Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Cape Breton Scones

Yeah, yeah. I know... Cape Breton isn't in Ontario. Still, I've been making these for closer to 40 years than I like to think about. They are one of the first things I ever baked. I got the recipe from my grandmother, who was from Pictou rather than Cape Breton, but these are the real deal nevertheless. Nova Scotian cooking uses a lot of brown sugar and molasses, which came up from the Caribbean in exchange for salt cod.

You can make these with spelt flour if you like. Use a slightly skimpy amount of spelt flour, by a tablespoon say, and the same of extra milk, or they may come out a little dry.

Lovely with butter and jam, and a nice big pot of tea. Bliss, in fact.

Note Added 20/10/17: I found this recipe while going through Dad's old cook book, and in fact they didn't come directly from Grandma, but are ascribed to Mrs. Robinson of Englishtown, N.S. (north of Sydney, on the coast, so yes, definitely from Cape Breton.)

10 to 12 scones
30 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Cape Breton Scones with Homemade Raspberry Currant Jam1 1/2 cups soft whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups soft unbleached wheat flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup Sucanat or dark brown sugar
1 extra-large egg
3/4 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper.

Sift or gently mix together the flours, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Cream the butter. Beat in the brown sugar, then the egg. Mix the flour into the butter mixture alternately with the milk to make a soft, biscuit-like dough.

Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Pat each section of the dough out to about 1 inch thick on a floured board, and form it into a neat circle. Cut it into 6 wedges, and put each wedge on the parchment paper-lined baking tray. (Or you could just lightly grease and flour the tray if you prefer.) Repeat with the other section of dough.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown and just firm.

I have gotten lazy in my old age and tend to use a disher to scoop them out (like a slightly small ice-cream scoop.) This makes a round scone, obviously, and I tend to get 11 of them.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

A Visit to Golden Hearth Baking Co.

On Saturday, we popped into Golden Hearth Baking in downtown Kitchener. They are located directly opposite the Kitchener Farmer's Market, and have been open there for 1 year as of March.



Golden Hearth Baking in KitchenerWe arrived around 2:00 pm, and found that they were down to their last half dozen loaves of bread, and just a few of their croissants and other pastries.

A List of Breads Made at Golden Hearth BakingI'll retype that list of breads that they sell - Epi, Olive Fougasse, Pain Levain, Rosemary Focaccia, Schiacciata con l'uva, Classic French Brioche, Whole Wheat Multigrain, Organic Whole Grain Spelt, Whole Wheat Rye, Flax Raisin Walnut, and 90% Dark Rye. They make 300 to 400 loaves every Saturday as well as 500 croissants - but you should still get there before noon as they do sell out. On Saturdays they open at 7:00 am to run concurrently with the Farmers Market.

Aura Hertzog of Golden Hearth BakingThe bakery is run by Aura Hertzog and her partner Tim Simpson. They are both graduates of George Brown College, and returned to the area after a number of years away to be closer to relatives. They purchased an old pizzeria that came equiped with ovens, so that their only other major purchase was equipment for the production of croissants.

Their croissants, by the way, are excellent - the perfect balance of butter and flakiness. Their pain au chocolat was full of rich dark chocolate, and their almond croissants very flavourful. We went away with a few other pastries as well, but I wasn't quick enough on my feet and didn't get to try them. I can report, however, that they were consumed with enthusiasm.

In addition to their baked goods, they have a small but interesting selection of jams, juices, flours, and other bits and pieces.

The baking area at the back of the shop.

Their pain levain; the only bread they had left by the time we arrived, which was fine with us as that's a very popular loaf in this household. It's a nice bubbly, chewy sourdough loaf with a delicate but definite tang; it would make very good sandwiches. As mentioned, we also got some of their croissants and other pastries, but those did not last long enough to be photographed.

At Golden Hearth they use a mixture of organic and conventional flours; both from local sources. I'm looking forward to visiting them again!

Monday, 25 February 2008

Glazed Rutabaga & Apricots

I really like these a lot. Maybe this summer I can get a food dryer; then the dried apricots can be local too.

4 servings
45 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Glazed Rutabaga and Apricots
4 cups peeled, diced rutabaga
12 dried apricots
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons Sucanat or dark brown sugar

Peel and dice the rutabaga, being careful to keep the cubes as even in size as possible. Put them in a pot with water to just cover, and cook them until just tender.

Meanwhile, cut the apricots into quarters. When the rutabaga is just done, throw the apricots into the pot for one minute to plump them up a little.

Drain the rutabaga and apricots. Put the butter and sugar into the pan and add the rutabaga back in. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently until the rutabaga and apricots are glazed; about 3 or 4 minutes.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Sauerkraut & Onion Smothered Pot Roast

Use any of the usual suspects for this pot roast: chuck roast, blade roast, brisket, rump or round roast. This is good the day it is made; but it is even better heated up the next day. Very, very simple. The main point is to get the zing from the sauerkraut/brine just right, so check before you add and adjust the proportions if necessary.

4 to 6 servings
2 1/2 hours - 15 minutes prep time

Sauerkraut and Onion Pot Roast1 beef pot roast, 1.5 to 2 kilos (3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pounds)
2 large onions
2 cups drained sauerkraut
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup brine from the sauerkraut, or pickle juice or mild vinegar
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Plonk the roast in a reasonably snug, deep roasting dish, and add the onions, peeled and chopped, and the sauerkraut. Add the water and brine or vinegar. Season with salt and generously with pepper. (You will need to have some idea how salty your brine is before you add any more; test it.)

