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The Hiatus, so to speak, that I’ve taken over the last four months is hopefully on the wane.  That ever ambitious and itchy-footed Mr P hooked a big fish in a rather different pond last year and I found myself, in the middle of the Christmas festivities, sorting through our life’s material goods; deciding which to keep, which to give away/sell and which would end up in the land fill (very, very little, I assure you) in preparation for a move to a new country.  Then, once the glorious feasting of another fantastic Canadian Christmas and the exuberant celebrating-in of a New Year had fattened us all up enough; the cookies all eaten; the champagne bottles had been recycled and the tree dismantled and put out in the snow it was time to get down to the hard work of packing.

One of the most difficult tasks in the move was saying goodbye to my wonderful, extensive and hard earned pantry.  I spent most of the Summer last year in a frenzy of pickling, jamming and preserving the amazing bounty of the Ontario growing season.  I’d amassed an extraordinary array of beautiful preserves in a tower of glass jars that couldn’t be shipped and had to be parted with.  What heartache!  Not to mention the the eclectic collection of sugars, flours, spices, pastes and seasonings one accretes over time that wouldn’t be allowed over the border.  Eh bien, c’est la vie. Tant pis

In the first week of January four burly men arrived with a large truck and proceeded to wrap, package and cart off everything we owned, destined for a new adventure across the Atlantic Ocean.  It was a horridly emotional time, having to uproot to the life we’d taken such pains to plant, water and nurture to such beautiful fruitfulness.  Our little home in Toronto had been a haven from storms, a cozy bubble of hospitality and love and fabulous cooking.  Oh, Toronto, how you’d gotten under my skin!

It takes time to settle in to a new environment.  It takes time to find the right markets, the right ingredients, the right oven temperature.  It takes time to figure out how to fit mustard, the rice, the pots, the baking tins into a new and smaller kitchen.  It takes time to adjust to a new way of life.

But here we are, the intrepid Mr P and I, four months into our new lives in Londontown, and slowly starting to sink into that glorious, feathered bed called Routine.  I’ve pumped up the tires on Storm, my trusty two-wheeled steed and roamed the streets of this crazy, manic city (getting lost most of the time in the organic warren of highways and byways) searching for goodies and treats.  I’ve traveled the roads on the top of  giant red buses to spy on delicatessen and bakeries from above.  I’ve taken long and hypnotic underground routes in search of the perfect coffee beans, the finest Rose Jam.  And I’ve worn a good layer of rubber off my sneakers trekking my own little neighbourhood from Baker to Butcher to Bonbonerie.  Still, I’ve managed to uncover and wheedle from hiding but a tiny portion of the cornucopia of goodies lying in wait in the nooks and crannies of this fantastical Town.  There is so much here, such dense collage of cultures and cuisines that it is an impossible, inexhaustible territory to map and charter.

Finally, however, I begin again to cook.  Like a bear coming out of hibernation; slow, awkward first steps into a light too bright for such sleepy eyes.  But I’m getting the hang of it again, bit by bit, stretching the cooking muscles; limbering up.

An army marches on it’s stomach and so while I’m pouring over new recipes and dabbling in this and that on the stove, I thought I’d better have a little something to snack on.

Cauliflower has never been my favourite of favourite veggies.  It’s not something I dislike, per se, but usually I can take it or leave it, really.  Cauliflowers, however, are bang on in season here and they looked so amazing sitting all plumped up and voluptuous at the farmers market that I just couldn’t resist.  Now to find something wonderful to do to them; something to bring out their flavour and inspire me to greater things.  I decided to make a spread.  It’s a wonderful, deeply flavoursome, nutty and complex spread that is just perfect spread thickly on a chunky slice of freshly baked loaf.  Mmmm.  Or try mixing a large spoon of it into mashed potatoes; adding it to some veg stock for a good soup; braising it with some good bacon and cabbage for a scrumptious side dish to a roast.

