Saturday, February 28, 2009

Computers, Roasting,

I seem to be fated to have PC problems the last couple of days. I blush to confess that my problem yesterday was my own fault, I had thrown a power switch accidentally and it took me a while to discover it. However, today, the router is definitely not working. No idea why but I have had to disconnect it in order to get on the internet and later I will try it again and see what is happening. I was also nagged to get dressed before I wrote this blog. I usually eat breakfast and then come straight to the computer, but as I have customers calling for Avon and Matt had to go out, he nattered at me until I was respectable for calling customers.!!! I was thinking, this morning, about a discussion we had with friends the other day, on what North Americans usually mean by roasting and what English people usually mean. To quote one of my cookbooks "Roasting must be a form of cooking kept for really prime joints (roasts)". For instance, if I want to roast some beef, the English way, I would first buy a good piece of sirloin, or a rib or beef or something of similar quality. I would smash up some cloves of garlic and poke them into the meat to enhance the flavour. I would then rub the meat all over with oil and salt, usually olive oil and then place it in an oiled pan and place in a hot oven. Most North Americans, when they talk about roasting, are referring to putting a piece of meat, often a less tender cut, into a roasting pan, with a lid and adding water or stock with vegetables. This is usually referred to as a pot roast, or roast for short. Its a linguistic problem in as much as when we say the words roast we mean two different things. The same as the word joint (no not what you're thinking), that is what we call a piece of roasting meat in the UK whereas the word roast is used all the time. Of course, roasting meat which is a better cut, is also a 'better' (more expensive) price and one needs to think twice before buying it. Looking through my old English coobook Cookery in Colour, which was one of my earliest books ever, seeing some of the recipes makes me hungry. Right now I am looking at a picture of a typical English Mixed Grill the contents of which can vary according to your taste and preferences. I notice there is no bacon shown in this picture - nor is there any Heinz baked beans which is something that has sprung up since I left the UK some 30 odd years ago. When I was a kid, baked beans were a supper dish, not for breakfast. My mother used to serve them to me on a piece of toast for my supper when I was too young to stay up for dinner. Matt does remember baked beans for breakfast, but his family came from Northern England. I do not like them for breakfast, these days, I don't much like them any time, Heinz baked beans that is.
 This book, Cookery in Colour, had a lot of very simple but very tasty recipes, some of which I still use. Steak Elizabetta is one of them.

Steak Elizabetta with Mustard Dumplings

2 lbs stewing steak, cut into small pieces
1 heaped Tbs flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp Colemans dry mustard
1 oz dripping or best margarine (vegetable oil these days)
 2 medium onions, peeled and sliced
3 medium carrots, sliced
3/4 pt stock or water
1 Tbs vinegar

 Coat the meat in the flour, seasoned with salt, pepper and mustard. Heat the fat in a pan, lightly brown the onions and then meat. Add the carrots, stir in the water and vinegar and bring to boil. Turn into a casserole, cover and cook in slow oven 325°F for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. 30 minutes before steak is ready drop dumplings on top of meat, cover tightly and cook for a further 30 minutes.

Mustard Dumplings
4 oz self raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Coleman's dry mustard
2 oz. shredded suet or margarine (in fact I would use butter if suet not available).

Sift together, flour, salt and mustard. Add suet or rub in margarine. Mix to a dry dough with 3 to 4 Tbs cold water and shape into small balls. For 6 people. MY NOTE: Don't add water to your dumpling mixture until just before you are going to add them to the casserole.

Have a great day.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Routers, Movies and Eggs in a Cup.

I had no internet connection this morning. Turned out it was my router which wasn't talking to my modem. Will have to check it out later, haven't time right now. At least my modem is still happily chatting to my computer and the internet. Its a bowling day again, so not sure when I will get round to fixing it. Problem is, although I do have an anti-virus system, routers are supposed to work even better. That apart, I was going to mention that one of the TV channels here, Turner Classic Movies, has been running Oscar films for a month. The film itself doesn't have to have had an Oscar, but someone has to have won something. Last night they showed The African Queen. Humphrey Bogart got the Oscar for his part. I haven't seen this movie in years and had forgotten what it was all about. The only scene I remembered was Humpty Gocart in the water, pulling the boat through the reeds and Katherine Hepburn looking over the bow at him. What a super movie it is. I really enjoyed it. Technically there were one or two small things, but the basic story was still excellent. I was hesitant to watch it again, but I am so glad I did. This morning on GMA, Emeril Lagasse, who is one of our well know TV cooks here, did breakfast for the crew - it was a promotion for the upcoming Mother's Day breakfast which they have been doing for a number of years - and made what he called "Eggs in a Cup". To me it almost looked the same as Convent Eggs which I have been making for years. He mentioned shirred eggs which is an old egg recipe that very few make any more. But I guess these recipes both stem from those. My Convent Eggs are served for hors d'oeuvres and are always very popular although no real reason they couldn't be served for breakfast. Just never thought of it before. I have actually published this recipe before, but having seen Emeril this morning, I thought I would publish it again. If you would like to see Emeril's recipe go to GMA to find it. Convent Eggs Cordon Bleu Cook Book Butter for greasing ramekins 2 eggs 2 Tbs heavy cream salt and pepper OPTIONAL ½ oz Brie ½ oz chopped ham Shu Chan's (friend) Options sautéed leeks Parmesan Cheese 1 Butter the ramekins then put in cheese and ham if using. Slide an egg into each ramekin, season and add 1 tbs of cream. Bake for 8 minutes at 350F 2 Alternatively add leeks to bottom of ramekin and sprinkle eggs with Parmesan Servings: 2 Have a great day.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Financial Crisis

