Woodward’s Dark Fruitcake

My long time friend, The Reverend Dr. Eileen M. Conway, often posts her culinary adventures on Facebook. One day she mentioned “Woodward’s Dark Fruitcake”, and that piqued my interest.

I had an instant flood of memories of my Mom, who was a dedicated Woodward’s customer and employee. She also made a dark fruitcake every Christmas, which I have been trying to replicate for years. Although good fruitcake was had, it wasn’t Mom’s.

Mail! Real honest to goodness mail! I even used a special letter opener for the occasion.

When Eileen posted about the dark fruitcake, I asked for, and received, a beautifully hand-written copy of the recipe in the mail. The whole exchange was so old school and delightful and nostalgic, for a moment I thought I would hand copy ALL my recipes, electronic or otherwise. I have recipes scribbled on scraps of paper attached to our fridge, in cookbooks, in notebooks, on Pinterest, this blog, in my purse, pockets, and in several cookbooks I started typing and then abandoned. The idea became overwhelming. It was ditched as quickly as it was thought.

If you are over a certain age you will remember Woodward’s department stores, and especially Woodward’s Food Floor. Woodward’s also supported the home cook with helpful tips and recipes. This is one of them.

With Eileen’s permission, I am happy to share her recipe, exactly as she wrote it out to me.

Woodward’s Dark Fruitcake

Makes 2 cakes = 6 lbs
Oven 275F – 3 to 3 1/2 hours

3 1/2 cups mixed, diced candied fruits and peels (1 1/2 lbs). If you wish to include glacécherries, slice in half.

Fruit, including raisins, may be soaked overnight in 1 cup booze before you begin baking. Stir now and then. Drain.

1 1/4 cups dark seedless raisins
1 1/4 cups light seedless raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp powdered cloves
1 cup shortening (room temperature)
2 cups brown sugar
4 large eggs (= 1 cup total)
3/4 cup grape juice

Mix fruit, peel, raisins, and nuts. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. Sprinkle 1/4 cup over fruit mixture; mix well. Thoroughly cream shortening and sugar, add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternatively with grape juice, beat smooth after each addition. Pour over fruits and nuts; mix well. Line two 9 x 5 loaf pans with greased brown paper, extending 1/2 inch above rim. Pour batter into pans, filling 3/4 full – do not flatten. Bake in preheated 275F oven for 3 to 3 1/2 hours or until cakes test done. Have a pan of water on lower oven shelf during baking.

The cakes turned out perfect. Although still not quite my Mom’s version, it is the closest I have come. I also ate a sample as soon as it was cool enough to slice. Generally I will keep fruit cake wrapped and stored until Christmas time.

My own comments:

The brown paper/shortening liner is what I grew up with. For those more used to modern parchment paper, all you need to do is open clean brown bags, and trim to fit in your loaf pans. Before settling them in, grease the pans, place in the paper, and grease again. Works a treat.

As for booze in the assorted peel, cherries and raisins…. not an option. You MUST put some in. I soaked mine overnight in one cup of brandy. When I drained the fruit, I captured the boozy juicy mix thinking it would be a treat. It came out so thick and syrupy in ended up down the drain and into the North Saskatchewan river. There may be a few happy fish or ducks down there in the river valley.

I added a few additional tablespoons of brandy to the still warm, fresh from the oven cakes. I remember with my Mom’s recipe, she would carefully add more booze to her cakes in the weeks preceding Christmas. I’m sure I could do the same with this recipe, but as it is, I’ve wrapped them carefully and have them stored to spring upon unsuspecting guests.

I take personal delight in watching people’s faces as you present fruitcake. Experience has shown people either love it or hate it. To each their own. What you don’t eat, I will.

Mary Berry’s Malay Rice

I became a huge fan of Mary Berry when I was introduced to her on the Great British Baking show, when she and Paul Hollywood were judges. More recently, we enjoyed her shows available on those channels you buy by monthly subscription. In particular, Mary Berry Classics.

Most food shows I watch, I watch purely as entertainment. I might tsk at the overuse of a garlic press, or scoff at how TV producers define “easy” as something that requires a large shopping list, and two hours of food prep.

Mary Berry Classics had me scrambling for a piece of paper and pen to take notes and jot a few recipes down. More importantly, it got me motivated to try them!

The first recipe I tried, her take on a Spanish tortilla, was a huge success. I am not writing about it today because we ate the entire egg dish without a thought of taking a photo of it. No proof, so it didn’t happen.

The Malay Rice dish was an equal success. This time I remembered to take a photo, however, the picture shown is the left overs so doesn’t have the crowning jewel of a soft cooked fried egg sitting on top. You will just need to use your imagination for that.

Using Mary’s favourite catchphrases, this dish was a “bit of alright” and “tempting”. She uses this recipe to summon her husband in from whatever corner of the garden he might be in. I can see why. It is aromatic with the onion, garlic and Asian spices. Once I got this going on the stove top, Michael was sniffing around the kitchen pretty quick too.

