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Fall harvest cooking - Slow cooker Chicken Stew with Dumplings · 6.11.13 by colin newell

Colin and Andrea's Fall Harvest Chicken Dumpling Stew

It is that time of year when it is cold and damp when we arrive at work and dark and wet when we leave work. And what is better than coming home to a steaming hot pot of slow cooked stew!
Only thing you need to do when you get home is whip up the dumplings.

This is a heart warming dish that is perfect for this time of the year – it pairs well with any full bodied Red Wine – like a Cab S.B. – We had a California Sonoma Cab SB that was perfect with this dish. Enjoy and welcome to the Fall home cooking season!

Ingredients:

2 kg skinned boneless Chicken thighs
2 cups chopped / diced carrots
2 cups chopped / diced celery
1 chopped onion
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 teaspoon dried Thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup (low salt)
1 cup water

Directions:
Cut chicken into large – medium pieces.
Brown (in oil + pork fat if you have it!) chicken in dutch oven or pot seasoning with salt, pepper and thyme
Remove chicken to crock pot
Saute onions carrots celery in Crock pot (that you used for browning chicken)
Place onions, carrots and celery on top of chicken in the Crock pot.
Put all the sliced mushrooms on top of the veg and chicken mixture.
Stir soup, water, thyme and black pepper in a bowl.
Pour soup mixture over the chicken / veg mixture in the crock pot.

Cover and cook on low for 7 – 8 hours.

Dumpling recipe.

2 cups of flour – 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (opt) – 4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt – 2 tablespoons butter – 3/4 cup 2% milk (approx.)

In bowl whisk together flour, parsley, baking powder and salt.
Using pastry blender OR two knives cut in butter into coarse crumbs.
Using fork, stir in enough milk to make sticky spoon-able dough.
Leaving space around each, drop by tablespoon full (dough) onto simmering stew.

Cover and cook (without lifting lid) for 15 minutes or until dumplings are not longer doughy underneath.

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Grande opening of the Victoria Public Market - why you need to be there. · 11.09.13 by colin newell

Grande opening of the Victoria Public Market at the Hudson Building.

Victoria has a colorful and wildly uneven history of farmers and public markets – In fact, there is a pretty comprehensive journal from local historian and journalist Ross Crockford over here. It is a great read and I will borrow a bit from that article here – and the bulk of the sentiment.

Some thoughts in point form. Which I will expand upon…

  • Victoria’s downtown needs a year round farmers market
  • Why hasn’t there been a year round market all along?
  • Even in the 21st Century we need to think about food security
  • Buying from the chains is not always cheaper or better for the community
  • By all means continue to support satellite, weekend markets and local businesses.

Why a market? So Victoria has the Moss Street market – one of the most notable and recognizable markets in the Victoria area – and it is well traveled – their website is over here – and for a small neighborhood market, it has stood the test of time. The MSM has been open 14 years or so now – and that (to date) is somewhat more stable than initial iterations of the first Victoria Public Market (which according to Ross Crockford) only lasted a few months.

…the owners blamed its failure on public indifference, and competition from Chinese farmers who peddled vegetables door-to-door. In 1878, white farmers successfully petitioned the city to build another indoor market, but the construction was so shoddy that the farmers stayed away.

At the time, Victoria was still something of a wild west and by some of the descriptions from historical references, much of the bureaucracy around the city administering a market was very much like it is today for most business people – difficult.

Even in the late 1800’s many farmers and producers sold their wares directly to retailers, negating the need for a public gathering place for food, services and entertainment.

Moving forward to the 20th Century, Victoria’s market struggled with progress but was re-energized by the
advent of World War (both of them) with issues of food security and patriotism being bandied about.
In the 50’s the final nails in the coffin of the Victoria Public Market was the arrival of chain stores, indifference to what was considered a quaint method of food gathering and a general neglect of the infrastructure.

As Ross Crockford points out in his historic observations, the downtown cores layout of real estate was coveted and public markets seemed contrary to progress – particularly with the advent of the automobile and decline of the street car as the predominant mode of transportation.

Why now? So why haven’t we (as Victoria residents) seen a surviving market through the years? Many European and American cities have had farmers markets that are upwards of a hundred (or in the case of Europe) hundreds and hundreds of years old.
Simple. Victoria never had a downtown population. Until more recently. I can remember scooting around Victoria in the mid seventies (as a young teen) noting that there were no Apartments in the downtown core – and many of the upper “flats” that used to exist in historic buildings on Government, Yates, Pandora and Fisgard avenues (for example) were boarded up or left fallow because of fire regulations.

In 2013, there are condos sprouting up in every corner of the city AND there are no downtown grocery stores (apart from the somewhat distant Yates Market at Quadra and Yates [which serves the area well thank you very much…]).

