A Loaf of Bread

Old Fashioned Oatmeal Bread

Sometimes it’s when my pantry is almost empty that the urge to bake is strongest. At the moment, I’m almost completely out of sugar (both brown and white), there are only a few cups of all-purpose flour left in a cut-down 5 kilogram bag, my store of eggs is dwindling, and I’ve just enough butter to grease a pan or two.

So of course, my head is full of cakes and cookies, muffins and breads. I took stock and realized I had plenty of molasses and a brick of shortening. I reached back to memories of childhood baking and one of the first breads I learned how to make.

No knead bread is quite sophisticated these days, based on sourdough artisan loaves, but when I was a kid it was a simple, old fashioned recipe. My go to baking book back then was Betty Crocker’s New Good and Easy Cook Book, which I pulled down when I wanted to make Snickerdoodles, Chocolate Crinkles, Brownies, or Blondies.

But I also ventured into the savoury baked goods section and the “Easy Oatmeal Bread” was a great confidence-builder for a young baker. My mother made wonderful breads and I often helped her with the measuring, mixing, and kneading. It was a while before I had the confidence to make those breads on my own. This no knead bread was easy enough for me to make after school and have ready before supper.

My mother’s copy was a reprint of the 1962 edition. I found two copies of the same edition at a library sale long ago, kept one for myself, and gave the other to my sister. So, when I’m feeling nostalgic, or when my pantry stores are reduced to the levels of a more frugal era, I pull mine off the shelf.

Tonight, I revisited that oatmeal bread, making some substitutions and additions that helped bring it a little closer to the 21st Century. When you make it, feel free to use butter in place of the shortening. But if you find yourself short of butter, as I did tonight, you might be surprised at how much you enjoy this bread with an old school dose of shortening.

Oatmeal bread ready for the oven

Old Fashioned No Knead Oatmeal Bread

  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 3 tbsp. shortening, softened
  • 1/4 cup fancy molasses
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 pkg. active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (100°C)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp. sliced almonds
  • 1 tbsp. flax seeds

Grease a 9″X5″X3″ loaf pan with butter. Set aside.

Put all-purpose flour into a medium-sized bowl. Then, sift whole wheat flour into the bowl, adding any bran that’s left in the sifter afterward. Lightly whisk the flours together. Set aside.

Fit the paddle attachment onto a stand mixer. Add the boiling water, rolled oats, shortening, molasses, and salt to the bowl of the mixer. Stir together on low, then allow to cool until it’s lukewarm.

Meanwhile, cool 1/4 cup of boiled water to 100°C, then add yeast, stirring until dissolved.

Add yeast, egg, and half the flour to the bowl of the stand mixer. Beat for two minutes on medium speed.

Add the rest of the flour, along with a pinch of nutmeg, and stir until almost completely incorporated. Add sliced almonds and flax seed, then stir until all ingredients are incorporated.

Spread the dough into the prepared loaf pan, making sure the top is even and smooth. Allow the loaf to rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours.

Once the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake 40-50 minutes. The loaf is done when it is well-browned and sounds hollow when knocked. Remove the loaf from the pan, place on a wire rack, and if you like, brush with melted butter. Cool completely.

Adapted from Betty Crocker’s New Good and Easy Cook Book (1962 edition)

Sliced oatmeal bread

Glass Jars and Cream

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I received a basket of Riviera Petit Pot products from Laiterie Chalifoux, but received no other consideration. All opinions are my own.

I’ve been looking for yogurt in glass jars for years. My Instagram envy ran high every time I’d see photos from someone’s Parisian pied-à-terre, with little glass pots of yogurt gracing their breakfast tables, along with baguettes and café au lait.

Now, before you diagnose me as someone in need of a vacation (I am, it’s true), let me say it’s not just the romance of foreign packaging that’s at the root of my longing. It’s also the plastic containers that fill my recycling bin. Glass isn’t just more attractive than plastic, it’s more sustainable.

So, when I saw yogurt in glass containers at my local grocery store, East End Food Co-op, I was thrilled. Not only were they in cute, reusable glass jars, but they also had French-inspired flavours like rhubarb, fig, and nut. I took some home and was even more pleased to find out that this yogurt was only very lightly sweetened, allowing me to focus on the richness of the yogurt and the flavour of the compote at the bottom.

I was so impressed that I contacted the producer, Laiterie Chalifoux, to find out more about it. I learned that they were just launching Riviera Petit Pot in English Canada and they were kind enough to send me samples of the entire line.

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This includes three kinds of yogurt – set-style yogurts, organic yogurts, and goat milk yogurts; sour cream and crème fraîche; and cultured butters, including a goat milk butter.

Needless to say, I started experimenting in the kitchen right away.

Potatoes and Nachos

The crème fraîche was a perfect excuse to make twice-baked potatoes, paired with a sharp cheddar. The sour cream topped nachos with homemade refried beans, then perogies from one of my favourite local purveyors.

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The sample of set-style yogurt Riviera sent me was coconut-flavoured, which sounded like a great base for the Honey-Yogurt Mousse I decided to make. I topped it with crème fraîche whipped cream, for a little added decadence.

Crème Fraîche Whipped Cream

1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp crème fraîche
1 tsp brown sugar
a dash of vanilla

Put the whipping cream and crème fraîche into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until soft peaks form. Add the brown sugar and vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form.

The other two yogurts Riviera sent me were an organic yogurt with rhubarb compote and a vanilla goat yogurt. I didn’t get too fancy with these, enjoying the rhubarb yogurt just as it was and lacing the vanilla yogurt with frozen blueberries, for a breakfast parfait. I had some leftover coconut yogurt, too, which I ate with some fresh mango.

