here and there

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lobster Bennie

After leaving Halifax after a successful conference in August, we stopped at this diner

Jamaican Patties

When in Northern Manitoba, I like to cook up a storm and leave my brother's deep freeze filled with homemade goodies.
Up to now I have made a couple of lasagne ready to be baked in the oven, 7 dozen of pyrohy,  Irish Stew and Banana Nut Loaf.

Today, I made Jamaican Patties! What makes these savoury Turnovers Jamaican? I would think that the specific spices in the filling and also in the pastry.

The regular pastry recipe was mixed up, 2 cups of al purpose flour and 2/3cup lard/shortening.  Since there was no pastry blender, I used the method my Mom used to blend her pastry, two knives held together.  You can also do this by hand. Mix the mixture until the lard is the size of oatmeal and all through the flour.  Recipes use to call for 7 tablespoons of icy cold water. Which I used to do very carefully and find the dough did not come together into a soft ball and the pastry was tough as I over worked it.  My Mom laughed the first time she saw me doing pastry.  Her pastry dough rolled out quickly as she was able to lift all of the dough without it breaking to put into the pie plate.

Over the years, I have added more lard to the 2 cups of flour and also more water until the dough comes together into a soft ball.

Since the spices where limited in the kitchen cupboard, I went with what was available.
Curry powder along with cayenne was used in the pastry mix.  Usually Turmeric and curry Powder are used for a gorgeous colored and tasty pastry.   To me, Jamaican cuisine always has allspice in it's food for a very distinct taste.  According to a former student of mine, Jamaican allspice is very different from allspice I can buy here in Canada.

For the meat filling, I used local minced pork and added cumin, chill flakes and curry powder.  My husband finely chopped the onion and celery, which was also added to the mixture.  The freshness of the ground pork was delicious in the patties.  The celery added a lovely crunch to the filling.

These patties where served with curried yogurt. Curry powder to taste was dded to plain yogurt.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

French Peasant Bread

 Sacred Heart Church 

For the last three weeks, my husband and I relaxed in Northern Manitoba with temperatures dipping to 25 to 30 degrees then rising to plus 4 to cause driving havoc on the roads, tons of snow and yet the humidity was high even with low temperatures!

We were without internet services as Bell and Manitoba Hydro are in disagreement. But this has been going on for some time.   Every time we come up here, we have less and less service.  This time, only my husband's iPhone could receive calls and texts.  On our second week of holidays, we found out that the library four blocks away had wireless internet so we were able to check our emails and Facebook by walking down to the library with our dog.. I'm sure the locals must have though we were nuts as we would stand outside with our iPhones.

Some of the crazy things you learn is that you can not text with gloves and the battery of the iPhone would crash if you left it in your hand to take pictures.

Kasper getting a better look!

Looking out of the huge living room window in the house, the shadows of the apple tree in the yard are dark and an interesting design

 While in Pittsburgh with my husband who was at an IEEE conference, I won the Three Rivers Cookbook 111 which was a fund raiser to promote the welfare of children and certainly a very successful cookbook.

In this book, I came across the French Peasant  Bread which I made four times. The first time I made it it was using only white flour, it was very tender bread, cake like and certainly reminded me of my Grandmorther's bread as she always buttered the top of her bread.   The crust is glossy yet soft.

The recipe is a no knead bread, but can be done in about 3 hours.  The bread is baked on a baking sheet.  One can purchase a baking sheet at Dollarama for 2 dollars. This recipe is quick and doesn't require a cast iron pot with a lid as does the recipe of Jim Lahey's from Sullivan Street Bakery in New York.  Jim's recipe is also quick but needs to rest overnight! The texture of the two breads is very different even though the amount of ingredients are similar.

Since I use the traditional yeast, this yeast needs to be soften in lukewarm water, so that the yeast dissolves and is not grainy in your bread.  I also let it rise a couple of times, depending on how busy I am!  I tend to time the baking of the bread so that the fresh bread is coming out of the oven when your guests arrive, or better still when your kids come home from school!

The first time I made it, I used all white flour and did add Olive Oil to it.  This bread wowed our guests! 

With the other breads, I used a mixture of flours, along with 1 cup of rolled oats!  However, one should never get to cocky!  I proudly took my freshly baked bread to my aunt who turned 92 this month.  To my horror,  when I tasted the bread, I realized I had forgotten the salt!  On asking my aunt about the bread, she replied " You forgot the salt! it was flat!

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons active-dry yeast
  • room temperature butter, about 2 tablespoon
Mix water, salt, sugar and yeast together. I also added Olive oil to this.  Stir in the flour and mix with  a large spoon. The recipe suggested that you turn the dough out into a floured plate or surface, clean the bowl and oil it, then return the dough to the oiled bowl and cover with saran wrap.  I don't know if you have to do this step as Jim Lahey doesn't in his no knead bread recipe.   Let the dough double in size. Prepare your cookie sheet by using parchment paper or oil it.  Sprinkle cornmeal on the sheet.  I used a mixture of rolled oats and poppyseed.  Flour your hands and shape the dough into two oblong loafs.  Do Not Knead the dough.  Let rise for 45 minutes.  Preheat oven to 450 - 475.  Butter the loaves before baking.  Bake for 10 minutes, decrease oven temperature to 375 and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes.   Butter the loaves once again when baked and still hot.

