Monthly Archives: April 2011

That’s “Duchess Commoner” to you

Serenity at 4 am.

Until midnight last night I was determined not to care too much about the Royal wedding.  I set my alarm for 5am which seemed much more reasonable than 4am (and surely there was only so much footage of sentimental crowds in Union Jack T-shirts that one could make fun of).

Within one minute of my head hitting the pillow I had turned the light back on and re-set the alarm to 4am. Then double checked it.  A total sucker.  Dammit.

At 4 o’clock I  steeped myself a cup of tea using my wedding china (I just gave up all resistance) and curled up on the couch.  It was quiet and dark and insect-like fascinators were buzzing all around Westminster Abbey in HD glory.  It was like Alice in Wonderland had landed on everyone’s head.

I watched, I ate scones.  I ate all the bacon.  (Sorry family.)

I texted my friend Nic to ask if she also thought David Beckham looked hot. (she did)

My soft-boiled egg long forgotten.

I overcooked my soft-boiled eggs during the walk down the aisle. (Here’s the dress and check out Pippa!)

During the vows I used a paring knife to carve the likeness of the new Duchess of Cambridge out of a cantaloupe.

OK, I ate a ginger-cantaloupe salad (recipe below).

Essentially, I was one happy commoner.  Wills and Kate 4-Ever! T.I.D. T.I.N.D.

GINGER-MELON SALAD (adapted from the Rose Bakery Cook Book)

This is a very simple, do-ahead recipe. I think this syrup would be a nice boost when your melon (dare I say it?) might not be quite in season and less sweet.  Or try adding the ginger syrup to real iced tea.

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup water

4 cm piece fresh ginger (peeled and grated*)

juice of 1 lemon

1 cantaloupe, cut into bite-size chunks

1 honeydew, cut into bite-size chunks

Put the sugar and water into a small saucepan and simmer until sugar dissolves.

Add the grated ginger, set syrup aside to cool.

Strain syrup and add lemon juice.

Pour the syrup over the melon an hour before serving. Toss and chill.

*the original recipe suggests slicing the ginger but I think grating it infuses more flavour (since you’re straining it anyway).


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Ready or Not Here I Scone

I plan to eat a scone every 10 minutes as tribute.


CBC’s Jian Ghomesi tried to squelch my media-hyped Royal wedding anticipation on Q this morning by implying/saying straight out that there were more important things in the world than Kate and Will.  Well, too late Jian, that was my stance until last weekend but now the scones are ready to go.  (Couldn’t resist dropping the fact that you born in London though, could you? Well, so what, I’ve been to London too and took a highly informative double decker bus tour. That’s right.)

So, without further ado-my eats Friday, April 29, 2011, 4 am

Soft-boiled egg  (with Maldon sea salt of course)

Bacon and a breakfast sausage (why choose when there will be hours of wedding bonanaza)

Scone-with raisins and candied orange (it covers the “wedding fruitcake” theme)

The Duchy Original Damson preserves  (have been consuming them like crazy all week, you rock the preserves Prince Charles)

Melon salad with ginger-lemon dressing (the fruit component which makes this a healthy breakfast)

Royal Early Grey tea (seems only right)

Will post pictures at breaking dawn.  Or a lot later.

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Toast Post: Red Leicester

Red savoury heaven on Red Fife sourdough

It’s British, it’s bright orange and it’s looks slightly obnoxious on a plate.  Red Leicester will soon be your taste bud’s new BFF.  Les (all good friends should have a nickname) is so rich in savoury, nutty, sweet, umami-ness that he could be Parmesan’s bawdy, British cousin (thrice removed).  Don’t worry, he won’t overstay his welcome, in fact he’ll be gone much too soon.

It’ll be a testament to your willpower if you manage to save some for the toast you’re waiting to pop.  I shaved thin morsels of Red Leicester onto my sourdough but chunks are nice for a snack.  But not a snack you’ll want to share.  People will eye Les and as you unveil him from your lunchbox, and you might be forced to ask, “Would you like some?”  But maybe you’ll add something like,  “It’s quite past its due date but I didn’t want to waste bad cheese. God, I hope it isn’t rife with listeria from being wrapped and left out of the fridge with that cheap baloney!  Oh well, what’s life without some risks?  Please, help yourself, I insist. And take some for your baby too.