In the late 50’s and and until the mid sixties, downtown Victoria had an Eaton’s food floor and a Safeway (near the corner of Fort and Douglas) serving the needs of James Bay and Fairfield residents. I can remember as a young child in the 60’s popping into the Eaton’s Food Fair for some groceries (it was a real deal full service grocery then – much like the Woodward’s Food experience at Town and Country) and then hitting the soda fountain nearby for a Coke float. Additionally, the downtown had numerous general stores, like David Spencer Limited (commonly known as Spencer’s) who operated a department store chain – with a location in Victoria that lasted up until demolition to make way for the Eaton Center in the mid-eighties.

Anyway – staying on topic!

Food Security Anyone that says that we needn’t worry about our Island food supply has an agenda that it is not in the best interests of our local communities and neighborhoods. It was an issue in the 20th Century and it is an issue now. Why sell off our farm land for development while at the same time increasing our demand on an imported food supply? We are only one Earthquake or calamity away from pinching off a staggering dependency on food that is trucked and flown in on a scale that should give us pause.

According to food journalist, Don Genova, we produce around 6% of the food stuffs that we consume on Vancouver Island. And when you consider how arable this region is and how much we can actually grow if we put our minds (and shovels) to it… well, it’s shocking.

Chef, farmer and educator, Bill Jones of Deerholme Farm is one of our Island food professionals leading and raising awareness of Island food trends and the need to be cognizant of our fragile food supply – His educational curriculum and food learning program is a great example of how one person (and friends) can educate a lot of people about regional and local food production… and the fun of foraging!

One of my favorite rants on subject (of Island grown food management) was the practice of a very large Island grown food chain that was shipping Island grown produce to Vancouver for sorting… before it shipped it back to the Island… the excuse being “Our Island storage facilities are not big enough…” Give me a break. And people wonder why locally produced fruits and vegetables cost so much at the chains. To their credit, I think they have built a warehouse on Vancouver Island for sorting and storage of Island produce.

Want to contrast food pricing with the Chains? Try this exercise: Head out to one of the small satellite markets or farm vendors like the Root Cellar on McKenzie and Blenkinsop – and tell me their prices are not refreshingly cheaper than Thrifty Foods or Safeway.

Why support local? Why buy local? Creates jobs. Creates an incentive to produce locally. Instills a sense of community. Brings people together. And I am not just talking about farmers – but bakers, brewers, crafts people of all kinds. In a city the size of Victoria, you would think we would have dozens of great bakeries – we don’t but that could change if we stop buying unhealthy factory produced breads from afar.

I should stress that if you live in a neighborhood (or within a km or two of a neighborhood) that features cafes, bakers, brewers or meat markets – by all means support those ahead of your regional or local market! The idea is not to take away business – but to get people to walk to their markets or local businesses and artisans – to mingle and learn and be part of the community.
Historically, markets were built to serve an urban population – As stated, Victoria has not had an urban population (with the necessary density to support a full time public market) until the 21st Century. The time is now.

So we seem to be on the right track. In the last ten years I have seen the arrival of better choices locally, a raised awareness of the importance of a stable local food supply and a passion for “getting it done locally” that simple did not exist in the latter part of the 20th Century. We have come a ways – but we have further to go.

Let’s keep doing what we are doing Victoria has markets, day markets, summer markets, street markets and night markets. We are in the right track. By all means, keep supporting these initiatives – seek them out. Support them.

And by all means come out to the grande opening of the new Victoria Public Market this Saturday and Sunday!
I will be there – and so should you! Here is the link for finding your way to the Victoria Public Market opening on Saturday –

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Pork tenderloin on a spinach salad · 31.07.13 by colin newell

Easy to prepare and low in fat.

1 – 500g pork tenderloin

Preheat oven to 450 (F)

Pork Loin Salad

Heated a frying pan with a few tablespoons of vegetable oil.

Rub your tenderloin with some pepper, olive oil and garlic salt.

Sear the pork tenderloin on all sides (2 minutes per side) in the pan.
Place the tenderloin in a ceramic baking pan (pan is coated with left over olive oil.)
Spread honey mustard all over the seared tenderloin with a sprig of oregano.

Place in the oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 (F)
Bake for 30 minutes or until core temperature is 165 (F)

Remove from oven – rest for 10 minutes (tented in tinfoil)

Make the salad of your choosing -
Take the tenderloin and slice into thing medallions – serving over salad.

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Party time - Queso Fundido Cheese dip - rated HOT · 21.07.13 by colin newell

Who doesn’t like something hot and spicy to get the party rolling? Andrea’s and my take on a great Mexican snack dish cannot be beat – it has the blazing hot molten appeal of sharp cheeses dangerously tinged with the bite of chipotle peppers (to taste!)…

Queso Fundido Hot Cheese Dip for the party!

Not only that, it is served right out of the oven so it has double-trouble heat – but seldom a complaint is heard as it disappears entirely before it cools.

