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A few years ago now, I spent some time studying in several communities in Belize. It was a lovely experience, and it set off an insatiable desire to live and work in diverse and distinct communities both outside and inside of Canada.

One of the my favourite aspects about travelling is all the different foods I taste, the flavours of each country, and learning to cook the food in different communities. While this recipe is not identical to any I learned in Belize, it is inspired by the sunny, fresh, and wholesome food cooked in a hard-working Maya community in the Southernmost part of Belize in the Toldeo District. The women there taught me simple ways to cook beans which I use to this day. The ingredients are simple, and the result is ever delicious.

I like to make this with many different types of beans, but black-eyed peas are a favourite with the delicate flavour of cilantro and garlic cooked they are cooked in from the start.

Beans

Ingredients – 8 servings

1 1/2 cup black-eyed peas, soaked for 8 hours at least after a boil

1 onion, dinced

3 cloves garlic, minced or pounded in a mortar and pestle

1 jalapeño pepper, minced (remove seeds if you want less spice)

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 cup shredded cilantro leaves

1 cube vegetable bouillon

1 tsp chilli spice

5 cups water

Directions

To soak the beans, place 1 1/2 cups of the beans in 2L of water. Bring to a boil and then remove from heat for 6-8 hours or overnight (if doing overnight, you don’t need to boil them if you don’t want to). Once ready to cook drain and rinse beans.

Dice the onions, garlic, and jalapeño. If you have a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and jalapeño together with the bouillon cube and the chilli spice.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and sauté for a few minutes until it is slightly browned. Add the garlic and jalapeño (and the whole mixture if you did it in the mortar and pestle). Stir and cook for a few more minutes. Add the jalapeño, chilli and the bouillon cube.

When the mixture smells fragrant, add the beans. Stir to coat, and then add the water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Keep boiling for two minutes and then transfer mixture over to a slow cooker if you have one. Add the cilantro. Cook on high for 3-4 hours.

If you do not have a slow cooker, continue to simmer for an hour or two or until the beans are tender.

You can continue cooking this as long as you wish, and the dish will change accordingly. At first it is somewhat stew-like, and then it will begin to appear like refried beans, with the beans breaking down more and more. You can eat the beans alone, with rice, or in tacos for example! There are really a lot of options! I hope you enjoy these.

-Sitelle

 

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Wishing you and yours a very happy new year!

The past year has flown by.  It’s been a busy year – finishing up my Master’s thesis, travelling in Tanzania, starting medical school – and I have been very fortunate.  While I’ve had fewer new cooking adventures (to be remedied in 2013), I have certainly enjoyed many old favourites with friends and family!

Gourm(eh?) continues to exceed expectations. It’s hard to believe that a small project for me and Sitelle to share recipes has turned into a blog that has received over 30,000 hits!  We look forward to sharing many more in 2013 – including a few more Canadian specialties.

To start off 2013, I wanted to share the five most popular recipes from 2012.  Bon appetit!

– Catherine

5. Lotus Land Linguini

Creamy lotus land linguine

This pasta from rebar was initially cooked to fulfill a peanut craving.  The lotus land linguini turned out to be a fun and tasty dish enjoyed by all – the leftovers were perfect as a picnic lunch the next day on a wintertime outing to Peggy’s Cove!

4. Whitewater Cinnamon Buns

Waiting for the cinnamon buns to finish rising

Waiting for the cinnamon buns to finish rising

These cinnamon buns from Whitewater Cooks were nice and cinnamony, and perfect for a late morning brunch!

3. Spicy Steamed Fish, Gambian Style

Gambian platter

Sitelle shared many of the recipes she picked up while living in Gambia – and this one looks divine!

2. Christmas Cookies

Swedish Pastries (Thumbprint Walnut Christmas Cookie)

SAM_7309

Slice-and-Bake Icebox Cookies

Icebox Cookies

Christmas baking is a favourite family tradition, and these two cookies are my great-grandmother’s secret recipes.  They continue to be loved year after year!

