Monday, January 27, 2014

Prairie Kitchens - Bannock

Bannock is close to the heart of most every Métis and First Nations community in Saskatchewan, but its origins go back to old Scotland.

From the Gaelic word bhannag, bannock came to Canada in the 1600s with Scottish adventurers and fur traders. It was a quick, simple bread cooked over an open fire while canoeing western rivers or hanging out in fur trade posts. These Scotsmen took local wives, passing their love of bannock to the First Nations and Métis communities.

Today, bannock is rarely celebrated as a touchstone of Scottish heritage, but it is indispensable to Métis and First Nations culture, celebration and connection. In Scotland, it was often made with oatmeal, but in Canada wheat flour became the norm. However, flour was heavy to carry in a canoe. Therefore, bannock was often a treat rather than a basic staple of the meal.

Outlying fur trade posts were expected to be self-sufficient in food, including flour. The first wheat field in what would become Saskatchewan was planted in 1754 by French fur traders at Forte a la Corne on the Saskatchewan River east of Prince Albert, now within the James Smith First Nation. No doubt, bannock was the outcome.

The basic ingredients were flour, water and shortening. With the advent of baking powder it was possible to make a lighter, fluffier bannock. French-speaking Métis called it galet. According to this recipe from the Métis Cookbook, adding raisins makes it "company bannock."

Bannock – Le Galet
3 cups flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening (margarine, butter, lard)
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup plus 2 tbsp water

In a bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.

Cut cold shortening into pieces. Work into the flour with a pastry blender and/or your fingers until it resembles coarse sand. Mix in raisins.

Make a well in the centre. Add 1 cup water and stir together with a fork. Add remaining 1-2 tbsp of water if needed to incorporate the flour.

Work dough into a ball, knead a few times and press firmly into a greased 10 inch cast iron frying pan. Bake at 400F for 30-35 minutes.

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

Monday, January 20, 2014

Prairie Kitchens - Turnip Casserole

January 25 is Robbie Burns day, a celebration brought to Saskatchewan by Scottish adventurers and pioneers. Robbie Burns (1759-1796) is the national poet of Scotland who immortalized in verse that most honoured of Scottish foods, the haggis.

In his poem Address to a Haggis, Burns wrote: "Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware that jaups in luggis, But if you wish her gratefu' prayer, Gie her haggis!" Translation: Old Scotland wants not watery soup that slops in the bowl, But if you wish her grateful prayer, give her haggis!

Traditional haggis is a mix of sheep's pluck (heart, liver and lungs) mixed with suet, oatmeal and spices, stuffed into a sheep's stomach and simmered for a few hours. Nowadays, haggis is more commonly made with ground beef, liver and oat groats and baked in an oven cooking bag.

For the annual Robbie Burns Day supper, Marj Scharf of Saskatoon and a team of cooks prepare 100 pounds of haggis, serving it with tatties and neeps – mashed potatoes and turnips. Her father, George Galoway, came to Saskatchewan from Scotland in 1906 when he was five. However, Marj didn't grow up with Scottish foods. She has reconnected to her Scottish heritage by learning the traditional recipes, which she shares in the cookbook A Taste of Time created by the Saskatoon Council on Aging with the help of many seniors who contributed their stories and recipes.

It includes this recipe for turnip casserole, which is a favourite "neeps" side dish for haggis. Want to make haggis? You'll find Marj's recipe for haggis here.

Turnip Casserole
1 medium turnip
1/2 cup applesauce
2 tsp brown sugar
1/8 tsp pepper
1 egg
1 cup soft bread crumbs
5 tbsp melted butter

Cook, peel and mash turnip. Mix in applesauce, brown sugar, pepper, egg, 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs and 3 tbsp butter. Put in a greased baking dish. Combine the remaining 1/2 cup breadcrumbs and 2 tbsp butter. Spread on top of turnips. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes.

