Thursday, 29 April 2010

Liver & Tomato Casserole, Possibly with Mushrooms & Bacon

Liver: some people love it, and some people loathe it. I admit to liking it quite a lot. I was brought up in the days when people were encouraged to eat it once a week. We didn't eat it that often in our family, but it did show up pretty regularly. Once my parents got divorced, the liver fault-lines started to show though: Mom (and myself, and my brother) was (were) a liver-lover, and Dad - wasn't. Once, while shopping with Dad, it occurred to me that we hadn't had any in a long while. "Dad!" I asked, as we passed through the meat department, "Can we have liver?"

"NO!" said Dad. "I hate liver. NO LIVER!" (Really? News to me. He'd always eaten it when served it before.)

"Pleeeease?" I begged, and my younger brother, then about six years old, chimed in from his spot in the cart, "Yes! Let's have liver!"

"Oh, all right" grumbled Dad, after we begged some more. "You kids can have liver. But get me a pork chop, because I'm not eating it."

I always remember this incident because as I gleefully grabbed a packet of liver from the cooler, I saw the face of a woman who had overheard this exchange. She was absolutely flabbergasted, to say the least. I think her mouth was actually hanging open. At that point it occurred to me that this hadn't been a typical parent-child exchange.

Anyway, you may notice that this is the first liver recipe I have posted, because as it turns out Mr. Ferdzy has at least one thing in common with Dad. However, when you buy a whole lamb it does come with the liver. If you think you might like liver, but aren't sure, this is a good recipe to start with. The trouble with liver, I think, is that raw liver is plainly rather icky, but too many people think that it should therefore be cooked to death. Nasty, dried out old shoeleather it then becomes. By casseroling it, it can be well-cooked if you like without it becoming tough or dried out. You can also cook it so that it's still a bit pink in the middle, which is the prefered level of doneness for most liver lovers.

There are an awful lot of "optional" choices in this recipe, but it is a casserole and casseroles tend to be like that. It's good with the mushrooms and bacon but there's nothing wrong with it if you have only one or neither of those, which I didn't. I just used an extra onion to make up for the lack. If you like lamb, and you like liver, then lambs liver is THE liver, but calves liver is fine too. I admit to finding pork liver just too intense.

To me this is a spring or late summer dish; it's great with firm but ripe field tomatoes but the greenhouse ones are fine too. I got some nice greenhouse tomatoes in three colours last week, and I tried to arrange them so the colours could be seen. It worked reasonably well; better than my onions staying in slices. Since they fell apart I just put some of them on the top and some on the bottom.

4 servings
45 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Liver and Tomato Casserole
500 grams (1 pound) lamb or calves liver
1 cup flour, about
1 large onion, or 2 if no mushrooms or bacon are used
2 or 3 medium tomatoes (greenhouse are fine)
a handful of button mushrooms (optional)
OR 1 or 2 portobello mushrooms
3 or 4 slices of bacon, or up to 100 grams/1/4 pound (optional)
OR 2-3 tablespoons bacon fat or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup beef or lamb broth; use part wine if desired

Cut the liver into about 8 similar-sized pieces, discarding any tough veins or membrane. Dredge it in the flour, and set it aside; discarding any excess flour.

Peel and slice the onion (or onions) and set them aside. Wash, core and slice the tomatoes. Clean and slice the mushrooms, if you are using them.

Preheat the ovent to 375°F.

Next, fry the bacon briefly in a medium skillet until softened but not crisp. Remove it and set it aside. Fry the onions slices, taking care to keep them as whole as possible. (You will notice I didn't have much success with that, but still.) Remove them and set them aside. Finally, fry the liver pieces quickly on each side, just to brown them. You may need to a add a little more oil or bacon fat if it has all been soaked up by that point.

Now it is time to arrange all the ingredients in what should be a somewhat snug baking dish. Arrange the onion slices, tomato slices, mushrooms if using, and liver in overlapping layers in it. Lay your slices of bacon over top, if you are using them.

Put the sage and mustard, and a bit of salt and pepper into the skillet, then use the broth or broth and wine combination to deglaze the pan. Cook and stir, scraping up any brown bits, until the broth is reduced about in half, then pour it over the liver and vegetables.

Bake the casserole for 20 to 30 minutes at 375°F. until the tomatoes are soft and the liver is done to your liking; as noted, there should still be some pink at 20 minutes but it will be well done at 30 minutes. Serve with rice or potatoes to soak up the juices. Yum, I tell you; yum.

Last year at this time I made Blue Cheese & Apple Cole Slaw.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Scrambled Eggs with Ramps & Mushrooms

Known in this household as sc"ramp"led eggs. Yeah, I just can't help myself sometimes. This was another nice, simple dish to make with those deelicious ramps. You can leave out the mushrooms if you like, but I can't see why you would like. People can be strange though, I know.

2 or 3 servings
15 minutes prep time

Scrambled Eggs with Ramps and Mushrooms
1 bunch (16 to 18) ramps or wild leeks
6 to 8 button mushrooms (optional)
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons water
salt & pepper to taste
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Wash the ramps, and cut the thick stems from the dark green leaves. Chop the stems fairly finely. Clean and slice the mushrooms.

Beat the eggs with the water and salt and pepper to taste. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and sauté the mushrooms until they begin to soften and brown. Add the chopped ramp stems and continue sautéing until the mushrooms are nicely browned and the ramps are softened and lightly browned. While these cook, coarsely chop the greens from the ramps - just lay them in their original bunch on the board, and cut them across in inch-long pieces.