Cover the dish with a lid if the dish has one, or aluminum foil if it doesn't. Roast for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is tender.

As noted, this is best made in advance and re-heated the next day.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Sour Cream Fruit Crumble Pie

I had 6 great-aunts on my mothers side of the family, and all of them were keen cooks. This recipe came from my great-aunt Alethea, who was really much more like a grandmother to me. She and Uncle George had a big old white frame house in Quebec, with raspberries and cows out back and it was the best house in the world. All long gone, alas; aunt, uncle, cows and house.

Well, tempus fugit; have some pie. We still have the pie.

Aunt Alethea made this with a mixture of rhubarb and strawberries. I prefer straight rhubarb. I have also made it with sour cherries or cranberries; they're both good. Currants or gooseberries would work if you don't mind the seeds. You do want fruit that is naturally fairly sour, to counterbalance the richness and sweetness of the rest of the pie.

6 to 8 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time

Sour Cream Fruit Crumble PieOops; collapsed a little when I cut it. I should have left it to cool longer...

Sour Cream Rhubarb Crumble Piesingle pie crust for 9" pie pan

4 cups finely chopped rhubarb or other sour fruit

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup Sucanat or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup butter

3 extra-large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 tablespoons sugar

Prepare the pie crust, roll it out and fit it to your pie plate, and prick it all over with a fork. Bake it at 400°F for 10 minutes, until very lightly browned.

Meanwhile, trim the rhubarb and chop it finely.

Mix the sugar, flour and sour cream. The mixture should be fairly thick, but not too thick to flow a little. Depending on your sour cream, you may need to add a spoonful or so more.

Let the pie crust cool enough to handle, then fill it with the rhubarb. Spread the sour cream mixture evenly over the rhubarb.

Mix the flour, Sucanat or brown sugar and butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the crumbs over the top of the pie. Bake the pie at 400°F for 40 minutes, until the crumbs are browned.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Into the Wayback Machine - February 21st, 1962 - Part 2

Read it and weep... of course, remember you'd be buying it with 1962 wages as well...

Weekly Specials Mentioned in an Article by Peggy Murray

"Ontario forced rhubarb, grown indoors in the dark at about 55° to make it long and pale pink. Best known brands (sic) are called Sutton Seedless and Victoria.They are widely grown but most Toronto crops come from Holland Marsh, Peel County and Burlington. Rhubarb used to be marketed in rolled-up newspapers but now comes handsomely put up in cartons and many stores divide it into pound packs neatly done in clear wrap. Prices vary around 21 to 29 cents a pound slightly up from last week."

"There are few economy priced items on the market this week.Turnips, carrots and parsnips are about the best for slim budgets. Ontario grown carrots are 25 cents for a three-pound bag."

"Broccoli is 29 cents a bunch and there is a fair supply of fresh. Asparagus on the market selling at about 39 cents for 1/2 pound."

"Salads always give a bright, fresh taste to winter dinners -- Here are some prices. Imported radishes and green onions are specially priced at three bunches for 25 cents but lettuce is at regular prices, about two heads for 39 cents."

"Tiny cherry tomatoes sell at 35 cents a pint and large vine ripe tomatoes are 35 cents a pound. Tomatoes from the Canary Islands (think tropics and forget the weather) sell at 39 cents a pound. Celery is up to 23 cents a bunch."

"In the fruit line you will find ruby red grapefruit selling at four for 39 cents and large size navel oranges at 69 cents a dozen."

"There's one special on those long Idaho-type potatoes -- Russet Burbank potatoes are selling at 39 cents for 10 pounds."

"Chicken is on again at an exceptionally low price -- 25 cents each for grade A birds up to 3 1/2 lbs dressed. Pre-dressed fresh grade A turkey broilers are selling at 39 cents a pound."

"This week one chain store has prime rib roasts of beek at 69 cents a pound, blade roasts at 49 cents a pound, short rib roasts at 57 cents a pound, cross rib roasts at 59 cents a pound and boneless and rolled beef brisket for pot roasts at 45 cents a pound. Lean minced beef is selling at 41 cents a pound."

"There is always some interesting fish news on the market and this week it's Lake Nipigon whitefish selling at 39 cents. There's frozen codfish at 33 cents a pound pack and halibut steaks at 55 cents for a 12-oz pack."

"Polish sausage is specially priced at 49 cents a pound."

And a few more random sales items from the ads:

You could get 2 11-ounce bottles of Heinz ketchup for .49¢, or for the same price you could get 4 tins of Heinz tomato soup, or 3 tins of Heinz vegetarian baked beans or Heinz spaghetti in tomato sauce. A 16-ounce jar of bread and butter pickles would set you back .27¢.

Jane Parker angel food cake was on sale for .39¢ down from the usual .55¢. Blueberry pie was.53¢ instead of .69¢. And Vienna bread was .19¢ a loaf instead of the regular .25¢.

Here's one of the few convenience food items listed: 2 1-pound packs of Sea Seald Fish 'n' Chips would cost you .89¢ on sale from .98¢.

Bananas were .29¢ for 2 pounds; Ontario Delicious (gag, shudder) apples were .39¢ for a 3 pound bag. Florida oranges were .59¢ for a 5 pound bag. All other fruit was frozen or tinned - there was plenty of tinned.

Texas spinach was .19¢ for a 10 ounce bag. It was the only fresh green vegetable mentioned in the ads I saw; everything else was tinned or frozen.

Most meats were in the range of .39¢ to .59¢ per pound, including imported lamb. Bacon was .59¢ per pound. Corned beef brisket was expensive, at .79¢ per pound.

