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.

Wine

A quick post, for the benefit of those reading from Spain, France and Italy tonight. I happened to have wine from each of your countries tonight. What did I learn? I learned Malbec’s started in France. Who knew? I also learned I love wine from each of your countries.

Thank you to the vineyards of these three great countries. Without you, and the keen sommelier services our waitress provided at The Bothy tonight, it would have been quite a bland evening.

 

Beef Stew

If that picture doesn’t make you want spend the afternoon indoors nurturing a beef stew into supper, I don’t know what else would.

I had to give myself a pep talk to get dressed and outside to escape the cozy abode this morning. I whined to myself that it is cold, the roads are slick and bockety, people in white diesel pickups are driving like screw balls, and the last thing I want to do is get my pant legs wet.

But I am a prairie girl, and I have driven on Deerfoot Trail in Calgary in conditions worse than this, WITHOUT SNOW TIRES, and felt quite mighty. I made a 60 minute hike home in knee deep snow on November 1 with our first big dump of the season, trudging through squidgy snow and ice, pink cheeked (both sets), hair iced up and feeling like Mr. Ingles walking into town to get Ma a bolt of gingham fabric and a sack of sugar, and the girls some stick candy. It was an invigorating trek and arrived home smelling winter fresh.

Today, with my remote car starter, snow tires, proper boots, gloves, warm winter coat, ice scraper and brush had no excuse to stay inside. I went into town in my toasty warm car and picked up fresh baked bread at The Boulanger (formerly Tree Stone), had coffee with husband at Transcend, stopped in at Wild Earth for beef, onions, shallots, potatoes, mushrooms, celery, carrots, chocolate, potato chips and cookies for tea (it’s going to be a long winter and this stuff is for the pantry for those nights when it’s too dangerous to step outside and you just need something to go with your tea). The fact that I’ve already opened and sampled the chips and chocolate is another matter.

Once all the groceries were unpacked and put where they belonged, I cracked my knuckles (in my head I imagined I cracked my knuckles, it is a skill I’ve never learned to do), and got stew making underway.

First I checked the internet and found a plethora of beef stew recipes. I liked Jamie Oliver’s Jool’s Favourite Beef Stew recipe best out of all the ones I read, mainly because he is an advocate for NOT browning the stewing beef first.  I know! I feel the same way! How can that be? You are ALWAYS supposed to brown the meat first. But I have a nap to take, and browning the beef takes time.  So I used Jamie Oliver’s recipe as my muse for my own beef stew.

Here’s what I did. First, assemble the ingredients:

Butter and olive oil
Cubed stewing beef
Finely chopped onion
Finely chopped shallots
Peeled garlic cloves, left whole
Baby carrots, left whole
Baby pototoes, left whole
Celery, finely chopped
Large overflowing tablespoon of flour
Black pepper, salt, thyme, rosemary, oregano
Beef broth (I use Knorr powder stuff, 2 tbsp in 1.5 cups boiled water)
Few tbsp tomato paste
French red wine

Then, in your favourite Le Cruset stewing pot:

Melt a knob (a big tbsp) of butter and a glug and a half of olive oil. Add your onions, celery shallots and cook for a few minutes until soft. Add the garlic.

In a large bowl toss your beef cubes with a sprinkle of flour, pepper, salt, thyme, rosemary and oregano. Add to the pot. Stir. Add your carrots, potatoes. Stir. Mix up your beef broth, add the tomato paste, stir, then add to the pot.

Our wine supply is getting low.
That’s a joke people. A joke!

Open the bottle of French wine, sample it to make sure it’s delicious.

Sample one more time to make absolutely certain. Pause, reflect on how wonderful life is, then empty half that bottle of wine in your stew.

Wipe wine splatters from wall.

Stir with love. Let sit on the stove until it comes to a boil. When it’s merrily burbling, put the lid on your pot, turn off the stove, and stick the pot in your preheated 300F oven.

If you have a Le Cruset, don’t forget to put a bit of aluminum foil on the knob on the lid. Leave the stew alone, in the oven, for 3 to 4 hours. It’s done when the meat falls apart when poked at with a fork.

Serve in bowls along with the freshest bread you can find. A glass of the left over red wine would be perfect to accompany the meal (providing that half bottle of wine survives until supper time).

 

Easy Pasta Sauce

Pasta sauce recipe is below. First, you have to hear about our weekend.

