Friday, December 29, 2006

My Christmas Goose

Well, I cooked my goose this Christmas! Yes, we had a Christmas goose. It was the first time I ever cooked a goose – and a wild one at that – and it turned out fabulously.

I found a recipe online attributed to Mario Batali. It called for goose breasts rolled with a stuffing of apples, potatoes and caraway seeds. The proportions of the recipe were all wrong – unless your goose is a giant – but I adapted it for my modest sized wild white goose. Very very good. (I won’t put the recipe here. If you google it, you’ll get a zillion hits.) Now that I’ve had one go at it, I plan to create my own goose recipe which I will post once I achieve success.

I served our Christmas gooses with Dolgo crabapple jelly (a gift from Boris and Anne) and a wild rice salad. (See recipe at November 20, 2006.) Thanks so much to my hunting friends Sue and Vance who provided the Saskatchewan goose. They also gave me some ducks and venison, so it will be a wild time in the ol’ kitchen this winter!

Monday, December 25, 2006

White Christmas - SNOW DRIFT

3/4 cups soft butter
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup corn starch
1 tsp grated lemon rind
Homemade jam or jelly
3 eggs whites
1/3 cup icing sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Cream the butter and 1/2 cup icing sugar until light and fluffy. Sift together the flour and cornstarch. Blend into the butter mixture with the vanilla. Form the dough into a circle on a piece of wax paper, wrap tightly and refrigerate for one hour or more.

Flour the work surface. Place the dough on the flour, cover with the wax paper and roll with a rolling pin to a thickness of 1/4 inch (about 1/2 cm). Cut the dough with a 3-inch round cookie cutter (about 8 cm) and place each cookie on a baking sheet. Bake at 300F for 15 min., until the dough is just cooked but not browned. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Cover each cookie with a layer of homemade jam or jelly.

Whip the egg whites until frothy. And the vanilla. Whip until stiff peaks form. Scoop some meringue onto each cookie, swirling with a spoon to make peaks. Bake at 300F for about 10 minutes, until meringue starts to brown.

Monday, December 18, 2006

My belly likes your jelly

Boris and Anne gave me a big jar of their Dolgo Crabapple Jelly. The note attached says it’s for my Christmas goose, but it got first use with venison.

A couple days ago I took a paper-wrapped package marked WT out of the freezer. WT stands for White Tail Deer, shot by our hunting friend Rick. I thought it might be ground meat that I could use in a bean stew, but it turned out to be tenderloin. John is a master with this choice selection: Slice the tenderloin into centimetre-thick slices. Crosshatch the meat with the edge of a plate, one way and then the other, on both sides. In a bag, mix flour, salt and pepper, and shake each piece of meat in the bag. Heat some lard (or a mix of butter and olive oil) on high in a cast iron frying pan. Fry each venison steak, turning once, about 3-4 minutes on each side. Serve with Boris and Anne’s Dolgo Crabapple Jelly, or your own yummy version. MMMmmmmm.

For a really good side dish, try the Roasted Beet and Walnut Salad posted on this blog on 17 October 2005.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The cleanest kitchen on earth

If you think the College of Agriculture is all about farming, you’ve got to see the kitchen on the sixth floor. The king of this kitchen is Gerald Henriksen, a man of theatrical style and impeccable taste. Beneath his starched white chef’s apron he wears a pinstripe shirt with gold cufflinks, dress slacks and tasseled leather shoes. His stainless steel kitchen is so spotless you might mistake it for the showroom of an appliance store. He polishes every pot and pan himself after every use.

So, with that kind of attention to detail, you can imagine the goodies that come out of his kitchen. One of his goals is to get more Saskatchewan-grown products used in recognizable commercial foods. How about an Eat More bar that is 50 percent flax? Paté that tastes like meat but is made of beans? Chocolate pudding brimming with fibre from green peas? Vegetarian lasagna made with Saskatchewan lentils? We sampled his goodies from silver-rimmed China plates (on which he had placed a pink carnation) and washed it down with homemade Saskatchewan cherry wine. I have never before been wined and dined in a College of Agriculture, but now that I think of it, it makes perfect sense.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


This column appeared in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix on 11 December 2006.

Last week, I was at a Christmas appetizer and wine party to which I took a smoky chickpea dip, when one of the guests declared, "We don’t grow chickpeas in Saskatchewan, do we?" Oh, my dear city girl, Saskatchewan is one of the big chickpea producers of the world. People in India and Lebanon and Spain are eating Saskatchewan chickpeas.