Add the ramp greens to the pan and sauté until they soften and turn limp. Turn down the heat to medium and add the eggs. Cook, stirring regularly and gently, until the eggs are mostly set, or otherwise done to your liking. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Pasta Salad with Marinated Vegetables and Maple Custard.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Monforte Hootenanny

On Sunday we drove down to Stratford for a significant milestone in the progress of Monforte Dairy. This was the long-awaited hootenanny to celebrate the completion of the factory and the recommencement of cheesemaking. As you can see, the celebration is still a little in advance of events. But only a little. May 17th is the day they plan to start receiving milk, and it looks like they will make it.

Ruth Klahsen (and others) gave guided tours of the facility in the early afternoon. Right now, it's a warren of blank, white rooms but notes on the walls and Ruth's excited descriptions of what will be happening there brought it all to life.

Ruth explained a lot about many of the details of construction. For example the slopes of the floors had to be very precise, and different in different rooms, as well as being sealed with different sealers, depending on what was to happen in each. She mentioned several times that the drains alone were $2000 each, which didn't impress me too much at the time but it has since occurred to me that our cheese share paid for exactly half a drain, and presumably not the installation of it.

The metal-clad, foam walls that divided the old open warehouse space into a cheese-making space where the milk flows from room to room in a very precise and controlled manner were manufactured in Quebec and assembled on site "like Legos".

Pinned up plans showed the future use of the building; essentially, raw milk comes in one side of the back, swirls through the building from room to room, and exits the other side of the back as the finished cheese, etc. There are separate rooms for blue mold cheeses to cure, for white mold cheese, and for non-mold cheeses, as well as a little smoke room.

Sanitation is a huge issue in a cheese factory, and so there is considerable space allowed for workers to wash and change - things that must be done every time they go on or off the factory floor, or even between some of the rooms. It's just as well the factory wasn't up and running for the hootenanny, or no-one could have gone in.

Equipment is starting to arrive; some new, ordered from the U.S. (no-one makes such small cheese vats in Canada) and some used, thanks to the sad demise of the Forfar Dairy.

This front room will be a small shop selling Monforte products - naturally - as well as a variety of other local foods. Ruth is even hoping to have a small market outside on Sundays.

See those cameras up near the ceiling? You'll be able to watch the cheese being made on-line! How cool is that?

Old cheddar hoops from the Forfar Dairy, along with other equipment waits to be set up, arranged and put back to work.

Once the factory tours were over everyone headed over to the Festival Theatre lobby for a party.

A hobbit-worthy feast of good food and wine waited at the Festival Theatre. One side of the room had a long table bearing roast pork with an assortment of salads, pickles and breads. The other side of the room had a long table with roast lamb, with an assorment of salads and sauces.

The line-ups rapidly became quite long, but service was brisk and we never waited too long for our goodies.

A number of Toronto restaurants supplied the food, chefs and servers...

... and they put on a great spread.

There were, I think, five different wine-makers on hand with Ontario wine to wash down our meals.

This photo almost makes the place not look jammed to the rafters... which it was. Ruth mentioned the figure of 800 people... it would not surprise me at all.

Here's the lamb, rather late in the proceedings and looking well picked over. With good reason; it was fabulous lamb.

For dessert there was one more table of food, including the few remaining hard Monforte cheeses, "Buff-a-latto" ice cream, made from water buffalo and sheep's milk for Monforte by Mapletons.

And these beautiful (and delicious) little panna-cottas to finish up. I have to say, I feel like we've gotten good value for our CSA share already, and I have yet to exchange a voucher. I hope to head down to Stratford again in mid-summer and start raking in the cheesey dividends. I'm really looking forward to it!

Monday, 26 April 2010

Chive & Cheddar Gougeres

Gougeres are a traditional French recipe, and very popular as an appetizer, or to accompany soup or salad. Why not; they are basically cheese-flavoured cream puffs and there is nothing to not like about that. Delicious with a good quality strong Cheddar and a hit of fresh garden chives. This recipe could easily be doubled.

16 to 24 gougeres
40 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Chive and Cheddar Gougeres
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup white wheat or 2/3 cup white spelt flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
2 extra-large eggs
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2/3 cup finely grated old Cheddar cheese
plus 2 tablespoons finely grated old Cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons finely minced fresh chives

Put the water and butter in a pot, and measure and set out the remaining ingredients. The salt and paprika should be mixed into the flour. The cheese should be grated. Preheat the oven to 400°F, and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Bring the water and butter to a boil, then dump in the flour mixture. Stir like crazy with a wooden spoon until the mass loses all its lumpiness and forms a ball that pulls away from the sides of the pan. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool for about 5 minutes.

Beat in the eggs thoroughly, one at a time. They will start off as a bit of a sloppy mess, but after diligent stirring the texture will change back to a smooth soft dough. Mix in the Parmesan and 2/3 cup of Cheddar cheese. Mix in the chives.

Scoop out the dough with a disher or tablespoon, spacing the dough well apart on the prepared baking tray. Sprinkle the last bit of cheese over the tops and bake them for 20 to 24 minutes, until puffed, firm and lightly browned. Serve at once, or allow them to cool before serving.

Last year at this time I made Dragons Breath Devilled Eggs.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Monforte Reminder

The clock is ticking to get a fabulous deal on Monforte cheese. You have today - April 23 - and tomorrow - April 24 - to sign up for a CSA share. That will provide you vouchers for cheese over 5 years. For every $1 you pay now, you get $1.50 worth of vouchers. It's a deal! More about it here, and here.

