Friday, December 19, 2008

Where's the beef? Not Europe

I buy beef from two local sources: from Al Bennett at Meacham and Benlock Farms (which has a booth at the Saskatoon Farmers' Market). I like their meat because it's raised with organic principles and tastes great.

So here's the issue: The European Union has banned beef from Canada and the U.S. because most of the cattle are fed growth hormones (i.e. steroids). The ban is based on fears the hormones are bad for our health. More specifically, that the hormones can affect the male reproductive system and contribute to the rates of colon, prostate and breast cancer.

The World Trade Organization ruled the ban is illegal because there is insufficient scientific evidence to back up the claim that growth hormones in cattle are harmful to people who eat the meat. The WTO ruled that Canada and the U.S. can retaliate against the E.U. by slapping tarrifs on imported foods such as Dijon mustard and Roquefort cheese. (Read more about it here.)

This ban affects Saskatchewan farmers, who produce about 30% of Canada's beef cattle. The U.S. and Canada argue the ban is not really about health, but about protecting the European cattle industry from competition. The Food and Drug Administration has set "accpetable daily intakes" for these hormones at which level it considers them safe for human consumption.

In a newspaper column, Kevin Hursh, a farmer who writes about agricultural issues, sides with Canadian farmers in this dispute but asks: "why can't we produce beef without hormones specifically for the European market?"

Personally, I'd rather not eat meat treated with growth hormones, even at "acceptable" levels. What about you?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pulse facts - with recipes

In case you were wondering...

Here are some facts about the recent travels of Canadian pulse crops, most of which were grown in Saskatchewan:

  • Pulse crops include peas, dry beans, lentils and chickpeas. (Pictured: product from Diefenbaker Seeds)

  • About 25% are used here at home. Brand names for processed beans, lentils and chickpeas include Primo, Unico, Clic and Heinz.

  • The remaining 75% of pulse crops travel to more than 170 countires.

  • 90% of split peas go to India. Top countires for the remaining 10% are China, Cuba, Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates, U.S., South Africa, Pakistan, Columbia and Belgium.

  • 50% of dry beans go to the U.S. and U.K. The remaining top ten customers are Angola, Italy, Dominican Republic, Japan, Portugal, Greece, Chile and Mexico.

  • 50% of chickpeas go to the U.S., U.K., Italy, Pakistan and Spain. The next top five are Jordan, India, Columbia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Chickpeas go to about 60 countires.

  • 45% of lentils go to Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Egypt and Columbia. The rest go to 92 other countires.

  • In 2007, this export was valued at more than $1.3 billion.

These stats come from the January 2009 edition of Pulse Point, magazine of the Saskatchewan pulse industry. Read the full article here.

I also have an article in this edition of Pulse Point on the fabulous cherry chickpea chocolate. Read it here. There's also a page of recipes -- I'll definately be trying the mixed slaw with apples and lentils.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Newspaper editorial on food security

Sometimes you don't know what you've got til it's gone...

An editorial in yesterday's Star Phoenix is warning that we here in Saskatchewan don't appreciate the value of our farmland and that we should think twice before paving it over for cities and golf courses. It points out that countries without farmland - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar - are buying up productive farmland around the world to ensure food security within their own borders.

The editorial suggests that we should maximize our farmland for food production without harming the environment, and appreciate what we have before someone else buys it up.

In August, the provincial government announced a review of land ownership rules in Saskatchewan. Currently, foreigners can own no more than 10 acres of Saskatchewan farmland. An article in the Regina Leader Post notes that some farmers would like to be able to sell their farmland to outside interests because the competition would up the price. The minister of agriculture says he wants to strike a balance to prevent "corporations from all over the world owning big blocks of land here."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Newspaper Column - SUGAR SPARKLERS

Published in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, 15 Dec. 2008

I have way too many cookbooks but that doesn’t mean I don’t want a cookbook for Christmas. Cookbooks make great gifts for anyone who loves to cook. And if, like me, you love to cook with Saskatchewan flavours, there are a few special cookbooks that would be right at home in your kitchen.

One of my favourites is Arab Cooking on a Saskatchewan Homestead by Habeeb Salloum, who emigrated with his parents from Syria to a homestead near Swift Current in the 1920s. It’s brimming with Middle Eastern recipes that can be made with Saskatchewan ingredients such as lentils, chickpeas, yogurt, lamb and mint, along with stories about his childhood on the prairies.

I can also recommend Fonos Fish Favourites by Jonathon Fonos, a fisherman from Dore Lake who sells his catch at the Saskatoon Farmer’s Market, with recipes for pickerel, northern pike, burbot and whitefish. If you’re trying to get more fish in your diet, as Canada’s Food Guide recommends, his fish and his cookbook will help out.

A couple of cute little cookbooks make good use of two abundant prairie ingredients— Zucchini: You Can Never Get Enough and Rhubarb: More than Just Pies. They’re published by Lois Hole and the University of Alberta Press.

I also like the cookbooks of Sam Hofer, who grew up on a Hutterite colony. They’re full of recipes for hardy German cooking adapted to the Saskatchewan experience. Lately, I’ve been dipping into his A Passion for Sauerkraut.

I also find inspiration in Vancouver chef John Bishop’s cookbook Fresh: Seasonal Recipes made with Local Foods. Even though he’s on the West Coast, many of his recipes are right at home in Saskatchewan, such as Dry Rub Pork Ribs with coriander and mustard seeds and Sweet Onion Soup with herbed biscuits.

My Saskatchewan cookbook collection also contains a few vintage examples. The Seasonal Gourmet was written by Barbara Logsdail, the food columnist in the Star Phoenix in the 1980s and early 1990s. She made the best of seasonal vegetables, wild game, honey and berries, but some foods produced in Saskatchewan today weren’t grown here yet, such as lentils and sour cherries. “Canola was just becoming popular at the time and I helped develop some recipes,” says Barbara, who retired to Kingston, Ont., with her husband Doug. “It was a very interesting province to be in as far as we were concerned coming from the east. It was all new—the foods, the tastes and the recipes—and the influence of the different ethnic backgrounds, Ukrainian, German and Italian. I thought it was more interesting than Ontario.”

Another of my favourites is The Prairie Cook’s Book published 25 years ago by Betty Ternier Daniels, then a young mother on the farm at Cochin. Apart from some flavourings and baking ingredients, the recipes are exclusively Saskatchewan. Betty was ahead of her time in the local food movement when she wrote this introduction:
“Self-sufficiency in food production would not mean deprivation. Rather, it would mean reduced fuel consumption (since food would no longer be hauled in from distant places). It would mean more local employment in agriculture and small food industries. It would mean freedom from the vagaries of the international food market. And it would mean that the food-rich prairies would no longer import food from third world countries whose inhabitants haven’t enough food for themselves.”

