Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Matcha-White Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is a very classic chocolate chip cookie recipe, with a few minor changes. The addition of matcha green tea is the most obvious one, and matcha goes particularly well with white chocolate. As usual I have reduced the amount of sugar normally called for, with the result that they are slightly cakier and also slightly less obnoxiously over-sweet than most chocolate chip cookies. The matcha adds a certain astringency as well, which I think it best not to overwhelm with too much sugar.

I see so many photos of baked goods with matcha in bright, glowing green. My experience is that however lovely a shade of green the raw powder is, by the time it has been baked in you can expect it to be khaki. I am forced to conclude that bright green matcha baked goods include food colouring, if not some fiddling with the colour of the photos. You can certainly add a little green food colouring if you are so inclined, but reality is not subject to photoshopping. My own personal opinion is that khaki is a perfectly cromulent colour, even in a cookie, and especially ones that taste as good as these.

Given the price of vanilla these days, I omitted it, and since I think the absence of it kept the matcha flavour pure and clean, I am doubly sure it was a good idea.

48 cookies
1 hour prep time

Matcha-White Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups soft unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons fine powdered matcha
1 cup butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
8 ounces white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375°F and line 2 large baking trays with parchment paper. 

Measure the flour and mix in the salt, baking soda, and matcha.

Cream the butter in a large mixing bowl, and beat in the sugar. Beat in the egg. Mix in the flour to form a smooth dough. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Spoon the dough out by tablespoons onto the prepared trays and bake at 375°F for 9 to 11 minutes, until just showing signs of browning at the the edges. I find that if the cookies are put sufficiently apart to not run into each other, then you will need 3 trays to bake them; but the first one can be recycled while the second tray is in the oven. Do let it cool slightly before dishing out that batch of cookies.





Last year at this time I made Fruitcake Cookies. Yes, it's Christmas baking time!

Monday, 10 December 2018

Vegan "Turkey" Roast

Here it is, the time of year when I start thinking of something vegetarian for Christmas. This year I am following up on last years' Vegetarian Sausage with a vegetarian "turkey" roast, also based on gluten flour and legumes. (Or it's a "chicken" roast, if you want to think of it that way.) I'm planning to use this mixture to make "chicken" nuggets; when and if I get to it I will post on how that works.

I'm not sure this tastes convincingly of turkey or chicken - and my vegetarian guest may actually prefer that - but it makes a nice sturdy, chewy protein dish that looks very impressive and I think will hit the spot nicely. Especially with some gravy, and Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy should go with this really well.

If you had a stand mixer or a bread machine, this might be a good item to be kneaded mechanically; however be sure not to over-do it. Chewy is one thing, tough is something else.

I'll note that while this is really very easy to make, you need to have your poultry seasoning, mock chicken stock, and beans ready to go in advance. In the instructions I go straight from steaming to baking the roast, but there could very reasonably be quite a gap there. If it is refrigerated before baking, bring it up to room temperature before it goes in the oven. You may need to add a little time, but be sure not to let it dry out too much.

Leftover slices reheated in a lightly oiled pan very nicely, although they browned a little which made them look less realistic. They also made a fine "turkey" sandwich. It's probably a good idea to plan for leftovers, is what I'm saying.

6 to 8 servings
2 hours - 1/2 hour prep time
PLUS time for advance preparations

Vegan Turkey Roast with Brussels Sprouts and Carrots

Get Started:
1 small onion OR 2 medium shallots
1 medium carrot
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
2 to 3 teaspoons Poultry Seasoning
1 cup well-mashed cooked white beans

Note that in advance you should make the mock chicken stock, mix the poultry seasoning, and drain and mash the beans. It does not hurt to do these a day ahead. If you are cooking your own beans, they definitely should be cooked a full day in advance.

Peel and mince the onion or shallots. Peel and very finely grate the carrot.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the onion/shallots and carrot, stirring frequently, until softened and reduced in volume. Mix in the poultry seasoning for the last minute or so of cooking. Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the mashed beans. Set aside to cool.

Mix, Knead, & Cook:
1 1/2 cups Mock "Chicken" Stock
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
2 1/4 cups gluten flour
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons mild vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika

Measure the mock "chicken" stock and mix in the soy sauce and vegetable oil. In a mixing bowl, measure the gluten flour and nutritional yeast.

Mix the liquid into the dry ingredients until completely blended. Turn the mixture out onto a clean counter or board and knead for 2 or 3 minutes. Begin mixing in the cooled beans and veggies, about 1/3 at a time. Add each new batch after kneading/working the mixture for about a minute. Overall, by the time you are done, the mixture should have been kneaded for 5 or 6 minutes.

Use 1 teaspoon of oil to oil a sheet of parchment paper. Form the mixture into a neat, flattish loaf on it and wrap it up. Put it in the upper part of a steamer over boiling water, and steam for 1 hour. It is a good idea to check it half way through the cooking time to ensure the water is sufficient; if you think it is not add some more boiling water to top it up.

Ten minutes before it is done, preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil a baking tray with the last teaspoon of oil. Unwrap the "roast" and put it in the baking dish. Sift the paprika over the top and bake it for 30 minutes. Slice and serve, quite possible with Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy.





Last year at this time I made Sweet Potato Rotis.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Leek & Celeriac Soup

I couldn't think of anything else I wanted to put into this soup, but I was afraid it would be plain and dull. NO! It was delicious and indeed it didn't need anything more. Well, Mr. Ferdzy lobbied for sour cream, but he is also Mr. Fat-Tooth so there is that. I thought it was excellent without it.

Note that when I say "450 grams; 1 pound" of celeriac, that is for after it has been peeled, and 4 cups chopped is accurate enough for this kind of work. Celeriac has a lot of trimming to be done on it, I'm afraid, with that thick, grubby, and gnarly hide that it has. Given the price you can pay for celeriac, this is especially annoying. If you are buying it by weight I think you had better get one that weighs a kilo/2 pounds. Still this is a lovely soup with a really luxurious flavour. Well, lovely. I have to admit the colour falls somewhere between military and muck. Don't let that put you off - this is good.

Finally, this is a very thick and substantial soup. Add a couple more cups of stock, and it would make a good starter soup for 6 to 8 people. 

4 to 8 servings
1 hour prep time

Leek & Celeriac Soup

4 cups (450 grams; 1 pound) diced peeled celeriac
3 large leeks
1 medium carrot
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
2 or 3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups unsalted chicken OR vegetable stock
sour cream to serve, if desired

Wash, peel and dice the celeriac. Note that the weight measurements are for AFTER the celeriac has been peeled. Wash, trim, and chop the leeks. Rinse them and drain them well. Peel and chop or grate the carrot.

Heat the butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed soup pot. When it is melted add the vegetables and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly. The butter should sizzle, but the vegetables - watch the leeks in particular should NOT brown. Adjust the heat accordingly.

Peel and mince the garlic. 

When the vegetables are well softened with just a couple of minutes left to cook, add the garlic and mix in well. Add the bay leaves, the salt, and the pepper. Add the chicken stock and simmer steadily for about 20 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves and purée the soup. Reheat before serving it. Mr. Ferdzy suggested a dollop of sour cream would be nice and so it would, if you are so inclined.





Last year at this time I made Creamy Turkey Soup with Wild Rice & Mushrooms. Yes, it's definitely soup season!

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Winter Hodge Podge

Hodge Podge is a traditional dish from the Maritimes made with early summer vegetables, but here are the same principles applied to early winter vegetables, and very good too.

I have been making this quite often, and it never fails to make me happy. A simple protein dish will be all that is required to finish the meal. 

6 to 8 servings
30 minutes prep time
Winter Hodge Podge

450 grams(1 pound) potatoes
2 or 3 medium carrots
2 or 3 medium onions
2 cups unsalted chicken OR vegetable stock
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
450 grams (1 pound) Brussels sprouts

Wash and trim the potatoes, and cut them in largish bite-sized pieces. Put them in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Wash, peel and chop the carrots into pieces about half the size of the potatoes. Add them to the pot. Peel the onions and cut them in bite-sized chunks. Add them to the pot.