Many of the specials, then as now, were brand name items. However, most of it was in tins or bottles, with a few frozen items and baked goods. Apart from that, there were none of what we would now consider convenience foods. I miss those days for that. It seems like nowadays practically the only things that go on sale are over-priced, over-advertised, over-processed brand name products that I would never buy anyway.

To compare these prices to modern ones, albeit fairly crudely, I suggest you just shift the decimal. That is, think of those meats as running from $3.90 to $5.90 per pound. That would make bread $1.90 for a loaf, and that blueberry pie $5.30. Hmm, these prices still seem a little low. This would have been correct just a few years ago, but inflation does march on. Still, using this method, I can see that bananas and apples are cheaper now than they used to be, relatively speaking, and oranges are much cheaper. Vegetables in general are also cheaper now - broccoli occasionally hits the $2.90 mark, but rarely. And $7.80 for a pound of asparagus! $2.30 is about right for winter celery, but $2.00 for a head of lettuce? Well, maybe, I suppose. Potatoes at $3.90 for a 10 pound bag seem fairly dear. No doubt they have come down in price as they have ceased to be such a universal staple.

Actually, when I think about it, I think prices when I was a teenager where probably more in the "shift the decimal" range. This was over ten years earlier, so these prices would have represented an even bigger chunk out of peoples' budgets. Food really is a lot cheaper than it used to be. Which sounds like it should be good news, but it's had some dismaying side-effects as well. But that's a whole 'nother post...

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Into the Wayback Machine - February 21st, 1962 - Part 1

A few years back, we were renovating some townhouses. In one of them, when we removed the baseboards to allow for re-wiring, we discovered that a large number of newspaper sheets had been pushed underneath, presumably to stop the drafts. They were dated February, 1962. Must have been a cold and windy one!

One of the pages was from the Wednesday food section of the Toronto Telegram. I took some notes from it, although the paper itself was too brittle to be worth keeping. I thought I would share some of the tidbits from that date...

Louise Moore had an article which included the following menus for a week:

Sunday

Sweet Pickled Shoulder of Pork
Parsley Potatoes
Buttered Cabbage
Harvard Beets
Sliced Tomatoes with French Dressing

Apple Whip with Ice-Box Cookies

Monday

Liver with Onion Gravy
Green Lima Beans
Tossed Salad
Hot Biscuits

Raisin Rice Pudding

Tuesday

Sliced Cold Sweet Pickled Shoulder of Pork
Creamed Potatoes
Glazed Carrots
Cole Slaw

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Wednesday

Swiss Steak with Tomatoes
Baked Potatoes
Green Beans - Celery Hearts

Butterscotch Pie

Thursday

Hamburgers with Mushroom Gravy
Whipped Potatoes
Buttered Broccoli
Raw Vegetable Fingers

Ice Cream and Molasses Cookies

Friday

Tuna Casserole
Tossed Salad
Green Peas

Fresh Rhubarb Pie

Saturday

Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon
Mixed Green Salad
Hot Rolls

Raisin Pie with Ice Cream

Well. Wow. Times have changed... mostly for the better it has to be said. Let me comment, one day at a time:

Sunday:

As far as I can tell from Googling, sweet pickled shoulder of pork would be a kind of brined but uncured ham. The shoulder is fattier and cheaper than the hind leg; presumably this is being suggested with an eye towards keeping to a budget.

Also, I remember those bloody 1960's winter tomatoes. Three little pinkish tennis balls in a plastic coffin covered in cellophane, generally imported from Florida. Mum would insist on buying them; I really don't know why. They were spectacularly horrible. Slop that dressing on, folks.

Monday:

What the hell - was Monday "pick on picky eaters day"? I would totally eat that menu, and enjoy it too, but really, what was she thinking? Liver, lima beans and rice pudding? Of course, it was considered good nutritional form to serve liver once a week at this time. I think there's an element of let's-get-this-over-with to this menu.

Tuesday:

Why look, it's leftovers. Cold leftovers even. Of course, any self-respecting home economist of this era must emphasize the thrifty use of time and money by planning for several meals at once. All I can say is I hope this pork shoulder was boneless, because she hasn't made any plans for soup. Somewhat token effort here. I give her a C-. But presumably that pineapple cake will will make people feel happier about it all. (It would me, I admit.)

Wednesday:

Not much to say about this, except to note that there are potatoes again, and not for the last time this week. My sweetie and I have a joke about the food of this era: it was meat and two veg; one of which was guaranteed to be potatoes, and the other one of which was not guaranteed not to be potatoes. Yep. But let's give Ms Moore some credit: she's kept it down to 4 meals out of the 7, unless there's potatoes in the Tuna Casserole.

Thursday:

I'd say things are running half-local, half imported on the vegetable front; not bad for the middle of February. The meat is pretty much all local except for the tuna. Yesterdays green beans almost certainly came out of a tin, but the broccoli is probably freshish from California. Raw vegetable fingers is pretty vague. I'm assuming celery and carrots, woo-hoo. And maybe a radish or so. Again, half local and half imported. (No local celery in February, more's the pity.)

Friday:

Fish, natch. Of sorts anyway. Nothing too actually fishy. It wasn't just for Catholics; or at any rate any public or semi-public meal would include fish on Friday and lots of people were happy to partake just to get a change from everlasting beef and pork.

There's a fifty-fifty chance, I imagine, that the housewife who followed this menu used frozen peas over tinned ones. In spite of the tomato thing, Mum was reasonably discriminating about food, so I got served frozen veg much more often than tinned (in the winter) when I was growing up, even though I'm pretty sure the tinned were noticably cheaper. Not everyone would have had a fridge with a freezer compartment, and if it did have one, it would have been one of those tiny little aluminum boxes that required frequent and regular defrosting.

