Spelt and Haskap Quick Bread

This should be called Everything Healthy snacking bread. I was gifted a few cups of freshly milled spelt flour. The note on the bag documented the exact milling time and with the warning 'best used within 72 hours'.

I was not in the mood for making bread and not wanting to offend the person who generously gave me the flour, I began thinking about other healthy options. And also with the provision that I do not have to go out to the grocery store for more ingredients. Thus, this everything healthy snacking bread was created.

Haskaps are a nutrient and antioxidant rich berry that has been adapted from its original home in Russia to suit our soils and climate. It is a registered trademark of the University of Saskatchewan. This link will take you to their web page describing the work that is being done.

There are only a few orchards growing this commercially. Mine came from Northern Lights Orchard in Birch Hills, SK.

Haskaps are very tart and usually they require a lot of sugar and cooking to be palatable. This has been the drawback for me. I don't want to consume all that added sugar. In this loaf they are like raisins. They add a pop of flavour and colour without tons of sugar. The haskaps are very juicy when they are thawed. If added while still frozen they stay in tact in the bread without colouring the dough purple.

I used whey because I had just made ricotta. A by-product is whey. It works well in baking like this.

This is not a sweet bread. If you want it to be sweet then I would add more honey. This morning I piled on my homemade ricotta slightly sweetened with honey and Meyer lemon zest for a guilt-free breakfast.

Spelt and Haskap Quick Bread

1 1/2 c. whole spelt flour
3/4 c. old fashioned oatmeal, plus more
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. honey
1/2 c. butter, melted
2 eggs
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 c. whey
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. whole frozen haskaps

Grease and flour a standard size loaf pan. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 F.

Measure and whisk dry ingredients into a bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer add honey, butter and eggs. Beat until frothy. Add bananas, vanilla and whey and beat again.

With a spatula mix in the dry ingredients just until the flour is moistened. Add haskaps, frozen, and mix to incorporate.

Pour into a prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle with more oatmeal, if desired, and bake at 350 F for about 40 minutes. Test doneness by lightly touching the top of the loaf. It should spring back. You can also use a skewer to poke into the loaf. If it comes out dry, the loaf is baked.


Fiddlehead Cream Soup

There is nothing like the waning days of winter to arouse the desire for spring. I feel like I have been trapped in my house foreva. Now is the time we should be checking the freezer and be sure all last summer's bounty has been consumed.

I have fiddleheads and must use them before the new crop arrives. This soup is adapted from one of my all time favourite cookbooks The Silver Palate Good Times.

Fiddlehead Cream Soup
1/2 c. unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion
5 c. homemade chicken or mushroom stock
1 lb. fiddleheads
1 c. dry white wine
1 c. whole milk
1 c. cream
1/2 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
3 tbsp. fresh squeezed lime juice
salt and pepper, to taste
piment d'esplet

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven and add onions. Cook gently over medium heat until soft and transparent. Add stock, wine and fiddleheads. Simmer for about 30 minutes.

Cool slightly. Put in blender or food processor. Add milk, cream, nutmeg, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. Pour back into the Dutch oven and gently heat until hot. Ladle into 6 or 8 soup bowls and garnish with piment d'esplet. Serve immediately.


Chinese Hot and Sour Soup

This is one of my favourite authentic Chinese recipes. This is so easy to make. The surprise to me in this recipe is that the spiciness or heat comes from the white pepper that is added. I have always thought there was a sriachi or hot sauce. Nope, simply white pepper.

This recipe will come together much more smoothly if all the ingredients are chopped, measured and ready to add before beginning to cook. In French this is called mise en place, everything in its place. Chop, measure and line up the ingredients so you can focus on combining them in creating pure alchemy with this recipe for Hot and Sour Soup.

Many of the same ingredients are used over and over again in this cuisine. If you are a fan then it is worth building a pantry.


 Chinese Hot and Sour Soup

2/3 c. boneless pork loin, cut into 1/4 inch strips 
2 tsp. dark soy sauce
4 small Chinese dried shitake mushrooms
3/4 c. dried black fungus
1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 c. canned sliced bamboo shoots, cut lengthwise into 1/8 inch wide strips
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. rice vinegar, unseasoned
1 tbsp. light soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
2 tbsp. vegetable oil for frying
4 c. using mushroom soaking liquid and sodium reduced chicken stock
3 to 4 oz. firm tofu, rinsed and drained, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large egg
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
2 tbsp. thinly sliced green onions
2 tbsp. fresh whole cilantro leaves
Toss pork with dark soy sauce until well coated. 

Soak shitake and black fungus in boiling hot water to cover, about 30 minutes.  Cut out and discard stems from shitakes, then squeeze excess liquid from caps and thinly slice. Squeeze liquid from black fungus. Trim any hard nubs. In another bowl, stir together 1/4 cup (60 mL) cooled mushroom soaking liquid with cornstarch and set aside.

Stir together vinegars, light soy sauce, sugar and salt. 

Heat a wok or heavy pan over high heat. Add vegetable oil and stir fry pork until it just changes colour, about one minute. Add shitake mushrooms, black fungus and bamboo shoots and stir fry one minute. 

Add stock and bring to a boil, then add tofu. Return to a boil and add vinegar mixture. Stir in cornstarch mixture and return to a boil. Liquid will thicken. Reduce heat to moderate and simmer one minute. 

Beat egg with a fork and add sesame oil. Add egg to soup in a thin stream, stirring slowly in one direction with a spoon. Stir in white pepper. Sprinkle with green onions and cilantro before serving.  Makes 6-8 first courses. (Adapted from Bruce Cost)


Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage

Victoria on Vancouver Island is home to Canada’s oldest Chinatown established during the Gold Rush of the early 1850’s. It is the second oldest in North America. At its peak over 40,000 immigrants lived in a few square blocks in the city centre. To this day it remains a vibrant place to shop for Asian ingredients, vegetables, fish and meat.  

