Friday, 28 February 2014

Beets with Yogurt & Garlic

I didn't eat this in Turkey, but it feels like I might have; it's pretty much similar to the Carrots with Yogurt & Garlic we had there, just a little simpler and not quite so awash in yogurt. 

My beets were quite small, so I thought I should cook them for 30 minutes instead of 40 minutes. Mistake. They were cooked enough to eat, but still very firm and impossible to peel without using a peeler. So, the lesson there is cook even small beets for the full length of time.

4 servings
20 minutes prep time, plus 45 minutes cooking time,
plus cooling & waiting times

Beets with Yogurt & Garlic

2 cups grated cooked beets (3 to 4 beets)
1 stalk celery
OR 1 cup grated celeriac
1/3 cup yogurt
the juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 to 5 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Cook the beets by putting them in a pot with water to cover and boiling them for 40 to 45 minutes. Allow them to cool, then peel and grate them.

Peel and grate the celeriac, or trim and chop the celery. Mix the celery with the beets, then mix in the yogurt, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

Peel and mince the garlic. Heat the butter in a very small skillet or heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, then add the garlic and cook it gently until it just shows signs of browning very slightly.  Add it to the beets at once, drizzling in the butter.

You can serve this at once, but it is better if it sits for a few hours (covered, in the fridge) to allow the flavours to blend. Bring it out 15 minutes or so before you serve it though, to allow it to come up closer to room temperature before serving.

Lasty year at this time I made Curried Mushroom Salad.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Roasted Garlic & Bean Soup

It's pretty hard to give an exact time for making this soup. It's the kind of thing where you work on it for a bit, then it sits, then you work on it some more. Still, once the beans are soaked and start their final simmer, you should be able to finish it in about an hour and a half, if you want. I think bean soups are always better for sitting a while once made, so I recommend making it in advance and finishing it just before it is served.

This may seem like a lot of garlic; I guess it is a lot of garlic. I don't think it is too much though. The soup is as subtle and sophisticated as this much garlic can get - quite different from the garlic soup I usually make.  In spite of the beans, it is also a bit lighter. You could eat something else with it, perhaps some grilled cheese and a little salad.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour and a half prep time, not including soaking the beans

Roasted Garlic & Bean Soup

2 cups dry white beans
2 litres water
2-4 bay leaves
100g (4 ounces) Parmesan cheese rinds
OR 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
3 to 4 bay leaves
1 teaspoon rubbed savory
OR 1/2 teaspoon each rubbed sage & rosemary
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 heads garlic
1 cup chicken stock or water
1 more head of garlic
2 tablespoons butter OR sunflower seed oil

Rinse and pick over the beans, and put them in a large pot with the water. Bring to a boil, then turn them off and let them soak overnight. Next morning, bring them to a boil again, then turn off the heat and let them soak for another couple of hours or so.

Add the cheese rinds, if you have some, the bay leaves, herbs and salt and pepper to the beans. Bring the beans up to a boil again, and then simmer them until they are soft.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F. Trim the roots and the tops of the3 heads of garlic, so that the tops of the cloves are just exposed. Rub the  heads of garlic lightly with a little oil, then wrap them in aluminum foil and bake them for about 1 hour, until soft, and cool at least enough to handle. This can be done in advance.

Remove the cheese rinds and bay leaves from the beans. If you did not have any cheese rinds, stir in the nutritional yeast. Peel the garlic, and purée the beans with the garlic until smooth. You will likely need to do this in two batches. Return the purée to the soup pot. Use the chicken stock or water to swish out the blender or food processor, and add it to the soup. The soup can be made to this point ahead of time, and heated and finished just before serving.

Peel and mince the remaining head of garlic. 

Heat the soup until it simmers steadily. While it heats, melt the butter in a small skillet. Add the garlic and cook it gently until it just shows signs of turning faintly brown. When you serve the soup, drizzle a little of the garlic and butter into each bowl.

