Monday, April 30, 2007

Middle Eastern Flavours - SFEEHA

Sfeeha doesn't sound very Saskatchewan, does it? But all the main ingredients in the Middle Eastern meat pie are available locally. Lamb from a local farmer. (You can substitute beef.) Vegetables from the Saskatoon Farmers' Market. Dried red pepper from my garden. This dish satisfies my two daily objectives: to eat locally and to eat something picked by my own hand. I served it with Fattoush, a fabulous Middle Eastern salad. (See recipe at 2 May 07)

I adapted this recipe for Sfeeha from Time Life Foods of the World, which I picked up last week at the giant Symphony second-hand book sale. I'm sure I'll be trying more authentic Middle Eastern recipes from this little book.

2 tbsp olive oil
¼ cup pine nuts
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 pound ground lamb
1 large tomato
¼ cup finely chopped green pepper
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
¼ cup lemon juice
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp dried red pepper, crushed
Dash cinnamon
1 tsp salt and pepper to taste
Pizza dough

In a skillet, heat the oil on medium high. When the surface of the oil shimmers, add the pine nuts and stir until they brown. Remove from heat. Put the pine nuts into a mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the dough) and stir together. Work this mixture with your hands to a smooth and fluffy consistency. (I used the Kitchen Aid with paddle attachment – much quicker and cleaner.)

Form the dough into 8 balls about the size of a large egg. Using your fingers, press each ball into a flat round. Divide the lamb mixture onto the 8 rounds of dough and spread evenly with your fingers. Drizzle with more olive oil, if you like. Bake in 400 F oven for about 25 minutes, until the dough is toasty brown. Serve warm.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

If you can't beat 'em eat 'em

Yesterday, I dug up all the tender young dandelions in the garden and mixed them into a lettuce salad. It was the best. Now, if you can believe it, I'm actually waiting for the chickweed to come up. As obnoxious as it is a weed, it is delicious when young. What weeds do you eat?

If you need some incentive to eat your weeds, consider that dandelions are better for you than many salad greens we plant in our gardens. Chickweed is also good for you. Both are high in vitamin C and some trace minerals. Some grocery stores are now selling dandelions as gourmet salad greens. (Although I bet no grocery stores in Saskatoon!) But why pay for something you grow for free? (PS: don't eat weeds from a lawn that has been sprayed.)

By the way, the Saskatoon Farmers' Market is now selling local greenhouse lettuce, cucumbers, green peppers and tomatoes. (Get there early if you want tomatoes.) So, cut the miles on your salad and buy locally.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Hot tips - SASKATCHEWAN STEAK SPICE

Saskatchewan Steak Spice
Coriander, mustard and cumin seeds are grown in Saskatchewan, Sifto salt is mined in Saskatchewan, and the dried chilies came from my garden.

1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp freshly cracked pepper
2 tbsp coarse salt
1 tbsp dried red chilies
1 tbsp dried onion flakes
1 tbsp garlic powder

Heat a skillet on medium heat. Add the coriander, mustard and cumin seeds. Toast the seeds, shaking the pan frequently, until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Cool. Put all the ingredients into a blender and grind until powderized. Store in an air-tight container.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Newspaper Column - FLAX CRACKERS

Published in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, 23 April 2007.

This month, the University of Saskatchewan is celebrating its 100th birthday and that should make your mouth water. Since its inception, the U of S has been working to improve agriculture in this province. The very first building housed the College of Agriculture and today, a large part of the campus is devoted in some way to the production of food.

Take, for instance, the sour cherry. This marvelous fruit tree would not exist here if not for the university, where plant scientists crossed various breeds of cherry from around the world to create one that would survive our winters. Saskatchewan is now one of the world’s biggest exporters of chickpeas and lentils, a success due largely to experimentation at the university. Research is underway to determine the benefits of eating lentils and chickpeas before physical activity which, I’m told, involves a number of Husky athletes running on a treadmill in the name of science.

I don’t suppose there are too many places in North America with a herd of cattle smack in the middle of a major city. But in Saskatoon, commuters on College Drive and Preston Avenue get a little glimpse of agriculture every day.

A few years ago, I visited the U of S test bakery where endless loaves of bread were baked to determine which new varieties of wheat are best for different types of bread. I also toured the Food Centre, a state-of-the-art facility that helps small processers turn their favourite recipes into products for the store shelves. A few months ago, I visited the test kitchen at the College of Agriculture and Bioresources where chef Gerald Henriksen turned local ingredients into delicious foods. And that brings me to Rice Krispie Cake.

Henriksen thought, why not put ground Saskatchewan flax into a batch of Rice Krispie Cake? What a great way to get more fibre into the diet and believe me, you can’t even taste it.
“We know that if we could get North Americans to consume two tablespoons of ground flax a day, we would greatly reduce their chances of getting breast cancer, colon cancer and heart disease,” said Henriksen. “All from a crop we grow here in abundance.”

