Daal is one of those warm comforting dishes that you can eat to your heart’s content because it is so darn good for you! Don’t get me wrong, I live for homemade mac ‘n’ cheese but whipping up a steaming pot of protein-rich spiced lentils can be equally as satisfying. Daal is super easy to make and is also a cost effective meal for those days when you want to watch your spending.
I’ve been making my usual daal for about 8 years now and it just occurred to me that I could maybe change things up a bit. I had a very small Kabocha squash (think smaller than a cantaloupe) and I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with it. I have a bit of a sensitivity to squash, zucchini, and pumpkins so I don’t cook with them that often. From what I’ve been told, this mild allergy is quite common. It involves sensitivity to a particular protein that becomes denatured during the cooking process. This definitely explains why I can eat squashes in any kind of baking or in fully cooked purées but not when they are raw or slightly grilled. I also have to wash my hands very thoroughly after working with squashes (and that includes carving pumpkins) or I get a rash. Generally when I prepare squash I always steam it so I know it is cooked all the way through.
For this recipe I cut the squash in half and scooped out the seeds. I placed a rack in the bottom of my instant pot and poured in a cup of water. After placing the two halves on top of the rack, I closed the lid, switched the seal to ‘closed’, and set the manual timer to high for 8 minutes. Since I was busy doing other things in the kitchen that day I allowed the instant pot to de-pressurize naturally before I remembered to remove the lid. The squash was super easy to peel after it had cooled down and I probably had about 2 cups puréed squash in total.
This recipe makes a pretty hefty amount (six servings over rice) which is good because it is even better the next day and extremely easy to heat up for a quick lunch or dinner.
I say it’s high time I bake something sweet for our little Around the World in Twelve Plates blogger collaboration. Basbousa is an Egyptian classic cake made from durum semolina and a whole lot of dairy which is also popular in many other Middle Eastern countries. The cake is quite rich with a unique texture but it’s the syrup that provides all the flavour!
What is unique about this month’s ATW12P country is that I have actually been to Egypt. When I learned that my husband had a work trip to Egypt scheduled in January 2008, I knew I shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to tag along. The company he was working for scheduled private tours for me in Alexandria and I was under the close supervision of several female tour guides. Alexandria is much smaller than Cairo and when I mean ‘much smaller’ I am talking in terms of millions of people with a 2008 population of just over 4 million while Cairo at that time was around 18 million. Though Alexandria is a popular resort destination for Egyptians, I visited during the ‘off season’ when temperatures were quite a bit cooler (18-20° C) and traffic wasn’t a horrendous nightmare (though really it was pretty much a nightmare anyway compared to where I live!). I was glad we had our own driver even though we found out later he was legally blind. The drive from Cairo to Alexandria is around 3 hours on one of the world’s deadliest highways and we made it there and back safely so I guess he wasn’t so bad after all.
I really regret that this trip happened before I started my blog. Looking back at the photos, my skills probably matched the equivalent quality of my camera gear. Though we stayed in what was the most gorgeous hotel surrounded by the Montaza Palace grounds right on the Mediterranean, my photos are all quite grey, lackluster, and blurry. I visited Alexandria Library (though it’s a much more modern version of the famous antiquities library that was burned down by Julius Caesar), the Citadel of Qaitbay (a 15th-century defensive fortress established in 1477 AD by Sultan Al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Qa’it Bay), the catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa (a necropolis which consists of a series of Alexandrian tombs, statues and archaeological objects of the Pharaonic funeral cult mixed with Greek and early Imperial Roman influences) as well as the Graeco-Roman Museum, the Alexandria National Museum, and the ruins of a Roman Auditorium and Bathhouse.
But the REAL highlights of this trip were:
After my husband was finished work in Alexandria we had a day to tour around Cairo and ended up (as one inevitably does) in Giza to explore the Pyramids and gaze at the Sphinx. We had a chance to enter the Pyramid but I just couldn’t do it. I felt there was an electricity in the air; a strange imbalance or feeling of unrest or sadness. I felt it was just wrong to go in. We did climb up to get our photo taken and those blocks are a lot larger than I thought they would be!
As far as food went, we had some great dinners but the ones that are most memorable to me were the ones that had huge crates of fresh fishes on ice. We chose our fish and how it was to be cooked (fried, grilled, etc.) then we were seated and fed small but delicious dishes until our main meal arrived. We didn’t ever really have dessert but finished our meal with a fresh orange or a mango smoothie. Egypt was where I fell in love with mangoes…until then I had only ever had the tasteless mangoes (which I call Canadian mangoes) that have to be imported halfway around the world. So, if I would have had room for dessert I would have probably chosen a slice of Basbousa with extra syrup.
