Friday, 29 November 2019

Poppy Seed-Bran Soda Bread

Rudolph's make a poppy seed and bran bread that I like very much, but it doesn't make the cut for my new diet. It's quite different from this one (lots of white flour and much less bran and poppy seeds; also a standard industrial yeast-raised bread) but this has plenty of appeal too. I put in the higher quantity of poppy seeds and liked it, but I am prepared to admit that that's a lot of poppy seeds. You could certainly supply them with more discretion.

This is an excellent bread to have with a bowl of hearty vegetable soup, or I suppose you could eat it with butter and jam, although I think it is better with cheese. 

12 slices
1 hour - 5 minutes prep time - allow time to cool

Poppy Seed-Bran Soda Bread

2 cups whole spelt flour
1 1/2 cups wheat bran
1/4 to 1/2 cup poppy seeds
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk

Mix the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Stir in the buttermilk until just blended. Let the batter rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, grease and flour a large loaf pan and preheat the oven to 350°F. When the batter has rested (and thickened slightly) scrape it into the prepared pan and smooth it out. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until done - test with a toothpick if you are not sure.

Let the loaf cool for 10 minutes before removing it from the pan. Let cool to just barely warm to completely before slicing and serving.

Last year at this time I made Poutine with Homemade Gravy.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Braised Muscovy Duck

I've cooked Muscovy duck a few times, and I always find it a bit of a challenge. The meat is much more like beef than poultry in colour and texture, although with that lovely ducky flavour. They are sturdy birds and the meat does not tend to be naturally tender, and while the skin is thick with some fat they are not overall fatty like other ducks but really quite lean. Like most poultry, there is a fair bit of difference in the meat from the legs versus the meat from the breasts. I decided to try cooking this one using the technique I like to use on free-range turkeys. The verdict - it works very well.

I hardly seasoned this at all, other than aromatic vegetables, bay leaves, and salt and pepper. No complaints. The meat is rich and flavourful and doesn't need anything else. Next time I might throw in a few juniper berries, and I can see adding sautéed mushrooms to the gravy. Of course, you don't have to make the gravy at all; various sweet-tart fruit sauces are classic with duck and you could do one here. I'm not likely to bother. I like the gravy very well and as I say, the flavour stands on its own with no trouble. There is plenty of leftover stock in addition to the leftover vegetable and flour thickened gravy, and between the two of them you have the basis for quite a lot of excellent soup.

I'm doing the final roast for the breasts at a higher temperature than I did the turkey; I think the duck breast calls for a faster, shorter cooking.

It's interesting (to me, if no-one else) to see how my recipe writing technique has changed since I started this blog. I find myself wanting to go back and re-write the original turkey recipe to use the system of mini sub-recipes I've been using for more complicated dishes for a while now. I'm curious if anyone has any preferences about how I'm doing this. 

allow about 1 pound per person
up to 1 hour to break down the duck
3 hours plus to make the stock - 15 minutes prep time
2 to 2 1/2 hours cooking time plus a further 15 minutes before you are eating

Break Down the Duck:
1  4 to 5 kilogram (8 to 10 pounds) Muscovy duck

I find that Muscovy duck often comes with a fair number of feather tips still embedded in the skin. Use a good large pair of tweezers to extract as many as you can. 

Cut the wings from the bird. Cut the tips from wings and put them in a large soup pot. Cut the legs off from the bird next. Some really good kitchen shears are very helpful here. Put the leg and wing pieces aside. If there are any other portions of meat still attached to the back side of the carcass, remove them carefully and set them with the legs and wings.

Cut the breast meat carefully from carcass, in one piece from each side, along with any remaining pieces of meat that are large enough to cut off and use. Start by cutting along each side of the breast bone then almost scraping the meat from the rib cage. Break off the back half of the carcass (now with all the meat removed) and put it in the soup pot with the wing tips. Break up the remaining bones and put them in the soup pot. Add the neck, if you have it. 

Make the Duck Stock:
1 stalk of celery
1 medium carrot
1 medium onion
2 1/2 litres (10 cups) water
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 or 3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

Wash, trim, and peel (if necessary) the vegetables, and chop them coarsely. Add them to the pot of bones. Cover the bones with the water, add the vinegar, bay leaves and pepper, and simmer for several hours; cover and return the duck pieces to fridge while this happens. You may wish to make the duck  stock the day before the duck is to be cooked. Cool the stock promptly and keep it in the fridge as well until needed, in that case.

