Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Celeriac Dip

We got another very good celeriac crop this year, and one of them did very well made into this dip. We served it cold the first time, and then grated a little more cheese over the top of the leftovers, broiled it, and served it warm the second time. Good both times!

Celeriac is pretty subtle; I don't know that I would pay the ridiculous price that grocery stores charge for celeriac to make this. If you can grow it yourself or get it at a farmers market where prices are reasonable, however, it's well worthwhile.

2 cups - 8 to 12 servings
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time

2 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
140 grams (4 ounces) chevre
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
the finely grated zest of 1/4 lemon
the juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon cumin seed, ground
1/4 teaspoon celery seed, ground
2 cups peeled and finely grated celeriac

Peel and mince the garlic, and cook it gently in the butter in a very small skillet over medium heat until the garlic is cooked and fragrant but not browned. Turn it out into a food processor at once.

Add the mayonnaise, chevre, mustard, lemon zest and juice, Parmesan cheese, and the seasonings, first grinding the cumin and celery seed. Pulse to blend.

Peel and grate the celeriac, then add it to the food processor. Blend again, until well blended but still with texture.

Pack the dip into a serving bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 30 to 45 minutes to allow the flavours to blend. Serve with crackers or crudités.

Last year at this time I made Brussels Sprouts & Carrot Copper Coin Salad.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Signing Off for the Holidays

Probably a little earlier than usual. However, Dad died earlier this week so I am quite busy at the moment. I am a little embarrassed about how calm and accepting I have been about the whole thing so far, but the last few months of his life were so truly dreadful  that it became really clear that death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person.

I'll be back sometime in January, not sure exactly when. In the meantime I hope everyone has the holidays that are all they could wish for. See you when the days are getting longer!

Friday, 18 December 2015

Chai Honey Butter

Use this to make chai toast, as you would cinnamon toast. Broil you bread on one side until nicely toasted, then flip it over. Toast until it just short of toasted as you like. Spread it with some of the Chai Honey Butter, then return it to the broiler until bubbly all over.

I reckon the tea componant of this comes from the cup of tea you drink with your toast, but you could add a little very finely ground tea - matcha comes to mind - to the butter. I didn't do it, so I can't say how much, but I'd be inclined to start with no more than 1/2 teaspoon, and maybe even 1/4; on the well-known principle that more can always be added, but once it's in, it's in.

If you made a triple recipe, and packed it in a nice little 125 ml (1/2 cup) jar, it would make a nice little present along with a loaf of home made bread.

about 4 tablespoons
10 minutes prep time

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a scrape of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon whole (6 to 8 berries) allspice
3 to 4 pods of green cardamom

Put the butter and honey into a very small mixing bowl. The butter should be soft enough to mix easily.

Add the ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Grind the allspice and cardamom, and sift them in. I ground mine by hand, so I picked out the green papery coverings from the cardamom, sifted them over the butter, then reground everything that was too coarse to go through the mesh a second (and indeed, third) time. Once it is all in, mix until no visible streaks of butter remain.

As usual, I try not to make things too sweet. You could add a little more honey if you were so inclined.

Last year at this time I made Buckwheat Noodles

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Fresh Raw Cranberry Orange Relish

Here is a variation on a well-known Christmas classic. The honey adds a local ingredient and also another subtle but rich layer of flavour. A little candied ginger may be something you would like, or not; it desirability may also depend on what else is being served. This is standard with turkey, but try it with chicken or roast duck as well.

This is best with fresh cranberries, but frozen ones will actually work quite well. The relish may be a little more inclined to separate, and the honey will probably not completely blend until the cranberries are well thawed - give it a good stir again before serving - but these are minor quibbles. And apart from the fact that you now need to wash the food processor, this is about as simple a recipe as you will ever find for the resulting pleasure.

about 3 cups
15 minutes prep time

Fresh Raw Cranberry Orange Relish

1 large navel orange
1/3 cup wildflower honey
a slice of candied ginger (optional)
340 grams (12 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries

Wash the orange, and remove any hard stem bits that may be present. Dry it, and grate the zest into a food processor. Peel the orange and discard the skin. Cut or break the orange into chunks and add it to the food processor, with the honey, and ginger if using. Pulse until blended. Add the cranberries, and process until fairly finely chopped, but with some texture remaining.

Can be made anywhere from 1 hour to 3 days in advance; a little time in the fridge to let the flavours develop is beneficial.