Last year at this time I made Celeri Remoulade.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Lemon Cabbage with Poppy & Sesame Seeds

This is the kind of recipe that this blog is all about. I am always so pleased when I come up with something that is so simple and fast and just a little twist on the usual, and tastes great too. I think it might have been better, although by better I mean prettier, if I had had some white poppy seeds. Still, very nice and it will definitely be done again.

4 servings
20 minutes prep time

Lemon Cabbage with Poppy & Sesame Seeds

4 cups chopped cabbage
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
the finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
the juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Trim and chop the cabbage, and steam or boil it until tender; about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast the poppy and sesame seeds together in a dry skillet, until the sesame seeds are lightly browned and they smell fragrant. Remove them to a plate (I used my intended serving dish) to cool. Zest the lemon over them. Squeeze the 1/2 lemon and set the juice aside until needed.

When the cabbage is cooked, drain it, and leave it in the colander while you melt the butter in the saucepan in which the cabbage was cooked. Add the toasted seeds and zest, the salt and pepper, and then the well-drained cabbage to the butter. Pour in the lemon juice Mix well until the lemon juice is absorbed.

Last year at this time I made Carrots with Cardamom & Pistachios.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Date & Banana Loaf

I started off this recipe with the idea that it was for my mother who, you may recall, is on a low-sugar diet. When I make it for her, I put in the quarter cup of chopped dates. Since it is pretty low in fat, I've been making it for myself lately, and I've noticed the quantity of dates I put in creeping up. I like it better with twice as many dates, I have to admit. I just don't think it qualifies as low sugar any more. Oh well. 

You could bake this as muffins, which is something I keep intending to do, but forgetting. I'm not sure exactly how long it would take to bake that way; but I would think 15 to 20 minutes if you make 12 muffins.

If you use frozen bananas - I usually do, since whenever any bananas get ahead of us, I just toss them in the freezer - be sure to take them out to thaw at least 20 minutes before you get started. Peel and mash them, then let the mash sit and thaw for another 10 minutes before you mix it into the batter. If you leave them until the last moment, the still-frozen bananas will freeze the honey, which is very annoying (ask me how I know...) and may affect how long the cake takes to bake. Also, I'm saying 1 cup mashed banana, but for pete's sake, put in two medium, whatever that works out to be. It should be close enough to go on with.

Date & Banana Loaf

8 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

1 1/2 cups soft whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (1/8 of a small nutmeg)
1/3 cup mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 large egg
1 cup peeled, mashed very ripe banana (2 medium)
1/4 to 1/2 cup finely diced dates

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a small loaf pan.

Measure the flour, salt, and baking powder. Grate the nutmeg into the flour. Set these dry ingredients aside.

Put the oil and honey in a mixing bowl, and stir until fairly well blended. Break in the egg, and continue stirring until everything is well amalgmated (emulsified).

Mix in the bananas, then the flour, adding the dates once the flour is about half mixed in. Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan, and smooth it out evenly. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until done. Let cool for about 10 minutes then remove it from the pan to finish cooling on a rack.

Last year at this time I made Wild Rice & Root Vegetable Salad.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Roasted Carrots on a Bed of Lentils

When I was first thinking about this dish, I got quite excited about it, and then when I was making it, I became convinced that it was all a big mistake, and it would be blah and uninteresting. Fortunately, my first thoughts were the right ones - this turned out to be surprisingly good. The spices were just right, and the dressing pulled it all together. The onions and garlic, too.

I used a non-fat yogurt, but you (probably) don't have to, in which case I recommend a better one. (Why yes, completely non-fat dairy products DO leave me very unimpressed.)

You could serve this with fairly plain chicken or fish, but it is perfectly respectable as a vegetarian main dish, needing only a green vegetable or salad to make it a complete meal.

4 servings
1 hour 15 minutes prep time

Roast the Carrots & Cook the Lentils:
500 grams (1 pound) carrots
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown or green lentils
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Peel the carrots, trim them, and cut them into halves or quarters lengthwise. Grind the spices, and mix them, including the teaspoon of salt.  Toss them with the oil in a small roasting pan, in which they can sit in a single layer, then sprinkle them with 1/2 of the spice mixture - save the other half to go into the lentils later. Roast them for 45 minutes to an hour, until soft and slightly browned in spots.

