Friday, 22 May 2020

Cheesy Baked Creamed Spinach

If you make this with frozen spinach, you can cut off half an hour of prep time. Use about 225 grams (1/2 pound). Actually, I think if you buy it, it comes in 10 ounce packets, which, by the time you have squeezed it out should be about right. You will need to thaw it in advance, of course.

I did use frozen spinach, but our fresh spinach planted out and covered with plastic is finally coming along enough that I could have used it. This has been a ridiculously cold spring! However, the plastic makes a huge difference. We seeded spinach and lettuce in the fall, very little of which came up and survived the winter, but an early replanting was successful.

As for this dish, it is a classic. It's rich and cheesy (especially if you apply the cheese with a heavy hand) enough to be a main dish, but it is often served with steaks. Grilled chicken or fish seems just as appropriate to me, or with the right supporting dishes it could be a vegetarian main dish.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 45 minutes prep time

Cheesy Baked Creamed Spinach

8 to 10 cups packed spinach
1 large onion OR leek
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chicken OR vegetable broth
1 cup whole milk OR light cream
2 tablespoons potato starch OR wheat flour
1 large egg
1 cup grated melty cheese - Cheddar, Friulano, Gouda, brick, etc
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 to 4 tablespoons finely grated dry bread crumbs

Wash the spinach very well, and pick it over of any limp or yellowed leaves and tough stems. Chop it roughly, and steam until wilted. Rinse it in cold water then squeeze it out very thoroughly. Chop it finely. You should have about 1 1/2 to 2 cups when you are done.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a 1 1/2 to 2 quart shallow baking pan.

Peel and finely chop the onion. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the butter in a medium-large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook, stirring regularly, until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and cook gently for another minute or two.

Measure the broth and milk, and mix in the potato starch. (If using flour, sprinkle it over the onions and mix in well, until no white is left.) Mix the stock and milk into the onions, stirring well to keep it smooth. Let it cook for several minutes, until thickened. Stir regularly.

Remove the pan from the heat. Mix in the spinach until it is smoothly distributed throughout the sauce. Beat the egg lightly and mix it in. Mix in 2/3 to 3/4 of the first grated cheese. Transfer the mixture to the baking pan and smooth it out evenly.

Mix the remaining grated cheese with the Parmesan and bread crumbs. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the spinach. Bake at 375°F for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Last year at this time I made Asparagus & Mushroom Salad with Chervil-Chive Dressing.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Chicken Thighs Stuffed with Sorrel & Mushrooms

This has been a very good spring for sorrel. The cool temperatures have brought it on slowly and it has been extremely tender and delicious and even a little less slug-ridden than usual.

Using it to stuff chicken thighs like this is a clever use for it; the fact that it turns a fairly unappetizing khaki green when cooked is hidden beneath a layer of crispy chicken skin. Spring oniony stuff - you can use whatever you have, really - and mushrooms round it out. I did not actually add extra mushrooms to the pan when I roasted the chicken, but I wish I had. I don't think too many more could be squeezed into the filling, but I did not think the amount I used was really enough. Roasting some more alongside the chicken should solve that problem.

As usual, sorrel has been the first substantial vegetable out of the garden, beating the asparagus by about 2 weeks. You are not likely to get any unless you grow it yourself, so I highly recommend that you grow it yourself, if you possibly can. Seeds for it have become much easier to find in the last few years.

3 to 6 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Chicken Thighs Stuffed with Sorrel & Mushrooms

4 cups chopped sorrel leaves
12 to 18 medium button mushrooms
3 green onions OR a good handful of chives
2 tablespoons unsalted butter OR chicken fat
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 to 1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
6 large skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1 or 2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil or melted butter

Wash the sorrel well, and discard any tough stems or damaged leaves. Chop them fairly finely. Clean 6 - that's 6 - of the mushrooms, trim them, and dice them. Wash, trim, and chop the green onions or chives finely.

Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium heat, and add the drained but not completely dried sorrel. Cook until it is all wilted and changed to a dull brownish green, then transfer it to a small mixing bowl. Drain off any liquid into another small bowl.

Melt the butter in the skillet and cook the mushrooms until soft and lightly browned. Add the green onions or chives and cook until wilted, then add them all to the sorrel. Season with the salt and pepper, and mix well with the bread crumbs. The mixture should be a soft, coarse paste.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Debone the chicken thighs, being careful to keep them whole. Leave the skins on, but loosen them on at least one side, running your fingers in from side to side, but again, be careful to keep them attached on at least two opposite sides.

Divide the filling into 6 equal portions. Take each portion, and divide it in half. Half goes under the skin of a chicken thigh, spread out to form an even layer between the skin and the meat. Put the other half in roughly the position the bone used to occupy, and fold the thigh gently closed. Place it cut side down in a lightly oiled shallow baking dish of sufficient size to hold all the thighs in a single snug but uncrowded layer, with a bit of space for the remaining mushrooms. Repeat with the remaining filling and chicken thighs.

Pour the liquid you set aside earlier around the chicken thighs. Peel and mince the garlic and sprinkle it around. Clean the remaining mushrooms and cut them in halves. Brush them with the oil or butter. Arrange them around the chicken thighs. Bake them at 375°F for 1 hour, until golden-brown and cooked through. Let them rest 5 minutes before serving.

There should be a fair quantity of pan juices, and the filling will also be soft and oozy, so these are best served with something to soak it all up. Mashed potatoes, rice, noodles, polenta, or even some good sturdy slices of toast all come to mind.

Last year - or sometime - at this time I made Rhubarb-Ginger Syrup

Monday, 18 May 2020

Experimental Pizza - Reduced Carbohydrate

Pizza! I hadn't had it in so long; it's really not a "good" carb, what with the large amounts of white flour involved in making it. Switching to whole grain flour would help (and I've done that) but there's still great gobs of the stuff in real pizza. But it turns out there's a reasonable "cheat".

My eye was caught by something called Crazy Crust Pizza, and I gave it a try, using whole spelt flour but otherwise following the recipe. It was... edible. The crust was stodgy but limp, and tasted of egg. However, it was successful enough for me to want to try to figure out how to improve it.

The big problem is that it still tastes a little of egg. Possibly I could use 2 egg whites instead of a whole egg but I would want to have a plan for the yolks in order to do that. However, with whole grain flour and maybe the use of yeast to raise it, as well as pre-cooking it before baking, better results can be had. The yeast makes it a little more bread-like than the baking powder, but I'm not sure enough to justify having to wait for it to rise. I will probably make this both ways, depending on how pressed for time I am.

I really like that very low-sided cast iron griddle/pan seen below. It is the perfect thing for baking pan breads and patties of various sorts and now I don't know how I did without it for so long.

I made 2 pizzas, and when the first base was ready, I put it on a pizza pan to bake. The second one stayed right on the cast iron griddle and that worked just as well.

To measure the flour, put 1 tablespoon of high gluten flour into your measuring cup, and add the spelt flour to 1/2 cup. 

The baked crust is a little soft and crumbly compared to real pizza dough, in addition to that slight flavour of egg, but it really isn't bad and makes pizza possible for me.

An entire pizza counts as a little more than 40% of my 100 net carb daily allotment, which is entirely workable with a bit of planning. Hurray!