Add the chicken stock, salt, and pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil and boil gently but steadily, uncovered, for about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash and trim the Brussels sprouts. Cut them in halves or quarters, depending on size. When the timer goes, add the butter and Brussels sprouts to the pot.

Cover the pot and reduce the heat (but it should continue to boil gently) for a further 6 to 8 minutes until the sprouts are cooked and the stock is absorbed - why yes, that means you will need to watch very carefully at the end. The butter is important to ensure that if cooking continues after the stock is gone, things will brown gently rather than burn. Up to a point; so do watch it. Serve at once.





Last year at this time I made Pistachio-Coconut Macaroons, with an Almond-Poppyseed Variation

Monday, 3 December 2018

Fondant Potatoes & Turnips

Well, this was my very first attempt at Fondant Potatoes, and I can't say I did a lovely job. I know exactly what happened - wrong potatoes, unclarified butter, and did not cook long enough - and let those things happen anyway. They were delicious anyway, so no few regrets.

First off I didn't use waxy potatoes - I used German Butterballs -  and rather than get brown they wanted to let off a lot of starch which welded itself to the pan and did the getting of the brown. I also could not be arsed to clarify the butter and knew from the start that that would mean I should be prepared to pull them off the stove earlier than I would otherwise to avoid burnt butter flavour. I pulled them off when  the smell was so delectable I could wait no longer and also everything else had been sitting and waiting for 5 minutes already. 

Before I made these I carefully read through Felicity Cloake's article How to make the perfect fondant potatoes, from the Guardian, and followed her directions insofar as I am capable of following anyone's directions. (Floury potatoes, unclarified butter; see.) Since under-cooking seems to be a hazard of this dish I did not hesitate to cook them in a more generous amount of water for a few minutes before draining much of it off and proceeding in the more usual way.

If you are cooking both potatoes and turnips, you will need fewer of each, obviously, and there is also a definite upper limit to the amount you can get in the pan. It will be so much easier to turn the pieces when the time comes if they are not jammed in like bus riders in rush-hour.  If you want to serve more than 3 or 4 people you will need to break out a second pan.

In spite of all the flaws with this attempt, the resulting potatoes were delicious and distinctive. I will definitely want to work on making these a part of my potato (and turnip) repertoire.

In fact, after I had made these and written up the post, I found a small stash of Pink Fir Apple potatoes and tried them again. I had expected them to be better, but in some ways they were worse. The results were still very tasty, but really more like plain old fried potatoes. I am inclined to suspect that success here rests very much on having the right potato, and that I don't have it. If anyone else has made these - with potatoes available in Ontario - I'd love to hear how it worked out for you and what kind of potatoes you used.

4 servings
1 hour prep time

Fondant Potatoes & Turnips

4 to 6 smallish (2"diameter) waxy potatoes
AND/OR 6 to 12 very small (1 1/2" diameter) Goldana turnips
2 cups (about) water
3 tablespoons clarified butter OR unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon rubbed thyme or savory
1 large clove of garlic
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Peel the potatoes and/or turnips and cut each one in half, aiming for as flat a profile as possible.

Put the pieces in a single layer into a sufficiently large skillet with the rounded sides down. Add the water - enough to just come up to the tops - and bring them to a boil. Boil them for 5 to 10 minutes; 5 minutes for potatoes and 10 minutes for turnips. If using both, start the turnips then add the potatoes when the turnips have boiled for 5 minutes.

Ladle off much of the water, leaving about enough to fill the pan to 1/4". Add the butter, salt, and thyme and let the vegetables boil gently until the water is evaporated; about 10 or 15 minutes. Peel and mince the garlic while they cook. Add it to the pan as the water goes.

Continue cooking the potatoes and/or turnips for another 20 to 30 minutes until they have browned nicely on the underside. You can turn them and cook them some more on the top as well if you are that dedicated to hanging over a hot pan. They were quite lovely one-sided.





Last year at this time I made Brussels Sprouts with Sour Cream & Horseradish.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Orecchiette with Brussels Sprouts & Parmesan

I saw an orecchiette and Brussels sprouts dish on Pinterest, and thought it was so pretty, the way the Brussels sprouts leaves echoed the size and shape of the pasta. Of course, when I then made a dish with orecchiette and Brussels sprouts, it wasn't anything of the sort, because I used our home-grown Brussels sprouts ranging in size from tiny to practically kale. Oh well, never mind, it was quite delicious, and apart from a few minutes spent mucking about with the Brussels sprouts, as fast as any other pasta dish. 

There is also some home-grown thyme in the kitchen this year, so I am calling for it in recipes more than I have in recent years. You will still have the problem that most of the dried thyme available for sale is tasteless dust. I would be inclined to buy some fresh, use twice as much as I called for here, and leave the rest out in a sieve until dry. Then you will have some decent thyme for a while.

Thyme is an easy to grow and attractive perennial, so if you have any garden space at all, it is worth while getting a plant or two. It spreads to make a good groundcover so one or two plants will usually be quite enough to go on with.

2 servings
30 minutes prep time


250 grams (1/2 pound) Brussels sprouts
1 large leek
4 to 6 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup unsalted butter
225 grams orecchiette or other similar pasta
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon rubbed thyme
the zest and juice of 1/4 lemon
100 grams (3 ounces) Parmesan cheese

Wash and trim the Brussels sprouts. Remove (and keep) loose leaves and cut the remaining sprouts in half. Wash and trim the leek, and slice it lengthwise. Cut into slices about the size of the Brussels sprouts leaves. Peel and mince the garlic.

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the leeks in it very gently until the water comes to a boil.

When the water boils, add the prepared Brussels sprouts and boil them for 2 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon, draining them well. Add them to the leeks. Put the pasta into the boiling water and cook according to the package instructions (I am assuming about 10 minutes).

Stir the leeks and Brussels sprouts occasionally as they cook, and season them with pepper, thyme, and the lemon zest.

Grate the Parmesan cheese coarsely.

Just before the pasta is done, add the garlic to the pan of vegetables and mix it in well. Sprinkle the lemon juice over them.

Drain the pasta, leaving about half a cup of water in the pot. Return the pasta to the pot and mix in the vegetables and about 2/3 of the cheese. Stir well until the cheese is melted. Transfer the pasta to a serving dish or individual dishes, and sprinkle the remaining cheese over it.





Last year at this time I made Broiled Mushrooms

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Poutine with Homemade Gravy

I saw this recipe for Poutine gravy and thought I had to give it a try. As usual I have put my sticky hands all over it, not to mention that I found the quantities required to be more than a little vague for certain key items.

I tried to intensify the meatiness of it by concentrating the stocks, and also flavouring them with shiitake stems. I keep them for stock making, since I did pay upwards of $12 per pound for them, but they tend to pile up. This was a good use for some but if you don't have them you can certainly leave them out. I also used toasted barley flour for the flour as I like the extra layer of flavour it brings to soups and sauces. My finished gravy was a bit thicker than the photos suggested, but I was okay with that. It may be that I was a little short on liquid (since I am guessing as to what constitutes une boite). For perhaps the same reason I found the amount of ketchup just a tad high so next time I intend to replace one tablespoon of it with a little paprika.

When all is said and done though, this was the most delicious poutine we have eaten in quite some time. Yeah, yeah, it's been quite some time since we have eaten any poutine. Next time is going to come a lot sooner though, because this is GOOD and not at all hard to do, in spite of the fairly detailed instructions.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 15 minutes prep time

Poutine with Roasted Potatoes and Homemade Gravy

Make the Roasted Potatoes:
1 or 2 medium-large potatoes PER PERSON
mild vegetable oil, salt, & freshly ground black pepper to roast
50 grams (2 ounces) fresh cheese curds PER PERSON

Wash and trim - peel if you like - the potatoes and cut them into a thick classic French-fry shape. Put them in a pot with water to cover and boil them for about 8 minutes. Drain well but carefully so as not to break them.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. 

Spread them on a baking tray in a single layer and toss them in enough oil to coat them lightly. Season with a little salt and pepper but don't get too carried away as the cheese and gravy will have lots.