*Note: The garlic I used in the recipe was very special Oak Smoked garlic made by an enthusiastic garlic grower.  The smell and flavour are amazing, but I’m betting you won’t find it in a grocery store very easily, so use regular garlic instead.  The roasting will mellow the flavour sufficiently.

Roasted Cauliflower Paste

Ingredients:
½ cup Olive Oil
2 tsp Baharat
½ tsp Nutmeg
¼ tsp Salt
1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
2 cloves Garlic, peeled
½ cup walnuts, toasted
¼ tsp mustard powder
2 tsp – 1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses

method:
– pre-heat a small roasting pan in the oven to 400˚F

- mix the oil, baharat, nutmeg and salt in a medium sized bowl

- add the cauliflower and garlic and toss to coat with oil/spice mix

-Place in the hot roasting pan, in the oven, and roast for 20 minutes, stirring and basting every 10 minutes.

- Turn the temperature down to 325˚F and continue roasting for a further 30 minutes until the cauliflower is very tender.

- Remove from oven and allow to cool.

- In a medium sized bowl (or a food processor) blend the cauliflower with the walnuts and mu
stard powder until smooth.

- Add pomegranate molasses bit by bit according to taste.

Bounty2: Cerise

I had a love affair when I was 18.   It was a beautiful late spring day; warmer than usual, with the sun shining down from a dark turquoise sky, slowly turning my golden skin brown; the smell of warm earth, cut grass and body lotion mingling in that heady perfume of Summer Days.  I was fresh and young and innocent, newly graduated from High School; ready and gleeful with the anticipation of starting my adult life.  My family had decided to take a Grande Tour for our Summer Holiday that year; a long slow trek from the highveld of my hometown; across the vast and fertile plains of the Free State Farms; through the desolate, peaceful and quiet stretches of the Small and Large Karroo’s and finally over the escarpment and down, down, down to the Cape of Good Hope.  Sometime before heading down that impressive, jaggered escarpment into the land of vineyards and dry Mediterranean air we stopped in the mountains, in a cosy little town tucked away in the most beautiful valley, sitting like an emerald jewel in the midst of the dry, rocky peaks.  We were here to pick cherries.

Ceres is renowned the world over for it’s abundance of superlative deciduous fruits; you may have seen fruit juices of that name selling in your local supermarket or delicatessen.   And on a warm, sunny, early Summer day long ago I was fortunate enough to be in that very valley, falling in love with sun-warm, chin-staining black cherries, plump with sweet juice and full of the promise of life.  It was one of those defining moments with food, a moment so deeply stained on my soul that I find myself back in that valley every so often when I bite into a large, sweet Bing cherry.  It’s a fruit, that to me, will always taste of youth and sun and freedom.

It was a particularly good year for cherries this year and I attempted to make the most of the bounty.  That is the berries that made it into a dish and escaped being eaten by the cup, fresh and juicy, reminding me of that summer love so long ago.   So, even though I’m now sitting waiting for the first snow of the season and wandering what to fill my Christmas Stockings with I thought I’d share a bit of What Went Down this summer in the Lick Your Own Bowl Kitchen.  Enjoy!

Maybe I could tempt you with a Sour Cherry Tart?

Or perhaps a Dark Cherry and Pernod Jelly:

Not looking for something sweet?  Perhaps a perfectly roasted Guinea Fowl with Sour Cherry and Sage Stuffing would be the ticket:

Until next harvest, dear Cherries, I await the reunion of a fine love affair.

The produce at our local markets has grown and multiplied from a few sparse punnet baskets and bunches of herbs to tables creaking and groaning under the plenitude and abundance of Summer Harvest; farmers groggy and bewildered by the weeks of harvesting, packing, selling, counting and chatting with the locals.  Speaking of local, have you seen this? It’s a message I wish more people would take to heart and it comes from an unusual source; more proof that the message is sinking in to a larger audience and being picked up as a marketing tool by larger corporations.  Nothing wrong with that, if you ask me. Let’s get this voice out there a bit, yes?