Here’s wishing you a delicious holiday season with a recipe from Betty’s cookbook.

Sugar Sparklers
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Cream butter and sugar. Separate one egg. Add yolk and second egg to the creamed mixture. Stir in vanilla. Add the flour, baking powder and salt, blending thoroughly. Chill 1 hour. Roll out dough and cut into shapes. Place on baking sheet. Using a fork, whisk the remaining egg white. Brush cookies with egg white and sprinkle with sugar. (To make coloured sugar, shake in a container with one drop of food colouring.) Bake 10 min. at 350F.

Friday, December 12, 2008

CBC Radio calling - SCALLOPED CORN

Food is a wonderful part of the holidays, such as this cherished tree ornament, hand-made in the shape of a slice of olive loaf. (Okay, there's a long story behind it...)

As for special dinners, here are a few recipes I seem to serve over and over:

Scalloped Corn
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
2 cups creamed corn
1/4 cup onion, grated
1/4 cup red pepper, finely diced
1 cup fine bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp butter, melted

Heat oven to 350F. Mix everything in a bowl with 2/3rds of the bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a casserole dish. Toss remaining bread crumbs with melted butter and sprinkle evenly over top. Bake 1 hour. To brown and crisp the top, turn on broiler for a few minutes.

Wild Rice and Dried Cherry Salad
3 green onions, finely chopped
2 cups small broccoli florets
2 cups small cauliflower florets
3 cups cooked wild rice
1 cup dried berries (such as cherry, blueberry or cranberry)
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup thinly sliced almonds (opt.)

Mix everything together in a serving bowl. Dress with a homemade fruity vinaigrette or use a purchased raspberry vinaigrette.
Beet and Walnut Salad
2 beets, cooked
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
1/2 tbsp fruit syrup
3 tbsp olive oil (or canola)
salad greens for four
2 tbsp crumbled goat cheese
(or more if you like!)

Cut cooked beets into a bite-sized dice. Heat 1 tbsp of water in a non-stick skillet. Add the brown sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the walnuts, cooking and stirring until the water has evaporated and the sugar has caramelized on the nuts. Remove from heat.

Make the dressing by whisking together the vinegar, fruit syrup, oil and salt to taste. Toss half the dressing with the salad greens and the other half with the beets. To serve, divide the salad greens onto four plates. Scoop the beets into the middle of the greens, scatter each with walnuts and cheese
Mushroom Orzotto
1 cup sliced mushrooms, sautéed in butter
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive or canola oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 sprig each rosemary, sage and parsley, chopped
4-5 tomatoes, choppedsalt and pepper
6-7 cups water or vegetable stock, boiling
2 cups pearl barley
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup Parmesan cheese
Melt the butter and oil in a stockpot. Sauté the garlic, onion and herbs until soft. Add the tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the barley, stirring until the grains are shiny and little liquid remains in the pan. Add the wine and cook until evaporated.
Add a cup of boiling water (or stock), stirring until it is absorbed. Continue to add water, one cup at a time, stirring until each one is absorbed before adding the next. As you get closer to done, the barley will need more stirring to ensure it does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
When the barley is almost done (that is, when you can bite into it), add the mushrooms. The orzotto is ready when the barley is just tender to the bite. Stir in the parmesan cheese. To serve, sprinkle with a little chopped parsley and perhaps a bit more parmesan cheese.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Pass the honey, honey

Honey is good for the brain. That was the message of Dr. Ron Fessenden at a conference of bee keepers in Saskatoon this week. It sounds like a complicated metabolic process, but the bottom line is that Dr. Fessenden recommends we eat 3 tablespoons of honey every day to help prevent diabetes, cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

This is good news for Saskatchewan. From some reason* honeybees in Saskatchewan produce more honey than bees anywhere else in North America, so we should have no trouble getting our 3 tablespoons a day.

*The reasons include the long hours of summer sunlight, cold winters that kill bee diseases and all those vast fields of flowering canola and alfalfa. It's a bee heaven.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hug a venison hunter - VENISON STEW

What is it about hunters that makes them so generous? Not only did Darlene and Leon invite us to share their fabulous dinner of venison osso buco, morel omelets, roast root vegetables and apple crisp (all local, I might add), but Leon gave us three hind quarters from a recently nabbed deer. My culinary prowess is a little more plebian than Leon's - I lean more toward peasant stews. So I share with you a great stew adapted from a recipe for pork from Saveur magazine (Dec. 2005).

Venison Stew with Apricots and Prunes
3 lbs venison cut in 1” pieces
Salt and pepper
6 tbsp canola oil
6 carrots, peeled and sliced crosswise
4 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup pitted prunes
1 lb (about 5) onions
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Flour for thickening (optional)

For the best results, start the stew on the morning or even the day before you plan to eat it.

Heat 3 tbsp of the canola oil in a heavy pot on medium-high heat. Season the venison with salt and pepper. Brown the meat on all sides, about 5 minutes. Stir in the carrots and cook until slightly tender. Add the tomato paste, apricots and 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 2-3 hours. Add the prunes.

Test the meat for tenderness. If the venison is not yet tender, simmer longer. At this point, you can turn off the heat and let the stew rest until mealtime.

Before serving, peel and cut the onions into wedges. Heat the remaining 3 tbsp of canola oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until they soften. Sprinkle on the balsamic vinegar. Continue cooking until the onions are caramelized and browned. Stir the onions into the hot stew.

If you like a thicker stew, scoop some of the hot liquid into a cup. Briskly stir in 2 tbsp flour until there are no lumps. Stir into the stew and simmer until thickened.

Serve with boiled potatoes or hardy bread.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Saskatchewan InDemand

I can't resist an event featuring Saskatchewan food (especially when they invite me to give a talk). Here are some of the local food products featured at the show Nov 15 & 16 in Saskatoon:

Prairie Sun Orchard - Homemade ice cream from Saskatchewan berries. I can highly recommend their chocolate-cherry-almond bark. No website; call 306-242-7573. You'll also find them at the Saskatoon Farmers' Market.

Petrofka Bridge Orchard - I tried their apple cidre and bought a bag of apples, which were fabulous. So, I asked the owner why we can't buy Saskatchewan apples in the grocery store -- the answer had to do with lacking a storage facility to keep apples fresh in large quantities. So let's get on that...