* I spent two hours looking for coarse durum semolina flour. My ‘go-to’ place was out and I eventually figured out that couscous would do the trick as it is, essentially durum semolina mixed with water to make larger particles. I threw two cups of couscous in my blender and gave it a whirl for a minute. I ended up with the perfect mix of fine and coarse semolina!
Are you as excited as I am to hear about what the other ATW12P bloggers are up to for this month’s Egyptian cuisine challenge? Please give them a visit and show them some love and appreciation!
Gabby Peyton at The Food Girl in Town
Nicoletta and Loreto at Sugar Love Spices
I grew up with a Hungarian grandmother. A word of warning; don’t be expecting a warm and fuzzy ‘awww you learned this recipe by cooking in your grandmother’s warm cozy kitchen’ sort of blog post because that’s not how this story starts out. She was born in Canada and as such, followed her family’s preference to assimilate into ‘Canadian culture’ rather than keep her Hungarian roots alive. It is kind of funny, though, now that I think of it she had a REALLY strong Hungarian accent and though she lived until the age of 97, she never lost a bit of it. I don’t ever remember her being fluent in Hungarian but I do remember her trying to teach me to count in Hungarian (but only because I asked).
I didn’t think this post was going to be so hard to write. I’m already crying. I miss her so damn much even though it’s been six years since she’s been gone. She passed away while we were living in Australia and I never had the chance to say goodbye…though to be honest the last time I visited her in 2009, I knew it would be the last time I saw her. She would have been 95 and when you visit someone of that age, you make sure to make those moments count. I remember crying in the elevator on the way out of the building because I knew it would be our last visit.
Let’s rewind a bit for a moment and get a little of that ‘warm and fuzzy’ feeling even though I said we weren’t going there. I did learn to ‘cook’ with my Hungarian grandmother and these memories are among my very first memories. I must have been around three years old. She would tie her frilly apron around my neck and waist, give me a step stool, and give me free reign of the kitchen. My favourite ‘dish’ to make was a paste of baking soda, flour and water which I would combine in a saucepan and ‘cook’ on the stove, mixing and stirring until my heart was content. Those were the days when I could make a huge mess in the kitchen and never have to clean up. Can you imagine the mess she had to deal with later? She never complained, she never ever said no.
The only Hungarian dish I remember her making was home made poppy seed roll because she was, like me, a baker at heart. I have her cookbooks and they are treasures full of annotations and recipes clipped out of the local paper. She had odd, sprawling writing that was very difficult to decipher unless you were used to it. Through the years she would always send handwritten cards and letters, many of which I have kept and store in a trunk in the basement. They are there, along with a Viczko family history book that was compiled for the one and only family reunion we attended together. It was fascinating to meet the different branches of the family and learn about how and why they came to Canada. My oldest son was old enough to play one of the Viczko brothers in a play that celebrated the family’s journey from Hungary to Canada. It was during this reunion that I experienced the essence of Hungarian cuisine, raw bacon. Throughout the day we snacked on raw bacon cut into cubes and coated in a heavy dusting of paprika (which was kept in large shakers on each of the banquet tables) and for lunch there were raw bacon and onion sandwiches. The main dinner was a hearty Hungarian Goulash with potatoes but for dessert there was a multi-layered Dobosh Torte that I still dream about to this day. Perhaps that is another project for another day.
This post is about Hungarian Chicken Paprikash. It’s not a showy or beautiful dish. It has very few ingredients but the flavour is HUGE. Traditionally Paprikash is made using bone-in chicken pieces which adds flavour during the low and slow cooking. Since I was developing this recipe for the Instant Pot, I compromised by using chicken thighs and some chicken stock. I don’t think there is usually any tomato or pepper in the recipe but I added them because I had them and thought they would add some flavour and nutrients. The most important thing about Paprikash is getting that huge layering of paprika flavour. To achieve this, I used both ground Sweet Hungarian Paprika and mild Paprika Cream. The most widely used brand of Paprika Cream is Piros Arany and it comes in both mild (Csemege) and hot (Csípôs).
