Sunday, July 25, 2010

chocolate raspberry horse turds

Yup, you read that right: horse turds.

I was looking through a binder of my great-aunt’s recipes and came across this one from her sister, my late grandmother.

How could I resist?

Especially since it’s summer, it’s awfully hot in our little flat, and this dessert doesn’t require baking.

Ah, those words are like music to my ears. I have been longing to bake cookies for weeks, but the temperature has prevented me. Now, I can make do with horse turds.

I made a few changes, because this dessert comes from a time when it was not only acceptable to name a dessert horse turds, but also when most desserts included canned fruit and graham cracker crumbs. I have a certain bias against graham cracker crumbs and there is far too much fresh fruit to use canned right now.

May I present chocolate raspberry horse turds for your next dinner party? (Which will be slightly less sweltering because you didn’t turn on the oven to make this dessert.)

The brilliant thing about this recipe is that you can do almost anything you want with it. Use graham cracker crumbs if you like them. Use whatever fruit you feel like. Make a new kind of horse turd. If you do experiment, will you tell me what you did? I can envision a whole dessert tray of different kinds of horse turds . . .

And if you don’t feel it proper to call these horse turds with your polite company, what will you call them? In case I ever entertain royalty, it would be good to have another naming option.

A note: You can use either regular or gluten-free chocolate cookies. I used these because I am addicted to their salty, dark chocolate flavour.

chocolate raspberry horse turds

makes 12 horse turds

1 c. whipping cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. sugar
12 marshmallows, cut into small pieces
1/2 c. raspberries or other fruit
3/4 c. chocolate cookie crumbs (about 1 1/3 c. before they’re crumbled)

Start whipping the cream. As it thickens, add the vanilla and sugar. Whip until it is as stiff as whip cream gets.

Use a bit of whip cream to coat your fingertips, and pull apart the marshmallow pieces. Throw them in and stir to coat them as you try to keep them relatively separate. Refrigerate for one hour.

In the meantime, wash and pat your raspberries dry. Put them in the fridge to stay cool, too.

Grind your cookie crumbs in a food processor, if necessary. (If you don’t have a food processor, put them in a plastic baggie and mash them with the heels of your hands.)

Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or wax paper.

Once the whip cream and marshmallow mixture has been in the fridge for an hour, take it out and carefully fold in the raspberries.

Plop spoonfuls onto your prepared cookie sheet. Use another spoon to liberally sprinkle cookie crumbs over their tops. Refrigerate for 3 hours.

Use a spatula to lift each horse turd onto a plate. Eat with a spoon or dessert fork. Stay cool.

Friday, July 16, 2010

minestrone with summer herbs

This is a pantry soup, but also a herb garden soup.

Here’s how I made it: I looked in my cupboards and fridge, and then wandered out to the back deck to pick some herbs.

What? Those directions aren’t detailed enough for you?

They are in the spirit of minestrone, I think. Minestrone is an Italian soup that’s meant to be a jumble of veggies and beans and, sometimes, pasta.

Luckily, I made some notes as I went, so I can recreate this particular minestrone again. Although the flavour will always change, depending on which herbs are in season.

I am so proud of my eclectic little herb garden this year. For this soup, I used golden creeping marjoram, curly parsley, garlic chives, pineapple sage and spicy basil. You can use almost any herb you like: fresh or dry, depending on the season.

A note: I like to slice garlic instead of mince it. Garlic slices don’t burn as quickly as minces, especially when you’re sautéing them with onion for quite a while.

minestrone with summer herbs

makes 6 to 8 bowls

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
1 onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, sliced
4 stalks celery and any attached leaves, sliced
9 c. chicken stock
1/4 - 1/2 c. fresh herbs or 1 – 2 tbsp. dried herbs (a combination of marjoram, parsley, chives, sage, basil, oregano and coriander)
3 carrots, sliced
3 medium tomatoes, diced
19 fl. oz. (540 ml) canned white kidney beans, rinsed and strained
1 c. dry pasta
a rind of parmesan and parmesan to sprinkle on top

Heat a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil and butter. Once it has melted together, add the onion, garlic and celery. Sauté until the onion has softened, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the stock, herbs, carrots, tomatoes and parmesan rind. Bring to a boil.

Simmer until the vegetables are almost tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Add the beans and simmer another 10 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, boil your pasta in a separate pot. Cook until it’s al dente. Strain.

Once the vegetables in the soup are done, throw in the pasta and add salt and pepper to taste.

Fish out the parmesan rind. (It should resemble melting rubber at this point.)

