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August 2007

31 August 2007

What to do with a kitchen full of Heirlooms


On a recent trip to the Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver, I stumbled across a man selling the most wonderful tomatoes with exotic names such as 'Purple Russian', 'Striped German' and 'Black Pineapple'. Being from Australia, I had never come across such marvels. Of course, I had heard of Fried Green Tomatoes, but other than that, all the tomatoes in my life to this point had been very red. How could I resist?

After a few days, with a kitchen full of ripening tomatoes, it was time to do something with them. That something involved Little Neck Clams and pasta. The result was superb. The firm, tart flesh of the tomatoes added just the right balance to the rich, sweet clam liquor.

If you want to find out more about Heirloom tomatoes, there is a pretty comprehensive explanation on Wikipedia.


Continue reading "What to do with a kitchen full of Heirlooms" »

29 August 2007

Peach Crème Fraîche Tart with Wild Blossom Honey


This recipe was adapted from a tart featured in the August 2006 Gourmet magazine. I used a raw wild blossom honey, which I buy from Capers, to sweeten the crème fraîche The honey has a very unique and full-bodied flavour and actually tastes slightly different each time I buy a new jar.

We made two versions of the tart, one topped with peaches and one with a blueberry glaze.



Peach Crème Fraîche Tart with Wild Blossom Honey
(makes 2 small tarts)

Tart Crust

1 1/4 cups of unbleached flour
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/2 tsp of sea salt
7 tbs of cold butter, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large egg

Tart Filling

1 cup of cream cheese
1/2 cup of crème fraîche
1 1/2 tbs of wild blosson honey
1 1/2 cups of blueberries
1 tbs of cornstarch

Special Equipment

Fluted tart pan with a removable bottom (3"X 3/4")
Pie weights


  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees Celsius.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar and sea salt in a large bowl. Add the pieces of butter and mix well until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs with small lumps of butter. Add the egg and knead for about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Set the tart tins on a baking sheet and fill them with dough. Press the dough along the bottom and up the sides of the tin. Once this step is completed, cover the tins and refrigerate for about 1/2 an hour.
  4. To bake the tart shells, set the tins on a baking sheet, butter one side of some foil and then press the buttered side down on to the base of the tart. Add the pie weights on top of the foil to cover the base. Bake for 20 minutes or until the crust is golden. Once ready, remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  5. Next, mix together the crème fraîche, cream cheese and honey until a smooth cream is formed. Set aside.
  6. Add the blueberries to a small pot on the stove over a medium heat. Add the sugar and about 1/2 a cup of water. Stir and bring to the boil.
  7. In a small cup, mix the cornstarch with about 1/3 cup of hot water to dissolve.
  8. Once the blueberries are boiling, add the cornstarch mixture slowly and stir until the blueberry mixture thickens. Remove the blueberries from the stove and set aside to cool.
  9. When you are ready to assemble the tarts, spoon the crème fraîche mixture into the tart shell, spread on the blueberry mixture evenly and then arrange the peach slices on top.

25 August 2007

Shiitakes have feelings too


Shiitake, known as the fragrant mushroom, is no longer an ingredient found in just Asian cuisine. It is being used more and more in Western kitchens around the globe.

The versatile mushroom has been used by the Japanese and Chinese for both culinary and medicinal purposes for over 1000 years. In China, shiitakes or xiānggū were picked wild in the mountains and dried. The Japanese learned how to cultivate the mushrooms by placing them on dead logs.

These days, the rising popularity of the shiitake has meant its increased cultivation in many countries, giving cooks year-round access to its delectable flavour.

When buying fresh shiitakes, ensure that the flesh is firm and dry but not wrinkled. The caps should be fleshy and unblemished, with a distinct yet subtle aroma. Some shiitakes will naturally develop scoring on their caps. Don't be deterred by this as it is a good sign of a maturing mushroom.

When preparing shiitakes, gently remove the stems with a knife and rinse the caps very briefly in water (in and out). Never let the caps become water-logged. Alternatively, you can carefully wipe the mushrooms with a damp cloth. A soggy shiitake is something to be avoided.

While doing 'research' on this popular little fungus, I came across a site belonging to the Lost Creek Shiitake Farm in Oklahoma. Their literature described the shiitake as a social and almost sentient being that "dislikes crabby people and negative, emotional people...they're not fond of cigarette smoke and may balk in their fruiting around smokers." Shiitakes also love a good thunder storm and tend to proliferate in a group setting...of other shiitakes that is.