I’ve taken a little hiatus, so to speak, from the blogosphere to concentrate on various little projects that have kept me out of trouble over the warmer months.  The last week, however, I’ve been a captive to my kitchen, a large quantity of jamming jars and boxes and bags of fresh produce that I’ve been slowly turning into the most delicious, tempting, multi-coloured jars of preserves, pickles, chutneys and jams.  I’ve gone through all my aprons, tea towels, wooden spoons and dish soap in an attempt to keep up with the seemingly never ending supply of this wonderful season’s fruits and vegetables.  I’ve stirred bubbling pots of sticky, syrupy jams until my arms have gone into spasm.  I’ve washed utensils and sieves and strainers until my fingernails have become soft as jelly.  And I’ve loved every hot, sweaty, sticky minute of it.  I look at the mountain of red and purple and green jars growing larger and larger on the counter and think forward to the cold months coming too soon to meet us, and the joy we’ll all get opening up those jars, Summer springing forth again like a surprise visit from an old family friend as we dip into the sticky, sweet, sour or bitter preserves inside. But more about that later.  It’s time for a little catch up.

While I have been absent in the digital sense, I’ve been far from quiet in the kitchen.  In fact, as absent from or tired of I get of one thing or another, somehow I always have time for the kitchen.  I find that the act of cooking in the kitchen metomorphosizes  to suite my mood: from a comforting hug for a bruised or bitter soul to an outward expression of joy and happy energy, the kitchen shapes itself around my current mood, filling in the gaps, holding me upright, much in the same way as that personification of love, the ever supportive Mr P.  And Stirring and seasoning and sieving my way through the last few months, I’ve made a couple share-worthy things:

strawbrhubmix

Like a trio of Strawberry and Rhubarb concoctions not tried before in the Lick Your Own Bowl Kitchen:

Firstly, a Strawberry Rhubarb bread pudding made with an unopened, left over Panettoni from Christmas.

Strawbrhubpud1Strawbrhubpud2

Then came a Strawberry Rhubarb Cookie Sandwich, using up a half batch of sugar cookie dough left in the fridge from a previous endeavor.

strawbrhubiscuitStrawbrhubbisc4

Finally, for a picnic with friends on the banks of Lake Ontario, celebrating Canada’s Birthday, tartlets of Strawberry Rhubarb Mousse with a minted Strawberry Rhubarb Salsa.

StrawbrhubmousseStrawbrhubmousse1Strawbrhubmousse2

Passionfruit

I feel as if I’m back from a trip to a world of cakes and pastry delights.  The last month has been filled, chock-o-block, from the beginning of Toronto’s fabulous Spring to the beginning of what is turning out to be a mild, soft, gentle Summer, with parties and cakes.  The air has sparkled with the sounds of popping champagne corks, clinking glasses and merry, laughing people congratulating each other for various accomplishments.  Birthdays, Weddings, Feasting, Fancying and Foot-Loosing turned our ordinarily calm lives in to a train-station platform for the travelling spirits of love, happiness and joie-de-vivre.

Raspberry Coulis

Now, on a day when the soft rain falling from a Summer-grey sky cools my temperament from feverish to fathomable, I thought I’d take a moment and share just some of the fun with you.  I’m going to make, for your reading pleasure, a sandwich of sorts.  A dense yet frothy layer of Birthdays makes the perfect base for a filling of petit Wedding don’t you think?

