Category Archives: Food

The Pulled Pork

The arrangement for our stay in the country cottage was that each family unit would cook at least one meal. For my designated meal I decided to try pulled pork on the barbecue. I’ve done it once before back in Beaconsfield, but the pork didn’t “pull” as easily as I would’ve liked so this was my chance to get it right.

The day before we headed North, I went to Atwater market where a very nice butcher man cut me a 3.5kg chunk of pork shoulder with the bone in. He explained to me where the bones were and how they would come out and gave me a rough cooking time (minimum 7 hours, best with 12). I took the meat home, rubbed it with a dry rub of paprika, black pepper, mustard powder and sugar, wrapped it in a plastic bag and put it in the fridge.

Pulled pork is great on it’s own, but for the perfect experience it needs a bit of sauce. Into a saucepan I threw some chicken stock, some apple cider vinegar, some molasses, a couple of minced dates, a minced garlic clove, some chopped tomatoes and salt and pepper. After bringing it to the boil I let it simmer until it reduced by about half then poured it into a mason jar ready for transport.

We headed up to the country with the pork in a cooler, which went straight into the fridge when we got there. I needed the meat to be at room temperature when it went on the barbecue so I got up ridiculously early the next morning (about 5:30), took the meat out, gave it another rub with the dry rub and left it to acclimatize while I went back to bed. Two hours later I was up again, lighting one side of the barbecue, getting it up to about 250F, putting the pork no the unlit side and closing the lid.

Apart from occasionally checking the temperature, I didn’t touch it for the rest of the day. The meat started cooking at 8am, so if we wanted to eat at a reasonable time I wasn’t going to be able to go for the full 12 hours but I decided to try for 10. In Beaconsfield I had cooked it for 7 hours, which definitely wasn’t enough.

At 6pm I took the meat off the barbecue and let it rest while I cooked some potatoes and heated up the sauce. At 6:30 came the moment of truth, as I started pulling the pork. It fell apart almost perfectly; another hour or two would’ve cooked it to perfection, but it was 95% there.

As I pulled off pieces, I threw them into the sauce until I had a saucepan full of sauced up meat which I took straight to the table with some mashed potatoes and one of my mother-in-law’s superior salads. Everyone tucked in, including the vegetarian, and most people had seconds, so I think it was a success.

The Wedding

On Saturday we attended my brother-in-law’s wedding. This involved me dressing in a suit and tie and entering a church, so for a while there was a serious risk of an improbability explosion of massive proportions. Luckily that was avoided and the event proceeded without a hitch, apart from Aidan talking through the first part of the ceremony before I took him outside.

We had an umbrella with us because rain was forecast, and indeed it was raining when I stepped outside. Aidan refused to let go of the umbrella so I spent the next 30 minutes crouched at small boy height so I could stay dry. Finally we were called back inside for photos with “the princess”, as Aidan had named the bride.

By the time we got outside again I was hot and bothered by the rain and the suit and the church and the disobedient boy, so we went home to change into something more comfortable for the reception. I threw on a less stiff shirt and some casual trousers and we headed out again.

The reception was in an art gallery which was a very cool space, my idea of an ideal apartment. When we arrived, a jazz trio were playing their piano, saxophone and double bass and Aidan was instantly mesmerised. He was still clutching the precious umbrella which he started to strum while he gazed trance-like at the musicians. Most of the meal was spent taking turns with Jen to watch Aidan, who couldn’t be pulled away from the musicians, and eat.

The food was excellent, starting with a melted goat cheese, courgette and tomato concoction including a tiny blob of an incredibly flavourful balsamic reduction. My main course was an anonymous white fish with an unusual texture and delicious taste with a selection of perfectly cooked vegetables. Dessert was fresh strawberries and pears with cheese, and favours of belgian chocolates hand-made by the bride, who happens to be a chef.

Meanwhile, Aidan was desperate to play the piano. I kept telling him he had to ask the man, and he kept getting closer and closer to the man until finally he gathered up the courage to ask the question. The man said no. I can’t really blame him, he was a hired musician playing someone elses piano in someone elses venue at someone elses wedding and he obviously didn’t feel it was his place to make that kind of decision. So we went and asked the groom instead, and he said yes. Aidan spent the next 10 minutes in kiddie heaven gently playing the same two or three piano keys until the proprietor told us we had to stop because she’d had a complaint. Bah, humbug.

