Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese

Here it is; the Italian recipe using homemade buckwheat noodles that I mentioned earlier. All the recipes I found were very consistent, but being me I  have made some changes. The main one was to add some carrots. I thought they would fit in well with the flavour profile and add some much-needed colour. I didn't put toasted bread crumbs on top, but our assessment of the dish was that although it was very tasty, the texture was just a tad soft and stodgy, and crisp bread crumbs would add just enough of a different texture. They are not absolutely necessary, however.

The original cheese to use is Valtellina Casera, which you will not find around here. Friulano should make an excellent substitute. All the recipes I saw cooked the garlic with the sage then removed and discarded it, which seems a bit precious to me for what is basically peasant chow. Not to mention that I have put much effort into growing and storing that garlic, and I'm eating it, damn it. I have also streamlined the process a bit; mixing everything together rather than layering it in bowls. Friulano melts pretty quickly, so don't mix it for more than a minute or so, but I do think that mixing it in the pot will give you better melting than just layering the ingredients.

Swiss chard is often used in this dish, but cabbage, kale, or spinach will work just as well, meaning this dish could be made pretty much all year long using whichever green was most seasonal, although I don't really see it as a middle-of-the summer kind of thing. On the other hand, given the last couple of cool, rainy summers; maybe.

2 servings, or 4 servings
20 minutes prep time, assuming the noodles are made

Pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese

Advance Preparation:
1/2 recipe buckwheat noodles, cut into short pieces
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup coarse, fairly dry bread crumbs

Make the noodles according to the recipe, at least 2 hours before preparing the rest of the dish, and let them sit out on the counter to get a bit dry.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and toast the crumbs in it until they are lightly browned and quite crisp. Turn them out onto a plate to cool, and set them aside until needed.

Finish the Dish:
1 medium potato (1 cup when diced)
1 medium carrot (1 cup when diced)
1 medium onion
4 cups chopped green or Savoy cabbage, Swiss chard, kale, or spinach
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
100 grams (4 ounces) diced Friulano cheese
30 grams (1 ounce) finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon rubbed dry sage
OR 3 or 4 fresh sage leaves
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

Wash and trim the potato (or peel it if you do that kind of thing), and cut it into 1/2" dice. Peel and trim the carrot, and cut it into slightly smaller dice. Peel and chop the onion. Wash, trim and chop the cabbage or other greens fairly coarsely. Peel and mince the garlic.

When the water comes to a boil, add the carrots and potatoes, and boil them for 8 minutes. Add the buckwheat noodles, and continue cooking for another 5 to 7 minutes, until the noodles are tender.

About 5 minutes after the carrots and potatoes have been started, heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. If using fresh sage, fry them briefly in the butter, then remove them - you can save them as a garnish if you like. Add the onion, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cabbage, and mix in well, stirring regularly to keep it cooking down evenly. After 3 or 4 minutes of cooking the cabbage, add the garlic, and the dry sage if that is what you are using. Mix well, and let cook for a few more minutes while the noodles cook. Use this time to dice and grate the cheeses. Mix the grated Parmesan with the prepared bread crumbs.

When the noodles are ready, drain them and return them to the pot over medium-low heat. Quickly mix in the diced Friulano cheese and the vegetables from the skillet. Stir for just a minute, until you see signs the cheese is melting. Turn it at once into a serving dish, or divide it amongst individual dishes, and sprinkle with the Parmesan and bread crumbs. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Creamy Mushroom Dip

Monday, 29 December 2014

Kielbasa Stew with Cabbage & Sauerkraut

Everybody got through Christmas okay, I hope? Just New Year's to go, and then there's a lo-o-o-ng stretch of winter until anything exciting happens. Valentine's day was always a big celebration on our family for just this reason. I, however, am looking forward to some lack of excitement for a while. Put my feet up and read, while some stew bubbles on the stove.

Is there a quicker, easier, stew to make than this? It's hard to imagine. You can have it on the table in an hour, but it also keeps and re-heats well. You can also make it with leftover ham, smoked turkey chunks, or other kinds of lightly smoked cooked sausage. This is also one that can be made all winter. Versatile and delicious!

