. I was told fairly pointedly several times that this was a much better activity than my usual lessons. Oh dear, how are you going to keep them down on the Testimonies once they've seen the gingerbread? Or something like that.

I did learn that icing is too thick to be sqeezed out of bottles by little hands, and that if I'm going to do a gingerbread house again a bit more planning will have to go into it. We set it up and it looked lovely for about 10 minutes before it suffered from a massive structural engineering failure. When we displayed it to the congregation it was greeted with a chorus of laughter and the information that in England, such housing is referred to as a "flat." Ho ho.

Actually I am very pleased at how laid back I am getting to be in my old age. Years ago I would have been much more perfectionist about this whole project, and I would also have had a lot less fun and have made sure that anyone else involved in it had less fun too. I am happy I have finally figured out that it's all about the fun!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Red Cabbage Braised with Beets

I don't have a lot of recipes for beets, which is something I intend to change. When I was a kid, I regarded them as public enemy number one. It wasn't until I was in my thirties that I developed a taste for them. They combine really well here with red cabbage, and help make a richly coloured dish. Red cabbage by itself tends to fade as it cooks, to a much less attractive greyish lilac; the beets keep it bright, and the vinegar and sugar give it a subtle sweet-sour tang. The recipe is adapted from Epicurious, mostly by cutting it in half - which still makes enough for 2 meals for the 2 of us, which is fine since it re-heats well.

4 servings
40 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Red Cabbage Braised with Beets1 small onion
1 tablespoon butter

3 cups finely shredded red cabbage
2 medium beets

1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Sucanat or brown sugar
salt & pepper

Peel and chop the onion, and put it in a large saucepan with the butter. Sauté it over medium-low heat until soft and starting to brown a little; about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile chop the cabbage, and peel and grate the raw beets.

Mix the water, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper in a small dish.

When the onions are ready, mix in the cabbage and beets, and the seasonings. Mix well. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add a little more water if it seems to be drying out, although it shouldn't be particularly juicy by the end.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

No Recipe, Just Gloating

Remember when I made Ketchup? Well all that work and struggle is forgotten when I just open a jar and help myself. Here it is waiting to go on scrambled eggs with bacon, mushrooms and spinach. Yum.

Braised Celery, Leek and Carrots

Here's a very simple side vegetable dish that really should have appeared in November, as the celery is pretty much gone by now, although if you do buy several bunches towards the end of November they should keep into December if you wrap them up well in the fridge. And there are still lots of local leeks and carrots.

2 servings
40 minutes - 15 minutes prep

Braised Celery Leek and Carrot1 large leek
1 large carrot
2 stalks celery
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock
salt & pepper

Wash and trim the leek. Cut it into thirds horizontally, then into quarters lengthwise. Rinse it again to be sure all the dirt is gone. Peel and trim the carrot, and cut in in half horizontally, and quarters lengthwise. Wash and trim the celery, and cut it to match the other vegetables. Or really, you can cut them however you like, as long as all the pieces are similar in size and shape.

Put the vegetables with the butter, stock and bay leaf into a pot with a tightly-fitting lid and season with a little salt and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat for 25 to 30 minutes. Keep the lid on; don't peak and let the steam out.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Gingerbread Snaps (Cookies)

A little over a year ago, in a fit of madness, I volunteered to teach a Sunday school class at Meeting. I've been doing a "talky" lesson plan, but the kids have been wanting to do some "crafts", which are not exactly my forte. However, since this Sunday we will have a pot-luck lunch after meeting, I decided that we could decorate gingerbread.

Instead of wheat flour, I used 2 1/2 cup brown rice flour, and 1 cup arrowroot flour, as I am not the only one with problems with wheat in our group. They worked okay, although they are a little sandy in texture, and seemed to spread more than usual...

I ended up with soft, blobby Christmas trees, plump spready gingerbread men and stars so shapeless they could be anything. I also made the pre-fab parts for a gingerbread house, though I fear it will be more of a gingerbread shack. Never mind, stick enough icing and candy on it all and it will be fine. It'll be like the garage of a guy who never fixes anything, until the door won't close and the roof is being held up with a tree trunk and the hood of a 1972 Chevy, but who covers it in multi-colour twinkling lights every Christmas, and it looks just lovely anyway. Yeah. That's what I'm telling myself.