Sweet Pink Onions

Sweet Pink Onions
I wandered into my local Valu-Mart a couple weeks ago, and my eye was caught by something I had never seen before: sweet pink onions, "grown from French seeds", according to the label.

As you can see, they don't look so very pink at first glace; not a bubble-gum pink for instance, and definitely not shocking pink. They do have a definite rosy cast to them though, and they look a bit pinker once cut in half. They are indeed quite sweet, with a strong aroma somewhat reminiscent of shallots. I cut one in half, lifted it up to my nose and sniffed deeply. My eyes stung just a tad, but there were no tears. You couldn't do that with your average storage onion!

That's what particularly amazes me about these onions. Most sweet onions don't store well. The famous (at least in North America) sweet onions are Vidalia and Walla-Walla, which are short-day onions and so have never grown well in Ontario. Yet here it is - April - and I am buying stored, sweet, Ontario-grown onions.

How is such a thing possible? Where did these onions come from?

The first clue was that, according to the label, they were "grown from French seeds". A little digging showed me that there is a well-known pink onion from Brittany, France: the rosé de Roscoff. This onion has a fascinating history; it has been grown in Roscoff for at least 200 years, and was taken by small boats to England where it was sold door-to-door by "Onion Johnnies". That tradition has almost died out, but the onion lives on, and now has an appellation d'origine contrôlée. In other words, if it isn't grown in Roscoff, you can't call it a rosé de Roscoff, even if you are growing it from French seeds. It's a popular and well-esteemed gourmet onion throughout most of northwestern europe, used by all the best chefs and restaurants.

In search of more information, I phoned up Frank Schroyens, the farmer who grows the sweet pink onions in Staffordville, just south of Tilsonburg. He did not mention Roscoff, but he did say that they are grown from seeds of onions grown in only one village in France. He also says they are the best onions in the world and presumably he is a man who, as they say, knows his onions. He also says he is the only one in North America growing and selling them.

Frank has been growing and marketing these sweet pink onions for 2 or 3 years now. At first, he tried selling them for a higher price than regular onions, as the seed is both very expensive and hard to get, but they did not sell well. So off to market they go at the same price as other onions. Now they are becoming known, and he can hardly keep up with the demand. It's a bit sad that now I have discovered them, they are probably going to be in short supply next year as he cannot get enough seed this year. However, he assured me that he should have plenty of seed the next year. They do like a light, sandy soil, and they grow well for him in his ex-tobacco farmland.

I was toying with the idea of planting some of these onions and saving the seed, but Franks says that doesn't work. The resulting offspring are of a different shape, and not as sweet. Pity.

Frank says they are harvested in September, and keep into May. They get stronger in flavour as they sit in storage. Indeed, that was one of the things that struck me about these onions: they have a very robust flavour for a sweet onion, yet they really are sweet and almost tearless. They cook beautifully, although I have noted that I must keep the temperature a bit more moderated than with other onions, because they contain so much sugar they will scorch more readily than less sweet onions.

I discovered, in talking to Frank, that I have been eating his shallots for several years. He sells them through the Loblaws chains and to Costco, and they comprise 95% of his business. I think he's the king of Ontario shallots, but plainly he is not content to rest on those particular laurels.

Frank particularly recommends the sweet pink onions for soup. His wife makes a soup of pink onions, leeks, celery and potatoes cooked together then puréed and finished with a touch of cream. I'll be trying that a little later this week, I think. I've got a few leeks left in the garden from last year.

And finally, keep your eyes out for something called eschallions, which Frank is growing this year. Apparently these are known in England as Banana Shallots, and they are a longer, larger, milder form of shallot.

Sweet Onion on Foodista

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Spinach Salad with Marinated Onion & Mushrooms

Spinach from our garden! How do we have it so soon? We planted it last fall, that's how. It overwintered beautifully in our coldframes, and some we left exposed in open ground survived as well and is now recovered and grown enough to pick.

With a bit of luck you will start to see some spinach for sale out there that has been grown in hoop houses, and it won't be too long before spinach grown in the open is available as well. The asian flavours are not the usual mushroom marinade, but they make a nice change from the usual, and go well with the onions. The onions were an exciting find this month, and I'll tell you more about them tomorrow. But seriously; get out there and look for "pink onions"! You won't be sorry.

4 side servings
2o minutes prep time - plus 2 to 24 hours marinating time

Spinach Salad with Marinated Onions & Mushrooms
Marinate the Onion:
1 medium pink onion (or other mild sweet onion)
1 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Peel the onion, and cut it in half from top to bottom. Cut each half into thin horizontal slices, and cut them in half across. Put the onion pieces into a non-reactive container and add the vinegar, sugar and salt. Cover and marinate for 2 to 24 hours. (In the fridge if it's for more than a couple of hours.)

This will make considerably more onion than required for this salad, but it will keep in the fridge for up to a week, and can be used in a number of other applications; try it on sandwiches, burgers, eggs, etc.
Marinate the Mushrooms:
125 grams (1/4 pound) button mushrooms
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup light soy sauce
1/2 cup rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar

Clean and slice the mushrooms, and put them in a non-reactive container. Add the remaining ingredients, and stir gently but well. Cover an marinate for 2 to 24 hours, again putting the mushrooms in the fridge if the marinating time will be more than several hours.

