Monday, 26 June 2017

Haskap Sauce for Broiled Fish or Chicken

This quick little sauce to liven up plain fish or chicken was very nice! Rather like the Cumberland sauce I made a while ago, but a lighter more summery version. Yes, we're picking haskaps! Actually they have a very short season and will be done within the week. Good thing they freeze well. 

2 to 4 servings
15 minutes prep time

Haskap Sauce for Broiled Fish or Chicken

1/2 cup haskap berries
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch
2 tablespoons port or sherry

Pick the stems off the haskaps and generally pick them over. Rinse them and drain them.

Put the haskaps, honey, vinegar, Cayenne, salt, pepper, and mustard into a small pot and bring to a boil. Simmer steadily for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the berries are all popped/dissolved.

Once the sauce is started, put your fish or boneless chicken pieces on to cook; I assume it will be done in the 10 to 15 minute range.

Mix the starch into the port or sherry and stir it into sauce once the berries have broken down. Remove from the heat as soon as it thickens and turns clear.

Five minutes before the fish or chicken is done, take it out and spoon the sauce over it. Return to the oven for 5 minutes.

Last year at this time I made Haskap & Dried Apple Pie.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Seasonal Ontario Food's Top Ten - Canning & Preserving

There are only 64 recipes under the heading "Canning and Preserving". And yet they have had more page views than the rest of the blog put together. In fact, I think my most popular recipe from this section might have more page views just by itself than the rest of the blog put together. All that means, I suppose, is that people look for canning and preserving recipes more often than they do other recipes. That, and that one recipe was linked at a much more popular site than mine.

And there we are; the highlight of ten years of blogging. Now, having spent a week celebrating, I need a break. I'll probably post a few things - certainly a garden update - but mostly I am going to take the rest of the month off. (I thought these would be quick posts to put together, but no. It would have been much faster just to cook something.)

I would still love to hear from people - what have you made? What worked, what didn't work, what would you like to see in the future?

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Seasonal Ontario Food's Top Ten - Desserts!

Oh goody! Desserts! Not really what I try to make this place about, but I love 'em and so do most people. I try to keep the fat and sugar down to a dull roar when I do make a dessert, and to put fruit (in season!) front and forward. They sure do break down to a lot of categories I'm afraid; but perhaps that isn't really a problem as I can choose more... I still can't quite count to ten but whatever.

I had this idea that I don't make a lot of pies but apparently not true.

I have a little expression, "The cook is never a fussy eater." Meaning the cook is just as fussy as anybody, but since they get to choose what gets cooked, it's always what they like. My desserts fall into that category. I think I make the best desserts ever, but I will have to concede that that is because they are so exactly tailored to my tastes, not through any extraordinary talent. I hope they suit some other people too. 

Friday, 16 June 2017

Seasonal Ontario Food's Top Ten - Breakfasts, Yeast & Non-Yeast Breads, & Sandwiches

I basically went down the list of breakfast entries, going, "Oh, that one... oh, that one..." I think that breakfast dishes may be my favourite of all. I could only squeeze one waffle recipe in; I'm not sure I think it's my favourite but the cornmeal makes them a bit unusual. I love waffles far more than this list suggests.

I think of myself as not a big bread eater but I got all misty-eyed putting together this list. Maybe it's just because it's a diet day, but I think that actually I love good bread. It's just that the way to get good bread is to make it yourself, mostly, as with so many things. I haven't made much bread the last couple of years as family life went all to pot; maybe I can start  up again. I hope so.  

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Seasonal Ontario Food's Top Ten - The Heart of the Blog - Vegetable Side Dishes

Here are the recipes that to me define the purpose of this blog. There is any amount of information out there about cooking meat based dishes, vegetarian cookbooks abound, and the making of desserts is an art and a science and yet a good dessert is easily had. But damn, it can be so hard to find a nice, simple vegetable side dish that isn't swimming in butter, cream, cheese, bacon etc, and yet has that special touch that makes it stand out. I get all excited when I come up with one. (But you'll also note that I'm don't exactly turn down the butter, cream, etc when it seems like a good idea.)

Ten recipes won't cover my enthusiasm for these, but ten recipes for each vegetable seems excessive, so I'll go with breaking them down by season. That's admittedly a very crude division. Some things are available for months, with others if you miss the week they are available they are gone. Still, here goes...

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Seasonal Ontario Food's Top Ten - Meat, Poultry & Fish Main Dishes

More main dishes, the meaty ones this time. In spite of how much I like vegetables I have to confess I could never be a vegetarian. I'm a little surprised to review things and see how much pork we eat, and I'm definitely shy on the fish recipes. I think that's because I am perfectly happy to eat it pretty plain. Judging by this list I also have a taste for the classic dishes, and braising is a favourite cooking technique. Sounds about right, I have to say.

And apparently meat dishes get put on my oval Chinese platters. Huh, okay.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Seasonal Ontario Food's Top Ten - Vegetarian Mains - Beans, Eggs & Cheese

Another day, another set of lists. Today I am celebrating the vegetarian main dishes; the ones that take centre stage and fill you up. I've broken them down into 3 groups but of course they are not as cooperative as all that and some could have gone in a couple of lists.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Seasonal Ontario Food's Top Ten - Appetizers and Hors d'oeuvres, Soups & Salads

Ten years of blogging! There's been a whole lot of food under the bridge in that time. I thought I'd try to narrow down some of my favourites, and some of the most popular recipes from Seasonal Ontario Food. So, some LISTS, every day for the rest of the week. I'll start at the beginning with Appetizers and Hors d'oeuvres, Soups, and Salads. These are in order of publication, no other order intended or implied, although I am going to put in my most popular post of each category.

AND HEY! I want to know - what ones are YOUR favourites?

Sunday, 11 June 2017

10th Blogaversary! - Best Outings & Rants

Today is Seasonal Ontario Food's 10th Blogaversary! Seasonal Ontario Food is 10 years old today!

It all started when repairs were being made to the stairs in our apartment building and I had to make a choice to go out all day, or to stay in all day. I opted to stay in, got bored, and the rest is history. Little did I know what I was getting into.

I went back and perused my earliest recipes in a fit of nostalgia; some of them were awfully simple. Simple is a theme of this blog but I posted things then I wouldn't post now. On the other hand, my very first recipe was a salad I really enjoyed then and still regard as very fine (and it's in season at the moment!) There are also some recipes from the early years that have not been noticed as much as they should have been, as I had next to no readers in those days. Today and tomorrow I am going to highlight some of my favourites from over the years, including some of those early ones.

In keeping with the idea of simplicity I have tried to avoid buying new dishes or gadgets just to have new props for the blog. Consequently people will recognize the dishes and table cloths that show up again and again. I also don't make food just to "pose" it. You see it; we ate it. Sometimes it's hard to get the light right and set things up nicely when everybody is already sitting at the table, forks in hand, waiting, waiting...  I also went with the plainest blog design and have kept photos a very similar size/proportion to keep a simple and unified look. Too plain? Maybe, but it's my style, and I was and remain an amateur in both senses of the word.

Still, right from the beginning I wanted to get out of my own kitchen and post about what other people were doing with Ontario food. The last few years I have struggled to be able to do that, as family obligations have kept me close to home. I still hope that I will be able to do more jaunting about and sticking my nose in other people's business in the future. So today I am going to revisit 10 of my favourite outings. I'm also going to link to a few of the rants I've gone on, which I think help illuminate my philosophy of food. As for the future... well, I hope there will be one. I admit that I don't find myself too wildly optimistic about much at the moment, including the future of local food.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Spinach Cake with Matcha-Lime Frosting

Is this blog about the vegetables? Or is it about cake? Sometimes, it can be about both!

