Monday, January 25, 2010

Beautiful Borscht

I was inspired to try making borscht when I was served some at the People's Potato the other week. If you live in Montreal and you haven't been for a cheap (or free) meal at Concordia's vegan soup kitchen, then I suggest you go there immediately. Hall building, 7th floor. Bring your own tupperware and you'll get served even faster.

So the borscht was so lovely, flavourful and delicious that I attempted my own version.

These guys got thinly chopped.

Ginger is not a typical ingredient in borscht but what the hell, it can't hurt.

Beet blood knife residue turned my garlic all pink.

I threw some cabbage in for fun.

Here it is, frying in olive oil.

I added half a can of leftover crushed tomatoes...again not typically included in borscht but they are red and yummy so they might blend in? Don't forget copious amounts of chopped fresh dill. That makes it real borscht-like. I used vegetarian beef broth, and a dash of red wine vinegar for tang.

Voila! Borscht time! It got redder and deeper in colour as the days went by.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


A few weeks ago we had our first potluck of 2010. It was varied, delicious and warming for the body and soul as all potlucks should be. It was so warm in fact, that we had to open the window in the kitchen what with all the body heat and oven used in re-warming all the hot dishes everyone brought.

I decided to break out the enameled cast- iron roaster santa (mom) brought me for xmas. There's something extremely comforting in knowing I will own and use this roasting pan for years to come and it's so durable I will probably be able to hand it down to my progeny, if I so choose to reproduce and am lucky enough to create a mini cooking aide.

I contributed baked beans to the potluck. They are super super easy to make, but the reason I guess most people buy canned baked beans is because they don't have time to stick around while they cook for 3 hours. I have to admit felt a bit imprisoned by the beans...but it forced me to stay home and study.

What you do is the night before, soak a pound (450g) of navy beans in water. When you wake up the next day, rinse them while making coffee and cover with fresh water. Boil those suckers for 5 minutes and rinse again. Stick them in a casserole, pan, or anything oven proof--you don't even need a lid. Add a 1/2 cup of sweet stuff (honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, molasses, agave, whatever you like), 1/4 cup of ketchup, a small can of tomatoes, 3 gloves of chopped garlic, a chopped onion, some bay leaves, a splash of tamari, a couple big plops of mustard and salt and pepper. Cover with an inch of water over the beans and stick in a 350 degree oven for 3 hours. That's it, just don't let them dry out...just add more water. These babies went mighty quickly, they were a hit!

Here's what they looked like after a few hours of just marinating in their own beany goodness.

Rocky contributed an amazing dish of baked trout in coconut milk, ginger, garlic, and veggies...amazing! I overheard lots of people asking who made this, everyone really enjoyed it.

Jen brought bread and cheese and olives and tomatoes...mmmmm. What's great about potluck is you also get lots of leftovers the next day. I love that people bring things I wouldn't necessarily delicious melting camembert.

Prashant brought a beautiful leek and tomato quiche. Store bought but tasted home made.

Dominic brought home made pizza! I ate like 3 pieces. Pure joy I tell you.

This salad was an impressive hit, by Rosemary. I specifically requested this salad because she made it the first time I met her. Spelt udon noodles, aduki beans, chopped veggies and toasted black sesame and pumpkin seeds with a lime and sesame dressing. Winner.

Here she is, working on dish #2, apple crisp. Did you know you can toast the flour and oats in the frying pan to help with digestion and to bring out the flavours? So good.

Rosemary also brought us a 3rd dish, some mini spanikopita we re-toasted in the oven. Mmmmm.

Happy leftover transformations are great to add to the mix. I blended leftover spicy chili with a can of refried black beans and some chopped tomatoes and voila! Spicy bean dip.

Here's the spread! It was really nice to have everyone over, and the best part was that random people I had only met once way back when I first moved here came over. Thanks for coming and I hope you'll be here for the next potluck fiesta!

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I had stumbled upon Minervois wine when I was given a bottle for hosting some potluck or other back in London. One typical weeknight I was drowning my sorrows with the Minervois and was pleasantly surprised. The character of this wine was unlike any I had tasted before. I also had the good fortune of having received a very memorable had a picture of a gorilla on it because proceeds from the sale went to some rainforest charity. Anyway, I remembered the type of wine and went looking for more...pretty rare stuff! The terroir is only 4200 hectares (don't ask me if that is big or not for wine--no clue). But the dudes at the wine shop were impressed that such a young chick knew this wine. So thanks to whoever brought the gorilla bottle! I persuaded mom and dad to crack open a very nice bottle of wine I purchased for them 3 xmases ago.
The big gun comes out: Decanter time!

Letting her breathe.

A cursory web search revealed that 2006, 2004 and 2001 are great vintages for Minervois. I chose well! This one was made with a blend of Grenache and Syrah. What really turns me on about this wine is its "mouth feel" (holy pretentious much). Nice and silky. Mmmmm. Monsieur Villerambert Julien tu es un genie!

Please note the annotated bottle, "Noel '06". I hope I have enough wine someday to feel the need to remember when it was received. These days I just feel the need to DRINK IT.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

eating the arse-end of 2009

So I hope your resolutions are going well and that 2010 is treating you swell so far. We're only 5 days in but 2010 has been eventful what with my first class of the winter term, starbucks gingerbread lattes, spicy chili, a flu-like illness causing lethargy and dizzy spells, scrabble, shovelling the inside of my apartment (thanks door for not closing properly!), big love marathons and much more.
Let us now reminisce on 2009. The motto for 2009 in my family was "everything's fine in 2009". If you know me you'll be sure to understand that this is a false statement. Floods, illness, dramz, it didn't end. But, 2009 had its highlights...dudes, I went to CHINA. C'mon, that's pretty awesome right? I also ate rat in Cambodia, killed a cockroach in Thailand (take that, phobia!), and got drunk on rice wine with Vietnam vets on a 14 hr train ride to Hanoi. Cool shit.