Bluestone Homegrown Beef - Owner Karla Hicks was giving out samples of her delicious homemade beef jerky. Their Angus cattle are raised on grass, drug free and aged 21 days.

Cedar Creek Organics - Also raised on green pastures and certified organic. Ground, steaks, franks, smokies, roasts and jerky. They have an informative and professional presentation, for which they deserve kudos. I'm told their beef is available at Dad's Nurition Centre in Saskatoon.

Bedard Creek Acres - A unique family business that captures the flavours of wild flowers and herbs in products such as such as Black Pansy Syrup and Creamy Chickweed Salad Dressing. Yummm.

Saskatchewan Mustard Development Commission - They were giving away little bags of mustard seeds - yellow, brown and Oriental - and offering food samples like this Freezer Cabbage Relish. I didn't know you could freeze cabbage!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Newspaper Column - Salatin and Heinberg

Published in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, 24 Nov. 2008.

Joel Salatin is a small farmer with a big problem. Everything he wants to do is against the law or runs afoul of the “food police.” No, he isn’t growing anything illegal. His farm is not much different than farms in olden days, when food was produced organically and sold locally, before the advent of industrial food processes and layers of government bureaucracy.

“People are longing for this type of food,” he says. “Who would you trust—an industry bureaucrat or a local farmer?”

Salatin is a celebrity livestock farmer from Virginia who brought his message to a conference of organic farmers in Saskatoon last week. He’s been on TV, graced the pages of National Geographic, testified at a Congressional hearing and authored six books—all to promote a way of farming he says is under threat.

Case in point: He’s been called a “bio-terrorist” because he lets his chickens run free. The fear is that a sick duck might land and give his birds the avian flu. Industrial wisdom says that poultry should be raised indoors, something he is not willing to do.

Another case in point: Safety rules for the big meat processors are also applied to small butchers—even though the small butchers are not responsible for mass recalls and hundreds of deaths due to contaminated food. Yet these industrial solutions are so onerous and expensive they are putting the small guys out of business. According to industrial wisdom, livestock should be vaccinated and their meat irradiated so people don’t get sick. Salatin’s solution is to raise healthy animals, process them at a family-run facility and sell the meat locally.

Obviously, his customers like his food. His 550-acre farm supplies 1,500 families, 30 restaurants and 10 retail stores in Virginia. This highlights the disconnect between the industrial food system and a growing number of consumers who want old-fashioned food. His advice to organic prairie farmers: buck the trend, hold your ground and fight the industrialization of local food. Your customers will back you all the way.

Salatin’s speech at Organic Connections was followed by Richard Heinberg, a journalist from California who writes about the end of oil, who spoke by video-conference. Heinberg says the food industry—from farming to processing to transportation—produces up to 30% of carbon emissions. Without fossil fuels, modern industrial farming would not exist. Organic farming can help change that, says Heinberg, because it relies less on fossil fuels (no synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which are made from fossil fuels) and it actually removes carbon from the atmosphere.

“A one-percent increase in organic matter in the soil is equivalent to capturing and storing 100 tonnes of CO2 per square kilometre of farmland,” he told the conference. “Agriculture could become our primary way of removing carbon from the atmosphere.”

He predicts a future in which more people produce and buy food locally, in which significant machine power is replaced with human and animal labour, and farms create energy by wind, solar and organic means.

I’m not the rebel that Salatin is and I’m not entirely convinced by Heinberg that oil will run out soon, but their perspectives give us food for thought. There are other good reasons to eat locally-produced “old fashioned” food—it’s healthier, tastier, better for the environment and supports rural families right here in Saskatchewan.

Blue Potato Pakoras
For the recipe see here.

Friday, November 07, 2008


I confess, I didn't carve pumpkins for Halloween -- I drew faces on them with a black marker. Partly because I'm lazy, but mostly because I wanted to save them for eating. My husband isn't a great fan of pumpkin pie so I've had to find a few other good uses for used pumpkin.

First, I quarted the pumpkins, scraped out the seeds and roasted them in the oven at 350F for about one hour and 15 minutes.

I tried a few recipes, such as a Pumpkin Chocolate Cake (recipe) and Maple Pumpkin Mousse (recipe). But my favourite isn't dessert at all - it's Pumpkin Gnocchi.

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Sage Butter Sauce
3 cups puréed pumpkin
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled
Several fresh sage leaves (about 10)
Parmesan cheese for serving

In a bowl, mix the pumpkin and egg. Stir in the flour, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Knead briefly on the counter to incorporate all the flour. Wrap in plastic and place in the freezer for 30 min. (If you want to rest the dough longer than 30 min, place it in the refrigerator.)

Bring a pot of water to boil.

Using a teaspoon, scoop up a ball of dough, roll it off the teaspoon with your fingers and drop it into the boiling water. You must dip the teaspoon in a glass of cold water between each scoop to prevent sticking. When the gnocchi float to the surface, scoop them out of the boiling water with a slotted spoon. Reserve in a serving bowl. Working in batches, cook the gnocchi until the dough is used up.

Meanwhile, melt the butter, oil, garlic and sage. Before serving, remove the garlic. Pour the butter mixture over the gnocchi and toss lightly to coat. Serve sprinkled with parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Flavours of India - BLUE POTATO PAKORAS

I get rather excited when I find an "exotic" recipe that can be made almost entirely with ingredients from Saskatchewan. Pakoras fit the bill. I used chickpea flour from Diefenbaker Seed Processors of Elbow, the cumin was given to me by a local farmer and the potatoes were grown by my nephew Even on the family farm at Craik. This recipe was adapted from TimeLife Foods of the World: The Cooking of India.

1/2 cup chickpea flour (also called besan)
1/4 tsp baking soda
5 tbsp cold water
1/4 cup grated onion
1 cup grated raw blue potato
3 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 hot chili (fresh or dried) finely chopped
1 tsp salt
canola oil for frying

Whisk the chickpea flour, baking soda and water to make a batter. Stir in the remaining ingredients except the canola oil.

Pour the canola oil into a saucepan to a depth of two inches. Heat on medium heat until a baking thermometer reaches 350F. The surface of the oil will shimmer and a drop of batter will sizzle and brown.

Scoop a level spoonful (a heaping tbsp) of batter and drop it into the hot oil. When the pakora is nicely brown, flip and cook the other side. This should take 5-6 minutes. (If the pakoras brown too quickly, there is a danger the batter at the centre will be uncooked. Adjust the heat if necessary.) Fry several pakoras at once but don’t crowd them in the pot. Remove cooked pakoras to a paper towel.