Roast them for about 1 hour, turning them halfway through the process, until browned and crisp. When done, sprinkle the cheese curds over them and return them to the oven for 5 minutes. Meanwhile...

Make the Gravy:
3 cups unsalted (or low-salt) beef stock
1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dried shiitake stems OPTIONAL
1 large clove of garlic
1/4 cup unsalted chicken stock
3 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
a few drops Tabasco OR chile-garlic sauce to taste
1/4 cup barley flour OR soft unbleached wheat flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter
salt & freshly ground black pepper as needed

Let the potatoes cook for about 20 minutes before starting the gravy.

Put the beef stock, chicken stock, bay leaf, and shiitake stems - if you have them - in a pot. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and simmer until the volume has been reduced by 1/3 to about 3 cups. This should take 15 to 20 minutes. Strain out the bay leaf and mushroom stems.

Peel and slice the garlic. Measure out the last 1/4 cup of chicken stock and mix in the corn starch, ketchup, paprika, and Tabasco sauce. Set aside.

About 5 minutes or so before the stock is ready, toast the barley flour in a dry skillet until it is paper bag light brown. Remove it from the heat and add the butter and garlic slices, stirring well until the butter is completely melted and the flour is all combined. If you are using wheat flour, melt the butter first then stir in the untoasted flour.

Return the pan to the stove over low heat and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Slowly mix in the hot, strained stock stirring constantly to form a smooth sauce. Give the remaining ingredients (chicken stock, starch, etc) a good stir and mix them slowly into the gravy.  Stir constantly until the gravy thickens, just a few minutes. Test the seasoning and add salt and pepper as required.

When the potatoes and cheese curds are ready, drizzle hot gravy over them ad lib and serve at once.





Last year at this time I made Cabbage with Leeks & Mushrooms.

Monday, 26 November 2018

Barley, Wild Rice, & Mushroom Pilaf

This is as similar to some of the roasted vegetable salads I have been making lately as a it is to a true pilaf, I would have to say. The predominance of the grains makes me willing to call it a pilaf though.

All kinds of favourite things here - I love the chewiness of the grains, the umami of the roasted mushrooms, and the bite of the garlic, cheese and lemon. You could serve it by itself but it will go well with chicken, fish, or any kind of meat, really. Salmon trout in particular seems like a good idea. A green salad will finish things off.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 15 minutes prep time

Barley, Wild Rice, & Mushroom Pilaf

Cook the Wild Rice & Barley:
1 leek
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3 cup wild rice
2/3 cup pot barley
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups water

Trim the leek, and cut it in half lengthwise, then into thin slices. Rinse them and drain them very well. Put the butter in a rice-cooker and turn it on. When the butter melts, add the leek and cook gently, stirring regularly, until softened.

Add the wild rice, barley, salt, and water. Be sure the rice cooker is on. Close it and let the contents cook until it turns itself off; about 45 minutes. 

Cook the Mushrooms & Shallots:
125 grams (1/4 pound) oyster mushrooms
125 (1/4 pound) button or shiitake mushrooms
6 to 8 shallots
 2 to 3 cloves of garlic
75 grams (3 ounces) Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon rubbed thyme or savory
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Clean and trim both sets of mushrooms. Cut off and discard any tough stems from the oyster mushrooms, and cut them in half lengthwise if large. Slice the button or shiitake mushrooms (discard shiitake stems). Peel and sliver the shallots. Peel and mince the garlic. Grate the Parmesan cheese.

Toss the mushrooms and shallots together on a sheet of parchment paper over a baking tray. Dot them with the butter and season with the thyme, salt and pepper.

When the rice-cooker turns off, leave it to stay warm. Turn the broiler on and broil the mushrooms and shallots, stirring every few minutes, until softened and browned. For the last time or two of broiling, mix in the garlic and 2/3 of the Parmesan.

Make the Gremolata Dressing:
1 clove of garlic
a few gratings of lemon zest
the juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup finely minced fresh parsley

While the mushrooms and shallots broil, peel and mince the garlic along with a small amount of lemon zest, say about 1/4 teaspoon loosely packed. Mix them with the lemon juice. Wash, trim, and mince the parsley.

When the mushrooms are ready, tip the barley and wild rice from the rice cooker onto the tray of mushrooms and mix well. Drizzle with the lemon juice and sprinkle about half the parsley onto the mixture, and toss everything together. Transfer everything to a serving dish, and sprinkle with the remaining parsley and Parmesan. Serve at once. 






Last year at this time I made Honey, Lemon, & Ginger Squash.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Squash Poached in Maple Syrup

Squash poached in syrup is a typical dessert in Turkey, and it is also very common throughout Central and South America, and the Caribbean. It just seems to be North Americans who think squash is only a main course dish, no matter how much sweetener is dumped on it.

It is often served with some sort of mild, soft cheese. This version leans a little to the Caribbean, with the spicing and the rum, but the maple syrup brings it back to Canada.

I can see I am going to have a fair bit of syrup left after we have eaten the squash; I am thinking it will be good in or on bread pudding or French toast.

6 to 8 servings
40 minutes prep time plus time to cool

Squash Poached in Maple Syrup

1.5 kilogram (3 pounds) butternut squash
1 1/2 cups dark maple syrup
3/4 cup water
1 4" cinnamon stick
3 or 4 slices of fresh ginger
6 to 8 allspice berries
2 tablespoons rum
1 cup thick yogurt - OPTIONAL

Wash the squash thoroughly. Trim off the ends. You can leave the remainder of the skin on, or you can peel it. Cut it into even slices or chunks, discarding the seeds and stringy flesh from the centre.

Put the remainder of the ingredients - the ginger should be sliced into 1/4" slices - into a pot in which it will cover the squash. Bring it to a boil.

Gently add the squash pieces and bring the syrup back to a boil. Reduce the heat to a slow, steady simmer. Cover the pot and let the squash simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn all the pieces over, very gently, and let simmer, covered, for another 10 or 15 minutes until tender.

Let the squash cool in the syrup. If you like, place about 1 cup of thick yogurt in a coffee filter in a strainer, and leave it over a bowl to drain for a couple of hours while the squash cools. Serve with the squash.





Last year at this time I made Spanish Beef & Turnip Stew

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Roast Chicken in a Clay Pot (Romertopf)

I've had a Romertopf (clay pot) for roasting meats for quite a long time, but I don't feel like I get as much use out of it as I would like. I guess one of my new year's resolutions will be to try to use some of my appliances more often than I do, and this can go down as a trial run.

The other thing I got that suggested this recipe was a whole pastured chicken from a local farm. We've been buying duck and chicken eggs from them for a while and recently they have had frozen chicken, both whole and cut up, as well. There have been some recent changes to the law which make it easier to get high quality pastured chickens from local farms, although you will have to go to the farm to get them. These chickens have much more substance than factory farmed chickens, or to put it another way, if you don't cook them a little differently from industrial chicken, you may find them tough. Something, something, actually walking around on their actual legs. Also they will be a little older and almost certainly larger than what you will find at the grocery store.

Cooking such a chicken in a clay pot (Romertopf) is a good plan. The clay pot gets very hot and the chicken cooks quickly, but the fact that it has been well soaked keeps the chicken moist and tender. You can expect to find quite a lot more broth in the pot when it is done than when you started. Yes, the plan is that this chicken will end in soup - after it has provided 3 or 4 meals. That's quite a lot of mileage out of a 6.7 pound chicken. 

6 to 8 servings
2 to 2 1/2 hours - 30 minutes prep time

Roast Chicken in a Clay Pot (Romertopf)

a 2 to 3 kilo (4.5 to 7 pound) whole chicken
1 medium leek
1 medium carrot
1 stalks of celery OR 1 cup peeled julienned celeriac
4 to 6 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons Hungarian Spice Blend OR Classic Poultry Seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup chicken stock

Cover the clay pot - both top and bottom - in water and soak for at least 20 minutes and up to 40 minutes. Check the oven to make sure that the racks are arranged so that it will fit into it. Take the chicken from the fridge and let it come up to room temperature as the pot pieces soak.

