Flour and water - be food sufficient - our bread series chapter 1 · 25 April 2016 by colin newell
When I was a kid and in a farm house of five, my mother probably made 6 to 12 loaves of bread every week – depending on time of year and demand.
She made all of our breads by hand, with flour and water, salt and yeast – sometimes with extras like cheese, spices and herbs – sometimes with flours other than whole wheat or white bread.
It was something that a lot of people did in the 60’s and 70’s – especially if they were on a tight budget. And our house was no exception. And since we had a country kitchen with an old hybrid wood and gas stove it just made sense. The baking also helped heat the house to it was economics 101 at work.
My roll in all of this was picking up 20 Lb bags of flour and running them from the grocery store the 2.5 km home on my bike… which had a big basket on it. Imagine a 20 Lb bag of flour and other dry goods – that was a very, very full basket. I must have made that run 100 times over the years and I never once spilled a grain of flour.
In the kitchen I got to watch – and watch. And watch again. Maybe I got to get some warm water or take the temperature of some water or open the jar of powdered yeast. It was a very rare event indeed if I actually got to stick my hands in the mix. And this was an “all hands” process. There was no commercial mixer. There was no Kitchen Aid machine with the bread hook that I use today. It was all hands, instinct only, physical memory and repetition.
Perhaps ironically, I did get to suggest recipes and flavours for bread. I kid you not. My mother would ask a 12 year old (me) what kind of bread I would find interesting. And as it would turn out, the darker and denser the bread the better. We started simply enough with a medium rye bread. And over time, the breads got darker and darker until, I think, we invented something that my mother called a “Russian black bread…” I am not sure where the ethnicity or the colour came in but it was among the darkest and tastiest of breads I have ever had in my life. It was dark brown, complex, spicy, sweet, chewy and dense all in the same bite – and because it went through a double or triple raise and proof process, the ferment allowed for a very nutritional development of the loaf – that is to say, you could easily live off of this bread for a very long time.
In this upcoming series of blogs I am going to reveal the re-introduction of bread into my life and how I have come to depend on my instincts more than the strict discipline of recipes.
Long lost Gibson Guitar Les Paul Gold top stolen from ago · 29 February 2016 by colin newell
A very long time (1985) I was a Gibson guitar player – they are awesome for Rock, Blues, Jazz, pretty much whatever you want to play.
That said, I was not a big fan of this for some reason. Might have been the colour or the weight.
Ah, the weight! It was like carrying around a large dog draped around your shoulder – like a Lab or a Bull Mastiff -
And the sound of the Gibson Les Paul is unmistakable – it snarled like a cornered pit bull (since we are talking about dogs…) and commanded any musical performance it was involved with.
But the weight got me down… literally… and one day I sold it to a notable and currently successful musician. That was in 1990 or so.
The new owner traveled the World with it – and took on a new life of its own.
It was in the locked trunk of of the owner, “Sean’s” 1980 Buick in underground, gated parking beneath the Seagate Apartments on Esquimalt Rd. He came home after an afternoon practice and had left it for around two hours before he had to head out to another practice. Two hours in a locked basement garage. It could have been an inside job, an unscrupulous neighbour… someone that clearly did not appreciate the fact that this particular guitar playing fellows livelihood depended on those 6 stringed instruments.
Anyway – occasionally I make a shout out to the World about this missing guitar – likely in the wrong hands, maybe getting played, maybe not or in the hands of someone that is not aware that it is hot.
Anyway – here is the picture of the guitar stolen years ago – and somewhere out there, this guitar is waiting to come home to its owner. If you see it, please send it on its way.
The original owner thanks you!
This was a 1971 or 1972 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe with hard case stolen from the Seagate Apartment parking lot in 1992. The serial number is 171568 –
Any intel on this item would likely be rewarded with cash or whole bean coffee! Or both!
Are you ready - Chapter 2 - emergency preparedness on an Island · 24 January 2016 by colin newell
Chances are, if you are a resident of Victoria on Vancouver Island, Vancouver, Seattle or one of many small or medium sized coastal communities in the Northwest, one of the worse things that is going to happen to you in your life likely hasn’t happened yet because it is brewing right now, underground, along the coast in a colossal clash of geology that is moving in slow motion towards an earth shattering climax.
Within the last month, on Southern Vancouver Island and amidst the Gulf Islands, we had a very mild earthquake that rattled as many nerves as dishes and caused virtually no damage. There was the typical rush to prepare as sales of emergency kits soared. Truth is, this race to get prepared has very few fully engaged participants.
So if you are among the small percentage of folks that rushed out and got your first aid kits together and took an inventory of your dry goods and water supply… well, don’t pat yourself on the back just yet. Truth be told, you are not really and truly prepared. Neither am I come to think of it. As I sit here right now gazing into my back yard, I cannot, for certain, tell you where my first aid kits are – and I know for a fact that I do not have adequate water. I do have enough white and red wine in my cellar to keep my entire street inebriated for an entire week but that is not entirely helpful.
