Thursday, October 21, 2010

The perfect snack

I've been so hungry this afternoon -- this, despite a homemade blueberry-banana smoothie (I'm so glad I froze kilos of blueberries this past summer), homemade granola and half an orange for breakfast, and homemade roast tomato-bell pepper-red onion soup, homemade applesauce and an apple for lunch, and a banana and a homemade chocolate cookie for a first snack. Perhaps it's all of the craziness of this week.

The big guns had to be brought out for my second snack. I grew up eating so much good cheese: practically every lunch, whether packed or at home, was made up of cheese, my father's homemade bread, leverpostej (liver paté) and herring from the Danish delicatessen, and vegetables. Dinners, too, especially in the summer, were often based around cheese. At a conservative estimate, I would say my parents typically had $50 of cheese in the fridge at any given time. It's a habit I've picked up. And so: today's second snack: pavé du nord, a pyramid of raw goat cheese, and sharp cheddar, with Wasa bread.

The only problem is that Richard and I were going to have cheese, bread and olives for dinner. Looks like I've preempted that plan.

Moving to Denmark. It should be brilliant.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Homemade granola

We used to make homemade granola every week in Ottawa. This is a crunchy, unsweetened granola with a satisfying variety of textures and tastes – and it can be altered to meet your own tastes, or as ingredients change with the seasons. We haven't made it for over two years now, since moving to Budapest. The excuse is the same as ever: the ingredients here are expensive and hard to find. But, following another week of homemade cinnamon buns for breakfast, I put my foot down: cinnamon buns are a dessert food for me, not a breakfast food. (Yes, they taste fantastic – they will continue to make regular appearances in our kitchen, but hopefully not before 10 AM.)

With a more open mind, Budapest has proven mostly amenable to my homemade granola. I've had to give up on my four different grains, as well as on wheat germ. But the dried fruit and nuts were more than satisfactory (if expensive), and the result is fabulous: now I remember why I like this granola so much. It is crunchy and textured; it stands up to the milk and doesn't become soggy; it is bursting with flavor and color.

Homemade granola

What you need:
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 cups rolled grains (oats, barley, spelt, rye, etc.)
  • 1-2 cups nuts (chopped into pieces if you like) (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ (optional)
  • up to 1/2 cup seeds (optional) (sesame, flax, etc.)
  • 1-2 cups dried fruit (chopped as you like) (raisins, dried cranberries, dried apricots, dates, dried apples, etc.)
What you do:
  • Heat the oven to 300.
  • Pour the oil into a 9 x 13 baking pan. Place in the oven for approximately 10 minutes, until good and hot.
  • Add the rolled grains to the pan and stir. Bake in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the nuts, wheat germ and seeds to the pan and stir. Bake for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove pan from oven and add the dried fruit. Stir and let cool.
  • Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Apple sauce

This is autumn. Three kilos of Ida Red apples, simmering on the stove with lemon, cinnamon, star anise and dark brown sugar. This is heaven.

Apples, peeled and cored, cut into quarters
A cinnamon stick
A star anise
Juice & zest from half a lemon
Dark brown sugar (1/4 cup per 2 kg apples)
Water (1 cup per 2 kg apples)

Pot, stove, heat, simmer for half an hour. Mash with a potato masher until it has the consistency you like.



Be glad it's autumn.

Canadian Thanksgiving in Budapest

We celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving last Sunday with a 14-person, 2-dog potluck at the official residence. The event was a roaring success: pumpkins decorated the entrance, children and dogs chased each other under the table, conversation flowed in three languages, and there was enough food to feed an army. None of us, though, were entirely convinced by the turkey (catered by a local hotel): I am pretty sure it was in fact a capon.

Richard and I brought a tourtière, a lemon poppy seed cake, a chocolate ginger cake, and sugarplum fairy balls.

The tourtière recipe is available upon request. We were very chuffed that one of the French Canadians at the table asked for seconds – this truly defines the pinnacle of tourtière making.

The sugarplum fairy balls are tiny morsels of fruit and nuts, filled with sweetness and a satisfyingly crunchy texture. They are very Christmasy in their name, their appearance, and their ingredients – but I love them at any time of year, and they work well in a potluck setting. Here they are, nestled in a tub and ready to be transported to the official residence:

Sugarplum fairy balls

What you need:
  • 1 cup dried fruit (apricots, raisins, cranberries, apples, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 4 tbsp unsweetened dried coconut
  • 2 tbsp fruit juice
  • 2 tbsp sugar (not superfine)
What you do:
  • In a food processor, mix dried fruit, walnuts and dried coconut until you have a fine, even crumb mixture. Add the fruit juice and mix until moistened.
  • Form into small (1/2 -- 3/4 inch diameter) balls with your hands. Squeeze each ball slightly to make sure that the sugarplums stay together.
  • Roll the balls individually in granulated sugar. Serve as soon as possible.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Chard, shrimp and grapefruit salad

A simple salad after a long, long road trip though Hungary, Slovenia, Bosnia and Croatia. What a stunningly beautiful part of the world. Chard, grapefruit, white onion, courgette blossoms sautéed in butter, prawns and slivered almonds. Variations on this salad -- different greens, different onions and so on -- are one of my favorite dinners. The dressing is a light olive oil-balsamic vinegar. No mustard, no garlic -- just easy and calm.

Things are not so calm on other fronts.

Late afternoon. Time for a snack. Oranges and fresh figs. I wish I had some mint on hand.