Red Leicester in 11 words or more: Leiscester (Less-ter) hails from Leiscester county in England and has been made since the 18th century.  It was original created as a use for milk left over from Stilton production.  Traditionally, it was produced in a cloth-wrapped  wheel which could weigh up to 45 lbs.  In today’s more common factory production it is often made in blocks.  Aged from 3-9 months, older is probably better in this case: firmer, flaky, concentrated flavour. The orange colour comes from annato which is the same natural dye used for orange cheddar.

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Top Chef Canada: Episode 3

Episode 3 has come and gone.  It was a little bit dull, like a Russian egg sans caviar.   Which there was no excuse for in this episode, the fridges were overflowing with the sustainably hatched delicacy.

Well, let’s go through it and decide:  dull or small spark of interest?

1.  Chef McEwan was wearing a silky billowing blue  shirt.  It was a “I can dine finely but still look casual enough for a movie afterward.”  Perhaps he planned to check out a rom-com after last week’s sad dishes.  Maybe Baby Boom– why didn’t he think of organic baby food before Diane Keaton?

2. Darryl says its time to bring his “A -Game” (yes, please. C-game is getting stale) and Steve confesses that cooking changed his life.   Francois mentions something about “bringing it”. Maybe he means he’s finished cooking the raw egg dish from last week.

3. Quickfire Challenge for immunity.

Very cool actually.  20 ingredients in a box covering sweet, spicy, salty and sour.  The chefs had to taste them blindfolded. You may have had this experience if you’ve ever been forced to taste baby food blindfolded at a baby shower (in the case of baby food you also quickly realize why kids start to hate vegetables at an early age.  Because they taste like pureed poison. Sorry Diane Keaton)

The chefs sampled items such as arugula, fermented beans, miso, sea asparagus, anchovy, beets and watermelon juice.

Chris won with a high score of 13.  Francois didn’t even bother to guess on many and managed to identify only 1.  The taste of fear.  Then he challenged any viewers who might be laughing at him to “try it–you’ll see”.   You’ll be sorry was unspoken.

Best guess of the night, Steve calls eggplant “a dry-ass cucumber”.

4. Elimination Challenge:  Dan Aykroyd arrives with his Crystal Head Vodka and the chefs are divided into 2 teams and have to prepare a Russian zakuski meal.  Essentially hot and cold appetizers–pickled onion, kolbasa, cold fish dishes and such- all requiring strong visual appeal.

So the green team was set up as the team of potential implosion–it had the good: Rob, Andrea, Connie and the bad: Jamie, Darryl and Derek. (I always forget about him until I see his “cap”).  I guess the cap says, “oh yah-the guy in the cap!”

Blue Team was all go, go, go.  Dale was pissed that Chris didn’t “man-up” (since he had immunity) and take on the dessert course, often a surefire ticket to failure. Ultimately B&B Todd took it on (making a good waffle is halfway to making a good dessert).   Dale declared himself the leader.

Green Team was “each man for himself” or as Andrea put it, “It’s Top Chef, not Top Team Chef.”  She seemed to have the revelation this episode that she could kick some serious man-chef ass.  Go Andrea.  We also learned that Connie was a ballerina for eighteen years which gave her the discipline to keep a straight face while realizing that half her team was a bunch of duds.

5. Final Judgment:  In a well manipulated TV upset, the green team pulled off the most consistently good zakuski for the judges (including Aykroyd and Frank Chef Anne Yarymowich).  Connie nailed a cold dish of smoked garlic sausage, hand-made Kasha and barley lavash and won the challenge. Andrea also rocked the Crystal Skull with sauerkraut, smoked speck, pork loin and ribs, with a veal-and-rye bread meatball.

FYI-Dessert Todd ended up doing an impressive job making a parsnip blini.

Poor Connie, excited about her prize of a weekend in LA, must have been stricken when she realized she was actually committed to cooking meals for the Aykroyds for two days. (cleverly disguised as an invite to “come cook with my wife Donna in our kitchen.”)

And the bottom four came from the blue team.

Dale: “I thought my fishy tasting fish was just perfect”

Chris: “I won’t make dessert, I’d make a flavourless sausage.”

Steve: “I thought the bacon foam on my one-pot-potato salad was like seasoning the whole dish”

Patrick: “tasted good but looked bad”

Since, Chris had immunity it was down to the other three.  Steve was sent packing.  I felt some sad.  I might need a bad rom-com to cheer me up.  Maybe the one where Aaron Eckhart and Catherine Zeta-Jones play chefs.

