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.

Sausage, Rutabaga, & Apple Pie

Here's another one inspired by an old cook book. As usual I forgot to note which one, but it was something English and mid to late 19th century as far as I can recall. It is pretty rare for me to pull out anything interesting from cook books of that era at this point, but this one caught my eye.

The filling ingredients are more or less as in the original, but they wanted you to put everything in in layers, which did not strike me as the best plan. This is actually my third attempt at this pie. I started off with leaving the rutabaga in chunks and pre-cooking the sausage, but that made them just things enclosed in a pie crust, rather than an actual pie. This final version is simpler and works better; always a pleasing combination.

Admittedly this is still a bit time consuming, but it is not difficult. Mostly you have to wait for the rutabaga and then the pie to cook. It would certainly make sense to use left-over mashed rutabaga for this. It was impressive that 4 cups of diced rutabaga cooked down to 2 cups mashed, but so it was; take note.

I am also quite taken with this pie crust. It is easy to work with, and ideal for savoury pies, being nicely sturdy without being heavy.

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

Make the Pastry:
2 1/4 cups soft whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg

Mix the flour and salt in a mixing bowl.

In another, smaller, bowl put the softened butter and mix in the oil, buttermilk, and egg. It need not be well mixed; just be sure the yolk is well broken up and the butter isn't in a single massive lump.

Mix the wet ingredients into the flour. Using your hands if required, form it into a ball of dough. You can press and turn it to get everything incorporated, but try not to overwork it. Cover with a cloth and set aside until needed. Do this once the rutabaga is on to boil.

Make the Filling & Finish the Pie:
4 cups diced rutabaga
3 or 4 shallots
500 grams (1 pound) raw breakfast sausage meat
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon caraway seed
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
plenty of freshly ground black pepper
2 large apples

Peel and dice the rutabaga, and put it in a pot with water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil gently for 40 minutes until tender. Drain it, mash it, and set it aside in a mixing bowl. Once mashed, there should about 2 cups of it. Let cool enough to handle

Peel and mince the shallots, and add them to the rutabaga. Peel the casings off the sausage meat, and crumble it in. Grind the coriander seed and add it, along with the pepper. Salt will depend on how salty the sausage is - in general sausage is quite salty. I added a little shake just to make sure everything was seasoned, and otherwise relied on the sausage to provide salt. Peel the apples or not, as you like. Core them and chop them, and add them to the bowl. Mix it all well - it is easiest to use your hands.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Divide the pastry into 2 uneven portions; 60% and 40%. Roll out the large piece on parchment paper with a little flour sprinkled over to avoid it sticking. When it is large, thin, and round enough, flip it into a 10" pie dish and peel off the parchment paper. Press it neatly into place. Clean and re-flour the parchment paper, and roll out the remaining pastry to fit the top.

Tip the filling into the prepared pie crust, and press it snug and slightly mounded in the middle. Cover it with the prepared pastry top, and seal it well around the edges. Poke holes in the top to let the steam escape.

Bake the pie for 1 hour and 10 to 15 minutes at 350°F, until nicely browned and bubbling. Let rest at least 15 minutes before serving it.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Oatmeal Scones

I've made scones with leftover cooked oatmeal before, but these do not require such a level of advance planning, or lack of advance planning, whichever it is that produces quantities of leftover cooked oatmeal. These don't need the overnight soak that Oatmeal Farls require, either, although I will admit I like the Oatmeal Farls just a little better. These will certainly do in a pinch, though!

Twenty four scones will be quite small; just the thing to serve with afternoon tea. Eight or 12 will be more suited for breakfast. In either case you can expect these to disappear quickly. 

8 to 24
30 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Oatmeal Scones

2 cups soft unbleached flour
1 cup quick cook oats
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and dust it with flour.

Mix the flour, oats, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in the butter until it is about the size of small peas, then stir in the buttermilk. Work just enough to form a smooth dough. You may need to add a spoonful or so more buttermilk.

Transfer the dough the prepared parchment paper. Pat it out into a neat rectangle about 1" thick, and cut it into however many scones you would like to have. Space them out a bit.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until firm and just showing a little colour.

Last year at this time I made Crispy Spicy Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Scottish Farmhouse Eggs

I first came across this recipe at Epicurious but a little research suggests that it is in fact a fairly traditional Scottish egg dish. You will note that many of the quantities are a bit vague, and there are a number of choices. It is that kind of a dish - use what you have and what you like.

