Mandela Day at Safari Grill with Vine and Dine

Vine and Dine is a unique local small business run by Canadian National Wine Examiner, Calgary Wine Examiner, and Editor-in-Chief /Publisher of Culinaire Magazine;  Linda Garson. After traveling the world and gaining knowledge through working with various wineries, distilleries, and other related industries, Linda arrived in Calgary in 2003.  Realizing that Calgary connoisseurs have a taste for fine wine and food, she began hosting food and wine pairing evenings in 2005 as a hobby. What initially started as a passion for great food and wine quickly turned into a successful thriving business with events that sell out on a regular basis. For each event, Linda consults with chefs from local restaurants to create a unique vine and dine menu featuring wines from the restaurant’s wine list or wines that are new to the Calgary market. Wine and Diners (as Linda is fond of calling them) benefit from Linda’s knowledge which she shares throughout the course of each evening and also have the opportunity to fill their cellars with great wine at the conclusion of each Vine and Dine evening. In addition to the regular Vine and Dine evenings, Linda also runs private and public tastings, corporate events, Fine and Dine evenings (often with the winemaker/owner in attendance!), tea tastings and pairings, and other special events.

If you follow Linda on social media (@vineanddine on Twitter and Instagram) you will notice that one of her favourite restaurants in Calgary is Safari Grill. Even though she will tell you she’s not much for red meat, preferring fish and seafood over red meat any day, this Manchester native has a soft spot for curry and the exotic flavours of East Africa. Safari Grill features halal meat in their dishes and the flavourful food can only be described as a fusion of Indian and African…it’s an entirely exotic entity. I’ve been to Safari Grill several times but when Linda mentioned she was hosting a very special South African Fine and Dine to celebrate Mandela Day, I couldn’t resist her invitation to join in this special celebration.

Mandela Day began in 2009 as a way to honour the sacrifices one of the world’s most important leaders and proponents of human rights. This United Nations world wide movement calls upon us to commit ourselves to 67 minutes on July 18, in honour of the 67 years Nelson Mandela devoted to democracy, equality and learning. Mandela Day is a day of world wide remembrance, but in Africa it’s an especially important celebration of life.

Our Vine and Dine featured Safari Grill’s delicious dishes paired exclusively with South African wines. We celebrated our first course, Mishkaki Ya Kamba (Marinated BBQ Prawns) with a glass of bubbling Graham Beck Brut, a special treat as it was enjoyed in celebration of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison on February 11, 1990.

Our next course featured a luscious Fleur du Cap Chardonnay paired with delicious Spinach Pakora with Potatoes and Peas. Chardonnay is never my wine of choice, but Linda always manages to feature Chardonnay’s that are approachable and even enjoyable. I trust her judgement completely!

Next was a lovely dish of Safari Grill’s Signature Salmon and Safari Garden Salad paired with Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé. I took the opportunity later to order a couple of bottles of this wonderful rosé to have on hand at home. 

It’s a year later and I am still drooling over these Mishkaki Ya Kuku…Marinated and Grilled Chicken skewers. They were so delicious when paired with the Spier 21 Gables Chenin Blanc! 

If you find the Safari Grill menu as overwhelming to read as the décor is to look at (it’s a little over the top, but it all adds to the amazing experience) just order the Marinated BBQ Beef Short Ribs and Pili Pili Mogo. I could probably eat a bucket of those ribs and I don’t think you can get cassava fries covered in pili pili sauce anywhere else in Calgary. These bold flavours called for a bold wine from Durbanville Hills…2013 Shiraz.

Dessert was extraordinarily exotic. I’ve only seen Baobab trees in Australia and never eaten any of the fruit but the owners of Safari Grill ordered in some baobob fruit in for this amazing Ubuyu Baobab Kulfi. It tasted like creamy raspberry cotton candy, perfectly paired with Two Oceans Moscato.

Mandela Day is tomorrow and you can still get in on the celebratory feast at Safari Grill featuring South African wines, email linda@vineanddine.ca (403-870-9802). If you can’t make it, you can still honour Nelson Mandela by doing 67 minutes of good tomorrow and on any other day.

Safari Grill is located at 255, 28th St. SE in Short Pants Plaza; 403-235-6655

 

Around the World in Twelve Plates – Vietnam

Has it been a month already, since last we’ve chatted? It’s definitely been a month since I have published a post. It’s shameful, really. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been eating…I’ve been quite busy in that respect. There’s been a lot going on in Calgary, so many openings and fun events to go to, so much great food to eat. On the nights when I am at home, I keep a more relaxing pace and eat more simply. That usually means barbecuing some kind of protein (which I’m not organized enough to marinate) with sauce such as my Rhubarb BBQ Sauce, or mostly just plain with salt and pepper. Exciting, I know. Then we round out the meal with a salad or two.

Cooking for ATW12P forces me to think ahead, snap some photos, and do it up right! I pick a block of days when there’s nothing else going on to find or think of a recipe/meal I want to try, shop for all the ingredients, then spend the time to take photos. This month’s theme was my favourite so far! I love heading out for a bowl of noodles with charbroiled chicken (Bún thịt nướng) or a steaming hot bowl of Vietnamese soup (Pho). Strangely enough, all the restaurants here in Calgary serve their Bún thịt nướng hot even though the dish is commonly served cold in Vietnam. I learned this little factoid when we lived in Australia and the few Vietnamese places that I could find around Perth always served it cold. Traditional or not, I like mine served warm. 

Lemongrass marinade ingredients

Another dish that you’ll always see on the menu is Thit Heo Nuong Xa or Vietnamese Pork Chops. Since I always go for noodles or pho, I thought I would try to make the lemongrass based marinade and add this dish to my barbecue repertoire. The marinade is quite a bit of work, but I think it would be easy to make up a huge batch at once and freeze some for a later date. Also, since I’ve made this recipe, I’ve bought a Vitamix which I’m sure would make short work of all that lemongrass!

I think we’ve all cooked meats with a high sugar marinade, right? We’ve all been there. Everything is going great until BAM! It isn’t. The heat from the barbecue begins to caramelize (yum) then quickly begins to burn (not yum). The first thing I did was rinse all the marinade off so there was less sugar on the surface of the pork chop…then I just watched them like a hawk. They got spotty, but otherwise turned out okay and with no major flare ups.  I served them with some simple steamed rice and some Vietnamese Salad Rolls (Gỏi cuốn) with Spicy Peanut Sauce. This dinner is perfect for those hot summery nights when all you want to do is grill. The salad rolls take a bit more fore thought and a bit of know-how. Once you have all the fresh ingredients that you want to use as filling prepped (pickled carrots, lettuce, bean sprouts, shrimp, Thai basil (mint), spring onions, rice noodles), the only thing you need to worry about is soaking the rice paper wrappers for the right amount of time. I started out with boiling water which is unnecessary, you can just use warm water. Soak the wrappers only until they have softened then lay flat on a surface that has been slightly moistened, like a granite or marble counter top.  I tried to roll them on my wooden cutting board but they stuck to it like crazy.  Arrange your shrimp halves and basil leaves near the bottom 1/3 of the wrapper, then cover with lettuce (I used butter lettuce, it acts as a ‘shield’ or a second wrapper so the ingredients don’t poke through). Pile the other ingredients in a line over top of the lettuce. Begin wrapping by folding the edge nearest your body upward, then fold in the sides. Continue rolling in an upright manner. Serve with Hoisin Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce.