Here’s what you need for this easy recipe:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into strips (I used 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs because that’s what I had in the freezer)

1 – 2 tsp honey

1 large onion, diced

1 red pepper, chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed (I used 6 because I can). Mary is a huge advocate for the garlic press. I get by by squishing the garlic with the flat side of my knife, sprinkling with a bit of salt, and keep working it until the desired crushed-ness. If I get fed up with squishing the garlic, I just chop it to smithereens. I’ll do anything to avoid having to wash a garlic press, even if it means I have to expend 10x more energy than I would if I relented and used a garlic press. It’s a thing.

200 grams mushrooms, sliced or chopped, white or brown

1/2 tsp chili powder

1 tbsp curry powder. Mary recommends mild, I used medium.

** I went a bit off-roading here, and also added a generous spoonful of coriander and tumeric to the spice blend.

250g long grain rice (I use jasmine scented), cooked and chilled

150g frozen peas

Eggs (1 per person)

4 tbsp soy sauce

Olive Oil for cooking the chicken and veg (about 1 – 2 tbsp)

Salt and pepper, to taste

METHOD:

Fry up the chicken in a bit of olive oil and honey. Season with salt and pepper. Mary taught me that by adding the honey, you can achieve a lovely golden browning, without needing to overcook the chicken. It worked like a miracle.

Remove the chicken to a plate.

Add a bit more olive oil, and fry up the onion. When it softens, add the chopped red pepper and garlic. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, and cook until the mushrooms reduce.

Season to taste.

Add in your spices, and allow to cook for another few minutes. Stir, don’t let it burn. My mix was quite dry, so I added a splash of water to lift the fond off the bottom of the pan.

Once your veggies look good, the air is aromatic with the scent of those lovely spices, and you’ve shooed your life partner out of the kitchen, add the cooked and cooled rice and frozen peas to the mix.

Mary teaches that it is important to make sure the rice is cold after cooking. If you add it while it’s warm, you’ll end up with mush. Add it cold, and it will crisp up nicely.

Mix in your cooked chicken, and add the soy sauce. Cook on high to allow the rice to crisp. Watch this carefully, and continue to stir. Don’t allow it to burn.

Just before you are ready to serve, fry up one egg per person. A soft runny yolk is visually appealing, but if you forgot to watch your eggs, or prefer to have a solid yolk, that will be fine too.

Plate up the rice, and rest the egg on top.

And there you have it, Mary Berry’s Malay Rice. It is super easy to make, and is flexible enough to use whatever chicken and spices you might have or prefer.

Cookie Crumbs – A Review

A visit to Bountiful Market in Edmonton is a joy. It’s spacious, it’s fun, and the vendors are all eager to help. In pre-COVID19 days, the vendors were very generous with samples.

Bountiful Market has become more and more popular as the months pass by. It has become our favourite market as Michael and I enjoy it for the ample parking, and easy to get to location.

Along the East wall, adjacent to the picnic tables, is a busy and tidy vendor called Cookie Crumbs. This place is owned and operated by Angus and her husband. If you first look at the treats, you might wonder, “what on earth?”.

Introducing: A Waffle Puck

What they sell are called waffle pucks. It’s a shortbread cookie filled with the most delicious centres, made with fresh ingredients you would find in your own refrigerator/pantry (that is, if you buy organic). These yummy treats are called waffle in part because it is baked in something like a waffle iron. That said, they also sell waffle bites, which resemble a traditional waffle shape.

Currently, they have 29 flavours listed on their website. My favourite is piña colada, because I cannot resist coconut cream and pineapple. Michael has gone crazy for the saskatoon berry flavour. Traditional North American flavours include apple pie, butter tart, chocolate, key lime and maple cream. Asian yums include Hojicha (roasted green tea), red bean, Japanese cheesecake and black sesame.

A flavour explosion in the centre

The cookie part has a nice golden exterior. It tastes buttery and rich. The filling is creamy and full of amazing flavour. You can eat it right out of your hand, but it’s more fun to cut in half and share.

Highly recommend trying Cookie Crumbs if you are tired of cupcakes, and if regular old cookies seem boring. These are unusual, flavourful, fun and a true labour of love. Anges is passionate about her product, and it shows.

Coffee (in isolation)

For some, coffee is what gets them up in the morning. I cannot deny the smell of coffee first thing in the morning is one of the most motivating of aromas. To raise it to a level of the sublime, have coffee perked outdoors over an open fire. Now that conjures up images of days gone by when I was flexible and energetic enough to bend myself into a tent, roll out of a sleeping bag, walk 250m to find a washroom, chop wood, light a fire, walk 250m to find a water spigot, fiddle with a blackened aluminum coffee pot, and wait ever so impatiently for the first burbles of coffee. Follow that up by sizzling bacon outdoors…. oh my…..