2000-2009 recap:

At the dawn of the new millenium I was still in Uni in my hometown, with my high school bf, living at home and dreaming of how I would one day leave everything behind and travel to exotic locales. I was performing at the Townehouse once a month with Julie and rocking out. La troupe did Paroles de Paiement and I performed with them. I worked at the health food store and became a vegetarian.

2001: graduated, broke up with high school bf, moved to Dublin with Alexie and lived it up. Met some great friends who formed the United Nations drinking crew. Learned to love Guinness. Travelled around Ireland.

2002: Re-read The Sun Also Rises for the 4th time and visited Hemingway's Spain. Went to Paris and Bruges with my mom. Kissed a lot of boys. Kissed a German boy and fell in love. Moved back to Canada. Worked at the health food store. Vowed I would make it back to Spain.

2003: Moved to Germany to be with my lover. Studied in Valencia, Spain and ended up living there. Taught English, learned what fresh food tastes like. Learned to speak Spanish. Swam topless in a deserted sea in October. Became afraid of cockroaches...they lived in my flat with me. Worked 17 hrs a week and still had enough for food, shopping and wine. Life was hard and easy at the same time.

Still in Spain. Every day was sunny except for a week in April. Had an impromptu 9 hour-straight jam at a bar with a funny Glaswegian and some South Americans. Ate a lot of shellfish, tapas. Was awake during the night more than the day. Danced the salsa in tiny bars. Listened to flamenco. Tanned on my balcony. Learned to stretch out tasks, do cryptic crosswords, gut squid, tell someone off in Spanish.

2005: Came home to Canada for a bit. Moved to Glasgow to study teaching. Still in love. Drank lots more Guinness. Jammed for free beers in bars. Made magical curries. Met awesome friends. Lived in a dorm for the first time. Banged on about how great Spain was. Went back to Spain with O for an amazing holiday: Madrid, Salamanca, Toro, Valladolid. Learned about Scottish education. Worked in 3 different schools. Graduated. Moved to London and learned about living with a man for the first time. Looked for work. Taught music and drama in many many schools. Joined a gym. Hated the big city.

2006: Got used to the big city. Got a permanent teaching job. Spent less and less time with man I co-habitated with. Lots of trips all over Europe. Moved flats, had a balcony and a small garden. Watched my flowers grow. Spent too much time alone.

2007: Jen moved to London and was my flatmate for 3 weeks. Me and O drifted apart...some unhappiness. Lots of trips: Amsterdam, Belgium, France, Germany. Worked hard, fell in love with children.

2008: Changed grades and classroom. Taught children to sing and play the recorder. My good friend and I worked in adjacent classrooms. Lots of fun. Got better at my job, got worse at my relationship. Went to Spain, Turkey, Northern Canada. Ended my relationship. Lived with good friend from school. Exercised a lot. Moved back to Canada.

2009: Worked with all my friends for a TV show. Lived in a building with a turret. Learned how to let go the hard way. Traveled in SE Asia. Moved to Montreal and started grad school. Got a flatmate who is not a man for the second time in my life. Learned about the strength gained from women around me. Started this blog.

Feels great to be in a new decade! If I can top the last one I will be one happy camper.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

curry craving

Hello friends! Welcome to 2010, hope you all had a fantastic time ringing in the new year. My NYE 2009 post is yet to come. First I want to tell you about the green curry I made after a day of shopping at the sales. God I love sales. Got a pair of jeans, 2 cardigans and a long sleeved top for 80 bucks. Pretty amazing! As I was shopping my little heart out, I was very very hungry, and mentally going through my fridge to see what I could make. I started craving thai green curry. Creamy, spicy, sweet and warming curry. Yes. I ended up having to buy coconut milk, beer and coriander to complete my feast.

Mmmm beer.

The ingredients in question: garlic, ginger, onion, zukes, red pepper, carrot, celery, broccoli. And their little friends coconut milk and curry paste. P.S. this paste kinda sucked, buy the Thai Kitchen one instead. Mental note for next time.

Oh and cherry tomatoes decided to jump in at the last minute.

I pre-fried some tofu marinated with soya and pepper in some coconut oil. Next time I will cut the pieces up smaller.

For those of you unsure how to cook's just like soup. Start by frying your aromatics (garlic, ginger, onion). They make the house smell good and you can brag that you are an amazing chef though all you've done is heated the ingredients to release their aromas. It's all good. Then add the harder veg first as they take longer to cook. (Carrot, celery, broccoli.) Then the softer veg go in with coconut milk and the curry paste. Stir and simmer. Add more water if you see it's drying up. I like a lot of sauce. In the meantime have some grain cooking, like rice or quinoa or rice noodles. Combine and sprinkle with coriander. Enjoy!

It ended up tasting OK, but not spicy enough. Some spicy thai hot sauce cleared up that problem.

I couldn't very well eat this feast alone now, could I? Cristal came over and brought us some treats. Lovely little cakes from the bakery around the corner. I was blown away by this macha green tea cake. So green. So tea-y. Delish.

There was also a chocolate fondant cake and this here is some cranberry cake.

Hope everyone is recovering well from the festivities and has had a lot of fun. NYE post is up next with risotto, fireworks and general shenanigans. xo