Monday, 29 April 2019

Growing Mâche, Lamb's Lettuce, Doucette, or Corn Salad

We planted mâche (valerianella locusta*) last spring, and it grew and germinated nicely, and went to flower and then to seed, all before we got around to eating any. It self-seeded very well, and in fact I ripped out large quantities last summer as a weed. I did leave enough for us to make one or two salads.

This is hardly enough experience to render me an expert in growing mâche, but it falls into the same category as many other little greens we have grown. It's small, it's fast growing, and it's at its peak for a very short period of time, all of which makes it something of a pain in the large mixed vegetable garden.

On the other hand, the fact that its peak will fall from the middle of April to early May, depending on the weather, makes it something worth considering. I may continue to let it seed itself around, and leave patches of it to overwinter. It was quite pickable almost as soon as the snow melted, and that makes it a very nice little green indeed.

Like the moderately similar miner's lettuce, mâche is a weed which has begun to be cultivated for it's qualities as a salad green. Unlike miner's lettuce, mâche is not a native of North America. It comes from northern Europe through Asia, where it was a popular foraged spring green, especially in France and England. The name "corn salad" comes from the fact that it was a common weed in grain fields, and the name "lamb's lettuce" suggests it was common in pastures too. They will tolerate a fair bit of shade, although mine grew well enough in the open.

The other thing they have in common is that while you may now be able to buy seed for them, they are hardly cultivated vegetables and really don't behave as such, with their fleeting period of high quality followed by early flowering and copious seeding. I suspect there are 2 main strategies for growing it successfully; the one I intend to follow of just letting it seed itself around the garden, leaving patches to overwinter for early spring picking. This is the low-control option which means it will only be available in the very early spring.

The other way I would consider growing it is in pots or other very controlled growing mediums. Mâche does not so far seem very attractive to slugs, or mice, or other small pests of small plants the way mustards and other Chinese greens do, but the speed at which it grows and its tiny size at maturity should make it suitable for pot culture. It's also a good plant for growing as micro-greens and not uncommonly included in baby salad green mixes. Many people grow it in hoop-houses, or under cover in some way.

I found that pulling up the entire little rosette and pinching off the root left me with very attractive little rosettes. You can shred them and mix them into salads, but they make lovely little garnishes when left whole. The flavour is mild - often described as nutty, which seems to me a bit optimistic - and it will easily blend in with a mix of other salad greens. The texture of the leaves is thin, sturdy but tender, and not succulent like miner's lettuce. They are very nutritious and unlike miner's lettuce contain no oxalic acid.

*Wikipedia suggests that rapunzel is one of the names of mâche. I do not believe this is correct. Every other description of I have seen of rapunzel says it's a form of campanula (bluebells).

Friday, 26 April 2019

Chinese Steamed Spareribs

These are based on the recipe for the little steamed ribs served as part of Dim Sum menus, but I find it hard to get such tiny ribs. Normally they would be steamed on top of the stove and they would cook quite quickly. With full size back ribs, though, I would recommend cooking them slowly in the oven. If you have an Instant Pot, that's the way I cooked these and I have to say I love how fast it is. I'm looking forward to using it in the summer, too, when I will really welcome the fact that it doesn't leave the kitchen "roasting" hot.

Nobody around here complains about having them made with the readily-available larger back ribs, and treated as a main dish. The Cayenne is also not traditional, but we enjoyed the bit of a bite it added. A little ground black pepper will do instead if you don't want it. We had ours with stir-fried cabbage and mushrooms and steamed rice.

I guess this is the first recipe of the new gardening year, in that I garnished it with shallot greens from the garden. If you can't get green onions though, that'll be sad but the ribs are still pretty good without them.

3 to 4 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - to marinate
45 minutes to cook in an Instant Pot
3 hours to cook in the oven

Chinese Steamed Spareribs

Make the Marinade:
3 tablespoons peeled and grated garlic
3 tablespoons peeled and grated ginger
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fermented black bean sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon (more or less) ground Cayenne

Peel and grate the garlic on the finest grater - to a paste, basically. Peel and grate the ginger the same way. Mix them in a large non-reactive bowl with the soy sauce, fermented black bean sauce, sesame oil, and Cayenne. 