My coffee drinking career started early, perhaps grade 9 or 10, around about the same time I took up smoking. Both were done because it was cool and I wanted to impress my friends. Then the addiction took hold and both smoking and coffee drinking became automatic and joyless, but both begat social behaviour which was pleasant.

I have memories of sitting at the dining room table with my Mom, every morning, smoking our cigarettes, drinking our coffee (made in a counter top coffee maker, using a coffee like Nabob or Edwards or Maxwell House), taking about the news and what we had planned for the day ahead. It’s just what was done.

When I started working, coffee was also a given. Bunn-O-Matics in the staff kitchen, the smell of burned coffee thick in the air, overflowing ashtrays. I had coffee at home, I had coffee on my way to work, I had coffee beside me all day while I worked. Every breath I took had either a drag of a cigarette, or a sip of coffee in between.

Zoom forward some 25 years, and suddenly I start having these things called supra-ventricular tachycardia (SVT). Out of the blue, my heart would start beating out of control. Pulse would get upwards of 170 beats per minute (I know this because I ended up in hospital twice with it).

Although it is a ridiculously scary thing to happen, and a ridiculously easy way to get your heart pumping, this is not what fitness gurus recommend you do to get your heart rate up.

To stop this from happening, I was instructed to eliminate coffee and caffeine. Did I? Of course not. I had long ago ditched smoking, but coffee was here to stay. So I tried decaffeinated coffee.

A slight pause here. As I aged, my appreciation for coffee, much like the rest of our North American culture became snobbish and particular. I had beans delivered from roasters in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. I invested in a burr grinder. I was gifted a lovely Hario dripper (the beautiful cousin of the Melitta plastic pour over cone and five times the cost). I would go out for coffee with friends. I’d drink coffee after dinner.

It was all very pretentious and whoop-de-do and completely ignored the financial advice of the likes of Gale Vaz-Oxlade and Rob Carrick. I could have probably bought a condo in Canmore with all the money I spent on coffee and coffee paraphernalia.

Back to decaffeinated coffee. I bought a bag of this from my local roaster, and, well, when it’s ground in a burr grinder something mystical happens. It becomes statically charged and coffee grounds end up e v e r y w h e r e. I thought perhaps it had something to do with that particular bean, so I tried a different company’s decaf bean. Same thing. Static! I don’t know about you, but when I’m around static electricity, it makes me irritable. Add that to a morning pre-coffee, knowing there is no jolt of caffeine, it makes for one miserable Cathy. So I switched to tea.

The caffeine in tea didn’t make my heart race, so I took up tea with the same zeal as I had with coffee. I needed the best tea, the best kettle, the best pot. I settled on tea bags and a mug, and use tap water boiled in our mineral crusted kettle. I started to become practical. I also had a procedure done where a heart surgeon “tinkered with the electrics” in my heart, and got rid of the SVT episodes.

Overtime, I started introducing coffee again with a decaf coffee in the afternoon bought at a food court coffee chain store. Then it became a half-decaf half-regular coffee. Then it became full strength. The afternoon coffee break at work became, well, a time and space to not only enjoy the company of coworkers, but also a time I looked forward to enjoy my old friend, coffee. On weekends, Michael and I fell into the routine of running our errands, then stopping in at our favourite coffee shop to enjoy a coffee and solve a sudoku puzzle together. We also met up with family and friends at this time, making it a nice opportunity to catch up.

Then Covid-19 happens, and this brings us to the purpose of this post. I start working from home full time. It took me a good two weeks to find my groove. But what was missing? My afternoon coffee. I dug out my old and beautiful Hario pour over, and that solved the immediate problem. I toyed with the idea of getting a Nespresso machine, hoping it would also come with George Clooney. What did happen was images of a frustrated Greta Thunberg.

So, although housebound, and no longer buying a daily afternoon coffee, that money saved was burning a hole in my pocket. There was one machine I had not yet tried for home brewed coffee, and that was the moka pot.

The Bialetti Moka Express

I have seen it used, and had delicious coffee results. In fact, it was the inspiration of the Spiced Coffee blog I wrote about back in 2010. This type of coffee maker always conjured up images of steam hissing, followed by a devastating explosion. I’m not a fan of explosions, so never invested in one. However, something about being stuck in an apartment by myself for 8 hours a day made me brave. I went to the Italian Centre Shop, bought myself a 6-cup Bialetti Moka Express and stepped into the adventure of stove-top coffee, the Italian way.

Not too full and don’t tamp

First, I watched dozens of videos about the “right way” to use the moka pot. Instructions were as varied as is there is stars in the sky. I settled on the instructions that came with the Bialetti, meaning, using cold water, filling it to the steam escape valve, grinding the beans between fine and espresso, not using too many grounds, not tamping it down, and putting it on the stove and allow it to do its thing over medium heat.

