Friday, 21 December 2012

Squash or Sweet Potato Puff

This is a very easy dish to make, although somewhat time consuming if you bake the squash for it as part of making the dish. Better to use left-over squash or sweet potatoes.  You can serve it as a side dish, but it`s solid enough to be a vegetarian main dish if you like.

If you use squash, don`t forget to rinse off the seeds, toss them with a little oil, spread them on a baking tray, sprinkle them with salt or other seasonings and roast them for about half an hour. They are a delicious snack.

8 servings
2 1/2 hours -30 minutes prep time

3 cups cooked squash or sweet potato purée
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
black pepper & grated nutmeg to taste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons milk
5 large egg yolks
5 large egg whites

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the squash in half, remove the seeds, rub the cut edges with oil and roast for about 1 hour to 1 1/4 hours, until soft. (Or roast the sweet potatoes.) Peel and purée. Measure 3 cups into a mixing bowl.

Mix the seasonings into the purée, with the butter, milk and egg yolks. Butter or oil an 8"x 11" baking pan. Set the oven to 325°F.

Beat the egg whites until very stiff. Fold them into the squash or sweet potato mixture and pour it into the prepared pan. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until firm and set in the middle. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Brussels Sprouts Salad.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Cranberry Turkey Meatballs in Mushroom Gravy

Don't want to go all-out with turkey and the trimmings? Here's a more homely, every-day alternative that brings together most of the flavours of a traditional turkey dinner. Serve it with a green vegetable and Stuffing Bread for the complete experience. 

4 to 6 servings
45 minutes prep time

Make the Meatballs:
500 grams (1 pound) ground turkey
1 large egg
1 cup finely cubed or crumbled breadcrumbs
1 recipe poultry seasoning
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

Make up the recipe for poultry seasoning, or use about 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of prepared poultry seasoning.

Put the turkey in a mixing bowl and add the egg, breadcrumbs, poultry seasoning and cranberries. Mix well; the easiest way is to do it with your hands, until thoroughly and evenly combined. Form the mixture into about 24 equal-sized meatballs, setting them on a plate or board as you work. Best to divide the mixture into 4 equal parts then use each part to make 6 meatballs.

If you are serving these with mashed potatoes, have the potatoes cleaned and cut into chunks, in the pot, covered with water and turned on to start cooking 10 minutes before you finish the dish. 

Finish the Dish:
250 grams (1/2 pound) button mushrooms
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 cups chicken or turkey stock
3 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot
1/2 cup light cream

Clean and trim the mushrooms and cut them in halves or quarters. Heat the butter in a large skillet. When it is melted and foamy but not browned, add the mushrooms, stirring them in well to coat them as evenly with the butter as possible. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes or so, until browned and softened.

Add the turkey stock and bring up to a boil. Drop in the meatballs (carefully!) and simmer for 10 minutes, turning to be sure they cook evenly.

While the meatballs cook, drain and mash the potatoes with butter and milk, salt and pepper when they are done. Keep warm until the meatballs are ready.

When the meatballs are cooked, mix the cornstarch or arrowroot with the cream in a small bowl, being sure there are no lumps - it's best to mix in a small quantity of liquid to make a smooth paste, then slowly mix in the rest. Stir this quickly into the gravy. Simmer for a minute or two more, until thickened, stirring constantly. Serve over the mashed potatoes.

Last year at this time I made Squash with Roasted Squash Seeds.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Crisp Winter Salad with Cottage Cheese Dressing

Winter has hardly started and I am already finding that I'm not serving enough salads... here's one that should take us right through to spring. I put the cottage cheese into the dressing and puréed it this time, but I decided it's better to mix it in at the end and have the texture of the cheese.

This is best as a side salad, but if you wanted to make a meal of it, you could add some grated Cheddar cheese, more cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs, or tuna to take it there.

Pass the dressing and let people put on their own; that way if there's leftover salad, you can toss it in a stir-fry the next day.Oh; and if you have any winter storage radishes a bit of grated radish will go nicely in this too.

4 to 8 servings
40 minutes prep time

Make the Dressing:
1/2 cup yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 green onion
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 small clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
a pinch of cayenne
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 cup cottage cheese

Put the yogurt and lemon juice in a blender or food processor. Wash, trim and roughly chop the green onion, and add it, along with the chopped parsley. Peel and slice the garlic and add it. Add the mustard and cayenne. Grind the cumin and pepper, and add them. Process until quite smooth.

Mix with the cottage cheese.