Put the lentils, water and remaining salt into a rice cooker, and cook the lentils. Alternatively, put them in a pot and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the lentils are tender and most of the water is absorbed.

Make the Dressing:
the finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise, light is fine
1/4 teaspoon salt
the juice of 1/2 lemon

Mix all of the above in a small bowl, and refrigerate until wanted.

Finish the Dish:
2 stalks celery
OR 1 1/2 cups grated peeled celeriac
2 medium onions
4 to 6 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Wash, trim and dice the celery, or peel and grate the celeriac. Peel and chop the onions. Peel and mince the garlic.

When the lentils and carrots are about 5 minutes away from being cooked, heat the oil in a large skillet, and cook the celery or celeriac and the onions until soft and slightly browned. Add the garlic and mix through, and cook for another minute. Add the (drained) lentils and mix them in well. Sprinkle with the reserved spice mixture and the balsamic vinegar, and mix that in well. Continue cooking and mixing for about 5 more minutes, until everything is well amalgamated.

Spread the lentils onto a serving platter, and top with the roasted carrots. Serve with the dressing; put a little on the top then pass the rest so people can add more as they like.

Last year at this time I made Lamb Stiffado

Friday, 14 February 2014

Smoked Trout Barley Kedgeee

I've done Kedgeree before, but  this is a simpler and quicker version; also a fair bit cheaper to do without the wild rice. I used barley, which worked quite well I thought. I used  a non-fat Greek style yogurt to finish it, and was actually quite impressed by how well it worked. Cream, I'm sure, would have been better, but it was fine.

4 servings
40 minutes prep time, not including cooking the rice and eggs.

Smoked Trout Barley Kedgeee

Cook the Barley & Eggs:
1 cup raw barley
3 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 or 4 large eggs

Either put the barley, water, and salt into a rice cooker and turn it on, or put them in a large saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cooking until the barley is tender and most of the water absorbed; about 45 minutes. Keep covered. This can be done up to 24 hours in advance.

Put the eggs in a saucepan with water to cover them, and bring them to a boil. Boil for one minute, then turn off the heat and leave them, covered in the pan, for 10 minutes. Rinse under cold water until they can be handled, then peel them. This too can be done up to 24 hours in advance.

Finish the Kedgeree:
2 medium onions
OR 1 large leek
1 or 2 stalks of celery
OR 1 1/2 cups peeled diced celeriac
2 medium parsnips
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
450 grams (1 pound) smoked trout
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup cream or yogurt

Peel and chop the onions, or trim and chop the leek, rinsing and draining it well. Trim and chop the celery or celeriac. Peel and grate the parsnips (or chop them finely). Peel and mince the garlic.

Peel the skin from the trout and discard it. Check it for bones, and remove any you find. Cut it into coarse dice. Chop the eggs roughly, but keep a few nice slices as a garnish.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add all the vegetables except the garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and slightly browned; about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and the seasonings, and mix in well, cooking for another minute or so. Add the trout and the barley, and continue cooking and stirring until they are hot through and everything is well amalgamated. Add the cream or yogurt, and the chopped eggs, and continue cooking and stirring until it to is well mixed in and everything is hot through. Serve garnished with the reserved egg slices.

Last year at this time I made Edamame, Carrot, Endive & Quinoa Salad, and Baked Beans & Weiners.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Spelt & Rye Bread

Recently we went out and purchased a few different flours with the intention of making bread. Since spelt was one of them, I looked up recipes and notes about making bread with it, and got some contradictory information. Some people said it needed to be kneaded more than regular wheat flour, and some people said it needed to be kneaded less.