Marinate & Cook the Ribs:
1.5 kilos (3 pounds)
1 cup water
3 or 4 green onions

Cut the ribs into pieces with one or two rib-bones each. Mix them into the marinade. Cover and return to the fridge for about 1 hour.

To cook in an Instant-Pot: Put the water in the cooking vessel and put in the rack insert. Place the ribs, along with the marinade, onto it. Close the pot, check the valve is in position, and cook for 20 minutes at high pressure. Allow the pressure to come down naturally; about another 20 minutes before opening the pot.

To cook in the oven: Arrange the ribs in a shallow baking dish on a rack, if possible. Pour the water around them and cover with a lid, if the dish has one, or aluminium foil if it does not. Cook at 250°F for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until very tender.

Wash, trim, and finely chop the green onions and scatter them over the ribs as a garnish when you serve them.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Roasted Rutabaga Fries

By this time of year there isn't much that's still available in the way of storage vegetables, at least not ones that aren't very, very tired. Rutabaga is one of the few. I haven't quite figured out where it stands in the new diet, but I've been eating a lot of it lately anyway. It doesn't make me feel off-kilter the way the last potato dish I made did, so there's that. 

I'd certainly had the idea of roasting rutabaga as fries, but had never quite gotten around to doing it. Fortunately, Molly Watson at The Spruce Eats has done it already and I just did what she told me, although I did turn down the heat a little and I'm glad I did. Yummy!

You do have to like rutabaga - the roasting really intensifies their flavour a lot. One cup (and all these measurements are highly approximate, it's that kind of thing) is probably closer to what most people will eat, but keep in mind they will shrink by about 1/3 in the roasting.

per serving
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time

Roasted Rutabaga Fries

1 to 2 cups rutabaga, when peeled and cut
2 teaspoons mild vegetable oil, about
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
other seasonings, such as paprika, savory, etc

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Peel the rutabaga, whatever quantity you believe will be eaten, and cut it into thin French-fry shapes of about 1/4" across. I found it easiest to cut 3 slices at a time, then stack and cut them in the other direction.

Put all the fries into a mixing bowl and toss with just enough oil to coat them lightly. Spread them out on a large baking tray and sprinkle with whatever seasonings you like; I used the ones mentioned above.

Roast the fries at 425°F for 20 minutes, then turn them over and roast them for another 15 to 20 minutes. Watch them towards the end, as they will darken and burn fairly rapidly. Brown is fine, desirable even, but crunchy, in this case, is not good.

Last year at this time I made Oatmeal Scones.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Turkish Celeriac Salad

Looks like I'm still feeling pretty Turkish or at least I still have the yogurt and garlic out. It's amazing how many countries have kind of similar yet distinctive takes on celeriac salad. So far I have done Denmark, Germany, and France. Is that all? I guess I've kind of done Turkey before. They do use a lot of celeriac there. I wish it was more popular here; it seems to be in a cycle of being expensive because it's an obscure specialty vegetable and it stays an obscure specialty vegetable because it's expensive.

Essentially, this recipe is... this recipe.

4 to 6 servings
20 minutes prep time

Turkish Celeriac Salad

2 to 3 cups peeled and grated celeriac
the juice of 1/2 lemon
1 clove of garlic
2 tablespoons mayonnaise, light is fine
2 tablespoons thick yogurt

1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon rubbed dry OR fresh dill (be a bit more generous with fresh)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon olive oil

Peel and grate the celeriac, and put it in a mixing bowl. Juice the lemon and strain out the seeds; drizzle it over the celeriac. Peel and mince the garlic, and mix it in.

Add the mayonnaise, yogurt, salt, pepper, dill, and walnuts and mix well. Drizzle the olive oil over the salad and mix in gently. Transfer the salad to a serving dish and serve.

Last year at this time I made Scottish Farmhouse Eggs

Friday, 19 April 2019

Beet, Lentil, Red Cabbage & Sprout Salad with Feta, Walnuts & Cranberries

Beets and feta cheese are a very popular combination and when you throw in some lentils along with cabbage, nuts, and cranberries you have a complete meal. The sprouts gave it some greenery and crispness but they can be hard to find these days. You could use micro-greens or even just hydroponic lettuce shredded up fairly finely instead.