I made my duck stock in the Instant Pot. I don't know that it was much quicker, what with the heating up and cooling down periods, but it required no attention as it cooked. I gave it 45 minutes and the results were satisfactory, although I wonder about giving it slightly longer next time - up to an hour for really strong stock.

At some point the stock must be strained, and the solids discarded - but keep any fat if you can.

Braise the Duck:
1 or 2 stalks of celery
1 medium carrot
1 medium onion
2 to 3 tablespoons duck fat OR mild vegetable oil
2 or 3 bay leaves
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Yes, this is a repeat of all the veggies put into the stock. Wash, trim, and finely chop the celery. Peel and grate the carrot. Peel and chop the onion. Put them aside for the moment.

Preheat the oven to 275°F. 

Heat 2 tablespoon of the duck fat (from the top of the stock) or vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the wings and legs and any other pieces with skin well, and put them, skin side up, in a large roasting pan with a lid when done. Add the vegetables to the skillet, with a little more fat or oil if there is not enough (unlikely; you may need to drain some off in fact), and cook them until softened and slightly reduced in volume. Spoon the vegetables in around the duck pieces, but not covering them. Add any duck pieces without skin (if you did a good job there won't be any). If you can keep the skin above the level of the stock it should stay fairly crisp and nice. 

Ladle over 4 cups of the strained duck stock. Cover the pan and put it into the oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The meat should be cooked, and moderately tender, although keep in mind that Muscovy duck will always be quite firm and almost beef-like. Raise the temperature to 400°F.

Place the duck breast pieces on top of the meat in the pan, trying to avoid putting them over the legs (to keep the skin on them crisp) and return to the oven. Roast until the breasts are crisped, brown, and medium rare; about 20 to 30 minutes.

Cover the meat loosely and let rest for 10 minutes before carving and serving.

Make Gravy:
2 to 4 tablespoons barley or other flour

If you wish to make gravy, lift the meat from the roasting pan to a large serving platter and cover it to rest there for the 10 minutes. Scrape half the broth and vegetables into a food processor, removing and discarding the bay leaves, and process with 2 tablespoons flour. This will be more than enough gravy, but I do this with the remaining half as well - it makes an excellent soup when thinned with a little more the plain stock.

Heat whatever quantity of the puréed broth you think will make sufficient gravy for your needs in a medium skillet over medium heat. Simmer, stirring regularly, until thickened; 3 or 4 minutes should be sufficient. Transfer to a gravy boat and serve.

The remainder of the puréed broth should be cooked in the same way, but after dinner is soon enough to do it; it then becomes the basis for soup along with any leftover gravy from the meal.

Last year at this time I made Barley, Wild Rice & Mushroom Pilaf. It would go extremely well with duck, just sayin'!

Monday, 25 November 2019

Butternut Squash Roasted with Shallots & Cranberries

Nothing fussy about this; it's about as quick and easy as roasting squash ever gets. I'd say this is an ideal dish to serve with any poultry or pork; less ideal with beef or lamb but still good. A simple green vegetable will finish the menu.

 I am still trying to figure out how squash fit into a lower blood sugar diet. They are quite high in carbohydrates for a vegetable, and in fact contain sugars. On the other hand they rate quite low on the glycemic index and load, and some sources indicate they have blood-sugar lowering properties. On the other hand I can find references to people eating squash and having their blood sugar go up... it's a puzzle. Right now I am eating them because we have a laundry room shelf full of squash, but I will need to check my blood sugar levels over the winter as I eat them, and think about whether and how many we should plant next year. And I put honey in them too, because cranberries. However, in spite of all the potential pitfalls this is a dish for special fall and early winter occasions, and will not get eaten often.

If I wanted to make this more of a main dish, I would sprinkle some cubes of feta cheese over it for the last 10 or 15 minutes of baking.

4 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Butternut Squash Roasted with Shallots & Cranberries

1.4 kilogram (3 pounds) butternut squash
6 to 8 shallots
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375°F. 

Peel the squash, and remove the seeds and any stringy bits from the seed cavity. Cut it into 1 centimetre slices, and then into bite-sized pieces. Peel and quarter the shallots.