Last year at this time I made Brussels Sprouts & Celeriac Slaw.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Squash & Chevre Strata

This delightful dish can make a festive vegetarian main course - in which case I might sprinkle some grated Cheddar over the top before baking it - or it's very nice with ham. I used a good cheese bread from the day-old rack, which added extra flavour and a pleasant sensation of frugality. (I do love feeling frugal, but not enough to not actually spend any money). Slightly stale bread is actually best for this kind of thing. I left the squash as quite distinct chunks, but you may wish to mash it a bit coarsely if you prefer your squash more diffused.

6 to 8 servings
1 hour - 15 minutes prep time
not including roasting the squash

Roast the Squash:
a 1.5 kg (3 pounds) butternut squash
a little mild vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the squash in half, and remove the seeds and strings from the seed cavity. Rub the cut edges of the squash with a little oil, and roast for an hour to an hour and a quarter, until the squash is tender throughout. This can be done a day or two ahead, and the squash kept refrigerated until needed. Don't forget to clean and toss the seeds with a little oil and salt, and roast them in a small pan, in a single layer, as well! They make a delicious little snack.

Make the Strata:
2 medium onions
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
300 grams chevre
a loaf of day-old sandwich bread
6 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon rubbed savory
1 teaspoon rubbed basil
1/2 teaspoon rubbed thyme
1/4 teaspoon rubbed rosemary
plenty of freshly ground black pepper
2 cups whole milk or light cream

Peel and chop the onions finely. Heat the oil over medium heat in a small skillet, and cook the onions until soft and translucent. Only let them brown a very little bit. Let cool as you proceed.

Peel the squash and cut it into bite-sized chunks. Place them in a 9" x 13" roasting (lasagne) pan. Crumble the chevre and add it to the squash. Cut the bread into similar cubes to the squash, and add them to the pan with the cooled onions. Gently mix them all together and spread them out evenly in the pan.

Break the eggs into a mixing bowl, and whisk in the seasonings. Whisk in the milk or cream. Pour the mixture evenly over the ingredients already in the baking pan, stirring gently if needed to soak all the bread in the eggs and milk. Make sure the mixture is spread out evenly again.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the strata for 50 to 55 minutes, then allow it to rest for another 10 minutes before serving.

Last year at this time I made Shepherd's Tourtière (Tourtière Chinois).

Friday, 11 December 2015

Pad Thai

As has been the case on other occasions, I ordered a dish at a restaurant, and was so horrified by the results that I felt obliged to rush home and make it properly. I've read recipes where people are admonished that there is no ketchup in Pad Thai, and snickered. Who on earth would do that - beyond perhaps a not very noticeably tablespoon or so - I wondered?

I now wonder no more. I would swear that the so-called Pad Thai from the restaurant in question consisted of noodles in a sauce of ketchup, sugar and chile-garlic sauce, a little third-rate chicken, and nothing else. Oh, some oil in the pan, no doubt. An insult in fact, although I haven't yet decided if the insult was more to me the customer, or to the noble dish of Pad Thai. What a nasty, gummy mess.

I'm always a little surprised that a dish from a tropical country like Thailand is so suited to Canadian winter vegetables, but there you are. It is, and so much the better for us. I have on occasion tried to Ontario-ize this a little more by replacing the lime juice with apple cider vinegar, but while the results are reasonably pleasant, the lime juice is definitely better; or lemon juice will do too. Still, something to keep in mind for emergencies, since most of the other ingredients are pantry staples.

If you don't want tofu you could replace it with similar sized bits of chicken or pork, cooked pretty much as described, or with a couple of eggs, in which case scramble them with a couple teaspoons of the oil, remove them from the pan and continue with the onions and carrots going into the now empty pan, and add the eggs back in with bean sprouts at the end. 

2 to 4 servings
1 hour prep time

Pad Thai

Make the Sauce & Cook the Noodles:
225 grams (1/2 pound) broad rice noodles
1/4 cup apple butter
3 tablespoons fish sauce OR light soy sauce
the juice of 2 limes (about 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon chile-garlic sauce
1 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger

Put a pot of water on to boil for the noodles.

Mix the remaining ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

When the water boils, boil the noodles according to the package directions - usually 4 to 8 minutes. Drain and rinse briefly in cold water. Drain well again.

Prepare the Vegetables, Etc. & Finish:
2 cups mung bean sprouts
2 cups finely shredded green or Savoy cabbage
1 medium onion, peeled and slivered
1 medium carrot, peeled and julienned
2 stalks celery, trimmed and sliced
8 to 12 button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
150 to 200 grams (1/3 pound) firm tofu
3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts (optional)

Rinse and drain the bean sprouts. Wash, trim out the tough stem ribs, and shred the cabbage. Peel and liver the onion; peel and julienne the carrot. Wash, trim and slice the celery. Clean and quarter the mushrooms. Cut the tofu into bite-sized cubes. 