As for the butters, I’ve been working away steadily at the salted cultured butter, spreading it on toast each morning. Cultured butter is great for baking, but since I had two pots, I decided to bake with one and enjoy the other slowly. The goat butter was the one I was most interested to try in a baked good, as I hadn’t worked with it before.

I belong to a baking group, Tuesdays with Dorie, and one of their March selections seemed like a tasty way to test drive the goat butter.

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The orange cake I made with the goat butter was moist and delicious, made even more so with the last of the crème fraîche whipped cream. I was happy with how the flavour of the goat butter worked in this sweet cake and now I’m curious to see what it’s like in savoury baked goods.

I still had half a jar of crème fraîche left, so I decided to use it for a special breakfast. Eggs en Cocotte are easy to make, but they present as though they’re part of a weekend brunch buffet. It’s the spoonful of crème fraîche on top that makes them so rich. As you can see from the photo at the top of the post, these eggs can make even a weekday breakfast feel special.

Eggs en Cocotte

For each serving, you will need:

  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 tsps caramelized onions
  • 2-3 leaves fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp crème fraîche
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350°.
Boil a kettle of water, then set aside.

Butter ramekin(s) and place them in a shallow pan.

Spoon onions into ramekin and sprinkle rosemary over them. Break an egg into the ramekin, then season with a little salt and pepper. Spoon crème fraîche gently on top of the egg. Repeat for each serving.

Pour water from the kettle into the pan until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Slide the pan carefully into the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes. If you like the yolk fully set, you might need to add a few more minutes.

After a week of indulgence, I can safely say I’m a fan of everything Riviera Petit Pot has to offer. The flavours are richly European and the jars are attractive and infinitely reuseable. I especially like the quantity in each of the jars of sour cream and crème fraîche – they’re the perfect size for setting out at table if you’re serving something like blini or perogies.

Riviera also produces plastic lids for the jars, which are useful when you’ve only used a portion of a jar, or if you want to transport salads, parfaits, or any other concoctions you create to fill your jars. For a limited time, Riviera is sending 4 lids free to Canadians (excluding Quebec). You can find details, here.

I’m grateful my discovery at the food co-op led to the opportunity to try out the whole line. They’re going to be regular items on my shopping list from now on.

A Round Up of Recipes for the International Year of Pulses

Pantry

Did you know that the UN has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses?

What are pulses? If you’re not a follower of food blogs, which are currently exploding with posts on the subject, you might be asking yourself this question. Simply put, they are legumes that are harvested for drying – essentially beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is leading the education campaign with five messages:

  • Pulses are highly nutritious.
  • Pulses are economically accessible and contribute to food security at all levels.
  • Pulses have important health benefits.
  • Pulses foster sustainable agriculture and contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
  • Pulses promote biodiversity.

All these points are valid and important, but my contribution to the conversation is this: pulses are delicious, versatile, and varied. Adding them into your diet isn’t a ‘health food’ style punishment, but a route to more interesting meals.

I’ve been eating a partly vegetarian diet since I moved out of my parents’ home as a young student, believing that eating less meat benefits my health and the health of the planet. My partner has been completely vegan for over a year. So, pulses have always been a regular feature in our home. They’re great in meatless meals, but can be supporting players, too.

The use of pulses crosses cultures and cuisines, so there’s an infinite variety of recipes for you to explore. Pulses show up regularly on this blog, too, so I thought I’d share a few posts that include or link to some terrific recipes.

chili

I’ll start out with one that most people are familiar with, chili. This is my mother’s Spicy Vegetable Chili, which is heart-healthy, easy, and delicious. It’s perfect for winter, too, as it relies on pantry staples and vegetables that are available year-round.

lentilsoup

Orange-Scented Lentil Soup brightens the earthiness of lentils with orange and ginger. This soup is easy to put together and elegant. (There’s a link to the recipe in the post.)

blackbeansoup

My partner has celiac disease, so we’re often looking for meals that pack in nutrients and protein. This Tomatillo, Black Bean, and Amaranth Soup from Bob’s Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook more than fits the bill.

Frenchlentils

Lentils are the easiest of all the dry pulses to prepare. So easy that I’d never bother buying them canned (unlike beans and chickpeas). Once you have Dorie Greenspan‘s recipe for French Lentils, they’ll be as much a part of your weekly meals as potatoes or rice. These lentils are delicious as the focus of a meal or as a supporting player to all sorts of proteins. (There’s a link to the recipe in the post.)

abuelitaslentilsoup

And here’s one more soup, full of flavour and healthful ingredients, from Decolonize Your Diet. Abuelitas’ Lentil Soup is warming and filling, exactly what’s needed to get through the winter doldrums.

These recipes are just a starting point – they don’t even begin to touch the versatility of pulses. If you’re looking for more inspiration, here are some cookbooks to try:

River Cottage Veg, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Plenty and Plenty More, by Yotam Ottolenghi
Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, by Mark Bittman

The ones I’ve listed are vegetarian cookbooks, but you shouldn’t count out other cookbooks – so many chefs and food writers make beautiful use of pulses. Made In India, by Meera Sodha is a great example and two of the recipes I linked to above come from Around My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan.

Look for news articles, food writing, and blog posts about pulses throughout 2016 – there’s sure to be plenty of creative and delicious recipes along the way. If you want to find out more about the International Year of Pulses, the FAO website is the best place to start. In Canada, the pulse industry is promoting IYP through their Pulse Canada website and there are similar efforts springing up worldwide.

I’d love to hear about your favourite ways to eat pulses (Split pea soup? Black bean brownies?) and I’ll be keeping an eye out for new favourites as the year progresses.

