Friday, 29 December 2017

Stewed Chicken with Chorizo, Beans & Leeks

This is a version of a popular Spanish stew, perfect for cold and snowy days. Traditionally it will use chick peas, but I had other beans. In fact, we grew the other beans. Chick peas continue to elude us.  But there is no reason not to use them if you prefer.

The saffron is pretty subtle, and also expensive, so you can leave it out, but I do think it is worthwhile. On the other hand, when I went to try to buy some saffron last time we were in Spain, the proprietor of the small grocery in the small town store we were in stared at us like we were crazy, and offered us yellow (spice based) food colouring because nobody was stupid enough to spend money on real saffron. Well, we were, but we were plainly the exception. Of course, we were in northern Spain and saffron comes from the south.

With or without the saffron, this is delicious and a real rib-sticker. 

4 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 30 minutes prep time
not including cooking the beans

Stewed Chicken with Chorizo, Beans & Leeks

Cook the Beans:
1 1/2 cups dried kidney or pinto beans
1 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 bay leaves

Pick over the beans and put them in a large pot with plenty of water to cover them. Bring them to a boil, then cover them and turn off the heat; soak them for 3 or 4 hours to overnight.

Change the water, and bring them up to a boil again. Add the salt and bay leaves, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer, stirring regularly, until tender but still whole. This can be done up to a day ahead, and probably should be. At this point the cooking water should be mostly gone; if not, drain much of it off - the beans should have a bit of a puddle but that's about it.

Make the Stew:
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons chicken fat, bacon fat, or sunflower seed oil
4 large chicken thighs, skin on and bone in
3 large leeks
1 large carrot
1 cup diced celeriac OR 2 stalks celery
4 to 6 cloves of garlic
125 grams (1/4 pound) mild or spicy chorizo
1 tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon rubbed thyme or savory
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads (optional)

 Add the chicken stock and tomatoes to the beans. Heat them over medium to medium-low heat and let simmer.

Heat the fat or oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken thighs on both sides for 5 or 6 minutes, until well browned.

Meanwhile, wash and trim the leeks. Cut them in half lengthwise, then into 1" slices. Peel and dice the carrot. Peel and dice the celeriac or chop the celery. Peel and mince the garlic. Cut the chorizo into 1/4" slices.

When the chicken pieces are browned, lift them out of the fat with a slotted spoon, and add them to the pot of beans. Keep the pan on the stove; add the carrots and celeriac and cook gently for 5 minutes or so, stirring frequently. Add the leeks and continue cooking gently and stirring for another 10 minutes, until the leeks are quite softened but not browned. Add the chorizo, the paprika, the thyme or savory, and the garlic, and cook for 3 or 4 minutes more, mixing well.

Add the chorizo and vegetables to the pot of beans. Mix the saffron into the vinegar, if using, and mix the vinegar into the pot of beans. Let the pot simmer gently for another 45 minutes or so; stir occasionally.

Serve with some good crusty bread. 

Last year at this time I made Apple & Rutabaga Soup

Friday, 22 December 2017

Clementine, Pomegranate, & Red Cabbage Salad

This is a light and simple salad, but the clementines and pomegranate makes it very festive and seasonal, even if they are the fruits - literally - of other, far-off seasons.

Normally I would put nuts into a salad like this, but the pomegranates are so crunchy they act as fruit and nut both. Also normally I would say this makes 4 to 6 servings, but as a starter to a large and heavy meal it would go further. Maybe. At our family Christmas dinners, the salad always goes, however much there is and however much of other things are left over.

And since I plainly have Christmas dinner on my mind, it is time to take my usual break from blogging. For the first time since we moved here, I am not cooking it! We'll be in Windsor at my brother-in-laws. I expect to be back just before the New Year as usual. Hope everyone reading (and not) has an excellent holiday and happy new year; and hurray! The days are now getting longer!

4 to 8 servings
30 minutes prep time

Clementine, Pomegranate, & Red Cabbage Salad

Make the Dressing:
the juice of 1 clementine
3 tablespoons walnut or hazelnut oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Squeeze the juice from the clementine and place it in a small bowl or jam jar. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk or shake together.

Make the Salad:
2 cups torn up hydroponic lettuce
2 cups shredded red cabbage
1 large stalk celery OR 1/2 cup peeled and grated celeriac
2 clementines
1 small to medium pomegranate

Wash, dry, and tear up the lettuce, and place it in a salad bowl. Wash, trim, and shred the cabbage and add it. Wash, trim, and slice the celery or peel and grate the celeriac, and add, ditto.

Peel and segment the clementines, being careful to remove any pith that wants to cling to them. Cut each across into 3 sections, and add them to the salad.

Cut the pomegranate in half and pick out all the seeds, discarding the skin and membrane. It's easiest to do this into its own bowl and  pick out any bits of membrane that have survived the process before adding about half of them to the salad. Toss the salad, drizzle over the dressing, then sprinkle the remaining pomegranate seeds over the top.

Last year at this time I made Beet, Apple, & Goat Cheese Stacked Salad.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Turkish Potato Cake

When we were in Turkey we never saw this dish. I don't know if it wasn't available in restaurants, or if we just didn't notice it, or go to quite the right places. When I started looking at Turkish recipes on line, though, I started seeing it everywhere. It's very quick and simple to put together - basically like making muffins plus a little chopping of vegetables. I would be quite tempted to bake this in muffin pans, in fact, especially if I had rather large ones. I did mine in a 10" pie plate and it worked fine.

Do be sure to dice those potatoes quite finely - as thin as 1/2 cm in at least one dimension, to allow them to cook through.

A number of recipes I saw also called for up to cup of diced cheese to be added, if you would like that. It looks like I have added diced ham, but in fact some of my potatoes were Red Thumb.

This is a cake, but not as we know it. It is not sweet, and it is not even a bread to be eaten as a side dish with other things. It is quite rich even without any cheese and needs only a green salad to make it a complete meal. It's a bit quiche-like but still breadish. Like quiche, I'd eat it as a breakfast or brunch dish too. It will be delightful in any of the cooler months, although fresh herbs will be possible only in the warmer of the cooler months. They are certainly better but dried ones will do.

8 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 20 minutes prep time
     - let cool at least 20 minutes

Turkish Potato Cake

Mix the Dry Ingredients: 
1 cup soft unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

In a measuring cup or small bowl; mix 'em.

Mix the Wet Ingredients:
1 cup thick yogurt
3 large eggs
1/3 cup olive or sunflower seed oil

In a bigger mixing bowl, into which everything will ultimately go; mix 'em.

Prepare the Vegetables:
4 medium potatoes (300 grams; 10 ounces; 2 cups diced)
1 medium onion
2 or 3 tablespoons finely minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dry dillweed OR 1 tablespoon fresh minced
1 teaspoon dry rubbed mint OR 1 tablespoon fresh minced
a spoonful of paprika, sesame seeds, nigella seeds, etc

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil and flour a 10" pie plate or 9" square baking pan.

Wash and peel or trim the potatoes, and cut them into quite fine dice. They are going to have to bake, in a cake, in under an hour. Peel and finely chop the onion.

Wash, dry, and mince the herbs if fresh. Otherwise, with the potatoes and onions, mix them into the yogurt and eggs. Mix in the flour to make a soft dough.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it out. If you are so inclined, sprinkle over a little paprika, or sesame or nigella seeds. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until firm and lightly browned around the edges. Let cool to warm or room temperature before serving.

Last year at this time I made Cucidata - Italian Fig Cookies.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Brussels Sprouts "Spanako"pita

I am referring to this as a spanakopita, which means "spinach bread" in Greek. Since it is made with Brussels sprouts instead of spinach I don't even want to tell you what it should actually be called, mostly because I can't. Fortunately the culinary substitution is much easier than the translation.

This is my usual spanakopita recipe, only I've removed a kilo (yes, really!) of spinach and replaced it with about half as much Brussels sprouts. They don't shrink down like spinach does though.

