Tuesday, October 27, 2009

soup and loaf

I taught my flatmate Rocky how to make a little soup. Saute some broccoli and some leeks together with olive oil. When it looks done add some veg stock and some almond milk.


Serve! Add a dollop of yogurt if you're feeling fancy.

Onto loaf times. I have been having some success with making my own vegetarian protein source dishes of late. There were the experimental bean burgers and now we are on to a loaf. I was really in the mood for some more stuffing but I decided to incorporate stuffing into the loaf. Here's what I did.
Mince any dying veg left overs from your fridge. I used carrots, celery, red pepper, leeks and mushrooms. Oh and 4 cloves of garlic.
Fry it all up in a wok and add couple large handfuls of cooked grain. I used quinoa. I then ripped up about 4 bread ends and threw those in the mix. I also needed more protein, so I used a pound of tofu, mushed up and about 1/2 cup of ground almonds, just grind 'em in a blender. Now we needed flavour! Sage, Herbes de Provence, Veggie Stock, Soy Sauce, Ketchup. Party!

Make sure your loaf is not too mushy or wet...i think this one could have used a bit less liquid. But butter will fix everything so just threw some slices on top before baking in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until the whole unit is a world of crispiness.

That's what I'm talkin' about.

A few days later, I discovered I could use the loaf crumbled up as you would veggie ground beef in a pasta bake. Delish!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Apple Cake

I am going to interrupt our little trip down memory lane to fill you in on all the real time baking that's been going on around here. In late September, I went apple picking in St-Joseph du Lac, on the north shore near Montreal. we drove off the highway into an idyllic misty rolling hill setting with the quaintest milk paint pastel colored houses with cornices and actual "horn of plenty" displays in the front yard. I almost had a heart attack from the overdose of quaint. Just lovely. So we drove through dozens of orchards and didn't really know where to stop...but I had a feeling we would just "know" which orchard was the one. Turns out we really like food related puns, so we settled on Le verger Pommalfun. Pis c'etait pas mal le fun.

But what to do with 20lbs of apples? Bake those pink ladies in a cake!
Peel, core and slice about 4 medium apples.

This is a mixture of 1/3 cup raw cane sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon. (But here's my true view on cinnamon. You want to add loads, all the time. Ignore the recipe.) This sugar/cinni mix is gonna get half sprinkled on the apples and the other half on top of the batter.

Hello batter, nice to meet you. I made it from 3/4 cup flour, 1/3 cup coconut oil, an egg, 1/3 cup maple syrup, and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder and a splash of almond milk. Whisk whisk whisk.

Now you see the batter with sugar mix sprinkled on top. I wonder what those apples feel like under their wee blanket of goodness? They're sugared up and ready to go into the oven. Yes! 350 degrees for about 35 minutes.

These are the leftovers a few days later.

Good til the last bite.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Food Memories: China

I was completely taken by surprise by Chinese food and China in general. I was getting lots of mixed reviews from fellow travelers so I really went to China with no expectations about what the food would be like. I learned some very important things on this trip:

- even if something smells like rotten garbage it can still taste delicious, in the case of stinky tofu
-partially formed chicken embryos are a delightful snack for some Chinese people
-Chinese beer is disappointingly low in alcoholic content
-but imported beer costs 45 cents a can
-if you want to eat the best Chinese food in China, go to a vegetarian restaurant

We went to "Lifestyles" vegetarian restaurant 3 times during my week in Ningbo and Shanghai. This is a vegan restaurant with a brilliant reputation as one night some famous monk was eating here while we were dining and the other patrons were going crazy with bowing and it felt like the monastic equivalent of Madonna was in the same restaurant.This food was so good it now makes me sad to recall the delicious sweet and sour flavours of the crispy "pork" or the stir-fried mushrooms. Why sad? Because I may very well never taste this kind of Chinese food again. I have no idea when I will be back but my love still burns strong for you, wonderful mushrooms!

I think the reason Chinese food is so surprisingly delicious is because it's so gosh darned fresh. Like, dew still on the leeks at the market fresh.

No one said life would be easy, but sometimes you just wish for an easy ride. Restaurant.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Food Memories: Vietnam

Vietnam was a mixed bag in terms of travel and overall vibe but the food was something other worldly. Never mind that the dishes are being washed on the sidewalk in a bucket in front of the restaurant, or that you have to use the toilet in said restaurant while being eyed by a giant cockroach. I had some of the best meals of my life here.

Fried Crab stuffed in its own shell, prawn cocktail, australian shiraz aboard a junk ship, Halong Bay. I'm undressing those darling crabs with my eyes and just can't wait to get my hands on them. This was a very impressive meal made all the more delicious because of the view. We spent 24 glorious hours sailing around and meanwhile the crew was preparing our meals in a tiny galley kitchen.
Fish croquettes, Halong Bay. Look at the beautiful edible garnishes!

Baked Snapper, Halong Bay. The croquettes and the fish were part of a 5 course dinner.