Serve with freshly grated parmesan to sprinkle on top.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

a bowl full of jelly

As long as I can remember, loganberry jelly has been my favourite.

I could only have it in the summer and at Christmas time when we went to Vancouver Island to visit my grandparents.

My grandma always had loganberry jelly in tiny baby food jars. (She and granddad liked them in small jars so they could eat different jellies and jams more often.)

My family gawked as I spread extremely thick layers of loganberry jelly on my toast every morning. But I was in heaven, so they let me be.

The loganberry is a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry. Apparently, my great-grandfather planted this loganberry. I’m guessing that would put it somewhere in the 1920s or 1930s.

That loganberry is still growing, on the edge of my grandparents' old garden outside of Courtenay. I visit it when I go up to see my uncle and aunt and cousins who still live on that land. These days, it only produces a few berries, but I still get pretty excited about it.

I know how to make my own loganberry jelly now, so I can have it year-round. My great-aunt Marjorie, my grandma’s sister, learned this jelly recipe from her mother. Marjorie taught me how to make it a few years after my grandma passed away.

This year, my husband and I picked berries and made jelly with our friends Catherine and Guthrie.

We boiled and strained and listened to records and boiled some more . . .

By midnight, we had this gorgeous, ruby red jelly. It tastes as good as it looks.

A note: This recipe looks inexact, but that’s only because you never know how much juice you have until you strain it. Once you strain it, the recipe becomes very exact. Read through the whole recipe first, and you'll have a sense of how much sugar and pectin you’ll need.

loganberry jelly
or raspberry or blackberry jelly

powdered pectin

Pour the loganberries into a giant pot. Add just enough water to come about halfway up to the height of the loganberries in the pot. (For raspberry jelly, you can add enough water to almost cover the raspberries.)

Bring to a boil, stirring every so often. Simmer until the berries are mushy and their juice is coming out, about half an hour.

While they are simmering, set up your straining station. Our family tradition goes like this: balance a broom handle across two chairs, which are back to back. Leave enough room for a giant bowl to sit on the floor in between the chairs. Cover the floor in between the chairs with newspaper to catch any splatters. Place the giant bowl on the newspaper.  Above the giant bowl, use the cheesecloth to make a sling that is at least three layers of cheesecloth thick. Knot the cheesecloth onto the broom handle twice. The empty cheesecloth sling then sits suspended over the bowl, ready for your berry mixture.

Once the berries are done simmering, very carefully pour or ladle them into the sling. (It’s good to have someone helping you at this point.) Leave them to drip for one to twelve hours.

Once the juice has dripped through, throw out the cheesecloth sling with its dried-up berries. Measure the juice as you return it to the pot.

Look at your pectin instructions and stir in the amount of pectin you need for the amount of juice you have. (For example, we had 16 cups of juice and used 4 packages of pectin.) Bring the juice to a boil.

While you’re waiting for the juice to boil, measure one cup of sugar for each cup of juice into a bowl. Once the juice is boiling, pour in the sugar and stir often. Bring it back to a rolling boil. Boil for 4 minutes. (For raspberry jelly, only boil 1 minute.)

Pour into sterilized jars and can.

Friday, July 2, 2010

honey orange cream

Cream cheese.

I love you, but sometimes I neglect you.

I pick you out, I bring you home, I use three tablespoons of you for a recipe, and then I desert you in the wilds of the fridge.

I let you get pushed farther and farther in, until you are finally wedged against the back, hidden behind jars of peanut butter and a more interesting jam.

But I want to change our relationship. I don’t want you to languish in the back of the fridge until you’ve reached your best-before date. I want to appreciate every last spoonful of you.

Will you trust me to change my ways? Because I’ve created this honey orange cream just for you. I can whip it up easily on a Saturday morning, while the crepes are cooking, the coffee beans are grinding, the bacon is sizzling, and the blueberries are bubbling.

You are so rich and creamy in this sauce, so essentially perfect for crepes or waffles or pancakes. Please, trust me again.

A note: You can easily adapt this recipe to whatever amount of cream cheese you have left over in the fridge. I’m sure you could also use lemon or even grapefruit instead of orange zest. The cream is very rich – a little goes a long way towards breakfast happiness.

honey orange cream

serves 4 to 6

4 oz. (125 g.) cream cheese
zest of half an orange
2 tbsp. milk
1 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. vanilla

Scrape the cream cheese, add the orange zest and pour the milk into a small pot on medium-low heat.

Stir every so often as it warms up and the cream cheese softens to mix with the milk. Turn the heat down to low.

Stir in the honey and vanilla. Stir often until it is runny enough to dribble over your breakfast fare.