Falling into comfort food

The leaves are changing colour and a chill is creeping into the ever-lengthing evening shadows, and memories of autumns past come rushing to the fore.
The fall was when my mother- and father-in-law made their pilgrimage from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia to visit us; after his passing, my mother-in-law continued to make the trip and we forged gold and red burnished memories as she took comfort in familiar rituals. Trips to Mahone Bay for the Pirate Festival, down to the Annapolis Valley for the Pumpkin People, and countless drives to take in the brilliant colours of a Nova Scotia autumn.
She’s gone now too, and I miss her terribly, and never more so than in the fall. This year, being out West for our first fall, I not only miss her but to a lesser extent, those traditional things that we continued on with.
One of our favourite things was a stop at Hennigar’s.
There are many farm markets but there’s something about Hennigar’s–the goats, the birds, the seasonal decorations, the gift shop area, the ice cream, the bakeshop, the hot dog stand, and oh, yeah, the vegetables too–I never get tired of visiting. (If you’re not familiar, check out Hennigar’s here).
Of course, fall is harvest time, and market bins are overflowing with carrots, parsnips, corn and winter squash. One of my favourite ways of enjoying these harvest vegetables is with a root vegetable chowder. Soup is, after all, the ultimate comfort food. When I did the book launch in 2012 for my Chowders and Soups book, this is the soup I gave out as samples and it was wildly popular, drawing raves everywhere the soup pot went, and much to my delight.
Cover Draft 5
I’ve shared the recipe before, but in case you missed it, here it is again. The cream can be replaced with lactose free blend, or eliminate the dairy altogether for a lighter soup.

Root Vegetable Chowder

Roasting the vegetables extracts their natural sugars, which is what causes the browning (called caramelization). This in turn intensifies the flavours, erases bitterness and creating a more complex tasting soup.

4 x 8 oz servings

For roasting:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 /2 cup parsnip, cubed*
1 /2 cup carrots, cubed
1 /2 cup turnips, cubed
1 /2 cup red potatoes, cubed
1 /2 cup butternut squash, cubed
(* It doesn’t matter what size you cut these vegetables into, as long as they are cut uniformly so that they cook evenly.)
For the base:
1 tablespoon butter
1 /4 cup diced yellow onions (about 1 /2 small medium onion)
1 /4 cup diced celery
1 1 /2 cup vegetable stock
3 /4 cup coffee (18%) cream
1 /4 cup heavy (35%) cream
3 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 /2 teaspoon herbes de provence
1 /2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Roasting the vegetables: Preheat oven to 400F. Spread vegetables in a single layer on sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil. Roast until vegetables begin to brown and are soft (about 45 minutes).
Preparing the base: Melt butter in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Stir in onions and celery, cooking until soft. Add stock has been added, bring to a simmer. Add the roasted vegetables to the broth, and stir in cream, herbs, salt and pepper. Bring back to simmer and heat through for 5-6 minutes, allowing the flavours to blend before serving.

Testing, testing, one-two-three.


You know when you pick up a cookbook, and choose a recipe, and then make it, and it turns out? That’s a result of a well-written recipe that had a lot of work in the background before it got to you.
And to make them that way, a lot of kitchen testing was involved. These pics are all kitchen testing shots from my latest cookbook, which just went off to the publisher.

Something Fishy

Now, some of these things I’ve been making for years, and some were developed just for the book. Some were inspired by recipes of others, and some are classic recipes that don’t need rewriting, but do need the methods rewritten to suit the tone and skill level of the book’s readership.

Bubble bubble

Whatever the origin, I start out with a rough recipe draft, paper version (I don’t like to use electronics around the cooking area–that’s got disaster written all over it.)

As I prepare the recipe, I follow this task list:

1. record ingredients
2. measure quantities used
3. record preparation steps
4. record timings
5. make notes
6. taste
7. record the final yield

bits and pieces

Once I’ve had a successful outcome, then I sit to write the recipe. There’s a particular style and order of things that I adhere to, as per my guidelines for writing the technical part.
And after that, much later, I write the intros that will be in the book, trying for some tidbit or fact that will grab your interest, and make you want to try it out.


Because, while I may do all the testing, it’s you who will be doing the grading, and I won’t know if I passed until the book is out there, from my kitchen to yours.

