Sunday, 1 September 2013

Salt Cod Pie -- Dill and Bacon

Another salt cod pie recipe? You betcha. Can there ever be too many? This recipe adds in cream and bacon- very traditional complements to salt cod- and dill, which you'll sometimes see Gaspesians pairing with salt cod fish cakes.  

The Filling

2 Onions
4 cloves garlic
2 large russet potatoes
1 tbsp black pepper
1/4-1/2 cup diced bacon (szalonna pref.)
2 lbs salt cod
1 carrot
1 celery
1.5 cups fish stock (dashi)
1 cup cream
5 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
5 sprigs oregano
1/4 cup dill
2 green onions

optional 1 tbsp rice flour (sub. cornstarch)

Bake your potatoes on a bed of salt at 425F. The flesh under the skin, when done, should be browned. Scrape them out and mash when done. While the potatoes are cooking, cook down your onions, bacon, and garlic in a lightly oiled pan. Once the onions are soft, add reconstituted cod, pepper, carrot, and celery. Continue to cook for a few minutes. Add dashi, thyme, oregano, and bay leaf.  Hold at a simmer and add the mashed potatoes. Cook until thickened. Add cream, dill, and green onion and continue to cook, while stirring for another 2 minutes. If the filling is too soupy to fill a pie, add in some rice flour or corn starch to thicken it. Salt to taste, but it should be salty enough from the cod.

Double pie crust recipe (leave out the sugar, sugar)

Makes 2 pies.

Troubleshooting Tips
  • Always taste your filling before you put it in your pie
    • If it is too salty, dilute it with more mash or some reduced cream (yes, you can reduce cream as you would a stock)
    • If  you've overcooked  it, some of your ingredients were of poorer quality, or generally you find your filling is not tasty enough:
      • Add a shot of wine to the sauce at the end
      • Add some fresh herbs to the filling (they may have been overcooked in the court bouillon)
      • Add some pan roasted fennel seeds to the filling (1/2 tsp max)
      • Add a tbsp of mustard to the filling
  • Crumbly Pie crust
    • Overworked dough
  • Soggy Pie
    • Your filling was too wet
  • Always taste your salt cod before you put it in your filling
    • If it is too salty, soak it a bit longer
    • If it is not salty enough, you will have lost some of the flavour while you're at it, but you can't re-salt it.  Just add a pinch of salt to the pie.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Sour Green Plum (Goje Sabz) Salad

Normally eaten with a healthy dose of salt, these delicious Iranian plums are in season for the next 6 weeks.  I whipped them up Thai-style with rock salt, garlic, maple sugar, habanero, lime juice, fish sauce, scraped coriander root, and plenty of fresh cilantro and mint.  Party in my mouth?  It was like a green papaya salad on steroids.

Pinch of coarse salt
2 cloves of garlic
1 habanero
1 tbsp dried shrimp
1 lime
2 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp fish sauce
2 coriander roots, scraped
2 dozen sour green plums

Grind the garlic into the the salt in a mortar and pestle to make a fine paste.  Next, smash in roots, half of the habanero and the shrimp, until they are equally mashed in with the garlic.  Squeeze in the juice of a lime or two, mix in the maple and fish sauce.  Quarter the plums and toss them in the sauce.  Garnish with remaining habanero.  All ingredients can be adjusted to taste and, since they will vary in quality and character, they absolutely must be adjusted to achieve a true balance of sweet, spicy, salty, and sour.  

You really want to have fun with it?  Toss in more shrimp, finely sliced shallots, maybe a tablespoon of  tamarind water, spice the heck out of it with bird's eye chilies.  That's where I'm going next, after that I'm going down to spicy hell with a basket of green sour plums and a quarter pint of shrimp paste relish.  