FRESH RHUBARB PIE! This is a thrill. (It's a thrill I've already had this year, and look for more coming up too.) Forced rhubarb was pretty widely available in February. It would have been leaped upon as the first sign of the new growing season, and would have great, zingy appeal after a few months of stored vegetables eked out with expensive imports. You can still find a bit nowadays, if you hunt, but it's not the seasonal staple it used to be.

Saturday:

Saturday, on the other hand, loses that spring-is-coming feeling, and goes back to good, filling winter stodge. Realistically, it must be admitted.

Overall:

From the time home economics was invented around the turn of the previous century, papers and magazines ran sample menus all the time. Presumably the thought was that mere housewives couldn't be trusted to figure out what to eat themselves, or at least not to come up with menus that combined economy and nutrition (according to the lights of the day). Really though, I don't think I know anyone who actually paid any attention to these menus, even though they do give a pretty good general idea of what many people were eating back then. Both my parents had been brought up on the meat and two veg one-of-which-was guaranteed-to-be-potatoes principle, and were not much inclined to serve them all that often. I got a lot more rice and pasta than I did potatoes, with the result that I now regard potatoes as a bit of a treat. But I think that was unusual.

It's noticeable that there was no chicken or any other poultry in this menu, which is now eaten a lot more than beef or pork, I would think.

I also sure didn't get dessert every day, never mind three pies in one week! Actually, I notice this series of menus is artfully poised between the make-everything-from-scratch era, and the convenience food era. Baked goods were the first foods to become regularly bought ready-made instead of being made at home. This menu includes lots of things that could be made at home by the budget-conscious, or purchased if preferred: cookies, biscuits - the cake would probably be home-made since it's an easy recipe and I've rarely seen it for sale - rolls, and of course those three pies. You could buy your Swiss steak ready beaten and formed, instead of having to do it yourself, and maybe even the hamburger patties if you were really decadent.

The one thing that does get a sigh of nostalgia out of me is the apple whip. Mum used to make prune whip with custard once in while and I loved that stuff. I'll have to see if I can make some apple whip.

Tomorrow: A look at the ads, and a "Market Report".

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Turkish Kofta (Lamb Meatballs)

This is so much my favourite thing to do with ground lamb that I hardly ever do anything else with it, and since we buy an entire lamb each year, we do get a fair amount. I would totally cook these on a grill outside if I had one, which I don't, and if it wasn't February, which it is. Nevermind. Still delicious.

8 patties or 36 meatballs - 4 servings
20 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

Turkish Lamb Kofta (Meatballs)1 cup fine fresh breadcrumbs
2 cloves of garlic
3 to 4 tablespoons minced parsley
1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint
OR 1 teaspoon dried mint
450 grams (1 pound) lean ground lamb
1 extra-large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
1/2 teaspoon allspice berries, crushed
1 teaspoon cumin seed, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil

You will need the food processor for this one. Start by making crumbs by breaking up 2 stale but not totally dried out slices of bread into the bowl of the food processor, and process to crumbs.

Add the garlic, mint (if fresh) and parsley, and process until fairly well chopped.

Add the remaining ingredients, except for the oil, and process until everything is well blended.

Roll the mixture into small meatballs. I use my melonballer for this. Alternatively, you can form them into 8 equal finger-shaped patties. This is a traditional shape because they would have been formed around skewers and cooked over a grill. It's a good idea if you can do it; otherwise heat the oil in a large skillet and cook the meatballs or patties until cooked through and evenly browned. Stir or turn them as needed. Remove them with a slotted spoon to drain.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Three Sauerkraut Salads

Sauerkraut is a very versatile ingredient, being good hot or cold, plain or mixed with other ingredients be they meat or vegetable. And of course, there's always sticking your head into the fridge and forking it directly from the jar into your mouth. Yum.

I was lucky to be given a nice large jar of homemade sauerkraut this year, since I didn't make any. I hope to make some next fall; it's on my to-do list. If you are not so lucky and must buy sauerkraut, be sure to buy it either sealed in a plastic bag or in a glass jar. Don't get it in a tin (which I don't believe will be local anyway) unless you are particularly fond of the taste of metal.

You may or may not wish to rinse and drain the sauerkraut before you use it. It will depend on how briney it is; taste a little and see what you think before you start.

4 servings
15 minutes prep time for any one

Sauerkraut and Sprout Salad
Kraut & Sprout Salad:

1/2 cup sauerkraut
1/4 cup mung bean sprouts
1/4 cup broccoli sprouts
1/4 cup alfalfa sprouts

Raspberry Apple-Butter Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon apple butter
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons hazelnut, almond or walnut oil
3 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

Mix the sauerkraut and sprouts together, and toss gently in a little of the vinaigrette. I find it easiest to do it with a fork, gently teasing the sprouts apart. They do want to clump, especially the broccoli sprouts. Actually, before I use the broccoli sprouts I trim off the roots, which are a disconcerting shade of grey and tend to form a fairly impenetrable mass. The salad dressing is more than you will need, but it will keep well for a few days in the fridge and is a great dressing whenever you want a touch of fruity sweetness in a salad. Apply it with a light touch or the sprouts will be overwhelmed.

Sauerkraut Salad with Apple and Cabbage
Apple & Cabbage Sauerkraut Salad:

1 leaf red cabbage
2 leaves green cabbage
1 large apple
1 cup sauerkraut
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sunflower seed oil

Wash the cabbage leaves and shred them finely. Wash and grate the apple, including the skin. Mix the cabbages, apple and sauerkraut. Sprinkle over the sugar, vinegar and oil, and toss gently.

