Monday, February 24, 2014

Prairie Kitchens - Vinegret

As we say farewell to the Russian Olympic Games, we can remember the welcome paid to 7,400 Russian immigrants who arrived in what would become Saskatchewan in early 1899. They were Doukhobors.

In Russia, they were persecuted for their religious beliefs – they were pacifist, vegetarian and refused to swear allegiance to any power lower than God. As the Doukhobors were packing, Canadian authorities were scrambling to welcome such a large number of immigrants at once. The answer was potatoes.

In the fall of 1898, government agents were buying up potatoes from Brandon to Regina. It was a very wet fall and many potato crops were ruined, reducing the volume and increasing the price. Potatoes purchased in the fall for 30–45 cents per bushel were $1.25 a bushel by spring. Estimates said they would need upwards of 10,000 bushels for food that winter and another 1,000 bushels for planting in Doukhobor gardens come spring.

Storage was an issue, as seen in this memo from December 1898: "Quantity potatoes stored in cellar public building here think require attention decaying smell through office very bad most unhealthy for officers and presume potatoes spoiling."

Most of the potatoes reached their destination. A year later, the Doukhobors had built fifty-seven communal villages and proved themselves to be successful farmers, particularly in potatoes. This salad of potatoes and beets came to Saskatchewan with the Doukhobors and is still popular in Russia.

2 potatoes
2 beets
3 carrots
2-3 pickles
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp vinegar (opt)
Salt and pepper

Boil vegetables until cooked. Cool and peel. Chop vegetables and pickles. Mix with onion, oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Variation: add 1/2 cup sauerkraut.

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

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Prairie Kitchesn - Roast Beef and Gravy

In traditional English kitchens, while the roast was cooking, the Yorkshire pudding dish was placed underneath to catch the dripping fat. When the roast was done, the Yorkshire pudding batter was poured into the hot pan and popped back into the oven. While that cooked, the roast "rested" and the gravy was made. As the Yorkies came out of the oven, the roast and gravy were ready for serving. Sunday dinner was on! Recipe for Yorkshire pudding.

Roast Beef and Gravy

2 1/2 pound beef roast
Salt and pepper
3 tbsp bacon fat or vegetable oil
1/2 cup hot water
6-8 small potatoes
2 onions, peeled and quartered
8 carrots, peeled
2 tbsp flour
1/4 cup water

Heat oven to 300F. On the stove, heat bacon fat or vegetable oil in roasting pan until hot. Pat roast dry with paper towel and sprinkle all over with salt and pepper. Brown roast in hot oil, turning to brown all sides. Pour in hot water. Cover and roast in oven 1 1/2 hours.

Add vegetables to the roaster and return to oven. If needed, add more water. (Not necessary if the lid fits tightly.) Roast another 1/2 hour, until potatoes are cooked.

Remove roast to a plate and cover with foil to "rest." Scoop vegetables into a bowl and keep warm. Place roasting pan on stove and heat on medium. Mix flour and water until there are no lumps. Pour into bubbling liquid and stir vigorously. Season with salt and pepper. Bubble lightly to a desired gravy consistency. If the gravy gets too thick, add a bit of water, stirring well, until you're happy with the consistency. Slice the roast beef and serve with Yorkshire puddings smothered in gravy.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Prairie Kitchesn - Yorkshire Pudding

My first attempt at Yorkshire pudding was a complete disaster. My second attempt today was much better, though not perfect. No surprise, since I've never actually eaten a real Yorkie. Well, not until today...

Traditionally, back in England, while the meat was cooking, the Yorkshire pudding pan was placed underneath to catch the fat dripping from the meat. When the roast was done, the batter was poured into this hot fat and baked in a hot oven. The hot fat and the hot pan are essential to a successful Yorkie, so I've learned.

Yorkshire Pudding
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
pinch salt
beef drippings or vegetable oil

Old time cooks had to whip this up by hand, but luckily we have blenders. Blend the eggs and milk. Gradually add the flour, blending all the while. Add the pinch of salt and blend well. And blend again. Put 1 tsp of roast drippings or vegetable oil in each cup of a muffin tin. Heat oven to 400F. Put the muffin tin in the oven until hot. Meanwhile, blend the batter again. Quickly pour the batter in the hot muffin tins and slip it back into the oven. Bake 20-25 min., until the Yorkies are puffy and brown. Serve with roast beef and gravy.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Prairie Kitchens - Spinach Maultaschen

Perogies. Ravioli. Maultaschen. Wonton. It seems every culture that settled Saskatchewan brought a version of dough stuffed with savoury fillings, making a little bit of meat go a long way by mixing it with bread crumbs, cooked vegetables, cheese (from a time when people had cows and made their own cheese) and fresh greens. And when there was no meat, they were still delicious and filling.

