Thursday, December 15, 2011

La Tortière that is Sure to Please!

This flavourful recipe is one that is brought together from the traditional Jehanne Benoit ‘Canadiana’ cookbook from 1975 as well as the ‘Canadian Living’ classic cookbook published every year.  To every French Cook comes a different blend of herbs but the concept comes from France where ‘la tourterelle’, a tiny bird would be the main ingredient of this dish.  By the way, the carrier pigeon in Canada became extinct due to the intensive hunting of to make this meat pie.
3 medium potatoes
2-3 lbs of lean ground beef combined with pork
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 large golden onions
1-2 carrots
6 cloves garlic
1 stalk celery
6 cups sliced mushrooms
3 tsp. thyme
2 tsp. sage
1 tbsp savory
½ tsp cloves
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ c. chopped fresh parsley

Peel potatoes in a separate saucepan.  Drain and mash them until smooth.
In a deep skillet, cook onions, garlic, celery and mushroom and set aside.  Cook 3 lbs meat thoroughly.  Add chicken stock and stir in parsley.  Finally add chopped carrots and potatoes.
For Pastry:
Mix flour and salt in a separate bowl.  Blend in lard into flour mixture until it is the size of small peas.  Prepare beaten egg, cold water and vinegar up to one cup, and add to flour mixture.  Make into a large mass without working the dough, and finally divide it into 6 balls of dough.  Place into the fridge to cool (makes 3 pies).  
Make lower shell, add mixture.  Make top shell of pastry.  Bake in a hot oven at 425 degrees for 15 min.  Reduce heat for 45 min. at 325 degrees until done.  Enjoy.

Peasant Risotto

I was charmed by this dish with its delicious flavour along with high protein value.  Rice and beans are the basic ingredient but this time, it is not Mexican but European in style. Remember to be generous with herbs as the flavours will be enjoyable in this simple but hearty one bowl meal. It's shamelessly inexpensive reminding all of us that with some planning and preparation, food can be good, clean and 'fairly inexpensive', a new twist on the Carlo Petrini's adage of 'Good, Clean and Fair' in his pivotal book called Slow Food Nation. By the way, this would be a great meal after skating or hockey practice, so make a large batch as this recipe offers and freeze to enjoy later.
1 tbsp olive oil 15 ml
6 slices of bacon
3 cloves garlic
2 cups arborio rice 500 ml
2 cans navy beans 1 L
soaked and drained
1 onion finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped sage 15 ml
salt to taste
4 cups chicken broth 1 L
3 cups chopped swiss chard, 
stems removed 750 ml
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 125 ml
Heat oil in a large dutch oven, adding ham, garlic, onion until they are browned. Add rice, beans and sage. Add the warm broth and bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer for approximately 30 minutes.
With the cover on the dutch oven and the risotto on a slow simmer, add the grated Parmesan cheese to thicken. Add water if necessary to prevent sticking.  Finally place the shredded swiss chard in the pot to steam for 5 minutes. Stir one last time and serve generous portions in bowls. This freezes very well. Serves 8.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Flower Pot Pannetone

This adaptation to the traditional Italian Sweet bread commonly served at the high holidays of Easter and Christmas, is one that is very flavourful and attractive and will bea welcomed part of your festive winter celebrations. Flower pots are an ideal baking container allowing a slow, moist heat throughout, and are inexpensive to purchase. I found that this recipe allows for 6 high-domed loaves in prepared pots 4.5in. to 5.5 in. (10-40 cm.) large. They conveniently stack away after use for storage. I also prefer to use dried fruit rather than candied, so I made it with dried cranberries, apricots and golden raisins. Try your own mixed fruit blend.
3/4 c. golden raisins 175 ml.
1/2 c. dried apricots 125 ml.
1/2 c. dried cranberries 125 ml.
8 c. approx. all purpose flour 2 L.
1 c. granulated sugar 250 ml.
3/4 c. warmed milk 175 ml.
4 1/2 tsp active dried yeast 2 pkg
6 eggs
6 egg yolks
1 tbsp orange rind 15 ml.
1 tbsp lemon rind 15 ml.
1 tbsp vanilla 15 ml.
1 1/2 tsp salt 7 ml.
1 1/2 c. softened unsalted butter 375 ml.
In a small metal bowl, combine all dried fuit and sprinkle 2 tbsp (25 ml.) of the flour to coat and set aside. Prepare the yeast by adding 1 tsp (5 ml) sugar into another bowl, warming milk, adding it to the sugar, mix and let stand for 10 minutes. Whisk together eggs, citrus rinds and vanilla and add yeast mixture.
In a large bowl, blend together 4 cups (1 L.) flour, remaining sugar and salt. Blend in the liquid mixture into the flour and stir sufficiently. Add the balance of the flour. Turn out the dough on a floured surface and knead for approximately 8 minutes adding more flour if needed. Finally dust with flour and let rest for 5 minutes.
Flour dough to a large thick pancake and add the dried fruit. Fold over once and close the seal. Knead 3-5 minutes to sufficiently blend in the fruit and place covered in a greased bowl in a warm place for 1 1/2 hrs so that it is doubled in size.
Grease each flower pot and add a small pice of aluminum foil to each bottom to avoid burning the base. Line each pot with parchment paper letting it pass the top by approximately 2 in. (5 cm.). Punch down dough, and turn it out on a floured surface. Divide into 6 mounds and place into the bottom of each pot. Make a cross-like cut on the top of each loaf.  Allow the dough to rise again for about an hour-1 1/2 hrs. Bake at 350 degrees (180 degrees C.) for 30-40 minutes. Remove, let cool for a few minutes and remove from their pots. Wrap when cool and will keep for approximately 2 weeks. They make for very attractive gifts and happy holiday baking!

