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.
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.
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.
OR yes, you can use fish from a can. I recommend you purchase the best canned salmon as possible.
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.
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.
Brazilian Food page 44-45 (by Thiago Castanho) serves 4
Arroz Branco – Brazilian Style White Rice (page 94)
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!
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/
I tried to pretend I was a winter-loving Canadian for years. I skated on frozen ponds, strapped on cross country skis and forged my own path through the prairie fields out behind our home, I even own a set of downhill skis and boots. The magical transformation never happened for me. I prefer heat over windchill and being cozy over frozen toes. The world sees Canadians as winter lovers, with warm maple syrup running through our veins and a pet beaver…and while I have friends that do ‘the Canadian thing’ (minus the pet beaver), I’m much more likely to embrace the concept of Danish ‘hygge’ (pronounced ‘hooga’). Getting cozy under a blanket with my dachshunds, a book, and some tea or local beer is my best weapon against the long, dark, and cold winter months. It’s my Canadian ‘survival mode’.
As the days grow longer and the average temperature climbs ever upward, I am wont to shed my woolies, plant the garden, transform all the freshness into deliciousness and EXPERIENCE the growth and wonder. We have three months of summer ahead of us now and there’s no looking back; only ahead to the experiences that make you happy and fulfilled. Hygge can happen during any season, because it’s a state of mind…of being one with the comfort of your surroundings. It’s the feeling that you are really where you need to be at that one moment in time.
It’s quite astonishing that one of the most hygge things I did in 2016, turned out not to occur during winter months but in August of 2016. Our summer was busy, so busy that we really only had one opportunity to drag out the tent trailer for the weekend. Getting everything ready, travelling, and setting up camp is NOT hygge, but the act of camping itself is most definitely hygge to me. When we were invited to take part in ‘Rootstock‘, the lure of camping in a sunny field and experiencing the bounty of our land through the hard work of local farmers, artisans, and producers was too amazing to pass up. There’s nothing more hygge than sitting round a table, discussing the big and small things in life with friends and family.
In Alberta, the discussion of sustainable agriculture and agricultural awareness has become more and more immediate. We must become more aware of how our food is grown and produced, we must support viable local food systems in order to keep agriculture sustainable for generations to come. Food Water Wellness is working with Alberta Rural Development in the creation of an online learning and information sharing portal entitled, We All Grow. We All Grow aims to facilitate dialogue between farmers, provide information to new and experienced farmers, and inspire connections between consumers and farmers.
Rootstock 2016, was a country style celebration of small scale agriculture and artistans which took place at Fallen Timber Meadery in Water Valley, Alberta. There was an open air market, filled with a wide variety of local products and friendly producers who were more than happy to chat about farm life, chocolate making, coffee roasting, or distilling. It was a great way to get to know the people who provided our sustenance for the weekend. During the open air market, we enjoyed delicious appetizers from Bear and the Flower Farm, Redtail Farms, and Hoven Farms; all food was prepared onsite by Dave Cousineau (executive chef of The Bison; Banff), Barb Thomas (Love2Eat) with desserts by Michael Tilley (Rouge). We didn’t go thirsty either, with drinks provided by Fallen Timber Meadery, Eau Claire Distillery, Calgary Heritage Roasting Company, Village Brewery, and Banded Peak Brewing.
Hoven Farms Beef Paté w Sea Buckthorn; Watermelon and Redtail Farms Prosciutto;
Bear and the Flower Pork Hock w Fallen Timber Honey Wine Jelly Crostini
When dinner was announced, we entered a magical tent filled with long communal-style tables and hay bale benches. The tables were covered with white linens set with mis-matched fine china and glass jars to emphasize the ‘country-chic’ style. Large vases of colourful locally grown flowers appeared sporadically on the tables, interspersed with candles. The effect was breathtaking.