4 to 6 servings
50 minutes to an hour - 30 minutes prep time

Kielbasa Stew with Cabbage & Sauerkraut

1 large carrot
4 cups unsalted ham or chicken stock
4 medium potatoes
4 cups chopped green cabbage
1 large onion
2 to 4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon fat or mild vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon caraway or fennel seeds
freshly ground black pepper to taste
500 grams (1 pound) kielbasa sausage
2 cups sauerkraut

Peel the carrot and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Put them in a pot with the chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Wash, trim and cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces, and add them to the carrots when they have cooked for about 5 minutes. Simmer steadily until the potatoes and carrots are barely tender.

Meanwhile, wash and chop the cabbage.  Peel and coarsely chop the onion. Peel and mince the garlic. Heat the oil in a large skillet, and add the onion; stir well and after a minute or two add the cabbage. Sauté the onion and cabbage until quite soft, and slightly browned in spots. Add the garlic, and the seasonings. Mix in well and cook for another minute or two.

Chop the kielbasa into bite-sized pieces and add them to the carrots and potatoes. Add the sautéed vegetables, and the sauerkraut. Simmer the stew for another 15 to 20 minutes, then serve.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Brussels Sprouts & Carrot Copper Coin Salad

We went to a festive roast beef dinner put on by one of the local churches recently, and they served one of the dishes they always serve, namely a carrot coin salad. My mother-in-law loves this salad; I personally quite dislike it. I got curious about it though, and hopped on the internet to do a little research.


If it was the most standard carrot coin salad out there, the dressing consists mostly of canned tomato soup, sugar and vinegar - I found one recipe that called for a cup and a half of sugar! Admittedly, for a much larger salad than this, but still. And which would explain very well who likes it and who doesn't in this household.

At any rate, I thought I would make it over to suit my own tastes. First, let's have some green! Brussels sprouts slice into coins very nicely; you can just consider them oxidized copper coins. I kept the pepper and shallots from the original, and made the dressing over so that it still has a sweet tomatoey tang, but not enough to give you an instant sugar rush. Like the original, this is a good salad for entertaining, since it gets made in advance. More than an hour in advance, and I would keep it in the fridge until wanted, and just bring it out to get the chill off half an hour before serving.

And now, as usual, it is time to take a little break from the blog until Christmas is over. Hope you all have relaxing holidays, and best wishes for an excellent New Year. (I want one too; better than this one, anyhow.) If nothing else, we are now into the-days-are-getting-longer territory, and for that I am very thankful.

6 servings
30 minutes prep time; 1 hour rest time

Brussels Sprouts & Carrot Coin Salad

Make the Dressing:
3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1 tablespoon apple butter
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon celery seed, ground

Whisk or shake the ingredients together in a small bowl or jar.  Do make this before you proceed with the salad; it will be needed while the vegetables are hot.

Make the Salad:
250 grams (1/2 pound; 3 medium) carrots
250 grams (1/2 pound) Brussels sprouts
1/4 small green or red pepper
1 small shallot

Put a good sized pot of water on to boil - both the carrots and the Brussels sprouts are going into it. Peel and trim the carrots, and cut them into 1/6" slices. Add them to the water when it boils, and boil for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, trim the Brussels sprouts and slice each one into 3 slices, or 4 slices if they are unusually large. When the carrots have boiled for the 5 minutes, add the Brussels sprouts and boil both together for another 3 minutes.

Drain the carrots and Brussels sprouts very well, shaking the strainer to extract as much water as possible. Press gently down with a large spoon to get the last of the liquid out. Return the vegetables to the pot, and add the dressing immediately, while they are still hot. Let them sit uncovered to soak up the dressing while you prepare the pepper and shallot.

Wash and trim the pepper, and chop finely. Peel and mince the shallot. Mix them in with the carrots and Brussels sprouts. The salad should rest in the dressing for about an hour before being served, at room temperature or perhaps lightly chilled. I think room temperature is better, though. At some point in the procedure transfer the salad to its' serving dish, pouring any unabsorbed dressing over the salad.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Making Buckwheat Noodles

Or, as they are often known, soba noodles, since they are pretty much a Japanese delicacy. Or are they? I discovered an Italian dish made with buckwheat noodles a little while ago; who knew? Well, besides the Italians, of course. Since I had bought a bag of buckwheat flour on a whim a little while ago, it seemed noodles were in my future.

