Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bread for All!

Photo by Valerie Rodgers Lugonja

"How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?"

Julia Child
"In Paris today millions of pounds of bread are sold daily, made during the previous night by those strange, half-naked beings one glimpses through cellar windows, whose wild-seeming cries floating out of those depths always makes a painful impression. In the morning, one sees these pale men, still white with flour, carrying a loaf under one arm, going off to rest and gather new strength to renew their hard and useful labor when night comes again. I have always highly esteemed the brave and humble workers who labor all night to produce those soft but crusty loaves that look more like cake than bread."

Alexandre Dumas, French writer (1802-1870)

Here is the humble worker who made that great bread (assisted by his "hand maiden" yours truly).

Photo by Valerie Rodgers Lugonja
We had the pleasure of making bread for Slow Food Edmonton's First Solstice Supper last week to accompany a succulent roast pig.  Our hosts Valerie and Vanja hosted a wonderful repast, and Slow Food members brought fantastic dishes that were enjoyed by all.  We thought we would share our bread making day with you in pictures.  It took almost the whole day and some "starter" time all week to make 12 loaves of bread.  We sooooo won't be doing this for a living,  but are thankful that some gallant souls still do, to provide bread for us!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

It's Just Another Zero

It happened again.  The year on the calendar flipped over to a new number.  It has a zero on the end again.  Didn't it just have a zero a few years ago? What a difference a decade makes.  We were planning for the Y2K (soon to be non) event.  I was hedging my bets then, that nothing would happen on that New Years Eve.  I didn't even stockpile any food or water.   I was on call that night.....just in case the hospitals were overloaded and I had to go in and make sandwiches. Isn't that what we all do when a catastrophe happens.......make sandwiches? We even had battery operated head lights to navigate through the darkened halls.  I should have snuck one of those home and took it out and wore it on this New Years Eve!  But, I was at the top of a hotel, listening to a great band and dancing like it was 1989.

I try not to make resolutions.  Beating myself up for all of the things I don't do is already a hobby of mine and I don't need to add any more ammunition for that battle.  I just whisper to myself now and then that I need to watch my inputs and outputs, make sure I am always learning something, and  tell the people that share my life how great they are. I think  that 2010 will be an awesome year.  Even better than 2009, which was stupendous! 

The first dessert of 2010 was a recipe from the great dessert blog tartelette.  Just browsing through her site is sure to bring a smile to your face, even if you don't attempt the recipes yourself.

Here is my journey through her recipe for Poached Pear and Almond Fallen Souffle Cakes.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembrance of Things Past

British War Time Poster

"There are very few men and women, I suspect, who cooked and marketed their way through the past war without losing  forever some of the nonchalant extravagence of the Twenties.  They will feel, until their final days on earth, a kind of culinary caution: butter, no matter how unlimited, is a precious substance not lightly to be wasted; meats, too, and eggs, and all the far-brought spices of the world, take on a new significance, having once been so rare.  And that is good, for there can be no more shameful carelessness than with the food we eat for life itself.  When we exist without thought or thanksgiving we are not men, but beasts" 
 --M.F.K. Fisher  How to Cook a Wolf - 1942

When I read MFK Fisher's book How to Cook a Wolf nearly twenty years ago, it was the seed for my belief that "food and fuel" and it's abundance, cannot be taken for granted.  Her book described strategies for feeding the soul through a very tough time in history.  She described, with humour, how to stretch limited and rationed ingredients and still make good food. Also, how to conserve energy while you were cooking, because you didn't know if the power would be cut off, or a blackout would ensue, or your supply of cooking fuel would end before the next ration book would come.  My mother, knew these things intrinsically, because she lived through that war. For me, it has been a learned behaviour to respect food and fuel, because they are a finite resource and shortages still exist today for may people across our globe.