Why yes, we are celebrating - I'll have more to say on Sunday.

When I spotted a few amazing green spinach cakes on Pinterest I had to make my own. After the first attempt, I thought it needed a bit more in the way of flavour. "Can't tell it's spinach" said one poster, and it's not immediately obvious, I have to say, although it comes through in the finish.

Since I was already thinking green, I went with matcha and lime, to echo and sharpen the earthy, leafy flavour of the spinach. Into the frosting too. The result was a treat for the eyes and the tastebuds.

I have to admit I used frozen spinach as the deer have eaten all the fresh spinach. Still, that means this could be made all year round...

12 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time
plus time to cool and frost

Spinach Cake with Matcha-Lime Frosting

Make the Cake:
150 grams (5 ounces) blanched spinach - could be frozen
the finely grated zest of 1/2 lime
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon matcha
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup mild vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 1/3 cups soft unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wash, clean, and blanch the spinach for 1 minute. Squeeze as much liquid from it by hand as you can, then weigh it carefully. Or, you can use frozen spinach, in which case it too should be thawed, squeezed to reduce the liquid, and weighed. 

Line an 8" spring form pan with parchment paper, and butter or oil the sides. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put the spinach into the bowl of a food processor, with the lime zest, lime juice, matcha, and vanilla. Process until very finely chopped, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary.

Add the sugar, vegetable oil, and eggs and quickly process again until just smooth.

Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. Scrape in the wet ingredients and stir until well blended. Scrape into the prepared spring form pan, and spread the batter out evenly.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until firm to the touch or a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry.

Let cool before frosting.

Make the Frosting:
1/4 cup softened unsalted butter
the finely grated zest of  1/4 lime
2 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
a little milk or water to thin the frosting if needed

Cream the butter and lime zest, and mix the icing sugar and lime juice into it until the icing is a good, spreadable consistency. You will likely need to add a little milk or water to achieve that. You could use more lime juice, but the frosting will then be a bit too strong and overwhelm the more delicate flavour of the cake. 

Last year at this time I made Taco Salad.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Buttermilk Buckwheat Waffles

I looked at a number of buckwheat waffle recipes before I made these, and wasn't quite happy with the looks of any of them. Mostly because they weren't plain enough. That sounds odd, but sometimes - okay, quite often really - what I want is something that just tastes of itself. I like the flavour of buckwheat and it marries perfectly with maple syrup or honey. These very simple waffles were exactly what I wanted, and my mother said "best waffles I've ever had". Admittedly, she is very partial to buckwheat but you can't beat that! 

12 waffles
45 minutes prep time

Buttermilk Buckwheat Waffles

2 cups dark buckwheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
3 large eggs
2 1/3 cups buttermilk
a little more oil to brush the waffle iron

Heat the waffle iron.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the oil, break in the eggs, and add the buttermilk. Whisk well.

Pour a little oil into a small bowl and use a pastry brush to brush the waffle iron with it in between baking waffles. Pour a sufficient quantity of batter into the hot waffle iron to fill it (for me that is approximately 1 cup of batter, but your iron may vary), close, and cook until firm and golden brown; about 7 to 9 minutes.

Leftover waffles can be frozen and reheated in the toaster; in that case it is best to not cook them to too dark a shade of brown as they will get darker in the toaster.

Monday, 5 June 2017

German Radish, Cucumber, & Apple Salad

I came across this simple little salad here, and decided to give it a try. The combination is a little unusual, and also only works for fairly short periods of the year. Now there are greenhouse cucumbers and stored apples to go with the first radishes of the year. Then through the summer, when stored apples are gone, it will have to wait until August when the first fresh apples reappear. After that it can be made until the radishes disappear from the markets. Sometimes this is surprisingly late; into October at least.

For once, I made very few changes to the recipe. My proportions are slightly different - what am I going to do with half of an apple left over? - and I used chives rather than green onions, because I think they are a little more delicate in flavour and also they are growing right outside the door.

This was a lovely little salad, and very quick and easy to make. Next time I think I would like it with the components chopped a little finer than what I did, but that is a quibble. Still; one to take note of.

4 servings
15 minutes prep time

German Radish, Cucumber, & Apple Salad

6 to 8 radishes
1/3 English cucumber OR 3 to 4 mini cucumbers
1 large apple
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped chives OR green onion
1 tablespoon sunflower seed oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash, trim, and slice or dice the radishes (not too large!) Peel (or not) the cucumbers, and cut them into slices or cubes of similar size to the radishes. Wash, core, and slice or chop ditto the apple. Mix them with the finely chopped chives or green onion, and toss them with the oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Arrange them in a nice bowl and so serve it forth... done already.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Chervil or Other Herb Vinegar

Oh look, more chervil! This really will be the last though; it's either pulled out or going to seed at this point.

You could use other herbs for flavoured vinegar too. I keep meaning to try it with chive blossoms, which I'm told make a nice pink vinegar. This one was pink too - you see some occasional red leaves on the chervil plants, but I was surprised that my vinegar turned pink as all the ones I used were green.

Tarragon is another herb suggested for flavouring vinegar, as are rosemary, basil, thyme, or mint.

I recommend using plain white vinegar for flavouring. When I first tried making flavoured vinegars I invested in pricey fancy wine and other vinegars. I expected them to add subtlety and richness to the flavour, but in fact I thought they just tasted muddy. Too much going on, flavourwise, especially if you then plan to blend your vinegar into a salad dressing.

2 cups (2 125 ml jars)
2 weeks - 20 minutes prep time

the infused vinegar waiting to be strained

The infused vinegar waiting to be strained, above. The chervil really shrinks down, so don't be shy about packing it into the jar. Below is the finished vinegar.

the finished vinegar

4 cups lightly packed chervil leaves
2 cups plain white distilled vinegar

Wash the chervil very well, and cut off and discard the roots and any damaged or discoloured leaves. Wash again and drain well - it should be quite dry. Pack into a clean 1 litre/quart jar; fill the jar, in other words.

Pour the vinegar over the prepared chervil. Cap loosely (finger tight) and set aside in a dark spot for 2 weeks.

Before straining and bottling the vinegar, run through the dishwasher: the jar(s) into which you are going to put the strained vinegar, the lid(s) thereto, the strainer, a canning funnel (or other funnel that will allow you to transfer the vinegar to your jar), and a broad spoon possibly slotted.

Using these utensils, strain the vinegar into the jar(s). Use the spoon to press the chervil leaves and extract as much vinegar as possible. Cap them with the lid(s). Keep the vinegar in a cool, dark place; given the relatively small quantity I made I'm keeping mine in the fridge.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Sorrel, Chive & Mustard Salad Dressing

Here's one that's short and, well, not sweet. Zingy, sour even, but very lively and refreshing on crunchy greens. So far it looks like being a great early summer for greens and we have mad quantities of lettuce coming along in the garden, much of it self-sown. Lots of moisture and not too much heat will keep it tender and delicious.

And here's my annual entry in my ongoing argument that you should eat more (some!) sorrel. I'm happy to report that when we cleared out the overgrown bed in which our sorrel resides, a reasonable quantity had survived. We've re-settled it, and while I don't expect a bumper crop this year I hope next year it will be back to normal.

4 servings
15 minutes prep time

Sorrel, Chive & Mustard Salad Dressing

1/2 cup packed sorrel leaves
2 tablespoons packed chives
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup mayonnaise - light is fine
1/4 cup yogurt or buttermilk
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash and roughly chop the sorrel and chives. Drain well and put them in the bowl of the food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and process until the herbs are finely chopped. Scrape out into the serving container and pass with a tossed green salad. Half an hour in the fridge before serving to allow the flavours to blend is not a bad idea.