Make the Salad:
4 to 5 cups tender young spinach, or mixed spinach and lettuce

Wash, drain and tear up the spinach (and lettuce) leaves, and arrange them on serving plates or in a salad bowl.

Lift the mushrooms out of their marinade with a slotted spoon and arrange them over the spinach. Lift a couple of tablespoons of the marinated onions from their marinade and arrange them over the salad. Drizzle as much of the mushroom marinade over the salad as you would like for a dressing. Serve at once.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Cinnamon Sour Cream Coffee Cake

This is a recipe I have had for a long, long time. I got it from a woman in the Toronto Monthly (Quaker) Meeting back in the 70's, after she brought it to a pot-luck. It was a very popular cake for a while in the late '70's and early '80's, and then it seemed to fade from the scene*. I, however, have always been loyal to it and still regard it as one of my favourite cakes.

Not that I make it often; there's no question but that it's thoroughly rich. For a while I tried making a version with reduced butter and yogurt instead of sour cream, and it was okay; I mean, it was a cake, and cake is good. But I have decided that if you are going to have cake at all, it might as well be the best cake, and have gone back to the original version.

The original recipe called for a bundt pan, which thing I have never owned. A springform pan works just fine.

8 servings
1 hour 20 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Cinnamon Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Make the Cinnamon Streusel:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup Sucanat, or very dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Mix the flours, Sucanat and cinnamon into the melted butter, until completely blended and the mixture forms crumbs. Set aside.

Make the Cake:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
2 cups soft unbleached wheat flour (I used spelt)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Butter a bundt pan, or line the bottom of a 9" springform pan with parchment paper, and butter the sides. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cream the butter in a large mixing bowl with the sugar, until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then mix in the vanilla extract and the sour cream.

Measure the flour and mix in the baking powder, salt and soda. Sift half of the flour into the wet ingredients, and fold the flour gently into them until evenly blended. Repeat with the remaining flour.

Spoon half of the batter into the prepared baking pan, and spread it out evenly. Sprinkle the streusel as evenly as you can over the batter, and cover it as evenly as possible with the remaining batter.

Bake the cake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

*By fade from the scene, I mean it was no longer as popular amongst home bakers, and fancy restaurants weren't serving it, but now there are industrially produced imitations that are ubiquitous in grocery stores. They're such feeble imitations that I barely recognize that they're supposed to be the same thing.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Trout with Ramps & Potatoes

Ramps are now starting to show up at the markets, hurray! This is a good 3 weeks earlier than last year, I think. What to do with them? Something simple to highlight their rich and pungent yet delicate flavour. This is pretty basic although it does take a little while to cook. Well worth the wait though. The fragrance of the ramps as they roast is amazing.

I've only started eating ramps very recently. Strangely, in all my childhood wanderings in the forest at our cottage I never came across them. Perhaps they don't do well in Muskoka, or maybe I was just unlucky. I think I didn't look very hard for them either, because everything* I had read about them was not encouraging. They were disgustingly strong to the point of near inedibility, and only uncouth bumpkins would or could eat such a thing. The phrase "uncouth bumpkins" was not actually used, but the subtext came through loud and clear in every text I read. Now they are the darling of urban foodies everywhere; my my, how fashions change. Of course, those were the days when even rubbing your salad bowl with garlic (before discarding the garlic, of course) was considered rather daring and possibly offensive to the delicate. I should have known better. Oh, well. I shall attempt to make up for lost time.

2 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Trout with Ramps and Potatoes
2 medium-large potatoes
3 or 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch (16 to 18) ramps or wild leeks, well washed
2 fillets (500 grams or 1 pound) rainbow trout fillets

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Wash the potatoes and trim off any bad spots. Grate them coarsely and rinse them in cold water, and squeeze them out in the colander, leaving them there until the water boils. Add them to the boiling water and boil for 2 or 3 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water, and squeeze them to remove as much liquid as you can.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400°F. Put the butter in a shallow baking dish (8" x 10" lasagne pan) and put it in the oven to melt. Cut the white stem ends from the ramps, and trim off th root ends. Chop the white stems fairly finely. When the butter has melted, toss in the ramps and stir them around for a minute. Add the potatoes, season well with salt and pepper, and toss them well in the butter until they are evenly coated. Spread them out in the dish. Put the dish back in the oven and bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until they are fairly browned around the edges.

Rinse and drain the trout fillets. Chop the remaining leaves from the ramps fairly coarsely, and put them over the potatoes. Lay the trout fillets on top, and return the dish to the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until the trout is done to your liking. Serve at once.

*Euell Gibbons was the one exception, but I was inclined to take Euell Gibbons with a grain of salt, even though I assiduously bought every book he wrote.

Last year at this time I made Beet & Red Cabbage Salad with Horseradish.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Fruit & Nut Pilaf with Wild Rice

I've made this a couple of times recently to serve with lamb, and it goes with it very nicely. We've been eating a fair bit of lamb in the last few weeks. (For some reason the lamb we ordered last summer failed to gain sufficient weight during the fall and early winter, so our "fall" lamb arrived from the butcher in March, and we are making up for lost time.) However it would also be good with beef or chicken. Curries, or Moroccan flavoured dishes would go well.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 20 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Fruit and Nut Pilaf with Wild Rice
Prepare the Seasonings:
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt

Mix them in a small bowl and set them aside.

3 or 4 shallots
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Peel and mince the shallots and the garlic. Sauté the shallots in a small skillet with the oil until soft and slightly browned. Add the garlic and sauté a minute more, then add the spices and mix in well, cooking for another minute or two.