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Prairie Kitchens - Haggis

Great chieftain o' the pudding race! That's the salute of poet Robbie Burns to the most celebrated of Scottish foods, the noble haggis, the centerpiece of Robbie Burns Day celebrations on January 25. The haggis is brought to the table with a bagpipe escort and a toast of scotch.

This recipe comes from Marj Scharf of Saskatoon, whose father George Galoway came to Canada in 1906 at the age of five. Marj oversees production of 100 lbs of haggis for the annual Robbie Burns Day supper in Saskatoon. Her recipe is found in the cookbook A Taste of Time by the Saskatoon Council on Aging.

1 large pot roast
Equal portion by weight of beef liver or heart
3 cups pinhead oats (steel-cut oats)
3/4 cup chopped onions
3/4 cup suet
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne
1 tbsp celery seed (optional)

Roast beef in oven and boil liver or heart. (Marj uses a pressure cooker.) Cool meat and refrigerate overnight, reserving the stock.

The next day, mince beef, liver and onions in a food processor. Roast oats in 350F oven for 10-15 minutes. In a bowl, blend meat mixture, oats, spices and reserved stock. Mix well. Taste and adjust spices to your taste, if necessary. Stuff mixture into a roasting oven bag. Place haggis in roasting pan with a covering of water. Cook at 300F for 3 hours.

Haggis is traditionally served with tatties and neeps - mashed potatoes and turnips. And did I mention scotch?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Prairie Recipes - Hungarian Lecso

In 1921, there were 8,900 Hungarians living in Saskatchewan. By the census of 2006, there were 27,400 people claiming Hungarian descent. That's a lot of paprika, red peppers and poppy seeds. The early arrivals came on the promise of free farmland and freedom from oppressive landlords. In the 1950s, they came seeking freedom from Communism.

Tibor "Ted" Kiss was 23 years old during the October Revolution of 1956, when the Soviet army rolled into Hungary to put down a movement for democratic reforms. More than 200,000 Hungarians fled their country. Seeing a small window of opportunity, Kiss and his parents left everything behind and made a daring dash for the Austrian border in the dark of night. "We left in a snowstorm so our tracks would be covered over," he says. "Russian soldiers were ordered to shoot to kill. Thank god we made it."

They joined his grandparents already living in Ontario, then moved to Beechy, Sask., where Kiss began training with the Credit Union. He managed the branch at Paradise Hill, where he met his wife, Faye. She learned to cook traditional dishes from her mother in law, including Hungarian cakes, cottage cheese biscuits, cabbage rolls and lescό (le-sho), a summer stew redolent with peppers, tomatoes and paprika.

At first, it was hard to find red peppers in Saskatchewan, and the paprika was sent to them from Ontario, but today it's easy to recreate the flavours of Hungary here on the prairies.

Lecsό - Pepper, Tomato and Sausage Stew
3 tbsp bacon fat or 2 tbsp oil
3 red peppers
3 yellow peppers
1 green pepper
3 medium onions
1 fresh tomato
1 can whole stewed tomatoes (398 ml)
2 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
1 dash hot Hungarian paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup water
1 lb Hungarian sausage (Kolbasz) or other smoked sausage

In a heavy sauté pan or Dutch oven, heat bacon fat or oil on high heat. Core and devein all peppers and cut into strips. Cut onions into wedges. Sauté onions and peppers until cooked but still firm, 6-8 minutes. Do not overcook; peppers should remain intact and brightly coloured. Add tomatoes, seasonings, sugar and water.

Slice sausage on the diagonal. Add to the pot and simmer until the flavours are melded, about 4-6 minutes. Serve with rice, boiled potatoes and/or fresh bread.

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

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Hungarian Cottage Cheese Biscuits

I tried these flaky biscuits at the home of Faye and Ted Kiss in Saskatoon. Ted grew up in Hungary and escaped after the Communist crackdown on the October Revolution in 1956. (Read more of his story.) His Canadian wife Faye has become an excellent cook of Hungarian foods, like these yummy biscuits.

