Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Scottish Farmhouse Eggs

I first came across this recipe at Epicurious but a little research suggests that it is in fact a fairly traditional Scottish egg dish. You will note that many of the quantities are a bit vague, and there are a number of choices. It is that kind of a dish - use what you have and what you like.

I didn't try to shoe-horn it into the instructions, but you could also replace the bacon with 100 grams (4 ounces) moderately fatty breakfast sausage; crumble it up before cooking and treat it in the same way as the bacon. Or you could instead use ham, sautéed in a little fat, just enough to keep the ham from sticking and to grease the pan. Keep in mind, though; they're pretty rich even without any meat added.

This can be made all year, but the herbs are not always available. If they are not, they can be replaced with a couple of shallots, peeled and minced, and cooked in the butter. You may then wish to add a sprinkling of some dried but green herb over the top for a bit of colour. 

2 servings
30 to 55 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

1 teaspoon butter OR 4 slices bacon, OPTIONAL
1 1/2 to 2 cups finely cubed stale bread
80 grams old Cheddar or other strong, hard cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped chives or green onions
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley (if available)
4 large egg, chicken or duck
a sprinkle of Cayenne or paprika
freshly ground black pepper to taste
about 3/4 cup 10% cream

Use a cast iron skillet or other shallow baking dish that can go into the oven, and also on the stovetop if using the meat. Preheat the oven to 375°F. If not using any meat, butter the dish well.

If you wish to add bacon, etc, chop it fairly finely and cook it in the pan over medium-high heat until about half cooked. Drain off any excess fat but leave enough to coat the pan well. 

Slice or crumble up the bread into small cubes or crumbs. Spread two-thirds of them in the pan, mixing in the meat if it is being used. Grate the cheese and sprinkle half of it over the crumbs. Wash, dry, and mince the herbs finely, and sprinkle half of them over the crumbs. Break the eggs into the dish, spacing them evenly.

Sprinkle the remaining crumbs over the eggs. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese and herbs. Season with salt and Cayenne, or any good paprika. I think a smoked one would be very good. If not using Cayenne, you may wish to add a little black pepper.

Gently dribble cream all over the dish, paying especial attention to the crumbs around the edge but getting them as evenly soaked as you can. The crumbs should all be moistened, and they should be sitting in a discernible puddle. The goal is to keep the crumbs moist but not soggy, and allow the tops to crisp up and brown in baking, so the exact amount of cream will vary with the depth of the dish and the absorptive abilities of the bread.

Bake the eggs for 20 to 30 minutes. Twenty minutes will give you firm whites but very soft runny yolks. Forty minutes should cook them to Mr. Ferdzy's taste; bone dry. I do not recommend but it's your funeral.

Last year at this time I made Aloo Mattar Chowder.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Trevor's Champ

"boiled potatoes
spring onions
butter, grated cheese
little milk
salt, pepper

Mashed together. Carrots may also be added. "
                                              from Dad's cookbook, circa 1983

Champ is so simple it is hardly a recipe, but please indulge me as I indulge myself in some nostalgia.

Circa 1983 was a bit later than I would have expected this to show up in Dad's cook book. Trevor must have appeared on the scene around 1977, because I remember having a bowl of spaghetti dumped on my head when I was 16 by Dad when they were dating and Trevor didn't show up to a dinner he was invited to and I whined about it being cold when we finally ate it without him. Good thing I was right. But that's another story.

I guess by 1983 they had dated for a few years and had been moved in together long enough for Trevor to have made it a few times. I think Dad did most of the cooking in those days, since he was well accustomed to churning it out for us kids at that point.

This is a simple but classic Irish dish, really just mashed potatoes with stuff in it. Not cabbage though; if you add cabbage it becomes Colcannon, a distinction which seems a little picayune to me but there it is.

I haven't seen other recipes for champ call for carrots but I think they are a very good idea. I grated them and added them for the last couple minutes of cooking - in the absence of other instructions - because I wanted them to form flecks like the green onions. You could just cut them up and cook them with the potatoes so they get mashed though. The cheese should be quite strong, or it disappears. I saved some of it out to sprinkle on top and that helped keep it noticeable. The dairy can be almost anything - milk, cream, buttermilk, yogurt, sour cream would all work.

4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Trevor's Northern Irish Champ

750 grams (1 1/2 pounds) floury potatoes (I used Purple Viking)
4 or 5 green onions
2 or 3 medium carrots
100 grams (1/4 pound) grated strong old Cheddar cheese
2 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup milk, buttermilk, or cream
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash and trim or peel the potatoes (and carrots, if that's how you want them), and cut them into chunks. Boil them in lightly salted water for 10 to 15 minutes, until soft.

Meanwhile, trim, wash, and chop the green onions. Peel and grate the carrots - assuming they are not already in the pot - and add them to the potatoes when they have about 3 minutes left to cook. Grate the cheese.

When the potatoes are done, add the green onions to the pot. Stir them in, then drain the vegetables well and return them to the pot. Put it back on the stove, but with the heat reduced to medium-low. Mash in the butter and liquid dairy product of your choice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in most of the cheese, and once the champ is transferred to its serving dish, sprinkle the remainder over the top.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Rye Soda Bread

Rye flour does not make the lightest of baked goods and this is certainly no exception. Still, in a soda bread it rises sufficiently and it slices very nicely into thin slices. It's lovely with butter, cheese, or summer sausage. Mr. Ferdzy cheerfully piled it with jam, about which I am not so sure, but maybe.

I originally made this as a test loaf, thinking it would be half a recipe, as most soda breads are based on 4 cups of flour. You could double it for a standard sized loaf, in which case I would expect it to take 45 minutes to bake. Since soda bread is best fresh though, a smaller loaf may be more convenient.

4 servings
45 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

Rye Soda Bread

1 cup dark rye flour
1 cup soft whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a small baking tray with parchment paper.

Mix the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl thoroughly.

Add the buttermilk and mix to form a smooth, dense, not too sticky dough. I find it easiest to mix by hand at the end. If necessary, add a few more drops of buttermilk. The dough should not be kneaded, but don't be afraid to mix it well until smooth.

Put the dough onto the parchment paper. Wash and wet your hands, and use them to shape the dough into a small loaf. Cut a line down the centre to give it room to expand.

Bake for about 35 minutes until firm and set. Let cool at least 15 minutes before slicing.

Last year at this time I made Tea-Braised Pork

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Pan-Cooked Sweet Potatoes with Balsamic Drizzle

Sweet potatoes from raw to on the table in 20 minutes! It always seems to take more like an hour and 20 minutes to roast them, even when they are cut up and cooked at a reasonably high temperature. You will have to watch them more closely but such is life. Also when I say "1 large or 2 medium" sweet potatoes, I mean the amount you will eat, obvs, whatever that is.

The balsamic drizzle is the simplest thing ever, and it definitely added to the appeal. I put in a bit of hot pepper but if you don't want things particularly hot a good grind of black pepper should work well too.

Now I'm a bit sad because our sweet potato crop was not great last year, and there are only enough left for 2 more meals. The "seed" sweet potatoes are currently sitting in glass jars to root and sprout though, so we expect to have them again next fall. Let's hope for a better growing season! 

2 servings
20 minutes prep time

Pan-Cooked Sweet Potatoes with Balsamic Drizzle

Make the Sauce:
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons apple butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground Aleppo or black pepper

Mix together; and set aside, in a little serving jug or dish.

Cook the Sweet Potatoes:
1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes
2 to 3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Wash and trim the sweet potatoes, so the 2 narrow ends are flat and parallel to each other. Cut the sweet potatoes into 1/4" slices.

Heat the oil in a large skillet, or use 2 skillets if you will need that to get them all in in a single layer. The oil should cover the bottom of the pan generously, but we are not deep-frying here.

When the pan is to the usual temperature for cooking eggs, pancakes, etc, gently put in sweet potato slices. Careful - the oil may spatter. They can touch each other and generally be quite crowded, but they should not overlap. Pour in about 1/4 cup of water to each pan - stand back for spattering, again. Put a lid on the pan(s) and cook for 4 or 5 minutes.