Traditional Egg Pancake, Hue. This ultra light and crispy egg pancake contained goodies like shrimp, bean sprout and veggies with some greens on the side.

The legendary Pho 2000 restaurant in Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam. Can you feel the anticipation and excitement!?

Mixed seafood Pho at Pho 2000. This is seriously the BEST pho I have ever tasted. When the soup was served, it was accompanied with dinner plates full of greens: Mustard, dandelion, basil, mint and lots of others I didn't recognise. You grab a handful and throw it on the soup. Soup and salad in one bowl? I was in heaven!

Beef Pho, Hanoi. This was my last breakfast of the Vietnam part of my trip. The restaurant was in the district where they make and sell funeral flower arrangements. Hanoi is interesting as a city because certain streets will all sell the same stuff: Plumbing goods street, Textiles street, Bicycle street, Funeral flowers street, and so on. So beef soup for breakfast it was. This was definitely an "authentic" experience. There were no Westerners about, this restaurant serves only this dish, and it's so popular you get touts on the street who offer to go and get the soup for you at a premium. The soup was fragrant and flavorful, but the meat as you can see was pretty rare and very stringy. It was weird to be eating soup at 8 am with an iced Vietnamese coffee.

In the background you can see the funeral flower arrangements and you can see some on the motorbike ready for delivery.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Food Memories: Cambodia

What to say about Cambodia. I was looking through my pictures and realized I don't have very many pics to post. Cambodian food resembles the Thai tradition but a little less spicy. They have curries, rice dishes, noodles...I tried the Cambodian BBQ which was pretty impressive.
Cambodian BBQ is basically a clay pot with embers in it and that metal thing on top cooks your meat or seafood (including snake and ostrich!) and boils your noodles at the same time in the "moat" around the edge of the grilling implement. Note the beautiful trays of different sauces to go with the BBQ.

There was an unlimited supply of noodles, rice and veggies to go with the BBQ. The waitress must have replenished that tray like 4-5 times.

Cambodia, was a land of extreme food. I saw crickets, cockroaches, scorpions, spiders, fetal eggs and all kinds of insects on offer in the local markets. During the Khmer Rouge regime millions of people were purposely starved. As a result, they now seem to have an acquired taste for whatever you can find in the jungles and rice paddies.

Roasted Eel and Paddy rat, village near Slong Tum Lake, Cambodia. The eel I didn't enjoy-- too fishy. But the rat was ok. Total vegetarian rat, trapped in a nearby rice paddy. Not your urban sewer rat type. No siree, this one tasted mighty fine. Gamy. I imagine squirrels to taste similar. The little dish at the top contained a typical Cambodian dip/sauce. A quarter of a lime and equal pinches salt and white pepper. So good!

I drank a LOT of coconut water to stay hydrated. You can't tell from the picture but it is 42 degrees in the shade there. Cambodia was the hottest climate I have ever experienced. I became zen about it after awhile because here I was in the temples of Siem Reap, one of the Man Made wonders of the World, and I was obsessing about the heat, how much more I would be enjoying myself if I wasn't so hot, etc. I forced myself to think of the heat as only a sensation, neither good nor bad and suddenly I calmed down and felt cooler. Used this Jedi mind trick when carrying my heavy backpack for hours too...it works! Back to the coconut juice...did you know it has all your vitamins, minerals and electrolytes to stay hydrated? It's also a self cooling unit...no need for refrigeration or ice. Lots of liquid in that fruit and so much cheaper than water! A coconut cost about 30 cents.

Maybe I didn't have time to take many pictures of food because I was too busy doing other things...like getting elephant rides...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Food Memories: Thailand

While on a trip to Asia last spring, it was all about the food. Inexpensive, beautifully prepared, fresh food. From curry to fruit to pancakes to soup it was all amazing. So amazing I fell of the vegetarian wagon for a full 8 weeks. Here's a little trip down memory lane.

Spicy Wide Noodles with Squid, Rambuttri Road food stall, Bangkok. This was my first street stall food experience. Street food is quick, cheap, fresh and tasty. The produce was market fresh and sat atop loads of crushed ice. No regrets here, I loved this stall so much I ate here practically every day for about a week. A drink and a plate cost about $3.50.

This is the view from where I sat and ate my meals. Notice the crushed ice covering the fish. There were a couple woks and butane burners behind the produce and that's all you need to make a meal blog worthy!

Peking style duck with greens and ginger, Chinatown, Bangkok. This meal was a bit daunting to find. I had wandered into Chinatown to have a look around and suddenly there were no farangs (foreigners), no English signage and narrow shady lanes. I felt like Chinatown was one giant covered market. After exploring awhile, I decided to look for somewhere to eat. I entered a diner type place with metal tables and ceramic tiled walls and sat down, hoping there'd be an English menu. There wasn't. I saw what people were eating and decided I would point at something that looked good and hope for the best. The Chinese owner sent a young waitress over to me and she asked me what I wanted in English. I told her I didn't know and she said "pork, chicken or duck". I chose duck.

