Archive for November, 2007

Butternut Kidney bean Bread Pudding

We have a working fireplace!  Well, we have what looks like a working fireplace, since we’ve in all honesty done nothing but look at it intently, and smugly, in that we-have-a-working-fireplace kind of way, meanwhile being somewhat too intimidated to actually put a fire in it.  But we will be lighting that sucker this Friday when we have our first real dinner part-ay in our new abode, and I’m already thinking of all the things one could possible roast on that fire, like chestnuts and maybe marshmallows.  Of course it takes the sometimes more grounded Mr P to point out the obvious: our living room is not, in fact, a camp ground; and we are not, in fact, camping.  Oh, ever Mr P-for-practicality.  Be that as it may, I’ve gotten a bit of my food bite back again, which has been hiding under the bed in terror of the new kitchen for most of this last month.  So lets hope I can whip up something other than the  more basic fare we’ve been existing on for four weeks.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that in the least, mind you.) At least one fire has been lit, so to speak.

In the bit of cooking I have been doing this month, there seems (as always, non?) to be a theme.  I seem to have gone Butternut Bonkers.  And if I’ve posted three things on the blog, you just know we’ve had them coming out the ears: mashed, souped, roasted, steamed and baked.  But a bread pudding, I hear you ask?  A bread pudding is, well, Pudding, non?  Well, and what of it?  What if I want to start a revolt of the cooking class and take a perfectly good after-dinner sweetness and turn it into the main attraction?  What are you going to do?  Puree me?  Ha!  Actually, the ever experimentally-minded Mr P left not a single crumb in the casserole dish, an amount I was sure would leave me lunch-overs for at least two afternoons, assuring me of the success of a savoury bread pudding served up on a chilly, early Winter night. (Please note that it’s not yet “Winter night”, but “Early Winter night” ahem.)  Go on, give it a  try.  You know you want to!

*note: I only used a ¼ of a large butternut, which probably explains why I’ve had so many meals of the squash recently.

**I used a combination of breads for this recipe: Olive, Whole Wheat and Sun-dried Tomato, cut very chunky as you would a baguette.

Butternut and Kidney Bean Bread Pudding

¼ large butternut, peeled, seeded and chopped into large 1 inch cubes
6 – 8 slices slightly stale bread of your choice (see ** above) torn into chunks
1 onion, halved and thickly sliced
½ half a can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 eggs
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup milk
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground sage
pinch cumin
pinch dried thyme leaves
white pepper to taste
⅓ cup grated Mozzarella

– heat the oven to 350˚F

– steam the butternut for about 10 mins, until tender but still firm

– grease a casserole dish and arrange bread and onions and butternut in it

– top with kidney beans

– in a bowl, beat eggs, milk and herbs & spices

– pour egg mix over bread and leave to sit for about 5 mins.

– top with cheese and bake in the oven until set, about 45 mins.

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Butternut Fritters with Ginger Anise Poached Quince and honey spiced Cream Cheese

I might have mentioned, in the last few posts, all the culinary disasters that have emanated from my kitchen over the last couple of weeks, while I’ve familiarised myself with new cooking appliances. Well, okay, a bad workman always blames his tools, right? So I suppose I have to take just a wee bit of the blame moi-meme, though I’ll still try to look like the poor blameless victim and blame my flops on mental distraction due to life upheaval and an over abundance of missing kitchen gadgets and unpacked boxes. Anyway, some spiteful, slightly belligerent part of me has insisted on getting it right in one respect: those darn Pumpkin Fritters I made my gracious friends pretend to like at a Sunday tea. Poor dears, they put on brave faces one and all, while covering up the cinders with extra honey spiced cream cheese. “Wow, this cream cheese is great, what ever is in it?”, was a common cry from the infantry on the couch.

