One hundred and twenty-two

Oh Canada!

Poutine? Montreal-style bagels? Caribou? Tourtiere? Peameal bacon? Butter tarts? Maple syrup?  Tim Horton’s? Beer?  What would be the best choice of a meal to represent Canada in my month of cooking 30 countries?  For me, what best describes Canadian cuisine is how eclectic it is.  Indian and Thai food are mixed with Italian to create an interesting new dish.  Restaurants have items inspired from an assortment of different countries on their menus.

What about the locavore movement – eating locally produced food?  Where my parents live in southern Ontario you can stop at stands by the road and take local produce from farmers, leaving your money in a tin.  Being so close to farms and having farmers markets located throughout the cities (see Farmers’ Markets Ontario website to find one near you), it’s not hard to eat food grown by your Ontario neighbours.

In honour of both of these ideas – the eclectic nature and the local food – my parents and I went for Spanish-style tapas and local wine at August Restaurant in Beamsville (I didn’t get a chance to make Spanish food this month, so this is also a tribute to Spain).  August Restaurant is a “partnership between a chef and a gardener”,  using almost all local ingredients and growing most of their own vegetables.  All soups, sauces and breads are made in-house.  The tapas menu (they also have lunch, brunch and dinner menus) has a wide variety of dishes, including Herb and Brie Pierogis with Double Smoked Bacon and Onions, Wee Little Lobster Mac ‘N’ Cheese (obviously not all ingredients are sourced locally, unless there are lobsters in Lake Ontario that I don’t know about), Sweet Potato Empanadas (which tasted a lot like pumpkin pie), Curried Lamb Meat Balls with a Sour Cream Dip and Crab Cake Po’ Boy with House Made Tartar Sauce.  You can look at the full tapas menu here.   Everything was delicious and reasonable priced.  And the mini ice cream cake for dessert was divine!

Tonight

For my final night of international cooking, my Indian friend’s mom’s butter chicken recipe.

One hundred and twenty-one

China

These are all the dishes I used while trying to cook three Chinese food dishes:

The dishes after a cooking frenzy! You should have seen the kitchen before I cleaned it!

Timing has always been an issue for me.  How do you get three dishes to cook perfectly and finish at the same time?  I’m slowly getting better at it, however one of the dishes always tends to suffer a little.  In this case, it was slightly over-steamed bok choy.  Cooking for just me and sometimes one other person, I also find it hard to make a small amount of a recipe.  Usually the amount you are supposed to make is for 4-6 people.  Normally leftovers would be great, but as it’s international cooking month and I cook every day, there is no need for leftovers.  The chicken dish I made ended up with a little too much sauce for the amount of chicken I used.

General Tsao's Chicken, steamed bok choy, and Chinese stir-fried noodles

On the menu was: General Tsao’s Chicken, steamed bok choy, and Chinese stir-fried noodles.  My brother joined me for lunch yesterday and said the stir-fried noodles tasted exactly like at any Chinese food restaurant he’d been to.  He wasn’t as keen on the chicken because of the extra breading (mess up in scaling back ingredients sizes).  Below is the recipe for the stir-fried noodles inspired by a post on good-chinese-food.com.  For the recipes for the General Tsao’s Chicken click here and for the bok choy, click here.

Chinese Stir-Fried Noodles

Ingredients:

Chinese noodles – I used thin yellow noodles
Carrotts, cut in thin strips
Mushrooms, sliced
Green onions, sliced
1 tbsp minced garlic
Soy sauce
Chinese barbeque sauce
Oyster sauce
Sesame Oil

Boil noodles until al dente (the yellow noodles I used took only 1 minute to cook).  Drain and set aside.

Add a small amount of vegetable oil to a frying pan or wok and heat to medium-high.  Fry garlic and carrots for approximately 20 seconds, then add the mushrooms and green onions and stir-fry for 3 minutes.  Add a little soy sauce at the end.  Set aside.