Last year at this time I made Stracciatella with Sorrel & Spinach.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Rhubarb-Almond Crisp

Fruit crisps are so simple to make but such very satisfactory desserts. This one is particularly nice, with almonds and sherry. (If you don't want to use sherry, use some fruit juice instead but I have to say sherry and rhubarb really go together beautifully.)

We all agreed that this would have been amazing with some vanilla ice cream, but we managed to choke it down without it. It was a bit on the zingy side - I used the half cup of sugar in the rhubarb but if you prefer things a little sweeter you could add a bit more. I also didn't put in the minute tapioca and found it just a tad on the juicy side. I think it would help to add a bit, but if you don't have it, don't worry about it.

I think this topping would be lovely on other fruits too: apricots, peaches, plums, cherries, well yes all the stone fruits really, pears, blueberries... yes, okay; almonds go with most fruits. Note too that if you get the right oats this could be gluten free, if that matters to you.

6 to 8 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time
plus a little time to cool

Rhubarb-Almond Crisp

Make the Topping:
1/2 cup Sucanat or very dark brown sugar
1 cup ground almonds
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup chopped or sliced almonds

Mix the first 4 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add the butter, which should be soft enough to work easily, and cut it into the mixture until it reduced to the size of small peas or smaller. At some point I tend to use my fingers to work it in; also sprinkle over the almond extract and work that in too. Mix in the chopped or sliced almonds.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Finish the Crisp:
6 cups sliced rhubarb
1/2 to 2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup sherry OR apple cider OR orange juice
1 teaspoon minute tapioca

Wash, trim, and slice the rhubarb. Put it in a shallow 8" x 10" baking pan. Toss it with the sugar, sherry, and tapioca. Spread the topping evenly over it.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes until the rhubarb is tender, the mixture is bubbling steadily around the edge, and the topping is lightly browned.

Last year at this time I made Leeks & Asparagus.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Asparagus with Onions & Mushrooms

This was very simple and straightforward; also very good. I only used half oyster mushrooms, and half regular white mushrooms, but the oyster mushrooms were particularly good and I recommend using all oyster mushrooms if you can. They are admittedly more expensive. For all its simplicity, though, I think this is a rather special dish.

Like Carrots & Asparagus with Sesame or Sunflower Seeds, this has a foot in 2 seasons; the onions are from last year and won't be around much longer but the asparagus is so new and fresh. Cut the onions fairly large, as they should be as prominent in the dish as the asparagus and mushrooms. They may be getting old but they still have what it takes.

4 servings
15 minutes prep time

Asparagus with Onions & Mushrooms

500 grams (1 pound) asparagus
225 grams (1/2 pound) oyster mushrooms
2 large onions
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons water

Wash and trim the asparagus, and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Trim the mushrooms and cut them into slices. Peel and cut the onions into coarse slivers.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for a minute or two, until they have all separated and softened slightly. Add the mushrooms and turn up the heat to high. Continue cooking, stirring the vegetables frequently. When they are about half cooked, add the asparagus. Pour in the soy sauce and water, and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the asparagus is just tender and the liquids have evaporated. Serve at once.   

Last year at this time I made Pork Loin Stuffed with Spinach & Mushrooms.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Spring Cilantro Soup

You could make this all summer, but it is particularly appropriate for right now. And yes, this is my third recipe for cilantro soup. I'm not quite sure what the fascination is, other than cilantro makes a very tasty soup. So do lots of other things! This one is lighter, simpler and more suited for spring than the other two.

I somehow managed to ignore the fact until this year, but cilantro is about the earliest herb to sprout. The first wave is quite mature and even looks like bolting soon. That supposedly early spring herb, dill? I'm starting to see sprouts big enough to identify, provided I'm sticking my nose right in the bed. The chervil started up about the same time as the cilantro, as did the parsley and chives, but I haven't even planted basil yet. I suppose I could, but it won't go outside for another week or two at any rate. Summer savory, likewise. It's funny, I always think of cilantro as being a late summer herb, to go with tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and all that crowd. It does pop up in waves so it will be in the garden then too but in the meanwhile it makes a zippy spring green.

4 servings
30 minutes prep time

1 medium onion
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon bacon fat OR vegetable oil
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups unsalted chicken OR vegetable stock
1/3 cup dried corn OR 3/4 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 cup yogurt
the juice of 1 lime

Peel and chop the onion. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the bacon fat or oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes, stirring, until softened. Add the garlic, flour, Cayenne, and salt. Continue to cook and stir, until the flour is well absorbed coats the onion pieces. Slowly mix in the chicken or vegetable stock. Stir in the dried corn and let the soup simmer for 10 or 15 minutes, stirring occasionally (reduce the heat to medium).

Meanwhile, wash, dry, and chop the cilantro.

Just before serving the soup, whisk in the cilantro, yogurt, and lime juice. Bring the soup back up to steaming hot, but do not let it simmer. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Cheesy Rhubarb (or Raspberry) Bread Pudding.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Salmon or Trout & Spinach Pie

Well this is the last of the spinach, I'm afraid. The deer broke into the garden the next day after I made this and ate the lot. Fortunately we had picked and frozen about two thirds of it at that point but I am still annoyed.

Not too much to say about this otherwise. It was really delicious and well received by all, and leftovers heated up very nicely. We had some lovely asparagus from the garden (the deer don't seem to like it, hurrah!) with it, but a good soup or salad would also go well. It's a pretty complete thing in itself, though, which is good because it is a bit time consuming. On the other hand, it's one pound of fish to feed 6 people, again. Which at the price of fish can only be a good thing.

6 servings
2 hours - 45 minutes prep time
also allow a little resting time (15 minutes)

Salmon or Trout & Spinach Pie

pastry for a double pie crust
500 grams (1 pound) fresh spinach
3 green onions
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup 10% cream
2 large eggs
450 grams (1 pound) raw salmon or trout

Make the pastry and set it aside, wrapped up in parchment paper, until wanted.

Wash and pick over the spinach; wash it again and drain it well. Chop it. Set it aside. Wash, trim and slice the green onions.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and flour and mix in well. Add the green onions and cook, stirring constantly, until the onions are soft; 2 or 3 minutes. Add the spinach and cook it until it has wilted down completely. Slowly stir in the cream, a bit at a time, to make a smooth sauce.

Once it has thickened a bit, remove the pan from the heat. Let it cool down while you roll out about 60% of the pastry on a sheet of parchment paper or a floured board to fit the bottom of a 9" pie plate.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Beat the eggs into the cooled spinach filling. Chop the fish into large bite-sized pieces and arrange half of it over the pie crust bottom (now in the pie plate). Scrape the spinach filling over it, then arrange the remaining fish on top.

Roll out the remaining pie crust and place it over the pie; pinch the edges sealed and trim off any excess pastry. Cut some slits or poke some holes in the top crust with a fork.

Bake the pie at 350°F for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the pastry is nicely browned. Let the pie cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Good warm or at room temperature.

Last year at this time I made Chicken, Asparagus & Mushroom Casserole with Wild Rice and Wild Leek Chimichurri.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Oatty Apple Butter or Jam Turnovers

I've had this recipe for so long I no longer remember where I got it, but I'm pretty sure it came directly out of one of my antique Canadian cookbooks. (Directly apart from the fact that I had to fiddle around a lot to figure out the correct quantity of buttermilk, which wasn't given and took me a number of attempts to determine. Also I cut the original recipe in half - it made enough for an army.)

I certainly consider this a classic of old(ish) time Ontario cooking. Originally, it was made with dates, and if you want to use half a cup of dates cooked to a paste with the same amount of water instead of the apple butter or jam, you absolutely can.