Sauerkraut Salad with Carrots and Parsley
Sauerkraut, Carrot & Parsley Salad

1 large carrot
1 cup sauerkraut
1/4 cup minced parsley
2 tablespoons sauerkraut or pickle brine
1/8 teaspoon celery seed, ground
2 tablespoons sunflower seed oil
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds

Peel and grate the carrot. Mince the parsley. Mix the carrot, sauerkraut and parsley and toss with the brine, celery seed and oil. Serve with the sunflower seeds sprinkled over the top.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Rhubarb Meringue Pie

Here's a light and lovely springtime treat. Too bad we have had freezing rain all day and the parking lot is like a skating rink. Oh well, I will just have to close my eyes and dream.

6 to 8 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time

Rhubarb Meringue PiePies always look lovely before you actually cut them, don't they? After that it's touch-and-go. The filling here is a bit inclined to ooze, but better that than too thick and gummy. But it doesn't make it particularly photogenic.

Rhubarb Meringue Pie
single pie crust for 9" pie pan

4 cups finely chopped rhubarb
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 cup water
pinch of salt

1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup water
3 extra-large egg yolks

3 extra-large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 tablespoons sugar

Prepare the pie crust, roll it out and fit it to your pie plate, and prick it all over with a fork. Bake it at 400°F for 10 minutes, until very lightly browned. Reduce the heat to 350°F.

Meanwhile, trim the rhubarb and chop it finely. Put it in a large pot with the sugar, the nutmeg, the 1/4 cup of water and salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer, stirring frequently, until it is tender and starts to disintegrate.

Mix the flour and remaining water to a smooth paste in a bowl, then beat in the egg yolks. Remove the pan of rhubarb from the stove, and begin mixing small amounts of rhubarb into the egg yolk mixture. When it is about half rhubarb, begin stirring the egg mixture back into the pot of rhubarb, a spoonful at a time. When it is all in, return the pot to the stove and continue cooking it over medium-low heat, until thickened. This will take seconds rather than minutes - don't overdo it.

Allow both the pie crust and the filling to cool somewhat. However, while they are both still warm, spread the filling into the pie crust.

Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar and sugar until very stiff. Spread the meringue over the pie. Bake the pie at 350°F for 10 to 12 minutes, until the meringue is golden brown. Let cool completely before serving.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Blueberry-Pear Frappé

Sometimes simple things are the best. Here's a little bit of last summers' sunshine that's been waiting in the freezer for me.

1 to 4 servings; it depends, eh? Are you willing to share?
5 minutes prep time

Blueberry Pear Frappe2 cups frozen blueberries
2 cups canned pears in light syrup; about half and half pear to syrup

Put the blueberries and pears in syrup in a blender. Blend thoroughly. Add a little water to thin if necessary. Taste and adjust the proportions if you like. Pour into nice glasses and serve with a straw.

You can substitute pear nectar for the canned pears if you like. It's sad but true; both of these are now likely to be imported. Why? I guess I will start canning some pear nectar myself next fall.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Curried Lamb Ribs

Let me be frank: lamb ribs are kind of a pain. You will note that I am calling for 4 pounds of ribs to make 4 servings. That's because the ribs are at least two-thirds fat and bone. However, you buy a lamb; you get lamb ribs. That's just how it goes.

I've tried a number of things with them, but once I came up with this recipe, it's pretty much what I've done with them ever since. I tried a number of barbecue sauce type experiments first, and the results of those can be summed up in one word: don't. Lamb and barbecue sauce just don't go together. Curry though, curry is classic. And with good reason. I like this better made with yogurt, but I made it with tomatoes because thanks to the grip on this household by the evil viruses of doom, I have not been shopping and no yogurt could be found lurking in the fridge.

If you don't have lamb ribs, you can use stewing lamb. I would use 2 pounds if it has the bones in, 1 pound if boneless. No need to cook it in advance. Just brown it with the onions, and use water instead of broth.

4 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 30 minutes prep time; but start the day before.

Curried Lamb RibsSpice Mix:
1 tablespoon fennel seed
2 teaspoons cumin seed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Curry:
4 pounds lamb ribs
2 large onions
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 cups lamb broth
2 cups (450 ml) yogurt or crushed tomatoes

Put the lamb ribs in a pot with about 3 cups of water. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender, about 30 minutes to an hour. Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove the fat from the broth, and as much fat as possible from each strip of ribs. Cut the strips of ribs into individual pieces. Discard the fat.

Mix the spices and set them aside.

Sauté the onions in the oil over low heat, in a very large skillet, until soft and cooked down quite a bit. Add the rib pieces, turn up the heat, and heat through. Add the grated ginger and the mixed spices. When well mixed in, add the lamb broth (from cooking the ribs) and the yogurt or tomatoes. Reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid sticking, until the sauce is thick and coats the meat, and the meat is starting to fall off the bones.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Ugh. Make That Double-Ugh.

If anyone is thinking the posts have been sparse around here lately, I can only say that you're right.

I'm pretty much over my flu. That's the good news. The bad news is my Sweetie now has it, along with extreme chest congestion and coughing, which we originally thought were part of the flu combined with an asthma attack. However, I'm getting the chest thing too, which suggests that it is in fact yet another bloody virus. So I'm afraid it will be a little while before I have anything more exciting than oatmeal to post about.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Stir Fried Beef & Cabbage with Shiitakes

Local dried shiitakes are hard to find, although fresh ones are quite common. You can replace the dried shiitakes with fresh ones; use about a cup of water in place of the soaking liquid and sauté fresh shiitakes with the meat.

