Friday, 22 June 2018

Haskap Barbecue Sauce on Chicken

Yeah, I know I just did a fruity barbecue sauce. So now I have done another one. And yes, there are definite points of resemblance. Still, there are a fair few points of difference as well, and put on chicken thighs this was a quite different dish.

I will probably try this with some other berries. Blueberries or raspberries strike me as a good idea, although I might use a heavy hand with raspberries and then strain the sauce to get the seeds out. I made this with fresh haskaps but I can see no reason not to make it with frozen ones, which means you could make it all year, providing you freeze your haskaps now.

3 or 4 servings
20 minutes to make sauce
45 minutes to an hour to cook chicken

Haskap Barbecue Sauce on Chicken

Make the Sauce:
1 medium onion OR 4 large shallots
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1 cup fresh or frozen haskaps
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Peel the onion or shallots and chop it finely. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and cook the onions gently for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until very lightly browned.

Meanwhile, wash and pick over the haskaps. Add them to the onions with the maple syrup, vinegar, ketchup, and spices. Simmer for a further 10 minutes until the haskaps have completely broken down and the sauce has thickened. Stir frequently.

Use at once or transfer to a storage container, cool, cover, and keep refrigerated until needed,

Bake the Chicken:
4 to 8 chicken thighs

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Arrange the chicken thighs in a reasonably snug fitting baking dish. Brush them generously with the sauce. You can also put some under the skin if you like. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the chicken is done.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Haskap Upside Down Cake

This is pretty similar to last years Strawberry Upside Down Cake, and why shouldn't it be? That was a fabulous cake. Since Haskaps are incredibly tart - the American name of Honeyberry is really not accurate - I have upped the amount of sugar mixed in with the fruit. I used 1/3 cup, and thought it was enough, but I can also see some people wanting even more so I have suggested up to 1/2 cup. I also added another egg, to make the cake part a little richer and stand up to the sour topping.

Anyway! This is a very easy cake, as long as you are not the one who has to pick the haskaps. Pretty sure that is half the work right there, and the half that is harder on the back. We are having an absolutely bumper crop of haskaps this year, and I am going a bit cross-eyed picking them all. When I eat a slice of this, though, I think it is definitely well worth while.

8 to 12 servings
1 hour 20 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Haskap Upside Down Cake

Prepare the Haskaps:
2 cups fresh haskaps
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons arrowroot
1 teaspoon butter

Wash, drain well, and pick over the haskaps. Mix them with the sugar and arrowroot.

Line a 9" square pan with parchment paper and butter the bottom of it. Put in the haskaps and spread them out evenly.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Make the Batter & Bake:
1 1/2 cups soft (pastry) whole wheat flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup mild vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs

Measure the flour and mix the baking powder and salt into it.

Measure the sugar and place in a mixing bowl. Add the oil and vanilla and mix well. Beat in the eggs.

Add the flour and mix until well blended, but no longer. Scrape the batter over the prepared haskaps and smooth it out evenly over them. It will seem like a skimpy amount of batter, but do your best. If you can get it to within half an inch of each edge that will be fine.

Bake the pudding for 50 to 55 minutes, until firm on top to slight pressure, or use a toothpick inserted in the centre to determine that no batter or crumbs stick to it.

Let cool to just warm before turning it out onto a serving plate. Peel off the parchment paper carefully. Serve just warm, or when completely cool.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Radishes with Lime Juice, Chile, & Mint

Well I've given you the title, which is also basically the recipe, if we want to call this a recipe, and since I have nothing else on the go today, we do. At least I do.

I was surprised at what a nice little salad this was. I've been trying hard to keep the radishes watered and it seems to be paying off. They are not the best radishes ever, but not bad either considering some of the temperatures we have had, not to mention the lack of rain. They are French Breakfast radishes, which we have not grown for a few years. I am thinking they need to return to the regular rotation.

Keep each serving fairly small; the flavours are intense. It's almost more of a relish than a salad.  I left the leaves on because they were so nice and fresh and untouched by bugs - I can count on an infestation of flea beetles hatching even as I say this - and because they made a pretty presentation and a nice handle for that insouciant eating with the hands thing. We didn't eat the leaves though, as we consider them a bit too tough and hairy to eat raw.

per serving
5 to 10 minutes, possibly including pulling the radishes

Radishes with Lime Juice, Chile, & Mint

1 or 2 lettuce leaves
2 or 3 radishes
lime juice
fine red chile flakes, maybe Aleppo pepper
2 or 3 leaves fresh mint

Wash the lettuce and dry it, and arrange it on a small plate. Wash and trim the radishes, and cut them into quarters. Arrange them over the lettuce.

Squeeze enough lime juice onto the radishes to moisten them well, then sprinkle them with red chile flakes and salt to taste.

Wash and dry the mint leaves. They will be easier to mince very finely if they are well dried, and that's what you want to do. Mince them very finely, and scatter them over the radishes.

And that's it! We're done here. Other than sitting down and eating them.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Strawberry Cucumber Salad

One of my earliest recipes on this blog was for a salad with strawberries and cucumbers. This take is a little lighter and simpler; a side salad rather than a meal in itself. Still, although I have omitted a great deal of cheese and replaced it with a sprinkling of toasted pumpkin seeds, I was surprised to take a look back and see how similar my thought about strawberry-cucumber salad are still, eleven years later. Some things are classics for a reason, I guess.

We are picking massive quantities of strawberries at the moment, as well as haskaps. We came home from 2 days away to discover that we got 7 millimetres of rain while we were gone, and it went a long way towards reviving the garden and gave the fruit a final push into ripeness. I expect to be very busy over the weekend dealing with it all. 

4 servings
20 minutes prep time

Strawberry Cucumber Salad

Make the Dressing:
1 tablespoon honey
the juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoon olive or sunflower oil

Whisk or mix the above ingredients in a small bowl or jam jar.

Make the Salad:
3 to 4 small greenhouse cucumbers
6 medium-large leaves of lettuce
1 cup sliced strawberries
2 to 4 tablespoons toasted and salted pumpkin seeds

Wash the cucumbers and cut them into very thin slices; I used a vegetable peeler and was happy with how that turned out. Salt them and put them in a strainer. Let them drain as you prepare the other ingredients.

Wash and dry the lettuce, and arrange it in a salad bowl. I cut off the top thirds and arranged them around the edge of the bowl, then chopped the remainder into bite-sized pieces and spread them over the bottom of the bowl. It did make the salad a little easier to eat.

