Monday, December 30, 2013

Prairie Recipes - Gingersnaps

Skating one evening at the Meewasin rink, I thought of Mattie Mayes. In 1910, Mattie, her husband, Joe, their children and grandchildren, together with a dozen other families from Oklahoma took up homesteads north of Maidstone. In many ways, they were like every other pioneer in those early days of Saskatchewan. In one way, they were quite different: Mattie and Joe were former slaves.

In 1908, Oklahoma became a state and passed new laws to discriminate against its citizens of African American descent, segregating the schools and taking away their vote. Devoutly Christian, the Mayes and their neighbours saw Canada as God's Promised Land.

It would be nice to think they didn't face discrimination in Saskatchewan, but that isn't true. Editorials said they were unsuitable as farmers. Some white neighbours refused to send their children to the same school. The Canadian government took swift measures to stop more Black Americans from coming north.

But they also experienced extreme kindness, often bonding with their neighbours of all ethnicities through the sharing of fellowship and food.

In the Maidstone community cookbook, Preserving Our Past for the Future, Claire Paton recalls as school children gathering to ice skate on a pond on the Mayes farm: "Without fail, Granny Mayes would appear in her crisp white apron to call us for hot chocolate and cookies before we departed home."

This recipe for gingersnaps is in the same cookbook, and I can imagine 90-year-old Granny Mayes serving them with love and tenderness to all the children in her Promised Land.

3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cup flour
Pinch salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger

Note: shortening can be lard, butter or stick margarine, at room temperature. Cream shortening. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Beat in egg and molasses. Sift and add dry ingredients. Form into little balls. Roll in sugar. Placed well apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes.

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(This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Prairie Kitchens - Jam Tart

In 1883, there were just six houses in Saskatoon, population 70. Many residents still lived in tents or sod shacks. Of those six houses built in 1883, only one remains. It sits at the back of its original lot at 512 10th Street East, in the neighbourhood of Nutana. It's just 16 by 20 feet, with a kitchen/dining room and two small bedrooms.

The year after the house was built, it became the home of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Trounce and their two children, originally from England. The Trounces quickly integrated into the social life of the fledgling community, as noted in an article published in Saskatchewan History in 1987:

"This house was the scene of innumerable social activities, especially parties on Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve, and is referred to in several early memoires and books."

Their first Christmas in this house was a celebratory affair. Mrs. Trounce noted the menu in a letter, which is held by Saskatchewan Archives. The meal began with beef steak pie, boiled and roasted potatoes, bread and butter and dessert: mince pie, apple tart, blanc mange (a custard), currant biscuits and open jam tart. Note, no green vegetables of any sort, which were in short supply in a prairie winter.

It is very likely Mrs. Trounce's open jam tart was similar to a version popular in England, which can be made with any type of full-sugar jam. Over the holidays, I will drive by Trounce House and think of those pioneers, so full of hope in their new home.

Open Jam Tart
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cold butter
1/4 cup ice water
1 egg yolk
2 cup jam

Sift together flour and sugar. Add butter in small pieces. Cut in with a pastry blender, then use your hands to rub remaining lumps into the flour until resembling coarse sand. Work quickly to not warm the butter.

Mix ice water and egg. Pour into flour, mixing quickly with a fork then with your hands, pressing the dough into a ball. Do not knead like bread. Form dough into two balls, wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

Roll one ball thinly between two pieces of well-floured wax paper. Use the wax paper to lift the pastry over a tart or pie plate. Trim the edges generously. Chill 30 minutes. Poke the pastry with a fork. Spread jam in pastry. If desired, decorate with cookie shapes cut from extra pastry. Bake at 375F for about 30 minutes, until pastry is nicely brown. Cool completely before cutting.

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Night Oven Bakery under Construction

It's the coolest thing in the world to watch a brick wood-fired bread oven under construction, and even cooler to have it in your own neighbourhood (ie my neighbourhood of City Park in Saskatoon).

Every bread lovers' fantasy - a wood-fired bake oven - under construction at the Night Oven Bakery. The wood fire is lit inside that heavy door.
The 9 ft dome from another angle. The bread, pastry, pizza, etc. slides in that narrow opening.
Bryn the baker explaining how he set the bricks and will harden them off with a 3-day burn.
In another part of the bakery, a massive mill stone for grinding flour. Another identical stone will be placed on top. It will grind flour for the bakery and also custom orders for organic flour. 
Bryn chats with Wayne, a stone mason who is installing three chimney flues.