The oyster sauce and ketchup combination may sound odd, but it is a good one. I came up with it once when the fridge was very empty, and have used it regularly ever since. Homemade ketchup is better, since it is less salty. Also be sure to use a good quality oyster sauce.

4 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Stir Fried Beef and Cabbage with Shiitakes450 grams (1 pound) round steak
1/4 cup premium oyster sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
8 to 16 small dried shiitake mushrooms
4 to 5 cups shredded green cabbage
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

The meat is easiest to cut up if it is semi-frozen; either put it in the freezer for a while if it is fresh or catch it at a semi-frozen state if you are thawing it out. At any rate, cut it into thin (less than a quarter of an inch wide) strips and marinate it in the oyster sauce and ketchup for about an hour.

Put the shiitakes in a pot with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Remove them from the heat and soak, covered, for about an hour. Remove them from the water and cut off and discard the stems. Keep the soaking liquid.

Wash and shred the cabbage.

About 10 minutes before you want to serve up, heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the cabbage and about a third of a cup of water. Cook, stirring contantly, until the cabbage is softened and the water has evaporated; about 3 or 4 minutes. Remove the cabbage to a serving plate.

Put the soaking water from the shiitakes into the skillet, and reduce it until it just covers the bottom of the pan. Add the meat and marinade. Sauté, stirring constantly, until the meat is done and the sauce is thick. Stir in the cabbage and heat through.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Rhubarb! Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb!

Forced Winter RhubarbAs far as I can tell, forced rhubarb is the very first seasonal produce of the year. Up to now, it's been stored foods from last year, or things that get produced in greenhouses pretty much all year round, such as tomatoes, mushrooms, cukes and sprouts. Whether I have Sutton or Victoria I could not tell you - as far as I can see, distinctions in rhubarb varieties are of more concern to the gardener than the cook.

Rhubarb roots are dug up in the late fall, then forced in the dark. Foodland Ontario claims it's available in January, but I don't think I've ever seen it before February. At any rate, it's here now.

Forced rhubarb is noticably milder than field rhubarb; it's generally a paler, more delicate pink and you may need a bit less sugar than otherwise called for. It's usually sold without the leaves, but if it has leaves, they will be pale and yellowish due to being grown without light. As with field rhubarb, the leaves should be discarded as they are toxic.

I think a lot of people think of rhubarb as being somewhat old-fashioned, but it's really quite a modern vegetable*. Until the late 18th century it was used only as a medicine, then it became popular as a food, particularly pie to the point that it was often known as "pie plant". It has an affinity for cream and custard, and can be mixed with apples at this time of year or strawberries and other berries later in the spring. It comes originally from central Asia, and there are a number of Persian dishes than combine it with lamb. I really like it simply stewed with a little sugar and served as a spring tonic, although I wouldn't say no to a slice of my Aunt Alethea's sour cream rhubarb crumble pie either. Recipe will no doubt follow at some point this spring. In the mean time, I'll remind you of this recipe, which would work very well with rhubarb, although you should check the sugar - you might want a bit more than with the strawberries.



*It's sort of the anti-tomato; being a vegetable used like a fruit.




Rhubarb on Foodista

Friday, 8 February 2008

Red Fife Whole Wheat Bread

For the last 3 years I have avoided eating wheat whenever possible, ever since I discovered that the red spots that plagued my complexion were not acne as I had always thought, but more like little red, scabby holes in my face which would appear a day to three days after I ate wheat products. Delightfully elegant and itchy to boot. Then, in the summer of 2007, we spent several months in Europe, eating large amounts of wheat daily, and I had no problems whatsoever. So - and this is particularly galling to someone dedicated to eating local food - my problem was with Canadian wheat specifically.

I thought I had tested organic flour earlier, but perhaps not scientifically enough. I'm giving it another try. When I was at The 100-Mile Market in Meaford, I bought some Red Fife wheat flour to test out. Here's my first attempt at baking with it.

I heard from several sources that Red Fife flour can be hard to work with. Organic flours in general don't have the dough conditioners that make regular commercial flour rise so well and consistently (but hopefully they also don't have the cause of my rash) so it is helpful to add something to help them out. Vitamin C powder is one thing you can use. You can find it at Bulk Barn, and also the gluten flour. I didn't actually use gluten flour; I used a little European white bread flour because I don't trust non-organic gluten flour. As long as you don't have my problem, you should use the gluten flour. It will have more of a kick.

Mixing Whole Wheat Bread DoughFirst I mixed a fairly moist dough, then kneaded in quite a lot of flour. I find this easier than trying to mix in most of the flour at the start.

The Kneaded Whole Wheat Bread DoughHere is the kneaded dough. It should be smooth, a little glossy, and elastic. When you give it a poke, it should spring back fairly quickly. This was enough dough to make two loaves of bread.

The Whole Wheat Bread Dough Punched Down and FormedAfter it rose once, I punched it down, and formed it into a loaf.

The Risen Whole Wheat Bread DoughI covered it and left it to rise overnight in our fairly cool kitchen. (The thermometer said 15°C in the morning.)

The Baked Whole Wheat BreadIt did not rise any more in the oven, which surprised me a little. The final result was a dense but not heavy loaf with a hearty, nutty flavour. I've still got the dough for the other loaf of bread sealed up in the fridge. I will probably bake it on Saturday morning.