Put the squash and shallots into a shallow 9" x 13" baking (lasagne) pan. Add the cranberries, washed and picked over. Drizzle the honey and vegetable oil over the squash, etc, and mix gently. Season with salt and pepper.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes until the squash is tender. Stir gently halfway through the baking time. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Squash Poached in Maple Syrup.

Friday, 22 November 2019

Brussels Sprout Purée

Here is a presentation for Brussels sprouts that is simultaneously fairly plain (not much in the way of ingredients) and fancy, what with the messing around with the food processor. I have to admit I like puréed vegetables in general, but I can see that some people may find them too much like baby food.

Still if you are looking for something familiar and yet with a little twist, this may make a good choice for holiday meals. I wouldn't serve it with squash (well actually, I did, which is why I am saying this) or mashed sweet potatoes or any other similarly textured vegetable, on account of the similar textures. Serve it with rice or other whole grains, and crunchier vegetables.  

4 servings
20 minutes prep time

Brussels Sprout Purée

500 grams (1 pound) Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 to 3 tablespoons sour cream OR yogurt
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash and trim the Brussels sprouts. Cut an "X" about half an inch into the bottom of each one, to ensure that they cook evenly and through to the middle.

Put a pot with about an inch of water in it on to boil. Add the sprouts when it boils, and cover them. Cook for 6 or 7 minutes.

Lift them out with a slotted spoon into a food processor. If there are some loose leaves, you can set aside a few to use as a garnish. Add about 1/4 cup of the cooking water, the butter and the sour cream or yogurt. Season with the salt and pepper. Purée until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides if necessary. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with the saved leaves, if you have them. Serve at once, although if you find they have cooled a bit in processing, it may be a good idea to give them a minute in the microwave. (Or if you have made them in advance, the well reheat in the microwave quite well - 2 or 3 minutes will probably do it.

Last year at this time I made Roast Chicken in a Clay Pot (Romertopf).

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Sausage & Cheese Stuffed Peppers in Tomato Sauce

I have a freezer full of peppers but I couldn't resist a couple of big fat red beauties from the half-price table. I had some really still quite good mushrooms from the half-price table ditto, some lovely smoked sausage from a local farmer, and cheese curds from our trip to Ottawa last weekend. This is how it all ended up.

If you have about 3/4 of a cup to a cup of leftover cooked quinoa, brown rice, barley, etc, you could use that instead of the cracked wheat but since I didn't have any of those, the fact that the cracked wheat just needs to be soaked and not pre-cooked made it very convenient. As you see, I only made 2 stuffed peppers but I'm calling for 4 because I had enough filling to do 2 more. Guess I'm going to fold the rest of the filling into tomato sauce and put it on pasta.

4 servings
1 3/4 hours to 2 hours - 1 hour prep time

Sausage & Cheese Stuffed Peppers in Tomato Sauce

Roast the Peppers:
4 large greenhouse bell peppers

Broil the peppers for about 5 minutes per side until the skin is lightly browned. Let them cool enough to handle, then peel and core them. Turn them upside down to drain as you make the filling. Allow 20 minutes for this; it may not take quite that long but then again it may. 

Stuff & Bake the Peppers:
1/3 cup cracked wheat
1 medium onion
6 to 8 medium (125 grams; 1/2 pound) button mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic (optional)
250 grams (1/2 pound) raw sausage
a little mild vegetable oil
125 grams (1/4 pound) cheese curds OR other mild cheese, diced
2 to 3 cups tomato sauce 

Meanwhile, boil some water and put the cracked wheat into a small bowl with a couple of shakes of salt. Pour over about 1 cup of boiling water, cover, and let soak for about 10 or 15 minutes. Drain well.

Peel and chop the onion. Wash, trim, and cut the mushrooms 3 or 4 times in both directions to form little sticks. Peel and mince the garlic, if you are using it. Remove the casing from the sausage and crumble it. I used smoked but raw sausage; this was sufficient heat to make the casing stick too much to remove, and since it was not particularly thick I decided to leave it and just chop the sausage fairly finely.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a shallow casserole dish which will hold all the peppers neatly.

Heat a little oil in a medium skillet. You need enough to keep the onion and mushrooms, which are about to go in, from sticking but then the sausage will also go in, and it will likely exude a certain amount of fat, so the trick is to keep the veggies from sticking but not end up with too much grease.