Limoncello Tiramisu


Tirami su (Italian “pick me up”)

One of my favourite desserts to trot out for company is tiramisu; most people love it, it’s make ahead easy, and there’s usually enough left in the bowl to lick clean so I don’t have to wait for dinner for a taste.
A twist on the typical espresso-soaked ladyfingers is to use the lemony Italian liqueur Limoncello, with grated lemon rind on top. For individual presentation, I spoon the mascarpone cream into glasses, and stick a couple of the ladyfingers upright in the glass. An added benefit of this presentation is less cake, more cream.
Here’s how I make it:

For 6 portions:

6 eggs
500 g mascarpone cheese (most mascarpone is sold in 500g containers, easy!)
4 tablespoons sugar
1 cup Limoncello
12 ladyfingers
2 lemons, zested

Drag out your stand mixer. Separate eggs, and place the whites in the bowl of the mixer. I like to beat the whites first, because any trace of fat can prevent them from whipping nicely. Whip them into fluffy peaky firmness, then scrape them into a large bowl.
In the mixer bowl go your egg yolks, with 3 tbsp sugar. Beat this until pale yellow, then add the mascarpone cheese until smooth. Now’s the only tricky part of the whole business–incorporating the mascarpone mix into the whites, keeping it fluffy and not letting the whites break down. Do it with a large rubber spatula, carefully, CAREFULLY folding it all together. Once it’s folded successfully, you can relax and reward yourself for a job well done by eating a couple of spoonfuls. Yummy, right?
Now, pour out the Limoncello into a shallow container and carefully dip your ladyfingers in it, one at a time. You want them to absorb a little but not get soggy. Soggy fingers are not good.
Line up your glasses (I use cocktail glasses. It’s amazing how haute cuisine you can appear by using different dishes and glasses. It’s been fooling guests for years.)
Divide the cream evenly among the glasses, then stick the ladyfingers in the mix. Sprinkle the lemon zest over the top and poof! You’re set!
Let stand a couple of hours for best flavours.

I know, I know, the picture is of regular, big bowl tiramisu with chocolate shavings. We ate the lemon ones too quick to get a pic.

ACT-7: Liechtenstein


Destination: Principality of Liechtenstein

Where: Central Europe, landlocked by Austria and Switzerland

Snapshot: This tiny (160 sq kilometres) country is situated entirely in the Alps. Skiing and snowboarding prevail in winter; cycling, hiking, mountain biking in summer. Liechtenstein is the supermodel of Europe–rich and beautiful! And, the lowest crime rate. With no active military, the whole country’s police force has less than 100 officers.

Time for dinner!
Liechtenstein cuisine is similar to that of neighbouring countries, with Swiss, Austrian and German influences. Cheeses and other dairy, pork and beef, pastries, grains and vegetables. Large dairy industry (moo!), agricultural resources.

Specialties: Hafalaab (soup w/bacon), Kasknopful (little dumplings), muesli, roesti, schnitzel

Drink up! Winemakers since pre-Christian days, Liechtenstein has over 100 winemakers (that’s a lot, isn’t it?) Beer and milk also widely consumed.

Ribei (Semolina dessert)

1 1/2 cup milk
1 cup water
1 tablespoon salt
3 cup semolina
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 tablespoons butter
sugar, to garnish

In a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat, add milk, water, and salt and bring to a boil. Add semolina. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to stand for 3 hours.
Heat oil in a frying pan, add semolina and heat. Once semolina is heated, being adding butter gradually and continue cooking over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Golden brown crumbs will form, at this point, you’re done!
Garnish with sugar, serve with fruit.

For a tiny country, Liechtenstein has tons to see and do. Read more here.

ACT 6-the Gambia

gambia city_Fotor_Collage

Destination: Republic of the Gambia

Where: Africa’s west coast, bordered by the Atlantic and Senegal.
Snapshot: This long, narrow country bordering the Gambia river is the setting for Alex Haley’s Roots. The smallest mainland country of Africa, the Gambia gained independence from the UK in 1965. English is the official language, great for tourism, and Groundnuts (peanuts) are the main agricultural export.