In Episode 3 the cooking was much improved, but overall I felt like the whole show could have been cut down to half an hour.  The other half could have been a chef cock fight, where the chefs drinks lots of Crystal Head vodka, dress in mascot costumes and fight each other in a ring made of caviar.  Just a thought.

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Woman has no shame: makes Christmas Stollen at Easter

“Merry Easter” Stollen

There’s no time like Easter for Christmas Stollen I always say.

My mom always makes a Czech Easter bread for the holiday called velikonoční bochánek and so I thought I would try a different festive fruit bread. What I discovered just this year (post Stollen making) is that the bochánek  is actually the same bread as the Christmas vanocka–just a different shape!   So can you really blame me for making Christmas stollen in the Spring?  One size fits all holiday breads are in my blood.

Luckily, all’s well that ends in rum-infused fruit bread.  I took my recipe from the The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. (p252) After much grumbling, this apprentice realized that the only right thing to do was to candy my own oranges to make a pure Easter stollen.  So we’ll start there.

Boiling the bitterness from the peel

Truth be told, candying citrus peels is one of those things that seem like a monumental pain (like laundry) but then you realize “Hey, I’m not washing clothes on a washboard in the river one garment at a time, I have a washing machine with steam setting.”  Essentially you peel your oranges, pith on, slice them into strips and then boil them for 3 minutes and drain (repeated 3 x) to remove their bitterness.

Wiping Down Sugar Crystals

Then you melt  sugar and water over medium heat (1 1/2 :1 ratio) essentially making simple syrup. Add your orange peel and wipe down the sides of the pot to flush off any undissolved sugar crystals to avoid crystallization later on.

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 1 1/2 hr or until the syrup has reduced to a quarter of the original quantity.

Candied Orange Peel ready for action

I put these on a rack to dry a bit before I diced them.  This is the point you could also roll them in sugar and dip them in chocolate, or store them in their syrup to use later.  (You can use the syrup to sweeten drinks or pour on fruit).

Let’s get to the STOLLEN (but first some raisin time) :

Candied orange and raisins soaking up a little Cointreau.

Take 1 cup raisins and one cup of the diced, candied citrus and  soak overnight in brandy, rum or schnapps.  I had Cointreau so I used that and eliminated the addition of citrus extract.

Next you make the sponge which will leaven the dough.  A simple combo of whole milk, AP flour and instant yeast.  I didn’t have whole milk so used 2% and a little bit of cream.

The sponge after fermenting about 30 minutes.

When the sponge is ready, you mix together the dry: flour, sugar, salt, orange and lemon zest and cinnamon.

And in a stand mixer on low speed (using the paddle attachment) add the sponge, an egg, butter and some warm water.  When the dough is combined you let it rest 10 minutes.  Then add in the fruit and finish kneading it in with your hands. The liquor-soaked candied fruit actually helps preserve the bread–if soaked a few days in advance it can help keep the bread for weeks. (Perhaps this was the fairy loaf that sustained Frodo in his journeys–those fae are clever with dried fruit!)

Stollen fermenting patiently.

You then cover the dough in a lightly greased bowl and let it sit for about 45 minutes to rise.  Then you can use one of two methods to form the stollen.  The method that looks cooler (and more like the blanket swaddled baby Jesus which the bread is meant to represent) or the easier loaf method which causes less cursing (and who wants to curse an edible baby Jesus) which was my choice.

For either method you flatten the dough into a rough rectangle and cover with sliced almonds and extra fruit.  You can also replace the almonds a layer of marzipan which I would do next time–I think it would add a nice moist core.

Send in the almonds.

Then you let the stollen proof for about an hour.

Proof: I made Stollen.

And finally you bake at 350 F. I baked it about 55 minutes (you can make two small loaves but I did one large) until the internal temperature was 190 F.  (hey, I wanted to get this sucker right!).  But in hindsight I would have probably taken it out sooner knowing it will still bake a little before it cools.

This won’t hurt a bit…

While it’s still warm, you brush the bread with oil and then cover with a sieve of icing sugar.  Repeat again.

Voila! Can I shake the sugar or what.

And then eat!  Lovely with a cup of tea.  Apparently the Germans like to let the stollen sit out and dry up a bit.  But maybe that was just an accident once upon a Christmas and they don’t want to admit it and now it’s a bad, bad tradition.

Or maybe they just like an excuse to “Dunk”.