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Cook the tofu gently for 6 to 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until it is lightly browned all over. Turn up the heat, add the carrots and onions, and cook for another few minutes until they are softened, stirring frequently. Add the mushrooms - ideally the noodles are going into the boiling water to cook right about now too - and cook and stir for another few minutes. Add the cabbage, the drained noodles, and the mung bean sprouts, cooking and stirring for a minute between each addition. Once the sprouts go in, give the sauce a stir to reblend, and dump it in. Mix it in thoroughly. Once the bean sprouts have mostly wilted down but are still reasonably crispy, you are done. Remove the Pad Thai to a serving dish, and serve it. Sprinkled with a few chopped peanuts, if you are so inclined.

Last year at this time I made Cocoa Cream Roll.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Brussels Sprouts, Sweet Potato & Shallots

Here is a simple vegetable dish very similar to one I made 6 years ago, only with squash.  I hadn't realized  that it was so close to the time I held a 75th birthday/30 year anniversary party for my father and his partner when I made the first version. So much has changed since then. For the last 2 years, almost, they have both been either in the hospital or in a nursing home. And now, my father is dying and will probably be dead within the month. He is in so much pain and has so little quality of life left that I really kind of hope so. We literally wouldn't do this to a dog.

Well, that's a nice cheerful start to a recipe that was really very pleasant and deserves a better introduction. Not too much to say about the recipe, though; it's roasted vegetables, starch and green together and just needs a nice piece of protein to go with it to complete your meal. Baked chicken pieces make a lot of sense, since they could go in with the veggies and optimize your oven usage.

4 servings
1 hour - 15 minutes prep time

450 grams (1 pound) sweet potatoes
450 grams (1 pound) Brussels sprouts
6 to 8 medium shallots
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Wash, trim, and cut the sweet potatoes into thin (1/2 cm) slices. Toss them in a large roasting pan with the oil, and roast for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, trim the Brussels sprouts and cut them in quarters (or slice them into coins). Peel the shallots, and cut them in halves or quarters, depending on their size. Whisk the soy sauce, vinegar and mustard together in a small bowl.

When the sweet potatoes have roasted for about 20 minutes, remove them from the oven. Stir in the Brussels sprouts and shallots. Drizzle the soy and vinegar mixture over the vegetables. Toss once more, and return to the oven to roast for a further 20 to 30 minutes, until the vegetables are done to your liking.

Ha ha! Last year at this time it was Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cranberries & Pear; how does that always happen? Seasonal eating, I guess!

Monday, 7 December 2015

Rum Ball Bars

Rum Balls are one of my favourite Christmas treats, but I thought I would try to simplify them a bit this year, what with one thing and another. I'm calling for chocolate cake crumbs, but I have to admit I bought ready to use chocolate baking crumbs for these, as part of my effort to reduce the work. The texture is not as good, but they taste fine. Making bars is also much less laborious than dipping individual rum balls.

I have to say the marzipan is a bugger to roll out though. It's very stiff. I just worked on it off and on until I got it thin and even enough, which makes it hard to say how long it took me. I was tempted to try a graham cracker crumb crust and next time I might do that. On the other hand, marzipan is a traditional fellow-traveller of rum balls.

Now is the time to make these; they keep well for at least 2 or 3 weeks and in fact improve with sitting.

48 to 60 bars
45 minutes to an hour prep time,
not including making the cake

Rum Ball Bars

200 to 225 grams (1/2 pound) marzipan
4 cups chocolate cake crumbs
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut
1/4 cup finely minced preserved peel
1/4 cup finely minced preserved ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup rum
1/2 cup butter
4 ounces (100 grams) unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup apricot or raspberry jam
8 ounces (225 grams) semisweet chocolate
6 tablespoons unsalted butter

Roll out the marzipan, on a sheet of parchment paper, to fit a 9" x 13" baking pan. You will need to keep it thin and even. Trim the edges and patch to keep a neat rectangle. Place it in the bottom of the pan, with the parchment paper, when you are done.

Mix the cake crumbs, cocoa, coconut, preserved peel and ginger, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the rum over the mixture.

Put the 1/2 cup of butter and the unsweetened chocolate in a heavy bottomed pot, and heat over very low heat until melted. Mix in the jam, then scrape into the bowl of cake crumbs and mix well. Press this mixture evenly over the prepared marzipan.

In the same pot, also over very low heat, melt the semisweet chocolate and remaining butter. Scrape it out over the pressed down cake mixture, and spread it out evenly, covering the entire pan. Set the pan in the fridge to set, then cut it into bars. Keep the prepared squares well sealed in a tin, in a cool, dry spot. Bring them up to room temperature before serving.