Remove the lid and turn the sweet potato slices over. They should be nicely browned, and the sweet potatoes should show definite signs of softening. Continue cooking the sweet potatoes for another 4 or 5 minutes, this time with the lid off. When the water is all evaporated, the sweet potatoes are nicely browned on both sides, and the flesh is tender but still holding together, transfer them to a serving plate.

Serve drizzled with the balsamic sauce.

Last year at this time I made Tea-Braised Pork.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Lorenzo's Pastel de Pescado

This recipe was carefully written in Lorenzo's trained architect hand, in Spanish, into Dad's cook book, by Lorenzo. Dad met Lorenzo somewhere in South America and in typical Dad fashion went on to remain friends with Lorenzo and his family for the rest of his life; I'm pretty sure he went to his wedding amongst many other events. In fact, when Mr. Ferdzy and I walked the Camino we went and stayed with Lorenzo and his wife Judith.

This is a simple and tasty dish, and although Lorenzo gave instructions for cooking the fish it would be an excellent way to use leftover cooked fish. Lorenzo called for white fish, but noted that salmon could also be used.

4 servings
1 hour 30 minutes including cooking the fish

Lorenzo's Spanish Fish Casserole

1 medium onion
500 grams (1 pound) firm fleshed white fish
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons white wine or wine vinegar
4 large eggs
1 cup diced stewed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
a little grating of fresh nutmeg
OR 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon unsalted butter

Peel and chop the onion, and put it in a small pot with the fish, bay leaves, and white wine or vinegar. Bring up to a simmer and cook, covered, for 6 to 10 minutes until the fish is cooked. Let cool enough to handle.

Put a pan of water into the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. 

Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl with the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and nutmeg or paprika. Remove and discard any skin and bones from the fish, and break it into small bits into the eggs. Mix well.

Butter a small, shallow baking dish generously and pour in the fish and egg mixture. Spread it out evenly. Place it in the oven, either in the pan of water or on a rack directly above it, depending on whether you have a reasonable bain marie set-up or not... yeah, I had to fudge it but it seemed to work okay. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until set and very lightly browned. Let rest for 5 or 10 minutes before serving.

Last year at this time I made Garlicky Dill Vegetable Salad.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Carrot Crepes

It took me a couple of tries to get these right, and while I keep picturing them filled with savoury goodies, like cheese, mushrooms, or spinach, I keep ending up plonking them on a plate and serving them with syrup. I'm pretty sure they would be good in a savoury setting if I can just get organized for it!  If you are going to stick with the sweet theme, though, I can really see filling these with slightly sweetened cream cheese, with a spoonful of nuts, raisins, or toasted coconut thrown in.

I found these rather delicate compared to some of the crepes I've made and they definitely cooked much better  in the steel pan than in the cast iron. I'm not sure they will hold and reheat as well as some, either. Very tasty though!

6 to 8 crepes
30 minutes prep time

2 cups grated (2 medium) carrots
1/3 cup potato starch
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Put a large kettle of water on to boil. Peel and grate the carrots, and put them in a strainer. When the water boils, pour it slowly and evenly over the carrots. Stop and stir in the middle. There should be a slight odour of cooked carrots. Drain them well and let them cool for about 5 minutes.

Put the drained, cooled carrots into a blender. Add the potato starch, salt, and milk. Process until smooth. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides. Keep the lid on well, as I found this mixture had a tendency to rise straight up.

Break in the eggs and process again briefly until blended.

Put the oil in a small dish. Use a piece of paper towel to brush a film of oil over 1 or 2 skillets. Heat them over medium-high heat (the usual for cooking eggs, crepes, and pancakes). Add 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup of batter to each pan, swirling the pan to spread out the batter evenly and thinly as soon as the batter goes in. Let each crepe cook until it can be easily loosened with a thin spatula, and flipped. The top will be dry at that point. Cook for a minute or two on the second side, then remove to a plate in the oven (at 200°C) to keep warm, if they are being eaten at once. Otherwise, just set them aside on the plate.

Repeat with the remaining batter until it is all gone, brushing the pan with oil each time a new crepe goes in.

Last year at this time I made Creamy Tomato-Barley Soup.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Barbunya Zeytinyagli

As soon as I started looking for Turkish recipes on line, this one came up again and again and again. Funny, we didn't see it when we were there! I guess it's considered "home cooking" and not restaurant fare. Most of the recipes were quite similar but some called for this, and some called for that. I looked at a bunch and put in pretty much everything that got mentioned. We thought the results were delicious.

We grew the beans for this; an Italian variety. Italian Borlotti beans will be the easiest to get, and my impression is they are really quite similar to the Turkish beans used for this. But really, beans is beans to some degree, and you can use whatever kind you like.

It seems that right from the beginning of this blog there has been at least one bean salad recipe every late winter/early spring, and I guess this qualifies as one for this year.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour prep time plus overnight soaking

Turkish Style Borlotti Beans

1 cup dried borlotti or cranberry beans
1 or 2 medium potatoes
1 large carrot
1 medium onion
1/2 cup diced celeriac OR 1 stalk celery
4 or 5 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups diced cooked (canned) tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1 teaspoon rubbed mint
1 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped parsley OR green onion

Put the beans in a pot with plenty of water to cover, and bring to a boil. The pot will end up holding everything, so be sure it is big enough. Boil for a few minutes, then remove them from the heat and cover the pot. Let soak overnight.

Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the beans, and bring them back up to a boil. Boil gently but steadily, stirring occasionally, until tender but still whole.

Wash, trim, and peel the potatoes (the peeling is optional). Cut them into dice. Peel and dice the carrot. Peel and chop the onion. Peel and dice the celeriac, or wash, trim, and chop the celery. Peel and chop the garlic.

Heat about half the oil in a large skillet. Add the potatoes, carrots, and celery and cook slowly in the oil until softened and slightly browned; add the onions about halfway through.

Meanwhile, drain the beans to have about 1 cup cooking liquid left. Add the remaining olive oil to them. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, salt, pepper, Aleppo pepper, and mint to them. Bring them up to a simmer.

When the vegetables in the skillet are looking somewhat softened - they will not cook through; don't expect them to - add the garlic to the pan and mix in, letting it cook for a minute or two. Transfer all the vegetables to the pot of beans. Simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir gently. The vegetables and beans should be kept as whole as you can manage.

When the vegetables are tender, remove the pot from the heat and add the juice of 1/2 of the lemon. Let it cool to warm or room temperature before serving. Garnish it with chopped parsley or green onion, and pass the remainder of the lemon as wedges for anyone who would like a bit more lemon juice.

Last year at this time I made Moroccan Spiced Roasted Carrots.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Strawberry Pudding

Isn't this awfully early to be making strawberry desserts? Not anymore! I've been buying Ontario greenhouse strawberries off and on all winter.

Mind you though, I only used them for the garnish. The pudding is made with frozen strawberries from our garden, and given that they get mashed and cooked, frozen is probably the best choice for this pudding, unless you wait and make it with the glut of garden berries in June or July.

When you mix milk and acid, you get curdled milk, which is why the recipe calls for you to make essentially 2 puddings then blend them together. If you use non-dairy milk, such as soy milk or almond milk, you can mix everything in one pot and cook it at once without fear of curdling. However, even though this is a simple, even homely, pudding I think it is quite good enough to justify the use of 2 pots.

I've used both quantities of sugar; it depends on how sweet your berries are and how sweet you want your pudding to be. I have to admit that in most cases I probably prefer the slightly larger quantity. Also note that while I normally call for either arrowroot or cornstarch as a thickener, and usually prefer to use arrowroot, it really gives this pudding an unpleasantly slimy, ropey, texture. Use corn starch for this one.

p.s. - Also delicious (if a little seedy) when made with frozen raspberries! Blueberries taste okay, but make the pudding a dismaying shade of grey.