We had an interesting weekend being survivors of the Edmonton earthquake.  You don’t believe me, do you? Check it out: Tremors from 7.7-magnitude earthquake in B.C. felt in Edmonton | CTV Edmonton News.

Being on the 6 o’clock news was more fun than the earthquake I tell you. It was a lot of hoo-hah for a few swinging blinds and towels, but we were begged in the cutest way, and how can you say no? Especially when it’s the news program my Mom watches.

Anyhow. Pasta sauce. Inspired by a picture I came across on Teresa Spinelli’s Facebook page, I said to myself, “I want what she’s having for supper!”.:

The greatest pasta sauces in the world start with a glass of red wine, so I got that going first. Next, I rummaged in the back of the fridge, the cupboards and counter-tops to see what we had on hand. I was lucky today and found:

Red Peppers, slightly wrinkly, but still edible
Yellow Peppers, fresh as they day they were picked
One fresh tomato that was a bit soft, but no fuzz
Punnet of grape tomatoes, slightly wrinkled (the beginnings of sun dried tomatoes I tell myself)
Saucer full of whole fresh garlic
Bottle of strained tomatoes
Assortment of bottled herbs and spices, namely, basil, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, chili peppers, granulated garlic, pepper, salt, dash of sugar

Method: Rough chop your peppers and tomatoes. Add to large sauce pan with olive oil. Add peeled garlic (I leave it whole). Add your assortment of herbs and spices. Cook until cooked. If you need more specifics, cook until it is soft and fragrant.

VERRRRRRRRY carefully, transfer the contents of the saucepan to your blender or food processor. Whir until blended to your preferred blendedness. Perhaps you prefer it chunky and omit this step. That would be fine.

Blender of roasted veg. Strained tomatoes. Wine. What else does a person need?

Crack open a bottle of strained tomatoes, or diced tomatoes, or tomato sauce. Whatever you have. Ketchup won’t work. Just saying. Pour a bit of this in the blender if your blended veggies are a bit thick. But don’t tell your vegetables you think they are thick. They will be offended because vegetables can be sensitive that way.

Flavour. Nothing but flavour.

Meanwhile, back to the pan, you should have some sticky vegetable goodness on the bottom of the pan. Splosh a glug of red wine (or water, or balsamic vinegar) into this sticky goodness, let it burble for a second or two, then stir to pick up all that flavour.

VERRYYYYYYYY carefully add the whirred up vegetables in the blender to this, add the rest of the strained tomatoes, diced tomatoes or tomato sauce. Stir. Cover. Simmer.

There you have it. Easy. Serve over your favourite shape of pasta. Grate a bit of Parmesan cheese to make it even better. Sprinkle chopped parsley over the works if you are feeling like a 1950’s housewife.

OK. Now for the truth. This recipe IS easy, however, it has to be one of the messiest things I make. If you know me, you know I’m a pretty neat and tidy kind of gal. But this type of recipe leaves our kitchen in a splattered tomato/roasted pepper mess. We’ll be dabbing at tomato spots on the walls for weeks ahead.

 

The Bothy Downtown is Open!

Yesterday Michael and I stopped in at the much anticipated second location of The Bothy.

There’s something fun about being there on or near opening and watching a place develop and grow. I suppose this is the thrill people have with their children. Michael and I don’t have kids, but we have adopted a parental love for the Bothy and watched the original location at 5482 Calgary Trail grow up. The second location, at 10124 124 St is like our grand-baby Bothy, and like the first, we expect nothing but success.

Located just north of the bend where Jasper Avenue turns into 124 Street, the new location has plenty of metered street parking (still free after 6 pm and on Sundays), it also has parking available at the rear of the building. You are welcome to use either the front or rear entrance.

The look and feel of the downtown Bothy is much the same as the south location – warm colours, relaxed ambiance, gorgeous staff, rich wood, long bar with granite top, convenient hooks under the bar for coats and purses. The menu continues to offer is array of cheese, charcuterie, their famous tomato bacon soup, and top-notch sandwiches, salads, entrees and desserts.

The 124 St. Bothy opened it doors to the public for the first time on Thursday. They are still a bit away from a grand opening, and still have some finishing touches to do here and there. This aside, you will be welcomed, and within moments will be absorbed in the Bothy experience – whisky, wine, great food and good-humoured, friendly people that make you feel welcome and at ease. There is no wine or whisky snobbery at The Bothy. Questions are welcomed, and suggestions and tastes are offered for the undecided.