The best way to serve Paprikash is over Hungarian dumplings (Nokedli). They are essentially the same thing as German Spaeztle and very simple, though messy to make. The secret is the consistency of the batter which should be very thick and bordering on a very sticky dough. After the dough is mixed it needs to sit for at least ten minutes. It takes very little time to make nokedli, if you begin by setting the water to boil, you can have it ready to serve as soon as the Paprikash is ready. Be sure to soak anything batter covered in water so it doesn’t dry out because it’s almost impossible to get clean once the batter dries.
On Friday, Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival will be gathering Calgarians to celebrate 20 years of the best wine, beer, spirits, and delectable dishes.
“The Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival (RMWFF) got its start 20 years ago by three rag-tag friends working as beer brand reps in Ontario. After attending beverage trade shows out east, it struck them that they could do the same thing in Calgary where such an event didn’t yet exist. It was a “rocky” start (pun intended) but in 1997, the first annual Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival was hosted, with 30 booths and 1000 guests.”
One thousand guests is pretty amazing attendance for the first year of a festival! As the event grew each year, organizers realized that there was enough interest to expand northward to Edmonton in 2007. Ten years later, RMWFF has grown into one of Alberta’s largest wine and food festivals with hundreds of booths and over 25,000 in attendance. I’ve been fortunate to attend three years of the Festival and I find it a great way to try wines and spirits that I wouldn’t normally get to try (due to availability) or go out of my way to purchase…it’s a great way to expand your palate on a budget! Where else would I have been able to try the entire line of Japanese Nikka Whiskies? Some of my favourites last year were quite surprisingly, ciders from the BC Tree Fruits Cider Co and Reverend Nat. Less surprising were some ‘new to me’ gins from Rig Hand Distillery (formerly Big Rig Distillery) and Boodles British Gin.
This year’s festival wines feature 17 different countries including a large list of Canadian wines and previous crowd favourites from Moldova. For a full list of available wines click here. While your there, be sure to also check out the extensive list of beer, cider, and distilled spirits. Some new and ‘not to miss’ 20th Anniversary highlights are:
Of course this is a FOOD blog and this year RMWFF’s is putting on a huge bash, complete with delicious food from nearly 50 vendors and artisans. Besides my returning festival favourites, there are some new and exciting tasty treats to pair with your sips!
Then there are the delicious sweet treats from Sweet Tooth…rolled ice cream is the most instagrammable way to treat yourself and Sweet Tooth has it down to a delicious science. Crowd favourites Master Chocolat and Old Coal Chocolates are back again too, just in time to pair with that 50 year old port from Taylor Fladgate. It wouldn’t be a party without some giveaways…stop by the Liquor Connect booths to enter to win a $100 gift card to Pig & Duke along with two tickets to the 2018 Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival. This year’s grand prize is an All-Inclusive Alpine Getaway for two at the beautiful SunshineMountain Lodge. The winner will enjoy two night’s accommodation, VIP parking, dinner for two, full mid-mountain rental packages for two, and next day lift tickets on “Canada’s Best Snow” at Sunshine Village.
I believe that part of the reason the festival is so successful is that the organizers have a huge opportunity to ‘give back’ and they do! In 2016 alone, the Festival donated over $21,000 to local charities and organizations, thanks to help from Festival guests and sponsors. This year, the Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival aims to donate even more to these fantastic organizations: Calgary Food Bank, SAIT and for the first time, The Leftovers foundation with $1 from every Front of the Line ticket sold donated to this worthwhile organization.
Tickets and Information:
Tickets for each tasting session are sold online or at the door (based on availability). Sampling coupons are $0.50 each and available inside the Grand Tasting Hall. To purchase tasting session tickets and learn more about Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival please visit www.rockymountainwine.com
Friday Oct. 13; 5-10pm
Saturday Oct. 14; 12-4pm
Saturday Oct. 14; 6-10pm
Stampede Park BMO Centre, Halls D & E
It’s that time of the year when the leaves are turning glorious colours and gardens everywhere are being harvested. The farmers can barely get in a few well earned zzzz’s before heading back out the the fields again. Long table harvest dinners are popping up in little towns everywhere, showcasing the fruits of their labours. My very first long table dinner was a few weeks ago when the leaves along main street Stettler were still in their late summer glory and the harvest from local producers was a source of pride on each plate.
