Sunday, 31 August 2014

C for Canada

Dee:  “I’d had Nanaimo bars before, which I loved, but never cooked a Canadian meal.  I’ve had a book called ‘Canadian Colonial Cooking:  Tried and Tested Recipes from Ontario’s Pioneer Villages and Historical Sites’ for years but hadn’t ever cooked anything from it.  After further reading, it turns out that there are many definitions of Canadian cuisine, but what I wanted to focus on, and hopefully achieved was a combination of Native (Maple Syrup), British (Cake) and French (Poutine) influences.  I wanted to get come nice Canadian craft beer to compliment the food but ran out of time to travel to Stirchley Wines and Spirits the best beer shop in Brum, so had to settle for the closest match I could get from the shop at the top of the road:  Coors Light.”

Canadian Style Wheat Bread
Dee:  “I wanted to use Canadian wheat flour for this loaf but the shop I get it from was closed so I had to make do with another type of very strong white bread flour.  The dough was enriched with a mashed potato and a few cubes of lard.  I think I’ll leave the lard out next time as the crumb was a bit too cake-like for my taste.  I prefer a chewy crumb to my white bread.”

Gammon Steaks with Maple Syrup Glaze
Dee:  “I wanted to try peameal bacon but no excuses, I didn’t get my act together and allow sufficient time to brine the pork, so I ended up settling for a couple of gammon steaks which I seasoned with black pepper then cooked in the pan.  The glaze was just the teaspoon of maple syrup that I coated the finished steaks with.”

Poutine style potatoes
Dee:  “There are lots of recipes for Poutine on line, but was limited in making any of them by what was available in the local shop.  I also wanted to bake the potatoes rather than deep frying them, to make a slightly less calorific version.  Once the potatoes were baked, I coated them in barbeque sauce and added a little cottage cheese on top and returned the dish to the oven to heat through.  I know it wasn’t really authentic poutine but it tasted good when served alongside the gammon steaks and vegetables.”

Crumb Cake with Apple Sauce
Dee:  “The recipe for the crumb cake was from the book.  Initially I thought the crumb cake was quite bland tasting and definitely needed the apple sauce, but later in the evening found myself picking at it again so it’s certainly got something.  The apple sauce was made by stewing together a couple of cored, peeled and chopped up cooking apples with some butter, sugar and cinnamon.”

Soundtrack:  The Tragically Hip – Live Between Us
Dee:  “I chose this on the basis of the band receiving rave reviews on line but we were limited by the choice on Spotify. The concert was recorded in what sounded like a large arena so the atmosphere it created wasn’t quite right for an evening meal for two.”

Next week we’re sampling the cuisine of the Dominican Republic.

Monday, 25 August 2014

A bonus Bank Holiday 'B'

Dee:  "It's Bank Holiday Monday, so time to cook up a good old English breakfast of Baked Beans, a Poached Egg, Brummie Bacon Cakes, Mushrooms and Brown Sauce (I didn't make the sauce.  I used Stokes, my favourite).  Great."

B for Bhutan

Dee:  “Last night was spent sampling the cuisine of the tiny Himalayan country of Bhutan.  Before the start of the week I knew absolutely nothing about what they ate there, so it was something of a revelation.  There isn’t a huge amount of information on line but we managed to get a couple of dishes sorted out.  The only dessert type dish that we found mentioned was ‘Ngathrek Golop Lhakpa’ which seemed to be something akin to candy floss flavoured with butter tea and chilli.  It sounded interesting but there was no way we’d be able to make it in our little kitchen, so in the end we just made up a fruit salad.  The dishes weren’t divided up into starter, main and dessert.  Instead, we served up the savoury dishes and rice all together and had the fruit salad afterwards.  We decided to go with the vegetarian option this time, even though the Bhutanese diet includes meat.  We cooked enough of the savoury dishes for four people so can have the same again for lunch one day.”

Dee:  “This was the most common Bhutanese recipe available and was described as the national dish so we had to make it.  Texture-wise it was like a cross between a stew and a sauce.  I read somewhere that in Bhutan they just cooked it with chillies and cheese and only added additional ingredients for visitors, but we went for the version with tomatoes and onion.  I don’t think we used as many chillies as the recipe stated but I did fill up a small bag with them so there were quite a few in there.  It didn’t burn my mouth out, as the cheese helped to temper the heat from the chillies and gave it a tangy, salty flavour.  Its strong taste complimented the lightly spiced rice and vegetables perfectly.”
Jay:- “we have cooked something similar to this with thyme, chillies, spring onions and feta in the past but the feta was in a block rather than melted. I think this might be my new favourite version. I think it’d be great with some homemade bread for a weekend lunch.”

Dee:  “We adapted the recipe listed for Kamrupi Biryani by cooking the rice and vegetables separately, and replacing the chicken with a leek.  Both dishes were gently spiced and the flavours of all the different vegetables were retained.  These dishes required a lot of preparation and very quick cooking, and certainly didn’t suffer for not having the meat in them.

Fruit Salad
Ingredients:  chopped melon, chopped mango and chopped banana, coated with ginger syrup
Dee:  “I can’t really call this Bhutanese as we made it up, but if I find a Bhutanese dessert that we can make, or acquire a candy floss making machine, I promise to revisit this chapter.”