Time for dinner! Seafood (both fresh and saltwater) including oysters, crab, barracuda, butterfish and snapper; beans, peanut butter paste, cassava, okra, lamb, goat, kani peppers (similar to Scotch Bonnets in intensity). No pork–the Gambia is 90% Muslim.

Specialties: One dish meals: Nyombeh Nyebbeh, Pepeh, Benachin

Drink up! Observing Muslim customs, so alcohol tends to be restricted to hotels and tourist spots. Wonjo juice (dried red flowers of the sorrel plant), Baobab juice (from the fruit of the Baobab tree) are local beverage delicacies.

Recipe: Domoda (Peanut Stew)

1 tbsp oil
1 whole chicken, cut into 9pcs
2 quarts water
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 cups peanut butter
2 lemons, sliced
1/2 lb pumpkin (or other winter squash)
4 tbsp tomato paste

Heat oil in heavy bottom pot, sear chicken. Add onions and cook until softened. Add water and bring to boil. Add tomatoes, peanut butter, lemons, pumpkin and tomato paste and simmer 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Serve with rice.

Interesting food customs practiced in the Gambia may be found here. As with most cultures that have seem to have far less than others, food is always offered and shared.

More about “Africa’s Smiling Coast” here.

Flank Steak Friday (should be a thing)


NaBloPoMo’s Armchair Culinary Tour will return tomorrow. Tonight, may I present, FLANK STEAK! I’m in the middle of recipe testing for my next book, and one of these recipes is a marinade for moose steak. Moose is very lean, and steaks can have the texture of old boots if not prepared carefully.
In lieu of moose, I’ve used flank steak. Cut from the underbelly, flank has little fat or marbling and can also be tough, so it makes a great stand-in for experimentation (texture-wise, taste wise beef has nothing on moose).
This marinade had some pleasing results, but needs a bit of tweaking to get it exactly where I want it to be. It’s good enough to share, and so without further ado:

Molasses Mustard Marinade
(enough marinade for 1lb meat)

4 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons red wine (a good quality table wine, reserve the rest)
2 tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil

In a bowl, whisk together molasses, red wine, dijon, and olive oil. Pour over steak (I like to use a large freezer bag for marinading, makes it easy to keep the meat covered) and let marinate 6-8 hours or overnight.
BBQ or broil to desired doneness. Drink the rest of the bottle of wine with dinner!

ACT 4-Suriname

Suriname1_Fotor_CollageSuriname is one of lesser known, lesser traveled South American countries. Last night, I was re-watching an episode of River Monsters, in which extreme angler Jeremy Wade was tracking the giant wolf fish in Suriname. River Monsters aside, the diverseness of Suriname’s cuisine is impressive, so here were are.

Destination: Republic of Suriname
Where: South America, on the Atlantic coast sandwiched between French Guiana and Guyana.
Snapshot: Suriname gained independence from the Netherlands in 1975, and is a member of CARICOM (Caribbean Community). The smallest SA country, Suriname has a northern lowland coastal region (where most of the settlement is), and a sparsely inhabited southern rainforest region.

Time for dinner!
Amerindians, Indian, Indonesian, Dutch, Chinese, Creole–all blend to form a distinct Surinamese cuisine. Staples include rice, cassava root, salted fish, okra, long beans, chicken, curries.

Specialties: bami (noodles with meat),pepre watra (spicy soup), her’heri (plantains and cassava with salt fish), pom.
Drink up! Kasiri (processed cassava), Dawet (coconut), Gemberbier (ginger beer)

Bakkeljauw Balletjes (Cod balls)

1 lb salt cod
4 medium yellow fleshed potatoes, chopped
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves,chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped celery
2 tablespoon tomato ketchup
2 teaspoons seeded and chopped red chile pepper
1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Soak the salt cod 3-4 hours in cold water, changing water once.

In a a large pot, boil potatoes for 20 minutes or until cooked. Drain and mash.
While potatoes are cooking, prepare fish.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring fish and fresh water to boil; reduce heat and simmer 5-6 minutes.
Drain well, flake the cod into small pieces.
In a large bowl, combine potatoes, cod, egg, onion, garlic, celery, ketchup, chili pepper,pepper, salt, parsley,and bread crumbs.
Gently form mixture into balls.
Heat oil in frying pan. Cook cod balls over medium heat until browned, turning so that all sides are cooked.
Serve warm.