Shortly after that though, the dancing started, which was something new and exciting for the boy. We took him onto the dance floor where he stayed for the rest of the night, resisting any attempt at removal until we finally dragged him off at 11pm to take him home to bed.

The Dinner Party

On Saturday night we had 5.5 friends over for dinner. They arrived at around 6:30 but preparations started a few hours earlier.

I leapt (well ok, crawled) out of bed at around 8, grabbed some tea and cereal then headed out to Atwater market for a big pile of veggies and a big hunk of pork shoulder. Sadly it’s almost impossible to get a piece of pork with the skin on around here, but at least it was still on the bone.

Back at home at 10:30 I chucked a bunch of chopped up fennel, carrots and onions in a roasting pan and sat the meat on top of it. Then I rubbed some bashed up fennel seeds and paprika into the meat and put it in the oven on max for 20 minutes before turning it down to 250. There it stayed for the following nine hours.

After a quick lunch of a bacon sandwich I fried up some celery and onions, added some peeled and chopped sweet potatoes and a mix of cumin, coriandor, cardomom, cinnamon and cloves followed a few minutes later by a pint of stock. After 40 minutes of simmering I whizzed it up with my oh so handy hand blender and left it, ready for the coconut milk to be added at the last minute.

The afternoon was spent helping Jen clean the apartment before launching into veggie preparation. I peeled and cubed a few potatoes, four beets and a large onion, halved a few carrots, chopped up a cauliflower and snapped a bunch of asparagus. The potatoes got oil and rosemary treatment. The beets got oil and balsamic treatment. The onion was left naked. The carrots got some oil and the tops of the fennel bulbs. The cauliflower got oil, cumin and coriander and the asparagus just got some oil.

The guests arrived, with wine, the Amazing Race DVD game, bread, smoked salmon and cheese sticks. Drinks were served, despite our oversight of forgetting to buy soft drinks. Everyone got drinks, including the meat which was treated to a bottle of white wine for the final hour of cooking.

Now was the time to add the coconut milk to the soup, heat it up and serve it. It tasted good, but could’ve done with a tad more spice. Luckily Kim had brought bread, because we forgot to get that too.

As the meat came out of the oven, the veggies went in. I transferred the meat to a board and mashed up the veggies it had been sitting on in the pan with the wine and meat juices and a bit of flour to make a sauce.

Everything came to the table at around the right time. The meat could’ve done with another hour or two but it still tasted great. The veggies were also a tiny bit underdone, but lets just call them al dente.

Good wine, good conversation, cake, and a slightly confusing game of the Amazing Race complete with a surrogate Phil finished off the evening nicely.

The Race Ritual

Ridiculing the contestants of the Amazing Race is a lot more fun if you can do it with a group of people, so we’ve started inviting friends over on Sunday nights to enjoy the spectacle of dysfunctional couples taking on bizarre challenges around the world.

For the first episode we ordered pizza and drunk beer and ate maple chocolate buns that she brought.

For episode two I decided I felt like cooking, so I cracked open one of my Jamie Olivers and went to work.

For the main course I seasoned some pork tenderloins, sprinkled them with fennel seeds, browned them, put them in a roasting pan with a sliced up fennel bulb, a handful of rosemary, 8 garlic cloves and half a bottle of white wine. Loosely covered with foil and bunged in a hot oven for an hour.

To go along with that, I boiled some potatoes and peas and mushed them together with a handful of mint leaves to make minty mushy peas.

For dessert we had cream puffs kindly provided by her followed by sliced up pineapple sprinked with sugar bashed up with the leftover mint leaves.

We ate, we drank, we enjoyed a fire, and we laughed at those crazy Racers.

Who is Jeremy Cooperstock?