As usual, very easy and quick to put together once you have done the advance cooking which is very easy too, just not so quick. No problem to cook the beets and lentils a day in advance if that is helpful.

2 to 6 servings
allow 1 hour plus cooling time for the beet and lentils
20 minutes prep time to assemble the salad

Beet, Lentil, Red Cabbage & Sprout Salad with Feta, Walnuts & Cranberries

Cook the Lentils & Beet:
1/2 cup brown or green lentils
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups water
1 large beet

Put the lentils into a rice cooker with the water and salt; turn on and cook. Let cool. (If you cook lentils some other way, or use tinned ones, you will need about 1 1/2 cups, well drained.)

Put the beet into a small but deep pot and cover with water generously. Bring to a boil and boil steadily for about 45 minutes, until tender. Drain and let cool.

Make the Dressing:
the juice of 1 large lemon
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground Aleppo pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons walnut or hazelnut oil

Squeeze out the lemon juice and strain out any seeds. Put it in a small bowl or jam jar and whisk or mix with the remaining ingredients.

Make the Salad:
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated or finely chopped red cabbage
1 1/2 to 2 cups sprouts or micro-greens
1 small head Belgian Endive
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup dried cranberries

Peel the beet and coarsely grate it. Wash, trim, and coarsely grate the cabbage. Mix them with the well-drained lentils in a mixing bowl.

Wash the sprouts and drain them very well. Pull them into little clumps and mix them into the salad. Wash, trim, and chop the endive and mix it in. Arrange the salad on a flattish salad dish or platter, and sprinkle the chopped walnuts, crumbled feta cheese, an cranberries over it.

Drizzle the salad with the dressing and serve.

Last year at this time I made Cocoa Crepes. Wow, was that just a year ago? I've made them several times since then and they are good. They are even on my new diet!

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Turkish Minty Lamb Meatball Soup

Ever since our trip to Turkey I have been cooking Turkish food regularly. There are a lot of foods from around the Mediterranean area which are exotic to us, but the climate and therefore the food materials from the north and central plains and mountains overlap quite a bit with southern Ontario, making them very adaptable to be made here. This lovely little soup is a good example.

I have broken  it down into a lot of steps and it looks like a lot of ingredients, but it really isn't at all difficult or particularly time consuming, although making all those tiny meatballs got a little tedious. Most of the ingredients listed are just seasonings that get repeated in different components of the soup, and watch that barley flour - I call for it in several different places. The source recipes I looked at for this didn't use barley flour, but as you should know by now I really like it in soup. Most of the recipes I looked at called for chick peas, but some of them called for noodles instead, so you could make that substitution if you like. I'd cook them most of the way separately before adding them if I did that.

I used our own home-canned tomato sauce, which is on the thin side. Most recipes called for tomato paste, and much less of it. You should use whatever tomato product seems best (i.e. you have it) to you, and use your judgement to adjust the quantity. 

If you serve nothing else this will certainly be plenty for 4 people, and with some bread and maybe some Carrots with Yogurt & Garlic it should stretch to 6 without difficulty.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour prep time

Turkish Minty Lamb Meatball Soup

Make the Meatballs:
2 medium onions, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground Aleppo pepper
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon rubbed dried mint
1 tablespoon barley flour
450 grams (1 pound) lean ground lamb
2 to 3 tablespoons barley flour

Trim the stem end of the onions, and peel back the skin to have the onions with an onion skin "handle" at the root ends. Grate the onions, discarding the root end. Put about 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup of the grated onion in a small mixing bowl, and set aside the rest to go into the soup. Measure and add all the spices, up to and including the first tablespoon of barley flour to the mixing bowl.

Add the lamb to the bowl and mix it all well with your hands. The mixture should be quite smooth; most recipes I read used the word "knead" or "beat".