Cottage Cheese Biscuits - Turos Pogácsa
4 cups flour
1 lb margarine (Imperial works well)
2 cups cottage cheese
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp sour cream
1 egg, whisked
Caraway seeds or parmesan cheese for sprinkling

Note: you can use butter but it hardens in the fridge and makes rolling more difficult.

Mix flour and margarine with a pastry blender until crumbly. Press the cottage cheese with a folk until smooth. (A few lumps are okay.) Add to the flour with the baking powder, salt and sour cream. Mix with a spoon until it sticks together. Roll the dough on a floured surface. The dough will be a bit uncontrollable at this stage. Fold the dough in quarters, press together, wrap in plastic and refrigerate.

Every 5-6 hours, roll the dough, fold in quarters and refrigerate. Do this at least four times over 2-3 days.

On the last roll, roll the dough about 1/2 inch thick. Brush with whisked egg and sprinkle with caraway seeds or parmesan cheese. Cut with a small round biscuit cutter. Bake at 400F about 20 minutes. The biscuits will rise and even topple over in the oven. This recipe will make a least 3 cookie sheets of biscuits.

Faye says: "This is an excellent appetizer biscuit, great with beer or pre-dinner drink. To reheat, place in one layer on cookie sheet and warm at 300F for 10 minutes. DO NOT microwave. Due to the high fat content the biscuits will become gummy."

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Handmade and homemade in my kitchen

I'm cooking with this lovely wooden spatula hand-made with Saskatchewan birch by my young friend Ada Bock. Want one? I think she's taking orders, contact her dad Ralph Bock.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Prairie Kitchens - Hot German Potato Salad

Imagine getting through the winter without a single green vegetable. That was reality for the early pioneers. After homesteading, their first priority was to build a house and plant potatoes. Potatoes were a staple food along with bread, oatmeal, dried fruit (such as raisins and prunes), salt pork and wild game, when available.

Potatoes were served in creative ways, not just mashed and roasted, but also in soup, perogies, pies and cookies, biscuits and potato bread such as Norwegian lefse. Mashed potato was also used as a starter for making bread before commercial yeast was available.

Hopefully, the store of potatoes lasted until spring, but that was not always the case. One family of Barr Colonists (settlers from England who came here in 1903) lost their entire potato crop one frigid night in December. The potatoes were kept in a cellar dug under the floor of their little house, but the hole wasn't deep enough. One night, the fire went out and the whole house froze, including the bread that was rising on the stove and, sadly, the entire store of potatoes.

"We tried thawing them in both hot and cold water, baking them and boiling them in their skins, but no matter how we treated them they tasted horrible, like sweet potatoes gone sour," writes Mary (Pinder) Hiemstra in her memoire Gully Farm. Without potatoes, she says a typical meal that winter was wild rabbit, stewed prunes, bread and tea. Not a vegetable in sight – until the first greens of spring.

Warm German Potato Salad
1 lb potatoes (3 medium)
3 slices bacon, small dice
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Boil whole potatoes in water until they can be pierced through with a sharp knife. Cool slightly, peel and slice about 1/4 inch thick.

While the potatoes are cooking, sauté the bacon until soft. Add onion and cook until bacon is done. Add chicken broth and vinegar and heat through, seasoning with salt and pepper to your taste. Pour the bacon mixture onto the warm potatoes and toss gently. Eat warm, perhaps sprinkled with chopped chives or parsley, if available.

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

Friday, January 03, 2014

Prairie Kitchens - Tourtiere

My first tourtiere, that famous meat pie brought to Saskatchewan by settlers from French Canada. Curious, do you have tourtiere in your family tradition?

I used the recipe of the Marchand family of Bellevue, which was included in a new booklet on the history and flavours of that francophone region of Saskatchewan. Every year, mother and daughters get together and bake as many as 100 tourtieres for the Christmas season!

Download the booklet Saveurs et Savoirs 2. The recipe for tourtiere is on page 66-67.