Monday, November 21, 2005


Deep in my genetic makeup, I believe you’ll find the DNA of an ancient hunter-gatherer. Hunter-gatherers existed long ago before we learned to farm, when we had to hunt for meat and forage for plants in the wild. I love to forage, especially when it’s easy and convenient. There’s a certain sense of pride in accumulating good food for nothing but a few hours in nature.

Summer just wouldn’t be summer if I didn’t get out and forage for saskatoon berries. Last summer, I learned to forage for chanterelle mushrooms in the forest near La Ronge. So, I couldn’t pass up an invitation to forage for wild rose petals in the Nisbet Forest. Everyone knows that rose hips make a nutritious tea, but I didn’t know you could eat the flowers, too.

Marie Symes-Grehan lives in a log cabin where she has perfected the technique for making rose petal jam. The petals are suspended ever so delicately in pink that it looks almost too good to eat. We set out in the morning after the dew was gone, down a sandy road through the forest where the wild roses grow abundantly in the roadsides.

"The scent of roses is so intoxicating, I believe it really does affect your well being," says Marie. "It’s like prairie Zen."

After we collect the petals in cotton sacks, we sort them and sift out the stamens. Wearing a big hair net, Marie boils up some water and organic sugar, adding the petals at just the right moment. Then into the jars. She sells her wild jams and syrups under the label Lily Plain Summer, which are especially popular at the Granville Island Market in Vancouver. The jam is too pretty for ordinary toast, so I serve it on crackers with blue cheese. Very chi-chi and delicious.

While the gathering side of my genetic makeup is strong, I am not much of a hunter. But who needs to hunt when you have a friend like Jeff, a woodworking buddy of my husband’s.
One day there was a knock at the door, and there stood Jeff with a box of frozen moose and two grouse breasts, cut and wrapped.

Not sure how to cook them, I delved into my stack of Saveur magazines. I found a Cuban recipe for quail and beans, and a Portuguese dish of beef and Moroccan spices. Both were perfect, proving that even wild Saskatchewan foods are right at home in world cuisine.

The other night, we had Jeff and Susan for dinner with their three children and Jason, another woodworking friend. I served the moose, and for dessert, ice cream with Saskatchewan cherries.
Since April, I have been eating almost exclusively Saskatchewan foods in my own home and it’s going great – with a little help from Mother Nature and from my friends.
(The recipe for Portuguese moose "sopas" is at 4 Nov 2005)

I think this stew might be nice with chicken, though I haven’t tried it yet.

3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp vegetable oil
juice of one lime

1/2 lb. dried Saskatchewan pinto (or other) beans
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/21 tsp. cumin
2 grouse breasts
1 onion, chopped in half
handful of chives, chopped
4 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
handful cilantro, chopped
leaves from one sprig of oregano, chopped

The day before: Put the beans in a large bowl, cover with 6 cups of water, and leave it to soak overnight. Make marinade: crush the garlic cloves with the salt in a mortar and pestle until they form a smooth paste. Stir in the cumin, vegetable oil and lime juice. Mix this with the meat in a large bowl or a ziplock bag and marinate overnight.

The day of: Put the beans and soaking water into a large pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add half the onion, cover and boil. Lower heat and simmer until the beans are soft, about 1.5 hours. When they are cooked, remove and discard the onion.

Take one cup of beans and mash them with a fork until they are quite smooth. Put this back into the pot of beans.

In another pan: Take the meat out of the marinade. Heat some oil in a frying pan and brown the meat on both sides. Remove. In the same pan, lower the heat and add 2 cloves of chopped garlic, the other half of onion (chopped), and the chives. Cook until the onions are translucent. Add tomatoes, cilantro, oregano and cumin. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook this down until it forms a paste, 7-10 minutes.

Put everything, including the marinade, into the bean pot. Cover and bake at 350 degrees F until the meat is cooked through. (About an hour.)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Week 30 & 31 - YELLOW PEA 'FAVA'

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week -- 7 November 2005

Breakfast – Yogurt and cherries
Lunch – Scrambled egg, a chunk of mozzarella cheese
Dinner – Bread with Yellow Pea 'Fava' Spread. Sausages. Cucumber.

This is a fabulous Greek dish made with split yellow peas. It is served as a spread on bread. I found the recipe in Saveur magazine (Nov. 2004). I usually make half this recipe because it’s quite large, although it does freeze well. I purchased the organic split peas from the Cerridwen Farm at Medstead.

1 lb yellow split peas
2 large red onions, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
2-3 T fresh lemon juice or 3-4 T red wine vinegar
1.5 C olive oil
2T chopped fresh parsley

Put the split peas, three-quarters of the onion and 7 cups of water into a medium pot. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Skim the foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat and gently simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 1-1.5 hours. Stir during the last 15 minutes of cooking to prevent sticking to the pot. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the pot from the heat. Vigorously stir in the lemon juice (or vinegar) and half the oil. Cover the pot with a clean towel and leave to cool completely. The purée will thicken as it cools. To serve, stir purée and scoop into a serving dish. Sprinkle with parsley and the remaining onion. Drizzle with remaining oil. Serve with fresh crusty bread.

Friday, November 04, 2005


Saskatchewan Menu of the Week -- 29 October 2005

Breakfast – Pancakes.
Lunch – Chocolate bowtie croissant (from Christie's Bakery)
Dinner – Raw carrots. Yellow pea 'fava' on bread. Moose Sopas. Ice cream with cherry sauce.

Sopas is a Portuguese beef stew. I found the original recipe in Saveur magazine. I tried it with beef and moose. I actually prefer the moose, but the beef is good, too. The coriander, tomatoes and mint were from my garden. The moose was a gift from our friend, Jeff, an avid hunter.

You’ll need a piece of cheesecloth or a tea ball.

1/2 tsp whole allspice berries
1/2 tsp whole coriander seeds
1/2 tsp whole cloves
3-4 pound moose roast
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 bay leaves
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup tomato sauce (I used 1/2 cup sauce and 1 cup tomatoes)
1 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tsp cinnamon
Salt to taste
3 cups water
Day-old French or Italian bread, sliced
Chopped mint for garnish

Secure the allspice, coriander and cloves in a piece of cheesecloth or tea ball.

Put this bag of spices in a large pot with the meat and everything else (but the bread and mint). Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5-6 hours, stirring occasionally, until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender.

Scoop out the meat to a large bowl and shred it with two forks. Discard the spice bag.

To serve, place a piece of bread in the centre of a plate or bowl. Scatter on a handful of shredded meat. Pour on a ladle of broth. Sprinkle with mint and serve.