Serve warm, perhaps with Mango Mustard Chutney from Chatty’s Indian Spice of Saskatoon.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Cooking on TV

Earlier this week I was in Regina to create a series of cooking segments for "Living Saskatchewan" on CBC TV. We shot the segments in the kitchen of Nancy McEwen (pictured here with me - that's her on the left and me on the right). The theme was international dishes cooked with Saskatchewan ingredients. A couple of the recipes are already on this blog -- the others will be posted soon.

- blue potato pakoras
- chicken cacciatore
- prairie berry clafoutis
- fattoosh
- asian coleslaw

Stay tuned -- I'll let you know when it airs.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Newspaper Column - VENISON STEW

Published in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, 20 Oct 2008.

My husband came home from work the other day with a leg of venison under his arm. He doesn’t hunt but we have plenty of friends who do. And lucky for us, they like to share. I didn’t grow up eating wild meat, but I’ve come to appreciate it in many ways.

Wild meat is pure, lean and healthy—very little meat we eat these days is as naturally-raised and unadulterated as wild game. It’s guaranteed to be fresh and local, something we can’t always ascertain when buying meat at the grocery store. I also appreciate the fact that wild animals live free and unfettered lives, doing what comes naturally to them; that can’t be said of most of the animals raised for human consumption.

Thanks to our friends who hunt, our freezer has been blessed with venison, moose and elk—some in the form of sausage and pepperoni sticks—as well as goose, duck and grouse, all cut and wrapped.

Some people dislike the “gamey” flavour, but I maintain that if the animal is slaughtered correctly and cooked properly, most picky eaters could not tell the difference. Just the other day, I made my husband’s favourite meatloaf with a mix of grass-fed beef and elk. One of my most successful recipes is a slow-cooked stew from Portugal which is flavoured with cinnamon, cumin and allspice. The recipe calls for beef but I make it with moose.

Another successful recipe is beef bourguignon, a traditional stew from France made with bacon, red wine and vegetables. I made it with elk and the meat was delicious. My husband John has a nice touch with venison: cut the meat in 3/4 inch slices, cross-hatch it with the edge of a plate (to flatten and tenderize), soak in milk 5 minutes, shake in a bag of flour, salt and pepper, then quick fry in hot lard.

The goose came to us as a bag of freshly cut breasts which I flattened and rolled with a mix of potato, apple and caraway seeds (a Mario Batali recipe) which we ate at Christmastime. It wasn’t exactly the golden goose of Dickens’ Christmas Carol, but I thanked my benefactor all the same.

A couple of years ago, I decided to try hunting myself. I enrolled in an online hunter education course that could be completed at one’s leisure, but somehow I never found the time—always too busy with my own garden, picking and canning and cooking. Hunting season came and went. Now I’m having second thoughts. Perhaps back in prehistoric times, my ancestors were the gatherers and the farmers, not the hunters of the tribe. Perhaps it is their legacy that I should wield a hoe, not a gun, and rather than take up hunting, I should cultivate friends who do.

So to Jeff, Sue, Vance, Rick, Greg and Mark (of the leg of venison) thank you for sharing your bounty. Would you like some potatoes?

This recipe comes from Saveur magazine (for original recipe, click here). For more recipes with wild Saskatchewan ingredients, click on the word "wild" at the bottom of this post.

Venison Stew
1/2 tsp. whole allspice berries
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. whole cloves
4 lbs. venison roast
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup tomato purée
(I use my own tomatoes, peeled)
3/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
16 slices day-old soft French or Italian bread
Leaves from 3 sprigs mint

Put allspice, cumin, and cloves on a small square of cheesecloth, gather corners, and tie shut with kitchen twine. Put spice bag, meat, garlic, bay leaves, onions, tomato sauce and purée, wine, ketchup, cinnamon, 3 cups water, and salt to taste into a large heavy-bottomed pot. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until meat is very tender and falling off the bone, 5–6 hours. Adjust seasonings.

Transfer meat with a slotted spoon to a large bowl, then shred with two forks, discarding fat and bones, and put into a large serving dish. Skim fat from meat broth and discard bay leaves and spice bag. Arrange bread in another large serving dish and scatter mint on top. Ladle broth over bread and mint and set aside briefly to allow bread to swell and absorb broth before serving. Serve meat and broth-soaked bread together.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Finally, my name in lights... well... plastic letters!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The bean harvest

In keeping with my New Year's resolution to eat more beans, I grew beans in my garden for the first time. (That is, dried beans as opposed to green beans.) Here is my crop in its entirety - navy beans (white), Norwegian (red) and Jacob's cattle (speckled pink). Not sure yet how I'll cook my beans, but it will have to be something really special. Stay tuned...

Monday, October 06, 2008

Leg o' venison

John came home today with this lovely leg of venison, shot this morning near Saskatoon by our friend Mark. I love wild meat, and I love it when our hunting friends decide to share with us. Just last week, Jeff showed up with a box of venison, elk and moose, including bratwurst and pepperoni sticks. (I made elk bourguignon.) What exactly becomes of this leg o' venison will be the subject of future posts.

(A few days later...) John made this fabulous venison stew with all the little tidbits left over after cutting up the leg. He sautéed them in bacon fat. Added carrots, cooked potatoes and frozen peas, with enough water to simmer everything. I added some chanterelle mushrooms (which had been sautéed in butter and frozen), crumbled sage, fresh thyme and fresh oregano. We also added some of that lovely jelly left in the pot after cooking a ham. Seasoned it with salt and pepper. Yummy...

Friday, October 03, 2008

Patio dinner in October!

Here's proof that this has been an extraordinarily lovely fall in Saskatchewan.

Here we are enjoying an outdoor patio dinner on Oct. 3! (Joanne, Tim and John). The all-Saskatchewan menu included: lamb chops, chanterelle mushroom orzotto (that's risotto, but made with pearl barley), grilled zucchini and for dessert, saskatoon berry streusel. Cheers!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Saskatchewan Borscht in a Jar

Ever make a soup so good you could bottle and sell it? Elsie Rollie did. Her friend Neil convinced her to go into business and last year, the Yesteryear's Ukrainian Borscht Corp. was born on River Street in Moose Jaw. Elsie says this version is even better than her mom's because it's fat free.