While I was in the city I joined Chef Heidi Fink on her culinary tour. Heidi is in her tenth year leading cooking enthusiasts through the grocery stores, restaurants and teashops and shares her wealth of knowledge of Oriental cuisine. 

Sticky rice is one of my favourite dim sum dishes. Usually it is wrapped in lotus leaves but I cannot find lotus leaves. I have actually had it served to me in a rice steamer in a Chinatown restaurant and this is how I am making it at home.

Cantonese sausage can be found in the freezer section of an Asian grocery.

Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage 
These are usually found in lotus leaf packages but I can't find lotus leaves. I don't like the flavour of banana leaves so I just steam them in a parchment lined bamboo steamer.

1 1/4 c. short grain glutinous sweet rice
4 Chinese dried shitake mushrooms, also called black mushrooms
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 tsp. cornstarch
2 links Cantonese sweet sausage, also called lop cheong
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp. Chinese rice wine
1 tbsp. light soy sauce
1 tsp. dark soy
1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch dissolved in 1 tbsp. cold water
2 tbsp. vegetable oil for stir frying
1/4 tsp. Asian sesame oil
black pepper or white pepper, to taste

Cover rice with cold water and soak for one hour.  Then drain and steam in a bamboo steamer lined with cheesecloth.

Meanwhile, soak mushrooms in boiling hot water until softened, about 30 minutes. Cut out and discard stems, then squeeze excess liquid from caps and thinly slice caps. Save mushroom soaking liquid for another use.

Thinly slice green onions keeping pale green and white parts separate from dark green parts. Quarter sausage lengthwise and finely chop.

Heat wok or large heavy pan over high heat and add vegetable oil. Add mushrooms, sausage and pale green and white parts of green onions, stir fry one minute. Add rice and stir fry, breaking up any clumps, one minute. Add sesame oil, then add pepper and remaining green onions and stir fry until combined well.  Steam in a bamboo steamer lined with parchment paper for about 15 minutes. 

Makes 8-10 side dishes. (Adapted from Bruce Cost)

Chinese Pork and Chive Dumplings

In 2015 the lunar new year, Chinese New Year or Tet begins on February 15 and lasts for 15 days. The holiday is celebrated with the entire family enjoying restaurant and home feasts. 

Who doesn't love potstickers? These are one of the most popular appetizers in Chinatown. Now is the time to face the fear and make them at home. There are no ingredients that cannot be found in a modern day grocery store. Make it a party and get friends together to make a big batch. Freeze them and they are ready for an easy tapa or meal.

Pork and Chive Dumplings

The sauce
1/2 c. soy sauce 125 mL
1/2 c. black vinegar, also called sugarcane juice vinegar 125 mL
1 tbsp. sesame oil 15 mL
2 tsp. toasted white sesame seeds 10 mL

The filling
1 lb. ground pork
1 c. finely chopped garlic chives
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
one package 3 1/2-inch round dumpling wrappers
vegetable oil, for frying

Make the sauce by combining all ingredients and set aside until ready to serve. Makes about one cup.

Make the pork filling by combining all ingredients except for dumpling wrappers and vegetable oil.

Working with one dumpling wrapper at a time, place a tablespoon of pork filling in the center of the wrapper, moisten the edge of the wrapper and fold in half. Pinch the dumpling at one end and pinch as you go until you have a total of 6 pleats and the dumpling is closed. Place dumpling on a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dumpling wrappers until all filling has been used. Cover dumplings with a damp paper towel until ready to cook or at this point they can be frozen and cooked later.

In a large non-stick skillet, heat two tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, arrange the dumplings in a single layer and cook, until the bottoms begin to brown, about one minute. Pour half cup water into the pan, cover with a lid and steam until the filling is almost cooked through, about 2 minutes. Uncover and cook, until the all the water has evaporated and the bottoms have become golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes. Serve warm. 


Saskatoon Berry and Ricotta Crepes for Shrove Tuesday

Saskatoon Berry and Ricotta Crepes

1 c. whole milk
1/3 c. water
1 c. unbleached flour
3 tbsp. melted butter
3 eggs
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch salt

1 c. ricotta
1 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. lemon zest

1 c. saskatoon berries
2 tbsp. sugar or to taste
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 c. cold water

Add first 8 ingredients to a blender. Puree until thoroughly blended. Pour batter into a bowl, cover and let sit for an hour or overnight. Gently stir before using. Try not to incorporate air bubbles.

Preheat your crepe pan and very light grease with butter. You will ruin a few crepes while you get the temperature just right. The finished crepe should be very pale with only a hint of browning.

This is slightly too browned.
Pour about one quarter to one third cup of batter into middle of the pan and swirl to make a large thin pancake. Cook until the edge becomes slightly crispy. Loosen edge with rubber spatula and turn crepe over. Cook until the batter releases from the pan and you can easily slip the crepe onto a dish, about 30 seconds. Cook all of the crepes and set aside.

Make ricotta filling by combining ricotta with honey and lemon zest. Make berry topping by combining berries with sugar, cornstarch and cold water. Gently heat over medium low heat until bubbly. Cool and serve.

Put these together by  spreading each crepe with a tablespoon of ricotta filling. Roll into a cigar shape. Spoon warm berry sauce over, garnish with toasted sliced almonds and lemon zest. Serve.

The recipe will make about 18 crepes. If you don't use them all, stack with a piece of waxed or parchment paper between each crepe and seal in a freezer bag. Freeze until needed. Better yet, fill with the ricotta, roll and freeze. Pull them out of the freezer, defrost and serve with a warm saskatoon berry sauce.