Most recipes, European or Asian, call for a ratio of 4 parts buckwheat flour to 1 part wheat flour. I tried making a gluten-free version, and it worked well enough but it was definitely harder to work with than the version with wheat. Still, it was fine; just don't expect to cut it into long thin strands, but something shorter and more rustic. The wheat version was much easier to roll out, and I liked the finished product better too, but then I can eat wheat without trouble if I am careful.

I am calling for specific amounts of water, but they are starting amounts. One thing that was clear when I was researching recipes is that the amount of water required will vary, perhaps quite a bit, depending on what flour you have. Seasonal fluctuations in rain affect the absorbtive qualities of flour, as does the milling, and how much hull is left in the flour. The important thing is to add water until you have a smooth, easily pliable but not sticky dough. Also, I suspect a finely milled flour will yield better results than a coarsely ground flour.

4 servings per recipe
Allow at the very least an hour; it's the kind of job you pick away at
Also, best made in advance

Gluten Free Noodles:
2 cups buckwheat flour, plus a little more
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
1 cup boiling water, perhaps a little more

Regular Buckwheat Noodles:
1 2/3 cups buckwheat flour, plus a little more
1/3 cup soft unbleached OR all-purpose wheat flour
3/4 cup water

In either case, put the flours into a small mixing bowl, and stir in the water. Once it is mostly mixed with the spoon, I found it easiest to turn it out onto a clean counter or board, and knead it a bit. You will most likely need to add a bit more water, spoonful by spoonful, to achieve the right texture. If you overdo it, or if your dough is sticky from the start, add flour in the same way. The resulting dough, as noted, should be smooth and easily pliable, but not sticky.

Be careful if you are making the gluten-free noodles; the boiling water will cool off rapidly once it is in the flour, but not so rapidly that you could not burn yourself by starting to knead it too soon.

Once the dough has been mixed and kneaded, leave it for 20 minutes to an hour before rolling it out. Keep it covered with a damp cloth, or wrapped in parchment paper or plastic.

I find it easiest to roll out on a sheet of parchment paper; a well floured board would do. Roll it quite thin. I then trimmed off the rough edges to make neat rectangles, and cut the edges into short rustic noodles. Cut the dough into noodles of the size and shape you like; in either case shorter noodles (up to 6" long) will be easiest to deal with. Lightly flour the sheets of dough before stacking them to cut noodles, so they don't stick to each other. Letting the rolled out dough sit for a little while before cutting will also help.  Once cut, the noodles should be left to dry out a little more.

Once made, the noodles should be cooked in plenty of boiling water. Whether you add salt or not is up to you. The Japanese traditionally don't add salt, but they also usually would be serving them with soy sauce or other very salty soy products, I would think.

The cooking time will depend on how thinly the noodles are rolled; mine took 6 to 7 minutes, but I would start testing them as soon as 4 minutes if you have manage to get them very thin, or expect to leave them as long as 10 to 12 minutes if they are very thick. 

I served my first batch with my favourite Ginger-Peanut Sauce. That was actually half a batch of noodles, to a full batch of peanut sauce, and that was a bit too much sauce. One batch of sauce should do one batch of noodles. These were the gluten free noodles, and I cooked them with some cabbage, carrots and leeks, drained them, then returned them to the pot with the sauce until it was well mixed in.

I use that sauce mostly on vegetables, and I found that on noodles I wanted to add a bit more soy sauce to sharpen it up. I also left out the allspice and green peppercorns, and added a couple of cloves of minced garlic and some toasted sesame oil instead.

Last year at this time I made Caramel Popcorn.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Brussels Sprouts & Celeriac Slaw

Brussels sprouts make a great bowl of coleslaw, enhanced with crunchy nuts (whatever kind you like; perhaps to match the oil used), the sweetness and tang from the apple butter (and fruit, if used), and a good  hit of mustard. I always love to have a little red cabbage in my coleslaw; it just adds so much to the colour. 