A Best of 2015

Bestof2015

I know it’s cliché (as I’ve said before), but I enjoy looking back over the year through the lens of the posts you liked best. When I think about my favourite posts of the year, it’s the process that stands out for me – a new skill mastered, a story shaped and re-shaped until it achieved the effect I was looking for, a photograph (for once) well-made.

The list of top posts, on the other hand, show me which ones intrigued people enough to click through to them. It’s not a perfect measure of quality, to be sure – comments may be a better guide there. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see what brought people here this year.

It’s also interesting to see that the top posts this year are completely different from last year’s list. I think it’s encouraging to see that the blog is at least a little dynamic, though I think the end of French Fridays with Dorie was part of the shift.

12. Made with Love

We start with a post that would count as one of my own favourites from 2015, in which I share the recipe for my mother’s spicy vegetable chili. It’s a winter dish, really, full of pantry staples and vegetables that are available year-round. But, it’s so popular, that we get requests for it through all the seasons. My mother makes enormous batches of it for the church and community gatherings she organizes. I make it for co-op meetings. We both make it for Kevin, who loves it so much that he’d happily eat it weekly.

But, it’s not really the recipe that makes the post, at least for me. It’s the story of how the recipe came to be and the love it represents.

11. Sucre à la Crème

I was surprised that this one made the list, as it’s a short post that shares two French language videos of people making a classic, homey French Canadian sweet. I’m a little fond of it, though, both for the winkingly nostalgic photo and the video of the Québécoise grand-mère.

10. French Food Revolution Friday with Dorie 2015

This year’s French Fridays with Dorie edition of Food Revolution Day was a lot of fun. I made a dish I’d missed when it came up in the rotation originally, reviewed some past favorites, and connected it all to the day’s goal of promoting cooking skills and food literacy.

9. FFWD – Holiday Card and Recipe Exchange

This post is about something that’s become a yearly tradition amongst French Fridays with Dorie alumni. We exchange cards, and often recipes, at year’s end. It’s nice to have something to look forward to when checking the mailbox, isn’t it?

8. FFWD – Marengo As You Like It

I suspect people came to this post looking for a recipe, but it’s really just a recounting of my experience with Dorie’s recipe. Though many of my French Fridays posts were designed to have wider appeal, others – like this one – were really addressed to our group. Posts like these are travel diary entries for a journey through a cookbook.

7. Eastside Coffee Culture

This post was a lot of fun to research. It’s a celebration of the coffee shops in my neighbourhood and it’s meant to be the first in a series of themed explorations. More will come along, slowly, as I gather enough intelligence on each subject.

6. Baking Chez Moi – Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake

A short, fun post on a delicious cake I’ve made over and over again.

5. Holiday Book Reviews – True to Your Roots

I very much enjoy writing my cookbook review series, so I was happy that one of these posts made the list. This book intrigued a number of people and the person who won it in the giveaway was thrilled. I’m very happy, myself, that it’s now on my cookbook shelf.

4. FFWD – Brioche and Nutella Tartine

Who can resist the siren call of Nutella? (Not me.) However, my favourite part of this post is the beautiful braided brioche I made.

3. FFWD – Celebration Week #1: The AHA Moment

I’m so glad I “cheated” on our assignment for this post. As a result, it’s a lovely guided tour of my French Fridays years.

2. Spring Book Reviews – Teatime in Paris!

Another book review, for a cookbook I turn to on special occasions. Thinking about Jill’s pâte sucrée makes me want to start my holiday baking all over again.

1. Eat Local: Kin Kao

The number one spot this year goes to one of my (very occasional) restaurant reviews, for one of our favourite neighbourhood spots. I’m quite pleased that reviews took three of the top five spots. I’ve been enjoying writing them this year more than almost anything else.

So, there you have a list of some of the buzziest (in the very calm, sort of backwater way that my blog can be said to generate buzz) posts on my blog. And I have food for thought about the directions I may take the blog in 2016. I hope you enjoy clicking around the list as much as I did.

You’ll hear from once more before the close of the year. I hope the dwindling days of 2015 are treating you well!

Holiday Book Reviews – Wild Game Cookbook

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I received a review copy of The Complete Wild Game Cookbook from Robert Rose Inc. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

Now that butcher shops are back in vogue, people are becoming more familiar with meats that don’t find their way to the cold cases of the supermarkets. Venison, elk, and bison are regular offerings at the local butcher shops in my neighbourhood, along with duck, goose, and specialty sausages.

But my source for game meats has always been my family. My mother and I are the only ones who don’t hunt. Her asthma is too severe and I…well, let’s just say the poor eyesight and hearing that have dogged me since childhood aren’t advantages when you’re stalking prey.

I’ve always appreciated the game they’ve sent my way, though. It’s healthier than much of the meat that’s been available until recently and it’s a more ethical choice than factory-farmed meat, as well.

My daily diet is largely plant-based, but when I do eat meat, wild game is up at the top of my list. It’s delicious, with a wide range of flavour affinities that can differ from those of chicken, pork, and beef.

All of which is to say that it’s not surprising that I leapt at the opportunity to review The Complete Wild Game Cookbook by Jean-Paul Grappe.

It’s been a recurring theme in this round of cookbook reviews – books that include recipes but are much more than recipe books. This cookbook is no exception. It includes 165 chef-authored recipes, but it’s also a history of the way people in Quebec have approached their edible landscape. It’s a handbook of the game animals, seasonings, and edible plants that populate the region. It’s a guide to best practices when obtaining and using game meats. It’s also a manual for gaining the foundational skills that can help you become a more sophisticated and accomplished cook.