There are still a few (not very good) commercial versions of this kind of cookie around, but they are not nearly as common as they used to be. It's also too bad that they don't seem to be made at home very often any more either. They seem pretty plain, I guess, compared to the chocolate-laden goodies that tend to prevail nowadays. I really like them though, and recommend them highly. They are more cakey than crunchy (they don't contain the amounts of butter or sugar required for that) and are fairly substantial. I would absolutely eat a couple for breakfast, I have to admit.

They are also very quick to make, in spite of what looks like a slightly fiddly technique. The batter couldn't be simpler, and you just spoon things out in layers to get the apple butter (or whatever) partially covered, giving the effect of a slightly sloppily made turnover.

24 to 30
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time

Oatty Apple Butter or Jam Turnovers

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup soft whole wheat flour
3/4 cup Sucanat or very dark brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large egg beaten
1/2 cup apple butter or other jam

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly butter two cookie trays or cover them with parchment paper.

Stir together the dry ingredients. Beat together the cooled melted butter and eggs, then beat in the buttermilk. Mix into the dry ingredients.

Drop about two thirds of the dough by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared cookie trays. Space them well apart. Place a teaspoonful of apple butter or jam over each cookie. Spoon the remainder of the dough over the cookies.

Bake at 325°F for 20 to 23 minutes. Let cool and keep in a cool, dry tin for a few days. They will freeze quite well for longer keeping.

Last year at this time I made Wild Leek Chimichurri

Friday, 12 May 2017

Potato, Onion & Cheese Casserole

Quite a lot like the classic Scalloped Potatoes, but this has rather more onion flavour, especially if  you add the chives. You could be even a bit more generous with them if  you like.

I used the last of our German Butterball potatoes for this, and they were very appropriate for it. Russets would be fine though.

As with Scalloped Potatoes, this can be assembled in advance and baked just before wanted. Be prepared for it to take a fair bit longer to cook in that case. Par-boiling the potatoes does speed up the baking some, but this is still a slow dish to make. Nice for a cool spring day, but it looks like we are finally about to warm up.

6 to 8 servings
2 hours - 30 minutes prep time

Potato, Onion & Cheese Casserole

1 kg (2 pounds) potatoes
500 grams (1 pound) onions
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon rubbed savory
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon mustard
2 cups whole milk or light cream
300 grams (10 ounces) old Cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 to 1/2 cup finely chopped chives (optional)

Wash the potatoes and put them in a pot with water to cover them well. Bring to a boil, and boil for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on their size. Transfer them to the sink and run them under cold water until they can be handled. Peel them and slice them.

Meanwhile, as the potatoes cook, peel and slice the onions. Heat the butter in a very large skillet, and cook the onions gently until softened and translucent. Do not let them brown much. Season them with the savory, salt, and pepper, then mix in the flour. When well combined mix in the mustard, and the cream a little at a time to make a smooth sauce. Simmer for a few minutes until thickened. If this is done before the potatoes, remove it from the heat. Actually, remove it from the heat whenever it is done.

Grate the cheese and chop - mince, really - the chives, assuming you are adding them. Unless you just can't get them, I would suggest you do.

Layer 1/3 of the potatoes in a shallow casserole dish, such as a 8" x 10" lasagne pan. Spread them with 1/3 of the onion sauce. Sprinkle evenly with 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, finishing with the final layer of cheese.

Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned. Let rest 10 minutes or so before serving.

Last year at this time I made Jerusalem Artichokes with Bacon, Onions, & Mushrooms.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Asparagus in the Style of Peas

There are definitely threads of ideas that lead me from one recipe to another. This one is basically the same sauce as I used for chicken a few days back, but this time it is used on asparagus. The good news - no chervil. I do like this technique for making a sauce, although it is rich, no question.

I based this dish on the recipe I found here; Asparagus Disguised as Peas. I've simplified it a bit. In particular I adapted it to be made in one pot. I also thought the amount of liquid was too low to cook the asparagus but my sauce was a bit too thin, so I am calling for more like the original amount. Nobody really minded it being thin though, and if you serve it with something to soak it up it will especially not be minded. I can see this being served over toast, for instance. If there are enough leftovers, I would suggest running them through a food processor and serving them as soup. Not likely though.

4 servings
15 minutes prep time

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon rubbed savory
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup 10% cream
450 grams (1 pound) skinny asparagus
2/3 cup water or chicken stock 
1 green onion
2 sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf

Cream the butter, flour, savory, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.

Whisk the egg yolks and cream together in a another small bowl. Set aside.

Wash and trim the asparagus, and cut it it into pieces about as long as the stalks are wide (short, in other words).

Bring 2/3 cup of water or chicken stock to a boil with the washed and trimmed green onion, parsley, and bay leaf in it. Add the asparagus and cook until just tender; about 4 minutes.

Lift the asparagus out to a serving dish with a slotted spoon. Remove and discard the onion, parsley, and bay leaf.

Mix a spoonful of the cooking liquid (stock) into the bowl of butter, flour, etc to form a smooth paste. Then mix it all into the cooking water, stirring constantly until it thickens. Whisk in the egg yolks and cream. Continue cooking and whisking until the mixture thickens; don't let it boil though. When it thickens add the asparagus back in, and mix in well. Bring back up to steaming hot, and serve.

Last year at this time I made Rhubarb Chutney.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Poached Chicken Breasts with Fines Herbes Sauce

Fines herbes: that's just a fancy French way of saying "more chervil".  Yes, when I get a bee in my bonnet it buzzes around for a while; also most of what is currently growing in the garden is chervil. Fortunately some parsley and chives too, and between them that is 3 out of the 4 herbs in the classic French combination. The fourth is tarragon, which it will not amaze you at all to hear, I don't have. Not sure it would be up now, even - maybe someone who does have some could enlighten me? Never mind; I declared my 3 herbs to be a quorum and proceeded.

This sauce is a fairly classic supposedly French sauce too, although I've mostly found versions of it by perusing 19th century English cookbooks. On its own, it's rich but fairly bland. Just what the Victorians ordered. The fines herbes give it some oomph, but they are still subtle. I served it with chicken breast; other options would be a nice, firm white fish, salmon, or salmon trout, or I could see it served over poached eggs on toast for a kind of creamy Eggs Benedict. (Use a vegetable stock to keep it vegetarian, if desired.) Ours went over noodles and (from frozen; our peas aren't that far along) peas.

2 servings
30 minutes prep time

Poached Chicken Breasts with Fines Herbes Sauce

Organize Yourself:
4 teaspoons unsalted butter
4 teaspoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup each finely minced fresh chervil, chives, and parsley
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh tarragon, optional

Cream the butter, flour, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, and set aside. Wash and pick over the herbs, drain them well, and chop them very finely. Set them aside as well. 

Get Cooking:
2 150 gram (5 ounce) skinless boneless chicken breasts (OR equivalent white fish)
1 cup unsalted chicken (or fish) stock
2 bay leaves
1" piece of lemon zest (no white pith)
1/2 cup 10% (coffee) cream
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons lemon juice OR tarragon vinegar

Put the chicken pieces and chicken stock (or fish, etc) into a largish pot with the bay leaves and lemon zest, and simmer gently for about 10 to 12 minutes, until cooked. Use this time to cook your noodles or generally get ready whatever else you plan to serve.

Remove the cooked chicken to a serving dish. Remove and discard the bay leaves and lemon zest. Be sure the chicken stock is just simmering gently, then mix a spoonful of stock into the bowl of butter and flour. Mix well to a smooth paste, then whisk it into the chicken stock. Let it simmer for a minute as you whisk the egg yolk into the cream. Whisk that into the chicken stock as well. Watch and gently whisk the sauce as it thickens; do not let it boil or even simmer again. Once it is thick and steaming hot, remove it from the heat and whisk in the herbs and the lemon juice or vinegar until the herbs are just wilted. Pour it over the chicken and serve at once, preferably over some starchy thing that will soak it up a bit. Noodles, toast, or rice all seem appropriate. I am less certain about mashed potatoes, but maybe.