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Roast Pork

Berbere spice paste

When you spend as much time as deep in vegetarianism as I have, there is one truism: North American's (us white-bread redneck country folk, anyhow), don't generally know how to make veggies taste good.  When I returned to Gaspe from the city as a vegetarian, my mother didn't know what to offer me beyond bread.  As much as I have always loved bread, if you really want a healthy, balanced, and tasty diet, you usually have to get creative and look beyond our sea-bound borders.  While spices are not local and arguably at variance with my locavorism, they're a small part of the global food trade that I can live with.  After all, they are the progenitor of the globalization, so we can tolerate them for the sake of nostalgia, right?  

Ethiopian curries were the first to be made in my kitchen and large jars of fermented berbere paste were the first to sit patiently in my fridge, awaiting their application.  Berbere is the heart and soul of Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine, the way that garam masala is the heart of Indian cuisine.  Don't tell my Indian friends this, but berbere takes the cake.  I even drop dollops of berbere into lamb meat with a bit of salt to make merguez sausage, it's very versatile.

But, I should say the recipes were Eritrean, since the family of restaurateurs who taught me their recipes hailed from that state.  We met at a backyard BBQ in Dorval and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.  

Berbere Paste

2 tbsps onion seed (nigella)
1 tsp ajuwain (bishop's seed) optional
1.5 tbsp cumin
2 tsps all spice
1/2 tsp cloves
1 stick cinnamon bark
1.5 tbsps Hungarian paprika
1 tsp tumeric
1 tbsp coriander
6 black cardamom pods
4 green cardamom pods
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1/4 cup cayennne pepper
2 bulbs garlic
1/3 cup fresh chopped ginger
2 french shallots
3/4 cup red wine (something full-bodied and dry; spicy and fruity)
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 tbsp salt optional

In a heavy skillet, roast all of the spices in batches - necessarily in batches, since they roast in different amounts of time.  Grind those roasted spices.  Put the onions, garlic, ginger in a food processor with the oil and red wine. Add in the spices.  Let sit out of the fridge for up to a week to ferment.

Note  I change this recipe almost every time I make it, swapping ingredients in and out and changing the quantities.  It almost always still imparts the same amount of flavour.  The key is a heckuva a lot of hot pepper.  I generally also keep a solid base of cumin, coriander, and onion seed, upon which a healthy dose of aromatic spices floats.

Other Optional Ingredients: fenugreek, nutmeg, chilies, sweet basil seeds, mustard seed

Monday, 4 February 2013

Sea-buckthorn Sorbet with Réserve 1859 Domaine Pinnacle

In the past 10 years Sea Buckthorn or argousier production has really ramped up in Québec (the local industry association, APAQ, has been around for the past 12 years).  I made the discovery of these lovely tart and citrusy little buggers in Knowlton, when we were out there for their annual duck festival.  While their astonishing tartness makes them an unusual recipe ingredient, they are wonderful when they're doused in a healthy dose of sugar (if still quite powerful).  

I added a good shot of Réserve 1859 Domaine Pinnacle, the Pinnacle estate's exquisite blend of Ice Cider and Apple Brandy.  The only way I can describe this product is as an Apple Port.  The brandy not only adds a kick to the otherwise light cider product, it mellows the sometime over-bearing sweetness of the product.  

Sea Buckthorn Sorbet

1 kg Sea Buckthorn berries
1.5 cups of sugar
1 cup water

Bring the berries, sugar, and water to a boil and hold at a low syrup, until it's a thick syrup and the sugar is completely absorbed.  Load the syrup and berries into a blender or food processor and puree them.  Strain the mixture through a fine sieve or cheesecloth.

Process the mixture in your ice cream maker, as you would normally.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Dessert Pierogies: Schwarzwälder KirschPieroggen -- Black Forest Pierogies

Black Forest Pierogies

Friends, I have been continuing in my efforts to make mozzarella using culture, but I have come to the conclusion that the culture I am trying to use must be dead.  The ph of my whey just will not change.  Nevertheless, my most recent failure left me with a ton of fresh ricotta and that, just the day before we were to have a dozen family members over for dinner.  What does one do with half a kilo of fresh ricotta?  Why, make cannoli, obviously.  Except, I didn't have cannoli rollers.  So I did the next best thing, I made pierogies stuffed with a cannoli-style filling and I fried them crispy.

