Friday, 14 February 2020

Mr. Ferdzy's Family Pulled Pickled Pork

I got this recipe from Mr. Ferdzy's brother. Admittedly, it was simpler then: instead of the list of spices, it called for a packet of Club House pickling spice, the vinegar, and the meat. How and why he suddenly came up with this dish from his youth decades later, I am not sure.

I looked the ingredients up on line and reverse engineered the list below. I'm glad I did, because the package has been changed since then and I don't know if it is the same size or not. At any rate, there is no guarantee that commercial products will be around forever.

When I made this recipe the first time, it was for a family gathering with both of Mr. Ferdzy's brothers, and all three of them were aflush with nostalgia, so I think I must have the spice blend reasonably correct. Quite apart from the family history, this is a very simple and delicious way to prepare a shoulder pork roast. I've now made it both slow-cooked in the oven and in the Instant-Pot. As usual, the oven technique produces the better result, but the Instant-Pot is fine and even quicker and easier. Mr. Ferdzy's mom would have made it in a more old-fashioned pressure cooker, but that was, in fact, the original method of cooking this.

6 to 12 servings
about 15 minutes prep time
plus 1 hour per pound in the oven
OR plus 15 minutes per pound plus 45 minutes pressure cooked

Mr. Ferdzy's Family Pork Recipe

Measure the Spices:
1 2" piece of cinnamon
2 to 6 bay leaves
6 cloves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon whole mustard seed
1 tablespoon whole coriander seed
2 teaspoon dill seed
1 teaspoon fenugreek seed
1 teaspoon allspice berries
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian OR smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Measure everything into a small bowl or directly into the pot in which the meat is to be cooked. Don't bother to grind anything. 

Cook the Pork:
2 to 3 kilo (4 to 6 pound) pork shoulder roast
1 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon bacon fat or mild vegetable oil

Trim off and discard much of the skin and fat from the roast. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and brown the roast on all sides. You will need your ventilation fan set on high!

To cook the roast in the oven: put the roast into a cover-able roasting pan with the spices and the vinegar; cover. Use the higher number of bay leaves. Put it in the oven and bring the heat up to 225°F. Remove the lid about halfway through the process. Cook for approximately 1 hour per pound, but expect that it may take a little longer. The meat should be falling apart when done, and the bone will pull right out. Let rest for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

To cook the roast in an Instant Pot: put the rack into the pot, and put in the roast. Pour in the spices, the vinegar. Use only 2 bay leaves. Seal the pot, and cook on "Meat/Stew" (high pressure) for 15 minutes per pound. Allow the pressure to drop naturally; 20 minutes to half an hour.

In either case it is not a bad idea to cook the meat in advance, cool it, and remove the bones and fat. It reheats very well, in a little of the cooking juices. They are, however, very intense being mostly vinegar, and don't really work too well as sauce. Serve the meat with enough to keep it moist and tasty, but don't think of it as gravy.

Last year at this time I made Haluski.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Garlic Braised Mushrooms

I love mushrooms and these were delicious. Serve them with just about any kind of meat, with omelettes, with pasta, polenta, or simply pile them on toast. 

This is a great treatment for slightly tired (but still good!) mushrooms - if you find a decent package on the half-price table of your local grocery, for instance, this would be a very good use for them. 

I'm saying the parsley is optional, but really, do try to have some. It adds a highly desirable touch of green and fresh, bright flavour and crunch to balance out the earthier mushrooms.

2 to 4 servings
30 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Garlic Braised Mushrooms

250 grams (1/2 pound) mixed or button mushrooms
3 medium shallots
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
1 cup unsalted chicken OR vegetable stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sherry
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped parsley or other fresh herb to garnish, OPTIONAL

Clean and trim the mushrooms, and cut them in halves or quarters according to size and your desire. Peel and mince the shallots. Put both these in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot or skillet (not cast iron; non reactive). Peel and mince the garlic and set it aside.

Add the stock, butter, soy sauce, sherry, and pepper to the pan of mushrooms. Bring up to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes; stir occasionally.

At about the 10 minute mark the liquid will be disappearing. Watch the pan more closely, and stir more frequently. When all the liquid is gone, and the mushrooms are beginning to sizzle and brown, add the garlic. Mix in well and cook for another minute or two. Turn out into a serving dish and sprinkle with the chopped parsley or other herb before serving.

Last year at this time I made Barley Dressing Pilaf

Monday, 10 February 2020

Apple Butter Mashed Squash

This is more something to do with left-over squash than a recipe to make from scratch, but given the size of most squash, leftovers are not exactly unheard of.

I hope you can find squash at this time of year. I can still get lots just by walking into the laundry room, but you may have to go to a farmers market if you don't grow your own. By now they are a little starchier and less sweet than they would have been in the fall, so a touch of apple butter helps bring that back. You may wish to apply it with a slightly heavier hand than I did. At any rate, you scale the ingredients to the amount of cooked squash you have. Baked, boiled, or steamed; just make sure it is well mashed. 

1 to 2 servings per cup
15 minutes prep time not including first cooking the squash

1 cup cooked mashed squash
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp apple butter
1/4 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
a few gratings of nutmeg OR 1/8 teaspoon gr cinnamon

Put the squash in a saucepan with the remaining ingredients and heat until steaming hot. Stir, from frequently to just about constantly, to prevent it from catching.

Aaaaand serve it.

Wait; that's it?

Yes. Yes, it is.

