Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Recipe: Refrigerator Pizza Dough, and a Pizza Recipe

The perfect lover is one who turns into a pizza at 4:00 a.m. – Charles Pierce 

Perfectly risen pizza dough, made in the refrigerator.
Now you have no excuse to not make pizza through the week. Here’s a crust recipe that rises for the day in your refrigerator. Yes, that’s right – the refrigerator.

You can get pre-mixed crusts at the grocery –  add water and wait a few minutes. What you get (in my lowly opinion) is "passable," but it’s not a “real” pizza crust. Not one I would take credit for making anyway.

But it takes time to make a proper crust and therefore your weeknight pizza either has to arrive late to the table, bear up to the less-than-stellar crust, or not happen at all. Or does it have to?

You can successfully prepare a dough while you're at work. In the time it takes to have your morning coffee, you can mix this dough together and have it ready for the oven when you get home after work. This is my spouse’s recipe, not mine. So the thanks belongs there.

This crust was puffy and wonderful after the 8 hours cool rise, and made an excellent base for our pizza. I’ve also included a recipe for the toppings that I used. It was a great combination, and used up an overabundance of flat leaf Italian parsley I purchased a few days ago!

Of course this dough would be just as good for calzones. I would suggest you could divide the dough to make at least six, depending on the size.

Refrigerator Pizza Dough
Makes one 12 x 20 pizza
2-1/4 tsp yeast
1-1/2 cups warm water (110°F)
4 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large sealable plastic bag

Proof the yeast in the water until it’s creamy, about 15 minutes. 

Mix the yeast together with the remaining ingredients. Knead for a couple minutes. Put it in a sealable bag and place in the refrigerator for 8 hours. The dough will be ready when you get home.

Sausage & Parsley Pizza
1 lb loose chorizo sausage*
1 large onion
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 lg bunch flat leaf parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 cup black olives, sliced
1 cup pizza sauce
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1-1/2 cups provolone, grated
1/2 cup parmesan, grated

Sauté the sausage, onion and garlic with some salt and pepper until the meat is no loner pink. Mix together with the parsley, olives and pasta sauce. Bake at 425°F for 25 minutes.

*For homemade chorizo, see yesterday’s post


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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Make Ahead Recipe: Chorizo Beef Sausage

Art is a lie that makes us realize truth. – Pablo Picasso

The recipe makes more than this amount... Whenever you make sausage always
be sure to fry a small bit to test the spices. I learned this trick from Julia Child.
Since chorizo is Spanish, I thought I would start with a quote from one of the most famous Spaniards the world has ever known. I suppose my variation of this amazing sausage is a bit of a "lie" but I wouldn't go as far as to call it "art."

This is the spice for 2 lbs of meat. It looks like a lot, but it's not.
Why is it a "lie"? Chorizo is, very strictly speaking, a hot-spiced pork sausage. Although other meats “can” be used (even venison), purists will fight to the death to defend that it’s only pork.

I tend to agree with them, but I’m so sick of pork lately. I try to buy what’s on sale at the grocery, to pinch a penny, and it seems there’s been nothing but a steady stream of pork sales lately.

But, lo and behold, today I found ground beef at a local grocery on sale at half price. Half price! How can one pass it up? Honestly…

Originally from the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal) Chorizo is a sausage that is made in two styles. One is fresh, the other is preserved. Preserving itself takes several forms, most commonly fermenting, curing or smoking.

Chorizo derives its distinctive red colour from an abundance of hot paprika (dried chilli peppers). From there the mixture is a bit of a craps shoot. Every region has its own take on this popular and useful meat mixture.

Before mixing.
In fact this sausage has made its way around the world. Besides Spain and Portugal, there are variations common in Mexico, South America, India and even the Philippines.

Of course there are other beef chorizo recipes around besides mine. I don’t know what made me think to try my hand at it except for the sale... Since I don’t have a sausage stuffer (yet) my sausage is bulk, but that’s OK. I’ll find plenty of ways to use this delicious concoction.