A huge part of the fun of ATW12P (besides finding out what the next country will be) is reading the posts from the other participating bloggers. Will they make the other recipes that I was looking over…will they go for a full meal or keep it to one simple and tasty dish? To read the other blogger’s ATW12P Vietnamese posts, simple click on one of the links below:

Korena’s Vietnamese Fried Spring Rolls at Korena in the Kitchen

Gabby at The Food Girl in Town

Nicoletta and Loreto’s Crispy Shrimp and Bean Sprout Vietnamese Pancake at Sugar Love Spices

Lemongrass Chili Grilled Pork Chops

A tasty Vietnamese-inspired Pork Chop recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 stalks lemongrass
  • 1 shallot; finely minced
  • 5 cloves garlic; finely minced
  • 1 red Thai chili pepper; de-seeded and finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 4 bone-in pork chops

Method

  1. Cut off the top half of the lemongrass and save for use at a later date. Slice the bottom in half lengthwise, then peel away layers that seem woody keeping the tender inner layers. Finely mince the tender lemongrass portions (you should have at least ¼ cup of minced lemongrass).
  2. Combine all ingredients together in a large Ziploc bag or glass bowl. Add pork chops and seal, releasing as much air as you can from the bag.
  3. Marinate pork chops in refrigerator at least overnight and up to 2 days.
  4. Before grilling remove pork chops from the refrigerator and rinse off marinade. Grill on a pre-heated grill until the meat reaches 160 °F (71°C). Serve with rice.

Shrimp Salad Rolls

Ingredients

  • 1 package rice paper round rolls.
  • 6-8 large shrimp; cooked and split in half
  • 6-8 fresh Thai basil (mint) leaves
  • 6 butter lettuce leaves
  • ½ package vermicelli noodles; cooked to package direction and drained
  • 1 cup fresh sprouts
  • Spring onions
  • 4 carrots or other root vegetable such as daikon (these taste best when pickled in advance)

Method

  1. For the carrots, peel them then cut into matchsticks.  Place in a small bowl or jar with 2 teaspoons salt, 2 tablespoons white sugar, ¼ cup rice wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon lime juice, ¾ cup boiling water. Allow salt and sugar to dissolve. Let carrots pickle for at least an hour, preferably overnight and up to one week.
  2. Prep all your ingredients BEFORE you start assembling your salad rolls.
  3. To assemble salad rolls begin by filling a shallow tray with warm water. Carefully dip one rice paper round in the water until it is just softened. Focus on keeping the rice paper from crumpling or tearing and lay on a slightly moistened counter top or smooth surface.
  4. Place shrimp halves and basil in a pattern on the lower half of the rice paper, then lay a lettuce leaf over top. Ensure there is enough rice paper peeking out so that you can fold it over the fresh fillings.
  5. Place a small amount of vermicelli noodles, sprouts, pickled carrots and a spring onion over top the lettuce leaf.
  6. Curl the bottom of the rice paper round over the lettuce leaf, tuck the sides over and roll in an upward direction until the entire rice paper round has been rolled over the fillings.
  7. Place on a platter and repeat until the rest are rolled. If not eating immediately, cover tightly with cling wrap before refrigeration.
  8. Serve with Hoisin Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce.

Hoisin Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 4 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 4 tbsp Hoisin Sauce
  • 2 tbsp lime juice

Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix well. Add chili sauce (or chili flakes) to taste.

Around the World in Twelve Plates – Israel

I can’t tell you how happy I am to be back for this month’s Around the World in Twelve Plates. How was it even possible that I missed the ‘easiest’ country so far with last month’s challenge being an exploration of Greek cuisine, which I love and cook often. These last two months have been absolutely nuts with my involvement in several city wide food festivals and with our son’s wedding in Maui. We had a gorgeous, relaxing trip filled with all sorts of ‘Hawaiian’ food and now we’re back home. I don’t know what it is, but I always have a difficult time falling back into the cooking groove after a vacation…it’s probably because I never want it to ever end!

Getting back on track…this is the first ATW12P where I decided to cook an entire meal and not just a special dish. I don’t have anyone helping me cook so it’s quite challenging BUT my hubby was willing to do all those dirty dishes and that is a life saver right there. The dishes weren’t perfect; I missed throwing the mint in the Kuku and cilantro in the Stuffed Potatoes. The Rosewater and Vanilla Ice Cream I made didn’t get churned until 2 days later but it was absolutely delicious, eventually.

When Gabby first announced Israel, I was both excited and anxious to get researching. I knew that I would be making use of one or more of my Yotam Ottolenghi cook books and having experienced cooking from them previously, I knew that the recipes can be lengthy and full of ingredients (and flavour!). If you read the forward of ‘Jerusalem’ or do any research into Israeli cuisine, you will find out that it is similar to Canadian cuisine in that it really doesn’t contain only one style of cooking, but encompasses several styles based upon the country’s lengthy history of immigration. In Israel you will find dishes from so many other cultures and even similar dishes from several cultures, all claiming to ‘own’ the original idea for the dish. Israel is an inspired food country, filled with many cuisines, from Jewish dishes (kugel, bagels) to Arabic and Armenian, Greek and Russian Orthodox, Tunisian, Libyan, Moroccan, Turkish, and Indian…just to name a few that make up the country’s immense tapestry of flavours.

I chose several different dishes that represent a tiny portion of the flavours available in Israeli cuisine. The Fava Bean Kuku is basically a frittata-like dish of Iranian Jewish cuisine with the fresh flavours of herbs and sour notes of the barberries. I had a difficult time finding fava beans at this time of year in Canada so I used frozen sweet peas instead. I loved the combination of sour, sweet, and fresh herbs in this dish but it was a bit too out there for my family. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try my hand at making my very own falafel for the first time. Falafel (and hummus) are part of everyday life in Muslim Jerusalem and, I might add, very popular world wide and beloved in my own home. I loved the combination of herbs and spices but I had a huge problem getting them to stay together during the deep frying stage. I think they needed to be just a touch ‘pastier’ than they were chunky. These were the only four that vaguely resembled spheres of legit falafel. 