Wash and drain the strawberries. Hull them and slice them.

Rinse the cucumbers and pat them dry with a towel. Strew them in layers over the lettuce with the strawberries and pumpkin seeds. Drizzle with the dressing. 

Last year at this time it was Blogaversary week. Guess that means the blog is now eleven years old!

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Strawberry Oat Bars

It seems to me I now have a series of recipes which consist of classic recipes calling for some other type of fruit than strawberries, in which I have replaced that classic fruit with strawberries, the results then being something better than the original. Strawberry Cream Pie (bye, bananas) and Strawberry Upside Down Cake (adios, pineapple) being the others so far. This one ditches dried dates for fresh strawberries, and wow! So good. I want these again already.

I would be more than willing to try other berries as well, and I know for a fact that frozen strawberries work quite well in this.

20 - 24 bars
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time

Strawberry Oat Bars

Make the Base:
1 1/2 cups soft whole wheat flour
2 cups quick-cook rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
the finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2/3 cup unsalted butter
1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Mix the flour, oats, sugar, salt, lemon zest, cinnamon, and ginger well in a mixing bowl.

Cut the butter into chunks and rub it into the dry mixture until none of it appears white and powdery. It will form some clumps, and it is fine is pea-sized bits of butter still remain. Mix in the eggs until the mixture forms clumps throughout and is fairly evenly moist. It is easiest to do both of these actions using your very clean hands.

Make the Filling & Finish:
2 cups sliced strawberries (or other berries, rinsed)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch

Line 9" x 13" pan with parchment paper. Put in 2/3 of the base; press down into a firm, flat layer. Mix the berries with the sugar and starch and spread over the base. Sprinkle the remaining base mixture evenly over the top. Bake at 350°F. for 40 to 45 minutes.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Early Summer Garden Update

How dry I am! Well not me, personally, but the garden. We need some rain so desperately. As usual, I watch the radar map showing torrential downpours to the north-west and south-east; we get nothing. We are already watering on drought rations. Very bad at this stage in the proceedings.

Above are some strawberry plants in one of our established beds. They are blossoming profusely, but the berries are small and are coming out a little odd due to the lack of water. We have picked a few though, and hopefully many more to come.

This is a strawberry plant that showed up as a seedling next to some blueberries. I recognized it as not a wild strawberry, so we have been letting it grow. Last year it sent out runners all over, but no berries. This year it is flowering and producing quite a few nice large strawberries.

They are rather long and thin and oddly shaped, and not huge although I consider them a very decent size. They have no commercial potential in other words. However, they are very tasty and look quite productive so when the strawberries in the first photo are ripped out - which will happen after the fruit is done as it is time to renew that bed - they will be replaced at least in part with this plant.

Tomatoes are in and doing well. They are easier to water than many things and also deep rooted from nearly the beginning so they are tolerating life quite well. We are getting flowers on them already though, which is by far the earliest I have ever seen flowers. Whether that translates to earlier tomatoes or not remains to be seen.

They were planted around some leeks from last year. These were the ones that came up from overwintered outdoor seed last year, much to my surprise. There were some very nice leeks that looked really good in the spring so of course we did not eat them, we are saving them for seed. It would be excellent to have a strain of leeks that are good for spring eating.

Other things planted in between the tomatoes include some carrots and some shallots for going to seed. It turns out that the spaces between the tomatoes are good for putting things to go to seed. We'll continue to do this more, I expect.

 Another view of one of the tomato beds. It looks like it has a straw mulch, and it sort of does. This is where we grew Red Clover last summer. We are really pleased with it. It was quite weed suppressing, with the exception of a little wild clover which we obviously overlooked while weeding due to it looking too much like the Red Clover. No biggie, though - it pulls out easily now. Also the Red Clover died completely over the winter leaving a straw-like mulch and it does not appear to have self seeded. I think we will be cover cropping more beds with Red Clover in the future.

 Mr. Ferdzy has one of the bean trellises up; 2 more to go along with all the tomato and melon trellises. So far most things are not growing quickly though, due to the lack of water.

 We are still trying to germinate carrots. I think it is time to do our usual re-seeding after the partial failure of the first seeding, after which both seedings will germinate and there will be far too many carrot seedlings. There does not seem to be any other way to do it, it does not seem to matter when we plant. Grr.

Garlic in the background looks pretty good. We were unsure how it would do, given how virus-ridden it all looked last year. A few of the Tibetan did not come up but otherwise it is enjoying this years hot dry weather much more than last years cold and wet. Next to it we have some radishes just about ready to pick.

The larger plants here are selections of potatoes we have grown from seeds in the last year or two. The smaller ones on the right are from seeds planted this year, including from my really exciting (!!!) seedball from a Russet Burbank. Most of the rest are from some Latvian potatoes which I got at the potato breeding workshop we went to a while back.

Shelling peas for freezing are flowering in the 2 far beds here. There is also a row of parsnips we have left to go to seed. In the front are some peas and beans I am growing out from crosses to see how they do. Behind them are Lima beans, which is why we are still prepared to cover the beds. There have been some cool nights and the Limas won't be happy about that.

And finally, the side section is shaping up. The new asparagus is really settling and looking good - we should be able to start picking it next year, no problem. The strawberries here are in great shape and look like being quite productive this year. The old cutting-flower and herb bed that went so completely to pot over the last few years of parental upheavals needs a good weeding, but it is within the bounds of reason. The transplanted peonies are struggling a bit, between being transplanted, very dry, and having some kind of fungus problem. But there is always something. So far the drought and the peony fungus seem to be it. Plenty of time for other problems to shape up of course, but so far fairly manageable. Now all we need is for it to RAIN.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce on Ribs

The rhubarb has risen up and is at its prime, so the question also arose: what to do with it? It would go well in a barbecue sauce, I thought, and sure enough when I searched there are lots of recipes out there. Most of them suffered from my usual complaint about vegetable-flavoured sweet things: too much sweetener and not enough of, in this case, the rhubarb. Well I fixed that! There is still a lot of sweetener, by my books, but that rhubarb is awfully tart, it has to be admitted. All the better to sing and dance with the rather rich and fatty pork.

I would also give this a try with chicken. Whole legs or thighs sound like the best idea. They would need to be cooked for much less time, of course - probably not much over an hour.