Photo: Christine Boake Photography
My table mates and I were treated like royalty; picked up in a limousine and whisked 5 minutes away to the blocked off main street section in front of Brenda’s Cozy Cafe, where all the dishes were being prepared and plated. The long table sat in the middle of main street Stettler, all decked out in prairie finery and several tables skirted the outer edges containing local products which were to be featured during the dinner. I tasted some delicious locally made cream cheese from Mary Ann Stevenson of Applejack Ranch and learned that you can make vegetarian cheese…using an extract made from thistles instead of sheep’s rennet. Then I had an absolutely wonderful cocktail from Hanson Distillery‘s Spiced Peach Moonshine. Owners Kris and Shayna continue the Hansen family tradition of distilling quality products using 100% ingredients sourced from Alberta, except the peaches of course. After sampling the cheese and enjoying a cocktail (or two) I took my place at the long table. Set out before me was the evening’s feast and I was thrilled to see that we would be enjoying beef tenderloin supplied by the folks at Buffalo Hills Natural Beef. To see the pride on their faces was a thrill in itself. It’s not often that producers are able to see their product enjoyed in such a setting.
To begin the dinner, prairie style Caprese Salad was passed around by the volunteer servers. Chef Riley Kay (from Cilantro and Chive) strung the sweet, juicy Kempf’s Greenhouse tomatoes along with Applejack Ranch fresh mozzarella onto wheat stalks and drizzled them with balsamic vinegar.
Late summer flavours danced within the tiny bowl of the Zesty Gazpacho created by Chef Brenda Brinson of Brenda’s Cozy Cafe. This simple chilled soup elevated the finest tomatoes, zucchini, and basil grown at Kempf’s Greenhouse.
Our salad course contained another favourite prairie ingredient in the vinaigrette; Saskatoon Berries. The vinaigrette was also punctuated with a touch of prairie spirit…wine from Fireside Winery & Market Garden. The baby spinach greens, sweet pepper, and cucamelons were grown at Kempf’s Greenhouse while the surprise boar bacon at the bottom was supplied by Canadian Heritage Meats. Everyone likes a little bacon in their salad, right?!
We were kept well watered throughout the dinner, with Lacombe brewed Troubled Monk beers, wine from Fireside Winery & Market Garden, and spirits from Hansen Distillery.
The delight on everyone’s face, but especially on Quinn and Janelle Hayden of Buffalo Hills Natural Beef was evident when Chef Jimin John (Otherside Restaurant, Delburne Bistro) presented the Roasted Herbed Beef Tenderloin. It was perfectly roasted and finished with a Border Cross Whisky Sauce featuring Hansen Distillery’s Border Crossing Rye Spirit. It sat on a bed of creamed spinach (made with Primrose Farm‘s fresh cream) surrounded by seasonal veggies, all from Kempf’s Greenhouse.
In case you’re wondering if that wonderful boar bacon from Canadian Heritage Meats would make an appearance again…I can say that it made another surprise entrance in our dessert. Not only did Chef Lutz Kintzel give us bacon for dessert, but we also had a zucchini brownie and Saskatoon Berry cream filled cream puff. The Saskatoon Berry sauce made with Fireside Winery & Market Garden wine was also a huge hit at our section of the long table. The bacon, chocolate and berries left everyone with a smile on their faces. I was asked to join in the Taste of the Heartland long table dinner as a guest of Destination Stettler. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Stettler, years in fact. Way back when the kids were small we used to stop overnight at a cousin’s house to break up the long trip to Saskatchewan. I can honestly say that I didn’t get a good sense of what Stettler was like as a community back then. As a guest, I struggled to find the right words for what I had experienced during Open Farm Days and the Taste of the Heartland long table dinner until the event MC Shawna Benson spoke these words, “You should go visit them, they’ll treat you like family.” Truer words have never been spoken, I can honestly say that it felt like I was visiting family again.
Chefs Lutz Kintzel, Brenda Brinson, Riley Kay, and Jimin John at the Taste of the Heartland Long Table Dinner
I can’t even begin to tell you what these first 3 weeks of school have been like for our family. Suffice it to say that if your teen ever changes high schools, make sure that you know all the policies surrounding the switch…including those related to high school athletics. To make a really long and emotional story short, our family ended up having to appear before an appeals committee to prove that he didn’t move schools for athletic reasons. It was quite surreal having to defend him against these accusations; a boy who is the kindest, quietest, most respectful boy I know. It was also disappointing for him (and us) to see how petty and vile adults can be when they are given ridiculous power over children. It was the first time that someone else was making a decision for my son other than me and it was terrifying.