Lastly, I wanted to find out why Ottolenghi included a whole chapter entitled, ‘stuffed’ in his cookbook. It seems that the local culture is entirely fascinated with all things stuffed; from sweet to savoury, each of the city’s numerous cultures has some sort of dish that requires stuffing. It may seem tedious to hollow out the vegetables (carrots, eggplants, zucchini, potatoes, beets, tomatoes, onions, etc.) but stuffing them stretches the meat or rice further, looks impressive, and makes clean up a breeze because everything is usually baked in one dish.

I’m excited to see what all the other Around the World in Twelve Plates participants cooked for the Ethiopian challenge. We all have our own unique ways of completing each month’s challenges. If you want to see what everyone else is up to, clink on the links below!

Gabby at The Food Girl in Town

Kelly Ohana at My Organic Diary

Loretto & Nicoletta at Sugar Love Spices

Korena Vine at KorenaintheKitchen


Meat Stuffed Potatoes

(page 169; Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi)

Ingredients

  1. 1 lb ground beef
  2. 2 cups bread crumbs
  3. 1 medium onion; finely chopped
  4. 2 cloves garlic; crushed
  5. 2/3 oz flat leaf parsley; finely chopped
  6. 2 tbsp thyme leaves; chopped
  7. 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  8. 2 eggs; beaten
  9. 5 medium-large Yukon Gold potatoes; peeled
  10. 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
  11. salt and pepper

For the Tomato Sauce

  1. 2 tbsp olive oil
  2. 5 cloves garlic; crushed
  3. 1 medium onion; finely chopped
  4. 1 1/2 stalks celery; finely chopped
  5. 1 small carrot; peeled and chopped
  6. 1 red chile; finely chopped (I used chili flakes)
  7. 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  8. 1 tsp ground allspice
  9. pinch of smoked paprika
  10. 1 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
  11. 1 tsp caraway seeds; crushed with a mortar and pestle
  12. 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  13. 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  14. 1 1/2 tsp sugar

Method

  • Start by making the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a wide frying pan for which you also have a lid. Add garlic, onion, celery, carrot, and chile and sauté over low heat until they are soft.
  • Add spices, stir well, and cook for another 2-5 minutes.
  • Pour in tomatoes, tamarind, sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, and some black pepper and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
  • Now for the stuffed potatoes…halve each potato lenghtwise and scoop out the centres until the edges are 2/3 inch or 1/5 cm thick. Keep in bowl of cold water until they are all scooped and you are ready to stuff them.
  • Place beef, crumbs, onion, garlic, parsley, thyme, cinnamon, 1 tsp salt, black pepper, and the eggs in a mixing bowl. Combine well.
  • To stuff the potatoes, grab a handful of meat mixture and press down into the potato cavity. Place upright into pan containing sauce. Repeat until the pan is full of stuffed potatoes.
  • Add enough water to the pan to almost cover the meat patties. Bring to a light simmer, cover and cook until potatoes become soft. Reduce the liquid and serve garnished with cilantro. 

Falafel

(Page 99 in Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi)

Ingredients

  1. 1 1/4 cups dried chickpeas (or a can of chickpeas; drained)
  2. 1/2 medium onion; finely chopped
  3. 1 clove garlic; crushed
  4. 1 tbsp flat leaf parsley; finely chopped
  5. 2 tbsp cilantro; finely chopped
  6. 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  7. 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  8. 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  9. 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  10. 1/2 tsp baking powder
  11. 3 tbsp water
  12. 1 1/2 tbsp flour
  13. 3 cups or more sunflower oil for frying
  14. 1/2 tsp sesame seeds; for coating
  15. salt

Method

  • Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit over night.
  • The next day drain the chickpeas (or drain the canned chickpeas) and combine them with the onion, garlic, parsley, and cilantro.
  • Blitz the mixture in batches in a food processor, pulsing for 30 to 40 seconds at a time until it’s very finely chopped. Take care not to process to a mush or paste.
  • Add the spices, baking powder, , 3/4 tsp salt, flour and water.
  • Mix well by hand until it becomes smooth and uniform. Cover and place in fridge for at least an hour.
  • Fill a deep pan with enough oil to come 2 3/4 inches up the sides of the pan. Heat the oil to 350 F.
  • With wet hands, press one tablespoon of the mixture into a ball, sprinkle with sesame seed.
  • Fry in batches in the hot oil until well browned and cooked through, about 4 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Fava Bean Kuku

(Page 39; Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi)

Ingredients

  1. 2 cups fava beans; fresh or frozen (I used frozen peas)
  2. 5 tbsp boiling water
  3. 2 tbsp sugar
  4. 5 tbsp dried barberries
  5. 3 tbsp heavy cream
  6. 1/4 tsp saffron threads
  7. 2 tbsp cold water
  8. 5 tbsp olive oil
  9. 2 medium onions; finely chopped
  10. 4 cloves garlic; crushed
  11. 7 large eggs
  12. 1 tbsp flour
  13. 1/2 tsp baking powder
  14. 1 cup fresh dill; chopped
  15. 1/2 cup fresh mint; chopped
  16. salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

  • Pre heat oven to 350F. Rinse frozen fava beans or peas under hot water. If using fresh fava beans, simmer in a pan of water for 1 minute and drain. Refresh under cold water
  • Add sugar and baberries to a small bowl. Pour boiling water over top and let sit for 10 minutes.
  • Bring cream, saffron, and cold water to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and set aside for 30 minutes to infuse.
  • Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a 10 inch non-stick oven proof frying pan for which you have a lid.
  • Add onions to oil and cook for about 4 minutes, then add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in the fava beans/peas and set aside. Drain barberries and add them as well.
  • Beat the eggs well until they become frothy. Add flour, baking powder, saffron cream, herbs, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Whisk well.
  • Add egg mixture to the still hot fava bean/pea, barberry, and onion mixture.
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the eggs are just set. Remove and let stand for 5 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate.

Sweet Potato Patties with Dandelion Greens

Take a peek out your window into your backyard or stroll into any local park right now and you’ll spot the first signs of spring. Robins singing and building their nest, blue skies (or rain!), and…dandelions! They are inescapable and persistent. Young children love the yellow flowers, bringing in sweet little wilting bouquets with yellow stained sap covered hands and big smiles. Gardeners fertilize in attempt to get a jump on the idealistic weed free lawn while young soccer players build flower crowns instead of defending their zones. I didn’t know this before but the dandelion is not native to North America. It was either intentionally brought over by European colonists and used either as a medicinal and culinary ingredient or the light, fluffy seeds hitched a ride and grew readily in our North American climate.