4 to 6 servings
2 1/2 to3 hours - 30 minutes prep

Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce on Ribs

Make the Sauce:
2 cups finely diced rhubarb stalks
1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup ketchup
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
3 or 4 pods green cardamom

Wash, trim, and dice the rhubarb. Put it in a pot with the vinegar and salt, and bring to a boil. Simmer gently until the rhubarb disintegrates; 5 to 10 minutes. Stir frequently.

Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the ketchup, mustard, and honey. Finely grate the ginger and add it. Crush the cardamom pods and discard the husks. Grind the remaining seeds finely and mix them in.

Cook the Ribs:
1 to 1.5 kilos (2 to 3 pounds) fresh pork ribs

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

If you like, cut the ribs into sections of 2 to 4 ribs. Brush them with the sauce and lay them in a single layer in a shallow baking (lasagne) pan. Bake them for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until the ribs are done to your liking. You may wish to turn the ribs and brush them with more sauce half way through the cooking time. Keep the sauce in the fridge and discard any not used, especially if you think there is any chance you have gotten any juice etc into it from the ribs.

Let the ribs rest for 10 minutes before serving.


Last year at this time I made Buttermilk Buckwheat Waffles

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Asparagus Salad with Garlicky Dried Tomato Dressing

I see lots of recipes calling for both asparagus and tomatoes, but I am never really convinced that they go together all that well. In spite of that I decided to try making a dressing that would use up some of our large store of dried tomatoes and last season's garlic. I really loved the resulting dressing, and it went well enough with the asparagus, although I think it would go just as well with many other things. That's a good thing since the recipe makes a lot more than will be needed for the salad. Use the extra on other salads, as a spread for sandwiches, or as a sauce for plain grilled meats.

This salad is mostly asparagus and home-made croutons, which seems like a fine idea to me. I tried the dressing both with and without the mayonnaise added, and we both agreed that the mayonnaise-free version was just too strong.

Both the dressing and the croutons could be made up to a day in advance, making final salad preparation quick and simple.

2 servings
45 minutes prep time

Asparagus Salad with Garlicky Dried Tomato Dressing

Make the Croutons:
2 cups cubed stale bread
2 tablespoons bacon fat OR chicken fat OR olive oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon rubbed basil

Cut the bread into bite-sized cubes. Heat the fat or oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Toss the bread cubes in it, distributing the fat as evenly over them as you can. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bread is dry and toasted. About halfway through the process, sprinkle them with the salt, pepper, and basil. When done to your liking, remove them from the heat and set them aside until wanted.

Make the Dressing:
1/4 cup dried tomatoes
1/2 cup water
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons rubbed basil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup mayonnaise  - light is fine

Put the tomatoes in a small pot with the water. Bring to a boil, then cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and chop the garlic, and put it in the bowl of a food processor with the oil, salt, pepper, basil, and balsamic vinegar.

Add the tomatoes with the soaking liquid and process until smooth. Process in the mayonnaise. Remove to a serving container and keep refrigerated until wanted.

Finish the Salad:
500 grams (1 pound) fresh asparagus
2 to 3 cups lettuce or mixed salad greens

Wash, trim, and cut the asparagus into bite-sized pieces. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and cook the asparagus for 3 to 5 minutes, until done to your liking. Promptly drain it and rinse it in cold water to stop it from cooking further. Drain well.

Wash and tear up the lettuce or greens, and drain them very well. Arrange them on a serving platter or individual serving plates. Mix the asparagus and croutons and arrange them over the lettuce or greens. Drizzle with the salad dressing.

Last year at this time I made German Radish, Cucumber, & Apple Salad.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Lebanese Spicy Roasted Potatoes (Batata Harra)

Here's another one that we ate at a restaurant and then went home and made it for ourselves because it was so good. It's roasted potatoes (restaurants are probably just as likely to fry them) tossed in a spicy garlic-cilantro dressing with lemon, kind of like gremolata gone wild. 

I used about a quarter cup of cilantro in this because that was how much I could scrounge up out of the garden, but I'm pretty sure I would have liked twice as much. On the other hand I'm sure lots of people would say it was just right. You should put in however much seems right to you, and the same as usual with the hot pepper. 

The available potatoes are getting a bit tired but I liked this enough that I may go out and buy some more anyway, at least if it gets cool enough again that I can stand to have the oven on.

4 servings

Lebanese Spicy Roasted Potatoes (Batata Harra)

Roast the Potatoes:
1 kilogram (2 pounds) baking potatoes
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash and trim the potatoes - peel them if you like - and cut them into largish bite-sized chunks. Put them into a pot with water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Drain well.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. 

Toss them in a shallow roasting pan - I used my 9" x 13" lasagne pan - with the oil, salt, paprika, and pepper.  Spread them out in a single layer. Roast for 50 to 60 minutes until lightly browned. Stir them once in the middle of the process.

Toss them with the Garlic & Herbs:
4 to 6 cloves of garlic
the finely grated zest of 1/2 a large lemon
1/4 to 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon ground Aleppo pepper, or to taste
the juice of 1/2 a large lemon

About 10 minutes before the potatoes are ready, peel and finely mince the garlic. Wash and dry the lemon, and grate the zest finely. Mix it with the garlic and set aside.

Wash, dry, and  finely chop the cilantro.

A couple of minutes before the potatoes are ready heat the oil in a small skillet, over medium heat. Cook the garlic and lemon zest until just barely golden. Remove from the heat and mix in the Aleppo pepper and the lemon juice.

When the potatoes come out of the oven, immediately stir in the cilantro, mixing it in well until it is completely wilted. Mix in the garlic-lemon mixture, stirring well until the lemon juice is completely absorbed. Serve at once.

Friday, 1 June 2018

Turkey Sorrel Rolls

These were lovely. Apparently there are stuffed sorrel rolls in Turkish and Balkan cooking, but it's a slightly different variety that is probably sturdier. The French sorrel leaves which I am growing were a bit delicate. Still, they held together well enough with gentle handling. Turkey went well with the mild flavours of the vegetables.

Serve these with rice, or bread, or as part of a selection of meze/tapas dishes.

4 to 8 servings (32 small rolls)
1 hour 15 minutes - 1  hour prep time

Turkey Sorrel Rolls

500 grams (1 pound) lean ground turkey (or chicken)
the finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 or 3 green onions
1 medium carrot
1 large egg
32 large sorrel leaves
1/3 cup thick yogurt
2 tablespoons finely minced chives or fresh dill
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put the ground turkey or chicken in a mixing bowl; to it add the finely grated lemon zest. Grind the coriander and cumin seeds and add them, with the salt and pepper.