Remove all this to your rice cooker (or other pot).

Finish the Pilaf:
1 cup brown rice, rinsed and drained
1 cup wild rice, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chopped dried apricots
2 tablespoons golden raisins (sultanas)
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
2 tablespoons chopped, shelled pistachios
2 tablespoons chopped almonds
4 1/4 cups water

Chop the apricots, pistachios and almonds, and add them along with the remaining ingredients to the rice cooker or pot. Turn it on and cook until done. If you are cooking it on the stove, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook over low heat until done. I found this took longer than expected; allow 50 to 60 minutes. (My brown rice is usually done in 40 to 45 minutes.)

Friday, 16 April 2010


Okay, I think I have a new obsession.

Yes, these were time-consuming to make. On the other hand, the steps could be broken up to a large degree and none of it was difficult. If they freeze, and I don't see why not, they would be sooo handy for quick and transportable meals. Just the thing for when the garden really gets going. And I'm giving instructions for 1 filling, but you could fill them with all sorts of things, vegetarian or meaty. Cheese and potato. Meat and potato. Greener greens like kale or chard, with a bit of sausage, or chopped hard boiled eggs. Mushroom, sour cream, eggs and rice. Curried beef or char-siu piroshki. Chilean piroshki with lentils, hard boiled eggs, olives and raisins. Or sweet ones, with some of that frozen fruit currently in the freezer.

Yep, like I said; I think I have a new obsession. And just as a note, it's not at all hard to double the recipe for the dough. It will keep, loosely put in a plastic bag then bagged again, for several days in the fridge. The baked piroshki should keep for a couple of days, and as noted, they should also freeze.

16 piroshki
5 or 6 hours, but divided up - about 1 hour prep time

Make the Dough:
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup warm water
2 teaspoons dry yeast
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 extra-large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup gluten flour
1/4 teaspoon vitamin C powder
3/4 teaspoon lecithin
2 cups white spelt flour
2 to 2 1/2 cups whole spelt flour

Mix the sugar into the warm water - it should be pleasant, bathwater warm, as with all breadmaking. Sprinkle the yeast over and let it sit form 5 or 10 minutes until the yeast is foamy.

Meanwhile, put the butter in the milk and heat gently just until the butter melts. Let cool slightly and beat in the eggs. Set aside.

Mix the salt, gluten flour, vitamin C and lecithin into the white spelt flour in a good sized mixing bowl, and make a well in the middle.

Pour in the yeast mixture, and the milk mixture into the well, and mix well. Mix in 2 cups of whole spelt flour, then turn the dough out onto a clean floured board or counter and knead for 10 minutes, incorporating more whole spelt flour as required to make a smooth dough. It should be faintly but not annoyingly sticky.

Put the dough in a clean bowl with a spoonful of oil, and turn to coat the dough all over. Cover with a cloth and put in a warm place to rise until doubled in size.

Make a Filling:
2 small onions
1 clove garlic
3 cups sliced mushrooms, plain button or mixed
2 cups finely chopped green cabbage
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
2 cups sauerkraut

Peel and finely chop the onions. Peel and mince the garlic. Clean and slice the mushrooms. Finely chop the cabbage.

Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet, and sauté the onions until soft and slightly browned. Add the mushrooms, and continue cooking until they are soft and slightly browned. Add the garlic and cook a minute or two more. Add the cabbage, with a splash of water, and continue cooking until the cabbage is soft. Mix in the sauerkraut and continue cooking until the mixture is hot through, and any liquid had evaporated.

Remove the mixture from the stove and let it cool.

Assemble & Bake the Piroshki:
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon sugar

Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 16 equal portions. Flatten and roll each piece into a thin round. Put a couple of tablespoons of the filling in the middle of the round, and fold the edges up from each side and pinch them closed. Continue pinching the dough closed until you have a football-shaped piroshki. (In other words, the circle of dough has been folded more or less in half, and the seam is along the top.) Place the finished piroshki seam-side down on one of the prepared trays. (This will help ensure that they stay pinched closed.) Continue with the remaining dough and filling, until all have been made.

Cover the trays with clean cloths, and let them rise again for half an hour to an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Mix the milk and sugar, and brush the tops of the piroshki. Bake them for 20 to 25 minutes until firm and nicely browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Last year at this time I made Maple Sugar Cookies.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Smoked Trout & Bean Paté

Simple and tasty! Yet not nearly as rich as most patés or dips. Serve with homemade crackers or good pumpernickel bread. Good as an appetizer or to accompany a bowl of soup, or salad.

Makes 12 to 20 servings
30 minutes prep time - plus time to chill

Smoked Trout and Bean Pate
1 tin white kidney beans
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
6 to 8 dried tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 shallots
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 fillet smoked trout (about 200 grams or 1/2 pound)
the juice of 1/2 lemon
generous grind of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked Spanish paprika

1 fillet smoked trout (about 200 grams or 1/2 pound)

Put the beans, with their packing liquid, into a medium sized pot. Add the rosemary, the dried tomatoes snipped up into quarters or so, the lemon zest. Bring to a good boil, then cover and turn off the heat, and let them sit about 10 minutes.

Peel and finely chop the shallots, and likewise the garlic. Heat the oil in a small skillet, and sauté the shallots until soft and slighlty browned. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute or two more. Remove from the pan into the bean pot.

Peel the skin from the first trout fillet, and crumble it into the cooled bean pot as well. Add the lemon juice, pepper and paprika. Scoop this mixture into a food processor, and process until well amalgamated but still fairly coarse in texture. Return it to the pot, and skin the second trout fillet. Crumble it into the paté, and mix it in.