Per small pizza - serves 1 or 2
10 minutes prep time for the crust
up to 1 1/2 hours rising time if using yeast
15 minutes final prep time
20 minutes to bake and rest

A right-carb pizza is partially pre-cooked in a skillet

Above, the pre-cooked crust about ready to have sauce and other toppings applied and to be baked; below, two finished pizzas. 

Finished pizzas

Make the Crust:
7 tablespoons whole spelt flour
1 tablespoon wheat gluten
1/2 teaspoon fast-acting yeast OR 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 small egg 
1/3 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

If using yeast, mix the dry ingredients except the yeast in a small bowl. Heat the milk until just warm to the touch and sprinkle in the yeast. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Break the egg into the dry ingredients and add the milk; whisk until smooth. Cover the bowl and leave in warm spot for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until noticeably risen.

If using baking powder, mix it in with the dry ingredients. Break in the egg, add the milk and whisk until smooth. This should be cooked immediately.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Scrape in the batter and smooth it out into as neat and flat a circle as you can. Cook gently until it is just about set (dry looking) on top. Sprinkle with the fried onions (see below) then transfer to a pizza pan. (Or, if you have a flat cast iron griddle, it can be put right in the oven to finish baking. 

Top & Bake:
1 small onion
1 teaspoon mild vegetable oil
1/2 cup thick tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon rubbed oregano
1/4 cup chopped pepperoni, summer sausage, OR ham, etc.
OR sliced vegetables such as mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, etc. 
1/2 cup grated mozzarella or other cheese

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Peel and slice the onion, and cook it until soft in the vegetable oil, in a skillet. You may wish to partially cook other vegetables you are using as toppings as well.

When the crust has been transferred to the pizza pan, spread the tomato sauce over it and sprinkle with the oregano. Finish with slices or small pieces of meat and vegetables, and top with the grated cheese.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cheese is lightly browned and bubbling. Let rest for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Last year at this time I made Asparagus with Chervil-Chive Butter.  Yyyyyeah, things are late this year! 

Friday, 15 May 2020

Sweet Potato Starch Noodle, Spinach, & Sprout Salad

I've always really loved bean thread and sweet potato noodles, both hot and cold. Here they are part of a light and lively salad with some Japanese flair.

It did have the usual problem with salads; a little of this, and a little of that, and then there was enough to feed an army. This is not a salad that keeps well, either, what with the bean sprouts. If you want to stretch the salad out over a couple of days, just put bean sprouts in the portion you expect to eat. The rest should hold for a day in the fridge.

On the other hand though, Mr Ferdzy performed heroically and in spite of the mounds of salad produced (not all of it shown below) we had very little left. It is the sort of thing you can eat quite a lot of, and still feel okay about yourself.

4 to 6 servings
45 minutes prep time

Sweet Potato Starch Noodle, Spinach, & Sprout Salad

Make the Salad:
1 medium carrot
2 cups finely shredded cabbage
2 - 3 green onions
1/4 teaspoon salt
200 grams (1/2 pound; 1 bundle) sweet potato starch noodles
8 packed cups raw spinach
2 cups bean sprouts

Peel and grate the carrot. Wash, trim, and finely shred the cabbage. Wash and trim the green onions, then chop them finely. Mix these in a bowl, and sprinkle the salt over them. Massage it in well with your hands until the vegetables are soft. Set them aside for the moment.

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Boil the noodles according to the directions on the packet; probably for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, wash the spinach well and pick it over.  Chop it a bit and lay it in a large colander.

Drain the noodles over the spinach, wilting them thoroughly. Rinse them at once in plenty of cold water, until cool. Drain extremely well, pressing to extract all liquid (especially from the spinach). Chop the noodles and spinach until they are a good texture for your salad, and put them into a mixing bowl.

Rinse the carrot, cabbage, and green onions and drain them very well. Squeeze them to remove as much moisture as possible and mix them into the noodles and spinach. Mix in the washed and drained bean sprouts.

Dress the Salad:
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar OPTIONAL
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons tamari OR soy sauce
freshly ground white OR black pepper to taste
2 - 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

Mix the sesame oil, sugar, vinegar, tamari, and pepper, and pour over the salad. Mix well.

Toast the sesame seeds over medium heat in a small, dry skillet until lightly browned. Scrape them out as soon as they are done, onto a plate, to cool. Sprinkle them over the salad just before serving it.

Last year at this time I made Spring Salad with Honey-Yogurt Dressing.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Carrots with Sorrel & Spinach

When I first started thinking about this dish, I was not thinking it was particularly Turkish-inspired. More French-inspired, what with the butter and broth, and of course sorrel is used quite a bit in classic French cuisine. However, this braising technique is used a lot in Turkey, with olive oil and water instead of butter and broth. You could certainly use those here, if that is your preference.

At any rate, between deciding to cook these vegetables together (by deciding, I mean noticing that they were all there in the garden at the moment) and executing the plan, I also decided to add Turkish yogurt sauce to it. I can't say I regret it; it went with the vegetables very well. I probably used closer to 3 tablespoons of butter, and with the yogurt sauce the results were really quite rich. Extremely good, it has to be said, but if you go with the yogurt sauce you may wish to be sure that other items served with this are bit more on the plain side.

And finally: IT'S SORREL TIME!  I guess that means it's spring!?

4 servings
45 minutes prep time

Carrots with Sorrel & Spinach

Optional Yogurt Sauce:
1/2 cup thick yogurt
1 small clove of garlic
a pinch of salt

Measure out the yogurt and add the garlic, peeled and finely minced, and the salt. Let sit for 20 minutes to half an hour before serving - in other words, if you plan to have it, make it first. 
Make the Dish:
2 cups lightly packed chopped raw spinach
2 cups lightly packed chopped raw sorrel
450 grams (1 pound) carrots
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 to 1 1/2 cup unsalted chicken or vegetable broth
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 to 3 tablespoon finely minced fresh chives

Wash and pick over the spinach and sorrel, removing any tough stems and damaged or discoloured leaves. Chop them both reasonably well and drain thoroughly.

Wash, peel, trim, and slice the carrots. Put them in a large shallow pan (skillet) with the butter and half a cup of the broth. Bring to a boil then simmer steadily until the carrots are done to your liking, adding more broth as needed.

When the carrots are just about done and there is just enough broth left to form a coating on them with the butter, add the sorrel and spinach. Cook for several minutes more, turning the sorrel and spinach into the carrots as they wilt. When they are all well wilted into the carrots (cooked, that is), either transfer the vegetables to a serving dish and sprinkle with the chives, or sprinkle the chives over them and serve them from the pan.

Last year at this time I made Buffalo Chicken Burgers.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Early May Lack-of-Garden Report

This has probably been the most closely awaited vegetable gardening season in decades, but alas, so far it is a bit of a bust. We, for instance, have been waiting for the dandelions to bloom in order to plant our potatoes, which as can be seen, are raring to go. No sooner did the first few dandelions bloom however, than it snowed. So, still waiting. 

We started seeds indoors at the usual time. Whenever it is mild and sunny enough we put them out on the driveway, covered in plastic as it is still generally too chilly for them to be completely exposed. The last few days have been so cold that they have not even made it that far.

Outside, the only thing that seems to be on schedule are some of the fruit trees. The haskaps are leafing out and their flower buds will soon be open; ripe fruit can be expected in a little more than a month. 

I believe our total successful harvest of apricots thus far has been one. One apricot. This year does not look like the number will go up by much. No sooner than the first flush of blossoms opened, than it snowed. They don't look too bad from a distance but close up they look soggy and forlorn, and I don't believe any insects have been visiting them. 