Don’t worry though, the story does indeed get better! His appeal was accepted and he has been able to play football (and other sports) at his new high school. In case you are wondering why he switched schools to begin with, he was drawn to the commercial cooking course that was available at his new school. He wants to be a chef and I couldn’t be more proud! Since starting school he has come home every day telling me what he’s learned and I know the day is coming when he’ll tell me I am doing a technique wrong or criticize my knife skills.
When the September Around the World in Twelve Plates country was revealed to be Japan, I got pretty excited because there are so many options! The obvious ones may be sushi and ramen, but I’m also a huge fan of dishes like karaage, katsu, teriyaki, and various izakaya (bar snacks). There’s Japanese binchotan grilling and those gorgeous Japanese cheese cakes, mochi (check out my Red Lentil Mochi here), and one can never forget gyoza! So many possibilities and I love them all. I really need to get to Japan!
Did you know that there was such a thing as Japanese Curry? Ever since I made dumplings with Carol from The Office Broccoli I have been wanting to try and make a Japanese Curry. We used the pre-made curry roux that comes in a box as a flavouring for our dumplings and I wanted to explore this flavour more but never did. It turns out that making the curry roux yourself is not that difficult, just time consuming. The flavours of a Japanese curry are what you would think a curry made with curry powder would be like but with other flavour aspects such as sweetness from the grated apple and honey punctuated with a bit of heat from the cayenne. Huge thanks to Gabby for giving me a gentle push I needed to make Japanese Curry for this month’s challenge!
If you’re wondering what the rest of the ATW12P regulars cooked this month, check out their links here:
Sugar Love Spices made Raw Vegetable Nori Wraps
The Food Girl in Town made some izakaya dishes to share with friends
I know that we made the right decision in supporting our son. He’s so much happier and focused at his new school. Now I know he’s also making friends too because yesterday it was game day and two of his team mates came over to chill before the big game. They arrived just as I was finishing this curry photo shoot and each had a huge bowl. I told them it was magic curry and that it would give them extra power during the game, little did I know that they would go on to win and all 3 of the boys were a huge part of that win. The boys came to see me after the game to let me know they were convinced the win was due to ‘CURRY POWER’ and that they’ll be showing up next week on game day for more of that delicious Japanese Curry.
Ingredients for Curry Roux
Do you have a food ‘bucket list’? Have you ever waited what seemed like forever to cook with a specific ingredient? There are quite a few on my food bucket list, including some fresh fruit and vegetables rarely seen in North America or most impossible to find in my city, Calgary. On my wish list of fruits & veggies are bergamot citrus, the delicious flavour that IMHO makes Earl Grey tea so special. I would probably make some kind of bergamot marmalade or curd with it and right now thinking about it, my mouth is absolutely watering. Next up is honest to goodness legit Hungarian dried paprika made from peppers by little old Nagyanas…but I’ll have to travel to Hungary for that experience! A third food bucket list item of mine is to try cooking with hops. I began working on this item this spring when I planted our very first vine of Cascade hops. They didn’t grow too much this summer but hubby still had enough to fresh hop a new batch of beer. I’ll have to wait until next year to experiment with them. While shopping at the nearby Italian Centre Shop, I found the fourth food bucket list item; tiny baby artichokes at the peak of their season. They fit into the palm of my hand and I could tell they were still quite fresh as they were plump and tight at the same time. Back at home, I knew exactly how I wanted to cook them…Italian style! I say that they are olive oil roasted but really they are quite close to confited because they were engulfed almost entirely in olive oil. I added some of my fresh garden lemon thyme and rosemary to the oil as well as a few cloves of garlic. Will they were in the oven, I added some more herbs to finely ground breadcrumbs. Mixing some of that herb flavoured olive oil into the breadcrumbs after the artichokes were finished roasting and scattered the breadcrumbs over the artichokes completed the dish both visually and texturally.