I didn't try to shoe-horn it into the instructions, but you could also replace the bacon with 100 grams (4 ounces) moderately fatty breakfast sausage; crumble it up before cooking and treat it in the same way as the bacon. Or you could instead use ham, sautéed in a little fat, just enough to keep the ham from sticking and to grease the pan. Keep in mind, though; they're pretty rich even without any meat added.

This can be made all year, but the herbs are not always available. If they are not, they can be replaced with a couple of shallots, peeled and minced, and cooked in the butter. You may then wish to add a sprinkling of some dried but green herb over the top for a bit of colour. 

2 servings
30 to 55 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

1 teaspoon butter OR 4 slices bacon, OPTIONAL
1 1/2 to 2 cups finely cubed stale bread
80 grams old Cheddar or other strong, hard cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped chives or green onions
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley (if available)
4 large egg, chicken or duck
a sprinkle of Cayenne or paprika
freshly ground black pepper to taste
about 3/4 cup 10% cream

Use a cast iron skillet or other shallow baking dish that can go into the oven, and also on the stovetop if using the meat. Preheat the oven to 375°F. If not using any meat, butter the dish well.

If you wish to add bacon, etc, chop it fairly finely and cook it in the pan over medium-high heat until about half cooked. Drain off any excess fat but leave enough to coat the pan well. 

Slice or crumble up the bread into small cubes or crumbs. Spread two-thirds of them in the pan, mixing in the meat if it is being used. Grate the cheese and sprinkle half of it over the crumbs. Wash, dry, and mince the herbs finely, and sprinkle half of them over the crumbs. Break the eggs into the dish, spacing them evenly.

Sprinkle the remaining crumbs over the eggs. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese and herbs. Season with salt and Cayenne, or any good paprika. I think a smoked one would be very good. If not using Cayenne, you may wish to add a little black pepper.

Gently dribble cream all over the dish, paying especial attention to the crumbs around the edge but getting them as evenly soaked as you can. The crumbs should all be moistened, and they should be sitting in a discernible puddle. The goal is to keep the crumbs moist but not soggy, and allow the tops to crisp up and brown in baking, so the exact amount of cream will vary with the depth of the dish and the absorptive abilities of the bread.

Bake the eggs for 20 to 30 minutes. Twenty minutes will give you firm whites but very soft runny yolks. Forty minutes should cook them to Mr. Ferdzy's taste; bone dry. I do not recommend but it's your funeral.

Last year at this time I made Aloo Mattar Chowder.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Trevor's Champ

"boiled potatoes
spring onions
butter, grated cheese
little milk
salt, pepper

Mashed together. Carrots may also be added. "
                                              from Dad's cookbook, circa 1983

Champ is so simple it is hardly a recipe, but please indulge me as I indulge myself in some nostalgia.

Circa 1983 was a bit later than I would have expected this to show up in Dad's cook book. Trevor must have appeared on the scene around 1977, because I remember having a bowl of spaghetti dumped on my head when I was 16 by Dad when they were dating and Trevor didn't show up to a dinner he was invited to and I whined about it being cold when we finally ate it without him. Good thing I was right. But that's another story.

I guess by 1983 they had dated for a few years and had been moved in together long enough for Trevor to have made it a few times. I think Dad did most of the cooking in those days, since he was well accustomed to churning it out for us kids at that point.

This is a simple but classic Irish dish, really just mashed potatoes with stuff in it. Not cabbage though; if you add cabbage it becomes Colcannon, a distinction which seems a little picayune to me but there it is.

I haven't seen other recipes for champ call for carrots but I think they are a very good idea. I grated them and added them for the last couple minutes of cooking - in the absence of other instructions - because I wanted them to form flecks like the green onions. You could just cut them up and cook them with the potatoes so they get mashed though. The cheese should be quite strong, or it disappears. I saved some of it out to sprinkle on top and that helped keep it noticeable. The dairy can be almost anything - milk, cream, buttermilk, yogurt, sour cream would all work.