This is an excellent recipe to make with kids. It holds up well to being rolled and re-rolled, in fact the second rolling tends to make a better cookie. If you really want them to keep their shape when baked, be sure to use the wheat flour, and chill the prepared pans of cut-out cookies for 5 or 6 minutes before baking. They will need a few extra minutes in the oven.

I'm hoping I'll have some pictures to post of the decorated cookies. NOTE: Gingerbread decorating held over until next week due to unsea - er, seasonal weather. Stay tuned!

30 cookies
45 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

1 1/2 cups soft whole wheat flour
2 cups soft unbleached flour
1 cup Sucanat
OR 1/2 cup Sucanat and 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/3 cup light molasses
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup mild vegetable oil

Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Warm the molasses, and mix the molasses, oil and water. I usually put them all together in one measuring cup, then heat them in the microwave until the molasses will dissolve easily into the water.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. The dough should be fairly stiff, and not sticky. If it is too soft and sticky, add a little more flour. Feel free to turn the dough out and knead it to incorporate the last of the flour. This dough is better once it has been worked for a while.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a couple of cookie trays with parchment paper.

Roll out the dough to about 1/4" thick, and cut with cookie cutters. Place the cookies on the prepared cookie trays. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes until lightly browned and set. They will harden up more as they cool.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Chicken Barley Soup

Is it any co-incidence that my throat started to feel much better after a steaming hot bowl of this soup? This is the classic cure for what ails you, after all.

Just as a note, if you can get a pair of feet to put into the stock, so much the better. They improve the body and colour of the broth, and are widely regarded as providing a lot of the kick to chicken soup's health-giving properties.

8 to 10 servings
3 hours - 1 hour prep time

2 to 3 pounds bone-in chicken pieces
8 cups chicken stock, OR chicken stock and water

3/4 cup raw pot barley
2 1/4 cups water
1/8 teaspoon salt

4 stalks celery, or 1 small celery root
1 large leek
2 carrots
1 teaspoon savory
2 tablespoons chicken fat
2 cups finely chopped savoy cabbage
2 tablespoons miso
salt & pepper

When I have a good flavourful organic chicken (or in fact half a chicken) I start by poaching it gently in 2 litres of water until tender, with a bay leaf and other seasonings if you are inclined. I usually keep it pretty simple. Then I let it cool overnight in the fridge. The next day, it is easy to de-fat the stock. (Keep a little to sauté the vegetables.) The chicken I remove from the bones, dice, and reserve to go back into the soup later. I add the bones back into the stock and simmer it for another hour or two as I prepare the rest of the ingredients.

If I can't get really good chicken, I start with prepared chicken stock and water - half and half - and cook my chicken pieces in that. I usually choose chicken thighs with skin and bone as they are inexpensive and not inclined to get dry.

At any rate, when you are done you should have about 8 cups of chicken stock and 3 to 4 cups of diced cooked chicken.

Cook the barley with the water and salt. I do this in my rice cooker as it makes it very simple and requires no attention. This too can be done the night before you assemble the soup.

Wash the celery, and dice it fairly fine. Wash and chop the leek, and rinse it well again and drain it. Peel and dice the carrots. Sauté these vegetables with the savory in the chicken fat until soft but not browned, about 10 minutes. I like the basic savory flavour, but you could replace it with a more complex poultry seasoning mix if you like; use thyme, sage, rosemary, celery seed and oregano, but I would still go lightly on these and more heavily on the savory.

Put the strained chicken stock, cooked barley, sautéed vegetables and diced chicken into a large soup pot. Add the finely chopped savoy cabbage, and simmer for 10 or 15 minutes until the cabbage is tender. Adjust the seasonings; in particular I am inclined to add salt and pepper at this time.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Honey, Lemon & Ginger Tea for the Flu

Ho, ho, ho, 'tis the season. No, not that season. I mean the season for colds and flu. I'm not quite sure which we have; but it seems to have all the symptoms. Fever, touchy tummy, aches and pains, sore throat, earache, deafness and ringing in the ears, stuffy nose, cough and a general sensation of lousiness and inertia. Fun, wow!