Regulars of the Bothy are already familiar with the Whisky Passport. It is gaining in popularity and is a great way to remember favourite whiskys, and is a way to stretch and try something new… for no reason sometimes other than to collect a stamp! If you are into whisky, make sure you ask for your passport.

The new location is at:
10124 – 124 St NW, Edmonton AB

Bus stop number 1242

An easy walk for anyone living in the downtown area, but if you are in suburbia or just looking to make for a nice afternoon of shopping followed by lunch or dinner, there are many shopping, eating, and drinking opportunities in the area. For the adventurer, Mountain Equipment Co-op is just a block north. High Street and it’s eclectic mix of shopping including my kitchen mecca Call the Kettle Black are just around the corner. There are many treasures to be found in the neighbourhood, and no better way to relax afterwards than stopping in for a nosh and something to drink at the Bothy.

The Bothy Wine & Whisky Bar on Urbanspoon

Wife-Saver Recipe

I’m loving the idea of having “special guests” feature on my blog, and today, I’d like to introduce you to old high school chum Peter Martin. Peter was on Facebook this Christmas morning posting pictures of his beautiful daughters and singing the praises of a Wife Saver recipe, which immediately caught my attention.

Wife-saver is an attractive name for a recipe, because it implies simplicity, something that does not require any lessons how to chiffonade leafy greens, or explain why “we” don’t make tourtière at Christmas. To me, it means, the husband can cook this completely on his own, and his partner in life can easily spend time soaking in the tub, reading a book and not have to flinch with something goes bang in the kitchen. It means a few moments of serenity.  So I post this for all the men out there who might want to give their wife a break (hint hint, oh I hint) and cook up something delicious to feed a crowd.

It should be noted that Peter is the one that got me connected with Opimiam wine club, and thus my overwhelming wine supply. You will soon understand how it is that Peter and I got along so well in high school.

Here’s the Wife Saver recipe, in Peter’s own words:

16 Slices whole grain bread, crusts removed
16 Slices of Canadian back bacon or turkey bacon
Shredded sharp (old) cheddar cheese (Emmenthaler too???)
4 Eggs & 1 small carton of egg whites
½ tsp pepper
½ to 1 tsp dry mustard
¼ cup minced onion
¼ cup finely chopped green pepper ( I use celery, less overpowering…u know?)
1 to 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (I don’t subscribe to this one)
3 cups skim milk
Dash Tabasco
½ cup butter
Special “K” or crushed Cornflakes

Directions

Open a bottle of wine…preferably a magnum.

Put 8 pieces of bread in a 13- x 9-inch (3L) buttered glass baking dish and replenish your fishbowl with a stem with your wine of choice. Cover dish entirely with bread slices. Cover bread with thinly sliced bacon. In butter, fry vegetables until translucent or until your glass of wine needs a refill. Spread over top of bacon. Top with grated cheddar cheese or emmenthaler. Butter the tops of 8 more pieces of bread, and place buttered side up on top of the cheese. Chase it with a rum n egg nog.
In a bowl, beat eggs, egg whites and pepper. Add mustard, Worcestershire, milk and Tabasco and mix until blended or until your scotch glass needs refilling. Pour over the bread (not the scotch silly, the egg mixture) cover and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, cover with crushed Special “K” or Cornflakes (I don’t do this because the crumbs get in my fishbowl).
Bake at 350°F (180°C) covered, 1 hour. Then remove cover and cook til brown. Let sit 10 minutes before serving. Serve with fresh fruit and tequila shots.

 

Saturday Afternoon with Walsh Cooks

Today I was out and about with a dear friend of mine. The destination was the Muttart Conservatory to stop by Culina so I could get my hands on some of Cally’s Earl Grey Tea.

You see, up until today I had been rationing my Cally’s Earl Grey – so desperate was I to replenish my supply, I resorted to buying a box of Twinings from Safeway to stretch it out.For those of you who don’t know, Cally’s is in transition. Her shop on 99th has closed, and she is moving to her New and Exciting Location on Whyte Ave. But she’s not open quite yet. Watch this blog for news of the opening.

Twinings has a Royal Warrant, meaning it’s approved by the Queen. What they didn’t write on that Royal Warrant, that it is “by appointment of the Queen, but only while waiting for a supply from Cally’s”. Don’t get me wrong. Twinings make a nice cuppa. But it ain’t no Cally’s.

