Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Dad's Maple-Sherry Salad Dressing

Back when I was a teenager my father was interested enough in cooking to keep a notebook of recipe clippings and notes on what he had done right. (The things he did wrong were more-or-less quietly allowed to lapse into oblivion. Pork chops. Canned soup. Slow cooker. That's all I'm saying on that topic.) Of course, in later years I combed through this little book looking for items to put in my own notebook, although by then my "notebook" was an Excel spreadsheet.

This was a salad dressing that he made for a party, hence the rather more luxurious ingredients than go into your average salad dressing. Very nice too.

I served it on a salad of hydroponic lettuce and watercress, carrot, red cabbage and cucumber. (Yes, I picked mine out.) It takes a little looking, but you can put together an all-Ontario green salad even now.

6 to 8 servings
24 hours - 10 minutes prep time

Dads Maple Sherry Salad Dressing
1/4 cup sunflower seed oil
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons sherry
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 clove garlic, sliced
salt & pepper
1 tablespoon filtered water

Put all the above ingredients into a glass jam jar, and close it. Shake well, and let it sit for 24 hours before using. Remove the garlic at that point, and discard it. Leftover dressing will keep for a week or so in the fridge.

Best with a light salad of mixed greens.

Last year at this time I made Cabbage with Salsa.

Monday, 30 March 2009

German Celariac Salad

It's hard to give quantities for this; use whatever size piece of celeriac you think will be eaten. If you need more dressing, just make a little more... it couldn't be easier.

This recipe was adapted out of a favourite book - Heirloom Vegetable Gardening, by William Woys Weaver. Unlike other celeriac salads I have made, this one requires cooking, which allows it to soak up the dressing. The result is very simple but flavourful.

30 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

German Celeriac Salad
celeriac, peeled and cut into 1/2" or 3/4" thick pieces
hydroponic leaf lettuce

2 tablespoons sunflower seed oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
black pepper
1/4 teaspoon finely minced fresh or dry thyme

Prepare the celeriac, and put it in a pot with water to just cover. Bring to a boil and boil gently until tender, about 10 minutes, but it will depend on the size of your pieces. Keep them 1/2" to 3/4" thick though, so that they will cook on the inside before the outsides start falling apart. Rinse well in cold water and let drain. Cool enough to handle.

Whisk together the oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and thyme.

Cut the cooled celeriac into as thin strips as you can do. Toss them with the dressing, and let them sit for 5 or 10 minutes. Arrange them over the lettuce to serve.

Last year at this time I made Sour Cherry Crisp.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Miscellaneous Items From The Canadian Farm Cook Book

When you get to the end of the Canadian Farm Cook Book, there is a chapter of miscellaneous recipes. A number of them are for chocolate, tea and coffee, but there are also some non-food items, which could loosely be described as household hints. These were found in most old cook books, and they make for fascinating reading.

I'll start with the drinks though:
"COCOA. - Cocoa is a tasty drink when properly made, and one of the least injurious. For 1 cup take 2 level teaspoons of cocoa and the same quantity of sugar, stir together and add water drop by drop, stirring constantly until a smooth, even paste has been secured. The success of the drink depends largely on the care used in thus mixing the water and cocoa. Place 1/2 cup milk over fire and allow it to heat until it begins to simmer around the sides of the pan, add the cocoa and allow it to come to the boiling point. Then remove from the fire and beat vigorously for 2 or 3 minutes. This beats the air into it and removes the heaviness from the cocoa, making it a lighter and more refreshing drink. This makes 1 cup. - Miss Blanche Stone, 505 Brunswick Avenue, Toronto."
"COFFEE SECRETS. - The almost imperceptible flavour of vanilla is a great improvement to coffee; add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to coffee for 4 persons just before serving.

A pinch of salt in coffee helps to give a delicate flavor.

In France and Norway coffee is roasted fresh every morning on a covered shovel kept in constant motion over the fire; a piece of butter the size of a walnut and a dessertspoon of powdered sugar to three pounds of green coffee added while roasting is said to bring out both flavor and aroma and to give the caramel taste so enjoyed by tourists in those countries.

White of an egg (the yolk should never be used) clears the coffee, but too much spoils the flavour.

Coffee essence, very useful in travelling or camping, may be made as follows: 1/4 pound of ground coffee put in a percolator and simmer in 1 pint of boiling water; allow it to filter, not boil, for about 20 minutes; when cool, cork tightly in bottle or can.

2 tablespoons in a breakfast cup of hot milk makes a delicious and easily prepared drink. - H. A. T., Buffalo, N.Y. - By Courtesy of "Delineator."
Although Canadians used to be more known as tea drinkers than coffee drinkers - I'm not sure how true that was - there are several more recipes for coffee, and by comparison tea gets short shrift;
"TEA. - Allow 1 teaspoon of tea to each person. Have the teapot hot and then put in the tea; pour over the boiling water until steeper is a little more than half full; cover tightly and let it stand where it will keep hot but not boil. Let it steep thus for 10 or 15 minutes and then, if desired, pour into a separate tea urn, adding more boiling water, in proportion of 1 cup of water for every teaspoon of dry tea used. Have hot water kettle of copper, brass or ordinary pitcher, if it will keep water almost at boiling point, and weaken tea to suit taste. Do not use water for tea that has boiled long. Spring water is the best for tea, and filtered water the next best.

TEA A LA RUSSE is made in the same way and served with a slice of lemon either in cup and tea poured over it, or placed on saucer beside cup. Rind is always left on. No cream is used in this tea. - Mrs. Joseph Woodrow, Richmond Hill, Ont."
That's the entire section on tea. It's mostly very good advice, although I can't imagine steeping it for 15 MINUTES!!! then diluting. Still strong enough to trot a mouse. Steep it for 4 minutes exactly, that's what I say, then take the tea ball or tea bags out, and serve it diluted only by milk, sugar or lemon, if wanted.

Okay, now that you have a nice cup of the hot beverage of your choice, let's see what else they have.
"TO PREVENT RED ANTS. - Put 1 pint of tar in an earthen vessel, pour on it 2 quarts of boiling hot water and place it in your closet."
You know what the next recipe is going to be, don't you? Oh yes, you do:
"TO REMOVE TAR. - Rub well with clean lard, afterwards wash with soap and warm water. Apply this to either hands or clothing."
From there we jump to:
"TO TAKE INK OUT OF LINEN. - Dip the part in pure tallow melted, then wash out the tallow and the ink will disappear."
which seems like the same advice, really. But this is a new topic;
"CURE FOR RINGWORM. - Put a penny into a tablespoon of vinegar, let it remain until it becomes green. Wash the ringworm with this 2 or 3 times a day.

CURE FOR RHEUMATISM AND BILIOUS HEADACHE. - Finest turkey rhubarb 1/2 ounce, carbonate magnesia 1 ounce, mix alternately, keep well corked in glass bottle. Dose, 1 teaspoon in milk and sugar the first thing in the morning. Repeat until cured. Tried with success."
From medicine we move to household decorating;
"CHEAP PAINT FOR KITCHEN FLOOR. - And one that cleans off easily. - Apply paint with a cheap white-wash brush, and oil with a paint brush. 5 pounds bright yellow ochre, 2 pounds powdered white lead, 1/4 pound white glue, 1 gallon hard water. Boil altogether and be careful it does not boil over and apply to floor while still hot. When dry take 1 gallon boiled oil and go over it. This recipe will cover a floor 15 x 15 ft. Some like a little red ochre in it. - Mrs Edwin B. Kerns, Zimmerman P. O. Ont."
Well, that explains why they didn't worry about their methods for canning meat. Do you suppose they used the same pot? If they did, they could clean it with
"COSTICK SOAP. - 5 pounds costick (40 cents worth), 20 quarts soft water, 25 pounds grease or scraps; boil all together in kettle for 2 hours, then add 1 cup salt; let stand over night after covering it up well. Next day cut soap out, boil again, with 10 quarts soft water, 1/4 pound borax, 1/4 pound resin, 1 cup turpentine, 1 cup salt, 1 cup ammonia; boil 2 hours, let it stand a while; it is then finished."
I've got to say, that sounds caustic all right. Let's hop back in the book and end it on a sweeter note:
"MAPLE SUGAR COOKIES. - 2 large cups maple sugar, 2 eggs, 1 cup butter, 2 tablespoons sweet milk, 1 teaspoon cream of tartar, 1/2 teaspoon soda, flour enough to roll soft. - Mrs Walter Edwards, Cookshire, Que."