I have not been drinking nearly as much as I should, as it hurts to swallow. However, I have made myself a batch of this tea and it is going down okay. This is something that puts the "treat" back into "treatment" - lemon, ginger and honey are a great combination. I've been known to make this as a winter pick-me-up when I'm feeling just fine thank you, but it really does help you feel a bit more human when you are sick.

As you will note from the picture, I couldn't get organic lemons, so I got non-organic limes. The lemons available looked so shiny and wax-coated, I just couldn't face them even though I like lemons better in this. Whatever you get though, do be sure to give them a good scrub.

1 serving
15 minutes prep time

Honey Lemon and Ginger Tea2 or 3 tablespoons fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped
the zest of 1 lemon (or large lime)
1 litre (1 quart) water
4 tablespoons honey
the juice of 1 lemon (or large lime)

Peel the ginger root, and grate it if you are feeling energetic; otherwise chop it fairly finely. Put it in a large pot and grate in the lemon zest. Add the water, and bring up slowly to a simmer. Simmer for 2 or 3 minutes. Stir in the honey until it is dissolved, and add the lemon juice.

Strain and serve. Drink this as hot as you can stand. You can keep it warm in a teapot with a cosy if you like. You can re-heat it if it gets cool before you have drunk it all. And yes, you should drink it all - and more. Hope you're feeling better soon.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Gehacktes Rinderschnitzel - Chopped Beef Patties

I love the name of this dish in German; it translates prosaically enough to chopped beef patties, and indeed it's a pretty simple meal although with a bit more class than your average hamburger patty. They are substantial enough that one each is plenty; since our beef comes in one-pound packages I put the mixture for the second set of two patties back in the fridge (well wrapped) and we cook them up the next day.

4 servings
30 minutes - 20 minutes prep

Gehacktes RinderschnitzelI did not cook all the patties at once; the next day I added some mushrooms to the pan.

Gehacktes Rinderschnitzel1 large potato, boiled for 10 minutes
1 small onion
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
450 grams (1 pound) ground beef
1 egg
salt & pepper

1 cup broth, or water in a pinch
2 teaspoons arrowroot or cornstarch
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Wash the potato, but leave it whole. Put it in a pot, covered with water and bring it to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Drain and let it cool as you prepare the rest of the ingredients. This can also be done in advance.

Grate the potato - I don't peel it, but it does tend to peel itself somewhat, and I discard whatever peel comes off in my hands. Peel and mince the onion and garlic, and mix them with the grated potato, the beef, the egg and salt and pepper to taste.

Form the mixture into 4 equal patties, and brown them on both sides over medium-high heat. If you are using grass-fed beef, you will likely need to add a little oil to the pan. Reduce the heat a little, and cook for about 4 or 5 minutes more on each side, until the patties are cooked through.

Meanwhile, mix the broth with the cornstarch, paprika and Worcestershire sauce. When the patties are done, pour it around them. It will boil up and thicken within a minute. Serve at once.

If you want to add mushrooms, have them ready and add them to the pan shortly after the patties go in; give them the occasional stir as they cook.

Clapshot; a Mash of Rutabaga, Carrots and Potatoes

You know this is not just a seasonal Ontario dish; but also a traditional one, because it's Scottish. Said with the tongue slightly in cheek, but only slightly. At any rate, it's good stick-to-the-ribs stuff, and the three veggies blend together so well, you might think them some new, unknown one, that you wish you had encountered earlier. Obviously, the actual quantity of vegetables used is less important than the fact that the quantities of each should be roughly equal.

4 servings
45 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Clapshot or Mashed Rutabaga Carrots and Potato
250 grams (1/2 pound) rutabaga
250 grams (1/2 pound) carrots
250 grams (1/2 pound) potatoes

2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper
1 egg (optional)

Peel the rutabaga, and cut it into slices. Put it in a large pot with plenty of water and bring it to a boil.