The moka pot makes a lovely gurgling sound to announce when it is ready.

I became brave when I learned that the pressure in a moka pot does not reach anywhere near the level of a coffee shop espresso maker. Nor does it make espresso. Moka pot coffee is between espresso and drip. The people at Bialetti will encourage you to use it like espresso though, and helpfully give you the proportions to make cappuccinos, lattes, flat whites, etc. I settled on filling my coffee mug a quarter full of milk, and heating that up in the microwave. When the coffee is done, fill the mug to the brim and stir. Right now, I will say this is the Most Delicious Coffee I have had. It’s not fancy, but it’s good. And what makes it better? Although working in isolation from my workmates, we now set up regular 2 pm phone calls and catch up.

Coffee time!

Are you still with me? Here’s a post-script. I was going to post this as a separate entry, but will slip it in here. COVID-19 also started a social media craze for Dalgona Coffee. Of course I had to try it. To make it, mix in a bowl:

2 tbsp instant coffee
1/2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp hot water

Whip this until it turns into a beautiful, glossy, froth. Put it on top of cold milk.

Dalgona Coffee

I had two of these in a row. Thirty minutes later my brain started to throb. I had to lay down because the room began to spin. This Dalgona coffee nearly did me in. It’s delicious, don’t get me wrong, but way too much caffeine for me.

Coconut Lentil Curry

Not sure if COVID-19 has stopped the May celebration of lentils, but I won’t let it stop me.

The following recipe’s name should be something along the lines of Cathy’s Coconut Lentil Curry Recipe Modified from Keith’s Recipe who Modified it from the Endless Meal’s Web Page who Modified it from a Cookbook Called Vij’s at Home. That, my friends, is how recipes and cooking works.

I don’t know what it is about spring and being isolated to avoid fast spreading disease, but I have been motivated the last few weeks to create lentil dishes to change up our regular diet. Lentils are of course a “health” food, and our dear Canada is the world’s leading producer of this mighty pulse. It provides protein, folate, fibre, iron, potassium and manganese. Yum!

Here’s what I did for my version:

What you need:

A big pot
Oil (about 2 tbsp more or less)
Cumin, ground (2 – 3 tbsp)
Coriander, ground (2 – 3 tbsp)
Garlic, 2 heads, finely chopped
2-28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
Ginger, ground (2 – 3 tbsp)
Turmeric, ground (2 tbsp)
4 tsp salt
2 cups dried brown lentils
Cayenne pepper (1 tbsp or to taste)
4 – 6 cups water
400 mL or so coconut milk
2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes cut in half
1 cup chopped parsley

Spices can be adjusted to your own taste. If uncertain, start with a smaller amount, and build on that as it simmers.

How to:

Heat your oil in your trusty pot. Over medium heat, add you chopped garlic and TEND TO IT. You want it cook, but you don’t want it to burn. After spending the time peeling and chopping two heads of garlic you don’t want to ruin your hard work by burning it. Tending to it means you stand there, wooden spoon in hand and stir it with love until it’s just right. Just right means just on this side of turning golden brown.

Add your spices, cumin, coriander, ginger, turmeric, cayenne and salt. Stir. Add your two cans of crushed tomatoes, and stir. Keep the heat up, but watch for splurts and splats of tomato leaping out of the pot. If that happens, lower the temperature.

Add your two cups of rinsed and picked over lentils, and water. Stir. Bring this to the boil, cover, reduce the heat and let it simmer for as long as you can stand it. Watch that it doesn’t get too dry. If it does, add more water. I usually keep the kettle on and add boiling water.

Towards the end of cooking, add your coconut milk and tomatoes. Let this cook for another half hour or so. Finish with about a cup’s worth of chopped parsley.

My predecessors look like they serve this with rice, which would be a perfect pairing.

DON’T FORGET: Imbibe in your favourite beverage. If that has alcohol, all the better. Cheers, friends. I hope you give this recipe a try and let me know how it goes.

Really Easy One Pot Rice and Beans

It’s been 25 days since the World Health Organization declared the coronovirus outbreak a worldwide pandemic. Michael and I have been following the recommendations and staying indoors and away from people as much as possible, only making necessary outdoor excursions to buy groceries, medication and wine. This is not much different than our pre-pandemic life, other than now I’m working from home and drinking wine straight from the bottle while standing in front of the open fridge door.

In case my boss is reading this: I am not drinking wine and working at the same time.

*wink*

Thanks to all the hardworking grocery people out there, and avuncular messages from Galen Weston that provide me a sense of calm, food has not at all been an issue. In fact, my weight is going up at the same rate as COVID19 cases. Probably way too soon to joke about this, but remember, I’m drinking wine straight from the bottle now so my judgement is impaired.