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Rainbow Trout with Leek & Mushroom Sauce

Lovely fresh trout! We picked it up at The 100-Mile Market, along with an unexpected bunch of leeks. (The only other time I've been able to get leeks in the spring is out of my own garden.) I had already bought some mushrooms earlier in the week, so it seemed inevitable that they should all meet in a sauce.

I love the combination of lake fish and wild rice - they were made to go together. I also like the combination of barley and wild rice, which is a good thing; barley is an awful lot less expensive than wild rice, and will stretch it out a little further very nicely. Use 1/3 cup barley to 2/3 cup wild rice, three cups of water and a pinch of salt. The barley expands more, so you will end up with a half and half blend.

The cheese seemed like a good idea, but I think next time I would leave it off. It seemed a bit strong for all the other flavours which were really quite delicate. But it certainly wasn't bad.

2 servings
50 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Baked Rainbow Trout with Leeks and Mushrooms
1 medium leek
16 medium button mushrooms (300 grams, 10 ounces)
2 medium shallots
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh minced thyme or savory
1 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch
1 cup milk or light cream

2 fillets boneless rainbow trout (450 grams, 1 pound)
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Trim and chop the leek, fairly finely. Clean the mushrooms and slice them. Peel and mince the shallots /

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the leeks and cook them over medium heat, stirring regularly, until softened. Don't let them brown if you can help it. When they are half-done, add the shallots and mushrooms. Continue cooking until all are soft, about 10 minutes. Season with the salt, pepper and minced herb. Whisk the arrowroot or cornstarch into the milk or cream, and add it to the skillet. Let cook for a minute or two longer, until thickened.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Put the vegetables and sauce into the bottom of a casserole dish and spread them out evenly. Sprinkle half the cheese over them, if you are using it. Lay the fish fillets on top, and sprinkle the remaining cheese over them.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the fish is firm and cooked, and the sauce is hot and bubbling. Serve with wild rice.

Last year at this time I made Herb Roasted Potatoes.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Applesauce Spice Cake

This is a lovely cake, moist and flavourful. It keeps quite well - if you can manage it.

The cocoa is not actually distinguishable as such; it is really just one of the spices here. I used my home-canned applesauce, which was rather thick. I also needed to soak my raisins (and I was quite short on them) so I added the soaking water with them. The batter should be a fairly standard medium-thick cake batter, which I then had. Finally, I didn't have any pastry flour, only Red Fife flour. I used 1 1/2 cups of that, and 1/4 cup each of rice flour and arrowroot flour. I was very happy with the results.

I've also decided to take a leaf out of my Canadian Farm Cook Book and stop calling for nutmeg by teaspoons or fractions thereof. If you are grating nutmeg, you just grate it into the bowl, so I will call for it by the fraction of the nutmeg, using a medium-sized nutmeg as standard. You are grating your nutmeg yourself as needed, aren't you? If you are not, you should be. The difference is enormous. HUGE. One of those micro-plane graters is perfect. And unlike pre-grated nutmeg, whole nutmegs won't go rancid sitting in your cupboard. Same goes for allspice. I don't think it goes rancid in the same way, but once it is ground it loses flavour very quickly.

16 servings
50 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Applesauce Spice Cake
2 cups soft (pastry) whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup neutral vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs
2 cups applesauce
1 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9" x 13" baking pan, or 2 8" round pans.

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cocoa, cinnamon, grated nutmeg and the allspice, which should be lightly toasted first in a dry skillet, then finely ground once it is cool.

Whisk together the oil, eggs and applesauce. Mix them into the dry ingredients. Mix in the raisins.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan or pans, and spread it out smoothly and evenly. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until done.

Once cooled, it can be frosted with a simple vanilla buttercream or left plain. Or whipped cream is always nice. Ice cream would surely work too; rum and raisin, maybe. Okay, now I'm thinking rum and raisin frosting...

Last year at this time I made Vegetable Hash.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Carrot & Celeriac Slaw

Was I complaining about the price of celeriac? Well I was, and not without reason. On the other hand they can be pretty large. Mine has supplied 3 salads so far and looks good for another 2. Can't complain about that.

Actually, I think this salad could have used a bit more celeriac or a bit less carrot than what I had. I've adjusted the recipe to reflect that. If you can't get Korean red pepper, use cayenne, but use it with caution - it is considerably hotter.

4 servings
1 hour - 15 minutes prep time

Carrot and Celeriac Slaw
Make the Dressing:
3 tablespoons sunflower seed oil
the juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Korean red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

Whisk or shake together.

Make the Salad:
1 medium-small carrot, peeled and grated
2 cups finely grated peeled celeriac
1 small shallot, peeled and minced
1/2 cup broccoli sprouts, or minced parsley
1/2 cup sunflower seeds

Peel and grate the carrot. Peel and grate the celeriac; you should have rather more celeriac than carrot, although twice as much is probably more than you want. Peel and mince the shallot.

Mix the carrot, celeriac, shallot, and broccoli sprouts or minced parsley. Toss with the dressing, and set aside to marinate for 30 to 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast the sunflower seeds in a dry skillet until lightly browned. Turn them out at once to cool, and add them to the salad just before it is served.

Last year at this time I made Maple Flan (or Creme Caramel).

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Aunt Alethea's Cheese Soufflé

This was one of the first recipes I collected, when I was in my early teens, from my Great Aunt who was always happy to talk cooking with me. I swooned at the richness and elegance and apparent complexity of it when she served it to us. It was not, however, too challenging for a beginning cook and I have made it somewhat irregularly ever since, according to how willing I am at any given time to overlook the fact that it's very, very rich.

I follow Aunt Alethea's lead, and serve it with a nice simple green salad, and good rolls or bread for a relatively light meal. You could also serve it as an appetizer; in which case it would likely stretch to 6 or 8 servings.

It really is an excellent dish for company, in spite of the fact that it must be served at once. You can get around this by making the sauce in advance, but not adding the beaten egg whites until you actually see your company coming up the walk. Keep both components aside in a cool place (but not the refrigerator, and not for much more than half an hour.) Answer the door, and excuse yourself long enough to pop it in the oven. It doesn't take long to bake, and by the time greetings have been exchanged and a drink poured, it will pretty much be ready. Magic!

4 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time

Aunt Alethea's Cheese Souffle
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
salt & pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2/3 cup milk
3 extra-large eggs
1 cup grated extra-old Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Butter a 1 litre (quart) casserole, or 4 smaller casseroles. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Grate the cheeses and set them aside. Separate the eggs; put the yolks in a small dish and the whites in a medium mixing bowl to be beaten.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour, salt, pepper and mustard, and cook for several minutes until thick and pasty. Add the milk, a little at a time, stirring until the mixture is smooth between each addition. When it is all absorbed and the sauce is thick, remove it from the stove. Let it cool for about 5 minutes, then mix in the cheeses. When the are melted, mix in the egg yolks.

Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold them gently into the cheese mixture, and put it into the prepared casserole or casseroles. Place them on a baking tray, and bake them for 30 minutes (20 to 25 minutes for smaller dishes) until puffed and browned.

Serve immediately, if not sooner!

Last year at this time I made Pea Soup with Smoked Turkey or Ham.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Cucumber & Carrot Salad

I rarely buy cucumbers as they give me nasty indigestion. However, you can get greenhouse cucumbers throughout the winter, so I got some for Mr Ferdzy, who enjoyed this simple salad.

2 to 4 servings
1 hour 20 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Cucumber and Carrot Salad
Make the Dressing:
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon tamari or soy sauce

Mix in a small bowl until the sugar dissolves, and set aside.

Make the Salad:
2 small (mid-eastern type) greenhouse cucumbers
1 medium carrot
1/2 small shallot
2 or 3 leaves of hydroponic lettuce

Wash the cucumbers and trim the ends. Cut in fine julienne. Peel the carrot, and cut in fine julienne. Peel and mince the shallot.

Mix these, and toss them with the dressing. Let marinate for at least 20 minutes to an hour. Serve on the lettuce leaves.

Last year at this time I made Winter Waldorf Salad and An Old-Fashioned Canadian Egg Curry. Huh. Must nearly be Easter, I suppose.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Spanish Rice

Maybe it comes from all the re-reading of old cookbooks I've been doing lately (I've recently been re-united with my books after nearly 10 years apart) but it occurred to me that I hadn't made Spanish Rice in a long time.

This was a recipe which I believe developed in the eastern seaboard of the United States, in the 19th century. My guess is that cooks there developed it after hearing about Spanish rice dishes, in particular paella, eaten by sailors during their travels. They re-interpreted these dishes usng typically available ingredients; Carolina rice, tomatoes and beef. At any rate, it became a popular and well-known dish throughout North America, eaten well into the 1970's, before it was swept away by the flood of more authentic European and Asian rice dishes that became available.

Oddly enough, I was served versions of this a couple of times this winter by friends, both of whom referred to it as "goulash" which surprised me; I have a very different idea of what constitutes goulash. However, by any name it's a tasty and filling winter dish.

4 servings
1 hour - 1 hour work time

Spanish Rice
1 large onion
2 or 3 stalks of celery
1 medium carrot
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
450 grams (1 pound) ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon rubbed oregano

1 1/2 cups arborio, or Spanish rice (or whatever rice you like, really)
4 cups crushed or diced tomatoes
2 cups chopped cooked cabbage

Peel and slice the onion. Slice the celery. Peel and grate the carrot. Peel and mince the celery.

Heat the oil in a very large skillet. Sauté the onion, celery and carrot until slightly softened. Add the beef, broken into small lumps. Season with the salt and oregano.

When the beef is mostly browned, add the rice. Sauté for several minutes more, until the rice begins to brown in spots. Add the crushed tomatoes and stir well. Reduce the heat, and cook the rice for 25 to 35 minutes, stirring regularly, until the rice is tender. You will likely need to add water throughout the cooking process to keep the dish sufficiently moist. It should be quite thick, but not dry.

When the rice is tender, add the chopped cooked cabbage and heat through.

Last year at this time I made English Muffins and Black Radish & Mushroom Salad.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

The Canadian Farm Cook Book: The Good Stuff

My Canadian Farm Cookbook, dated 1911, has 401 pages of recipes for food. (There is a small chapter of miscellaneous items after that.) On page 198, the section on canning fruits and jellies begins, and from there to the end of the book there are mighty few recipes that do not call for sugar or other sweeteners. From Canned Fruits and Jellies, it passes on to Pies and Pastry, Puddings and Desserts, Cakes (by far the longest chapter in the book) and Candy. This was clearly what it was all about.

Of course, then as now, people tended to use their body of knowledge about cooking to put together whatever they had on hand as the main part of their diets on a daily basis, without reference to a recipe. Desserts and sweets are made less often and require more precision to execute, and so recipes were and are more likely to be written down for them. However, this was also a new era of cheap refined sugar; cheap enough that even the poorest could afford it. Previously, white sugar had been available mainly in loaf form (cones of varying sizes actually) and it was not only expensive but also a labourious process to grate or pulverize it for use for baking. Not only did sugar become cheaper and easier to use towards the end of the 19th century, but so did chocolate, cocoa, vanilla, gelatine and many other such ingredients. At the turn of the century, cook books exploded with sweet dishes, many of them very sweet. I generally make it a rule to reduce the amount of sugar called for in these recipes by at least one-third and often half. Actually, I don't think it was until the 1970's that the idea occurred to people that it was possible to improve a dessert by putting less sugar in it.

Anyway, recipes:
"CARROT PIE. - Cook yellow carrots until soft, then sift and make as pumpkin pie with milk, sugar and eggs; season with ginger, cloves and cinnamon or allspice. This can hardly be distinguished from real pumpkin pie. - Mrs. C. M. Harvey, Box 144, Knowlton, Que."
No doubt handy when pumpkins had a limited shelf-life and canned pumpkin wasn't regularly available. I shall have to try it sometime; I don't see why it wouldn't be good. Although I admit I'm always a sucker for chocolate.
"CHOCOLATE PIE. - 1/2 teacup Cowan's Perfection Chocolate (grated), 1 1/2 teacups hot water, 1/2 teacup sugar, butter the size of an egg, 1 tablespoon vanilla, the beaten yolk of 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, mix well and cook on top of stove until thick; stir constantly, pour into the shell, let cool, beat the whites and spread on top, brown in oven. - Miss Jennie Bulding, Arthur, Ont."
And at this time of year I should be using up my stash of maple syrup (so I can replace it with new!) so how about
"MAPLE SYRUP PIE. - Put crust on tin, then beat together 1 1/4 cups maple syrup and 3 eggs, put in pie and bake in a moderate oven. - Mabel Begg, Payne's Mills, Ont.
2. - 1 cup maple syrup, 1 cup water, 2 eggs (whites for frosting) 2 small tablespoons flour, butter size of a walnut. Bake the crust and cook custard in double boiler. - Mrs. Milton Fennell, Kars, Ont."
It's interesting to see that the printer lumped these two recipes together, in spite of their being quite different from each other. Also, measurements are in some ways reasonably precise but definitely not standardized.

I should get on and post some puddings and cakes, but I can't resist this pie, even though I haven't even touched on any apple pies, of which there were numerous examples.
"SPRING MINCE PIE. - 1 1/2 cups chopped raisins, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup molasses, 1 cup warm water, 1/2 cup vinegar, 2 well-beaten eggs, 5 crackers pounded fine, stir all together, and season with spices as other mince pies; bake with rich crust. For the top crust roll, then cut in narrow strips and twist and lay across. This will make 2 pies. - Mrs. A. Scott, Acton's Corners, Ont."
Oh, but wait! There are no fewer than 6 versions of butter tarts, and they do indeed all hail from Ontario. This one looks interesting, if remarkably abbreviated.
"3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup butter melted, 1 cup currants, and 1 egg. - Mrs. W. W. Beelby, Thornton, Ont."
Okay, some puddings:
"APPLE BIRD'S NEST PUDDING. - Apples, sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, 1/2 pint milk, 1 egg. Pare and core apples, fill cavity with sugar, pour over batter made with 1 tablespoon flour, 1/2 pint milk, 1 egg, and sugar to taste. Bake 1 hour. - Mrs. A. Christie, 88 Birge Street, Hamilton, Ont."

"BATTER PUDDING. - 1 tablespoon butter, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1 egg, 3/4 cup sweet milk, 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar and 1 teaspoon soda; put any kind of fruit in bottom of dish and pour over it this batter and steam 1 1/2 hours. Add sugar on fruit as desired. Serve with cream or any sauce, as you please. - Mrs. T. H. Higgins, Maccan, N.S."