Today is our Day of Remembrance in Canada.  In honour of wars past, and to respect that in war torn countries today, food is a sacred resource, I am preparing a recipe from Fisher's book from the Chapter How to Pray for Peace.  Here is the recipe, as it is written:

Quick Potato Soup

1/4 pound good butter 
4 large potatoes
4 large onions
2 quarts whole milk
salt, pepper, minced parsley (if agreeable)

Melt the butter in a large kettle, or in fireproof casserole in which the soup can be served.  Grate the clean potatoes into it. (I like to leave them unpeeled, but the soup is not so pretty unless chopped fresh herbs, added at the last, change its natural whiteness enough to hide the bits of brown skin....)  Grate the peeled onions into it....or slice them very thin.  Heat the mixture to the bubbling point, stirring well.  Then reduce the heat, and cover closely for about ten minutes or until the vegetables are tender but not mushy, shaking the pan now and then to prevent sticking.  Add more butter (or chicken fat) if it seems wise.  Heat the milk to the boiling pot but not beyond, add slowly to the pot, season and serve.

On the stove

I have edited this recipe for modern times and a smaller batch below:

2 oz of butter
3 large potatoes peeled (the size of a baked potato) or 1 1/2 lbs
1 onion (size of a baseball) about 1/2 lb
1 litre of 1% milk

Use a very heavy bottomed pot with a lid, to prevent burning.  If you have a good non stick pot with a lid, use that.  The grated potatoes thicken the soup so you don't have to use flour.

I suggest that you dice the onions small instead of grating, and then saute first in the butter in the pot until soft. (over medium heat, about 10 minutes.  Turn down the heat if the onions start to brown)  Then, I added the grated potatoes, and stirred,  then covered and cooked, until the potatoes were done.  Because I have reduced the butter, I added  4 oz of water to the potatoes and onions, to ensure they didn't stick to the bottom of the pot while they were cooking. Lower the heat so that they do not burn on the bottom. Taste your potato and onion mixture to make sure the potatoes are cooked and not starchy tasting.  I microwaved the milk until very hot before adding to the cooked mixture. You can heat through the finished soup on your stove top, but do not turn on high and do not walk away.  It cannot boil.  I added about 1 tsp of salt and a few grinds of pepper.  If you like, you can add a powdered chicken or vegetable base to the soup instead of salt.  (1 tbsp)

Recipe Cost  $2.75 for 6 large bowls.  46 cents each. 

Keep the wolf from your door

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Eggless in Edmonton

Simple Morning Pleasures.

I have spent the last 20 years grumbling that my various and sundry offspring were philistines when it came to food.  When they were smallish, they would sooner have pasta with no sauce, and hotdogs, than anything that we could whip up in the kitchen. The oldest child, to his credit, was a more adventurous eater, and claimed at a very early age that clam chowder soup was his favourite.  The middle child, was a master at clamping his jaws shut and not eating anything that didn't pass his smell test. We were so jaded when the third boy came along, that we were convinced that there was a conspiracy afoot to make sure we didn't eat anything interesting again.  When the 2 youngest reached the fine old age of 17 and 19, they magically started eating.......well....things.  "Would you like to try pasta with spinach and chicken?"  They reply, "I think I will try that!" We had been released from the gulag!

That brings me to the subject of eggs.  I always have eggs in my fridge, because I am a last minute baker.  On weekend mornings, I usually wake up fairly early, and may....or may not decide to make muffins. This morning,  I mixed up my dry ingredients, went to the fridge for the eggs and milk....and found the egg spot empty. Expletives bounced around the kitchen like ping pong balls! 

I  used to have my egg inventory in control.  I was never caught eggless.  Recently, the middle child has discovered scrambled eggs.  All the years of making eggs on weekends, and he would never eat them.  But, when a friend shows him how to make scrambled eggs, he is suddenly a convert.  He is now making scrambled eggs....... EVERY MORNING!  Even son # 3 has jumped on the band wagon and is scrambling away before going to school. Now that the great egg misconception of the 80's, with all of it's evil cholestrol has been put to bed, I don't admonish them about eating so many eggs, as it is better than sugary cereal, but I have been caught without eggs more times than is acceptable.  No more baking on a whim.  No more devil may care muffins or quickbreads.  I have been robbed!

This morning, my ever gracious husband drove to Sobey's at 7:50 a.m. just to make my complaining stop. He brought back 2 dozen.  Later we went for groceries and bought 3 dozen more.  That makes 5 dozen! You would think we were farming a section of land with a family of 12. 

I made my muffins.  Vanilla Pear with a Streusel topping. They were sublime.