Today I felt should be meatless day, and should use up the can of beans that I bought during the initial pandemic panic. While most were buying toilet paper, I bought beans. One can of beans. Our toilet paper supply is dangerously low, but I’m too stubborn to buy any lest people think I’m one of “those” people hoarding the stuff. I say this with a degree of confidence now, but we are about to embark on an evening of eating beans. I might not feel quite the same tomorrow morning. I’m also trusting Galen Weston that food will remain plentiful and that I can buy another can of beans in the weeks ahead.

I’ll get on with the recipe now for those of you who are tired of reading all the flim-flam with my blog posts and just want me to get to the point.

As with most my recipes, I trust that you have some basic cooking skills so you can fill in the gaps that I forget to write. This is what “really easy” means in my Really Easy One Pot Rice and Beans recipe means. It’s easy for me as a food blogger. I may not even take a picture to make it easier yet.

Here’s the ingredients you will need:

1 large can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 large can diced tomatoes
2 cups long grain rice, rinsed (I use jasmine scented)
3-4 cups liquid (I use boiling water with chicken bouillon added)**
1 large onion
1 – 2 carrots chopped small
1 – 2 stalks celery, chopped small
1 head garlic, finely minced
Paprika (lots)
Oregano (a bit less)
Ground chili pepper (generous)
Ground cumin (more than generous, less than lots)
Ground cayenne pepper (to taste)
Salt and pepper (to taste)
A glug of olive or canola oil

In large pot, add the oil, saute the onion, carrots and celery until the onion is transparent. Add the rest of the ingredients. Cook until done. Done is when the rice is cooked and the liquid is absorbed.

** Watch the liquid level in the pot. That rice is going to absorb a lot of the liquid, and you don’t want the pot to go dry. Keep the kettle on, and add a splosh now and then if the rice is looking dry.

Michael, while stirring the pot for me asks, “Shouldn’t we try this recipe before you post your blog?”. I suppose that would be prudent.

Pause….

…and we are back. This combination of ingredients is delicious. It got a loud “yum!” from Michael, followed by, “I think the rice is under cooked”.

So, please don’t rush this as I did, and sample your dish before serving to make sure the rice is cooked thoroughly. You will be rewarded with a delicious, comforting dish that will be great for supper, with enough left overs for the next few days.

Really Easy One Pot Rice and Beans by Walsh Cooks
(credit to Michael Walsh for his stirring and unbiased review)

Beef Bourguignon – A Less Fiddly, but Equally Delicious Stew

Beef Bourguignon is a delicious, traditional French stew that involves many steps if you listen to Julia Child. One of the reasons French cuisine tastes so good, I believe, is because it builds tension and suspense as you wait for the food to be prepared and cooked.

My simplified version still takes four hours to simmer, plus time in advance to gather and prep ingredients. This is ample time to build an appetite and have the smell of simmering beef and wine permeate the apartment. The method I suggest here is less fussy in the preparation time, without sacrificing flavour.

A few things to note:

This isn’t a cooking class, and I assume you already have some rudimentary cooking skills.

If you are expecting this recipe to have pearl onions, because pearl onions is one of the identifying features of beef bourguignon, I say pshaw! They are not worth the effort. The very title of this blog post is based on the elimination of said pearl onions. That said, say you are the type of person who goes to the gym at 5 am, makes your own fresh salad using a good and proper head of lettuce where you need to remove outer leaves and then rinse, spin and tear them every day in preparation for your lunch, sews your own accent pillow covers from recycled fabrics, iron your cloths, and rotate your own tires, then yes, please go ahead and spend the 30 minutes peeling and preparing your pearl onions. The rest of us will sit and spend time sampling the wine used in the stew and silently judge you.

There are still enough steps to make you feel like you accomplished something, and it will impress your friends and family when you tell them what’s involved.

Let’s begin, because as you waste time reading my blather, you could have peeled those pearl onions:

INGREDIENTS:

The meat:
3 lbs beef brisket
1/2 lb bacon (I use slab bacon)

The produce:
1 large carrot, or enough small carrots to make one large carrot
1-2 large onions, diced (use two if you are omitting the pearl onions)
1 head garlic, peeled and minced (you want at least six cloves)
1 lb mushrooms, halved (or quartered if they are large)
Potatoes, for mashing for the side dish

Pearl onions, if you insist. I found them here in a punnet of about 24 onions. Use them all, or use as many as you can before your fingernails bleed from peeling them. You are putting them in to be pretentious, not for flavour.

The herbs and spices:
Fresh thyme (I used a generous teaspoon of dried)
Bay leaves (I used 4 assorted assorted sizes of large and small)
Salt
Pepper

The pantry items:
2 tbsp olive or canola oil
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 900 mL container beef stock
1 beef bouillon cube
2 tbsp tomato paste

From the fridge:
Butter (for the mushrooms and mashed potatoes)
Milk or cream (for mashed potatoes)

The wine:
You need at least one bottle of red, but suggest two, so you can serve the same wine at supper time. I like to use a French red to keep with the theme, either a burgundy or a pinot noir.