Sprinkle a tablespoon or two of barley flour over a large flat plate. Use a level teaspoon to measure out the meat and form small - small! - meatballs. Drop them on the plate, and give the plate a little shake every dozen meatballs or so to coat them in the barley flour. Sprinkle on another spoonful of barley flour if it looks like it is running low.

Mix the Spices:
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground Aleppo pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon rubbed dry mint
1 tablespoon barley flour
1 clove of garlic

Mix the spices and barley flour in a small bowl. Peel and grate the garlic very finely, and add it to the spices. Have them standing by.

Make the Soup:
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1 cup tomato sauce (see notes above)
4 cups water
1 540-ml (19 ounce) tin of chickpeas, drained

Put the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add the reserved grated onion and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring regularly. Don't let it brown, it should just sizzle gently. Once it is cooked down and translucent, mix in the bowl of spices and garlic. Mix well until there is no dry material left.

Add the tomato sauce, stirring relentlessly until the mixture is fairly smooth. That is, the onion bits will be obvious, but you want the barley flour and spices to have dissolved evenly and without lumps. Let the mixture simmer for a few minutes. Stir in the water, a little at a time, to maintain a smooth lump-free soup. Meanwhile, open and drain the chick peas. (You could, if you like, use their liquid as part of the water to make the soup.)  Add them to the soup. Once it is all in, turn up the heat and bring the soup to a boil.

When the soup boils add the meatballs. Give them a gentle stir to make sure they are not sticking together. When the soup begins to boil again, reduce the heat to keep it at a steady simmer. Simmer the meatballs for 15 minutes.

This can be done up to a day in advance and the soup re-heated to serve, or you can continue from here.

To Finish & Serve the Soup:
1 large egg
1 tablespoon barley flour
2/3 cup yogurt
1 teaspoon rubbed dry mint
2 tablespoons olive oil

Whisk the egg and barley flour together until smooth in a small mixing bowl. Whisk in the yogurt.

Measure the mint and olive oil into another small bowl, and mix well. Set aside to infuse while you finish the soup.

When the soup is just gently simmering, carefully stir in the egg and yogurt mixture. Let it heat gently and uncovered until the soup thickens, but do not let it boil again or it may curdle. It's a good idea to stand over it and stir it gently. Serve at once, with the mint oil drizzled over the top of the soup.

Last year at this time I made Aloo Mattar Chowder - yes, it is still very much soup weather however much I would like it not to be.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Cheddar Cheese Crackers

Here is one of the first things that I have come up with on the new diet. Most bread, pasta, rice, potatoes - all out. I need something to fill the gap and home-made crackers look very promising.

I found some red lentil flour at Bulk Barn and thought it looked interesting. It helps give these crackers that unearthly orange glow, along with the paprika.

The cheese and lentil flour may make these lower in terms of glycemic load, but they make them high in calories too. They are also a lot more filling than regular crackers and I am having to train myself not to eat too many at once, because they are deceiving and I will regret it when they hit bottom in 20 minutes or so. It's hard, because the flavour is so good! Mr. Ferdzy loves them too.

36 crackers
45 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Cheddar Cheese and Red Lentil Crackers

1 cup red lentil flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/4 teaspoon hot red chile flakes (to taste)
150 grams strong hard Cheddar
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
2 to 3 tablespoons cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix dry ingredients and finely grate in the cheese. Grate in the butter; it should be kept in the fridge until the last minute. Mix by hand. Add a little dribble of cream to help them come together. 
Roll out the dough as thin as possible, into as neat a rectangle as possible, on a sheet of parchment paper. I trim the edges and patch them to keep the sides straight. Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into 36 rectangular crackers (6 slices per side). You could sprinkle a little salt over the tops if you liked, but with the cheese they are already fairly salty.

Place the sheet of parchment paper with the crackers onto a baking sheet. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the crackers are firm and beginning to brown just very lightly. They will continue to crisp up as they cool. You can keep them covered in an airtight container for at least a week. I assume. Mine have yet to last that long. 

Last year at this time I made Madras Curry Powder.