Put the paté into a nice serving dish, preferably one that can be sealed to keep any leftovers.

Serve lightly chilled to room temperature; keep any leftovers refrigerated. Should keep for several days in the fridge.

Last year at this time I made 5-Spice Parsnips.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Berry Mousse

Last summer I froze a whole bunch of berries as I usually do, and also as usual here it is not too far from strawberry season and most of them are still sitting there. However I expect - again as usual - I will now use them up in a rush as the weather gets milder and smoothies and cool desserts like this one seem more and more desirable.

This is a little complicated although not difficult to put together, but it was very good and while it was rich it wasn't quite as evil as it seemed, I don't think. I admit to not having done the math. I'm also kind of guessing about the time it takes for this, as I broke it up into the steps and did them separately. You do need to let the fruit mixture cool anyway. It could be done up to a day ahead, I would think, and kept in the fridge until wanted. The rest needs to be done pretty much together.

8 servings
4 hours - 1 hour prep time

Berry Mousse
Prepare the Berries:
2 cups raspberries, thawed if frozen
2 cups strawberries, thawed if frozen
1/2 cup cranberry juice
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
2 extra-large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Frozen berries should be thawed out slowly in the fridge overnight.

Put all of the above ingredients into a pot, and stir well. Top of a double boiler might not be a bad idea; otherwise heat slowly over medium-low heat. Stir frequently at the beginning and constantly at the end, until the mixture cooks and thickens. Set it aside to cool. Stir occasionally so it doesn't form a skin on top.

Make the Meringue:
2 extra-large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
pinch of salt
1/3 cup sugar

Put the egg whites in the top of a double boiler; have the other ingredients standing by. Heat the egg whites while beating with an electric mixer. Once they are frothy add the cream of tartar and the salt. Continue to beat, adding the sugar a bit at a time until it is all in, and the egg whites are thick, stiff and glossy; about 5 minutes. Remove them from the heat promptly and set them aside.

Finish the Mousse
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 to 3 teaspoons plain gelatine
1/4 cup boiling water
1 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups blueberries, thawed if frozen

Put the lemon juice in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatine over it; use less if you want a softer mousse and more for a stiffer mousse. Mix in the boiling water and stir well until the gelatine is completely dissolved. Let it cool as you continue.

Put the cream in a large, chilled bowl, and beat - no need to clean the beaters - until it thickens. Add the remaining sugar, and beat until stiff.

Fold in the meringue, then the berry mixture, until they are well incorporated, although a bit of streakiness is fine. Gently fold in the blueberries. Spoon the mixture evenly into 8 small dessert bowls. Chill until set, about an hour.

Last year at this time I made Kasha Varnishkes.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Peanutty Asian Style Salad

I have no idea if this was any good since I don't eat cucumbers. However, it was rapidly and completely consumed so I have to assume it was okay at least. It certainly looked very pretty, with all the colours, and it smelled good, if slightly fish-saucey. Nothing wrong with that. Fish sauce and peanut butter; two great tastes that taste great together, especially if there's some ginger in there too.

6 to 8 servings
30 minutes prep time

Peanutty Asian Salad
Make the Dressing:
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce

Put the honey, peanut butter and vinegar together in a small jar, and heat (microwave) until the honey melts. Stir well until the peanut butter and honey are both totally dissolved and blended in. Peel and grate the ginger and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well.

Make the Salad:
1 cup finely shredded red cabbage
2 cups finely shredded savoy or green cabbage
2 cups mung bean sprouts
1 large carrot
4 mini greenhouse cucumbers
1/3 cup chopped peanuts

Shred the red and savoy or green cabbages. Rinse and drain the bean sprouts and chop them roughly. Peel and grate the carrot. Trim the ends from the cucumbers, and cut them in quarters lengthwise, then cut them into pieces crosswise.

Toss the vegetables together with the salad dressing. Serve topped with the chopped peanuts.

Last year at this time I made Flax & Ryemeal Crackers.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Celeriac, Endive & Potato Salad

I had one last small celeriac left in the fridge from a bunch of them that I bought on sale this winter, and when I saw this recipe, if recipe is quite the right word, I thought I would give it a try. Without the tongue, more because I didn't have any and because this was meant as a side salad than because I wouldn't like it; I would. Anyway, the result is rather pretty in a pale and interesting way, and the potato and celeriac mellow the endive nicely. If you wanted something more like the original and couldn't get or couldn't face tongue, a bit of chopped ham would undoubtedly be good with it. Or bacon, but that kind of goes without saying. Mind you there was absolutely nothing wrong with it the way it was.

6 to 8 servings
30 minutes prep time

Celeriac Endive and Potato Salad
Make the Dressing:
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons sunflower seed oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
generous quantities of freshly ground black pepper

Put in a jar and shake.

Make the Salad:
2 medium-large potatoes
2 medium-small heads of Belgian endive
2 cups finely diced peeled celeriac

Scrub the potatoes, and cut them into dice. Put them in a pot with water to cover and boil them until just tender. Drain and rinse them in cold water to stop them cooking any further. Drain well.

Cut the endive into thin slices crosswise, discarding the base and any hard core pieces. Peel and dice the celeriac.

Mix the cold potatoes, endive and celeriac and toss with the dressing.