Foodies rejoice, you can have your lawn and eat it too! The leaves of the young dandelion plant (notice I didn’t say weed) are delicious in salads and as sauteed greens. They are high in vitamin A, C , K, and B6, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, iron (crucial for generating red blood cells), potassium (to help regulate heart rate and blood pressure), and manganese.* What time is better than Spring to cleanse your body with this natural diuretic AND inject some good stuff into your blood. I’m not a doctor, but eating healthier in the Spring always seems a good way to chase away those winter blues to me.
I don’t create vegan recipes that often but my daughter, Julia, is back from her first year at UBC and I am once more sharing my kitchen with a vegan. It’s great to have her back and I’ve noticed how she’s changed and matured over the year. She’s not my little girl anymore but at the same time I am so proud of the young human she’s becoming. She’s spent some time telling me stories about some of the slightly horrifying (remember I’m her mother!) adventures she’s had while away and I can’t help but remember back to my university days and realize that taking risks and having fun are all part of growing up. She was fortunate to have been assigned to an on campus residence with three other young ladies and their kitchen became a hub for dinner parties and a place for friends who didn’t have their own kitchens to cook in. I’d say that’s a pretty great way to meet like-minded people and forge life long friendships, wouldn’t you?

I didn’t pick the dandelions from my backyard because I have dogs. If you are adventurous, you can go out to an area that hasn’t been sprayed and pick yours, but I bought mine at a health food store because I wanted to be sure they were organic and clean. I’ve had them in a salad before but you need to have really young tender leaves if you want to eat them raw. Sauteeing them in a bit of oil, salt, and acid makes them quite tasty as well. This recipe also uses one of the first herbs that will come up in your garden in the spring, grab those chives while they are young and tender and use them on everything!

Sweet Potato Patties with Dandelion Greens

Ingredients

  • 2 large sweet potatoes; peeled and cut into 4 cm pieces
  • 2 cups fresh dandelion greens; finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro; finely chopped
  • salt
  • garlic powder
  • 3 tbsp shiro powder
  • 2 tbsp fresh chives; chopped
  • 1/2 can navy beans (9 oz); drained and rinsed

For the sautéed greens: 3 cups  chopped fresh dandelion greens, avocado oil, fresh lime juice, salt, cilantro

Method

  1. Combine the finely chopped dandelion greens and cilantro with some salt in a bowl. Let sit.
  2. Boil the sweet potato pieces in a pot of salted water until fork tender. Mash.
  3. Wrap the greens in a paper towel, clean towel, or cheese cloth and twist all the water out.
  4. Add the greens, garlic powder, shiro powder, green onions and beans to the sweet potatoes and combine.
  5. Sauté greens in a bit of avocado oil. Season with salt and pepper and squeeze a bit of lime or lemon juice over. Arrange on plate.
  6. Form sweet potato mixture into patties and lightly fry them in a frying pan with avocado oil OR bake at 375 F for 20 minutes, then flip over and bake for another ten.
  7. Serve patties on dandelion greens. Garnish with a scattering of large grained salt and fresh cilantro leaves over all. 

*Dandelion nutritional information from Food Facts presented by Mercola

Chocolate Carrot Cake

I have been waiting exactly 20 years to share this Chocolate Carrot Cake with you. Back in the day when I was a university student (and new mom) I had little time (or money!) for celebration or going out on the town. There was a quaint little restaurant nearby that was a popular gathering spot for many students and faculty and it was there that I first had a taste of this ultimate Chocolate Carrot Cake. This cake became a constant fixture throughout my years as a university student, showing up through many little triumphant celebrations and even at some tragic failures.
After convocation I moved away to Calgary with my little family. I never quite forgot about the role this Chocolate Carrot Cake had played in my life.  Every time we travelled through Saskatchewan to visit my family, I would insist on stopping into the restaurant to grab a piece for take away and every time I would ask politely for the recipe.
Each time I asked, I was denied the recipe but I never gave up. Over the years, the kids grew up and they also began to look forward to our Saskatchewan ‘cake stop’. My daughter, in particular, knew how much this tradition meant to me. For my 40th birthday, she emailed the restaurant, told them how much the Chocolate Carrot Cake meant to me, and mentioned that she wanted to bake it for me for my birthday. They sent it to her right away.
Twenty years is a long time to wait for a recipe.

Chocolate Carrot Cake

Ingredients
  • 4 cups shredded carrots
  • 1 1/2 cups canola oil
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup apple sauce
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon

Method

  1. Grease and lightly flour a 10 inch (16 cup) tube pan*. Pre-heat oven to 325 F.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the carrots, oil, eggs, and apple sauce together.
  3. Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then stir until they are combined.
  4. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in the stand mixer bowl. Mix well.
  5. Bake at 325 F for 1 hour and 20 minutes.

*For this cake, I used 3-inch cake pans and lined their bases with parchment paper. I had enough batter left over to bake another cake in a loaf pan. They were in the oven for 40-45 minutes.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter; softened
  • 1 tub spreadable cream cheese; room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 1/2 cups icing sugar

Method

  1. Cream butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add cream cheese and combine well.
  2. Add vanilla.
  3. Sift cocoa and icing sugar into the bowl and combine well.

Pistachio Cream and Mini Egg Babka

There are people that describe having an intense urge to travel, to explore the world and embrace its uniqueness as having ‘wanderlust’ or ‘itchy feet’. I am most definitely one of those people, especially when we haven’t even been out of the city in months. I have an incredible urge to just get in my car with a full tank of gas and see where it takes me, or on some random plane to who-knows-where. I’ll probably satisfy this urge in the next few weeks with a nice drive in the country just as the buds are coming out on the trees. That ‘spring green’ doesn’t last for long so we need to enjoy it while we have it!

I get the this same intense urge which I could call ‘bakerlust’ or ‘itchy hands’ when I haven’t baked anything in a while. Right now I am so busy with football and organizing some local food festivals, that I barely have time to cook, let alone blog about it. When I saw my friend and fellow blogger Nicole’s (from Culinary Cool) gorgeous Paska Bread on my Instagram feed, I was inspired to shut down my email inbox, hide my excel charts and pick up my flour and yeast. One project that I’ve been putting off for a crazy amount of time is baking Babka. I never grew up with Babka, but I do know that I fell in love with it the minute I saw one for the first time. With all those contrasting layers of chocolate (or cinnamon) a Babka is always an impressive sight to behold.  Chocolate or cinnamon (according to Jerry Seinfeld) Babka’s are the most traditional of Babka’s, but in the last few years there’s been a bit of an explosion in Babka experimentation. I fell in love with Pistachio Cream around Christmas time when I used it to fill chocolate chip thumbprint cookies (which I have yet to post!) and I thought it would make a great addition to all the Babka variations out there.