One of my Mother’s great food hugs, in my opinion, is the Pumpkin Fritter. Up there with crumpets, these little scrunchions of delight would appear sometimes on a Sunday afternoon, still hot from the pan and drenched in fresh butter and apricot jam. Sometimes they wouldn’t even make it that far as my brother and I would hang around the stove grabbing one as it came off the egg flip. I can’t remember, thinking back now, whether they were an Autumn treat or just a general now-and-again treat, seeing as how Every Season is Pumpkin Season where I come from… Oh, I did try to recreate those marvelous morsels for that awful tea…

Not to be defeated, this time I put my war paint on and, wielding my largest (and favouritestest) Henkles 4-star (le sigh) bravely attacked a real, live butternut for the purposes. Forget that canned stuff, which was half the problem with the first lot and probably had my great-grandmother turning in the grave (it just seemed so much easier than the thought of peeling and cooking a pumpkin when the guests were expected any moment now.) Pumpkin Fritters seem to be one of those uniquely South African things. Just ask any obliging South African about Pumpkin Fritters and they usually get that far away look in the eyes. Here in North America (as far as I can tell) a fritter is a doughnut type thing, deep fried and considered bad for you in that McDonalds kind of a way. Not so the humble Pumpkin Fritter. It usually uses real pumpkin, eggs, flour and a bit of sugar. In the traditional waste-not-want-not kind of a way a lot of South African food evolved, pumpkin fritters were usually made from last night’s dinner left over pumpkin. Add some spices and you’re A-for-away. Also, Butternut is slightly sweeter and more, well, buttery than regular boere pampoen (farmer’s pumpkin), which really made for a softer, less floury fritter at the end of the day.

I teamed the end results with another Autumn favourite of mine: quince, poached with ginger and star anise. The ever experimental Mr P does have his faults, one of which is his dislike for all things ginger and I have to say, I had great satisfaction watching him wolf down his dessert knowing that he had no idea he was so thoroughly enjoying a gingered treat. I knew it! He just thinks he doesn’t like ginger! I guess from now on I’ll be making “cinnamon-spice-breadmen” and “molasses-spice-houses” around Christmas time… ha!

Butternut Fritters with Ginger Anise Poached Quince and honey spiced Cream Cheese 2

Butternut Fritters with Ginger-poached Quince and Honey Spice Cream Cheese

For the poached quince:
1 large quince, cored and cubed (1 inch cubes)
1 tsp fresh, grated ginger root
2 Tbsp sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 or 3 star anise (I used 3 for extra flavour)
3 cardamom pods
hot water, enough to almost but not quite cover quince (about 1½ cups)

For the fritters:
1 cup cooked, mashed butternut (I used ¼ of a large butternut)

1 egg
1 Tbsp sugarQuince and Ginger
pinch cinnamon
pinch cloves
1 ½ tsp baking powder
⅓ cup flour
1 – 2 Tbsp milk

For the honey spiced cream cheese
1 tub plain cream cheese
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp clear honey (or more to taste)
2 Tbsp milk

1. Poach the quince
– put all spices and sugar in a medium sauce pan, add 1 cup water and bring to boil. Add quince and more water if necessary. Bring to boil then lower heat and simmer for 2 – 3 hours until quince is tender. Remove from heat, cool, remove hard spices and reserve.

2. Make the Honey spiced cream cheese
-mix all ingredients together

3. Make the Fritters
– beat the butternut with the egg and sugar

– Mix all the dry ingredients and add to the pumpkin. Mix then add enough milk to make a soft dropping consistency.

– Heat a large, heavy-based non-stick frying pan on a medium heat. Cook about 3 Tbs worth of batter per fritter, as you would a pancake: 1 minute or so per side.

4. Serve!
– Top 3 or so fritters with quince, cream cheese and some reserved quince juice.


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Duck Breast with Green Olives and Rosmary

We’re having our first snow here in Toronto. Big, fat flakes have been falling all day and the temperatures are just right to allow for picture perfect moments: cold enough that the snow doesn’t instantly turn into boot-eating slush but warm enough to allow a certain amount of frolicking in the streets. A cookie baking kind of day, which is exactly where I tend to go once I’ve finished this post. I’m thinking something spicy-autumny, not quite Christmasy. Too early for that kind of talk. We’ve still some Autumn dishes to get through in my house! Even though one must admit to oneself, even if one thinks one can forestall the moment by buying butternuts and plums at the market, that the Winter is not only on it’s way but parking it’s car in the drive and walking up the path to the front door. And once one has admitted the close proximity of Winter, one can quite gladly take the Canada Goose Coat out of it’s box, fluff it up and actually enjoy the snow outside. The fabulous Mr P and I are so equally and utterly in Smit with our Canada Goose coats, that when we see other “Ducks” on the street we share a little glance of smugness and glee.