Last year at this time I made Buckwheat Porridge.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Spinach with Chervil

This is just a dish of sautéed spinach, but the addition of chervil and chives or green onion gives it a surprisingly different and unusual quality. Apart from the fact that you will probably have to grow the chervil yourself it is very easy...

2 servings
20 minutes prep time

Spinach with Chervil

4 to 6 cups fresh spinach leaves
1 or 2 green onions or equivalent amount of chives
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh chervil leaves
1 tablespoon butter or bacon fat
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash and pick over the spinach, and let it drain; chop it if you want it in fairly fine pieces. Clean, trim, and chop the onions or chives. Clean, trim, and chop the chervil.

Heat the butter or bacon fat in a large skillet. Add the spinach (which should be fairly dry but with a bit of lingering dampness; if not, throw in a tablespoon of water) and the green onions (if using) and cook until wilted, turning frequently. Once they are done to you liking, mix in the chervil and the chives if that is what you have instead of the onion. Mix them in until just wilted, and serve at once. The whole cooking process is not likely to take more than 5 minutes - most of the prep time is in the cleaning of the spinach.

Last year at this time I made Buckwheat Porridge.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Garden Chervil

One of the great pleasures of early spring is to wander through the garden seeing what plants have survived the winter and can be gleaned for early greenery. Last year we planted chervil for the first time. As not unusual with things planted for the first time, it just sat there as we didn't do anything with it. Well, it flowered and went to seed, and the seeds dropped, and germinated in the fall. They overwintered nicely and now last years' herb bed is awash in chervil plants.

Chervil is one of the traditional French fines herbes, along with tarragon, parsley, and chives. Parsley and chives are also shooting up in the garden already. I don't grow any tarragon, as I can't stand the stuff. It's odd: I like almost everything licorice or anise flavoured, but tarragon is the loathsome exception. Chervil is, if anything, more strongly licorice/anise flavoured, and I like it very much so far. I've put it in a mixed salad, and one other thing, the recipe for which I will post on Friday.

The flavour of the fresh chervil is delicate, bright and clear, but it fades considerably with drying. It does not seem to be readily available either fresh or dried; I think it is one of those things that if you want it, you must usually grow it yourself. Mind you, while it is a different species than the invasive wild chervil, it plainly can become a self-inflicted weed. The good news is that although it prefers a moist, cool spot with a bit of shade, it is quite tolerant and easy to grow. It may bolt more readily in a hotter, drier location such as the one it has in my garden, but it could be succession planted if you were able to give it that much attention. I think I will be happy to let it wander around the garden at will, mostly available for picking in the spring and fall. It's not as hard to weed out as it looks either. The roots are deepish, but the leaves spread out from a single tap root and it can be ripped out in clumps.

The flavour is very distinct. A little bit will brighten up a salad, or use it in sauces with fish, chicken, cheese, eggs, or other protein dishes not too heavy in flavour. I think it would be a bit lost with beef, pork or lamb, but maybe, if deployed carefully. Delicate vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, peas, carrots, potatoes, and zucchini will go with it well. In any case, it will lose flavour if cooked, so chop it finely and add it to your dish at the last moment.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Spring Garden and Life In General Update

Oh look! It's a sign of life! Here, I mean. The garden is full of them and has been for a while. Above is our spinach, which spent the winter under plastic and is at its peak right now.

Well when the lights go out here, it's usually a sign that things have taken a turn towards the soap opera-ish, and that is indeed the case. Two weekends ago, we took my mother-in-law and her housemate down to Windsor where they will be moving in June. They've been thinking about this for a while, but were not planning to move until the fall or next spring. However, exactly the unit they want came available, and they have been struggling more and more with the fact that this house and its location are much less than ideal for them as their health deteriorates, and they are both having to face the fact that it really is. That's a lot of work suddenly dumped into spring planting season, but okay.

However, we came home to a message that my father's partner Trevor fell on Saturday night and broke his hip, and spent the night on the garage floor. By the time I called he was in surgery, and he seems to be about as okay as you can expect, but this is certainly a spanner in the works.

Add in a long trip to Toronto with MIL (for a medical appointment that gave her bad but not unexpected news), that involved passing the worst car crash I have ever seen in my life and a forgotten vital item that had to be shipped down by taxi at great expense, along with the failure of my back-up hard drive which took with it only one file, but the one most vital for me to keep this blog organized and happening, and things have been exasperating all around, and what's more I don't see it clearing up for at least a month. So, while I have a few posts in the works, things will continue to be pretty quiet on the blogfront.

 Earliest peas are planted and mostly coming up nicely. There are a few gaps, because we planted some older peas that we are going to leave to go to seed and they were not particularly new, most of them. This is the year we are going to do lots of seed growing, plant breeding and so forth, because we won't need our usual amount of saved vegetables next winter. We hope.

That's because we have decided that we want to go to Spain for 3 months and walk the Camino de Santiago again, on the route from Seville this time. We are a little nervous that family crises will prevent it, but we figure we are not getting any younger or fitter, so now is the time to do it. In addition to everything else on the agenda this summer we want to start doing a lot more walking in order to get ready. I'm not sure how this will affect the blog, but it's fair to say it definitely will.

The other items on the agenda this summer include finishing gravelling the garden paths. Mr. Ferdzy has made a good start on them already. Also I'm making good progress on getting a weedy, disastrous bed re-dug and cleaned out. In between, we are both working on ripping out our big bed of strawberries. They are supposed to be moved every 3 years and that one has been there more like 6 years. Oops! The old strawberry bed will then have the asparagus moved in, and the old asparagus bed will be grassed over.

That's part of our intention to downsize the garden a fair bit. We have to concede that as we have gotten better at growing vegetables, it produces (in most cases) more than we need, and even more importantly we just can't keep up with maintaining it. Especially if parents are going to persist in getting older and it sure looks like that's the plan.

We've been moving a lot of things around in the garden generally; that's the new gooseberry and currant bed above. The old one was old when we moved in, 8 or 9 years ago or whatever it has been, and it too will be removed and grassed over at some point.

A side view of the garden. The dandelions have just bloomed in the last few days so it is time to plant potatoes. Our spinach and earliest peas are the greenest things in the garden at the moment.

In spite of the fact that it was a mild winter the leeks look pretty ratty; worse than usual. That's because the deer broke into the garden late winter and ate all greenery standing: the Swiss chard, the Brussels sprouts, the cabbage and cauliflower greens, and the leeks. They have never eaten the leeks before! Either they were particularly hungry or we have an adventurous gourmet deer in the herd. Annoying either way. However, they are recovering and carrying on. As are we all; what else is there to do?

Friday, 21 April 2017

Crispy Spicy Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Coating roasted sweet potato "fries" in starch will make them a little crisper than they might otherwise be (that is, not very) and also help stick the seasonings to them. Delicious! Easy! Speedy! Well apart from the cooking time.

Our sweet potatoes are holding up very well. If properly cured, they will do better for keeping into the spring than regular potatoes. You will probably have to find them at a farmers market though, as most groceries only carry American ones.

4 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Crispy Spicy Roasted Sweet Potatoes

2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian or Spanish paprika
     smoked, if liked
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1/2 cup corn starch or potato starch
3 large (600 grams; 20 ounces) sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Grind the cumin and coriander seeds. Mix them with the salt, paprika, Cayenne, and starch.