Unless you make this about a month ago - good luck with that - the odds of fresh herbs being around at the same time as Brussels sprouts are not particularly good. Dried ones do well enough, but if you do have some fresh ones, 2 tablespoons of each, well minced, will be about right.

8 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Brussels Sprouts Spanokopita

500 grams (1 pound) Brussels sprouts
1 large leek
2 tablespoons olive oil
250 grams (1/2 pound) feta cheese
1 to 2 teaspoon dry dill
1 to 2 teaspoon dry mint
250 grams (1/2 pound) feta cheese
a few good grates of nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 large eggs

8 to 12 sheets of filo pastry
1/4 cup olive oil (about)

Don't forget that frozen filo pastry will need to thaw for 2 or 3 hours on the counter, or overnight in the fridge.

Wash, trim and chop the Brussels sprouts fairly well. Wash, trim, and chop (slice) the leek reasonably finely also.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and add the Brussels sprouts. Cook gently for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until wilted and softened. You may wish to add a tablespoon or so of water to help them along. They should be dry though, by the time you are ready to transfer them to a mixing bowl.

Heat a little more oil in the same skillet and add the leek. Again, cook until softened and wilted down, for 5 or 10 minutes, with a little water if necessary. Add them to the bowl with the Brussels sprouts.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Crumble the feta cheese into the vegetables. Add the seasonings and mix well. When the vegetables are cool enough that they will not cook the eggs, break the eggs in and mix very well.

Have your filo unwrapped and standing by. Have the oil in a small bowl. Brush a 9" x 13" lasagne pan lightly with oil, then fold a sheet of filo in half and line the bottom of the pan. Brush it with oil, using a pastry brush. Add 3 or 4 more sheets in the same way, folding and brushing with oil.

Spread the vegetable mixture over the prepared filo pastry. Fold and layer another sheet of filo on top, and brush it with oil. Continue folding, covering and brushing with oil for another 3 or 4 more sheets. Finish the top with a good brush of oil.

Bake the finished dish for 50 to 60 minutes, until nicely browned. Let set for 20 or 30 minutes before serving.

Last year at this time I made Vegetarian Sausage.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Chocolate Pretzel Cookies

This is an adaptation of a classic Czech Christmas cookie, originally published in a book of Christmas cookie recipes by Maria Janku-Sandtnerova almost 100 years ago. After I made them it occurred to me to check and see what other versions were out there, and I discovered that Martha Stewart posted a recipe for chocolate pretzels probably adapted from the same original, and that an awful lot of people really hated it, saying it lacked flavour, and was dry, and crumbly, and not sweet enough.

It's true this is not a very sweet cookie. That's one of the things that appealed to me about it. If it is dry, you have over-baked it, (and you should watch them, because they are so thin I expect that's easy to do) although it has to plead guilty to crumbling easily. I found the texture very shortbread-like.

I put mint extract into mine, but I would use vanilla, orange extract, almond extract, or strong coffee flavouring as Martha did. I would think they would also be excellent dipped into a chocolate coating, and maybe next time I will make them a little bigger and do that instead of using the sanding sugar. However I am very happy with how these turned out and expect them to disappear rapidly when introduced to the family. Until then, they are going to have to be hidden.

Oh - one last advantage to these cookies: I made an awful lot of cookies that call for egg whites only, so this was a great opportunity to get rid of a couple of egg yolks.

Makes 24 or 32
1 hour 15 minutes - 45 minutes prep time

1 cup soft unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/3 cup unsalted butter
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon flavouring extract
1/4 cup coarse sanding sugar

Mix the flour, salt, sugar, and cocoa (sift it into the bowl) in a mixing bowl. Line a couple of large baking pans with parchment paper.

Cut the butter in with a pastry cutter or a couple of knives. When it is well worked in, add the egg yolks and the flavouring extract. Stir well - one of the forks will be best until it begins to come together. This is a dry enough dough that I find it needs to be pressed together by hand, a bit like pie pastry.

Once you have it in a good, smooth ball, start working on the pretzels at once. The longer the dough sits, the harder it gets to work. To keep the pretzel sizes even, it is convenient if you have a kitchen scale and can weigh each piece as you divide it. Otherwise you will just have to eye-ball it.  Divide the dough in half, and each half in half again, etc, until you have 32 even pieces. To make 24 slightly larger pretzels, once you have 8 portions, divide each one into 3 even pieces instead of 4.

Take each piece of dough and roll it out into a thin, even rope about 6" or 7" long (or 8" for the larger ones). Take an end and pinch it onto the rope just a little on the far side of the halfway point. At the same time, have the other end crossing over it and pinching into itself at the mirror-image spot to the other one... or to put it another way, form it into a pretzel.

Have the sanding sugar standing by in a shallow dish. Drop your pretzel (gently!) face-down in it and press it in evenly, then lift it out and place it face-up on the prepared baking tray. Congratulations! One down, 31 (or 23) left to go.

This is the time to preheat the oven to 325°F. 

Moving briskly along, make the remaining pretzels. Give the dish of sugar a little shake after each pretzel to level the sugar. If the dough gets crumbly, warm it in your hands for a moment or two before forming the rope, then just pinch it back together if they want to break. After a few you will get the knack of it

Bake the pretzels for 10 to 12 minutes, a minute or two longer if larger, and by larger I mean thicker. If you have just rolled them longer, then no. Let cool and store carefully in a tin in a cool, dark place. Can be frozen if made more than a few days in advance.

Last year at this time I made Leek & Spinach Dip.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Curry Roasted Squash

It doesn't get any simpler than this; perfect for a week night dinner if you can afford the wait for it to roast. You could have the squash cut up in the morning which would mean you just have to toss and roast it in the evening, and which would speed up the proceedings ever so slightly.

The big question is what kind of curry powder to use? I used my Madras blend, but Jamaican would work well too. In that case I would think you would need to add hot element for sure! But maybe that's just me. Malaysian is my other curry powder option. You'll note I'm not recommending buying curry powder any more. I used to like it just fine, but they ("they") have fiddled with the formula, and I haven't been able to find any I consider usable, never mind good, for a few years now.

4 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

1/2 of a medium butternut squash (about 750 grams; 1 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1 to 2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
a little hot cayenne or other chile powder, if indicated

Preheat the oven to 350°F. While it heats, cut the squash in half. Remove and discard the seeds and pulp. Peel the squash and cut it into largish bite-sized slices. Put them in a 9" x 13" shallow baking dish, or similar.

Toss the squash with the oil. Spread them out and sprinkle them with the seasonings, toss gently, and spread out again, as close to a single layer as you can get them.

Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes until the squash is tender and browning a little at the edges. 

Last year at this time I made Ham & Leek Quiche.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Fruitcake Cookies

Fruitcake cookies are a popular Christmas cookie. In fact, Mom and I both chose the same day to make some Christmas cookies, and when we were done we went to do a cookie exchange... and we had both made a version of them. Here's mine.

As I so often do, I've cut back on sugar (but thanks to all the add-ins they still have lots) and upped the spicing. My nuts were hazelnuts, which I think are best if toasted for 10 minutes at 375°F then rubbed in a towel to remove as much as the skin as is reasonable. Other than that, what is listed below is what I put in, but it's quite flexible. As long as you keep the same proportions, you can add whatever dry/preserved fruit-type things you like. You can see my love of candied ginger shining through, and I think I'll make a batch at some point where I replace the raisins with chocolate chips. If I'm out of sherry, I've been known to use rum.

60 cookies
1 hour - 40 minutes prep time

Fruitcake Cookies

Mix the Fruit:
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup raisins
2 cups mixed chopped peel
1 cup chopped preserved ginger
1 cup slivered almonds OR other nuts of your choice
1/2 cup sherry

You will need to chop the ginger and possibly the nuts; otherwise, put them in a large mixing bowl and mix 'em, finishing up by pouring the sherry over them. I've taken to doing this the night before, except for the nuts, to give them a chance to really soak and to break up the work.