Rasp White Choc Charlotte Comb

A little after my own birthday celebration, appropriately consummated with a glorious Raspberry White Chocolate Charlotte and Smitten’s Pistachio Petit Four, a couple Wondrous Friends, the maverick Mr D and his wonderful J, decided, impromptly and in a fuzz of love, to get married.  Being unfortunately, as they both were, so far from all family and loved ones, we organised, in the limited time we had, a delightful petite reception de l’amour chez nous, complete with un petit gateux de marriage. It was my first attempt at a real French Butter Cream frosting, and not without it’s little , ahem, learning curve shall we call it.  But a gorgeous evening was had by all and the happy couple left beaming and cuddling and well set for a long and joyous journey through life together.  How could love go wrong when sent off on it’s voyage with a petite tarte a la pomme d’amour, a Monk Fish a la Gazpacho on a bed of Sicilian Buckwheat and a four layer passion fruit cake with mango curd filling?

Wedding GJ1

Wedding GJ Comb

And then, just to test my abilities and patience to the brink of my own sanity, My handsome, enthusing, devestating Mr P turned a year older and required a cake worthy of his own standing in my life.  What could it be?  I scoured my books and bookmarks.  I looked under the couch, in the sock drawer and behind the French Puy lentils for inspiration.  I had to find a cake to match his countless qualities: there had to be something out there.  After days of thinking and sketching cross-sections of cake slices and jotting down notes I came up with the following:

A dark chocolate and whisky cake; something dense and dark and smokey, just like someone else I know.  A cake almost, though not quite, like a brownie.

A sour cherry filling, slightly sweet and slightly tart and altogether moreish

A cream cheese frosting to complicate the palate a little and smooth out any sharpness in the whisky.

And despite the fact that the cherry conserve I used leaked sticky, pink syrup all over the plate (and a guest who helped me transport the thing, sorry Ms R); and depite the fact that the cream cheese frosting slowly melted in the heat of the night and started a steady migration down the side of the cake, and despite finding out that cream cheese frosting does not like to stick well to cherry conserve (note: spread the cream cheese frosting first, then top with cherry) It turned out to be a very handsome, tasty and slightly confusingly, undefinably good cake.  Just like someone else I know.

Choc Whisky Cherry Cake2

Choc Whisky Cherry Cake Comb2

Choc-whisky

Spring Fever Quiche

springcomb

A client, local to Toronto, once joked with me that spring in Ontario was not so much a soft and gentle, new born lamb frolicking in a pretty green meadow, chasing little yellow butterflies as it is a stripper suddenly removing all her clothes.  I know, the image is rather vivid and lewd, but you get the idea and it’s pretty much spot on.  The end of Winter here is a long, shuffling commute of faceless pedestrians huddled into long, dark grey coats walking down an endless road and boarded by tall, dark buildings under a heavy, humourless sky.  Suddenly, through a little break in the clouds, a single ray of watery sunlight shines down on one of those faceless coats and exposes a slither of pretty ankle escaping out past the hem.  The crowd stops.  The shuffling dwindles and every face in that homogeneous, grey sea lifts from the folds of their coat and turns to look at that bit of humanity exposed in the sun.  Then, without warning, the sky breaks open and the woman of the ankle flings open her coat to reveal a body, young and lithe, wrapped only in shimmering, translucent, fuchsia silk.  The coat falls around her feet like a dust cloth removed from a painting and she steps away from that dead, lifeless garment without looking back, her face in the sun, her limbs exposed and dancing now, in slow fluid movements. As she dances on, moving down the street, her joie de vivre infects those around her like a contagious disease and one by one the coats fall to the floor until the street is alive with dancing and colour and sunshine.

Welcome to Toronto, the Caberet of Spring.