Bread pans waiting for their date with the oven.
Night Oven Bakery and Café is set to open end January
at 629b 1st Ave. North, Saskatoon.
Stay in touch at

Monday, December 16, 2013

Prairie Kitchens - Butter Tarts

Settlers in Saskatchewan brought a lot of recipes with them from the Old Country, but not butter tarts. Food historians agree this holiday favourite is a Canadian invention. Some speculate it may be an offshoot of Quebec's sugar pie or the Scottish Border Tart. However, those confections are baked in a pie plate, while butter tarts are always the size of, well, tarts.

While establishing its Canadian origin, the experts can't agree on the recipe. There are many variations on the "authentic" butter tart. Raisins or currants? Nuts or no nuts? Walnuts or pecans? Custardy or runny? A bit of vanilla or a bit of rum?

It goes without saying that my Grandma O'Hara made the best butter tarts ever, bless her soul, and no Christmas dinner was without them. Sadly, I no longer have her recipe. Coming close is the butter tart made by Linda Boyle, who uses an old recipe from her mom. It was one of the tops picks in the recent Saskatoon Farmers' Market butter tart contest, for which I was a lucky judge.

Linda and her mother, Audrey, made 300 butter tarts every Christmas, freezing most of them in ice cream pails which Audrey pulled out during the year and took to work at a local construction company to share the "love" with the guys. One thing Linda and I agree on (as do many of you, I'm sure) is that gooey frozen butter tarts are the best of all.

Audrey Dunkinson's Butter Tarts
(make pastry here.)
3 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup water
4 eggs
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans
24 tart shells

Place sugar, butter, vanilla and water in a saucepan and heat until melted. Meanwhile, beat the eggs. Stir 1 cup of melted butter mixture into the eggs, to warm the eggs, then pour back into the saucepan. Heat and stir until combined.

Place 8-10 raisins and 1/2 tsp pecans in each tart shell. Pour in the filling, to about half full. Bake at 375F for 15-20 minutes, until the pastry is nicely brown.

(This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Pie Pastry

I learned to make pastry from my mother-in-law, Alma. She learned from her mother, who made pies at a little cafe in Harvard, Illinois. A young man came to the cafe often for the pie and fell in love with the pie maker's daughter. Alma is gone now, but I still remember her soft white hands delicately crimping the edge of a beautiful pie.

As Alma taught me, technique is important. The butter, lard and eggs must be at fridge temperature and worked swiftly so they don’t warm up. Always refrigerate the dough at least an hour before rolling.

Pie Pastry
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup lard
1 tbsp white vinegar
1/2 cup ice water

Fill a cup with water and drop in a couple of ice cubes.

Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Cut cold butter and lard into pieces, dropping them directly into the flour. Work into fine lumps with a pastry blender. Using your hands, work the butter and lard between your fingers and thumbs until the mixture resembles course sand. Work quickly.

Measure 1/2 cup of ice water. Mix in the egg and vinegar. Stir well.

Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the liquid. Stir briskly with a fork, incorporating the flour and water as best you can. Then use your hands to press the dough into a ball, pressing the loose flour into the dough. Work quickly. Do not knead like bread. The dough may be crumbly, and that's okay.

Cut the dough into four quarters. Press each piece into a round shape, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least an hour before rolling for your pie. Here's a recipe for a simple, rustic apple tarte.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Prairie Recipes - Pfeffernusse

Imagine doing all your holiday baking in a wood stove. First you have to chop the wood. But what if it's 1913 and you're living on the vast prairie where few trees grow? It was not uncommon for homesteaders to travel a day by horse and wagon to cut enough wood for winter. You hope.

If wood ran low, you would pay a few hard earned dollars for a load of coal. In a pinch, you might resort to burning railroad ties, items of furniture and even cow patties. Imagine cooking Christmas dinner on that!

Add to that, those old stoves didn't have a temperature guide. Skilled cooks could "guess" the oven temperature by placing a hand inside and counting how long they could hold it there. Twenty seconds might be just right to bake a cake.

Recipes didn't give an oven temperature. Rather, they used terms like slow (300F), moderate (350F), hot (400F) and quick (450F). Give or take 50 degrees. Given the temperature variability, it was impossible to say how long an item would take to bake. A recipe for cake might say "bake in a moderate oven until a knife comes out clean."