It doesn't hurt to have this put together a little in advance of serving. That gives the flavours time to meld, and the veggies soften slightly. Leftovers keep reasonably well; better if there is not an apple in it. If you think you have more than you will eat in one sitting, and you want the apple in it, perhaps just add apple to half, or pass it separately.

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time

Make the Dressing:
the juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons walnut OR hazelnut oil
1 tablespoon grainy Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon apple butter
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk or shake together in a small bowl or jar.

Make the Salad:
2 cups finely shredded Brussels sprouts
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup finely sliced red cabbage
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 small apple AND/OR 1/4 cup raisins (optional)

Wash, trim and finely shred the Brussels sprouts. Peel and grate the carrot (1 medium should do it), and wash, trim and slice the red cabbage. Toss them with the nuts and the salad dressing. You could add a small apple cored and diced, or a handful of raisins, if you wanted to accentuate the sweet notes in the salad.

Last year at this time I made Spaghetti Squash au Gratin

Monday, 15 December 2014

Shepherd's Tourtière (Tourtière Chinois)

I made this as a trial run to see if it would work for our Christmas dinner. It won't, unfortunately. Dad's partner is now well enough to join us in eating dinner, but he is on a very soft diet after being fed through a tube for the better part of 7 months, and I decided that this has just a little too much texture to it, even without the pastry. Most people will be perfectly happy about that, though, so here it is.

We thought it was very tasty, and for anyone who wants a gluten-free tourtière the potato topping works very well. I am not the first person to come up with this idea, but for an amalgamation of two very popular Quebecois dishes, it is surprisingly not common.

4 to 6 servings
2 hours - 1 hour prep time

Shepherd's Tourtière

Make the Potato Topping:
1 kilo (2 pounds) potatoes
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
salt & pepper to taste

Peel (or just wash and trim off the bad spots) the potatoes, and cut them into even chunks. Put them in a large pot with water to cover them, and boil them until tender. Drain them well, and mash them with the butter, buttermilk, salt and pepper. Meanwhile...

Make the Spice Blend:
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
3/4 teaspoon allspice berries
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon rubbed thyme
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
2 teaspoons rubbed savory
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Grind the pepper and allspice thoroughly, and blend with the other spices.

Make the Filling & Finish:
1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 medium carrot
1 stalk celery
OR 1/2 cup diced celeriac
2 cups chopped mushrooms (optional)
1 tablespoon oil or fat, possibly
500 grams (1 pound) ground pork, chicken or turkey
250 grams (1 pound) ground beef
3 tablespoons flour (or other starch to thicken)
1 cup beef broth
1 or 2 bay leaves
a sprinkle of paprika to finish

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Peel and chop the onion finely. Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and finely chop or grate the carrot and celery or celeriac. If you wish to add mushrooms, clean, trim and chop them.

If you choose the chicken or turkey, you will need to add a little fat to the skillet before you get started to help things along, as they are so very lean. Otherwise, add the crumbled up meats to the pan, along with the onions, carrots, celery, and mushrooms if using. Cook, stirring and breaking up the mixture constantly, until it has changed colour all thoughout. Mix in the garlic and the seasonings, including the flour and the bay leaves; cook and stir for a minute or two more, then add the broth. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 5 or 10 minutes until the sauce is thickened and much reduced.

At this point the potatoes should be sufficiently cooked to drain and mash; do so.

Transfer the meat filling to the pie dish or casserole in which you wish to serve the tourtiere. A 9" pie plate will be the right size. Gently spoon the mashed potatoes evenly over the top and smooth them out to form an even, solid top layer. Sprinkle with a little paprika for colour. Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until lightly browned and bubbling around the edges. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Last year at this time I made Roasted Brussels Sprouts in Spaghetti Squash Nests

Friday, 12 December 2014

Cocoa Cream Roll

I grew up with a copy of  the Toronto Star's "World's Best Recipes" in our kitchen. It came, I'm sure, as a freebie or bonus of some kind with the newspaper at some time, probably in the 1950's. It was actually a good little cookbook in its day; more cosmopolitan than most Canadian cookbooks at the time, although that's not saying much. Maybe it was actually a reprint of an American cookbook - that would explain much.  I can't say Mom (or anyone else) used it all that much, but there it was. I read through it quite a bit - it was quite an entertaining read. I think I may still have a slightly disintegrating copy (it was a cheaply printed little thing, after all) of it somewhere.