Being ready is more than just having a weeks worth of bottled water stowed in a secure location or having a packed bag of first aid and outdoor survival gear packed in the back of your car or in your garage. These things are all critical (and sadly only 10% or less of area residents have given much thought towards the most basic of survival kits…) but one of the less obvious things that is missing from our plan has more to do with our individual or collective consciousness.
What do I mean by that? I mean that the average person is not having a regular dialog with themselves or their neighbours about what to do in the event of a catastrophe of this nature. The kind of earthquake we can expect in our life time will cut us off from our families and our public services and utilities. This separation from our daily reality could easily last days and weeks.
So, what to do? I am not going to drone on about this. But I will repeat my basic list of what most would agree that you need to hunker down and survive – and to help your neighbourhood survive.
a.) Water. Have at least 2 weeks worth in bottles – at least a litre a day per person in your house.
b.) Candles. Flashlight. Battery powered radio.
c.) Dried food/Emergency rations. Enough for a dozen or so neighbours for a week!
d.) First aid kit. Bandages. Antibiotic cream. Antiseptic.
e.) Shelter. Your house may be still standing but you are going to be sleeping outside for a few days.
The key thing here is: You can live for days without food. You cannot function without water. If you do anything, have water at the ready. Or beer or wine. Or nutritional drinks like “Rumble” – they are available locally and you could survive on those alone for weeks.
Another tip: Have a pair of thick socks and slippers by your bed always. When the “big one” hits, you are going to be walking on broken glass – so it will be good to have your feet covered.
I had an excellent question from Ken Gordon, well known Victoria area resident that works at Caffe Fantastico, “Hey Colin, if anyone would know the answer to this, you would… Where do I tune my radio to in the event of the Big One?”
Well, this may come as a surprise to our readers… but it will not be the CBC on Vancouver Island – and it will not likely be a networked FM radio station operating out of Victoria. It will be CFAX on 1070 khz. During our last great calamity, the snow storm of 1996, most of Victoria’s radio and TV networks never broke from their generic Toronto content feed to even acknowledge that anything untoward was happening here. It was CFAX 1070 alone that reported on the events as they unfolded. CBC Radio 1 on Vancouver Island is hopelessly tethered to the Mother Ship in Toronto and has no facility whatsoever to handle any form of live broadcasting or emergency message handling here in the city or on the Island.
To quote an earlier chapter on this subject…
“The local radio station will be running on emergency power. They will be your first and primary way of assessing what has happened on a broader scale. Your cell phone network will be a paper weight, overloaded by panicked 911 calls and toppled towers. As you divide your attention between the crackling radio and the downtown horizon in the distance, you will be overwhelmed by the immediately unfamiliar chaos, but hopefully you will also have a steady sense of resolve and, as a result of your personal planning, a plan of action.”
Colin Newell is a writer, technician and advocate for emergency preparedness – who is, more or less, prepared for anything nature can throw at him. Join us for a continuing dialog on this subject.
Working on a music project - that is all. · 13 January 2016 by colin newell
Andrea asked me to cook up something Latin while I was working on a “special” music project. I have just completed assembling my current home recording studio and have been working on a couple of special projects to see how everything sounds – a shake down as it were.
My small basement “grotto” sound work-shop features a 24-Track digital audio workstation, a 12 in / 2 out mixing board, APEX floating plate condenser microphones, Cort and Godin guitars, a digital piano and a variety of incidental percussion – as well as a synth stand-up bass. It’s a good set-up for just about every kind of music.
OK so back to the request – I have a spare hour or two because I am currently on vacation. Let’s see, apart from noodling on the occasional Latin or Spanish rhythm, I have never attempted anything start to finish. There is nothing really that complicated about this piece – more a case of starting in the right groove and staying there.
Click here for audio file if you cannot see flash player above.
My wife is a huge fan of Ottmar Liebert, you know, that German born, Flamenco-Spanish guitar playing wizard…
Well she wanted something that sounded like that.
So, I winged it. Enjoy. It is 5 minutes long and perhaps a bit stretched for a Spanish piece – and currently lacking any lyrics, might drag a bit.
Enjoy. I play everything on it. Feel free to download, enjoy on your iPod, play while you are in the shower or doing whatever. It’s up to you. More to come in time!
Cajun Oyster Jambalaya - a slight variation · 13 January 2016 by colin newell
I love the complex, sometimes rich and exotic flavours of Cajun cooking. Unique to Louisiana, it features French, African, Spanish and Native American influences – depending on liberal application of regional spice blends and with the availability of wonderful fresh shell fish these dishes really shine!