Ha ha! Last year it was Butternut Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice & Mushrooms and I said the exact same things about finding squash at this time of year. 

Friday, 7 February 2020

Sweet Potato Pie

Like pumpkin pie, only with sweet potatoes. As ever, they bring their own sweetness and don't need much more to be added. I have to say, this was fabulous - really, really amazing. It's one of those things I'm almost sorry to know about, because it is so good, and now I will want it all the time.

This is a traditional pie in the southern United States, although it traditionally has a lot more sugar. I can't even imagine it! I thought this was perfect. It's a big, filling pie, so it is definitely 8 servings. Other than the need to roast the sweet potatoes in advance, this is also ridiculously simple to make.

As usual, it set up better once it sat overnight. As usual, it was cut long before then. But also, I think the flavours improved with a night in the fridge too, so do try to make it a day ahead of when you want it.

8 servings
1 hour 45 minutes - 45 minutes prep time
not including baking the sweet potatoes

Sweet Potato Pie

1/2 recipe pastry, (enough for bottom crust) of your choice
2 cups (2 to 3 medium) roasted sweet potato, peeled and mashed
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon finely grated nutmeg (about 1/6 nutmeg)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons rum
1/2 cup whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Roll the pastry to fit a 9" pie plate. Transfer it in, and press it into place. Prick it all over with a fork, then bake for 10 minutes until set and lightly coloured.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Mash and measure the sweet potatoes, and put them in a mixing bowls with the eggs, spices, and sugar. Whisk well  until smoothly and evenly combined. Whisk in the rum and whipping cream.

When the crust has baked for 10 minutes, set the oven temperature to 325°F. Scrape the filling into the crust and spread it out evenly. Return the pie to the oven and bake for approximately 1 hour, until the filling is set. Let the pie cool completely before cutting and serving.

Last year at this time I made Coconut Oat Blondies

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Carrot, Red Lentil & Walnut Hummus

Here's an easy alternative to traditional hummus, a little more mellow without the sometimes faintly bitter tahini, and with walnuts and carrots instead. This makes an awful lot, but I don't see that I can cook many fewer lentils in my rice cooker, and the balance with the carrots, etc, is right. Fortunately it will keep in the fridge for up to a week and this is a dish that will make a terrific party appetizer or fit right in with healthy daily eating.

makes about 4 cups
45 minutes - 15 minutes prep time for first round
20 minutes prep time to finish
allow time to rest

Carrot, Red Lentil & Walnut Hummus

Cook in the Rice Cooker:
2 cups grated carrots
1 cup red lentils
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
1 bay leaf

Peel and grate the carrots. Measure everything and put it all in the rice cooker. Give it a stir and make sure everything is below the surface of the water. Close, turn on and cook. Remove from the rice cooker promptly and let cool.

Finish the Hummus:
1 cup walnut pieces
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons walnut oil
freshly ground black pepper to taste
the zest of 1/2 medium lemon
the juice of 1 medium lemon

Toast the walnut pieces in a dry skillet until lightly browned and fragrant. Transfer them to a food processor. (You may want to save a few to garnish.) Peel the garlic and add it. Process until both are finely chopped. Add the oil and process some more. Add the pepper and lemon zest.

Add the cooked, cooled carrots and lentils (remove and discard the bay leaf). Process until smooth, scraping down the sides once or twice as necessary. Add the lemon juice and blend in well. Taste and adjust the seasonings. This hummus will be at its best if it can sit for several hours to allow the flavours to blend.

Last year at this time I made Turkish Walnut & Red Pepper Paté

Monday, 3 February 2020

Turkish Potato "Tost"

One of the benefits of reading a lot of Turkish recipe sites is that I have become much more adventurous in using my panini grill. I cook chicken breasts on it often, seasoning them and wrapping them in parchment paper; 4 or 5 minutes, turn them over and cook another 4 or 5 minutes, rest for another 4 or 5 minutes then unwrap and serve. There is also still the occasional grilled cheese sandwich. But I digress.

Here is another very popular Turkish recipe that requires a panini press. There is a surprising number of variations on this theme out there. The technique is mostly the same, except unlike as with the chicken, the potato tosts don't get wrapped up snugly to prevent leakage; the steam must get out. There will almost certainly be some leakage, though, so be sure there is a tray to catch it. 

I'm not sure these are quite so crisp and perfect as pan-cooked potato pancakes (which is what these are, basically) but wiping-up requirements notwithstanding, they are much neater and easier to make. Eat them while they are hot and crunchy. I suspect if they got cold, they could be re-heated in a hot skillet very quickly, but we had no leftovers so who knows for sure.

2 to 4 servings
45 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Turkish Potato Tost

450 grams (1 pound; 4 medium) white potatoes
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  OR dried oregano OR za'atar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons sunflower OR olive oil
100 grams (3 ounces) grated old Cheddar cheese

Wash and trim the potatoes; peel them if you like. Grate them coarsely and squeeze them in handfuls until as dry as you can get them. Place them in a mixing bowl as you go. Add the seasonings and toss.

Add the egg, oil, and grated Cheddar, and mix well.

Cut a piece of parchment large enough, when folded in half, to fit your sandwich press with several inches hanging out on all three open sides. Spoon the mixture onto the parchment and spread it out evenly to fit the grill exactly. Press the top grill plate with its covering of parchment paper closed firmly. The parchment should not be tucked up around the potatoes; steam (and possibly some liquid) must be able to escape.