4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Trevor's Northern Irish Champ

750 grams (1 1/2 pounds) floury potatoes (I used Purple Viking)
4 or 5 green onions
2 or 3 medium carrots
100 grams (1/4 pound) grated strong old Cheddar cheese
2 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup milk, buttermilk, or cream
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash and trim or peel the potatoes (and carrots, if that's how you want them), and cut them into chunks. Boil them in lightly salted water for 10 to 15 minutes, until soft.

Meanwhile, trim, wash, and chop the green onions. Peel and grate the carrots - assuming they are not already in the pot - and add them to the potatoes when they have about 3 minutes left to cook. Grate the cheese.

When the potatoes are done, add the green onions to the pot. Stir them in, then drain the vegetables well and return them to the pot. Put it back on the stove, but with the heat reduced to medium-low. Mash in the butter and liquid dairy product of your choice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in most of the cheese, and once the champ is transferred to its serving dish, sprinkle the remainder over the top.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Rye Soda Bread

Rye flour does not make the lightest of baked goods and this is certainly no exception. Still, in a soda bread it rises sufficiently and it slices very nicely into thin slices. It's lovely with butter, cheese, or summer sausage. Mr. Ferdzy cheerfully piled it with jam, about which I am not so sure, but maybe.

I originally made this as a test loaf, thinking it would be half a recipe, as most soda breads are based on 4 cups of flour. You could double it for a standard sized loaf, in which case I would expect it to take 45 minutes to bake. Since soda bread is best fresh though, a smaller loaf may be more convenient.

4 servings
45 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

Rye Soda Bread

1 cup dark rye flour
1 cup soft whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a small baking tray with parchment paper.

Mix the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl thoroughly.

Add the buttermilk and mix to form a smooth, dense, not too sticky dough. I find it easiest to mix by hand at the end. If necessary, add a few more drops of buttermilk. The dough should not be kneaded, but don't be afraid to mix it well until smooth.

Put the dough onto the parchment paper. Wash and wet your hands, and use them to shape the dough into a small loaf. Cut a line down the centre to give it room to expand.

Bake for about 35 minutes until firm and set. Let cool at least 15 minutes before slicing.

Last year at this time I made Tea-Braised Pork

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Pan-Cooked Sweet Potatoes with Balsamic Drizzle

Sweet potatoes from raw to on the table in 20 minutes! It always seems to take more like an hour and 20 minutes to roast them, even when they are cut up and cooked at a reasonably high temperature. You will have to watch them more closely but such is life. Also when I say "1 large or 2 medium" sweet potatoes, I mean the amount you will eat, obvs, whatever that is.

The balsamic drizzle is the simplest thing ever, and it definitely added to the appeal. I put in a bit of hot pepper but if you don't want things particularly hot a good grind of black pepper should work well too.

Now I'm a bit sad because our sweet potato crop was not great last year, and there are only enough left for 2 more meals. The "seed" sweet potatoes are currently sitting in glass jars to root and sprout though, so we expect to have them again next fall. Let's hope for a better growing season! 

2 servings
20 minutes prep time

Pan-Cooked Sweet Potatoes with Balsamic Drizzle

Make the Sauce:
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons apple butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground Aleppo or black pepper

Mix together; and set aside, in a little serving jug or dish.

Cook the Sweet Potatoes:
1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes
2 to 3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Wash and trim the sweet potatoes, so the 2 narrow ends are flat and parallel to each other. Cut the sweet potatoes into 1/4" slices.

Heat the oil in a large skillet, or use 2 skillets if you will need that to get them all in in a single layer. The oil should cover the bottom of the pan generously, but we are not deep-frying here.

When the pan is to the usual temperature for cooking eggs, pancakes, etc, gently put in sweet potato slices. Careful - the oil may spatter. They can touch each other and generally be quite crowded, but they should not overlap. Pour in about 1/4 cup of water to each pan - stand back for spattering, again. Put a lid on the pan(s) and cook for 4 or 5 minutes.

Remove the lid and turn the sweet potato slices over. They should be nicely browned, and the sweet potatoes should show definite signs of softening. Continue cooking the sweet potatoes for another 4 or 5 minutes, this time with the lid off. When the water is all evaporated, the sweet potatoes are nicely browned on both sides, and the flesh is tender but still holding together, transfer them to a serving plate.

Serve drizzled with the balsamic sauce.

