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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.

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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.

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Prima Vera Luncheon

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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.

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Filo Pastry Apple Pie

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I love a bit of pastry, this is true.  There’s not much I’m not willing to either pile on top of, wrap up in or top with a bit of flaky, buttery pastry.  Surprisingly, I haven’t been making pastries all that long.  In fact, up until a few years ago the thought of making my own pastry left me feeling somewhat the way I do when I’m staring at my tax return and trying to do judicial judgement to the hard work my accountant has done filling in the forms by pretending to try and understand what’s what.  My first real encounter with a pastry-maker (person not machine) that I can remember was in the late 90’s here in Canada, at the home of the inspirational Mrs R, who would send us off into the Canadian Summer to pick raspberries, strawberries and the like and then make the most delicious pies from the buckets of sweet, sticky fruit we’d brought home.  She made it all look so simple, the way my accountant makes such simple sense of all those numbers floating on the page in front of him.  And yet, when I finally built up the courage to give it a go myself (the pastry, not the accounts) I was almost horrified to discover that (a) it was easy and (b) it was fun.  Horrified, that is, that I’d spent so many years in shy awe at anyone who claimed to make their own pastry.  Perhaps I’ll find the same one day with my taxes, though I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Most the pastries I’ve made over the years have been of a similar variety: shortcrust.  I’ve not yet managed to confront the lurking monster that is puff pastry and continue to buy mine frozen, knowing full well that I’m compromising somewhat in flavour and quality but not willing to perform what Ms Glaze makes look like fabulous theatre.  However, there is one pastry that I really don’t think I will ever bother to learn the knack of making because, let’s be honest, why would you? Filo pastry is that one pastry that I really think is absolutely essential to buy, freeze and have at hand just in case. In case of what, you might ask?  In case of Apple Pie, that’s what:

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The process for this was really simple, although the slices would have held their shape better if I’d let the pie cool properly before slicing.  But sometimes one is completely overwhelmed by a sheer lack of Pie-Patience and one Must Eat Pie Now.

Start with a box of thawed Filo pastry, unwrapped on a board and covered with a damp tea towel to stop it from drying out.

Peel, core and thinly slice a couple crisp, green apples like granny smith. Put them in a bowl with the juice of half a lemon. Mix this with a couple tablespoons of sugar, a good sprinkle of cinnamon and a pinch of cloves.

Measure out a cup of walnuts, slightly chopped up.

Melt some butter, probably around 50g or so, in a small saucepan.

Grease a small springform pan (I used a 20cm one).

Line the pan with a layer of Filo, brush with butter and repeat with 3 more layers of filo and butter.  Now place a layer of apple, then walnuts then filo and butter again and repeat until the pan is full and the ingredients used up, finishing with a pretty layer of apple and some nuts.

Dot with a bit more butter and bake in at 375 for 30 – 35 mins until the pie is bubbling and browned.  I burned the apple on the top of mine, so keep and eye and if the apples start to get too crisp, put a layer of foil over the top for protection.

Allow the pie to cool for about 10 mins before loosening the tin.  And maybe a good bit longer than I did before slicing.

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winter-trees

Just so you know that I haven’t yet succumbed to martyrdom with my runny nose and blocked sinuses (how is that even possible at the same time?) I thought I’d write a line about breakfast.

Occasionally, far, far too occasionally in my mind, my dearly beloved friend, the sparklingly gorgeous Ms K stays overnight at our house on a visit from her new home town of NYC. While I always love the easy, breezy time we always spend on either side of the couch chatting and sipping tea/hot choc/cocktails as if no time at all has passed since our last gathering, and I especially love the thought of her snuggled up in the big white duvet on the sleeper couch downstairs, I particularly, selfishly even, love the thought of getting to make her breakfast in the morning.  Partly because it’s what I do for those I love, partly because I know that not many of her other friends would do that and partly because, Ms K being one of the slightly fussier eaters I know, I always get to make pancakes for her.  An opportunity to make pancakes for breakfast is an opportunity for a good day, if you ask me.  Have you ever made pancakes for breakfast and gone on to have a bad day?  That, unlike my runny nose/blocked sinuses, just I has to be impossible, non?

La vie, c’est bon.

And while the batter, for reasons I’m going to just go ahead and blame on my cold, simply did not perform but insisted instead on being too runny and made pancakes altogether too squishy and crepe-like to be Real American Pancakes, the whole affair still undertook to hold together and be fabulous.  We managed to wolf an impressive quantity down, complimented by a blueberry and raspberry compote and covered in a caramelised white chocolate crem.

Sorry there aren’t any pictures.  Well.  That I’ll just blame on my cold as well.  Why not?

*cough

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Sick days

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There are people I know who, through out their school and work careers so far, have never taken a day of sick leave.  I can remember being awed and slightly mystified in primary school by a couple of my friends who had, at that point, had never stayed home in bed reading books or watching movies due to an upset tummy or a sore throat for even one single day.  And it’s not, it simply can’t be, that these young folks were born with immune systems made of iron and had never, in fact, been ill.  I’d be willing to bet that these brave souls are the type of people who, even at the tender age of 6, would tenaciously blow their noses, do up their shoe laces and hunker down for the day, ignoring the throbbing head or the faint nausea in the quest for higher learning.  Take the ever diligent and steadfast Mr P, for instance.  For starters, nine times out of ten, if he succumbs to a malady, which is rare in any event, the lad waits until the onset of a weekend, preferably a long one, to do so, so as not to inconvenience any of his colleagues at work who would have to shoulder his load should he be absent from the office.  And having done so he retires quietly and without much fuss to the comforts of the bed, asking for nothing and sleeping much.  Having  done this for a maximum of one day he most often runs a hot shower, dons a clean shirt and carries himself back off into the world as if none of this had ever occurred. (Naturally, I find this a little unnerving, especially in light of the fact that I try so hard to play the good nurse maid, offering glasses of cold juice, hot tea and comforting soups as I would think need be; most being graciously declined with a small sigh.)