6 servings
20 minutes prep time plus 2 hours chill time

Strawberry Pudding

2 cups strawberries (can be frozen)
5 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar
2 cups rich milk, soy milk, or almond milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
fresh strawberries to garnish, if available

If the berries are fresh, wash and hull them. (One assumes this is already done if they are frozen.) Put them in a reasonably large, heavy-bottomed pot and mash them coarsely with 3 tablespoons of cornstarch and about half the sugar, until no signs of white powder remain.

Mix the remaining cornstarch, salt, and sugar, in another pot. Mix in the milk well, a little at a time, to ensure that the starch is evenly dissolved throughout.

Once that is done, heat the mixtures over medium heat, stirring frequently. Do each one separately or you may reach a point when you are trying to stir with each arm. Cook until the mixtures thicken, stirring more often as it heats. As it approaches the end of the cooking you should stir it constantly. Once the puddings thicken, remove them from the heat. Stir in the almond extract.

Let the pudding cool for 5 or 10 minutes, then blend them together thoroughly. Spoon the pudding into individual serving bowls, or transfer it to the dish from which it will be served. Chill well before serving. Garnish with sliced fresh strawberries, if you have them.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Taiwanese Noodles

First thing out of the garden - green onions! We have quite a few this spring as they did not die down properly last fall and we never picked them. You are unlikely to get any this early though, if you don't have them in your garden. Never mind, they are on their way.

This is usually made with pork but I had turkey, so that is what I used. Otherwise this is consistent with most of the recipes out there. I have to say if I make this again I will be inclined to add a little grated ginger and a handful of bean sprouts. Otherwise, this was a quick and easy dish.

There is no doubt a particular noodle used in Taiwan for this, but it is a wheat noodle and lots of people seem to just use a fine spaghetti, which is what I did.

2 servings
30 minutes prep time

Make the Sauce:
1 teaspoon 5-spice powder
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Mix all in a small bowl and set aside.

Make the Noodles & Topping:
225 grams (1/2 pound) dry noodles
2 or 3 shallots
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
6 to 8 green onions
225 grams (1/2 pound) fresh shiitake mushrooms
225 grams (1/2 pound) lean ground pork, turkey, or chicken
1 tablespoon bacon fat or mild vegetable oil

Put a pot of salted water on to boil to cook the noodles. They should be done at the same time as the topping, which will require 8 to 10 minutes in the pan. Time the noodles accordingly.

Peel and slice the shallots. Peel and mince the garlic, and set it aside by itself. Wash, trim, and chop the green onions, keeping the green and white parts separate. Remove and discard the stems of the shiitake mushrooms, and slice the caps.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the meat and brown it, breaking it up into small pieces. As soon as most raw spots are gone - 2 or 3 minutes - add the shallots and shiitakes. Cook, stirring frequently, until they are softened and reduced in volume, another 3 or 4 minutes. Mix in the garlic and the white parts of the green onions, and cook for another minute or so.

Drain the noodles and divide them between 2 large bowls.

Pour the sauce over the pan of meat, etc, and let it boil up. Stir in the remaining green onion tops, then divide the mixture over the 2 bowls of noodles, being careful to give each equal parts of the sauce as well as the meat, shiitakes, etc. Serve at once. 

Last year at this time I made Okonomiyaki... Waffles!

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Celeriac Zeytinyagli

We saw quite a few of these "Zeytinyaglis" when we were in Turkey; that is to say, vegetables cooked with olive oil and served warm to cool. This one is excellent for late winter or early spring, since the only things it calls for that are not available are the peas - but you can use frozen - and the dill. You could use dried dill, I suppose, but I have to admit I bought some. I keep meaning to experiment with starting some in a pot indoors but have yet to do it.

This comes pretty directly from Ozlem's Turkish Table. I only used about 1/3 of one celeriac, which tells you how much they vary in size. Mine was huge. I also had a bit of a heavy hand with the potatoes, as I had some to use up, and the peas, just because I like them.  

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time; 30 minutes rest time

 Turkish Celeriac Salad

1 cup water
the juice of 1 lemon
2 cups peeled and diced celeriac
1 cup diced potato
1 medium carrot
3 to 4 medium shallots
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar

freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
OR 1 teaspoon dry dill weed

Put the water and lemon juice into a heavy-bottomed pot.

Peel and dice the celeriac, and add them to the pot. Peel (if you like) the potato, and cut it into dice. Peel and chop the carrot into slightly smaller pieces. Peel and chop the shallots. Add all these to the pot.

Add the olive oil, salt, sugar, and pepper. Bring to a boil and boil gently but steadily for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the potatoes and celeriac are tender. Keep the pot partially covered. The water should be mostly absorbed/evaporated, but watch it towards the end as it needs to not run dry.

Have the peas standing by, and when you remove the pot from the heat, stir them in. Let the dish cool to warm or room temperature, and stir in the minced dill. If made in advance and chilled, it should be brought back up to room temperature to serve.

Last year at this time I made Irish Soda Farls

Monday, 26 March 2018

Gomel Style Cutlets

In my Russian cutlet research wanderings, I came across these Gomel Style cutlets. Gomel is a city in Belarus, about 200 kilometres north of Kiev. These are not nearly as well known as the cutlets of Kiev, but I have to say I liked them a lot.

Traditionally they seem to be made with very thinly pounded pork scallops, but many people do suggest making them with chicken. Since I can't be having with pounding pieces of meat, I used ground turkey. I did see some recipes out there calling for ground meat so I don't feel like I have gone too far astray.

The potato coating before they are fried are what make these really unique, although the mushroom and cheese filling is somewhat unusual as well. Some recipes called for these to be finished in the oven and some didn't; my experience was that it took long enough for the potato coating to cook in the pan that the cutlets were definitely done by the time the potatoes browned, so I didn't bother to bake them. I suspect they would be reasonably amenable to being kept warm in the oven if that is required though.

I found them a little nerve-wracking to form, but they came out much better than I expected. I'm giving fairly detailed instructions on how I did that. Once they were in the pan they pulled themselves together nicely. I suspect I'm going to try coating other things in grated potato and cooking them like this too - it worked really well.

3 to 6 servings
1 hour prep time

Gomel Style Cutlets made with ground turkey and stuffed with mushrooms and cheese

Make the Mushroom Filling:
100 grams (1/4 pound) mushrooms
2 medium shallots
2 teaspoons butter
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Clean, trim, and chop the mushrooms. Peel and mince the shallots.

Heat the butter in a small skillet, and cook them together until the shallots are softened and translucent, and the mushrooms are softened and slightly browned. Season with a little salt and pepper; keep in mind the cheese is quite salty. Transfer them to a small mixing bowl to cool. Grate the Parmesan and add it once the vegetables are cool.

Make the Cutlet Mixture:
1/2 small stale dinner roll (50 grams; 2 ounces)
1/4 cup milk or cream
250 grams (9 ounces) lean ground turkey, chicken OR pork
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon rubbed (dry) dill OR 2 teaspoons minced fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Crumble the roll into a mixing bowl, and pour the milk or cream over it. Let it soak until the cream is absorbed. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until smooth.

Coat the Cutlets & Fry Them:
1 large egg
about 1/2 cup barley or wheat flour
250 grams (1/2 pound) white potatoes
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Break the egg into a small bowl and whisk with a fork until smooth. Put the flour into another small bowl.

Wash the potatoes (peel them if you like, but you will need the weight above when peeled). Grate them coarsely. Season them with the salt and let them sit in a pile on the cutting board. Do not do this until you are ready to start forming the cutlets, or else the potato may turn dark as it sits.

Take one sixth of the cutlet mixture and form it into a flattened patty. Drop it into the bowl of flour. Take one sixth of the mushroom filling, and squeeze it until it holds together. Put it in the middle of the patty, and fold it up around the filling until it is covered - hold it in your hand and shape it. Once the filling is covered, roll the cutlet in the flour to evenly coat it. It will be round to ovoid in shape at this point. Roll it in the egg, allowing as much egg as is reasonable to drip off back into the bowl before rolling it in the pile of grated potatoes. Set it aside gently on a plate until you are ready to cook them.