Wash the leeks and cut them into somewhat coarse julienne; do the same with the carrots and celery. Peel the garlic and cut it into slices.

When the soaking time is up, drain the pot well. Arrange the vegetables in the bottom of the pot and place the chicken on top. Take about half the garlic cloves and put them inside the chicken; push the other half under the skin in various places. Mix the seasoning and the salt, and put half of it inside the chicken, turning it to distribute it. Sprinkle half of the remaining seasonings mix evenly over the bottom of the chicken then turn it over and pour the vinegar and chicken stock over it. Sprinkle the remaining seasoning mix over the top of the chicken.

Put the lid over the chicken and place the clay pot in the oven. Turn on the heat to 425°F. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken. Remove the lid and roast the chicken for a further 20 to 30 minutes, until nicely browned, and the legs wiggle freely when tested. Let rest about 10 minutes before carving.





Last year at this time I made the delicious Cheesy Brussels Sprouts Bread Pudding

Monday, 19 November 2018

Hungarian Seasoning Blend

I first mixed this up many years ago (not this batch!) from a description in I Hear America Cooking, by Betty Fussell. It listed the spices, without the proportions, but it sounded interesting enough for me to come up with a version. I think I added a few things too.

Use this with chicken, fish, or pork, or in soups and stews. I made it up to use on Roast Chicken in a Clay Pot, but there will be about half of it left over. It's not a bad idea to make it a few days in advance to allow the flavours to blend. Once made, keep it in a cool, dry, dark place for up to 2 months.

about 1/4 cup
15 minutes prep time

Hungarian Seasoning Blend

Grind Some Spices:
3 or 4 pods of green cardamom
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon dill seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

Crush the cardamom pods and remove the papery green husks. Add the remaining spices and grind well until everything is fine. Put them in a small bowl or jar. 

Add Some Spices:
1 teaspoon rubbed tarragon OR basil
1 teaspoon rubbed thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika

Add the spices listed above to the ground spices. Blend well.





Last year at this time I made Balkan Sour Vegetable Soup.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Turkey & Mushroom Stuffed Leeks

Our leek crop this year is looking very nice, in spite of the fact that leek moths showed up for the first time in the late summer. One day they were looking magnificent, and the next they started to look chewed, wilted, and tatty. Mr. Ferdzy dumped impressive quantities of diatomaceous earth over them a couple of times and they perked right up. It was impressive.

You want the biggest, fattest leeks you can get for this, and it would not hurt to have some extras and save the trimmings for some other use. Two will be sufficient, but it will be harder to get the perfect part of the leeks.

The trouble is that the closer to the outside of the leek, the tougher and stringier the leaves will be. But once you get too far in, the leaves become too small to roll. And even with careful selection of the leaves, it will be best to provide a pretty sharp knife when you serve them. This may explain why stuffed leeks are not a very common thing. They were really tasty though, and the filling was delicious. Ground turkey can be a bit dry but all the vegetables mixed into it kept it moist and gave it lots of flavour. 

4 to 8 servings
1 hour 45 minutes - 45 minutes prep time


Prepare the Vegetables:
2 to 4 large, fat leeks
6 cloves of garlic
1 large carrot, grated
125 grams (1/4 pound) button mushrooms
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil

Put a large pot of water on to boil Wash the leeks, trim off the root ends, and from the point where the leaves begin to branch off and turn dark green. Cut them into 4" or 5" pieces.  Boil them for 10 minutes, then carefully remove them to a strainer and rinse in cold water until cool. Drain well.

Meanwhile, peel and mince the garlic. Peel and grate the carrot. Clean and chop the mushrooms fairly finely.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet and cook the carrot and mushrooms over medium heat, stirring regularly, until softened and reduced in volume. Add the garlic and mix it in well. Cook for a minute longer then transfer the vegetables to a large mixing bowl and let cool.

Cut each leek lengthwise, with a very sharp knife, about 1/3 of the way through. Peel off the outer layers that are big enough to roll up. Once you get to the leaves that are too skinny to be rollable, set them aside. You need enough of the wide leek leaf rectangles to roll them up into 12 tubes, in sets of 2 or 3 leaves. Chop the leftover leek leaves up very finely and add them to the cooked vegetables in the mixing bowl.

Mix the Filling:
1 1/2 cups fine dry bread crumbs
500 grams (1 generous pound) lean ground turkey
1 large egg
1 teaspoon rubbed savory
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Make and measure the crumbs, and add them to the mixing bowl. Add the ground turkey, egg, and seasonings. Mix well. I find this sort of mixture easiest to mix with my hands.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

Take a set of prepared leek leaf rectangles, and place 1/2th of the filling, rolled into a tube shape, on it. Roll it up to re-form the shape of the leek. Place the stuffed leek section in a lightly-oiled shallow baking pan which will hold the 12 of them snugly. (I used an 8" x 10" lasagne pan.)

Repeat with the remaining 11 sets of leek leaves and filling.

Bake the Leek Rolls:
1/4 cup chicken stock
75 grams shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon corn starch or arrowroot
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Pour the chicken stock over the pan of stuffed leeks and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove and discard the stems from the shiitakes, and cut them into strips. Sauté them gently in the oil. If they look like they want to dry out or scorch rather than sauté, drizzle a little water over them to help them cook. 

When the leeks have baked for 30 minutes, spread the shiitakes over them. Mix the starch into the sour cream and dribble it over the leeks and mushrooms. Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over the top and return the leeks to the oven for another 30 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.






Last year at this time I made Cranberry Meringue Pie. I suppose I should say that I made it again as written, and it worked perfectly!

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Mincemeat Cake

It seems I only just mixed up and canned my mincemeat, and here I am using some already. One of the reasons I decided to make mincemeat was that I had been seeing so many ideas for things to make with it other than pies or tarts, which I usually find to be a bit too intense. This cake, however, was very good. The mincemeat gave it a lively, rich flavour and moist texture but it was not overwhelming.

I actually only put in 1/4 cup of sugar on the grounds that mincemeat basically is sugar, held together with a little fibre and booze. But apparently not quite, because the general consensus was that it could have used a little more. You may wish to taste the batter to be sure you have added the correct amount. I have to say I was amazed that what looked like a substantial quantity of mincemeat going into the batter turned out be almost invisible in the finished cake. We could certainly taste it though!

8 to 12 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Mincemeat Cake

Mix the Dry Ingredients:
2 cups whole spelt flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger

Measure the flour, and mix in the other ingredients - you can do it right in the measuring cup, if the sides are high enough. 

Mix the Wet Ingredients & Finish:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
the finely grated zest of 1/2 large orange
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (the juice of 1 large) orange
2 cups (500 ml) mincemeat

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

Work the butter until soft in a large mixing bowl, then add the sugar and work them together until very smooth and soft. 

Grate the orange zest finely and add it to the butter. Mix it in well. Break in the eggs, one at a time, and beat them in. The mixture will be quite curdled looking and that is fine.

Mix in half the flour, etc. Measure your orange juice; if you are short of 1/2 cup top it up with some brandy, rum, or sherry. Add half of it to the batter and mix well.

Mix the mincemeat into the batter. Mix in the remaining flour, and the remaining orange juice, until the batter is smooth. Scrape it into the prepared pan and smooth it out evenly. Bake for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Let the cake cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then loosen the sides and let it sit until cool. Keep well wrapped until you are ready to serve it. Keeps well for several days - and in fact is probably best let to sit for at least one day before being served - but it is not for long-term storage like fruitcake because of the apples or pears in it. You could freeze it, I imagine.





Last year at this time I made Roasted Potatoes Manti Style

Monday, 12 November 2018

Warm Chicken & Wild Rice Salad with Roasted Vegetables

I seem to be on a kick for warm salads of roasted vegetables. This is a salad, I guess, and not a casserole, but it definitely inhabits the borderland between the two. Mr. Ferdzy was a bit perplexed by it but proceeded to eat truly startling quantities of it, so it's a happy habitation, I would say.