Trim and finely chop the green onions. Peel and finely grate the carrot. Add them to the meat, with the egg. Mix well until thoroughly combined.

Put a large shallow pot of water on to boil. Place a large shallow pot of cold water next to it. Dip a sorrel leaf into the boiling water for 5 to 10 seconds, until just wilted. Do not swish it around; it is important to not let it fold up on itself or you will have to spend time laying it out flat without breaking it. Dip it in the cold water as soon as it comes out of the boiling water, then lay it on a clean flat surface. Cut out the stem 2 or 3 inches up the leaf, leaving as much of the leaf as possible.

Put 1/32 of the meat mixture in the middle of the leaf. (I pat it down flat, cut it into eighths, then work with 1/8 of the mixture at a time, dividing that into quarters.) Wrap the sorrel leaf neatly around the meat filling, covering it completely. Set it aside on a plate while you complete dipping and filling the rest of the sorrel leaves.

Put a steamer on to boil. Meanwhile, arrange the rolls carefully over the bottom of the steamer insert in a single layer. When the water boils, steam them for 15 minutes.

Let cool to warm or room temperature. Serve them with yogurt, with the finely minced chives or dill added, and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Last year at this time I made Chervil or Other Herb Vinegar.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

White Bean & Asparagus Salad

I thought this was going to be a fancier salad, but as I was making it I kept thinking, "But it doesn't really need that", and I left it out, and lo, it didn't really need it.  Simple is good especially when it is the freshest and best-tasting simple things.

I used some nice big fat Deseronto Potato beans for this but any large white bean will do. You will need about 2/3 cup dry beans to cook up to about 2 cups cooked beans, or I promise not to tell on you if you use a tin. Go easy with the salt if you do, though.

2 to 4 servings
20 minutes prep time, not including cooking the beans

Make the Dressing:
1/4 cup finely minced fresh chives
1/4 cup olive or sunflower oil
the juice of 1/2 large lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash, trim and finely mince the fresh chives.

Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl, or shake together in a jam jar. Set aside.

Make the Salad:
500 grams (1 pound) asparagus
2 to 3 cups torn lettuce, spinach, OR mixed salad greens
2 cups cooked large white beans

Wash and trim the asparagus, and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Put a pot of water on to boil. Add the asparagus and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until done to your liking. Drain and rinse in cold water  until cool.

Wash and tear up or chop the lettuce, spinach, or mixed greens. Arrange them in your salad bowl. Toss the beans and asparagus with the dressing, and spread them over the greens.

Last year at this time I made Sorrel, Chive, & Mustard Salad Dressing

Monday, 28 May 2018

Haskap - Rhubarb Nectar

Haskaps aren't quite ripe yet - I made this last year. Given that they have about a two-week season though, you should be ready for them when they are ready. 

Given the proportion of rhubarb to haskap that I used, I expected this to taste much more rhubarby. It's there in the background but that mysterious unidentifiable haskap flavour predominates. Quite delicious, in fact.

I like this best mixed with club soda and drunk cold, but I mixed some with some hot tea and that was surprisingly good.

This was made with drinks in mind; it's a little thin for pouring over ice cream, yogurt, etc. but if you don't mind it being thin that would certainly be tasty.

6 x 250 ml
30 minutes initial prep
overnight to strain
about 2 hours to can

Haskap - Rhubarb Nectar with Club Soda

8 cups diced rhubarb stems
2 to 3 cups haskap berries
4 cups water
1 cup sugar

Wash and trim the rhubarb, and cut it into dice. Wash and pick over the haskap berries. Put both into a pot with the water, and bring to a boil. Simmer steadily for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Put the mixture in a jelly bag or clean old pillowcase (now in use solely as a jelly bag) and suspend it over a pot - it can sit in a strainer as long as the strainer will not touch the liquid in the pot. Strain overnight. You can squeeze the bag to get as much liquid out as possible.

Put the jars to be filled into a canner and cover with water to an inch above their tops. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. As the water approaches the boil, put the fruit liquid into a kettle and add the sugar. Bring it up to a boil and boil for about 5 minutes. You should also have the lids and rims in a pan of water, and boil them for 1 minute.

Remove the jars to a clean board, tipping half the water in them back into the canner of boiling water. Fill the jars with the hot syrup. Wipe the rims carefully with a piece of paper towel dipped in the boiling water, then put the rims and lids on and finger tighten. Place the jars back in the canner and boil for 10 minutes.

Either let the jars cool in the canner, or remove them 5 or 10 minutes after being removed from the heat and let them cool on the clean board. Check the seals. Store in a cool, dark spot. Keep refrigerated once open.

To use, mix with cold or boiling water, club soda, or tea in the proportion of 1/3 to 1/2 syrup to other liquid. Should keep, unopened and properly stored, for 1 year.

Last year at this time I made Rhubarb-Almond Crisp.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Crustless Fiddlehead or Asparagus Quiche

I had a more traditional quiche in mind, but when push came to shove there were yogurt, sour cream, and cream cheese in the fridge all clamoring to be used up.  It didn't seem right to go out and buy more dairy products. Actually, the light  tartness of the yogurt, sour cream, and cream cheese went really well with the vegetables, which are delicate spring greens after all. I used a mixture of fiddleheads and asparagus, but it could be all one or the other. I'd throw in a good handful of finely chopped spinach if I had it too.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 20 minutes - 20 minutes prep time - plus cooling time

Crustless Fiddlehead or Asparagus Quiche

2 cups fiddleheads OR chopped asparagus OR combo
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions OR shallot greens
1 cup yogurt
1/2 cup sour cream
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon rubbed basil, savory OR thyme
250 grams (1/2 pound) cream cheese
1 teaspoon butter

If using fiddleheads, wash them well and trim off any brown bits (the stem ends will need trimming). Put a pot of water on to boil; drop them in and boil for 4 or 5 minutes. Rinse in cold water and drain well.

If using asparagus, wash and trim, then cut into half-inch pieces. Boil them as above but for only 2 minutes. If you are using a mixture of the two, drop them in when the fiddleheads have 2 minutes to go. Rinse to cool and drain well.

Preheat the oven to 375°F

Wash, trim, and finely chop the green onions or shallot greens. 