The heat can be increased or decreased at your personal whim. You really should always cook a little of any meat mixture before saying it’s correct. That’s the stage you can fiddle with the spices to get it just right, and in the process end up with a version that is completely your own.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. As you can imagine, stay tuned over the next week for a recipe or two using this spicy, tasty meat. After all I do now have 2 lbs of meat!

NOTE: By my standards this makes a fairly mild chorizo, so if you like spicy, make sure your paprika is HOT and perhaps increase the cayenne.

After mixing.
Chorizo Beef Sausage
2 lb medium ground beef (or use the traditional pork)
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/3 cup red wine
1 tbsp hot Spanish paprika
3 tsp cayenne (depending on the heat in your paprika)
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp liquid smoke

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well with your hands. Take a small piece and fry it to test the spices. Adjust any that you need.

Once satisfied with the taste use loose if desired or stuff into casings. Although able to be used right away, it’s best to let the spices in the meat “bloom” overnight in the refrigerator.

If you wish you can cure or smoke the cased sausages. Look for recipes on how to do so using Google.

This sausage can be frozen very easily as well. 


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Monday, February 27, 2012

Recipe: Turkey & Ham Pasties with Fresh Beet Salad

On the Continent people have good food; in England people have good table manners. – George Mikes, British author

Does this look like bad food to you?
I don’t know if I agree entirely with that statement… some British food is excellent.

I went to the grocery store this morning because I had a craving for something British. Has anyone had the Cornish Pasties from The Old Triangle in downtown Halifax?

This is the filling. It can be made ahead and refrigerated.
Absolutely amazing. It used to be a Sunday ritual in a past “life” of mine to go there for dinner. That stage of my existence has long ago ended and for some odd reason so have the trips to the Triangle.

That’s OK, because pasties are actually quite easy to make at home. And almost as good… I say “almost” because at the Triangle they make their own puff pastry. Perhaps later this year I’ll have the intestinal fortitude to try it. They do a really good job.

So frozen puff pastry has to do, at least for me.

The filling is, well, filling. Moist chunks of chicken (turkey in this case), meaty mushrooms, ham and veggies all in a creamy sauce wrapped in flaky pastry. What’s not to love?

You can make endless variations on this recipe: all chicken, all ham, add potato, turnips, or even cabbage. Traditional pasties (Cornish Pasties from Cornwall in the UK) contain beef, onion and potato wrapped in shortcrust (pie) pastry. To them there is no other.

Four pasties feed four people.
I like the combo of chicken and ham – and the puff pastry. Why the turkey? I couldn’t bring myself to pay what they were asking for chicken at the grocery store. 

How do people feed a family? Over $20 for six boneless skinless chicken breasts and in the mid teens for boneless thighs. We have enough trouble just affording food for the two of us. That’s just crazy. I only buy when it goes on sale.

As you can imagine, turkey thighs are cheaper. I bought two decent sized ones for $6.50 and the recipe only used one so I’ll transform the other into something in a day or two. I already have an idea…but for now try these pasties. They're excellent.

Turkey & Ham Pasties
Prep: 30 min  |  Cook: 30 min  |  Serves 4
Puffed and golden.
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
6” carrot, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 portobello mushroom caps, chopped
1/2 lb turkey meat, chopped
250 g sliced ham, chopped
3/4 cup milk
1 tbsp cornstarch, mixed with 2 tbsp water
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 package pre-made puff pastry, thawed*

Filling can be made ahead and refrigerated.

Sauté the vegetables in the olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Then add the mushrooms and sauté for a further 5 minutes. Add the chopped turkey and cook until no longer pink, a further 5 minutes. Then add in the ham, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Stir well to combine and then pour in the milk. Bring to a boil and then add the cornstarch mixed with the water.

Let the mixture cook until thickened. Taste for seasonings and adjust if desired. At this point the filling can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Dust a pastry board (or your counter) with some flour. Roll out one half of  package of pre-made puff pastry to a rectangle 8” x 16”. Cut into 2 equal squares.