Wild rice is available all year round, but it always goes so well with autumn vegetables that this is the time of year I seem to use it most. This is a bit of a casual dish for such an expensive ingredient, but sometimes I don't care. Well worth it, I thought.

4 servings
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time

Chicken & Wild Rice Salad with Roasted Vegetables, Seeds, & Dried Cranberries

Cook the Wild Rice:
1 cup wild rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups water

Put the wild rice and salt into a rice-cooker with the water and turn it on. Alternatively, it can be cooked in a pot on the stove. Bring it to a boil then reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, for about 45 minutes until the rice is cooked and the water absorbed. This can be done a day in advance.

Roast the Chicken & Vegetables:
1 large carrot
6 to 8 large shallots
450 grams (1 pound) Brussels sprouts
2 or 3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
4 large (450 grams; 1 pound)  skin-on boneless chicken thighs
2 teaspoons rubbed savory
2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Peel the carrot and cut it into short, thin strips. Peel the shallots and cut them into quarters. Wash and trim the Brussels sprouts and cut them in half or quarters if they are large. Toss the vegetables with the oil in a large shallow baking pan.

Cut the chicken thighs in half - you are most likely to get skin-on thighs with the bone in too, so I did this in the process of removing the bone - and toss them with the mixed seasonings. Arrange them over the vegetables and roast for 30 minutes.

If you cooked the wild rice the day before, it should come out of the fridge to warm up a bit while the chicken and vegetables roast. 

After 30 minutes, stir the vegetables, but shift the chicken pieces around to keep them on top. Roast for a further 15 minutes.

Dress the Salad & Finish:
the juice of 1 large lemon
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Juice the lemon into a jam jar or small bowl, and mix in the mustard.

Measure out the seeds and cranberries, and mix them.

When the roasting pan comes out of the oven, remove the chicken pieces to a plate to cool slightly.

Mix the wild rice into the vegetables, along with the seeds and cranberries. Drizzle the dressing over and toss again.

Chop up the chicken and mix it back into the salad.





Last year at this time I made Lentil, Carrot & Parsley Salad.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Stir-Fried Beef with Broccoli, Shiitakes & Oyster Sauce

A popular and classic take-out dish, made in about the same time it would take for your order to arrive and probably cheaper and better too. Dirty dishes though; but you can't have everything.

That was the last red pepper from our garden, which had been sitting on the counter for a while and required some trimming. Hopefully you can get greenhouse peppers now. It could be omitted if you can't. As with all stir-fries, the cooking is very quick so everything should be ready and organized before you turn on the burner.

2 servings
30 minutes prep time

Stir-Fried Beef with Broccoli, Shiitakes & Oyster Sauce

Make the Sauce:
1/4 cup beef stock
2 teaspoons corn starch
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Measure the cold stock and mix in the starch and soy sauce. Set aside.

Prepare the Ingredients:
250 grams (1/2 pound) sirloin or similar steak
1 small head of broccoli
1 medium onion
1/4 of a red pepper
75 grams (3 ounces) shiitake mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic
3 to 4 very thin slices of ginger

Cut the steak into 1/4" thick slices; if your beef was from frozen it is easiest to do while it is still semi-frozen.

Put a large pot of water on to boil. 

Wash, trim, and cut the broccoli into florets. Peel the onion and cut it into slivers. Wash the pepper and cut it into thin strips. Remove and discard the stems of the shiitakes, and cut them into strips. Peel and mince the garlic. Mince the ginger very finely.

When the water boils, blanch the broccoli for 1 or 2 minutes, then drain well. 

Make the Stir-Fry:
1 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons good quality oyster sauce

Heat the oil over high heat in a large skillet or wok. When it is hot, add the beef, and stir-fry for a minute or two. When it is sizzling hot, add the onion, pepper, and mushrooms. Continue cooking for a few minutes until the vegetables begin to soften, and the meat looks mostly cooked. Mix in the garlic and ginger, then after a minute or so, mix in the drained broccoli.

Cook for several minutes more, stirring frequently, until the broccoli is done to your liking. Stir up the sauce and pour it over, stirring as it goes. It will thicken up and coat the vegetables, etc within about a minute, at which point the stir-fry should be transferred to a large serving dish. Drizzle half the oyster sauce over it and mix in gently, then drizzle the remaining oyster sauce over it. Serve with steamed rice.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Pasta with Bacon, Broccoli, Leeks, & Cream

I'm on a kick with leeks and broccoli! I've done plenty of versions of pasta in a cream sauce with some cheese, too. This all comes together very nicely, and in pretty much the usual time to get pasta on the table, which is to say not very long at all.

Three leeks seems like a lot, but it's amazing how they want to disappear. The amount of pasta to cook is, of course, the amount of pasta you know 2 people will eat.

2 servings
30 minutes prep time

Pasta with Bacon, Broccoli, Leeks, & Cream

1 small head of broccoli
1 large carrot
3 large leeks
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
150 grams (1/2 pound) lean bacon
2 tablespoons bacon fat
166 grams to 225 grams (1/3 to 1/2 pound) stubby pasta
salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons rubbed savory
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup unsalted chicken stock
1 cup 10% cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Wash and trim the broccoli, and cut it into florets. Set it aside. 

Peel and grate the carrot. Wash, trim, and cut the leeks into thin slices. Rinse them well and drain them thoroughly. Peel and mince the garlic.

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.

Chop the bacon and cook it gently in a large skillet until crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, and drain off any excess fat leaving about 2 tablespoons. (Or add enough to make 2 tablespoons, but good luck with that.)

Add the leeks and carrots and cook gently for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly. The vegetables should soften and cook down, but don't let them brown. Season with salt - very carefully given the presence of both bacon and cheese - and more generously with pepper, and add the savory. Mix in well.

When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook it for the time indicated on the package plus 1 minute. When it has 6 minutes left to cook, add the broccoli.

Meanwhile, mix the flour into the chicken stock being sure there are no lumps. Mix the cream into the chicken stock then pour it into the pan of vegetables. Bring it to a gently simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta and broccoli are cooked and the sauce has thickened; both at about the same time if all goes according to plan. Drain the pasta and broccoli very well then mix them into the pan of sauce. Serve with the grated Parmesan sprinkled over.





Last year at this time I made Onion Caraway Soup.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Moroccan-Spiced Cauliflower

This is a flavourful but straightforward treatment for cauliflower, good with simply cooked fish or chicken. Rice, pasta, or roasted potatoes will round out the meal. If you could get your hands on some parsley to sprinkle over the top it would be an improvement, as cauliflower tends to make for a very pale meal. I still have some in the garden but I didn't think of it until I was sitting there looking at my very beige plate; what else is new?

4 to 6 servings
20 minutes prep time

Moroccan Spiced Cauliflower

Mix the Spices:
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon rubbed summer savory
2 teaspoons rubbed mint
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

Grind the coriander and cumin seeds, then mix them with the rest of the spices in a small bowl. Set aside.

Cook the Cauliflower & Finish:
4 to 5 cups (1 medium head) cauliflower florets
2 or 3 shallots
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
the juice of 1/2 large lemon
a sprinkle of chopped parsley (optional)

Put a large pot of water on to boil for the cauliflower. Wash and trim the cauliflower and break it up into florets. 

Peel and mince the shallots and garlic. Heat the vegetable oil in a small skillet and cook the shallots until soft - just a couple of minutes - stirring frequently. Add the garlic and cook for a minute longer. Mix the spices into them for a minute, and remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, once the water boils, cook the cauliflower for 5 to 7 minutes, until done to your liking. Drain it well and return it to the pot, over medium heat. Drizzle the olive oil over them, then mix in the shallots and spices. Stir in well. Mix in the lemon juice and stir in well, until completely absorbed. Sprinkle with a little chopped parsley and serve at once.





Last year at this time I made Trout & Spinach au gratin.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Smoked Pork Chops with Mustard Cream Sauce

You need to have access to a good German-style butcher to get smoked pork chops. Fortunately, here in southwestern Ontario that is not too difficult. They are so good that usually I just fry them up and serve them, maybe with some applesauce. Mashed potatoes are the classic choice to serve on the side, alongside whatever green vegetable you would like.