In a mixing bowl, mix the yogurt, sour cream, and green onions. Beat in the eggs. Mix in the salt, pepper, and other seasoning. Crumble or glop in by spoonfuls (depending on the texture) the cream cheese, and mix it in but leave it fairly lumpy.

Use the butter to grease a 10" pie plate. Put most to all of the prepared vegetables in and spread them about - any you don't put in are for use in garnishing the top of the quiche. Pour the yogurt mixture over the vegetables and stir very gently to mix. Arrange the reserved vegetables over the top, pressing them gently down to be level with the surface.

Bake at 375°F for 1 hour. Let cool some before serving; it can be served warm or at room temperature. If made in advance, take it from the fridge 20 minutes before eating to take the chill off.

Last year at this time I made Asparagus with Onions & Mushrooms.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Spinach & Apple Salad with Balsamic Dressing

You want the very best spinach for a salad this sweet and simple. Other than washing that spinach, this goes together very quickly. This is a side salad, not a meal salad, and I think it would go with just about anything. Apples are the last of the season; look for Red Prince or other long storage apples. I think mine were Empires, that have been sitting in the produce drawer for 2 months. Still just fine!

This is the last of the spinach from our garden. The price of getting it early is that it is finished early.  I was amused - and exasperated - to find a tiny rabbit nest in it as I pulled it out. It wasn't clear to me if the rabbits had raised their babies and moved on, or if they had started the nest and abandoned it when it became clear that this was a busier neighbourhood than they had supposed. It didn't seem all that used to me, so that might have been it. On the other hand we have a wild turkey sitting on a nest with 14 eggs just on the other side of our deer fence. She's been strutting around the yard like she owns it which she just might. Not sure how hard on a garden wild turkeys can be but I guess we are about to find out.

4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Spinach & Apple Salad with Balsamic Dressing

Make the Dressing:
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon apple butter
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoon walnut, hazelnut, or other nut oil

Whisk it all together in a small bowl or jam jar. Transfer to a serving container.

Make the Salad:
4 cups washed and picked-over fresh spinach
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, hazelnuts, or other nuts or seeds
2 medium apples

Wash and pick over the spinach, and wash it again. Drain well. Chop or tear it lightly if some of the leaves are too large. Arrange it in a salad bowl, and sprinkle the cranberries and nuts over it.

Wash, core, and chop the apples and scatter them over the spinach. Pass the salad with the dressing to be drizzled over it as it is served.

Last year at this time I made Spring Cilantro Soup, which confirms my thought that things are on the late side this year, because it is barely up at this point. Not surprising, given what April was like! 

Monday, 21 May 2018

Mint & Barley Soup

Apart from cooking the barley - which is a 5 minute chore to set up the evening before, providing you use a rice cooker - this is a quick and easy soup to make. The barley and carrots give it just enough substance, the green onions and mint give it a lively flavour of spring greens. Yogurt and lemon juice give it a bit of zing.

This will serve 2 as a meal, or 4 if it is used as a starter. Use the 3 cups of stock for 2 large servings, or 4 cups stock if you are serving 4 portions.

2 to 4 servings
30 minutes prep - not including cooking the barley

Mint & Barley Soup

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

Put it all in your rice cooker; turn on; cook.

Or, put it all in a medium-sized pot on the stove. Bring to a boil then reduce to low, keep covered, and cook until tender, about 45 minutes. Check it regularly.

This can be done a day in advance.

Make the Soup:
1 medium-large carrot
4 green onions
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 to 4 cups unsalted chicken or vegetable stock
the juice of 1/4 lemon
1/2 cup thick yogurt

Peel and grate the carrot. Wash, trim, and finely chop the green onions. Strip the mint leaves from any tough stems, discarding the tough stems and any damaged leaves. Wash the leaves, drain well, and chop them finely.

Heat the butter in a heavy-bottomed soup pot. When it is foamy, add the carrots and stir well. Cook for about 5 minutes,  until they lighten in colour, stirring regularly. Crumble the cooked barley with a wet hand to be sure it is not clumped together. Add the barley, the chopped green onions, flour, salt, and pepper to the pot. Add about two-thirds of the chopped mint. Mix well and cook for another couple of minutes.

Stir in the stock, a cup at a time. Let the soup simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring regularly.

Mix in the lemon juice. Mix in the yogurt and the remaining mint. Bring the soup back up to steaming hot but do not let it simmer or boil. Serve at once. 

Last year at this time I made Salmon or Trout & Spinach Pie.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Stir-Fried Lamb with Asparagus

Asparagus! Asparagus! It's spring, it's spring!

Asparagus and lamb are a delicious combination; I don't know why I haven't done it more often. I couldn't quite decide if this was Chinese inspired or Mediterranean inspired so I guess it's a bit of both. It works well anyway. I served it with rice, but cous-cous would be a good choice too. 

4 servings
30 minutes prep time, plus time to marinate

Stir-Fried Lamb with Asparagus

2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
4 cloves of garlic
3 pods green cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
12 black peppercorns
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
500 grams (1 pound) boneless stewing lamb
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
4 to 6 green onions or shallot greens
700 grams (1 1/2 pounds) asparagus

Peel and finely grate the ginger. Peel and finely mince the garlic. Put them in a bowl large enough to hold the meat.

Crush the green cardamom pods and remove the papery husks. Grind the remaining seeds with the cumin and pepper. Add the spices to the ginger and garlic. Mix in the soy sauce and vinegar.

Trim the meat of excess fat - if there is much, you should be a bit generous with the quantity of meat - and use a large sharp knife or cleaver to chop it fairly finely. Mix it into the marinade, cover, and refrigerate until about 15 minutes before you are ready to cook. The meat can marinate from 30 minutes to overnight.

Wash, trim, and finely chop the green onions. Set them aside by themselves. Wash, trim, and cut the asparagus into inch-long pieces. Put a pot of water on to boil to blanch them.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meat, with the marinade, and cook, stirring regularly, until the marinade is absorbed and the meat is dry and showing some signs of browning. This should be about 7 to 10 minutes.

Just as the meat becomes dry, add the prepared asparagus to the pot of boiling water. Boil them for 2 minutes, then lift them out, draining well, and add them to the meat. Add the chopped green onions. Continue cooking, stirring and turning nearly constantly, until the asparagus is tender and showing some browned spots; about another 3 minutes or so.

Last year at this time I made Oatty Apple or Jam Turnovers.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Fiddlehead & Potato Salad

I think I have missed the wild leek season. I went into our back forest to check on our transplants, and they are doing well but not expanding. Give them another couple of decades, I guess.