I guess its me, but there is a recession, possibly a depression, we have a local hospital foundering because they are $3.5 million in debt (and its a very good hospital) and yesterday the sale of the possessions of Yves St. Laurent realised something like $500 million. Admittedly for charity, but I am thinking more of the people who bought than the amount raised. For some strange reason, the government have refused assistance to Cambridge Memorial Hospital and yet it is one of the best around. Matt and I have both been patients there as their orthopaedic facilities are some of the best. They have been pleading for locals to write to their minister, I haven't done so, but plan to in the near future. If you are a local and haven't done so, please write to your MP. Anyway, I was up late this morning and today is our travel league with us meeting for lunch at 11:30 so gotta go. Wish me luck, I have been bowling so badly lately. By the way, I made up the soup from the Tourtière stock yesterday, Matt enjoyed it, I didn't for some reason. Here's a nice light recipe for you today. **Exported from Cookbook Wizard Recipe Software**v2.0 Cantaloupe Sorbet Cuisine: Italian Category: fruit Preparation: uncooked Temperature: frozen Servings: 6 Ingredients: 1 tbsp. honey 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice 1 cup sugar 1 cup water 2 large or 3 medium cantaloupes 3 tbsp. brandy Instructions: Bring honey, lemon juice, sugar and water to a boil over medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes. Let cool. Seed the cantaloupes. With a melon baller make 18 cantaloupe balls. Soak the melon balls in brandy. Set aside for garnish. Cut the rest of the cantaloupe flesh into 1-inch pieces and puree in a food processor until there are 3 cups of puree. Combine the cooled honey-sugar syrup and the cantaloupe puree. Mix well and freeze in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to a plastic container and store in the freezer until needed, no more than 3 days. Allow the frozen sorbet to thaw slightly before serving to enhance the flavor. Serve with brandied cantaloupe balls as a garnish. Note: Honeydew melon may be substituted; then substitute lime juice for lemon juice. Have a great day.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Redford's Last Castle, Books and Dragons

Last night I watched a fantastic movie starring Robert Redford and called The Last Castle. It was only given 2 stars, but it was excellent. It all took place in a military prison and was gripping right to the end. If you ever get the chance to see it, I highly recommend it. Robert Redford is a General who has been court martialled and who pled guilty because he lost 8 men in his commend. He is sent to the prison which is run by a monster in Colonel's clothing. He wants nothing to do with any problems but eventually is forced to take notice of what is going on. Great story. Yesterday I also finished the first of Jennifer Fallon's books in the Hythron Chronicles, Medalon, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I have now started the second book called Treason Keep. Most people know I love dragons, but these stories include a very different kind of dragon, not the ones I am used to at all. I thought this was a trilogy but now find there are, in fact, 6 books to be read. Not sure if that's good or bad. It takes longer to get to the end. On the other hand it gives me more reading material. We finished our Tourtière for supper and I plan to use the left over liquid as the base for a soup for supper tonight. The liquid has gone quite solid in the fridge which means it is full of goodness. There are, by the way, three more Tourtières in the freezer. I like to cook things in bulk so that I have choices for supper without preparation at a later time when we are in a hurry or not in the mood to cook. Good Morning America this morning had tips on storage of food in the fridge. I knew you were not supposed to store eggs out of the carton, but we are now told both butter and eggs should be stored at the back of the fridge, not in the door at all. Apparently people throw away a lot of spoiled food every year because of incorrect storage. There were many more tips so if you would like to read them click here and see Sara Moulton's recommendations for healthier food storage. There was also a segment on women's heart health, heart disease being the Number One killer of women today. Apparently they are now recommending the Mediterranean Diet again. This includes nuts, olive oil and beans (legumes). This being so, I am publishing the bean salad I gave you on December 29th, which was very good and contains both beans and olive oil. South-Western Bean Salad The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook My comment: This recipe calls for dried beans, however, I would certainly use cans of beans rather than mess with soaking beans for hours first. Do use fresh coriander if you can, it tastes so much better. Serves 4-6 1 cup dried black beans 1 cup white cannelini (navy) beans 1 medium red onion 1 medium red (bell, capsicum) pepper 8 2/3 oz canned corn, drained 3 tbs chopped fresh coriander 1 clove garlic crushed 1/2 tsp ground cumin 1/2 tsp French mustard 2 tbs red wine vinegar 1/4 cup olive oil salt and pepper If you are using dried beans: soak in separate bowls in cold water overnight. Drain, place in separate pans, cover with water. Bring both pans to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 mins or until tender. Drain, rinse and allow to cool. Alternatively, use a couple of cans of prepared beans, drained and rinsed. Chop the onion and red pepper. Place in a bowl and add the beans, corn and coriander. Stir until well combined. Combine the garlic, cumin, mustard and vinegar in a small jug: gradually whisk in the oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Pour over the bean mixture and toss lightly to combine. This salad can be made up to a day in advance and is a great dish to serve at a barbecue or take on a picnic as it carries well. Have a great day.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Local Restaurants and Melk Terts