Make the Salad:
2 medium carrots
2 cups peeled, diced celeriac OR 2 to 3 stalks celery
2 cups bean sprouts
3 cups finely chopped savoy cabbage

Peel and grate the carrots. Peel and dice the celeriac, or wash, trim and chop the celery. Rinse the bean sprouts and drain them well. Finely chop the cabbage, and mix the vegetables together. Top with the dressing. 

Last year at this time I made Kipferl, Nut Crescents.

Friday, 14 December 2012

White Chocolate Mousse with Cranberries

Here's a rich and special dessert. I'm calling it a mousse, but I could probably have called it a cheesecake and no-one would have contradicted me. It's rude to talk with your mouth full, for one thing. And when they did talk, all I heard was, "Mm! Mm! Mm!"

The cranberries are an excellent foil for the richness of the chocolate and cheese, but you could make this at other times of the year with other tart fruit, such as sour cherries, currants, raspberries, or even rhubarb. I used a blueberry honey with the cranberries and I was surprised at how much the flavour of blueberries came through - I actually hadn't noticed it particularly with anything else I had made with that jar of blueberry honey. Still, any good honey will do very nicely. I used light cream cheese, not out of any principal but because it was on sale, and it worked perfectly well. You don't want the stiff, bar type cream cheese, but something softer out of a tub.

This is really very easy to make. The main things to watch are to be sure to not let the cheese, egg yolk and chocolate mixture get too hot as it cooks, and to stir it carefully. Then, be sure the mixture is cool before you add the egg whites.

8 servings
1 hour prep time

Cook the Cranberries:
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/3 cup honey

Rinse the cranberries and put them in a small pot with the honey. Bring to a boil and simmer until the berries have mostly popped. Stir regularly. Set aside to cool.

Make the Mousse:
170 grams (6 ounces) white chocolate
250 grams (1/2 pound) soft cream cheese (light was fine)
2 large egg yolks
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup sugar

Chop the chocolate roughly, and put it in the top of a double boiler. Whisk together the cream cheese and the egg yolks, and add them. Put the egg whites aside in a metal bowl that can be put on top of the double boiler.

Bring the water in the double boiler to a bare simmer, and stir the mixture constantly until the chocolate is completely melted. Remove the top pot from the heat at once, and set it aside to cool.

Beat the sugar into the egg whites, then place them atop the still simmering water in the double boiler. Beat with an electric mixer until very fluffy and stiff, about 3 or 4 minutes. Set aside.

Allow about 30 minutes for the chocolate mixture to cool to room temperature. Fold it gently into the beaten egg whites. The mixture will likely be somewhat lumpy or streaky, but once they are reasonably well amalgamated, stop mixing. You want to keep it light.

Spoon about half the mousse evenly into 8 individual serving dishes. Spoon about half the cranberry sauce evenly over that. Top the cranberries with the remaining mousse divided evenly between the dishes. Put them in the refrigerator to set, and once set spoon the remaining cranberry sauce over the mousse.

Last year at this time I made Black Forest Cookies. (And reached for the same - not literally the same, no - clementine oranges for a prop, I see.)

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Michael's Grandmother's Pickled Onions

A number of years back my friend Michael asked me to help him make his grandmother's onion pickle recipe, which he remembered fondly and for which he had her written recipe. He had not done much canning and her instructions were rather cryptic so it took some work for us to figure them out. We did though, and I was very impressed with the results. The long brine soak makes them mild and slightly salty, and the final packing liquid has just enough sugar to balance them out. The spices give a bit of bite. Michael's grandmother also added a littel mace but we decided we didn't want any, and have never regretted it.

It's been a few years since I made these, and as I made them I was reminded why. These are very good pickles but I have to say they are a lot of work. Never mind peeling all the onions; that's par for the course. It's the brining and soaking that's a pain. Also all that salt! Most of it going down the drain admittedly, but that just makes me feel like these are my very own little ecological disaster. However they are good enough that I think they should be made every few years.

The onions to use for this are not the little silverskin onions usually thought of as pickling onions, but regular cooking onions - just the smallest regular cooking onions you can find. The best way to get them is in a  10 pound bag. For some reason, the 10 pound bags of onions usually seem to have smaller onions than when you buy them in a 2 or 5 pound bag. Look for the bag with the smallest but most evenly sized onions you can find. I got a 10 pound bag of onions and removed about a pound of them as too big to pickle, leaving me with about 9 pounds.