Last year at this time I made Tea-Braised Pork.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Lorenzo's Pastel de Pescado

This recipe was carefully written in Lorenzo's trained architect hand, in Spanish, into Dad's cook book, by Lorenzo. Dad met Lorenzo somewhere in South America and in typical Dad fashion went on to remain friends with Lorenzo and his family for the rest of his life; I'm pretty sure he went to his wedding amongst many other events. In fact, when Mr. Ferdzy and I walked the Camino we went and stayed with Lorenzo and his wife Judith.

This is a simple and tasty dish, and although Lorenzo gave instructions for cooking the fish it would be an excellent way to use leftover cooked fish. Lorenzo called for white fish, but noted that salmon could also be used.

4 servings
1 hour 30 minutes including cooking the fish

Lorenzo's Spanish Fish Casserole

1 medium onion
500 grams (1 pound) firm fleshed white fish
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons white wine or wine vinegar
4 large eggs
1 cup diced stewed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
a little grating of fresh nutmeg
OR 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon unsalted butter

Peel and chop the onion, and put it in a small pot with the fish, bay leaves, and white wine or vinegar. Bring up to a simmer and cook, covered, for 6 to 10 minutes until the fish is cooked. Let cool enough to handle.

Put a pan of water into the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. 

Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl with the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and nutmeg or paprika. Remove and discard any skin and bones from the fish, and break it into small bits into the eggs. Mix well.

Butter a small, shallow baking dish generously and pour in the fish and egg mixture. Spread it out evenly. Place it in the oven, either in the pan of water or on a rack directly above it, depending on whether you have a reasonable bain marie set-up or not... yeah, I had to fudge it but it seemed to work okay. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until set and very lightly browned. Let rest for 5 or 10 minutes before serving.

Last year at this time I made Garlicky Dill Vegetable Salad.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Carrot Crepes

It took me a couple of tries to get these right, and while I keep picturing them filled with savoury goodies, like cheese, mushrooms, or spinach, I keep ending up plonking them on a plate and serving them with syrup. I'm pretty sure they would be good in a savoury setting if I can just get organized for it!  If you are going to stick with the sweet theme, though, I can really see filling these with slightly sweetened cream cheese, with a spoonful of nuts, raisins, or toasted coconut thrown in.

I found these rather delicate compared to some of the crepes I've made and they definitely cooked much better  in the steel pan than in the cast iron. I'm not sure they will hold and reheat as well as some, either. Very tasty though!

6 to 8 crepes
30 minutes prep time

2 cups grated (2 medium) carrots
1/3 cup potato starch
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Put a large kettle of water on to boil. Peel and grate the carrots, and put them in a strainer. When the water boils, pour it slowly and evenly over the carrots. Stop and stir in the middle. There should be a slight odour of cooked carrots. Drain them well and let them cool for about 5 minutes.

Put the drained, cooled carrots into a blender. Add the potato starch, salt, and milk. Process until smooth. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides. Keep the lid on well, as I found this mixture had a tendency to rise straight up.

Break in the eggs and process again briefly until blended.

Put the oil in a small dish. Use a piece of paper towel to brush a film of oil over 1 or 2 skillets. Heat them over medium-high heat (the usual for cooking eggs, crepes, and pancakes). Add 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup of batter to each pan, swirling the pan to spread out the batter evenly and thinly as soon as the batter goes in. Let each crepe cook until it can be easily loosened with a thin spatula, and flipped. The top will be dry at that point. Cook for a minute or two on the second side, then remove to a plate in the oven (at 200°C) to keep warm, if they are being eaten at once. Otherwise, just set them aside on the plate.

Repeat with the remaining batter until it is all gone, brushing the pan with oil each time a new crepe goes in.

Last year at this time I made Creamy Tomato-Barley Soup.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Barbunya Zeytinyagli

As soon as I started looking for Turkish recipes on line, this one came up again and again and again. Funny, we didn't see it when we were there! I guess it's considered "home cooking" and not restaurant fare. Most of the recipes were quite similar but some called for this, and some called for that. I looked at a bunch and put in pretty much everything that got mentioned. We thought the results were delicious.

We grew the beans for this; an Italian variety. Italian Borlotti beans will be the easiest to get, and my impression is they are really quite similar to the Turkish beans used for this. But really, beans is beans to some degree, and you can use whatever kind you like.