Shiitakes are my kind of people. So to celebrate the shiitake's sociability and versatility, I made a shiitake, smoked bacon and asparagus pasta. The result was delicious, rich and yet pleasingly subtle.


Continue reading "Shiitakes have feelings too" »

24 August 2007

Greek...ish Chicken


Hi. It's Nic here, once again invading Syrie's blog.

While Syrie and I both share the cooking in the house, we are not equals. When Syrie cooks, it is a celebration. When I cook, it's a bit of a lottery. I don't use recipes and I don't really even keep a mental tab of what I'm throwing into the pot.

So when, a little while ago, Syrie turned to me after eating a mouthful of a chicken dish I had just concocted and exclaimed how delighted she was, I was quite pleased with myself. She really meant it. My self-congratulation, however, was short-lived. Immediately after her compliment, she said, in an unmistakably threatening tone: "You had better remember how you made it." She really meant it. I was in trouble.

Continue reading "Greek...ish Chicken" »

21 August 2007

Beignets - a study in procrastination


Beignets, pronounced BEN-YAYS, are little French doughnuts or fritters made from choux pastry that are deep-fried and come with a variety of sweet or savoury fillings.

I tend to try to stay away from deep-fried foods for a number of reasons however these little nuggets are worth being a little naughty for once in a while.

So it was, on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I was faced with a choice: study or make beignets. Being the dedicate student I am, it wasn't a hard decision. I studied... for a whole 15 minutes until I had worked up such an appetite that the only responsible thing to do was make beignets.

Continue reading "Beignets - a study in procrastination" »

18 August 2007

Pla Meuk Tod Gratiem: Thai Garlic Pepper Calamari


This was my first attempt at cooking squid. I have always been worried about over-cooking it so I have stayed away. However, after making this recipe, my worries vanished. The calamari was tender and succulent with the moist flesh coated in the delicious crunch of the golden garlic.

The recipe took 10 minutes to make and 3 minutes to completely demolish, it was so good.   


Pla Meuk Tod Gratiem Recipe

3 medium squid bodies, cleaned
3 tbs of fish sauce
1 tsp of ground white pepper
10-15 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbs of tapioca starch
1 tbs of unbleached flour
3 cups of peanut oil
A handful of coriander to garnish
Sriracha Sauce (a popular Thai chili sauce) for dipping


  1. Wash the squid body well. It will be very slippery so hold on to it tightly. Pat dry well with a paper towel.
  2. Slice the squid to make calamari rings around 2cm wide.
  3. Place in a bowl and cover in fish sauce. Set aside for about 20 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, mince the garlic. Set aside.
  5. Mix the tapioca starch and flour in a bowl with the pepper.
  6. Drain the calamari rings of fish sauce, and dredge evenly in the flour and pepper mixture and then the garlic.
  7. When you're ready to fry the calamari, heat the oil to a medium high heat in a wok.
  8. Test the oil by dropping in a piece of garlic. It should sizzle and not burn. Watch out for hot spitting oil!
  9. Gently add about 4 calamari rings, one at a time, into the hot oil with a either a large slotted spoon or chopsticks.
  10. Fry the calamari for up to one minute or until the garlic turns a golden colour. Once the rings are ready, remove them with a slotted spoon and place gently on paper towels.
  11. Remove the pieces of garlic floating in the oil before the next batch of calamari goes in.
  12. Once the calamari is ready, serve on a plate and garnish with the coriander and serve with Sriracha sauce.

17 August 2007

Canoeing Cornmeal Muffins


These golden muffins were an essential source of fuel on our recent trip. They kept us going for 4 days of, at times, gruelling canoeing in the rain.

They were bumped around in a bag, and often not kept in an airtight container, yet they were still moist and delicious throughout their ordeal...and ours.

I should mention: as these were our main energy source for the better part of a week, this recipe makes quite a few (24 to be exact). For less strenuous times, halve the ingredients' quantities.