If you ever read the comments, yesterday, Marilyn of French Marilyn's Blog (see link this page) mentioned rabbit and I replied describing rabbit Matt once had in a local restaurant. This restaurant is 'just down the road' from us, literally. It is a converted New Apostolic Church so they called it Verses which is very appropriate. We ate there once (our pockets are not deep enough to eat there regularly) and had a delightful meal with me having the duck and Matt the rabbit which as I said, he thought the best he had ever eaten, my duck was certainly excellent too. They had wines made specially for them, not sure by whom. The conversion has retained a lot of the original features of the church including (when we went anyway) bare wooden floors which I thought were a tad noisy for a restaurant and I would have partially carpeted, at least where the waiters walked. This was a few years ago when the restaurant first opened and they may have changed things. In Waterloo which is kind of joined on to Kitchener and apart from signs, you can't really tell where one begins and t'other ends there is a restaurant called Rushes and is at the Waterloo Motor Inn. We have eaten there several times over the years and the food is excellent. One year we went for their Christmas Buffet and were extremely impressed with everything they put on that day, seemed like never ending turkeys, hams and beef roasts not to mention all the hors d'oeuvres and puds of all kinds. We were most impressed. However, it would have been much more fun had we had someone with us. As it was, we kind of stuffed ourselves and went home. We went to a similar function in the UK and they had a party afterwards which was great. Again, not far up the road from us is the Troika Equestrian Country Club which also has an excellent restaurant. You can watch horses being trained in the indoor riding arena through a large plate glass window or you can walk round the stables before or after your meal. If you want to look at their menu click here to see what they offer. That's just three of the great restaurants we have round here and there are many more of differing standards many offering ethnic foods. We abound with Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai restaurants too, especially in Waterloo which is a University town and has students from all over, including lots of Asians. The Blackberry hails from Waterloo and a lot of top dot com companies come to Waterloo to recruit new people. Oh to be younger, I would love to have worked in the computer industry. Anyway, despite all these restaurants, we mostly eat in, partly because we are able to cook good meals anyway and partly because we do enjoy wine with dinner which brings up the problem of driving, not to mention the exhorbitant corkage prices. Marilyn, again, emailed me this morning about Melk Tert which I posted a recipe for in December here at which time she told me that the recipe most often used in South Africa was adapted from a French recipe for flan and taken to South Africa by the Hugenots. A South African friend of mine disagreed with this and figured the recipe originated with the Dutch. Either way, the one I made was delicious. This is the one Marilyn bought to serve for dinner. Shame on you Marilyn, they are easy enough to cook *g*. We had Tourtière for supper last night. Originally this recipe came from the LCBO's Food and Drink magazine. However, I changed a couple of things and used bought frozen pastry instead of making my own. I have never been much of a pastry cook unfortunately although my ex husband's second wife taught me to have a lighter hand. In the recipe it calls for adding stock until the meat is just covered. Don't be fooled into adding more than the measurement below, you won't need it and will probably end with a lot of liquid left. I am going to turn what I have remaining into soup. Tourtière As a change, you can use frozen puff pastry for your pies. Filling 2 Tbs olive oil 1 lb ground pork 1 lb ground beef 1 lb ground veal 2 cup finely chopped onion ¾ cup finely chopped carrot 1¼ cup chopped fennel 1 bay leaf 1 tsp dried thyme 1½ tsp dry mustard 1½ tsp allspice 1 tsp cinnamon 3 Tbs rolled oats Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 1/4 cup beef stock 2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley per pie 1 Tbs dried breadcrumbs or ½ Tbs semolina per pie Egg wash 1 egg beaten 1 Tbs whipping cream 4 boxes of frozen pastry - defrosted (2 shells in each) I used deep shell pie crusts for the bottoms and regular crusts for the top. 1 Heat oil in a heavy pot over high heat. Add ground meat and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the pinkness disappears. Drain off fat. 2 Stir in the onion, carrots, fennel, bay leaf, dried thyme, dry mustard, all-spice, cinnamon, rolled oats and salt and pepper. Add enough stock to just cover the top of the meat. Turn the heat to low, cover and cook slowly for about 45 minutes, or until the onions disappear. Check and stir after 30 minutes. Re-season if needed. Cool, remove and discard bay leaf and stir in parsley. 3 Preheat oven to 450°F/230°C. 4 Take out four pastry shells to use as bottoms and sprinkle with breadcrumbs or semolina to absorb any fat. Pile meat mixture onto each pastry crust, leaving a 1 inch border. Brush edge of pastry with water. Top with remaining crusts and press edges together to seal, crimping decoratively if desired. 5 Combine beaten egg with cream and brush over pastry. Cut steam vents into the top crusts. 6 Bake for 15 minutes in lower half of the oven. Reduce heat to 400°F/200°C and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crusts are golden. Cooking four pies it is necessary to rotate their positions in the oven. (Actually I didn't this time and they came out fine, but watch they don't burn). Servings: 6 Have a great day.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Spring Flowers, The Lace Reader,