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: About 70 minutes
Makes: 8 servings
1/2 lb. fresh dry andouille sausages, about 2 to 3 depending on size
3 Tbsp Canola oil (approx)
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
6 tsp homemade Cajun spice (divided; see Note 1 below)
1 large onion, finely diced
4 celery ribs, finely diced
1 medium green bell pepper, finely diced
1 medium yellow bell pepper, finely diced
1 Poblano chile, 2 Jalapeno chile, 2 Serrano chile, 1 Habanero chile and
2 Thai red chiles
2 cups Jasmine rice
4 cups low salt chicken stock
2 bay leaves
• salt to taste
12 large prawns – peeled with tail portion left intact, and deveined (see Note 2 below)
Alternately – 2 standard tubs of fresh Oysters (chopped in 4’s)
Heat oil in Dutch oven or wide pot set over medium-high.
Add the chicken and sprinkle with 1 1/2 tsp of the Cajun spice.
Cook and stir until the chicken is cooked through and nicely coloured, about five to seven minutes.
Lift the chicken out of the pot with a slotted spoon and set in a bowl.
Lower the heat under the pot to medium. And the onion, celery and pepper assortment and cook until very tender and slightly caramelized, about six minutes.
Note – you can dial back on the Habanero and Thai chiles to dial back the heat — because these two kick it up a big notch!
Mix in the rice and remaining Cajun spice and cook, stirring occasionally, for two minutes more.
Mix in the stock, bay leaves, sliced sausage and chicken.
Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. When boiling, cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the rice is almost tender, about 18 minutes.
Nestle the prawns or oysters into the top of the rice and cover and cook five minutes, or until the prawns are cooked and the rice is tender. Serve.
Note 1: Cajun spice is available in the bottle herb and spice aisle of most supermarkets.
Cajun spice, in a small bowl combine 4 tsp paprika, 2 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp dried marjoram, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp cayenne pepper and 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper. Use what you need for the recipe and save the rest for another time.
Note 2: To peel and devein a prawn, hold the tail of the prawn in one hand and slip the thumb of your other hand under the shell between its swimmerets (little legs). Pull off the shell, leaving the very bottom portion of the tail intact. Use a small paring knife to make a lengthwise slit along the back of the prawn. Pull out, or rinse out with cold water, the dark vein. Pat the prawns dry and they are ready to use.
Many thanks to Chef Eric Akis of the Times-Colonist newspaper for this inspiration!
Christmas Turkey Enchiladas - spicy leftover delight · 5 January 2016 by colin newell
I am a huge fan of authentic Mexican cuisine – can’t get enough of it but I am humble enough to admit that, apart from nachos, I have never learned to cook very much of it at home. Now admittedly, some of the cuisine is pretty complicated and filled with steps – but many, if not all, of the ingredients are readily available locally. So, get out there and give this one a whirl. You can use chicken, beef, pork, some kinds of fish I would imagine, or beans for a vegetarian approach. Let’s get busy.
2 cups cooked shredded Turkey (I have used leftover Christmas turkey breast meat)
1 large red onion, chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup lo-fat sour cream
1/2 cup chopped parsley
3 small (284ml) cans enchilada sauce (La Victoria is my go to)
3 cups shredded cheese (tex-mexican blend)
1 small tin mild green chiles (diced)
Tablespoon of Cumin
Tablespoon of Chile powder
10 flour tortillas
Preparing your ingredients
Chop the onion and parsley, and shred the Turkey.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Step One Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, stirring all the while.
Step Two Add the turkey to the onions in the frying pan. Add Cumin and Chile powder and stir until combined.
Step Three Pour about 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce over the turkey and onion mixture.
Step Four Add sour cream and parsley. Add diced chiles – stir until combined.
Step Five Once all the ingredients are fully combined, turn off the heat. now add the shredded cheese. I usually add 2 heaping cups. Mix to combine.
Once the cheese is melted and combined with the Turkey sour cream mixture, taste it, and see if it needs anything else – like additionally seasoning or more sauce.
Step Six Now it is time to fill the tortillas and make the enchiladas. pour just enough sauce in a baking dish to cover the bottom of the dish.
Step Seven Take each tortilla and spoon some sauce on the tortilla coating the entire side that will hold the turkey mixture. Then spoon on some of the turkey mixture.
Step Eight Roll up the tortilla and place it in the baking dish.
Repeat steps to make enough tortillas to fill your baking dish, or until the Turkey mixture is all used up.
Step 9 Pour enchilada sauce over the completed enchiladas. spread it evenly over the top.
Step 10 Top with more shredded cheese and garnish with chopped parsley.
Now they are ready to place in the oven. cover with foil and bake for 20-30 minutes. Remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of cooking. Since the turkey is pre-cooked, you only need to bake them long enough for the sauce to start bubbling, tortilla edges are slightly crisp, and the cheese is melted.
We serve with homemade guacamole and a suitable salsa – you can make the salsa yourself if you are so inclined. These yummy enchiladas are great with your favourite strong beer!
This dish can make 10 to 12 single serve enchiladas. Plenty for leftovers!