Soon, all the work from the kitchen was about to be delivered to our tables, and we were ready to enjoy the fruits of our Alberta farmer’s and producer’s labour. Dinner began with an outstanding salad with fresh greens from Willow Brush Ranch and Country Thyme Farm, cold pressed canola oil from Highwood Crossing, Shirley’s Greenhouse tomatoes, and fresh feta from SweetMeadow Farmstead Cheese.After we had eaten our salads, the mains were brought in on long planks. It was the most impressive food delivery method I’ve seen and it caused quite a stir among the hungry guests. Imagine a six foot by one foot plank filled with Portuguese Grilled Chicken, Braised Pork Shoulder, Spice Rubbed Smoked Sirloin Roast, Braised Beef Short Ribs with sides of local Madras-Spiced Potatoes, Zucchini Gratin, Beets with yoghurt and mint, Beans with Garlic Scapes and Maple Syrup, and Grilled fresh Baby Corn.
Eagle Creek Farms, Country Thyme Farms, Blue Mountain Biodynamic, Kohut Farms
Dessert was brought in on smaller planks, but it was as stunning as the mains. We were blown away by the Strawberry Vanilla Panna Cottas featuring Ryan’s Honey foam, chocolate crumb, rhubarb coulis & lemon balm. Also scattered along the dessert board were locally made chocolates by Anne Selmer (Cochu Chocolatier), some of which featured Eau Claire Distillery spirits, Ryan’s Honey, Fallentimber Mead, Calgary Heritage Roasting Company coffee, or bacon from Bear and the Flower Farm.
With dinner done, we had great cause for dancing! The stars twinkled outside, while inside we were treated to lively melodies and harmonious singing by Folk Road Show, Gabrielle Papillon, and the headlining act, Reuben and the Dark. There really wasn’t a sad soul in the tent, as everyone was fully in tune with whatever direction the night would take us.
Reuben and the Dark
We danced late into the night until we finally grew tired and sent ourselves back up the hill to tent trailer. On the way up, we were distracted by the beauty of the wide open sky above and decided to end our night with some stargazing. Laying there on the ground, we became aware of the connection between ourselves, the land, and the sky while the vibrations of the far away music connected us to the present moment. Our perfect state of hygge seemed to last forever as we lay there, not wanting to leave until the last meteor streaked across the sky and the sun rose above the horizon.
If you are interested in learning more about Food Water Wellness, the Farmers, Producers, and Chefs involved in Rootstock 2017, head to the Food Water Wellness website. To purchase tickets for ROOTSTOCK 2017 click HERE
Sometimes, I think in order to be successful, you have to recognize your faults. Once they are clearly identified you can start to formulate a plan for self improvement. You have to dig deep, think hard, and with all sorts of blood, sweat, and tears you CAN come up with the goods to succeed. Are you worried yet? Didn’t you just come here for the wings?Have no fear, this post about Gochujang Wings isn’t going to get too deep or reverential…I just want to let you all know that I have identified a clear FAULT within my blog and that fault is I had no damn recipe for WINGS!! I’m here to improve your day, your weekend, and yes…your superbowl party with these amazing sweet, spicy, and highly addictive Maple Gochujang Wings. They aren’t that difficult to make and they’re much better for you than the frozen pre-made kind. Oh yeah, and they are definitely teenager approved because on the day I was testing this recipe, teenagers magically appeared from their hiding spot in the basement for a full on wing eating frenzy. After the lip smacking, bone sucking, caveman grunting was done…I even got a ‘thank you’!
It’s the end of the month and that means I’m up to my eyeballs in photo editing and post writing. Several blog challenges are due and as usual, I’ve left a couple of them until the last minute. I’ve enjoyed cooking the recipes and photographing the results, but the writing maybe just takes a bit more of an effort. It doesn’t always come naturally so you can always tell when I’m forcing a blog post.
