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Archive for the ‘Adventure’ Category

It’s been a busy few months for me! I’ve moved to a new city and started a new job.  Most recently, my job took me up to Moose Factory, Ontario. It’s primarily a Cree community about 10 kilometres south of James Bay (the southern-most section of Hudson’s Bay) on the Moose River.  It was just gorgeous, truly a winter wonderland from mid-November onwards!

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Sunset on the banks of the Moose River

But the food situation could only be described as dire.  I was shocked at the prices and the resulting food insecurity (not to mention the boil water advisory on the reserve).  I saw families at checkouts with only canned food in their cart as that was all they could afford! I’m lucky to have a decent salary and was only buying for myself, but even something as simple as a bowl of pasta with tomato sauce quickly added up to $10-15!  Here’s some prices from my grocery shop in Kashechewan, a community nearby Moose Factory:

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The frighteningly high food prices of Kashechewan, Ontario

All to say, when I got home to Ottawa this past weekend, I was craving a big and varied veggie stirfry.  I decided to make one of my favourite recipes, Lotus Land Linguini from  rebar: modern food cook book.  This medley of crisp veggies with a delightful spicy & creamy peanut sauce continues to be one of my absolute faves.   In it’s original form it’s vegan, but as a special treat I added some shrimp.  And to keep with the Asian theme, I served it with rice noodles instead of linguini (making it gluten-free too!).  I have yet to meet a friend or family member who hasn’t asked for the recipe.  Just the culinary treat I needed!!

– Bon appetit!

Catherine

 

lotus-land-linguini

Crisp veggies in the wok!  Oh so delicious 

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Farmer’s markets are one of my favourite places to visit. I enjoy how markets allow me to meet the people who grow the greens, raise the laying hens that produce eggs, and who produce anything else that catches my eye.

There’s another important reason why I enjoy markets so much: I draw inspiration from everything I see, and I like to challenge myself to cook  vegetables or fruit I am less familiar with. This past weekend I attended the Sweetwater Music Festival in Owen Sound, and since I did not have any concerts to attend in the morning G. and I went to the farmer’s market to explore what local products were available.

At one of the vendors, a basket of tomatillos caught my eye, and I remembered a bunch of cilantro in my refrigerator in Ottawa.

Back home, I drew inspiration from the beautiful sunny weather, despite the cold, whipping up a tangy spicy green salsa for a lunch BBQ at my neighbour’s place. In the end, I was invited to play some board games another time, “as long as [I] make that salsa again!” I’ll leave it to you to try it, and see if it measures up to its reputation as an immediate “invite-granting” commodity!

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Ingredients – An appetizer for 8, as long as there are enough tortilla chips!

-1 lb Tomatillos, peeled and washed

-3 Shallots, peeled and quartered

-2/3 Cup fresh cilantro leaves

-Juice from 1 lime

-4 Dried red chilli peppers (or more or less to taste)

-Tiny pinch salt

-Tortilla chips

Directions

Preheat the broiler while you peel and wash the tomatillos and prepare the shallots. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, and place 2/3 of the tomatillos and two of the shallots on the sheet. Make sure none are touching (they roast better that way). Broil for 7 minutes, then turn the vegetables and broil on the other side for another 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop the remaining raw tomatillos and shallot, and place in a food processor (or blender). Wash the cilantro and place in the food processor as well with the hot chillis and juice from half of the lime.

When the veggies are done roasting, place them in the food processor as well, then coarsely blend it all. Add a pinch or two of salt, and some additional lime (to taste).

Place in a bowl and serve with tortilla chips – or alternatively, serve on burgers hot off the grill!

-Sitelle

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Muskox burger

I’ve been saving photos of many things for Gourm(eh) in the past month. Life up North has been ever-consuming, and I was waiting for a window during which I could start posting. Since we started up Gourm(eh), we’ve been trying to explore Canadian cuisine. We’ve posted traditional dishes and others from almost each continent. I think that really points to how wonderfully multi-cultural our country is, and I must say I really enjoy that fact.

During my stay up in Hay River, I think I finally have learned a little more about Canadian cuisine. As a small northern community (although large for the territories), pot-lucks, dinners, the market and cooking clubs with kids at the school have shown me several new secrets about Canadian food. Here, if it contains meat (wild or store-bought) and it sticks to your ribs it is good, keeping you fuelled through the cold and dark months. It’s pretty much “no meat, no good” in the families that have been here for generations. An influx of new folks has started to change up the tastes in town (including Chinese and vegetarian), but those are not yet mixed into the norm, from my observation.

One pleasure I’ve had has been to explore wild meats here. I am always asking the kids stories about hunting with their families, talking with elders about how they lived on the land. It’s fascinating, and every story involves new and interesting information I’m still not sure how to fit together. It’s also been fun trying all the different wild meats common around here, from Bison to Caribou and Fish. Last week, we made these Muskox burgers which were unbelievably delicious. Muskox has its own unique flavour, and is totally lean. The afternoon before we cooked them, I happened to hear some advice from a child’s mother: include oats and eggs or else they will fall apart the meat is so crumbly!