Jeremy Cooperstock is a very clever man. According to his resume he is:

an associate professor in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, a member of the Centre for Intelligent Machines, and a founding member of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology at McGill University. He directs the Shared Reality Lab and leads the technical development of the Ultra-Videoconferencing system, for which he was recognized by an award for Most Innovative Use of New Technology from ACM/IEEE Supercomputing and a Distinction Award from the Audio Engineering Society. Cooperstock’s past accomplishments include the Intelligent Classroom, the world’s first Internet streaming demonstrations of Dolby Digital 5.1, uncompressed 12-channel 96kHz/24bit, multichannel DSD audio, and three simultaenous streams of uncompressed high-definition video. Cooperstock is a member of the ACM and chairs the AES Technical Committee on Network Audio Systems.

Wow. Impressive stuff, and it all sounds very exciting, but none of the above is why I like Jeremy Cooperstock. The reason he has earned a place on my prestigious blog is that he publishes “Jeremy and Vinita’s Montreal Restaurant Guide“, an honest, humorous and very useful look at the Montreal restaurant scene. It’s the first place I go to when I want to find out about a particular restaurant, or I’m looking for somewhere new to try.

I only have one request of Mr Cooperstock, if he happens to read this. Please, please add a last updated date so we can see how fresh the information is…

Ribs

BBQ season is upon us, so I decided it was time for some ribs at the weekend. As Blork mentioned a while ago, there are many techniques and “secret” recipes for the perfect BBQ ribs, but the generally accepted method is to cook them for a long time at a low temperature.

Of course, before you cook them you need to tenderize and flavour them a bit. I did that with a dry rub mix of paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper, thyme, oregano and salt and pepper, rubbed into the meat the night before cooking.

The next day I took the ribs out of the fridge to come up to room temperature, then prepared the BBQ. I had some hickory chips left from when I made pulled pork last year so I threw them in an old tin with holes in and put them over the heat.

When the BBQ was stable at 300 degrees F. I put the ribs in on the side with the burner off and quickly closed the lid. 300 is a little hotter than I would like, but I only had a 3 hour cooking window. If I had the time I would do them at 200 for 5 hours.

I made a quick mopping sauce with apple cider vinegar, olive oil, water and pepper. You can add other flavourings if you like but I decided to let the rub do most of the flavouring. I mopped the ribs every 30 minutes.

After three hours the ribs were tender and delicious, but not quite falling off the bone. Slower and longer would’ve fixed that. I made a quick potato salad and a green salad to go with them. I’m having the leftovers for lunch today.

The Greco birthday party

At the weekend we had P&J and J&K and K over for a small and belated celebration of Jen’s birthday. The plan had been for Jen’s Mum to be there too, but she ran off to Vancouver, something to do with some baby being born or something.

Jen’s Mum is the master salad creator, and the plan was for her to bring a big Greek salad for the occasion. In her absence I took on the job of creating a Greek salad, and used that as an inspiration for the rest of the food.

The classic Greek salad is a combination of rustically chopped tomatoes, cucumber and green pepper tossed with kalamata olives, salt, pepper, oregano and olive oil with feta cheese crumbled over the top. That’s exactly what I did.

I also cubed some pork tenderloin, skewered it and marinated it in olive oil, oregano and salt and pepper for a few hours before throwing it on the bbq. The kebabs were served with pita breads, tzatziki, and sliced red onion.

To accompany the salad and kebabs, I picked up some taramosalata, some crusty bread and a few spanakopitas. There was too much food, but that’s the way a Greek meal is supposed to be, right?

We finished the evening with a fun game of 80s Trivial Pursuit which through some stroke of luck the girls won, and carrot cake fetched from our old favourite the Homestyle Bakery (hey, the owner’s Greek!).

Opa!

Valentine and Pasta

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. If that causes surprise, you’re either single or in big trouble.

I dashed to the florist on the way home, dashing past Blork in Place Ville-Marie, who was dashing in the opposite direction carrying his own bouquet of flowers. The florist was manic, but I finally managed to get a dozen tulips (Jen’s favourite) and headed home with flowers in one hand and President’s Choice Tiramisu (also one of Jen’s favourites) in the other.

At home I presented the flowers to Jen along with a card from me and a card from Aidan. In return I got a hug, a card from Aidan and three cards from Jen. After getting Aidan fed and washed and into his pyjamas it was time to prepare dinner while Jen rocked the boy to sleep.