I dropped into her bistro store yesterday -- the very day she launched a new bean and bacon soup she called BAMM because it packs a little more heat than the borscht. (Apparently, Emeril has trademarked BAAM so she used this creative spelling!) John and I opened the jar of BAMM for supper tonight and it was great. By the way, Elsie's bistro is not a restaurant, but she's happy to serve up sample bowls of her soups -- complete with sour cream, of course.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sustainable Gourmet (& other speaking engagements)

Here's a great way to eat for a great cause. It's the 3rd annual Sustainable Gourmet Dinner sponsored by the Saskatchewan Environmental Society. (Click here for more info.) I'm going to be a guest speaker at the dinner, but really, you should come for the food! It's Oct. 4 in Saskatoon. Tickets are $65 (partial tax receipt) from Rochelle 665-1915. Hope to see you there!

Other speaking engagements on my calendar:
Champagne -
Premier Festival - Saskatoon - Sept. 26, 8 pm.
Eat Locally, Think Globally - Moose Jaw Public Library - Sept. 30, 7 pm.
Eat Locally, Think Globally - Carlyle King Library - Saskatoon - Oct 21, 7 pm.
Eat Locally, Think Globally - Grosvenor Park United Church, Cumberland and 14th, Oct. 19, 10 am.
Learn to Make Pasta - City Park Collegiate - Saskatoon - Oct 22, 7 pm. (Call Suzanna to register at 665-9002)

Eat Locally, Think Globally - Bethel United Church - Saskatoon (5th St & Munroe) - Oct 26, supper 6:00, talk 7 pm.
Eat Locally, Think Globally -
SaskInDemand - Saskatoon - Nov. 15, 11 am, Nov. 16, 1:30 pm.
Saskatchewan Fruit Growers Association conference - Saskatoon - Jan. 17, 2009

World Food Day in Saskatchewan

Here's a great event in Saskatoon to celebrate World Food Day.

Take a Bite out of Climate Change: Local communities lead the way!

When: Sat., 18 Oct., 6:00 to 9:30 pm
Where: Third Avenue United Church, 304 3rd Ave N.

Come for good local appetizers, healthy eating information, community displays and inspiring presentations about climate change solutions and building resilient local food systems.

"From Hunger to Health: Food production and environmental sustainablity in Ethiopia" - Muktar Abduke Ahmed - SOS Sahel, Ethiopia

"Reclaiming Indigenous Food Culture: the Muskoday First Nation vision" - Harvey Knight, Muskoday Organic Workers Coop, Muskoday First Nation

"Feeding the Heart of the City: the core neighbourhoods build good food alternatives" - Karen Archibald, CHEP, Saskatoon

Sponsored by The Saskatoon Food Coalition, Oxfam Prairie Region and Beyond Factory Farming. For more information contact 242-4097 or

Friday, September 26, 2008

CBC Radio calling - Potatoes

I love potatoes any which way but mashed. But the most unusual way I've ever eaten potatoes is when they're dessert. Here's a great recipe for Italian potato cake.

My other potato favourites include: Nice Salad, Potato Fish Cakes and my sister-in-law Sherrie's twice baked potatos. (I don't have the recipe but I promise to post it asap.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fruity enough for ya?

My friend Marlene is not shy. So when she saw a tree laden with plums, she knocked on the homeowner's door and asked if she could pick them. He was amenable and Marlene invited me along. Don't we all need friends like that! Come to think of it, wouldn't it be nice to have a registry in Saskatoon so that people with unused fruit could hook up with a willing picker?

This weekend, we picked pears at Dick and Verna's house on Temperance Street. They have a big old pear tree that produces oodles of fruit. We canned them on Sunday and Tuesday evenings (12 jars in all). John helped peel and chop the pears while I sterilized the jars and made a light sugar syrup.

The recipe for the sugar syrup comes from the canning Bible "Stocking Up" --- 1 cup sugar, 1 cup honey and 4 cups water. Heat the syrup so the sugar and honey disolve. Simmer the chopped pears in the syrup until they are just soft. Scoop the pears into the jars and top up with the syrup, tapping to release air bubbles. Boil the sealed jars in water for 20 minutes.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Published in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, 15 September 2008.

Eating locally can cut the miles on the food we eat, but it certainly hasn’t cut the mileage on my car. There is no “one stop shopping” for local food, so filling the larder requires some creative logistics and more than one trip. For instance, for a couple of weeks in August, I was a regular at the STC bus depot in Saskatoon. I was there to pick up a relatively rare and coveted commodity: chanterelle mushrooms from the woods near Nipawin. About sixty pounds in all, most of which I resold to family and friends.

For a couple of years, I drove to La Ronge to search for wild mushrooms. Given that I wasn’t all that successful, the STC method provided a lot more mushrooms for a lot
less miles. In the past, I have driven into the country to pick sour cherries at a u-pick farm, but this year, my friend Judith went to France for a month and invited me to pick her cherry tree while she was gone.
However, I did get down Valley Road once to pick strawberries and twice for wild saskatoons. My family owns a piece of prairie on the Saskatchewan River where, after picking our fill of saskatoons, we shared a picnic on a high bluff with spectacular views.

In recent years, I’ve been to a fish farm, a spice farm, a salt mine, a bison ranch, a blueberry festival and a flour mill. I don’t mind driving all over God’s green acres in the pursuit of food. It’s a lot more fun and a lot more scenic than a trip to the grocery store, and it’s great to meet the people who produce the food I eat. There is a growing controversy about food miles and the assumption that closer is always better for the environment. Food that is shipped in large quantities in fuel-efficient trucks might emit less greenhouse gas than something produced locally and brought to the city once a week in an old gas-guzzling jalopy.

On top of that, the distance travelled is just one factor in the equation. Other processes can contribute to the carbon footprint such as whether the food is produced organically (less fossil fuels) or refrigerated for a long time (more fossil fuels). To illustrate this point, a study found that grass-fed lamb raised in New Zealand and shipped to England had a smaller carbon footprint than grain-fed lamb raised in England. Another researcher calculated that it takes less fossil fuel to fly beans from Kenya to England than to grow them in England, in part because Kenyan farmers work the land by hand, not big machines, and fertilize with natural manure (synthetic fertilizers are made with fossil fuels).

So, in terms of the environmental footprint, is it better to buy local greenhouse lettuce in winter or imported organic lettuce grown in warmer climes? I’m not sure, and frankly, I’m not counting.