Mix the Dry Ingredients:
3 cups soft unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon allspice berries, ground
3 or 4 pods (1/4 teaspoon) green cardamom, ground

Measure everything but the allspice and cardamom out into a smaller bowl and mix well. Grind the allspice and cardamom (remove and discard the papery green hulls) finely and add the bowl. Mix well.

Make the Cookies:
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

Cream the butter in mixing bowl, and work in the sugar. Work until light and creamy. Break in the eggs, one at a time, and mix them in. It will separate but that's okay. Mix in the vanilla and almond extracts.

Mix a little of the flour into the wet mixture, just to pull it together again. Dump the rest over the dried fruit along with any unabsorbed sherry and mix it in. Then begin mixing portions of the dried fruit and flour into the wet ingredients; say about a quarter at a time, until it is all in and well mixed.

This is a large bowl of dough, and ends up quite thick and sturdy. I find I have to stop mixing with a spoon and use my hands to get it to come together into a dough. If it really won't, you can add a few drops of milk to help work it together, but go very lightly with that and really, if you are mixing by hand it shouldn't be necessary.

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line 3 large baking trays with parchment paper.

Form the dough into large cookies - I used a quarter cup measuring cup to scoop out dough, then divided it into 4 equal cookies; a standard disher also works well. Roll them slightly in your palms to keep them neat. If possible, I suggest "tucking in" any bits of fruit that are sticking noticeably out of the dough. Space them out on prepared pans.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until firm and just showing some colour. Let cool and store in a tin in a cool, dark place. They do improve with a bit of sitting, and should keep for a couple of weeks.

Last year at this time I made Super Seedy Rye Crackers.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Sweet Potato Rotis

They look very pale, don't they? That's because I used a Georgia Jet sweet potato and they are pale. The more usual orange-fleshed sweet potatoes should yield oranger results. Soft, chewy, and tasty flatbreads either way though. I was really taken with these and plan to make them again soon.

I've gone into a lot of detail in the instructions. This is mostly a simple and flexible recipe, but it's bread and bread has its little ways. The amount of flour will fluctuate with the moistness of the sweet potato, and that will fluctuate with, hm, quite a number of factors. Don't worry about the amount of extra flour that gets absorbed; the important thing is to get the dough texture right then avoid having it stick to everything. I had a lifter to turn them and take them out of the pan, and I also used a thin metal pie-lifter to help get the rotis off the counter and to scrape up any sticky matter.

I've seen a number of flours called for to make these, and most recipes don't call for oil or baking powder, although I thought they would be a good idea. You can also add finely chopped herbs or spices, according to taste or availability.

6 rotis
30 minutes prep time once the sweet potato is cooked
which will admittedly take the better part of 1 1/2 hours

Sweet Potato Rotis

1 large sweet potato (1 cup when cooked and mashed)
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup hard unbleached OR whole wheat flour; plus more to roll out
1 teaspoon baking powder
a little mild vegetable oil to cook

Bake the sweet potato until quite soft, then let cool. (Leftover? Why, soitenly!) Peel and mash the sweet potato thoroughly. Measure it out, and mix it in a smallish mixing bowl with the oil and salt.

Measure the flour and mix the baking powder into it. Stir it into the sweet potato and turn the mixture out onto a clean counter or board to work. Knead the dough, sprinkling both the dough and the board with flour as required, until you have a smooth, soft, but not excessively sticky dough. Cut it into 6 equal portions, and put a large skillet on to heat over medium-high heat.

Take one portion and pat it out as thin and round as is easy by hand, again sprinkling it and the board with flour as needed to prevent sticking. At this point, apply the rolling pin to roll it quite thin; as thin as you can get it, unless you are an old hand at making phyllo in which case, no; not that thin. Tortilla thickness, basically.

Brush the pan with oil - I pour a little into a small bowl and use a bit of paper towel to brush it - just a thin film. Carefully lay the rolled roti in the pan, and cook for a couple of minutes on each side, until firm, dry, and lightly browned in spots. If you can't slide the lifter under it without it wanting to wrinkle up, it isn't done. They go pretty quickly though.

You should have just about enough time while the first roti cooks to roll out the second roti as above. Again, use regular sprinklings of flour to prevent sticking. I found it necessary to scrape the counter with a thin blade every second roti to prevent a faint build-up of dough from wreaking havoc. Brush the pan with another smear of oil every time you change rotis.

As the rotis cook, lay them on a plate and keep covered with a clean tea-towel. This will keep them steamy and a little warm, which helps keep them soft. Once they are all done, they can be served. If made in advance, they can be heated briefly in the skillet. Lay in two at a time and flip them when the bottom one is warm. They will both warm up nicely that way. Send them to the table wrapped in their towel.

Last year at this time I made Spumoni Cookies.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Creamy Turkey Soup with Wild Rice & Mushrooms

Okay, it's turkey time, or just about! I always think the best thing about turkey is the leftovers, and I know I am not alone in that. Here are some pretty deeelightful and soignée leftovers. Wild rice! Mushrooms! Cream! Hot dawg!

I mean, no hot dogs. C'mon; you know what I mean. Anyway, here is a lovely, easy (supposing you have cooked a turkey), and really quite substantial soup. Maybe some Stuffing Bread is all you need to make it a meal.

6 to 8 servings
1 hour assorted futzing to prepare rice and stock
1 hour to finish the soup

Creamy Turkey Soup with Wild Rice & Mushrooms

Advance Preparation - Cook the Wild Rice:
1/2 cup wild rice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
prepare 6 cups turkey stock, and 1 to 2 cups cooked turkey

As ever, it's easiest to cook that wild rice in the rice cooker: put in rice, salt, and water and turn it on. Take it out once the machine turns off. Or, do it the hard way: put said ingredients in an appropriate pot and bring to a boil on the stove. As soon as it boils, turn it down to very low and cook until the water is absorbed, about 45 minutes.

This soup presupposes you have the remains of a cooked turkey, and have covered the carcass thereof with water, and added bay leaves and veggie scraps, and simmered until there was stock. Likewise, a reasonable amount of cooked turkey was set aside for this purpose. Failing that you had better buy a turkey thigh and put it in water and simmer as above, until you have stock and cooked turkey. Strain the stock, being careful that it's the bones, etc, that are disposed of, and dice your cooked turkey into soup-sized pieces. Keep them separately in the fridge until needed.

All of this should certainly be done the day before. 

Finish the Soup:
1 or 2 stalks of celery (1 cup finely diced celeriac)
1 large leek
200 grams (1/2 pound) mushrooms
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons turkey or bacon fat
3 tablespoons flour
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon rubbed thyme or savory
2/3 cup sour cream

Put your pot of stock on to come up to a simmer again.

Wash, trim, and chop the celery. Wash, trim, and chop the leek. Clean, trim and slice the mushrooms.

Heat the fat in a large skillet, over medium-high heat. Cook the celery and leeks in it until softened; about 5 minutes, with some stirring. Add the mushrooms and cook them down until reduced and softened, then add the garlic. Stir in well then sprinkle the flour and seasonings over the vegetables.

Mix that in and continue cooking until there are no signs of raw flour. Ladle in a bit of broth and mix it in to deglaze the pan (remove anything inclined to stick to it). Swish it all back into the pot of soup. Add the wild rice and the chopped turkey.

Simmer for another 10 minutes or so until the soup is slightly thickened. Add the sour cream and bring the soup back  up to steaming hot but do not let it simmer or it will curdle. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Rolled Spice Cookies.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Pistachio-Coconut Macaroons, with an Almond-Poppyseed Variation

I made these for my mother's 80th birthday party. Actually, I made them as a trial run first, and they disappeared so quickly and thoroughly that I had to make them again. I'm thinking I might make them again for Christmas too. Awfully good; yes.

They have a delightful combination of crispy-nutty and chewy textures. If you roll them in the icing sugar, they acquire a crackly outer texture, and are a little sweeter. Mom liked them better without the icing sugar, though. I liked them both about equally. I am sure other people will prefer the icing sugar...

To make the Almond-Poppyseed variation, replace the pistachios with 2 cups (200 grams) finely ground almonds, and the coconut with 1/2 cup (75 grams) of poppyseeds, which ideally should be ground. 