Smoked pork chops come in 2 styles. Some are brined before smoking, making them rather ham-like. This seems to be more common, although I have purchased others that were simply smoked, and were essentially raw. The brined ones will cook a bit faster, but otherwise they are treated the same. They will also vary in their degree of saltiness, so don't add much salt to the sauce to start with but be prepared to adjust it at the end.

They don't take too long to cook either way so you should at least have the sauce ingredients out and ready to mix before you start cooking the chops. Keep a light hand with the salt and the lemon zest, although remember the sauce should taste a bit stronger than you would want to eat straight, since in fact you won't be eating it straight but putting it on the chops.

4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Smoked Pork Chops with Mustard Cream Sauce

Make the Sauce:
1/4 cup ham or chicken broth, or water
1 teaspoon arrowroot or corn starch
1 tablespoon coarse-seeded Dijon mustard
a few gratings of lemon zest
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sherry
1/4 cup 10% or 18% cream

Measure the stock or water and set it aside.

Mix the starch, mustard, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and sherry in a small bowl until smooth. Mix in the cream until smooth.

Cook the Chops:
2 teaspoons bacon fat
4 smoked pork chops

Heat the bacon fat (or other oil, if you must) in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When it is melted and just starting to smoke, add the chops and cook them for 7 to 10 minutes per side, until the chops are done to your liking. The time will vary according to the thickness of the chops and the style of smoking.  Ham-like chops will cook a little faster than raw smoked chops.

When the chops are done, remove them to a serving platter. Immediately reduce the heat to medium, and pour in the stock or water. Scrape up any bits adhering to the pan. Stir up the sauce mixture to redissolve the starch - it will have settled in waiting - and pour it in to the pan at once, stirring well as it goes in. The sauce will simmer up and thicken pretty much at once. Test it for salt, then spoon it over the chops. Serve at once.




Last year at this time I made German Leek Salad

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Warm Roasted Squash & Broccoli Salad with Hazelnuts

This is really quite a simple salad, and I was a bit surprised at how much Mom and Mr. Ferdzy liked it. I liked it too!

I'm saying 4 servings, but the 3 of us ate it all. However, I only served a small piece of chicken alongside it, so with something else more substantial it should go further, and while it is a little time-consuming, there really isn't a lot of actual work involved.

Often this kind of salad is served with feta cheese in it, and that would be one way to make it a complete meal in itself. Sausages on the side would be a good choice too, with their slightly salty flavour profile.

4 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Roasted Squash & Broccoli Salad with Hazelnuts

Roast the Vegetables:
a 1.2 kilo (2.5 pounds) butternut squash
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground Aleppo OR similar pepper
1 large onion
1 large head of broccoli
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Peel and de-seed the squash, and cut it into large bite-sized pieces. Toss it with the first round of oil, salt, pepper, and Aleppo pepper and spread it out on a large baking tray in a single layer. Roast for 40 minutes, then turn the oven up to 400°F.

Meanwhile, peel the onion and cut it into large slivers / small wedges. Wash and trim the broccoli, and cut it into florets. Peel the stem and cut it into large slivers. Toss them with the remaining oil, salt, and pepper. Mix them into the squash when it has roasted for 40 minutes, and roast for a further 20 to 30 minutes, at 400°F, until the vegetables are done to your liking.

Toast the Hazelnuts & Finish:
100 grams (4 ounces) whole hazelnuts
the juice of 1 large lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

At some point while the squash is roasting at 375°F, spread the hazelnuts on another baking sheet and roast them on the top shelf for 10 to 15 minutes. Let them cool, then rub them in a towel to remove most of the skins. Chop them coarsely.

Squeeze and strain the lemon juice, and mix in the mustard.

When the vegetables are roasted, toss them with the hazelnuts and lemon juice. Let cool a few minutes before serving - it should be still warm but not really hot.





Last year at this time I made Lamb with Turnip Greens.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Apple or Pear & Ginger Mincemeat

Our apples, as usual, are few and rather awful, but we managed to scrounge enough to make a batch of this mincemeat. Other than apples or pears, I'm afraid this is pretty determinedly non-local, but about every 5 years or so I hear the call of the mincemeat anyway. It's quite rich and there are all kinds of other Christmas goodies I like just as well if not better, but this year the urge struck so here it is.

In spite of the number of ingredients it's actually pretty quick and straightforward, as far as canning projects go. Apples will give a firmer, tarter mincemeat, and pears will make it softer and sweeter. I have also given up all pretense of putting any "meat" (or suet, etc) into my mincemeat, so this is vegetarian.

Part of the reason I decided to make mincemeat this year is that I have been seeing a lot of recipes for other things to do with it besides tarts and pies and I plan to try some of them out. Stay tuned!

6 - 500 ml jars
2 hours prep time

Apple or Pear & Ginger Mincemeat

Mix the Spices:
1 teaspoon allspice berries
5 or 6 pods green cardamom
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt

Grind the allspice and cardamom - remove the papery husks from the cardamom after the first few blows - until quite fine. Mix them with the remaining spices and salt in a small bowl. 

Mix the Fruit:
2 cups sultanas
2 cups raisins
2 cups mixed candied peel
1 cup finely chopped preserved ginger

Measure the sultanas, raisins, and candied peel into a large mixing bowl. Chop and measure the ginger, and add it as well. 

And Finish:
12 cups peeled and chopped apples OR pears
1/2 cup lemon juice
the finely grated zest of 2 large oranges
the juice of 2 large oranges
1 1/4 to 2 cups rum or brandy

Put the jars on to boil in a canner with at least an inch of water to cover them. Put the lids and rings into another pot with water to cover, and bring them to a boil just before you are ready to can the mincemeat.

Meanwhile, peel, chop, and measure the apples or pears, and put them in a maslin pan or other large heavy-bottomed pan with the lemon juice and bring them up to boil. Grate in the orange zest. Squeeze the oranges and add the juice. When the apples or pears begin to soften a bit, add the prepared dried fruits and the spices. Mix well. Heat until the whole mixture is boiling hot, stirring frequently - be careful, this mixture is very thick and scorches fairly easily. Spatter burns will likewise be sticky and unpleasant, so take care. You can add a little water or apple juice if it really looks like sticking, but don't over-do it.

When the jars have boiled for 10 minutes, drain them and place them on a clean board by the mincemeat. Add 2 tablespoons of rum or brandy to each jar as you will them. If you wish to add a spoonful or 2 on top as well, it will do it nothing but good. Fill the jars, then carefully wipe the rims with a bit of paper towel dipped in the boiling water. Place the prepared lids and rings on them, and tighten them just snugly. Return them to the boiling water bath for 40 minutes.

Let cool, test the seals, and label. The mincemeat should keep in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Brocc-a-Leekie Soup

There is no resemblance between this and the famous Scottish Cock-a-Leekie soup; in particular there are no prunes. I just found the name amusing and these days I need all the amusement I can get, however feeble.

Leeks and bacon are a classic combination and broccoli works well with them too. Leeks are so sweet and agreeable they get along with everything, really. Toasted barley as my favourite soup thickener, and a little vinegar and Worcestershire sauce to sharpen it up, and it's a sturdy, filling soup for chilly fall days. It will need a little something on the side, though, as these are not huge servings. We had ours with a grilled cheese sandwich and were very happy campers.

4 servings
1 hour - 40 minutes prep time

Leek and Broccoli Soup with Bacon

1 head broccoli
2 medium leeks
4 to 6 shallots
1/4 cup barley flour
250 grams (1/2 pound) bacon
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups unsalted chicken stock
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Wash and trim the broccoli, and cut it into quite small pieces. Wash, trim, and chop the leeks finely. Peel and mince the shallots.

Heat a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the barley flour and cook it until it is the colour of a paper bag, stirring regularly. Watch it towards the end in particular, as it will toast quickly when it does.Turn it out onto a plate to cool at once.

