Just Peachy


I’ve been working on a writing project that’s taking more time than I expected, and so have neglected my blog, which I promised myself I wouldn’t do but hey, the road to hell paved with good intentions and all that…
Joyce, the bringer of good things, came by with some local peaches that she’d bottled. Peaches are one of those fruits that must be eaten at the peak of their ripeness, when the kitchen fills with their perfume–about a split second before the fruit flies arrive.
I’m not a fan of fresh peaches eaten out of hand though, I don’t care for the fuzzy texture of the outside, but I do love bottled peaches.
Peaches and blueberries make a delicious combination; my friend Claire makes an amazing peach-blueberry pie with a streusel topping that I must get the recipe for. Claire, are you reading this? Send me that recipe!
Peach shortcake? Sure! I use my favourite cream scone recipe (here)
I’ll leave you with this recipe for Peaches & Cream cake*, and I’d love to hear what recipes you think are peachy keen.

Peaches & Cream Cake

Makes 1 9” cake

1-2 teaspoons butter or margarine
1-2 teaspoons flour

For the cake:

6 large eggs room temperature
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

For the filling:

3 cups heavy (35%) cream, whipped
1 /4 cup icing sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 /2 cup peach schnapps
2-3 cups bottled sliced peaches

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease the tube pan with butter, then dust with flour, shaking off excess.

For the cake:
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine eggs and sugar, beating on high until light in colour. Beat in vanilla, salt and flour, making sure to scrape down sides of bowl as you mix.
Pour batter into tube pan, and bake until cake springs back with touched and toothpick comes out clean when inserted, 30-40 minutes.
Loosen edges of cake; remove from pan and let cook on wire racks.

For the filling:
Whip the cream until firm but not stiff, and whisk in icing sugar and vanilla.

To assemble the cake:
Using a serrated knife, slice the cake horizontally so that you end up with four layers. If you have a steady hand, dental floss can be pulled through the cake the make the layers quite easily.
Place bottom layer on a plate, brush with schnapps, and spread with 1 /3 cream filling. Add second layer. Brush with schnapps, spread with 1 /2 the sliced peaches. Add the third layer, brush with schnapps, and spread with 1 /3 cream filling. Top with last layer, brush with schnapps, and layer remaining peach slices.
Using a cake spatula, cover the sides of the cake with the remainder of the cream filling.

*This cake is a riff off the Bakeapple Lakka cake in my cookbook “A Real Newfoundland Scoff”

Freestyle Chowder Base


Tomorrow, we are welcoming our first visit from family since moving west. Traditionally, whenever family crossed the Strait from Newfoundland to our house in Nova Scotia, we’d have a pot of seafood chowder waiting.
Asking what our company might like for supper, and the response was chowder. And so the tradition continues!
Of course, the chowder won’t be exactly the same–the East coast version was made with, well, East coast fish and shellfish. For this one, I went foraging for West coast seafood and found smoked Coho, Pacific halibut, shrimp, and Dungeness crab.
No need to change up the rest of the recipe though, this is a chowder base that I’ve used for a long time, and lends itself well to the addition of just about any combination that the cook might enjoy. No worrying about not being able to find a particular fish, just substitute what’s on hand, or in season.
This was printed in my Chowders and Soups book, and it’s the first time I’ve shared it outside the book.

Freeform Seafood Chowder Base
For the more adventurous cook

This is the chowder recipe base I most often use. It doesn’t rely on measuring, and I’ve yet to find a sea creature that didn’t taste delicious in it! It’s not a thick chowder, but the coffee cream adds a velvety texture.

Potato, diced (peels may be off or on)
Celery, diced
Onion, diced
(3 parts potato to 1 part celery, 1 part onion)
(the size of the dice is not as important as the consistency—all of the vegetables should be cut to the same size so that they cook evenly)
Fish Stock
Coffee cream
(use 2 parts stock to 1 part coffee cream)
Fresh herbs (usually basil and thyme)

In a heavy bottomed pot over low heat, melt butter. Add vegetables and gently cook
until soft, stirring occasionally.
Add whatever fish or shellfish you are using, and continue stirring until fish is cooked. Add fish stock and coffee cream. Stir until heated, do not boil, (coffee cream may curdle) add salt, pepper and fresh herbs to taste.

NaNoWriMo Update: I’ve fallen behind on my word count, so I don’t think I’m going to make the deadline. But, I’m going to keep going with the hopes of finishing by Christmas. Silvern Voices will be heard!

Give Peas a Chance


Chatting with a woman in the grocery store line-up today, and she mentioned that she picked up a ham hock to make split pea soup. Instantly, I was transported back in time, across the country, and to the split pea soup of my childhood. That soup was salty with ham, thick enough to float bricks on, and could line a stomach for days upon days.
This version is a lot lighter, with more flavours than just salt, and not quite the digestive system staying power. And, it’s featured on the menu of the Constellation’s fine dining restaurant, Aquarius.