Dinner was going to be pasta with smoked salmon (yet another favourite of Jen’s) and asparagus. Here’s my recipe:

Snap the asparagus and put it in a hot oven on a baking tray. Put a large pot of water on to boil and a frying pan to heat up. Chop an onion and some celery and fry them until they start to soften. Put the pasta (I chose linguine) into the boiling water. Add some capers to the celery and onion and continue to fry. Chop up the smoked salmon and a bunch of dill. When the pasta is almost done, add the asparagus, salmon and dill to the frying pan along with a few dollops of yoghurt or cream; mix well. Drain the pasta and toss with everything else. Serve with fresh italian bread and a good red wine.

The rest of the evening was spent watching TV, because we’re sad like that and we don’t care.

Leftover Turkey Hash

What do you do when you have five hungry people to feed and a half-eaten turkey carcass in the fridge? Chili turkey hash of course:

Pick all the turkey off the carcass and chop or shred.

Chop an onion or two.

Peel, chop and parboil some potatoes and sweet potatoes.

Fry the onion in some oil in a big skillet. Add the potatoes.

When everything starts to brown, add the turkey.

Throw in any other leftovers you find in the fridge (we had mash, red cabbage and turnip left over from 2nd xmas dinner).

Add your desired amount of your favourite chili seasoning.

Mix and fry well then squish down to make a hash cake. Let it cook until the underside is well browned.

Impress your friends or family with a daring flip to brown the other side. Be prepared for this to go horribly wrong.

Paprika Chicken

Thanks to some specials a the local supermarket, we have a lot of chicken in the freezer.

When time is short and some thawed chicken is in desperate need of cooking, I turn to one of the easiest recipes, Paprika Chicken.

Not only is it very easy, it’s also very forgiving. You can add the ingredients in almost any order and it will turn out ok.

Here’s how I did it last night:

Chopped two onions roughly and sauteed until soft.
Chopped four chicken breasts into bite size pieces and browned.
Added a chopped sweet potato (sweet potato? In Paprika Chicken? Sure, why not?).
Added a small/large pile of paprika and flour to the mix, sieving to reduce risk of lumps.
Add a couple of wine glasses of water.
Bring to a boil and simmer for a while (I had to get Aidan to sleep at this point so it simmered for about an hour).
Stir in some plain yoghurt (it’s supposed to be sour cream but we didn’t have any) and warm through without boiling.
Serve with rice or noodles or potatoes or gnocci or whatever other starchiness you feel like (I found some rice and macaroni remnants in the cupboard and used them both).

How much paprika you put in is up to you, but it should result in a sauce that is orange to deep red in colour. When I’ve made it before I’ve dredged the chicken in the paprika/flour mix before browning, which works just as well.

For proper authentic Paprika Chicken you should use a whole chicken cut into pieces, keeping all the bones in, but it’s easier to cook and eat in a hurry with boneless chicken breasts.

Now, what should I do with the other multitude of chicken breasts sitting in the freezer?

Chicken and Leek Pie

I made chicken and leek pie at the weekend. Having Aidan around means I don’t have as much time to cook as I used to, so I cheated a bit by buying frozen pie dough. I felt guilty for all of about 30 seconds.

Chop up a couple of rashers of bacon and fry in a big pot until all the fat is rendered.

Throw in some cubed chicken, about 3 handfuls or so and brown off for a few minutes.

Chop and wash three leeks and add them to the pot, fry for a few more minutes.

Add some chopped mushrooms, a glob of wholegrain mustard, a squeeze of honey, a dollop of plain yoghurt and a pint of some kind of stock (I actually used an old leek soup sachet I found in the cupboard).

Simmer for a while (30 minutes to an hour), season if necessary, thicken with some flour if necessary (I didn’t need to because the leek soup had seasoning and a thickening agent), and pour into a baking dish of suitable size.

Cover with pastry, make it pretty however you like then bake in the oven until the pastry is golden brown and delicious looking.

It was a big hit with everyone, including Aidan.