August has flown by in a heartbeat. I’m trying to savour these last summer moments and already dreading the cold days of winter. Fortunately we have a bit of a buffer season and I am hoping we have a nice, long drawn out Autumn with sunny, crisp days and cold nights. Just enough to throw another quilt on the bed. Until then, I’m loving the warm weather and the wonderful selection of fresh local produce available at the markets. When Gabby announced that this month’s Around the World in Twelve Plates country was Peru there was one dish that immediately sprung to mind. One dish that I have remembered for almost 21 years from my very first mulit-course dinner as a newlywed. One of our groomsmen had so thoughtfully given us a gift certificate for a local Peruvian restaurant and offered to babysit our son for the night. This wasn’t just any restaurant in the city of Saskatoon, it was ‘Hole in the Wall’ restaurant, located along the surrounding rural backroads. This was back before the days of GPS navigation and Google maps, so we actually needed a paper map! Surprisingly we made it there on time with few complications and were treated to a feast of foods that were entirely new to us. I can remember the meal like it was yesterday. Cheese Stuffed Dates to start, followed by THE DISH; Papa a la Huancaina. I couldn’t get over how delicious this one simple dish was. Boiled potatoes covered in a spicy cheese sauce usually served with black olives and boiled eggs. It turns out, Peruvians (especially those in the Andean village of Huancayo) love to cover everything in Huancaina sauce and for very good reason. The combination of spicy Aji Amarillo Peppers (another much loved component of Peruvian cuisine), and Queso Fresco is magical.
Potatoes are a staple food in Peru. This tuberous starchy delight is native to South America, though it’s not known what area of the continent it originated from, though the oldest records of domesticated potatoes are from around 10, 000 years ago. It would have taken a lot of time, patience, and innovation to cultivate these wild potatoes as they are naturally very toxic. There are over 3800 kinds of potatoes that grow in Peru…I think I’ve found my next travel destination!
For the main course of our dinner we were treated to tequila roasted Cornish game hens, yet another dish I would like to somehow recreate here at home at a later date. Our dessert was a simple bowl of fresh strawberries covered in a sweet minty ‘gremolata’. It was a meal worth remembering. Another seasonal ingredient I wanted to incorporate into my Peruvian feast was corn. Though more Meso-American in origin, corn (maize) cultivation in Peru became evident around 6700 years ago. It became one of the four traditional staples of Peruvian cuisine along with potatoes, Amaranthaceaes/grains such as quinoa and legumes. Our Alberta grown sweet Taber corn is at it’s peak right now and I couldn’t wait to use it in these Green Tamales. The husks were still very fresh and pliable, something to look for when you have to fold them into tight little packages. Even though I took the time to strain out a lot of the sweet corn milk, the tamale texture was not quite present in the finished product. I’m wondering if adding a bit of quinoa would help hold it together a bit more while at the same time incorporating another traditional Peruvian food staple. The prawns were not part of the original recipe but I thought they would go really well with the spicy Aji Amarillo paste and sweet corn. As suspected, they were a delicious addition!
Recipe from Qué Vida Rica Makes 8 tamales
These Green Tamales are called ‘tamalitos verdes’ because fresh husks are used instead of rehydrated dried husks. The fresh cilantro and spinach also add to the ‘green theme’ and flavour of this dish.
The Huancaina sauce recipe makes a lot of sauce…and that’s okay! As I mentioned earlier, you’re going to want to put it on everything. I roasted some cauliflower the next night and used the remainder of the sauce and the boys loved it. As I’m not a big fan of cauliflower, I can definitely say that I would eat this dish over and over again.
Recipe from Peru Delights
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 Pervian experiences, simply click on one of the links below:
Gabby cooks up a Peruvian feast at The Food Girl In Town
Nicoletta and Loreto at Sugar Love Spices with Avocado Cream Cheese Roll on Toast
And welcome to newcomer Evelyne Budkewitsch at Culture Eatz with her Peruvian Quinoa Flan
This past weekend I was invited to tour several farms in Stettler County, Alberta during Alberta Open Farm Days (August 19 & 20) as a guest of Destination Stettler. As I battled the city rush hour traffic heading north out of Calgary, I focused on the blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds and knew that the same sky would be waiting for me out in the country along with open fields, fresh air, and peaceful quiet. Once we were out of the city, my co-pilot Linda Garson kept the conversation flowing and in what seemed like no time at all, we arrived at the our destination and were greeted with prairie-style hospitality along with a special treat from a local bakery.
Cream John from Blokes Bakery
After a restful sleep in the hotel, Linda and I drove 5 minutes out of town to the brand new Stettler County Public Works facility where a fortifying pancake breakfast awaited us. We met Stacey from Destination Stettler, the other member of our media group; Anastasia from Travel Alberta, and our tour guide for the day, Quinton Beaumont, who is the Director of Agricultural Services in Stettler County.
Pancakes & Sour Cherry Syrup made from local sour cherries; Hash Brown Casserole – A Prairie Staple!