Paragraph removed by author. Apparently the Crocus blossoms are beginning to poke through in England, they couldn't here, too much snow. Something I have never seen here are Snowdrops, now those we do see, in England, poking their heads through the snow. They are the most delicate little flowers and a joy to see in the late winter/early spring. I do love spring flowers, they are always so pretty and fragile giving promise of the summer to come. Unfortunately we won't be seeing daffodils and suchlike for a while yet. Its at times like these when I wish I had a yard/garden with lovely flowers in it. In North Carolina we had lots of gorgeous daffodils and also lots of azaleas of all colours which used to look very beautiful for a few weeks. Such a short life and yet they are a blaze of colour in season. There is a town called Wilmington in NC where they have an azalea festival every spring and the whole area is blanketed in beautiful flowers. There is also Orton Plantation outside Wilmington where they have the most fantastic show of flowers for the better part of the year including, of course, lots and lots of azaleas. Yesterday I finished The Lace Reader a novel by Brunonia Barry. Absolutely fascinating story full of twists and turns, secrets and mystery. It is set in Salem with a background of modern day witches and Lace Readers. I can highly recommend it, an unusual story, but good. My geography isn't very good obviously, I had never realised Salem was on the coast and that once it was the centre of a thriving shipping business. There are references to the hounding of witches in earlier times, of course, which gives an added flavour to the book but the story isn't really anything to do with witches. I found the book on the latest list from my library, they send an email every so often and I am so glad I decided to try it. My next book will be a novel by Jennifer Fallon. It is called Medalon and is part of the Hythrun Chronicles. I read a trilogy of hers which I very much enjoyed - it was called The Tide Lords. Slumdog Millionaire did it again. Saturday night, we had a Portuguese pork stew which was very good. We had some pork which I considered fit for stewing, certainly not for grilling, and so Matt turned it into a stew. Sunday I spent making Tourtières and I will give you the recipe tomorrow. Rojoes Cominho Braised Pork with Cumin, Coriander and Lemon Time Life Foods of the World Serves 4 2 lb. boneless pork, cut into 1 inch cubes 1/2 oz of olive oil and butter mixed 1/4 pint (UK 5 fl. oz) dry white wine 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin seed 1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic 1 tsp salt Freshly ground black pepper 5 thin lemon slices, quartered 2 Tbs finely chopped fresh coriander Pat the pork cubes thoroughly dry with kitchen paper. Heat the butter and oil in a large, heavy frying pan over a high heat until it splutters. Add the pork cubes and brown them, turning frequently with a wooden spoon and regulating the heat so that they brown quickly and evenly without burning. Stir in 6 Tbs of wine, the cumin, garlic, salt and a liberal grinding of pepper. Bring go the boil, then cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 25 mins until the pork is tender and shows no resistance when pierced with the tip of a small, sharp knife. Add the remaining wine and the lemon slices and cook over a high heat, turning the meat and lemon pieces constantly, until the sauce thickens very slightly. Stir in the coriander and taste for seasoning. Have a great day.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dying on Camera, Governor's Ball

There was a story on Good Morning America today about Jade Goody a British TV reality programme star who has terminal cancer. She is allowing cameras to follow her around to see the results of her disease and it is believed they will even film her death although her publicist is denying it. This has caused something of a furore in Britain with a lot of people horrified that such a tragic moment in a human life should be put on the screen and trivialised for the amusement of a TV audience. If you would like to read more about this rather peculiar story, read here or for a video both on GMA pages. This weekend I am going to be making Tourtières so I am going to have a busy time of it. You may have heard that the Oscars take place tomorrow. Slumdog Millionaire and Mickey Rourke won the Baftas a couple of weeks ago, I wonder if they will take the Oscars as well. We have always been fascinated by the dishes prepared for the Governor's Ball by German born Wolfgang Puck who owns Spago's, a famous restaurant in California, plus quite a lot of other restaurants scattered around the States. He has a website with lots of recipes on it which I just found and will have to check out some of those recipes. I have tried several he has posted and enjoyed them very much. For the Governor's Ball this year he is serving Slow Braised Short Ribs as well as the risotto posted below. This gives me pictures of all the stars in their gorgeous clothes, up to their ears in sauce. SPRING VEGETABLE RISOTTO Source: Wolfgang Puck (Oscars 2009) 1 lb pencil asparagus, trimmed 4 oz organic spinach, washed, dried, stemmed, blanched, liquid squeezed out 6 Tbs (3/4 stick) unsalted butter 4 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper 1 Tbs minced garlic 1 Tbs minced shallots 3/4 cup Arborio rice 1/3 cup dry white wine 2- 1/2 to 3 cups organic chicken stock, hot 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese Fried julienne of leeks, optional 1 Cut off 3-inch asparagus tips and reserve. Chop the remaining stalks, blanch, drain well, and transfer to a blender. Add the spinach and process to a puree. Pass through a fine-mesh strainer. Reserve. Blanch the asparagus tips, drain, and sauté in 1 tablespoon each of the butter and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Reserve. 2 In a medium saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons each of the butter and olive oil. Add the garlic and shallots and sauté until soft. Do not brown. 3 Add the rice and sauté until well coated with the oil. 4 Deglaze with the wine and reduce until almost dry. 5 Using a 4-ounce ladle, add one ladle of stock to the rice. Stir the rice over medium heat until the stock is absorbed and the rice is almost dry. 6 Add another ladle of stock and repeat the procedure until you have added a total of 2-1/2 cups of stock, or just until the rice is tender but still firm. 7 Stir in the reserved vegetable puree. 8 Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the Parmesan cheese. Continue to add stock to the desired consistency. It should be moist and creamy but not runny. Season with salt and pepper. 9 Divide among 4 heated serving plates and garnish with sautéed asparagus tips and fried julienne of leeks, if desired. Serve immediately. Servings: 4 Have a great weekend.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Dolphin Rescue, Presidential Visit and What He Got for Lunch

