Category Archives: winter
I love a Sunday when I can do homey things. There is something especially satisfying about sitting down Sunday night knowing I worked in the garden or did the laundry or baked something.
Needless to say, with snowflakes drifting down most of today I didn’t get to work in the garden, but the other things got checked off the list.I don’t imagine you want to hear about the laundry, so I’ll tell you about the baking.
I love baking. Baking has more instant gratification than cooking. Often cooking means organizing an entire meal, and that encompasses a number of skills. You usually have everyone ready to eat at once, and you might have to deal with different preferences. Baked goods might be part or even the end to a meal with everyone at the table enjoying them, but most often they are enjoyed more spur of the moment, and over time. I started baking as a youngster, and it is still dear to my heart.
Today I decided that bread would be just the thing to warm the house with cozy aromas. I used to be afraid of making bread – the wild nature of yeast was overwhelming, and the time it took was stressful (I never knew until it was too late if I did a good job). A few years ago I decided to conquer my fear, through the best method I know – jumping in with both feet. I went from baking biscuits to baking whole wheat loaves, sourdough, rye and even a Rosemary Pecan Bread. I will admit I had some less than stellar results at the beginning, but now I seem to have found my rhythm. (Streaming oldies while I knead the dough helps a lot.)
This Sunday I made a sweet bread I had tagged in an issue of Saveur magazine from last winter. I love Scandinavian sweet breads with their aromatic spices, and I liked the design of the loaf with cuts made to create a design. I love the transformation and surprise of a loaf that shows its wonders as it bakes. It seems to exemplify the expression, “breaking bread”.
I wanted to tweak the spices a bit as my hubbie isn’t a huge fan of cardamom, so I added some complexity to the filling. I also decided to use decorating sugar; the original recipe called for pearl sugar, but I find it’s more like gravel than anything tasty.
Mine didn’t look quite like the one in the magazine, but I was happy with it. The slice I took as it cooled was just the right amount of sweet, spongy and heartwarming. My Sweet Spice Bread was the perfect way to end a Sunday afternoon.
This time of year is when I really feel like I deserve a treat. With the cold wind blowing during my walks with Ella this week I must have burned extra calories.
Sweets offer us a boost in energy. Numerous ingredients gives a combination of flavours and benefits. A decadent dessert is comfort food on steroids. Therefore, making Millionaire Shortbread is completely justified. What is Millionaire Shortbread, you ask? Let me tell you…
Martin and I discovered this wonderful dessert in Scotland a few years back. We were there in March and it was bone-chilling damp cold (I don’t know how kilts can keep anyone warm in that kind of weather!)
We ducked into a cozy cafe in Edinburgh after having visited the Surgeon’s Hall Museums at the Royal College of Surgeons.
(It might sound creepy, but this place is well worth the visit if you are in Edinburgh, full of interesting exhibits and amazing facts. ) Amidst the aromas of black tea and coffee in the cafe we spied a row of squares among the usual pastries, layered and elegant. Once I saw the name I knew we had to sample one.
I can’t find any information on where the name Millionaire Shortbread comes from – it must be just because the layering of shortbread, caramel and chocolate all in one bite makes you feel like you’ve struck it rich.
I didn’t get the recipe from the cafe, and the ones I found needed tweaking so I added my own Scottish-Canadian twist. They aren’t hard to make, all they take is a bit of patience as the layers set. While you wait I recommend thinking of with whom you will share them, as they are addictive and one really is sufficient.
Once you have settled in with your hot beverage and squares of decadence, you might want to continue the Scottish theme. There are many topics of discussion – one of my favourites is the Outlander series of books, written by Diana Gabaldon – which have now also become a TV series. (If you’ve been in a hole and haven’t heard of Outlander, these stories tell the tale of the love between a post-war nurse and the Highlander she meets when she tumbles through time to the 18th century. Their love stands not only the test of time but also numerous historical events.) What better way to while away an afternoon with a friend than to muse on possible alternate lives and love that transcends all obstacles?
By now you are probably thinking I’ve gone overboard, but that’s because you haven’t tasted Millionaire Shortbread. Just go make some. Then you’ll know what I mean.
Sometime from Friday night to yesterday evening our little freezer went down. There is still some home grown from last year and other assorted that freezers collect but we were struck by how little we have on hand. Although a lot of what you buy up north is grown here, that’s just what happens to most of it…it goes north. On occasion as with all growers, growth exceeds demand and produce of whatever being grown for the export market floods the grocery stores and it is ‘so cheap it’s almost free’. Well, here anyway. And like anywhere, no tomatoes or they are so tasteless and expensive you do without. The freezer is a wonderful hedge.