Wash and trim the sweet potatoes, and cut them into long thin strips or wedges. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the sweet potato slices over it. Toss them with the oil. Sprinkle half the seasoning mixture over them, toss again, then sprinkle with the remaining seasoning mix. Once final mix then roast for about 1 hour. Turn them at the half hour mark.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Cocoa Crepes

Wow! So easy; so good!

For some reason I got a bee in my bonnet about making crepes with cocoa powder, and I thought that in that case they wouldn't need much flour. Maybe I could keep them gluten-free? Potato starch occurred to me as a possibility, and a little research showed that crepes made with potato starch are very common as a dish for passover, although I didn't see any made with cocoa powder.

Well, these were the easiest crepes to lift and flip that I have ever made! Even the first crepe came out perfect, and usually the first crepe is the chef's lumpy, broken sample.

I didn't add any sugar; I figured sweetness can come from the filling. I suspect you could get away with adding a few tablespoons of sugar if you really want to though.

In spite of the fact that there are 3 crepes on the plates in the photo, in most cases 1 or 2 will make a more than sufficient serving - maybe if you are having them for breakfast 3 is not ridiculous. It also depends how much filling you put in them, and what it is. I can think of all kinds of ways to serve these. I think in strawberry season I will just fill them with berries and pass the butter and maple syrup.

6 to 8 crepes (4 to 6 servings)
30 minutes prep time

Gluten Free Chocolate Crepes

1/3 cup potato starch
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups 1% or 2% milk
4 large eggs
approximately 2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Sift the potato starch, cocoa powder, and salt together in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk in the milk, half at a time. Whisk in the eggs very thoroughly, one at a time.

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Use paper towel to brush a thin layer of oil all over it. When the pan is hot, ladle in about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the batter (depending on the size of your pan). Quickly tilt the pan to cover the bottom completely with the batter. Cook until the top of the crepe is dry, then carefully lift it and flip it; cook the other side for just a minute or so. Remove the finished crepe to a plate.

Repeat with the remaining batter until all the crepes are cooked.

Serve warm or at room temperature; crepes can be filled, rolled or folded, and reheated in a lightly oiled skillet. Or not. Fill with ice cream, custard, fruit salad, etc; or serve with maple syrup, honey, fruit, or whatever seems good to you. I mixed 1 cup (250 ml) cream cheese thinned with a couple tablespoons of milk, with 1 cup (250 ml) cherry jam which did the trick nicely.

Last year at this time I made Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Onions.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Aloo Mattar Chowder

Soup season isn't over yet! Even though it is warming up and greening up rapidly out there.

Our potatoes are sprouting like crazy, and we've eaten most of our peas so I won't be able to make this again for a while... too bad, it was delicious. I was actually pretty impressed with how my makeshift Madras curry powder worked out in this. We threw a couple of hard-boiled eggs into the leftovers and that went down very well too.

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time

Cook the Potatoes:
750 grams (1 1/2 pounds) potatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup dried tomato bits

Wash and trim (or peel) the potatoes and cut them into dice. Put them in a pot with water to cover, add the salt, and bring to a boil. Boil for about 10 minutes, until tender. Two or three minutes before they are done, add the dried tomato bits.

Drain off all but approximately 1 cup of the water (don't sweat the exact amount; it's soup).

Mix the Seasonings:
2 to 3 teaspoons Madras curry powder
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper

Mix the seasonings in a small bowl and set aside for the moment. If you are not sure of the strength of your curry powder, or how strong you want it; use 2 teaspoons. You can add a little more to the soup later if you think it needs it. I started with 2 teaspoons and did think a third was required.

Sauté the Onions & Finish the Soup:
2 medium onions
2 to 3 cloves of garlic
1" x 1" x 2" piece of fresh ginger
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cups milk
2 cup thawed frozen peas

Peel and chop the onions. Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and mince the ginger (or grate it, if you can't mince it very finely).

Heat the butter in a mid-sized skillet and cook the onions gently for about 5 to 7 minutes, until soft and reduced in volume; don't let them brown if you can help it. Add the garlic and ginger for the last few minutes of cooking, then mix in the seasoning mixture and cook until well distributed and absorbed.

Once the potatoes are cooked and mostly drained as directed above, mix in the onions, etc. Slowly stir in the milk. Add the peas and mix in. Bring the soup up to steaming hot and let it thicken slightly, but do not let it boil again.

Last year at this time I made Onion Soup with Toasted Barley Flour.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Madras Curry Powder

Has anyone else noticed that you can't get good old fashioned curry powder anymore? Oh, they're still selling stuff labelled "curry powder" but it's completely different and nowhere near as good. It's rough and unbalanced, and lacks the golden colour of yore. Where is the smooth and sprightly curry powder of yesteryear?!

Actually I blame the current fad that has declared turmeric to be a super-food; meaning that now they want you to pay through the nose and take it in capsules, instead of just eating the stuff.

Bah humbug.

Anyway, nothing to do but try making it myself. I don't know if it's the ultimate curry recipe - I can't get the original to compare, after all.  (Mutter, mutter.) My immediate thought is that this is good, but not quite there. Maybe a little more ginger? I have not added any heat at all; I thought I would take a hint from the Jamaicans and add it when making the dish. That way it's very flexible depending on to whom I am serving it. You can, however, add ground Cayenne ad lib.

makes about 1/2 cup
20 minutes prep time

Madras Curry Powder

2 teaspoons green cardamom pods (about 24)
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Crush the cardamom pods lightly and remove and discard the green papery husks. Put the cardamom seeds into a spice grinder with the coriander, cumin, mustard, fenugreek, fennel and black pepper. Grind until fine.

Let the dust settle and remove the mixture to a small glass jar (250ml; 1 cup). Mix in the remaining spices. Cover tightly and keep in a cool, dark place until wanted.

Last year at this time I made Swedish Colcannon.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Tea-Braised Pork

I often think I would like to do more cooking with tea, so when we succumbed to the lure of some very cheap pork roasts at the local grocery store I decide I would try braising some of it in a very smoky black tea. Lapsang Souchong is the most readily available smoky tea, but I used a tea I got at Ten Thousand Villages that was simply described as "Smoked". It was just fine for this purpose.

Given the strong flavours of the ingredients in the marinade, I expected to be able to pick them out easily in the finished dish. To my surprise though, I really couldn't. The meat just tasted intensely, deliciously, porky - I got the occasional zing of ginger, but otherwise it just tasted very rich.

6 to 8 servings
6 to 8 hours - 30 minutes prep time

Tea-Braised Pork

2 to 3 kilo (4 to 6 pound) pork shoulder roast
1 1/2 to 2 cups strongly brewed lapsang souchong
OR other very smoky tea
2 tablespoons smoked Spanish paprika
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce or tamari
1/3 cup sherry or mirin
6 to 8 slices fresh ginger

Trim off and discard much of the skin and fat from the roast, but leave the bone in. Place the pork in a deep roasting dish with a lid; it should be fairly snug but you do need room to get the marinade ingredients in.

Brew the tea. Meanwhile, pour the remaining ingredients over the pork, except the ginger slices which should get tucked under and in around it. Pour in the tea; 2 cups if you can get it in but a bit less is okay. Then add the tea ball or 2 tea bags that you used to brew the tea to the roasting pan and let it stay there right through cooking the roast. Put the cover on the roasting pan.

You can cook the roast right away, or marinate it in the fridge overnight as you prefer. To cook, put it in the oven and bring the heat up to 225°F. Remove the lid about halfway through the process. Cook for approximately 1 hour per pound, but expect that it may take a little longer. The meat should be falling apart when done, and the bone will pull right out. Let rest for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

I like to cook this in advance; that gives time for it to cool down so I can remove the bone(s) and any remaining fat (and remove and discard the tea and ginger slices). Pull the meat apart (preferred) or slice, and reheat gently in the strained sauce. You can thicken the sauce or not with a little starch; I don't bother but I generally serve the meat with mashed potatoes or rice to soak it up.