Place 1/4 of the filling on the middle of each square. Wet the edges of the pastry with water. Bring the four corners together to the centre and pinch. Then pinch the edges together to make a square. Flute the edges.

Repeat with the remaining puff pastry and filling. 

This beet salad is amazing. Even if you don't like beets try this.
The Italian parsley and orange juice transform it dramatically!
Place each package on a cookie sheet. Vent the pasties before baking by poking fork holes in each one. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Serve with a side salad. The following one is amazing. How about…

Fresh Beet Salad with Orange Vinaigrette
Serves 4
3 raw beets, sliced thin and cut into wide sticks
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1 large carrot, sliced thin and cut into matchsticks
1-1/2 cups Italian parsley leaves, left whole
for the viniagrette
1/4 cup blood orange juice (or orange)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

* if you wish, substitute the puff pastry for a recipe of pie dough for a double crust 8" pie.


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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Recipe: Apple Spiced Pork Loin with Mustard Sauce

Everything happens to everybody sooner or later if there is time enough. – George Bernard Shaw 

Excellent way to serve pork loin. Spiced and fork tender!
It's Sunday again and, like many Maritime families, dinner will be the "Sunday joint." In Nova Scotia that's a euphemism for a big chunk of meat – usually a roast.

A roast takes time. Why not switch it up slightly and serve a spiced, braised loin of pork? This actually takes less effort than your usual chunk of roast. I believe one of the local groceries even have pork loin on sale this week.

I used a ceramic tureen to mainate and cook in. The loin
just fit and the liquid came up around the side.
This may sound a bit of an odd thing when you read the directions but works amazingly well. My inspiration started out life as a marinade that used an already pickled pork roast. 

Since I didn't have a pickled pork roast – but did have a fresh loin – I started to think. That's always a dangerous proposition!

Why couldn't you do a sort of "quick pickle" using the same sort of spices and ingredients you would if you marinated the meat for a whole week? You can, it turns out. 

Marinating the meat for only 8 hours in the spices imparts the flavours in a gentle way. Cooking in the same spices increases those flavours. This doesn't taste like pickled pork. It's more of a spiced meat, hence the name. It's really good.

Marinating in vinegar certainly made this meat fork tender. Loin is notorious for being dry if cooked improperly. Cooking it in the spices, and substituting the marinade vinegar for apple cider just before cooking, made a moist, delicious main course. 

The mustard sauce is gilding the lily, but well worth the 5 minutes it takes just before serving.

I hope you like this recipe. It's one of those dishes that you can start marinating before you go to work and is ready to go in the oven when you get home.

By the way, the beans in the picture on top are my own pickled beans recipe. They were great. (Recipe here.)

Apple Spiced Pork Loin with Mustard Sauce
Marinade: 8 hours  |  Cook: 1 hour  |  Serves 6-8
1.5 to 2 lb pork loin
12 whole cloves
1/2 med onion, thinly sliced
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup currants
2" cinnamon stick
1 tbsp chopped ginger
1 tsp pickling spice
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 cup apple cider

Combine all the ingredients except for the pork and apple cider in an oven proof, non-reactive dish with a cover. That means something like glass or ceramic. (Not metal as the vinegar will react with it.) If your dish doesn't have a cover you can use plastic wrap as a substitute.

Mix well. Then nestle the pork into the marinating liquid and refrigerate for 8 hours. Turn once at the halfway mark if you or someone is home to do so.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Drain the pork marinade through a colander to get rid of the vinegar. Add the spices, onions, etc back to the dish. Add the pork and pour the 1 cup of apple cider over the top.

Place the pork in the oven, cover and let cook for 45 min to 1 hour, or until a meat thermometer reads 160°F in the centre of the meat. If your baking dish doesn't have a lid cover it tightly with foil.

Drain the meat, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. 

Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing. During this time make the mustard sauce.

Mustard Sauce
Time: 5-6 minutes
1/4 cup butter
1/2 small onion, diced
3 tsp flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup liquid from cooking the pork
1 tbsp Dijon
2 tbsp chopped parsley (optional)

Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the onion and cook over low heat until soft. 