What it’s not is a book for absolute beginners in the kitchen. There are photo guides to some of the techniques used in the book, along with a compendium of useful stock and sauce recipes, and a glossary of cooking terminology. But, you’ll still need enough experience to know when a piece of meat is seared enough to go into the oven, or what constitutes “doneness” in a piece of meat, or how to balance seasonings in a sauce.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a deeply experienced cook to be able to use this book. If you’ve been successful with a basic cookery book like The Joy of Cooking, you’re ready for this one. The instructions are clear and complete, there are meat thermometer temperature guides throughout, and plenty of serving tips and suggestions for variations.

I couldn’t wait to dig into the recipes when I got my hands on the book, but ended up spending time reading about Grappe’s philosophy toward game, instead. He advocates respect for the animal, from ethical stalking practices to ensuring that if you take an animal, you must use all of it. This respect for the animal that feeds you is repeated throughout the book and is paired with a respect for the provenance of recipes. Recipes from other chefs are clearly credited and many of Grappe’s recipes are listed as being in honour or memory of other chefs, as well. The recipes in this book exist within the physical ecosystem of a region and the relational ecosystem of a cooking tradition.

I did, of course, turn to the recipes quite quickly. My first impulse was to concentrate on venison and elk, with recipes like Licorice-Scented Short Ribs Cooked with Baby Yellow Beets or Osso Bucco-Style Venison Shank catching my attention. And the Venison Chops with Asian Spices has already become a favourite.

But, my father came home with some beautiful grouse just when I was deciding upon a recipe to share on the blog. So, I settled on Asian-Flavored Guinea Fowl Suprêmes and my parents sent me some grouse breasts to use in place of the guinea fowl.

Asian-Flavored Guinea Fowl Suprêmes

Serves 4

WildGame

• Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C)
• Ovenproof skillet
• Meat thermometer

  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) white wine vinegar
  • 2 cups (500 mL) unthickened brown poultry stock or store-bought equivalent
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) hoisin sauce
  • 1⁄2 tsp (2 mL) hot sauce
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) peanut butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 guinea fowl breasts, deboned, skin removed
  1. Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and sweat. Add sugar and caramelize, stirring often, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Deglaze skillet with wine vinegar. Add poultry stock, hoisin sauce, hot sauce and peanut butter and reduce by half. Season with salt and black pepper. Pour sauce through a fine-mesh strainer. Set aside in a warm place.
  3. In an ovenproof skillet, sear guinea fowl breasts over medium heat. Cook in preheated oven until a thermometer inserted in center of breast registers 175°F (80°C), 10 to 12 minutes.
  4. To Serve: Pour sauce onto individual serving plates and lay breasts on top.

Recipe by Chef Danielle Neault

Serving Tip: Accompany with small sautéed mushrooms or extra-fine green beans.

Courtesy of The Complete Wild Game Cookbook by Jean-Paul Grappe © 2015 http://www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.
Recipe photo credit: Mitch Mandel/Rodale Images

This is the kind of recipe that will convince your guests that you’ve taken cooking classes, though really, it’s not difficult at all.

Like many of his recipes, there are suggestions for several substitutions. In this case, Grappe suggests you use duck, grouse, or chicken in place of the guinea fowl. I used grouse and chose to leave the meat on the breast bone, as grouse are quite small and I wanted to preserve as much meat as possible.

I also used some homemade chicken stock in place of brown poultry stock, adding a touch of tomato paste to make up for the lack in the stock. The sauce itself is interesting, as you make a sort of shallot caramel at the start, then add the rest of the elements after deglazing the pan with white wine vinegar. (This is another instance where a little experience in the kitchen helps with this book. If I wasn’t familiar with seized caramel and didn’t know that it melts right back into the mixture as it cooks, I might have been discouraged early on.)

The finished sauce is thick and velvety, with an emphasis on peanut and hoisin and an undercurrent of heat from the hot sauce. I want to make big batches and keep it in the fridge for use with almost anything I eat. If I can come up with a vegan and gluten-free version, it could easily become our house sauce.

The grouse is quite simply prepared, seared and then roasted for a short time at high heat. Grappe provides the internal temperature the meat needs to achieve, so as long as you’ve got a meat thermometer, it’s difficult to go wrong. I tented the breasts with foil when they came out of the oven, so they could rest while I plated the sauce and sides. The grouse was perfectly done, juicy and tender. The sauce complemented it well, especially since the preparation of the grouse was so plain and the sauce is full of flavour.

I served it with mushrooms I roasted at the same time as the grouse (in a separate pan), roasted potatoes I’d prepared earlier, and some blanched green beans. It was a satisfying meal.

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This is a book that I’ll consult whenever I get hold of some game, but I’ll use it for inspiration with other meats, too. A number of the recipes are suitable for chicken, pork, or beef and there are so many flavours to explore in the book. The recipes have a range of culinary influences, from classic French flavours to Asian seasonings, all of which sound delicious and often elegant.

I do have one caveat – you might not be able to find all the ingredients, like cloudberries or cattail hearts, where you live. It’s not an onerous problem, though, as a little internet investigation will yield plenty of local substitution possibilities.

There are also a number of recipes for meats that I won’t be using, whether they’re recipes for songbirds that are no longer legal to hunt, or for animals like beaver, seal, or squirrel which just aren’t coming to table. Those recipes are still worth exploring and experimenting with substitutions. It’s also part of the book’s encyclopedic aspect – this is in part a documentation of the foods that have influenced Quebecois regional cooking.

Overall, this is a book that is perfect for omnivores who want to refine their cooking, would like to expand the range of foods they include on their tables, and care about where their food comes from. In the short time I’ve had the book, I’ve already learned quite a bit. I encourage you, even if you’re not familiar with game, to explore these foods, too.