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Tasting fresh ingredients in your daily cooking is of course, one of the best rewards of the fall harvest. With such plenty, it is often the case that I develop facile ways of preserving quantities of foods that have made their way to my kitchen.  I often find that a neighbouring crabapple tree owned by a generous friend is easy to harvest, so whether it be offerings, foraging or simply buying in season at your local grocery store, seasonal foods are the best pick. Whether it be drying apples for easy munching later, freezing rhubarb for pies yet to be made, poaching or pickling in wine or cider , infusing herbs in oil, or making berry jams for breakfast, the first step is to determine which method of preserving suits the food and your culinary tastes. Always select fruits and vegetables that are in great condition and even slightly under ripe for your preserving.

Plum Crabapple Jam

This easy jam is tart, at the same time, sweet, and brimming with flavour. Plums and crabapples harvest at the same time so gathering is pleasant, the preparation rather simple in that there are only four main ingredients. 

6 cups quartered crabapples 1500 ml
3 cups water 750 ml
2 tbsp cinnamon
8 cups purple plums 2 litres
10 cups granulated sugar 2.50 litres
11/2 cups dry red wine 350 ml

Place crabapples and water in a dutch oven and boil over medium-low heat covered for 15 minutes until the fruit softens. Press crabapples into a sieve coarsely to remove pits, stems. Save the pulp and return to dutch oven. Add plums, sugar, cinnamon and return to a gentle boil until it forms a sticky gel (approx. 30 minutes). Stir frequently to avoid burning. Remove from heat and fill hot, clean sterilized jars. Process jars in a hot bath for 10 minutes, rinse and label.

Apple Plum Chutney

This recipe is so rich in spicy flavour that it becomes a frequent pleaser in the winter months. Try this as a spread in sandwiches, on potatoes or as a condiment on a great vegetarian or beef burger. Depending on the darkness of the plums you use, the colour is a gorgeous deep orange.

8 cups unpeeled pitted and quartered pums 2 litres
51/2 cups packed brown sugar 1350 ml
4 cups chopped golden onions 1 litre
1 head garlic
2 cups diced red pepper 500 ml
1 cup golden raisins 250 ml
2 tbsp mustard seeds 30 ml
2 tsp coarse salt 10 ml
1 tbsp each allspice, cinnamon, ginger 15 ml
4 cups cider 1 litre

Add all ingredients to a large dutch oven and bring to a boil reducing heat to simmer for at least an hour to allow the mixture to become a thick consistency. Stir frequently to avoid sticking. Remove from heat and pour into hot, clean sterilized jars. Process jars in a hot bath for 10 minutes, then rinse and label.

Spicy Crabapples

Once picked in September in quantity and pickled in a spicy vinegar, these spicy crabapples grace a thanksgiving plate beautifully. Sort through your pickings to find the best of the crabapples, keep the stems and begin this simple process.

41/2 cups granulated sugar 1125 ml
3 cups water 750 ml
21/2 cups cider vinegar 625 ml
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp whole cloves, allspice and caramon 15 ml
33/4 lbs. crabapples 1.7 kg

Combine sugar, water and vinegar in a large dutch oven. Prepare a spice bag with cinnamon, whole cloves, allspice and cardamon. Bring mixture to a boil for 10 minutes. Using cleaned whole crabapples and boil for approximately 10 minutes or until apples are tender. Gently place apples into large jars and pour spicy vinegar into them leaving 1/2 inch space.  Process jars in a hot bath for 20 minutes, rinse and label.