Curried Split Pea Soup

Serves 4

1 1/ 2 cups of uncooked yellow split peas
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium yellow onions, chopped
8 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
4 cups of vegetable stock

3 tablespoons mild Indian curry paste
1 (14oz) can light coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 /2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 /2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 /2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Fill a large pot with water, add peas and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until peas are very soft, about one hour. Top up the pot with water as required during the cooking process. Drain peas and set aside.

In the pot, heat canola oil. Add onions, garlic and carrots, and cook over medium heat until vegetables are softened but not browned. Return peas to pot, and add stock and curry paste.
Using an immersion blender or food processer, puree the soup until smooth. This one doesn’t have to be super smooth, a little coarseness will add texture.

Bring the pureed soup back to the boil and add coconut milk, salt, pepper, cumin, and turmeric. Let simmer another ten minutes, then stir in cilantro. Let simmer another 10 minutes before serving with papadum or naan bread.

This soup is one of those that lends itself well to experimentation–don’t like curry? Don’t use it! Replace the coconut milk with vegetable stock, and add a teaspoon or two of a good quality pesto, or chopped fresh herbs of your choice.
For a zingy hot version, substitute the mild curry paste for a fiery Thai red or green curry, garnish with a cooling dollop of plain yogurt or kefir.
Turn it into a meal by adding cooked chicken, or pour the hot soup over very thinly sliced salmon pre-placed in the bottom of the bowl. The heat will cook the salmon.

Hamming it up


Cooler weather has set in, and with it, the desire for more substantial, belly-warming meals. One of our favourite meals for late fall is a comfort food classic, ham with scalloped potatoes. Thing is, that’s a lot of leftovers when there are only two people eating it, so the question is, what to do with all that ham?

This chowder was designed to provide a different answer than the usual answers of sandwiches and split pea soup, and was published in my book Chowders and Soups (Nimbus). Although the recipe calls for mashed potatoes, you can substitute leftover scalloped potatoes in equal measure.


Potato & Ham Chowder

2 strips bacon
1 yellow onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 cup diced cooked ham
1 cup mashed potatoes
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 /2 cup heavy cream
1 /2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/ 4 teaspoon black pepper

Cook bacon in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. When bacon begins to crisp, drain off the fat, reserving one teaspoon. Return the fat and bacon to the pot and add onions, celery and carrot. Cook over medium heat until vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally.
Add ham, mashed potatoes and chicken stock and stir until blended. Add cream, cloves and pepper, bring to simmer before serving.

A Char-ming Gift


Years ago, I cooked at a restaurant that served wild Arctic char from Labrador; although I’ve had char here and there since then, it never seemed to match the taste of that Labrador char. Just recently, I was gifted a few large Arctic char filets, beside myself with excitement, I could hardly wait to see how it tasted.

Arctic char (or charr) is in Salmonidae family; breeding in freshwater, it can live in the sea or be landlocked. The flesh runs from very pale pink to bright red, depending on diet and environment, and generally run 2-10 pounds. Mild tasting, they hover between trout and salmon, leaning more towards the trout side.
IMG_7041My filet was a lovely deep pink, in preparation for cooking, I removed the pin bones and belly fat, but left the skin on as I planned to pan-fry it and I love the crispy skin.

Although a mild fish, it stands up well to strong flavours. In this case, I decided on gnocchi with ratatouille, some asparagus, and my favourite fish accompaniment: lemon caper butter.

For the ratatouille:
Olive oil, splash
Zucchini, 1 each green and yellow, diced
Eggplant, 1 smallish, diced
Tomatoes, 12-14 small variety (cherry, grape), halved
Herbes de Provence*, 1 teaspoon (*a dried herb mix used in French cooking)

In a heavy bottomed skillet, heat the oil. Add the vegetables, season with Herbes de Provence and simmer until tomatoes cook down and the ratatouille looks “saucy”.

Ratatouille with gnocchi added

Ratatouille with gnocchi added

For the gnocchi:
Prepared gnocchi is easy to find in most supermarkets. Cook as per package instructions, and stir into the cooked ratatouille.

For the lemon-caper butter:
1-2 tbsp butter
1-2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp capers

In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Once it starts to sizzle, add lemon juice and capers. Cook until butter is lightly browned. Spoon over cooked fish.

For the fish:
1 tbsp butter
salt and pepper
2 x 4-6 oz filets

Melt butter in skillet. Season both sides of filets generously with salt and pepper. Please flesh side down in hot pan, turning once when browned.
Drop in pot of boiling water, remove when cooked but still a little crisp, and toss with salt, pepper and a shot of lemon juice.


The final verdict? This is the char of my early cooking career, the clean fresh flavour I’d been missing. Absolutely fabulous!

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.