Peel the carrots, cut them into chunks, and add them to the rutabaga when it has been boiling about 10 minutes.

Peel (if you like - I don't bother) the potatoes and cut them into chunks, and add them to the pot when it has been boiling for a total of 20 minutes. Boil for another 20 minutes, or until all the vegetables are quite tender.

Drain off most of the water - I leave about a third of a cup in the bottom of the pot for moisture. Mash the vegetables with the butter, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

I usually serve it forthwith, but the friend from whom I received this recipe used to mash it very finely, beat in an egg, and put it in a buttered casserole dish. (She did peel the potatoes.) It was then reheated in the oven, until lightly browned around the edges.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Sformato or Sformati di Broccoli

I used to read a lot of cookbooks about Italian food back in the '70's and '80s when the post-war British wave of interest in Italian cooking turned into something of a tsunami. I don't remember seeing any recipes for sformati then, though. Maybe they were there, and I didn't think they were interesting. Maybe the cookbook authors thought they were too similar to British* vegetable flans, and didn't in fact include them.

Now that I have noticed them, I am very interested in sformati. You will see I have used this one as a means to using up those not-very-beloved-by-me broccoli stems, and my impression is that in general these are a good way to use up leftover cooked vegetables.

It seems there are 2 schools of though about constructing sformati; either the vegetable purée is thickened with eggs and cheese, or with a thick béchamel (also often with cheese) although I have seen them with breadcrumbs or potatoes used as a supplementary thickening agent. The vegetable is often a cruciferous one, but spinach, leeks, artichokes, peas, potatoes, in fact just about anything can be used. Go a little heavier on the vegetable purée, and they make a good simple lunch served with a little rice. Put in more cheese, and make individual sformatini, and they will make a very elegant starter for a multi-course meal. Any good, grate-able, flavourful cheese can be used; I suspect there is something of an art to matching the vegetables and the cheese.

4 to 8 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

The unbaked sformati di broccoliThe sformati ready to go into the oven.

The baked sformati di broccoliA baked sformato, above, and the sformato unmoulded, below.

The sformato di broccoli unmoulded
the stems from 3 bunches of broccoli (6 to 9 stems)
the florets from 1 head of broccoli

150 grams grated mixed hard cheeses
3 extra-large eggs
salt and pepper
grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter

Peel the stems of the broccoli and discard the peels. Cut the stems into slices, and cook them until half tender. Meanwhile, wash and cut up the broccoli florets. Add them to the stems and cook until tender, about 5 minutes more.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Set aside a half dozen florets to put in the bottom of the baking dish, if desired. Drain and purée the rest of the broccoli. Let it cool a bit while you grate the cheeses. I used equal amounts of Parmesan, Gouda and Cheddar.

Put the broccoli purée in a mixing bowl, and beat in the cheese. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Season with salt and pepper, and grated nutmeg to taste.

Use the butter to generously cover the sides and bottom of a shallow baking dish. (I used 2 5-cup dishes; you can use a single lasagne pan, or individual molds, as you like. You may need more or less butter depending on the dishes you use.)

Lay the reserved broccoli pieces in the bottom of the buttered baking dish(es) and put the broccoli mixture spread evenly over them. Put the baking dish(es) in a larger, shallower pan, and add water to the outer pan to come about halfway up the sformati dishes.

Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until firm in the middle. Let cool for about 5 minutes. You can serve them right from the dish, but they are more glamorous unmoulded. Run a wet knife around the edges, cover with the serving plate, and quickly flip over. Dampen the plate first so that you can slide the sformato around a bit to get it centred. If any bits don't come out, you can usually patch it up without it being too noticeable.

*From whence almost all trendy cookbooks sold in Canada came, unless they were American.