When you have only 2 or 3 more cutlets to form, put 2 tablespoons of oil into a large skillet and start heating it over medium heat. Finish preparing the cutlets, then place them in the hot pan, not touching each other so far as is possible. Press the patties gently to ensure they are no thicker than 1" anywhere.

Cook for about 7 to 10 minutes per side, until the potatoes are nicely browned and the patties are firm. If the potato coating browns too quickly - or does not brown quickly enough - adjust the heat accordingly.

Let the cutlets rest for 5 minutes before serving them.

Last year at this time I made Rutabaga & Mushroom Soup

Friday, 23 March 2018

Warm Mushroom Salad

Warm mushroom salads were all the rage when I was a young adult back in the early '80s. No restaurant with any pretensions to style would have neglected to have one on the menu. Inevitably their popularity waned, but they were often very good salads and are worthy of a come-back. I think they are coming back, and hopefully this time they won't become so ubiquitous as to wear out their welcome.

I used a mixture of button and oyster mushrooms; a few shiitake would have been good, or use whatever you can find - part of the pleasure is the subtle differences in flavour and texture of the mushrooms. At this time of year it was hydroponic lettuce and pea shoots, but later in the spring there should be arugula and spinach; both of which go really well with mushrooms.

2 to 6 servings
1 hour prep time

Make the Dressing:
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon walnut oil

Peel and mince the garlic. Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl or jam jar. 

Make the Salad:
1 large head Belgian endive
3 cups chopped greenhouse lettuce
2 cup chopped pea shoots, micro greens, or other sprouts,
     spinach or arugula in season

Wash, trim, and chop the endive. Wash, trim, and chop the lettuce. Wash and chop any other greens to be added to the salad. Toss them all together in a salad bowl, or distribute them amongst individual serving dishes.

Cook the Mushrooms:
400 grams (scant pound) mixed mushrooms
3 or 4 shallots
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon rosemary leaves, ground
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sherry

Clean and chop the mushrooms roughly. Use a mix of mushrooms; oyster, button, and shiitake are the easiest to get and make a fine combination.

Peel and slice the shallots thinly. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and cook the shallots until just softened. Add the mushrooms and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring regularly, until the mushrooms are softened and browned, and cooked to your liking. Add the rosemary, salt, pepper, mustard, and garlic, and cook for just a minute longer, stirring constantly. Add the sherry and stir them up once.

Remove the pan from the heat and let the mushrooms cool for just a couple of minutes, then spread them out over the salad (or salads). Drizzle with the salad dressing and serve at once. 

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Today's the Day!

Red winged blackbirds are back! IT'S SPRING!

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Friesian Thumbs

The Dutch do cookies; they even gave the English language the word. And is there a more Dutch cookie than this one? Distinctive spicing; check. Chopped nuts; check. Traditional shape and back story; check. And yet it seems a bit obscure outside of Holland.

Oh, the story? It seems that they are from the northern province of Friesland (surprise! Okay, no) and not only are they traditionally cut into a thumb-like shape, but they were originally made in a local bakery, where the baker was proud enough of these that he put his maker's mark on them - his thumb print. I didn't bother, but you could if you like. I have to say mine ended up more like fingers than thumbs but whatever.

All the source recipes I looked at were extremely similar, and called for 1 egg. I used 2 egg yolks instead, because I was also making cookies that took 2 egg whites. It worked just fine so that's convenient but I'm sure the original version works very well too.

36 to 48 cookies
1 hour - 40 minutes prep time, plus 1 hour chill time
not including toasting the nuts - allow 30 minutes for that

Friesian Thumbs Dutch Cookies

Toast & Peel the Hazelnuts:
3/4 cup whole hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put the hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking tray, and bake for 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, rub them in a clean tea-towel to remove most of the skins. Chop them coarsely.

If you can find them being sold already chopped, you can replace them with 1 cup chopped hazelnuts (100 grams). Give them a little toast too, but WATCH THEM; like, literally stand there by the oven, because I can't tell you how long it will take but I suspect the answer is not long.

Make the Cookies:
2/3 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup Sucanat or dark brown sugar
1 large egg, OR 2 egg yolks
1 2/3 cups soft unbleached flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground anise seeds

Cream the butter and work in the sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg (or egg yolks).

Measure the flour and add the salt, cinnamon, ginger, and anise seed to it. Add the prepared hazelnuts to the flour. Mix well.

Mix the dry ingredients into the creamed butter and sugar, and mix to form a soft, smooth dough. Cover it and refrigerate it for 1 hour.

Bring the dough out to warm up a little. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking trays with parchment paper.

Pat or roll the dough into a neat rectangle, about 1 cm thick. Cut it into fingers; 1 or 2 cm wide by 6 or 8 cm long. A pizza cutter is very nice for this. Place them on the prepared baking trays. Bake for about 20 minutes, until lightly coloured and set. Let cool and store in a tin, in a cool, dry place. They keep well and even improve with a little sitting, if you can keep them hidden.

Last year at this time I made Baked Apples with Cheesecake Filling. Uh, apparently the end of March needs some help, no kidding.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Sausage Scrapple

When I lived in Pennsylvania for a year, I fell in love with scrapple. I sometimes wonder why it has not spread beyond Pennsylvania, but really, I know. Traditionally it's made by boiling a pig's head, picking off the meat and reboiling it with cornmeal and other cereal grains to form a loaf which then gets sliced and fried. In the first place that makes a lot of scrapple so most people buy it ready made. No; scratch that. Even there most people don't eat it at all, because in the second place they know it's made with the scraps from a pig's head.  But c'mon people, that's just sausage. Let's not even talk about what goes into hot dogs for instance.

I came across this much more domesticated and accessible version in an old cook book. It's not as gelatinous as the original but I suspect most people won't find that a fault. Mr. Ferdzy had no problem chowing down on this along with some poached eggs and a little Beet & Red Cabbage Relish. If you eat pork, you will like it too.

4 to 6 servings
20 minutes prep time; overnight set time; 20 minutes fry time

Sausage Scrapple

1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground
1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 or 2 shallots
250 grams (1/2 pound) pork breakfast sausage
1 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon powdered gelatine
2 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock
bacon fat or other oil to fry

Mix the salt, pepper, coriander, and sage and set aside. Peel and finely chop the shallots. Peel the casings off the sausages, and discard it; crumble the meat.

Heat a medium-large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage meat and the shallots, and cook until no pink remains and the meat is lightly browned in spots. Break up any large lumps.

If there is a lot of fat, drain some off. Season with the mixed spices. Add the cornmeal and mix it in well. Pour in about a cup of the chicken stock and mix well. Reduce the heat to medium, so that it is simmering but not too hard. Stir frequently.

Pour about half a cup of the chicken stock into a small bowl and sprinkle it with the gelatine. Add the remaining stock to the pan of sausage and cornmeal, and mix it in well. Simmer for about 12 to 14 minutes (total) until the cornmeal is cooked and the mixture is quite thick. Stir in the last of the chicken stock with the gelatine and mix well. Let it simmer for another minute or two, then scrape it all out into a loaf pan. Press the surface level and let it cool.

Cover the scrapple and chill until completely set; at least several hours, and the best and easiest is overnight. Turn it out onto a cutting board (you will need to run a knife around the edge) and cut it into 12 even slices.

Heat a tablespoon of bacon fat or oil over medium heat in a large skillet and fry the slices of scrapple until nicely browned on each side; about 3 minutes per side. Add a little more fat if needed when you turn them. You will need to do them in 2 batches, but it will keep in the fridge if well wrapped for several days so no need to fry it all up at once if you don't want to. 

Last year at this time I made Duck & Wild Rice Salad.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Baked Beans with Garlic, Lemon & Rosemary

Wow, I was really pleased with how these turned out! It is so hard to come up with something different to do with beans. I am happy to eat the old standards, but we eat enough beans that new ideas are always welcome.