Soon we boarded our bus and were on our way to the first farm destination; Fox Country Goats. I’ve only ever been on one other goat farm near Kelowna, BC. and that was mainly for goat milk and cheese. Tim and Lori Fox began as farmers in Saskatchewan but moved to Alberta when this farm came up for sale in Stettler County. They have a mixed breed herd of around 400 goats which they raise primarily for meat which is referred to as chevon. Right now, demand for goat meat exceeds production and as a result over 4 million dollars worth of chevon is imported into Canada annually. Based on previous goat farm experience I had prepared myself for that ever present eau de goat but the barn and pens were spic n span for the Open Farm Days tours so it was really not bad at all. The goats were lively and hungry…did you know that goats graze underbrush and eat noxious weeds? This makes them attractive alternatives to manual cutting and chemical applications, especially near waterways and in cities (like Calgary!). Along with the goats, Tim and Laurie also raise chickens and have a huge garden to feast from all summer (and beyond).
Tim and Lori Fox from Fox Country Goats; Goats!
Remember that fresh country air I was so excited about? We got plenty of it at the next stop of our Open Farm Days tour…at Buffalo Hills Natural Beef overlooking the eastern shores of Buffalo Lake. The wind blew gales off the lake and right up the hill to the farm but that view was magnificent! Buffalo Hills is a third generation family farm intent on raising beef from birth with zero antibiotics, hormones, or growth stimulants. There’s lots of space for the small herd to roam around on the rolling grassy covered hills, lots of space and a great quality of life. The same can be said for the farming family that lives there. After years in the corporate boardrooms of downtown Calgary, Quinn Hayden was laid off when the economy took a downturn a few years ago. He went back ‘home’ to help his dad, Greg, during calving season and realized that he missed the farm life. The decision to move his family to Stettler County and return to his roots couldn’t have been easy but already the rewards are endless and the family is closer than ever. Buffalo Hills Natural Beef were one of the main sponsors of the long table ‘Taste of the Heartland’ dinner in Stettler later that evening and they also fed us delicious beef burgers for lunch. Their beef is available locally, direct from the farm and in larger packages starting with 1/4 side throughout southern Alberta.
Two new calves and a cow; that view overlooking Buffalo Lake; Quinn and Janelle Hayden
After lunch we boarded the bus again for a quick jaunt over to Rairdan Grain Farm to learn about advances in farming on a 5th generation family grain farm. On the way there our bus guide Quinn explained the importance of crop rotation on the soil and in pest/disease prevention. Farming is one of the most risky businesses around with huge sacrifices of time, work, and money made for sometimes very little return. Advances in farming technology and agricultural research have made today’s grain farmer the most efficient to date and though no one can ever control the weather, these advances ensure that farmers can support the food demands of our growing population as efficiently as possible. Jack Rairdan and his family had all their ‘toys’ out shined up and proudly on display; a few millions of dollars invested in their farm from the crop-spreading cones on the sprayer to the auger/bagging system which allows the crop to be stored right there on the field until the truck is ready to take it to the elevator. Each machine has an advanced GPS system (RTK) that basically drives it around the field in an almost exact line for each pass. For Jack, there are many positives to being in the agriculture business, the most important is that farming allows Jack to be close to his family because they work together everyday.
Jack Rairdan & several pieces of John Deere farm equipment; Anastasia from Travel Alberta aboard the combine.
Our final farm tour was at one of only three dairy farms open during Open Farm Days. The Haustein family have been dairy farmers near Erskine for 40 years and the new generation, brothers Calvert and Conlee Haustein, have brought in some really big changes to the way they do things on the farm. After much research, they have invested in a fully robotic milking system which means much less work for them and no more 5 am milking times. Each cow is fitted with a transponder collar that contains all of their information; how long they feed for, how often they are milked, general body wellness and breeding history. When the cow steps up to the chute to get milked the collar is read by the computer and if the cow hasn’t met their daily milk quota, they receive a treat, get their teats cleaned, massaged and finally…they get milked. The robot does all the work, including testing the milk for irregularities (if the cow has a slight infection or has recently given birth). That milk is separated from the human grade milk that goes through the cooling process and is stored in the 6,000 litre tank. In addition to the 2 miking robots, the Haustein’s have invested in special bedding mats which have reduced the need for straw bedding and a recycled lagoon water flushing system which aerobically treats the water used to clean the barn floors. This aerobic floor flushing greatly reduces the growth of the bacteria that makes the floors slippery. In all, the time actually spent milking, feeding, cleaning, and watering the 100 head of dairy cows has been greatly reduced and the other conservation practices ensure sustainability for the farm and industry.