7 x 500 ml or 3 1/2 litres
4 DAYS brining - allow 1 hour to peel onions,
and 2 hours for the final canning

4 to 4.5 kilograms ( 9 to 10 pounds) small cooking onions
3 cups, yes I said CUPS, pickling salt

1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes PER JAR
1/4 teaspoon white peppercorns PER JAR
4 cups water
4 cups white vinegar
1 cup sugar

Peel the onions. Place them in a large ceramic or glass crock. Put 2 quarts (8 cups) water in a pot with 1 cup of the salt and bring to a boil. Pour the boiling brine over the onions. Cover and set in a cool place for 2 days.

Drain the onions. Make another boiling brine of 2 quarts water and 1 cup salt, and pour it over the drained onions. Cover and let sit for another 2 days.

Put your canning jars into a canner, and cover them with water to an inch above the tops of them. Bring to a boil and boil them for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, drain the onions. Trim off any darkened or bruised spots and put them in a canning kettle with 2 quarts of water and the final cup of salt. Bring to a boil and boil 3 minutes. They should come to a boil just as the jars are finishing. Remove the jars from the canner, setting them on a heatproof surface. Drain the onions throughly and pack them into the hot jars, using a sterilized funnel and a slotted spoon. Add the chile flakes and peppercorns to each jar.

Have the 4 cups water, vinegar, and sugar standing by in a pot. Put it on to heat when the onions are drained, and once it boils and the onions are packed in the jars, ladle it over the onions. Also have the lids in a pot, covered with water, and put them on to boil at the same time. Wipe the rims of the jars with a bit of paper towel dipped in boiling water, put the lids in place and seal them. Return them to the canner and boil for 10 minutes for 500 ml jars or 15 minutes for 1 litre jars. Remove, let cool, and test for seals. Label and store in a cool dark spot for at least one month before opening. Once opened, they should be refrigerated.

Last year at this time I made Stuffing or Dressing Bread.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Leek & Garlic White Bean Soup

The holiday party season seems to have already started around here, and I have already had a hankering for some good bean soup with lots of flavour but not too rich, to give myself a break from too many "treats". So here it is. These were the Blue Lake dried beans from our garden, but any white bean will work well; the usual pea or navy bean being just fine.

Good tasting yeast (you can get it at Bulk Barn) is a bit of a secret ingredient for soups, sauces and gravies when you want to go vegetarian. Its flavour is rather chicken-like. The leftover hard rinds from Parmesan cheese should always be saved, well wrapped and stashed in the freezer, for vegetarian soup making as well. Like soup bones, they lend their flavour to the broth then are taken out and discarded. At that point they are likely tasteless fatty blobs of no interest. But the soup they leave behind is fabulous.

8 servings
2 hours cooking time - 30 minutes prep time

2 cups dried white beans
4 cups chopped leeks
2 cups chopped carrots
6 to 8 cloves of garlic (1 head)
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
75 to 100 grams (3 to 4 ounces) Parmesan cheese rinds
2 tablespoons good tasting yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons savory

Rinse the beans and remove any bad ones. Put them in a large pot with water to cover them generously. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and cover the pot. Let rest for a few hours, then repeat the process. After three or 4 times, the beans will be mostly cooked.

Rinse the leeks, trim and chop them. Rinse them again, and drain well. Peel and chop the carrots. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a large skillet and cook the leeks and carrots, until softened and reduced in volume; about 6 or 7 minutes. Add them to the beans. Top up the water to be sure the soup is of a satisfactory thickness. Add the Parmesan cheese rinds, yeast, salt, pepper and savory.

Simmer for 30 or 40 minutes. Stir regularly to prevent sticking. Remove the cheese rinds before serving. As ever, bean soup is much better the second and subsequent days than the first.

Last year at this time I made Schchi; Russian Cabbage Soup

Friday, 7 December 2012

Roast Leg of Lamb with Seville Orange Gravy

Seville oranges, also known as sour oranges, or marmalade oranges, are really only available in December, January and February. They make a fine, slightly sour-spicy sauce which balances the richness of a leg of lamb beautifully.

However, if you can't get them, you can reasonably replace them with a combination of regular oranges and lemons, a little heavier on the oranges. 

I have gotten to be very fond of gravies made by puréeing the vegetables that have been cooked in the juices of a roast. However, it is important that the roast be a fairly lean one, or the sauce will be too fatty. There should be a thin film over the leg of lamb before it is cooked, but be sure to remove any more substantial quantities, if they are present. It shouldn't be too bad; leg of lamb is usually quite lean.