36 to 42 cookies
1 hour working time plus 1 or 2 hours chilling time

Pistachio-Coconut Macaroons, and Almond-Poppyseed Macaroons

2 cups (225 g) whole but shelled pistachios
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup (100g) unsweetened dessicated coconut, very fine
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 to 1/3 cup icing sugar (optional)

Put the pistachios in a food processor or dry blender (Vitamix) and grind until fine and floury. You should do this in several batches. Add some of the 1/2 cup of sugar to each batch. Put the pistachios in a mixing bowl. Add the coconut, grinding it up as well if it is not quite fine and floury. Mix in the salt.

Beat the egg whites until stiff, adding the sugar and cream of tartar as you go. Gently fold the pistachio and coconut mixture into the egg whites. Cover the dough and refrigerate it for 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 1 or 2 baking trays with parchment paper. Using a small disher or a tablespoon, scoop out cookies. You can leave them plain, or roll them in the icing sugar, whichever you prefer. Set them out on the baking tray, giving them some space. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until puffed and mostly set. They should have just a little colour on the bottom.

Let cool and store in a well-sealed tin in a cool spot.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Brussels Sprouts with Sour Cream & Horseradish

This idea turned up on a site I was reading where someone asked for Brussels sprout recipe suggestions. I thought it was a very good one and I have written it up as a recipe, but honestly; you cook the amount of Brussels sprouts you think you will eat, in the manner that seems good to you, then add appropriate amounts of sour cream and horseradish to taste.

I will chime in to say that this would be good on cabbage too, and I'd like to try it with cauliflower or broccoli. And as ever the advice to start by adding a little - especially of the horseradish - then assessing the situation and adding more as required applies here. You can always add more, but you can't take it out. That's my mantra. (Motto? Meme? Thing I say a lot, anyway.)

4 to 6 servings
20 minutes prep time

500 grams (1 pound) Brussels sprouts
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish or a bit more
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash and trim the Brussels sprouts. You can cut a fairly deep "X" in the bottom of each, or chop them a bit coarsely. Mine were home-grown and so uneven in size there was nothing to but chop. It does assure even cooking, assuming you chop reasonably evenly.

Steam or boil the sprouts until done to your liking. For me, that's about 6 minutes. Your boiling may vary.

Drain them very well - press them a bit in fact - then toss them with the sour cream and the horseradish. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I thought the horseradish would render those redundant, but in fact a little of each was a good idea. Transfer to a serving dish and, er, serve. We're done here.

Last year at this time I made Turkey Tourtière.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Broiled Mushrooms

Oh, so delicious! I would eat a vulgarly large portion - like, all of them - over polenta but I had not in fact made polenta and also had to share them with Mr. Ferdzy. Pity.

I bought black oyster mushrooms for this on a whim and they were delicious but I think button mushrooms or any other firm meaty but not too large mushroom would also work well.

Besides polenta I can see these going very well with steak, chicken, veal, or salmon. Yeah; meat. But for vegetarians (and everyone else), in addition to the polenta I can see tossing them with a little buttered pasta and serving them as a starter course in a fancy dinner. Or even on toast and serving them as bruschetta. Mmm...

2 to 4 servings
15 minutes prep time

Broiled Black Oyster Mushrooms

 Make the Sauce:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon finely minced fresh thyme, oregano, or savory
OR 1/4 teaspoon dry rubbed thyme, oregano, or savory
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce

Put the butter in a small heat-proof bowl. Peel and mince the garlic, and add it. Wash, dry, and mince the herb of choice (if fresh) and add it, or just add it if using dry. Measure in the vinegar and soy sauce. Heat the mixture in the microwave for 20 to 40 seconds,  until the butter is melted. Or, put it in the oven as the broiler heats until the butter is melted. 

Finish the Mushrooms:
2 tablespoons cracker or bread crumbs
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
115 to 125 grams (1/4 pound) fresh mushrooms

For this small amount of crumbs it was easiest to just pound 2 fairly standard crackers with my mortar and pestle. You could bash 'em with a rolling pin too. Mix the crumbs with the cheese in a small bowl.

Clean and pick over the mushrooms, removing any tough stems or bad bits. Use oyster mushrooms, button mushroom, shiitake, or a mixture of mushrooms. If using shiitake, be generous with them as the stems are all tough and must be removed.

Arrange the top oven rack so that it is about 4" from the broiler. (For me, one slot down from the top.) Preheat the broiler.

Toss the mushrooms with the sauce in a shallow pan that can go under the broiler. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over them. Broil until done, about 3 to 6 minutes depending on the size of the mushrooms and the distance from the broiler. Watch them carefully after the first couple of minutes in other words; they can go pretty fast.

Last year at this time I made Leek, Mushroom, & Dried Tomato Soup and Turkey Tourtière.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Honey, Lemon & Ginger Squash

When I had the idea for this I was a bit nervous. I was afraid it might turn out a bit too reminiscent of  my favourite winter cold treatment. I decided I would go ahead and try it; I really do love that combination of flavours.

I'm happy to report that it works very well as a dish. The flavours are intense, and I would not serve this with just anything - its fellow-dishes must be selected carefully. I can really see this with broiled salmon, but white fish or chicken would be good too. All fairly plainly cooked; this dish won't brook competition. Likewise a fairly plain green vegetable or simple salad would be the best choice; maybe with lemon juice as the acidic element in the dressing.

4 servings
1 hour 45 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Honey, Lemon & Ginger Squash

600 to 900 grams (1 1/2 to 2 pounds) butternut squash
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
the zest of 1 medium lemon
the juice of 1 medium lemon
1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
2 tablespoons honey
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut the butternut squash in half, and scoop out and discard the seeds and stringy bits from the seed cavity. Peel the squash and cut it into pieces for roasting; slices of about 1/2" thick and manageable with a fork. Put them in a shallow roasting pan that will hold them snugly in a single layer.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put the butter in a small pot or microwaveable bowl. Wash and dry the lemon and grate in the zest. Juice the lemon and add the lemon juice. Peel and grate the ginger and add it. Add the honey. Heat the mixture until the butter is melted, and toss the squash in it.

Roast the squash until it is tender and the marinade has been thickened and absorbed into a sauce. Stir the squash once or twice as it roasts. I found it took closer to an hour and a half than to an hour and a quarter, but that should be about the range.

Last year at this time I made Acorn Squash with Sausage Stuffing

Friday, 24 November 2017

Cabbage with Leeks & Mushrooms

I always think leeks are good enough to serve as the star of, if not the show, at least their own particular dish. There is no question, though, that they do extremely well as a supporting player. Here they are with cabbage and mushrooms, and very nice too.

Not too much to be said about this; it's a quick and easy vegetable side dish - the kind of thing that makes me very happy. 

4 servings
20 minutes prep time

Cabbage with Leeks & Mushrooms

6 to 8 large button mushrooms
2 medium leeks
2 to 3 cups finely chopped cabbage
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup unsalted chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon rubbed thyme or savory
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Clean, trim, and slice the mushrooms thickly; if the mushrooms are large, cut them across the middle the other way as well. Wash and trim the leeks, then wash them well again. Cut them once lengthwise then into slices across. Wash and trim the cabbage, and chop it finely.

Heat the butter in a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and leeks, and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently. Don't let the leeks brown. Once they begin to cook down a bit, add the cabbage and a quarter cup of the chicken stock; that is, half of it. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the cabbage is cooked almost to your liking and the stock is absorbed or evaporated. Mix the starch into the remaining stock. Season the vegetables with the salt, pepper, and savory. Mix in the stock with the starch and cook, stirring constantly, for just a minute more until the sauce thickens. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Pear Panna Cotta with Berry Sauce.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Spanish Beef & Turnip Stew

This is based on a recipe from 13th century Spain. As such, it is more "Moorish" than Spanish. It was made by Medieval Spanish Chef, which is where I first saw it. The Anonymous Andalusian Cook Book of the 13th Century is available on-line in translation, but I can't find this recipe there even though that is where it is supposed to have come from, so I have adapted this from Medieval Spanish Chef's version.