"BLACK PEPPER PUDDING - 1/2 pound suet, 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, a little salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper; mix stiff with cold water and tie in a floured cloth and boil 2 hours. To be eaten with all kinds of hot meat dinners. - Mrs John Archer, Newbury, Ont."
Okay, no sugar in that one! Is it in the right place? It might be; it is a pudding, after all. No sugar in this one either;
"CHEESE PUDDING. - Cut in inch squares stale bread and butter evenly, put 1 layer in pudding dish, then add a little salt and pepper and 1/3 cup grated cheese; repeat this, but for the top layer use 2/3 cup grated cheese. Beat 1 egg, add 1 pint sweet milk, pour over bread and bake 1/2 hour. Serve hot in place of potatoes. This is delicious and is a good way to use up stale bread and dry cheese. - Mrs. Menno S. Weber*, R.R. No. 1, Waterloo, Ont."
This one is kind of ominous sounding:
"CHILDREN PUDDING - 1 cup brown sugar, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons syrup, 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup currants, 1 teacup buttermilk, 1 small teaspoon soda, 4 cups flour; boil in a cloth for 2 hours, serve with sauce. - Mrs. Robt. Johnston, Carlyon P.O., Ont."
What kind of sauce? That's the question.
"RICE WITH DATES. - Wash 1/2 cup rice, cook in large quantity of salted water until nearly tender, drain thoroughly and put into double boiler with 1/2 cup pitted dates; cook until tender. Serve with cream. This is a very wholesome and palatable dish for dessert. - Mrs. Annie Rodd, Charlottetown, P.E.I."
You know; I can't help but feel desserts are like jokes. If you have to tell someone they're good, they're just not.

Okay, cakes at last, or at least some frostings.
"CHOCOLATE ICING. - 2 cups brown sugar, butter size of egg, 1/2 cup sweet milk, 1/2 cake chocolate. Let it boil until it begins to harden. - Mrs. Erwin Snyder, Box 135, Baden, Ont."
"MAPLE CREAM ICING. - 3 cups sugar, 6 tablespoons milk, 1 tablespoon butter; boil, stir until cold. - Mrs. M. C. Armstong, Mount Albert, Ont."
Mrs Armstrong didn't feel the need to point out that that there would be maple sugar which is, after all, cheap and easy to find. Right? Right? Pick yourself up off the floor. Bananas, on the other hand, are presumably a bit pricey:
"BANANA CAKE. - 1 cup sugar, whites of 3 eggs, 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup sweet milk, 1/2 cup cornstarch, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 cup flour. Cream butter and sugar, separate eggs, beat yolk, add to butter; sift flour, baking powder and corn starch, add to butter, mix and add milk; add whites of eggs well beaten. Just before serving put a layer of sliced bananas between layers. - Mrs. Ezra Snyder, Blair, Ont."
I can't help but think she's left out a step or two there. But I guess if you don't know what you are doing, you shouldn't be making cake.
"BELFASTS. - 1 egg, 1 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 1 cup buttermilk, 1/2 nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 cup seeded raisins or 1 cup currants, 1 teaspoon soda, 2 1/2 cups Graham flour. Bake in gem rings. - Annie M. Whalen, Kilsyth P.O., Ont."
They sound rather like a rich raisiny muffin. Note that "1/2 nutmeg" is not a typo. The next one has "try" written next to it, but alas no report on the results:
"BIRTHDAY CAKE. - 1 cup sugar, 1 cup sweet cream, 2 cups flour, whites of 3 eggs, 2 teaspoons paking powder, small teaspoon salt, a little nutmeg. Beat sugar and cream together first, add flour and baking powder next, the salt and nutmeg, last the whites of the eggs well beaten and mix quickly and bake in 3 layers. For the Filling. - 1 cup sweet milk, 1/2 cup sugar, 2/3 cup cocoanut; boil all together; when boiling, stir in 2 teaspoons cornstarch wet with cold milk. - Mrs. T. C. Sabin, Box 197, Newmarket, Ont."
Here's one that sounds a little odd, but interesting. A spice cake of the old school;
"BLACK PEPPER CAKE. - 1 cup currants, 1 cup blackstrap, 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 2/3 cup sour milk (sweet will do), 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon cloves, 1 teaspoon soda, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar, a little over 2 cups flour. Bake in layers. - Mrs. J. E. McKenney, Bishop's Mills, Ont."
This one too, although I'm pretty sure that as usual some steps have been omitted. (Like baking it maybe. You think?)
"BOILED CAKE. - 1 cup sugar, 1 cup raisins, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup lard. Boil it and then cool, add 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cloves, salt, 1 teaspoon soda. - Mrs. Blake Sharp, Hay Bay, Lennox and Addington Cos., Ont."
For the next one, do you suppose they mean "George Brown"? They actually had 2 "Brown George" cakes listed. I can't decide but I think it most likely. And 1/2 teaspoon spice! Such extravagance!
"BROWN GEORGE CAKE. - 3 eggs, 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, 1/2 cup mixed butter and lard, 1/2 teaspoon spice, 1/2 cup molasses, 1/2 cup sour milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon soda dissolved in a few drops of water. - Elizabeth Sibbald, Leith P.O., Ont."
As for this one; small and plain but no doubt a good, cheap hit to the cake spot.
"GOOD CHEAP CAKE. - 2/3 cup white sugar, 1 small tablespoon butter and 1 egg beaten together, 2/3 cup milk or cream, 1/2 teaspoon soda, 1 teaspoon cream of tartar, 1/2 teaspoon salt; sift with flour enough to make cake stiff. Use any flavoring you wish or not at all. - Mrs. R. G. McLeod, Lansdowne Station, Pictou Co., N.S."
But most people, if they are going to have cake, are prepared to spring for some chocolate, eggs and butter and make it an even better one;
"CHOCOLATE CAKE. - 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 3 eggs, 3/4 cup milk, 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon cream of tartar, 1/2 teaspoon soda, 1 ounce unsweetened Cowan's Perfection Chocolate**. Cream the butter and sugar and add the well beaten eggs, then the milk; sift the flour, cream of tartar and soda together twice and mix thoroughly with the above; warm the chocolate over teakettle and stir in the butter. Bake about 35 minutes in moderate oven. - Mrs. J. F. Nelles, Decewsville P. O., Ont.

Also contributed by Mrs D. Brown, Hagerman, Ont.; Mrs. Nelson Wagg, Claremont, Ont.; Mrs H. McPhee, Eady P. O. Ont.; Mrs L. H. Lipsit, Staffordville, Ont.; Mrs W. Anderson, Edgeley, Ont; Mrs. S. Steinmann, Brunner P.O., Ont."
I don't know that they all provided that exact cake necessarily; it might have been one of the three chocolate cake recipes that proceeded it, or perhaps some other chocolate cake that didn't make the cut. Chocolate cake was perhaps not as ubiquitous then as it is now, but it was plainly an extremely popular flavour nevertheless.

And you know what? I've only started in the "C's" but I'm running out of steam. You get the picture; there are a lot more cakes to come. And cookies and candy too. Haven't even looked at them. (If there's anything you would like to ask about other - or previously discussed - sections of this book, please do!)

One final story about the importance of desserts. My father has told me about going to stay with his aunt and uncle in Pictou County (home of the above Good Cheap Cake you may note) during the summer and eating, for an entire month or longer, boiled potatoes, boiled green beans and boiled salmon for every single supper. They were in season. That's the sort of thing that gave seasonal cooking a bad name. And Auntie wasn't much interested in cooking. But she made a mean blueberry pie, and if Dad would pick 'em, she would bake 'em. Needless to say, Dad was out there picking every chance he could get. He still doesn't care much for either salmon or green beans, strangely enough.