The most surprising thing about Muskox is that even though we always buy extra lean ground beef, I’m used to my burgers and meatballs shrinking. With Muskox meat, we shaped burgers into medium-sized patties hoping to end up with small patties, as we do with beef. This time, though, the patties did not shrink at all, leaving us with exactly the same volume as we began with. If you’re a meat-eater, I highly recommend trying Muskox if you ever have the opportunity!

Muskox feast

Muskox burgers – (5)

Ingredients

1 lb ground Muskox meat

1/2 cup instant oats

1 leek, white and light green only, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp crushed rosemary

1/2 tsp cracked black pepper

1-2 eggs (depending on how crumbly the mixture is)

5 buns (I like to make bannock buns)

Suggested toppings

5 lettuce leaves, washed

1 tomato, sliced

Cheddar slices

Dijon mustard

Caramelized leeks (optional)

Directions

In a bowl, pat dry the muskox meat as best you can. Mix the ground meat up with your hands. Add all the additional ingredients except the egg. Mix well, and once it is evenly mixed, add the egg. Form the mixture into patties and cook as you would a burger.

Serve on freshly baked bannock buns with any of the toppings you enjoy!

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Sourdoughbread1

Since I was a little girl I loved eating fresh sourdough bread with butter, but I always felt like it was not something I could ever do from scratch – and I mean really from scratch.

Somehow, with a lot of love and flour, we’ve managed just that: make sourdough bread from scratch through the sourdough bootcamp, without any added yeast, and the result was absolutely amazing.

Follow the sourdough bootcamp instructions to get your sourdough starter, or obtain some from a crazy friend. Just make sure you give yourself a couple of days to complete this recipe, and if you observe your dough, you will not be disappointed. What I mean by observe is to be mindful of its behaviour and its texture as you work with it. Sourdough is not as easy as regular yeast, and it requires you to get a feel for what it likes. That said, once you start getting familiar with its quirks, it gets really fun!

Sourdough boules

Ingredients

1/2 cup sourdough starter

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup warm water

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups warm water

2 Tbsp maple syrup

2 cups all-purpose flour plus one cup flour

1 cup quick oats

1 1/2 Tbsp salt

Directions

Day 1: morning

Feed the starter with 1 cup each flour and water. Let rest in a warm place for 8-12 hours.

Day 1: evening

Return 1/2 cup starter to the fridge. To remaining starter add 2 cups each flour and water. Cover loosely and let rest all night. This forms what is called the ‘sponge’ – it forms the basis of your bread tomorrow.

Day 2: morning

Your now bubbly and yeasty sponge needs:

2 Tbsp maple syrup, 2 cups flour and water, and 1 cup rolled oats. Stir it all in, and gradually add in the reserved cup of flour until you can’t stir with a spoon any longer. Dust hands and working surface with flour, and keep dusted throughout. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead for a few minutes, working the remaining flour in. Use the following kneading instructions from the Boreal Gourmet Cookbook:

“Draw the edges into the centre, fold the dough in half, press the seam closed with the heel of your hand, push the dough away from you, give it a quarter turn, and repeat”. I tend to knead this portion by hand for about 10 minutes. After that, reflour the surface and place the dough on top for a 20-minute rest, covered with a damp towel.

Once it has rested, resume kneading, this time incorporating the salt little by little. I know the amount of salt seems large but it’s important, and I’m already reducing the salt content compared to the original.

Once you have finished kneading for about 6-8 more minutes, split the dough in half and form it into boules or rectangular loaves. To form the boule, work your hands around the round loaf, pulling the edges in and pinching them in the centre. Let them rest in a parchment-paper lined bowl covered with a damp towel. To fit it into a rectangular pan, flatten the ball and fold both edges in, tuck the ends in and pinch it all shut. Place the seam on the bottom of an oiled pan.

Cover the top with a light brush of oil and a damp towel. Let rest until doubled in volume, around 4 hours. Place the boules on a baking tray in their parchment paper, and leave the rectangular loaves in their rectangular pans. When ready, use a sharp knife to cut an “X” in the round boules or several slashes in the rectangular loaves. Preheat the oven to 450F and put a pot of boiling water in the oven. When the oven is hot, place both loaves inside. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the pan of water and bake for another 10 minutes. After that, crack the door open and maintain it that way for 5-10 more minutes to brown the loaves (keep a tight eye to make sure it doesn’t brown too much!).

When ready, remove the bread from the baking sheets/pans and cool on a wire rack. Wait until bread is cool for it to maintain its quality! Serve with soft butter to accompany whatever you like! A personal favourite is smoked fish… Enjoy!