So, once I made my dough, I divided it in half and kneaded one part for 5 minutes and one part for 15 minutes. As you can see, there was definitely a difference! The bad news is that the loaf kneaded for 15 minutes definitely rose much better. Not what I was hoping for, but them's the breaks. Actually, I thought they both rose quite well considering how much rye flour I put in. The gluten flour makes a difference. The ascorbic acid is only necessary if you are using organic flour from smaller mills - the big companies add a lot of dough conditioners to their flour to start with, so you don't need to add more. Ascorbic acid is just vitamin C powder - if you can't find it sold as such, you could grind up a vitamin C tablet.

Still, both loaves turned out quite nicely, moist and chewy with a good flavour. They have stayed surprisingly fresh for 4 days now. Success! I will now probably mix up a few batches and keep the dough in the freezer to bake as wanted.

2 loaves
7 hours - 45 minutes prep time

Spelt & Rye Bread

Proof the Yeast:
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons molasses
4 teaspoons yeast

Put the buttermilk, water and molasses in a pot and heat over low heat until just warm. Turn off the stove, and sprinkle the yeast over the mixture. It will likely curdle; that's okay. Let the yeast bubble and ferment while you measure and mix the flours, about 10 minutes.

Spelt & Rye Bread

Finish the Bread:
1 cup gluten flour (100g)
4 cups whole rye flour (400g)
3 3/4 cups whole spelt flour (400g)
1/2 teaspoon ascorbic acid
1 tablespoon salt
4 teaspoons caraway seed (optional)
1/4 to 1/3 cup whole spelt flour to knead

Mix all the above dry ingredients, except the last little bit of flour for kneading, in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in centre and slowly stir in the yeast mixture. When the liquid is mostly absorbed, turn it all out onto a clean board or counter top, and knead for 15 minutes. Once all the flour is absorbed into an integrated dough, use the last of the spelt flour to sprinkle the dough and counter whenever the dough feels sticky.

Put the kneaded dough into a lightly oiled bowl, and turn it to coat it. Cover it with a clean tea towel and put it in a warm spot to rise until double in size; mine took about 3 hours.

Punch the dough down (just push it until it is about the size it started at) and divide it into 2 equal portions. Form them into loaves, and put them in lightly oiled loaf pans. Cover them with the tea towel again, and return them to their warm spot to double in size again (probably about 2 hours this time, although it might be a little longer).

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the loaves for 35 to 45 minutes, until browned and firm. Remove them from their pans to cool on a rack.

Last year at this time I made Three Seed Cake.  With caraway!

Friday, 7 February 2014

... And Another Thing

I was amused to read this article in theGuardian:

Fake-food scandal revealed as tests show third of products mislabelled

It's not amusing, it's horrifying, but I guess I'm kind of past that. What got me, though, is this statement:

"The substitution of cheaper vegetable fat for the dairy fat with which cheese must legally be made was common. Samples of mozzarella turned out in one case to be only 40% dairy fat, and in another only 75%.

Several samples of cheese on pizzas were not in fact cheese as claimed but cheese analogue, made with vegetable oil and additives. It is not illegal to use cheese analogue but it should be properly identified as such."

Ha! Ha! Canadians, the joke's on you. I'd say 95% percent of what is sitting in my local grocery stores coolers is what the Brits (should) call "cheese analogue". But apparently we have no law against it being called "cheese" here.  So "cheese" is what it's called. Yikes. (See my post on Pine River Cheese for more about this.)

More About Cytoplasmic Male Sterility in Vegetables

I would like to draw your attention to this article about Cell Fusion CMS in vegetables; it should, in my opinion, be read by every grower and eater of vegetables out there.

Editted to Add 10/02/2014: What particularly got my knickers in a knot is the revelation that just about all broccoli sold in the U.S (and by implication Canada) is genetically modified, certainly by international organic standards. That American (and by implication Canadian) organic standards are ignoring this is really distressing to me, and seems completely antithetical to everything organic is supposed to mean. 

The great struggle of the last few millenia of human history has been over who owns what, with more and more of what was once our common birthright becoming the possessions of the wealthy, to be bought back by everyone else at the cost of excess toil, deprivation, oppression, illness and shortened lifespans. There have been some victories, but the struggle is never ending and has moved to the level of the genetic make-up of the food we eat and our own bodies.