Doug, Calvert and Conlee Haustein; ‘Space Orbit’ in search of a treat in exchange for milk; Feeding cows & robot feed pusher; A newly born calf and mother; Con(lee) Haustein
Who knew the County of Stettler had so much to offer? As a farmer’s daughter I can tell you that people often take what they have in their own backyards for granted. Easy access to local grown fresh produce and hormone free/humanely raised protein is a way of life in rural areas, it’s not a farm to table ‘movement’, it is a reality through hard work and determination. Alberta Open Farm days is a great initiative to get urban (and rural) people to see where their food is grown and to get to know the farmers and producers. In addition to Stettler County’s many and varied farms you can visit on Open Farm Days, there are many things to do and see in and around Stettler on every weekend of the year…
List sourced directly from Destination Stettler, check out their website for more information. Huge thank you to Stacey at Destination Stettler for hosting me for the weekend.
I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun I am having with Around the World in Twelve Plates. It’s like travelling the world without even leaving your home and since we don’t have any plans to leave Calgary any time soon I’m just going to think of this series as a food staycation. This month Turkey was not so randomly chosen as our country because Gabby (The Food Girl in Town) WAS actually travelling there for the whole month of July. It wasn’t really a vacation though, because she was going to Cadir Hoyuk to work on an archaeolgical dig. Funny the things you learn about each other through blogger collaborations, I have a degree in Palaeontology but my digging experience was also archaeological in nature.The greatest thing, however, is that we both love adventurous cooking. I was excited to learn that there is a very easy, nutritious and absolutely delicious traditional soup that is eaten at the beginning of many meals in Turkey and even sometimes as breakfast. Ezo Gelin Corba is a spicy soup made with red lentils, bulgur wheat, spicy red pepper paste, and tomato paste. It is finished using traditional Turkish flavourings such the combination of dried mint and lemons. I made this soup the same day I made the full Turkish meal for dinner, so it was a pretty busy day but both my hubby and son really enjoyed the special soup for lunch that day.
The great thing about the meal I made is that you can make some of the dishes ahead of time. In fact, both the Tabbouleh and Piyaz salads are better when they’ve sat overnight in the fridge. With only a little searching on the internet I found a really informative and traditionally styled Turkish blog called Ozlem’s Turkish Table. It’s a bit difficult to navigate but if you know what recipes you are searching for you can just use the search feature. Ozlem’s blog contains a treasure trove of Turkish recipes and it’s worth checking out. I only included the recipes for the Ezo Gelin Corba and Piyaz Salad below. If you want to look up the other recipes I made, here are the links:
Tabbouleh here. I’m not actually sure if I used a recipe but this is a general, though more herb-y tabbouleh than the one I made for this post.
Sauteed carrots in olive oil and garlic yoghurt here.
Kadinbudu Kofte/Lady’s Thigh Meatballs here.
The Sautéed Carrot in garlic yoghurt and olive oil sauce is just so good. It’s amazing. It made the perfect bed for the Kadinbudu Kofte, or Lady’s Thigh Meatballs and it would be great slathered all over some traditional Turkish bread too. I don’t really know the back story of why anyone would want to name a meatball after a lady’s thigh but it probably has some sort of historical context. We just really enjoyed the flavour of the beef/lamb mixture. I can appreciate how these would be better coated in bread crumbs and fried but I just don’t do that. They worked out just fine being baked in my oven.
I was pretty happy to have found a great recipe base for one of my favourite Turkish salads. For a while I was pretty addicted to the delicious Piyaz sold at Anatolia Restaurant in the Crossroads Farmer’s Market. Their version has navy beans in it so I just added a cup of cooked beans to Ozlem’s recipe to adjust to my liking.
You might have noticed that all of these dishes have flat leaf parsley in them (except the soup). I had a huge amount growing in my garden in the back and ended up using it all for this meal! So, if you have an abundance of parsley this year, try cooking Turkish cuisine to use it all up.
Serve hot with lemon wedges.
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 Turkey posts, simple click on one of the links below:
Korena at Korena in the Kitchen Turkish Simit Bread
Gabby at The Food Girl In Town experienced THE REAL DEAL during her month in Turkey
Nicoletta and Loreto at Sugar Love Spices Swiss Chard & Feta Turkish Gozleme