We don't have any fiddleheads growing in our woods but I did find some in a local shop. They make a good addition to a potato salad.

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time

Fiddlehead & Potato Salad

Make the Dressing:
1/2 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
1/3 cup thick yogurt OR sour cream
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar OR dill pickle brine
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup finely chopped chives
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Start the potatoes just before you start the dressing.

Mix the mayonnaise, yogurt, vinegar or brine in a mixing bowl. Wash and pick over the chives, and chop them finely. Add them, with salt and pepper to taste. Stir well. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to add the salad. 

Make the Salad:
750 grams (1 1/2 pounds) potatoes
1 large carrot
1 1/2 cups fiddleheads
1/2 cup diced peeled celeriac OR 1 stalk celery

Wash and trim or peel the potatoes. Cut them into small bite-sized chunks. Wash and peel the carrots, and cut them just slightly smaller. Put both in a pot with water to cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 to 15 minutes until the potatoes are just tender. Drain, and rinse under cold water until cooled. Drain again well.

Wash the fiddlehead by rubbing them gently between your hands in cold water then rinsing them well. Trim off any browned spot. Bring a pot of water to a boil and drop them in. Boil for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a small kettle of water to a boil. Drain the fiddleheads then return them to the heat and immediately pour over enough boiling water from the kettle to cover them. Boil another 4 to 5 minutes until tender. Rinse in cold water to cool and drain well.

Wash, trim, and chop the celery fairly finely.

Mix the potatoes and carrots, most of the fiddleheads - reserve a few for garnish - and the celery into the bowl of dressing and toss well. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with the extra fiddleheads.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Sorrel & Goat Cheese Soufflé

Not too much happening in the garden yet, but I was able to scrounge a little sorrel and a big bunch of green shallots. I've been getting excellent local eggs from a farm down the highway a bit, and I got some goat cheese on sale. So, here we are.

We do have a certain amount of asparagus coming up, but so far it's all in the "new" bed, which we will not pick until next spring. No signs of life yet in the "old" bed even though it is much more established. We knew the new site was better, but it's amazing to see it in action.

4 servings
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time

Sorrel & Goat Cheese Soufflé

4 cups finely shredded raw sorrel leaves
1 cup finely chopped green onions or shallot greens
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons soft unbleached flour
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2/3 cup light cream or whole milk
150 grams soft goat cheese
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
3 extra large eggs

Wash and pick over the sorrel, and shred it finely. Wash and trim the green onions, and chop them finely. Drain them both well.

Heat the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the sorrel and green onions, and cook, stirring regularly, for 3 or 4 minutes, until well wilted. Add the flour, salt, and pepper. Continue cooking and stirring until the flour is cooked, another couple of minutes. Slowly stir in the cream or milk to form a smooth sauce. Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Mix in the goat cheese and Parmesan.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly butter an 8" x 8" baking pan, or similar.

Separate the eggs, putting the whites into a mixing bowl and the yolks into the sorrel sauce. Mix in well. Beat the eggs until stiff then fold them into the sorrel sauce gently. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until firm, puffed, and lightly browned on top. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Potato, Onion, & Cheese Casserole

Friday, 11 May 2018

Turnips with Bacon & Onion

I've done a fancier version of this before; Rutabaga with Bacon, Mushrooms & Onions, but it bears repeating, and turnips are bit different from their cousins the rutabagas. For one thing they cook much more quickly.

I was delighted to find some Ontario turnips at the grocery store last week, but then I got them home and realized neither of us are really crazy about turnips. However with bacon and onion they are very enjoyable and they were quickly dispatched.

Still waiting anxiously for some more greener things to appear! 

2 to 4 servings
40 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Turnips with Bacon & Onion

350 to 400 grams (3/4 pound; 2 medium-large) white turnips
1 medium yellow onion
OR 1 bunch green onions
4 to 6 slices of bacon
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Peel the turnips and cut them into largish dice. Put them in a pot with water to cover and bring them to a boil; boil for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and chop the onion. Cut the bacon into squares.

When the turnips have cooked for 10 minutes, set the timer to cook them for another 10 minutes. Put the bacon into a large skillet and cook until half crisp. If it is particularly fatty, drain off any excess fat, but you should have enough to coat the bottom of the pan nicely. Add the onions and cook until softened and translucent to lightly browned. Stir regularly. If you are lucky enough to have green onions, add them later, with the turnips.

When the turnips are cooked, drain them and mash them coarsely. Add them to the bacon and onions and mix them in well. Season with salt and pepper, as always taking into consideration the nature of your bacon. Continue cooking for another 5 or 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until everything is well amalgamated and lightly browned. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Asparagus in the Style of Peas.  No asparagus yet this year!

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Spinach & Mushroom Soup

I can't believe I haven't made Spinach & Mushroom Soup before! So delicious!

Still, while this is easy enough, it can't be said to be quick. Picky vegetable prep is picky, and slow.  Any time you use fresh spinach that is inevitable. I have to say this is worth the effort though. If you wanted to use good frozen spinach it should work quite well although I always find commercially frozen spinach hasn't been picked over carefully enough.

I poured the leftovers onto noodles, with a little grated cheese. Also really good, if not the neatest dish to eat.

6 servings
45 minutes prep time, not including the spinach
which will likely require 30 minutes all by itself

Spinach & Mushroom Soup

Prepare the Spinach:
2 litres (quarts) fresh spinach leaves, loosely packed

Wash and pick over the spinach, removing and discarding any large, tough stems and yellowing leaves.

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Drop in the spinach, one-quarter at a time, and blanch for 1 minute. Remove it to a basin of cold water and let cool. When it is all done, take it by handfuls and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

You should end up with about 300 grams (10 ounces) of cooked spinach.

Make the Soup:
6 medium shallots OR 1 bunch green onions
500 grams (1 pound) mixed mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon rubbed mint
1/2 teaspoon ground rosemary
6 tablespoons soft unbleached flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter
4 cups unsalted chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups whole or 2% milk
sour cream to serve, OPTIONAL

Peel and mince the shallots, or wash, trim, and chop the green onions.

Clean and slice the mushrooms. Ideally, use a mixture of types - button, shiitake, and oyster will be easiest to get. Don't forget shiitake stems are too tough to eat, so leave them out. I used some dried puffball, which makes giving quantities a bit hard, but I would say you should have about 3 cups of prepared mushrooms over all.