This dough is super sticky and buttery. I found the best way to mix it was by using my Kitchen Aid stand mixer for the first half of kneading and leaving out the last half cup of flour. When I turned the dough out to knead it by hand, I sprinkled it every so often with a bit of flour so that it didn’t get so sticky/greasy as I was kneading. I like to proof my bread in a warm oven but you have to be careful not to have it too warm with this dough because the butter will melt easily, making the dough too greasy. Just leaving the oven light on was enough for the proofing stages.  We like pistachios a lot, so I scattered extra on top of the pistachio cream before rolling up the dough. It takes a bit of perseverance to roll that dough up evenly. Once the ends are pinched, you can guide the dough a bit more so that it becomes a more uniform cylinder. After the dough is cut lengthwise into two, the halves must be carefully twisted…I only did 3 twists but you can do as many as you want. The only difficult part is gently bringing them back together so that they fit into a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.


Pistachio Cream and Mini Egg Babka

Ingredients

  • ½ cup milk, warmed to 100°
  • 2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 7 tbsp room temperature unsalted butter; cut into little cubes
  • 1 jar Pistachio Cream
  • 1/2 cup chopped non-salted pistachios
  • mini eggs (optional)

Method

  1. Place warm milk in the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle yeast grains over top and let sit for 10 minutes to activate.
  2. In a large mixing cup mix eggs, salt, and sugar. Add to the milk.
  3. Slowly add flour, reserving the last 1/2 cup. Mix the dough with a wooden spoon.
  4. Gradually add the butter, several cubes at a time, waiting for them to become incorporated in the dough.
  5. Mix the dough on low (using the dough hook) until it clings together but don’t worry it will still be quite dry.
  6. Turn dough out onto a surface and knead by hand. Add the last half cup of flour as the dough becomes sticky/greasy. Keep on kneading and adding until all the flour has been incorporated.
  7. Place dough back in stand mixer and knead for another 10 minutes using the dough hook. Your final dough should be smooth and come away from the sides of the mixer easily.
  8. Place dough in a draft free spot and let rise until doubled. This took about an hour in my oven with the light on for a bit of warmth.
  9. Remove the dough from the oven, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 16×10 inch rectangle and orient so long side is facing you.
  10. Spread the Pistachio Cream evenly over the rectangle, leaving an inch bare on all sides.
  11. Evenly scatter the chopped pistachios over the dough.
  12. Roll the dough up and away from you. You may have to stretch some of the dough to make an even roll. Pinch edges together and make sure seam stays shut.
  13. With seam side up, cut the roll (with a serrated knife) into two halves lengthwise along the seam.
  14. Carefully twist the two halves together in as many twists as you wish. I did three twists.
  15. Cut an 18 inch strip of parchment paper. Lay it along the base of a 9 inch bread pan and make sure there’s extra over the edges. Lightly coat pan with spray.
  16. Carefully condense the loaf halves together and lift into the prepared pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap.
  17. Place loaf in a draft free spot and let rise until doubled. This took about an hour in my oven with the light on for a bit of warmth.
  18. Place mini eggs in the cracks, if using.
  19. Bake in a 350° F pre-heated oven for 35 minutes. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes then lift out and continue to cool on a rack.

Around the World in Twelve Plates – Ethiopia

Wow. Gabby really knows how to pick ’em…I never in a million years thought Ethiopian cuisine would be our March theme but I guess that’s how this challenge works.  I did more research than I have with the previous countries because when I’m flying entirely blind like I was this month, having never eaten at an Ethiopian restaurant or even known anyone Ethiopian, I wasn’t about to ‘play around’ with flavours. As of last week, the only thing I knew about Ethiopian food was that it was spicy and the stews were eaten using injera. I find, as is the case for many things in life, that you get more out of this challenge, when you put more into it. Merely mimicking the flavours to suit your style of cooking isn’t enough to fully understand the unique ingredients and how they are used within Ethiopian cuisine.

So, I’m going to begin with the injera as a starting point. What is it? It’s a fermented flatbread traditionally made using Teff flour. Teff is a tiny grain (there are 3000 grains of teff in one gram!) which grows quickly in less than optimal circumstances (compared to wheat). It’s nutritionally dense; high in protein, calcium, and is gluten free. This, along with the nutty flavour, make Teff injera the perfect accompaniment to Ethiopian stews, or wots. The flavour of traditional injera can be quite bitter and pronounced (and expensive), so many North American recipes call for a combination of flours instead of 100% teff. I managed to find some ground teff flour and watch some online videos which were all in Amharic, one of the most common languages spoken in Ethiopia. The recipes are also not very helpful because they aren’t very exact, as often these kind of cooking traditions are passed down orally and not written down at all.  It’s important to note that the injera needs to be fermented for at least 4 days (you should smell my laundry room!) so it’s a project that takes time and effort. Once the batter is fully fermented, it is poured out onto a grill similar to making pancakes though it is only cooked on one side, leaving the other side to bubble and become full of holes. The finished product has a spongy texture, perfect for sopping up stew juices. Traditionally there are no utensils at an Ethiopian table, only injera and the dinner is served family style on a central platter with everyone gathered together to enjoy the food.

There are some interesting ingredients and techniques used in Ethiopian cooking, one being the use of spiced clarified butter, or Nit’ir Qibe as a finishing flavour. There is no definitive recipe for nit’ir qibe, it’s like the garam masala of Ethiopian cooking, with each family having their own version. I already had clarified butter (desi ghee) so I skipped a bit of time and just infused the clarified butter with added ingredients. I used a combination of spices from a recipe I found at food.com so it may not be traditional (or use authentic Ethiopian herbs like oregano, cardamom, etc.) but it sure turned out tasty. I cooked some rice in the rice cooker with a 1/4 tsp black nigella seeds, then finished it with a few tablespoons of nit’re qibe and it fabulous!

Next, I learned that making an authentic (or as authentic as I know how to) Ethiopian wot doesn’t take a lot of ingredients, but it does take a lot of TIME. The amount of time that you spend on a recipe adds on to the flavour in an important way. Most wots begin with the slow cooking of onion purée because you know what else grows in Ethiopia? Onions. 

Most importantly, you need to know that Ethiopian food is DAMN spicy. I’ve been burned too many times (pun intended) with curry pastes, chili powders, amounts of peppers, etc. in other cuisines to not check the spice level of the ingredient that I’m going to use. Berbere is a mixture of spices including but not limited to chili peppers, garlic, ginger, basil, kararima, rue, ajwain or radhuni, nigella, and fenugreek, it looks spicy and it is fiery hot. Now, I like a bit of spice as much as the next person…red Thai curry, Korean kimchi, vindaloo, etc. but nothing prepared me for the raging inferno that overtook my tongue when I tried just the slightest dab of Berbere. There was no way in h-e- double hockey sticks that I was going to add 1/4 cup to the Doro Wat. I settled on a rounded tablespoon and we all agree that was a fair amount for our palates. Before you judge, head on down to your nearest Ethiopian ‘convenience store’ and give their house berbere blend a go.