I suspect there were a lot of women out there cooking like my great-aunt. They did it not because they were all that interested, but because, by virtue of their sex, it was their job - one of their many, time-consuming jobs. Consequently, there was an awful lot of indifferent if not downright bad cooking out there. Throw in the fact that spices were few and far between, prepared foods pretty much unknown, and the general repertoire of foods much more limited than today and it's not surprising that people turned to desserts for satisfaction in eating. After all, if you can't make things like sugar, butter, eggs, cream, fruit and chocolate taste good, you really are a truly dreadful cook and there is no hope for you.

*What are the odds that there's a Mrs. Menno S. Martin living on R.R. No. 1, Waterloo, right this minute? Maybe no S. What are the odds that there's more than one?

**The contributors to this book call for Cowan's Perfection Chocolate with such consistency that I have to suspect that words are being put into their mouths by a commercial sponsor... hm, who could it be?

Thursday, 19 March 2009


If anyone cares to know, we have headed off for the wilds of Toronto for a day or two. Back Monday or shortly thereafter.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Chocolate-Chip Peanut-Butter Cookies

My sweetie - who I think I will start referring to as Mr. Ferdzy; lets not belabour the point - made these for a pot luck. He made them rather bigger than I do, and so got less than 60. They also needed to bake for closer to 15 minutes. Also, I tend to flatten mine ever so slightly, although I don't think it makes a huge difference in the baking time. A minute or two, maybe. You'll likely need to fill the tray twice either way, although they don't spread much.

Also, have I ever mentioned that when I call for "peanut butter" I mean the stuff that consists of ground up peanuts and salt? If you are using locally grown and ground peanut butter I'm pretty sure that's about the only kind you are going to find. Which is good, because that's what you want anyway. The stuff that's full of extraneous fats, sugars and stablilizers is just nasty. Avoid it.

60 cookies
45 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter COokies
1/3 cup butter
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sucanat or dark brown sugar
2 extra-large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups soft whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips (or raisins or dried cranberries)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly butter a baking tray, or line it with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and the peanut butter. Work in the sugar. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract.

Mix the baking powder into the flour. Work the flour and chocolate chips into the mixture, until it forms a smooth dough.

Scoop out with a 1" disher or tablespoon and drop onto the prepared tray. Press lightly to flatten; they should be about half an inch thick. Bake for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned at the edges. Let cool and remove from the tray. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Celeriac, Apple & Broccoli Sprout Salad

Here's a very simple little salad, better as a side salad than as a full meal, but it hits that spring I-want-a-salad spot very nicely.

4 servings
20 minutes prep time

Celeriac Apple and Broccoli Sprout Salad
Make the Salad Dressing:
2 tablespoons hazelnut, walnut or other nut oil
3 tablespoons raspberry or other fruit vinegar
1 teaspoon apple butter
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt & pepper

Whisk them together and set them aside.

Make the Salad:
2 cups broccoli sprouts
2 cups grated peeled celeriac
2 medium apples, washed, cored and chopped

Rinse the sprouts and let them drain. They often have rather tough, grey matted roots; these can be sliced off and discarded, and the sprouts are then easier to separate.

Peel and grate the celeriac. Wash, core and chop the apples. Mix the celeriac and sprouts into th apples, and toss with the dressing.

Last year at this time I made Stewed Lamb & Mushrooms, and Strawberry-Mango Frappé.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Red Winged Blackbirds-

By the way, I want to note that Saturday was late winter, and Sunday tipped into early spring! In my opinion, anyway. The difference? The red-winged blackbirds arrived. Hurrah! I saw a couple of robins too, and even the crows are all stirred up and running around looking for nesting materials.

What Does It Say...

about our society, when you can't tell windshield wiper fluid from a comestible?

Sunday, 15 March 2009

The Canadian Farm Cook Book Talks About Meat

"Meat is the flesh of animals used for food. The flesh of more mature animals is more nutritious and more easily digested than that of the younger.

Beef is the most nutritious meat, mutton ranks next. Pork is difficult to digest. Lamb is tender, but less valuable than mutton. Veal is the least nutritious and is indigestible.

Good meat is firm and bright red when first cut. The fat is firm and light yellow. Lean meat is muscle. Much used muscle makes rich, juicy good-flavoured meat, but is not always tender.

Cooking of Meat. - Meat is cooked: 1. To improve the flavour and appearance. 2. To kill any germs which may be present. 3. To soften the fibre. 4. To retain the juice by boiling, pan boiling or roasting"
Thus spake Gladys Harris, 109 Park Street, Buffalo, N.Y., but I'd take that with a grain of salt, myself. She wasn't even in Canada; I don't know how she muscled in on this. But anyway, lets look at some actual recipes, now that we know everything we need to about meat:
"CANNING BEEF. - Cut the beef in pieces as you would to fry or stew, fill your sealer as full as you can, putting the fat and pieces that are not so nice on top. Put the lid on tight and put the sealers in the boiler in cold water and boil 3 hours. If the beef is old, boil longer. Don't let the water come over the top of the jars; when done take sealers out and tighten as tight as you can; when cold it should be jellied. Keep in a cool place. - Mrs John Raymer, Sunnidale Corners, Ont."
Oh, dear Lord! Saints preserve us! You are all most straightly forbidden to even think of attempting this so-called recipe, which breaks every rule of safe canning. Sunnidale Corners no longer really exists as a village, and this may very well be the explanation. Yeesh!
"JUGGED BEEF. - Into a brown stewing jar put 2 pounds thin beef, or stewing steak, cut into convenient sized pieces, add 2 onions cut in slices, 1 medium-sized carrot cut in cubes, 1 teaspoon mixed herbs, 1 small onion stuck with 1/2 dozen cloves, a little Yorkshire relish; dust all with 1 tablespoon of flour; pepper and salt to taste; do not quite cover with water or stock; put on the lid and set jar in the oven; let it cook for 2 hours. Boiled potatoes should be served with it.. - C.T. Ganong, "The Cedars," King's Co., N.B."
That looks distinctly possible; it might even be good. But then we're back in the realm of the somewhat scary:
"TO CORN BEEF. - 1 pound salt, 1 pound brown sugar, 1/4 ounce saltpetre to each gallon of water, boil and skin, and when cold pour over meat. First sprinkle and rub beef with coarse salt, and let stand 24 hours, then wash off and pack in tub or barrel and pour pickle over it. Will be ready to use in a week. Does not need to be soaked, simply washed off and put on to cook. - Mrs. G. H. Allen, Garden Creek, Fredericton, N.B."
And also:
"TO FRY DOWN PORK. - Take fresh pork, slice and fry as for table use, pack in crocks and cover with the hot dripping; be sure it gets well around the slices in each layer, cover and weight to keep the pork well under the dripping. Have kept it for summer use for years, and find it quite as nice as if freshly cooked. Mrs W. H. Warner, Forest Rd. West, Cobourg, Ont."
I'm speechless, so I guess I'd better just give another recipe:
"STEWED KIDNEYS. - Boil kidneys the night before, until very tender, turn meat and gravy into a dish and cover over next day, boil a few minutes, thicken with flour and water; add part of an onion chopped fine, pepper, salt and lump of butter."
That was submitted by Mrs L. Harvey, who was not prepared to divulge her whereabouts, and who shall blame her? Can you stand anymore? Sure you can:
"TO COOK SALT PORK. - Parboil in buttermilk and water, then dip in sweet cream and fry. This makes it like fresh meat. - Mrs. Ross Pollack, Keswich, Ont."
You think? Okay, lets finish up with something that actually sounds interesting or I will turn you all into vegetarians, if you aren't already:
"IRISH POT PIE. - 4 pounds fresh beef, 4 carrots, 1 turnip, 1 dozen potatoes, 2 onions, dough made as follows: 2 quarts flour, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar, 1 of soda; mix with milk or cold water, same as for biscuit, no lard in it; roll about 1 inch thick, cut into 4-inch squares, cut meat in small pieces, then put in a layer of beef in bottom of pot, then a layer each of carrots, turnip, potatoes and dough and meat in alternate layers; add salt, pepper and a little summer savory; add water until you see it through the vegetables; cook slowly 3 hours. - Mrs. Fred Smith, Upper Falmouth, Hants Co., N.S."
Enough there to feed an army. The result, I would think, would be a kind of beef stew with dumplings more than a pot-pie, but at least it sounds edible and even tasty. Next week I will peruse this book for a selection of desserts, which are likely to be the best things in it.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Shepherd's Pie