Read, mark, learn, and dare I say, inwardly digest the words of Andrew Still, who is fighting the good fight here. This is still fairly new information to me, so I am still in that process myself, but would be very interested in hearing peoples' thoughts on this.

Ultimately, the parasitism of the wealthy must fail, if only by its own bloated overreaching, but its failure will be staggeringly painful for everyone. Better not to go there in the first place. 

Hat tip to Joseph and Trixtrax at Homegrown Goodness, who first brought the whole issue to my attention. Editted to add: See also this article by Joseph at Mother Earth News: Genetic Engineering and Cell Fusion CMS.

Beans Stewed with Cabbage & Mushrooms

Well, this was tasty and the leftovers were quite as good as the first time round, so that was nice.

Try to use a miso which is not too high in salt; otherwise start with 2 tablespoons and see what you think of that before you add any more. If you are using canned beans, especially watch the miso - those things are salty. I cooked mine without any salt, and used a low salt miso so I was quite happy with the 3 tablespoons.

I served mine with toast; you could serve it with rice but I liked the crunch that the toast brought to it.

3 to 4 servings
45 minutes - 20 minutes prep time, NOT including cooking the beans

1 medium onion
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
4 cups chopped Savoy cabbage
2 cups quartered button mushrooms
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
2 cups cooked white beans
2 cups cooking water from beans
2 tablespoons miso
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Peel and chop the onion. Peel and mince the garlic. Trim, chop and rinse the cabbage, draining well. Clean and quarter the mushrooms.

Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Add the onions and mushrooms, and cook them until lightly browned, stirring regularly. Add the garlic and mix in, cooking for another minute or so. Add the beans and the cooking water.

Add the cabbage, and simmer the mixture, stirring regularly, until the cabbage is tender. Mix in the miso and the sesame oil. Serve with toast or steamed rice.

Last year at this time I made Fried Halloumi on Polenta Cakes with Tomato Sauce. *cries a little*

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Mexican Rice Pudding

Rice pudding is not a particularly local dish in terms of the ingredients, although rice pudding has been around in northern European cuisines since medieval times. This particular recipe is one my family picked up when I was a child and we were living in Mexico. The main change I have made to it over the years is to reduce the sugar from the original 1 cup, but you can always put it back if you like.

The lack of butter and eggs makes this less rich than more traditional baked Canadian rice pudding recipes (and is the reason I've been making it lately). It's also quicker to make and doesn't require the oven to be turned on. The fact that it is made with rice that is already cooked means that there is never any problem with still-crunchy rice, and that you can use whatever rice you like. I've used white rice and brown rice, long-grain rice and short-grain rice; they have all worked fine. As ever, I usually cook twice as much rice as wanted, eat some at a meal, then use the rest for pudding. The cinnamon, lemon and vanilla give it a rich but subtle flavour. You could make it without the raisins if you really don't like them, but rice pudding without raisins always seems a little sad and lacking to me.

This should keep in the fridge for up to a week, although I find if it sits too long the rice starts to get a little hard again. It's creamiest when it is first made; it will thicken up as it sits.

By the way, I am away at the moment - having my operation! That was quick... at least I didn't have too long to stew about it. I should be back to post on Friday if all goes well.ADDED: No! Wrong. It was a pre-op scope. No idea when actual operation happens.

8 servings
1 hour 15 minutes, not including cooking the rice

2/3 cup sugar
the zest of ½ lemon
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1 litre milk or soy milk
4 cups cooked rice
1/3 cup raisins (optional)
the juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Mix the sugar, lemon zest, and cinnamon in a large, heavy pot. Stir in the milk or soy milk a little at a time. Add the cooked rice, breaking it up with your hands or a wooden spoon to ensure that there are no sticky clumps.

Heat the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. When the pudding is steaming hot, reduce the temperature to low, and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the milk thickens and coats the rice. If you would like raisins in your pudding, add them when you reduce the heat. The pudding should not simmer, it should just sit and steam; this will take about 1 hour.