Add the onion and mushroom to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally until slightly softened. Add the sausage and cook for another few minutes, until the sausage seems to be mostly cooked. Add the garlic - although you should consider the flavouring of the sausage you are using - and cook for another minute or two. If you wish to add any other seasonings, now is the time; I find it hard to recommend any as it all depends on how your sausage is already flavoured. Since I used smoked sausage I just added a small bit of smoked paprika and some pepper. When the sausage is done, remove the pan from the heat. Mix in the drained cracked wheat and let the mixture cool enough to handle. Chop up about half the cheese curds and mix them in.

Stuff the peppers with the prepared mixture and place them in the oiled pan. Drizzle the sauce over and around them. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. After they have been in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, sprinkle the remaining cheese curds over them.

Last year at this time I made Hungarian Seasoning Blend.

Monday, 18 November 2019

Pear & Endive (or Arugula) Salad with Lemon-Cardamom Dressing

Rather plain and sparse on the ingredients, I thought as I was making this. However, it didn't taste plain - it tasted extremely good and even Mr. Ferdzy went back for seconds; pretty amazing for a salad that contains Belgian endive, which is not his favourite thing at all. Perhaps it was because it has been a long time since we have had any pears. Their season is nowhere as long as that of apples, and they really are sugar in fruit form as well. Still, they are so good and I intend to eat a few this fall.

As usual I got sucked in by the fact that my hydroponic lettuce was amazingly pretty and I could not bring myself to just chop the stuff up. The pear slices on top were a bit pointless too, but even though I know better I just can't help myself. I should just chop everything up in advance then not have to supply a knife to eat the salad, but whatever. It did look nice for 30 seconds after it hit the table.

4 servings
15 minutes to make the dressing
15 minutes to make the salad

Make the Dressing:
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
5 or 6 pods of green cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt (but see notes)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons almond or other nut oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons sour cream
the juice of 1/2 large lemon

Grate a little lemon zest into a small bowl. Crush the cardamom and remove the green papery husks, then grind the remaining seeds with the salt. Note, however, that if you are using roasted, salted pumpkin seeds in the salad I would suggest cutting the amount of salt way back. Add this to the lemon zest then grind in plenty of black pepper.

Mix in the oil, the mustard, the sour cream, and the lemon juice. The dressing is best if made at least half an hour to an hour in advance to allow the flavours to blend.

Make the Salad:
4 cups chopped lettuce (1 large head hydroponic lettuce)
1 large or 2 medium heads Belgian Endive
OR 2 cups chopped arugula
1 or 2 stalks of celery
2 medium firm-ripe Bartlett or 3 Bosc Pears
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted

Wash, trim, and chop the lettuce, the Belgian endive or arugula, and the celery. Mix them in a salad bowl.

Wash, core, and chop the pears. If you like, you can cut enough thin slices to form a circle over the salad. Mix the chopped pear into the salad and arrange the slices over the top, if that is what you are doing.

Note: If you are starting with raw pumpkin seeds, they should be toasted in advance in a dry skillet and then turned onto a plate to cool as soon as they are full and lightly browned. I recommend these over the ones bought already roasted and salted, but you have to use what you can get, of course.

Either toss the dressing into the salad, then arrange the pear slices and toasted pumpkin seeds over it, or sprinkle on the pumpkin seeds and pass the dressing separately.

Last year at this time I made Turkey & Mushroom Stuffed Leeks.

Friday, 15 November 2019

Russian "Lazy" Egg & Cabbage Pie

I've had my eye on this one for a while, but I've been putting it off because it seemed a bit odd and also a bit plain, in spite of being a pie, of sorts. Wrong, though! It was really good and the ever-popular easy, and I'll be making it again. I might gild the lily and put some cheese or bacon in it, but really it was more than fine the way it was. If there's anything difficult about it, it's deciding what to serve with it. It seems to want something, but after all it does contain all the components of a reasonable meal itself. Maybe all it needs is a second helping. More seriously, some squash or sweet potato might be good to round it out. Salad seems like too much veg, and while some bacon or sausage would go well it's already pretty rich.

This sort of soft batter enclosing a filling gets used a lot, from Turkey on up through the Balkans, Ukraine, and Russia. Some of the recipes I looked at referred to it as a lazy pie, as the batter is much faster and easier to make than a proper pie crust. Cabbage and eggs are a really common filling but there are lots of other things baked into this type of pie. Ground meat and mushrooms seem popular, but right now we have a glut of cabbages in the cold storage so cabbage it was.