Roasted Red Peppers

With local sweet red peppers arriving into the marketplace at low prices, September is the time to bring them home and savour their flavours throughout the winter months. Thoroughly wash the exterior of the red peppers and place any quantity in a large bowl. Add 1-2 tbsp olive oil to glaze the peppers. Place them over the bbq under medium heat and turn them gently while they brown. Return them to a large clean bowl and seal it with plastic wrap to complete a steaming of the peppers. Remove after 10 minutes, skin and halve each pepper to place in a sealed bag adding some of the roasting juices for flavour. Use them on pizza, spreads, pasta dishes, and jambalayas.

Peach Orange Conserve

Conserves vary from jams or jellies of course so that you enjoy a mixed fruit dish that may be served with yogourt, ice cream or pound cake. There is also a vast difference this conserve has to its poor, bland, pale commercial cousin, canned peaches from the supermarket. To remove the peach skin, place the cleaned peaches in a large bowl, pour boiling water to submerge for approx 1-3 minutes, and drain. Follow this by ice cold water submersion and peel easily.

2 oranges unpeeled
1 rbsp grated lemon rind
3/4 cup water
8 cups coarsely chopped, pitted peeled peaches
6 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
10 cinnamon stick
3/4 slivered almonds

Remove stem from oranges and place whole with lemon rind and water and bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer covered in a small pot for approximately 15 minutes. Let cool, slice coursely  and place in  a large dutch oven along with chopped peaches, sugar, lemon juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer for approximately 1 hour. Finally add almonds to the mixture and cook for 5 more minutes. Prepare 500 ml. jars in the oven and add one cinnamon stick to each. Pour mixture into jars. Process jars in a hot bath for 20 minutes, then rinse and label.

Monday, September 12, 2011

September Means Bringing in the Abundant Harvest!

September brings an abundant harvest of local produce.  Russett apples, a light, flaky tasty eating apple is available to make applesauce, pies, cakes and muffins.  Fresh local peaches are delightfully versitile as they can be preserved in a sweet syrup, pureed with only a small amount of honey, or even pickled with delicates spices.  Large juicy local red peppers are abundant in grocery stores to process and quickly make rich, meaty red pepper spaghetti sauce.  Tomatoes are pouring into markets for many practical canning projects at home from tomato soup bases to hot salsas to  be enjoyed in the winter months.  Many varieties of squash in early September are making an appearance in local gardens and can add substance to soups, stews, pasta sauces.  Watch for golden onions, shallots, green onions and spanish from your local producers.  They all are harvested at this time and many varieties if kept in a cool, dry and dark location will last well into the winter months. 

  Chutney Appetizers
Oven Roasted Garlic
               Autumn Vegetable Soup
Italian Muffalata
Beef Nachos with Hot Salsa Sauce
Jambalaya with Hot Salsa Sauce
Sweet Pepper Spaghetti
Zucchini Loaf with Nuts
Corn Relish Skillet Bread with Mexican Hot Peppers
Vegetarian Chili
French Peach Cake
Apple Cinnamon Muffins
Apple Raisin Pie

Apple Plum Chutney
Crabapple Plum Jam
Damson Preserve
Peach Chutney
Roasted Red Peppers
Peach Orange Conserve
Spiced Pickled Peaches
Bread and Butter Pickles
Espresso Liqueur