Heat about 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon oyster sauce and 1 tablespoon Chinese BBQ sauce in the frying pan or wok. Heat this mixture very briefly before adding veggies and noodles. Toss well to coat and turn off the heat. Add 1 tbsp of sesame oil and toss again.

I used approximates of ingredients until it tasted the way I wanted it to.  All in all a successful meal that was very tasty, despite the giant mess of the kitchen I made!

Tonight

Visit to my parents in the Ontario farmlands and dinner at a restaurant that only serves local food.  Oh Canada!

One hundred and twenty

Ukraine/Poland

Not the prettiest looking Perogi, but definitely tasty!

During my date month, a really lovely gentleman I met online said he didn’t want to be  just one date of 31, but would make me perogies during my international cooking month.  Although we never did meet up, I believe he still reads my blog.  So in honour of him, I made perogi from scratch yesterday.

Perogi are central/eastern European dumplings (similar to Italian tortellini or Chinese wontons) usually filled with potato, meat, cheese, onion and/or sauerkraut.  There are also dessert versions that are filled with fruit and served with sour cream.

They were actually really simple to make, and very delicious (although my dough was a little thick – good to know for next time).  You begin with 2 cups of flour, 1 egg  and a pinch of salt.  Combine in a bowl and keep adding water until a sticky dough is formed.  Leave dough sit under a bowl for 20 minutes.  Then work on the filling.  For the potato and cheese version I made, boil potatoes until they are ready to be mashed.  Shred strong cheddar cheese and mix with potatoes, salt and pepper.  Roll the dough out thin and cut circles with a drinking glass.  Put the potato cheese mixture in the centre, stretch the dough around the filling, fold in half and pinch the pocket closed.  To cook put the dumplings in boiling water until they float, then transfer to a frying pan with a little oil to crisp up.  You can also freeze them between wax paper.  I ate my plain, but you can serve them with melted butter, sauteed onions and bacon bits.

The inspiration for my recipe was this one on allrecipes.com.  Although, I did modify it according to the comments below the recipes and to decrease the size.  The beauty of those kinds of websites is that people will comment below with tips to make the recipe better.

One of the images from TasteSpotting.com

While I’m writing of great online places to find recipes, my friend Meg suggested TasteSpotting.com.  A community driven visual potluck, TasteSpotting displays beautiful images of food, linking to recipes on blogs around the world.  I have used this site as inspiration for a lot of my month of cooking.  And the photos make you want to cook every single thing on there!

Today

Home-cooked Chinese

One hundred and nineteen

Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi

When I lived in Melbourne, Australia a couple of years ago, I really enjoyed eating kangaroo – steaks, burgers – but I’ve never cooked with it myself.  I found out I could buy kangaroo topside from the St. Lawrence Market (for $25), so decided to have kangaroo represent Australia for Cooking 30 Countries month.  I had a hard time at first when I took the kangaroo out of the package and the blood and gamey smell hit my nose.  Cutting the pieces of its flesh did almost make me gag.  But the recipe was simple and the kangaroo tasted delicious.  I’d probably make the recipe again with another type of meat.  I think $25 for one steak of kangaroo is a little too pricey to be a regular purchase.

Before I get into the recipe, though here are some facts about kangaroo meat:

  • Kangaroo meat is very lean, with usually less than 2% fat and high in protein, iron and zinc, so therefore very healthy.
  • In a report commissioned by Greenpeace, Dr. Mark Diesendorf says that cutting back on beef production in Australia by 20% and substituting kangaroo meat could save 15 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over the next twelve years (read about Vancouver kangaroo sales on canada.com)
  • Kangaroo is always free-range organic meat – never farmed
  • The Ecological Society of Australia, the Australasian Wildlife Management Society and the Australasian Mammal Society have all released statements saying they support kangaroo harvesting.
  • Kangatarianism – people who exclude all meat except kangaroo on environmental, ecological and humanitarian grounds (read this article from The Sydney Morning Herald for more information)
  • Sources: Southern Game MeatWikipediaKangaroo Industry Association of Australia, and the others mentioned above.