 

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Don’t let the time discourage you, but do read through carefully and plan accordingly!

Let me start by saying this is one the things I am proudest of baking, entirely from scratch!

Although I’m very busy, I find that it’s being busy with a whole variety of activities many of which are organized to keep everyone up here sane through the long, dark, and cold winter. People are very creative in the North, since there are few opportunities for leisure outside of the realm of your imagination. In the fall we took on the challenge of making our own sourdough starter. This week, we took on 36-hour sourdough cinnamon buns as a fun challenge.

On one of the coldest mornings in Hay River, I realized we had the rare chance of being home enough over the next two days to give these 36-hout cinnamon buns a try. As the recipe starts with a warning that these are very time-consuming (and coming from an author-chef who makes her own phyllo pastry) I was a bit worried because my time did have a finite limit (going to see Les Miserables) the following evening at 7pm. I had to try it, though, as this was my only window in the foreseeable future.

Inspired by the northern climate, I decided to add some creativity to this dessert with pecans, and exchange cranberries for raisins as they are more of a local product. The result was dangerously tasty.

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Ingredients:

 

Starter, Day 1: AM

-1/4 cup starter

-1/2 cup flour and equal parts warm water

 

 

Starter, Day 1: PM

-1 cup flour and equal parts warm water

 

 

Day 2: AM

Dough

-1/4 cup butter

-1/2 cup sugar

-2 eggs

-1/2 cup buttermilk

-4 cups all-purpose flour (approximately)

-1 1/2 tsp sel

 

Filling

-1/2 cup butter

-1 1/2 cups brown sugar

-3 Tbsp heavy cream

-2 tsp ground cinnamon

-1 cup dried cranberries

-1 cup chopped pecans

 

Glaze

-1/8 cup melted butter

-1/8 cup cream

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Directions:

 

Day 1, AM: feed the starter the flour and water. Cover loosely and let rest.

Day 1, PM: add to starter: flour and water. Cover loosely and allow to sit in a warm place overnight.

Day 2, AM: Allow the butter, eggs and buttermilk to warm to room temperature. Cream the butter and sugar for 3-4 minutes, and then add one egg at a time. Finally, add the buttermilk and mix well. After this, I added the starter, and mixed in 2/3-3/4 of the flour. I added a little more flour over time, until you have incorporated it fully, and proceeded to knead for about 10 minutes.

After that, let the dough rest covered with a damp tea towel for 20 minutes.

Add the salt gradually, and continue kneading for another 8 minutes until the dough feels very uniform. I recommend to keep the surface on which you’re working and your hands nice and floury while you work.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, and mix it around so it is fully covered in oil. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise in a warm place until it’s doubled in volume – for me it took around 6 hours, but it can take usually between 4-8 hours.

While the dough is rising, melt the butter over medium-low, and watch it bubble until the bubbles get very small and the colour changes from a white to a faint golden colour. Remove from heat immediately. Add the remaining ingredients, return to heat, and cook for a few minutes over medium heat. Cool and beat the mixture until it is a good consistency for spreading.

Once the dough has reached twice its original volume, punch it down and roll it out to a large rectangle between two pieces of slightly floured parchment paper.

Remove the top parchment paper, and spread and push the filling evenly into the dough, leaving about 2 cm around the edge. Roll it up lengthwise tightly, and pinch the edges closed. Slice it into 16 rolls, and place into a baking tray lined with parchment paper. This is a bit of a delicate job, but I managed with my fingers and a knife.

Cover with a damp cloth and let rise again until nearly doubled, between 2-3 hours. Preheat the oven (finally!) to 400F and bake for 20-25 minutes. I had a drip-catching tray underneath, as recommended in the recipe, and that was really good to avoid oven fires or a smoky house.

Immediately out of the oven I brushed each with a mix of 1/8 cup melted butter and 1/8 cup cream mixed together. These were divine!

Good luck, it’s not the easiest recipe but it is amazingly delicious.

-Sitelle

 

 

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So I’m sure a few of you will have fitness bootcamp resolutions for 2013. I’m challenging you instead to a sourdough bootcamp.

When I read through the “Boreal Gourmet” for the first time, the “Sourdough Bootcamp” jumped right out at me as a must-do.

It starts, “Cooks! It’s minus forty, you’re housebound, you’ve colour-coded your wardrobe and reread your old journals to the point of terminal boredom… you need a project. You need sourdough bootcamp.” It sounds a bit ridiculous, but if you’re not that good at keeping busy, it’s easy to get to that point up here in the Northwest Territories apparently. We’ve gotten quite involved in the community and host regular potluck breakfasts, lunches, and dinners; so boredom is not really on the radar. Instead we juggle feeding the starter in between going to grocery shop and then hitching a ride out to the cross-country ski club for the evening. The starter is kind of like a child: one that eats a lot, goes to sleep if hungry for too long, but doesn’t make any sounds.