In retrospect, I put too much of the cooking liquid in with them, and they ended up pretty soupy. I must have put in 3 cups or so, and really about half that would have been plenty. I'm sort of not telling you how much to put in though; it will depend on how you like your beans and to some degree how much cooking liquid you have. I like to put my beans on toast so I want them a little juicy rather than flowing like a river. On the other hand, you don't want them to dry out.

If you save any extra cooking water it would be good to thin leftovers into soup. For soup, I would purée it. Of course, that assumes you don't just eat it all.

If you prefer, you can replace the rosemary with thyme, assuming you can find some that is any good. 

6 to 8 servings
1 hour 20 minutes - 20 minutes prep time
not including cooking the beans

Baked Beans with Garlic, Lemon & Rosemary

Cook the Beans:
2 cups dried white beans

Wash and pick over the beans, and put them in a pot with plenty of water to cover them. Bring them up to a boil, let them boil for a couple of minutes, then cover the pot and turn it off. Let soak for a couple of hours.

Repeat boiling and soaking once or twice more, until the beans are fairly soft but not broken. Add more water if they need some.

This can be done a day in advance. 

Bake the Beans:
2 heads garlic
1/4 cup sunflower seed or olive oil
the finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
the juice of 1 medium lemon
1 teaspoon rubbed rosemary, OR fresh minced rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
plenty of freshly ground black pepper

Peel the garlic and chop it coarsely. Put it in a small bowl with the olive oil, and set it aside. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put the beans, along with a little puddle of their cooking liquid, into an 8" x 10" shallow roasting (lasagne) pan. Grate in the lemon zest, and add the lemon juice. Add the remaining seasonings, and mix well.

Drizzle the garlic and oil over the top of the beans. Bake for 1 hour. Stir before serving. 

Last year at this time I made Hungarian Mushroom Duck Soup.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Red Cabbage Slaw in Cucumber Boats

Cucumber boats filled with red cabbage slaw make a simple but very visually striking salad and they combine very nicely in the mouth too.

It's a bit hard to say how many cucumbers this amount of slaw will fill; it will depend on the size you get and to some degree you will have to eyeball it. I only had enough to fill 3 cucumbers (6 halves) but mine were unusually large for greenhouse cucumbers. This made them easier to stuff probably, but also meant they made rather large servings. That's okay if they are your salad at a meal, but if you want them as an appetizer or hors d'oeuvre, it would be better to get smaller ones.

makes 6 to 12 servings (boats)
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time

Red Cabbage Slaw in Cucumber Boats

2 cups finely chopped red cabbage
1 teaspoon salt
3 to 6 small greenhouse cucumbers
1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped pea shoots or parsley
the juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil

Wash, trim, and finely shred the cabbage. Massage it with the salt until it feels quite wet, then place it in a strainer and drain for about 1/2 hour.

Meanwhile, slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise. Use a grapefruit spoon or other thin-edged spoon to scoop out the cucumbers; all of the seedy area should bring you to within a quarter inch of the sides, which is good. Chop the scooped-out flesh and mix it in with the draining cabbage.

Salt the insides of the cucumbers, and set them aside. 

Wash, trim, and chop the pea shoots or parsley, and mix them in with the cabbage.

After half an hour, rinse and drain the red cabbage, etc., well. Rinse and drain the cucumbers well. Toss the cole slaw with the lemon juice and olive oil, and use it to stuff the half cucumbers.

Last year at this time I made Duck Terrine Roasted in the Duck Skin.

Monday, 12 March 2018


I came across a recipe for this Russian Easter dessert in Dad's old cook books; it was given to him by a friend from England in the mid-1970s. Oddly enough it does seem to be better-known in England than here.

Essentially, this is a kind of unbaked cheesecake; really just a flavoured and molded cheese in fact. I stopped to wonder why it should be associated with Easter, but then the answer was obvious: it isn't just eggs that are starting to show up again as the days get longer, milk is reappearing again after several long months without any. Oh well, not any more, but traditionally that would have been pretty much the case. Of course the first milk of the season would have been celebrated and treated with ritual respect.

I have scaled this down considerably from the original recipe. It's quite rich and small portions are a good idea. You can really use whatever dried fruits and nuts you like to enrich it, but I like the combination below very much.

6 servings
36 hours - of which about 20 minutes are actually prep time

Pashka - a Russian Easter cheese dessert

1/4 cup dried apricots OR candied peel
1/4 cup dried cranberries
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons sherry OR rum
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
300 grams ricotta or dry cottage cheese
a pinch of salt
2 to 3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sour cream OR thick yogurt
1/4 cup chopped nuts; almonds, hazelnuts OR pistachios

Chop the apricots, if using, to about the size of candied peel, and chop the cranberries a little too. Mix them - whatever combination you are using - in a small bowl. Grate in the lemon zest, and add the lemon juice. Add the sherry or rum, and cover. Soak overnight.

Cream the butter thoroughly in a small mixing bowl, and work in the ricotta or cottage cheese with a pinch of salt. Mix in the honey and sour cream or yogurt. Mix in the chopped fruit and any liquid still unabsorbed. If you like, mix in the nuts. I dislike the texture of nuts in an otherwise smooth composition, so I saved mine to sprinkle over the pashka at serving time.

Line a mesh strainer big enough to hold the mixture with a piece of cheesecloth, or an old, clean handkerchief or thin tea towel ready for a second career. Scrape the mixture into it, and fold the cloth over it to cover. Put the strainer into a bowl which will allow the strainer to stay level, and for liquid to drip into it with good clearance. Put a plate and a weight on top of the pashka, and place it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Discard the whey, etc, which has flowed out of the pashka. Turn it out onto a serving dish. Serve it garnished with nuts, more dried fruit, or fruit preserves. A very small dollop of thick rich sour cream might work too.

Last year at this time I made Cumberland Sauce.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Carrot & Tomato Soup with Garlic Croutons

By itself, this is a very fast and simple soup. The garlic croutons do a lot to lift it out of the ordinary, so do make them. They are really not hard either.

I used cheese bread for my croutons which in the face of the garlic was a bit subtle, but in fact did come through and was very nice. Watch those croutons in the oven towards the end. You want them nice and crisp and a bit browned, but as with most things it can be overdone.

If you are using this for 6 servings, or if you have some serious crouton eaters, you may need to make a second batch of the croutons. Both soup and croutons can be made in advance and reheat very well. Don't try to reheat the croutons in the microwave - oven only. A minute or two under the broiler will do it, just be sure to watch them and give them a stir to help heat them evenly.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour - 40 minutes prep time

Carrot & Tomato Soup with Garlic Croutons

Make the Soup:
250 grams (1/2 pound) carrots
250 grams (1/2 pound) potatoes
1 medium onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon rubbed basil
1/2 teaspoon celery seed, ground
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups crushed/diced (canned) tomatoes
a dash or 2 of Worcestershire sauce

Wash, trim and cut the carrots into chunks. Put them in a heavy-bottomed soup pot with water to generously cover them and bring them to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile wash, trim, and cut the potatoes into somewhat larger chunks. Peel and coarsely chop the onion. Add them both to the carrots at the end of the 10 minutes and continue to cook everything for another 20 minutes. (Work on the croutons while they cook.)

When the vegetables are quite tender, drain off most of the water - a bit of a puddle at the bottom is fine. Purée them with seasonings and return them to the pot. Add the chicken stock and tomatoes, and season with the Worcestershire sauce.

Simmer for another 20 minutes or so to allow the flavours to blend. Stir regularly. Adjust the seasoning and serve with the croutons.

Make the Croutons:
4 slices of stale bread
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 to 3 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon rubbed basil
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Slice the bread. Soften the butter in a small bowl, either on the back of the stove or in a microwave - it should be solid but workable. Peel and mince the garlic, and mix it into the butter with the other seasonings.