Horace's Tagliatelle

I first read about this dish in the amazing book Honey From a Weed, by Patience Gray. By the way, if you haven't read this book, run out and get it NOW. I'll wait. *Taps foot.* Okay, ready? She describes this dish as being adapted from a description - if you can call three words a description - in the Satires of Horace (I6, to be precise) and what I have made is fairly adapted from hers. Still, it's both fun and sobering to eat a dish that has roots that stretch back over 2000 years. That Patience Gray could come up with such an authoritative dish from three little words suggests to me that the Italians she knew were indeed still eating very similar things.

I used farfalle rather than the original tagliatelle (laganum) simply because I think the shape is more effective with the other ingredients than a long, broad noodle would be. However, if you want to make this more authentic, you could make your own tagliatelle from scratch - in keeping with the theme of the Satire, it is about as simple and plain a pasta shape as can be made, and very suitable for someone making pasta at home with just a rolling pin. While you eat it, you can reflect on the fact that 2000 years ago, people were already struggling with the value of living a more simple, humble life in a society that was complex, judgemental and ostentatious.

And of course, we send greetings and salutations to Presto Pasta Nights at Once Upon a Feast.

2 servings
20 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Horace's Tagliatelle250 grams (1/2 pound) farfalle or other stubby pasta
OR fresh tagliatelle for 2 persons

2 cups cooked chick peas
2 large leeks
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup chopped parsley
the juice of 1 small lemon

If using dried pasta, put on a large pot of salted water to boil. If using fresh pasta you should actually do the same, but wait a bit as it will not need to boil nearly as long.

Drain your cooked chick peas, and let them get quite dry, but keep the water in which they were cooked - you will need about a cup, or a cup and a half.

Wash and slice the leeks, and rinse them again. Let them drain well. Peel and slice the garlic.

Heat up the oil in a large skillet, over medium-high heat. Add the well drained chick-peas, and sauté them for 4 or 5 minutes, until they absorb some of the oil and are starting to look a little browned. Add the leeks, well drained, and mix them in well. When they begin to be softened, after a couple of minutes, add the garlic. When the leeks and garlic are somewhat cooked down, and starting to brown just a tiny bit, add about 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups of the chick-pea cooking water and reduce the heat to a simmer. Test for salt, and add a little if it is needed.

When the pasta is done, drain it quickly and toss it with the leeks and chick-peas. Mix in about 2/3 of the parsley and the lemon juice. Serve it up and sprinkle the remaining parsley over the top.

You can use canned chick-peas; but they will be softer, saltier and not as flavourful (nor as authentic) as chick-peas cooked from scratch. However they will certainly do in a pinch. One large (540 ml; 19 ounce) tin will be about right. Use the packing water as the cooking liquid, and don't add further salt.

Pumpkin Custard (Or Pie Filling)

I don't use evaporated milk for much. This is it, in fact. However, I do like to have a tin of pumpkin and a tin of evaporated milk on-hand throughout the winter; that way I can throw this together very quickly with the addition of a few other pantry staples. I'm sure you could make this with cream instead, and it would probably even be better, but cream doesn't have that sit-on-the-shelf-and-wait factor.

This is a fairly spicy pumpkin custard. You could tone it down a bit if you like. I don't recommend adding any more or you will start to get a rough taste to the spiciness.

Pumpkin Custard or Pie Filling1/2 cup Sucanat
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons arrowroot or corn starch
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 796-ml (28 ounce) tin pumpkin purée
4 extra-large eggs
1 370-ml (14 ounce) tin evaporated milk
1/4 cup fancy molasses

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Mix in the pumpkin, then the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the evaporated milk - this is the one with NO SUGAR in it (i.e. make sure it's not condensed milk) - and the molasses.

Pour the custard into a 2 quart (litre) baking pan, or 2 prepared 9" pie crusts.

Bake until set in the centre, about 1 hour and 20 minutes for the custard. The pies will take less time, but I confess it has been so long since I have done pies that I really don't know. Forty five minutes maybe? Probably a bit longer.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Spicy Roast Butternut Squash

This is one of the simplest things to do with butternut squash, and one of the best too. Never met anyone who didn't love it.