It is very hot, thermally, when it comes out of the oven so be very, very careful with this dish – a scald hazard always exists!

Ingredients

Shred 2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese (the older and sharper the better)
Shred 1 cup Monterrey cheese
1/2 cup light sour cream
1 4 oz. can chopped green chili peppers (drained)
1 to 2 tablespoons of finely chopped, canned, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.

Combine and mix in a large bowl.

Spread into 1 quart baking dish.

Baked in 375 oven for 20 – 25 minutes stirring once.

Remove from oven – stir again.

- garnish with chopped green onions,
tomatoes, and even some sliced black olives or cilantro if you are so inclined.

Serve immediately with Tortilla chips and the frosty Cerveza or two of your choosing
This is a wickedly satisfying dish at any party – just warn people in advance: It has the hot hot heat!

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Eating the Island's best - at Deerholme Farm · 14.07.13 by colin newell

In the 30+ years I have been paying attention to the Island food scene, one concept has emerged to a much broader understanding and acceptance: Local and seasonal farm to table cuisine.

Bill, Patrick and Don

Locally sourced fruits, vegetables, meats and local/regional cuisine conceptualization is finally coming into its own.
Photo – L to R – Chef Bill Jones, Patrick Barber and Don Genova coordinating the next plate with impeccable timing.

And it makes sense. When you look at the hard reality of how little of our Vancouver Island food supply is actually produced here – well, it is kind of staggering and it makes any level headed person ask… “Why!?”

Well, the times they are a changing – and leading the charge on experiencing, learning and savoring the fruits of our harvest is none other than Chef Bill Jones of Deerholme Farm

No stranger to global cuisine, Bill Jones has wowed Island residents for 8+ years within the realm of “Farm to table”, seasonal cooking and the ever popular “foraged foods” – utilizing his star power to promote the areas incredible collection of seasonal morels (mushrooms).

Bill and Don - grilling the Sate

Last night (Saturday – July 13) Andrea and I and two dear friends had the distinct pleasure of joining Chef Bill Jones (photo-Left), food journalist Don Genova (photo-Right) (CBC Food Matters and his own well read blog over at Blog.DonGenova.Com ) and avid food enthusiast Patrick Barber (Son of the Urban Peasant James Barber no less…)

Chef Bill Jones dining room holds a couple of dozen folks comfortably – keeping in mind that the farm is not a restaurant in the truest sense of the word – and when you have successfully “applied” to attend one his special events, you are indeed within a learned circle of enthusiastic food folks… in a space that is very open, friendly and conducive to group interaction and learning.

On our particular visit to the Deerholme Farm in the Duncan area, the single challenge was getting there. That said, the 4 of us were kind of reading from several sets of instructions – and for me, it was quite by accident that I ended up at the end of the very short Stelfox Road – not quite in the middle of nowhere but not far from it. Note the map below.

The Deerholme farm is quite unassuming and very farm like – so do not expect an obviously purpose built farm/food showcase. Because it’s not. It is a very active working farm that is also center stage for Bill Jones culinary experience.

Dinner at the farm often runs from 5 PM til 9 PM. We arrived fashionably early and took the opportunity to wander the rustic farms herb garden noting the grandeur of the area.

Learning while Eating with Chef Bill Jones and Don Genova

By 5 PM all the guests were seated and the first plate was in front of us: A savory Thai chicken sate (local organically grown chicken) complimented with freshly grilled Porcini bread and a smoked eggplant puree… a very gentle and easy going introduction to what would be a fascinating evening of brilliantly crafted “small plates” – portion sizes oriented towards enjoyment and learning – each course accompanied by Bill or Don giving us a little lecture on where (and when) the ingredients came from. Photo above – Bill and Don connect the timeline of the ingredients to each plate.

Within a 1/2 hour or so, we settled into a handsome salad of Argentinian inspired grilled flank steak over local farm greens – the steak (amounting to a couple of ounces of meat protein) topped by a Chimichurri dressing (Chimichurri is often made from finely chopped parsley or Cilantro, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano, and white or red wine vinegar…) – the steak is served medium-rare and you could almost cut it with a fork.

By 7 PM or so and a chance to stretch legs, get to know the folks at the table we were sharing – cleanse our palates with some mineral water, engage in conversation, etc and it was time for the next course:

Slow smoked beef brisket

A BBQ Bean soup – (a mixture of beans, the white beans being from Saltspring Island), ham hock with smoked salmon, sweet pea salsa (hot!) and grilled Pasilla pepper puree. This was a very rustic and flavorful soup that would be perfect any time of the year – but especially enjoyable in mid-summer with all fresh and local ingredients.
Photo above – long smoked beef brisket.