Cook the potato tost for 30 to 35 minutes, until nicely browned and cooked through. Cut into pieces and serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Greek Lemon Roasted Potatoes.

Friday, 31 January 2020

10th Annual Canadian Seed Catalogue Review

Wow! Have I really been doing this for 10 years?! Apparently! And this list is much longer than it was when I first started. Part of it is that there are many more seed houses than there used to be; part of it is simply that I continue to find ones I've been missing. I don't aim to list everybody selling seeds in Canada, but those companies selling seeds of their own cultivation, or at least unusual and desirable open-pollinated listings (which is not always easy to know).

I'm not sure I detect any strong new trends this year, but the turn, about in the middle of this project, towards a wider range of plants including grains continues to gather strength. There are more locally-adapted and bred varieties being listed, and the number of greens and herbs available is now quite amazing. Along with the local heirlooms, there is a much larger selection of international choices, some of which will no doubt become locally adapted, and some of which will not.

I try to time this post so that most everybody will have their new listings up, but the spread is enough that some of the early-birds are showing sold-out items already.

So, without further ado, go forth and... sow!

As ever, don't forget to check Seeds of Diversity's  Seed Catalogue Index if you are looking for something specific (and, in fact, if you are just browsing too).

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Drying Cooked Beans for Easy Later Use

This is not so much a recipe as a some notes about what I did... which was to dry some cooked beans in our food dryer for later use. About 20 years ago there was a brief period of time when you could get "instant bean flakes" at health food stores. I don't know, maybe you still can but my impression was that they went over like a lead balloon and disappeared from the market quite quickly. Too bad. As instant food they had a lot to recommend them.

I've been cooking our beans in the Instant pot lately, and these were no exception. I gave them 18 minutes after bringing them up to a boil then soaking them for several hours. Then I changed the water, added salt, and cooked them. They were small beans and this years crop, so 15 minutes would probably have been enough; they were overly soft and frequently split.

Cooked beans coming out of the food-dryer, redried

Then they were rinsed and thoroughly drained. I put a mesh liner over the drying racks or they would never have stayed on. They were dried overnight at a fairly low temperature; a short time as dried foods go and they seemed completely dry so they are a quick and easy thing to do. I put them in a jar for storage but I have to admit I used them within the week...

It's not just that I overcooked mine; I think in general these dried cooked beans will be best for things like soup, refried beans, dips, and casseroles, because they are going to be softer and flakier than just-cooked or even canned beans. Really, that just means they won't be ideal in salads but otherwise, they'll be fine. Also, excellent for camping or road trips generally.

To reconstitute them for soup, I just put them in a measuring cup and poured boiling water over them to cover them. They were very soft and ready to go in about 5 minutes. 

So why did I want to do this? A couple of reasons: I'm trying to eat more beans and having them only 5 minutes and pot of boiling water away from being ready to use is a good thing. Yes, I could buy canned ones and no doubt I will, occasionally.

But I am also trying to use my own homegrown beans, and even beyond that, I suspect in terms of environmental footprint this type of advance bean prep and storage is considerably better than putting them into cans with a lot of liquid, to be then be shipped around and the can discarded (even if recycled). It's amazingly hard to know for sure, but this strikes me as more than likely, since if you buy dry beans the shipping involves no liquid and no metal, just a relatively small amount of plastic especially if you buy bulk. I can't see how the amount of energy involved in my instant pot and food dryer will outweigh that whole discarding-a-metal-can thing.

Monday, 27 January 2020

Perfect Fluffy Scrambled Eggs

I spotted this recipe in an old 19th century cookbook, although the title was "Poached Eggs". Not like any poached eggs I've ever had, but it looked simple enough so I had to give it a try. Still not like any poached eggs I've ever had - it's scrambled eggs, and the best scrambled eggs ever, to boot.

My usual old technique involved whisking in a spoonful of water then just cooking them in some butter, and stirring a bit; the result was fluffy but perhaps a little dry. I have preferred this to other scrambled egg recipes I've seen, which involved cooking them with cream and butter, but in a double boiler, and stirring a lot. I found the results of that to be too heavy and greasy. This is the perfect middle way - rich and moist but also light and fluffy. I was a little nervous about the timing, but I used a timer, and it was just about perfect. Wow! Apparently you can still teach this old dog a few new tricks. Scrambled eggs more often, coming up!

If you wanted a smaller batch, I'd say 8" pan, 4 chicken eggs, and 1/3 cup of cream, but this is untested so if you do it please let me know. In any case you will need a pan with a lid. If you are having them on buttered toast, have the bread in the toaster with the butter standing by ready to spread, and put the bread down at the same time as you turn on the stove for the cream.

2 to 4 servings
10 minutes prep time

Perfect Fluffy Scrambled Eggs

4 medium-large duck eggs OR 6 large chicken eggs
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon finely minced parsley
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh OR dried chives
1/2 cup 10% cream
bread & butter for toast

Whisk the eggs in a bowl and season to taste; then whisk in the washed, dried, and minced herbs. Other herbs can be used, of course, according to taste and availability.

Put the cream in a 10" skillet (medium sized) and bring it up to a simmer. It will bubble all around the edges before the middle, that fine; that's the stage you are looking for. Reduce the heat to medium-high (the usual ideal temperature for cooking eggs). Gently pour in the eggs ("in strips", said my original source but ha, good work if you can). Cook for 2 minutes without stirring, although it's a good idea to run your spatula around the edges and as far underneath as is feasible, and lifting the mass of eggs slightly.

