28.11.10

Update on the Renovation

It is going so well!  I am so lucky.

But it was so funny.  I  had my new bathtub installed but not yet fully plumbed in.  These shut offs were all I had.  Miss Sugar went exploring and low and behold, she walked under these levers and pushed them up.  I had water pouring into my basement!  It was wild.

Now the demolition is complete.  The electricians and plumbers have been here.  Today drywall was delivered and the drywaller will be here on Monday.  I will have it all put back together so soon.

Then it is my turn.  I am the painter!  It is a tad daunting but I am determined.

I think this project is going as well as any project can.  And to think that I didn't even have a contractor on November 10.  Mind and will are more powerful that I ever dreamed.



25.11.10

The Food of Ancient Egypt

Today I subbed for a Grade 9 history teacher.  They are studying Ancient Egypt and I have offered to give a class on the food of Ancient Egypt.  This is my program!

 We had a blast!  I had no time for pictures!  Actually I walk to the school and I couldn't carry anything more.  My hands were full.

I made a spice kit so they could see and smell.  I had cumin, black cumin, coriander seeds, ras el hanout, za'atar, cinnamon sticks, star anise, saffron, sea salt, dried mint and bay leaves.  They especially enjoyed the spice kit.

They loved the pita bread and carrot sticks with the cheese dip.  Not so many were interested in the hummus.  They all loved the pomegranate and feta and some even tried olives!  A couple of them tried capers.  Even the difficult kids who refused in the beginning to taste anything, joined in when they saw how interested everyone else was.  All in all, it was a huge success.

They definitely know where Egypt is now!

Cheese Dip

1 cup coarsely chopped feta

2 cups very thick yogurt (Middle Eastern style or labne)

2 crushed cloves of garlic

1/2 teaspoon dried mint

Puree in a food processor.  Chill and serve with fresh vegetables or pita bread or chips.


The Story of Food in Ancient Egypt

Looking at the location of Egypt on the map, you can see it is in North Africa and very close to Asia and the Mediterranean.  This location has influenced the food as much as the climate and land.  Even though Egypt is in Africa, its food is considered more Middle Eastern than African.  They mainly have influences from Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece and Palestine.  Dishes are simple and hearty, made with naturally ripened fruits and vegetables and seasoned with fresh spices and herbs.  The food in the south, closer to North Africa, is zestier than that found in the north, but neither is especially hot.

The Nile River area was also known as the Fertile Valley.  It would flood every summer and this would provide rich silt to keep the soil fertile and to provide water.  If you look at a map of Egypt the only fertile areas are those close to the Nile River.  Crops were also irrigated using the water from the Nile River.  Today the flow of the Nile River is regulated by the Aswan Dam.

The climate is very hot and mostly arid.  Not all plants will grow in this climate.  The most common fruits were citron (lemons), dates, figs, grapes and pomegranates.  A type of wheat and barley were the main crops.  Olives were common and were pickled or pressed to make olive oil.

The food eaten varied greatly according to your wealth.  Most people were very poor and they lived on a diet of mainly vegetables, grains, lentils, beans and fruits.  It was more rare to have meat. And they would have fish, of course.  The wealthy had the best access to meat that would include chickens, geese, duck, lamb, beef and goats mainly. 

The commonly grown vegetables were cucumber, onions, garlic, tomatoes and greens.

Cows and goats were also raised for their milk.  Milk was very important especially in the poor families.  From the milk, they would make a very thick yogurt and some unripened cheeses.

Nuts were commonly used.  They used almonds, pistachios and walnuts.  Honey was the most common sweetener but they also grow sugarcane and make cane sugar.

Seasonings included salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, sesame, dill, fennel, saffron, sumac, black cumin, anise, bay leaf, sage and cinnamon.

The average person ate from pottery bowls and plates.  Knives and spoons were the main utensils.  Forks were not used until the Middle Ages.  So the typical way to eat would be to scoop up the food with bread like pita bread.  Stone was also commonly used for storage jars.

The storage of foods was critical.  In the extreme climate food would rot easily.  They would dig holes in the ground.  Some of these pits would be large enough to store the entire supply of the village’s dates or grains.  Holes would be dug into the ground and lined with stones.  Caves were also good storage places.  Olive oil would be poured into pottery jars and stored in caves.  Fruits and vegetables would be dried so they would keep longer. Pickling was another way of preserving food.  Olives, fish and onions would be pickled.  Fish were also often salted and dried. 