I often hear people complain that squash are hard to cut up, so I thought I would try to show the general technique. You need a large, sharp knife - this is not a job for a paring knife, nor a dull one. Cut your squash in half vertically, and remove the seeds with a spoon. Then cut the squash in half horizontally along the line where it starts to widens out. Cut off the skin from the end and the steeply curved side next to the end, then stand it up on the flat edge and start cutting off the skin in strips downward. Repeat with the second piece.

2 to 4 servings
1 hour - 15 minutes prep time

Spicy Roast Butternut Squash

Spicy Roast Butternut Squash1/2 of a large butternut squash (600 to 800 grams; 1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 dried little red chile
OR 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried crushed red chile flakes
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 or 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Peel the squash as described above. Cut each half in half again lengthwise, then crosswise in slices a little less than a centimetre wide.

Grind the spices - and these are 2 spices I really recommend that you grind yourself, because they lose their flavours so quickly - and mix them with the salt.

Toss the squash with the oil in a large, shallow roasting dish. Sprinkle 2/3 of the seasonings over the squash, and toss again. Sprinkle the remaining seasonings evenly over the squash. Roast for 45 minutes, until tender and slightly browned.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Lentil Loaf with Carrots

I made this lentil loaf to go to a pot-luck on Sunday, and as I feared it is pretty much impossible to take a decent picture while trying to get food on the table in the middle of a chattering crowd in a room with little natural light. It didn't help that my subject matter was a brown rectangle.

However, I like this very much to eat. My sweetie is not so fond of it, but I think it has a good texture and flavour. It's also remarkably low in fat, which may be why it doesn't grab him. He loves him some fat; I am convinced he would eat plain butter if he could find a way to keep it from melting in his hands.

Once I baked this up in little individual pie plates, and froze them. That worked great; I just heated them up in the microwave, except for one time when we went to The Science Centre in Toronto. I took a piece with me just in case there was nothing in the cafeteria I could eat. Sure enough; there wasn't, and they refused to heat up my Lentil Loaf for me, so I ate it semi-frozen. It actually wasn't all that bad!

Here it is (below) sliced and served with Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy and Spicy Roasted Squash. Yes I know that plate is just calling out for some peas or something, but such are the hazards of pot-lucks and no green veg made an appearance.

Lentil Loaf, Mushroom Gravy and Roasted Squash
1 medium onion
2 teaspoons mild vegetable oil
2 large carrots
1 1/2 cups raw green or brown lentils
3 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cups walnut or hazelnut pieces, or sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon salt (yes, another one)
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 teaspoon savory
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika

Peel and finely chop the onion, and sauté it until soft in the oil, in the rice cooker or a small skillet.

Peel the carrots and cut them into slices. Add them to the rice-cooker (or put them in a pot, if you must, along with the onions) with the lentils, water, and salt, and cook until the lentils are tender and the carrots very soft; i.e. when the rice cooker turns itself off.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

When the lentils and carrots are done, move them to a mixing bowl and add the onions. Mash well, and add the oats, nuts and seasonings. Mix well.

Press the mixture into a well-oiled or non-stick loaf pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until firm and lightly browned. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then turn it onto a plate to be served. Looks much better with some sort of garnish; any green veg to accompany it will be ideal. As already noted, the Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy goes well with it, and so does plain old ketchup.

I have baked it then frozen it, which works well. You could probably also freeze it then bake it. For the pot-luck, I mixed it up the night before and baked it just before serving it the next day (lunch time) and that also worked just fine.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

"Hortopita" Lasagne

I have found wheat-free lasagne noodles I can eat, which means that I can make hortopita - sort of. Hortopita is spanakopita's more rustic cousin; basically the same recipe with sturdier greens such as kale and chard instead of, or augmenting, the better-known spinach. And of course, usually wrapped in filo or bread dough. I have aimed to make a creamier filling than would go into hortopita, as after all, this is lasagne too. This is very "greeny" - you could probably get away with one bunch each of chard and kale.

And a shout-out to Presto Pasta Nights with Ruth at Once Upon a Feast.