I used a mixture of flours to equal 4 cups of flour.  I used one cup of rolled oats, cracked wheat,  whole wheat and white flour. 

Banana Nut Loaf

The second week of January and Manitoba is into warm weather causing havoc on the roads, with rain showers in the Robin and McCreary area resulting in fog and icy roads.  The changing winter sky was spectacular!  From gorgeous sunrises to wonderful cloud formations.  The only problem was the iPhone battery would freeze as I was taking pictures.

In the large colorful ceramic bowl, sat three ripen bananas that our dog would have gladly eaten if offered.

What better time than to use one of my Mom's old cookbooks?  Her notes and check marks in her cookbook make her seem very close!

According to Anna Lee Scott, their first cookbook published more than 50 years ago has come to be regarded by Canadian Homemakers as the "authority in food."  

According to Anna, the Purity cookbook "reflects the trends towards easier preparation, interested interest in foreign specialities and party foods with a tendency towards more unusual yet subtle flavours."

Banana Nut Loaf from the Purity Cookbook

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease one loaf pan
2c Flour
3 Tablespoon of Baking Pulv
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 cup of sugar
pinch of salt

Stir in 1/2 cup of nuts

Beat together
1 egg
3/4 cup milk (orange juice) 
1/4 cup oil
1 1/2 cups of bananas 

Add liquid to dry
Mix with a large spoon, batter will be lumpy, don't worry
Bake in preheated oven for 65 to 70 minutes.. this is way too long, check loaf after 50 minutes 

I made two loafs during our stay in Manitoba. The one picture below has sliced figs added to the mixture at the end of mixing the dough.

Canadian Ukrainian Christmas Eve, Sviaty Vechir

Our annual trip to Northern Manitoba was delayed until Jan 5th as temperatures once again had dipped to minus 25 after New Years.  

You know it is cold when the icy cold weather has the appearance of 'Sundogs".  I really enjoyed the spectacular halo effect around the sun.

Sundogs are bright spots of light on either side of the sun caused by ice crystals, which act as tiny prisms bending light from the sun


What you are seeing is a reflection of sunlight off the ice crystals in the clouds.  

After opening gifts at my brother's, we left for my Aunt's place in another small rural village. 

When we got there, my aunt and her sister were busy pan frying seasoned Manitoba Pickerel.  

I always learn something new, every time I help out during this preparation for Christmas Eve dinner.
For example, my aunt pre cooks the pyrohy before freezing them.  To prepare them for the meal, she once again heats the frozen pyrohy in boiling water until they are hot again.  Once again they are tossed in butter and served hot.

Nalysnyky Ukrainian crepes were also made before hand with homemade cottage cheese and frozen. They were placed in a roasting pan, drizzled with heavy creme and heated until hot.   According to my aunt, you need to be generous with the heavy creme for this delicacy to be delicious!

Mushrooms in a dill creme sauce.  Fresh dill from the garden had been frozen in the summer for this dish.  Aunty was most disappointed that she did not have wild mushrooms such as honey mushrooms (Pedipanky).

Aunty had two types of Cabbage Rolls, sweet and sour Kraut ones.  Again they were in a roasting pan being heated for the meal.

Each Ukrainian Christmas Eve meal starts with a prayer, carol and Kutcha.  Kutcha is a ritual dish make of wheat berries that have simmered in water all day with poppyseed and lastly sweeten with honey before serving. 

My Aunt in spite of not feeling well and  her legs hurting badly, continued with this feast.  It was most important for her to prepare these labor intensive dishes and host the meal for her family on January the 6th.  
The Prayer, Our Father starts the meal!

This made me reflect how important this meal was to my grandparents who hosted this annually and all their children would come in spite of the harsh winter weather.  My Mom continued to do the same even after my father's death.   There was always such great joy and happiness as we all assembled for the meal in her home.  The meal was always the same, yet full of excitement, expectations and tradition.   Gentle teasing of my Mom when the Kutcha was served that we should toss the wheat to see if it would stick on the ceiling.  The belief being that if it stuck to the ceiling, it was a sign that harvest would be plentiful.

The symbolism of this Holy meal include Kolach( Christmas Bread) that is braided into a ring, with three rings or loaves placed on top of another to symbolize the Holy Trinity.  A Didukh, a sheaf of wheat symbolizes the family ancestors.  Twelve dishes are prepared for this meal which represent the twelve apostles.  In Pre-Christian Pagan times, the twelve dishes represented a full moon that took place during the year.  

 The traditional dishes that were served are all meatless and not necessarily dairy free.  My grandmother did not use dairy in this meal at all, while my Mom did use dairy in her dishes.  Yes, there are those that still maintain this with meatless and dairy less dishes and believe that this is the only correct way.  Having grown up with both traditions, I do prepare dishes with dairy.  I believe that maintaining and sharing the symbolism of this meal with ones' family is more important that worry about whether the meal should also be dairy less.

With great disappointment, mass was cancelled in Keld due to cold weather.  When they checked the temperature of the wooden church in the afternoon of Jan 6th, it was still minus 25.