1. Benachin

Bowl of benachin

Another of Sitelle’s Gambian dishes was our most viewed of 2012, and this is certainly a dish meant to be shared with company!

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My final exams are quickly approaching, and I admit to frequent procrastinating via cooking. I happened upon a recipe that combines three of my favourite ingredients, and couldn’t resist trying it for dinner!  I love the nuttiness of quinoa, and frequently pair it with a parsley lemon vinaigrette.  The ingenuity of this recipe comes with the addition of pomegranate and baked acorn squash.    The squash caramelizes as it bakes, providing contrast to the acidity of the pomegranate. And, oh is this dish lovely looking!

I tinkered with the original recipe’s proportions by doubling the dressing and upping the pomegranate quota (one can never have too many pomegranate seeds…)  This tasty and beautiful dish comes from A Thought For Foods blog.

Quinoa with Acorn Squash and Pomegranate

Quinoa with Acorn Squash and Pomegranate

Serves 4 as an entree, or 6 as a side

 

Ingredients

1 cup of quinoa, cooked

1 acorn or kabocha squash

3/4 cup pomegranate seeds (or 1 pomegranate)

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

3 scallions, chopped

1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for roasting squash

Juice from one lemon

Zest of a lemon

Salt and pepper

 

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

2. With a sharp knife, cut the top and bottom off the squash.  Cut the acorn squash in half lengthwise and, using a spoon, scoop out the seeds.  Cut each piece in half again lengthwise.  Then slice each quarter lengthwise, creating 1/2 inch slices.  Place squash slices into a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.  Spread across the pan and arrange so each piece sits flat. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, cook the quinoa.  In a separate bowl, make the dressing by whisking together the 1/4 cup of olive oil, the lemon juice, lemon zest, parsley, and scallions.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

4. Once the acorn squash is finished, remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes.

5. Mix together the cooked quinoa, pomegranate seeds, raisins, and dressing in a big serving bowl.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Top with the roasted squash pieces.

Bon appetit!

 

– Catherine

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With probably almost 1.5 m of snow or more outside, it’s really hard to imagine that winter is more than a month away. The Christmas decorations are already up (and their light is welcome on the dark days). We even saw a Santaclaus parade last weekend in Yellowknife. Needless to say it’s already necessary to have warm and hearty soups cooked on the weekend so that we can come home after work and warm up with a bowl of it.

On Sundays in Hay River we have a winter market where people sell beadwork and baked goods, and where we can have what is by far the loveliest meal out in town at the “Real Food Cafe”. The wonderful woman in charge of that initiative cooks fresh fish caught by her husband, and serves it up with delicious soup, bannock, locally grown leafy greens (there must be a greenhouse somewhere!), coleslaw, homemade pickle, and a variety of jams made with berries I’ve never seen and sometimes never even heard of. It is absolutely lovely. There is also a vendor selling locally grown squash, potatoes, carrots, beets, and other root veggies, and she sells fresh eggs if her hens have produced enough. It’s a great event to look forward to each week. I imagine that until the stocks let up I will be posting many winter inspired dishes cooked up with vegetables from this very market.

This soup – a rustic squash soup with roasted garlic – is an absolute delight. We don’t have a blender or anything to make a puree with, but roasting all veggies in advance and then cooking it slowly until dinner results in a thick, rustic, and hearty soup. It’s delicious as is, and there is no need to puree it unless you want extremely even texture!

 

Ingredients – approximately 6 servings

1 medium butternut squash; washed, quartered, cored, drizzled in olive oil and roasted in the oven at 400F for 1 hour

1 head of garlic, top sliced off, wrapped in tin foil, and baked along with squash for same duration

2 medium onions, finely diced

1 carrot, finely diced

1 Tbsp butter or oil

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth (home-made is delicious but not mandatory)

1/2 tsp salt

pinch nutmeg

pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 400F. Wash, quarter, and core the squash. Place in an ovenproof dish and drizzle with olive oil. Slice the top off the garlic and wrap the garlic in tinfoil. Place in oven with the squash. Bake for 1 hour until roasted golden and garlic is soft.