I used our lovely little Goldana turnips, which are probably fairly different from what was actually used. No complaints though; they're delicious. If you can't get them, I would suggest using rutabaga. I did not add the large quantity of puréed cilantro called for, as there is none right now. I did manage to rescue a "bouquet" of parsley before it sn*wed, so it was there to add a little colour. The spices should be as finely ground as you can get them. I did not do a good job and the texture of them was a bit distracting. I have laid them on with a much heavier hand than Medieval Spanish Chef did, and more vegetables too. I was very happy with the results. 

The original recipe called for "meat". It would certainly not have been pork, but beef, lamb, or goat would all be appropriate. Lamb and goat often come on the bone, and in that case I would use twice as much by weight.

4 servings
1 hour prep time

13th Century Spanish Beef & Turnip Stew

2 medium onions
500 grams (1 pound) boneless stewing beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste
freshly ground white pepper (black is okay)
2 teaspoons coriander seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
2 bay leaves
2 cups beef stock (or water)
4 or 5 small turnips
OR 2 cups peeled, diced rutabaga
1/4 cup finely minced or puréed cilantro, if available

Peel the onions and chop them coarsely. 

Check that your beef is trimmed of fat and gristle, and is in reasonably sized chunks. It should also be dry, so if it is very juicy pat it dry. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot and brown the beef on both sides. Add the onions and mix in well. Season with the salt and pepper, taking into account the beef stock. Unsalted beef stock may require up to 3/4 teaspoon; commercial salted beef stock may not need any at all. Continue cooking for another few minutes until the onions are softened and slightly browned. Stir regularly. While they cook, grind the coriander and cumin seeds finely and add them.

Add the beef stock and bay leaves, and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel the turnips or rutabaga and cut into about 1" cubes. Cook them in a separate pot with about 1 cup of water until tender; about 10 minutes. Add the turnips, with or without their cooking water as you like. Let simmer together for another 10 minutes or so.

Like most stews, this is better made a day in advance and reheated before serving. There should not be a great deal of liquid left by the time you serve it.

Last year at this time I made "Chicken Soup" Pasta.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Cheesy Brussels Sprout Bread Pudding

With all the eggs and cheese, this is really a main dish and not a side dish, unless you are into highly luxurious side dishes.  In fact it is really a complete meal in itself. I served it with a a sliced tomato which was more of a garnish than a salad, and that was fine.

I used a mixture of old Cheddar and smoked mozzarella, which happened to be on sale last week. However, this will be pretty flexible about the cheese as long as it has lots of flavour and works with the Brussels sprouts. Friulano would be good, or Havarti, or all kinds of things. I wouldn't normally recommend mozzarella as it doesn't have enough oomph, but smoked and mixed with Cheddar it was okay.

Sorry for the terrible picture. Alas, we have reached the time of year where if I make something for the evening, there isn't enough light to take a good picture. For some strange reason most of my Brussels sprouts pictures seem to suffer...

6 to 8 servings
1 hour 30 minutes prep time

Cheesy Brussels Sprout Bread Pudding

300 grams (10 ounces) Brussels sprouts
2 medium leeks
4 to 5 shallots
4 to 5 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups finely cubed stale bread
2 1/2 cups milk
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons rubbed mint
1 teaspoon rubbed oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
300 grams (10 ounces) firm, strong cheese

Wash, trim and shred the Brussels sprouts. Wash, trim, and chop the leeks. Peel and chop the shallots. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the leeks and shallots. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until softened. Mix in the garlic and cook for a minute or so then mix in the Brussels sprouts. They should be well drained but with just a bit of moisture clinging to them. Mix them in and cook, stirring occasionally until well wilted down and bright green. Season with the salt and pepper. If they get too dry and look like scorching, add a tablespoon or so of water. Once done, remove from the heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil or butter an 8" x 10" shallow baking pan.

Cube the bread and put it in a mixing bowl. Add the milk and mix well, until the bread is completely saturated in it. Mix in the eggs and the seasonings.

Grate the cheese and set aside about 1/4 of it. Mix the remainder in with the bread, etc. Mix the vegetables in as well.

Turn the mixture out into the prepared baking pan and smooth it out. Sprinkle the set-aside cheese evenly over the top. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour until the pudding is firm and the cheese on top is lightly browned and bubbling. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Last year at this time I made Pumpkin French Toast.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Balkan Sour Vegetable Soup

It's another simple vegetable soup, with a little something sour to sharpen it up. Vinegar, yes; but tart yogurt or sour cream to give it a delicate tang. The egg yolk mellows it a bit. As usual with soups that have dairy products added at the end, you must be sure not to let it get too hot or it will curdle.

This is a lovely soup as a starter course, or it will pair up with a sandwich to make a very good lunch.

You can use whatever vegetables are in season. I had onions which had not died down properly, so I put in about the equivalent of one better onion, and added the chopped green tops with the cabbage. A little parsley would give the same nice touch of green if you had some.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 30 minutes prep time

Balkan Sour Vegetable Soup

1 medium onion
1 or 2 stalks of celery OR 1/2 cup peeled diced celeriac
1 medium leek
1 medium carrot
1 medium potato
1 medium turnip OR 1 cup peeled diced rutabaga
1 tablespoon chicken or bacon fat, or mild vegetable oil
2 or 3 bay leaves
3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon rubbed savory
4 cups unsalted chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 cups finely chopped cabbage

1/2 cup rich yogurt or sour cream
1 egg yolk

Peel and chop the onion. Wash, trim and finely chop the celery. Wash, trim, and chop the leek. Peel and dice the carrot. Wash, trim, and dice the potato. Peel and dice the turnip or rutabaga.

Heat the fat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery and cook for a few minutes, stirring often. Add the leek, potato, turnip, and bay leaves, and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until everything is softened and impregnated with the fat. Season with the salt, pepper, and savory as it cooks.

Add the stock and vinegar, and simmer for 15 minutes or so, until the potatoes and turnip are just about tender. Add the cabbage and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Mix the yogurt or sour cream with the egg yolk. Thin it with a couple ladle-fulls of the soup, then mix it well into the soup. Turn off the heat, but let it stay on the stove for a couple of minutes.

Last year at this time I made Kohlrabies au Gratin.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Cranberry Meringue Pie

I came across this quite old recipe for Bogberry Pudding and thought it looked interesting. Bogberries, of course, are cranberries. I was a little worried that it might be too much like cranberry sauce in a pie crust, but it wasn't at all. The spicing made it quite different and very appealing.

Since it called for egg yolks I decided to use the egg whites to make a meringue topping, which I think really contributed to the success of this dish. I was a bit dubious about it being thick enough with just egg yolks to thicken it, and rightly so as it turned out. I added some potato starch but not quite enough - I have called for twice as much as I actually used. You can see in the photo it did not set completely and was a bit runny. Part of that was because it needed more starch but I have to admit that at least part of the problem was that I did not wait long enough to cut it. The leftovers were set much better.

Apart from that minor problem, we really liked this. Mr Ferdzy is encouraging me to make it again soon, to be sure that I now have the starch amount exactly right. Because he is very concerned about that.

The flavour is quite intense and I suggest cutting it into 8 portions because of that.

6 to 8 servings
2 1/2 hours to make; 4 hours to overnight to cool

Cranberry Meringue Pie

Make the Pie Crust:
1 1/2 cups soft unbleached flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1/4 cup (about) buttermilk

Mix the flour and salt in a mixing bowl, then cut in the cold butter until the size of peas or smaller. Mix in the oil and buttermilk. Stir with a fork until well mixed then form it into a ball. If it is still too dry to form a cohesive ball, dribble in a little more buttermilk and mix again.

Wrap the dough loosely in parchment paper or a clean damp tea towel and set it aside while you make the filling.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. While the cranberry purée cools, roll out the dough on the parchment paper or a floured board, and use it to line a 9" pie plate. Flute the edges, and poke the crust all over with a fork. Bake the crust for 10 to 12 minutes until it looks dry all over. Set aside while you finish the filling, but leave the oven on.