A typical Ethiopian feast (L to R): Kai Wot, Doro Wat, and Misir Wot served on and with injera

Typically the above pictured dishes would have a striking red colour due to the amount of berbere added, but they would have been so hot as to be inedible in my house. My favourite dish was the Misir Wot because I am always looking for new and interesting lentil dishes. I was also pretty intrigued by the Shiro Powder that I bought at the Ethiopian convenience store. It’s made of peas, lentils, and chickpeas that are dried and ground into a fine powder and mixed with a combination of spices and herbs (fenugreek, cardamom, and sacred basil to name a few – as well as dried garlic and ginger). When mixed with onions, garlic, water, and some green peppers it becomes a dish on it’s own. I decided that I would add the Shiro powder to the lentils so that I could try both together. Without the nit’ir qibe as a finishing agent, it would make a great vegan dish for my daughter.

I debated a bit as to how I was going to present my Ethiopian feast. There’s actually a small African convenience store very close to where I live, though it carries mostly Nigerian and Ghanian food stuffs and sundries. It does have a gorgeous selection of ‘African’ block print fabrics which are used to make traditional dresses for special occasions. The history of how these prints came to be popular in African culture is quite an interesting read, so if you have time head over to HERE and enjoy. At the store I waited for quite a while as the cashier performed various tasks for other customers, only to find out that each 6 metres of fabric cost upwards of $60. I couldn’t justify spending that amount on such a huge amount of fabric I only needed for an hour or two. It suddenly dawned on me that our Nigerian neighbours might have some and if they did, I felt sure they would let me borrow it for an afternoon. It turned out that Dee had a whole stack of gorgeous fabric and in the end I couldn’t decide which one to use so I used them all! 

I’m super excited to see what all the other Around the World in Twelve Plates participants did for the Ethiopian challenge. We all have our own unique ways of completing each month’s challenges. If you want to see what everyone else is up to, clink on the links below!

Gabby at The Food Girl in Town

Cristina at I Say Nomato

Loretto & Nicoletta at Sugar Love Spices

Nit’ir Qibe

Ingredients

  • 1/4 pound (113 grams) desi ghee
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped red onion
  • 1 clove garlic; minced
  • 1 1/4 inch piece ginger; peeled and minced
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom seeds
  • 1/8 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp nigella seeds (black cumin)

Method

Add all ingredients to a small pot. Heat until mixture maintains a slight simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes. Strain.


Misir Wot – (Spicy Red Lentil Stew)

(adapted from A Soulful Appetite)

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups dry split red lentils
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 heaping tsp Berbere spice
  • 2 tbsp Shiro powder (chickpea flour with spices added)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 cloves garlic; minced
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • Salt as needed

Method

  1. Pulse onion in a food processor until it turns into a chunky purée. Sautée in medium sized pot with a few generous tablespoons of olive oil for about 4-5 minutes until onions are soft.
  2. Add finely minced garlic and Berbere then sautée for 4 more minutes taking care not to burn.
  3. Add in tomato paste spice and stir until mixed thoroughly. If mixture is too thick, add about 1/4 cup of water. Cook mixture another 2-3 minutes stirring occasionally.
  4. Place red lentils in a bowl and rinse thoroughly.
  5. Once rinsed, add 2.5 cups of fresh water to the bowl and add this to the onion and Berbere mixture.
  6. At medium heat, stirring occasionally, simmer until lentils are fully cooked – about 15 or 20 minutes. If mixture becomes dry before lentils are cooked, add small amounts of water to mixture until they are.
  7. Once you know that they are fully cooked, stir in about 1/2 of warm water. Salt to taste.
  8. Serve hot with Injera on the side or over rice.

Doro Wat (Ethiopian Spiced Chicken Stew)

(From Daring Gourmet)

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ to 3 lbs chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons nit’ir qibe, if you have it (ethiopian spiced butter), or regular butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups yellow onions
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon garlic; finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger; finely minced
  • ¼ cup berbere (taste it before you add 1/4 cup) I added 1 tbsp because I’m a wuss.
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ cup white wine
  •  1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, pierced all over with fork about ¼ inch deep

Method

  1. Cut the chicken into 1 inch pieces, place in a bowl and pour lemon juice over all. Stir and let sit for 1/2 hour.
  2. Pulse onion in a food processor until it turns into a chunky purée.
  3. Heat the nit’ir qibe or butter along with the olive oil in a Dutch oven.  Add the onions and saute, covered, over low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the garlic, ginger, and 1 tablespoon butter and continue to sauté, covered, for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the berbere and the 2 remaining tablespoons of butter and sauté, covered, over low heat for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the chicken, broth, and wine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Adjust the seasonings, adding more berbere according to heat preference. Add the boiled eggs and simmer on low heat, covered, for another 15 minutes.
  8. Serve hot with injera or rice.

Kai Wot (Ethiopian Beef Stew)

from Veggies By Candlelight

Ingredients

  • 4 large onions; chopped
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Berbere
  • 1 lb. stew beef, cut into bite size pieces
  • ½ c water (or more)
  • ½ c butter (or nit’ir qibe)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 3 garlic cloves; minced

Method

  1. Wash the cubed beef well, pat them dry with a towel, and set aside in the fridge.
  2. Add the onions to a food processor and process until you have a chunky purée.
  3. Transfer the onions to a heavy pot & cook on medium heat until they are soft and have turned a reddish-brown color.
  4. Add the water and berbere. Cook an additional 30 minutes, stirring periodically, adding more water if needed so the sauce doesn’t get dry (this process allows for the berbere to become less bitter).
  5. Add the meat to the sauce & turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, adding a little water, if needed, to prevent the onions and meat from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  6. After an hour or so of simmering, add the butter, salt, garlic, and more water if the sauce is getting dry. Simmer another hour.
  7. Serve with injera.

Ma Mère’s Maple Fudge – Sucre à la Crème

Though I may be Canadian in the most general of definitions, I, like many other Canadians also identify with the cultural pieces of my heritage. My grandparent’s families made the long journey to this country and settled into Saskatchewan, where they merged their cultures together to form one Canadian identity. Each cultural influence has had an important part in shaping me as I am today, the same way it has such an important part in shaping Canada as it is today. I never think of myself (or Canada) as having one static culture, but more as a fluid culture that has a life of it’s own. Like Canada. I love that we are all so alike in our differences, I find it unifying.