Canoeing Cornmeal Muffins

Dry Ingredients:
4 cups of unbleached flour
2 cups of cornmeal
3/4 cup of sugar
2 tbs baking soda
2 tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp of sea salt

Other ingredients:
4 cups of buttermilk
1/2 cup of corn oil
3 large eggs


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F (180C).
  2. In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients and mix well.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the buttermilk, oil and eggs together well. Add to the dry mixture and stir.
  4. Spoon batter into muffin tins.
  5. Bake for about 15 -20 minutes or until golden and firm to touch.


15 August 2007

Grizzly Pancakes with wild berries: Bears love them


Grizzly Pancakes with wild berries - they really do attract bears, hence the name we gave them. Grizzly Pancakes were one of the more exciting recipes we made during the camping trip, because they attracted some very large guests of the Ursine kind. 

We were camped in the middle of a lush wild blueberry and raspberry field at Tyaughton Lake, in the the Southern Chilcotin, British Columbia. You could basically reach out of the tent and snack on a sea of wild berries (we wouldn't normally camp in the equivalent of a fruit shop for bears but we had no choice as this was the designated site). We decided to use the berries in our buttermilk pancakes to liven them up a little.

When we made this recipe, a Grizzly sow and her two cubs decended on us as they couldn't resist the enticing smell of the pancakes.

The bear family ventured down about 20 metres away from our camp and sniffed the heady air for a few seconds but decided that perhaps it was better just to stick to plain berries for now. We were quite relieved.

Please be assured that we practice bear awareness whenever we are camping. We love bears, but have a very healthy respect for them.

We always cook away from our campsite, keep our site meticulously clean and keep all our food in designated bear caches.

We were camped at Tyax Lake Resort and these bears had been in the area for a couple of days before our arrival.

Sometimes it is impossible to avoid interaction with bears when you are in their territory. the important thing to do is to do everything you can to minimize such interactions and do not do anything to invite them.

It was merely a coincidence that they appeared when we were cooking brekkie that morning. They were there for the abundance of berries, not our pancakes.

We don't mean to be flippant about attracting bears into a campsite...it was just a coincidence that made a good story!

Wild Berry Grizzly Pancake Recipe

Dry ingredients:
1 cup of unbleached flour
1/2 tsp of sea salt
1 tsp of baking soda
1/2 tsp of baking powder

Other ingredients:
1.5 cups of buttermilk
1 large egg
3/4 cup of sour cream
1/3 cup of butter
1 cup of wild bluberries
1 cup of wild raspberries
Raspberry sauce or maple syrup for topping


  1. In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients together well.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the buttermilk, egg and sour cream. Add the dry mixture to this bowl and stir gently with a wooden spoon until the batter comes together.
  3. Heat up a pan or griddle on a medium heat and add about 1 tsp of butter to the pan. Swirl the pan around to coat the base with butter.
  4. Pour in about 1/2 a cup of the batter mixture into the pan and then gently push several blueberries and raspberries into the batter mixture.
  5. Once bubbles start to appear on the surface of the pancake, flip it over gently with a spatula and cook the other side until golden brown.
  6. Remove the pancake and repeat the process with the remaining batter.
  7. To keep the pancakes warm, while cooking the rest of the batter put them on a plate and cover them with a lid or another plate.
  8. Once ready, serve with a dollop of butter, raspberry sauce or maple syrup.

Enjoy...but keep an eye out for grizzlies.

01 August 2007

Gone Camping


We will be on the road for the next 10 days exploring North British Columbia and trying not to irritate any grizzly bears along way.

For the first part of the trip we will be canoeing the West side of the Bowron Lakes circuit. The second part of the trip will be a hiking adventure around Chilko Lake. Chilko Lake is the largest, natural, high-elevation freshwater lake in North America. It's situated in Tsy'los Provincial Park. The area is renowned for alpine meadows, volcanic mountains and vast icefields, not to mention, moose, mountain goats, cougars and the biggest of them all...grizzly bears.

To aid in the meal planning for the trip we used an excellent adventure website called Wild at Heart. Wild at Heart is an outdoor reality TV show on the public broadcaster Knowledge Network that takes people on life-changing adventures through British Columbia's pristine wilderness. To be honest we don't actually have a tv so I don't know what the show is like BUT the website is an excellent resource for those wanting camping tips. I always refer to the meal plan and guide to give me inspiration for our campfire cook ups.

So stay tuned for some tasty and hopefully, inspired recipes. That is unless we spend the next 10 days eating peanut butter and jam sandwiches.

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