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Northern Exposure

March 6, 2011

So far we haven’t had much snow here. We live too far north for much snow. Snow falls mostly between -5 and 0°C. Winters are colder than that here. But finally we have been having snow. Close to one meter in the last week. We had to take advantage. We went skiing Wednesday, it is March break after all. We had a ball. Coco had snow up to her hips; us, our knees. More skiing Saturday. But this time Coco sprained her knee in the thick powder. We would have loved to see a doctor, but this is no easy option where we live. Like in Northern Exposure, and La Grande Séduction, where they have to woo doctors in, so do we. And there are not enough. We may have universal health care, where we don’t need to pay a cent to see a doctor, but we would have to go to a big city to see the said doctors. I am a strong proponent of our Canadian system, but something has to change for us smaller northern towns. If I want to see my doctor, I have to go first thing Monday morning to get an appointment for the following week. (this is good, my last doctor was once a month for the following month). They don’t answer the phone, so don’t bother calling. There are few walk ins, maybe twice a week, and you have to be in the know to get an appointment, you know part of that crowd that is constantly seeing doctors, they know what time to show up and where to go. The only other option is an 8 hour wait at emerge, a sprained knee will not be considered an emergency, and we would get the good wait to be ‘told a lesson’ not to come too often.

Okay venting over.


Local Food: Oreilles de crisse

March 4, 2011

Didn’t want to put it in the title, but to literally translate the dish it would be Christ’s Ears.

The apparition of this in the supermarkets means it’s spring, the sap in the trees is running, and it is sugaring off time. Rather than a post about maple syrup on snow making toffee, everyone’s heard that before. And really, we live too far north for the sugar maple, so most of our syrup comes from ‘southern’ Quebec and the whole thing is somewhat fake.

But most sugar shacks, not only have maple syrup, but offer a traditional lumberjack-style type breakfast including eggs, bacon, beans, and Oreilles de crisse.

Of coarse these ear’s aren’t really ears, they are just fried pork jowls, or just plain pork rinds. But they kinda do look like ears. And for the Christ part, it is purposely misspelled, all swear words in French-Canadian refer to religious words, as opposed to the bodily English swear words. This was a dense snack used by our pioneers, coureurs de bois, and paddlers as they made it through long voyages through the wilderness.

I am happy spring is near (it was still -24degC this morning), and able to eat this snack, only available in the spring. But the bad part, as with all products here, they have to add the MSG, or some other non food, but if it is only for one short season…

Movies and Real Food: Babette’s Feast

February 25, 2011

A great movie from the eighties, about food, about different lifestyles, about acceptance.

You can watch the whole movie on youtube here.

The story takes place in 19th century Denmark on the barren coastal region of Jutland. Two puritanical protestant sisters age in the shadow of their minister father, taking care of the community. After some time they take on a French woman refugee, Babette, as a servant. Never mentioning anything about her background Babette takes on the task of cooking for the sisters and villagers, improving on their cuisine. The whole movie leads up to the final feast, which Babette makes from some surprise earnings from a lottery, which she doesn’t use to leave the community as everyone expected, where she reveals that she was  the celebrated chef from the Parisian Café anglais.

There are many sites showing the menu and recipes for the feast which consisted of:

Potage a’la Tortue
(Turtle Soup)
Blini Demidoff au Caviar
(Buckwheat cakes with caviar)
Caille en Sarcophage avec Sauce Perigourdine
(Quail in Puff Pastry Shell with Foie Gras and Truffle Sauce)
La Salade
(Salad Course)
Les Fromages
(Cheese and Fresh Fruit)
Baba au Rhum avec les Figues
(Rum Cake with Dried Figs)

But my question was more what they were eating before.
No sites on this.

When Babette was trying to cook up the sister’s meals the sisters were constantly reminding her to:

“Let it soak.” very much in line with the Weston A. Price and Nourishing Traditions line of thinking where everything from grains to nuts and vegetables are ‘to soak’.

But what exactly were they making?

Surely some of the soaking was for cod, of which we see salted drying in the sun at the beginning of the movie.

But there is also some sort of ale-bread soak which resemble gravy.

The recipe seems to consist of soaking the dried fish, boiling it in water, then soaked stale bread is added with beer until if forms a stew.

A quick search reveals this dish to be the traditional Danish Øllebrød: a porridge made of soaked stale bread and dark ale.

Normally I like to try and cook up what I see in movies, for this one I will pass for now.

This post is being shared at Monday Mania

Galette: French-Canadian Cookies

February 15, 2011

Since living in Quebec, I learned that there are two words for cookies:

Biscuit: referring to your usual flat round crunchy things, and

Galette: which is a larger soft cookie.

I don’t really know of an English equivalent.

But now with the big food companies making everything the same, Galette‘s are harder to come by. They are usually more home made and often qualified by ‘Grandma’s’, as in Galette Grandmère.

So, I set out to make them according to Grandma. Also as something of a valentine to my husband and kids.