Ovens were simple and could possibly be a simple bed of coals.  Larger clay ovens would typically be in the courtyard or often one commercial oven would be available for several households to share.  They would take their mixed and formed bread to the commercial oven and the person operating the oven would bake it for the women.

Other food was cooked in simple clay pots, using wooden utensils and stored in jars.  There were few kitchen tools – pestles, mortars and sieves.



Some Ideas for Recipes to Taste

1.     Olives
2.     Cheese Dip (feta and yogurt) with carrots, celery & cucumber
3.     Stuffed Vine leaves
4.     Roasted carrots with ras el hanout
5.     Turkish delight (made with rhubarb)
6.     Hummus

Other things to Taste

1.     Pomegranates and pomegranate syrup
2.     Tahini
3.     Dates 
4.   Capers


22.11.10

Teaching in Schools

I am receiving regular calls to be a substitute teacher.  I have had a 'repeat' client!  Yeah!  I have been to the local high school four times so I am becoming quite familiar with it.  That is nice.

Now I have had two more calls.  One is for a home economics teacher in junior high.  Right up my alley!

And then I received a call from another 'new to me' school for grade 8 social studies and math.

I am becoming much more confident and composed!  It has been so so long since I taught that it has taken a bit to let go of this stress.

To build my business I am giving food gifts.  Sometimes it will be my homemade preserves or my homemade spicy blue corn crackers.  Or, it is those heavenly haskap oatmeal squares.  I will have to devote an entire post on those.  I know you have no idea what a haskap is but it is divine.

20.11.10

Prayers Work... Ask Me!

Dumpster now full!
This is me living in my basement with all of my furniture!  I have been waiting for a contractor since I bought my house in April.  In this small prairie city life revolves with the seasons.  "Making Hay While the Sun Shines" is a mantra.

New bathtub and closet opened to the bathroom.

Trying to pin down someone to do an inside renovation during the warm season is next to impossible.  So I patiently wait.  My first choice carpenter was non-committal.  But I am a woman on a mission.  I want this kitchen/house renovation completed so I can get on with my life as I want it.

So I went searching and found a nice young man who would come in November.  In all fairness, he did call me in November and I was so excited.  He thought he could do it but in the end...he couldn't.  He took a full time job and would only be able to do my work on weekends.  My job is not a little one.

These are two colours I am considering















Then he recommended a former employer who is a builder.  I cannot believe my luck.  This (also) young man builds houses and knows his stuff.  He has a full slate of work but has no inside jobs.  He agreed to take me on.  I was his only inside job.  The only time he could start my job was if the weather turned cold.  He was so busy.

I don't wish any ill will on anyone but I prayed for cold weather.  Well, it came.  And it came with a vengeance.  I now have their undivided attention until the job is almost complete.  I am so thankful.  And the true bonus is that they are so competent.  I am also lucky.

My basement kitchen.  Check out the wiring!
Don't you love my Italian headboard! 
A beautiful sight!
And what does Miss Sugar have to say about all this.....
What felt so hopeless only a week ago has become totally possible.  I have learned never to give up on hope and the power of will.  Temper that with acceptance and life works...beautifully.

19.11.10

Butternut Squash Curry with Basmati Rice

I made this earlier in the week while I still had a kitchen.  I had a squash from the market a few weeks ago and thought I should make this delicious curry, inspired from Martha, of course.


Butternut Squash Curry      adapted from Martha Stewart

  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled, halved and seeded
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 two inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cilantro cube
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • yogurt for serving
Drizzle the squash halves with sorghum and put a pat of butter in the cavity.  Bake the squash at 350F until tender.  Scoop out in chunks and let cool.

Puree onion, garlic, and a splash of water in a food processor until smooth.

Heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven.

Add fennel seed, mustard, and coriander and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until fragrant.

Add onion puree and ginger and cook until golden, stirring frequently, about 8 minutes.

Stir in tomato paste and cook another 3-4 minutes.

Pour in remaining water, red pepper flakes, cilantro cube, and salt.  Simmer gently for 15 minutes to develop flavours.

Add chunks of squash.