And speaking of duck…

Duck still seems like a fairly exotic dish to me. Growing up, poultry consisted of Chicken, Chicken and, um, Chicken. That said, duck isn’t any more difficult to deal with than Ye Olde Chicken and since it’s a readily available thing at the butcher these days I tend to keep a portion or two lying around for sudden inspiration. Like this. Mr P got his hands dirty in on this one, though it was almost a case of Two many cooks spoiled the duck. Do we chop the raw duck first and then fry it, or fry it then chop it. How thick should the slices be? Should we remove the fat before cooking it? After cooking it? At all? In the end, after a small glass of wine and some introspection the following happened.

*note: it’s really worth getting a fresh, egg pasta for this. I’m not patient enough to make my own (yet) but I made sure to get the best I could find. Why waste the duck on industrial spaghetti, is my thinking…

Also, I got the olives from “the olive guy” at the market, but you can really use any olives you prefer.

Duck Breast with Green Olives and Rosmary

Duck Breast with Rosemary and Green Olives

2 duck breasts, with fat on
Dried Rosemary, about 1 + ½ tsp
Fleur de sel
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Roasted Green Olives, about
⅓ cup
Good, fresh pasta, enough for 2
2 Tbsp good basil pesto
– Rinse the duck breast and pat dry with paper towel

– with fat side lying up, cut through the fat in gashes about 1 inch apart

-season breast with salt and Rosemary, making sure some rosemary is in the cuts

-fry duck breasts in a non stick, heavy bottomed pan for about 2 – 3 minutes on each side until meat is browned and fat is brown and starting to get crispy. Remove from heat and cool until handle-able. Slice the breast into ½ inch thick slices. They should still be quite raw in the middle.

– put the pasta on to cook

– In the duck fat left in the pan, fry the onion and garlic until caramelised. Add duck breast and olives and cook until meat is cooked, about 5 mins.

– Drain pasta and add to the duck, along with the pesto, mixing well before serving. Add some olive oil if you think it needs it (I found the duck fat more than enough lubrication)

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Green beans with cranberry and almonds

Finally I have a few recipes up the sleeve to share. Although, to be honest, these aren’t so much recipes as food combinations we’ve been having for dinner. It’ll have to do, though, until something more inspiring comes along. I’ve had a string of culinary disasters in the kitchen recently and while part of me (the part that is still trying to remember which cupboard we unpacked the measuring cups in to) knows it’s the teething period of cooking in a new and untested kitchen, part of me just wants to go down to the pub on the corner and get their soup of the day for dinner. Again. Oh well, we keep trying. A dry broccoli and pepita pesto can’t really be blamed on the too-hot hob (unlike the burned-on-the-outside, soggy-on-the-inside pumpkin fritters I tried making for tea on Sunday) but it certainly goes well with the theme of over-crispy offerings and charred remains I’ve been serving from that kitchen this last week. So I decided to stop the train and dish up something so simple it needed but a few minutes anywhere near that hob of hell. Oh, bear with me while I sort out these annoying little glitchettes in the Kitchen. Le sigh. Ca ne va pas!

Green Beans with Cranberries and Almonds

a big handful of green beans (about 200g)
⅓ cup dried cranberries
boiling water
⅓ slivered, unblanched almonds
1 Tbsp Grapeseed oil (or other veg oil)
Fleur de sel
Fresh black pepper

– put the cranberries in a small bowl and just cover with hot water. Allow to sit for 5 to 10 mins.

– clean and trim beans

– heat oil over a medium heat and add beans, stir-frying for about 3 mins until bright green

– add cranberries, with water, and stir until water has mostly evaporated

-add almonds and cook for minute more

– season with salt and pepper.

Green beans with cranberry and almonds 2

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Christmas Pudding Makings

Oh guess, just go on and Guess what I’m making in my Kitchen…

You’ll have to wait to hear how it all goes, but I’m already so very, very excited. I really do try to put off the Christmas Cheer for as long as I can. The stores whip those sparkles and lights out straight after Halloween here in Canada, not having America’s November Thanksgiving to keep their decorators fingers at bay from the tinsel and flashing lights. And to me, here in North America, Christmas is a Winter Thing. Meaning, that as soon as you’ve immersed yourself in the Ho Ho Ho’s, you’ve admitted that it’s Winter already and between you and me, I’m still enjoying the Autumn an awful lot. I still have a bright orange pumpkin on my doorstep and I still kick up (wet, soggy) leaves along the road. I’m making things like butternut soup and turnip bake, so back off, Winter. That being said, I went past a shop known for its particularly enthusiastic approach to Christmas window dressing, and the sight of what they’ve done this year sent a little bubble of Christmas joy up to the top of my brain, where it burst a little Christmas cheer into my life and I spent the rest of the ride home humming quietly to myself at the thought of all the baking and cooking and eating and drinking to be done over the next few weeks.