Using food as a medium, I have explored my German background, added to my genetic history by my Grandpa Leaderhouse and reinforced by my Herzog grandparents who entered my life much later on. It was through them that I became exposed to a bit more German cuisine and culture (we’re talking sausage making, sauerkraut, pork hocks, and spaetzle). My paternal Grandmother, Grandma Leaderhouse was of pure Hungarian descent. She retained a wonderful accent throughout her entire life, even though she had been born in Canada and eventually lost the ability to speak Hungarian. She passed her love of bacon to me (Hungarians love their bacon and smoked sausages) and I remember her making poppy seed rolls, but never anything more ‘Hungarian’ than that. It makes me sad, that cultural part of my past remains lost and I would love to learn more about it in the future.

I am, genetically speaking, half ‘French Canadian’ and it’s the part of my cultural heritage that I know the most about. My grandma Lajeunesse’s (nee Ruel) family lived in the Saskatchewan French settlement of Debden, where she met my grandfather. She spoke only French until their children began attending an English school (it is odd that there was only an English school in a French settlement…) and now, at 92 years of age, she speaks a quaint mixture of ‘Frenglish’. By the way, she’s not your average ‘sweet’ granny. She’s 4 feet 9 inches of dynamite and she makes me laugh all the time. Her cooking has probably made the most cultural impact in my life because it was through her (and my mother) that I experienced Tourtierefarlouche (sugar and raisin pie), Tire sur la neige, baked beans, and maple fudge. There are quite a few of us cousins on the French side of the family and we were all taught the ‘Frenglish’ version of grandmère, which has been reduced to ma mère. So, even though I know that ma mère means ‘my mother’, I use it to refer to my French grandmother.

This recipe for Maple Fudge has been passed down for generations. It is second in popularity only to ma mère’s homemade doughnuts at family gatherings. Being from Saskatchewan, maple syrup was too dear to be included in a recipe in such vast quantities. Instead, maple flavouring was used. Here is the original recipe as copied from our family cookbook with the maple flavouring. I wanted to return the recipe to it’s true Québecois roots, so my corrections are listed at the end of the recipe. Ma mère is getting up there in age, so she doesn’t make the doughnuts or fudge any longer. It’s time for us grandchildren to carry on the tradition!


Maple Fudge – Sucre à la Crème

Ingredients

  • 4 cups brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 tbsp margarine (or butter)
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • maple flavouring
  • chopped walnuts (optional)

Method

  1. Mix the first five ingredients together in a saucepan. Boil until the mixture reaches ‘soft ball’ stage.
  2. Remove from heat, place saucepan in cold water, and beat until creamy.
  3. Add flavouring and nuts.
  4. Pour into a greased pan, let cool until just barely warm then slice into squares.

NOTE: Here are my alterations to the ingredients… I added the first six ingredients and cooked to the soft ball stage, then I transferred it to a stand mixer bowl and let it cool a bit. I started the mixer slowly at first (this is hot sugar!), then beat it at high speed until it became creamy. Add the nuts and beat them into the fudge then pour out into the prepared pan.

  • 1 cup real maple syrup
  • 3 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt

The Family Fish Pie

I hated Fish Pie growing up. On the days that I came home from school, tired after an hour long bus ride on bumpy country roads, and smelled a fish pie baking as soon as I walked in the door…my stomach turned. The fish smell was so overpowering and back then, I was a kid who just didn’t like anything to do with fish. I hated ice fishing; standing over an open hole in the middle of a freezing lake with no shelter from the wind and hoping for a bite was entirely pointless to me. I think the only good thing about ice fishing back in those days was that my parents would always stop at the store for snacks, which meant a bag of chips and some licorice. Back in those days, that was a real treat.

I despised the taste (and smell) of ‘fishy fish’ and I would always ask my dad if the fish was going to be ‘fishy’. As if he would know! I eventually learned that it was Jack fish (or Northern Pike) that was the ‘fishy’ tasting fish and White fish was more mild but had tiny, delicate bones. Oh, the bones!! I hated those too.

Now that I’m an adult, I love fish. Go figure. What’s strangest of all, is that I actually crave my mom’s fish pie. I’ve been wanting to make it for a while but put it off because the first ingredient needed for fish pie is canned fish. I’m not talking canned salmon (though you can use it in a pinch) but fresh caught fish, preserved in jars with a bit of vinegar, herbs, and tomato. When I asked my mom for the recipe, she pointed me in the direction of the family cookbook which contained the recipes for both the canned fish and the fish pie.  I also discovered that my Grandma was the original author of this recipe (not my mom) and that it was, essentially, a quiche. I love it. I love that my Grandma invented quiche!! 

My parents thought I was silly for buying fresh fish (they told me to buy canned salmon), then canning it just to make this recipe but I really wanted to go as close to the original recipe as I could. I bought a wild Steelhead Trout and sliced it up. One large fillet ended up filling 3 500 ml jars.

Canned Fish

Ingredients

  • 1 large filet of Steelhead Trout
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup passata
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup vinegar; divided into 3 amounts of 1/4 cup
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme

Method

  1. Cut filet into 2 inch slices.
  2. Sterilize 3  500 ml jars in 220 F oven in a pan containing an inch of water. Heat lids in a pot of boiling water.
  3. Mix salt, garlic, and passata together.
  4. Place fish in hot jars, divide passata evenly between the three jars.
  5. Add 1/4 cup vinegar to EACH jar.
  6. Place 2 sprigs fresh thyme in each jar. Cover and process.

Hot Water Bath Processing – Place hot jars on the rack of a canner filled with boiling water. Lower the rack and ensure the water is deep enough to cover the jars. Process for 2 hours. NOTE: The recipe says to do this for 5 hours. I think that’s a bit ridiculous, however, I do know that hot water processing is NOT recommended for meat or fish. Just because my Grandma and mom did it (and we didn’t die) doesn’t mean that it is 100% safe. For that, you need a pressure canner.

Pressure Canning – Process at 10 lbs pressure for two hours. I really have no idea HOW, that’s just what the recipe says.

Fish Pie

Ingredients

  • pastry for single pie crust recipe here
  • 500 ml jar canned fish
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion; diced
  • 2 tbsp cream
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper

OR yes, you can use fish from a can. I recommend you purchase the best canned salmon as possible.

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F
  2. Roll out pastry and arrange in a 9 inch pie plate.
  3. Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Add diced onions and sweat them until they are translucent.
  4. In a small bowl, beat eggs with 1/2 cup of the saved juice. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Drain fish, saving the juice. Break up the fish and scatter over the pastry. Top with sautéed onions.
  6. Pour egg mixture over all. Sprinkle with fresh thyme
  7. Bake for 40 minutes, or until it is set and slightly browned.

