Sunday, December 6, 2009

Smokey Maid of Honor Tarts

As I continue on my quest to be the self proclaimed "King of Tarts" I have stumbled upon a real gem.

I had asked the keeper of the sacred book for a raisin pie filling recipe to bang out a quick batch of raisin tarts and she responded by forwarding several jewels in the tart makers crown.

There was the raisin filling as requested and a pecan classic as well as a tart that had been a favorite of mine from way back. So far back that I had forgotten about it entirely. The thing is with food that your mind has a way of dredging up the sensations and forgotten memories as soon as you pop it into the oven.

I used the original recipe and it was strangely spot on. Typically I would have to do a few test batches to get it just right but this one was pretty good. The quantity is a bit off if you use a muffin bottom size tart, but if you use the half muffin size the whole thing comes together.
I don't know about the spoon sizes for the filling, I suspect it was a half dollop of raspberry jam and a full dolop of custard/coconut filling. The times and temps are subject to the verities of altitude and elctric vs gas ovens. I started with a hot 425'f oven for 5 mi. and then brought it down to 375'f ish to finish. Total time 20 min.

Now here is where it gets interesting. I substituted brown sugar for the white one for one.
Why? I like the molasses flavor of the brown sugar and after making 5 batches the regular way
I thought they were too sweet. I also found out that you need to get the high end Brtish or Irish
jam it makes a huge difference in the tartness. And to make them smokey I used 1/2 jam 1/2 raspberry chipotle barbecue sauce. Out to lunch? I won't go on for pages about how good it is.

I have been using easy to make crust recipe. As an alternative you can get a chilled box of pie crust from the dairy section of your supermarket.
Enjoy BW

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Truck Food X

The last of the series of Food Truck Videos, Enjoy

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mincemeat Tarts

Mincemeat tarts trace their origins back to our colonial past. In the British Empire these sweet
tarts are traditionally eaten over the Christmas and new year period. Originally they did contain minced meats such as liver and other chopped meat and fat. Typical peasant treats they also contained dried fruits and berries. Even today you can find mince meat with beef fat in it.
Most of the English imported filling has no animal products in it, post BSE, so check the label closely.

Mince tarts probably should not have a top crust, or they will be pies, but a simple star seemed to put a festive light on these.

I was feeling particularly lazy so I purchased a jar of the good stuff and a box of ready made pastry and set to work.

Most tart recipes call for a 10m min 425' burst at the start of cooking. This allows the tart to
fry a bit and ensures a crispy bottom. Reduce the heat after to 400 and bake for a total of 30 min.

Allow to cool and they will be good to go. They do improve as they sit overnight.

Enjoy these treats in moderation if you can!


PS: I am going through a tart phase in case you didn't notice...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Shiitake Mushroom

I have been growing Shiitake mushrooms for close to 20 years. I was introduced to them by a friend who had seen a presentation on non-timber forest products. There were a lot of ideas floating around back then like ginseng cultivation, band saw mills, mushroom cultivation, Christmas tree growing and the like. We tried most of them and some of them took off
and were quite successful. I tried ginseng cultivation but the deer seemed to like them better than me.

Shiitake cultivation is relatively simple, uses readily available material, ( oak logs)
and continue to produce long after you inocculate the logs.

The basic process involves a few steps, harvesting the logs, inoculating the logs, letting the logs lay, and eventualy harvesting the mushrooms!

The links above take you to a series of videos showing the process of growing and harvesting your own mushrooms.

It is the final step that takes the most patience and the least physical effort.
From harvesting the logs to first harvesting the mushrooms will take at least 18 months.
I keep them in a shady forested spot this is my " laying yard"

However once the logs have been inoculated they will continue to produce two crops, spring and fall, for up to 10 years.

I hve been purchasing my spawn ( the source of the mushrooms) from the same people for the entire time. The results have been good without fail.

Their web site is
and the kits can be found here .