This little holiday cookie was brought to the prairies by settlers from Germany and northern Europe but has, it seems, largely disappeared from modern cookbooks. Pfeffer refers to its peppery spiciness. Nusse is a hard little nut. If you're using a wood stove, cook in a moderate to hot oven until lightly brown and no longer soft to the touch.

Pfeffernusse (Pepper Nuts)
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup soft butter
Grated peel of one lemon
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp black pepper
Powdered sugar for dusting (opt)

Cream eggs and sugar. Add butter and lemon peel. Mix well. Sift together flour, baking powder and spices. Add to the egg mixture. Blend just until incorporated.

With the fingers, roll small balls of dough about the size of a cherry. Place on a cookie sheet (greased or covered with parchment paper). Bake at 375F for about 10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack. When the pfeffernusse are cool enough to handle, but still warm, toss in powdered sugar.

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(This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.)

Gooo-zjere on Global TV

Nice French accent, Kevin! Actually, it's Gougere, a snappy little French party app that's quick to make a tastes great. Global TV's Kevin Stanfield and Eric Beck were in my kitchen cooking for the holidays. The segment aired on Global Saskatoon this morning.
Click here to watch. Thanks for stopping by, Kevin!

Cheddar Gougeres
1 cup water
6 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
Few grinds fresh pepper
1 cup flour
4 eggs
3/4 cup cheddar cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

In a saucepan, heat the water with the butter, salt and pepper until the butter is melted and the water is just simmering. Dump in the flour all at once. Stir vigorously until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pot and forms a ball. Remove from heat.

Beat the mixture with electric beaters or turn it into a stand mixer and beat 30 seconds to release the heat. Rest two minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing quickly and thoroughly between each egg. Mix the two cheeses together. Add 3/4 of the cheese to the dough and mix in well.

Using a small spoon, scoop up walnut-sized balls of dough and place on baking sheets. Sprinkle each one with a bit of remaining cheese. Bake at 425F for 10 minutes. Turn heat down to 375F and bake another 20-25 minutes. Puffs should be nicely browned. Eat warm or cool, with a filling or not.

Feel free to use different cheese, as long as it's a dry cheese. Traditionally the French use Gruyere and perhaps a couple teaspoons of chopped chives. A dash of chili powder or paprika added with the flour is nice, too. You can enjoy them just as they are, or break them open and fill the centres with chicken or ham salad. Bon appetit!

Monday, December 02, 2013

Prairie Kitchens - Chicken Paprika

The curious thing about pioneer food is the sheer diversity of recipes despite a short list of ingredients. Basic groceries included flour, sugar, baking powder, oats, raisins, a few spices, coffee or tea. Most everything else was grown, raised or picked on or near the farm.

Yet in the hands of skilled cooks, with their own ethnic flare, these simple ingredients were turned into the unique flavours of the Old Country. Take for instance, Hungarian cuisine. Spice it with paprika, throw in some poppy seeds, thicken with sour cream, add some dumplings, and you've got dishes to warm the heart of every ethnic Hungarian.

In 1886, thirty-five families arrived at Esterhazy Colony, most of them Hungarians already living in the United States, enticed by immigration agent Count Paul Esterhazy (that wasn't his real name and he wasn't a real count). It would become the largest Hungarian settlement in Canada.

In 1902, the "Count" was hired by the Canadian government to produce a 67-page brochure full of glorious descriptions, prosperous-looking photos and glowing testimonies from farmers already there. On the subject of winter: "peculiarly healthful, elastic, bracing atmosphere." Of summer: "warmed and lighted by an Italian sun."

Perhaps inspired by that pamphlet, the Chomos, Shivak and Herperger families came as a group to Saskatchewan from Hungary in 1906. Their descendant Jerome Chomos of Saskatoon recalls the creamy one-pot stews, poppy seed strudel, homemade noodles and palascinta crepes of his grandma, dishes still lovingly cooked in Esterhazy by his 93-year-old mother Alice.

Chicken Paprika
1 whole chicken, cut up
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
3 tsp Hungarian paprika
1 tbsp each vegetable oil and butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup sour cream

Pat the chicken dry with paper towel. Place 1/4 cup flour, salt and half the paprika in a plastic bag. Shake chicken in the flour so each piece is lightly coated. In a large skillet, heat the oil and butter on high. Cook the chicken, turning once until browned on both sides. Remove chicken to a plate. You may need to do this in two batches; use more oil-butter if needed.