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Heat a large skillet that can go into the oven on top of the stove, over medium-low heat.

Spread the butter evenly onto both sides of the bread, then stack the slices and cut them into squares. Add them to the pan, and cook, stirring regularly, until the bread pieces and garlic are very lightly browned all over. Transfer them to the oven and let them dry out and crisp up for 20 to 30 minutes.

Last year at this time I made Thai Style Peanut & Sweet Potato Soup

Wednesday, 7 March 2018


So what, you may ask, are - is? - Rumbledethumps? It's simple, really: it's another one of those oddly-named British dishes consisting mostly of potatoes and cabbage, in this case from Scotland. The name is presumed to come from the sound of everything being mashed up together.

This is a bit fancier and more complex than champ or colcannon, requiring as it does 2 pots and a baking dish, not to mention all the cheese. On the other hand, this would be a perfectly reasonable thing to assemble from leftover mashed potatoes and cooked cabbage. In that case, just sauté the onions before adding them, and allow the casserole longer in the oven as it will all have to heat  up again.

I am being very vague about the amount of cheese as it will depend on your plan for this dish - is it a vegetable side dish to some sort of meaty main dish, or is it the main dish itself?

4 to 6 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time

Rumbledethumps - A Scottish casserole of potatoes, cabbage, onions, and cheese

750 grams (1 1/2 pounds) potatoes
3 cups shredded Savoy or green cabbage
1 medium carrot (optional)
2 medium onions OR 4 to 6 green onions
OR 1/3 cup snipped chives
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 or 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup buttermilk OR light cream
1 to 3 cups grated old Cheddar cheese

Scrub and trim the potatoes; peel them if you must. Put them in a pot with cold water to cover, bring them up to a boil, and boil steadily until tender - 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile wash, trim, and shred the cabbage. Peel and grate the carrot, if using. Peel and chop the onions, or wash, trim, and chop the green onions or chives. Put the cabbage (and carrot) into another pot, with water, and bring to a boil. Add the onions about halfway through the cooking, or if using green onions or chives just drop them in for the last minute. Boil until the cabbage is just tender and drain well.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter an 8" x 8" shallow baking dish.

When the potatoes are tender, drain and mash them with the salt, pepper, butter, and buttermilk. When the vegetables are ready, drain them as well and mix them in. Mix in about half of the grated cheese and press the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly over the top, and bake the casserole at 375°F for about 30 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and lightly browned.

Last year at this time I made the utterly scrumptious Etta Ferguson's Oat Cakes. EDIT - Whoops, said that already. Nevermind; they were good enough to mention twice.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Oatmeal Farls (Soda Bread)

Another very simple Irish soda bread. This one takes a little advance planning, as the oats must be soaked overnight in the buttermilk, but it is otherwise extremely quick. You can cut it into 8 or 12 scones if the farls seem too big for your purposes.

We ate some of them with butter and cheese, and some with butter and jam. Delicious either way. They were a bit delicate but cut nicely with some caution. Appealing as they are right out of the oven, it's best to give them at least 15 minutes to cool before serving. 

I've been making these regularly this winter - they are really good, and the amount of effort involved is so minor. There is something about the texture of them that I really like. 

4 to 8 servings
45 minutes - 15 minutes prep time - plus overnight in the fridge

Oatmeal Farls (Soda Bread)

2 cups raw rolled oats
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 1/4 cups soft unbleached wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
a little more buttermilk as needed

Mix the rolled oats with the buttermilk, and cover and refrigerate overnight. Transfer it to a mixing bowl (unless that's what you refrigerated it in...)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a baking tray, or line it with parchment. Even so, you should sprinkle it with a little bit of flour.

Measure the flour and mix in the baking soda and salt. Mix the flour into the oats and buttermilk. I found myself cutting it in with the edge of my spoon; a pastry cutter might come in handy. The oats soaked up the buttermilk enough to be surprisingly dry and firm.

Once it is all evenly combined, you will find yourself with a dryish but crumbly mixture. Begin adding a little more buttermilk to form a stiff and not sticky dough. I used about another 1/3 of a cup. (If it ends up just a tad sticky, you can dust your hands with flour to handle it, otherwise mix in a little flour, but be careful with that.) It should be fairly smooth; don't be afraid to knead it but do so for no more than 10 or 15 strokes.

Turn it out onto the prepared baking tray and pat it into a flat circle about an inch and a half thick. Cut it into quarters - a pizza cutter works best - and move them apart from each other an inch or so. Bake for about 30 minutes, until firm and cooked thorough. They won't really brown on top.

Right on schedule! Last year at this time I made Etta Feruguson's Oat Cakes. I really don't do this on purpose! It's just that early March apparently demands oatty baked goods.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Carroty Nut & Seed Loaf

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 45 minutes - 45 minutes prep time

Carroty Nut & Seed Loaf

Prepare the Vegetables:
1 medium onion
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
4 cups grated carrots
100 grams (1/4 pound) button mushrooms
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon savory, thyme, or oregano

Peel and chop the onion. Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and grate the carrots. Clean, trim, and slice the mushrooms.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and mushrooms, and stir to coat in the oil. Cook for a minute or two, then add the carrots. Sprinkle them with the soy sauce and seasonings, as well as a tablespoon or two of water to help them cook down if they seem to need it. Cook, stirring regularly, until the vegetables are softened and reduced in volume. Remove them from the heat and let them cool slightly.

Make the Loaf:
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 cup broken nut pieces (walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts)
1/2 cup chick pea flour
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put the sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and nuts into a food processor and chop until fairly evenly fine. Add the chick pea flour and nutritional yeast, along with about 1/4 of the prepared vegetables. Process again until well blended.

Turn the chopped nuts, etc, in with the remainder of the vegetables, either in the skillet if it has cooled enough and is large enough, or in a mixing bowl. Stir or mix by hand until everything is well combined and clumping together.

Use the oil to generously grease a loaf pan. Press the mixture into the pan, mounding it slightly to form a loaf shape. Bake for 1 hour. Serve hot. 

Last year at this time I made Spicy Chinese Style Noodles.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Bachelor's Omelette

This recipe caught my eye while I was leafing through Mrs. Norton's Cook-Book. A little searching showed me that Mrs Norton had pinched it from Mrs. Beeton, almost verbatim. Tsk tsk.

To be fair, Mrs. Norton did improve on Mrs. Beeton to the extent of suggesting that the onion Mrs. Beeton called for should be sautéed beforehand, and I agree. She also omitted the Cayenne, which is entirely a matter of opinion. I would have put it in if I remembered, but I didn't. I would also consider putting in chopped parsley, green onions or chives, or sautéed mushrooms or peppers, depending on what's around - not all of them at once, but in judicious pairs.

Of course I have made some other changes. First of all, 2 ounces of butter is a quarter of a cup; that's 4 tablespoons! Which seems excessive for 3 little eggs. I used a single tablespoon and found it entirely sufficient - generous, even. I also put in pea sprouts instead of onion, and cheese instead of, hmm, nothing. We both agreed that the pea sprouts were a delightful addition, and cheese is cheese, duh.

There's also the little fact that I am one of the world's most inept omelette makers, and the fact that I was able to get this thing more-or-less folded and onto a plate in one piece is quite amazing. I'm not sure if that was a result of adding that bit of flour which is after all what makes this recipe different from others, obscene quantities of butter not withstanding, or if I am finally - after 40 years of cooking - getting the knack. Then I have to admit I made this in a stainless steel pan and not the usual cast iron. I also used duck eggs, which I think have a bit more body than chicken eggs. After I made and photographed this, I made it again, this time replacing the soft wheat flour with potato starch, remembering how well my Cocoa Crepes turned out. It folded even better! Best folded omelette I've ever made! I changed the recipe to reflect that too. 