I used a mix of sour cream and rather thick yogurt, and in spite of adding a little more than the cup I'm calling for, I think my batter was a hair too thick. It's pretty forgiving, though. I used oil although a lot of recipes called for mayonnaise, which after all is basically oil. I didn't see the need particularly, and mayonnaise is rather expensive. Vegetable oil worked fine. 

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time - not including boiling the eggs

Russian Lazy Egg & Cabbage Pie

Prepare the Filling:
3 large room temperature eggs
4 cups finely shredded green cabbage
1 medium carrot
1 large onion
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon rubbed dillweed
1/2 teaspoon rubbed savory

Put the eggs into a pot and cover them with water. Bring them to a boil and boil them for 1 minute. Cover the pot and remove it from the heat. Let sit for 10 minutes. Drain the eggs and rinse them in cold water until cool. This can be done in advance.

Wash, trim, and finely shred the cabbage. Peel and grate the carrot. Peel and sliver the onion finely.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots and onions and toss them in the oil; after they have cooked for a minute or two mix in the cabbage. Cook the vegetables gently until softened and reduced in volume but not browned. Stir regularly. Mix in the seasonings as they cook.

Once they are ready, remove them from the heat and let them cool while you make the batter. Peel the hard-boiled eggs, chop them, and mix them with the vegetables.

Make the Pie:
3 large eggs
about 1 cup sour cream, yogurt, OR buttermilk
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil OR mayonnaise
1 1/3 cup soft whole wheat or spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sesame OR poppy seeds

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a 8" x 10" baking (lasagne) pan.

Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl. Whisk in the sour cream, yogurt, or buttermilk and the oil. Measure the flour and mix in the salt and baking powder. Whisk it into the eggs and dairy. If necessary, add a little more of the chosen dairy product to make a thick but pourable pancake type batter. One cup buttermilk should be enough but thicker sour cream or yogurt may require a bit more. You could also use a mixture of products.

Pour 40% to 50% of the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly. Spoon in the vegetable filling evenly over the batter. Scrape in the remaining batter and smooth it evenly over the top.

Bake the pie at 375°F. for 40 to 45 minutes. Let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Last year at this time I made Mincemeat Cake

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Brussels Sprouts Hash

We went to Ottawa and Gatineau for a long weekend to visit relatives. That was 2 days on the road, and 2 days visiting, which is much too long on the road, especially given that we hit that first snow storm of the season on the way back. We were fed quite well by our relatives but food on the road leaves much to be desired, especially if you are trying to track it down in small, isolated towns, as we were. It was a relief to start our week back home with something healthy and delicious and more like our usual fare.

I mentioned before that boiled and cooled then re-cooked potatoes are easier on the blood-sugar. They make good hash, too. Convenient! Other than needing to remember to cook the potato in advance, this is a quick and simple meal. Any kind of protein is all that is needed to make it a full meal, which is also nice. If you don't want meat, top it with some poached or fried eggs. Or maybe even if you do. Bacon and sausage seem very appropriate but fish or chicken would go very well too.

4 servings
45 minutes prep time, not including boiling the potato

Brussels Sprouts Hash with Bacon

Boil the Potato:
1 large (250 grams; 1/2 pound) baking potato

Put a pot of water on to boil, then boil the potato for 10 minutes. Drain and cool. This can be done up to a day ahead.

Make the Hash:
500 grams (1 pound) Brussels sprouts
1 medium (250 grams; 1/2 pound) sweet potato
3 or 4 medium shallots
3 or 4 tablespoons bacon fat OR mild vegetable oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Trim the Brussels sprouts and cut them into thin slices. Place them in a colander. Put a kettle of water on to boil.

Wash and trim the sweet potato, if required, and grate it coarsely. Grate the potato coarsely, discarding any skin that peels off of it, which is likely to be most of it. Peel and sliver the shallots.

When the water boils, pour it evenly over the Brussels sprouts in the colander and let them drain. Meanwhile, Heat 2 tablespoons of the fat in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sweet potato and potato shreds and toss them in the fat, then spread them out and let them cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Turn them once you can see some brown flecks starting to form. Adjust the heat as necessary.