I'm generally more inclined to make a shepherd's pie with a lot more vegetables than this, but I guess that's my summer or fall shepherd's pie. Since it's late winter, I made something more traditionally Canadian: one with creamed corn in it. I've seen recipes as simple as browned meat, canned corn and mashed potatoes, but it doesn't take too much more to take it up several notches.

You can use beef instead of lamb if you like - that's the more traditional Canadian version - but I'm a snob and think you should call it cottage pie in that case.

4 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Shepherds Pie
4 large potatoes (700 grams; 1 1/2 pounds)
2 to 3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
salt & pepper

450 grams ( 1 pound) ground lamb
1 medium onion
1 large carrot
1 teaspoon savory
1 teaspoon dried mint
1 to 1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 398 ml (14 oz) tin of creamed corn

Wash the potatoes, and cut them into chunks, discarding any nasty bits. Put them in a pot with water to cover and boil them until tender. Drain them, and mash them with the butter and buttermilk, and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, peel and chop the onion, and peel and dice the carrot. Heat a large skillet and break up the ground lamb into it. Cook until it begins to brown, then season with a bit of salt and add the onion and carrot. Cook, stirring regularly, until the lamb is browned and the onion soft and translucent. Sprinkle with the savory and mint and mix in well.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put the two corns into the bottom of a large casserole dish (2 1/2 to 3 quarts) and spread the meat mixture over them. When the potatoes are ready, spread them evenly over the top. Dust with paprika, and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, until lightly browned and bubbling.

Last year at this time I made Carrot Soup with Three Variations and Lemon Sponge Pudding.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Celeriac & Beet Salad

This recipe came from Epicurious, and as I often do with recipes from there, I have reduced it in quantity; otherwise it is much the same, although I thought it needed a touch of green.

Celeriac is a much under-used vegetable, and when you see the price of them at the grocery store you understand why. You can get them at farmers markets, where they typically seem to run about $2; but at the grocery store they are sold by the pound and often end up costing up to 4 times as much. Why!?

2-3 servings
2 hours 20 minutes PLUS cooling time for beets - 20 minutes prep time

Celeriac and Beet Salad
2 medium beets
1/4 medium celeriac
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced shallot
2 tablespoons olive or sunflower seed oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
black pepper
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
broccoli sprouts (optional)
2 or 3 lettuce leaves (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Wrap the beets in foil, and roast them for about an hour, until tender. Let them cool.

Meanwhile, peel the celeriac, and cut it into matchsticks. You should have about the same quantity of celeriac as beet. Mince the shallot, and mix it with the lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper. Mix this into the celeriac and let it marinate at room temperature for about an hour. Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet until lightly browned, and set them aside to cool.

When the beets are cool, peel them and cut them into matchsticks. Mix the beets gently into the celeriac, and add the walnuts. Serve the salad on broccoli sprouts or lettuce, if you like.

Last year at this time I made Pasta with a Zingy Mushroom & Sour Cream Sauce.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Pasta with Bacon, Shallots, Shiitakes & Cabbage

It's been a while since there's been any pasta here. Actually, we've been eating tons, but it's nothing that hasn't been seen before. Lots of my canned sauce which has been very handy. Not that this is much different than a number of other things I've done with pasta - it's more a case of noting what's going in it at this time of year. Yeah, cabbage. Surprise! But it goes so well with the other stuff.

I used a bit less than I call for in the recipe as I was also serving a salad, but even so it cooked down a lot and I should have used more.

Anyway, at long last I have a call out to Presto Pasta Nights - at What's Cooking this week. Hi guys!

2 servings
20 minutes prep time

Pasta with Bacon Shallots Shiitakes and Cabbage
200 grams (1/2 pound, scant) dry pasta
200 grams (1/2 pound, scant) bacon
4 large shallots
1 to 1 1/2 cups fresh shiitake mushrooms
4 to 5 cups chopped cabbage
freshly ground black pepper

Put a pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.

Meanwhile, chop the bacon. Peel and slice the shallots. Remove the stems from the shiitake mushrooms and slice the caps. Chop the cabbage.

When the water boils and the pasta goes into it, start cooking the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat. When it has rendered some fat, add the sliced shallots and cook them gently for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until soft and slightly browned. Add the mushrooms and stir for a minute, then add the cabbage. Mix well then add a ladleful of water from the pasta. Continue cooking and stirring until the pasta is done.

Drain the pasta and toss it with the contents of the skillet.

Last year at this time I made Root Slaw - surprisingly fresh and spring-like.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Indian Style Rutabaga

I had a friend who came from Newfoundland, and he told me that the only vegetable Newfoundland was self-sufficient in was rutabaga. He did not seem impressed with this fact; indeed I was left with the impression that it was a factor in his having left.

Now me, I quite like rutabaga, and I would think that a dish like this might even have helped to make my friend change his mind. Like yesterdays' cabbage this was inspired by a dish from Modern India restaurant in Cambridge. Lots of bold, lively flavours here to keep you warm and full in the late winter. (I might have known that as soon as I admitted the idea that spring might be on the way it would SNOW! Aaargh.)

4 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Indian Style Rutabaga
4 cups diced rutabaga (1/2 medium-large rutabaga)
1/4 cup red lentils
2 cups diced or crushed canned tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 small onion
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
2-3 dried red chiles
2 tablespoons fine unsweetened dessicated coconut

Peel the rutabaga and cut it in dice. Put it in a good sized pot, with the red lentils and water just sufficient to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender, stirring regularly; about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and grate or finely mince the garlic. Peel and grate the ginger. Set them aside.

About 10 minutes before the rutabaga is done, add the tomatoes to them.

Peel and chop the onion. Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the onion until soft and very slightly browned. Add the fennel seeds, chiles and coconut, and continue cooking and stirring for another 2 or 3 minutes, until the coconut begins to colour. Add the ginger and garlic, and continue cooking and stirring for another minute or two. Then add the contents of the skillet to the rutabaga.

Continue to simmer the rutabaga for 15 minutes to half an hour, until everything is well amalgamated and the sauce has cooked down to thick soupy texture. Serve with rice.

Last year at this time I made Baked Parsnips Crusted with Nuts & Seeds.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Indian Style Cabbage

When we lived in Cambridge we would often go out to Modern India. This is a rather good little buffet restaurant (although they do have a menu and do take out) which has set up in an old Country Style Donut shop that didn't cut the mustard - their loss is Cambridge's gain. The decor is a bit basic but the food is really nice.

A while back this winter they had a sautéed cabbage dish, and also rutabaga in a spicy tomato based sauce. I thought they were very good, but they didn't stay on offer for some reason. I decided I would try to recreate them, or at least something similar. This is what I came up with for the cabbage, and although it wasn't really all that similar I enjoyed it a lot. Rutabaga tomorrow.