WildGameCover

Gift Giver’s Guide: For the hunter, the gastronome, the autodidact, and the adventurer.

Come back December 31th for a review of a book that will have you sharpening your knives.

Holiday Book Reviews – Made In India

Cauliflower with Cumin, Turmeric, and Lemon

I received a review copy of Made In India from Raincoast Books. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

A few weeks ago, I found myself discussing authenticity in cuisine with a group of restaurant aficionados. We agreed that trying to match your experience of a far away place to its local interpretation is pointless. What matters is how the chef translates that cuisine using the best of what’s available locally.

What doesn’t often get discussed is authenticity in the home kitchen. Many of us associate world cuisine with the dishes we find in our favourite restaurants, rather than the dishes you’d find served around a kitchen table.

Meera Sodha‘s Made In India is an antidote to that, sharing her family’s treasured recipes alongside dishes she’s brought back from her travels in India.

And as the title suggests, she doesn’t fall into the trap of the well-travelled restaurant critic, either. These dishes are rooted in India, but they were perfected in her family’s English kitchen, picking up flavours and ingredients from their migration from Gujurat, through Kenya and Uganda, and into Lincolnshire.

So, there are recipes for a kedgeree using British smoked haddock, Ugandan-Gujurati dishes like mashed plantains with Indian spices, and techniques from the vegetarian traditions of Gujarati applied to meat and fish. This book is a product of a living, evolving cuisine.

It’s also a powerful tool for understanding the ingredients and techniques of Indian cooking. The back of the book includes a thorough guide to Indian ingredients with descriptions that are a pleasure to read. There are useful sections for meal-planning, leftovers, and trouble-shooting. Sodha includes a guest essay on wine pairings, too. Throughout the book she provides more detailed instructions, like her guide to making samosas that includes step-by-step photos.

She also does two things I’d like to see in every cookbook. First, there is an alternative contents page that lists recipes best suited to a number of categories, like party food, gluten-free, and foods for freezing. Then, in her weights and measures section, she clearly defines what she means when she calls for quantities like one large onion or the juice of one lemon (it’s 200 grams and 1/4 cup respectively). This last inclusion would solve the headaches of every home cook who has brought home a softball-sized onion or an heirloom tomato.

All of these things are designed to help you get cooking. Made In India is full of delicious recipes, but so are many other cookbooks that only get pulled off the shelf for bedtime reading. Meera Sodha wants you to keep the book in your kitchen, unintimidated by ingredients, techniques, or planning. My copy hasn’t hit the shelf yet.

Cauliflower close up

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH CUMIN, TURMERIC, AND LEMON

Masala phool kobi

Cauliflower is a hero of the Indian vegetable world, but its fate doesn’t just lie in an aloo gobi. Roast it with just a few spices and you’ll have a vegetable you hardly recognize. At home, left to my own devices, I would eat it like this all the time. It’s addictive to eat by itself but also goes really well with lamb curries, in salads, and with kebabs.

Serves 4

  • 1 large head of cauliflower (around 1 ¼ pounds)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 5 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two oven trays with foil and bring a deep-sided pan of water to a boil.

Wash the cauliflower, pull off the leaves from around the side, and discard. Break the cauliflower into small, fairly evenly sized florets using your hands and put to one side.

Put the cauliflower into the saucepan of boiling water and blanch for 1 minute, then drain really well. Let it dry for around 5 minutes in its own steam; if it is waterlogged it won’t crisp up nicely in the oven.

Using a mortar and pestle, grind the cumin along with the salt, then add the chili powder and turmeric, followed by the oil. Mix it all together really well. Lay the cauliflower out onto the trays in one layer and drizzle the spicy oil over it. Make sure the cauliflower is well coated, then put the trays in the oven for around 30 minutes, shaking them every 10 minutes or so to ensure the florets roast and brown evenly. If they start to burn, loosely cover them with foil.

Put the roasted cauliflower in a dish or bowl, and squeeze the lemon over the top before serving.

This dish disappears very quickly. If you’re cooking for a family, I’d suggest doubling or tripling the recipe, because it will fast become the focus of the meal. My partner is usually very measured in his feedback on dishes I make for the blog. When he tried this one, though, all I heard were variations on, “This is so good. Oh, this is really good.” Once he finished, his only comment was, “Can we have this again tomorrow?”

Luckily, this is a simple dish to put together and one that can happily roast away in the oven while you’re preparing the rest of your meal stovetop. It’s also going to become part of our afternoon snack repertoire. I’d take a bowl of this over popcorn any day. It’s crispy, tender, spicy, and tart all at once.

Sodha suggests pairing it with a lamb dish or kebabs, but there are plenty of possibilities for a vegetarian or vegan meal, too. My preference is to serve it with a curry or rice dish, but you could also serve it as part of a small plates meal, using some of the recipes from the starters or sides chapters – a table laden with Sodha’s spiced potato tikki, papadum chaat, fire-smoked eggplants, spicy chapati wraps, Jaipur slaw, and this cauliflower would make for a great evening with friends.

MadeinIndia

Raincoast Books has been generous enough to offer a copy of Made In India to one Canadian reader. You can find the giveaway here and enter until December 17th: Win a copy of Made In India*

So good it's all gone

Gift Giver’s Guide: For flavour hunter, the week night chef, the traveller come home, and the pantry filler.

Come back next week for a review of a book that’s a walk on the wild side.


*This giveaway is open to residents of Canada. You must have a Canadian mailing address. The winner will be required to answer the following skill testing question: 7 X 6 =_____ This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. Entrants must provide a valid email address where they can be reached. Each of the winners must respond to the email announcing their win within 48 hours, or another winner will be chosen. No purchase of any product is required. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!