Add the blanched Brussels sprouts and mix them in. Continue cooking the hash, turning and mixing the vegetables every few minutes to cook them evenly and distribute the lightly browned bits amongst them. You are likely to need to drizzle a bit more fat or oil over them as they cook; enough to keep them from sticking or scorching but not enough to let them become greasy. Season them with salt and pepper as they cook; if you use bacon fat keep in mind that it will be supplying some amount of salt.

When the hash is cooked to your liking, serve it at once.

Last year at this time I made Warm Chicken & Wild Rice Salad with Roasted Vegetables.

Monday, 11 November 2019

Spiced Roasted Apple & Acorn Squash Soup

More squash. Sorry; not sorry. We have quite a bit of the stuff. This is at least a different kind.  The tart apples, sweet spices, vinegar and mild squash needed a fair bit of pepper to balance it out, I thought, so check it before you serve it. I debated putting a little heat into this, and maybe another time I would. This was very nice, though; lively, sweet and tart.

4 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Mix the Spices:
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon anise seeds
1/2 teaspoon allspice berries
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt

Grind everything together and set aside.

Roast the Squash, Etc & Finish the Soup:
1 large (1kg; 2 1/4 pounds) acorn squash
4 medium apples
4 shallots
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
3 cups unsalted chicken OR vegetable stock
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut the squash into quarters and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits from the centre. Rub the cut edges with a little oil, and roast the squash until tender, about an hour and a quarter.

Meanwhile, peel the apples, core them, and slice them into wedges - I used an apple cutter. Peel and cut the shallots into quarters. Toss both with a little oil and the spice blend, and spread them on a baking tray. Bake for about 45 minutes, until softened and slightly browned. Start checking them at the 30 minute mark though; apples vary a lot in the length of cooking time required, and much depends on how thickly you have sliced them.

The apples can cool while the squash finishes. Once the squash is roasted and cool enough to handle, peel off and discard the skins. Run the flesh through a food processor until smooth. You can add any quantity of the apples and shallots that you like, up to all of them, or you can keep some out, and mash them, and add them later to provide some chunky texture to the soup. Use some of the stock to thin the squash if it is too thick for the food processor.

Put the puréed squash, etc into a soup pot with the remaining apples and shallots (lightly mashed), the remaining stock, and the vinegar.  Heat to a good simmer and serve.

Friday, 8 November 2019

Braised Pork Ribs & Squash

Kabocha is probably the traditional squash for this traditional Chinese dish, but butternut was what I had, and it was fine - plenty of cooks do seem to use it.

The black bean sauce I had was also fairly spicy, which was a thing I liked in the finished dish, but use whatever black bean sauce you like/have/can get. I also saw a few versions of this recipe which called for oyster sauce instead. I don't think it would have the same depth of flavour but it would do in a pinch.

I thought of making this in the Instant-Pot, but it cooked quickly enough that it would actually have been slower, what with the ramping up and the cooling down. Which is a bit amazing since they have the look and taste of something that spent the entire day simmering. This is supposed to be made with small cut spare ribs, but regular pork back-ribs are what I can easily get. They were a bit too large to be ideal, but they worked and we ate them and they were delicious, so no harm, no foul.

Serve with rice and a simply cooked green vegetable.

4 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes to marinate - 20 minutes prep time

Braised Pork Ribs & Squash

Marinate the Pork Ribs:
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons black bean and garlic sauce
OR 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon arrowroot 
600 grams (1 1/2 pounds) pork ribs

Mix the vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and black bean sauce, and arrowroot in a shallow flat-bottomed pan (I used my smaller lasagne pan). Cut the ribs into individual pieces and toss them in the marinade, then lay them out in it in a single layer. Let marinate for 30 minutes (or up to 3 hours in the fridge).

Cook the Ribs & Squash:
600 grams (1 1/2 pounds) butternut or kabocha squash
1 large leek
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon grated or finely minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
2 cups water

Cut the squash and remove the seeds and stringy bits. Peel it and cut it into large bite-sized chunks. Wash, trim, and chop the leek into smaller pieces. Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and mince (grate) the ginger.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven (bastible) over medium-high heat. Lift the ribs out of the marinade - scrape it back into the marinating dish - and put them in the oil. Brown the ribs on both sides. Throw in the ginger and garlic for the last minute of cooking.