Dice the onions. Melt the butter in a large heavy pot with a lid. When hot, add the onions and stir. Reduce heat after a minute or two and allow the onions to brown slowly. When the onions are almost done, add the carrot, and cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the squash from the oven and scoop into the carrot-onion mixture. Squeeze the garlic out of its skin and into the pot as well. Stir everything together. Pour in the broth and bring to a light boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. You can use a potato masher if the squash maintains its shape but I found it quickly mixed into the broth.

Enjoy with a sprinkle of green onions and a hot slice of bread!

-Sitelle

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After all of my travels last year throughout the world, I must say I was interested to find in Canada some of the basis of many meals and cooking techniques I also found in other places. I also grew more aware of what foods are available in Canada, and what exactly Canadian food is. If this is not a Canadian recipe, then I do not know what is!

As I cooked the first batch of dried blueberry pancakes smothered in maple syrup for my village in The Gambia, I realized I’d shared a true Canadian flavour with my hosts. Maple syrup.

This recipe draws on inspiration from the Joy of Cooking’s classic sponge cake recipe. I love the recipe as it is delicious while also being totally dairy-free and also oil-free, which makes it a crowd pleaser as long as no one has trouble with gluten or wheat.

I invented the icing, inspired by a rich but complementary cream cheese base, and made unique with pecan butter and maple extract.

I hope you like these as much as Catherine and all my friends did – they sure disappeared fast! It was such a pleasure to finally bake something for Catherine as we are in the same city for just about a month! I think we should take advantage of proximity while we can.

Ingredients – 12 cupcakes

3/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp baking powder, sifted
1/4 tsp salt

3 egg yolks (save the whites in the fridge, they will be used in a few minutes!)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup amber (or any other you have) maple syrup
1/4 cup boiling water
1 tsp maple extract (optional)

3 egg whites

Ingredients – maple pecan cream cheese frosting

2/3 cup pecans

1 cup cream cheese, room temperature
1/8 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup icing sugar
1 Tsp maple extract
pinch salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners. To make the cupcakes, sift all dry ingredients together in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks for about a minute, until they begin to thicken. Gradually add in the sugar and maple syrup, and beat for a further 3 minutes on high. Add in the extract, and then beat in the boiling water.

Gradually incorporate the dry ingredients. You can do so with a beater on low or with a whisk (my preference). Using clean beaters and a chilled bowl, beat the egg whites into medium-firm peaks.

Carefully incorporate one quarter of the egg whites into the batter with a rubber spatula, and then add the remainder when it is light and airy. Do not over-mix.

Spoon the mixture into the cupcake liners, filling them to 3/4. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes depending on your oven, until a toothpick poked into the middle of the cupcake comes out clean.

To make the pecan cream cheese maple icing, start with making the pecan butter. If you have a food processor or blender, place the nuts inside and allow them to be processed until they become coarse pecan butter. Add in the cream cheese and butter, and continue to mix until everything is smooth. Add in the sugar and extract, and continue to pulse.

If you do not have a food processor, just buy some pecan butter and mix it in with the other ingredients in a bowl using a fork and then a wooden spoon once it is broken up.

If the icing is too runny, add a bit of icing sugar, or refrigerate! You can garnish the iced cupcakes with pecan halves if you like!

-Sitelle

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Several posts ago I wrote about peanut butter-based snacks. I love peanuts and peanut butter so much. Although there is a risk of peanuts carrying aflotoxin (you know, on those really gross-tasting peanuts), the Canadian food supply keeps them at acceptable levels. Peanuts were my dietary staple in The Gambia. I’d grab a bag of roasted peanuts on the road; I’d pick them in the fields with the women and we’d carry them home in big buckets on our heads; we’d hull them on raised concrete platforms with a nut in each hand which we’d whack on the concrete and remove from the shell, with a big pile between our knees that never seemed to end. Peanuts are the way of life there. I ate them every day.