But while I was making the pierogies, didn't a murder of crows settle down over my parent's cherry orchard and start to lunch on the fruit?  Fresh cherries, I thinks, they will go mighty fine with my pierogies.  So cannoli-filling in pierogies I marry with cherry compote, whipping cream, and dark chocolate in an unholy alliance that brings together all the best of cannoli, all the best of Poland, and black forest cake: Schwarzwälder KirschPieroggen.  

Pierogi/Cannoli Filling

Zest of 2 lemons
400g of ricotta (homemade, but the equivalent of 2 containers of strained ricotta)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped dark chocolate
2 tbsps maple sugar (granulated)

Mix together, set aside.

Pierogi Dough

4 cups flour, plus extra for rolling dough
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 tbsp melted lard or oil (obviously I used lard)
1 cup hot water

Put your water on the boil.  Mix together the flour and salt.  Whip the egg together with the fat until emulsified.  Add the egg to the flour mixture and work in well.  Add water slowly, incorporating it slowly until you've a fine non-sticky ball of pastry.  Let sit 30 mins to relax.  

Roll, cut circles, stuff, fold into half-moons.  Don't forget to pinch and crimp the edges.  Just pressing them together is a good way to lose your filling.

Set them aside on parchment paper until you're ready to fry or boil them.

Cherries about to be lit on FIRE

Cherry Compote

2 cups fresh picked maraschino cherries
2 tbsp drambuie
6 tbsp kirsch
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp wild strawberry jam
2 tsp cornstarch

Flambe the cherries over a high-heat, add the sugar once the flames have subsided.  Mix in that wild strawberry jam, add cornstarch, whisk rapidly over a high heat for 5 mins and reduce to simmer for 5 more minutes.  

Finish with whipping and coarse chopped dark chocolate

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Pizzas with Fresh Mozzarella

Prosciutto Arugula Pizza going in

Asparagus Prosciutto coming out

Grilled Portuguese Sardines

Sardines: The hot dogs of the ocean. Thanks ocean.

Sardines, what could be simpler and more delicious?  Salt them with a coarse salt (6 to a small handful).  Let them sit for to cure for a few hours, shake off some of the salt and grill them over a bbq.  Easy, right?  Don't put olive on them when they're over the coals, not unless you like the taste of burnt oil.  When they're well crisped over the coals, toss the olive oil on them, squeeze some lemon over them.  Coarse sea salt.  I love it.   Infinitely better than Portuguese Chicken.  Being from the coast?  Lord, it's the life.  Just brilliant, simple food.

The Whey of Cheese: Fresh Mozzarella (take 1)

Making Mozzarella

It has been 1 year since I've had a cheese press, necessary bacteria, plastic and cloth cheese clothing-- all of the trappings of a cheese-maker in training.  Honestly?  I've done very poorly at it.  Every. Single. Batch. Has. Failed.  It's been pretty depressing, so I haven't written about it.  Ashamed?  Maybe a bit.  Frustrated?  You betcha.  

Honestly though, it's not always easy to balance the acidity and temperature and figure out how to cure it all.  I'm not even trying to make a complicated cheese, but the easiest: mozzarella.  I blamed the stove, I blamed my mood, I blamed everything I possibly could.  Fact is, this cheese making, well it's a bit of a science and I'm used to fiddling and adjusting, which is not the proper approach when a few degrees centigrade can ruin your whole batch.  To-date the most frustrating part has been that I haven't really understood why the cheese failed.  So I will blog it, in an attempt to adopt a more scientific approach.  

Today I decided that I would cheap out a bit.  I'd make it easy.  I did the easy mozza recipe: milk, rennet, citric acid.  Normally-speaking, using citric acid is an anathema: the acid comes from the lactic acid produced by the bacteria, it's deep in the whey.  I opted out because I thought previous problems I had were culture-related acidity issues.  Today I knew the acidity would be correct and I could practice stretching the cheese.  What did I learn?  I learned that some of the other cheeses I made, they probably would have made the cut, but I didn't know what I was looking for.