2 servings
15 minutes prep time

1/4 cup milk or light cream
1 teaspoon potato starch OR if you must, soft unbleached flour
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 small duck OR large chicken eggs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup chopped pea sprouts OR other prepared vegetable
1/2 cup grated Cheddar OR other cheese of your choice

If you are going to use onion, shallot, mushrooms, or peppers, clean and slice them now, and cook them in a bit of butter. Remove from the pan and set aside. Wash and chop your pea sprouts, or any herbs you may wish to add. Grate your cheese, and have everything standing by ready to go. 

Put the cream in a small mixing bowl and sprinkle the potato starch or flour over it; whisk until free of lumps. Season with salt and pepper.

Break in the eggs, and whisk them in until the mixture is smooth but not frothy.

Heat the butter over medium heat in a medium-sized skillet. When it is completely melted and bubbling but not browned, swirl it around to cover the bottom and sides of the pan completely. Pour in the eggs. Sprinkle the pea sprouts or herbs over the omelette at once. Cook gently until set about 1" in from the sides of the pan. At this point, sprinkle the cheese and/or cooked vegetables over the omelet.

Continue cooking until the omelette is mostly set. Using a thin, broad lifter, work your way with it under half the omelet, and fold it over on itself. Continue to cook for a minute or so more, until the omelette is sufficiently set. Remove it to a serving plate, or divide it between 2 individual plates.

I find it most effective to centre a plate over my skillet, then flip it quickly to drop the omelette onto the plate. A pair of good oven mitts is not optional here; they are absolutely required.

Last year at this time I made Grilled Cheese à la French Onion Soup.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Red Flannel Salad

Red Flannel Hash is a fine old tradition, but I thought I would make a salad of it. On the way I wandered through a number of Russian salad recipes involving beets and potatoes, and took counsel from them.

I was really very pleased with the final result. It is almost - almost - worth the hassle of cooking the beets and potatoes in advance. If you had some other reason to cook beets or potatoes the day before I think it would bring it right over the line. 

4 to 8 servings
1 hour pre-cooking
20 minutes final prep time

Red Flannel Salad with Beets and Potatoes

Advance Cooking:
2 medium beets
2 medium potatoes

In - I regret to inform you - separate pots, place the washed beets and the potatoes and cover them generously with water. Bring them to a boil and boil until tender. For the potatoes, that will be about 15 to 20 minutes. The beets will likely take 45 minutes to an hour; check the water level when you turn off the potatoes and add more if they are running low.

Cool both the cooked potatoes and the cooked beets. These can be cooked a day in advance, particularly the beets. 

Make the Salad:
1 small onion
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup finely shredded red cabbage
1 cup thawed frozen peas, optional
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
6 tablespoons mayonnaise, light is fine
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon horseradish
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Peel the cold beets and cut them in fairly fine dice; put them in a mixing bowl. Peel the potatoes if you like, and dice them likewise, and put them in the mixing bowl.

Peel and mince the onion. You can throw it right in, or if you prefer, salt it and let it sit in a strainer while you prepare the rest of the salad to make it milder and more digestible.

Wash, peel, and grate the carrot. Wash, trim, and finely shred the red cabbage. Into the bowl they go, with the peas if you are using them.

Add the vinegar, mayonnaise and horseradish. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well; taste; adjust seasonings and mix again. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and, er, serve. (Or keep it in the fridge until wanted.)

Last year at this time I made Cucumber Waldorf Salad.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Quick Pan Chicken Gravy with Incidental Chicken Fingers

Pan-fried chicken fingers barely merit a recipe, but to have them with homemade gravy will take them out of the ordinary. Sometimes I just want gravy! Particularly if there is going to be mashed potatoes.

Any bits of barley flour left in the pan will help thicken the gravy, and it adds a very nice crunch to the chicken fingers; rather like Japanese fried chicken in a rice-flour coating. 

If you are reasonably organized this can be on the table in about 20 minutes. Very quick! Especially when you consider that real gravy requires meat to be roasted and provide drippings; normally a matter requiring hours. The "drippings" provided by frying chicken fingers are pretty skimpy, but with chicken stock reinforced with nutritional yeast the results are better than respectable and way better than tinned.

2 to 4 servings
20 to 30 minutes prep time

Quick Chicken Gravy with Incidental Chicken Fingers

Cook the Chicken:
300 to 500 grams boneless chicken pieces
1/4 cup barley flour
1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning, savory, or other herb
2 or 3 tablespoons chicken or bacon fat

Cut the chicken into fingers of the size you would like. Preheat the oven to 200°F.

Mix the flour, paprika, salt, pepper and other seasoning of choice in a shallow bowl.

Heat the fat in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Dredge the chicken fingers in the flour mixture and fry them in the fat until nicely browned on both sides. It should take 3 or 4 minutes per side, but it will depend on what size you cut them. When done, remove them to a plate and keep them warm in the oven at 200°F.

Make the Gravy:
3 to 5 large button or shiitake mushrooms
1 or 2 medium shallots
1 cup unsalted chicken stock
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

While the chicken cooks - or before, for calmest working - wash and trim the mushrooms and chop them fairly finely. Peel and finely chop the shallots.

Measure the chicken stock and mix in the nutritional yeast, soy sauce, starch, and mustard. Stand it by until the chicken is done.

As soon as the chicken is done and waiting, add the mushrooms and shallots to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened and cooked down a bit, and beginning to brown. Stir up the chicken stock and pour it in, stirring constantly. As soon as it thickens - just a minute or so - transfer it to a serving vessel and pass it with the cooked chicken.

Last year at this time I made Split Pea & Wild Rice Soup.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Endive & Carrot Salad with Hazelnuts & Cranberries

Well, what is there to say about this? Other than that it's lovely to have a crisp green salad in the middle of winter, which can definitely be a bit salad deficient if you aren't careful. I mean, if I'm not careful. You know.

Mr. Ferdzy liked this better than most things I make with Belgian endive (not a fave of his) because there were lots of other strongly flavoured, and sweet things to balance it out. I just thought it was very tasty and hit the salad spot perfectly.

2 to 4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Endive & Carrot Salad with Hazelnuts & Cranberries

Make the Dressing:
the finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
the juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons honey
3 tablespoons hazelnut OR walnut oil

Wash the lemon and grate the zest into a small mixing bowl or a jam jar. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. Set aside. 

Make the Salad:
1/3 cup hazelnuts
2 medium-large carrots
1 or 2 heads Belgian endive
1 1/2 cups chopped pea shoots or other micro greens
1 1/2 cups chopped hydroponic lettuce
1/3 cup dried cranberries

Toast the hazelnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking or stirring regularly, until fairly evenly showing toasted spots all over. Tip them onto a clean but not elegant tea-towel, and let cool. Rub them in the towel until most of the skins have come off. Discard the skins.

Wash, peel, and grate the carrots, and put them in a mixing bowl. Wash, trim, and chop the endive. Wash and drain well the pea shoots and lettuce, then chop them and add them to the bowl with the other ingredients. Add the cranberries and hazelnuts. Toss well.

Transfer the salad to a serving bowl or individual serving dishes. Drizzle the dressing evenly over them and toss gently. 

Last year at this time I made Ham, Cheese & Belgian Endive -bwahaha - in Buckwheat Crepes with Mushroom Sauce.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Turkey or Chicken Cutlets Cordon Bleu

I came up with the idea for these thinking they would be easier than classic Chicken Cordon Bleu, what with not having to mess about with getting the chicken evenly pounded thin in order to stuff it. (I'm also having a bit of an obsession with Russian-style chopped cutlets at the moment, so there's that too.)

The answer is maybe; these are a little delicate to handle. I've made them a couple of times and keep thinking I should try them with a bit less milk, but then they keep cooking up so nicely that I persist in putting in the amount listed. They may be somewhat sloppy when raw but they cook up to be tender and moist, and you can press them back into shape as soon as they go into the pan if they are inclined to go wobbly on you. In particular the ham and cheese need to be completely covered.

The flour I use to dip them is barley flour which I think gives a particularly nice grainy crust, but you can use regular wheat flour if you prefer. Sliced ham from the deli is fine, indeed much the easiest choice. If you use peameal bacon, be sure to sauté it before you use it to make sure it isn't sitting in the middle in a state of uncookedness.