Sesame Kangaroo with Asian Greens

Seasame Kangaroo with Asian Greens, from the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia:

Serves 4-6

Quantity Ingredients

2 Tsp Minced garlic
2 Tsp Minced ginger
3 Tbs Soy sauce
3 Tbs Oyster sauce
4 Tbs Plum sauce
500 G Lean kangaroo topside cut into thin strips
900 G Hokkien noodles
    Spray or olive oil
2 Each Sweet potato julienne
2 Each Bok choy
1 Each Green capsicum, sliced
1 Bch English spinach, trimmed
3 Tbs Toasted sesame seeds
60 G Snow pea sprouts

Method

1. Combine the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, oyster sauce and plum sauce in a glass or ceramic dish
2. Add the kangaroo and toss to coat. Cover and marinate for 15 minutes
3. Drain the meat and reserve the marinade
4. Put the hokkien noodles into a large heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water
5. Leave to stand for 2 minutes, pushing gently with a wooden spoon to separate the strands
6. Drain well and set aside
7. Spray a non stick wok or frying pan with oil and heat
8. Stir fry the meat in 2 or 3 batches over high heat for 2-3 minutes or until browned. Set aside
9. Reheat the wok, add the sweet potato and capsicum and stir fry for 3 minutes then add the reserved marinade and bring to the boil
10. Add the spinach leaves, bok choy and toss until just wilted
11. Stir in the noodles, kangaroo, sesame seeds and snow pea sprouts and toss to heat through

Of course for dessert I had to have Tim Tams (a chocolate wafer cookie, coated in more chocolate) dipped in either tea or coffee.  The trick is to bite opposite corners off, then suck the hot liquid up through the biscuit until it collapses in on it itself and starts to fall apart, and throw the whole thing in your mouth.  It was one of my favourite treats in Melbourne and I was so happy to find a place they sell them in Toronto.

Today 

Perogies

One hundred and eighteen

Portugal

My first long-term boyfriend was Portuguese and he introduced me to Pasteis de Nata.  Incidentally, it’s his birthday today.  A creamy custard centre surrounded by a flaky pastry, these Portuguese custard tarts are divine.  Whenever I’m in a Portuguese bakery, I get one as a treat.  However, I’ve never tried to bake them myself.  They are particularly hard to make perfectly, despite the simple ingredients.

History of Pasteis de Nata from algarvebuzz.com:

“The original recipe for Pasteis de Nata were invented by two Catholic sisters in the convent at the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and called Pasteis de Belem, since then the secret recipe has been heavily guarded. Around 1837, clerics from the monetary, set up Casa Pastéis de Belém, the first shop to sell the pasteis, in order to raise money for the monastery that took centuries to build and today is an UNESCO heritage site. At the time the monetary and shop were easily accessible by ship, allowing tourists to quickly become familiar with Pasteis de Belem, and the news spread quickly.

Today, Pasteis de Belem are more commonly known around the country as Pasteis de Nata, and only the original Pasteis de Belem carry the name. The original shop also remains standing today and the Pasteis de Belem are still said to be the best. ”

(More history if you are interested here in an article from The Christian Science Monitor.)

The recipe I used had a little too much cornstarch, I think, and too much pastry.  I should have also cooked them a little longer.  I will definitely be making these again, so I will know for next time.  But generally super tasty.

Pasteis de Nata from allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 (17.5 ounce) package frozen puff pastry, thawed

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C.) Lightly grease 12 muffin cups and line bottom and sides with puff pastry.
  2. In a saucepan, combine milk, cornstarch, sugar and vanilla. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Place egg yolks in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk 1/2 cup of hot milk mixture into egg yolks. Gradually add egg yolk mixture back to remaining milk mixture, whisking constantly. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes, or until thickened. Remove vanilla bean.
  3. Fill pastry-lined muffin cups with mixture and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and filling is lightly browned on top

Tonight

Australian Kangaroo, mate!