By 8 PM the star of the show was about to roll out: Photo – Slow cooked smoked beef brisket – with grilled red onion-mushroom jam, kale polenta, Providence Farm baby tomatoes, fresh garlic, basil and bread sauce. The brisket was portioned at around 3.5 ounces (perfect for the overall pacing of the meal) – rich with a complex and dark smokiness in the flesh – this brisket being grass fed and free range, is very low in saturated fat – so although the portion is slightly fatty, the fat portion is quite reminiscent of pork belly… melt in your mouth and healthy!

By 9 PM we were all very content and almost right on schedule an incredible dessert was presented: A local fennel and pear tarte tatin with a hazelnut caramel mousse, smoked pecans garnished with a maple-candied dehydrated bacon slice (surprisingly it fit in perfect…)

Any one of these plates would have made a delightful centerpiece on any other meal somewhere else – but taken as a whole, this grouping left a clearly lasting impression that will not be forgotten soon – as a local coffee enthusiast mused, “Of my top 5 meals I have had anywhere, 4 of them were at Deerholme…”

And considering the selection of great food and drink on Vancouver Island,
that says something!

Deerholme Farm - click for bigger view

For our group, the Deerholme Farm represents a unique and memorable eating experience – Hey, Andrea and I try (on principle) to eat out once a week (somewhere nice) and Deerholme is not like anything you have ever experienced – If anything, it makes me hopeful about how we see food on Vancouver Island – and the road to (at least a bit more) self sufficiency.

By all means contact Chef Bill Jones over here and consider attending one of his events. They are generally on Saturdays, year around. Deerholme Farm is located near Duncan, British Columbia – click on the small image above for the bigger view of the area.

Bon apetit!

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Talking Thermomix with Don Genova · 4.07.13 by colin newell

Listen to the Podcast |


The Thermomix kitchen tool!

As most of my readers know, I have been playing with coffee machines for a decade and a half – and in some of my in between times I do take the opportunity of horsing around with related gadgets that are used in the kitchen (that could also have a coffee connection…) and some not so much.

And it was with great delight that Andrea and I managed to arrange a loan of a Thermomix “food appliance” from Island food journalist and author, Don Genova – locally of Cobble Hill, B.C. and a regular on CBC Radio “Food Matters”. We had seen the Thermomix in use at one of Don’s popular cooking classes – on the subject of pasta. And guess what, Don had the Thermomix handy for not only making the pasta but also making the sauce for the pasta! And for this reason and a few others, I do not call the Thermomix a food processor – because (much to my surprise), it is much more than that.

The Thermomix is a powered blender, chopper, stirrer, mixer, digital scale and labor saver – Designed in Germany and manufactured in France, the Thermomix is more industrial grade multi-purpose tool than the kind of single use device that many people would spend almost as much on.

Many folks, in fact, often pick a Vita-Mix over the Thermomix as a cost saving measure – and as awesome as the Vita-Mix is (I have a lighter duty Cuisinart version of it…) – because it does what it is supposed to do really well, it cannot cook anything. And where the Thermomix really, really shines – is that it can prep a dish and then cook it… or steam it. Or do both at the same time for goodness sakes!

In the video below, Don tackles a recipe we tackled a couple of times… with awesome results!

Andrea and I gave the Thermomix a work out with a couple of variations of a popular and relatively challenging recipe: Risotto. For those who have made Risotto, it is labor intensive and requires your attention for the duration of the process.

Apart from getting the ingredients together and getting them into the Thermomix in the right order, the bulk of the work was done by the Thermomix with little interaction from me – the primary thing with Risotto is, of course, the stirring – often 10 to 15 minutes of stirring… which the Thermomix does gently and steadily. We ended up with a restaurant grade Risotto that we would have proudly served any chef in the city… or any of our friends.

We chatted with Don Genova on the subject of the Thermomix this afternoon at Victoria’s Cafe Roaster 2% Jazz at the Hudson – and future home of the Victoria Public Market. When asked, Don pointed out in the audio recording above, that all kinds of people buy the Thermomix and they buy it for a variety of reasons – the main thing for us was labour saving, streamlining processes in the kitchen and making food better – and maybe even saving some money in the journey and eliminating some waste – because the Thermomix measures everything very precisely, the end results are exactly the same every time.

The Thermomix is clearly well made (designed and built in Europe) with heavy duty components for years and years of service. Interestingly, you cannot buy the Thermomix online or in a store – it is sold by a network of dealers in Canada that are particularly hands on when it comes to training and initiation of new users to this very useful tool.

I had the Thermomix for around a week – and I think I may need to borrow one again for another couple of tests (my main loan this month was interrupted by a trip to Hawaii!). In the meantime, if you need any information on where you can find one in B.C. (or anywhere else in Canada…) just drop me a line!

For more information on what Don Genova is up to and where you can see/hear him, pop on over to his Blog

Podcast – If you cannot see the audio player above, click here for the mp3.

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