Wipe most of the remaining fat from the pan. Reduce heat to medium. Cook the onions and garlic until soft. Sprinkle with remaining paprika and stir well. Add the chicken stock. Bring to a bubble, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.

Return chicken pieces to the pan. Cover. Simmer on low until the chicken is cooked, about one hour, turning chicken once. Stir the remaining flour into the sour cream. Gradually stir into the sauce, spooning over the chicken. Warm through. Serve with spatzle noodles.

Spatzle (Drop Noodles)
This recipe is from The Hungarian Cookbook, Culinary Arts Institute of Chicago, 1973

2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup water
1/4 cup melted butter

Sift together flour and salt. In another bowl, mix the egg and water. Gradually add flour to the egg mixture, stirring until smooth. Batter should be very thick and break from a spoon instead of pouring in a continuous stream.

Boil a pot of salted water. Spoon batter into the boiling water by 1/2 teaspoonfuls, dipping spoon into water to prevent sticking. Cook one layer of noodles at a time; do not crowd. After noodles rise to the surface, boil another 5 minutes. Remove from water with a slotted spoon. As they are cooked, put the spatzle into a bowl and toss with melted butter.

If you plan to make spatzle often, you might with to invest in a spatzle maker:

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(This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Prairie Kitchens - Mrs. Diefenbaker's cookbook

Canada's 13th Prime Minister, John G. Diefenbaker, had a very close relationship with his mother, Mary, and I imagine she cooked many a fine meal for the young Dief from her well-worn Good Housekeeping cookbook. Obviously, he had fond memories because he kept her cookbook in his library and eventually donated it to the Diefenbaker archive at the University of Saskatchewan.

Diefenbaker's hand-written note indicating this is his mother's cookbook. The cookbook is dated 1931.

The most used page? It's certainly the most splattered, tomato sauce and all.

Other cookbooks in the Diefenbaker archive, these belonging to Dief's wife Olive:

Canadian Wild Game Cook Book - Jamie Duffield Pearson (1965)
Food the Really Schmecks - Edna Staebler (1968)
The Fireside Cook Book - James Beard (1949)
Saskatchewan Sportsman's Gourmet Guide - Henrietta Goplen (1968)
Chinese Recipes and Cookery - Li Yung (1972)
The Scots Kitchen - Marian McNeill (1961)
Jewish Cooking for Pleasure - Molly Lyons Bar-David (see inscription below)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Priarie Kitchens - Potato Pie

In the settlement of Saskatchewan, more pioneers came from the United States than any other country. But many of them, or their parents, originated in Europe. Not so the Black pioneers. By 1912, an estimated 1,500 African Americans, most of them from Oklahoma, had homesteaded on the prairies.

In 1906, the Lafayette brothers settled near Rosetown. In 1910, a group of twelve families led by Joe and Mattie Mayes homesteaded near Maidstone. That same year, the Smiths settled at Lashburn. Many more went to Alberta.

Why Oklahoma? In 1907, Oklahoma became a state and began passing laws to discriminate against its African American citizens. Vitriol and violence were not uncommon. At the same time, Canada was advertising for farmers. For the Black pioneers, some of whom had known slavery, Canada was the Promised Land.

Of course, they brought their southern food traditions with them. Fried chicken, sugared ham, button bone ribs, boiled greens, minted carrots, biscuits and gravy, corn bread, ice cream, molasses cookies, cinnamon rolls, sweet potato pie. Some of those ingredients weren't available in Saskatchewan a century ago, but the cooks made do. Like many pioneers, they hunted rabbits and other wild game, planted large gardens and ate a lot of potatoes. They adopted sauerkraut and saskatoon pie. Sweet potato pie became, quite humbly, just potato pie.

Calgary author Cheryl Foggo is a descendant of Saskatchewan's Black pioneers. She provided her mother's (and grandmother's) recipe for potato pie, inspired by a recipe from Mrs. Mayes and still a staple at family gatherings.