Have you checked out the rest of my holiday cookbook review series? There are copies of 5 great cookbooks up for grabs. You can find the links to the giveaways here and enter until December 17th.

Holiday Book Reviews – Decolonize Your Diet

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I received a review copy of Decolonize Your Diet from Arsenal Pulp Press. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

Decolonize Your Diet is a cookbook, but it is also a history, an exploration of food as medicine, and above all, a counter to the colonialism that runs through the food cultures of the Americas. It’s a reclamation of a food heritage by two Mexican-Americans, in the context of where they live and eat.

The book challenges the limits of what many of us in Canada and the States believe Mexican food to be, identifying indigenous ingredients and those introduced from elsewhere. The recipes spring from Luz Calvo and Catriona Rueda Esquibel’s heritage and from their exploration of the health benefits of the Meso-American diet.

The recipes themselves range from simple and comforting to dinner party fare. They include traditional recipes and contemporary vegetarian meals that incorporate heritage indigenous plants. There are recipes for stocking your refrigerator with salsas, flavoured vinegars, hot sauces, and other condiments. Another chapter covers pantry ingredients, equipment, techniques, and base recipes.

The headnotes for the recipes might share history, health benefits, or politics, alongside serving suggestions and flavour descriptions. But the recipes are playful, meant to encourage creativity in cooking healthy foods. There’s an emphasis on eating what is local, fresh, organic, and available and the authors encourage cooks to adapt their recipes.

For many of us, that playfulness could be satisfied for a long while just by exploring the flavours and techniques shared in this cookbook. You might start out with a simple recipe like their Old School Pinto Beans, then find yourself sourcing cone piloncillo and queso Oaxaca to complement your homemade corn tortillas in their recipe for pumpkin mole enmoladas.

I’ve been given permission to share a recipe with you, for a simple and earthy lentil soup that is full of flavour.

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Abuelitas’ Lentil Soup

Authors

Lentils are not indigenous to the Americas, but both of our grandmothers (abuelitas) made delicious and soul-warming sopa de lentejas. We flavor our soup with yerbaníz (also called “grandmother plant”), which has many medicinal properties, including being good for respiratory conditions and soothing to the stomach. The final squeeze of lemon sends the iron from the lentils to your body and adds brightness to the flavor.

Makes 6 servings

1 large onion, finely chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
2–3 jalapenos, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 bunch green Swiss chard, stems diced, leaves cut into thin ribbons
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 cups (2 L) vegetable stock or water
2 cups (500 mL) brown lentils, rinsed
2 tbsp chopped fresh yerbaníz or 1 tbsp dried yerbaníz or 2 tsp dried French tarragon
2 tsp sea salt
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp chia seeds, ground (optional)
juice of 1–2 lemons, to taste

In a large pot on medium high heat, sauté onions in oil until lightly browned, about 7–8 minutes. Add jalapeño, carrots, and chard stems and cook for 5 minutes, until vegetables soften. Add garlic and freshly ground pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add stock, lentils, and yerbaníz. Bring mixture to a slow boil. Reduce heat, and cook at a slow simmer until lentils are barely tender, about 25 minutes. Add salt, chard leaves, and cilantro and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add ground chia seeds, cover partially, and continue to simmer for 10 more minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, or lemon juice until soup has a nice balance of flavors.

RECIPE CREDIT: Decolonize Your Diet: Plant-Based Mexican-American Recipes for Health and Healing by Luz Calvo & Catriona Rueda Esquibel. Published by Arsenal Pulp Press, 2015.

PHOTOGRAPHS, PROP STYLING & FOOD STYLING CREDITS: Tracey Kusiewicz | Foodie Photography foodiephotography.com

I didn’t follow the recipe precisely, substituting kale for Swiss chard and a mix of marjoram, thyme, and oregano for yerbaníz. I skipped the ground chia seed, as the soup seemed thick and rich enough without it. It’s a filling soup that was welcome in the cold weather we’ve been having here. The flavour is beautifully balanced, with the subtle heat from the jalapeños and the sweet acid of the lemon being especially welcome notes against the earthiness of the lentils. Unlike many soups, it didn’t have me reaching for bread or cheese to complete it. It’s sufficient and satisfying just as it is.

DecolonizeYourDiet

Arsenal Pulp Press has been generous enough to offer a copy of Decolonize Your Diet to a Canadian or American reader. You can find the giveaway here and enter until December 17th: Win a copy of Decolonize Your Diet*

Many peoples, especially communities of colour and indigenous communities, are reclaiming their food heritage alongside their cultures and histories. In a time when the importance of healthy, whole foods is being recognized, along with food systems that promote sustainability and biodiversity, the work of this book’s authors is timely. They stand with people like Bryant Terry and Michael Twitty, and organizations like Vancouver Island’s Indigenous Food Network, documenting and expanding the food histories of this continent beyond the colonial narrative.

Gift Giver’s Guide: For anyone who wants to eat in concert with the the foods indigenous to this continent, but especially for First Nations and Latinx people who want to eat closer to their roots.

Come back next week for a review of a book that will fill your pantry with vegan goodness.


*Terms & Conditions: This giveaway is open to residents of Canada and the United States. You must have a Canadian or US mailing address. Any Canadian winners will be required to answer the following skill testing question: 6 X 8 =_____ This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. Entrants must provide a valid email address where they can be reached. Each of the winners must respond to the email announcing their win within 48 hours, or another winner will be chosen. No purchase of any product is required. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!