Autumn Vegetable Soup
This soup can be prepared on a Saturday morning when you have a few moments to gather what root vegetables have not been used during the previous week.  Each soup will have a slightly different selection of vegetables that has given it a particular warm autumn colour.  Each soup will have a slightly different bouquet and flavour as the herbs will vary, but the foundation is the root vegetable family i.e. potatoes, carrots, parsnips and rutabagas.  When your family is too busy for meal preparation, this soup with a scone or a slice of nutritious bread is a meal in itself.
2 tbsp olive oil  25 ml
2 whole golden onions diced
3 cloves garlic
2 large carrots quartered and sliced
2 parsnips quartered and sliced
3 potatoes diced
8 cups chicken, vegetable or beef broth 250 ml
2 tbsp each of basil, thyme, oregano and bay leaf
Using a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil and place diced onions and garlic to cook until translucent.  Add the root vegetables and cook for approximately 5 minutes stirring frequently.  Add a chicken, beef or vegetable broth and allow the soup to simmer for at least an hour.  Use a blender and a large bowl to puree about 1 cup (250 ml) of the soup mixture at a time and finally return the soup to its original dutch oven.  Add the herbs while it simmers for another 20 minutes.  When serving, add 2 tablespoons of rich cream and a leaf of basil or other herb.
Italian Muffalata
Using large baguette, slice lengthwise and remove soft bread with fingers.
Prepare 6 tablespoons of tempanade (mixture of finely diced olives and vinegar) and apply to one side of bread.
Apply 6 tablespoons  goat’s cheese  to other side of bread.
Roast 2 red peppers and lay them on the latter side.  Apply basil to the olive spread.
Close  the whole sandwich and let sit in saran wrap for 4 hours.   Slice diagonally  and serve with salads, and a sauvignon blanc!
Jambalaya with Hot Salsa Sauce
When there is a large gathering of family and friends, this dish is welcomed for its morsels of chicken and shrimp with bright additions of red peppers in season and available in abundance.  Use a slow cooker to provide an easy method of preparation putting the ingredients together early in the day, letting you plan the dinner party in a more relaxed way.  Serve with a fresh green salad and crusty European bread.
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1-2 large chopped red onions
3 cloves garlic
1/2 pound skinless chicken breasts cut into cubes
1/2 pound hot Italian sausage
1 large chopped roasted red pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp fresh thyme 
black pepper to taste
1 cup white rice
1/3 wild rice
1/2 pound  shelled tiger shrimp
1 cup frozen peas
Saute onions, garlic and chicken with olive oil in a saucepan.  Add to your slow cooker.  Also prepare sausage pieces in the same way and add to the slow cooker mixture.  Add the broth and herbs as well and cook for 3-5 hours on HIGH.
After this initial cooking process has taken place, stir in the shrimp, roasted peppers and rices.  Cover and cook for another 2 hours.  In the last 15 minutes add the peas.
Corn Relish Skillet Bread with Mexican Hot Peppers
This very easy cornbread recipe can be made on an Autumn Sunday while preparing a hearty bacon and egg breakfast.  Once the bacon has cooked, reserve bacon drippings and 2 slices of bacon to be finely chopped into the cornbread mixture adding a smoked flavour to the bread.  I made this dish first on our farm in Prince Edward County on a charming wood-fired cookstove while staying at our friend's small home that we affectionately call the 'mini-house'.  The preparation was easy, the ingredients few, the rewards great.
Use an large old fashioned cast iron skillet for this traditional bread.  Pre-heat oven to 375-425 degrees.  Grease the plan with bacon drippings and return the empty pan to the oven for reheating.  
3/4 cup all purpose unbleached flour 175 ml
21/2 tsp double-acting baking powder 10 ml
2 tbsp  sugar 25 ml
3/4 tsp salt 3 ml
1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal 300 ml
1 egg
2-3 tbsp bacon drippings 40 ml
2/3 cup milk 150 ml
1/3 cup corn relish 75 ml
1/2 jalepeno or habenero pepper 
finely chopped
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese 125 ml
Blend together dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  In a separate bowl, blend wet ingredients including the hot peppers.  Spread the batter into the hot cast iron skillet.  Sprinkle shredded cheese on the batter along with a sprinkle of parsley.  Bake for 25 minutes and serve with your favourite weekend breakfast.
French Peach Cake
This very traditional cake offers an easy way to serve fresh fruit to guests after the main course is being prepared.  Use berries in season, peaches, or any apple variety.  Pre-heat your oven to 425F.
2 cups sliced peaches 500 ml
2/3 cup white sugar 150 ml
1 tbsp cinnamon 15 ml
pinch of allspice
1 lemon
1 tbsp all purpose flour 15 ml
1 cup all purpose flour 250 ml
1/2 cup sugar 75 ml
1 tsp baking powder 4 ml
1/4 tsp salt 1 ml
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp melted butter 15 ml
1/4 cup milk 175ml
Slice fruit and place in a greased deep dish pie plate.  Sprinkle the peaches with sugar, cinnamon and allspice.  Grate the lemon and sprinkle on peaches, then squeezing the juice onto surface as well.  Dredge all with flour.  Finally, pour 2-4 tbsp melted unsalted butter over all.  To prepare the cake batter, sift dry ingredients together.  Then blend yolks, butter and milk.  Pour sifted flour mixture swiftly into the wet and spoon batter onto surface of cake.  Spread gently over surface and place in oven for 30 minutes.  Serve warm or with ice cream.