Last year at this time I made Swedish Colcannon.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Garlicky Dill Vegetable Salad

Here is a simple, ordinary salad made a little subversive by the generous use of garlic and the slightly off-beat addition of dill pickle. Next time I might throw in a spoonful or 2 of the dill pickle brine and make it a little sharper. Or not; it was good the way it was. It will depend on what else is being served, I suppose.

This makes a quick and easy supplement to sandwiches, or plainly cooked meat of any kind. Leftovers will keep, covered, for a day or 2 in the fridge, but the garlic may gather strength as it sits. 

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Garlicky Dill Vegetable Salad

2 cups frozen green beans
2 cups frozen peas
2 cups grated carrots
1 medium dill pickle
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
salt & pepper to taste

Put a pot of water on to boil. Chop the green beans to make them of a size with the peas and the carrots once grated. When it boils add the beans and peas, and cover for 2 minutes (it does not need to return all the way to the boil). Rinse in cold water to stop them cooking any further and drain well.

Meanwhile, peel and grate the carrots. Chop the dill pickle fairly finely. Peel and mince the garlic. Put these all in a mixing bowl with the well-drained beans and peas, the mayonnaise, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well and let rest for 15 minutes or so before serving.

Last year at this time I made Spinach Salad with Mustard Cream Dressing

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Creamy Tomato - Barley Soup

Yet another variation on the ever-popular tomato soup. Barley, celeriac (if you can find it) and onions give it texture, crunch, and substance. Still good with some grilled cheese!  Open faced, maybe, because that barley is filling.

By crushed tomatoes I mean canned tomatoes, chopped up. We whizz our own in the blender and can them, but I have bought crushed tomatoes that were obviously pretty concentrated. If that's what you have, use less and add some water or broth to bring them back to the consistency of actual tomatoes.

4 servings
45 minutes - 30 minutes prep time
not including cooking the barley

Cook the Barley:
1/4 cup barley
1 cups water
a pinch of salt

Put these in your rice cooker, and cook. Alternatively, cook the barley in a pot - bring it to a boil with the salt then reduce heat to as low as it will go and cook it, covered, until tender; about 45 minutes. This can be done in advance.

It's probably a good idea to cook more barley than this - the rice cooker does not deal well with such small quantities. Leftover cooked barley can be frozen, if you don't have an immediate use for it. You should have about 1 cup of cooked barley for the soup.

Make the Soup:
1 large onion
2 cups peeled dice celeriac
OR 2 stalks of celery
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon rubbed savory
3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups crushed (chopped, diced) tomatoes
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
a little cream, sour cream, or yogurt to finish

Peel and chop the onion. Peel and dice the celeriac, or trim an chop the celery. Heat the butter in the bottom of a large soup pot, and add the onion and celery once it is melted and foaming. Cook slowly for about 5 or 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until soft and translucent. Keep the heat low and don't let it brown. Butter is a little less forgiving than cooking in oil, but it really adds to the flavour of the soup.

Sprinkle the flour, savory, salt, and pepper over the onion and celeriac and mix in well; let cook for another minute or two. Then slowly mix in the crushed tomatoes and mix well. Thin with a little water or stock if the soup is too thick. Season with the Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 15 minutes.

When you are ready to serve the soup, mix in about 1/4 cup of coffee cream but do not add it if the soup is bubbling and do not let it get hot enough to bubble thereafter. Alternatively, serve it with a dab of sour cream or yogurt to top each bowl of soup.

Last year at this time I made Thuringer Mohnkuchen: German Poppyseed Cake.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Moroccan Spiced Roasted Carrots

Here we are in April and the veggie selection is definitely shrinking. Lots of good old carrots, though. These take a little time to roast but are otherwise very fast and simple. They'd be great with baked chicken, which would cook in a similar amount of time if you are using bone-in pieces. Fish too, but it should just go in to be baked for the last 10 minutes or so.

As ever, the hot pepper should be the type and amount that is right for you. (I used Aleppo, and thought it could have been a bit hotter for me but others may not think so.)

I would also try this paste with squash or sweet potatoes - can't see how it wouldn't be good.

4 servings
1 hour - 15 minutes prep time

Moroccan Spiced Roasted Carrots

Make the Spice Paste:
2 teaspoons coriander seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon sweet or smoked Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground Cayenne or Aleppo pepper
1 tablespoon apple butter
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
3 tablespoons water

Grind the coriander and cumin seeds, and put them in a small mixing bowl with the rest of the spices. Mix in the apple butter, oil, and water. 

Prepare the Carrots & Roast Them:
450 grams (1 pound) carrots

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Peel and trim the carrots, and cut them into quarters lengthwise (or sixths, or eighths, if they are fat) and toss them with the paste. Roast them for 30 to 40 minutes, until done to your liking.

Last year at this time I made Korean Sweet & Salty Potatoes.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Okonomiyaki... Waffles!

This was a bit of an experiment. I was thinking of making an Okonomiyaki - that is to say, a savoury Japanese pancake who's name translates as "grilled as you like it" - when I wondered if I could cook it in my waffle iron. A little searching showed that there are lots of people doing that; and I would think it would cook very nicely on most electric grills. You can always cook it in a skillet instead, but I would allow 20 minutes to cook it, since it will require turning to get both sides done.

This is not the world's most authentic recipe; I put more weight on local ingredients rather than traditional ones. I can't compare it to the real thing, but we enjoyed it very much, and I'll be making it again as long as the cabbage supply holds out.  I didn't put any meat or tofu in mine, I just served a little pan-fried tofu on the side but most recipes call for some to be added. You can switch the vegetables around for other ones too... they call it "as you like it" for a reason.

The actual pancake is fairly plain in flavour; if I was not putting on sauce I would certainly add salt to it. However, the sauce is very salty and it is an integral or at least very traditional part of the dish. You should use it (and the mayonnaise)! I would have served it with pickled ginger, if I could have found any that didn't contain aspartame. Ugh! I guess I need to make it myself. (I've done that before, using the brine recipe and technique for dill pickles.)

I remember there was a restaurant in Toronto that served nothing but Okonomiyaki back in the days I lived there - a long time ago now. I never went there; it was not within my budgetary constraints. I wonder if it is still there? (Yes! A little searching shows that it is. It seems quite inexpensive now; was it always less expensive than I thought, or have their prices dropped or at least failed to rise? I wonder. But now I will have to try to go on my next trip into the big smoke.)

2 servings - 6 "waffles"
40 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Grilled as you like it... savoury Japanese pancake in the form of waffles

Make the Sauce:
1/4 cup tomato ketchup
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce OR oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sherry OR mirin

Whisk the above together in a small bowl.

Make the Okonomiyaki Batter:
1 1/2 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 medium carrot
3 green onions OR 1 medium onion
1 cup soft unbleached flour
1 tablespoon arrowroot OR corn starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
1/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock

Trim and shred the cabbage, then peel and grate the carrot and trim (peel) and chop the onions. Set them aside. Turn the waffle maker on to heat.

Mix the flour, arrowroot or corn starch, and baking powder in a fairly large mixing bowl - it will end up here at some point - then whisk in the eggs and the stock.

Mix in the vegetables and any optional ingredients. Yes, there is a lot of filling in proportion to the batter. That's fine.

Add Optional Ingredients & Finish:
1 sheet toasted nori (optional)
225 grams (1/2 pound finely chopped chicken, tofu, OR white fish
OR 125 grams (1/4 pound) bacon
a little mild vegetable to brush the waffle iron

I just added a sheet of toasted nori, cut with scissors into shreds. You could also put in finely chopped chicken, tofu, or white fish. If you want to use bacon, I would chop it and partially cook it before mixing it in. I've seen it placed in the skillet then the batter poured over it, but we aren't (or at least I didn't) using a skillet here. I would be dubious about that working in a waffle iron.