It seems that right from the beginning of this blog there has been at least one bean salad recipe every late winter/early spring, and I guess this qualifies as one for this year.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour prep time plus overnight soaking

Turkish Style Borlotti Beans

1 cup dried borlotti or cranberry beans
1 or 2 medium potatoes
1 large carrot
1 medium onion
1/2 cup diced celeriac OR 1 stalk celery
4 or 5 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups diced cooked (canned) tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1 teaspoon rubbed mint
1 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped parsley OR green onion

Put the beans in a pot with plenty of water to cover, and bring to a boil. The pot will end up holding everything, so be sure it is big enough. Boil for a few minutes, then remove them from the heat and cover the pot. Let soak overnight.

Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the beans, and bring them back up to a boil. Boil gently but steadily, stirring occasionally, until tender but still whole.

Wash, trim, and peel the potatoes (the peeling is optional). Cut them into dice. Peel and dice the carrot. Peel and chop the onion. Peel and dice the celeriac, or wash, trim, and chop the celery. Peel and chop the garlic.

Heat about half the oil in a large skillet. Add the potatoes, carrots, and celery and cook slowly in the oil until softened and slightly browned; add the onions about halfway through.

Meanwhile, drain the beans to have about 1 cup cooking liquid left. Add the remaining olive oil to them. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, salt, pepper, Aleppo pepper, and mint to them. Bring them up to a simmer.

When the vegetables in the skillet are looking somewhat softened - they will not cook through; don't expect them to - add the garlic to the pan and mix in, letting it cook for a minute or two. Transfer all the vegetables to the pot of beans. Simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir gently. The vegetables and beans should be kept as whole as you can manage.

When the vegetables are tender, remove the pot from the heat and add the juice of 1/2 of the lemon. Let it cool to warm or room temperature before serving. Garnish it with chopped parsley or green onion, and pass the remainder of the lemon as wedges for anyone who would like a bit more lemon juice.

Last year at this time I made Moroccan Spiced Roasted Carrots.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Strawberry Pudding

Isn't this awfully early to be making strawberry desserts? Not anymore! I've been buying Ontario greenhouse strawberries off and on all winter.

Mind you though, I only used them for the garnish. The pudding is made with frozen strawberries from our garden, and given that they get mashed and cooked, frozen is probably the best choice for this pudding, unless you wait and make it with the glut of garden berries in June or July.

When you mix milk and acid, you get curdled milk, which is why the recipe calls for you to make essentially 2 puddings then blend them together. If you use non-dairy milk, such as soy milk or almond milk, you can mix everything in one pot and cook it at once without fear of curdling. However, even though this is a simple, even homely, pudding I think it is quite good enough to justify the use of 2 pots.

I've used both quantities of sugar; it depends on how sweet your berries are and how sweet you want your pudding to be. I have to admit that in most cases I probably prefer the slightly larger quantity. Also note that while I normally call for either arrowroot or cornstarch as a thickener, and usually prefer to use arrowroot, it really gives this pudding an unpleasantly slimy, ropey, texture. Use corn starch for this one.

p.s. - Also delicious (if a little seedy) when made with frozen raspberries! Blueberries taste okay, but make the pudding a dismaying shade of grey.

6 servings
20 minutes prep time plus 2 hours chill time

Strawberry Pudding

2 cups strawberries (can be frozen)
5 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar
2 cups rich milk, soy milk, or almond milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
fresh strawberries to garnish, if available

If the berries are fresh, wash and hull them. (One assumes this is already done if they are frozen.) Put them in a reasonably large, heavy-bottomed pot and mash them coarsely with 3 tablespoons of cornstarch and about half the sugar, until no signs of white powder remain.

Mix the remaining cornstarch, salt, and sugar, in another pot. Mix in the milk well, a little at a time, to ensure that the starch is evenly dissolved throughout.

Once that is done, heat the mixtures over medium heat, stirring frequently. Do each one separately or you may reach a point when you are trying to stir with each arm. Cook until the mixtures thicken, stirring more often as it heats. As it approaches the end of the cooking you should stir it constantly. Once the puddings thicken, remove them from the heat. Stir in the almond extract.

Let the pudding cool for 5 or 10 minutes, then blend them together thoroughly. Spoon the pudding into individual serving bowls, or transfer it to the dish from which it will be served. Chill well before serving. Garnish with sliced fresh strawberries, if you have them.