Among his food creations I sampled were: chocolate pudding made with yellow split peas, a cheesecake made with lentils, a paté of beans, an Eatmore candy bar made with ground flaxseed, white bread full of pea fibre and a creamy Bailey’s and lentil cocktail. Imagine how we might revolutionize the health of our nation if every fast food hamburger bun was made with Saskatchewan pea flour and every candy bar was full of Saskatchewan flax.

Henriksen’s research program has been cancelled and he has gone on to other pursuits, but his words still echo in my ear: “Saskatchewan has got to start patting itself on the back. We have not done a good job of telling a positive story about what we produce here.”
This recipe is adapted from the booklet “World Class Recipes” produced by SaskFlax. If you’d like to make your own Saskatchewan steak spice, there’s a recipe on my food blog at HomeForDinner.blogspot.com.

Flax Crackers
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 cups ground golden flaxseed
1/3 cup brown flaxseeds
2 tbsp steak spice
1 ½ cups warm water
Course salt for sprinkling

In a bowl, combine the flour, salt, ground flaxseed, whole flaxseed and steak spice. Pour in the warm water and stir with a fork to mix. Using your hands, form the dough into a ball. Turn it onto the counter and knead for a minute or so. If it’s sticky, work in a bit more flour. Wrap in plastic and let rest 30 minutes or more.
Cut the ball of dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a 9-inch circle and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spritz with water and sprinkle on the course salt. Bake at 400 F for 10-15 minutes, until blistered and lightly browned. Cool and break the crackers into pieces. Store in an air-tight container.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Anniversary food - BRATWURST

According to my friend Ralph, the symbolic gift for the 12th wedding anniversary is not a precious gem or rich material but something much more ephemeral – sausage. In keeping with this pronouncement, hubby and I spent our anniversary weekend in Ralph and Lisa’s kitchen producing some 45 pounds of sausage in four varieties (bratwurst, breakfast, Italian and koubasa).

We really put my Kitchen Aid mixer to good use, including the sausage stuffing attachment which had, until now, gone unused. I will be sure to share some koubasa with my hunting friends Sue and Vance who provided the wild Saskatchewan goose and venison that we added to the mix.

Now that I think of it, every wedding anniversary should have its symbolic food. Any suggestions?

BRATWURST
This recipe comes from Stocking Up: How to preserve the foods you grow, naturally, ed. Carol Stoner, 1977. (Ralph, if I got anything wrong, send a correction.)

2 ½ lb medium ground veal
2 ½ lb medium ground pork butt
2 tsp ground mace
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp salt
3 tsp white pepper
1 ½ cups water
1 cup bread crumbs soaked in milk

Put everything in a big bowl. Mix endlessly until the mixture becomes very smooth, dense and well incorporated. (This is where the Kitchen Aid dough hook comes in handy.) The proteins in the meat begin to bind as does the gluten in well-kneaded bread. Ralph’s wisdom: “Unlike bread, you cannot knead sausage meat too much.” Press the meat through the sausage maker into pork casing, twisting it off every 6 inches or so.

To cook the brats Wisconsin style (hubby’s contribution): Boil the brats in a pot with several sliced onions, two bottle’s-worth of beer and water to cover. After 10-15 minutes, remove the brats and brown on the BBQ. Serve on a bun with the onions.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Leftover Easter dinner - SHEPHERD'S PIE

Last week, I was on CBC radio talking about lamb. I promised to post any new lamb recipe that I tried over the Easter holiday, so here it is below.

But first, a few good things to know about Saskatchewan lamb: There are about 1000 farmers raising lamb in Saskatchewan. Most of it is sold as Canadian lamb. (About 12% of Canadian lamb is from Saskatchewan.) If you want to be sure of getting Saskatchewan lamb, you should shop at a local butcher who buys direct from a farmer, or buy from the farmer yourself. For names of farmers who sell directly to customers, contact the Sheep Development Board at 306-933-5200.

For Easter dinner, we invited our friends Ramesh and Karen for roast lamb. You’ll find that recipe posted on 15 Feb. 2007. (The lamb came from the organic Lily and Rose farm at Lemberg, thanks to my buddie Annette Stebner, the farmer’s sister.) The roast was delicious however, the Shepherd’s Pie I made the next day with the leftovers was even better.

SHEPHERD'S PIE
Drippings from the roast
1 small onion, chopped
4-5 small carrots, chopped
2 tbsp flour
2 cups of cooked meat, cut in small pieces
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
1½ cups beef or chicken stock
1 ½ cups frozen peas
2 lbs. cooked potatoes
½ cup half-and-half cream
A few dabs of butter

Heat the drippings from the roast, adding one cup of water. Cook the onions and carrots in the liquid until soft and the liquid is reduced by half. Add the flour, stirring it in well. Add the meat, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, rosemary, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir well. Turn up the heat and add the stock. Bring to a boil then turn down and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the frozen peas. Cook for another 15 minutes, until the sauce is dark and thick. Meanwhile, mash the cooked potatoes with the half-and-half and a bit of butter. Pour the lamb mixture into a casserole dish. Top with the mashed potatoes and dot with butter. Bake 375F for about 30 minutes, until the top is golden and bubbling.