And to celebrate a little Quiche, yes?

quiche-mush-leek-ham-combo

Leek, Mushroom and Ham Quiche

For the Pastry:
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp sugar
¼ tsp tarragon
¼ tsp thyme
½ cup cold butter, chopped into 1cm cubes
80ml cold water

for the filling:
1Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp butter
1 large leak, thinly sliced
1 brown onion, finely chopped
150g mushrooms, sliced (I used shitake and portobello)
3 or 4 slices ham, chopped (I used black forest ham)
½ cup cream
½ cup milk
3 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup Gruyer, grated

- to make the pastry: whisk the dry ingredients together

- rub the butter into the flour until it looks like course oatmeal

- add the cold water and mix just long enough to form a dough

- wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least a half hour

- preheat the oven to 350˚F

- roll the dough out on a floured surface to line a 25cm quiche tin

- bake blind for 10 mins

- while the quiche shell is cooling, heat the oil and butter in a frying pan and saute the leeks, onions and mushrooms until soft

- Beat the eggs with the milk, salt and pepper and then add the cream

- fill the quiche shell with the onion-mushroom mixture, the ham and then top up with the eggy cream.

- sprinkle the Gruyere cheese over the top

- bake at 350˚F for about 35 mins, until the cream is just set

- allow to cool for 10 mins before serving, preferably with a light salad

quicke-mush-leek-ham1

spanish-stack2

I know that Stacked Food is oh, so very five seasons ago and since then the uber chefs of the world have moved on and through many other fancies and fads.  We’ve had Fusion illusion, Tasting Menus and Tapa’s everything and now we’re looking at 100 mile menu’s and locavore, seasonal, home style cooking.  All of which I’ve loved and lavished my attentions upon in turn in as much as I love food in it’s myriad of forms.  The simple truth is that I  am honestly as happy eating beans on toast in a greasy spoon as I am sampling the delicacies of the best sushi houses with the manicured and be-sequined.  But there’s something about the stack that I keep coming back to.  I think that at the end of the day, for a generally competent home cook, it’s such a simple technique that usually leaves me looking far more accomplished than I ever could be in front of a table of hungry guests.  I love the way it leaves space on the plate for sides and sauces and I love that it’s obvious that the various layers where thought about and meant to be eaten together, to compliment each other; instead of a random selection of cooked things from what I happened to have in the cupboard at the time.

* note: I served this with Polenta at the base of the stack, cooked with water and a teaspoon of rosemary , finished with some Spanish goat cheese for a bit of cheesy zing.  I’m not giving you the recipe for that as it’s pretty straight forward, non? There was a fresh salad of greens on the side and watercress as a garnish.

**you may be tempted to use a nasty wine in the dish; try not to.  Use what ever you’re drinking at the table, you’ll taste the difference.

spanish-stack1

Spanish Stack with Chorizo

Olive oil (about 2 Tbsp)
100 – 150g Shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 brown onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
100ml dry red wine
½ large (or 1 small) red pepper, thickly sliced
1 Chorizo sausage, thickly sliced
1½ tsp sweet smoked paprika
pinch nutmeg
½tsp dried Rosemary
salt to taste

1 med head broccoli, florets only
1 medium shallot
2 Tbsp black sesame seeds
Olive oil (about 2 Tbsp)
Squeeze of lemon juice (about 2 Tbsp)
salt and pepper to taste

- heat olive oil over a medium heat in a large sauce pan or skillet.

- gently cook the mushrooms with the onion and until soft.  Add the tomato paste and cook for a minute to caramalise.

- deglaze with the wine then add the pepper and chorizo, then the spices and herbs.  Simmer until the peppers are soft, about 10 mins.

- in a food processor, process the broccoli florets with the shallot until finely chopped (or chop by hand)

- heat the oil in a medium saucepan and cook the broccoli/shallot with the sesame seeds for just a few minutes, until tender but still bright green.  Season to taste with the lemon juice and salt and pepper.

-Layer your stack starting with the polenta, topped with the chorizo melange and ending with the broccoli.  The watercress garnish worked very well with all those richer flavours.

Prima Vera Luncheon

primaveralunch11

A little peak at what I had for lunch today.  Mmmm.  Left over, home made prima vera sauce on a slice of toasted, organic, sun dried tomato bread, sprinkled liberally with fresh basil and Parmesan.  A great way to break the day.

primaveralunchcombo

primaveralunch31

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