The problems today resulted from never having used citric acid before and I think I added it too late.  I dropped the acid in around 90F and the milk went to curdle immediately before rennet was in.  So, it curdled, but the rennet couldn't coagulate half the batch.  Now, it could be that this was too little rennet, liquid was too warm, too little curing time, but the standing hypothesis shall be timing.

Here's what I did today:

12 liters of milk (3 gallons)
3/4 tsp rennet (not quite to top)
1.5 tbsps citric acid

I heated the milk to 90F (30C) and added the rennet and the acid.  It curdled, immediately.  After 30 minutes of the solution curing, I checked the temp and it had risen to 100F, which is far too hot for cheese at this early stage of the curing.  

Today, I did not achieve a clean break on the curd, not even close.  And, that clean break is an essential step in curd development..  I was ready to toss the whole batch, had my hands on the handles, but when I reached down a bit further in the pot, I discovered that some of the curd had developed deeper down in the cheese (which is partially why I think it might be attributable to quantities.  I heated the curd, however, in the microwave (god forbid, right?  But, I had to try something).  I heated in in 30 second intervals, allowing the curd to divest itself of excess whey that was part of the coagulation problem.  After multiple heatings and kneadings, the curd began to stretch and I was able to knead it until it formed shiny elastic balls of mozzarella.  Stretchiness was a problem in previous batched, and is attributable to a lack or overabundance of acidity (issues I could not have identified earlier without the PH meter) or, I suspect, that I was not aware of how much kneading might be necessary.

Stretching the cheese, however, was an entirely new adventure (one that I thought previously would be the most difficult part of the process).  Once the cheese was hot enough it became malleable.  Today I learned that losing some of the whey makes it easier to stretch the cheese.  So, lesson #2: wear rubber gloves.  $#!t is hot.  Press the ball up through an open fist, letting it balloon out the top and pinch it closed on the back end.  If you pinched off a tiny piece, just bust it up and put it into the next ball.  Float them in a brine immediately after shaping.  If you place them on the counter, they will flatten out.

Today, it stretched enough from the microwave with the cheap-arse citric acid method.  Hot-water and bacterial culture methods to come later this summer.  

Caprese: Tomatoes and Basil from the Garden, hand-made Mozzarella, Olive Oil

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Sour Fish Curry

The greatest endorsement for this dish comes from my daughter, who had already consumed a full dinner and clamored for a second dinner of curry and rice.  Not bad, old boy, I says to myself.  You know it's good when a stuffed 1 year old is screaming for your curry like it was ice cream.  Right?  

Serves 4-6

1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 tsps chopped ginger
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 golf-ball-sized chunk of tamarind (2 tbsps-ish)
1/2 cup tomato sauce (preferably a good homemade sauce)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp turmeric
2-4 red birds-eye chilies, sliced (to taste)
1 can coconut 
2 tbsps chopped coriander (leaves and stems)
2 tbsps Vietnamese basil
1 sprig tarragon

2 fillets of turbot

butter (preferably ghee)

Garnish with lime, roasted cashews, julienned fresh ginger, Vietnamese basil

Dry roast your cumin and coriander separately in a pan on the stove and grind them in a mortar and pestle. 

Sweat the onion on a low medium heat in butter, in a covered pan, until it softens.  Toss in the spices, the garlic, the chilies, and the ginger, crank the heat up to high, and keep the mess in motion with a spoon; non-stop stirring it until the onion carmelize.

Pulverize the tamarind with a hand blender into the coconut milk and add it to the carmelized onions as well as the tomato sauce.  When the sauce is aboil, reduce to a medium and let simmer.  The sauce will be finished when it is a uniformly thick consistency, it should all hold together. 

Separately fry the fish in a high heat, also in butter, brown it off on either side -- don't worry about it breaking up, I usually cube it with the spatula.  Slip it to the sauce when the sauce it along with the herbs (saving some for the garnish).  

Garnish. Serve with rice.

Part of me wants to add fish sauce (and maybe even sesame oil) to this dish and make it more of an Indonesian massaman curry.