A heartwarming story this week about some dolphins trapped in a 'pond' formed by ice in Seal Cove, Newfoundland. There were appeals for an ice breaker, but there wasn't one available and even had there been, it could have made the situation worse. Yesterday some of the locals took a boat out there and managed to create a channel to the open water. Two dolphins escaped on their own, one had to be towed out. If you want to read the Globe and Mail Report click here there were originally five dolphins, it seems no-one is quite certain what happened to the other two. Yesterday Canadians in Ottawa went nuts with excitement to see President Obama visit Canada. Especially when he stopped at a bake shop and bought a couple of maple leaf cookies for his daughters. He was actually given them by the baker who subsequently sold every one of the rest of his cookies. I gather security cost quite a bit for the 9 hour visit. We are told it was a political success and both Obama and Harper have agreed to work together. He also met with Ignatieff, the opposition leader. On the news last night there were lots of pictures of the occasion. They also mentioned, in passing, what Mr. Obama was given for lunch. I hunted around this morning and found the following menu: Pacific Coast tuna with a Chilli and Citrus Vinaigrette, Maple and Miso Cured Nunavut Arctic Char, Lightly Pickled Vegetables and an Organic Beet Relish, Applewood Smoked Plains Bison, Winter Root Veg and Local Mushrooms. Cauliflower and rosemary purèe, Juniper and Niagara red wine jus. Dessert: Saugeen Yogurt Pot de Cème with a Lemon and Lavender Syrup, Wild Blueberry and Partridgeberry Compote, Acadian Buckwheat Honey and Sumac Tuile. Don't have any recipes unfortunately, nor do I have a clue what Partridgeberries are, Googled to fine they are the same as ligonberries, not really very familiar with those either. Sounds like a heck of a lot of food for lunch but I have no doubt I could have done justice to it. Mr. Obama was met at the airport by Canada's Governer General, Michaelle Jean and then went in a motorcade to meet Stephen Harper, our Prime Minister, on Capitol Hill which is where the parliament is. People were running after the Presidential limo (he brought his own) trying to catch a glimpse of him. There was a whole plane load of security stuff brought in to Canada the day before he arrived. Here is a recipe I have found for Arctic Char Gravlax by Chef Pierre le Page. Chef Pierre LePage lives in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. He runs his own restaurant and loves to cook with Arctic Char. He says he has always preferred cold water fish as the icy waters freeze in the flavour. He shares his recipe for Arctic Char with Gravlax Sorrel Cream Sauce. Ingredients for Gravlax: 2 bunches if fresh dill with stems 1 bunch fresh thyme 1 cup course sea salt 1 cup brown sugar 1 cup white sugar 4 Tbsp. black peppercorns, cracked 1 tsp. whole allspice, cracked 2 oz. Brandy 2 fresh char fillets (about 2 pounds each) skin on, pit bone out Mix together sea salt, brown and white sugar, peppercorns and allspice. Rub the mixture on all sides of the char. Put a thin layer of the mixture on the bottom of the cooking dish, lay fillets skin down in the dish and pack the remaining rub evenly around the fillets. Spread the dill and thyme on top of the fillets until the char is covered. Sprinkle a little brandy on each fillet. Tightly cover the dish and leave at room temperature for 2 hours, then refrigerate for 24 hours. Remove the cover, flip over the fillets, rewrap the dish and put a weight on top (like a cookie sheet with 2 cans on top). Return to the fridge for another 24 hours. At the end of curing, unwrap the fish and scrap away the herbs and spices. The gravlax will be firm but pliable and slightly translucent. Expect to see a great deal of liquid accumulate in the dish as the fish shrinks. To slice the gravlax, use a thin, sharp knife. Hold the knife at a 10 degree angle, starting from the tail end, begin slicing the gravlax no thicker than 1/6 of an inch. The slices should be so thin that you can see through the flesh and watch the knife’s movement as you slice. Sorrel Sauce: 250 ml sour cream 1 bunch fresh sorrel 1 garlic clove, finely chopped 1 oz. lemon juice 1 Tbsp. fresh dill, finely chopped salt and pepper to taste Put sorrel, dill, garlic and lemon juice in a cuisinar or blender and puree. Add sour cream and season with salt and pepper. To serve, arrange the gravlax slices on a platter, serve with thin slices of toasted bread and sorrel sauce. Have a great day.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Feet and Food and Taxes