Great Slave Lake Moonset

We began our sourdough adventure before we dipped below the minus twenty mark, early in November, so I’m worried about where our adventures will take us in the remaining five months of winter (we’re already at 3 months). Let’s just see.

The great thing about this bootcamp is that it takes anywhere from two to three weeks to make, and as the starter gains strength, there are a number of recipes you can make along the way with a starter of different ages. That means we were baking basically every other day for the last three weeks (so have tons of flour handy!). The whole adventure culminated in the baking of our first two sourdough loaves, which were many times tastier than I had ever dreamed possible. They were beautifully coloured, textured with an amazing crumb, and delightfully flavourful. The fun part of the recipe is that the taste will vary with geography, depending on the wild yeast of the location.

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As I post more of the intermediate bootcamp recipes, I will post links on this parent post. It’s been a great adventure to make up the starter, and I look forward to trying new recipes with our mature starter.

The Sourdough Bootcamp: a day-by-day recipe (if you attempt this recipe, I just want to say it’s not very hard but does require some advance reading in order to be ready).

Starter-7

Ingredients

Unbleached best-for-bread flour

Warm water

Directions

Day 1: mix 1/2 cup flour with 1/2 cup warm water in a glass/plastic bowl with a lid and cover loosely. If you don’t have a bowl, you can cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Allow to rest at room temperature.

Day 2: look at the starter – you may start to spot a few bubbles.

Day 3: more bubbles will have formed, probably along with a yeasty or somewhat cheesy smell (it was not altogether pleasant, our apartment smelled of off cheese for a few days but that does eventually disappear to be replaced by a sweet yeasty smell which is quite nice). It might have fewer bubbles by the end of the day – don’t worry, that just means it’s less active, meaning that the yeast have eaten most of the food available to them for the time being and they are resting.

Day 4: afternoon or evening. Mix in 1 cup flour and water. I learned from G. to mix the flour in first and gradually add the water to reduce the amount of lumps formed. If you notice a purply liquid on top of the flour mixture, just stir it back in. You should have around 3 cups of starter.

Day 5: morning. You can use 1 cup of starter to make buttermilk scones. Replace what you’ve removed with 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water. If you don’t have time for scones, just leave your starter alone, other than giving it a little stir.

Day 6: morning. If you want to have homemade pizza tonight, feed starter with one cup of flour and one cup of water. If not, leave it alone.

Day 6: afternoon or evening. Remove 1 1/2 cups of starter and make sourdough pizza crust. Add 3/4 cups flour and 3/4 cups water to replace the starter you used to make pizza dough.

Day 7-9: Check starter and stir a few times a day. We started noticing a few sets of bubbles sending up some floating debris – which turned out was normal. As we were worried about mold we first worried it was mold but it was not. If you do notice mold, remove it and transfer starter to a new bowl and wash the bowl thoroughly before returning the starter to it to and feeding it a cup of water and flour. We didn’t have any problems with mold, despite the sketchy highrise in which we’re living.a

Day 10: morning. Stock up on flour. Feed starter with 1 cup flour and 1 cup water.

Day 10: evening. Discard all but one cup of starter (in compost!) or bake intermediate bootcamp recipes with it. It will be painful to discard so much but this is just the beginning, and believe me it is important. If you want to bake, use the starter as per the recipe instructions. It will be active from the morning feeding. To the main mix add 1 cup water and 1 cup flour, cover loosely and let sit as usual.

Day 11: morning. Reserve 1 cup of starter and discard/bake with the rest. Feed the cup with 2 cups of flour and water. Stir and cover and let sit. As the starter gains strength it will start increasing in volume. Ours was usually becoming less active by the time we came home from work so it would reduce its size but that depends entirely on the environment, the flour, the yeast, etc.

Day 11: evening. Repeat morning’s actions. Feel free to bake any of the intermediate recipes with the discarded starter.

Day 12: morning. Start the day off with Ione Christensen’s Sourdough Hotcakes (pancakes), accompanied with spirited cranberry preserves if you like. The recipe is super easy, and you wouldn’t believe that there is absolutely no dairy in the recipe.

Reserve 1 cup mix, add 2 cups flour and water, mix and let rest as usual.

Day 12: evening. Remove all but one cup

Day 13: morning. Discard starter and feed remainder as usual. Feel free to make something with the extra starter. We made a lot of scones, english muffins, and hotcakes!

Day 13: evening: continue discarding extra starter and feeding with 2 cups each flour and water.

Day 14: morning. Your starter may be ready! Ours was not quite as active as we thought, so we continued the routine for another 5 days before baking our bread.

The morning of the day you want to start preparing for your bread, take out 1/2 cup of starter and follow recipe for 2-day sourdough bread.

Good luck!

-Sitelle

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