A Wintry Lunch

20121223-141745.jpg. What a wintry day! On the way home from the last Mass of Advent, we stopped and watched the waves crashing on Queensland beach. The ocean in winter has awesome power.

Arriving back at the house, we busied ourselves with cleaning out foods from the fridge, in preparation for all the upcoming meals at the homes of friends and family. Today’s lunch: chicken and white bean soup, with oatmeal batter-bread. Instant warmth!

How Tourtière Turned my New Neighbourhood into Home

Christmastime at our house always involves tourtière, usually on Christmas Eve, after Mass. The year we moved to the walkablefeast Neighbourhood, I went shopping at Royal Beef for my ingredients. I didn’t see any ground pork, so I asked the butcher. And do you know what he asked me? “Are you making tourtière ?” and ” What mix with the beef, 50-50? Because I can just make that up for you.”

Those are the sort of touches that make you know you’re at home, even if your “real” home is miles away. And they’re also what make you want to be a small shop shopper, and turn in your big box membership forever.

Pour on the Sweetness

These tasty squares have been adapted from a number of recipes, sometimes called Southern Bars. Or you may have seen them on cans of condensed milk.

One year, our kids dubbed them “Cavity Squares“, because they are so incredibly sweet. We know they have too many calories (we could also call them calorie squares). But they never fail to please, and someone always asks for the recipe. Your teeth may not thank you, but you’ll definitely keep your dentist in business!

War Cake

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There is nothing quite like an old family recipe for the holidays. They may not quite conform to our modern dietary habits ( we rarely use lard in our house any more). But our grandmothers knew a thing or two about frugal eating that we would do well to take on board. This tremendous, versatile cake was the result of wartime rationing, when butter, milk, and eggs were rare commodities. The good new is that it tastes so delicious those things will never be missed.

Since we’re not big on fruitcake, we like to add some red and green cherries to this, during the festive season.

Classic Christmas Shortbread

20111222-191321.jpg Even if we only have time to bake one Christmas cookie, this is the one. it’s practically foolproof, the recipe can be doubled, kids can help, and it lends itself to a variety of shapes.

1/2 c / 125ml cornstarch
1/2 c / 125ml icing sugar
1 c / 250ml flour
3/4 c / 175ml butter

Sift the dry ingredients together. Blend in the butter with a wooden spoon if you must, but clean hands are more fun! You can also use a food processor. As soon as it forms a dough that stays together, it’s done. If it’s too pliable, chill for half an hour.

Roll out with a floured rolling pin to 1/4″ or 1/2cm, and cut with cookie cutters, or roll into balls and flatten with something textured, like a butter press or the bottom of a fancy glass, dipped in flour. You can also shape it in a log, roll in colored sugar or nuts, chill for half an hour, and slice. Decorate with sugar, cherries (or not).

Bake on an ungreased pan (parchment is good for cleanup but not necessary) at 300F for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden. Remove to racks immediately to cool. Break at least one so as to force a taste test. Smile.

No Knead to Fear – It's Batter Bread!

One complaint (dare I say excuse) we often hear about not making homemade bread is that it’s so much work. We disagree of course, since we love breadmaking and it doesn’t feel like work as it can fit in around dinner-making, book-reading, or blog-writing.

However, in an attempt to tempt the non-bread-bakers out there, I decided to try some batter bread this week. Confession: I have never made this kind of bread before. Also, I must admit that I adapted the original recipe before even trying it, as I had some buckwheat flour we wanted to use up. You can find our version here.

It's Raining Bread. No, it's Raining: Bread.

When you’re stuck inside and the weather is cooling, it’s a great time to bake bread. Our bread-baking definitely falls off in the summertime, so we relish the cool wet days that occasionally appear.

We made this batch of spelt-buckwheat loaves on Friday. One has pumpkin seeds throughout, and on top; the rest are plain. All of them have an almost spicy flavour, even though we didn’t add any cinnamon or other spices to them. They make spectacular toast, and we even used some as the foundation for eggs benedict when our friend Rob came to visit.

Fingerling Out What to Do with these Potatoes

We found these delicious fingerling potatoes at the market, tiny and golden. But how to cook them?

Since we had plans to put a chicken on to roast, we decided maximizing our use of the oven was a fine idea. After rubbing the little fellows with some olive oil, we put them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and ground on a little salt. Then we topped them with sprigs of rosemary we had growing out back. When the chicken was half-done (after 30 minutes at 450F) we put the potatoes in. At the one-hour mark we took the chicken out to rest, and turned off the oven, leaving these tiny morsels to finish cooking.

They were crispy on the outside, and creamy on the inside, and good all over.