here and there

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Canadian Resolution, Raclette or Hot Pot!

Happy New Year!   Tonight, on New Year's Eve, Nasa Astronauts will be ringing in 2014 by sending greetings from space to the crowd gathered in New York's Times Square. What an exciting time to be there!

As we plan our New Years' Eve menu, I think about Canadian Food Experience Project and the theme for this blog, Canadian resolutions.

On our New Year's Eve menu will be pheasant, a gift from our neighbour who was successful on his hunting trip in October!

At the same time, we are planning our road trip to Northern Manitoba to celebrate Christmas on the Georgian calendar along with planning menus for our two week stay there.  Our Matterhorn Raclette will be packed so that we can entertain friends in the area.  A trip to Crossroads Market is in order to buy raclette cheese.

Raclette Jan, 2013 in Manitoba

When we return at the end of the month we will be celebrating Chinese New Years, the Year of the Horse on January 31st.  Our daughter danced with the Phoenix Chinese for eight years and loved the "funky" clothes that the dancers performed in.  The Chinese New Year's Eve Celebration was a perfect way to end the festive season.

As I look at the theme for this blog and the festivities that we still have planned in January, I reflect and realize that making resolutions on New Years' Eve was never part of growing up and really still is not!

However, revisiting the Canada Food Guide is always a good idea at any time. 

With my birthday in the middle of January, Hot Pot has become my traditional meal.

Jan 18, 2014 Hot Pot  

Growing up on a prairie farm, homemade chicken soup was a staple. Fresh farm chicken and home made noodles were the bases for this soup.  The broth that my Mom made for soups had to be perfectly clear and was strained through muslin when it was not!  I find that I turn my nose up on soups that are cloudy and not clear.  Her stocks were always made from scratch using raw meat.

With the changing diversity in Canada, many dishes have evolved with the global influence of other cultures and many recipes are listed as "infused" into a certain cuisines from other cultures.

Hot Pot is a wonderful way to share a delicious soup that everyone can enjoy as one can pick and choice their favourite vegetable or meat.  The two separate parts of my Hot Pot dish can also have two very separate broths or spices in them.

Hot pot is also a very easy entertaining company dish although it reguires a fair amount of chopping beforehand but once assembled lends itself to a leisurely meal and conducive to family conversation.

 Since Hot pot recipe is more a process than a recipe, here are the steps I go through in preparing Hot Pot.  

Over the years, I have used different pots to cook the Hot Pot at the table.  I have used an electric wok or a deep fryer. Now I have a tabletop burner that uses cans of butane fuel and a dish with a divided section so that you have have 2 very distinct broths or different seasoned broth.  However, I tend to keep the broth bland.  In setting the table, add chopsticks to the serving plates and add little dishes for the mixing of sauces and spices.

Prepare a broth in a large pot. 

I usually prepare the broth using uncooked chicken breast, onion, herbs and water.  Bring the water to boil with the chicken meat, then shut of the heat and place a lid on the pot.  The heat of the water will cook the breast meat.  

Slice a variety of meats and fish thinly to be cooked in the hot pot.

One is able to find sliced meat such as pork, chicken, lamb and beef at the Chinese markets. I prefer the sliced chicken and lamb for the Hot Pot.  Fish balls can also be found in the Chinese markets.  Raw Shrimp, scallops and other seafood are a wonderful addition. 

Select and prepare some vegetables

A variety of vegetables can be used for the Hot Pot.  I like to use Shanghai bok choyspinach and pea pods.  Mushrooms of all varieties are used in the  Hot Pot preparations.  I also add fresh herbs like cilantro and slices of lime or lemons to the platter of vegetables.

Prepare the noodles.
Any variety of Noodles can be used.   I do not add the noodles to the soup while the Hot Pot
is cooking as the starches from the noodles make the broth very murky!

An assortment of condiments is places on the table for creating one's own dipping sauce. 

Typical condiments to prepare a sauce include soy sauce, vinegar, hoisin sauce, sesame oil and sweet chili sauce.  Give each guest a separate small dish to mix their sauce.

Transfer your hot broth to the Hot Pot you are using and place it in the centre of the table.

Arranging the seating so that everyone is sitting in a circle so that everyone can reach the food easily on the table. 

I enjoy the communal experience of Hot Pot as after the initial preparation of the food and arrangement on platters, the Hot Pot is such a leisurely experience that is very conducive to conversation.  The Hot Pot meal lasts over an hour as you are cooking and eating as you go along, mixing and experiencing different sauces.  

Happy New Year to  you everyone participating in the Canadian Food Experience!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Turkish dishes

My husband and I were invited to a turkish meal. My husband made dated filled cookies to add to the menu. His mother used to make date filled cookies for christmas, but not made in a wooden mould.  

Date filled Cookies
The appetizers served were spinach and feta Borek and Lentil Kofte.