2 loaves of bread
1 or 2 days - 30 minutes prep time

2 cups water
1/4 cup sunflower seed oil
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon yeast

1/4 cup gluten flour
2/3 cup ground flax meal
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vitamin C powder
4 cups organic whole wheat flour

1 to 2 cups organic whole wheat flour

Heat the water until it is quite warm to the touch. Add the sunflower oil and honey, and stir until the honey is dissolved. Sprinkle the yeast over it and let it sit for 10 minutes or so until it is dissolved and foamy.

Meanwhile, mix all the remaining ingredients except the last 1 to 2 cups of flour.

Pour the yeast mixture into the flour mixture and stir until they are well amalgamated.

Spread 1 cup of flour on a clean board or counter. Turn out the dough and knead it, incorparating all of the flour. When it is absorbed, put some more flour out and continue kneading until the dough is smooth, elastic and not too sticky. Keep adding flour until this is achieved.

Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and brush them with sunflower seed oil all over. One or both may be put in a covered container with space to expand, and kept in the fridge for several days. Otherwise, put them in bowls, cover them, and let rise until doubled in volume.

Press the dough to release much of the accumulated gases and return it to its original size. Shape it into a loaf, and put it in an oiled loaf pan. Cover and let rise until doubled or tripled in volume. As I said, I left mine out overnight in my cool kitchen and it worked very well.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the bread for 30 to 35 minutes, until done. (You will get a nice hollow sound when you tap on it, or you can test it with a toothpick.) Turn it out of the pan and let it cool.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Chile con Carne

Chile for when it's chilly! Which it certainly has been... I think we got snow, rain, freezing rain, sleet and ice pellets at various times yesterday. We went out in the evening and it was spitting down a combination of rain AND ice pellets at the same time; a new one on me. We were very happy to be full of nice warm chile (or chili, if you prefer.)

I originally put sweet Hungarian paprika in my chile when I needed to make a batch for some people who really don't like spicy food. I was eating it too, though, so I insisted it get SOME flavour SOME where. The paprika really did the trick and since then I always add some even if I am adding a lot more in the way of heat.


6 servings
1 1/2 hours to 2 days - 30 minutes prep time

Chili or Chile con Carne3 cups (1 1/2 pounds, 700 grams) dried kidney beans
OR 3 540-ml (19 ounce) tins of kidney beans

1 800 ml (28 ounce) tin crushed tomatoes
1/3 cup tomato ketchup
1 large onion
4 stalks of celery
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
500 grams (1 pound) stewing beef or ground beef
1 to 3 tablespoons chile powder
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
salt

If starting with dried beans, put them in a large pot with plenty of water to cover. Bring them to a boil, then turn off the heat and let them soak overnight. The next day, drain off the water and cover them with fresh water. Bring them to a boil, then turn off the heat and continue to let them soak. Every hour or so turn on the heat and bring them to a boil again. Give them a good stir. After 2 to 4 times, they should be cooked. This is a slow system compared to cooking them all at once at a simmer, but I like it because I am so much less likely to burn them. Beans burn easily if you don't remember to stir them while they are cooking, and I do forget, all the time. When you are ready to proceed, drain off enough of the cooking water that you can just glimpse some down amongst the beans.

If you are starting with canned beans, I suggest using three different kinds - I like white pea (navy) beans, red kidney beans and black beans, which give a nice colour mixture to the chile. Drain and rinse the beans and put them in your large pot.

Add the tomatoes and ketchup to the beans, and turn the heat on to medium-low.

Peel and chop the onion and wash and chop the celery. Sauté them in the oil and add them to the beans. Next brown the meat in the still-oily pan. When it is nearly done, add the seasonings and mix them in well. I find I need to add some salt, but be careful and remember that most premixed chile powders do contain quite a bit of salt already.

Add the meat to the beans and simmer until the meat is tender, about half an hour to 1 hour. Stir frequently. Like a lot of bean dishes, I find this to be better when re-heated the next day.

Corn Pudding

I came up with this soft version of cornbread when I was avoiding eating wheat. (I am now experimenting with eating certain kinds... stay tuned.) If you have masa harina (tortilla flour) and arepa meal you can replace the corn flour with them, half and half. Both of these can be found at just about any South or Central American specialty store; they won't be local and they will make a firmer pudding, more like a corn bread.

A word about corn flour for British readers: what you call corn flour is what North Americans call corn starch. It is NOT the same thing. Corn flour in this case, mean just that: dried corn that has been finely ground and more-or-less sifted for the bran. That's pretty much it. Corn starch has had God-only-knows-what done to it in some mysterious industrial process, so that it is a pure starch without identifying features, fit only for thickening sauces and puddings where you don't actually want to add any flavour. Corn flour should look like corn (creamy white to yellow) and smell like corn.

4 servings
1 hour - 10 minutes prep time

Corn Pudding or Bread1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup corn flour
1/4 cup corn meal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 398-ml (14 ounce) tin of creamed corn
1/2 to 1 cup frozen corn, thawed (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put the butter in a shallow 1.2 litre (5 cup) baking dish, and put it in the oven until it melts.

Meanwhile, mix the corn flour, corn meal, salt and baking powder. Dump the creamed corn in on top, but don't mix it yet.

When the butter has melted swish it gently up the sides of dish to grease them, then pour it in with the creamed corn. Mix briefly but until there are no more dry ingredients visible. Mix in the corn, if you are using it.

Put the batter in the buttered baking dish - be careful, it may still be hot - and spread it out evenly. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until it test done (i.e. a toothpick stuck into the middle comes out clean.) If you forget to thaw your corn before you start it may take longer to bake. Also, this is not quite as firm as cornbread, so it will be quite moist.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

I have had the flu for most of this week, and have been eating an exciting (not!) diet of oatmeal, brown rice, pasta, and Ovaltine. And not that much of anything but the Ovaltine. Today I am feeling much better however, and had a craving for something green and crunchy. Hmm... spring rolls.