Rhubarb Rhubarb

My Sister-in-law-in-law asked me for my rhubarb crumble recipe. I figure if I’m sharing I may as well share it with everyone. If you’ve seen any of my other recipes you’ll know I’m not very precise with quantities. This one will be even worse, as crumble is very forgiving so I usually don’t even bother measuring.

For the filling, chop your rhubarb into inch long pieces and throw into a saucepan with some brown sugar (how much depends on how tart you like your filling), cinnamon, and ginger if you’re feeling in a gingery mood.

If your rhubarb plant is small and pathetic like ours you might need to add some other fruit to make enough filling for your dish. I’ve tried it with apples and blueberries, both work well. Cook the mixture on medium for about 15 minutes or until the rhubarb is starting to go soft but not disintegrating. Pour it into your crumble dish.

For the topping, take some self-raising flour (about 2 cups?) and cut in enough butter to make a moist biscuit crumb texture. Add more butter if you’re feeling decadent. Stir in some brown sugar. The ratio of flour-sugar-butter is probably about 3-1-1. Add some oats if you’re into that kind of thing (I usually don’t). Spread the topping out over the filling, being careful not to push it down.

Cook in a 325F oven for about 30-40 minutes or until the topping goes golden brown. Serve with custard or ice cream.

Weekend Baking

Did a bit of baking yesterday so Tyler and Cara would have something to eat when they came over to play euchre. I had some pumpkin mix leftover from last time I made pumpkin pie, so I defrosted it and used it in:

Chocolate chip cookies: Flour, butter, pumpkin mix, an egg, chocolate chips, vanilla, brown sugar. Mixed together, loosened up with some milk, dropped by the tablespoonful onto a baking sheet and baked for 15 minutes.

Pumpkin bread/cake/thing: Flour, pumpkin mix, egg, raisins, butter, milk, grated ginger, grated lemon rind poured into a pie plate and baked for 45 minutes.

Lemon frosting: lemon juice, grated lemon rind, water and sugar heated gently and poured over the cakey thing.

All three were inspired by online recipes but I deviated significantly.

Curry and Schlocky TV

On Saturday night, him, her, him and her came over for dinner. As three of us have lived in Britain for at least part of our lives, I decided to prepare a traditional British meal. That means curry.

Starter was curried sweet potato soup. Onions, celery, red chilis, grated ginger, squished garlic, turmeric, coriander, mustard seeds, fenugreek, sweet potatoes, chicken broth. Cooked and whizzed up in the food processor. A can of coconut milk added at the end. I’ve made this soup quite a few times before, but this time I think I got the spice mix just right; spicy without being overpowering.

Main course was butter chicken. Onions, turmeric, cumin, coriandor, cardomon, grated ginger, squished garlic, cinnamon, chicken, canned tomatoes, ground almonds. Cooked for a while and yoghurt added near the end. Served with basmati rice tossed in a mustard seed and lemon infused oil. Oh and some slaw on the side, courtesy of the McGill Organic Food Co-op. There was also a loaf of spinach bread on the table during the meal, purely for decorative effect.

For dessert I departed from the Indian theme but stayed with the traditional British fare. Apple and blueberry crumble (ok, the blueberries aren’t so traditional, those were my concession to Canadiana). Apples and blueberries briefly cooked with sugar, ginger and cinnamon, topped with a mixture of flour, butter, sugar and maple syrup. Baked in the oven until tinged with brown.

The original plan was to follow dinner with either a movie or some silly games, but for some reason it turned into schlocky TV night. We watched Little Britain, Craft Corner Deathmatch (yes, it is as strange as it sounds), and Holiday Showdown. Oh and a little bit of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to demonstrate high-definitionness.

I think everyone enjoyed themselves, even John, who was still hung over from the night before.

Autumn Stew

To use up the rest of our organic veggies I made a big beef and veggie stew yesterday.

I cubed the beef and browned it really well, leaving lots of crispy bits in the bottom of the pan.

While the beef was browning in batches, I boiled some water to blanch the tomatoes in so they were easy to peel, then peeled them and whizzed them in the food processor.

