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.
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!
Butternut squash soup with vegan option · 3 January 2016 by colin newell
Winter is the best time of the year for hearty vegetarian soup with the option of adding some animal protein if you are so inclined – either way, these are filling and healthy soups during the winter months – here is how we brew up one of our favourites.
Dice 1 medium butternut squash
Dice 1 red pepper
Dice 1 medium onion
Toss together and split between two baking sheets.
Cover each sheet with parchment paper. Divide the veg between the two equally.
Sprinkle tablespoon of Olive oil over each pan and then salt and pepper to your
Mix together elements on each pan.
Get 4 slices of double smoked bacon (optional) sliced into lardons
and then sprinkle over top of the mixture.
Take one garlic, break it into cloves, leaving in their own paper
and divide them equally between the two pans.
Put into 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, toss at half way point.
Get out a big dutch oven bringing it up to medium heat.
Take the two pans out of the oven, removing cloves of garlic and set aside.
Take both veg mixtures less the parchment paper and dump into dutch oven.
Put in a couple of tablespoons of fresh thyme.
Squeeze out the garlic from their bulb into the dutch oven.
Add 2 1/2 to 3 cup of Chicken or Vegetable broth – stirring occasionally
while bringing to boil. Once it reaches the boil, turn off heat and get out your
immersion blender and blend it to your desired consistency.
Add more stock if you want a thinner soup. Return to heat and
take to boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Serve with bread.
A great big slice of Italian passion in Victoria B.C. - Il Covo Trattoria · 18 September 2015 by colin newell
My wife and I have a few go-to places for celebrating special occasions – like Fridays, or a Wedding Anniversary, a successful shopping trip or the first rainy day in September after a long drought.
And considering that Victoria B.C. is a city flush with imaginative restaurants, there are really only a handful (in my estimation) of food places that consistently deliver passion, authenticity, love and great taste in equal measure.
Il Covo Trattoria at 106 Superior Street in James Bay near Fishermans Wharf is one of those places. I have a soft spot for Italian cuisine (my mother grew up in an Italian enclave in Montreal in the 30’s and 40’s…) and I was raised on rustic interpretations of Northern Italian classics. So, it’s in my blood and in my memories. And if your momma cooked Italian, getting that experience in a restaurant is a tall order.
Il Covo Trattoria seems to make it effortless. Their location in historic James Bay – Victoria, not far from Fishermen’s Wharf and a short walk from the Inner Harbour and some of the cities finest hotels could be just as easily located in the heart of New York City, Rome or Montreal. Passing through the grand entrance into the care of the hostess, one is transformed into another time and place. A big part of a restaurants charm is unquestionably its ambiance and Il Covo has certainly nailed the European experience.
Ii Covo is large enough for expansive families and intimate enough for couples on an important or romantic date. Service is attentive, informed and engaged without being worrisome. What I love about the eating experience here is the dedication to authenticity and focus on regional ingredients – all impeccably fresh and balanced according to the season.
Andrea and I started our culinary adventure with a martini and one of Il Covo’s brilliant Northern Italian inspired cocktails.
Our opener from Chef was a salad of rare tuna, chick peas and arugula – perfectly tart and balanced to set the palate up for our mains.
Click on Map Photo for the Big View
This evening my wife had the signature Lasagna – which she rates as the best in North America – and trust me, she has sampled this straight forward dish from coast to coast. I had the Papardelle pasta with Prawns and fresh asparagus in a Pernod sauce – delicious, fresh and so satisfying.
If you have room for any dessert, the cakes, creme brulee, panna cotta and tiramisu are amazing – I know. I have had them all. Coffee is great too!
Il Covo, for us, is a place filled with love of family, friends and dedication to the most positive food experience – it is as close to eating in an Italian village as you can get without actually being there. Top marks to the Il Covo team! Bravo!
Victoria home cooking - Slow roasted garlic and tomato marinara · 30 August 2015 by colin newell
As Fall and harvest comes upon us, it is time to start making some of those tasty sauces that we will start enjoying throughout the fall.
Most of our best tomatoes are now ready and they are being converted to sauce for pasta dishes in the future. One of our favourite building block sauces: Marinara – it cannot be beat. It scales up well and you can add nothing to it or your favourite protein.
Necessary ingredients: Tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt and ground black pepper, 1 medium onion,
2 medium celery ribs, 1 medium green bell pepper, basil, oregano, fennel seeds, chili flakes, 1/2 cup red wine or vegetable stock,2 bay leaves, 2 Tablespoon tomato paste, bunch of fresh parsley…
Take 3 pounds of Roma tomatoes.
Boil some water. Trim the stem end of each tomato and then cut a 1/4” X at the blossom/stem end.
Drop the tomatoes a few at a time into the boiling water for 60 to 90 seconds OR until the skin starts to loosen. Using a slotted spoon, remove the tomatoes to a bowl to cool for a few minutes.
Pull the skin off of each tomato.
Preheat your oven to 225 degrees (F).
Line one or more large baking pans with parchment paper.
Cut all of the tomatoes in half. Set a fine sieve over a bowl. Squeeze out all the seeds over on and onto the sieve. Keep the juice that comes out! We will use this later.
Place these tomatoes onto the parchment paper.
Mix together 1/4 cup of olive oil and 3 to 5 garlic cloves crushed and minced.
Paint this oil/garlic mixture onto the tomatoes. Put a twist of fresh ground pepper and salt onto each of the tomatoes.
Roast the tomatoes on the parchment paper in the oven for 2 hours.
Put all of these roast tomatoes into a bowl and add the reserve juice from the earlier seed removal.
Puree this mix with a hand mixer to medium fine puree eliminating all the lumps and clumps. Personal preference kicks in around here.
Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot. Add onion (diced), celery (diced) and bell pepper (diced).
Simmer for 5 to 7 minutes.
Add 1 teaspoon or more of basil (fresh or dried) and oregano (fresh if you have it), a 1/4 teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds (use a rolling pin — releases the aromatics), a pinch of chili flakes and cook for another minute.
Added the pureed tomatoes, wine or stock, bay leaf and tomato paste and simmer, stirring occasionally for 35 minutes or so.
Discard Bay leaves and add chopped parsley (1/4 cup chopped)
Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Makes around 10 cups of sauce.
Bon apetit! This is one of our favourites and mirrors one of our all time favourite sauces from Victoria restaurant Zambri’s. Original recipe by Eric Akis of the Times Colonist.