Mix the salt, pepper, mint, rosemary, and flour in a small bowl.

Heat the butter in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, and cook for a few minutes, until starting to soften and reduce in volume. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until softened and slightly browned. If using green onions, start with the mushrooms and add the green onions when they have cooked for a few minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium. Sprinkle the seasoned flour over the mushrooms, etc, and mix it in well. Cook for another minute or two, then begin mixing in the stock a little at a time until it is all in and the mixture is smooth.

Shred the spinach very finely and mix it in. Let the soup simmer for 10 minutes or so, stirring frequently, until it thickens slightly. Stir in the milk and bring it back up to steaming hot. Serve with a dollop of sour cream, if desired.

Last year at this time I made Poached Chicken Breast in Fines Herbes Sauce.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Cucumbers with Chervil

Oh, here's a difficult recipe. Actually, given that you probably have to grow chervil yourself in order to have it, it's more difficult than it looks at first glance. But if you can get that part down, the rest of it is a doddle.

Cucumbers and chervil go together most amazingly well. This is an extremely refreshing little spring salad - it's worth growing chervil just for this (although there are lots of other things to do with it too!)

And hurray - I think this is the first really spring-like dish of the year. The cucumbers will come out of a greenhouse, but the chervil is from the garden.

4 servings
10 minutes prep time

2 cups sliced small cucumbers (4 to 8)
1/4 cup finely minced fresh chervil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

The little middle-eastern greenhouse cucumbers are ideal for this. Wash and slice them thinly - you could peel them, but they're such delicate little things it hardly seems necessary - and put them in a bowl. Wash, dry, and chop the chervil and add it.

Sprinkle the sugar and salt over the cucumbers and chervil. Drizzle over the vinegar, and mix gently.

Last year at this time I made Spinach with Chervil.

Friday, 4 May 2018

The Garden Season Has Begun

This has been a very late spring (18" of ice pellets in the middle of April; what the hell), but at long last winter is gone and things are moving. Our haskap shrubs are putting out leaf and flower buds, and fruit should be on schedule at the end of May.

The garden generally is still looking pretty sparse. Mr. Ferdzy is taking down the wood that sheltered the spinach over the winter. All the beds look very clean but in fact as I look around I can see the weeds starting to sprout between the warmer weather and the rain we have been having.

You can also just see the cauliflower planted in the bed in front of the spinach. We grew them very early, in their own pots rather than in cells and we have the best looking cauliflower starts we have ever had. We are hoping to coax them to bolt and produce seeds, but this is very much an experiment and more than a bit of a gamble. There are about 9 different types of cauliflower in there so we shall see.

I tried planting Purple Sprouting broccoli and Purple Peacock broccoli-kale in mid August at one end of the spinach bed, hoping for very early spring broccoli. I got exactly one plant performing as hoped. There are a bunch of others but they still look like mere seedlings. I hope they will suddenly spring up and produce but it seems unlikely. I blame the very cool weather of last August and September for this, but who knows.

The spinach and broccoli were not the only things being sheltered under the plastic over winter. The weeds are flourishing and as soon as the wood is taken down I will have to weed.

In spite of the lingering cold, we have three beds of peas planted. A couple of hot days got the ground thawed down deep enough to work it. They still went in 2 weeks later than we had been hoping, but at least they are in. We are planning to follow them with spinach (and maybe broccoli again; I keep trying) and not with dry beans as we did for a good few years (and will no doubt do again, as soon as we eat some more beans) so I am fairly philosophical about it.

Garlic is UP, including the Tibetan at the end of the bed. It is always the latest to come up by a significant period. The other 3 types are pretty much in sync.

There is nothing much in this bed besides some shallots. Hard to see, but there are 4 clumps in there. These are all grown from seed as part of my shallot breeding projects, and were rejects as they did not die down into neat bulbs to store over the winter. However, the one in particular has been so very, very good at splitting into multiple bulbs, AND it turns out that having shallot greens by early May is highly desirable, so now I have 2 shallot projects in mind - one for the ones that die down nicely in the late summer and can be stored, and a strain left to overwinter for spring greens. You always have to keep an open mind when breeding plants. Shallot greens are really delicious too; they taste more like wild leeks (ramps) than like green onions.

Inside is still where most of the action is. Tomatoes and peppers are doing well. Half the eggplants are doing well, but half are missing as the seed did not germinate. Too old, I guess. Leeks, onions, and shallots germinated very poorly; we don't know why although we used some seed starting mix from last year which it turns out the mice had gotten into. It was far from sterile, and turned out to be full of peas and squash seeds, both of which germinated beautifully; much better than the things we planted. However we have enough to totter on.

We needed some more plant lights. Our newest batch are LED and they give the plants a strange magenta glow. That's the celery tray shown in the photo, and the celery is flourishing - much better than it is most years. Who knows the ins and outs; we do the same things every year and yet things vary noticeably in how they do.

In spite of the strange colour, the LED lights seem to work very well. We still drag things outside every nice day as nothing works like real sunlight, and we are looking forward to getting everything into the ground so we can stop mucking about with the trays of plants. They are very time consuming, between the going in and out and the amount of water they get to require as the plants get larger. One way or another, the upcoming month is the busiest of the garden year and we will be working steadily.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Parsnip Hash Browns

Not sure this quite constitutes a recipe, but it is what is happening around here at the moment. A few days ago we dug up a bushel of parsnips to make way for peas.

Parsnips are available all winter for purchase and well into the spring, but it turns out that now we are growing them we mostly eat them in the spring. It is very nice to be able to go out and dig something new to eat as soon as the ground is sufficiently thawed. 

I was hoping these would form into nice little patties like proper potato hash browns and it isn't impossible, but they aren't really into it and so I just left them in a loose pile. Just as good!

I served these with eggs, and that was okay, but eggs are a little delicate in flavour next to the parsnips. I have to admit that what I really see these going with is pork; bacon, peameal, sausage, chops; whatever. Maybe next time. There is still three-quarters of a bushel to go.

2 servings
30 minutes prep time

Parsnip Hash Browns

500 grams (1 pound) parsnips
2 tablespoons bacon fat OR vegetable oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Peel and grate the parsnips coarsely.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat until melted and sizzling in a medium-sized skillet. Add the grated parsnips, stir well to toss the parsnips in the fat, and reduce the heat at once to medium-low. Dot the remaining bacon fat over the parsnips, and mix in. Season with the salt and pepper. Do be mindful of how salty your bacon fat may be.

Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The parsnips should brown fairly evenly, and not too quickly. If they are browning too quickly, reduce the heat. If they are scorching, you may need to add a little more bacon fat.

When the parsnips are done to your liking, serve them up. Don't be dismayed by what a big pile of parsnips first go into the pan - they reduce considerably in cooking.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Oladi - Russian Yeast-Raised Pancakes

Russian, I'm saying, but versions of these are found all over eastern Europe. Until the advent of baking soda and baking powder, all baked goods were raised with yeast. Native North Americans raised their cornbreads with alkaline wood ashes, as yeast would do nothing with their gluten-free corn. European settlers created more refined versions and since then it seems most pancakes are raised with baking powder or soda.

Yeast-raised pancakes are fairly different. They are light and fluffy, but with the solid substance of bread. Mom thought these were a bit like French toast, and I can see that. The three of us ate all of them, but we didn't have anything else with them, other than butter, syrup and jam. I think they would do better alongside other breakfast items, so I am suggesting smaller portions. This would be an easy recipe to cut in half if you didn't want so many.

I found they needed to be cooked at a slightly lower temperature than I usually cook pancakes, crepes and eggs, because they were so thick. Keep the pan well oiled, and don't crowd them. Strangely, we thought these were much better with jam than with maple syrup; perhaps because of being more like bread than the pancakes we are used to. Apart from the time needed to allow them to rise, these are no more difficult to make than any other pancake, and if you like a really thick fluffy pancake these are well worth trying.

4 to 6 servings; 18 to 24 pancakes
20 minutes prep time plus 1 hour to overnight rise
10 minutes prep time plus 1 hour rise
20 minutes cooking time

Russian Yeast-Raised Pancakes

2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry active yeast
2 1/2 cups unbleached hard or all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
mild vegetable oil to  cook

Warm the milk with the sugar and salt; it is easiest to do this in the microwave but do it in a series of short times, as the milk will curdle if it gets too warm. It should just feel comfortably warm to your finger. Stir it each time, before you determine its temperature.

When it is warm, sprinkle the yeast over it, and let it sit and work for 10 to 15 minutes.

Have the flour sitting in a mixing bowl, and stir in the milk and yeast mixture until it is a smooth batter.

If you are leaving it to rise overnight, cover it at this point and leave it in a spot at cool room temperature. Beat in the melted - but not hot - butter, and the eggs in the morning.

If you are starting them in the morning, beat in the melted - but not hot - butter, and the eggs. Cover and let rise until double in size; about 1 hour in a slightly warm spot.

You want to get the butter and eggs mixed in thoroughly, but do not over-do it, as you do not want to undo all the work of the yeast. Once the butter and eggs are mixed into the batter, cover the bowl again and let it rise until doubled once more, in a slightly warm spot.

Pour enough oil into a large, heavy skillet to cover the bottom thoroughly to a couple of millimetres  deep. Heat the oven to 200°F and put an oven-proof dish in it to receive the finished pancakes. Heat the skillet over medium heat until it is hot, then drop in the batter by spoonfuls to make fairly small pancakes. Dip the spoon into a glass of warm water between each pancake, to keep the batter from sticking to the spoon.

Friday, 27 April 2018

A Visit to Trend Aquafresh Organics

Last Friday we found ourselves down near St. Catharines, so we took the opportunity to visit one of the many greenhouses in the Niagara area - Trend Aquafresh Organics. This was a medium-sized unmarked greenhouse on a gravel side road. Trend Aquafresh does sell directly to customers, but almost all of their sales are through wholesalers or to restaurants. They also specialize in something quite unusual: edible flowers! There are also lots of herbs and some kale and lettuce to fill out those salads.

We were given a tour of the greenhouse by Ton Boekestyn, who owns it along with his wife, Jackie. Their website notes they have been in business since 1991, but this greenhouse dates from 2014, so it is really quite new. Ton discussed a number of projects with which they are experimenting, but it seems they are still finding their complete niche.

In the meantime, though, they are selling those edible flower and herbs, as well as a few greens. Most of these are grown hydroponically,  and it's really interesting to see how they do it. Large, relatively shallow tanks float sheets of styrofoam, with holes punched into them in a grid in which the plants reside. Their roots trail in the water and take up nutrients.The tanks are low enough not to be huge, but high enough to be at a reasonable level to work with.

I forgot to ask the size of the greenhouse, but I would guess at least 4 acres. About one third to one half of that seemed to be taken up with various tanks. From this angle we are looking mostly at kale and lettuce. It looks very picked over, because it is. Small leaves are harvested regularly and sent to the packaging line (seen in the second photo).

A gap in the trays shows the water. An overhead systems allows the sheets of styrofoam to be moved about and accessed.

Ton lifts a tray to show the roots underneath. They are certified organic, and add organic fertilizers to the water to keep the plants growing well.

After this long (looooong) gloomy winter, it was so nice to see the trays of flowers in bloom. Here are marigolds. I didn't really take pictures of the herbs, because they were a bit of a blur of clipped green pots, but there are 14 or 15 kinds of mint, lavender, sage, basil, oregano, and some unusual things - Vietnamese coriander, Jamaican sour cherry, and peppery herb that I forgot to write down the proper name of - my tongue was in shock - but which like the Vietnamese coriander is actually a member of the persicaria family. There are a number of ornamental leaves as well, various clover-like plants, geraniums, and hibiscus.

Meanwhile they are also growing tomato, pepper, and cucumber starts including cucamelon and African horned melon, which will be grown inside through the summer to keep producing into November. (I had said they went outside originally but Ton corrected me here.) There were quite a few things that had been brought by workers in the greenhouse for Ton to try out. Ton said they were growing over 75 different things altogether. I felt like I had met a fellow sufferer from the urge to grow everything. Although I'm not so sure sufferer is the right word for us... for our families, maybe.

Here are pansies in a striped range of colours. You are most likely to find these as garnishes on your plate when you eat at a fancy restaurant in Toronto.

More pansies, in a cheerful blend. Imagine your salad looking like this!

Ton intends to also raise fish. The tanks are in, and he has already experimented with trout. The greenhouse gets too hot for them though. He has licenses for pickerel, sturgeon, and sauger. I am particularly intrigued by the idea of sturgeon, which I have only ever eaten once, but which I thought was absolutely delicious.