Friday, 12 April 2019

Butter-Infused Beans in Tomato Sauce

So what's new on the front of eating more dried beans? Not this, exactly, although this sort of thing is usually done with olive oil. I took a leaf from Marcella Hazan's justly famous tomato-butter sauce for pasta, and put beans in it instead.

Since the sauce was going on beans instead of pasta I put the beans in early, and let them cook in the butter before the tomatoes went in. I think that did make the beans more buttery tasting. However, there was plenty left to thicken and flavour the tomato sauce.

How was it? It was jolly good. Pardon the Britishism, but this is like British tinned beans on toast that died and went to heaven. Actually much better, is what I'm saying, because there was no tin but lots of butter involved. (Well, the tomato sauce, maybe, and if you wanted to use tinned beans to start with, you could. Two 540-ml tins should give the right amount.)

4 servings
45 minutes, not including cooking the beans

Butter-Infused Beans in Tomato Sauce

Cook the Beans
1 cup dried white beans
1 teaspoon salt

Put the beans into a pot with plenty of water to cover them. Bring them to a boil, then cover them and turn off the heat. Let them sit for several hours, then drain them and re-cover with plenty of water. Add the salt and simmer them until tender. (These could be cooked in the instant pot - 15 to 20 minutes at high pressure after soaking, changing the water and adding salt.)

Cook the Beans in the Sauce:
3 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon rubbed savory (or thyme, basil, or oregano)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 to 2 cups not-too-thick tomato sauce

Drain the cooked beans very well. 

You will need a medium-large, shallow, non-reactive pan in which to cook this. Melt the butter in it over medium heat, measuring and adding the seasonings as it melts. Let it sizzle for 3 or 4 minutes, and if the butter turns a little brown, so much the better. But watch it and stir it, because there's brown and then there's very brown, and you don't want that. At all.

When the mixture is foaming and a bit browned, add the drained beans. Stir them in well. Cook for another 8 or 9 minutes, stirring regularly, until the butter seems to be mostly absorbed by them and they are fairly dry. Again, they may start to want to stick, so keep up with the stirring. My sugar, etc, formed hard brown lumps when I added the beans, but they dissolved again as the beans cooked so that was fine.

Add the tomato sauce and reduce the heat to fairly low. The beans should be just simmering. Cook for thirty minutes, stirring regularly (but it will need less attention than during the first phase of cooking) until the sauce has thickened and everything is well amalgamated.

I used our own home-made tomato sauce, which is not too thick. Most commercial sauces are likely to be thicker, and you might want cut back on the tomato sauce a bit and thin it with some of the bean cooking liquid. They're your beans so use your judgement on how you would like the sauce.

Serve in a bowl or over toast or rice. These keep and reheat well - the sauce may need a little thinning when you are reheating. 

Last year at this time I made Pan-Cooked Sweet Potatoes with Balsamic Drizzle. I guess this is the time of year when I want hot, substantial food but don't really want to turn the oven on for hours anymore.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Chick Pea Choux Pastry

I made a half a recipe of this as a trial run, and when it was successful made a full recipe. I did learn a few things in making these twice. The first time I was worried there was not enough flour to make the batter the right consistency, and added a little more. The result was sturdy puffs that rose, but not a lot, and tasted very robust, almost cheesy. They were quite good and I was encouraged to try again.

The second time I relaxed and trusted the original formula (this is a bog-standard choux recipe, just using chick pea flour instead of wheat flour) and also beat them for a bit longer. (You will need an electric mixer to make these, hand beating will not be sufficient.) The results were much lighter and puffier, and not quite so intense, although they are still sturdier and richer flavoured than wheat-based puffs. We thought they were really delicious.

My original impression was that these would be best in savoury applications. I filled these ones with goat cheese thinned with a little cream, and Turkish Walnut & Red Pepper Paté, thinned with enough of the soaking water to make it fairly soft. The paté in particular was amazing with these puffs. Because these are so rich I would tend to stick to vegetarian fillings, although I would avoid things made with beans. Hummus would be right out - what a lot of chick peas. Guacamole would be good, or this Herbed Cream Cheese Dip. And I'm re-thinking my original idea that they should be savoury only. They'd need a sweet filling with some robustness that wouldn't fight with the chick peas, but some things might work well. A pumpkin or maple cream might be good, or maybe the type of cheese filling that gets put in cannoli.