Spinach and Feta Borek

Spinach and Feta Borek
 Lentil Kofte 
The main entree was eggplant Kebabs which was ground beef tied up in strips of eggplant in packages

Eggplant Kebab

Friday, December 6, 2013

Canadian Ukrainian Christmas Tradition.. Rural style

Ritual Dish

Imagine days of celebrations focusing around family and food, along with singing Christmas carols after the Christmas meals, while waiting for midnight mass!  Imagine days of food not being pared with wines, in fact no wine glasses on the table!  Imagine not having to stress about gifts!  As no Santa existed!  Unbelievable!!  

Yes, there was a St Nicholas that came after  the children's Christmas concert!   A scary parishioner dressed in a moth eaten beard symbolizing someone with acts of kindness to the poor, especially the children.  One who used his inheritance  to help others especially to save children from sexual slavery.  He was also known to give gifts and to sometimes hang stockings filled with treats and gifts.  

Angels bring in St Nicholas

St Nicholas giving out bags of candy and oranges to the children!
St Nicholas Concert

St Nicholas Concert

St Nicholas Concert

After Christmas Eve dinner, midnight mass including everyone and all the children attending!  No one stressing that a change in ones' schedule may be of concern!  There where no excuses to not attend, it was part of the whole Christmas package and no one complained.  As a child, I remember how awesome this was!  Something so wonderfully waking up and hearing Christmas Carols and seeing the peaceful look on the faces of my parents'.  

Not everyone is ready to put up the Christmas Stocking after Midnight Mass! 

My first memory of Christmas, was the annual gathering of my Mom's siblings at my Grandparent's home for Christmas Eve.  All of my Grandparents' children attended, some had to drive a fair distance in Manitoba winter conditions, but they always came through.  

A spruce tree decorated with white candles was only lit during this special evening meal.

As a child, it was a highlight to to play in my grandparents house with my cousins who were all close in age.  Since the house was lit with kerosene lamps, many of the rooms were dark and an awesome place to play hide and seek!

The twelve course meatless and dairy less meal  started with Kutya, followed by Borcht with dumplings, Pickled Herring, Wild Mushroom, variety of Pyrohy, Cabbage rolls, Fish Aspic made from pickerel or white fish, Fruit Compote.  Mandarin oranges, nuts and candies were passed around as everyone sang Christmas Carols.  Gifts were passed around that my grandmother had ordered with care from the Eaton's catalogues.  
Church Christmas Dinner, 2013

Another special memory was of a rural picturesque Christmas when our family drove to my Dad's brother's place in Saskatchewan.  Not all of rural Saskatchewan was electrified at the same time due to the different payment scheduling from the Saskatchewan government.  As a teenager, it was quite the experience to see the flickering light of an open flame in the Kerosene lamps and the resulting glow in the room and on the faces.  Again, the meal started with Kutya followed by  meatless dishes.  Just as the meal was finishing, one could hear Sleigh Bells ringing as a horse drawn open sleigh came to view with carollers covered in the soft falling snow. 

Yes, I continue the tradition of preparing the twelve dishes for Christmas Eve dinner for my family.  Why, because there is such a connection to my past and a resulting sense of Christmas spirit in doing this.  As the first star appears, I think of my Dad coming in from the barn with that great broad smile of his, saying all the animals had been feed and that we could now leave for Grandma's for the Christmas Eve dinner. 

For  the last few years, my husband and I have been returning to celebrate Ukrainian Christmas in rural Manitoba.  There is something magical in returning to the country to spend this time with family and friends.  For me, it is a spiritual renewal and a reconnection to the past and present.  The local radio station continues to plays Christmas Carols throughout the whole time, with Christmas greetings from the local merchants for those celebrating this Christmas. 
2013-Horse drawn sleigh full of carollers

My aunt who is ninety- two this year, continues to prepare the meal with her sister and daughter in law in the party room of their seniors' complex.  It has been wonderful to be part of her family and to experience how they time manage this elaborate and delicious meal!  Only after having prepared this meal myself, have I gained the appreciation of all the work that goes into successfully carrying this meal out! 

Pampushky was my contribution 

After the wonderful supper, we drive to the midnight mass in a wooden church with a candle lit chandelier.  This church in the middle of the country fields is packed with local farmers and those from a nearby city. 

Lighting the candle Chandelier

My Christmas Eve dinner always begins with Kutya, the wheat berry dish sweetened with honey.  Kutya is a ritual dish and very much part of the Christmas Eve meal.  Custom is that everyone partakes of Kutya, no matter how small a portion this is!   The dish dates back to early cultivation of wheat in Ukraine before Christianity and is believed to be part of an ancient religion with the offering of wheat to the Sun God!

My recipe follows how I saw my Mom preparing this dish.  My father would proudly bring in his wheat from that year's crop.  The night before Christmas Eve, the wheat was rinsed with many washes and any husks that floated to the top of the water where removed.  The cleaned wheat was allowed to soften overnight and again rinsed in the morning.  Fresh water was added to the pot with the soften wheat and brought to boil.  This was done early in the morning.  Poppyseed is added at this time.  When the water came to boil, the wheat  simmered most of the day until soft.  Being careful to watch that the water does not evaporate and adding more water as necessary.  The final step is to add honey for flavour and sweetness.  My family likes to serve this wheat dish warm, but some serve it cold.  

This post is part of The Canadian Food Experience Project and features the Canadian Christmas Tradition.