6 servings
40 minutes prep time

1 stale dinner roll (100 grams; 3 or 4 ounces)
1/4 cup milk or cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon savory or other herb
1 large egg
500 grams (1 pound, plus) lean ground turkey or chicken
 1/2 cup flour
1 to 2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
100 grams (1/4 pound) Cheddar or other melty cheese
100 grams (1/4 pound) thinly sliced cooked ham or peameal bacon

Crumble the roll into a mixing bowl and soak it in the milk or cream. Season with the salt, pepper, and herb of your choice.

Once the milk is absorbed by the bread, break in the egg and mix it in. Mix in the ground turkey or chicken. This is a fairly wet mixture so be prepared for that.

Lay out a sheet of parchment paper and put the flour on a plate. Put the oil in a large skillet and heat it over medium heat.

Measure out half the mixture into 6 equal globs on the parchment paper, and form each of them into a neat, flat circle. Lay a bit of cheese and ham on each - they should be cut so that they cover the patty to within about 3/4" of the edge. Divide up the remaining mixture and form a small patty in your hand to go over each prepared cutlet on the parchment paper. Pat them sealed. One at a time, lift them with a large, thin lifter and put them in the plate of flour. Turn them to coat, or just lift and sprinkle some of the flour over the top until evenly coated. Lift out and place in the pan to cook.

Cook the cutlets for 5 to 6 minutes per side, until well browned. You may need to add a little more oil to the pan when you turn them. A spatter guard will avoid spatters and also help hold in the heat to cook them through. If you don't have one, put a lid on with just  little sliver of air to let the steam out.

Last year at this time I made Caramel Apple Pudding.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Za'atar Roasted Sweet Potatoes

There isn't much to this, but that's fine. It's a nice variation on the theme of roasted sweet potatoes. 

And since I think that's the shortest introduction I've ever written, I'm going to take a moment to rant about the quality of dried thyme that's been commercially available for the last few years, since that's commonly an ingredient in za'atar. You'll note there isn't any called for here.

For a while I kept buying thyme, measuring it out to cook with, and then tossing it because it had neither scent nor flavour. First I thought mine sat in the cupboard too long. Then I thought the stock I was getting from the store was not fresh. But several stores later including ones which really should have decent turnover of a foundational herb like thyme, I concluded that the problem was further back in the supply line than that. Next year I am going to make a point of planting, growing, and drying thyme myself because it seems to be the only way to get any that's even halfway usable, never mind good!

4 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Za'atar Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Make the Za'atar:
2 teaspoons rubbed savory
1 teaspoon rubbed oregano
3 teaspoons sumac
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Mix it all in a small bowl.

Roast the Sweet Potatoes:
1 kilogram (2 pounds; 4 medium) sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Wash, trim, and chop the sweet potatoes into slightly larger than bite-sized chunks. Toss them with the olive oil in a shallow 8" x 10" baking (lasagne) dish. Sprinkle the za'atar over them and toss them again.

Roast the sweet potatoes for about 1 hour until soft, giving them a stir in the middle if you can.

That's it... don't burn your mouth!

Last year at this time I made Three Sisters' Stew.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Spring Roll Salad with Chicken

It seems I've gotten a bit out of the habit of making salads, so I am trying to do more of them this winter, which is never the easiest time for salads but it can be done. It helps that I've been really quite impressed with the greenhouse lettuce I've been getting this winter. There is a lot more variety of types than there used to be, and the quality seems better too - more substantial. The price is still higher than imported lettuce, but given how the droughts down south have been driving up prices, the differential is better there too than it used to be.

At any rate, this salad has been a regular this winter. All the flavours of a Vietnamese fresh spring roll in a salad, with a little grilled chicken to make it a meal. You could replace the chicken with beef, pork, or tofu for a change if you liked.  

1 hour prep time
4 servings

Spring Roll Salad with Chicken

Make the Dressing: 
1 clove of garlic
the finely grated zest of 1/2 lime
the juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon chile-garlic sauce

Peel and mince the garlic and put it in a small bowl or jam jar. Wash the lime, and grate the zest into the container with the garlic. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Set aside.

Make the Salad:
2 bundles cellophane noodles
2 cups bean sprouts
1 medium carrot
2 mini greenhouse cucumbers
1 cup finely shredded cabbage
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
500 grams (1 pound) skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 tablespoon bacon fat or mild vegetable oil
1/2 cup finely chopped peanuts (optional)

Prepare the cellophane noodles according to instructions, or soak them in boiling water for about 10 minutes, until there are no white bits left and they are completely translucent. Drain well, and cut them with scissors into manageable pieces. Put them in your salad bowl.

Wash and drain the bean sprouts very well.

Peel and grate the carrot. Trim and grate the cucumbers. Trim the cabbage and shred it finely. Rinse and drain it well.

Wash, dry, and chop the mint and cilantro.

All these vegetables go into the salad bowl, being sure to leave the sprouts and cabbage until well drained. Toss well and divide amongst individual plates.

Cut the chicken into bite-sized strips. Heat the fat or oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook, stirring regularly, until done; about 5 to 7 minutes. Let them cool for a few minutes before arranging them over the salads. Drizzle over the dressing, sprinkle with chopped peanuts if desired, and serve.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Rye & Potato Bread

I first saw a version of this recipe in The Toronto Cook Book (page 15); published in 1915. Later I saw more modern versions, all of which described it as a (Czecho)Slovakian recipe. I tend to think of oldish Canadian cook books as being irredeemably Anglo-Saxon, so that was a bit of a surprise. Admittedly, it didn't have the caraway seed and I suppose you don't have to put them in, if you don't like them. I must say I think them pretty indispensable.

Most loaves of bread will go with either sweet or savory things, but this is quite firmly in the savory camp, although I suppose it is all a matter of taste. My taste is for butter and cheese with this.

2 loaves
1 hour the night before - 20 minutes prep time
3 hours the next morning - 30 minutes prep time

Slovakian Rye & Potato Bread with Caraway Seeds

The Night Before:
1 cup grated raw potato (1 medium-large)
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups rye flour
1/2 cup warm filtered water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons dry active yeast

Wash the potato and peel it if you like. Grate it and put it in a fairly generously sized pot with the water and salt. Bring it to a boil and boil steadily (covered) for 10 minutes.

Mix in the rye flour and let the mixture cool in the pot for 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the sugar and yeast into the warm water. Let sit 10 minutes. When the yeast has foamed up nicely, stir it into the warm but not hot rye and potato mixture. Cover the pot and let it sit overnight at room temperature.

I like to measure out all the dry ingredients for the next morning while this is going on, and leave them in a mixing bowl with a plate on top to keep anything from getting in.

The Next Morning:
3 cups hard unbleached flour plus a bit to knead
1 cup hard whole wheat flour
1 cup rye flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 cup warm filtered water
a little mild vegetable oil

 Measure out all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Mix the warm (but again, not hot - it should feel just warm to the touch. A microwave is your friend here) water into the rye and potato mixture until reasonably smooth. Mix this into the flour, as much as possible, then turn it out onto a clean counter top and mix and knead until the dough is very smooth and elastic in texture; about 10 minutes. If it is sticky - and it will be - dust it with flour as you work, until it isn't. I find it works well to dump the flour right onto the counter top and do my mixing there.

Clean out the mixing bowl and put in a teaspoon of mild vegetable oil. Put in the dough and turn it to coat it in the oil, then cover it with a clean tea-towel and set aside until doubled in size; hopefully about 1 hour.

Push the dough down and shape it into 2 loaves. Put them in oiled pans and cover with a clean tea-towel. Let them rise for another half to three-quarters of an hour, until doubled in size again. About 10 minutes before they are ready pre-heat the oven to 350°F.

Bake the loaves for 1 hour, until they sound hollow when tapped.

Last year at this time I made Gado-Gado.