Chicken Noodle Soup, Soup Stall, Rambuttri Road. Singha Beer, 7-11 Rambuttri Road. Consumed at 1.30 am in my hotel room. Total cost, less than 2 bucks. You know when you're traveling alone and just get tired of eating in public by yourself? It happens. I wanted to sit in my underwear in my air conditioned room and watch BBC and eat soup. Picked this snack up, the stall lady packed it in plastic bags and I borrowed a bowl and some chopsticks from the cafe in the lobby. A complete success I'd say.

Fried Red Snapper and grilled prawns at the Treehouse, Lonely Beach, Ko Chang. What a great night that was. The Treehouse is a conglomeration of huts, shared rooms and a bar and restaurant on stilts going right into the water at high tide. I dined with new friends from the UK and had my first Thai bucket o' booze.

Vegetarian Buffet Lunch on board the snorkeling ferry, near Koh Chang. Somehow I ended up on the ferry that had all the Thai tourists. I swear I was the only farang on the whole trip. I was also the only person not wearing board shorts. I found out why when I got my very first (and hopefully last) sunburned butt.

A view from the ferry. Please note this photo has not been retouched, saturated, nothin'. Naturally beautiful.

Afternoon snack on board the snorkeling ferry. I think this snorkeling guide thought I was weird.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Warming Up

Autumn is upon us, isn't it. I know this because I am back to sleeping with a toque and socks on, and taking showers just to warm up. It's so cold in my apartment and they haven't turned on the heat yet! What to do...well I do have a fully functional gas oven circa 1960 that is very energy inefficient. I decided to roast the butternut squash that's been sitting on my kitchen table and do some reading in the comfort of a warm and fragrant kitchen. I turned this baby into delicious soup! Shhh... don't tell anyone but I'll let you in on a secret to this soup's success...an apple. Just peel, cut and fry the apple with the garlic and onions. Oh and I fried these darlings up with coconut oil. Spices: coriander powder and a dash of garam masala and some chilli flakes. Frikkin' awesome and warming and autumnal.

Would you like to see what I had for breakfast? I thought so.
Get yourself some nice toast there, and while you're at it slice an apple real thin-like.

Slap some of this deliciousness on the toast. Helps the apples adhere to the bread.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Welcome to Think About Food

Thinking about what I am going to make for my next meal occupies more brain space than I would care to admit. But admit it I will, because I love food. Thinking about it, cooking it, shopping for it, eating it, sharing it. Food is wonderful. Some people eat to live but I definitely live to eat.

Without further delay...let's get to the good stuff! On with the first blog post: Thankgiving: Halifax edition.

Getting the Goods:

We picked up some items for our feast at Pete's Frootique where I had a melancholy homesickness flashback attack upon spying all kinds of treats imported from the UK.

The famous Tunnock's tea cakes. Check out the retro packaging! Established 1890, impressive. The Scots know their biscuits (cookies) and do them well. My maiden voyage with these babies took place in my first teaching placement at St-Andrew's Secondary in Clydebank. Friday was tea cake day and we'd eat them at break time. So not vegetarian friendly...the dome is filled with a marshmallow type substance not unlike Kraft Marshmallow Fluff. The fluff sits atop a graham cookie and the whole thing is covered in milk chocolate. Think Viva Puffs but sweeter and stickier.

I love Wine Gums and all the sweets made by Maynard's. Again, not vegetarian friendly...thank you cows for your delicious gelatine! These are a trigger food for me. I limit myself to the rolls rather than keeping a bag in the house otherwise they're gone in a day.
Minstrels! Giant Brown Smarties! Enough said.

I wish these oatcakes were easier to come by in Canadia. They were such a go-to snack for me...delish with peanut butter. What do you put on your oatcakes?

The following morning we woke up at an ungodly hour and squished through the local market throngs of turkey buyers to get the rest of our ingredients.

Haligonian Thanksgiving Feast:
Organic Greens with a Sesame Miso Dressing
Mashed Root Veg

Vegetarian Stuffing

Citrus Roasted Carrots and Beets with Honey Goat Cheese
Steamed Beet Greens and Brussel Sprouts

Whole Baked Rainbow Trout Stuffed with Fresh Herbs and Citrus
Pan Seared Swordfish with a Ginger Lime Glaze
Baked Salmon with Dijon and Maple Syrup

Vegan Chocolate Ginger Pumpkin Bread


Local beer: Propeller Bitter. Local fizz: Apple Cider.

Local juice: Mulled Apple and Pear Cider.

Tucking in! My sister's friends also joined in the feast. They brought delicious homemade tofu turkey slices and an amazing apple pear crisp with amaranth.
As Sarah Harmer sings, "It's perfectly suited/this uniform grey...". Awesome typical Maritime weather. Reminds me of living in the UK. I am thankful for that experience because I feel perfectly at home and cozy in the rain now. I'm down with your rainy town.

Thanks for the good food, friends and family. Happy Thanksgiving.

Mad photography skills by the fabulous Mr. Kevin Gay. Thanks Kev-Dawg!