Last year at this time I made Seedy Red Fife Crackers to go with Monforte Cheese.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Eggs Baked in Tomatoes

These were rather nice. Serve them with salad or rice, depending on how dietetic you are feeling. We had salad and rice. Yeah; that's how dietetic we always feel. And we wonder why we don't lose weight. Oh well. It was at least lunch and not breakfast.

I'm listing these as a possible thing for breakfast, but they are surprisingly not quick to do for something as simple as they are, so maybe a later meal is better. These were, of course, greenhouse tomatoes which have suddenly shown up on sale after not being available for most of the winter, much to my annoyance. However, I'm happy to see them now, because there sure isn't much out there in the way of veggies at the moment.

How many servings do you want?
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time

Eggs Baked in Tomatoes
You will need for each person to be served:
1 medium-large tomato
1 large egg
1 tablespoon breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan cheese
salt & pepper
rubbed oregano
rubbed basil

Cut out the core of each tomato, then scoop out as much of the innards as you can, using a sharpish spoon. A grapefruit spoon, if you have one. Does anyone have those anymore? Anyway, a sharpish spoon. Salt the insides of the tomatoes, and let sit as you prepare the other ingredients. Drain them well; in fact it would probably not hurt to dry the insides with a bit of paper towel.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Mix the crumbs, cheese, pepper and herbs.

Set each tomato in its own snug ramekin, or you can put them in one large baking dish if you are not doing too many and they fit in snuggly. Sprinkle some of the crumb mixture in each tomato, saving about half of it for after the eggs go in. Break an egg into each tomato, and sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture on top.

Bake the tomatoes and eggs for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how you like your eggs. It can be a little hard to tell, unfortunately. Maybe a toothpick would be the way to test them. Also, if you like your tomato on the soft side, you may wish to pre-bake it for 5 minutes or so before the eggs go in.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Maple Baked Beans with Sausage

Well, after last weeks short but intense summer it's back to more wintery temperatures. Brr. More than a few little plants are going to regret sticking their noses up but that's what they get for living in this climate.

What we get for living in this climate is a last chance to make a big pot of baked beans. With maple syrup because it's that time of the year, and with sausage because, hey! Sausage.

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time - allow 2 days to complete

1 lb dried white pea beans (navy beans)
1 lb lean pork breakfast sausage
1 large onion

1/2 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons hot mustard powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sage

Rinse and pick over the beans, and put them in a large pot with water to cover them generously. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and soak them, covered, for at least an hour. Continue the boiling and soaking cycle several times until the beans are tender. You can simmer them gently towards the end to finish them off if you like.

When the beans are ready, peel and chop the onion. Brown the sausage in a large skillet (cut it up into bite-sized pieces if you like; I recommend this if it is not the usual fairly small breakfast sausages.) Add the onion bits half-way through the browning process and let them cook down a bit.

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Drain the beans and put them in a large casserole dish. Save the cooking water, and mix 2 cups of it with the remaining ingredients. Mix this into the beans, along with the sausages and onion. Top up with more bean cooking water until the top layer of beans appears to float.

Bake at 300°F for 4 to 5 hours, until well browned.

Last year at this time I made Chick Pea, Tomato & Cucumber Salad.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Cucumber & Sprout Salad

Here's a nice simple side-salad. Greenhouse cucumbers were on sale this week, so a cucumber salad seemed in order. Also, it was HOT! And I do mean hot. Not like April at all.

It's too soon for radishes or green onions, but in a month they will be around. Or sooner, if this weather keeps up. I used some onion tops from the garden. They are the first thing up in the Spring, and even if you have a very small garden I think it's worth finding a few square inches for some chives and welsh onions. Carrots are still around, but not for much longer. I always try to buy a couple of bigs bags around now to tide me over the period in early summer that they are not available.

2 to 4 servings
15 minutes prep time - 30 minutes to marinate

Cucumber and Sprout Salad
Make the Dressing:
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons sunflower seed oil
3 tablespoons dill pickle juice
pepper to taste

Mix them up and set them aside.

Make the Salad:
2 or 3 mini greenhouse cucumbers
1 cup sunflower or other sprouts, chopped
1 medium carrot
OR 2 or 3 tender young radishes
1 green onion, or equivalent onion greens or chives

Wash the cucumbers and trim the ends; cut them in dice. Rinse, drain and chop the sprouts. Peel and dice the carrot or radishes, a little finer than the cucumbers. Rinse, trim and chop the green onion.

Toss with the salad dressing, and let marinate in a cool spot (fridge) for about 30 minutes to allow the flavours to blend.

Last year at this time I made Maple Gingerbread.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Smoked Trout Kedgeree

Kedgeree is a dish that was developed in Victorian times from a combination of traditional Indian and British dishes. It's one of those things that can vary quite a lot; the standard elements being the smoked fish, rice and hardboiled eggs. Onion is a pretty safe bet. Some people put in curry powder (I have sort of mixed up my own version) and some people don't. Others think parsley is indispensible (it would be good, but all I had at this time was some green onion tops from the garden) and some people put in an elaborate creamy sauce and some people don't. I put in cream - oh, well I'm calling for cream because I guarantee it's better but what I had was soy milk, so in it went. Result very tasty and much more attractive than you would expect such a mish-mash hash to be.

The smoked rainbow trout fillets were very nice but you can certainly use other smoked fish, and leftover cooked salmon would also do in a pinch.