After 2 minutes, remove the pan from the stove, turn the eggs over gently, and cover the pan with the lid. Let it sit for 1 minute more, then serve, on hot buttered toast, which you started just as you turned on the stove for the cream.

Last year at this time I made Mashed Butternut Squash & Sweet Potatoes.

Friday, 24 January 2020

Cream of Belgian Endive Soup

This easy but elegant soup has a nice balance between the creamy, uh, cream and the astringent Belgian endives. Carrot adds just a blush of colour and the onions and garlic add their notes to the whole. Simple and satisfying. Despite their subtlety there are quite a lot of vegetables in this so it isn't excessively rich.

4 servings
45 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Cream of Belgian Endive Soup

4 large (375 grams; 12 ounces) Belgian endives
1 large red or pink onion
1 small carrot
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons barley flour
3 cups unsalted chicken OR vegetable stock
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper & nutmeg to taste
1/2 cup 10% cream

Wash, trim, and slice the Belgian endives thinly. (Reserve a green tips for garnish, if there are green tips). Peel and chop the onion. Peel and grate or finely dice the carrot. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the butter in a heavy-bottomed soup pot until melted and sizzling. Add the endive, onion, and carrot. Cook over medium-low heat with the lid on for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add the garlic and mix in well. Add the flour and mix in well, and cook for a minute or so until pasty. Season with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Slowly stir in 2 cups of the chicken stock. Raise the heat to medium and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, until thickened.

Purée the soup in a food processor, and return it to the pot. Add the remaining chicken stock and the cream. Heat until steaming hot but not simmering. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Red Cabbage with Rye Crumbs.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Russian Style Apple Batter Pudding

I don't know if they serve this sort of apple pudding in Russia, but this is basically the batter from the Russian "Lazy" Egg and Cabbage Pie I made a while back, so I would be pretty surprised if the answer was no. They certainly ought to, because it is excellent. Apple Batter Pudding is a kind of stealth official Ontario dessert; everyone goes on about butter tarts and what-not, but I bet it is much more likely that your mom made apple batter pudding.

I had already cut back the sugar when I published that recipe; this one uses about a third of that reduced amount. I now find it ample! But you could always put a little more in if you like. This version also has 2/3 the amount of flour, so even though it is a more rich and luxurious version than my original apple batter pudding, it is now a better choice for me.

More rich? Yes, look at all that sour cream. Don't forget that for best results, you should now make your own. In spite of that this is still a pretty homely dessert, good for following a light family meal, although it would certainly rise to the occasion at a more formal dinner too.

6 to 8 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Russian Style Apple Batter Pudding

1 1/3 cups whole spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup sour cream
3 large eggs
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
4 to 6 medium-large apples
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar

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

Measure the flour and mix the salt, baking powder, and first quantity of sugar into it - right in the measuring cup; why not?

Put the sour cream into a mixing bowl and beat in the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the vegetable oil.

Peel the apples and cut them with an apple slicer; discard the cores. I then cut each slice in half again, or they are a bit thick.

Mix the dry ingredients into the sour cream, etc. It will be like a thick pancake batter. Spread about 60% of it in the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread the apple slices over the batter and sprinkle them evenly with the cinnamon and remaining sugar. Dollop the remaining batter over the top as evenly as you can - if the answer is, not very, don't worry about it - it will all straighten itself out sufficiently as it bakes.

Bake the pudding for 45 to 50 minutes until firm and set, and lightly browned. Serve warm or cool.

Last year at this time I made Strawberry-Endive Salad.

Monday, 20 January 2020

Potato-Buckwheat Gnocchi

This is aaaaalmost a traditional northern Italian recipe, but I left out the white flour and used all buckwheat flour, where the traditional version uses about half and half buckwheat and white wheat flours. No doubt this is a little more rustic, but it fits my diet and is also gluten-free.

Normally one would make this right after cooking the potatoes, only letting them cool enough to handle, but since my goal is to convert the starch in the potatoes to resistant starch, I cooked them the night before, cooled them, and made the gnocchi the next day. This worked perfectly well; you can do it either way. I served mine with our homemade frozen pesto, because we have a lot of it, but I'm not sure it's the ideal treatment for these. Something similar to Pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese would probably be better, but omit the potato as it's already in the gnocchi. I think this Mushroom, Celery, & Leek Sauce would also go very well. 

I served this as 4 main-course portions (froze 2 for later use) and found them a little skimpy but adequate. We do tend to have hearty appetites, so keep that in mind. Six to 8 portions would really only work as part of a multi-course meal. I have to say they did not recook well while frozen; next time I will be sure to thaw them first.

3 to 6 servings; 64 gnocchi
30 minutes to 1 hour to cook the potatoes
30 minutes to mix and form the Gnocchi
20 minutes to cook the Gnocchi

Potato-Buckwheat Gnocchi with Pesto

Cook the Potatoes:
500 grams (1 1/4 pounds) starchy white potatoes

You will need 4 to 6 potatoes, medium to medium large in size, but cooking them evenly will be easier if they are of similar configuration. Bring a pot of water sufficient to cover them well to a boil, and boil them for about 20 minutes, until quite tender. DO NOT peel them first, and remove them from the pot to drain, dry, and cool promptly. This will help keep the potato flesh quite dry, which is the object here.

Perhaps a better technique is to bake the potatoes at 375°F for approximately 1 hour, until tender. Remove them from the oven and let them cool.