Holiday Book Reviews – Pierogi Love

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I received a review copy of Pierogi Love from Raincoast Books. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

The ladies of my mother’s CWL chapter are famous for their food. They get together and cook, for weddings and funerals, community dinners and seniors’ luncheons. They’re mostly over seventy and have decades of experience in the kitchen. They often share the specialties of their backgrounds with each other – they’ve cooked German, Irish, Filipino, Ukrainian, Italian and more together.

Not surprisingly, the most popular dishes they serve are old fashioned comfort favourites. At their annual Christmas craft fair last weekend, they served pierogies with fried onion, thick slices of sausage, and generous helpings of sour cream. They got together a few weeks before the fair and handmade every one. They were delicious, with a perfectly traditional potato and onion filling.

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I’ve always wanted to be there when they have one of their pierogi-making bees, but it hasn’t happened. So, when I was given the opportunity to review Casey Barber‘s new book, Pierogi Love, I jumped on it.

Inside, I found some traditional recipes, like potato and cheddar, sauerkraut, and sour cherry. But the rest of the recipes are a world away from those – spinach, ham, and Gruyère; saag paneer; fig, goat cheese, and black pepper. Barber’s recipes take inspiration from flavours around the world, while making sure there’s something appropriate for occasions from tailgate parties (try her Elvis pierogies) to dinner parties (start with mushroom, goat cheese, and chive). Not all books live up to their subtitles, but this one does. It’s full of “new takes on an old-world comfort food.”

It’s also one of the best-designed cookbooks I’ve had my hands on this year. It’s a compact hardcover, with lovely photos, and patterns and colours that repeat charmingly throughout the book. Most of the recipes don’t require you to turn pages and the book stays open to the page you’ve chosen. Cookbook designers take note.

I was given permission to share one recipe with you and it’s a delightful one. However, if you want the recipe for the dough, you’ll have to buy the book. You really should.

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LEMON CURD PIEROGIES

Making lemon curd is an impossible exercise in patience for me. Though I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it tastes best when chilled, I absolutely cannot stop myself from sneaking warm spoonfuls fresh from the bowl. (I have the same problem with homemade tapioca pudding.) But the overnight chill process is crucial here to get the curd to the right consistency. Make the curd 1 day before assembling your pierogies, and work quickly when filling them so the curd stays cool and thick. If you see it start to warm and soften, put the curd back in the fridge for 15 minutes or so, then carry on.

Makes approximately 24 pierogies

  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 small to medium lemons)
  • ½ cup (3 ½ ounces, 100 grams) sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into 4 small cubes
  • 1 batch Basic Sweet Dough

Whisk cornstarch and water in a bowl. Fill a small saucepan halfway with water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk lemon juice, sugar, eggs, and zest in a heatproof (stainless steel or Pyrex) bowl. Set bowl atop pan of simmering water; do not let bowl touch water. Whisk until liquid turns from sloshy and translucent to opaque, 3 to 4 minutes. Whisk in cornstarch slurry and continue to cook until liquid thickens into a silken curd consistency, whisking constantly, 1 to 2 minutes—do not let the curd come to a simmer or the eggs will scramble. Remove bowl from heat. Add butter and whisk until completely incorporated. Strain curd through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Roll out dough and stamp into rounds. Place 1 teaspoon filling on each dough round; brush with egg wash, fold, pinch, and seal as directed. Deep-fry, boil, and/or pan-fry pierogies.

Do Ahead: Filling can be made up to 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

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What’s not to love about a supple dough that comes together quickly and seals its contents just as easily? I’m not a dumpling pro, but almost all of my pierogies turned out beautifully. Barber’s instructions are thorough and her dough recipes are gold – you should be buying the book for that reason alone.

Only one of my not-quite-expertly constructed pierogies leaked when boiled, and that one only leaked a very little. I cooked about a third of them and the rest are in the freezer. (I’m planning to take them over to my parents’ place to surprise my lemon curd-loving Dad.)

The best pierogies are as enjoyable for their covering as they are for their filling and that’s certainly true here. The lemon curd pierogies use the sweet version of Barber’s basic dough. It’s not overly sweet and caramelizes beautifully when pan-fried.

Lemon curd and I are old friends, but Barber’s instructions are clear enough for a beginner to follow, so there’s no reason for intimidation at all. And the results are wonderful – thick, pillowy, sweet and tart. I have leftovers in the fridge. I’m not sure if they’ll go into a tart or not. Given how many spoons there are just lying around in the kitchen, I might not be able to resist the temptation of eating it straight from the bowl. But that’s a question for later.

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I served the pierogies dusted with icing sugar and lemon zest, but they don’t really need any extra adornment. There is a nice balance between sweet and tart, the crunch of the caramelized dough and the softness underneath.

Image courtesy of Casey Barber
Image courtesy of Casey Barber
Raincoast Books has been generous enough to offer a copy of Pierogi Love to one Canadian reader. You can find the giveaway here and enter until December 17th: Win a copy of Pierogi Love*

Now that I’ve (mostly) gotten the hang of making pierogies, I’m tempted to start filling the freezer with them. In fact, I had to take my tape flags out of the book, once I realized I’d marked almost every page. Once my freezer is full, I’d love to have a pierogi party, with plates coming out of the kitchen one after another, savoury to sweet, with flavours from around the world.

Gift Giver’s Guide: For the comfort food lover, the tradition-twister, and the party-pleaser.

Come back next week for a review of a book that celebrates the fruits of the land on which we stand.

*Terms & Conditions: This giveaway is open to residents of Canada. You must have a Canadian mailing address. The winner will be required to answer the following skill testing question: 7 X 5 =_____ This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. Entrants must provide a valid email address where they can be reached. Each of the winners must respond to the email announcing their win within 48 hours, or another winner will be chosen. No purchase of any product is required. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!