I was always intrigued by the recipe for Cocoa Cream Roll, which called for lots of cocoa, whipping cream, eggs, very little sugar, and no flour. This is not that recipe, although I have kept most of those features. Oddly, I have added sugar for once - it really was strangely skimpy with it. At any rate, the cake I have come up with is a rich, dense and chocolatey roll; a wonderful foil for the whipping cream. It would make a terrific Bouche de Noel, and as you may note, it is, like the original, potentially gluten free.

1 hour - 35 minutes prep time for cake
20 minutes prep time to frost
8 to 10 servings

Make the Cake:
4 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder

Line a 9" x 13" jelly-roll pan or cake pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Beat the egg whites until stiff with the salt and cream of tartar, being sure to use a clean, non-plastic mixing bowl.

In a slightly larger mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla extract for 3 to 4 minutes until very pale and light. You can use the same beaters from the egg whites, without needing to wash them in between.

Sift the cocoa powder and baking powder together, and fold about 1/3 of the cocoa into the egg yolks. Fold in about 1/3 of the egg whites. Then, fold in the remaining cocoa followed by the remaining egg whites. Be very gentle, and do not overmix. A few white streaks are okay. Gently scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and spread it out as evenly as possible.

Bake the cake for 23 to 25 minutes, until it will spring fully back when lightly touched in the middle. Let it cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then flip it out onto a clean tea towel. Roll it up across the short end, and let it cool completely.

Frost the Cake:
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
AND 1/3 recipe Chocolate Custard Frosting, Chocolate Ganache Frosting, Fabulous Chocolate Frosting, or Cocoa Buttercream Frosting

OR 1 recipe Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting

Beat the whipping cream with the sugar and vanilla extract until stiff. Use the smaller quantities and make 1/3 recipe of one of the suggested frostings if you want to have a chocolate frosting on the outside of the cake. Or, make the Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting according to the recipe for chocolate whipped cream throughout.

Gently unroll the cake from the towel, and loosen it from the parchment paper using a broad icing spreader or other very large, thin, flat tool. It may crack some; don't worry, it can be pieced back together but try not to let it crack much. Leave it sitting on the parchment paper.

Spread the inside evenly with half the whipped cream (or all of it if you are frosting the outside with something else) and roll it up again.  Frost the top and sides with the remaing whipped cream, or the other frosting of your choice. Trim off the ends to make a neat presentation. Lift the cake onto the serving plate using the parchment paper, then slide the paper out from underneath. Neaten up the frosting, and wipe any smears and crumbs from around the cake with a dampened paper towel. Spectacular!

Last year at this time my long dry spell came to an end, and I made Dressing (Stuffing) Flavoured Baked Beans

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cranberries & Pears

Still with the pears! I told you there were a lot!  We enjoyed this very much. Actually, I made it twice, sort of. The first time the power went out (and stayed out for 17 hours!) when these had been in the oven for only half an hour. I took them out and finished them in a frying pan (hurray for gas stoves that can be lit with a match) and they were pretty good, although they cooked a bit unevenly that way. They definitely worked better in the oven, and much less fussing required. Good enough for Christmas, I would say; if you can still find pears.  Also, it is my suggestion that you use generous amounts of black pepper - it balances out the sweetness of the other ingredients.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 15 minutes prep

1 kilo (2 pounds) sweet potatoes
2 large Bosc pears
1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
a good grating of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Wash and trim the sweet potatoes, and cut them into bite-sized chunks. Put them in a shallow 9" x 13" roasting (lasagne) pan. Peel and core the pears, and cut them in similar, or slightly larger, chunks. Add them to the sweet potatoes with the whole cranberries, if frozen. Toss it all with the oil until evenly coated, then toss again with the seasonings. Don't be shy with the pepper; it's an important addition to the finished dish.