I used a 2 ounce (I think) disher to scoop them out, and got 22 of them. I don't think you would want them a lot smaller, or they would be hard to work with, although I'm sure you could eke out a few more than I got. You could make them larger, too - my original experiment would have made 8. At that size they should be formed like eclairs, long and thin. One of those with a good filling and salad would be pretty close to a meal, I would think.

8 to 24 puffs
45 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Chick Pea Cream Puffs stuffed with cheese and pepper paté

1 cup filtered water
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chick pea flour
4 large eggs

Put the water, butter, and salt into a 2 quart pot with good high sides, and bring to a boil. Dump in the flour, and immediately start beating it in with an electric mixer until thick, about 2 minutes. It is apt to form lumps, so the sooner you get beating it the better, and a spoon or whisk will not do. Remove the pot from the heat and continue to beat the mixture until cooled to warm. 

Preheat the oven to 400°F and line one or two baking sheets with parchment paper. 

Beat the eggs into the batter, one at a time, until thick and glossy – beat for 3 or 4 minutes. Dish out the batter onto parchment, leaving 2 or 3 inches clear between each puff. Bake them at 400°F for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 325°F and bake them for a further 15 minutes. 

Remove them from the oven and let them cool on the pans, but on a rack. Slice off the top third and add whatever filling you like, then replace the top. Serve shortly - depending on the filling, it may make them soggy if they sit too long.

Last year at this time I made Lorenzo's Pastel de Pescado

Monday, 8 April 2019

A Lamb Banquet with Ontario Sheep Farmers

It's been a while since we've been on an outing around here! So when I saw a poster advertising the 17th Annual Lamb Banquet, put on by District 2 of the Ontario Sheep Farmers, I told Mr. Ferdzy he was taking me out for dinner. It was a bit of a drive to the Egremont Optimist Club in Holstein (Holstein! There's that place again!) but the room was full. Lots of people are prepared to do some driving for a lamb banquet, I'd say.

In addition to the meal there was a silent auction with items running from the charming and whimsical...

... to the more practical.

Another view of a few of the silent auction offerings and the attending crowd.

As people found their seats and introduced themselves to each other, they were able to snack on lamb summer sausage (supplied by Jason Emke) and little lamb shishkebabs, which appeared in waves as they came off the grill, and so are not shown as they disappeared almost as quickly.

I stuck my head inside the kitchen, where the volunteers seemed to have everything under control just a few minutes before dinner was announced.

A lot of planning goes into this kind of event, with contributions of various kinds from a lot of different places and people, not to mention the planners and volunteers.

After a few very short introductory speeches, we were called up by table to help ourselves from the buffet. Of course we were on the side of the room that got called up last! We have a talent for getting the slowest line in the grocery store, too. We didn't mind the wait though, because shortly after we first sat down, a couple came and asked if the seats opposite us were taken. We said they weren't, and then they sat down and we all looked at each other, and said, "My! You look familiar!"

It was Bill Stonehouse and his wife, from whom we bought our last couple of lambs, some of which is still in our freezer. It was nice to have someone we knew to chat with, and we hardly noticed the wait (which wasn't all that long, after all).

And here's what I ate, minus the summer sausage and shishkebabs, although you can see the discarded skewers. I was a bit amused by the fact that every vegetable seemed to have been chosen as something pre-diabetics should not eat, except for a couple of salads which I'm sure had sugar in the dressing. I skipped the desserts (sob!) and the roll, and just had a small spoonful of each of the veg, including some lovely real mashed potatoes. Oh well, more room for lots of lovely LAMB!

And now I must confess that I am a bad reporter. I'm sure the post dinner time included speeches, and there was something about $5 lamb and mysterious buckets, there was the silent auction to conclude, and, well, I don't know exactly what, because mindful of the fact that our next day was pretty much scheduled and that we had an hour drive to get home, we snuck out before that part started.