Last week, I attended the Saskatchewan German Council's "Kochlöffel & Nudelholz" cooking club (the name means wooden spoon and rolling pin) to learn the method of making the southwest German version called maultaschen. Its origin is lost in time, but I like this story: a group of monks preferred to to eat meat on holy days (when they were not supposed to eat meat) so they stuffed it in a pocket to hide their transgression from the watchful eyes of God.

The coordinator of the class, Andrea MacLeod, came to Saskatoon from Leipzig, Germany, in 2010 to marry a local fellow. She brought her favourite recipes with her such as lentil soups, German pancakes, fruit torte, kuchen (cakes) and holiday cookies such as pfeffernusse.

According to the 2011 census, more people in Saskatchewan claimed German heritage than any other (second was English) so no doubt these recipes have a long and cherished place in our kitchens.

Spinach Maultaschen
(You'll find a meat filling here.)
5 eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
1 pinch salt
Water as needed

Spinach and Ricotta Filling:
1 tbsp olive oil
350 g package fresh spinach
1/2 onion, diced
Salt and pepper
1 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 pine nuts
Chilli flakes to taste
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp fresh sage or parsley

Dough: Beat eggs with a fork. Combine flour, salt and eggs to make a soft dough. If needed, add a bit of water, one teaspoon at a time, to incorporate the flour. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for 45–60 min.

Filling: Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Sweat the onion. Chop spinach, add to onion and cook until wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Cool. Mix with ricotta cheese.

Sauce: Toast pine nuts in a dry frying pan. Add chili flakes and butter. When the butter melts, add the sage or parsley.

Roll the dough on a floured surface to the thickness of a knife blade. Cut in 4 x 4 inch squares or circles (using a glass or a cookie cutter). Place filling in the center and fold into triangles or crescents. Brush the edges with water and pinch together well. Cook 5-8 minutes in a pot of salted water. Serve with sauce.

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

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Prairie Kitchens - Maultaschen

Maultaschen are filled dumplings from the Swabian area of Germany, according to cooking instructor Andrea MacLeod of the "Kochlöffel & Nudelholz" Cooking Club in Saskatoon. (The name means wooden spoon and rolling pin.) I recently joined a class that was making these meat filled maultaschen. You'll find the dough recipe and a spinach filling here.

Meat Filled Maultaschen
100 g bacon, diced
1/2 onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
2 old buns
Big sprig of parsley
150 g spinach, cooked
1 egg
300 g ground meat (beef, pork or combination)

Saute bacon, onion and leek until partially cooked. Dice buns and soak in a bit of water. Put bacon mixture, buns, parsley and spinach through a meat grinder or food processor. Season with salt and nutmeg to taste. Mix with the ground meat and egg. Blend well. Fill dough (recipe), brushing edges of dough with water and pressing to seal. Boil 5-8 min., depending on thickness of dough.

Cooking instructor Andrea MacLeod making dough for maultaschen.

Class participants cutting squares of dough for meat maultaschen.

Dropping maulataschen into boiling water.

After boiling, the maultaschen are fried lightly in butter. A bit of chopped sage in the butter would add a nice flavour. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Prairie Cooking - Love Letters

Back in the pioneer days, there were many lonely hearts here on the prairies. Men far outnumbered women, sometimes by twenty to one. In the countryside, a new female teacher was met with great speculation as to which young farmer would win her heart.

Communities organized fundraisers called Box Socials to which each young lady brought a fancy boxed lunch to be auctioned off to the eligible bachelors, along with the promise of an introduction and a dance. Then there was the joke about the fellow who wrote to the Eaton's catalogue to "order" one of the models on the corset page.

In 1906, a fellow calling himself Big Mike wrote a letter to the editor of Western Home Monthly: "I would like to have a good strong woman for wife who would milk cows and feed calves, and raise plenty of fowl and keep a good garden."