Soundtrack:  Music of the Bhutan, compiled and annotated by Dr J S Szuszkewicz
Dee:  “This was great.  Just what we were looking for to accompany the meal.”

Next week we’re eating Canadian style.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Home Alone: Dee's Brazilian Night

Dee:  “Jay is away this evening, so that means I get to experiment a bit in the kitchen.  I’ve wanted to try a few Brazilian dishes ever since watching Andy Bates’ Brazilian Street Feasts series on the Food Network Channel a few months ago.  We tried a few of Andy’s recipes which are available on the Food Network site and enjoyed those, but he also visited many street food vendors cooking up some amazing looking fare and I was so taken with it that I sat with a pen and paper making notes of each one.  There aren’t any recipes, so it’s basically up to me to try to replicate them as best I can.
What I’ve chosen to cook is a dish that wasn’t named.  All I had to go on was the description:  “Grilled octopus with arrabiata sauce, capers and Brazilian peppers.  The deli counter at the local butchers’ shop usually has cooked octopus, but unfortunately they didn’t have any today, so I was left to choose something from the mini-supermarket.  I came out with a couple of cans of pilchards in tomato sauce.  After nearly getting covered in fishy tomato sauce while trying to open the can I was able to get started, so this is what I used and what I cooked;
 The recipes are based on the quantities I cooked, which will feed two people quite comfortably.  I had half for tea and will have the rest for lunch tomorrow.

155g tin of pilchards in tomato sauce
4 baby sweet peppers, deseeded and finely chopped
1 onion, skinned and finely chopped
3 tablespoons capers, roughly chopped
A few sprigs of coriander, finely chopped

For the Sauce
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, peeled, mixed with a large pinch of salt and crushed in a pestle and mortar
2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Pinch of demarara sugar

1.  First, make the sauce.  Blitz the tomatoes and garlic together in a food processor, then add it to a saucepan with the cayenne pepper.
2.  Bring the sauce to the boil, stirring continuously, then add the vinegar and sugar.
3.  Once the sauce is boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
4.  While the sauce is cooking, prepare the fish.  Drain and rinse the pilchards, then halve them lengthways, remove the bones and cut the fillets into bite sized pieces.  Set aside when done.
5.  Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan and add the onions and peppers.  Reduce the heat and cook them until they are soft and just starting to caramelise.
6.  When the onions and peppers are done, mix them together with the fish and stir in the capers, coriander and the sauce (you may not need all the sauce).

 I kept a small amount of the chopped onion on one side and fried it up with a rasher of unsmoked bacon, a small amount of chopped coriander, a pinch of black pepper and a generous shake of breadcrumbs, to represent a forafa-type side dish.  Authentic forafa is made with toasted manioc flour but I haven’t been able to source any of that other than on line.  I also fried up some plantain and had this on the side too.
 I can say that the dish was an absolute triumph.  Tangy, sweet, hot and flavoursome, with the seasoned breadcrumbs providing a great balance of textures alongside the fish and plantain.

 For dessert I had Brigadeiros:  Gooey, chewey and utterly moreish.  I actually started them earlier in the day as they need time to set.  First, I prepared a mixture of 3 tablespoons of very finely chopped pecans and 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder.  I then heated up 400g condensed milk, 1 tablespoon of butter and just less than half of the pecan/cocoa mixture in a saucepan.  I heated this up until it started to boil and thicken.  Then I removed it from the heat and poured it into a shallow dish and left it in the refrigerator to set.  I left it for about three hours.  Once set I divided the mixture up into about 12 pieces and rolled them into balls and coated them in the remaining chocolate/pecan mixture.  I returned them to the fridge to re-set but I couldn’t wait too long before sampling one or two.  The most difficult part of this recipe of course was of course to stop myself eating the whole lot.  I've been good so far...

 Musical accompaniment came courtesy of this rather fine mix of Brazilian tunes:  Tropicalia

So there we go.  A great night in.”

Sunday, 17 August 2014

A for Angola

Jay:  “We were visiting friends who told us about someone they knew who was eating their way through world cuisines alphabetically. On the way home from seeing them we decided to give this a go as well.  So tonight was A, and the cuisine:  Angola.”

Dee:  “In a change to the recipe, I decided to pour the port over the papaya slices, then covered and refrigerated them for a few hours before sprinkling over the lime juice and serving.  It was a pleasant and refreshing starter, and of course very simple to make.  It ticked all the boxes for me.”

Main Course:  Angolan Feijoada
Dee:  “The feijoada was a slow cooked hearty stew which I served up in a bowl rather than on a plate.  I used less of the palm oil than the recipe suggested, partly because of calorie-guilt and partly because there was plenty of oil released from the chorizo (I had to use the Spanish version as that was the only type I could find while I was shopping).  I also used less chillies as the ones I had were on the hot side. The flavour of the chorizo was quite pronounced in the finished dish but as it’s something I’m fond of, I didn’t mind.”

Dee:  “The dessert was extremely sweet but still very enjoyable.  It still looked a bit runny by the end of the specified cooking time, so I ended up thickening it a bit with some cornflour.”

Soundtrack:  Bonga – Angola 72/74
Dee:  “Like the food, the music built on the traditional foundations with Portuguese and Brazilian styles.  Some of the slower songs reminded me of Fado.”

Jay:  “Next week it’s Bhutan.”