Potato Pie
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
2 1/2 cups cooked, mashed potatoes
2 eggs slightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp lemon extract or zest of one lemon
1/2 cup melted butter
Unbaked pie shell

Put evaporated milk in an ice cube tray and freeze for 20 minutes, then beat the cold milk until it stands like whipped cream. Blend the whipped milk into the potatoes and beat until smooth.

Mix the remaining ingredients. Stir into potatoes and milk. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 425F for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350F and bake another 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool pie. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

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The article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Prairie Kitchens - Irish Soda Bread

-30 this morning in Saskatoon and I'm thinking of the pioneers. Imagine leaving bread to rise overnight and finding it frozen in the morning. That was a winter reality for pioneer families in Saskatchewan. So, many of them turned to bannock and soda bread instead. And really, they're just as good with butter and jam while huddled around a crackling fire...

(Make Irish Colcannon with that!)

Irish Soda Bread
4 cups all purpose flour (or 3, with 1 cup whole wheat flour)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp sugar (optional)
2 cups buttermilk

Hold back 1/2 cup flour. Blend the rest of the dry ingredients. Pour in buttermilk. Mix quickly with a fork and then your fingers. Turn onto a floured surface and knead by hand just until it holds together and is no longer sticky, 1-2 minutes. Use the extra 1/2 cup flour as needed to flour your hands and prevent sticking.

Place the ball of dough on a baking sheet and press to flatten the top. Slash with a knife, cutting about 1 inch deep. If you do not slash deep enough, the centre of the bread may be uncooked. Bake at 425F for 35-40 minutes. When cooked, the bread will be quite brown and a good tap on its bottom will sound hollow. You bad bad soda bread...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Last of the Zucchini Finds Chocolate Heaven

Why on earth was I saving that big zucchini? Oh, ya, chocolate zucchini muffins!! Funny how someone (ok, read husband) managed to eat most of the chocolate chips in my baking cupboard. So, these are fortified with chunk chocolate, too. Yumminess!
Found the recipe here: For the Love of Cooking

Zucchini Chocolate Muffins
1 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup mini semi sweet chocolate chips
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups shredded raw zucchini

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a muffin tin with cooking spray.

Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together in a bowl, stir until well combined. Toss in the chocolate chips and mix.

Whisk together the eggs, oil, sugars and vanilla together until well combined. Add the zucchini and mix. Slowly add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture until just combined. Spoon evenly into the muffin tin.

Place into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes before placing them on a cooling rack to continue cooling. Serve & enjoy.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Prairie Kitchens - Baked Kasha Casserole

Varenyky (aka perogies), cabbage rolls, borshch. Ukrainian dishes are entrenched in prairie cuisine, thanks to the loyal attachment of Ukrainian settlers to the traditional recipes of home.

From 1891 to 1914, more than 170,000 Ukrainians immigrated to Canada, one quarter of them settling in Saskatchewan. Most came from the provinces of Galicia and Bukovyna, which at that time were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, an area that was poor and over-populated under a feudal farming system. Canada promised a better future. In Saskatchewan, Ukrainian families tended to settle in close-knit communities in the parklands where there was wood for their buildings and their stoves.

While many ethnic recipes survive in Saskatchewan, few carry with them the deep spiritual and agrarian symbolism of Ukrainian foods. This rich tapestry is lovingly chronicled in the cookbook "From Baba, with Love," produced in Saskatoon by members of the Hanka Romanchych Branch of the Ukrainian Women's Association of Canada. For instance, we learn that fall fruits were blessed before eating and that braided wedding bread symbolizes everlasting happiness.

One of the authors is Marie Kishchuk, whose mother, Mary Maduke, helped establish the Ukrainian Museum of Canada in Saskatoon, where Marie was director for many years. She still cooks the dishes of her mother, who came from Ukraine as a child. A favourite for Saturday supper was baked buckwheat, known as kasha, which her mother made in a favourite bean pot.

This recipe is from the cookbook, which is available in Saskatoon at the Ukrainian Museum of Canada, McNally Robinson Booksellers and SaskMade Marketplace.*

Baked Kasha Casserole
4 tbsp butter
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
2 cups diced bacon (optional)
4 1/2 cups water
2 cups coarse buckwheat
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter. Sauté onion and garlic. Set aside. Cook bacon until crisp. Boil water in a saucepan. Rinse buckwheat in a sieve under hot running water. Stir into the boiling water. Return to boil. Add onion and garlic. Cook until most of the water is absorbed. Mix in bacon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place buckwheat in an 8-cup greased casserole dish. Cover and bake at 350F for one hour or until kasha is cooked. Serve with a green salad and pork cracklings (if you can get them!).