There are other good reasons to eat locally. Local food is usually fresher, healthier and tastes better. I meet the people who produce my food and ask questions about how it was grown or raised, what’s been added to it, where it was butchered or when it was picked. Every dollar I spend stays in the local economy supporting farm families. It also encourages local processors, which creates jobs in the community, and it builds a sense of interest and pride in what Saskatchewan agriculture has to offer here at home and around the world. And every now and then, I have an excuse to jump in my car, get out of the city and go for a little drive.

If you’re interested in local food and environmental issues, check out the annual Sustainable Gourmet Dinner Oct. 4 in Saskatoon, where I’ll be a guest speaker. Details are available here.

Curried Mushroom and Lentil Soup
1 tbsp canola oil
1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger root, minced
1 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp dried thyme
2 cups Saskatchewan lentils
8 cups chicken stock or water
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a soup pot. Sauté the onion, garlic and ginger until soft. Add the mushrooms, curry powder and thyme. When the mushrooms begin to wilt stir in the lentils, coating them well with the oil and spices. Cook, stirring until all the moisture has been absorbed. Add the chicken stock (or water). Simmer until the lentils are cooked, about an hour. Add more liquid if the soup gets too thick. Season with salt and pepper to your taste.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Terra Firma dinner highlights

Jenni Willems served a fabulous Sask-Italian dinner at her restaurant, New Ground Cafe, in Birch Hills to celebrate her selection to attend the Slow Food "Terra Firma" congress in Turin this fall.
Here's Jenni serving appetizers al fresco

Blue potato salad

Palate cleanser - crab apple popsicle

Northern pike and new potato torta with green tomato aioli

Bison ragu with polenta

Yummy chocolate dessert (too busy eating to take a picture!)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cherry Red

I'm not sure which is lovelier -- my Saskatchewan cherry pie or my Lee Valley watering can. (Considering that the creator of Lee Valley Tools grew up in Saskatchewan, I consider them both to be local commodities!) Thanks for the Evans cherries, Judith!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

CBC Radio calling - A harvest dinner

During harvest, my dad's supper was packed into a lunchbox and included nothing that couldn't be eaten with one hand (because he wanted to eat while he drove the combine). Other farmers go to the other extreme, stopping to eat a hot picnic supper delivered to the field with the whole family. My ideal harvest supper would be somewhere in between -- a cold meal that I would stop to eat in the shade of the grain truck or a grove of trees. Of course, it would be a Saskatchewan meal...

Cold chicken
Homemade canned pears
Zucchini cookies (below)

(from the cookbook Zucchini: You Can Never Have Enough by John Butler)
1/2 cup soft butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
pinch baking soda
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup grated zucchini
1 cup raisins
1 cup rolled oats

Note: If the zucchini is young and fresh, I leave the skin on for a nice green fleck in the cookies. However, if the skin is thick I would peel the zucchini first.

Cream together the butter, egg and vanilla. Mix the baking soda into the honey, and stir into the creamed butter. Sift the flours, baking powder and salt over the creamed mixture and blend well. Add the zucchini, raisins and oats and blend until mixed. Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. (I prefer to use a silicon mat rather than grease the pan.) Bake at 350F for 10 minutes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Local substitution - SOUR CHERRY BBQ MARINADE

The August issue of Food & Wine has a recipe for barbecue sauce made with tamarind because it "keeps the honey...from becoming too sweet..." Well, I thought, Saskatchewan cherries are tart. Why not a substitution? And so was born this sour cherry BBQ marinade. I first used it for baked pork ribs and today, I used it to marinate moose t-bone steaks. While the steaks were grilling, I boiled down the marinade to make a sauce. (Thank you Sue and Vance for the steaks. They were delicious!)

Sour Cherry BBQ Marinade
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 cup frozen tart cherries, thawed
2 cloves garlic, thinly slices

Mix together the ingredients, pressing on the cherries to release their juice.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Newspaper Column - ANNE'S APPLE CAKE

Published in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, 18 August 2008.

Call me a sour puss, but I love crab apples. Growing up on the farm, I ate buckets of crab apples. I wasn’t permitted to touch the apples on the “pie” tree, which were larger and sweeter with yellow skin, but I could eat all the crab apples I could stomach. Now, I get my fill of crab apples from my neighbour’s tree which hangs over my back fence in Saskatoon.

While crab apples would make a nice pie, they are awfully small to peel and chop enough for a filling. So, I’m looking for a good source of Saskatchewan-grown apples for fresh eating and pies.
Apples have a long history in Saskatchewan, and it’s not always a happy one. The pioneers planted apples and several farms, such as that of Seager Wheeler at Rosthern, had enough apples to sell to the public. With the growing popularity of automobiles “a drive to pick fruit at a local orchard was seen as a good fall outing for the family,” according to a history of apple production published on the University of Saskatchewan website.

However, these apples were not bred for our climate and many orchards were decimated by the harsh winter of 1942. Plant scientists began work to breed new varieties of apples that could withstand the prairie cold. One of the early results, called Norland, helped to revive apple orchards in the 1980s. Since then, other new varieties have been released by the U of S, such as Prairie Sun and Prairie Sensation.

In a happy twist of fate, the cold climate is now seen as a benefit—winter kills many of the bugs that plague apples, so fewer pesticides if any are needed in the orchards, making Saskatchewan one of the best places in Canada to grow organic and pesticide-free apples. However, while the Saskatchewan apple industry shows potential, it is not yet ready to hit the commercial market. It will be very hard to break into the grocery stores, which require large quantities of perfect uniform apples with a long shelf life, but hopefully, within a few years we’ll see more u-pick orchards, farmers’ markets and family farms selling bushels of their homegrown apples.

According to Mike Noel, owner of the Petrofka Bridge Orchard north of Saskatoon, many local orchards were hit this spring with cold, hail and high winds, seriously reducing their harvest. Still, he’ll have enough apples to make and sell his Petrofka Bridge Orchard apple cidre. The Saskatchewan Fruit Growers Association lists several apple u-pick orchards on its website. Perhaps a drive to an apple orchard is still a good fall outing for the family.

Last week, I picked “pie” apples from my friend Judith’s tree and have already made this cake twice. The recipe comes from Anne Daeger of Muenster, who I met at the Humboldt Oktoberfest. She’s had the recipe for so long she can’t remember where it originated. Thanks for sharing, Anne!

Anne’s Apple Cake
For the cake:
5 large apples, peeled and sliced
1 cup soft butter or margarine
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 3/4 cup flour

For the topping:
1 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup cake dough
2/3 cup flour

For the cake: Cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Stir in vanilla, salt, baking powder and flour. Remove 2/3 cup of cake dough and reserve for the topping. Press the remaining dough into a greased 9x12 inch pan. (I use a 9x9 inch pan for a thicker cake.) Cover with sliced apples.