Today in the grocery store tomatoes were approximately .25$ Cdn. per kilo.These are not the ones at the fresh street markets grown in backyards, delicious and just off the vine. These were all Roma, uniform ripe and unusually this time, very, very tasty. We thanked our lucky stars at our 9kilos and roasted half and stewed the other half. Our version of canned tomatoes. No salt or preservatives and very little effort. Yes, electricity (which can be iffy here and costly) plus the freezer. Supermarket cost usually of tomatoes is about 1.5/2$ per kilo. Markets are less and how the farmers stay alive I don’t know. Minimum wage has just risen yet so has the cost of gasoline and other consumables. Globalization is here but as always, only a few really get to partake.
We eat according to the market. The Mexican diet is not heavy on vegetables except as an additive or salsa. When your diet is the opposite, a little meat and mostly vegetables sometimes it’s a strain. Unexpected tomatoes are a delight but we do grow our own. Plus chard, arugula, dill, oregano, mint, basil, squash, beets and I notice this year, a volunteer sunflower. Always a welcome addition. Fruit here takes space and concentrated watering; there are orange plantations, lemons like mandarins, grapefruit (all with a gazillion seeds), mangoes, strawberries and from the south papaya, bananas, pineapple and much more. Markets are seasonal so we are back to eating seasonal rotations. Everything tastes better and it travels little. It is also economical.
I am very fortunate. The sun shines, there is lots to eat and the people of Mexico are charming. I travel when the sun gets too hot (I hear you groaning!) and I live the same in Europe as I do here, whatever is available at the market is what’s for dinner. And it’s always a delight of experience.
I know I won’t have much sympathy when I finish this post by telling you I’m leaving on holidays in 2 days, but bear with me… I was thinking of friends we have made in past years on trips to Jamaica, and missing the trip we usually take there at this time of year. I decided to make something tonight in hommage to our love of the place, its wonderful food and people, and our distant friends.
I don’t know if you have ever done this – revisit tastes from a great experience? You can’t expect to recreate magic that comes from being in a place, but it’s fun to remember and toast to a time when you lived life to the fullest. I love to share tastes with friends and family, too; it helps to round out tales you want to tell of your visit and put them in context even for those who weren’t there.
Tonight’s little appetizer was easy. FRIED PLANTAINS: take a few plantains and peel them like bananas. Slice them diagonally and toss in a mixture of thyme, allspice, salt and marjoram (oregano will sub in if you don’t have any). Pan fry in a cast iron pan with a generous amount of coconut oil till golden brown. Serve with Jamaican condiments such as tamarind chutney, jerk sauce or other spicy chutneys. This time it was just for the two of us, but I’ve done it for larger crowds and we’ve had just as much fun. Light beer or rum punch are perfect accompaniments, but a lighter white wine will work in a pinch.
If you have a chance to be a guest at such an occasion, perhaps it will inspire you to take a voyage. Or it will give you a real taste of the place, a chance to be an armchair traveller. There is no safer way to travel, yet the excitement can still be worthy of wanting to send a postcard or two.
It’s the dead of winter here. Even though we don’t have big snow drifts anymore, there is no such thing as fresh-grown local produce in January in the Okanagan. At best we have local food that has been stored, but usually that means apples and root vegetables. As a chef I once worked with said one winter, “How much parsnip soup can one person eat?!” But here at Rabbit Hollow, we have been very fortunate.
This past summer’s bounty was particularly delicious, and it continued longer than usual even for this pocket of Canadian paradise. I use edible flowers from the garden for our catered BBQ events with The Chef Instead, and I was able to do that this year up until the very end of November. I didn’t harvest the last of the vegetable garden until after Thanksgiving (in October for us Canadians, a time when frost is usually on the ground in most parts of the country). We have a wonderful root cellar which this year held summer and winter squash, potatoes, tomatillos, peppers, carrots, green tomatoes and apples (in case you’re wondering, the apples have to be kept in a separate room or they hasten the spoiling of everything else). I’m not trying just to brag here; I want to put things in perspective, so you won’t think I’m offering “alternative facts” when I say we used the last of our stored veggies in tonight’s salad. Yes, we have no bananas, but we did have garden tomatoes (insert cheeky emoji here to help justify my title).
There’s something especially inspiring about eating our hard-earned produce in January. Such a meal deserves special treatment. And it got said treatment. My hubby was inspired to make a delectable blue cheese dressing and make a wedge salad highlighted by our harvested morsels.
Now you may still be unclear on why I titled this post the way I did. It comes down to terroir. Nowadays it’s not difficult to buy any vegetable I want at a grocery store. But most tomatoes this time of year don’t taste like much. Even after they have ripened in my basement, my garden tomatoes still have the beautiful complexity of homegrown produce. They taste like summer. So did the last carrots and the roasted pumpkin. We savoured every bite. Iceberg lettuce never tasted so good.