By then the beef was done and resting. In the same pot I fried some chopped bacon, onion, carrots and cabbage, and added a bit of flour as a thickening agent later on. Once that was all fried up I added the beef back in along with some water and scraped all the crispy goodness off the bottom of the pan.

Then it was in with the whizzed tomatoes along with some garlic, dried thyme, marjoram and pepper. Brought that lot to a boil then covered it and put it in the oven at 300 for about 2 hours.

At the 2 hour point I threw in some cubed sweet potato, potato, and beet, along with some chopped courgette and beans. Then it was back in the oven for another hour, leaving the top off for the last little while.

The stew had a very satisfying deep red colour and a rich beefy taste. The beef was tender and juicy. The sauce was just the right thickness for mopping up with a few slices of fresh olive bread. Delicious!

Recipes from the Garden

Elisabeth and Richard came over for dinner yesterday, after I’d spent the afternoon harvesting the last of the crop in the vegetable patch and weeding it ready for over-winter mulching. I used the crop in the following ways:

Chopped up the skankier looking tomatoes and some of the red chiles, mixed with chopped onion, plum, olive oil and lemon juice for a tasty salsa.

Pulsed up the basil with toasted pine-nuts, grated parmesan and olive oil to make pesto sauce.

Cubed the butternut squash and combined with an equal quantity of browned chicken thighs, some chopped bacon, sliced onion and garlic, red wine, flour paste, canned tomatoes, dried marjoram and salt and pepper. Simmered on the stove for 35 minutes then topped with thinly sliced ciabatta and grated parmesan and baked in the oven for 15 minutes.

Then with stuff not from the garden:

Braised some green beans with onions and mushrooms in red wine.

Boiled some frozen blueberries with sugar and water and dolloped in a batter of flour, brown sugar, butter and milk. Simmered for 25 minutes for blueberry dumplings.

I still have a ton of red chiles left. Any suggestions for using them?

Feeding the Visitors

Jen‘s brother Dan arrived on Thursday with his wife Susan and our one year old nephew Simon. We had a big family meal on Thursday night, for which I cooked:

Potato and Cauliflower curry: onions fried with a spice mix of mustard seeds, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, cayenne pepper and cardomom. Fresh ginger and garlic added, followed by carrots, potatoes and cauliflower. Whizzed up tomatoes added for the liquid.

Naan bread: yeast in warm water added to flour and baking powder with some toasted cumin seeds, made into a stiff dough and kneaded for 10 minutes. Cut into pieces and rolled into Naan shapes, brushed with butter and cooked in a frying pan (in the absence of a brick oven).

Finished off with a delicious carrot cake which Dan fetched from the local bakery.

On Friday we had a bbq for the other side of the family, with marinated chicken and grilled veggies as well as some delicious hungarian style salads provided by Jen’s Dad.

Finished off with a delicious apple crumble pie which Dan fetched from the local bakery.

The rest of the weekend was spent in the country where Richard brined and smoked a chicken for us and Elisabeth hacked up her basil plants to make pesto.

Despite being only one year old, Simon is already sampling much of the same kind of food. I see a celebrity chef in the making.

Sunday cookfest

Yesterday I had a bit of a cooking extravaganza. It started with a bacon and mushroom sandwich. Not exactly high faluting gastronomy, but important to get right. The bacon has to have just the right amount of crispiness; the mushrooms have to be cooked but not mushy; the bread must be heavily buttered and spread with brown sauce.

Later on I started work on a Merseyside Meat Pie: Brown a pound of ground beef and fry in some onion. Add a couple of handfuls of diced potatoes and another couple of handfuls of diced carrots. Add some beef bouillon, some worcestershire sauce and enough liquid to just cover everything. Simmer for 45 minutes. Meanwhile make enough pastry for a 9 inch pie crust, with top. After 45 minutes, add some flour/water mixture to the filling and boil to thicken. Leave to cool. Line your pie plate with the pastry, pile in the cooled filling, put the lid on. Decorate it as you see fit, and do a better job of crimping than I did. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, brushing with egg wash after 30.

While I was doing that I also threw together a batch of spag bol sauce for freezing: browned beef and onion, mushrooms, garlic, canned tomatoes, red wine, oregano, marjoram, thyme, a bay leaf, salt and pepper. Cooked at lowest temperature until it becomes a rich dark sauce (at least 2 hours).