You can proceed as soon as the potatoes are cool enough to handle, but if you wish them to do very little to raise your blood sugar, they should be cooled completely and chilled overnight first.

Make the Gnocchi:
2/3 cup dark buckwheat flour, about
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
a little potato starch OR more buckwheat flour to roll

Peel the potatoes and grate them on the finest holes of your box grater, or pass them through a ricer/food mill into a mixing bowl.

Sprinkle the flour and salt over the potatoes, and work them in, breaking up any clumps of potato until you have a fine, evenly grainy mixture.

Break in the egg, break up the yolk and mix the egg then work it into the potatoes. This is a good dough to mix with your (clean!) hands, until it reaches the texture of plasticene. You may need to adjust the amount of flour slightly. Form the dough into a ball, and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

Cut the dough into quarters, and roll one quarter into a fat but straight sided tube in your hands. Roll it out with your hands on a lightly-dusted board until you have an long, even, thin roll, about 12" to 16" long. Cut it into 16 even pieces, and roll each piece with a fork until tubular and embossed with the pattern of the tines. Place them in a single layer on a large plate as you work.

Repeat with the remaining 3 quarters of the dough.

To Cook; put a large pot of boiling water on to boil. Add a little salt, but less than you would for dry pasta as the gnocchi have already been lightly salted. When the water is boiling briskly, add the gnocchi in a steady stream. Do not really stir them, but if they look like sticking to the bottom of the pot, loosen them gently. Cook them for about 4 to 5 minutes. They will float to the top in about 2 minutes, but in my experience they need just a tad longer to cook through to the middle (and next time I will make sure they are a little flatter - don't make them into perfect cylinders).

Serve them with the sauce or other treatment of your choice. Brown butter and sage is classic, as is pesto. Nothing wrong with tomato sauce, or bake them with cheese, breadcrumbs, and herbs.

Last year at this time I made Leek & Dried Tomato Salad.

Friday, 17 January 2020

Beet & Cucumber Salad with Horseradish-Caraway Dressing

Horseradish with beets is classic, and also with cucumbers which also go really well with beets. As does caraway. How have I not put them all together before? Anyway, here they are with some lettuce which fits in with the crowd very well.

Winter salads! They can be done. And for once, I managed something decorative that was not a big nuisance to eat. I'm slow but I get there.

4 to 6 servings
about 1 hour to cook the beets
20 minutes prep time for the salad

Beet & Cucumber Salad with Horseradish-Caraway Dressing

Cook the Beets:
250 grams (1/2 pound; 3 medium) beets
1 tablespoon sunflower OR olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
salt & freshly ground black pepper

Wash and wrap the beets in foil, and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until just tender, or wash the beets and put them in a pot with plenty of water to cover them, and boil them for 45 minutes to an hour, until just tender.

Let them cool enough to handle, then peel them and grate them. Toss them with the oil and vinegar, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cover and keep refrigerated until you make the salad, up to 24 hours later.

Make the Dressing:
1/2 teaspoon caraway seed, crushed
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (light is fine)
2 tablespoons sour cream OR yogurt
1 to 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish

Crush the caraway seed and mix it in a small bowl or container with the remaining ingredients; best to do this a bit in advance of assembling the salad to allow the flavours to blend. Horseradish is very much at your discretion, depending on how much you like it and how strong yours is.

Finish the Salad:
1 small onion, red or pink for preference
1/2 bunch greenhouse lettuce
3 or 4 greenhouse mini cucumbers

Peel and slice the onion thinly. Put it in a strainer and sprinkle it with salt. Let it drain while you assemble the rest of the salad. 

Wash and dry the lettuce. For best presentation, cut off the tips of the leaves and arrange them around the outside of a shallow serving bowl. Chop the remaining lettuce. Wash, trim and slice the cucumbers.

Rinse the onions and drain them very well. Mix them with the lettuce and spread them in the middle of the salad bowl. Arrange the beets and sliced cucumbers over them. Drizzle with the salad dressing; you may opt not to put it all on, but to pass some of it for people who like extra dressing.

Last year at this time I made Polish Dill Pickle Soup.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Making Sour Cream

Okay, it is once more RANT TIME in Ferdzy-land. Again, it's about dairy products. Again, the big companies that have a killer grip on the production and supply lines around here, have stopped producing an actual dairy product and are now purveyors of complete and utter CRAP.

I've raved before about how hard it is to get actual whipping cream anymore, but thanks to Miller's Dairy at least I can. However, they don't make sour cream (I'm pretty sure) and the stuff at the grocery store is now essentially inedible. I, at least, refuse to eat it anymore. Here's the ingredient list from the last batch I bought, and it seems to be entirely typical: cream, milk, skim milk powder, modified corn starch, guar gum, carrageenan, carob bean gum, sodium citrate, sodium phosphate, bacterial culture.

Just in case you didn't get that the first time:

Cream, milk, skim milk powder, modified corn starch, guar gum, carrageenan, carob bean gum, sodium citrate, sodium phosphate, bacterial culture.

People, that is not sour cream, and it is criminal that this country allows anyone to sell that slimy glop with the label sour cream.

So I got on line to see if one can make sour cream at home, and as it turns out, yes; one can. I saw recipes that said, "mix 2 ingredients and leave on the counter overnight" and I saw recipes that wanted you to heat your cream to a very precise temperature, and hold it there, and cool it, and then mix your 2 ingredients and leave it on the counter overnight.