2 to 4 servings
30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Indian Style Cabbage
4 cups chopped cabbage

1 clove of garlic
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mild curry powder
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 to 3 dried red chiles
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Chop the cabbage and set it aside. Peel and grate or finely mince the garlic. Grate the ginger. Put them in a small bowl with the pepper, salt and curry powder, and set that aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds, chiles and cumin seed when it is hot and cook, stirring, until the mustard seeds pop. Add the cabbage at once, and stir well. Reduce the heat to medium. Add half the water, and stir well again.

When the water is mostly evaporated, add the ginger, garlic etc. Stir well. When it is well blended in and has cooked for a minute or two, add the remaining water and the lemon juice. Continue cooking the cabbage until the second batch of liquid has evaporated or been absorbed, and the cabbage is done to your liking.

Last year at this time I made Lamb Chops with Roasted Tomatoes & Shallots, and Chocolate Pudding.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Another Dip Into the Canadian Farm Cook Book - Vegetables

One tends to look back at the vegetable recipes in old cookbooks with mingled amusement, envy and horror - the envy being very slight, and consisting mainly of the fact that as you read, you realize how many people were pulling fresh vegetables out of their vegetable garden.

The amusement and horror come from the realization of just how few vegetables were generally available, and from the fact that people used to do things like boil asparagus for 20 minutes. This was actually from a chart in a different cookbook on cooking vegetables, and the next cooking time was over 30 minutes, and they went up from there. Grey stringy mush, anyone?

However, the Canadian Farm Cook Book has these wise words about salads:
"The fresh vegetables also include the salad greens or the green vegetables that are eaten raw; for example lettuce, celery, cucumbers, watercress, radishes, etc. These may be used alone for salads or in combination with fresh meat or cooked vegetables. The salad greens should be thoroughly washed and put in cold water to become crisp. After they are crisp they may be folded loosely in a clean, damp towel or put into a covered granite pail and kept in a cool place until needed. In this way they may be prepared some time before using, and with a salad dressing prepared beforehand, a salad for supper can be prepared in a very short time. The oil or cooked dressings may be served with the salad. The dressing adds to the nourishment and flavor of the salad. French dressing is largely used for vegetable salads, but none of the dressingss except the French dressing should be added to the salad until just before serving time. - If added too soon they tend to wilt the crisp vegetables and the dressing becomes watery."
Okay, now I want a granite* pail to keep my salad greens cool in. And an old-fashioned stone cold-room or dairy to keep my granite pail in. (And a maid to scrub it**)... No. Stop. Now.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to spring, and asparagus season. How about asparagus on toast?
"ASPARAGUS ON TOAST. - Cut the tough, hard end from the asparagus, wash carefully, tie in bunches, set the bunches on end in a saucepan of boiling, salted water, having the tender ends above the water; cover and boil gently for 1/2 hour..."
That only takes you 1/3 of the way through the recipe but suddenly I have lost interest for some inexplicable reason. Anyway, asparagus is not here yet, but I do have a cabbage in the fridge.
"CABBAGE, BOILED. - Take off outside leaves, cut in quarters, remove tough stalk, soak in cold salted water, cook in uncovered vessel in boiling water. Change water every 10 minutes; drain. - Mrs. Milton Savage, Elgin Mills, Ont."
Another perplexing one. Just how long did she think it should be boiled, anyway? Myself, I would "change" the water after 10 minutes, by taking the cabbage out and serving it.
"CREAMED CABBAGE. - Boil cabbage in salted water until tender, drain and pour milk enough to almost cover, have flour and cold milk mixed and add just as milk and cabbage boils; cook five minutes, adding butter and nutmeg to taste. An excellent substitute for cauliflower. - Mrs Richard Fleming, Kingston Mills, Ont."
Don't know about that, but it does sound reasonably edible, providing modern definitions of until tender apply. "Cold" Slaw, on the other hand, sounds kind of dull.
"COLD SLAW. - To a small cup vinegar add a well-beaten egg, 1 teaspoon mustard, 1 teaspoon sugar, a small lump butter, season with pepper and salt; let come to a boil and pour over nicely chopped cabbage while hot. - Mrs Ross Pollock, Keswick, Ont."
And of course, this was the start of the long heyday of the jellied salad (which now is so far "out" it's coming back "in").
"JELLIED CABBAGE. - Chop 1 head white cabbage, mix with juice of 1 lemon, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup vinegar and a little salt; dissolve 1 package gelatine in water, mix with cabbage, put in a mould when jellied serve with any salad dressing. - Mrs. C. J. Brodie, Claremont, Ont."
And just to prove that there were other vegetables besides cabbage, how about some baked parsnips?
"Boil parsnips until tender, drain and mash, add a generous lump of butter, pepper and salt to taste; butter a baking dish, cover the bottom with a layer of bread crumbs, put in parsnips, cover with a layer of crumbs and brown in oven. - Mrs. Revd. MacKay, Four Mile Brook, Pictou Co., N.S."
Well, I think that's about enough for this week. I find I am losing my will to live.

*Not actual granite, in case anyone wonders - speckled enamel.

**Who do I think I am kidding? If I had been around 100 years ago, I'd have been the maid, most likely.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Potato-Cheese Muffins

These are not sweet muffins; more like biscuits. They are great with soup or salad, or certainly, I would eat them for breakfast with bacon and eggs.

I used potatoes cooked and mashed for this recipe, but if you use leftover mashed potatoes - and why not? - you may wish to use a little less salt and oil. I'm not saying how much 2 cups of grated cheddar weighs. You can stuff in however much suits your taste, your budget, or the strength of your cheese.

12 muffins
40 minutes - 15 minutes prep time, not including cooking the potatoes

Potato Cheese Muffins
2 cups soft whole wheat flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 extra-large eggs
2 cups mashed potatoes
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups grated extra-old cheddar
1 tablespoon fresh or dried chives (optional)

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt, and set them aside. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Butter or line 12 muffin cups.

Beat the eggs lightly in a mixing bowl, then add the mashed potatoes and mix well. Mix in the buttermilk and oil. Mix in the grated cheese, and the chives, if you want them.

Finally, mix in the dry ingredients, sufficiently well that the flour is all absorbed, but no more. Dollop the mixture out evenly into the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 25 minutes, until firm and nicely browned.

Last year at this time I made Rhubarb, Cranberry & Ginger Compote or Fool.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuity Crust

When 2 people roast a 7 pound chicken, it should come as no surprise there are leftovers. Here's where some of them went. The filling was a fairly standard pot-pie filling, but I thought the crust worked out very well. Sort of half-way between a biscuit or dumpling topping, and pie crust. I'm calling for chicken stock here; I assume you put the bones straight into the stock-pot when you put away the leftovers.

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

Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuity Crust
Make the Filling:
1 medium onion
1 medium carrot
2 stalks of celery
8 to 10 button mushrooms
1 tablespoon sunflower seed oil
1 or 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon savory
2 cups chicken broth or leftover gravy, or combo
2 or 3 cups cut-up cooked chicken
2 cups frozen peas, thawed

Peel and chop the onion, somewhat coarsely. Peel and dice the carrot. Clean and dice the celery. Clean the mushrooms and cut them in halves. Sauté these vegetables until softened in the oil. Sprinkle them with the flour and savory, and when they are well mixed in, add the broth or leftover gravy. (Use the smaller amount of flour if there is a generous amount of gravy, and the larger amount if you are mostly using broth.) Simmer the vegetables for about 15 minutes, until fairly tender. Top up with a little more broth if it seems to be disappearing. The sauce should be generous, but not soupy.

Meanwhile, prepare the biscuit dough for the crust, and preheat the oven to 350°F.