Roast the sweet potatoes et al. for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, until everything is tender and slightly browned in spots. Stir once, half an hour into the roasting, and if you are starting with fresh cranberries, that is when they should be stirred in.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Los Angeles Times Article - "Product of Mexico"

One of the main reasons we eat as much of our food locally grown as we can, is the fact that the only labour laws we can have any impact upon are our own. Not that agricultural labour in Ontario is without it's own problems, but we're a long way from the world descibed in this must-read Los Angeles Times article, "Product of Mexico".

Except, of course, we aren't. Our grocery shelves are just as full of products produced by what might as well be slave labour as the grocery shelves of the United States.

The triumph of modern capitalism is how everthing arrives in stores completely divorced from any indication that it is a product of nature or industry; instead, its appearance is almost magical, and it arrives as a kind of manna from heaven. Yes, yes; we know it came on a truck and not literally falling from the sky. But we take one thing, and the next day if we return to the store it has magically reappeared on the shelf, and there is sits, as though it just sprang up like a kind of mushroom. But like most magic, this is a mirage and the result of immense amounts of labour and energy which have been carefully hidden lest they spoil the effect. Thanks to journalists like Richard Marosi and Don Bartletti, the curtain is pulled back and the reality is shown.

I will be looking forward to the next three installments of this series.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Baked Polenta with Cheese & Sausage

Mr. Ferdzy is a big lover of cornmeal mush, grits, polenta; whatever you want to call it. (He's all over the tortillas and corn chips too, come to think of it.) I am just not a fan of cornmeal mush at breakfast so I try to serve it to him at other times, in other ways. This is one I could stand to do quite often. Apart from all that scrumptious sausage and cheese, it was ridiculously quick and easy to put together. True; the time in the oven doesn't make it a quick week-night supper, but at this time of year I am very happy to have the oven on for a while. Serve this with a green vegetable or a salad, and you have your complete meal.

I must say, I really like Friulano cheese when I can get my hands on it. It has the lovely melty qualities of Mozzerella, but a much more interesting flavour. Mozzerella would do, though. 

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

Baked Polenta with Cheese & Sausage

3 or 4 cloves of garlic
1 medium onion
400 grams (1 pound, scant) spicy Italian sausage
200 grams (1/2 pound, scant) Friulano cheese, diced
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped dried tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon rubbed oregano
1 teaspoon rubbed basil
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon* hot paprika
1 cup coarse cornmeal (polenta)
3 1/2 cups water
3 cups tomato sauce

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and chop the onion. Cut the sausage into bite-sized pieces. Cut the cheese into dice.

Heat the oil in a large ovenproof skillet. Add the onion, and cook, stirring constantly, until softened and slightly browned in spots. Add the sausage pieces, and mix them in well. Once they begin to brown, add the dried tomatoes and the seasonings. Once those are mixed in, hot on their heels add the cornmeal, followed by the water.

Let the mixture simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until it thickens up and begins to "plop". Sprinkle the cubes of cheese evenly over the boiling polenta, but don't stir - just let them settle in. Transfer the skillet (oven mitts on both hands!) to the oven, where bake it for 30 to 40 minutes, until firm and slightly browned. Remove it from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes before serving. Use those 15 minutes to heat up the tomato sauce, and pass it to be poured over the top of the polenta.

* Most "spicy" Italian sausage hasn't got that much bite to it, and it needs reinforcing, but every so often someone will surprise you. Make sure your sausage isn't, in fact, genuinely spicy spicy Italian sausage before you bring in the cavalry.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Salmon or Trout Tourtière

Wow! I expected this to be more serviceable than exciting, but it was really terrific. It certainly tastes like a gourmet treat, and not like 1 pound of fish has been stretched to feed 6 people. Well, 6 assuming they are not pigs like we are. *ahem*

Use whatever pie crust you like. I've linked to my spelt pie crust recipe, which is a pretty standard recipe except that it has more liquid required to allow for the differently absorbtive qualities of spelt flour. 

Salmon or trout should give equally good results. I  have not tried it with smoked trout (or salmon) but I think they could be very good too.

6 servings
1 hour 45 minutes - 45 minutes prep time

Salmon or Trout Tourtière

Advance Prep:
 3 medium potatoes
pastry for a double crust

Put the potatoes in a pot with water to cover, and bring them to a boil. Boil them steadily for 10 minutes, then drain them and put them in cold water to cool rapidly. Set them aside until needed. They can be done up to a day ahead, and kept, wrapped, in the refrigerator.