After some thought I decided to believe the people who say, mix 2 ingredients, etc. If you are not using raw cream - and hardly anyone will be, certainly not me - that heating and cooling process has already been done; it's called pasteurization.

There are 2 main variables in this recipe. The first will be the cream you use. I used whipping cream, as that is what will be easiest for me to get. It does need to be real whipping cream, not some industrial CRAP full of gums and starches, or why are we even here? The lower in fat the cream you use, the thinner the ultimate sour cream, and this will - even with whipping cream - be thinner than purchased sour cream ever was. Next time I might try mixing equal parts 10% cream with the whipping cream, though, for something a little more restrained. (If Miller's makes an 18% cream, I've never seen it).

The second variable is the souring agent. I used commercial buttermilk, which is okay but not exciting, and my finished whipping cream tasted very much like the buttermilk; no big surprise. I've seen vinegar recommended by some people, but useful as I think vinegar is, I'm not convinced it would bring the right flavour profile. Lemon juice is also suggested, and I will try that next time, provided I am using it somewhere that a slight lemon flavour will be an asset. Yogurt is basically thicker buttermilk, but again perhaps with a different flavour and it can definitely be used. You can also look on-line and find sour cream starter cultures for sale, but I can't see myself using sour cream at a frequency and volume that would make that useful to me.

As ever with dairy products, cleanliness may or may not be next to godliness, but it is most definitely next to success. 

1 to 1 1/4 cups; scale as needed 
25 hours 10 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

1 cup pure, high quality cream; 10% on up to 35%
1/4 cup buttermilk OR 2 tablespoons good yogurt OR 2 teaspoons lemon juice

Make your sour cream in a very clean or sterilized canning jar; pick one the right size for the quantity you intend to make. Either sterilize the jar, or run it through the dishwasher at a hot temperature and start the sour cream as soon as the dishwasher is done. I would also only do this if I expect to use my sour cream promptly - otherwise, it's into the canner, cover by an inch, and boil for 10 minutes. Also you may wish to run through: the lid and rim, a funnel, a large spoon, and a spatula.

Put the cream into your very clean jar. Add the starter agent and stir it in. Wipe the rim with a bit of clean wet paper towel. Pop on your very clean lid and rim, although not too tight. Set on the back of the counter and leave it for 24 hours at room temperature, assuming room temperature is not far off 20°C. It won't thicken up until close to the end of the time. At any rate, put it in the fridge after 24 hours. Congratulations! You now have sour cream.

Last year at this time I made One Pot Mashed Parsnips & Pears.

Monday, 13 January 2020

Vegetable Fried Barley

And this is different from regular ol' vegetable fried rice only through the straight-up substitution of barley for the rice. My main question was, would it work?

The answer to that is yes; yes it does. It's a little chewier, no surprise, but really it works very well. The one thing I would note is that barley is much more filling than rice. It absorbs liquid as it cooks, and it absorbs liquid as it rests, and it absorbs liquid as it is reheated. Once it is eaten it continues to absorb liquid which is a good thing, but you should also take care not to over-eat it at the table, because it will come back and haunt you later if you do.

This is a lot like the Barley Pilaf I make regularly, but a little more effort for a drier, crumblier texture. Sometimes that's what you will want, especially if you are not eating much else with it. You could very easily add scrambled eggs, chopped cooked meat, or fried tofu cubes to this if you wanted some protein in with it.

4 serving
30 minutes prep time, not including cooking the barley

Vegetable Fried Barley

Cook the Barley:
2/3 cup pot barley
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt

Put the barley, water and salt into a rice cooker and cook. Let cool and refrigerate overnight. Use a fork, or your hand wet in cold water, to break the barley up into individual grains before proceeding.

Fry the Barley:
1 medium onion
1 stalk celery OR 1/2 cup peeled, grated celeriac
1 medium carrot
a small handful of mushrooms
1 cup finely chopped cabbage
1 or 2 cloves of garlic OPTIONAL
2 or 3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
2 or 3 tablespoons soy sauce

Peel and chop the onion. Wash, trim, and chop or grate the celery or celeriac. Peel and grate the carrot. Clean, trim, and chop the mushrooms. All these can be put together.

Wash, trim, and finely chop the cabbage. Peel and mince the garlic, if using.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the first set of vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted and softened. Add the cabbage and the garlic, and stir in well. Let cook for another minute or so, stirring and turning the vegetables.

Sprinkle the soy sauce over the vegetables, and stir it in until absorbed. Add the crumbled barley and stir it in well. Continue cooking and stirring for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the barley begins to crisp and stick a little to the pan. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Chinese Chile-Garlic Noodles & Greens.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Anglesey Eggs

I liked this traditional Welsh recipe, but it's mashed potatoes and leeks with eggs and cheese sauce; perhaps a better way to use up left-overs - specifically of mashed potatoes or hard boiled eggs - than something to make in and of itself.  Two pounds of potatoes is a lot of potatoes; more plan-overs than left-overs most likely. I did make the mashed potatoes just for this dish, since I shouldn't be eating them the first time 'round. 

I used 3 big leeks but I wouldn't have complained if there had been a bit more in the way of leekage. Don't be skimpy with them! For a really complete meal in one dish I will probably also throw in a little cabbage and/or mushrooms with the leeks in the future. Really good strong cheese is a must too.

If you make a lot of hard-boiled eggs at Easter, you may want to hang on to this recipe - it will be a good way to use some of them up.