Stir in the lemon juice and vanilla when the pudding is removed from the heat. Serve the pudding cold, or at room temperature. It is best if allowed to sit for a couple hours or overnight before you eat it.

Last year at this time I made Ginger-Lime Parsnips

Monday, 3 February 2014

Malaysian Style Chicken & (Sweet) Potato Curry

In my student days I shared an apartment with, amongst other people, a guy from Malaysia. One of his favourite things to make was a Malaysian style chicken curry with potatoes. He did a pretty simple version with purchased curry powder (and if you are going to do that, I recommend Yeo's). He also used regular white potatoes, which is in fact the way the dish is supposed to be made. He would then serve it with mountains of white rice, which seemed like too much starch to me. For some reason this dish has always stuck in my mind, probably because there's nothing like coming home on a cold wintery day to an apartment rich with the smell of chicken curry - and not getting any because it isn't yours!

At any rate, as I tried to think of Yet Another Thing to Do with skinless boneless chicken breasts, this curry rose up in my memory and suggested itself. I did want to eat it with some rice, so I decided to replace the white potatoes with some sweet potatoes which I thought worked really well. Since I also thought it needed something green to finish the meal, I threw in a packet of our frozen green beans - about 2 cups, if you wish to add them too. And finally, I said light coconut milk because that's what I used, but I'm sure regular coconut milk would be better. As for the lemon grass, by "optional" I mean "if you can get it".

Makes 4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time, not including cooking the potatoes

Malaysian Style Chicken & (Sweet) Potato Curry

Precook the Potatoes:
500 grams (1 pound) sweet potatoes or potatoes

If using sweet potatoes, cut them into bite-sized chunk and toss them with just enough oil to keep them from sticking to the pan or foil. Put them in a roasting pan in a single layer, or wrap them loosely in foil, and roast them at 375°F for an hour to an hour and a quarter, until soft. This can be done up to a day ahead.

If using potatoes, cut them into bite-sized chunks and boil them until just tender. Drain well. This can done up to a day ahead. 

Tie Up the Spices:
2-3 whole star anise
6 green cardamom pods
1 2" stick of cinnamon
1 stalk lemon grass (OPTIONAL)
4 - 6 dry kefir lime leaves
a foot square piece of cheesecloth

Put these spices - the lemongrass cut in 3" pieces, assuming you can get such a thing - onto a small square of cheesecloth, and tie it up around them, so that it can be put into the pot while the curry cook, and pulled out, drained, and discarded when it is done. 

You don't have to do this; but it will make life much pleasanter for the diner when the time comes. At the very least, if you have a spice-ball (large tea-ball) that will hold the smaller bits, do use it!

Make the Curry:
500 grams (1 pound) skinless, boneless chicken breasts (2 large)
4 large shallots
OR 2 medium onions
3 cloves of garlic
1" x 2" x 2" piece of ginger
1 to 2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Malaysian curry powder
2 cups chicken stock
400 ml (1 tin) light coconut milk

Cut the chicken into large bite-sized chunks. Peel and chop the shallots or onions. Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and mince the ginger; there should be about the same amount of each of these.

Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Add the chicken, and cook, stirring frequently, until seared all over and lightly browned in spots. Add the onions or shallots, and continue cooking and stirring until they are well softened and slightly browned as well. Mix in the ginger and garlic, then the curry powder. Continue cooking and stirring for another minute or two, then add the chicken stock, coconut milk, and the packet of spices. Add the cooked sweet potatoes or potatoes (no cooking liquid included).

Simmer, stirring regularly, for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked and the sauce slightly thickened. Serve with rice.

Last year at this time I made Ginger-Orange Beets and Empire Cookies. I made a discovery about Empire Cookies this Christmas, by the way - you can use the recipe to make thumbprint cookies; you know, form little balls, poke a hole in them with your thumb or the end of a wooden spoon if you want to be classy, fill it with jam, and bake for more or less the same amount of time, depending on how big you make them. No glaze required and generally an easier project with the same great flavour.