Fortunately I don’t have to force anything with this post about the ‘Around the World in Twelve Plates’ challenge by Gabby of The Food Girl in Town. This blogger is no stranger to blog challenges having cooked every cover recipe from Food and Wine magazine back in 2013. I like blog challenges because they make me feel accountable and because they force me to cook dishes that I wouldn’t otherwise consider. Gabby says she enjoys them because she “learned new cooking skills, acquired some awesome kitchen gadgets, and stocked my spice cupboard like a baller”. Ditto lady…ditto! One look at the recipes available on my blog and you will notice that A) I bake a lot BUT more importantly B) I love to cook dishes from other countries. That’s what makes this sort of a challenge extra fun for me.
So what is the Around the World in Twelve Plates Challenge (ATW12P for short)? Each month we cook a meal or dish from a country of Gabby’s choosing. Since this challenge is designed to stretch our abilities, tummies, and pantry shelves she has taken Italian, French, and Indian off the list of possible cuisines. Well, that still leaves literally a whole world of possibilities and this month our cooking challenge country is CHINA. I’m not talking about Ginger Beef (did you know this dish was invented in Calgary?) or any kind of ‘Americanized’ version of Chinese take out dishes. No more Moo Goo Gai Pan or Almond Gai Ding…only an authentic dish is acceptable for this challenge. Remember, we want to stretch our limits here!
I happen to own a brilliant Chinese cookbook from Kian Lam Kho called Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees. Kian wrote this cookbook specifically for people like me who may not have had a lot of exposure to authentic Chinese cooking. He included a brilliant section on pantry basics and tools, chapters on different techniques, and explains all the regions of Chinese cooking. If you are wanting to learn more about this cuisine (and even if you know quite a bit about Chinese cooking), I highly recommend this cookbook. I don’t own a properly seasoned wok, so I chose the low and slow method of braising for my ATW12P challenge. While the Red Cooking Technique can be applied to almost any protein, I used this slow braise method with stew beef. The combined aromas from the star anise, cinnamon bark, dried orange peel, Sichuan peppercorns, and fennel seeds were driving us crazy all afternoon but the end result was worth it!
The Food Girl in Town: http://thefoodgirlintown.com/2017/01/31/around-the-world-in-12-plates-china/
(from Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees by Kian Lam Kho; page 196)
I heard recently that soup swaps are the new cookie swaps. While I am unsure that soup will EVER replace cookies, swapping soup among friends is a great way to have a handy lunch in the freezer for those days when you are feeling under the weather or just plain lazy. I usually fall into the latter category and I really have to admit to you all that I absolutely hate making lunch. For me, it’s the worst meal of the day because it has to be small, yet satisfying and most of the time when I cook, I like to go big. Since I work from home, it’s easy to look up from my keyboard and notice that it’s 2 pm and I haven’t eaten any lunch, or worse yet…anything at all and suddenly I am starving! Usually I end up making scrambled eggs and toast because it’s easy and filling and I refuse to have canned soup in the pantry. Now that I’ve done my first soup exchange, my freezer is stocked and there are no excuses.
The soup that I made for our Bite Club exchange took very little time to make since I had some leftover Pork Carnitas in the fridge. This is a quick, meaty and warming soup for those very cold days when you wish you were on a sunny beach somewhere. Since I was making it for an exchange, I didn’t add any spice to it but I think you could add some chili flakes or float a cut chili in the soup as it’s cooking. Alternatively, add some hot sauce just before you eat it for that extra kick.
Here are some tips on hosting/participating in a soup swap.
For the soup… (makes 6 litres)
Along with my dish today I’m excited to be sharing delicious 30 minute meal recipes from fellow Canadian blogger friends under the hashtag #CANRecipe. Tried and tasted food straight from our kitchens.
Salmon and Papaya Lettuce Wraps @ Everyday Allergen Free
Easy Coconut Curry @ Maple and Marigold
Big Salad & Avocado Dressing @ Allergy Girl Eats
Lemon Chicken Soup Orzo @ Mommydo
Kid’s Vegetarian Chili @ Off The Porch
With the beginning of a new year, there have been a slew of new challenges proposed by various foodbloggers. A few of them have caught my eye, including one from Dana Sandonato (Killing Thyme) entitled ‘Recipe Nod’. Recipe Nod is a monthly challenge which involves cooking a recipe developed from an another (assigned) blogger and then featuring it on your blog. Quite a few of us from Food Bloggers of Canada have signed up and I’m anxious to see how everyone does with this challenge.