How I Made It:

I prep everything I need in advance because I am one of those people who needs to feel in control. Feel free to wing it if you are one of those relaxed individuals who sleeps peacefully knowing full well there is an unrinsed coffee mug sitting in the sink.

Preheat your oven to 350F

Peel and chop the onions, set aside
Peel and mince the garlic, set aside
Peel and slice the carrot, set aside
Cube brisket into stew sized pieces (about 2″)
Cut bacon into lardons (small pieces)

In your best, large, oven safe stewing pot, sizzle up the bacon on the stove top. When the fat is rendered and the bacon irresistible to taste testing, pull out the bacon and set aside, leaving the bacon fat in the pot.

Next, in small batches, brown your beef. It took me four batches to brown 3 lbs of beef. As it browns, remove it from the pot and set aside with the bacon.

Check the fat. You want a good few generous tablespoons of fat on the bottom of the pot. If there is too much (you will feel your arteries thickening looking at it) take some out.

Add the onions and the carrots to the pot. Stir, and let soften. Use medium to low heat, and take your time. When it’s nearly done, add the garlic and allow to cook another few minutes.

Add back the beef and bacon, add some salt and pepper, give it a stir.

Sprinkle the flour over the meat, and give it another stir. The flour is added to thicken the stew. Let it cook over medium low heat for a few more minutes.

Now you want to add your liquid. I pour out a glass of wine for myself as a reward for my hard work, and put the remaining wine in the pot. You will want to top off the liquid with beef stock until your meat is just covered.

Add a few tablespoons of tomato paste, the bullion cube, thyme and bay leaves. Stir, and allow it to come to a nice stewy burble on the stove top.

Cover your pot and put it in the oven. Forget about it now for at least four hours.

As you approach the four hour mark, rouse yourself from your nap. Here is where you’d take the pot out of the oven, add your pearl onions to the pot, give it a stir, and put back in the oven for a bit longer.

The sensible will skip that step, and move on the mushrooms. On the stove top, melt a few tablespoons of butter and add your mushrooms with a sprinkle of salt. Stir, and once they’ve shrunk a bit and become brown, add them into the stew. Stir.

Some beef bourguignon camps will have you strain the liquid out of the pot and reduce it, then add the meat back in so you have a thick gravy. Please do this if you have a lot of liquid. However, my recipe results in a nice thick gravy without the need of this step. I’m gravy gifted.

You can eat this now, or, put it back in the oven to stay warm until you have made your mashed potatoes.

I leave potato mashing to my husband as it is his specialty: He peels and quarters big baker potatoes. He boils these in unsalted water until they are soft. He drains out the water, slashes the potatoes (his words) with a sharp knife, then mashes them with a fork, ignoring the potato masher that is less than 12 inches from his work space. He then adds an assortment of dairy from the fridge – it almost always involves butter, but could also include sour cream, whipping cream, or milk, depending on what is available. He finishes them with salt and white pepper. It has to be white pepper, because he finds black pepper unsightly in his potatoes. They always turn out perfect, creamy and lump free.

Proper food bloggers include photos of their steps and the creations. I didn’t because, well, I just didn’t think I’d end up blogging about it.

However, this morning I was inspired to write and share the recipe, so am now remorseful for the lack of picture.

In desperation, I opened the fridge and looked at our left overs, and thought well, that’s not very photogenic. But it’s real, not stolen from the net, and is what your beef bourguignon will look like the next day too.

Fairmont Hotels and its Boozy new Cocktail Menu

Looking at the promo email sent to me, I feel I should have a few drinks under my belt and a bit of uninhibited slurred speech to write this post. Instead, it’s Monday morning, I’m sipping tea and anticipating a day of work ahead of me. But before I do so, I thought I’d take a look at the beautiful photos and read through the dramatic stories and recipes for the new drinks at the luxurious Fairmont group of hotels. The drinks sound exotic, and they look exquisite. I feel I’d have to dress up a little, sit up straight, suppress the urge to use the F word, and sip the drink slowly. This would require some behavioural modification for me, as I tend to wear comfortable clothing, slouch, swear like a sailor, and drink far too fast. My drink is usually a gin (Tanqueray), tonic (Schwepps), lime (big wedge cut with dull knife) dragged around the rim of the glass, squeezed, and chucked in the ice cubes. I may not be fancy, but I’m real.

So before we begin a new work week, let’s take a look at the new cocktail menu that has been rolled out to the Fairmont Hotels, here in Edmonton, there in Jasper, way over there in the London Savoy (hellloooooooo! don’t mind me, just passing through, and I haven’t changed out of my pyjamas yet!), and of course the Plaza in New York (hey, how ya doin’?), Shanghai (侬好), Barcelona (hola todavia estoy en pijama), Montreal (bonjour), Bali (om suastiastu), and other exciting world destinations. I am not a professional. Google is my translator.