We got the early peas planted in good time, when it looked like spring might be early or at least on time. We covered them up with plastic, just in case. Good thing. It has really helped them. Garlic on the other hand originated in the steppes of Siberia, and is moving placidly along on schedule, in the open. Nothing else had been planted out yet.

Here are some of the peas, snug in their bed. 

There are a number of overwintered plants that will grow between the tomatoes, once they are planted out, in order to go to seed. Onions in the foreground, some cabbages, carrots under the wire mesh (squirrels will eat off the tops if they are left available), and leeks in the farther bed. Herb celery is coming up at the right hand of the further (middle) bed, and will supply salad greens for a while, then they will be pulled when the tomatoes go in, as they would bolt soon after that and we don't need the seed.

The neat clumps of leaves are échalotes de Ste. Anne, which I got last summer from Terre Promise. I am looking forward to seeing how they do. Looking very good so far! The scragglier ones are from a seed grown shallot that does not really form much in the way of a bulb, but divides readily and produces good early spring greens - although it doesn't look like it can compete with the Ste Anne.

We planted some hulless barley when we planted the peas. Only one variety seems to be doing well; Dango Mugi seen above. It obviously has a long way to go yet, although it will supposedly be ready in three months. We'll see!

Back inside, the shoots on the sweet potatoes are big enough to pinch off and root. We are a little reluctant to do so, as we don't want the roots to get too big before they can be planted out. That leads to lots of sweet potatoes, but little twisted ones. Still, we will have to do it soon.

The tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and a few other things are doing very well and can get planted out any time; any time the weather permits, that is, so I think they will just have to hold their horses for another week or two. There have been a few slip-ups along the way. In the case of the tomatoes, they were literal slip-ups, that ended with a heap of dirt, pots and tomato plants on the driveway. They all got scooped back up, watered well, and mostly carried on although we are no longer certain that the labels on the pots accurately describe the plants within. All of them got slightly scorched on a sunny day, although they all subsequently just kept on growing. I will be greatly relieved when their baby-hood is over, and they are all planted in the garden in real dirt. We're just waiting on the weather now.

Friday, 8 May 2020

Spinach-Spelt Spaetzle or Gnocchi

The amount of fresh spinach you need to have to end up with a fairly piddling amount of cooked spinach is amazing. I did use frozen spinach here, because there is still a fair bit in our freezer from last year, but I know very well that each packet of frozen spinach takes about 8 medium-packed cups of washed and trimmed spinach, having washed and trimmed it by the bushel. And also, while we have spinach in the garden and there are SOME leaves large enough to use, it needs to do a fair bit of growing yet. Goodness, this has been a slooooow spring and I am finding it harder to take than usual; wonder why?

I made this a couple of times to make sure I had the ideal quantity of flour; but the trouble is the exact quantity will depend on how moist your spinach is. A dough stiff enough to want to form a ball will give firmer spaetzle, but it will also be a lot harder to push through the spaetzle maker. The second time I made them I used the higher amount of flour, and could only get 2/3 of the dough through the spaetzle maker before my arm gave out. I made the rest of the dough into gnocchi after dinner and fried them up for breakfast. If you want gnocchi, that's the way to do it. For spaetzle, it's better to keep the dough softer. 

With some vegetables and cheese in moderate quantities this will be a complete meal for two. If you are serving it as a more definite side dish, with a piece of fish, poultry, or other meat, it will certainly go further.

Preparing the spinach is by far the most tedious and time-consuming part of making this dish; the actual cooking takes minutes once the water comes to a boil. Do not make the batter too far in advance of the cooking time, as it will get stiff and even harder to work.

2 to 6 servings
30 minutes to prepare spinach
15 minutes to make spaetzle

Spinach Spaetzle

170 grams (6 ounces) cooked spinach
1/3 cup water
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
a few scrapes of nutmeg
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups whole spelt flour

Wash, trim and pick over, drain, and steam the spinach. You will need about 8 cups fresh to start, and you will end up, once it has been squeezed fairly dry and chopped, about 1/2 cup. You can certainly start with frozen spinach which has been thawed, or you could prepare your spinach in advance; keep it refrigerated until needed.

At any rate, once your spinach is cooked, squeeze as much liquid out of it as you can, chop, and measure it. Put it in blender (preferred) or food processor. Add the water, salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and process it until it is as smooth as you can get it. Scrape down the sides as needed. When it is a very smooth purée, scrape it into a mixing bowl.

I broke the egg into the blender, and whizzed it on low for about 30 seconds to help get all the spinach out and into the mixing bowl; it worked reasonably well in conjunction with a good silicone spatula. At any rate, mix the egg into the spinach. Then mix in the flour to make a smooth, pliable, if somewhat sticky dough. It should be on the stiff side of pliable, so add a bit more flour if necessary. Keep in mind if you are not cooking it right away, it will continue to stiffen slightly as it sits.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Press the batter into the boiling water using a spaetzle maker or a strainer with moderately large holes. That silicone spatula is likely to still be very handy here. Give them a gentle stir once the batter is all in, and when the little noodles float and seem firm - a matter of only a couple minutes, unless those holes were very large - drain them well.

Toss them with butter or good oil. Serve them with cheese, or vegetables such as peas tossed in with them, or with grilled or roasted meats.

Last year at this time I made Rolled Omelette with Spring Herbs & Cheese.

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Turkey-Quinoa Meatloaf

Meatloaf! Every so often the urge strikes. This was a very pleasant take on the theme, and in spite of the quantity of leftover Quinoa Pilaf that went into it, it did not seem to be full of fillers.  Being turkey, this is a milder meatloaf than many, and poultry seasoning seemed appropriate.

When I cook Quinoa Pilaf it makes enough for 2 meals for us. Sometimes I just reheat it, often I make it into a salad, but this was a good use for the second half too, and makes it less obvious that you are eating leftover quinoa.Lately I've been making the Quinoa Pilaf without the rutabaga called for in the recipe (just omit it) so you should too, for this.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 45 minutes - 20 minutes prep time-
 - including rest time but not including tome to cook the pilaf

Turkey-Quinoa Meatloaf

Prepare the Vegetables:
1 medium onion
1 medium carrot
3 - 4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
3/4 teaspoon salt

Peel and finely chop the onion. Peel and grate the carrot. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot, and cook, stirring regularly, until softened and reduced in volume a little. Mix in the garlic and seasonings and cook for another minute or two, then remove from the heat and let cool while you continue.

Finish the Meatloaf:
500 grams (1 pound, 2 ounces) ground turkey
1/2 recipe Quinoa Pilaf, rutabaga omitted, see notes above
1 large egg
1/4 cups tomato ketchup OR tomato sauce, optional

Lightly oil a large loaf pan and preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put the turkey, pilaf, and egg in a mixing bowl and mix; add the vegetables when they are cool enough to handle (and cool enough not to set the egg) and work them in thoroughly. Turn the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and smooth it out.

Bake for half an hour and then spread the ketchup or tomato sauce over the meatloaf, if you would like it. and return it to the oven.

Bake for 1 hour and 10 to 15 minutes in total, so another 40 to 45 minutes. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.