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

Friday, 5 April 2019

Pineapple Parsnip Cake


This seems as good a time as any to say that I've been diagnosed as pre-diabetic. Things are going to have to change around here. I've always tried not to go wild with the sugar, being well aware that diabetes is not so much a possibility as a certainty on my Dad's side of the family. I've tried to pretend that I would take after Mom's side, but the observation that I am built like my Dad could not help but be made. Apparently that does include the tendency to diabetes. I do have the family sweet-tooth, however inclined I may be to cut the sugar in half when making desserts.

Yeah, this recipe is part of the problem and not part of the solution. I made it before I got the word from on high, so it won't get made again any time soon, I regret to say. It was delicious though, so go for it if you can. 

16 servings
1 hour prep time
plus allow some time to cool

Pineapple Parsnip Cake

Mix the Dry Ingredients:
2 cups whole spelt flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 to 8 pods of green cardamom

Put everything into a large mixing bowl. The cardamom must first be lightly crushed and the papery husks removed. Grind the remaining seed as finely as you can, and then add it to the bowl. Mix well. 

Mix the Wet Ingredients & Finish the Cake:
3 cups (375 grams; 3/4 pound) grated parsnips
1 14 ox (400ml) tin crushed pineapple
3 large eggs
2/3 cup mild vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottoms of 2 8" square pans with parchment paper, and butter and flour the sides.

Peel and grate the parsnips, and put them in another mixing bowl. Add the crushed pineapple, along with all the juice. Break in the eggs, and add the oil and vanilla extract. Whisk everything together well.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir to combine thoroughly, but do not over-mix. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 prepared pans and spread it out evenly as well.

Bake the cakes at 350°F for about 40 minutes, until they spring back when lightly touched, or pass the toothpick test (no wet crumbs adhere to an inserted toothpick). Let cool for 10 minutes then remove from the pans to finish cooling on racks. They can be frosted and stacked, or not, as you like.

Last year at this time I made Barbunya Zeytinyagli

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Cheese, Onion & Potato Tarte Tatin

This is an idea I've been tossing around for a long time, but it always seemed so complicated. It's not the fastest and easiest thing I've made, but in the end it was not as bad as I feared. It worked out pretty well.

The one thing I would change (and I've said so in the instructions) is to cook the onions on their own for longer than 10 minutes. That's how long I cooked them, and I rated them as only just barely done in the end. If they also picked up a little colour that would do them no harm at all. Next time I would crowd them more than I did, too - they shrunk a bit in the cooking.

We ate some of this right out of the oven and it was nice, but we both agreed that the leftovers were better re-heated and served the next day. It had also set a bit better with cooling and re-heating, so it looks like what I am saying here is that it's a good plan to make this a day ahead and reheat it.

6 servings
1 hour 45 minutes - 1 hour prep time
NOT including cooking the potatoes

Cheese, Onion & Potato Tart Tatin

Cook the Potatoes:
3 medium (450 grams; 1 pound) potatoes

Put them in a pot with plenty of water to cover them. Bring them to a boil and boil for 30 to 40 minutes until easily pierced with a fork. Drain them and let cool. Peel them and mash them very smoothly. This can be done a day in advance.

Make the Pie Crust:
2 cups soft whole wheat or spelt flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
1/4 cup buttermilk

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

Measure the butter, oil and buttermilk into a small mixing bowl. Cut up the butter with a pastry cutter or a couple of knives, then begin stirring in the flour. Keep cutting in the butter until it is pieces no larger than a small pea. Form it into a ball, cover it with a tea towel, and set it aside as you cook the onions and make the filling.

Cook the Onions: 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
450 grams (1 pound; about 4 or 5) medium onions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the sides of a large (11") spring-form pan. Line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper and spread the 2 tablespoons of butter evenly all over it. Draw out another circle of parchment paper (but don't cut it out) for use in rolling out the pastry.

Trim the ends off the onions and peel them. Cut each one into 4 to 6 slices of approximately 1/4" wide. Arrange them as snugly as you can over the buttered pan base. It might be helpful to arrange half-slices all around the outside.

