12 April 2015

Happy Easter! A simple Sunday Roast

150405 Easter Yorkshire Puddings 150405 Easter Roast Beef Horseradish 150405 Easter Mash Gravy Peas 150405 Easter Maple Harissa Carrots

I'm a wee bit behind in uploading these pictures, but better late than never.

I must admit I was at a loss for this year's Easter Supper.  Just not really enthused by any idea that came my way.  I suppose that's why I decided to go back to basics and have a simple Sunday Roast.  Nothing OTT, nothing garishly glam, no feigned humblebragging.

It's been a few years since I last did a roast beef. I just fell out of the habit, I suppose.

Clockwise, from top left:
Yorkshire Puddings
Roast beef with Horseradish Sauce
Maple Harissa Roasted Carrots
Peas, Dijon'd Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

What I didn't photograph?  The apple crumble, but here's the just-out-of-the-oven tweet

I consider roast beef a "back to basics" food.  Nothing fancy, nothing pretentious--when sharing a meal with good friends, you don't need pretention.  Just a good piece of meat, roasted until burnished on the outside, and blushing in the middle.  Delia Smith guided my very first roast, and is the inspiration behind the dusting the meat receives.  The temperature and time are from Nigella's How To Cook.

I like to have about 250-300g for a boneless roast/ 325-400g for a roast that has a bone, per person.  That all said, I tend to overpurchase for a couple of reasons: I think everyone should have as much as they want at a feast, and really...I want leftovers to sustain me through the upcoming days with beef dips, beef and spinach salads and Vietnamese-inspired noodle bowls.

Roast Beef 
Serves 4-5 people

1.5kg (3.3lb) roast
15ml/1Tbsp flour
15ml/1Tbsp powdered mustard
15ml/1Tbsp black pepper
10ml/1Dspn/2tsp powdered mushrooms
1-2 onions, sliced in 1cm thick rounds
Water or stock

Pat the joint with paper towels and let stand, unwrapped in the fridge for 4-24hrs.

Remove from fridge, pat again and let come to room temperature (about 30-45minutes).

Preheat oven to 450F/230C.

When the oven has come to temp, mix the flour, mustard, pepper and powdered mushrooms together and roll the joint in the mixture.  Tie the roast with cotton string.

Arrange the onions in the roasting tin, so they become a trivet on which the roast will cook.  Place the roast on the onions and lightly sprinkle with salt. Pour a little water or beef broth in the bottom of the tin, to avoid smoking your kitchen.

Roast for 15 minutes.  Turn down the oven temp to 180C/350F.  Tent the roast with aluminum foil for and return to the oven for 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and return to the oven for another 25 minutes (or until the roast's internal temperature reaches whatever safe cooking range, for whatever level of doneness you follow).

Remove from oven and tent with the foil for at least 20 minutes before carving.

Make gravy from the pan drippings, as you normally would.  Serve the onions, if you wish as a side dish.

  I'm a quill for hire!

14 March 2015

Happy Pi Day: Tourtière

150301 Tourtiere 8

Happy π Day!

Given this year is a special pi year (if you don't know, look at the number below and you'll see it), it only made sense to join in this roundly delicious celebration.

How better to celebrate 3.141592653 (et cetera) in the land of math and physics geniuses than with a very Canadian pie? I thought of butter tarts (which are just little pies), flapper pie and bumbleberry pie but I wanted something savoury. To my mind, the quintessential Canadian savoury pie is “tourtière,” the Quebecois meat pie, traditionally eaten over the Christmas-New Year season.

Tourtière falls within the millennia-old tradition of pie-making, with distant ancestors traced to ancient Egypt and Sumeria. The Romans helped spread pie-making throughout their empire, and soldiers returned from the Crusades with Middle Eastern pies.  European explorers, missionaries and colonists continued to spread pie-making traditions throughout the world.

Regional variations mean it’s difficult to declare an “authentic tourtière.” General agreement among Quebeckers seems to end with the point that tourtières are double-crusted savoury pies.  The pies can be: 
  • Made in shallow pie tins or deep cast iron pots
  • Fish pies or meat pies, with or without veg or grains
  • Filled with one or several meats
  • Made with ground or diced meat

So why do I think tourtière is quintessentially Canadian?
  • According to Chef Richard Bergeron, 17th Century France provided the pie's five essential seasonings--allspice, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and pepper.
  • Quebec food journalist Julian Armstrong found British influences in ingredients rolled oats (Scottish) and potatoes (Irish), and form (the deep dish sea-pies from the 18th Century British Navy).
  • It takes advantage of regional ingredients such as pork, game, veal and/or beef; coastal variations can use fish.
  • While purists may decry modern interpretations, some newer recipes use ingredients that indicate the diversity of Canadian tastes such as meatless fillings and chicken or include garlic or soy sauce.

Click here to listen to Bergeron and Armstrong talk tourtières on the CBC. 

This straightforward recipe is very much like the first tourtière I tried -- a rich ground pork pie and lightly spiced.  Served with a dollop of HP sauce, buttery peas and creamy mash, it makes a delicious winter's meal.  And that's not an irrational declaration.