Vegan Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

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One of the nicest parts of autumn has become recipe sampling for my annual Holiday Cookbook Review series. I’ve been digging into this year’s selections for a while now and I love how the range of what I cook expands, as I learn from each of them. They also inspire me to get more creative on my own, dreaming up accompaniments for some of the recipes I try, based on what’s in the pantry and at the fresh markets.

These portabella mushrooms are a good example. I was looking for something to serve with Carla Kelly’s Kalecannon, from her new cookbook, True to Your Roots. There were some beautiful portabellas in the store where I picked up the ingredients I needed for her dish. I chose some vegetables that would make a nice filling, picked up some Daiya shredded vegan Mozzarella, and seasoned the dish much as my Irish grandmother would her Sunday roast. Well, I’m not sure she would have added chili flakes, but they were a nice addition.

Vegan Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

4 portabella mushrooms
2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh (or 1/2 tsp dried) rosemary
1 tsp fresh (or 1/2 tsp dried) thyme
a pinch of chili flakes
1 small zucchini, coarsely diced
1 small red bell pepper, coarsely diced
1 small tomato, coarsely diced
salt and pepper
Shredded vegan cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Clean and trim the mushrooms. If the stems are particularly large, I remove them and dice them with the rest of the stuffing ingredients.

Put the cleaned mushrooms on the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat, add a pinch or two of salt, then cook the onion and garlic until translucent and beginning to brown. Add the rosemary, thyme, and chili flakes, then stir for a minute or so.

Add the zucchini, bell pepper, tomato, and diced mushroom (if using) and cook until the vegetables are beginning to soften. Season with more salt and pepper, if needed. Set aside.

When the mushrooms have baked for 10 minutes, divide the filling equally between them and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms are cooked through and tender.

Sprinkle the shredded vegan cheese on each of the filled mushrooms – I like to be generous. Bake for 5 minutes more, or until the cheese has melted.

Serve immediately.

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You’ll note that you get a preview of the Kalecannon from True to Your Roots in the photo above, which I’ll be telling you all about on Thursday. It’s the first of seven weeks of cookbook reviews that will help you cross some names off your gift list, right up until the last minute.

Even better, I’ll be hosting giveaways for five of the seven books, so you could end up with a gift of your own.

Savoury Avocado Cream Bites – An Avo Showdown Recipe

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One of the nicest parts of blogging for me is when the two lenses of my blog, food and community, converge. It’s not a rare occurrence, either – food and community go hand-in-hand.

There are a lot of organizations that connect food bloggers these days – Food Bloggers of Canada, food blogger savvy marketing companies, Meetups, and more. It means I’ve had the opportunity to meet other local bloggers and it’s often in the context of a fun event.

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This summer, I got to do just that, courtesy of Town Hall Brands and Avocados from Mexico.

They organized an Avo Showdown and local bloggers brought their best original avocado recipes to the competition.

I spent some time recipe-testing, consulting my copy of The Vegetarian Flavor Bible for avocado-friendly pairings, and came up with an avocado and coconut cream spread, paired with jalapeño jam and a cucumber and fennel salad. I presented it on Vancouver-favourite, Raincoast Crisps, for two reasons: they’re delicious and I thought they’d hold up well to the very long wait between assembly and presentation to the judges.

  

Savoury Avocado Cream Bites

Serves a crowd

Fennel Crunch:
  • 5 grams red onions, finely diced and soaked in ice water for 10 minutes
  • 50 grams fennel ( ½ small bulb), excluding fronds, finely diced
  • 50 grams cucumber, peeled, quartered & cored, finely diced
Lime Vinaigrette:
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Avocado Cream:
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • ¼ cup coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • a generous pinch of cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
To Finish:
  • jalapeño jam, store-bought or homemade (I use Camilla Wynne’s recipe)
  • crackers, crostini or rice crackers
  • cilantro (optional)

Prepare the Fennel Crunch and Lime Vinaigrette. Toss the Fennel Crunch in 2 -3 tbsp of the vinaigrette, check for seasoning, and refrigerate.

Halve the avocados, remove the seed, and scoop the meat into the jar of a blender or the bowl of a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until the mixture is smooth, thick, and free of lumps. Check for seasoning, then refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To assemble, scoop a small quantity of the dressed Fennel Crunch onto the crackers or crostini. Spoon or pipe ½ – 1 tsp. of the Avocado Cream on top. Add a small quantity of jalapeño jam to either side of the Avocado Cream. Garnish with another small sprinkle of Fennel Crunch or a shower of chopped cilantro.

Serve immediately.

Tips: For a gluten-free version, use rice crackers, gluten-free crostini, or even slices of cucumber. This recipe is suitable for vegan or vegetarian eaters.

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My dish was a hit with my family and with a few of the judges, so I’m happy. (Of course the happiest bunch of all were the night’s winners, as you can see in the photo above.)

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The evening was the best reward, anyway. We were treated to mountains of delicious appetizers prepared by the students at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, along with a demonstration of an avocado-shrimp spring roll by PICA’s Executive Culinary Chef Instructor, Darren Clay. (It was fun working in a commercial kitchen alongside fellow bloggers.)

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This was followed up by a demonstration of an Alligator Fizz by Justin Darnes, of Drinks Undressed and prestigious bars around the world and here in Vancouver.

By the time we got to taste each other’s dishes (nineteen in all), we were already a little full. But, they were all so delicious, we managed. And on our way out the door, we got a bag of avocado goodies to take home.

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A wonderful evening all around.

I was given an invitation to the Avo Showdown by Town Hall Brands, along with a small gift bag, but received no other consideration. All opinions are my own.