They are really quite easy to make (once you have made a few and get the feel for them) although somewhat time-consuming. They can be made several hours in advance; keep them cool and covered with a clean, dampish tea towel until wanted.

I made very simple ones, with just noodles and a salady assortment of veggies. You can add little strips of cooked pork, beef, chicken, fish or tofu if you like. These are a great way to use up bits of left-overs, and you can certainly vary the veggies according to what you have on hand. Just keep it light and salady, and be sure to add some fresh mint or basil. Cilantro is often added as well.

Edit: I wasn't thinking of it when I posted this, but of course this is yet another member of the infinitely flexible pasta family, and therefore an entry for Presto Pasta Nights at Once Upon a Feast. Check them out!

12 spring rolls (approx.)
1 hour - 1 hour prep time

Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping SaucePeanut Dipping Sauce:
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon Sucanat or dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon tamarind purée
1/2 teaspoon chile sauce
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

Dissolve the peanut butter in the boiling water, and mix in the remaining ingredients. Taste the sauce, and if any of the ingredients seem inadequately represented, add a little more.

This can be done a day ahead, if you like, and kept in the fridge. Bring it up to room temperature before using.

Spring Rolls:
3 cups mixed shredded greens, such as lettuce, cabbage, or spinach
1 or 2 tablespoons finely shredded fresh mint and/or basil
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
1 cup enoki or sliced button mushrooms
3/4 cup broccoli sprouts
3/4 cup alfalfa sprouts
etc...

50 grams (2 ounces) bean thread noodles (aka cellophane or glass noodles)
12 dry ricepaper spring roll wrappers (more or less)

Prepare the vegetables, and mix them together.

Soak the bean thread noodles in warm (tap) water until they are transparent. Cut them up with scissors, then drain them well.

Set up a large shallow bowl full of hot tap water, a plate to work on, and a platter on which to pile the finished rolls.

Immerse a rice paper sheet in the hot water. Swish it around until it is soft enough to fold without breaking, but do not oversoak it, or it will get weak, floppy, clingy, inclined to tear and hard to work with. Remove it, letting any excess water run back into the bowl. The wrapper will continue to soften for a minute or two once it is removed from the water. Lay it on the plate, and put a portion of the vegetables and noodles (i.e. about 1/12th of each), and any other fillings in a short, wide line across the bottom quadrant.

Fold the bottom of the wrapper up to cover the filling, then fold in the sides so that they are the same width as the filling all the way up. Roll up the spring roll and place it on the platter.

Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Rutabaga & Apple Curry

Rutabaga, let's face it, is not a vegetable that gets a lot of respect. Too bad; it has lots of possibilities, and we enjoyed this combination a lot.

Once when I was a teenager or perhaps in my early twenties, I ate a delicious rutabaga and onion curry at Annapurna in Toronto, which was one of the relatively new and few vegetarian restaurants around at the time. Around that time I was also starting to think seriously about my desire to eat local, seasonal food and my frequently conflicting desire to eat yummy, exotic food. And here it was; both at once! It could be done...

Since I don't have much experience at spicing curries from scratch, I tend to use a good pre-mixed curry powder*. Use your favourite curry powder, and be prepared to adjust the amount according to what you use and what level of spiciness you want. Bear in mind that you can always add a little more but once it is in, it's in.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time

Rutabaga and Apple Curry3 cups peeled, diced rutabaga
1 medium carrot
1 medium onion
3 stalks of celery
2 large apples

3 tablespoons sunflower seed oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon curry powder, more or less

Peel and dice the rutabaga, the carrot and the onion. Wash and dice the celery. Wash, core and dice the apples.

Boil the rutabaga and carrot until tender.

Meanwhile, when they are about half done (20 minutes) sauté the onion and celery in the oil, over medium low heat, until soft and translucent. Use a large skillet. Grind the coriander, cumin and black pepper and mix with the salt and curry powder. Mix into the onion and celery with the apples, and continue sautéing until the apples are soft and the onions lightly browned.

When the rutabaga and carrot are done, drain them and mash them coarsely. Mix them in with curry mixture in the skillet, and continue to cook for 5 or so minutes, until everything is well amalgamated.

Serve with steamed rice. Top with yogurt or sour cream, and toasted nuts or seeds if you like.




*I used Yeo's Malaysian curry powder for this, which is light and aromatic but packs a fair kick.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Lamb Chops with Apple Butter Glaze

Lamb has a very distinctive flavour, and it is not always easy to find ways to dress it up. I am quite taken with this sweet-sour spicy combination though, which stands up to the robust flavour of the lamb without fighting with it.

2 servings
30 minutes - 5 minutes prep, not including marinating time

Lamb Chops with Apple Butter Glaze1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons coriander seed, ground
1 teaspoon cumin seed, ground
1/4 cup apple butter
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

6 rib lamb chops

Grind and mix the spices, and mix in the apple butter and vinegar. Use the 2 tablespoons for a sweeter glaze, or 3 if you prefer a bit more of a bite.

The chops should be blotted dry if necessary. Dip them in the glaze and lay them in a shallow roasting pan. Cover them, refrigerate, and marinate for 1 to 6 hours.

Take them out of the fridge about 15 minutes before you are ready to cook them. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the roasting pan in the oven and roast the chops for 20 minutes. Remove them from the oven and let them sit for 5 minutes before serving.