On rare occasion, women also used the pages of farm magazines to find a mate, but they were perhaps a bit pickier in their requirements. In 1917, Saskatchewan Nancy wrote: "I would like to correspond with the other sex between 35 and 40, if they live near a town and own good farms and good houses, not shacks. I am a good cook and buttermaker, and am fond of poultry."

This Czech recipe for Love Letters appeared in the CCF Cookbook of 1944, submitted by Louise Lucas of Mazenod, Sask. Let's hope some of those letters to the editor had happy endings.

Love Letters
1 cup cottage cheese
1 cup butter, room temp.
2 cups flour
Pinch of salt
Jam of your choice

Drain cottage cheese through a sieve, pressing lightly to remove moisture. Beat together cottage cheese and butter. Work in flour and salt. Form dough into a ball, wrap and refrigerate one hour. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface. Fold and roll again. Do this three more times then let the dough rest 1/2 hour.

Working in batches, roll the dough so thin you can see through it. Cut into 3x3 inch squares. Place a bit of jam in the centre. Fold the corners to the middle so it resembles an envelope, dabbing the corners with water and pressing to seal. Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes.

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Monday, February 03, 2014

Prairie Kitchens - Bullet Soup

In 1870, hundreds of French-speaking Métis packed their wagons and left Manitoba for open lands to the west. About 40 families established a village on the South Saskatchewan River north of present day Saskatoon. They called it Petite Ville.

In summertime, most everyone left the village to hunt buffalo on the southern plains, drying the meat and making pemmican as they went. In winter, they came back to Petite Ville. Excavations and history tell us something about what they ate including buffalo, snowshoe hare, muskrat, ducks and grouse, along with wild berries and plants.

Houses had open fireplaces and chimneys made of mud and straw. They cooked in copper pots and ate tinned and packaged foodstuffs such as tea and fruit preserves from the Hudson Bay Company. Shards of delicate English china in blue and white patterns indicate a genteel touch in a rustic prairie home. Meat was kept in ice pits outside the house (protected from animals) and other foods were stored in cellars under the floorboards.

I have not read evidence of gardens at Petite Ville, but it is recorded elsewhere that the Métis grew root vegetables such as potatoes and turnips, and I can imagine the elders tending gardens while the others were away at the hunt.

Bullet Soup is a Metis tradition. The name comes from the French word boulettes, meaning meatballs. This modernized version of Bullet Soup comes from Colleen Hamilton of CHEP Good Food Inc., who grew up in one of the original French Métis communities of Manitoba.

Bullet Soup
1/4 lb lean ground beef
1/4 lb lean ground pork
2 tbsp grated onion
1-2 clove garlic, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Dried rosemary and parsley
Flour for dredging
1 diced onion
2 cups diced potatoes
1 cup chopped carrot
1 diced turnip
1 diced sweet potato
1/4 package whole wheat pasta

Mix beef, pork, grated onion, salt, pepper and herbs. Form into balls about the size of a jawbreaker. Dredge in flour. Cover with water and boil until cooked.

Cool pot, refrigerate and when cold, skim the fat. (Optional. Not necessary if using lean meat.)

Reheat broth, adding more water to make a full pot. Add diced onion, potato, carrot, turnip and sweet potato. Simmer until tender.

Season broth with salt and pepper to your taste. Before serving, add the pasta and cook until done. Serve with bannock (recipe).

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

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Colour makes the world better

A lovely Sunday brunch with a lovely bunch of eggs. And a lovely bunch of friends. Proof that good friends come in all colours. :)

Blue - Ameracaunas. Chocolate reddish brown - French black copper Marans. Brown - Euskal Oiloa and Hungarian Yellows. White - Leghorns and Silver Grey Dorkings. Personally, I detect a bit of pink in there too. And a lovely quiche it was!

Parmesan Crust Quiche
A few slices of bacon, diced
A bit of chopped onion
A couple of chopped green onion, white and green part
8 eggs
1/2 cup half and half cream
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp butter
3-4 tbsp parmesan cheese
2 cups Gruyere cheese

Heat the bacon in a skillet on low heat until soft. Add the onions and cook through. Whip together eggs and cream. Season with salt and pepper.

Rub butter inside a pie plate. Press parmesan cheese into the butter. Spread the bacon onion mixture on the parmesan cheese. Top with Gruyere cheese. Pour on the eggs. Bake 375F for 30-35 minutes, until the centre is set.