Lots to talk about today, so if you haven’t done so, do yourself a favour and pour a nice cuppa and relax while reading this. I’ll wait.

(LOL – I sat and waited. Seriously. Did a little chair dance to Mr. Scruff’s Get A Move On).

We’re back? Here’s the song, just in case you want to join in on the chair dance.

Let’s talk about the Muttart Conservatory. My friend, an Edmontonian, a well-traveled Edmontonian at that, hasn’t been to the Conservatory for about 20 years. I’m fairly new to Edmonton, so have been two or three times in the last 10 years. But the consensus is the same, the pyramids themselves haven’t changed that much. However, the central part of the building has.

I was expecting to see Culina in the centre of the complex much like where the old coffee shop was. I was pleased to see it just off the main entrance, making it a foodie destination for anyone, even those who don’t want to look at plants. A person could easily stop in and have a nice bacon, gouda and egg panini with nary a view of a hibiscus or Elephant’s Foot plant.

I was also charmed by the little gift store, opposite the restaurant. But the main attraction was what was found in the Culina restaurant. On a shelf, in a beam of light, I might have heard a harp, were little bags of Cally’s Teas. Of course the Earl Grey was there, but there were a select few other varieties as well.  In addition, there were a few jars of jam from the Jam Lady, and other bits and pieces from local producers. So, for those of you who are looking for Christmas gift ideas for the Foodie in your life, and you can’t make a farmer’s market on Saturday, take off during your lunch and head down to the Muttart Conservatory and pick up a few things from there.

Once in the Muttart Conservatory, I was excited to see the much talked about blue pointsettia. A pointsettia. That’s blue!

They had an absolutely lovely display of poinsettias for sale. They had many of the  traditional red, white, and pink varieties, along with some brilliant variegated white-reds that were stunning. Also found was a very impressive variegated purple-white pointsettia, but these were not for sale to the public, but found within the “feature” pyramid. I was with a friend who has a very dominate moral compass, so I couldn’t tuck one of the plants in my coat to take home with me. I wasn’t even allowed to pinch a coffee bean off the coffee plant. I resisted the theft, although I have to add, it is part of my genetic make up to steal from conservatories. My Baba snitched cuttings from the tropical conservatory at the Calgary Zoo and happily grew them in her home for many years. True story.

After a seemingly quick visit to the Muttart, it was time to find lunch. The plan was Mediterranian, and I had the idea to check out the new Greek restaurant on Whyte Ave near 109th Street. We found they didn’t open until 5, and my friend was quickly slipping into North American starvation -meaning, his mood was on the cusp of the slippery slope of grumpiness. So we went to our back-up location of The King and I.

We both agreed that Thai is in our Top 10 favourite food items, and I wonder why on earth I don’t eat this stuff every day. The flavours are amazing.

We started with a chicken – peanut satay, that was out of this world delicious. I’m sure that either one of us, if we were alone, would have licked the plate and/or used the little spoon in the satay sauce to consume the rest of the sauce as a soup.

This was followed by, for him, Matsaman Nuea – spicy red curry laced with cumin and peanuts, stewed with tender beef and potatoes. For me, the lady, the delicate flower of a lady that I am, I had the tiger prawn curry – tiger prawns served with fresh, sauteed vegetables served in a spicy green curry. Both were served with coconut rice.

And that sprig of black in the middle you see? See? That is pepper my friends. Pepper. Pepper I usually put in my peppermill. Hot. Pepper. My dining partner ate through that and didn’t even break a sweat. Me, the delicate flower of a woman that I am choked on the heat. Of course I hoped my cough and sputtering would have been interpreted as having had tickle in my throat, but the truth is, I couldn’t handle the heat.

But all that green curry you see, with my tiger shrimp swimming happily, is a bowlful of delicious happiness. I’ve not been so happy eating out in ages. As I said, I wonder why I don’t eat this every day.

Our day concluded with a nice cup of tea. And that, my dear readers, is the best way to end any day. With a nice cuppa tea.

(another pause)

Unless of course, you opened a bottle of red wine and got engaged writing a blog and listening to some awesome music, and drank too much wine, and do a lot of chair dancing and wear yourself out to the point you can’t wait to get into bed, a bed you have ALL TO YOURSELF, so you can have one of those nights where you can sprawl, toss, turn and snore to your hearts content without worrying about disturbing your partner. Don’t get me wrong. I miss my bedwarmer with all my heart and soul. But sometimes a night of not worrying if my elbow hits a face is a treat. A treat indeed.