Chop the bacon and cook it in the soup pot over medium heat until it has rendered most of the fat and turned fairly crisp. Add the shallots, and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly. Add the broccoli and shallots, and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until they have softened and reduced slightly in volume.

Add the chicken stock, vinegar, and apple cider vinegar, and simmer for a further 10 minutes or so until the soup is thickened and the broccoli is cooked. Stir regularly.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Beans & Sausage with Peppers & Onions

This is not chili! No, really; it isn't. Yes, it is full of beans and meat and peppers but it is still not chili.  However, like chili, it is excellent piled on buttered toast.

You can use whatever kind of sausage you like for this, although I suggest something with garlic and without sweetness, so not honey-garlic, for instance. But I could be wrong. Maybe honey-garlic would be fine. I used a raw sausage but a smoked one would be very good too. Kielbasa, even. I did not add much in the way of seasonings to this because I wanted it to taste mostly of peppers and onions and garlic and sausage. Which means that whatever sausage you use, it should be a good one.

Also, this is very much last call for peppers. I've still got a lot, moldering away on the kitchen counter but they will be getting pretty scarce in the markets by now.

4 to 6 servings
2 hours prep time not including the bean cooking time

Beans & Sausage with Peppers & Onions

Cook the Beans:
2 cups dry beans
1 teaspoon salt

Put the beans in a large pot with water to cover them generously, and bring them to a boil. Boil for a few minutes, then cover them and turn off the heat. Soak for a few hours. Repeat boiling and soaking the beans until they begin to soften. Add the salt and simmer gently until the beans are tender. Replenish the water as required.

You can do this a day in advance and almost certainly should. Or, I suppose, you could use 2 540-ml (19 ounce) cans of beans.

Finish the Dish:
500 grams (1 pound) sausage, see remarks in introduction
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil, if required
1 large onion
1 large green pepper
1 large red pepper
1 to 5 cloves of garlic
4 cups chopped or crushed tomatoes
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut the sausage into bite-sized pieces. Put it in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot with the oil, if you think that the sausage will fail to provide sufficient fattiness on its own. Cook gently over medium heat.

Meanwhile, peel and sliver the onion. Wash, core, and cut into slivers the green and red peppers. Add them to the sausage and cook, stirring regularly, until they soften, reduce in volume, and brown slightly in spots.

Meanwhile, peel and mince the garlic, the amount depending on whether there is any garlic in the sausage already and how much you would like there to be. Add it to the pot and stir it in for a minute or two.

Add the drained beans and the tomato, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour. Taste and add salt and pepper as required. Serve with plenty of hot buttered toast.




Last year at this time I made Spaghetti Squash Pancakes

Monday, 22 October 2018

Pasta with Smoked Trout, Fennel, Leeks, & Dried Tomatoes

Smoked trout is rather expensive but a little bit goes a reasonably long way. Here it is mixed with some glamorous vegetables for quite a fancy pasta dish, but like most pasta dishes it is quick and easy enough for a week-night dinner. And yes, it's pasta again. We do tend to live on the stuff.

This is the time of year when I tend to strew everything with parsley because it is finally looking thick and lush; also there's no denying that fennel and leeks need a shot of green to liven them up. A nice green salad on the side will have the same effect and finish off your meal nicely.

2 to 4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Pasta with Smoked Trout, Fennel, Leeks, & Dried Tomatoes

Make the Sauce:
1 medium bulb of fennel
1 large leek
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
1/4 teaspoon sweet or hot paprika, possibly smoked
1 cup fish or chicken stock

Wash the fennel and trim off the stems and base. Chop the bulb into bite-sized pieces. Wash and trim the leek, slice it lengthwise, and cut it in pieces.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the fennel and leeks, and stir to coat in the butter. Cook gently until softened but not browned, about 10 minutes. Stir regularly. Put the water on to boil for the past as as soon as the vegetables go into the pan.

Add the seasonings to the vegetables and mix in. 

When the vegetables have softened and cooked down for about 10 minutes, add the fish or chicken stock and continue simmering.

Cook the Pasta & Finish:
150 to 225 grams stubby pasta
1/2 cup dried tomato bits
1/2 (200 grams; 1/2 pound) of a smoked trout
1/2 cup cream
1 teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch
sprig of parsley, and/or fennel

Bring a pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Cook the pasta until it is 3 minutes short of the recommended time on the package. Add the tomato bits when there is still 5 minutes left to go. Drain well.

Add the pasta to the pan of vegetables, and mix in well. Let cook for a minute or so, then add the smoked trout, crumbled into bite-sized pieces. Let that heat through for another minute.

Mix the starch into the cream and mix it into the pan. Stir gently, and cook until the sauce has thickened - just another minute or so.

If you have a little parsley, mince a sprig finely with a sprig of greenery from the fennel. Otherwise, just a sprig from the fennel. Sprinkle over the finished pasta to garnish.





Last year at this time I made Mallorcan Eggplant Pastel.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Turkish Broccoli & Carrot Salad

I'm getting a little addicted to garlic-yogurt sauce on vegetables, I have to say. We really liked this one. Carrots and broccoli go together so nicely, and look so pretty together, and the combination of garlicky yogurt and a zingy vinaigrette (is it a vinaigrette if you use lemon juice?) worked really well. 

4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Turkish Broccoli & Carrot Salad

Make the Dressing:
a few scrapes of  lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
the juice of 1/2 large lemon

Grate the lemon zest into a small bowl or jam jar, and add the seasonings. Mix in the olive oil. Squeeze the lemon juice and strain it before adding it. Mix well.

This can - and should - be done a little in advance, to allow the flavours to blend.

Make the Yogurt Sauce:
1 small clove of garlic
1/3 cup thick yogurt
a pinch of salt

Peel and mince the garlic. Mix it into the yogurt along with a pinch of salt. 

Make the Salad:
3 or 4 medium carrots
1 large head of broccoli
1/2 small sweet onion (optional)
2 or 3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Put a pot of water on to boil. Peel and slice the carrots, fairly thinly. Wash, trim, and chop the broccoli into florets. Peel and chop the onion, if using. Wash, dry, and mince the parsley.

When the water boils, drop the carrots in for 2 minutes, then add the broccoli and continue boiling for another 2 minutes. Drain the vegetables at once and rinse them in cold water until they are cool. Drain very thoroughly.

Toss the broccoli and carrots in a salad bowl with the onion and parsley, and the vinaigrette dressing. Pass the salad with the yogurt sauce to spoon over.





Last year at this time I made Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Bake.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Pasta with Spinach, Roasted Squash, Shallots & Ricotta

You'll have noticed that I haven't mixed squash and pasta before, or I don't know, maybe you haven't noticed. I have to say my instinct that they rarely go together still stands. Yes, squash is vegetable, but a starchy/solid one, and I think the combination is usually just a little too stodgy.

That said, this was enjoyable.  Sometimes some good sturdy stodge is just what you  need - chilly yard clean-up days, anyone? Cheese and spinach makes this a complete meal.

We had a bumper harvest of squash this year, and the quality is good. This is just the beginning of quite a few squash dishes for us.

4 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Pasta with Spinach, Roasted Squash, Shallots & Ricotta

Roast the Squash, Etc:
1500 grams (3 pounds) butternut squash
6 to 8 large shallots
2  tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons rubbed savory OR sage
450 grams (1 pound) ricotta cheese

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Peel and de-seed the squash, and cut it into rather large bite-sized pieces. Peel the shallots and cut them in halves or quarters if large, which they are, ideally.

Toss the squash and shallots with the oil in a large shallow baking tray - they should be able to be spread out in a mostly single layer. Sprinkle them with the seasonings and toss again.

Roast the squash and shallots for 30 minutes. Stir them, and dollop the ricotta cheese over them. Return the tray to the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes.

Cook the Pasta & Finish:
320 grams (11 ounces) chunky pasta
1 bunch spinach
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
60 grams (2 ounces) Parmesan cheese, grated

Meanwhile, start a large pot of salted water on to boil. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions so that they will be done cooking within a minute or two of the squash and shallots.