Add the water to the marinade and swish it out into the pot of ribs once they are all browned. Add the squash and leek. Mix everything gently, then allow the the water to come up to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and simmer the ribs, etc, for about 30 minutes, until the squash is tender and the meat is starting to come off the bones. Give it another gentle stir once or twice during the cooking period. The water should cook down to a thick sauce, but make sure it does not boil dry - add more water if that seems like a possibility. Let rest for 5 minutes then serve.

Last year at this time I made Pasta with Bacon, Broccoli, Leeks & Cream.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Turkish Lentil & Potato Salad

This seems to be a reasonably popular dish, judging by the number of recipes for it that I found. I am, however, at a bit of a loss as to what to call it. I guess salad is as close as it gets. It's not a dip - too thick - but the texture is smoother than most North American dishes known as salads. Also it just gets eaten, not put on anything. It's served at room temperature which makes me reluctant to call it a casserole. It's more like a soft, smooth-textured potato salad than anything, so salad it is even though you should be able to cut it in wedges like a pie.

I cooked the lentils and potatoes in advance, the day before. I don't think that's really the way to do it. I think the lentil and potato mixture should still be fairly warm when it gets pressed into the dish if you want to be able to cut it into neat pieces to serve, as it really didn't "set" when mixed then formed while cold. Hence the photo with the topping on only half the dish - I could see there was no way I would be able to cut and serve it neatly, although it turned out not to be as bad as I expected. 

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Turkish Lentil & Potato Salad with Garlic-Yogurt and Minted Oil

Advance Preparation:
4 medium (450 grams; 1 pound) potatoes
1 cup red lentils
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 or 2 bay leaves
2 cups plain yogurt

Wash, peel or trim, and dice the potatoes. Put them in a rice-cooker with the lentils, salt, bay leaves, and 2 cups of water. Turn on and cook.

Line a strainer with 2 or 3 coffee filters and spoon in the yogurt. Put it over a bowl and strain it while the potatoes and lentils cook. When the lentils and potatoes are done, set them aside to cool enough to handle while you continue.

Make the Salad:
1 medium onion
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons pepper paste
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin seed, ground
2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika

Peel and dice the onion. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and let it cook for several minutes, until softened and translucent. Add the tomato and pepper pastes. Add the salt, ground cumin seed, and paprika. Finally, add the garlic and cook for just a minute or so longer. Remove it from the heat and add it to the lentils and potatoes. Mix well.

Lightly oil a 10" pie plate and press the mixture into it.

Make the First Topping:
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1 or 2 tablespoons finely chopped dill, chives, parsley, OR cilantro, OPTIONAL
1 small carrot, grated, OPTIONAL
1/4 teaspoon salt

Peel and mince the garlic. Clean and mince the an herb, if you wish to add one, and peel and grate the carrot. Mix all these, with the salt, into the strained yogurt.

Make the Second Topping & Finish the Salad:

1 teaspoon rubbed dry mint
1 teaspoon pepper paste OR sweet Hungarian paprika
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper, OPTIONAL
2 tablespoons olive oil

Measure the seasonings into a small bowl and mix them; stir in the olive oil.

Spread the first topping evenly over the prepared lentils and potatoes. Drizzle the second topping over the top of that. Serve the salad at room temperature - if it is necessary to refrigerate it before it is served, bring it out to warm up for about 20 minutes first. 

Last year at this time I made Moroccan-Spiced Cauliflower.

Monday, 4 November 2019

Leeks Stuffed with Ham, Cheese, & Mushrooms

The ideal leeks for this will be long, thick, and firm, but that large girth is the most important quality. Yes, I am talking seriously about leeks; shut up.

My leeks were weedy little specimens and so I actually used 12 of them. We have an enormous quantity of leeks in the garden this year, but the quality is lacking as most of them got planted under the delusion that they were going to be onions; that is too shallow and close together. Consequently we have smallish leeks galore and a shortage of onions. You can expect to see a lot of leek recipes this fall and winter.

This is said to be a dish from Gibraltar. I can only find this recipe by Mama Lottie as a reference now, but I am sure I saw at least one another version which had ham and mushrooms, but can I find it now? No. Anyway, as usual I made it my way, and we liked it very much. These are all classic things to have together and for good reason.