I’ll highlight the Soul Reviver, as I think it’s a perfect cocktail to discuss on a Monday morning, no? Caps and italics is the words from the Fairmont hotel people.

SOUL REVIVER

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Soul Reviver

3/4 OZ (22 1/2 ML) THE BOTANIST ISLAY GIN
3/4 OZ (22 1/2 ML) CASAMIGOS BLANCO TEQUILA
3/4 OZ (22 1/2 ML) COINTREAU
3/4 OZ (22 1/2 ML) LILLET BLANC
1/4 OZ (7 1/2 ML) BLACKBERRY SYRUP
3/4 OZ (22 1/2 ML) LEMON JUICE
RINSE ABSINTHE**
GARNISH LEMON WHEEL

** Does the bartender drink this? Seems to me a huge waste to “rinse with absinthe”.

Based on the Corpse Reviver, a drink whose popularity soared with its appearance in The Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930, this version is equally adept at livening up the mood. Blackberries and lemon juice provide a burst of sweet and sour, while a masterful mix of Botanist gin, Casamigos Blanco, Cointreau and Lillet Blanc is poured into an absinthe rinse. If this doesn’t kick-start one’s heart, little else will.

I think a jolt from the nearby portable defibrillator would kick start a heart too, but is far less fun and requires more awkward nakedness.

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Orange Trip

There are many, many other new cockails to explore. From the mid 1800’s inspired Orange Trip which promises to calm stomachs and cure scurvy and make men think they are clever and look like Vice Admirals, to the 1920’s inspired Madame Fleur which is perfect for the indecisive drinker… it has a bit of gin, cognac and champagne!

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Madame Fleur

I have a close group of friends that regularly meet at our local Fairmont Hotel MacDonald. We like our boozy drinks, we love the elegant surroundings, and the most beautiful views. Service is always top notch, and if we are really lucky, Smudge the dog ambassador is there to greet us.

No matter where you are in this world of ours, find your local Fairmont hotel, gather a few friends, mention “Trump” to launch conversation, and try a few cocktails which will remind you times past when Presidents were respectable, getting through airport security was fast, and we had more trees. Or, at least do what I do, sit by yourself at the bar, study the cocktail menu so long you hear the server sigh and start to form their resignation letter in their mind. Then gently put the menu down and say, I’ll have a G & T please.

 

 

 

 

 

Sublime Summer Supper

This was a recuperation weekend, a weekend to relax and just do whatever sort of presented itself at the time. My only planned events were to complete a 500 piece puzzle and run some errands. Michael went down to Calgary to spend time with his sister and help around the home with those maintenance things that get put off until there’s a Michael sort around.

Although I’m all for rest and relaxation, I feel adrift and a bit sad if I end up spending too much time on the couch watching TV, or even reading. Doesn’t help of course, when I chose to watch/read tear jerkers. I’m all for a good cry, but sometimes it can be a bit much.

Today was a beautiful Edmonton day. I got outside and ran my errands, and ended up at the Italian Centre Shop. I stopped in for inspiration and thought I’d skip my food delivery app (my usual go-to when at home alone and feeling a bit pathetic) and create something delicious tonight for my supper.

The Italian Centre Shop did not disappoint. Although busy, I have learned the best thing to do is head to the deli first, pull your number, and then leisurely shop until your number nears. Not sure if you noticed, but there is a gentle ding and “being served” numbers throughout the shop towards the ceiling. In the time I had to wait for my number to come up, I finished my shop of non-deli goods.

Although I went into the shop today with a plan for mushroom stuffed gnocchi with a pre-made sauce, I was inspired as I often am, to create something from (at least) semi scratch.

I picked up some arugula, basil, cherry tomatoes, purple garlic, Grana Padano cheese, kalamata olives, and some fancy (expensive) dry pasta.

When supper time rolled around, I was feeling a bit un-energetic and was twitching to pull up the food delivery app. Michael called at that moment and after a bit of a talk and a few laughs, he said why not just pour yourself a glass of wine and start the prep? So I did.

I poured the wine, chopped garlic, olives, tomatoes, washed the arugula and basil and set it aside. I boiled up a pot of water and then switched it off so the apartment wouldn’t burn down while I sat out on our patio to enjoy the view and my glass of wine.

It was (and still is) one of those beautiful evenings. Slight breeze, clear sky, warm, and NO RAIN. I sat out on the patio enjoying my music and my glass of wine.

With the wine finished, and feeling a bit peckish now, I put together the arugula salad. A simple thing to do:  arugula, lemon juice, olive oil, and a generous grating of Grana Padano cheese. I set up a little table on the patio, and promptly watched half my Grana Padano fly away in the breeze. This is why there is no photo. No matter, I mixed up the salad and managed to polish it off with the remaining cheese intact.

After a few long minutes of digestion and polishing off my second glass of wine, went back inside to finish cooking the main dish.