Make the Filling: 
340 grams (11 ounces) fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cup apple cider and/or cranberry juice
the finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon or orange
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a few scrapes of nutmeg
2/3 to 3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sweet sherry
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons potato starch

Wash and pick over the cranberries and put them in a pot with the cider or juice and bring them to a simmer. While they simmer, grate in the orange or lemon zest and add the cinnamon and nutmeg. Simmer the cranberries until all have popped and are quite soft, then press them through a sieve. Discard the skins and seeds which won't go through; there should be about a quarter cup of them.

Add the sugar and butter right away, stirring to dissolve them, but wait until the cranberry purée has cooled enough that it will not cook them to add the egg yolks. Measure the sherry and mix in the vanilla and potato starch. Mix this in with the cranberry purée. Pour it into the prepared pie crust and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the surface has puffed all over. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F and let the pie cool slightly while you make the meringue.

Make the Meringue & Finish the Pie:
3 large egg whites
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Put the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the top of a double boiler (or metal bowl that will fit over a pan of boiling water) and turn on the heat to medium-high. Give it 3 or 4 minutes to warm up, then begin beating it all with an electric mixer. Beat for about 5 or 6 minutes, until the egg whites are very light and begin to pile up behind the blades of the mixer as you beat them. Remove from the heat at once (using oven mitts!) and scrape out the meringue onto the top of the pie. Spread it over the pie from edge to edge, mounded slightly in the centre. Return the pie to the oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the meringue is set and just lightly browned.

The pie must be cooled completely before being cut; it is probably a good idea to make it the day before you plan to eat it. 

Last year at this time I made Roasted Beets & Pears.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Roasted Potatoes Manti Style

When we were in Turkey, we ate manti at various times. These are the most darling tiny dumplings, filled with meat. They exist to be delicious and to make clear that the labour of women isn't worth squat. Not too surprisingly people have come up with various "cheats" to make them, or in this case just serve potatoes with the sauces that go on manti and call it good. No argument from me! I love a good potato and the sauces are half the pleasure anyway, but a long long way from half the work.

My original source for this boiled then quickly sautéed the potatoes to give them a little colour. Roasting them takes longer but is even easier.

In Turkey I suspect these would be served noticeably warmer than room temperature but not exactly hot. I remember in one tiny restaurant we asked the proprietor if she could heat up our food before we ate it. She was plainly a bit baffled and suspicious - was she looking for the film crew to jump out and shout CANDID CAMERA, even? - but once she decided we were serious she did it for us. We remember it as one of the best meals on that trip just because it was hot. So go ahead and serve these hot if that's what you want! We foreigners are weird, what can I say?

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

Roasted Potatoes in the Style of Turkish Dumplings

Roast the Potatoes & Make the Yogurt Sauce:
750 grams (1 1/2 pounds) potatoes
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
salt to taste
1 clove of garlic
1/2 cup yogurt

Wash and trim the potatoes, and cut them into bite-sized chunks. Put them in a pot with water to cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 to 7 minutes. Drain well and spread them in a shallow baking tray that holds them snugly, but in a single layer. I used my 8" x 10" lasagne pan. Toss them with the oil and sprinkle them with salt.

Preheat the oven to 375°F while the potatoes are boiling, and once they are drained, oiled, and salted put them in and roast for 1 hour. Stir at the half-way point.

To make the yogurt sauce, peel and mince the garlic very finely, and mix it with the yogurt. Set it aside in a cool spot (the fridge is fine but cover it unless you want everything in there to come out with garlic breath) until wanted.

Make the Tomato Sauce & Finish:
1 teaspoon rubbed dry mint
1 teaspoon rubbed dry savory OR thyme
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup water

Mix the seasonings in a small bowl.

About 5 minutes before the potatoes are done, heat the butter and tomato paste in a very small skillet or saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Let cook for just a minute or two then dump in the seasonings. Mix in well, and let them be absorbed. Begin thinning the sauce with water, a spoonful at a time and mixing it in well, until you have achieved a sauce that will dribble off the spoon nicely. Let it simmer for a minute more then remove it from the heat.

When the potatoes are done, warm the yogurt sauce a little - 20 seconds or so in the microwave should do it, or have it sitting on the back of the stove while you make the tomato sauce.

Drizzle the yogurt sauce over the potatoes, then drizzle the tomato sauce over. Serve at once or let cool slightly first in the true Turkish style.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Lentil, Carrot, & Parsley Salad

If there is anything in the garden that is still really thriving in tip-top condition, it's the parsley. We haven't had a hard freeze or even more than one really light freeze, and that one wasn't even a freeze, really; it was just a bit of snow that didn't last. Consequently, the parsley is bushier and perkier than it has been all summer. This won't last much longer though, I don't think!

The parsley will overwinter, of course. But next spring it will supply a few sprigs, then get down to the serious business of producing seeds, and the flavour and texture will suffer accordingly. Seeing that it took all summer to achieve its current state of magnificence, I couldn't say good-bye to it without using some of it in something.

This is a very simple salad, if a bit time-consuming. Most of that time, though, is just waiting for cooking to happen, so it isn't particularly a lot of work.

It should keep in the fridge for a day or two as well, although if you expect that to happen you may want to leave the parsley out of it and just add it in proportion to the bit that is expected to be eaten within a short period of time.

4 to 8 servings
1 hour prep time, plus 1 hour to cook the lentils

Lentil, Carrot, & Parsley Salad

Cook the Lentils:
1 cup dry brown or green lentils
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves

You know the routine: put it all in the rice cooker and turn it on. Or, put them in a pot on the stove and bring to a boil, then reduce to as low a simmer as possible. Let cook until the water is absorbed and the lentils are tender; about 45 minutes. You will need to watch them closely at the end.

Let the lentils cool. They can be cooked up to a day ahead and kept in the fridge 'til needed.

Make the Salad:
6 to 8 shallots
1/4 cup olive oil
3 medium carrots
1 to 2 cups finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup (from 1/2 large) lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
the grated zest of 1/4 lemon
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish or Hungarian paprika, sweet or hot

Peel the shallots and cut them in half lengthwise then in thin slices across. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat and add the shallots. Cook them, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 45 minutes, until golden brown. If they show signs of browning much before then, reduce the heat.

Meanwhile, peel and grate the carrots. Add them to the prepared lentils and mix well. Wash, dry, and finely chop the parsley, and mix it in. Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

At about 10 minutes before the end of the cooking of the shallots, grate in the lemon zest. Just before the shallots are done, grind the cumin seed and add it to the shallots. Add the paprika to the shallots as well, and mix in. Let cook for just a minute or so, then mix the shallots in with the salad, along with all their cooking oil. Let the salad rest for 10 minutes or so to allow the shallots to cool before serving; it can also be made up to several hours ahead and kept refrigerated until just before serving time.

Last year at this time I made Pumpkin Waffles.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Dad's Blue Cheese Waldorf Salad

I have been going through a couple of old scrapbooks that Dad put together starting in 1974. In them he wrote down recipes (or notes, at least) for things he had made, and collected magazine clippings of recipes that interested him. I see I was already sticking my oar in, as a number of things are in my handwriting, at least until I left home.

I don't imagine that the clippings got made often, if ever, but if it was written in by (his) hand he had made it. This one was made for a party in November of 1990; one of the later additions as he pretty much stopped cooking by the mid '90s.

This is just a simple variation on the classic Waldorf salad, but it's a good one. I'm sure he used a bottled dressing, but it doesn't take long to put together a home-made one, and hey! I have a very fine recipe.

4 servings
30 minutes prep time, including the dressing

Dad's Blue Cheese Waldorf Salad

1/2 recipe Blue Cheese Salad Dressing
8 or 12 lettuce leaves
2 large apples
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 stalks of celery
1/3 cup whole or chopped hazelnuts
2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese

Make the dressing and set it aside.