Last year at this time I made Mushroom & Wild Leek Soup. Kinda, sorta

Monday, 4 May 2020

Beets with Chervil

I'm not sure this is a recipe so much as notice that if you are growing chervil (about the only way to get any, I'm afraid) it goes very well with beets. The last of last year meets the first of this year. I have pretty much given up on trying to grow celery, and have started just planting some herb (leaf) celery. I tend not to use it much  the first year, but make good use of it the following spring before it bolts. 

2 to 4 servings
1 hour 20 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Beets with Chervil

3 to 4 (500 grams; 1 pound) beets
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh chervil
a little chopped celery leaves, if available

Cook the beets, either by covering them generously with water and boiling for 40 minutes to an hour, until tender; or by wrapping them in foil and roasting them at 375°F for 40 minutes to an hour, until tender. Cool and peel.

Chop or slice the beets into your preferred size and shape. Toss them with the oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Let rest for 15 minutes to half an hour, then wash, trim, and chop the chervil and celery leaves, and toss them in just before serving.

Last year at this time I made Scotch Egg Pie.

Friday, 1 May 2020

Wonton Soup, No Wontons

I was hearing the call of wonton soup for a while, but not the call of actually making wontons. What if I bought wonton wrappers and just cut them up as noodles, then made the filling into poached meatballs? Plan!

And then I went to the grocery store and right next the wonton wrappers they had "wonton noodles". I didn't even have to cut them up!  Somebody's way ahead of me! (Not exactly unheard of, I have to admit.) So I made my wontonless wonton soup, and it was delicious and exactly what I wanted, and we lived happily ever after. Well, until the next day, at least*.

2 to 6 servings
45 minutes prep time

Wonton Soup, No Wontons

Make the Meatballs:
2 green onions
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon barley flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 small egg
250 grams lean ground pork
about 2 tablespoons barley flour

Wash, trim, and mince the onions finely. Put them in a mixing bowl. Peel and grate the ginger finely, and add it to the bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients except the pork, and mix until there are no lumps of flour, then mix in the pork by hand, very thoroughly.

Form the mixture into 24 small meatballs, dropping them onto a plate sprinkled with the remaining flour and rolling them to coat them in it.

Make the Soup:
6 cups chicken stock, salted to taste (may use soy sauce)
6 to 8 slices fresh ginger
2 cups finely shredded Savoy or green cabbage
1 medium carrot
2 or 3 green onions
finely chopped cilantro to taste
200 grams (7 ounces) wonton noodles, loosened

Put the chicken stock on to come up to a boil, in a soup pot. Start a pot of lightly-salted water boiling, big enough to hold the noodles. Scrub and slice the ginger and add it to the chicken stock while it heats. 

Wash, trim, and chop the cabbage. Peel and grate the carrot. Wash, trim, and very finely chop the green onions. Put the cabbage, carrot, and two-thirds of the green onion aside together; leave out the darkest green parts of the green onions. Wash, dry, and chop the cilantro and set it aside with the remaining green onion tops.

When the soup comes up to a boil, add the meatballs and the ginger. Stir them very gently once to be sure they are not sticking, then let them cook for about 3 minutes. At that point, add the noodles to the pot of boiling water, stir them well, and cook them for 1 minute.

Meanwhile, add the cabbage, carrot and green onion pile to the soup; mix in gently but well. Cover the soup and bring it up to the boil.

Drain the noodles and add them to the soup, stirring them in gently. Let the whole soup come back up to the boil, then serve it, with the remaining green onion tops and cilantro sprinkled over the top.

*Yes, I'm getting a little punchy. How about you?

Last year at this time I made Roasted Mushroom, Bacon, Green Onion, & Buckwheat Salad.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Ricotta Cheese & Barley Spaetzle

Still looking for low-carb alternatives to pasta, and this certainly works well for that. Unfortunately Mr. Ferdzy is becoming more lactose-intolerant as he gets older (and lactose-free dairy products are a bad choice for pre-diabetics) so this is not going to be something I make often. Pity. It was good.

Sadly for Mr. Ferdzy, it took three tries to get this right. I kept hoping I could use less flour than actually turned out to be required, so not quite as low-carb as ideal. Still, it was delicious, quick and easy (oh how I like that phrase) and half of it amounts to 2 out of the 5 carbohydrate "servings" I allot myself each day, which is quite proportionate for a main meal. 

Spaetzle are now officially a part of my life; I even bought a spaetzle maker. Not the traditional kind, but a simple edged circle of stainless steel with holes in it, which sits on the top of the pot so the batter can be pressed through it. I like the simple design, and it can double as a strainer and possibly, with the right lid over it, a steamer.

As ever, the two of us ate it all, and it was all there was. You could serve it as a side dish with meat and it would go further, serving up to 6 people. The amount of ricotta cheese used was exactly 1/3 of a readily-available brand's oddly-sized 475 gram container. On one occasion that I made it, I served it with Poutine Gravy and we really liked that. The cheese does make this a fairly soft spaetzle, and it's a good idea to serve it with something that brings a little crunch.

2 to 6 servings
10 minutes to mix the batter, not including rest time
15 minutes to cook, including bring the water to a boil
10 minutes to finish in the pan 

Ricotta Cheese Spaetzle with Peas, Shallots & Mushrooms

Make the Spaetzle:
160 grams (6 ounces) pressed cottage or ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
a few scrapes of nutmeg
2 to 3 tablespoons finely minced fresh herbs
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup barley flour

Remove the cheese from the packaging carefully, discarding any accumulated liquid - if it seems quite moist it will not hurt to measure it a little generously then let it drain for a while. Mash it with a fork and whisk in the first egg. Add the seasonings, and the fresh herbs, finely minced. Green onion, parsley, chives, chervil, and dill will all be very appropriate. Mix in the Parmesan cheese. Beat in the remaining egg.

Stir in the flour to form a smooth, stiff batter. It should almost but not quite want to come together in a soft ball of dough. Set the batter aside to rest for 20 minutes to an hour before cooking.

To Serve:
3 or 4 medium shallots OR green onions
4 to 6 medium-large button mushrooms
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups thawed frozen peas

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

Meanwhile, peel and sliver the shallots, or trim and chop the green onions. Clean and slice the mushrooms. (Don't forget to have the peas thawed and standing by.)

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat just as the water begins to bubble for the spaetzle. Add the shallots and cook, stirring once or twice, for several minutes.

Press the batter through a large-holed colander or spaetzle maker into the boiling water. Cook until they float and are firm; just 2 or 3 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, add the mushrooms and peas to the shallots, and cook until the mushrooms are softened and slightly browned. Add the hot, well-drained spaetzle and continue cooking, and turning and mixing the contents of the pan gently, until well amalgamated, hot through, and perhaps the spaetzle are slightly browned in spots. Serve at once, sprinkled with a little more of the chopped herbs you used, if you like.

Monday, 27 April 2020

Gone-to-Seed Carrots

Ingredients for this fast and easy way to prepare carrots fall very much into the realm of "however much you want", but I've listed about what I used. Feel free to adjust quantities, and if you don't have all the seeds, oh well. I find them so useful, I do always try to have all of them around the place.

You may get your seeds pre-roasted in which case they are likely also pre-salted, and you should be a bit wary of adding much more. Especially if you add a bit of stock to cook the carrots and that, too, is salted.

Not much more in the way of local carrots now, and soon they will disappear until later in the summer when the new crop comes in.