While the pasta was cooking, I cooked up the chopped garlic in generous glugs of olive oil over a medium heat. When the garlic was fragrant, I added the cherry tomatoes and let it break down slowly. As things started to meld, I added the chopped olives, and a few tablespoons of the pasta water. I let that simmer down to a slightly thickened sauce. I added a burst of lemon juice at the end to keep things bright.

I put it all together on my plate, topping it off with a bit of chopped basil and another generous grating of cheese, and headed back to the patio.

I tucked in. I ate slowly. I enjoyed the flavours, the view, listening to the shouts from the baseball game in the valley, the traffic below, watching people rest on the bench along the pathway. At times I just put my head back, and let the sun warm my face while I was truly able to relax and enjoy a beautiful summer evening in our city.

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Now I have my tea, and am thinking of having something a bit sweet to finish the evening. Not sure what that will be yet.

Thanks for reading about my evening. It was one of those memorable ones, and wanted to document it before the memory fades. xo

 

Tea Quest at the Butchart Gardens

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My view from the dining room

I was in Victoria this past week for work. I had a lovely supper in The Butchart Gardens dining room on Tuesday night (wild BC salmon, tarragon ricotta gnudi, summer squash caponata, almond crumb, tomato anchovy beurre blanc). Yes it was delicious. After dinner, I had the most amazing pot of Earl Grey tea. I took the tea to-go, to allow me to sit on one of my favourite benches to supervise the changing of the seasons in the plantings found in the sunken garden.

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One of the comfortable teak benches in the Garden. This one has a spectacular view.

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View from “my” bench overlooking the Sunken Garden – here in transition from Spring to Summer

Next day I’m pooped after an excellent day of training for my job. By 5 pm all I wanted was my pajamas and a TV on low volume to stare at. My room was on the main floor of the Royal Scot Suite Hotel. This is a hotel favoured by mature holiday makers, so there is a lovely ambient din as groups of happy people decide where they want to go for dinner, and how many bottles of wine they should purchase for said dinners (my kind of crowd).
I decide that I should join society in some fashion instead of sitting in my dimly lit hotel room. So I drag my tired body with arthritic knees into some presentable clothing and go for a slow hobble around the neighbourhood. I’m able to admire the greenery, the flowers, the sound of the clip-clop of the horses, and listen in to a tourist phone conversation with a person back home about being… “….in Canada! Yes they speak English. No French is on the other side of the country, I’m in BC and they speak English here! It’s beautiful…”. It’s at this point I get a nose full of the scent of Early Grey tea.
Well. I have some neurotic behaviours.
I’ll sit quiet while I hear you all collectively say, “No! Really? You?”.
That whiff of Earl Grey tea gets me in a mood for a nice cup of Earl Grey tea. But not any Earl Grey. THAT Earl Grey served in the The Butchart Gardens. The very one I had last night. Nothing else will do.
When I get back to my room, I call up the dining room at the gardens at 6:50 p.m. and inquire if their teas are available for retail in their gift shop (pretentious as it sounds I already know the answer to this question, but I always have hope). The person who answered my call was not certain, and asked if they could call me back. I said yes.
At 7:00 p.m. I receive the call back and am informed that no, it’s not available in the gift shop. Tut! Plan B. I ask when the dining room closes and if it would be okay to stop in to get a cup of tea made with said Earl Grey and be on my merry way. A quick consultation was had, and told yes, it was possible, if I could get to the dining room by 8 pm! Yipeeeeeee! A challenge!
I hobble down to my car, and away I go. By the time I hit the street it is already 7:15 p.m. I arrive at the gates to the garden at 7:50 p.m. (yes I drove the speed limit (not actually), no, I didn’t run yellow lights (maybe just two).
I practiced out loud “But Officer, there’s this tea….!!” It didn’t fly with me either and I became comfortable with the idea of spending the night in jail.
As it happens, I made it safe and sound and parked the car, extracted myself, willing my knees to NOT FAIL ME NOW. I stopped for a quick sniff of the double hyacinths and walked in the door the dining room at 7:55 p.m.
I announced my arrival, receive an “ah yes!”, and am asked to have a seat in front of the fireplace.
My pot of Earl Grey arrives and I have a few moments respite as one gets while waiting for a pot of tea to brew.

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An elegant tea service with to-go cup (as I requested)

Once sufficient time had passed, I poured it into my to-go cup and away I go. It was a blustery night, too chilly for me to sit and study the seasonal garden change, so I rubbed Tocca’s nose for good luck, and was off for a leisurely drive back to my hotel, tunes on in car and me belting out the lyrics, a delicious cup of tea in the drinks holder, and the sun casting a golden hue over the lush greenery of Vancouver Island. The End.

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Tocca (from a previous year, but he hasn’t changed one bit).

PS: A huge thank you to The Butchart Gardens for making my crazy craving for your Earl Grey tea come true. You were very kind.