8 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Hortopita Lasagne

Hortopita Lasagna1 bunch kale
1 bunch chard
1 bunch spinach, or a second bunch of chard or other greens

15 lasagna noodles

1 bunch green onions
OR 1 large leek and a little oil
500 grams pressed cottage cheese
OR ricotta cheese
100 grams feta cheese
2 tablespoons dried dillweed
1 tablespoon dried mint
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 tablespoons dried chives
6 eggs
2 cups milk or light cream

200 grams grated cheddar

Wash the greens, pick them over, and strip them from the tough stems, which should be discards. Coarsely chop the greens and steam them until well wilted but no more. Rinse them under cold water until they are cool enough to handle, then squeeze them to remove any excess liquid in them.

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the lasagna noodles.

Meanwhile, chop the cooked greens fairly finely, and put them in a large bowl. If you can find green onions, they can be finely chopped and added. If you have missed their season, a leek is good substitute, but it should be well cleaned, chopped and sautéed in a spoonful of oil until soft before being added to the rest of the greens. Mix in the crumbled cheeses, the herbs, the eggs and the milk or cream.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cook the lasagna noodles until half cooked - they should be easily pliable, but definitely not done like pasta you would eat at once. Rinse them in cold water to keep them from sticking to each other.

Put some of the filling mixture - about 1/6 of it to be precise - into the bottom of a large lasagne dish. Spread it as evenly over the bottom of the dish as you can. Cover it with 5 noodles. Put 1/3 of the original total of the filling over the noodles, and spread that around as evenly as you can. Five more noodles, another 1/3 of the original amount of filling and 5 more noodles on top of that means you are almost done. You should have about 1/6 of the original filling amount left, and that gets spread over the top layer of noodles then sprinkled evenly with the grated cheddar cheese.

Cover the lasagne with foil, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Let the lasagne rest for about 5 minutes once it comes out of the oven before serving.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Gordon Ramsay's Broccoli Soup, More or Less

Not having a television, I am generally about the last person to hear of the trend of the moment. Nevertheless, faint rumours of this soup finally reached me, and I went a-searching on the intertubes. This is what I found. And yes, actually, it's really very good. I made a few changes of course; I can't help myself. I'm not sure that it's necessarily The Ultimate Soup, but for something as simple, fast and easy as it is, it's quite impressive. It's one of those things that will become a regular feature on the menu roster.

My main change was to grind the nuts right into the soup as I am not a big fan of finding discrete pieces of nut in something else, even though I can sit and eat a bowl full of nuts down to the crumbs. I meant to use the walnuts Gordon suggests, but alas, I was out, so it was back to the hazelnuts, not that there was anything wrong with that. Next time.

2 servings
10 minutes - 5 minutes prep time

Gordon Ramsays Broccoli Soup1 large head broccoli - florets only
water (about 2 cups to cook)
salt & pepper
2 tablespoons sliced hazelnuts or walnut pieces
extra virgin olive oil

1 ounce goat cheese, cheddar or other cheese of your choice

Wash the broccoli and cut the florets from the stem, which may be used for some other purpose, but is discarded so far as this soup goes. Cook the broccoli florets until just tender in boiling water. Five minutes should be about sufficient.

Lift the broccoli into a blender with a slotted spoon. Add the nuts, and enough of the broccoli cooking water to come half-way up the broccoli. In case anyone was wondering, for me that was a mere one cup. Do not put in too much water; you can always add more if your soup is too thick, but once it is too thin it is too thin and that's that. Purée the soup until very smooth in texture. Taste it, and adjust the water and seasonings as needed. I added my pepper at this point, although you can also just grind some over as you serve it.

Serve the soup garnished with the cheese, and more nuts if you like, and a little drizzle of olive oil.

Tortilla, aka Spanish Omelet

I have never been able to flip a tortilla successfully, so I was relieved to discover in Spain last summer that many Spaniards make their tortilla in the oven. A lot of them don't even do that - they buy it at the store, wrapped in plastic! Phooey. If you do them in the oven, they are not hard at all, and make a simple and delicous light meal with some soup or salad. I am told that other vegetables are used besides potato, but in the parts of Spain where we were the only debate was whether to add onion or not. Go for it, I say.