I am very definitely not one of those people.

Perhaps it’s the 1930’s starlet in me. Perhaps I’m just too weak for this world.  At the slightest and earliest indication of the onset of the wee common cold I bewail my fate loudly to any who would listen (or who are withing a 50m circle of my voice), clutch desperately at a bottle of cold-n-flu and take to my bed in a flurry of discarded garments and extra blankets for at least 3 days.  After which I retire, my face a tabloid of stoic bravery, to the couch for a further day or so while insisting on constant care in the form of cold juice, hot tea and comforting soups, all the while coughing loudly into a large, white hanky.

Such has been my fate this week.  A parting gift from one of the 416 passengers aboard either of two flights from O.R. Thambo International Airport in Johannesburg to Schipol International in Amsterdam and from there back here to chilly Toronto.  Not quite the perfect end to a three week long holiday back to my homeland, but there you have it. *cough *splutter.

Thank you to everyone who’s continued to bother reading this spot while I’ve been gone and I do hope not to keep you waiting for fresh meat, as it were, too much longer.  Right now, however, I have to get back to my stoic position on the couch before it gets cold.

*sneeze

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Bang On! Bangers and Mash

stella

Welcome to 2009, everyone.  I know, it’s the 10th already.  And already everyone is saying Already.  As in, “Wow, it’s already the 10th!  How did that happen?”  In any event, I hope you all had a fabulous holiday season and are back at it, breaking New Years Resolutions and trying to get rid of that extra bit of “you” that seems to have somehow applied itself, as if by magic, to your bottom/hips/tummy.  Thank you, Christmas Pudding. We had a marvelous time here at lick your own bowl.  We toasted and roasted our way through a disproportionately pleasant number of feasts. We had the kitchen candles burning at both ends and by the end of it all we sat fat and happy, and looked back with gluttonous grins at the piles and piles of dishes waiting to be cleaned.  This was our third Christmas here in Toronto and we finally found ourselves feeling a lot more in the swing of it all.  It’s not easy getting used to Christmas time in a foreign country with no family.  Back in my home country I could picture everybody lounging around the pool, toasting with frosty drinks and organising an impromptu game of cricket with a tennis ball and a couple party hats to mark the boundaries.  This year, however, we found ourselves truely reveling in the season and all it has to offer in a cold climate.  Christmas, and any holiday/celebration comes down to tradition, to doing the same thing, to the fun of looking forward to a particular way of doing things.  Chez Mr P and I we’re in our third year of our own Christmas traditions and it all starts to feel a lot more familiar and, well, traditional.  After a magnificent and decadent Christmas Eve dinner hosted by our fabulous and flamboyant friend Mr W we woke up late, had a cozy coffee and eggy muffins on the couch opening gifts and feeling smug.  Our Christmas dinner with friends was another drawn out affair with the accomplished Mr P whipping up his usual, and fabulous, beef wellington.

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After 5 Christmas puddings and a plethora of other indulgences we’ll probably be laying a little low on the calories here at Lick Your Own Bowl.  I get the feeling, though, that we won’t be alone.  Just to taunt you all a little, however, here’s a wee dish the Iridescent Mr P and I had before the real feasting began.

I grew up largely a vegetarian, but occasionally my dear Dad would rub his hands together at dinner time and his eyes would twinkle with anticipation as he whistled and sang his way through frying up a batch of bangers for our mash.  With this being very nearly the only meat we ever cooked at home you can bet they became synonymous with good times and Treat!  Back in my kitchen it’s a bit of an occasion too.  Ivan made a point of wooing me, when the wooing was still new for us, with a plate of very masculine and entirely smitt-able bangers and mash.  Mostly, they remain his domain in kitchen, but now and again I like to surprise him with a dish that I just know will bring out the child inside him a little.  Such a dish is this.  Be warned!

*Note: Obviously I didn’t make the sausages myself.  And obviously, they being such an integral part of the dish, the better the sausages the better the meal.  No one can buy industrial pork sausages and get gourmet bangers.

**Note: some people prefer to boil the potatoes whole, cool them, peel them then mash them.  Help yourself, if that ‘s your method.  I find it too time consuming to wait for the potatoes to cool enough to handle them so I peel and chop them before boiling.

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Super Duper Bangers and Mash

For the Mash:
2 large potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
Olive Oil (about ¼ cup)
¼ cup milk
3 Tbsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

For the “Kraut”
Olive oil for frying
300g or so green cabbage, sliced thinly
1 large red onion, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic
juice of ½ lime
1 tsp brown sugar
½ Tbsp Worcester sauce
salt to taste

4 best pork bangers (I used organic hand made ones from the Healthy Butcher)

– Start with the Kraut.  Heat some olive oil in a large pan and gently saute the onions, garlic and cabbage, stirring often, until soft.  Add the lime juice, sugar and Worcester sauce and continue cooking over a medium heat until caramelised, about 15 – 20 minutes.

– In the meantime, boil the potatoes in a large pot of water until tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

– While the potatoes are boiling, heat up a thick based frying pan and fry the sausages until cooked through, turning often.  The time here will depend on the thickness of your sausage.

– Check the seasoning of the cabbage mix.  It should be somewhat sweet/sour.  Adjust with more lime/sugar/salt to taste.

– Mash the potatoes with the oil, milk and mustard.  Season with salt and pepper.

– Heap a plate full of mash, top with bangers and cabbage.

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