Stir the four into the butter and onions. Gradually add the milk and cooking liquid. Let it cook until it thickens. 

Stir in mustard and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Then stir in the parsley and serve over the meat.


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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Weekend Baking: Apple Pie “Jelly” Roll

A compromise is the art of dividing a cake in such a way that everyone believes he has the biggest piece. – Ludwig Erhard 

Apple pie or jelly roll? Now you can have both!
I’ve already hinted at this recipe to my Facebook friends today, so now I guess I have to deliver. I promised I would if it worked. It’s amazing what you can dream up.

This is my filling. Use firm tart apples.
I didn't. It still tastes fantastic, though.
This one came to me when I was at a store last night and saw two things: apple turnovers and a jelly roll. I wondered to myself why you can’t get an apple jelly roll. Well, now you can.

I honestly don’t know why no one had thought of tis before. It’s like an apple pie with cake. I made my own filling but I would do one thing differently. I used Macintosh apples and they cooked to apple sauce. Use firm apples like a Granny Smith. I think it would be better with chunks of apple.

Not saying that anything’s wrong with it the way it is. If you wanted to cheat, you most certainly could use apple sauce, but thicken it with the cornstarch. It needs to “stay put.”

To up the taste I made a cinnamon sheet cake. Move quickly with trimming the edges and rolling the cake up empty. Your chances of it not cracking will lessen dramatically.

You’ll have to spread the batter over the bottom of the pan with a spatula. It’s not too difficult, but try your best to get the batter an even thickness.

The cream cheese is a fantastic touch. Don’t skip it. It’s almost like having ice cream with pie! NOTE: This got better the day after I made it and was even better yet the day after that. Too bad it didn't last longer...

So without further ado, here it is.

This is what is meant by "cream the eggs and sugar." The
result has to be light and very thick. It's miraculous.
Apple Pie “Jelly” Roll

4 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp water

Squeeze 1 tbsp of lemon juice into a medium saucepan. Then add the water. This will help stop the apples from turning brown as you cut them up.

Peel, core and chop the apples into about 1/2” pieces. Add to the water as you go.

Then add the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until the apples are softened. Blend the cornstarch with the water and add to the apples. Let cook until thickened.

Mash the apples a little if necessary. I used Macintosh. If you use a firmer apple you may have to do so. You still want to have some soft chunks in the filling.

Let cool. You will have about twice as much as you need. Serve the rest on the side, or just eat it as an applesauce. Mmmmm...

Yes, there IS a cake under that. Make sure you get completely out
to the edges of the cake so the filling is well distributed.
Cinnamon Sheet Cake
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 -1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp milk
8 oz (250 g)  cream cheese, softened and whipped with 2 tbsp milk and 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup icing' sugar

The end result. Unfortunately I did get a bit of cracking..
Check the cake at 7 minutes as opposed to the full 8.
Before you start the cake, make sure your filling is on hand and the cream cheese has been whipped.
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190 °C). Line a 10x15 inch jellyroll pan with parchment or waxed paper.

In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until thick and light, about 5 minutes. Slowly beat in the vanilla, cinnamon and milk. Mix together and then stir in the dry ingredients. Pour into the prepared pan and spread it evenly.

Bake for 7-8 minutes in the preheated oven, until the centre springs back when pressed. Don't over bake, or chances of your cake cracking when rolling will increase.

Dust a clean dish towel with icing sugar. Turn the cake out onto the towel, and peel off the paper. Trim off the edges. This helps it roll without cracking. Gently roll up the cake using the towel, and let cool for 5 minutes.

Unroll the cake, and spread an even coating of cream cheese over the surface. Then do the same with the apple filling. Roll the cake back up into a tight spiral, and remove the towel. Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.