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What food would I get up for at 4 AM? The Royal Question

Pass the Duchy

I had not even contemplated getting up April 29 to watch the Royal wedding, but then I started thinking about what I would eat if I did get up.  Which lead to, what breakfast would inspire me to get up at 4:00 am (I cannot get up at 2:00 am to watch the coverage as then I am not sure if I should be boiling an egg or ordering poutine with extra gravy).

To kindle the fire I purchased some just-in-case Thick Cut Orange Marmalade and Duchy Originals Damson preserve. Plus some Red Leicester cheese to get the English theme flourishing.

So I have decided to have a blog opinion poll.  I will post a new breakfast idea each day and see what draws the most response.

Still lukewarm to the plan there is no way in Royal hell I am turning on the stove at 4am.  So I am thinking of things I can pre-make.

Monday’s Menu Idea:

Maple Syrup Scones

Bacon (I will punch numbers on the microwave to acquire bacon)

Melon and ginger salad (from the Rose Bakery cook book)

Earl Grey Tea ( I already have a fragrant tin of leaves in the cupboard)

Also–I’ll need a milliner and a wine pairing that goes with early dawn and a bathrobe (accessorized with fabulous hat).  Suggestions welcome.

Tuesday’s Menu Idea:

2 soft boiled eggs, sea salt

Breakfast Sausage-would like to try the Healthy Butchers sage and onion variety

toast

Duchy Damson preserve and thick cut marmalade

Cream of Avalon Tea –Tea Emporium  (notes of cream, caramel, bergamot and citrus)

So, I know I said I wouldn’t turn on the stove, but as I warm up to the whole 4am idea I see that turning on the stove could have huge savory payback.  I could perhaps cook the sausage Thursday night and just reheat.  I could settle for that.

UPDATES: 

Thank you Natalie! Here is a wonderful Royal wedding head gear selection from KC Hats

Other people’s breakfast suggestions so far:

French toast and bacon, just Bacon, fresh croissants, cinnamon buns with lots of glaze, brie with crispy baguette and rosette de Lyon sausage, full Irish breakfast and some tomatoes to throw at the TV, toast and cream cheese topped with Vidal Icewine jelly and from my husband: Pint of Landlord. Bacon butty. Another pint of Landlord.

And perhaps the best one from Vic:  I would suggest just not going to sleep. Spend the night drinking Flora Doras.

Wed/Thursday Humming and Haw-ing:

My enthusiasm  was boosted by an email from my friend Iona who lives in England and sent a wonderfully descriptive and warm email of the excitement in London.  She noted:

“I saw lots of American presenters being taken round the area in horse and carriages and Some people next to me said that they could see the presenters of Entertainment Tonight. They were all blonde and I have no idea who they were but you may do. ”  (USA! USA!)

Posting final breakfast menu shortly.  Still can’t decide…pheasant or woodcock?

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Toast Post: Le Cendrillon

Tangy and smooth on sweet and warm

Tis true, I did just write about Le Cendrillon for the The Spread, so I do feel like I’m recycling cheese lore but it’s the most interesting pick of the cheese drawer at the moment–other than Felix’s Laughing Cow triangles which were once referred to as thickened cow mucus by a cheese teacher from England named Tom Badcock (yes, his real name, also he wore a bow tie).  The same accusation was thrown at all cheese in general by a vegan I met in LA once upon a time.

I thought it would be nice to pair Le Cendrillon with the Stollen I made for Easter.  The sweet/fruity bread is kind of a lovely match with the tangy, rich goat cheese.  I prefer this cheese on the riper side –a little more in your face.

Though freshly made,  I wanted to toast the Stollen just a bit to warm it up and give it a bit of a crisp exterior.  As I waiting for the toast to pop I studied Le Cendrillon and thought to myself, “The ash on its exterior looks like a warm blanket.  Maybe I should replace all the blankets in the house with ash.  Or  I could burn all the blankets and have more ash blankets. Scratch that–who wants to use a shovel to put on a blanket?”

Le Cendrillon in 11 words or more: Goat cheese from Quebec by Fromagerie Alexis Portneuf (owned by Saputo). Milk is sourced from the local area and all the cheeses are made by hand.  Won “Best Cheese in the World” in 2009 World cheese awards. The long pyramid shape (I called this a triangular prism, but I got an email from Don, a retired math teacher who set me straight, apparently it’s a frustrum) was created to help the cheese ripen quicker and keep the inner core from drying out.  Look for ones that are 7-10 days before their “best before” date for a real mix of textures in the paste and nice kick of flavour.

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