For the topping: Sprinkle the apples evenly with sugar and cinnamon. Mix the reserved cake dough with the flour until it resembles crumbs. Spread over the apples. Bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes or until the top is light brown. Anne suggests serving it with cream.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Mushroom Bus

Yea for provincial buses, which this week brought me 50 pounds of chanterelle mushrooms from the forest near Nipawin. Well, I didn't eat all 50 pounds myself, but resold them to my foodie friends. It would be nice to be able to buy Saskatchewan mushrooms in the grocery store (so why aren't there any?) but failing that, thank goodenss for the bus.

Tonight I made pasta with mushroom sauce. On the side, that's a couple of deep fried zucchini flowers, baby zucchini still attached. Yummy...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Saskatchewan menus

I would eat on the patio every evening in summer, and I would make every meal a Saskatchewan meal. Here are two recent examples:

Grilled lamb chops with chanterelle mushroom and mint sauce, new potatoes and garden beans, carrots and peas with a mustard mayonnaise. Strawberry shortcake.

Meatloaf made with beef and elk, glazed with Droolin' Devil hot mustard sauce, panfried potatoes and a baby beet and beet green salad with feta and candided walnuts. (close up of beet salad)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Prelude to Terra Madre: A Slow Feast

Exciting news! Jennifer Willems, chef and proprietor of the New Ground Cafe in Birch Hills, Saskatchewan, has been chosen to represent Canada at the Slow Food "Terra Madre" conference in Turin, Italy. Jenni has developed quite a following for her daily chalkboard menus that blend local ingredients, world flavours and her Metis heritage.

As a prelude to the trip in October, Jenni is staging a special five-course dinner on Sunday, August 24, 4-9 pm. It starts with appetizers on the lawn, soup in the kitchen garden, then into the cafe for the rest of the Sask-Italian meal. She'll compile a scrapbook of the event to take with her to Italy. It's $75 per ticket and selling quickly. For tickets, call Jenni at her restaurant at 306-749-2529.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Blue chicken eggs

My little freinds Ada and Emma asked if I dyed these eggs. No, they're naturally blue. They were given to me by my friend Eva, who got them from a local farmer. I'm not sure what kind of chickens give blue eggs, but I'm sure they're not blue.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Asian flavours - VIETNAMESE SALAD

Other than the dipping sauce, this dish can be made entirely with Saskatchewan-based ingredients. (Adapted from Cooking Light)

Vietnamese Salad
1/2 of a 450-gram box angel hair pasta
Dipping sauce (see below)
1/2 cup carrots, cut in thin matchsticks
1/2 cup cucumber, seeds removed, cut in thin matchsticks
1/2 cup cabbage, thinly sliced (optional)
1 pound pork or beef, or a combination
1/4 cup green onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp fish sauce
2 handfuls of lettuce
Fresh cilantro and mint for garnish, chopped

Cook pasta in salted water. Drain, rinse and cool. Meanwhile, make the dipping sauce (see below).

Boil two cups of water with a dash of salt. Cooking each separately, boil the carrots, cucumber and cabbage just until they start to soften. Remove with a slotted spoon and rinse in cold water. Add vegetables to the bowl of dipping sauce.

Mix together the ground meat, green onion, cilantro, sugar and fish sauce. Add a dash of salt and pepper. Form into ten patties. Cook patties on a grill or skillet until nicely browned and cooked through. Add the warm patties to the dipping sauce and vegetables.

To serve, place the noodles on a platter. Circle with lettuce. Scoop vegetables and meat patties on top. Pour on dipping sauce. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and mint.

Dipping Sauce – Mix together:
1 large garlic, minced
1 hot pepper, chopped
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/2 cup red-wine vinegar

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Saskatoon berry time

The saskatoon berries are awesome this year! They're so sweet, even my non-Saskatchewan husband likes them! (He thinks saskatoon berries are an acquired taste, but I think it's genetic.) Here we are after a couple hours picking berries at the old O'Hara homestead on the South Saskatchewan River. I plan to can a whole bunch of berries to eat on my morning muesli all through the winter.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Newspaper Column - POTATO BELLS

Published in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, 21 July 2008.

The United Nations has declared 2008 the Year of the Potato, so it is appropriate that we pay homage to this humble tuber which grows so well on the prairie. In fact, potatoes are the only vegetable grown in Saskatchewan in sufficient quantities to meet local demand. In other words, we are potato self-sufficient. (Excluding potatoes, we import about 97% of all vegetables sold in local grocery stores.)

Saskatchewan farmers also produce seed potatoes which, thanks to an unexplained phenomenon called “northern vigor” are in demand by potato farmers south of the border. Northern vigor means the plants grow faster and produce more potatoes than seed potatoes from warmer climates. (This may be due to the longer days, cooler nights or colder winters on the prairies, but nobody quite knows for sure. Research is ongoing.)

The United Nations chose to celebrate the potato because of its growing popularity around the world, especially in developing countries where the potato has great potential for alleviating the hunger caused by higher prices for wheat, corn and rice. Potatoes are also part of the U.N.’s mandate to improve the lives of women in poorer countries where farming and marketing is often women’s work, so if more potatoes are consumed, women and their children will benefit.

In my family, the potato patch was my dad’s project. As children, we helped to plant and harvest 400 hills of potatoes, and later when the harvest was in the cold room, we kept the potatoes “sprouted” through the winter months. We ate a lot of potatoes when I was growing up. When I got my own home, dad kept me supplied with potatoes until a couple of years ago when he retired from the farm. Now I grow my own. My plot at the City Park Community Garden is stuffed full of fingerling potatoes, which are long and yellow and never need to be peeled.

The potato has an interesting history. It originated in the Andes Mountains of South America, where it was a staple and sacred food of the Incas. The farmers of Peru still grow 2,800 different varieties of potatoes. Spanish explorers took the potato back to Europe in the 1500s, where it was not quite as popular as South American gold—many people thought potatoes were poisonous and could cause a whole host of diseases such as leprosy.

Because potatoes were so easy to cultivate and produced so much food for so little effort (as compared, say, to wheat) it was believed that anyone who grew them would become chronically lazy. Suspicious farmers refused to plant them, let alone eat them. It wasn’t until the kings and queens of Europe began touting the pleasures of potatoes (and growing them in the royal gardens) that the rest of the population caught on. Potatoes have seen their dark days. In the mid-1800s in Ireland, potato crops were destroyed by a blight, causing widespread starvation and prompting many people to leave Ireland for greener pastures in North America.