If you like a thicker sauce (which I do!) use a wooden spoon to mash 1/4 of the squash against the side of the pot.

Stir and serve over brown rice.

Garnish with a dollop of yogurt if desired.

17.11.10

Houston...We have lift off!

Yes!!  The winter weather came in and my contractors had time for 'inside' work.  I was first on their list for inside work.  They made a lot of progress in only one day.

See that big dumpster outside the window?  Isn't that just the best thing you have ever seen!

My kitchen will be without a fridge and stove as of Friday.  My new appliances won't be delivered for awhile.  I have decided to live with my cold room and a picnic cooler for a few days.  It is winter.  Making ice is no problem!  I'll buy perishables as I can eat them.

I will be dining on my freezer food until I run out.  But you cannot believe my luck!  I have won two  dinners from a local company that makes home cooked meals for busy people.  They will come in handy.

16.11.10

Peking Duck with Pancakes and Hoisin Sauce

What do I do when my contractor is a "no show"?  I am stressed to the gills because my 
kitchen cabinets are sitting in my cabinet maker's workshop, my appliances are ready 
to be delivered, the hardwood is sitting in one of my bedrooms and I have moved to 
my basement?   I am back to square one with a new contractor who already has a full 
schedule.  So here I am, making Peking Duck.  I have sold my old stove but they don't
take it for another two weeks.  I have always wanted to make Peking Duck.  I am, 
destressing again, by cooking.

I have a lot to learn about making Peking Duck but it was still tasty.


Peking Duck Recipe

Ingredients :
2.5 kg
40 pieces
6
1/2
2
Coating
1 tablespoon
1  teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon
Sauce
2 tablespoons
1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon
Duck
Chinese pancake 
Spring onions (scallions)
Cucumber, sliced
Red chilies
Malt sugar, honey or molasses
Cornflour
Vinegar
Hoisin sauce
Peanut butter
Sesame oil
Chinese yellow wine
Method :
  • Clean the duck, removing and discarding any excess fat in the cavity.
  • Tie a piece of string around its neck. Pat dry.
  • Bring 25 cups of water to the boil and turn off the heat.
  • Put the duck into the water and turn it backwards and forwards for about 1 minute. 
    Remove.
  • Bring the water to the boil again and repeat the previous step.
  • Do this twice more (total four times).
  • Hang the duck in a cool, draughty place for about 5 hours.  My duck didn't have a neck so I couldn't hang it.  I thought it was a brilliant idea to put it on my beer can chicken stand.  Since it is winter, I placed it in front of a slightly opened window.
  • Mix the coating ingredients with 10 tablespoons hot water and brush the duck all over with the mixture.  I used sorghum, because it was what I had on hand.
  • Hang to dry for a further 4 hours and apply a second layer of coating.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 450oF  and put a roasting pan in the oven with a wire rack in it, making sure that there is a space of about 5 cm between the rack and the pan base.  Be sure the rack is fully preheated.
  • Place the duck on the rack, breast side up, and roast for 8 minutes.
  • Turn the duck over using a towel, not a fork, and roast for a further 8 minutes.
  • Reduce the temperature to 350oF and turn the duck breast side up again.
  • Roast for 20 minutes. Lower the temperature to 250oF and roast for 10 minutes.
  • Increase the heat again to 450oF and roast the duck for about 10 minutes.
  • At this point you have to watch carefully to make sure the skin of the duck does not burn.
  • Turn off the heat once the skin has turned a rich deep red.
  • While the duck is roasting, prepare the Chinese pancakes. 
  • Cut the spring onions into 5 cm lengths, shred the tip of each piece and put it in
    iced water for 10 minutes. Cut the cucumber into similar lengths.
  • Decorate each piece with a red chili ring.
  • Blend together the sauce ingredients over a low heat.
  • Carve off the skin on the back of the duck.
  • Hold the knife horizontally and carve the skin and meat from the breast and legs, 
    cutting at an angle of 15o.
  • Arrange the skin and meat on a large plate and serve it with pancakes and cucumber, spring onions and the sauce.
Note : Diners help themselves. They place one pancake flat on a plate, put a piece of duck in the center, dip a spring onion (scallion) in the sauce and put it on top of the duck, wrap it up and eat it. The contrast of textures and taste is delicious.

