Sunday, December 6, 2009

Gateau de Foie de Volailles a la Bressane

Ok ok, so Gateau de Foie loses a lot in the english translation to liver cake....but really think of it as a light and airy pate made with chicken livers, now almost the cheapest meat in the store. When I met Gerry, I knew by the sight of a huge tube of liverwurst in his fridge that we were meant to be (I eat it almost every morning on my toast).

So it just seemed reasonable that we would eventually head down the diy path on all things liver. I am fond of pate and love an herbed liverwurst. The other day G-man arrived at home with a package of chicken livers as some free beef fat from the grocery store. Fat was tucked quickly away into the freezer for some Mennonite sausage I want to try and the chicken livers have become a gateau. The recipe came from a book called French Provincial Cooking, given to me by my long-ago friend Maureen who was downsizing. After a quick google, I realize that it is a pretty basic recipe and can be spiced up by the addition of some cognac and more or less herbs/spices.


300g chicken livers
75g flour (2.5 ounces)
4 whole eggs
4 egg yolks (nice cause the remaining whites became some chocolate chip merangues for my work potluck this week)
3 TBS cream
3 c milk
salt and freshly ground pepper
pinch of nutmeg (which I left out as Gerry hates the stuff)
1/2 TBS parsley, very finely chopped (I used fresh out of the garden and the winter cold hasn't yet killed it all)
1/2 clove of garlic

Grind livers into a paste, sift flour and then basically add it all together. Put into terrine (I only had a pyrex loaf pan and two small ramikins) then into a bain marie on the stove. Bring to simmer then transfer to oven at 325 F. Recipe said bake for 40-45 minutes but I found it took about 1 1/2 hours to have it done right the way through. Ger has already eaten most of one of the small ones.

For me, I would add some herbes de provence and extra garlic next time as I am not completely fond of the chicken liver taste. All in all, however, a great experiement. I think I will slice the loaf pan gateau into thick slices, seal in shrink bags and give as Christmas presents along with a nice Port from the cellar.


Friday, November 27, 2009

With local wheat and a grinder how can you lose?

It has been quite an adventure trying to find wheat on this island. The local organic store brought in bags but very expensive. We had thought non-organic would be cheaper but there just isn't a supplier that I could find in Canada, so organic it is. I even tried the feed stores to see if they could get food-grade wheat, but that ended no where, until one of them told me of a farmer in Metchosin who grows wheat! Calling Tom Henry was a great thing. Not only did he have wheat for sale but his brother in law lives in Duncan and would deliver it.

Tuesday this week, my lovely 20kg of hard red wheat arrived in its thick plastic bucket. Now Tom says that its protein content is only around 11% which is less than prairie hard red....I will have to do some research to see what to expect from that.

So then the only task left was to order the whispermill so that we can grind our berries into flour. Found a Canadian supplier who had free shipping and the new toy should be here next week. I can hardly wait. I just remember Joanne's fresh ground wheat buns, how light and delicious they were!

Our WonderMill arrived shortly after the wheat and we have been grinding wheat to feed my sourdough starter and this weekend we are planning a baking marathon. I can just taste the bread now.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

When life gives lemons make......preserved lemons

Ok so the saying says "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade". But what about in winter, when lemons from down south are plentiful and it is just too darn cold to drink a glass of lemonade? Well, today I tried making Moroccan Preserved Lemons. I just couldn't watch my lovely fat lemons go nasty because I couldn't use them up fast enough.

So leafing through a few cookbooks, I found a recipe for Morocaan preserved lemons in the Frugal Gourment's Immigrant Ancestors. Recipe is dead simple: take several lemons and quarter them leaving them attached. Take 1/4 c pickling salt, rubbing some into the flesh of the lemons. Place the lemons in a quart jar and cover with lemon juice and the rest of the salt. Put on the counter for 14 days turning over daily. Refrigerate and use.

Now, I have never tried this before so am planning to make a lemon chicken dish when the lemon preserves are ready. Will let you all know how it works out. Sorry the picture isn't very good...but will have more as we go along.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

November Rains

This week I have been mourning the passing of a very dear friend and colleague from Ovarian Cancer. She and I shared a great many interests, food and cooking being one of them. Seeming to sense my despair, the weather here has been torrential, rainfalls and wind storms, leading to flooding in some areas.

In order to combat the doom and gloom I am feeling, I set about to create a few living beings in my kitchen. First I tackled, yet again, a sourdough starter. I have done a few of these in the past but yielded only an insipid slurry of wheat and water. This time, taking a hint from some other blogs on wild yeast and breadmaking, I started out with wheat berries from my sister-in-law (I am still trying to connect with a local Vancouver Island producer of wheat so I can have my own wheat berries). I ground about a cup of berries in the blender with two cups of water until the berries were completely smashes and a sweet, yeasty smelling slurrey was the result. I decided to attempt the sourdough started without sugar this time, relying instead on the inherent yeast on the covering of the wheat to get this party started. I poured the slurrey into a nice glass jar with synch lid, covered the opening with a cotton square held securely by an elastic rescued off some broccoli stalks. It now sits perking away (hopefully) on the mantle of the fireplace where it is nice and warm.