Today we have to be measured for our newest orthotics so have to get a move on this morning as we go some distance for this. Can't complain, get some good shoes, lined with orthotics, for nothing. Since I had a hip replacement I have one leg slightly longer than the other which causes a bit of a problem. Takes about three weeks to get the shoes. I will probably have runners again as I seem to live in those more than anything else. Last night we had a nice visit with some friends - had to chuckle though, we were talking about things they don't eat which included sweetbreads which I love and brains, which I know I have eaten but don't remember; in England we eat lamb's brains in the Carolinas they eat pig's brains (brains and eggs for breakfast). Also kidneys and tripe (I don't like tripe I'm afraid) and of course lamb. They DO NOT like lamb or any organ meats (offal) so its always a joke that when they come to dinner I am going to roast lamb and serve maybe kidneys or something. I am told, by those who know, that sheep are the stupidest creatures by the way. This conversation all came about because of the Shepherd's Pie discussion. I did my taxes on Tuesday too, I am quite pleased with myself that that is out of the way. I use an on line tax preparing programme which costs me $26 once I decide to print or file it. I can actually do all my calculations and everything else without paying a cent although I am not quite sure why you would. You can then download the forms and later transmit them to the tax office on line. Its so easy these days. Beats paying over $100 to get someone else to do them for you. We have done that when our stuff was a little more complicated, but I always resented paying so much money for it. Get a small refund and most of it goes to the tax preparer. I am pleased to say we do get a refund. I always remember that April 15th is tax day in the States, it is also a friend's birthday so the two are synonymous in my mind. The following recipe was sent to me by email from My Gourmet Connection and I thought it sounded really delicious. I can see this appearing at our dining table in the not too distant future. I have posted a second picture as I thought you would like to see the meat sliced. Pastry-Wrapped Pork With Brandy-Cider Reduction If you are looking for a recipe with a perfect blend of rich flavor and an elegant presentation for a romantic dinner, you may want to give this one a try. Adapted from a holiday recipe published by Cuisine At Home in 2003, it has become a favorite in our home for a number of years. It is surprisingly easy to prepare, and with a little planning in advance, it really doesn't require a lot of last-minute fuss. For the filling ~ 3 ounces cream cheese 1/3 cup dried apples, chopped 1 tablespoon brandy 1 small clove garlic, finely chopped 2 teaspoons fresh sage, finely chopped For the pork ~ 3 or 4 thin slices prosciutto 1 lb pork tenderloin 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water For the sauce ~ 1 tablespoon butter 1 shallot, minced 1 clove garlic, minced 1-1/2 cups apple cider 1/4 cup brandy 1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped Preparation ~ In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, dried apples, brandy, garlic and sage. Trim any fat and silver skin from the pork, then cut a slit down the length of the tenderloin, about 3/4-inch deep, for the filling. Spread the cream cheese mixture inside the slit and push the tenderloin back together gently. Lay the prosciutto slices side by side on a flat surface. Place the pork, filling side down, on top of them and wrap the slices around the tenderloin until they overlap. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet large enough to hold the pork. Sear the tenderloin on all sides, turning frequently with tongs, until the prosciutto is lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the skillet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes. Trim a strip about 1-1/2-inches wide from one side of the pastry sheet and reserve for decoration. Roll the balance out to a 12 x 15-inch rectangle. Place the pork on the pastry and fold the long sides up over the tenderloin. Press the edges to seal, crimp the ends and fold them under to make rounded ends. If desired, use the reserved pastry to make some decorative cutouts for the top of the pork. Place the tenderloin, seam side down, on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the pastry with the egg wash. Gently press the pastry cutouts on top of the pork and brush the entire tenderloin with the egg wash again. Bake the pork for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Allow it to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing. While the tenderloin bakes, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook until soft and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the apple cider and brandy. Turn up the heat and boil for for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by about half and it reaches a syrup-like thickness. Stir in the chopped sage and transfer to a serving dish. Makes 3 to 4 servings Recipe Notes ~ If your pork tenderloin tapers a lot at one end, try to fold that under a bit prior to wrapping with the prosciutto. Also, when carving the finished tenderloin, make your slices fairly thick ~ about 3/4-inch. I've had the best luck using an electric carving knife, but a sharp bread knife works well too. This will help to keep the pastry intact and give the nicest presentation. Have a great day.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Oscar and Bafta Winners,

