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.

Do you have prairie recipe with a story? Send me a comment. Follow at twitter.com/prairiefeast.

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!).

Do you have prairie recipe with a story? Send me a comment. Follow at twitter.com/prairiefeast.

* 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 twitter.com/prairiefeast.

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 twitter.com/prairiefeast.

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!