My assigned blogger was Chef Heidi Fink who has been teaching cooking classes in Victoria, BC since 1999. She has worked as Executive Chef at ReBar Modern Food and currently is an instructional assistant in the Professional Cook Program of Camosun College. I don’t know where she finds the time to write a blog, but it’s filled with inspiring recipes for a wide range of cuisines. Almost immediately, I knew which recipe I wanted to recreate in my own kitchen. The bright contrast of green in yellow of her Methi Murgh lured me in for good! I had actually been wanting to cook this dish for quite a while, but had never found a recipe that I was willing to try.
Chef Heidi’s recipe seemed approachable so I set out to find some fresh fenugreek/methi. You can make this dish with dried methi, but I really wanted to try it using fresh for the first time. I was a tad bit worried that it was a bit too early to be looking for this pungent spring leafy vegetable/herb and in the end, I had to make a trip up to the far north east area of Calgary. I began at my favourite Middle Eastern market, Basha International Foods, and came up empty handed. I was a little worried that if they didn’t have it, it would be impossible to find! On a side note here, I was texting my Indian friend Lin all during the ‘Great Methi hunt’ and she was very concerned that I wanted to cook this dish. She never told me why outright (though she did tell me I would need a seat to myself on the bus), but eventually I came to realize what she was getting on about.
Back to the hunt. Dejected, I decided to search one more nearby place for the methi; Superstore. You would think that as a chain, Superstores would all carry similar items, but no. Our Superstores in the South East of the city were all ‘fresh out’ of methi, which I took to mean that none of them ever carry it because of how demographics work in our city. As I walked in to the Sunridge Superstore, I was astonished to find the very first produce display ten feet from the door held a huge, fragrant pile of fresh green methi. The first thing I did was laugh out loud, then I proceeded to bury my nose in the pile and breathe deeply. It’s a wonder I didn’t get kicked out right then! I picked two bunches and went through the ‘express’ line. That’s a story for another day.The recipe is pretty straight forward, though I did have some trouble because I halved the recipe. I don’t have a really good blender so I attempted to make the ginger/garlic paste in my food processor. The amount was too small and it would not blend together, even in the smaller bowl. I gave up and threw everything into a mortar, where I pulverised it with a pestle. It was the same situation with the methi/cilantro mixture. If you don’t have a high end blender or something that will successfully blend a small amount (with little moisture), the old mortar and pestle is the way to go. Plus, it’s more traditional.
Eventually, the ingredients came together quite nicely and the whole house began to fill with the aromas of the dish. Actually, that’s putting it quite mildly…the whole house began to SMELL. I quickly ran around, shutting all the bedroom doors and put away the last of the laundry to keep it fresh. I texted Lin and she just LAUGHED at me while she explained that in India, this is one of many dishes that are cooked with the windows open. Unfortunately, this was not possible here in Canada during the dead of winter, so I think the next time I cook this dish it will be summer. I will cook this dish again, because we all enjoyed it quite a bit, but we do have some boundaries. Eventually, after a couple of days either we got used to the smell, or I ended up drowning it out by making a batch of Seville Orange Marmalade. I’m not sure which one it was but I can’t smell it any more.
A recipe by Chef Heidi Fink based upon a recipe from the cookbook A Taste of India by Madhur Jaffrey.
It’s very difficult for me to follow a recipe exactly how it was written but I really wanted to recreate Chef Heidi’s recipe as closely as possible. The only real change I made was to reduce the peppers to one from the original three. Since my jalapeno had quite a bit of heat, I was very happy with the amount of spice in the final dish after this adjustment.