Pick over the spinach and wash it very well, and drain it. Chop it coarsely. Add it to pasta for the last 2 or 3 minutes of boiling - you may wish to add an extra minute to the pasta cooking time to allow for the water to come back to the boil.

Peel and mince the garlic. Grate the Parmesan.

When the pasta is done, drain it well. Take the squash from the oven, and mix the garlic into it at once. Mix the pasta and spinach in gently, trying to break neither squash nor pasta. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the dish and serve at once.





Last year at this time I made Cauliflower with Leeks & Carrots.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Stir-Fried Cabbage with Peppers & Shallots

Stir fried cabbage is not exactly a novel idea but I was surprised to see that I haven't combined it with red peppers before. Along with shallots and garlic, the result is rustic and assertive; a good companion for robust roast or grilled meats such as beef, lamb, or pork. It's not too much for chicken or fish though.

Otherwise, not much to say about this - it's a quick, simple and tasty stir-fry. 

4 servings
15 minutes prep time

Stir-Fried Cabbage with Peppers & Shallots

4 to 6 medium shallots
1 medium thick-fleshed red pepper
4 cups chopped green cabbage
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
2 or 3 tablespoons soy sauce

Peel the shallots and cut them into slivers. Core and de-seed the pepper, and cut it into thin strips, then cut them in similar length to the shallots. Chop the cabbage. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a large skillet, over high heat. Add the shallots and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 or 3 minutes until softened. Add the cabbage, and sprinkle with the soy sauce. Continue cooking for another 2 or 3 minutes, until the cabbage is softened and reduced in volume, and the soy sauce is absorbed or evaporated. Add the garlic and stir it in well, cooking for another minute or two until the garlic is fragrant and the cabbage is cooked to your liking. Serve at once.





Last year at this time I made Kohlrabi Soup

Friday, 12 October 2018

Beet & Carrot Salad with Spicy Lemon Vinaigrette

This was a nice, simple salad. Sweet onions are on their last legs, but hopefully there are still a few around. Apply the Aleppo pepper and lemon juice with a fairly heavy hand, as the beets and carrots will cheerfully absorb it. 

6 to 8 servings
1 hour to cook beets; 20 minutes assembly time


Make the Salad:
3 cups peeled diced cooked beets
3 cups peeled diced cooked carrots
1 sweet onion
1 cup loosely packed chopped parsley

Cook the beets by trimming them and covering them in water, and boiling them until tender; 45 minutes to an hour. They could also be wrapped in foil and baked at 350°F for an hour to an hour and a half, until tender. Let cool, peel, and dice.

The carrots should be peeled and diced, then cooked in boiling water for 5 to 8 minutes, until done to your liking. Run them under cold water to cool and drain well.

Peel and chop the onion. Wash and chop the parsley.

Mix the beets, carrots, onions, and parsley in a bowl.

Make the Dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground Aleppo pepper
the juice of 1 large lemon

Measure the oil into a small bowl or jam jar. Add the salt, pepper, and Aleppo pepper and mix well. Squeeze the lemon juice and add it.

Toss the salad in the dressing.

If you want the salad to sit for a while before it is eaten, keep the parsley out of it and add it just before serving to keep it crisp.





Last year at this time I made Pasta & Broccoli with Goat Cheese & Croutons

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Lo-Bak Pancakes

I love dim sum! It's such a pity the nearest purveyor is mighty close to 2 hours away by car. Whenever we go, we order 2 dishes of lo-bak go; that is to say radish patties. One of them is just for me, and the other is for the rest of the table. Yes! It's my favourite!

It's also kind of a pain to make. I have tried it; the mixture gets boiled, then put in a pan and steamed, then, cut into slices and fried. All that just to have a base to slather on the chile-garlic sauce! These are really not quite the same, but there is a sufficient resemblance for me to enjoy them very much, and they are comparatively very simple to make.

8 to 16 pancakes (4 to 6 servings)
1 hour prep time

White Winter Radish Pancakes

2 cups peeled and grated lo-bak, daikon,
        or other similar white winter radish
3 to 4 green onions
4 to 5 slices of bacon
3/4 cup barley flour
1/4 cup potato flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 large egg
3/4 cup chicken stock
oil to fry

Wash and peel the lo-bak. Put it in a strainer and salt it, and let it rest while you prepare the other ingredients. Preheat the oven to 200°F.

Wash, trim, and chop the green onions. Chop the bacon quite finely.

Mix the green onions and bacon into the barley and potato flours, in a mixing bowl. Mix in the salt and pepper. Squeeze the lo-bak gently, measure it, and add it as well. When it is evenly mixed in, break in the egg and add the chicken stock. Mix until smoothly blended.

Heat enough oil to coat the pan in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drop in spoonfuls of the batter to form pancakes. Smooth them out a little to keep them even and not too thick. Cook until nicely browned on each side and cooked through. Transfer them to a plate in the oven to keep warm as you cook the rest of them, adding a little more oil to the pan if needed.

Serve the pancakes with chile-garlic sauce, or a drizzle of soy and vinegar if you don't care for chile-garlic sauce.





Last year at this time I made Roasted Peppers in Cream

Monday, 8 October 2018

Crazy About Potato Seedlings


As you know by now, if you are a regular reader, Mr. Ferdzy and I have all kinds of bees buzzing around in our bonnets. One of them is the idea of growing potatoes from seeds. Actual seeds, from an an actual potato fruit, not seed potatoes. Up above, you see us - okay the bottom half of Mr Ferdzy - about to dig up the little section allotted to this project this year.

We tried a different technique this year for starting our seeds. Normally we have started them in pots inside very early in the winter, let them die down, refrigerated the resulting mini-tubers to simulate winter, then planted them out to grow in the summer. Most potato breeders do this; they figure it cuts out a year of the long process of assessing new potatoes. We have come to the conclusion, however, that we lose too many little mini-tubers in this method.

So, this year we started them indoors in pots, but later in the winter to go out into the ground with everything else in the spring. Most of them died down and formed mini tubers - but not quite so mini as in the more usual technique, but there were 3 in particular that grew, and grew, and grew. Eventually we got fed up with them and decided to dig them anyway.


And there they are, with a brick for scale. We thiiiiink 2 of them are from Duane Falk and the Latvian potato seed he gave us, but we are not certain. One of them is not; it was mauve with a white edge to it. It looked a bit like ham. It tasted very good (but not, alas, anything like ham) when we boiled one of them, so it will be replanted. Unfortunately, of the other 2, one tasted "okay" and one tasted downright bad and so has already been eliminated from replanting. We will plant the "okay" one - it may do for future breeding even if the flavour is a bit blah, if it continues to produce like it did this year. And if it has fertile flowers, of course. Always a question, with potatoes.


Of the remaining, more typical potato-lets, we eliminated a number of these little piles - each pile representing a single plant - on the grounds that we were already not impressed by their productive capacities. Many of them, though, went into a paper lunch bag, again one for each plant. From there they go into the house, and a sacrificial victim is selected and boiled for 15 minutes. We then assess it for flavour and texture. If it gets a thumbs up, it will be planted next spring. If it gets a thumbs down, it goes into the compost.


We got about halfway through testing all the new types of potatoes that are under consideration for replanting in the spring before we started suffering from serious potato fatigue. We'll finish testing them on another day, then see how they survive the winter in the cold room... next year we will plant them out and see how they do.

We were a little surprised to eliminate some of the potatoes we had grown from seed last year. They had all been tested for flavour already, but there were a couple that just didn't impress us the second time around. Different growing conditions? We were in a different mood? Who knows?

One of the potatoes we eliminated made me a bit sad. The potatoes it made were not very large, but it made lots and lots of them, and the foliage only grew about 6" or 8" high! But while it rated quite well for flavour last year, this year we didn't think it tasted good at all. Too bad. 

There is something about very little potatoes; they are slightly bitter compared to even medium sized potatoes from the very same plant. We try to keep that in mind when we are testing these tiny potatoes.  However, there is a limit!

Over all, we are quite pleased and excited with the results of our potato seed trials this year, and we are looking forward to even bigger and better things next year - we hope!