Oh and I had some leftover pastry, and half a jar of mincemeat in the fridge so I made mince pies for dessert. Very Xmassy.

Foodie Weekend

Despite the fact that Jen got sick on Thursday and is still sick, we still managed to have a busy weekend.

On Saturday we had Shatnerian and One Wanton Chickie over for dinner and a movie. We had curried sweet potato soup (onions, celery, sweet potato, curry spices, stock, coconut milk, cilantro) with croutons to start, followed by roasted pork loin with potato cakes and asparagus bundles (an old favourite for new friends).

We finished off the meal with blueberry dumplings: Throw some blueberries into a big saucepan with some sugar, a little water and a pinch of ginger and boil for 5 minutes. Make a stiff batter from white flour, buckwheat flower, brown sugar, a pinch of cinnamon, a tablespoon of butter and some milk. Gloop tablespoonfuls of batter on top of the blueberries then cover and simmer for about 25 minutes.

After dinner we watched Roman Holiday. I’m not a big fan of old movies, but I quite enjoyed it, especially with the MST3K style commentary that sprung up occasionally.

On Sunday we had Richard, Phyllis, Sarah, Clare, Luke and Granny over for a family lunch. We finished off the soup then had a big anti-pasti selection of salami, mortadella, roast pork, provolone, mozarella tossed in olive oil and capers, olives, sundried tomatoes, grilled asparagus and peppers, salad, roasted garlic and lots of bread. For dessert we enjoyed strawberries, ice cream, cookies and Richard’s peach and custard tarts. Quite a feast!

Indian Yumminess

I had some fish in the freezer which was making the freezer smell and upsetting Jen, so I thought I’d better do something with it. I fried up some onions with garlic, ginger, bashed up mustard and cumin seeds, fenugreek, turmeric and salt. Hacked up the fish into bite size pieces and fried it up with the onions. Threw in some chopped up tomatoes and the juice from the can. Simmered for a little while and served my delicious fish curry on a bed of lemon and mustard seed flavoured rice.

Of course, an indian meal isn’t an indian meal without onion bhajis, so I sliced up an onion and mixed it with some grated sweet potato, then made a batter with flour, chili powder, turmeric and salt mixed with water. Deep-frying is a real pain when you don’t own a deep-fryer, so after mixing the batter in with the onion and sweet potato, I put it all in a hot frying pan, spreading it out nice and flat for even cooking. In hindsight I should’ve cooked it in smaller batches because the large pancake type thing I created was hard to turn over, but I managed and got it good and crispy on both sides. Delicious!

Holiday cooking

I did quite a bit of cooking in the week leading up to our big dinner. Here are some of the creations:

Sausage rolls: plain sausage meat mixed with onion and sage, wrapped in cheaters puff pastry (freeze the butter and grate it into the flour, and don’t handle the dough too much). Baked for 30 minutes.

Mince pies: I was too lazy to make the mincemeat, so I made these with cross and blackwell mincemeat, in my own shortcrust pastry. Baked for 30 minutes.

Nanaimo bars: graham cracker crumbs, sugar and coconut base; icing sugar, butter and vanilla middle layer; bittersweet chocolate and butter melted and poured over the top. Chill and cut up into bars.

Sugar cookies: flour, salt, baking soda, butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla essence made an easy to handle dough, which Jen helped me to cut into festive shapes. Baked for 10-12 minutes.

Pumpkin Pie: Shortcrust pastry pie shell, filled with a mixture of pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and condensed milk. Baked for 40 minutes. Topped off with freshly whipped cream.

Stuffing for the turkey: toasted sourdough bread, bosc pears, sage and parsley with a sauteed mix of finely chopped carrot, celery and onion and lots of salt and pepper. That’s it for the vegetarians. For the stuffing that went in the turkey I added cooked sausagemeat.

The 16lb turkey: Stuffed, rubbed with butter, seasoned liberally, draped with bacon. Enclosed in a foil ‘tent’. Put in a very hot oven for 45 minutes, then turned down to 325F for a 5 hour roast. Opened the tent and removed the bacon for the last 30-45 minutes back up at 400F to crisp up the skin.