4 to 6 servings
40 minutes, and you'll need to be there mucking about.

Tortilla or Spanish Omelet6 extra large eggs

6 smallish potatoes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion (if you want)
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°. Break the eggs into a bowl and beat them together. Set them aside. (You are doing this now because they should be at room-temperature.)

Wash your potatoes - they should each be a bit larger than the eggs, perhaps up to twice as large - and put them in a pot with water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Drain them, and cool them enough to handle. Cut them in cubes of about 1 centimetre.

Heat the oil in a large skillet that can go into the oven, over medium heat. Add the potatoes and cook them for 10 minutes, turning them regularly. They should not get brown really, but they should be cooked through. While you are doing that, peel and finely chop the onion. Add it after the 10 minutes and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes, until the onion is soft, stirring more frequently to prevent the onion from browning.

If the potatoes seem to be swimming in oil, drain most of it off, but I'm afraid you will find that most of it has been absorbed and the potatoes are merely greasy. Such is life. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper to taste, and arrange the potatoes to lie as flat in the pan as you can.

Turn off the stove, and pour the eggs evenly over and around the potatoes. Stick down any potatoes that are inclined to break too far above the surface. Remove the pan to the oven, and bake it for, say, 6 to 8 minutes. Watch it closely after 5 minutes. It should be mostly but not entirely set in the middle when you remove it, as it will continue to cook for a few minutes once it is out of the oven.

When it is cool enough to handle, flip it out onto a large platter. Serve it warm (not hot) or at room temperature. This can be made a day in advance; refrigerate it but bring it back up to room temperature to serve it.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Apple Batter Pudding

Well here is a classic of Anglo-Canadian cooking. I think some version of this pudding was in every Canadian cookbook published up to about 1960. This is probably the first real dish I ever made (I do not count my "Easy-Bake Oven" cakes when I was 7!) By the time I was in my teens I had made this so many times I no longer measured anything but the baking powder. It always came out; sometimes it was moister, or drier, or denser, or fluffier, but it was never ever bad.

I have made some changes over the years; I have cut back the sugar a little, I have switched to whole wheat flour, and I have spiced up the apples a bit.

This was not meant as a fancy-schmancy dinner party dessert; this was meant to fill up the corners at a family dinner, and so it was economical with the butter and eggs, and heavy on the inexpensive flour, milk and apples. It makes a good finish to a meal of soup. Nevertheless, if I had to choose between some rich and elegant chocolate cake and a nice bowl of Apple Batter Pudding with a little cream, I doubt I would hesitate*. Pass the pudd! And oh yeah, I suppose I should confess that what you are looking at in the pictures below is a double batch, made in my largest lasagne pan. That way there's sure to be lots left over for breakfast.

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

Apple Batter Pudding

Apple Batter Pudding2 cups soft whole wheat flour (I used spelt)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 extra large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk

6 medium-large apples
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Mix the baking powder and salt into the flour and set aside.

Cream the butter and beat in the sugar, then the egg and the vanilla. Set that aside.

Butter a large, shallow casserole dish, such as a small lasagne pan. Peel and core the apples, and cut them in slices. Toss them in the casserole with the 2 tablespoons of sugar and the spices. By the way, I don't think it does the pudding any harm to interpret "6 medium-large" apples very liberally for both "6" and "medium-large".

Go back to the butter and sugar mixture, and mix the flour and milk into it, half of each at a time in alternate batches. Scrape the batter out of the pan and over the apples, and spread it evenly to the edges of the pan.

Bake for 30 to 45 minutes. (My double batch took nearly an hour. The time is somewhat variable, as it will depend very much on how deep your dish is. Once you have made it a few times you should have a good idea of how long yours will take.)

Serve warm ideally, with a little cream - not whipping cream, just a little coffee cream poured over. Rich milk will do.

*Oh yeah, right. There would be some serious dithering going on.