(another pause)

… are there royal warrants for blogs? I am a fan of the Queen’s son’s Duchy Originals Cheese Nibbles. That should count for something. 😉

 

Forget the Tea. Let’s Have Wine!

I have been drinking a lot of tea lately. I took a hiatus from my usual G & T. Mainly because a) the weather has been cool, and G & T is my hot summer day drink, and b) my bottle of gin is empty. Nonetheless, my latest shipment of wine from Opimian has arrived, and tonight is designated “testing” night to make sure it’s “okay”.

I find it very cool to pick up my wine at a warehouse, where, when you drive in the yard of the warehouse it’s like riding a bucking bronco for all the holes and heaves in the road. One dip was so severe that I actually shouted WOO HOOOOOOOO out loud in the car, followed by a bunch of giggles because I couldn’t believe that bits of my body could move in a certain way, or that I could shout spontaneously and so loudly.

Hubby is off to a staff meeting tonight. They are going to discuss the break in at his downtown office. Someone broke through a wall for $200. $200!!!  I am not a criminal, but to me, it seems you only break through walls when there are chests full of gold, pearls, and precious gems, all nestled on top of piles of ancient Roman coins, on the other side of said wall.

So, while Mr. is off discussing crime, I am here, wondering what to cook for supper to accompany this getting-better-with-every-sip bottle of wine. I can tell you this, I need strong flavours to get rid of the god awful, horrible taste of chemicals I have after eating some Uncle Ben’s Microwavable Rice for lunch today. Ew. I cannot get rid of the smell. Convenient? Yes. Tasty? Yes. So long as you plug your nose.I cannot totally poo-poo this rice, because I had a fairly lengthy conversation about it with a co-worker who thinks this stuff is The Greatest Thing Ever. To each their own.

I am a little fearful of cooking these days, as on the weekend I made two things:

1. A Breakfast Cookie, recipe provided by the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation.

2. Baked Chickpea Patties, recipe also provided by the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Evidently, I’ve lost my cooking mojo. My husband deemed the breakfast cookies to be “not sweet enough”. My mom was a bit harsher with “these are raw”.  And she proceeded to unwrap the individually and lovingly wrapped cookies I gave her and put them back in the oven to finish them off. Hm.

The chickpea patties tasted like they were meant to be healthy. Michael tried one and chewed through it – it took a long while – and at the end deemed the accompanying lemon herb yogurt sauce to be delicious. Hm.

To regain my confidence, I have rummaged carefully through our humble little kitchen, and have found a nice container of  a frozen, now defrosting, robust, homemade meat sauce! I don’t mean to brag. Well, I do actually. But I make a mean meat sauce.

But fear not my vegetarian friends, I will learn to cook “a mean chickpea pattie” one day too. Perhaps if I learned that the chickpeas should be the same consistency throughout, and not a whole one here, a pureed one here, etc. etc.

And a final few words. Remember people, this is a blog, and not a skilled piece of journalism or English literature:

1. Life is too short to not drink good wine.
2. Let’s get on city council’s case to get owners to pretty-up their surface parking lots downtown Edmonton.
3. The riots in England are NOT cool and are making a mess of my London.
4. Rachel better not win Power of Veto tonight.
5. Fringe is on!!! Fringe! It’s here! Now! Go.

Friday at our Place

What. A. Week. A confidence shared. Embarrassment.  Spilled my full-to-the-top water bottle all over my keyboard, mouse, telephone, pants, floor. All while trying to be professional during a telephone call. Not sure that a screamed “OH CRAP” (*whispered: I actually screamed OH SHIT but someone I work with might be reading this, so oh crap is my official statement*) is professional, but thankfully person on the other end of the phone had a sense of humour.

In among the little black cloud hanging over my head (if you live in Edmonton, you can see it, just look out your window), there are some things that make all this okay. A co-worker who happens to have a stack of paper towel to soak up the water. Friends who are supporting. Friends who are forgiving. Friends that understand me. Pants that are indestructible. A husband who loves me. Fighter planes flying overhead. A bottle of wine. Crystal that resonates a beautiful ping. And, dare I say it, Matt Monro. I know, I know, he’s not Peter Fox or Massive Attack, my usual fare, but sometimes you need to hear a voice that works on memories of days gone by to get out of a funk.