Brush the heated waffle iron with oil, and spoon in enough batter to fill the waffle iron, once it is evenly spread out. For me, that was about half of it. Close the waffle iron and cook until lightly browned over most of okonomiyaki waffle, and it should feel fairly firm to the touch - about 15 minutes. Keep the okonomiyaki warm in a 200°F oven while you brush the waffle iron with a little oil again and cook the remaining batter.

Drizzle the ononomiyaki waffles with the brown sauce and with mayonnaise to taste before serving.

Last year at this time I made A Basic Korean Style Marinade.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Irish Soda Farls

Here's another thing that was ridiculously simple to do but awfully good. When the (Northern) Irish talk about soda bread this is what they mean, and there are a lot of instructions out there that make it look very complicated. It isn't really though. If you can make biscuits, and you can make pancakes, then you can make these.

Essentially, these are a kind of low-fat biscuit that is baked on a griddle (skillet) rather than in the oven. I say low fat, but the Irish are sure to remedy that on the other end by applying generous quantities of butter. Me too. On the other hand, these are traditionally made with all white flour, which is not my preference. I thought they worked well with half and half. And yes, soft flour is what is needed - you will need to have a very light hand with them if you use all-purpose flour.

Mine got a little dark - they cooked quicker than I expected, and rose really well too - but unless they are actually scorched a little dark just adds to the experience. 

Makes 4 to 8 servings
20 minutes prep time

Irish Soda Farls

1 cup soft whole wheat flour
1 cup soft unbleached flour
3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
a little flour to roll out
about 1 teaspoon mild vegetable oil

Mix the flours, salt, and soda in a mixing bowl. Stir in the buttermilk to form a rough dough; when it is mostly together turn it out onto a clean counter, board, or sheet of parchment paper and knead gently to bring it all together - about 20 to 30 seconds or 12 to 20 turns.

As soon as you have a nice smooth dough, pat it out into a circle about 8" or 9" in circumference, and about 1/2" thick or slightly less. You could roll it out with a rolling pin, but it's easy enough to pat out. Sprinkle it with a little flour if it gets sticky, on both sides. Check - turn it once or twice as you pat it out.

Brush a large cast iron skillet with a very thin layer of mild vegetable oil - I dribbled a bit in then wiped it around with a piece of paper towel and discarded the excess, much like when I make crepes. Most recipes don't call for oiling the griddle or skillet, but this kind of griddle baking really sucks the finish off the cast iron and I think this helps to keep that down to a dull roar. They need to not be sitting in any more oil than just a film, though.

Heat the skillet on the stove, over medium heat. Specifically, turn it to the temperature at which you would cook pancakes or eggs, then lower it just a tad, because these are thicker and will need a little longer. Let the skillet pre-heat for a minute or two while you cut the dough into quarters. A pizza cutter is ideal for this. Gently place the farls into the pan, and cook for about 5 minutes per side. Lift them gently after a few minutes to make sure they are not browning too fast - lower the heat if they are. Turn them once they are lightly browned and risen, and cook on the other side.

Serve warm, split and buttered. If there are leftovers, they can be split and toasted.

Last year at this time I made Dutch Beef & Onion Hachée.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Rutabaga & Mushroom Soup

I have to admit this looks simple, even plain, but we both thought it was really tasty. Butter-sautéd mushrooms and herbs do great things for good ol' rutabaga. It's simple and plain where it counts - it goes together very quickly. It's also good eaten right away or will keep for a day or two in the fridge for re-heating.

It will serve 2 with some bread and butter or small sandwich for a meal, or make 4 starter portions for a multi-course dinner.

I would have liked to have some green oniony stuff to toss into this, but the weather is not yet co-operating. Soon, I hope!

2 to 4 servings
1 hour - 45 minutes prep time

Rutabaga & Mushroom Soup

Cook the Rutabaga:
4 cups peeled, diced rutabaga
3 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt

Peel and dice the rutabaga, and put it in a small soup pot (2 quarts or litres) with the water and salt, and bring to a boil. Boil for 30 to 40 minutes, until tender.

Mix the Spices:
1/2 teaspoon dry rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon dry thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon flour

Grind the rosemary and thyme leaves together, and mix them in a small bowl with the salt and flour.

Finish the Soup:
1 large onion
300 grams (10 ounces) white button mushrooms
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups unsalted chicken or vegetable stock

Peel and chop the onion. Clean, trim, and cut the mushrooms in thickish slices each way, creating little mushroom sticks.

Heat the butter in a medium skillet, over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for a minute or two until softened. Add the mushrooms. Cook for about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until softened and browned in spots.

Add the spice and flour mixture (from above), and mix it in well. Let it all cook for another several minutes, stirring regularly, then gradually add the chicken or other stock, stirring constantly. Let simmer a few minutes to thicken.

While it does that, and when the rutabaga is tender, mash the rutabaga well in the pot without draining it. Stir in the contents of the skillet, and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Let simmer over medium-low heat for another 5 or 10 minutes. Stir regularly.

Last year at this time I made the fabulous Red Cabbage & Parsley Slaw... somehow forgot to mention it's also full of parsnip.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

A Visit to Rolling Ridge Maple Products

Wow, has it ever been a long time since I've paid a visit to anyone, but when we were coming home from Windsor last weekend we drove past Rolling Ridge Maple Products, remembered we were out of maple syrup, and paid a flying visit.

Rolling Ridge is located at 22681 Vanneck Road, just west of Ilderton, Ontario. (Ilderton is about 20 kilometres north-west of London.)

This is a very nice little set-up. In addition to the combined boiler room (refinery? evaporator? sugar shack?) and store, you can walk through the bush from which the sap is collected, reading notes on the production of maple syrup as you go. Although I admit my eyebrows went up at the description of the method of collecting sap as being "invented by the early pioneers". Um, really?

There's the old sugar shack, as well as the original cast iron kettle.

They have a couple of the old collection buckets on display, but as with every modern maple producer, the sap is now directed straight to the boiler via blue plastic tubing.

You can just about spot the tubing in the background behind the old sugar shack.

Inside, our purchase is rung up by Jamie Robson, a member of the family behind Rolling Ridge. There's maple syrup, maple syrup, and more maple syrup - oh, and little maple sugar patties in the form of maple leaves, maple "butter", and if you are there at the right time apparently maple cotton candy, which sounds to me like genius or at least about the only thing that would induce me to eat cotton candy. They opened up in late February and will go until some time in April at this location, although their products are available all year in other places.

Barrels of maple syrup sit in the boiler room. This years season has been early, long, and odd; with temperatures all over the map, making the process somewhat trying. However, spring approaches and the sap rises and the outcome is maple syrup. 

As the syrup is decanted from the boiler, it passes through a serious series of filters. Jay Robson, Jamie's brother, oversees the process.

Maple syrup grading names are in a period of change. From my point of view this will have advantages and disadvantages. What is now being called Very Dark is my favourite, and it used to be somewhat hard to get but often cheaper when I could find it - not always! I think I am not alone in preferring it now (it used to be that the lightest in colour and flavour was at least officially the most highly regarded) so I will find it easier to get but no less expensive than any other kind. Of course, the exact proportions of each kind produced will continue to depend more on weather conditions than on the demand for them.

Our gallon of syrup came in a big plastic jug. Since it takes us quite a while to go through that much, we will re-can it into smaller glass canning jars. It will keep up to 3 years in our cold cellar that way, although I doubt it will take us that long to use it.