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* Also available at Saskatoon Airport Gift Shop, Slavianka Deli (3421 8th St. E., Saskatoon) and the Ukrainian Coop (1805 Winnipeg St., Regina).

The article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cookie Memories of Grandma

When I think of my Grandma Ehman, I think of apples. Any surprise from this picture? As you can see, I was an eager helper from a very early age. :)

Grandma made many desserts with those apples, including these applesauce cookies, which I made yesterday and just enjoyed for breakfast on a snowy Sunday morning in Saskatoon.

Applesauce Cookies
1/2 cup soft butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup applesauce
1 cup raisins

Cream butter and sugar. Blend in egg until batter is light and airy. Sift and add flour, baking soda and cinnamon. Add applesauce and raisins, and mix well. Drop by small spoonfulls onto cookie sheets. Bake at 400F for 10-12 min. Makes about 50 cookies.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Canadian Food Project - A cookie fit for harvest

My dad was very particular about harvest suppers. Unlike some farm families, who stop the combine to eat a hot picnic supper in the field, my dad did not stop for anything. Short of a breakdown, the combine -- with dad on it -- operated nonstop from morning to near midnight.

Dad had one requirement for his harvest meals: that they be eaten with one hand. Sandwiches were de rigueur. Carrot sticks were ideal. An apple a day. Cookies were the perfect ending. Un-iced cake (no fork required) was a good substitute.

So, while we kids enjoyed harvest suppers of, perhaps, chicken and corn on the cob and a piece of cake with ice cream, dad was gulping down his supper before the next turn at the end of the field. Chicken sandwiches tomorrow.

This cookie was not in my mom's repertoire all those years ago, but I'm sure it would have met my dad's approval. And the kids' too. The black lentils look deceptively like mini chocolate chips.

Chocolate Lentil Cookies
1/2 cup soft butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup cooked black lentils
1 egg
1 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup quick oats
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp milk

Cream the butter, sugar and lentils. For the most part, the lentils will remain whole. Mix in the egg. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until well blended. Spoon the cookie batter onto baking sheets by the heaping teaspoon. Bake at 350F for about 15 min. Allow cookies to cool slightly then remove to a cooling rack. Makes about 34 cookies.

Visit the Canadian Food Experience Project for more harvest stories and recipes from foodies across the country.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Prairie Kitchens - Welsh Rarebit

When Canadian troops came home from World War II, they brought close to 48,000 new brides with them, mostly British but also French, Belgian and Dutch. As they settled in across the country, these women were struck by the abundance of food in Canada. Most of them had endured five years of food rationing, scarcity and hunger. Even so, there was much they missed from home.

Hilda Duddridge, a Welsh lass who married a fellow from Hanley, missed the seafood (cockles and mussels) and laverbread, a dish of seaweed and oatmeal. Needless to say, she could not get some of these ingredients in Saskatchewan in 1945.

Hilda's new husband, Lew Duddridge, had a Welsh mother (a war bride from World War I) but even so, he quickly informed her that he did not much like Welsh (or British) cooking. Luckily, Hilda found a few traditional favourites that Lew could love, such as Welsh Rarebit, a savoury cheese toast.

Picture and story of Hilda and Lew, Victoria Times Colonist

Years later, she was interviewed about her experience for a Master's thesis, Deliciously Detailed Narratives: The Use of Food in Stories of British War Brides' Experiences, available online.

To help these young women in the kitchen, the Department of National War Services published the Canadian Cook Book for British Brides which informed them, for instance, that their Canadian husbands preferred pie of any sort over suet pudding and took cream in their coffee, not hot milk. As you might imagine, it does not include a recipe for Welsh Rarebit.

Welsh Rarebit
4 slices of sturdy bread
2 cups grated sharp cheddar
1 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup ale or milk
2 egg yolks

Toast the bread on one side under the broiler. In a saucepan, mix the cheese with the flour and mustard powder. Add the butter, Worcestershire sauce and ale. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the cheese is melted and the mixture is thickened and smooth. Do not boil. Remove from heat for 3 min. Whisk the egg yolks and, after 3 min., whisk them into the cheese. Blend well.