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Friday, February 24, 2012

Recipes: Chicken Prophesy with Cocoa Dirty Rice

The difference between heresy and prophecy is often one of sequence. Heresy often turns out to have been prophecy. – Hubert H. Humphrey 

A complete fabrication, the result of a mis-heard word.
I must be going deaf. I thought I had overheard a friend at work say “chicken prophesy” a few days ago. Of course there’s no such thing – unless you're into reading entrails…

Photo: Chiot's Run, Flickr ccl
I commented that it sounded like an interesting recipe. And as I do I started thinking about its ingredients. What would a “prophesy” entail? Well, it could be fire and brimstone, or obversely, something good. Two ingredients sprang to mind, jalapenos and cream.

A jalapeno cream sauce, as I discovered, is a marvellous thing. After some slight research I branched off into the unknown. I was determined to make those two ingredients into a cooking sauce. 

It really wasn’t that hard as it turned out. Some ingredients scream to go together. For example, jalapenos are Central American, so why not add cumin and lime to the mix – two common ingredients in that cuisine?

The end result is slightly hot, fragrant and yet smooth and rich. Just what a “prophesy” should be…

The jalapeno amount was just right, but their strength varies so start with 1-1/2 and go up from there. It can be added at the reduction stage if you feel you need to add more. If you add too much, bring it to the table with a smile and call it Chicken Apocalypse!

So that’s what I did. This recipe is a creation based on some mis-heard words in the office. And of course what better thing to serve as a side but dirty rice? The cocoa isn't such a strange ingredient. Think of mole sauce.

I received compliments on this cooking sauce. I’ll be making it again.

This is how the sauce starts – very light coloured.
Chicken Prophesy
Prep: 10 min  |  Cook: 25 min  |  Serves 4
8 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
3/4 medium onion, finely chopped
1-1/2 to 2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp cracked black pepper
2 tsp flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup whipping cream
1 lime, chopped rind and juice

Heat a dry frying pan or sauté pan. Place the chicken bone side down and fry until the chicken releases from the bottom of the pan. Fat will render out as it fries. Season with salt as it fries.

This is the sauce when finished. Reduced and darker coloured.
Turn the chicken skin side down and repeat. The chicken should be nearly cooked through. Remove to a plate and keep warm.

Pour off all the fat except for about 1 tablespoon. Add the diced onion, jalapeno and garlic and sauté until the onions begin to soften. Then add the cumin and lime rind and cook for a further minute. Then sprinkle the flour over the top and cook for 1 minute more, stirring to mix well.

Add the chicken stock and cream and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the chicken back into the pot and let it finish cooking in the sauce, about 10-15 minutes. 

Stir often to ensure the sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. If the sauce gets too thick add a little more water. When ready it should easily coat the back of a spoon.

Just before serving squeeze the lime juice into the pan and swirl to incorporate it into the sauce. Serve with cocoa dirty rice.

Lime adds much appreciated "brightness."
Photo: Smabs Sputzer, Flickr ccl
Cocoa Dirty Rice
Cook: 20 min  |  Serves 4
1 cup long grain rice
2 cups water
1/4 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp tomato paste

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan. Stir well. Bring to a boil and cover. Reduce the heat to simmer and let cook for 15 minutes undisturbed.

Remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff and serve.


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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Recipe: Bolivian Pork & Pepper Soup

We must build a new world, a far better world – one in which the eternal dignity of man is respected. – Harry S. Truman

A father and son in La Paz, Bolivia. Photo: César Angel. Zaragoza, Flickr ccl
This recipe is a good one for a cool evening. It has just enough spice to warm your innards and you can easily adjust the heat up or down, depending on your own taste.

Hot banana peppers. Photo; jenniferworthen, Flickr ccl
This recipe is loosely based on a Bolivian recipe for pork and chillies soup. I substituted dried chillies for hot banana peppers because they looked so good in the grocery store. It wasn’t a mistake.

This soup has the distinguishing feature of having all three of the significant New World vegetables that caused such a stir when taken back to Europe by early explorers.

The culprits? Tomatoes, potatoes and corn. Of all the culinary discoveries made by Europeans in the Americas these vegetables made among the greatest long-lasting impact. 