Anyway, enough about me. Let’s talk about supper. Supper! Oh yes, grey skies and a resigned acceptance that I’ll be indoors all evening has inspired a hearty, beefy pasta sauce.

Here’s the ingredients:

Here’s the recipe:

Brown the beef. Chop the organic stuff in small pieces. Add to the beef. Add a generous glug of wine. When nice, add the tomatoes. In another pot. Boil water. Add pasta. Cook. Drain. Add sauce. Grate the best Parmesan cheese you can find**. Drink wine. Dance. Fall asleep on the sofa cozied up with husband.

**One of the things I am so unbelievably grateful for in Edmonton is the Italian Centre Shop.  I cannot say enough nice things about this place. The deli is AMAZING, and they always have that ingredient you need but you can’t find anywhere else. In my pic you can see the the La Povencella whole tomatoes, and the Italissima strained tomatoes. These are standard pantry purchases for us. These tomatoes are delicious. Sexy food because they are Italian. And are sold at a reasonable price. Teresa Spinelli has done an amazing job of continuing her father’s legacy. Frank Spinelli would be very proud indeed.

 

Goats do Roam

To catch you up quickly, I joined a wine guild, got the wine, and discovered it really needs to be cellared to be enjoyed properly… the earliest in the next two  years! So I have 24 bottles of wine that can’t be drunk. Visualize a frownie face emoticon here.

The whole reason to join the guild was to have new wine to try without needing to make the effort to go to a wine shop and stand in front of rows and rows of bottles and make a selection. But yesterday, being Friday, the end of a great week, and having two back-to-back episodes of Coronation Street to watch, decided to do a Maeve Binchy and relax in front of Coronation Street with a glass of wine. But what wine? What wine would go well with, essentially nothing, but yet might be the starter to a pizza Michael promised to bring home for supper?

After work I walked into deVine Wines on 104th Street and Jasper Ave. The clerks there had their heads down in their computers and clipboards and my thought of them assisting me finding a bottle flew out the window. But just before despair and anxiety took over, a nice man in tweed coat approached me and said these magical words: “Would you like to try some wine?”. Hello my new BFF. My man in tweed is a seasoned wine rep who has been in Edmonton for a year. Prior to that he lived in Philadelphia. Imagine! My new favourite city! We had something in common so were able to chat about things more than wine for a few minutes.

First up was a 2009 Attems Pinot Grigio hailing from Venezia Giulia in Northeastern Italy. I’m not a fan of a pinot grigio, but hell, it was a free sample, so I gave it a try. It was delicious. Really. Not just because it was free. I won’t toss tasting notes at you, because I haven’t quite figured out how to distinguish different flavour notes in wine yet. But it was smooth, refreshing and I liked it. That’s all that matters really.

Second up was 2008 Goats do Roam 2008 Red from South Africa. It’s a blend of Shiraz, Cinsaut, Mourvèdre, Grenache, and Carignan. Risking to start sound like a picky-pants, I don’t normally like blends either, but this one was absolutely delicious. It smelled good. It tasted great. Not heavy, and perfect for red-wine-served-with-nothing-while-watching-Coronation Street. It’s a beautiful red and pretty to swirl in one’s glass.

Last up was an amazing bottle of Zuccardi Q 2008 Malbec from Argentina. I have tried Malbec before, and remembering feeling a sense of peace and love, and that all came back to me with this specimen. It’s rich and substantial and definitely needs to be served with a grand supper when trying to impress friends and family.

Listen up wine shopkeepers, I’m easy prey. Have a nice man in a tweed coat spend a few minutes with me, give me free samples, and I’m a friend for life and will happily dislodge the debit card and buy buy buy. I left with one each of the three bottles. The Goats do Roam was earmarked for Friday night, the others for future reference. I’m so in love with the Goats do Roam, primarily for its flexibility in taste, my love of the word goat, and the wine makers play on Côtes du Rhône, I’m prepared to purchase a case of the stuff.

Thank you deVine Wines for hosting a great tasting, and my man-in-tweed for your helpfulness.

As a postscript, the wine was perfect to get through the drama of the last two episodes of Coronation Street. It’s Christmas Day 2009 on the Street, and as with most Christmases, not without its fair share of delectable drama. My feet pulled up off the floor a few times in excitement.