What a perfect mood in which to rustle up some good old fashioned Christmas Pud. Yum. Well, truth be told, I ran out of time to do the actual steaming this evening, and so I had to content myself with mixing up all the dry ingredients and being patient with the rest. I guess I’ll have to wait until after Christmas to tell you how it all went, because until then the puds will get a good rest in, in the pantry cupboard.

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If you’re in the same boat as me (and by boat I mean relative age category) you’ll remember the Guns ‘n Roses track “November Rain”. If you were in the Romantic Teenage Angst Boat at the time you’ll no doubt be thinking of the sad “death” of a ravishing Stephanie Seymour and that dress, coveted by teenage girls the world over. Well, I’m a little off topic here, but bare with me. Growing up on the High Veld of South Africa, one could only associate November Rain with that gorgeous rush of a late afternoon thunderstorm, a perfect tribute in the Romantic Mind of an Angst-ridden Teen to the loved-and-lost epiphany of pour ol’ Axl Rose.

It’s only now, in my second November in North America, that I can look back at that video and realise (as one so often does when thinking back to one’s teen years) just how very, very wrong I was. I remember last November in Toronto well: the huddling masses, waiting, shivering and dripping for a tram; the crouching of the pedestrian population into their soggy coats and the squelching of water-ridden shoes and socks. November Rain, it seems, has nothing much to do with passion and glory and the lightening strike of True Love (with an electric guitar). It has to do with endless, grey and sombre days; dripping, sopping, wet days and not enough love to go around.

None of this Novemberness is in anyway helping with my exasperation at not yet being back at my stove. Well, not successfully, in any event. We cooked our first meal last night, with a friend come to visit, and it was a dismal, if laughable, failure. After discovering late in the day that the soup I’d left out to defrost was marked “Country Soup” in my sloppy handwriting, and not “Vegetable Soup” for the simple reason that it had ham in it, and our guest being vegetarian, I rifled in the fridge and settled on making a spinach and mushroom soup with purple potatoes. Sounds yummy, non? And really, how hard could it be? It’s soup! It’s easy! Except, that in my distracted state of being, I doubled the amount of stock in the pot and ended up with a green, watery grave for the potatoes to bob around in. After reducing it for as long as I thought I could get away with, I discovered that the stock, once thus condensed, had turned the soup far too salty. Ah well, at least the sun-dried tomato and herb bread was good.

Oh, patience, Vickers, I keep telling myself. Before you know it all the boxes will be packed away and you’ll be baking batches of biscuits till the cows come home. Le sigh. In the mean time I’ll think back to that time I like to call Before The Rain and a walk I took in the park…





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Scrambled eggs with proscuitto and Etorki

So, we moved. And as anyone who’s moved will know, it’s always a bit of both worlds: it’s exciting, but it’s not usually a lot of fun until a couple of weeks after the fact. This move was, however, something special. And I mean not so much in the way of, “oh, a puppy for my birthday? That’s so special!” but leaning more to the, “she took your whole closet and put it through a garbage disposal? Wow, that’s special.” We arrived in good time, with the Big Burly Boys who were carrying all our Stuff, to a house full, from attic to basement, with contractors and all their various paraphernalia. Not only did we have to compromise on where we were allowed to put our boxes and furniture, but we had to put up with nearly a week of work still to be done before we could start unpacking. That being said, we just know we’re going to love the house, and all the headaches will be worth it in the end. I have a new oven and hob to get used to and test out and a bunch of recipe ideas wafting around in my head, where they’ve been collecting dust over the last few weeks. What I really need, though, on this chilly November day, is a hot, creamy plate of scrambled eggs, all the more delish with some prosciutto and Spanish Etorki cheese, fresh baguette, a cup of hot coffee and some fresh fruit juice. Funny how a good breakfast makes it seem all just so much better, non?

Scrambled eggs with proscuitto and Etorki 2

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