Spread the cheese onto the untoasted side of the bread and place under the hot grill. Do not use the top oven rack or the bread might burn before the cheese is cooked. The cheese should be lightly browned. Eat hot. It is also traditional in Britain two swipe the toast with chutney before putting on the cheese.

Do you have prairie recipe with a story? Send me a comment. Follow

This food column first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Gold Medal Plates Saskatoon

Olympic athletes galore. Laughs from Marnie McBean. Music by Jim Cuddy and Ed Robertson. Fabulous Canadian wines. And of course the food. Duck was clearly the star of Gold Medal Plates Saskatoon!

Your lucky judges (l-r) Renee Kohlman, Dee Hobsbawn-Smith, Janis Hutton, James Chatto (chief judge), CJ Katz and me!
(also Chefs Dale MacKay and Darren Craddock)

Gold Medal Plate - Trevor Robertson, Radisson Hotel
Muskovy corn-fed duck with delicate corn crisp
Piece de resistance - a perfect freeze dried blueberry  

Silver Medal Plate - Mike Link, Credit Union Centre
Duck confit, seared duck breast, duck fois gras
in a sour cherry compote
Over the top - a delicious apple-y crisp 

Bronze Medal Plate - Chef Mike McKeown, Prairie Harvest Cafe
Duck filled perogie and a cabbage-wrapped terrine.
Nice touch - paired with Saskatchewan's own
Living Sky Winery blackcurrent wine
Chef Anthony McCarthy, Saskatoon Club
presents his dish to the judging table -
a pretty-as-a-picture tasting plate
Chef Trevor Robertson will represent Saskatoon at the Canadian Culinary Championship in Kelowna in February. Do us proud, Chef!

Monday, November 04, 2013

Prairie Kitchens - Wartime Cake

November 11 is Remembrance Day, which marks the end of World War I. While we remember the sacrifices made on the battlefield, let's also remember the sacrifices made in prairie kitchens.

Several foods were in high demand to feed the troops in Europe, which led to shortages at home. These included flour, sugar, beef, cream and butter.

During World War II, there was also high demand for kitchen fats such as lard and bacon drippings, which were used to grease weapons and make glycerine for explosives. One slogan said, "Pass the grease and make the ammunition." As a result, butter and lard were often in short supply for baking.

This created a new demand for solid vegetable shortening such as Crisco. Recipes called for "shortening" which could be any of the above, as available. Interestingly, margarine was banned in Canada from 1886 to 1948, except for a few years around World War I when butter was scarce and expensive.

In 1943, the Officers Wives' and Mothers' Auxiliary of H.M.C.S Unicorn published The Navy Cookbook (available at the Local History Room of the Saskatoon Public Library). It includes these recipes for Wartime Cake and Wartime Icing.

Wartime Cake
3 cups sifted cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup corn syrup
3 eggs (separated)
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat the shortening until creamy, gradually adding the sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add 1/2 cup corn syrup, 2 tbsp at a time, mixing well after each addition.

In a small bowl, beat egg yolks until thick. Blend eggs into shortening mixture. Add flour alternating with milk and vanilla, stirring just enough to blend.

Beat egg whites until stiff. Gradually add the other 1/2 cup corn syrup, beating continuously. Fold thoroughly into cake batter. Bake in two layer cake tins at 350F for 35-40 minutes. Note: I baked it in one pan and cut it into two layers before icing.

Wartime Icing
Note: This icing contains raw eggs. If you have a concern about eating raw egg, as many people do, please consider this recipe an anachronistic "blast from the past" and find another icing recipe for your cake.

2 egg whites
pinch of salt
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla

Beat egg whites and salt until stiff. Add syrup slowly, beating all the time. When icing holds its shape, add vanilla. (You might also add a pinch of cream of tartar to help the eggs hold their shape.) Use the icing immediately as it doesn't keep well.

Do you have prairie recipe with a story? Send me a comment. Follow at

This column first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Gold Medal Plates - Regina 2013

It was my privilege and pleasure to serve as a judge for the second Gold Medal Plates chefs' competition in Regina, a gala fundraiser for Canada's Olympic athletes. The scoring was very close - as all the best races are! The winner will represent Regina at the national culinary championship in Kelowna in February. Good Luck Chef!!