Last night on TV they showed On the Waterfront starring Marlon Brando. For some reason, although this movie was made in the 50s, I had never seen it. At the beginning I thought I still wasn't going to see it, but I persevered and ended up enjoying it very much. A lot of the film was very dated and the fight scenes left a lot to be desired but it was a good movie. Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb and Rod Steiger were also in the movie, something I didn't know before. Brando looked so very young, as did Steiger. The TV seems to be running a lot of previous Oscar winners at the moment and we have caught one or two. They ran Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid the other night. I didn't watch that but Matt did and enjoyed it again. I just discovered there is a similar award programme in Britain where they present a mask like statuette called a Bafta. We watched some of the programme early in the month and Slumdog Millionaire got their award for best film. Best actor was Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler which was something of a surprise. You can watch video of it all at this site of the British Association of Film and Television Arts. One thing about watching the BAFTA awards, they are five hours ahead of us. We always say we won't watch the Oscars because it goes on so late, but we always end up doing so. Unless you are really involved in the industry, the main thing of interest is the awards for the acting categories, directing categories and of course, best film. They usually put on a pretty good show, this year the host is Hugh Jackman. Over the past week or two, we had virtually lost all the white stuff except where it was piled up in parking lots having been dumped there by snow ploughs. This morning we woke up to a fall of snow again, but it wasn't particularly heavy. We have had nice warm (for winter) temps lately but I guess we are going back to winter weather. Considering it is still February, this is not surprising. Whatever the groundhog says, we are unlikely to see much in a warming trend for a month or two yet. I have seen snow storms in April but I have also seen 80°F weather as well. Browsing the Food and Drink magazine from the LCBO I came across a recipe I think looks delicious and will certainly be trying out in the near future. Peppered Lamb Loins with a Garlic and Dark Chocolate Sauce The peppercorns and garlic enhance the lamb while the small amount of chocolate gives the sauce a great colour and rich flavour. 1 Tbs black peppercorns 2 boneless lamb loins, about 1/2 lb. each sea salt 2 Tbs olive oil 1 Tbs finely chopped garlic 1 cup unsalted or low salt lamb or chicken stock 1/2 oz dark bittersweet 72% chocolate, chopped Preheat the oven to 200°F/100°C. Coarsely crush the peppercorns in a mortar with a pestle. Sprinkle the pepper over the lamb and then season with salt. Heat the oil in a large frying pan until very hot. Add the lamb and cook for 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a dish and keep warm in the oven. Remove the pan from the heat, add the garlic and stir. Return the pan to low heat and cook, stirring, until the garlic just begins to colour. Pour in the stock, stirring to deglaze the pan and bring to a boil. Boil until the stock is reduced to about 1/4 cup, then add the chocolate, stirring until melted. Check the seasoning. Slice the lamb into thick slices and serve with the sauce. Serves 4. Have a great day.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

British Foods, Herring and Lamprey

I have been having food discussions with various people recently - one talking about traditional British Foods and the other talking about Herring. In the traditional British Foods discussions I, along with many Brits, insist that Shepherd's Pie should be made with lamb and if you use beef, it becomes Cottage Pie. However, I had it pointed out to me that in the dictionary it describes Shepherd's Pie as something made of ground meat with a potato crust and does not specify what type of meat. My main source of information is, however, Mrs. Beeton's Cookery (Using Up Cold Remains) which I have mentioned before; my copy was published in 1935. For Shepherd's Pie she actually specifies mutton which most of us can no longer buy. In fact Mrs. Beeton doesn't appear to mention Cottage Pie at all although she describes serving Minced Beef (mixed with carrots and onions etc.) edged with mashed potato for serving. In earlier days in the UK, it was traditional in less affluent families to serve a roast of meat on Sunday for lunch (dry roast not pot roast) and then because Monday was wash day, you got cold roast. Tuesday, the remains of the roast were popped into a mincer and made into a pie with potato on top. Since we now have washers and dryers, there is no longer a traditional wash day so this doesn't apply. Food is also so much more available with everything being in the stores year round. Nothing is only available in season although there is a big movement to buy local (within 100 miles) to improve your ecological footprint. As for steak and kidney, often referred to as Kate and Sidley pie by us Brits, Mrs. Beeton doesn't even use onion in her recipe, merely a beef and kidney stew covered with puff or shortcrust pastry. This morning I came across a recipe in Worldwide Recipes which included mushrooms, sherry and cognac amongst other ingredients. I am not saying this wouldn't be enjoyable, I just say it isn't traditional. It is traditional to throw in some oysters, but I suppose when that was first introduced people set up the same cry "its not traditional". These days, many people won't even try it because of the kidney. I, on the other hand, make it with extra kidney because I love it so much. As for herring, that was a fish I used to love when we could buy it fresh, but it has, unfortunately, been very much overfished and is no longer readily available. I know I have written about both these topics before, but it is something close to my heart. Particularly eating in Denmark and going to their restaurants where they had huge buffets with all kinds of smørrbrød with what seemed like dozens of different herring dishes. One popular one which has found its way over here is pickled herring which we can buy in jars. I miss the fresh herrings we used to have for breakfast in the UK when I was a young woman. Kippers too, which were my favourites. Soused herring and rollmops were other popular dishes, I think adapted from Danish recipes. Smørrbrød means buttered bread by the way and basically describes the open sandwiches which are generally served for lunch. For some reason the words used by the Scandinavians for buttered bread have degenerated into Smorgasbord here and actually are used as an alternative for a buffet, nothing to do with the original meaning. Browsing through Mrs. Beeton this morning, I have just come across a recipe for baked Lamprey. I didn't know anyone had eaten them since the days of King John. They are of the eel family and John is supposed to have died of a surfeit of Lampreys. I suppose it must have fallen out of popularity because I certainly don't remember it being available when I was a youngster. She has lots of baked or fried herring recipes and also lots of lobster recipes. I think lobster must have been a lot more plentiful then. In fact I remember it being more plentiful when I was younger, we didn't get these skimpy little things you can buy these days, but a decent sized critter which was worth bothering to eat. Taling of fish, here is a recipe for Crab which, bearing in mind the popularity of wraps, seems a very suitable dish for today's tastes. It is from The Best Three and Four Ingredient Cookbook. It calls for a medium dressed crab. For most of us, we would have to use canned lump crab meat unless we are lucky enough to be able to buy a decent, edible crab as you can in the UK and France for instance. Just know I envy you over there LOL. It occurs to me it would also be good with Alaskan King Crab meat, better than canned crab. Crab and Cucumber Wraps This dish is a modern twist on the ever popular Chinese classic, crispy Peking duck with pancakes (crèpes). In this quick and easy version, crisp, refreshing cucumber and full flavoured dressed crab are delicious with spicy-sweet hoisin sauce in warm tortilla wraps. Serve the wraps as an appetizer for four or as a main course for two. 1/2 English cucumber 1 medium dressed crab 4 small wheat tortillas 8 Tbs hoisin sauce From the store cupboard Ground black pepper Cut the cucumber into small eaven sized batons (short sticks). Scoop the dressed crab into a small mixing bowl, add a little freshly ground pepper and mix lightly to combine. Heat the tortillas gently, one at a time, in a heavy frying pan until they begin to colour on each side. Spread a tortilla with 2 Tbs hoisin sauce, then sprinkle with one quarter of the cucumber. Arrange one quarter of the crab meat down the centre of each tortilla and roll it up. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Serve immediately. Have a great day.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Holidays, Books and Language