4 servings
30 minutes prep time, plus time to cook the rice

Smoked Trout Kedgeree
Cook the Rice & Eggs:
1 cup brown or white rice
1/2 cup wild rice
3 or 4 large eggs

If using brown rice, you can cook the rice and the wild rice together. If you use white rice, they must be cooked separately. Allow 2 cups of water for the brown rice, or 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups for the white rice (depending on variety) and cook them as usual in the rice cooker with a pinch of salt each. This is best done in advance.

Put the eggs in a pot with water to cover and a good spoonful of salt. Cover and bring to a boil; boil for 1 minute then turn off the heat and let the eggs sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Drain them and rinse in cold water to cool them. Peel the eggs and chop all but one.

Mix the Spices:
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon sweet smoked Spanish paprika

Grind the coriander, cumin and fennel seed, and mix with the turmeric and paprika in a small bowl. Set aside until needed.

Finish the Dish:
1 medium onion
1 or 2 stalks of celery
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
2 smoked rainbow trout fillets (about 500 grams or 1 pound)
1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped green onion or parsley, or combination
1 cup light cream (10%)
wedges of lemon

Peel and chop the onion fairly finely. Wash, trim and chop the celery fairly finely. Peel and mince the ginger.

Heat the oil in a large skillet, and sauté the onion, celery and ginger until they are soft and slightly browned, stirring frequently. Meanwhile, peel the skin from the trout fillets and break them into bite-sized pieces. When the vegetables are soft, stir in the spice mixture and cook for a minute or two longer, still stirring.

Add the rices and stir well to break up any clumps and distribute the onion and celery throughout. Reduce the heat to medium. Add a little water to keep the rice from sticking to the pan if necessary. When the rice is hot through, add the broken up fish, the chopped eggs and the green onions and/or parsley and continue cooking for a minute or two longer. Stir in the cream, in several passes - it may not be necessary to add quite all of it. When the mixture is hot through and well blended, it is ready to serve. Serve garnished with the last egg, sliced, as well as a bit more chopped parsley and pass lemon wedges to squeeze over.

Last year at this time I made Dad's Maple-Sherry Salad Dressing.

Saturday, 3 April 2010


... last year at this time it was cold as hell and we had a foot of snow (and would for some weeks yet). People were skiing. I was seriously annoyed with the weather because I wanted to get into the garden.

This year at this time, I am also seriously annoyed with the weather. Apparently, it is too much to ask to have an actual spring season in this country. And presumably there are some mild temperatures as we pass from -20° to +30°, but don't blink or you will miss them. THIRTY-TWO degrees Celsius according to the back deck thermometer for the second day in a row, and YES that is in the shade. That would be 90° old style. Crap-ola, that is hot for the 3rd of April. I can barely stand to be outside. I can practically see the buds swelling before my eyes (and the crocuses keeling over and dying). Yikes.

p.s. Did I mention we need rain? We need rain, like, desperately. RAIN ALREADY!!!

Stewed Duck Legs

I've been a bit obsessed with braising things (and duck) this winter and it doesn't seem to be over yet. For a change I did this on top of the stove instead of in the oven. I recommend doing it a day ahead; that way you can skim off some fat before you reheat it. Leave the legs whole and serve over mashed potatoes or polenta, or shred the meat and discard the bones and serve it as a sauce over pasta.

2 servings
2 hours 15 minutes - 45 minutes prep time

Stewed Duck Legs
1 large onion
1 or 2 stalks of celery
OR 1 cup peeled, finely diced celeriac
1 medium carrot
1 medium parsnip
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon mild duck fat, or vegetable oil
2 duck legs (about 500 grams, 1 pound)
1 or 2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
1 1/2 cups duck or chicken stock
the finely grated zest of 1 small lemon
2 teaspoons arrowroot starch
the juice of 1/2 small lemon

Peel and chop the onion. Clean, trim and chop the celery. Peel and dice the carrot and the parsnip. Peel and mince the garlic, and set it aside separately.

Heat the fat or oil in a medium sized skillet, and sauté the duck legs on as many sides as possible until the skin is browned and crisp. Set them aside in a snug stewing pot, with the bay leaves, salt, pepper and rosemary.

Sauté the onion, celery, carrot and parsnip in the same skillet until softened and slightly browned. Add the garlic and lemon zest, and sauté for a minute or two more. Add them to the duck legs, and add the duck or chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat quite low, and simmer, covered, for about an hour and a half.

Ideally, cool the dish and refrigerate until the next day. Remove as much fat from the surface as seems good, then remove the duck legs from the vegetables and broth. Purée about half of the vegetables and broth to make a very smooth sauce with the lemon juice and the arrowroot, and blend it back into the remaining sauce and vegetables. Return the sauce to the pot with the duck legs, and reheat, stirring frequently. Serve over mashed potatoes or polenta.

If you wish, you can pull the meat from the bones and chop it before returning it to the sauce to be reheated. Serve over pasta in this case.

Last year at this time I made Rainbow Trout with Leek & Mushroom Sauce and German Celeriac Salad.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Braised Endive

A very simple treatment for a somewhat uncommon vegetable.

2 servings
30 minutes - 5 minutes prep time

Braised Endive
1 large endive
1 tbsp oil
1 teaspoon sugar
½ cup meat broth

Trim the stem end of the endive, if it is discoloured. Cut the endive in half lenghtwise.

Heat the oil and the sugar in a small skillet and braise the endive pieces, flat side down, until browned; turn them over and add the broth.Continue cooking over medium-low heat until the broth is reduced to a syrupy glaze. You may wish to turn the endive pieces a couple of times to ensure that they are well coated. Serve at once.