Put them into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until softened and perhaps slightly browned. Keep an eye on them towards the end in particular

Make the Filling & Finish:
2 tablespoons flour
3 extra-large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
250 grams (9 ounces) grated Gouda, Friulano, Gruyere or similar cheese

In a large, heavy bottomed pot whisk the flour and eggs together. Mix in the salt, pepper, and mustard. Slowly stir in the milk and drop in the butter. Grate the cheese and have it standing by, along with the mashed potatoes (re-mash them to loosen them up).

Turn on the heat under the pot with the eggs, milk, etc. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly to constantly - more and more as it starts to cook and thicken. When it has thickened, stir in the cheese until it is melted. Stir in the mashed potatoes until the mixture is smooth. Remove it from the heat.

Pat and roll the pastry out to an even circle, using the guide you drew earlier on a piece of parchment paper.

When the onions are cooked, scrape the filling into the pan over them and spread it out evenly. Use the parchment to flip the pastry onto the top of the filling, then peel it off. Patch it up if it needs it. Return the tart to the oven and bake for 50 to 55 minutes until golden brown.

Let the tart cool on a rack. Remove the ring after about 15 minutes. The tart can be served warm or at room temperature. It re-heats extremely well.

Last year at this time I made Strawberry Pudding.

Monday, 1 April 2019

Clay Pot Chicken - in the Romertopf

Clay Pot Chicken is a favourite dish of southern China, into Singapore and Malaysia. It is indeed traditionally cooked in a clay pot - just not one like this. Chinese clay pots were designed to cook over a charcoal fire, and the dish would subsequently pick up a bit of a smoky flavour. That's somewhat of a thing of the past though, since charcoal fires have gotten pretty rare. And in the mean time, I have this other clay pot... and it turns out that it works very well.

Of course we can't get lap cheong sausages anywhere within 2 hours of driving. However, it's amazing how well pepperettes do as a stand-in. Or maybe I'm just deluding myself? Do use the real thing if you can get it. 

4 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time
PLUS 8 hours marinating time

Clay Pot Chicken made in the Romertopf

Marinate the Chicken:
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon (2 or 3 cloves) finely grated garlic
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 medium (600 grams; 1.5 pounds) bone-in chicken thighs

Peel and grate the ginger and garlic. Mix it in a container sufficient to hold the chicken thighs with the soy sauce and rice vinegar.

De-bone the chicken thighs but leave the skin on. Cut each into 2 or 3 pieces. Mix them well into teh marinade, cover and refrigerate for 4 to 12 hours.

Start the Rice:
1 1/2 cups short-grain white rice
2 1/4 cups unsalted chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon salt

Soak the base and lid of the Romertopf in water for 20 to 30 minutes

Drain the Romertopf. Put the rice, salt, and chicken stock in the Romertopf, spreading the rice out evenly. Put it in the oven and turn the oven on to 375°F. Set the time for 30 minutes.

Finish the Dish:
6 to 8 medium shallots
125 grams (1/4 pound) fresh shiitake mushrooms
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
2 lap cheong sausages OR 4 small turkey pepperettes
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 or 2 green onions

Peel and sliver the shallots. Remove and discard (you know what I mean) the stems from the shiitakes. Cut them in slices.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium skillet over high heat. Add the shallots and shiitakes and cook for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened and slightly browned in spots. Transfer them to a dish.

Heat the remaining oil in the skillet and add the chicken pieces, skin side down. Let as much marinade drain off them as possible as they get placed in the pan. Save the marinade, it's going in shortly but let the chicken brown for 3 or 4 minutes per side first. Add the sausages, give them a minute to be stirred down into the pan, then scrape in all the marinade. As soon as it boils up remove the pan from the stove.

Take the Romertopf out of the oven and remove the lid, with good thick mitts and being careful to place it on a dry and heat-proof surface. Gently mix in the vegetables, the chicken, and its sauce. Spread it all out evenly again, and cover with the lid. Return it to the oven for a further 20 to 30 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

To serve, drizzle the sesame oil and oyster sauce over the rice. Have the onions washed, trimmed, and finely chopped. Sprinkle them over the top as well. (A little cilantro is also commonly used, and can be added when it is in season.)

Last year at this time I made Taiwanese Noodles.