4 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 45 minutes prep time

Cook the Potatoes & Boil the Eggs:
900 grams (2 pounds) potatoes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup buttermilk
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 large eggs

Wash and trim the potatoes, and cut them into even chunks. Put them in a pot of water and bring them to a boil; boil until easily pierced with a fork. Drain well and mash with the butter, buttermilk, salt, and pepper. This can be done up to a day ahead.

Put the eggs in cold water to cover them, and bring them to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, then remove the pot from the heat and cover it. Let the eggs rest for 7 minutes, then cool them rapidly in cold water. This can also be done up to a day ahead. 

Sauté the Leeks:
3 large leeks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Wash, trim, and slice the leeks thinly. Rinse them again and drain them.

Heat the butter in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat, add the leeks, and cook them gently until softened and reduced in volume. Stir frequently and do not let them brown.

Meanwhile, spread the potatoes in a lightly buttered shallow baking (lasagne) pan. When the leeks are done, spread them over the potatoes and mix them in gently. Peel and cut the eggs into halves or quarters and arrange them over the leeks and potatoes.

Make the Sauce & Finish the Dish:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
a grind of nutmeg OR 1 teaspoon rubbed savory
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 to 2 cups grated old Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

Using the skillet that the leeks were cooked in, melt the next round of butter with the flour, and seasonings. Mix until well combined and bubbling throughout. Slowly and thoroughly mix in the milk, and let the mixture just barely simmer until thickened. Stir in 2/3 to 3/4 of the grated cheese until melted. Spread this mixture over the eggs, leeks and potatoes.

Mix the remaining cheese in well with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle the mixture over the casserole. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until hot and bubbling. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Last year at this time I made Chicken, Leeks, & Mushrooms with Potato Dumplings.

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Braised Pork Belly with Turnips

Usually this is made with radishes, of the long white variety. Winter radishes, as they are sometimes called, and when we grow them they do indeed do best planted in mid to late summer and harvested just before frost, when they will then keep in the cold room for a month or two.

Unfortunately, we didn't grow any this year and although they should theoretically be available around now, if they are it isn't in this little hotbed of completely non-Asian food. Turnips, though, are very similar and replace them quite well. I suspect they might have taken a little longer to cook than radishes would have, so if you do manage to use radishes, start checking them a bit earlier on in the cooking process.

This is a tasty and complete dish - you may want to serve it with some rice - but it does lack in colour. A little chopped parsley, cilantro, or green onion, if you have any of those, sprinkled over the top, will perk it up considerably.

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

 Braised Pork Belly with Turnips

Start the Dish:
250 grams (1/2 pound) fresh pork belly
500 grams (1 pound) white turnips
1 tablespoon finely minced or grated fresh ginger
4 to 6 cloves of garlic

Cut the pork belly into bite-sized chunks. Put them in a large skillet or heavy-bottomed soup pot, and cook them over medium heat quite gently for about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Meanwhile, peel and cut the turnips into bite-sized pieces. Peel and grate or mince the garlic and ginger.

Make the Sauce & Finish the Dish:
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sherry
1 teaspoon 5-spice powder
1 to 2 teaspoon chile-garlic sauce
1/2 to 3/4 cup water

Mix the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.

When the meat has cooked for about 20 minutes, long enough to have rendered a fair amount of fat, lift the meat out of the pan with a slotted spoon. Drain off most of the fat, leaving just enough to keep the turnips from sticking, when added. Return the meat to the pan, and add the ginger and garlic. Cook for several minutes, stirring them into the meat until well distributed and fragrant.

Add the turnips and the sauce, with the smaller amount of water. Mix in well. Cover the pan and simmer gently for about 20 minutes more. Stir every 5 minutes or so. If the sauce evaporates before the end of the cooking time, add a little more water, but the sauce should be reduced to thicken and coat the pork and turnips just around the end of the cooking time.

Serve with steamed rice.

Last year at this time I made Baked Apples Stuffed with Mincemeat

Monday, 6 January 2020

Leek & Sweet Potato Soup

This is a nice, simple every-day soup (with leeks! Surprise!) which doesn't take a lot of effort, especially if you are using left-over baked sweet potatoes. Not likely to have left-over sweet potatoes, you say? Well, what you do, is you bake 2 extra ones and don't let them hit the table the first time. So not exactly left-overs, but more plan-overs. It's a good plan, because left-over baked sweet potatoes are so useful, for so many things.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time NOT including roasting the sweet potatoes

Leek & Sweet Potato Soup

2 cups mashed roasted sweet potato (2 large)
3 large leeks
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons barley OR soft wheat flour
4 cups unsalted chicken OR vegetable stock
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

As ever; it takes between an hour and an hour and half to roast whole sweet potatoes. They should be reasonably cool; peel and mash them very well.

Wash, trim, chop and wash the leeks again. Drain them well.

Heat the butter in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Cook the leeks gently until quiet soft and reduced in volume, but don't let them brown. Add the seasoning and sprinkle the flour over them. Mix it in until no white flecks remain, then slowly stir in the stock. Add the vinegar.

Let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, then serve hot. This is the sort of thing that would be good with a dab of sour cream or thick yogurt.

Last year at this time I made Cabbage, Bacon & Quinoa Salad

Friday, 3 January 2020

Stir-Fried Glass Noodles with Vegetables

Hi. I'm Ferdzy, and I am a pasta addict.