Wash the lettuce and drain it very well. Arrange it divided on individual salad plates or lining a salad bowl, depending on how you are serving the salad.

Wash and peel the apples and cut them in quarters. Slice the quarters thinly, and toss them with the lemon juice.

Wash and trim the celery, and cut it in thin slices. Toss it with the apples.

Chop the hazelnuts roughly if they are whole, and mix them in with the apples and celery.

Mix in the salad dressing and arrange it over the lettuce leaves. Crumble the last bit of blue cheese over the salad(s) and perhaps sprinkle with a few reserved whole hazelnuts if you have them and are so inclined.

Last year at this time I made White Beans with Celery & Cream.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Onion Caraway Soup

Caraway soups are popular in central Europe, and range from the simple and almost medicinal, to the fairly complex. They are usually fairly light though, and do better as an introductory course than the main event.

Between the onions and the caraway this is a mild, almost sweet soup. Celery fills it out a bit, and as ever I like the toasted barley flour for adding a little colour and body to soup, along with another layer of flavour. You could thicken it with plain wheat flour though.

One recipe I read suggested cooking the caraway seeds in the butter for best flavour, which is what I did, but many recipes suggest keeping them in a spice-ball (tea-ball) so they can be taken out before the soup is served. It depends if you want flavour or refinement I guess... as ever, I went for flavour. I have to admit though, the last few tablespoons of soup in the pot were mostly caraway seeds, in spite of the fact that quite a lot were spooned up and eaten.

4 servings
1 1/2 hours prep time

Onion Caraway Soup

3 cups sliced onions
1 or 2 stalks celery (1 cup sliced)
4 tablespoons barley flour or unbleached wheat flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups water or chicken stock
2 tablespoons sherry
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Peel and cut the onions in half from top to bottom. Cut in half again if they are large, then cut into slices to form half-moon shapes. Wash, trim, and chop the celery.

If using barley flour, toast it to the colour of a brown paper bag in a dry skillet - stir frequently. Turn it out on a plate to cool.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the caraway seeds, bay leaves, salt, and pepper, then the onions and celery. Cook for about half an hour to 40 minutes, until the vegetables are quite soft but not browned.

Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and mix it in well. Let it cook for another 3 or 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until well amalgamated with them. Slowly stir in the water or stock to form a lump-free soup. Simmer for another 15 or 20 minutes, stirring regularly, then season with the sherry and Worcestershire sauce. Adjust the seasonings generally, then serve. 

Last year at this time I made Carrot, Dried Tomato, & Herb Whole Wheat Biscuits. They would go well with this!

Friday, 3 November 2017

Trout & Spinach au gratin

This takes about 15 minutes longer than slapping some fish into an oiled pan and baking it, but comes across as much more sophisticated, never mind that it also solves the problem of what to have as a vegetable with it. We had ours with some Oven Baked Polenta, which was convenient because said oven was thus already on, but potatoes or rice would have rounded out the meal nicely too.  On the other hand, the polenta takes an hour to bake so I had a few minute breather after it went in then started preparing the fish. The timing works very well, is what I'm saying.

You could use a white-fleshed fish instead of the (pink fleshed) trout that I used, in which case I would be inclined to throw a few sliced mushrooms in to cook with shallots. You could do that anyway, I guess.

2 servings
50 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Trout & Spinach au gratin

Make the au gratin Topping:
1 stale roll (2 stale dinner rolls)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon rubbed savoury

Slice the roll(s) thinly in one direction then thinly across in the other direction. Crumble the bits up into a small mixing bowl. Rub in the butter until well distributed, then rub in the flour and seasonings. 

Finish the Dish:
3 or 4 shallots
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
6 to 8 cups loosely packed cleaned spinach leaves
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons flour
3/4 cup 10% cream
400 grams (scant pound) skinless, boneless trout or salmon fillet

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Peel and slice the shallots. If you have a casserole dish that can start on the stove then go to the oven, use that; other wise start them in a skillet and transfer to a shallow ovenproof dish at the appropriate time. Heat the butter in the pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened and translucent.

Meanwhile, shred the spinach somewhat coarsely. Once the shallots are ready, start adding it to the pan by handfuls, and stir it in until well wilted. (Transfer to ovenproof dish now.)

Mix the salt, pepper, and flour into the cream. Pour it over the spinach and shallots. You can leave the fish fillet whole or cut it into 4 or 5 equalish pieces, which will make it easier to arrange over the spinach; in any case arrange it over the spinach. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the fish. Bake at 350°F until the cream is bubbling around the edges and the crumb topping is lightly browned; about 30 minutes.

Last year at this time I made Broccoli & Cheddar Soup

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

German Leek Salad

This is a good thing to do if you are cooking leeks for some other purpose; do a few extra then set them aside for salad the next day.

Not too surprisingly this is a good thing to serve with typically meaty German dishes. I can really see it with pork, or duck. Turkey would be good too, though, or even salmon.

4 servings
30 minutes to cook the leeks
15 minutes to assemble the salad

German Leek Salad

6 to 8 medium leeks
2 tablespoons leek cooking water
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/8 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Trim and wash the leeks. Put them in a shallow pan with water to just cover them, and bring them to a boil. Boil gently for 10 minutes, then allow to cool. Drain the leeks very well, but keep a small amount of the cooking liquid. This can be done up to a day ahead.

Mix the leek cooking water, vinegar, sour cream, mustard, horseradish, salt, and pepper in a small salad bowl.

Drain the leeks again - they can be gently pressed to extract excess liquid - then cut them into 1" slices. You will need a very sharp knife. Mix them into the salad dressing, and serve.

Last year at this time I made Blanquette de Veau and Pear & Apple Torte with Ginger & Cranberries; yes I have decided on a name for it.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Lamb with Turnip Greens

I took some influence from Chinese cooking for this, but it certainly isn't a stir-fry even though that is more or less the effect once done. More of a stew-fry, if there is such a thing. We enjoyed it very much, whatever it was. It would be fine with rice, but pasta or potatoes would step up to the plate very nicely too. Quinoa, even.

The greens were rutabaga greens, from the batch I planted in mid-August. They are actually starting to bolt and should probably have been eaten about 2 weeks ago. Nevertheless, once I had stripped the leaves from the stems they were tender, and while strong and astringent in flavour they were not bitter. I used 6 plants because that's how many looked good to use, but 8 would probably have been preferable. Like most greens they sure do cook down. A bunch of turnip or mustard greens from the market will probably give you about the right amount.

It looks like I will want to start planting more rutabagas just for eating the greens. They will be much the best in early spring (although they will be ready in mid spring) or late fall when the weather is cool. I think they are so much better than turnip greens which is not surprising because I like rutabaga much more than turnips. Mind you, I should try some of the greens from the Goldana turnips, which are the only turnip I really like.

2 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - in 2 parts

Lamb with Rutabaga Greens

Cook the Lamb in Advance:
300 grams (10 ounces) stewing lamb
1 tablespoon bacon fat or vegetable oil
2 cups unsalted chicken or beef stock, may need a bit more
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
6-8 slices of fresh ginger
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon hot red chile flakes

Check the lamb that it is not too fatty and that it is cut in reasonable size pieces; pat it dry with a paper towel. Heat the fat in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the meat and brown it on both sides.

Add the stock,  soy sauce, sliced ginger, and hot chile flakes (or a couple of dried peppers) to taste. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and simmer the lamb for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool until 20 minutes before dinner time. It probably doesn't hurt to fish out the ginger slices and peppers (if you used whole ones) but I didn't. Keep those diners on their toes.

Finish the Dish:
1 bunch turnip, rutabaga, or mustard greens
2 to 3 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch
1/4 cup chicken or beef stock
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Bring the lamb back up to a simmer. Add a little more stock if it has mostly cooked down, but don't over-do it: there should ultimately be just enough to thicken into a sauce.

Wash the greens carefully and well, discarding any tough stems and yellow or ratty leaves. It's not a bad idea to soak them in a little cold salty water. Rinse well.Chop them up.