Not being of french heritage as the rest my family I get these recipes from a Quebec site, to be authentic, but in this case changed some ingredients to make them as Grandmère would have. Which means replacing the first ingredient of vegetable oil with lard. And the french have another word for lard: saindoux, break it up and sain means healthy, and doux soft. Sounds nice.

Mix a cup of lard (saindoux) with a cup of raw sugar (grandma’s sugar), an egg, a cup of molasses and a 1/2 cup of tea.

Then add the dry ingredients: 4 cups of flour, 1 Tbs baking soda, 2 tsp. cinnamon and 2 tsp. ginger.

Mix it all nice , drop with big spoonfuls, onto cookie baking sheet.

Bake for 10-15 min at 350 degF. Cool for a while on a rack, but then store tight, since they must remain soft (and big) to be qualified as Galette here.

Then enjoy, it made a nice valentine here, sharing the cooking with Coco, and eating with the boys.

I’m sharing this recipe with the Hearth and Soul Hop at a Moderate Life

and Real Food Wednesdays at Kelly the Kitchenkop

Finally Sourdough; and no mess!

February 8, 2011

I have been working on sourdough for a while now with only minor success. But in the meantime I even had to add a degree of difficulty. My husband has never been a fan of any of my food journeys, I guess they have been trying his patience. And now he has decided to take on the house cleaning task, after constantly criticizing any cleaner we ever had. But this is not necessarily a good thing, it puts him in a bad mood often complaining about messes. So now I have to make bread without making a mess. Quite the challenge.

But I did it.

The recipe comes from here, but with many changes in technique.

Start with the sourdough starter: 1/3 cup.

Mixed with 400 g of warm water and 44 g of molasses.

Then you need good flour. I get mine from a local mill.

Rye flour: 245 g

White bread flour: 245 g

Salt: 12 g

All this is done on a kitchen scale, hence the measurements in weight. And what a delight, again it minimizes the mess.

All of this is then mixed in an electric mixer using dough hooks. At first I didn’t want to do this, thinking the metal will kill my starter, but it doesn’t, and it sure makes for an easier time. You have to mix it up well first, then let it rest covered with plastic and mix it again after about 15 min and then again another 15 min wait and mix. But with the mixer this is no big deal.

Then I leave it out overnight, again in the plastic cover, still in the same mixing bowl (not alot of dishes).

Then in the morning I pour it into a parchment paper lined bread pan. Not easy, I get one of the kids to hold the bowl, or the paper or something. Again it is covered in a plastic bag and allowed to rise during the day.

In the evening, when I come home from work, I bake it until the internal temperature is over 200F. The thermometer is a great gadget that I can no longer live without: for a scientist like myself, this is what I call real data.

The beauty of the parchment paper: no mess, just peel it away, and I don’t even need to wash the bread pan.

The next morning the bread is ready for breakfast. Maybe not a typical shaped loaf, but the taste and texture are great.

This is posted as part of the Hearth and Soul Hop.

Les bonnes adresses: Coffee

February 3, 2011

‘Les bonnes adresses’ French for where to get the good stuff.

The criteria for good food stuff:

  • taste, of coarse
  • nourishment
  • local
  • sustainable
  • available

The choice for coffee here is easy. The only possible choice:

Café cambio.

Taste: check, real good.

Nourishment: well it is coffee so it ain’t really doing us any good, but boy does it make us feel good (the aroma, the taste) and I have gone caffeine free.

Local: well in the great white north, there is no coffee grown, so give up on that one. But this coffee is locally roasted. So close.

Sustainable: yes, it all is Fair Trade, very important for me. Organic, less important for me. Even the roasting store is coop.

Available: yes because they even sell in my usual grocery store.

Les bonnes adresses: Red Rose Tea, only in Canada, eh?

February 2, 2011

‘Les bonnes adresses’ is French for where to get the good stuff.

For tea, in Canada it is Red Rose. It’s an orange pekoe blend here rather than the black version of the US.

This was one of my favorite commercials when I was a kid:

It pretty much sums it all up, even it was running during the whole royal weddings craze. Which seems to be starting up again.

But with somewhat of an improved consciousness since then I have been trying to go for Fair Trade tea. I made the switch for coffee. But for the tea I just don’t seem to be able to find an equivalent great tasting tea to the Red Rose. I think even part of the goodness comes from the bag itself, of coarse the tea inside is more important but… I couldn’t find a good picture, but on their website at the top, you can see the texture of the bags; not just cheap paper.

Now Red Rose claims to be ‘Rainforest Alliance Certified’ not convinced this is as good as Fair Trade. This seems more to do with the fact they were bought by Lipton some time ago. Again, the loss of some of our great Canadian brands.

Now that I am on the no caffeine thing, I did switch to their caffeine free version. But it ain’t good. I seems to have a fishy aroma; can that be possible? So now I am on the quest to find a great fair trade decaf tea. Wish me luck.