I have likewise given myself over completely to slow-cooking large pieces of meat. What you lose in the inability to have it rare, you gain in the tender, melting texture. This leg of lamb did not need to be carved; the meat fell from the bone and I just had to pull it apart a bit with the spoon as I lifted it from the pan. 

8 servings
7 hours - 1 hour prep time

1  2 to 3 kilo (5 to 7 pounds) leg of lamb
1 large onion
2 medium carrots (2 cups sliced)
1/4 of a large celeriac (2 cups sliced)
1 cup red wine
1 cup beef or lamb stock, or water
the finely grated zest of 2 Seville oranges
OR the finely grated zest of 1 orange AND 1 lemon
the juice of 3 Seville oranges
OR the juice of 2 oranges AND 1 lemon
1 teaspoon allspice berries
2 teaspoons fennel seed
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon rubbed oregano

Preheat the oven to 350°F

Put the leg of lamb into a roasting pan, with just enough room around it to add the vegetables. Peel and roughly chop the onion, peel and slice the carrots, and peel and slice the celeriac. Arrange them around the roast. Pour the red wine and stock or water over them.

Grate the orange (or lemon and orange) zest. Juice the oranges (or oranges and lemon) and pour the juice around the roast. Grind the allspice berries and fennel seeds with the chile flakes, and mix them with the grated zests. Mix in the salt, ginger and oregano. Sprinkle the spices over the roast and vegetables.

Roast the lamb for 6 hours. Lift the meat out of the pan into a serving dish and cover it with foil to keep warm as you finish the gravy. It should just fall from the bone; you can pull it apart with a fork and a spoon. Discard the bones carefully - be sure that there are none left in the sauce. Scrape all the broth and vegetables into a blender. Blend until very smooth. Put into a gravy boat and pass with the meat.

Last year at this time I made Steamed Chocolate Date Pudding.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Brussels Sprouts, Carrots & Celeriac in Mustard Sauce

I do like this kind of vegetable dish - several different things, finely shredded and cooked together with a bit of a sauce to liven them up. Apart from the shredding, which can after all be done in advance, they cook up very quickly and provid a lively balance of flavours and textures. I am happy to report that these are all veggies from our garden, although that's at least half the entire Brussels sprout harvest right there. The amazing, awful, relentless barrage of bugs seemed to end sometime in late August, which meant the brassicas could finely stop hanging on by their fingertips and start to actually grow. Unfortunately, it was really too late for them to accomplish much. Still, what little there was of them was delightful and we enjoyed them very much.

6 to 8 servings
45 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Brussels Sprouts Carrots and Celeriac in Mustard Sauce

4 cups finely chopped Brussels sprouts
2 cups grated carrots
2 cups grated celeriac
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice or sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Wash and trim the sprouts, and shred them finely. Peel and grate the carrots, and peel and grate the celeriac.

Mix the soy sauce, vinegar and mustard in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet and cook the carrots and celeriac for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until cooked down and slightly browned in spots. Add the shredded Brussels sprouts, and mix in well. Add about a quarter cup of water, and cook the vegetables, stirring regularly, until the water has evaporated. Mix in the sauce until evenly distributed throughout, and serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Braised Lamb Shanks with Beans

Monday, 3 December 2012

Parsnip Timbales

We planted our parsnips late this year; so when we went out and pulled up a bunch of them (during last week's deep-freeze, no less) we were surprised to find what a good size most of them were. They were also amazingly delicious - the freezing temperatures having done them nothing but good - and surprisingly tender considering how large they were. Success! This was a very simple treatment for them, but very well received. If you wanted them a little fancier, you could season them with a bit of finely grated nutmeg or orange zest before forming and baking the timbales.

6 servings
1 hour 45 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Parsnip Timbales

1 kg (2 pounds) parnsips
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Peel and slice the parsnips, and put them in a pot with water to just cover. Bring to a boil and boil until tender, 5 or 10 minutes, until they can be easily pierced with a fork. Drain well and mash with the butter. Let cool until the flour and eggs can be beaten in without setting. Beat in the salt and pepper as well.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. 

Use the last tablespoon of butter to butter a muffin tin generously. Divide the parnips evenly between the muffin cups, and press them in. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour and a half, until nicely browned around the edges. Let cool for a few minutes before removing them. They will be somewhat delicate, so lift them out carefully, with a thin, flexible lifter or a shallow spoon.

Last year at this time I made Brussels Sprouts au Gratin and Samosa Pie with Apple Butter Chutney