The gravy: I made stock from the giblets earlier, roasting them for an hour first. Once the turkey was cooked and resting, used some of the turkey fat to make a roux. Added the stock to the roux and stirred forever, got a little panicky when it wasn’t thickening up but a bit of cornstarch sorted that out.

Crab Chowder

I’m eating this fabulous soup right now:

Throw some cubed bacon into a frying pan. Chop up a carrot, an onion and a celery root into small cubes, small enough to be saute-able. Add them to the bacon with a knob of butter and saute for a few more minutes. Add some chicken stock (or a glass of wine if you’re feeling adventurous) to de-glaze the pan. Add some cream (I used whipping cream but you can go lighter if you want). Add a tin of crabmeat, or fresh if you have it. Throw a few chopped up mushrooms in there too (white ones are better to keep the nice clean colour). Cook until everything is heated through, serve with crusty bread. Yum.

Thanksgiving Gastronomy

We had a slightly unconventional Thanksgiving / anniversary celebration meal here yesterday. Elisabeth, Richard and Loula joined us for:

Curried carrot and peppery Broccoli soups: onion, carrots, chicken stock, curry powder, cooked and whizzed in the food processor; onion, broccoli, chicken stock, salt and lots of pepper, cooked and whizzed in the food processor. Both poured into bowls from opposite sides for an attractive green and orange presentation (very Irish sectarian as Elisabeth pointed out).

Roast stuffed pork loin: Half a pork loin (rib end) rubbed generously with a bashed up mixture of fennel seeds, rosemary and salt and stuffed with a mixture of sliced red onion, ripped sage, sliced garlic, pine-nuts and sourdough bread. Roasted for an hour or so.

Sweet potato cakes: Grated sweet potato, grated onion, egg, flour, salt and pepper, formed into cakes and sauteed.

Asparagus bundles: sandwich an anchovy fillet and a rosemary stalk between six asparagus spears, top with a halved baby tomato and tie together with a slice of pancetta. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven for 5-10 minutes.

Lemony pudding: cream a 1/4 cup of butter with 1/3 cup of sugar and the grated rind of one lemon. Beat in 2 egg yolks and 7 tablespoons of self-raising flour. Mix in a cup of milk and the juice from the lemon. Beat the egg whites until stiff then fold in to the mixture. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes or until spongy and golden on top (don’t let it burn like I did…)

Busy Saturday

The garage sale was a mediocre success. We didn’t make enough to retire on but we did get rid of some junk. Tara and Cyler got rid of their big stuff, much to their relief as they weren’t looking forward to schlepping it all home.

After the garage sale (yes I had to wait until it was over) I went to the marche de l’ouest to get what I needed for dinner. Last time I was there it was winter, and the place felt like a bit of a dive, but it’s transformed in the summer into a delightful open air farmer’s market. I picked up some very good corn, a big box of berries and salad stuff before venturing inside to pick up some parmesan and sausage-meat. Sadly nobody there had pine-nuts so I still had to stop at Metro on the way home.

The evening dinner went very well, so here are some recipes:

Avocado and tomato dip: diced avocados, diced seeded tomatoes, juice of a lime, tabasco and seasoning to taste. (probaby could’ve done with some red onion too but I forgot that part)

Fiery limey corn: Corn on the cob with husks. Remove silks and rub the inside with a wedge of lime, cover up with the husks again, throw on the bbq for about 10 minutes, remove husks, sprinkle on a mixture of 1 part cayenne pepper to 4 parts salt to taste.

Tastie taters: boil some spuds, toss them in a mix of mustard, honey, soy sauce and seasoning, thread onto skewers, cook on the bbq until crispy.

Mediterranean sausage burgers: sausage-meat, chopped parsley, chopped garlic, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan cheese, toasted pine-nuts. Mix all that together, season well, make into patties, throw onto the bbq for about 6 or 7 minutes per side until cooked through.

After dinner Tyler and I snuck off to play Magic for an hour or so. He’s picking the game up slowly, but he still has much to learn and I beat him resoundingly.