Conventional wild yeast thinking convinces me to allow a couple of weeks minimum at this warm temperature to allow fermentation to begin. We shall see. In the meantime I am salivating over the recipes at "Beginning with Bread"

Two other projects are on the go in the kitchen this month. One is my second attempt at homemade sauerkraut. Using my bean pot this time, I have shredded a large white cabbage, liberally salted it and added a little water (not necessary if your cabbage is very moist but mine seemed awfully dry). Instead of weighting it down with a plate and a stone to push out the air, I am using a ziploc bag filled with water. This method can fill any weird space and exerts enough pressure downwards to force out any air pockets. Tested it yesterday morning and a nice sauerness is beginning. I had to add a bit more salt water as the mix was very dry.

I then covered the inside of the pot with a layer of plastic wrap, put on the lid and then covered it with more plastic wrap....trying to keep out any germs that might spoil the party.

Finally, since I had a primary fermenter sitting around doing nothing, I mixed up a new batch of merlot. This time, and for something different, I added about 75g of dried Elderberries. Two weeks in the primary then off to the carboy for long term aging.

All in all, I am at peace now. My home is alive with positive energy and the promise of good food soon. My testament to Janet is good living and I know she would approve.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Marmalade Day

Started off sunny and warm today so puttered in the yard a bit. We live on a hill covered by only 1/2in of soil so gardening is a challenge. No fruits and veg, just a bit of landscaping to keep it all from blowing away. Gerry is studying up on beekeeping as that is one way of farming land that is unfarmable. We are allowed up to six chickens in our subdivision (check with your local municipal or county government to get the rules for your area) but haven't gone that route...yet.

Had some pastry in the fridge so made a blueberry pie with the last of the marble size blueberries we bought from Blueberry Hill farm last year. Hope this year's crop will be heavy and full like last.

Once that was bubbling away nicely in the oven (almost two hours cooking as the berries were frozen!) I decided to do something with the oranges that Gerry's parents brought us from California.

Now these large lovely navels aren't the perfect marmalade oranges but I thought what the heck! So my aunt and I cut up four large oranges, three medium size ruby red grapefruit and four large lemons in thin strips. Smells were really competing in the kitchen by that time.

Once the fruit was cut, we measured and had 12 cups of the shredded and liquid magic. That went into my stock pot (gotta get a new one as the handles have fallen off this old thing) and 3 cups of water followed. This boiled happily for 45 minutes to soften the peels and then I added 12 cups of white sugar. I know it seems like a lot, but the pith of the fruit is incredibly bitter and it takes a huge sweet infusion to mellow it out. Stirred it in slowly to make sure it blended completely.

Once that was done, I stirred the gooey broth until it started to boil again. I kept stirring occassionally to make sure it didn't start to burn to the bottom (note to self: for new stock pot get the thickest bottom possible). In the dishwasher, two racks of jam jars were getting cleaned and once the hour was up it was showtime.

I let the marmalade sit off of the heat for a few minutes while I got the jars ready. The sealer lids were soaking happily in their pot of boiling water. I gave the marmalade a good stir to make sure the fruit was incorporated evenly (no sinking tidbits for this gal) and then filled the jars. Snapping the lids on was very satisfying. The golden pots of sweet citrus are sitting happily on the counter cooling. The first lid has popped down already.

What a satisfying day!


Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Staff of Life

Modern sufficiency combines the desire to provide excellent healthy food for ourselves and our family while managing costs. When Gerry and I visited his sister up north, we were both very impresed by her Whispermill grain mill and the fantastic buns she made out of the freshly milled flour. I knew then I wanted one but the key to this desire was finding a supplier of wheat.

I guess we could buy those little bags from the health food store but I am really opposed to paying 5x the cost for this wheat than I would pay for regular flour from the supermarket. Flour is one of our economic indicators -last year we watched its price soar from $4 for 10kg to almost $12. Luckily, long before it hit that price, we had stockpiled several bags (storing it in our cold storage basement) in preparation for more volatility in the food markets. (Rice and sugar also experienced this inflation but those will be discussed in future posts).

So we have been hunting for a supplier of wheat to grind for our own flour for about a year. Surprisingly today I think we found one--the local feed store! The manager there said our order would likely be no problem and that last year he could get sacks of this staff of life for the same price as supermarket flour.

I am in HEAVEN. As soon as we find out next week that the wheat is available, I will order the mill. Gerry will be able to bake his fabulous bread with flour so fresh that is rises twice the height of his previous attempts. All that bran and flavour really pairs nicely with our small pots of shiny sweet goodness that we took the time to create last sumer... once our jelly hits that bread, it all will be clear--this is why we practice modern sufficiency.