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
One day we went to Maui and we never really came back. Our bodies are located in Calgary but our minds (and spirits) reside beside the ocean watching the sun go down as palms sway in the breeze. The funny thing is Maui would never have entered my mind as a travel destination but our son (and daughter-in-law) insisted they needed to be married on a beach at sunset. I always say that ‘mother knows best’ (because I’m a mom, duh) but in this case my son was wise beyond his years. I fell in love with Maui…hard.
Photo by Cole Hofstra
For the last two months I’ve been wearing my Maui gear; cool swirly skirts, palm tree print blouses, khakis, and beach sandals as the weather allows it…and it does because, damn…this summer is a scorcher! The only souvenirs I brought home from our trip were a new daughter and a two-face Tiki mug. I had no reason for buying it other than I thought it was a kitschy throwback to some really wild island days and because it seemed like a ‘proper’ souvenir one would bring back from Hawaii. He sat on our shelf for a few weeks before I started to crave rum. Now, if you knew me at all, you would know that I’ve never really cared for rum. Let’s just say I had a few run-ins with my parent’s liquor cabinet back in the day and rum (especially white rum) could always ‘be replaced’, if you catch my drift. Mr Tiki mug was sending Tiki vibes and I was receiving. One Thursday night I just looked at my hubby and said, “Hey, do you want to make some Tiki cocktails?” TBH I have NEVER seen him jump off the couch that quickly and within minutes I had him zesting and juicing a bag of limes. I think this is where our lines got crossed though, because he seemed to think we were just going to make a cocktail and that was it. What I really meant was, “Hey, do you want to join me on a new life path where we become obsessed with everything Tiki?” Because that’s what it is, it’s an OBSESSION. We began by making simple syrup and velvet falernum which is an infusion of limes, almonds, fresh ginger, lime zest, sugar, cloves, and rum (!). Then I began making orgeat syrup, which is a multi-day process similar to making almond or any other nut milk but requires multiple soaking/massaging cycles. Yes, I massaged nuts. It soon became apparent to hubby that he wasn’t getting a damn cocktail that night and he was bitterly disappointed. I realized I was losing my partner in crime and allowed him to break from script and make himself a Moscow Mule. He was momentarily appeased.
When the orgeat and velvet falernum were ready, we set upon our Tiki adventure together. What we didn’t realize is that (Holy Hell) there are so many kinds of rums. We couldn’t really make too many drinks from our tiki cocktail book because we weren’t very well stocked with rum varieties. As with all hobbies, one must invest a little money in order to delve further into the depths of madness. So, we bought rum (s); Gold Rum, Aged Rum, Demerara Rum, Dark Rum, White Rum, Spiced Rum, Rhum Agricole, and Coconut Rum. Pretty much the only rum we don’t have is over proof rum because I am still looking for it. It’s a good think we already have a pretty well stocked liquor cabinet so we had some nifty extras such as Amaretto, Cointreau, King’s Ginger, Absinthe, and Green Chartreuse to use as added flavours to our cocktails. It was enough to delve deeper into some serious tiki cocktails, anyway. Other tiki essentials are fresh squeezed citrus juices, some bitters, and you can never EVER forget the garnish. Sometimes the garnish includes a flashy stir stick, crazy straw, or parasol but you can get pretty creative with just fruit.One of the cocktails in our tiki book really caught my eye because it has a hollowed out lime half filled with green chartreuse as a garnish. The green chartreuse is lit on fire and allowed to burn for a few seconds before being tipped into the cocktail. Who wouldn’t want to try a flashy cocktail like that? The cocktail I created for Connecting Over Cocktails (a blogger cocktail creative extravaganza) uses this same garnish, some rum (okay a lot of rum), my home made blueberry jelly, velvet falernum, lime juice, white rum, and demerara rum. It’s called The Friday Flame.
If you would like to make your own velvet falernum (and you should, it’s not difficult) here is the recipe from Tiki Cocktails: 200 Super Summery Drinks by David Adams.
Makes 750 ml
Mixture will keep in fridge for up to one month.
I’m pleased as Rum Punch to be a part of Connecting Over Cocktails with some very amazing and talented bloggers…this month our theme is fresh, seasonal summer fruit! Check out the other great fruity boozy concoctions from the other participating bloggers:
Sean Bromilow at Diversivore Currant Gin & Tonic with Maraschino Liqueur
Justine at Justine Celina Watermelon Frosé Cocktails
Dana at Killing Thyme Blueberry Lemon Vodka Fizz
Jen from Mud on Her Boots Honeyed Black Currant Cordial
Samantha at My Kitchen Love Spiked Peach Iced Tea
Jessica at Cooking in My Genes Cherry Bourbon Lemonade Smash
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (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
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.
Shrimp Salad Rolls
Hoisin Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce
Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix well. Add chili sauce (or chili flakes) to taste.
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
(page 169; Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi)
For the Tomato Sauce
(Page 99 in Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi)
(Page 39; Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi)
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!
For the sautéed greens: 3 cups chopped fresh dandelion greens, avocado oil, fresh lime juice, salt, cilantro
*Dandelion nutritional information from Food Facts presented by Mercola
*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.
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.
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
Add all ingredients to a small pot. Heat until mixture maintains a slight simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes. Strain.
(adapted from A Soulful Appetite)
(From Daring Gourmet)
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 Tourtiere, farlouche (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 grand–mère, 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!
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.