Last year at this time I made Baked Polenta with Cheese & Sausage.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Onions au Gratin

Creamed Onions seem to have mostly disappeared from festive menus, much to my disappointment. Maybe people find eating whole onions a little disconcerting? In that case, maybe these will do the trick - it's basically creamed onions, sliced and hidden under a slightly cheesy crumb topping. I will cheerfully eat either version. It's onions! And cream sauce! What's not to like; seriously?

If you make them in advance with the expectation of putting them in the oven to be baked just before dinner, keep in mind that if they go into the oven cool you will need to bake them for probably at least an hour or a little more. Also, don't add the crumb topping until just before they go in.

6 servings
1 1/2 hours - 45 minutes prep time

Onions au Gratin

Make the Crumb Topping:
1 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup (50 grams; 2 ounces) finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Put the above into a small mixing bowl and rub together with your fingers until well blended; in particular, keep track of that butter. Set aside.

Prepare the Onions & Sauce:
4 to 5 medium (750 grams; 1 1/2 pounds) cooking onions
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon soft unbleached flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon sherry
1/4 cup 10% cream

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Peel the onions and slice them into 1/4" thick slices. Put them in a pot with water to cover them, and bring them to a boil. Boil for just 1 or 2 minutes, then drain well.

Meanwhile, put the butter, flour, salt, pepper, and mustard into a pot (or directly into your casserole if it can go on the stovetop) and heat them over medium heat. Mix well and stir constantly until everything has blended and sizzled together for a few minutes. Slowly stir in the chicken stock, and continue stirring until the mixture thickens.

Either put the sauce into a shallow 1 quart (litre) baking dish, or not, if it is already there. Add the drained onions, spreading them out evenly and pressing them down into the sauce until it covers them. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly over the top. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes until nicely browned and bubbly.

Last year at this time I made Pear & Cranberry Crisp with Granola Topping

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Scotch Broth

This is quite a quick and easy soup to put together, providing you have cooked lamb and lamb stock on hand, but the best way to have cooked lamb and lamb stock on hand is to have had a lamb roast at a previous meal, so there's that.

 This will provide a certain amount of stock, and the meat you need too, but do make sure the butcher gives you the bones from the roast because you will need them to make additional  stock.

Roast the bones in the oven in a shallow greased pan  until fairly brown, then cover them with water, add a bay leaf, a small onion with the skin, and a stalk of celery, and simmer for several hours. Strain and cool, and remove the excess fat.

Or; you can always use some beef stock if you have it.

Finally, if you have neither lamb roast nor stock of any description, but still hanker for Scotch Broth, get a pound of lean stewing lamb and cut it into quite small pieces. Brown it in a little fat, then put in 8 cups of water and simmer very slowly and gently for 45 minutes to an hour. Strain out the meat and set it aside to use as  your cooked lamb, and you should  have about 6 cups of broth. If you have more broth, just put it in the soup. There will be no complaints, and at any rate the barley does suck it up as it sits. If you don't add it at the start, you may want to hang onto it to thin the leftovers.

But all this mucking about with stock making and lamb cooking happens on a prior day; that should be clear. Lamb stock also tends to be pale and weak looking even when it is really quite strong; Worcestershire sauce goes with it well and as a bonus it improves the colour quite a bit.

6 servings
45 minutes prep time, not including cooking the barley
OR making the stock, for that matter

Scotch Broth

Cook the Barley:
1/2 cup pot barley
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt

In the rice cooker, is how I do it. Fling it all in, turn on, wait. Or you can do it in a pot on the stove, over low heat once it has come to a boil, but you will need to watch it. Closely. Should cook in 45 minutes to an hour.

Make the Soup:
6 cups lamb broth, or mix of lamb & beef broth
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 large onion or medium leek
1 medium carrot
2 stalks of celery
OR 1 cup peeled, grated celeriac
1 cup peeled, grated rutabaga
2 cups finely shredded cabbage
2 tablespoons bacon fat or mild vegetable oil

2 cups diced cooked lamb
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
chopped parsley to garnish (optional)

Put the stock into a large soup pot, add, the Worcestershire sauce, and set it on the back of the stove.

Peel and chop the onion, or wash, trim and chop the leek. Peel and grate the carrot. Wash, trim and chop the celery, or peel and grate the celeriac. Peel and grate the rutabaga. Wash, trim, and shred the cabbage.

Add the cabbage to the stock, and bring it up to a simmer. Meanwhile, heat the bacon fat or oil in a large skillet, and add the onion or leek, the carrot, the celery or celeriac, and the rutabaga. Cook the vegetables over medium heat until they are quite soft and very slightly browned in spots. Add them to the stock, along with the diced cooked lamb. Add the salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve garnished with a little chopped parsley, if you can get it.