Europeans eat more potatoes per capita than anyone else. North Americans come second (much of that as French fries), but the largest producer of potatoes is now China, attesting to the potato’s potential for feeding the growing populations of the world.

Potatoes are very good for you. Eaten with dairy products, they provide almost all the elements of a healthy diet. Most world cuisines include potatoes from perogies to curries to gratins, even, according to the UN website, potato-based desserts. Personally, I like potatoes any which way but mashed. Now that delicious baby potatoes are at the farmers’ markets—and a garden near you—it is a perfect time to celebrate the International Year of the Potato.

Potato Bells
Peel and wash one large potato per person. Using a melon baller, scoop out half-circle “bells” of raw potato. Cook the “bells” in salted boiling water just until tender. Drain. Smother the warm potatoes in melted butter. Fry in a hot skillet until the potatoes are golden brown.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Eating locally pays

Reported in the Boston Globe, the American public radio program The Splendid Table is doing a one-year study on eating sustainably. It asked 14 participants across the country to keep track of what they spend on a local food diet -- 80 percent of their food items are from organic, regional sources within 500 miles of their homes. Seven out of 14 participants reported spending less on food. Five said they spent the same as usual. (Which, according to the Globe, might be less anyway given the rise in food prices.) The fate of the other two participants wasn't reported.

I reckon I spend way less on food by eating locally, simply because I'm buying almost no processed or exotic foods, which usually cost more. I often buy in bulk (lentils, beans), direct from the farmer (eggs, beef), when it's in season, abundant and less expensive (strawberries, asparagus) and harvest my own small garden (herbs, tomatoes). It's a little more work, but it saves a few bucks!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Newspaper Column - HOT MUSTARD FISH

Published in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, 16 June 2008.

Hot enough for you? How I long to hear those words. When I’m asked, Hot enough for you? I never say yes. I love the heat and soak it up as if I’m stoking my fires for the long winter ahead. No matter how hot it gets, it’s not hot enough for me. Until recently.

Just the other day, I had to admit it was hot enough. Of course, I was not speaking of the weather because that has definitely not been hot enough. I was referring to the Droolin’ Devil Mustard Gourmet Habanero Hot Sauce that was slathered all over my hamburger. I have always been a fan of mustard, so it stands to reason I would be a fan of hot mustard, too – within reason. At 1,500 Scoville Units, this mustard hot sauce is mild, relatively speaking, which is just hot enough for my palate. But what makes it extra special is that it is – from start to finish – a local food. The mustard is grown here, the sauce is made here and it’s sold right around the corner from my house in City Park. It doesn’t get more local than that.

The mustard hot sauce is the culinary creation of Craig Lowenberg, a hot sauce aficionado who moved his business from Calgary to Saskatoon just in time to catch the wave of the economic boom. His other creations include Uncle Big’s Serial Killer Hot Sauce which, at one million Scoville Units, is the hottest hot sauce made in Canada. You might say, it’s a hot commodity in a hot economy.

“The trend is that nothing’s hot enough anymore,” says Craig, who grew up at Grenfell, near Regina.

He and his wife Lorein moved to Saskatoon in summer 2006 to escape the fast pace of Calgary, where they couldn’t afford the high price of retail space. They wanted to live and raise a family in the friendlier pace of Saskatoon. It was a good move. Their daughter was born last fall and sales of their hot sauces have jumped nearly 300%.

“It gives you more of a chance to focus on what makes you happy,” says Craig. “Since we’ve been back, the new hot sauce recipes we’ve created won three international awards.”

One of their hottest items (in terms of sales) is a green hot sauce commemorating the Saskatchewan Roughriders – it’s a big seller in Alberta, too. In fact, sales in Alberta have increased since he moved here because he has more time to focus on that side of his business. “I always thought at one point I would retire back to Saskatchewan, but I didn’t think it would be thirty years sooner,” he says, “I’m really glad we moved when we did.”

So am I. Small processors like the Lowenbergs are critical to Saskatchewan’s future as a food producing province – one that not only grows the raw product but also processes it into foods we can eat. Too often, raw foods produced here are shipped to another province for processing, and then shipped back to our grocery stores with nary a hint that they originated here.
No wonder it’s so hard to find the label “Made in Saskatchewan” on the grocery shelf. The Saskatchewan Food Processors Association has more 50 members producing hundreds of food products (listed at and sold at the Saskatchewan Made Marketplace). There are many more small food processors who aren’t members of the SFPA who sell at farmers’ markets and local stores.

I love to hunt down these locally-made products and, when I find something I like, I become a loyal customer. So, the next time someone asks if it’s hot enough for me, I’ll tell them that Saskatchewan’s food economy is just heating up.

Hot Mustard Fish
Slather fish fillets (Saskatchewan fish, of course) with Droolin' Devil Mustard Gourmet Habanero Hot Sauce. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Press course fresh bread crumbs onto both sides of the fish. Generously butter the bottom of a baking dish. Place fillets in the baking dish. Dab the top of the fillets with butter. Bake at 350F for about 15 minutes, until the fish is flakey and cooked. Baking time varies depending on the thickness of the fish, so keep an eye on it.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Down comes the house - PORK RAGOUT WITH FENNEL SEEDS

Rosie's house came down yesterday. In honour of our old friend, I cooked a Czech dinner (Rosie was of Czech ancestry and it was her first language, eventhough she was born in Saskatchewan.) Now that we have a big hole in the ground we can start building our new house.

For years I'm been bugging John to redo my kitchen. He builds gorgeous kitchens for "clients," an elite group of people of which I am not a member. But all that nagging has paid off. Not only do I get a new kitchen, I get a whole new house!

Pork Ragout with Fennel Seeds
(Adapted for local ingredients from The Cooking of Vienna’s Empire, Time-Life Books)

2 lbs. pork cut into cubes
3 tbsp butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 1/2 cups meat stock
1 cup thinly sliced morel mushrooms

Sprinkle the pork with salt and pepper. Melt the butter on medium heat, add the onions and sauté until soft. Stir in the pork and lightly brown. Sprinkle with the flour and fennel seeds and stir together well. Cook on low heat for several minutes, stirring to prevent the pork from sticking. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Turn to low, add the mushrooms, cover and simmer 1 hour. Adjust seasoning as needed. Serve on buttered noodles.