150301 Tourtiere 7
Adapted from a recipe by Julian Armstrong

Yield 1 23cm (9") pie

600g / 1.33lb minced regular pork (see notes)
190ml /0.75c cold water
125ml / 0.5c finely chopped onion (approximately 1/2 a medium onion)
62ml / 0.25c finely chopped celery (approximately 1/2 a rib)
1 bay leaf
0.5tsp / 2.5ml pepper
0.5tsp / 2.5ml dried summer savory (see notes)
0.25tsp / 1.25ml dried rosemary
0.25tsp / 1.25ml nutmeg
0.25tsp / 1.25ml cinnamon
0.25tsp / 1.25ml allspice
Salt, to taste
25g / 60ml / 0.25c rolled oats

Pastry for one 23cm (9") double-crust pie (see notes)

1 beaten egg


In a heavy bottomed pan, combine water with pork and bring to a boil.

Add onion, celery, herbs and spices (except for salt).  Cover and cook over a medium-low flame for about 30 minutes, stirring often.  Add more water, if the mixture begins to dry.

Taste the mixture, and add salt, to taste. Stir in the oats, cover and continue to cook (still stirring often). Remove bay leaf and let the mixture cool.

Preheat oven to 210C/425F

Line the pie tin with pastry.  Evenly spread the filling in the lined tin, brushing the edge with egg. Cover the pie with the top crust, seal the edge.  Trim and crimp.  Cut steam vents, in the usual way, and brush the surface with egg wash.

Bake for 15 minutes. 

Reduce heat to 180C/375F and continue to bake until the crust is golden (approximately 25-35 minutes).

Cool slightly (about 10-15 minutes) before slicing.

To help cut the richness, serve with something sharp such as
  • Pickled vegetables (such as jardinière, pickled beets, vinegary coleslaw)
  • Sauce (such as cranberry sauce, HP, chowchow)

  • Regular pork adds a richness to the pie that lean pork lacks.  If you prefer lean pork, by all means use it.
  •  If you can't find summer savory, substitute with winter savory or thyme.
  •  I prefer meat pies with a savoury flakey crust, but a shortcrust would work as well.
  • This recipe should convert easily to handpies or individual pot pies.

I'm a quill for hire!

26 January 2015

Blue Monday: Steak Sandwich and Chips

150124 Steak Sandwich and Chips 1

Depending upon who you talk to (or believe) today is Blue Monday.  It could also have been last Monday, or the Monday before that.  Maybe every Monday in January is Blue Monday.  By that standard, maybe every Monday of the year is a Blue Monday.

How do we know it's Blue Monday?  Because someone quantified it.

Look!  It has a greater than symbol!  Look!  There are uppercase and lowercase letters above *AND* below a line!  Look! There are even brackets and letters to the power of other letters!


It looks mathy and sciencey so it must be true!

Of course just as someone quantified depression to a single day, someone else has published their own study indicating comfort food is a myth.

Why don't these justification-through-quantification types use their (ahem) immense smartitude for good, as opposed playing to sunlight-deprivation and emotional stunting?  Maybe they read 1984 and thought Ingsoc was the key to Utopia.  Maybe they watched Another Brick in the Wall's conveyor belt scene and thought we should all be faceless (and docile) automatons.

It all seems to be about more Sheldon and less Penny.

Kinda makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn't it?

For those of us who have bad days and whose blue days aren't triggered by a convergence of nonsensical numbers gussied up in the name of science, the occasional wallow in happy memory triggers can make things seem better. For some people it's solitude and an aptly-chosen record, for others it's a night with a best friend and a movie with a favourite actor, and for others, it's food.

The lovely thing about comfort food is how individual it is to the person.  While many think of tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich as comforting, not everyone thinks of the same soup recipe (or tin), and the sandwich may be on different breads, different types of cheese, and there may be other things tucked in with the cheese--onions, bacon, avocado.

For me, often the effects of a bad day (not a horrendous day, but one bad enough for me to come home in a funk) can often be numbed by beef and potatoes.

It's on days like these, I want something that doesn't make me think, something that's relatively quick, and something that's easily adaptable to what I have on hand.  Sometimes it's a burger and fries. Other times it's beef fajitas.  Other times it's a steak sandwich.

I feel rather odd about offering a recipe for this as it's something I just pull together, based on what I have, or what I can find.  Here's what I did for the sandwich photographed:

150124 Steak Sandwich and Chips 8Steak Sandwich and Chips

For the sandwich
Sprinkle Schwartz's Montreal Steak Spice on the steak (for about $5, my butcher had a lovely sirloin medallion).  Let sit in the fridge until you're ready to eat.

Sauté  mushrooms and onions with salt, pepper, thyme and a splash of balsamic.

Pat the steak dry with a kitchen paper and fry in a hot pan until it's done to whatever point makes you happy.  Remove from pan and set on a minced garlic clove.  Tent the steak with tin foil and let sit for about 10 minutes.

Cut the mini-baguette in half and set the cut sides in the steak pan, to sop up the fats and juices.  Slather one half with English mustard.

After the steak has rested, slice the steak and arrange on the bottom half of the baguette.  Top with mushroom mixture, and the top half of the bun.

For the Chips
By chips, I mean chunky fries.  Jamie Oliver has a technique that's pretty close to mine, but instead of sprinkling with rosemary after they've cooked, I toss the chips in an oil and steak spice before roasting.

The Sheldons of the world will need precise measurements--weights and volumes, temperatures and times, and will whiteboard an arcane argument pointing out why what I've posted is just wrong.  The Pennys of the world will make (or get) a sandwich (like or unlike this one) and eat it, with or without chips, while listening to New Order.


 I'm a quill for hire!