4 servings
20 minutes prep time

Grated Carrots Sauteed with Mixed Seeds

2 to 3 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds
2 to 3 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 tablespoon ground hemp seed
4 cups peeled and grated carrots
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1 little water or stock
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

If the seeds need to be toasted, do so in a dry skillet over medium heat; toast until just lightly browned and turn them into a bowl at once to cool as soon as they are done. Add the other seeds and set aside.

Peel and grate the carrots.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and slightly reduced in volume. If you prefer your carrots a little more well-done, add a couple of tablespoons of water or stock and cook, stirring regularly, until the liquid has evaporated or been absorbed, and the carrots are just about done to your liking.

When the carrots are almost cooked, add the seeds and mix in well. Season with salt and pepper to taste - you could also add a little lightly crushed cumin seed, caraway seed, or fennel seed.

When the seeds are well mixed in and everything is hot through, transfer the carrots to a serving dish and serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Chinese Steamed Spareribs.

Friday, 24 April 2020

Crisp Fried Pork with Parsley Sauce

This is almost - but not quite - the national dish of Denmark. Mr. Ferdzy and I joke that everything is better with bacon, unless it's better with whipped cream, with the exception being a few dishes - usually Danish - better with both.

Whipped cream is an exaggeration, but this is pork belly (i.e. uncured bacon) and it is traditionally served with a cream sauce with parsley in it. I could not quite face the idea and while I still made a parsley sauce, I toned it down and left out any cream. You could put in a bit if you like.

It seems to get translated as fried, but in fact the method of cooking is roasting, although this is such a fatty cut of pork that the difference in results is trivial. The pork should be sliced thicker than bacon, anywhere up to about an inch thick, although I would think half that thickness would be ideal. Since the outside should get nice and crunchy in the roasting, I don't think the time for cooking will change much, but do start checking it about 10 minutes earlier if yours is thin, just in case I'm wrong. 

2 to 4 servings
45 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Crisp Fried Pork with Parsley Sauce

Cook the Pork: 
500 grams to 1 kilo (1 or 2 pounds) sliced pork belly
salt & freshly ground black pepper
sweet paprika

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put a rack on a good deep roasting pan. Pat the pork dry, and season on all sides with salt, pepper, and paprika. Lay the slices in a single layer, spaced a bit, on the rack.

Roast for 25 to 30 minutes on the top rack of the oven. Turn the pieces over (with tongs) and return to the top rack. Roast for a further 10 to 15 minutes until the meat looks crisp and browned. Remove it to a serving plate and serve with the parsley sauce.

Make the Parsley Sauce:
1 tablespoon pork fat
1 tablespoon barley or other flour
3/4 cup chicken OR ham stock
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons sour cream OPTIONAL

When you turn the pork, lift out 1 tablespoon of the fat to a small saucepan. Once the pork is back in the oven, stir the flour into the fat and heat until bubbly all through, stirring a bit. Slowly mix in the stock to form a smooth sauce. Let simmer gently for a few minutes until thickened.

Just before the meat is ready to be served, bring up the heat again and add the parsley, stirring it in until it is just wilted. Add the lemon juice and sour cream, if using, and stir them in. Remove from the heat and put in a gravy boat or drizzle over the pork. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Roasted Rutabaga Fries. Boiled potatoes are more traditionally served with this, but Rutabaga Fries cook at the same temperature as the pork and would be a good choice!

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Kaygana (Turkish Omelette)

I've never much explored the borderlands between omelettes and pancakes. Crepes might be there, given their high egg content, but somehow they are firmly in pancake territory. This Turkish egg dish, on the other hand, is much more ambiguous about its identity.

If you look on line, you will see all kinds of Kaygana, some of which are clearly omelettes and some of which are clearly pancakes, and some, the ones that caught my attention, rather hard to call.

I used 2 tablespoons of chick pea flour. I read that corn flour was the traditional flour used, but most people seem to be using wheat flour these days. Being an omelette (or a pancake?) it is probably more flexible than most pancakes (or omelettes?) At any rate, I tried a second time with 3 tablespoons of potato starch, and thought that was even better. But either works, and both quantities gave me Kayganalar that were still fairly omelette-like, but a bit pancake-y.

People put all kinds of things in their Kayganalar and you can too, but at this time of year the first spring herbs are showing up, green onions for sure and maybe a very little spinach or sorrel. At any time I am apt to think those are the best things to put in omelettes, but dill, cilantro, parsley, and mint are typical Turkish herbs and would all be good too.

2 to 3 servings
20 minutes prep time

Kaygana (Turkish Omelette)

2 green onions or similar in fresh herbs
2 to 3 tablespoons chick pea OR corn flour
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Aleppo pepper to taste, or similar mild red chile flakes
salt if needed (see: cheese)

5 large eggs
2 to 3 tablespoons milk OR yogurt
1/4 cup drained and crumbled feta cheese
butter for cooking

Wash, dry, trim, and very finely chop 2 green onions, or a small handful of other fresh herbs such as parsley, cilantro, or dill, or some combination of the above. 

Measure the flour, seasonings, and prepared green onions and/or other herbs into a small mixing bowl. Break in the eggs and add the milk.

Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat - a little lower than you usually cook your omelettes, but not by much - and add a bit of butter to the pan; let it melt and heat through.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and milk into the rest of the ingredients until well blended. Crumble in the cheese. You may wish to heat the oven to 200°F to keep the finished Kayganalar warm as they are cooked.

Use a gravy ladle to form each omelette; in other words, make them fairly small. You should expect to get about 6 little omelettes. Cook them until set and very lightly browned on each side. Handle them carefully; they are a bit delicate. I found it helpful to pop a lid over the pan while they cooked. Be sure they are completely loosened and firm enough to hold together before you flip them.

Last year at this time I made (ha ha, very funny) Turkish Celeriac Salad.

Monday, 20 April 2020

Bacon & Potato Pie with Cheese & Green Onions

Versions of this seem to be popular in Great Britain (especially Scotland, perhaps no surprise) but also in northern Europe; France and Denmark in particular. What's not to like? It's full of greasy, tasty bacon and cheese, and carb-y potato goodness. Green onions, if you can get them (recommended!), or regular cooking ones if you can't, give it some pep. Look for as lean bacon as you can get; even so, this is going to be pretty rich. A nice green salad served on the side will help tone things down a bit and round out the menu.

As is now usual I par-boiled and chilled the potatoes the day before to reduce their impact on my blood sugar. Even if that is not something you worry about, it helps break up the work. As usual, even with the parboiling, potatoes take much longer to bake than seems reasonable, but otherwise this is a fairly simple thing to put together and looks quite fancy, at least until it is cut.

I'm calling for a little salt. I get a good local bacon which is not too salty at all, but if your bacon is salty, you may want to leave it out. There is the cheese to consider too. People can always add a little more at the table if they must, after all. 

4 to 6 servings
2 hours - 30 minutes prep time NOT including parboiling the potatoes

Bacon & Potato Pie with Cheese & Green Onions

900 grams (2 pounds) large round baking potatoes
125 grams (1/4 pound) old Cheddar cheese
6 green onions OR 2 medium cooking onions
1 teaspoon rubbed savory
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
2 tablespoons potato starch
450 grams (1 pound) thinly sliced good lean bacon

Scrub and trim the potatoes, and put them into a pot with plenty of water to cover. Bring them to a boil and boil them for 10 minutes, then drain and cool them, and keep them refrigerated over-night. (You can use them as soon as they are cool enough to handle, if you like.)