Maria Helena’s Creamy Shrimp and Coconut Stew – ATW12P #2 Brazil

After enjoying cooking my dish for the first ‘Around the World in Twelve Plates’ installment (Chinese Red Cooked Beef), I felt I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to sign up for the second round of adventure in February. As I waited eagerly for The Food Girl in Town‘s  announcement of the next world cuisine, several subliminal suggestions ran through my head…how about Hawaiian, or Sri Lankan? Could the next country be Spain, or how about Iceland? Truly, I had no idea where I would be cooking from next. Then the announcement came and it was a bit of a shocker: Brazil.

I immediately started running through what I know about Brazilian cuisine in my head. It didn’t take long. Calgary has several Brazilian steakhouses and so I am familiar with the rodizio style of dining where you dine on all you can eat churrasco (grilled meat) which is served table-side and sliced directly onto your plate. I’ve been to a couple of these places and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to pull off a similar meat-fest at home, especially in the dead of winter.

During the 2014 World Cup held in Brazil, I watched countless hours of ‘the beautiful game’ and found myself getting hungry, or more accurately, thirsty for an authentic Brazilian caipirhina, which is a cocktail made with Brazilian rum, cachaça, fresh fruit, and a bit of sugar. It takes a fair amount of muddling, but all that work is certainly worth it. However, this is a food post, not a cocktail post so my limited experience would not do. I had to investigate further. A quick check at my closest Chapters, revealed absolutely NO suitable cookbooks at all. My next stop was the library and I had a bit more luck there, but after searching there were really only 3 books in the whole system, and only one of them was available. I put Brazilian Food (by Thiago Castanho) on hold and waited for it to arrive at my branch for pick up.

brazilcollage

Annatto seeds, Korean Dried Salt Shrimp, re-hydrating the shrimp

It was pretty evident that ‘Brazilian Food’ was by no means a beginner’s guide to Brazilian cuisine. It features regional specialties and recipes by local chefs and did not really explain any basics like ‘what the hell are dried salt shrimp’?! It took a fair amount of browsing before I was confident enough that I could make one of the recipes; Vatapá da Maria Helena (Maria Helena’s Creamy Shrimp and Coconut Stew). Maria Helena is a cook at Remanso do Bosque restaurant, but this dish is more of an every day average dish you might find on the streets of several more Northern Brazilian states, and especially in Bahia. This north east Brazilian state has a lengthy coastline and seafood is a main staple in this region. Like many countries, Brazil’s cuisine is not an entity on it’s own, but a mosaic of flavours which reflects the country’s immigrant heritage combined with indigenous tradition. This Creamy Shrimp and Coconut Stew is of African origin, but uses Brazilian ingredients such as dried salt shrimp, colorau (ground annatto), and dendé (red palm oil). It wasn’t an easy task finding these ingredients and I went to several places before I had rounded up every one. With some help from an Asian friend I was able to source the right kind of dried salt shrimp at a Korean store, I found the red palm oil at a health food store, and eventually sourced the annatto at a nearby Mexican supermarket.braziliancurry3

Vatapá da Maria Helena or Maria Helena’s Creamy Shrimp and Coconut Stew

Brazilian Food page 44-45 (by Thiago Castanho) serves 4

Ingredients

  • 200 g dried salt shrimp
  • half a day old baguette
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup onion; minced
  • 1 clove garlic; minced
  • 2 tbsp tomatoes; diced
  • 1 mild chili pepper; seeded and chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 450 g large shrimp; peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground colorau (ground annatto/achiote)
  • 1 tbsp dendé (red palm oil)
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh basil

Method

  1. Soak the dried shrimp in lots of cold water for about 4 hours. Drain, then add to a blender with 4 cups fresh water. Process until smooth. Transfer to a saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes to make a flavourful shrimp broth. Remove from heat and strain.
  2. Tear the baguette into small pieces and add to a bowl. Pour coconut milk and 3/4 cup water over the bread and allow to soak for 20 minutes.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the onion, garlic, tomato, and chili pepper and sauté until softened.
  4. Add the bay leaves and the shrimp stock and heat until it begins to simmer.
  5. Gradually add the soaked bread mixture to the pan, stirring constantly. Cook 5 minutes until thickened or unit lit reaches a sauce-like consistency.
  6. Add the shrimp, cumin, colorau, dendé oil, and some black pepper. Reduce the heat and let it cook for 4 minutes or until the shrimp is cooked through.
  7. Add the fresh herbs and season with a bit of salt, taking care not to add too much so that the sweet flavour of the sauce is masked.
  8. Serve over Brazilian style white rice.

Arroz Branco – Brazilian Style White Rice (page 94)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup long grain white rice
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp onion; finely chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic; finely chopped
  • salt

Method

  1. Rinse the rice several times in cold water, rubbing the grains between the palms of your hands inside a bowl, until the water turns clear. Drain thoroughly, and let the rice dry before using.
  2. Bring 2 cups water to the boil.
  3. Heat the oil in a saucepan. Sauté the onion and garlic over low heat until the onion is soft and the garlic a golden brown.
  4. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly until it becomes chalky.
  5. Pour the boiling water onto the rice and return to a boil. Add a bit of salt. Half cover the pan and cook over med-low heat until all the water has evaporated.
  6. Turn off the heat, cover completely and let the rice stand for about 10 minutes before serving.

braziliancurry4

Recipe Notes

The original recipe made enough for ten people so I halved all the ingredients (but strangely, doubled the rice!) for our small family. We enjoyed the flavour of the sauce, though the boys were a bit disappointed because they thought they were getting a curry. I picked this dish for it’s simplicity and colour, and it did not disappoint. The combination of the ground annatto and dendé oil really made this dish unique and beautiful (though I understand now why people buy it pre-ground, it’s worse for staining than turmeric!). The sauce is very subtle and sweet, with a great texture achieved by using the bread as a thickener. I would make this again, and might have to since I have plenty of ingredients left over in my pantry.

I spoke with chef Joao Dachery (from Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse) a few days later and he was impressed with the colour on the stew (of course I showed him a photo!) and gave me some important tips on cooking with dendé oil, mainly that it has a very low smoke point, so it is important to add it at the end for flavour and colour. He also told me I should try to make Moqueca, which is another typical Brazilian fish stew. Now I know what to do with the extra ingredients!braziliancurry1

Make sure you check the rest of the amazing fellow bloggers that met the challenge for “Around the World in 12 Plates, Brazil”:

Sugar Love Spices http://www.sugarlovespices.com/quindim-brazilian-dessert/