Today in Ontario is Family Day which is a relatively new holiday. In fact I hadn't even registered its existence until it was announced that there would be bowling today. Such holidays don't mean a lot to us any more, its just another day. In the States, today is President's Day. On GMA this morning they had Dr. Rosen talking about the aging of Presidents. Its not just that they mostly end up with white hair and wrinkles, but many of them get pretty sick too due to all the stress and the fact that they don't get much in the way of downtime or even family time. They showed a lot of before and after photos and it is quite incredible the appearance changes. It was pointed out that although most Presidents are pretty active, jogging or playing various sports, etc. they don't have a lot of time for friends or even their families. However, he seemed to think Obama would 'sneak' friends in and have a baseball court set up. I must say, I don't know why there is so much desire to be President, I wouldn't want the job. Anyway, to all my North American readers, happy Family/President's Day. Talking of holidays, I hope you all had a good Valentine's Day. We certainly enjoyed our dinner on Saturday night, the recipe for Cuban Pork Tenderloin, which I posted on the 11th, was very good as was everything else we ate starting with the smoked salmon. Mind you smoked salmon is one of the foods I am nuts about. We used to have a local restaurant where the owner smoked his own salmon, he also smoked Arctic Char in the same way. He let me have a taster one time and it was equally as good, if not better, than the Smoked Salmon. Unfortunately, after some 30 years, they closed down a couple of years ago. Horrors, I have run out of books. I am presently doing some re-reading. I haven't had time to go down to the library and although I have several books on hold, they haven't yet come through. When we moved back to Canada from the States, I disposed of hundreds of books and just kept my all time favourites. Mind you that still made a lot of books to carry back. Not to mention all the cookbooks we have. We have 5 large bookshelves absolutely stacked with novels and cookbooks. Quite a few reference books too which include several language dictionaries, Greek and Spanish to name a couple. I also have several language CDs as well. Talking of language CDs, have you come across the language series called Rosetta Stone? Its great. On their website I went through a little demo and found the system extremely easy and efficient. Unfortunatley they are not cheap so I won't be buying them, but I would if I could. Brilliant series. Check them out at there is probably a .com site too. They guarantee you can learn a language in 6 months. From what I saw, I would say you could be very familiar with the language in a lot less time. I have just come across a couple of Chinese type recipes in The Best Four and Five Ingredient Cookbook. I have never cooked ribs because Matt wasn't keen, although recently he has eaten some which are really meaty. His main complaint was its "just chewing bones" which he doesn't like. There is also a good pork chop recipe which I give you below. Chinese Spiced Pork Chops Five-spice powder is a fantastic ingredient for perking up dishes and adding a good depth of flavour. The five different spices - Szechuan pepper, cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds and star anise - are perfectly balanced, with the aniseed flavour of star anise predominating. Serve the chops with lightly steamed pak choi (bok choy) and plain boiled rice. Serves 4 4 large pork chops about 7 oz. each 1 Tbs Chinese five-spice powder 2 Tbs soy sauce From the store cupboard 2 Tbs garlic infused olive oil Arrange the pork chops in a single layer in a non-metalic roasting pan or baking dish. Sprinkle the five-spice powder over the chops, then drizzle over the soy sauce and garlic infused oil. (Alternatively, mix together the oil, soy sauce and spice powder and pour over the chops) Using your hands, rub the mixture into the meat. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F. Uncover the dish and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the pork is cooked through and tender. Serve immediately. Have a great day.