Like most addicts, I recognize I have a problem, but I'm trying to find ways to mitigate my problem without having to give up my favoured substance. Unlike most addicts, I think I can actually do this. I mean, that's what most addicts think, but in this case I not only think I'm right, I... think I'm right.

So; okay. 

But the thing is, it's not "pasta" or "noodles" that are the problem, it's "things that raise my blood sugar". That is most traditional pasta and noodles, but it's not all of them. I've mentioned before that if you can turn the starch in foods into resistant starch, it will not spike your blood sugar like those other starches do.

I've always loved noodles made with bean or sweet potato starch, and it turns out these contain resistant starches! Meaning that they can be consumed, in reasonable quantities, by me and anyone else looking to watch their blood sugar. They are also extremely tasty (well, no they're pretty bland, actually, but they soak up tasty flavours like little sponges) and a lot of fun to eat (that's true - it's the texture, and the translucency that make them so good).

I'm going to be eating these semi-regularly. I'm also getting thoroughly obsessed with making spaetzle, but that's another (series of) blog post(s). As for traditional wheat or rice based noodles, I guess I'm just going to have to become a Christmas-and-Easter Pastafarian, to mix some metaphors.

3 or 4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Stir-Fried Glass Noodles with Vegetables

Soak the Noodles & Make the Sauce:
2 bundles (100 grams; 4 ounces) glass noodles (cellophane noodles or saifun)
1 tablespoon finely minced, peeled fresh ginger
2 or 3 cloves finely minced, peeled garlic
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon chile garlic sauce
1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon apple cider OR rice vinegar

Put the noodles into a bowl and cover with tepid tap water. Soak them for 10 minutes, then drain them well and snip them right through twice, about 1/4 of the way in from each end.

Peel and mince the ginger and garlic, and put them in a small bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

Make the Stir-Fry:
4 cups finely shredded green or Savoy cabbage
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
1 medium onion, peeled and slivered
6 to 8 small button mushrooms
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Wash, trim, and shred the cabbage. Peel and grate the carrot. Peel the onion, cut it in half, then into then slivers. Clean and slice the mushrooms.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the carrot, onion, and mushrooms and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until about halfway cooked. Add the cabbage and mix in well. Cook for another minute or so, stirring to combine, until the cabbage is about half wilted. Then mix in the drained and cut noodles. Mix in well.

Drizzle the sauce over the pan of noodles and vegetables, and mix it in. Continue cooking and mixing/turning the contents of the pan until everything is done to your liking and well-combined. Turn out onto a serving dish and serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Turkish Leek Cake.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Broiled Pork Tenderloin

Broiled meats have the advantage of cooking very quickly and leaving your meat juicy. It takes a little practise to get them always done to the exact stage you like them, but no more than any other kind of cooking. It's a technique I find myself using more often these days.

Pork tenderloin is a really good choice for broiling, because it is fairly thin, and generally the little roasts are fairly consistent in size. A small household like ours can eat half of it hot, and the other half either cold, in salads or sandwiches or quickly reheated in a sauté pan. When I cook other, bigger, roasts of meat they are a considerably larger commitment of time, money, and repetitious menus.  

This is a very lean cut, so marinating it helps keep it moist and tender, as well as adding flavour. You need to be in the kitchen to keep an eye on it while it cooks, but the amount of effort involved in doing this is extremely minimal. You will want to run your ventilation fan on high.

3 to 4 servings
1 to 8 hours marinating time
30 to 40 minutes - including time to rest and carve

Broiled Pork Tenderloin

Make the Marinade:
6 thin slices of ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sherry
2 tablespoons apple cider OR rice vinegar
500 grams (1 to 1 1/4 pound) pork tenderloin

Scrub or peel the ginger, and cut it in thin slices. Put it in the container in which the pork is to be marinated, and add the remaining ingredients.

Put the pork in, turn it to cover, then close the container and put it in the fridge. Marinate for 1 to 8 hours.

Cook the Pork:
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Be sure the top oven rack is in a good position so that when the pork goes in, it will be about 4" or 5" away from the flame. Turn on the broiler and allow the oven to preheat for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the pork from the marinade. I did not blot it, but I did hold it and let it drain for a minute. Place it in a broiler-proof pan - if you don't want the smoke detector to go off, an actual broiler pan with a little water to cover the bottom is a good choice. I used a metal bread pan, which worked fine but the smoke detector did go off for the last minute of cooking.

At any rate, brush your pork with the sesame oil and sprinkle it with some pepper. Do the least attractive side of your pork first, and it must be arranged so as to be as apparently even in thickness as possible; in other words, tuck up the thin end to make a blunt end not too different looking from the middle of the roast.

Broil the pork for 7 to 10 minutes, then turn it over with tongs, season with a little more pepper, and broil it for another 7 to 10 minutes. Cover it, with a lid or with aluminum foil when it comes out of the oven, and allow it to rest for 7 to 8 minutes. I cooked mine for 8 minutes each side and was satisfied with the results, which gave a meat thermometer reading of 140°F. This is as low as is desirable (can go up to 150°F), but I suspect my thermometer reading of being low, as usually seems to be the case when I attempt to use one. It was certainly cooked, but with a bit of pink juiciness which seems to me to be about ideal. You should be prepared to adjust the time slightly, though, if you think your pork tenderloin is a little thinner or thicker than average, or if you want it done a little more.

As soon as the resting period is done, slice the pork and serve it. If there are some un-carbonized juices in the pan by all means drizzle them over it.

Last year at this time I made Oyster Mushroom Chowder with Saffron