I call for you to add NO salt; between the ham and the cheese you are very unlikely to need any. I used chick pea flour to hold the filling together, but you could use a little leftover mashed potato instead. The two of us ate all of this very easily, but it would make a good appetizer course for a formal meal and as such serve 4. For some reason, even tender, well-cooked leeks require s really sharp knife to cut them - supply your diners with steak knives. They will not be excessive, even though the leeks are quite soft and easy to eat.

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

Leeks Stuffed with Ham, Cheese, & Mushrooms

4 large leeks
125 grams (1/4 pound) button mushrooms
225 grams (1/2 pound) cooked ham
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon bacon fat OR vegetable oil
2 tablespoons chick pea flour OR 1/3 cup mashed potato
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
1 tablespoon sherry OR balsamic vinegar
1 cup grated old Cheddar
1 teaspoon bacon fat OR vegetable oil
1/2 cup grated old Cheddar

Trim and wash the leeks. When you have the solid shank part of each one trimmed, cut it from top to bottom half-way through. This will allow you to pull out the centre of the leek, leaving 5 or 6 layers. Set the outer layers aside and chop the inner leaves very finely.

Clean, trim, and chop the mushrooms finely. Mix them with the finely chopped leek innards. Chop the ham very finely, and mix it in as well. Peel and mince the garlic but keep it aside.

Put a pot of water on to boil; we are going to blanch the outer leaves of the leeks.

Heat the bacon fat in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook the finely chopped vegetables and ham, stirring regularly, until softened and reduced in volume. Add the garlic and cook it in for a minute or two. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, when the water boils, add the leek shells and boil for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove them carefully to a strainer and rinse in cold water until they can be handled. Drain well.

When the ham and vegetables are cool enough, add the chick pea flour, seasonings, and first cup of grated cheese. Use the remaining bacon fat to grease a shallow baking pan into which the leeks should fit, snugly but in a single layer.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. 

Unroll (open and flatten out) the leek shells. You can spread the leaves a little if you like and they will do it. Form sufficient of the filling into a tube, and wrap the leek around it back into the shape of a whole leek. If they are sturdy enough, they can be cut into 1 1/2" pieces and put in the pan on end. Place it in the prepared pan and continue until all the filling is in all the leeks. Sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly over them. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until hot and bubbling. Let rest 10 minutes then serve.

Last year at this time I made Smoked Pork Chops with Mustard Cream Sauce

Friday, 1 November 2019

Brussels Sprouts with Buttered Mushrooms

This didn't quite come out as I expected: I was picturing shredded Brussels sprouts in the buttery, saucy embrace of the mushrooms. The Brussels sprouts I got were extremely solid though, and wanted to stay firmly in slices, and I blanched in horror at the amount of butter it would have required to make those mushrooms really buttery. They sucked what I thought was a generous amount of butter right up, then sat in the pan threatening to scorch rather than sizzle. They didn't scorch, because there really was quite a lot of butter to prevent it, but it was not remotely saucy. Adding the seasonings did not change that.

Can't complain though; the end result was very tasty. We had ours with some grilled smoked sausages, but they will make a good accompaniment to any kind of meat dish, I would think.

4 servings
40 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Brussels Sprouts with Buttered Mushrooms

500 grams (1 pound) Brussels sprouts
200 grams (7 ounces) shiitake mushrooms
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 to 3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mild vinegar
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash and trim the Brussels sprouts, and cut them into thin slices. Arrange them in a colander and put it in the sink. Fill a kettle with water and put it on to boil.

Meanwhile, remove and discard the stems of the shiitake mushrooms. Cut the caps into slices. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shiitakes and cook them gently, stirring occasionally, until softened and reduced in volume. Add the garlic and mix it in just before the water boils.

When the water boils, pour it slowly over the Brussels sprouts, turning them so that they are all well wilted by the boiling water. Add them to the pan of mushrooms. They should not be particularly well drained, and if in fact there is not enough water clinging to them to allow them to steam in the pan for a few minutes, a little should be added. Mix the Brussels sprouts and mushrooms well, and let them cook together until the Brussels sprouts are tender, the liquid has evaporated, and the sprouts are perhaps being a little browned in spots. During the cooking time, mix in the soy sauce, vinegar, and season with pepper.

When the Brussels sprouts are done to your liking, turn them into a serving dish and serve.

Last year at this time I made Warm Roasted Squash & Broccoli Salad with Hazelnuts.