Grate the cheese and put it in a mixing bowl. Wash, trim, and chop the onions finely. Add them to the cheese with the seasonings and potato starch, and mix well.

Arrange the bacon in a radiating pattern out from the centre of a 10" glass pie plate. About half the bacon will be hanging over the edges; excellent.

Slice the potatoes as thinly as you can, discarding any peel that comes off of them. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Arrange a single but slightly overlapping layer of potatoes over the bacon, then sprinkle on half of the cheese and onion mixture. Arrange another layer of potatoes over the cheese - this is the spot to use up the smaller and oddly shaped slices - then sprinkle the remaining cheese and onion mixture over them. Finish with a final layer of sliced potatoes.  Press the mixture down firmly and compactly. Fold the overhanging bacon back over the pie.

Bake for 1 hour and 10 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes test done when pierced with a fork. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving. It looks better unmoulded onto a serving plate, which it should do with careful handling. I found the slices I cut held together, but not particularly beautifully.

Last year at this time I made Beet, Lentil, Red Cabbage & Sprout Salad with Feta, Walnuts & Cranberries.

Friday, 17 April 2020

Strawberry Whip with Custard

I've always loved desserts that consist of fruit and meringue or similar spongy textures and custard, and it turns out that if I am going to eat dessert now, I could do much worse. Apple Snow and Prune Whip are classics, but my freezer is still full of strawberries, so I bring you this next installment in the series of Great Desserts Made Even Better with Strawberries. I also had a go at making this dessert without gelatine, so it is now vegetarian, if that's something you want. 

It is, of course, too soon for field strawberries, so I augmented my frozen ones with some greenhouse ones. I intend to make it again in proper strawberry season, though.

The steps below add up to 40 minutes, but they can't really be done all in one smooth action, as each step requires some cooling time after it is done, so you will need to allow for that. I would also think you could put in twice as much sugar as I did, anywhere along the line where I call for it. As usual, I have adjusted and found this satisfactory, but I can see that other people could like more. You will need three large eggs in total, just in case there is any question about that.

6 to 8 servings
20 minutes to make berry sauce
15 minutes to make Swiss meringue
15 minutes to make custard

Strawberry Whip with Custard

Make the Strawberry Whip:
2 cups sliced strawberries (can be frozen)
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons arrowroot
a pinch of salt
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup sliced strawberries (fresh)

Slice the berries and put them in a pot with the water, arrowroot, and salt. Stir well to dissolve the arrowroot. Bring to a simmer and simmer until the berries are soft and the sauce has thickened and turned clear; stir frequently. Remove from the heat and let cool.

When the berry sauce is cool, put the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the top of a double boiler. Bring the water up to a steady simmer. As it gets warm, begin beating the egg whites, etc, with an electric mixer. Continue to beat them until they are very stiff and firm (cooked). Remove them from the double boiler at once and fold them gently into the berry sauce. Transfer the resulting berry whip into a serving bowl or individual serving dishes. Chill until serving time. 

Make the Custard:
1 tablespoon arrowroot
2 tablespoons sugar
a pinch of salt
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups whole milk or light cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put the arrowroot, sugar, salt, egg yolks, and egg into the top of a double boiler. Whisk well. When smooth, whisk in the milk or cream a little at a time before beginning to bring the heat up. Continue to whisk frequently, until the custard thickens. Remove it from the double boiler at once to cool. It can be just warm or room temperature when served with the chilled strawberry whip.

Last year at this time I made Turkish Minty Lamb Meatball Soup.

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Updated Sweet Potato Waffles

It's been a while since I made Sweet Potato Waffles. The last time - and the time I posted them - my waffle iron was in the process of dying. Consequently the waffles failed to get really crisp, and the photo showed it, with them lying there like dead, floppy, fish. The sweet potato means they are still somewhat soft and tender, but also really delicious.

When I made them this time I left out the sugar and used whole spelt flour, making them suitable for an occasional treat. Changes at the linked recipe.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Barley & Spelt Scones

When I went looking for barley based quick breads, I soon came across Finnish Rieska. Rieska is simply the word for bread, but it appears to mostly apply to fairly rustic flat-breads these days. There seems to be a lot of variation in the breads themselves, from simple mixtures of barley flour, water, and salt cooked somewhere between crisp and chewy, to fairly elaborate multi-grain versions with butter, eggs, and sugar, leavened with yeast or baking powder.

I have gone for a middle way with mine, and essentially used this northern Scottish barley scone recipe. It's from Orkney, which has strong Scandinavian connections so they are certainly related recipes and I am left with the impression that this could be a Finnish Rieska very easily. I've upped the salt, and the leavening, and the buttermilk; the last probably because I am using slightly different flours. I also baked mine in the oven, although there is no reason not to cook them on a griddle and I will probably try that out as the weather gets warmer and I am less enthused about putting on the oven.

Possibly I will continue to play around with other versions of barley flat-breads, or possibly I will find myself making this regularly. I was very pleased with how this turned out. I expected it to be a bit heavy, and it is; but it's light enough that I would rate it as sturdy rather than stodgy. One piece will go a long way to filling you up!

8 servings
40 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Barley & Spelt Scones

2 cups barley flour
1 cup whole spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup buttermilk plus a little

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Measure the barley flour, spelt flour, salt, and baking powder into a mixing bowl and mix well.

Stir in the buttermilk. At some point you will likely need to abandon the spoon and mix it with your hand. You should get a smooth, stiff, but pliable dough. You shouldn't knead it, but it can be turned out and worked enough to get it smooth. You may need to add a tablespoon more of buttermilk to get the last bits worked in.

Once you have a smooth ball, flatten it out and put it on the prepared parchment. Keep flattening and shaping it until it is round and evenly about 3/4" thick. Score it into eighths with a pizza cutter or knife, but not all the way through. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until firm. Since there is no fat in it, it won't really colour up.

Let it cool to warm before cutting it into wedges and serving. Excellent with butter, cheese, jam, etc.

Last year at this time I made Cheddar Cheese Crackers

Monday, 13 April 2020

Chicken & Mushroom Stroganoff

This is a fairly simple chicken-in-a-creamy-sauce-with-mushrooms kind of a dish, but take a look at that spice blend. It's based on one I found in a Polish grocery store (one of the few highlights of having had to drive to Mississauga every N days this winter was the shopping) and I liked it enough to reverse-engineer it. I've been using it a lot, in all kinds of things, and in particular I thought this gave an unusual and delightful flavour to the proceedings here. It goes well with pork and fish, too.

Like the original beef version of Stroganoff, this is quite fast and easy to make but the slightly luxurious ingredients make it, well, slightly luxurious.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour prep time

Make the Spice Blend:
1 tablespoon mustard seed
1 tablespoon coriander seed
4 teaspoons caraway seed
4 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1 tablespoon rubbed thyme OR savory
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo or similar hot chile/paprika

Grind the mustard, coriander, and caraway seeds. Sift them and regrind anything that didn't go through. When all is ground finely, mix with the remaining spices. Keep sealed in a jar in a cool, dark spot until needed. This makes more than you will need, but don't worry. You'll find a use for it.

Prepare the Ingredients:
6 shallots
4 - 6 cloves of garlic
125 grams (1/4 pound) shiitake mushrooms
125 grams (1/4 pound) oyster mushrooms
225 grams (1/2 pound) button mushrooms
500 grams (1 pound) skinless, boneless chicken pieces

Peel and chop the shallots. Peel and mince the garlic. Clean, trim, and cut all the mushrooms into bite-sized pieces. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. 