Can you imagine Italian food without tomatoes, or Northern European diets without potatoes? The failure of the potato crop caused the great Irish famine that caused the death of so many people in the mid 1800s. Corn completes the triumvirate. It spread throughout Europe swiftly due to its ability to grow in so many diverse climates, like potatoes and tomatoes.

These vegetables became important staples of Old World cuisines, as they were in New World diets. Hopefully you will take to this dish with as much gusto as Europeans did to those three vegetables. They’re an excellent combination. 

This recipe is a nutritious, delicious one pot meal with a rich spicy broth and tender pieces of pork. It is quite quick to prepare so can be made with little fuss after coming home from a long day at work.

Add some bread and complete a hearty meal for six!

Bolivian Pork & Pepper Soup
Prep: 10 min  |  Cook: 22 min  |  Serves 6
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1-1/2 lbs pork loin, cubed
1 lg onion, chopped
2 hot banana peppers, diced
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 plum tomatoes, chopped large
2 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
4 cups water
4 medium potatoes, peeled & diced
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne
1 can (341 ml) corn

Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onion, chopped peppers and garlic and sauté until the onions are softened, about 3 minutes.

Add the pork and sauté until it is no longer pink, about a further 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper and water. Bring to a boil and then add the diced potatoes. Let cook for 12 minutes.

Taste and adjust the salt if desired. Add the cayenne if you wish more spicy flavour. Then add the corn and cook for 5 more minutes.

Serve with pepper and crusty bread at the table.


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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Recipe: Shrove Tuesday Ricotta Pancakes

Lent is the time for trimming the soul and scrapping the sludge off a life turned slipshod. Lent is about taking stock of time, even religious time. Lent is about exercising the control that enables us to say no to ourselves so that when life turns hard of its own accord we have the stamina to yes to its twists and turns with faith and hope…. Lent is the time to make new efforts to be what we say we want to be. – Sister Joan Chittister

Ricotta pancakes, with just a hint of allspice.

Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, making today Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday for many Christians is the start of the countdown to Easter. This period of 40 days, culminating in the celebration of the Resurrection, is a time of fasting, prayer and penance. Shrive means “to confess.”

Mardis Gras. Photo: Itinerant tightwad, Flickr ccl
That is the essence of Shrove Tuesday. It’s the last day to get rid of the temptations we may have (food-wise or other) before a period of personal restriction and reflection.

Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day or Mardi Gras) is the day preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Shrove Tuesday is observed mainly in English speaking countries.

For many English speaking Christians, the day is most closely associated with eating pancakes. Why, you may rightly ask. Pancakes are made of foods – sugar, fat, flour and eggs – whose consumption was traditionally restricted during the ritual fasting associated with Lent.

Carnivale parade, Rio. Photo: JACK TWO, Flickr ccl
Marid Gras, Shrove Tuesday’s hot Latin cousin, is a celebration of decadence that in some countries begins just after Epiphany and lasts until Ash Wednesday. They do it right. It’s not just one day but a whole season of “Carnivale.” Just mention Mardi Gras and images of celebrations in Rio de Janero and New Orleans spring to mind.

Easter is a calendar event that has no set date, unlike Christmas. The First Council of Nicaea (325 AD) established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon following the northern hemisphere's vernal equinox. 

Shrove Tuesday is linked to Easter, so its date changes on an annual basis. Easter itself is tied to the Jewish Passover celebration. The Jewish holiday calendar is based on solar and lunar cycles, so Easter bumps along with it.

The Easter Sunday feast is the ritual end to the 40 days of fasting self-control and pennance.

Hopefully you had pancakes last night. It’s kind of funny, because I believe the last time I ate pancakes was exactly one year ago…

Cook the first side until you see holes left by burst bubbles.
Ricotta Pancakes
Yield: 8-10 6” pancakes
1 cup ricotta
1-3/4 cups milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 cups flour
2 tbsp baking powder
3 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt

Mix together the ricotta, milk, eggs and butter and whisk well.

Mix together the dry ingredients in another bowl. Slowly add the dry ingredients in 4 parts, whisking well between each addition.

Let the batter sit and rest for 10-15 minutes.