 Ingredients : (makes about 40 pancakes)
4 cups
1 1/2 cups
1 tablespoon
Plain flour (all-purpose flour)
Boiling water
Sesame oil
Method :
  • Place the un-sifted flour in a mixing bowl.
  • Make a well in the center and add the boiling water, stirring rapidly with a fork.
  • Knead the dough well on a lightly floured surface until it is smooth and firm.
  • Return the dough to the mixing bowl, cover and leave to stand for 1 hour.
  • Knead the dough briefly on a lightly floured surface and roll into a sausage 4 cm in diameter.
  • Pull it apart with your fingers to make about 40 equal sized pieces.
  • Roll the pieces between your hands to make smooth balls, making sure that they are all 
    the same size.
  • Lightly oil the fingers and palms of your hands and flatten each ball until it is 5 mm thick.
  • Brush the top with sesame oil.
  • Place one piece of dough on top of another, oiled sides facing, and roll out into a pancake 
    about 15 cm across.
  • Heat the frying pan and brush the bottom with sesame oil.
  • Add the paired pancakes to the skillet one at a time.
  • Cook over a medium heat for 30 seconds, turn and cook the other side for 30 seconds.
  • Pull the paired pancakes apart with your fingers to make two thin pancakes.
  • Place them on a large piece of foil, one on top of the other, oiled side up.
  • Wrap them in the foil and steam for 30 minutes.
  • Any pancakes left over can be wrapped 
    in foil and kept in the refrigerator for up 
    to three days.

14.11.10

Goat Cheese Soufflé in Phyllo Cup

Another month and another challenge!  Soufflés are one of my favourite fancy dishes.  My all time favourite is Grand Marnier soufflé but I must try something new for this challenge.  I like the idea of edible serving dishes and found this intriguing salad recipe with a goat cheese soufflé in a phyllo cup.

Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

Goat Cheese Soufflé in Phyllo Cup                   serves 8

For phyllo cups
  • 6 (17- by 12-inch) phyllo sheets, thawed if frozen
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
For soufflé filling
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • finely grated Parmagiano Reggiano cheese (1/2 cup)
  • 5 oz soft mild goat cheese, crumbled (2/3 cup)
For salad
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 oz frisée, torn into bite-size pieces (8 cups)
  • 6 radishes, cut into very thin wedges
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Make cups:
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Cover stack of phyllo with 2 overlapping sheets of plastic wrap and a dampened kitchen towel. Put 1 phyllo sheet on a work surface and brush with some butter, then top with 2 more sheets of phyllo, brushing each with butter.
Cut buttered stack into 6 (4 1/2-inch) squares with a sharp knife, trimming sides as needed. Line each of 6 muffin cups with a square. Make 6 more phyllo cups (4 are extra, in case of breakage) in same manner with remaining pastry sheets and butter.
Bake cups in middle of oven until golden, about 8 minutes, then cool completely in pan on a rack. 

Make filling:
Increase oven temperature to 400°F.
While cups are cooling, melt butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, then whisk in flour. Cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add milk in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil, whisking. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in mustard, yolks, and 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano until combined, then fold in goat cheese. (Cover surface of mixture with wax paper if not using immediately.)
Beat egg whites in a large bowl with an electric mixer until they just hold stiff peaks. Fold one third of whites into sauce to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
Spoon batter into 8 phyllo cups and sprinkle with remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake in middle of oven until soufflés are puffed and golden, about 15 minutes. 

Make salad while soufflés bake:
Whisk together vinegar, mustard, and salt in a bowl, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified.
Just before soufflés are ready, toss frisée and radishes in a large bowl with just enough dressing to coat. Mound salad onto 8 plates and sprinkle with chives, then make a small nest in center of each.
Place a soufflé cup in each salad and serve immediately. 

Cooks' notes: • Phyllo cups can be made 1 day ahead and kept in pan, carefully wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature. (Extra phyllo cups can be filled with ice cream or fruit for dessert the next day.) • Soufflé filling (without egg whites) can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature and stir (to loosen) before proceeding.

11.11.10

Lovely Bread So Easy

I think I will re-name No Knead Bread to Never Fail Bread!  I am using up all my flour and ingredients before my kitchen renovation begins.  I can't remember when I mixed up this bread....eeek!  I think it must have been Wednesday morning but perhaps it was Tuesday evening.  I set the pan in the cold oven to proof.