To make peanut butter, simply roast your peanuts, squeeze them in your hands to remove skins when they have cooled, and then place them in a blender or food processor or food grinder and let it spin! The longer you go, the smoother it gets. Add a teaspoon or two full of vegetable oil if it is not liquid enough – that will depend on the variety of groundnut you have! Adding a pinch of salt will bring out the flavours more if you’re interested.

Upon my return, I’ve craved peanuts big time. Thanks to my lovely host families, I had a plentiful supply, despite my distance. I quite enjoyed roasting them and turning them into peanut butter, before they were transformed into the delicious snacks and meals which I’ve already started posting including the Domoda and the Chocolate Kickers, and this childhood favourite snack of mine, these peanut butter logs.

Ingredients – three 4-inch logs (approximately)

1 cup peanut butter (I prefer the ‘just peanuts kind’, which you can buy or make yourself with a food processor or blender – simply follow the instructions under the picture)

4 Tbsp honey

5 Tbsp milk powder (or 7 Tbsp if instant), or more as needed

2-3 Tbsp desiccated coconut

Directions

Mix all ingredients together using a strong fork or whatever works for you. Place a third of the desiccated coconut on a sheet of parchment paper, and spread evenly. Form a third of the mixture into a log, and roll in the coconut. Place in parchment paper or wax paper and freeze.

Slice once frozen, and serve immediately for an energy-packed snack!

You can also add dried cranberries or mini chocolate chips for extra punch.

Hope you enjoy these!

-Sitelle

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Having another home in West Africa means I have added a whole new repertoire of recipes, West-African style, to my cooking – and I’m really excited to share them on gourm(eh).

Cooking in Gambia is a totally different story than here. Imagine cooking mostly one-pot meals over an open fire, or if you are fortunate enough, an improved cookstove. It a communal experience, and the saying ‘many hands make for lighter work’ is fitting as the work is hard, and most often done in groups.

I found it interesting that my taste buds actually adjusted while living there: a dish I did not like at first became one of my favourites by the end – and this was actually the case with a number of dishes. Domoda, however, was always at the top of my list from the beginning!

Domoda is a rich groundnut (peanut)-based stew, a favourite of mine from Gambia and Senegal.

Ingredients – Dinner for 6
2 purple (spanish) onions, diced
1.5 lb cubed stewing beef or 6 chicken pieces
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp (heaping) tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, germ removed
2 bouillon cubes (I like to use chicken)
1 tsp peppercorns
2 cups just peanut smooth peanutbutter
Juice from one lemon
1 scotch bonnet pepper (very spicy) or 1 jalapeno pepper
3 carrots, peeled and then cut into thirds or quarters
1 eggplant, washed and quartered
1 cup squash cubes (any kind – butternut or acorn for example, peeled)
salt to taste
water
1.5 cups uncooked rice, medium grain

Directions
In a heavy-bottomed pan with a lid, heat oil over medium-medium high heat. Brown the beef, reduce the heat, and add the onions until they are translucent. Then add the tomato paste and stir. Cook for another 3 minutes stirring occasionally. If you have a mortar and pestle, pound the peppercorns and then add the garlic and the bouillon cubes until you get a smooth paste. If you don have a mortar and pestle, just chop everything finely and mix by hand.

Add the seasoning mix to the meat, stir, and then add the vegetables and the whole (washed) hot pepper. Cover with water, stirring well to incorporate all the tomato onion mixture. Increase the heat and bring to a simmer. Once it simmers reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove a cup of hot liquid and pour into a large bowl with the peanutbutter. Stir well with a fork until the peanutbutter is all incorporated. Stir this into the pan with everything else, and stir well so everything is evenly mixed. Add the lemon juice. Let the mixture simmer uncovered until you have a stew-like consistency. If you find the vegetables still need more time but there is little sauce left, just cover the pot.

When it is almost ready, cook rice according to package instructions.

To serve, ladle stew over rice. You can squeeze the hot pepper on your spoon a tiny bit to get spicy juices out thereby tailoring how spicy your own plate is – and then share the hot pepper with the others. Just remember scotch bonnets are VERY spicy!

Alright, bonne appétit.
-Sitelle (Alias Ya Ndey)

Pumpkin

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