Add the chicken to the vegetables and heat for another 5 minutes or so. Put the filling and the peas into a large casserole dish, and cover it with the rolled-out biscuit crust. Actually - it now occurs to me - that since I prepared the filling in a cast iron skillet I could have simply applied the crust to the filling in the skillet and put it directly into the oven.

Add the Biscuity Crust:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sunflower seed oil
1/4 cup buttermilk, milk or cream
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

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

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

Put the dough out on a piece of parchment or waxed paper a little larger than the casserole dish, and roll out the dough until it will cover most of the casserole.

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

Bake the casserole for 25 minutes, until lightly browned.

Last year at this time I made Vegetarian Lentil Paté.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Slow Roasted Chicken

Mm, chicken. We don't get chicken too often as a good one is hard to find, and not cheap when you do. However we saw this one in the freezer of a tiny Mennonite-run market in the middle of no-where (actually half-way between our old life and our new life) and figured it was bound to be a good one. Which it was. Slow roasting keeps the meat tender and moist.

6 to 8 servings
3 to 4 hours - 30 minutes prep time

Slow Roasted Chicken
Make the Stuffing
4 cups cooked barley
1 medium onion
1 medium carrot
2 stalks of celery
2 tablespoons sunflower seed oil
1 recipe poultry seasoning

You will need about 1 cup raw barley; as ever, I cook it in the rice cooker with 3 cups of water and a pinch of salt.

Peel and chop the onion. Peel and chop the carrot. Wash and chop the celery. Sauté them in the oil until soft and just slightly browned, adding about 2/3 of the seasoning mix when half done.

Mix the vegetables into the barley.

Barley Dressing and Slow Roasted Chicken
Stuff & Roast the Chicken:
1 6 to 7 pound chicken
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Stuff the chicken with the barley mixture. About 1/3 should go into the neck end first; the skin can be pulled over it and then the chicken can be stood on end while the rest of the stuffing goes in, without the first batch of stuffing falling out.

Place the chicken on a small rack in a deep, snup casserole dish and dust it with the remaining poultry seasoning, mixed with the salt and paprika. Add 1/4 cup of water to the pan, and watch the chicken as it roasts. If it looks like drying out, add a bit more water. It shouldn't though; it should be producing lots of juices with the slow roasting.

Roast the chicken for 25 to 30 minutes per pound, until the bird is nicely browned and the leg wiggles freely.

If you want baked potatoes with your chicken, they should go in 2 hours before the chicken is done, because of the low temperature.

Once the bird comes out of the oven, it should sit for a few minutes before being carved. You'll need that time to get the stuffing out anyway. Pour the pan juices into a pot and thicken with a little flour.

Don't forget to make soup with the bones, scraps and any leftover dressing.

Last year at this time I made a Roast Leg of Lamb in a Spicy Sauce.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Poultry Seasoning

In my recipes I often call for spices, ground. This is what I use. It's a granite mortar and pestle from Korea. I used to have an electric coffee grinder to do this, but it was a nuisance to clean and just didn't seem worth the effort for a teaspoon of this and a teaspoon of that. For a while, I had them both, but I got used to grinding bigger and bigger batches of spices in the mortar. Eventually I gave the coffee grinder away.

In general, it makes a huge difference in the quality of your spices to buy them whole in small quantities, to grind them only as needed, and to keep them stored in a dark cool place. Pepper, once ground, goes rancid very quickly but can be stored in the cupboard as long as it is unground. Celery seed goes rancid easily even before it is ground, and might be best kept well wrapped in the freezer.

This poultry seasoning is reminiscent of an old favourite - Bell's seasoning. Whenever we went to the U.S to visit relatives when I was a kid, we would stock up on Bell's. It wasn't available here. I don't know if it's still around or not. I'm pretty happy with this, although I miss the lovely old-fashioned box that it came in.

Enough for one chicken
5 minutes

Grinding Spices
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon savory
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon ground dried ginger

Put the first four ingredients in your mortar or grinder and grind finely. Add the remaining ingredients and grind again.

Use the poultry seasoning to season stuffing for chicken, or sprinkle on the skin of a whole chicken or chicken pieces to be roasted. In that case, I like to add a bit of paprika and a bit more salt as well.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Some Old Recipes from The Canadian Farm Cookbook of 1911

Actually, I'm assuming it was 1911. That's the handwritten date in the front cover, along with the name of my great-aunt's mother-in-law; it was her book. The date of printing has been obscured by recipes clipped from newspapers and glued in over the years.

I've gotten hours of entertainment out of this book. It's a fascinating look at what Canadians were eating 100 years ago, and my interpretations of a couple recipes from it have already appeared on this blog. No doubt there will be a number more.

Right now though, I want to share some of the stuff I have abso-freaking-lutely no intention of ever trying.

For example, I am not going to make my own yeast:
"WET YEAST. - Boil 1 large handful of hops in a gallon of water for half an hour, grate 5 medium sized potatoes and strain the boiling liquid over it, stirring well; add a little salt, sugar and ginger; let cool then add 1 White Swan Yeast Cake and put in a warm place to rise; stir frequently. It is best made in a large dish and afterwards put into a jar and corked tight. - Mrs Harry Platts, Alma, Lot 3, P.E.I."
Huh? If you can get White Swan Yeast Cakes, why not just use White Swan Yeast Cakes? I don't get it.

You've got to love the organization of old-fashioned cook books, by the way. The way I figure it, word went out to the women of Canada that a cook book was to be published, they sent in their best recipes, and then they were sorted and organized. Sorted and organized by a man, plainly; and not just any man - certainly not one with any knowledge of cookery - I suspect the printer himself - and the resulting level of organization is approximate at best. I note, for example, the following mixed in amongst the yeasts and breads:
"SCOTCH BREADS. - 2 pounds flour, 1/2 pound brown sugar, 3/4 pound butter, 1/4 pound lard, roll, sprinkle with sugar, cut in squares. - Mrs. Will McKay, Altona, Ont."
Right, should be with the cookies. Should be baked, too, but that's just my opinion. These should have been with the cookies too:
"LEMON BISCUIT. - Take 2 1/2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 cups lard, 1 pint sweet milk, 2 eggs, five cents worth of baker's ammonia in sweet milk, and five cents worth of lemon oil; beat sugar, lard, and eggs together, pulverize and dissolve ammonia in sweet milk, put lemon oil in last, mix in flour until stiff, then roll about as thick as pasteboard, cut in squares or round shapes, and bake in a quick oven; add a little salt. - Mrs C. W. Macklin, Grafton, Ont.

Also sent by Miss Emma Reid, Reid's Corner, Ont.; Mrs. Jas. Symons, Box 26, Craik, Sask.; Mrs. R. Roe, Hawkstone, Ont.; Mrs. John Ferguson, Camlachie, Ont.; Mildred Gearns, Dalston, Simcoe Co., Ontario."
Obviously, this was a popular recipe at the time. But thus is seen the folly of calling for ingredients by their current price or package without reference to size. Future generations will have to guess: just how much baker's ammonia and lemon oil was that, anyway? Still, that was precision of a kind. I suspect this "recipe" was always just annoying:
"CEREAL AND VEGETABLE SOUPS. - Heaping tablespoon of barley, rice, wheat, oats, beans, peas, or whatever you desire; potato, carrot, tomato, cabbage, turnip, celery tops, parsley, onion, or whatever desired to suit taste; season with celery salt (table salt may be used). For bouillon, use excess of turnips and cabbage for flavouring and strain. If you desire to make richer by adding milk, omit cabbage and turnip. Select your vegetables as preferred. Any combination is good. Absolutely no stock or butter is required. - E. G. Harris, 109 Park Street, Buffalo, N.Y."
Well, wasn't that helpful? No? Well, maybe I'll try again next week with some different recipes.