Peel and mince the garlic.

When your chosen accompaniment to the meal is 6 or 7 minutes away from being done, add the chopped greens to the pot, mixing them in until well wilted. In another few minutes add the garlic, and the starch mixed smoothly into the stock. Stir in well and season with the sesame oil. Cook for a minute or two more, then serve.

Last year at this time I made Potatoes with Swiss Chard or Kale and Pear, Celery, & Arugula Salad with Spiced Apple Butter Dressing.

Friday, 27 October 2017

A Final Look at the Garden

Around the middle of August we did a final planting. I always mean to do a late summer planting, and sometimes we manage it and sometimes we don't. Unfortunately one of the reasons we got around to it this year is because our harvest was so poor and so we were not spending our time picking and processing the way we should have been.

The bed above is a mess. It had lettuce going to seed so I planted a bunch of rapini, rutabaga (for greens), Ethiopian kale, and I don't know what exactly, around it. I did not keep good records, and I think things got washed down the slope before they germinated anyway. Once the lettuce got pulled it all looked very erratic.

I can tell you the stuff that is going to seed at the end is the rapini. We have the 40 day variety (Quarentina) and if you don't pick it when it is ready, too bad for you. I have left it for the bees, who are loving it. We might get enough seed to replace what we planted, if the weather holds nice for long enough (not too likely though).

Lettuce and spinach were planted at about the same time. The spinach is magnificent - a little too magnificent, some of it is bolting - and the lettuce is actually starting to go bitter. Temperatures have been higher than expected for the last 2 months, given how low they were through the main part of the summer. We were hoping these would be just babies, and we would cover them for the winter and harvest them in the spring. I guess we will still do that, at least the cover in winter part. How they look in the spring we shall see.

In the above bed we planted, from left to right: red radishes, winter radishes, Goldana turnips, and several kinds of beets. The red radishes are over, the turnips are being picked regularly, the winter radishes will be ready soon, and the beets seem a little behind. Not too bad, I guess.

The tomatoes are out, and the beds are empty except for the Golden Berries. Mr. Ferdzy can take down the trellises at any time, but he is still hauling gravel. I intend to hang one of the Golden Berries in the basement and so how it does for continuing to ripen.

Another view of the radishes and beets. Carrot tops behind them have not died down yet, but the potatoes are long out and in fact we are putting a dent in them. The onions ended up being very frustrating as about 40% of them never died down and all of them were rather small. This was the result of a fungal disease hitting them in mid summer. Peanuts and sweet potatoes are still under plastic but not for long - they will be dug as soon as we have the time.

Another week or two and the garden will be finished for the year. I'm looking forward to it and I think Mr. Ferdzy is too. We are both having a hard time being motivated to make that final push. But soon the forecast will be for cooler temperatures and we will have to jump to it.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Groundcherries and Golden Berries

"We see that the vendors of this worthless thing are still at their old tricks, and with so much craftiness that they deceive the very elect. Our good friend of the Maine Farmer has listened to the humbug tale, and is so far deceived as to "recommend a general trial of it". Now, Doctor, we have had some experience with this plant - have destroyed thousands in a year as mere pests. Instead of the fruit being, as the pedler represented, "valuable for pies, puddings, and preserves, and making a good wine to boot," it is not fit to be used for any such purpose, and is not, where even the most ordinary fruits or berries can be had. The whole scheme of selling this "ground cherry" is a cheat."
                                                                  from the Boston Cultivator
                                                                  via William Woys Weaver,
                                                                  date not given

Groundcherries have been grown in Ontario for a long time; perhaps as long as 200 years. I expect they would have been brought up from the United States by Mennonite farmers. According to Mother Earth News, they were first recorded in Pennsylvania in 1837. Somehow, they have never spread too far beyond their original Mennonite and Amish roots, although there are little spurts of interest in them every few decades. That is because reviews of them are very... mixed.

Some people love them, and some people hate them. There doesn't seem to be a lot of middle ground, although I do inhabit what little there is. I confess I would have cheerfully counted myself a hater, until about 5 years ago when we purchased some dried Golden Berries from Ten Thousand Villages. Wow, tasty! I'll get back to these in a minute.

The historically grown-in-Ontario groundcherries - a term that gets applied to a number of physalis species - would be physalis pruinosa, sometimes known as physalis pubescens. Physalis longifolia and physalis heterophylla are weedy species in Ontario. Physalis heterophylla (clammy groundcherry) is edible, but I believe the fruits are fairly small and the plant is an invasive perennial. Chinese Lanterns (physalis alkekengi var. franchetii) and tomatillos (physalis ixocarpa) are relatives; both edible. Only the berries of any of these plants are edible, and only when completely ripe, a situation not uncommon in members of the solanacea family. They are not ripe until the husks turn yellow to brown and the fruits fall from the plant. They must be gathered quickly though, or rodents are likely to find them. Although they can be eaten raw when dead ripe, most people suggest that if they are to be eaten in any quantity they should be cooked.

The two best known varieties of groundcherry are Aunt Molly's and Cossack Pineapple, but there are certainly others. These are the groundcherries that would leave me in the "hate 'em" camp.  

The Golden Berries I have been growing are physalis peruviana, a tropical species not well adapted to growing in Ontario. This particular species is also known as the Cape Gooseberry or Poha, as well as Golden Berries which seems to be the marketers term du jour.

We planted a few seeds from those original dried Golden Berries, but only a couple - and I do mean 2 - of the resulting fruits ripened before frost, coming from I believe 4 plants total. We have planted them off and on since then, but have grown them most years regardless of whether we have planted them or not. Just about the time we decided to give up on them they started to volunteer.

We are definitely seeing a difference in their ability to ripen before frost. This year, in spite of a very poor growing year for anything of a tropical inclination, we expect to harvest dozens of fruits (in total from 4 or 5 plants, to be sure). On the other hand, many of them seem to be going bad, and I suspect this is because they have suffered chill damage.

These Golden Berries are a bit larger than the more traditionally grown pruinosa varieties, and dried at least I found them not to have the slightly musky aftertaste that I suspect puts many people off of them. No one ever seems to mention it; they are described as tasting of such disparate things as pineapple, citrus, mango, custard, tomato, tangerines, and strawberries. But as far as I am concerned it is definitely there, and does not appeal to me. As noted, it seemed to disappear from the dried berries. I recently found some fresh Golden Berries imported from Columbia which I bought and made into jam. The flavour improved with cooking, I thought, but it also made it apparent how very, very full of tiny hard seeds they are.They get touted as a highish protein fruit because of these seeds, but I am willing to bet that the vast majority of them pass through the digestive system fairly unchanged.

Groundcherries or Golden Berries are grown in the same way as tomatoes, peppers, or tomatillos. They can be hard to start indoors in spite of their tendency to volunteer by the score. It may be that fluctuating temperatures trigger them to sprout. Otherwise they are easy, tolerant plants to grow, if large and sprawling. They will continue to produce later than tomatoes, but frost will do them in. Apparently a lot of growers pull up the plants and store them indoors, hanging upside down, and pull off the ripe fruits into the early winter. I may try that with one this fall.

William Woys Weaver notes that there are a lot of species of physalis, and their nomenclature is a mess. Everything I have read about physalis tends to reinforce this view. According to him, some of them will cross, and some of them won't. Groundcherries and tomatillos won't cross, but there is a lack of information about other species. My impression from people who are trying is that it isn't very easy. The only other groundcherry I have grown, besides the Golden Berry, is Little Lanterns which I got from William Dam. At the time I bought seed it was given a species name which was a synonym for peruviana, but they no longer give any species name and I can't find it now. I suspect in fact they are not the same thing, which is why they have removed the species name. Certainly it has shown no signs of crossing with our Golden Berries. I have a few plants in the garden from volunteers, but they are much smaller plant with a much smaller fruit than the Golden Berries.

I'm going to persevere with the Golden Berries. A number of people have said that they are too tropical to be adapted to northern growing, but so far I am actually having pretty quick results in getting them acclimatized.