Cook the Stroganoff:
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons soft unbleached flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup unsalted chicken stock
1 cup yogurt OR sour cream
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
dill pickles, if desired

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until melted and sizzling. Add the chicken pieces and cook until seared all over; stir a few times. Add the shallots and mix them in well, then follow with the mushrooms. Cook for a few minutes, turning occasionally, until they are softened and slightly browned in spots. Add the garlic and mix in; cook for another minute.

Mix in the flour, 2 tablespoons of the spice blend, salt, and pepper. Cook until there is no white flour left showing. Slowly mix in the chicken stock to make a smooth sauce. Let simmer for a few minutes, until thickened and you are confident that the chicken is cooked. Mix in the yogurt or sour cream, the mustard, and one or two dill pickles finely chopped (if you like) and allow to heat through to steaming hot, but do not allow to simmer or boil. Serve at once, over noodles or steamed rice.

Last year at this time I made Butter-Infused Beans in Tomato Sauce.

Friday, 10 April 2020

Rutabaga & Apple Soup

There isn't too much to say about this; it's a winter vegetable purée soup, with some sweet and slightly zingy flavours and a lovely colour. (And brrr, it seems to be a winter week.)

At two servings, it will be a big bowl of soup to go with salad or bread and cheese; four servings would be fairly small portions as a starter to a meal.

Anise seed is an under-used spice, I think. I keep meaning to use it more often. This is a start.

This was quite a thick soup; you might want to add a bit more broth to make it soupier.

2 to 4 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time

Rutabaga & Apple Soup

2 cups diced peeled rutabaga
4 cups unsalted chicken OR vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 medium carrot
2 large apples
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon anise seed, ground
1 teaspoon ground ginger
the juice of 1/2 small lemon
1 tablespoon sherry
1/3 cup light cream

Peel and dice the rutabaga, and put it in a soup pot with the broth and bay leaf and salt. Bring to a boil and boil steadily for 40 minutes, until tender. As soon as it is in, peel the carrot and cut it into dice. Add it to the pot of rutabaga to cook along with it.

When the rutabaga and carrots have about 15 minutes left to cook, peel, core, and slice the apples. Heat the butter in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Cook the apples gently until quite soft and slightly browned. A few minutes before they are done, sprinkle them with the ground anise seed and ginger. Mix in well.

Transfer the cooked carrots and rutabaga to a blender or food processor. Add the apples and process until smooth. Return the soup to the pot, add the lemon juice, sherry, and cream and re-heat just up to the point of being steaming hot, but do not allow it to boil. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Chick Pea Choux Pastry

Friday, 3 April 2020

Pushing the Envelope; Starting the Garden

The world may be going to hell in a handbasket, but spring is coming regardless. We are champing at the bit more than usual to get out and start gardening, what with having spent ridiculous amounts of time inside, and it looks like the weather is being reasonably co-operative.

We have three beds covered in plastic at the moment. The far one holds - we hope - some spinach and lettuce that was seeded in the fall. We did not get good germination and we are waiting a week or so to see if we get some now with an assist. If not, we will re-seed, and in fact we have started some lettuce and spinach in flats to be transplanted out either way. The two nearer ones cover our two beds of early peas. Most of them are the variety Knight, but there is a section of Norli and a section of Strike, as well.

We ordered some new 6-mil vapor barrier as we threw some old sheets of it out last fall. When we first bought it we hoped it would last 5 or 6 years; in fact, it seems to have lasted 10 years and would have done even better if the deer had not stepped on some of it. Ordering it involved what is now the usual furtive exchange in a semi-deserted parking lot, and letting it sit the garage for 3 or 4 days before opening it. However, it will be nice to have some better hoop-house covers this year.

We transplanted some leeks out of what are now the pea beds. The spot they are in now will be between some tomato plants eventually, and that is turning out to be a good place to put leeks, onions, and carrots to go to seed.

This is our strain we have been saving from the seeds that overwintered in the garden; my hope is that eventually we will end up with a variety that is particularly good in the spring. I'll be looking for clean plants with the outer leaves in good condition, and late to go to seed. The tips are quite frozen and tatty on these but I won't worry about that; they are usually trimmed off anyway. However, I am not wildly impressed by them this year - it looks like it will take some more years of selection to improve them. 

There are sprouting greens from garlic, shallots, and other oniony things around the garden, and some overwintered but flattened parsley and chervil. Other than that the sorrel, in the photo above, is the greenest thing out there. I think I may be able to pick some by the end of the week if the weather stays nice. Forecast is for some chilly weather, though, so we'll see.

Inside, the usual eggplants and peppers have been started, along with onions, leeks, shallots, celeriac, potato seeds, and the aforementioned lettuce and spinach. This week we will start the tomatoes. There are a few herbs too. Other than that, I think everything else will be planted directly outdoors, although I know the brassicas will do better started in pots. If I decide to do that, they will get planted in about 3 weeks.

Next up outside will be barley - a new crop for us, I'm quite excited about it - chick peas, maybe some rutabagas for greens and some rapini, and the next round of peas. There is lots of garden clean up to be done - we did half the asparagus, but the other half still needs to be done. It all sounds daunting, but somehow it always gets done.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Clapshot Roasties

Clapshot is a traditional dish from the Orkney Islands of Scotland, and versions of it abound in Ontario too now. Usually Clapshot is made with boiled and mashed potatoes, rutabaga, and carrots, and I love it that way, but it occurred to me to take the same ingredients and roast them instead. Yes! Very good. And since I let the vegetables cool overnight before roasting them, I figure much better for the blood sugar.

4 servings
1 hour 45 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Roasted Potatoes, Carrots & Rutabaga

225 grams (1/2 pound) rutabaga
225 grams (1/2 pound) carrots
450 grams (1 pound) potatoes
2 to 3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Peel the rutabaga and cut it into fairly small dice. Peel and trim the carrots and cut them into similar dice. You can peel and cut the potatoes into just slightly larger dice now, or wait until after they have been cooked.

Put the rutabaga and carrots into a pot of water to cover. Add the potatoes now (they still should be covered with water) if they are whole or in larger chunks. (You should cut them into approximately 1 x 2" chunks if they are large; leave them if that is close to their natural size.)

Bring the vegetables to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. If you have cut the potatoes into dice already, don't add them until the others have cooked for 5 minutes.

Drain the partially cooked vegetables well. You can let them cool completely or finish cooking them now. If the potatoes are still in large pieces, they should be cut into dice slightly larger than the others.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Toss the vegetables with the oil in a 9" x 13" or similar shallow roasting (lasagne) pan. Season with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg and toss again. They should be just lightly coated in oil.

Roast at 375°F for 1 hour to 1 hour and 20 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked and looking a little browned around the edges. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Claypot Chicken - in the Romertopf

Monday, 30 March 2020

Chicken Kerala Style

Very good! A little different from the usual "curry", having a simple but sprightly assemblage of spices made zingy with the addition of plenty of fresh ginger and lemon juice. It's cooked more like a stir fry than a stew, and should come out drier and crispier than I managed. I did not use a large enough pan, that was my trouble. It was delicious anyway.