It is now Thursday morning and I thought, maybe I should make that bread today  (forgot it was already proofing).  I opened the oven and there was my dough!  It was stickier than I was used to so I mixed it down with a little bread flour and I plopped it onto a piece of parchment paper for the final proofing.  I covered with a towel and let it sit for another hour.

My No Knead Recipe is here.  I used about a cup of multigrain flour and the rest was bread flour.  The bread was wonderful, even though I completely forgot about it and have no idea how long it was sitting!

9.11.10

Truffled Potato Perogy Soup

I made perogies for The Daring Cooks challenge a while ago and, although the perogies were wonderful, the dough was rolled to thinly for keeping well in the freezer.  They would break up when boiling and I discarded a lot of nice food.

Then I had a bright idea!  How about using them in soup.  If they burst and spilled their contents, it would just add to the flavour of the soup.

I used my homemade duck broth from this post.  And my perogies from this post.   When I made one of my batches of perogies, I added a dollop of black truffle sauce to the mashed potatoes.  The result was divine.  The truffle flavour actually came out nicer in the soup than they did when I served the perogies in the traditional style with sour cream.

I brought the broth to a boil.  Salted to taste.  Plopped in the perogies and continue to gently simmer until they were done.  There is a nice glisten of duck fat on the surface and the flavour was amazing.

8.11.10

Chicken and Roasted Sweet Pepper B'Stilla

I am trying to cook as much as possible, and use the things I already have in the larder. My reno starts soon!  This would have been much nicer with a dusting of powdered sugar, but I had none!

Chicken and Roasted Sweet Pepper B'Stilla

2 cups cooked chicken
1/2 orange pepper
1/2 red pepper
1 clove garlic
1/2 onion
1 teaspoon ras el hanout
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
2 tablespoons pinenuts
salt to taste
phyllo pastry
1/2 cup butter, melted
powdered sugar

Roughly chop the chicken and set aside.

Roast the peppers and cut into strips.  Roast the garlic clove and mash.  Dice the onion and saute until translucent.

Toss the peppers, onion, garlic and chicken.  Add toasted pinenuts and seasonings.  Add beaten egg.

Brush a baking sheet with butter.  Lay one sheet of phyllo pastry and brush it with melted butter.  Lay down 2 more phyllo sheets and brush each with melted butter.

Spread the chicken mixture on the phyllo pastry.  Cover with 3 more sheets of phyllo pastry brushed with melted butter between each sheet.

Repeat with another layer of chicken mixture and phyllo pastry.

Bake at 375F for 15 minutes.  Cool slightly.  Cut into large squares.  Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

7.11.10

Approaching Demolition Day

Friday is supposedly the big day!  The rip out of my kitchen, bathroom and a couple of small walls will begin.  As you can imagine, my cooking will be extremely limited as I live in the basement with a microwave and slow cooker!  Therefore, my blog may not be much of a food blog for the next two or three months.

Today I am using odds and ends from the fridge and made this wonderful potato soup.  I received my inspiration from Andrea The Kitchen Witch's potato and bacon soup and Dinner with Julie's, bacon smashed potatoes.

Creamy Potato Soup with Pancetta

1/2 cup diced pancetta
2 tablespoons finely diced onion
1 tablespoon finely diced celery
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium sized potatoes, cut in a 1/2" dice
1/2 can evaporated milk
1 cup partially skimmed milk
1 cup water
salt and pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, minced

Add the olive oil to a pot large enough to cook the soup and heat on a medium setting.  Add pancetta and brown.  When almost browned, add the onions and celery.  Cook until translucent.  Add garlic and continue to saute until garlic is becoming aromatic.

Add the evaporated milk, partially skimmed milk and water.  Bring to a simmer.  Add potatoes, salt and pepper.  Continue to gently simmer until the potatoes are very soft.  Add more water as necessary.  Adjust the seasoning.  Serve.

1.11.10

Tongue Twister

Stripping stipple from the ceiling sees sore scapulas!  Stripping stipple from the ceiling sees sore scapulas!  Stripping stipple from the ceiling sees sore scapulas!

This was my weekend work.  I want a smooth ceiling.  But will settle for a more modern sprayed ceiling.

Foyer and one bedroom done!  Yes!  Only another thousand square feet to go!