Make the pastry, then while it is resting before being rolled out, make the filling.

Finish the Tourtière:
2 or 3 medium shallots
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
the finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh dillweed
OR 1 to 2 teaspoons dried dillweed
3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 large egg
1/2 cup rich milk or light cream
500 grams (1 pound) fresh salmon or trout

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Peel and mince the shallots. Peel and mince the garlic. Heat the butter in a small skillet, and cook the shallots gently, until softened and just slightly browned. Stir in the garlic and all the seasonings, and cook for just a minute more, then remove the shallot mixture to a mixing bowl to cool.

Peel and grate the partially cooked, cooled potatoes - there should be about 2 cups when grated. Add them to the shallots. When the shallots are cool, break in the egg and mix it in. Mix in the cream or milk.

Skin the salmon or trout, check for and remove any bones, and chop it into small pieces. Mix with the shallots and potatoes, etc.

Roll out about 60% of the pastry, and use it to line a 9" pie plate. Fill it with the prepared filling. Roll out the remaining pastry, and cover the pie, pinching it around the edges to seal it well. Cut some vents for the steam, and bake the pie for 45 to 55 minutes, until golden brown. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Pear & Cranberry Crisp with Granola Topping

I wasn't going to make a pear dessert (or any dessert at all, in fact), but I had just bought some pears in order to make the Pear & Celeriac salad, and there were quite a few left over. Then Mum showed up for lunch, with a big bag of pears. "I just bought a basket of pears and there are too many for me!" So now I had really a lot of pears, and they just don't keep forever. Nothing for it but to cook them... with some cranberries, into a Crisp. Can't complain.

8 servings
1 hour 30 minutes

Make the Topping:
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup chopped nuts
1/3 cup raisins
2 cups large flake rolled oats

Melt the honey and butter together, either in a small pot or in a bowl in the microwave. Mix in the vanilla extract.

Chop the nuts and mix them with the raisins and the rolled oats. Mix all of these into the honey-butter mixture. Set aside until needed.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Finish the Crisp:
6 large Bosc pears
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
2 tablespoons finely minced preserved ginger

Peel the pears, and core them, and chop them into bite-sized pieces. Put them in a shallow 9" x 13" baking pan (lasagne pan). Mix  in the cranberries. Finely mince the ginger, and sprinkle it over the pears and cranberries. Top with the granola mixture, sprinkled evenly over the fruit.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until nicely browned. Serve warm or cool.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Spiced Squash & Pear Soup

You will need a medium-small squash for this; about 2 1/2 pounds, or a very generous kilo. Roast it in the usual way; cut it in half and deseed it; rub the cut edges with a little oil, and roast at 375°F for somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half. As usual, I tend to do this the day before; serving roast squash, and just making extra. Or at least, if I have the oven on for another purpose, it's always a good idea to fling something more in there at the same time if I can.  At any rate, first roast your squash.

4 to 6 servings
45 minutes prep time, not including roasting the squash

Spiced Squash & Pear Soup

Make the Spice Mixture:
2 pods green cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Crush the cardamom lightly, to allow you to remove the papery green husks. Grind the seeds with the cumin, coriander, fennel and pepper. Mix in the ginger and salt, and set aside. NOTE: if you are using salted stock and butter, omit the salt and adjust the salt once the soup is made.

Make the Soup:
3 cups squash purée
3 cups unsalted chicken stock
3 medium Bosc pears
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sherry

Put the squash and 1 cup of the chicken stock in a soup pot, and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, peel, core, and slice the pears into thin slices. Heat the butter in a large skillet, and cook the pears until lightly browned on each side. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the pears, and mix it in well; cook for another minute or two until the spices are very fragrant. Transfer the spiced pears to the soup pot. Use a second cup of chicken stock to deglaze the pan, and add it to the soup.

Simmer the soup for 15 minutes or so, until the pears are completely soft. Purée the soup until fairly smooth in texture. Return it to the soup pot, and use the last cup of chicken stock to swish out the food processor. Add it too, to the soup, along with the sherry. Heat the soup through and serve.