I don't know where all that garlic went. I mean, it had garlic, but I wouldn't have guessed a whole head. The chile flakes, as ever, are to be applied according to your taste and theirs. Also, while you could serve this without the cilantro, I thought it brought a really important profile to the balance of flavours, so use it if you can.

4 servings
time to marinate: 15 minutes prep time plus 2 to 18 hours
time to cook: 20 minutes prep time

Chicken Kerala Style

Make the Marinade:
1-2 teaspoons hot chile flakes
1 tablespoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons red lentil OR chick pea flour
1 head (5 to 8 cloves) garlic
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
the juice of 1 lemon

Grind the chile flakes, coriander, cumin, and fennel with the salt. Put them in a container which will hold the chicken. Add the paprika, turmeric, and lentil or chick pea flour. Mix well.

Peel and finely mince or grate the garlic. Peel and grate the ginger. Add them to the spices, along with the lemon juice, and mix well. 

Marinate & Cook the Chicken:
500 grams (1 pound) boneless chicken pieces
 OR 750 grams (1 1/2 pounds) bone-in chicken pieces
1 medium onion
3 to 4 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
a few sprigs of cilantro to garnish, if possible

Have the chicken cut into pieces; bigger than bite-sized but small enough to cook fairly quickly. Three or four bites to the piece, maybe. Mix them into the marinade until thoroughly coated, then cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to overnight.

When ready to proceed, bring the chicken out of the fridge to lose its chill while you peel the onion and cut it into slivers.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted and slightly browned. Remove them from the oil to a plate. Add the chicken pieces individually, but with their marinade, and cook, turning them as needed until they are cooked through. Scrape up the marinade regularly; I found it inclined to stick. To the pan, not to the chicken. Once the chicken is about half-cooked, add the onions back in.

While the chicken cooks, wash, dry, and chop a few sprigs of cilantro to sprinkle over the chicken once it is cooked and dished, with as much of the marinade as can be removed from the pan.

Last year at this time I made Ye'atakilt Wot (Stewed Vegetables).

Friday, 27 March 2020

Stovetop Barley Pudding

This is, essentially, Mexican Rice Pudding made with barley instead of rice. I've cut the sugar way back, and given how much barley expands, a lot less of it is needed than of rice. The barley is more assertive than the rice, too; it brings a distinct, chewy texture. Being the barley lover that I am, I enjoyed this very much. Mr. Ferdzy, it has to be admitted, was considerably less enthused.

Other than the fact that it must be stirred regularly while cooking to prevent the starches from settling and scorching, this is a very simple recipe to make. I would tend to cook the barley some time in the afternoon, then cook the pudding while kitchen clean-up is going on after dinner. That will keep me around while the stirring needs to happen.

4 to 6 servings
2 hours - 10 minutes prep time

Stovetop Barley Pudding

Cook the Barley:
1/2 cup pearl barley
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups water

Put the above in a rice cooker, and cook. This can be done up to a day in advance; if so, keep the barley refrigerated until needed.

Make the Pudding:
4 cups dairy or non-dairy milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
the finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup raisins
the juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons rum OR 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Put the cooked barley in a 2 litre (qt) heavy-bottomed pot, and break it up. Mix in the milk, sugar, cinnamon, and lemon zest. Bring the mixture up to a simmer and simmer until thick, stirring regularly. This should take about an hour. Add the raisins about halfway through the cooking time.

Remove the pudding from the heat and mix in the lemon juice and rum or vanilla.

Serve the pudding chilled or at room temperature. Serve it plain, or with applesauce or whipped cream.

Last year at this time I made Doro Wat for An Ethiopian Feast.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Beet, Prune, & Walnut Salad

This salad is all over the internet; it is in fact a traditional Russian salad although this particular iteration seems to come from a cook book called Please to the Table. Some cooks claim there are no prunes in a Russian beet salad; others confirm that that is how it was made in their family. We thought it was really delightful, and the prunes are what make it not just another beet salad, although they were surprisingly subtle.

Leftover kept quite well until the next day. I wouldn't keep it longer than that, and it wasn't any issue anyway.

4 to 8 servings
1 1/4 hours to cook the beets
30 minutes to assemble the salad

Beet, Prune, & Walnut Salad

Cook the Beets:
500 grams (1 pound; 3 large) beets

Wash the beets and wrap them in foil, and bake them at 375°F for about 1 hour 15 minutes, until soft. If you prefer, they could be put in a pot with plenty of water to cover them, and boiled for 45 minutes to an hour, until tender. Let them cool. This can be done up to a day in advance.

Make the Dressing & Salad:
125 grams (1/4 pound; 16 to 18) prunes
1 tablespoon brandy OR rum
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons sour cream OR thick yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
100 grams (3 ounces; 1 cup) walnut pieces

Cut the prunes into 6 or 8 pieces each, and soak them in a little tepid water for 10 to 15 minutes unless they are already very soft and moist. Drain (if soaked) then sprinkle them with the brandy or rum and let them sit another 10 or 15 minutes to absorb it.

Meanwhile, peel and mince the garlic. Mix it in a mixing bowl with the lemon juice, sour cream or yogurt, and mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper.

Peel and grate the or finely dice the beets. Mix them into the dressing, along with the prunes. Chop the walnuts to a similar size as the beets and prunes, and mix most of them in - reserve a few (unchopped) for garnish if you like.

Refrigerate the salad for at least an hour to several hours, and bring it back up to room temperature before serving.

 Last year at this time I made Ater Kik Wot (Dried Pea Stew)

Monday, 23 March 2020

Turkish Red Lentil Kofte

Remember the Kibbeh? This dish is Turkish, not Lebanese, but it is related. At least, it's another paste made by mixing bulgur with other foods.The resulting little balls are eaten cold, like a sturdy salad, and I'd be very inclined to serve them on a bed of lettuce, possibly with the usual Turkish yogurt flavoured with garlic and a bit of salt. I did try sautéing some of the leftovers, and they were okay, but cold is better.

24 kofte - 4 to 6 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time

Turkish Red Lentil Kofte

Cook the Lentils & Bulgur:
1 cup red lentils
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup fine bulgur

Put the lentils, water, and salt into a rice cooker and turn on. It's a good idea to set a timer for about 20 minutes, as when the lentils are almost done you should add the bulgur and mix it in. If it turns off, don't worry; just mix in the bulgur as soon as you hear the "click". Place the covered container on a heat-proof surface and let cool enough to handle.

Make the Kofte:
1 medium onion
2 tablespoons olive OR sunflower oil
1 teaspoon cumin seed, ground
2 tablespoons tomato paste (if you have Turkish pepper paste, use for half)
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (to taste)
1 teaspoon rubbed savory
1 teaspoon rubbed mint
1/2 cup finely minced fresh parsley OR green onion
    (can also use cilantro, dill, or mint; in smaller quantities to taste)
the juice of 1 medium lemon
lettuce to serve

Peel and finely chop the onion. Heat the oi in a small skillet and cook the onions gently until softened and translucent. Add the ground cumin seed, tomato and pepper pastes, savory, and mint, and mix in well for a minute . Turn the onion into a mixing bowl and let cool for a minute. Add the lentils and bulgur.

Wash, dry, and finely mince the parsley and green onion and/or other herbs. Mix them in with the lemon juice. Take handfuls of the mixture and form into egg-shaped balls. Serve them on a bed of lettuce.

Last year at this time I made Yedifin Miser Alicha Wot (Stewed Lentils).