Heat a cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Cook each pancake separately in the centre of the pan.

Let the first side cook until you see bubbles bursting through the top. Then flip and let cook on the other side until browned.

These pancakes will puff nicely, but because of the cheese are quite filling.


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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

25 Min Indian Recipe: Chana (Chickpea) Masala

We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are. – Adelle Davis

Chana masala on a bed of basmati rice. Mmmm....
This is a recipe that is really fast and easy to make. In fact it’s so fast if you start boiling water for the rice when you start melting the butter, everything will be ready at the same time. How’s that for fast? 

And it’s vegetarian to boot. We should all strive to eat a vegetarian meal at least once each week. It’s good for the soul.

Chana masala
Chana masala (or chole masala) is an Indian and Pakistani vegetarian dish. It is usually quite dry and spicy with a lemon tang. The dish is found throughout South Asia and is very popular in the Punjab region of India. In certain other areas of India it is commonly cooked very dry. In Pakistan, Aloo Chole is a variation of the dish with chickpeas and potatoes.

My recipe has loads of spicy flavour and a tangy lemon edge, but is certainly not dry because of the yogurt. Purists will be up in arms.

Chickpeas. Photo: Mink, Flickr ccl
A rose by any other name...
Chickpeas go by many different names some of which you may have heard. Other names are ceci, garbanzo, chana, sanagalu Indian pea and Bengal gram. 

Chickpeas are a legume of the family Fabaceae and are high in protein content. They are also one of the earliest cultivated vegetables, evidence of this being 7,500 years old.

What is masala?
"Masala" means a combination of dried spices, or alternatively a paste made from a mixture of spices and other ingredients usually including garlic, ginger, onions and chilli – like this recipe. Masalas are used extensively in Indian cuisine to add flavour.

Essentially you can make a “masala” using many different main ingredients. For example, tiki masala is chicken, masala chai is Indian spiced tea and tandoori (a method of cooking in a special oven) uses chicken, meat, fish or paneer. Each masala mixture is specific to the dish.

This recipe, just to be confusing also uses Garam masala. A basic translation is hot (garam) and spices (masala). It just so happens to be premixed in the spice section of the grocery store, like when you buy curry powder.

You can substitute dried chickpeas for this dish, but they will have to be reconstituted in water overnight and then simmered for about 1 hour. That kind of defeats the "quick meal" aspect of my recipe. Canned, rinsed chickpeas are just fine.

I had to step out of the house for a couple minutes before we ate. When I came back in I felt like I was at the Taj Mahal, an excellent local Indian restaurant. The smell that greeted me at the door was to die for.

This dish tastes authentic, even if it is the product of a few sources and a little “help” from me.

You should try this. You won’t miss not having meat. With some raita (here) and naan bread you’ll have a veritable feast!

This is the dish before the yogurt.
Chana Masala
Prep: 5 minutes  | Cook: 20 min  |  Serves 4
2 tbsp butter (or ghee)
2 medium onions, chopped
6 garlic cloves
1-1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, diced
3 hot green chili peppers, chopped (with seeds)
1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1-1/2 tsp Garam Masala
2 tsp whole cumin seeds
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 19 oz (540 ml) can chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup plain thick yogurt* (optional)
Juice of 1 lemon

Heat the butter or ghee in a frying pan or wide sauté pan. Add the onions and allow to fry until they begin to brown. This step is important because the very browned onions impart flavour to the finished dish.

And this is it after. Take your pick.
Once the onions begin to brown add the ginger and garlic. Sauté until the onions finish browning. Total time should be 7 minutes maximum.

Add the spices and fry for 1 to 2 minutes to release their flavour.

Chop the tomatoes and add with their seeds and juice. Reduce the heat to medium high and let the tomatoes soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas and and let cook for 2 minutes. Then add the lemon juice and cook for a further 3 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the yogurt. Put the pot back on the stove and let the dish come back to heat.

Serve with basmati rice.

* The yogurt is my addition to counteract the heat of the chillies. Of course that makes it slightly less vegetarian. If you don’t want to use it, no problem.


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