However, chickpeas are a relatively new crop in Saskatchewan, having been introduced on a commercial scale a little more than a decade ago. I didn’t even know what a chickpea plant looked like until one day last summer, I stopped by a mystery field, picked a seed pod, cracked it open and discovered a chickpea inside.

This could give a chuckle to Habeeb Salloum, a Syrian-born Canadian, who might also be saying, "I told you so."

Habeeb grew up on a farm south of Swift Current after his father left the pretty Biqa Valley (now a part of Lebanon) and took a hardscrabble homestead half way around the world. Habeeb was just a baby when he came with his mother in 1925. But even in the depths of the Great Depression, Habeeb and his seven siblings ate well because they grew chickpeas and lentils in their big garden, just as their ancestors had done in Syria since the dawn of civilization.

While the other kids were eating lard sandwiches and salt cod, the Salloum children were dining on chickpeas and yogurt, cracked wheat and pita bread, wild herbs and lamb. "We grew chickpeas and lentils in Saskatchewan when nobody had ever heard of them," says Habeeb. "And now Saskatchewan sells more lentils than anywhere in the world. Imagine that in my lifetime!"

I met Habeeb recently at his home in Toronto, where he has lived most of his life. While farming wasn’t in his blood, and he made a career with Customs Canada, he has not forgotten the frugal and nutritious food of his childhood. He has written a delightful account with stories and recipes called Arab Cooking on a Saskatchewan Homestead, published by the Canadian Plains Research Centre at the University of Regina.

He writes about collecting wild herbs and greens with his mother, who used them instead of traditional Middle Eastern spices. He describes how the family preserved meat and dried yogurt cheese, two very old methods that had sustained Arabic families for millennium.

"Two or three years we had a crop, and my dad would go into town and buy bologna for sandwiches for the threshing crew. And I thought this bologna on white bread was the epitome of food," he recalls with a good laugh. "A few months after I left home, I remembered the food of my mother and the bologna didn’t last very long."

Habeed didn’t learn to cook at his mother’s side. It was later in life, after he had travelled to the Middle East and North Africa, that he started experimenting in the kitchen, trying to recreate the Arabic dishes of his youth. "I started cooking little by little and I got into it. I remembered what my mother used to cook so I replicated her dishes, and now I do them as good or better than she did."

Of course, today he can buy Arabic ingredients in the grocery store. And thanks to Saskatchewan farmers, he can buy chickpeas, lentils and spices grown right here at home.

1 tsp. Saskatchewan cumin seeds
1 can Saskatchewan garbanzos (also called chickpeas)
2-3 cloves of Saskatchewan garlic, smashed
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. hot paprika
2 tbsp. olive or Saskatchewan canola oil
fresh Saskatchewan parsley or cilantro

Place the cumin seeds in a hot dry skillet and cook a few minutes until toasted. When cool, grind to a powder in a coffee grinder. Drain the chickpeas, reserving the liquid. Place everything but the chickpea liquid into a blender or food processor. Pulse the ingredients, gradually adding chickpea liquid until the mixture forms a smooth paste. Add salt to taste. Place the dip in a flat bowl, drizzle the edges with a bit more oil and sprinkle with chopped herbs and perhaps a dash of paprika. Serve with toasted bread, pita wedges or crackers.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The end of gas guzzling food

There’s a lot of talk about the impending oil crisis and its affect on food and agriculture. Agriculture is a huge guzzler of fossil fuels. Diesel powers the machinery, fertilizers are made from natural gas, pesticides are made from oil, and fossil fuels are burned shipping and refrigerating food from the farm to your fork.

According to Richard Heinberg, author or The Party’s Over, the agricultural industry is the single largest user of petroleum products, even higher than mining and the military. He spoke a few days ago in Saskatoon at a conference of the National Farmers Union.

Heinberg’s thesis is that rising costs of fossil fuels will change our lives dramatically. Farmers will no longer be able to grow food on a large intensive scale. We’ll no longer be able to afford food shipped in from far away. People in the suburbs will be hungry and out of work. Our depopulated rural areas will become a wasteland.

But Heinberg is optimistic. He sees a population shift back to rural areas, where people will grow food in a traditional way (without fossil fuels) and start supplying the cities again. City people will keep gardens. We’ll rely on seasonal local food, not imports and delicacies from around the globe. He estimates the United States will need 50 million new farmers to feed the population. Extrapolated to Canada, that would be 5 million new farmers. Will your children be among them?