Gold Medal Dish - Chef Jonathan Thauberger of Crave
Rabbit with house-made nasturtium jelly and cattail salad
To die for - that little dot of peppery nasturtium powder at the bottom of the plate. :)

Silver Medal Plate - Chef Ricardo Rodriguez of The Artful Dodger
Lamb three ways with smashed raspberries and a crispy kale chip
Unexpected pleasure - lemony brain mousse. Honestly!!

Bronze Medal Plate - Chef Laurie Wall of Wallnuts Expressive Catering
Wild elk with cattail cornbread, cranberry reduction and fall vegetable potage
Nice touch - a birch bark "plate" for a wild touch.
(no we didn't eat the plate!)

Chef Rob Harrison of Rushton's Catering presents his dish to the judges, including chief judge James Chatto
Chef Milton Rebello - Hotel Saskatchewan
As last year's gold medalist in Regina, he served as a judge this year
and also prepared a caviar appetizer for event guests.
Event venue - Conexus Arts Centre - laid on this delicious caviar bar, shown here with whitefish caviar and condiments. I could have hung out here all night! 
Gold Medal Plates Saskatoon is just one week away!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Baked Beans gobble up leftover Sausage

If you flip back a few posts, you'll see we had a sausage extravaganza on the weekend. And that means leftover sausage. My husband woke up the next morning with baked beans on his lips. Well, not literally, but he was planting the request firmly in the kitchen side of my brain.

(pictured: ready for the oven.)

So baked beans it was.

I always start with dry beans. We have a pint sized slow cooker that's just right for cooking small amounts of beans. So in went 1.5 cups of beans, 1/4 onion, 1 big carrot (in pieces) and a bay leaf. Cover with water and 4-5 hours later, it's soft beans. (OK, I did this twice cause I wanted a big batch.)

Meanwhile, sauté some chopped bacon (4-5 slices) and onion (1/2) until cooked.

Mix the cooked beans (and any remaining water) with:
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
several grinds of pepper
the cooked bacon-onion melange
oodles of sliced leftover sausage
water not quite to cover

Pour into a bean pot (or two small bean pots) and bake covered at 325F for 1.5 hours. Take off the lid. If the beans are too runny, bake longer, until you have achieved the richness and thickness and flavourfulness that screams "EAT ME".

Then eat me, er, them.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Prairie Kitchens - Yakhnit 'Adas

Who were the first farmers to grow lentils and chickpeas on the Saskatchewan plains? The Arab pioneers.

In 1923, Jiryas Sallum, left his village in Syria with the dream of farming in Saskatchewan. A year later, he was joined by his wife Shams and their two sons. They homesteaded south of Swift Current in an area where several other friends and relatives had already settled. Shams kept a large garden and did her best, with some improvisation, to prepare the familiar foods of the old country. This included yogurt, burghul, lentils, chickpeas, flat breads and honey desserts. They ate very well – and very different – compared to their European neighbours.

One of their sons, Habeeb, recalled how self-conscious he was of their strange foods. As a schoolboy, he longed for an ordinary bologna sandwich on white bread. But years later, he credits his family's good health through the Dirty Thirties with the ancient, healthy foods of his ancestors as prepared by his mom.

Today, Saskatchewan farmers have discovered lentils and chickpeas. Canada is now a leading supplier to the world. Perhaps it should be no surprise as wheat originates from the same place – Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Palestine. Wheat was the first "settler" from the Arab lands.

Habeeb published his memories and his mom's recipes in a charming cookbook called Arab Cooking on a Saskatchewan Homestead. Yakhnit 'Adas is a pioneer recipe every bit as much as perogies and Shepherd's pie.

Yakhnit 'Adas
(Lentil and Meat Stew)
1/4 cup butter
1/2 lb beef or lamb in 1/2 inch cubes
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small hot pepper, finely chopped
1 cup lentils
5 cups water
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the meat and sauté for 5 min. Add onions, garlic and hot pepper. Cook 10 min. Add remaining ingredients, cover and simmer over medium heat until the lentils and potatoes are cooked, stirring occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours. Add more water if needed. Serve hot.

Do you have prairie recipe with a story? Send me a comment. Follow at

This column first published in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Saskatchewan Sausage Extravganza

We do sausage very well in Saskatchewan, and yesterday we even made our own - a fennel laced Italian sausage. Altogether, we grilled about 10 different Saskatchewan-made sausages. We bought some beer and invited some friends. Now, I'd call that a party!!