I prefer to saute the mushrooms in butter with finely chopped spring onion, orif I have too many at once I will dry them in the oven with the light on and rehydrate them later.

They are also excellent in mushroom soup or chicken soup with mushrooms that I am making right now.

What you can expect is a fleshy mushroom with a subtle garlicy after taste. The flavour is subtle and delicious, don't over season less is more.

I was able to harvest 3 pounds this first time for these logs.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Butter Tart Episode

It's funny how you can not know you are missing something and then it just hits you. " Hey what about those butter tarts!" "I used to love those, hot, cold, frozen from the freezer, where can I find some". So started a quest that took more time than it should have and resulted in an unexpected cultural exploration.
It turns out that butter tarts are a Canadian specialty, like so many things cobbled together from easily preserved ingredients like butter, sugar and raisins. These items are the culinary equivalent of duct tape and long before anyone had thought of Mc Giver, mothers from coast to coast were in the kitchen performing their culinary alchemy.

It's not that we didn't have fridges or fruit trucked in from California in the middle of winter, it was the fact that our mother's mothers didn't have access to these and they set the gold standard for treats and dainties.

No tea party or bake sale would be complete without a full array of exotic sweets like matrimonial cake, marshmallow bars, raisin tarts and
butter tarts. All of these basically consisted of canned or dried fruit, flower, sugar and butter.
All these ingredients were available to the pioneer and with a good recipe and a hot oven they could be melded into something glorious.

I was able to get several variations on the basic recipe, the one I have posted is my mothers original recipe. I did reduce the amount of nut meg to a pinch and the same for the salt.
Use unsalted butter and watch the time to cook as you just want the tart shell to brown.
You will burn them if you follow the instructions in the recipe 450 is too hot.
I didn't tackle the pastry recipe and used a pre made pie dough rolled thin and cut into muffin liners in a muffin pan. This worked OK but I would recommend trying to make your own pastry as it was a bit dense and not at all flakey. You can't get the frozen preformed kind here.

The filling was great and I used one whole egg and one egg white with good results.
I didn't know this was a cross Canada obsession but apparently it made the CBC back in 1991.
Click on the CBC logo to be transported back in time.

Enjoy these with your tea and a side of Peter Gzowski.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Cooking on the Road

For many years I spent a great deal of time traveling. When you spend days and even weeks
in motel rooms you quickly get tired of chicken fingers and fries. If your lucky enough to get an expense reimbursement it usual just covers part of a good meal, say $7 for lunch.

One imaginative solution was to cook in your room.
This created a few problems, blown breakers and hassles with motel management. The smell of northern pike grilling almost got my friend Doug tossed out of his room in Thompson.
While this is an extremely smelly example, it does point out the pit falls faced by the road warrior gourmet.
Having the right gear is another, while grills and microwaves are the stuff of dreams they can be a nightmare to transport. Toasters are rugged, but are really smoky one trick ponies when it comes to in room dining. More than one luckless lightman's culinary creations have awoken the whole hotel to the scream of a smoke detector. Fortunately food options have evolved since the 80's and there are now an endless variety of delicious and nutritious boil in bag foods that can be easily prepared without leaving the comfort of your Super 8.

While some selections tend towards survival rations, some are quite exotic and tasty.
The portions are small and two bags will feed you and a special friend quite well.
While traveling on a weekend journey of discovery to Vermont, I decided to cook up a boil in bag feast. Coconut cashew basmati rice, with palak paneer. Always be on the lookout for sodium content as it can be quite high on some foods. I augmented this with a surprisingly good tetra pack shiraz.

My culinary tool of choice, a Rival electric kettle with removable lid, after a lot of searching.
It has several advantages and is as versatile as a Swiss Army Knife. It is also rugged and has a stainless steel heating element that allows you to cook soups in the pot without the bag. I opted to not do this as tomatoes or acid foods will sometimes stain this type of plastic. I have used butane and propane camp stoves but they are inherently unsafe and should never be used
in a hotel room. This appliance has an automatic shut off, a real life saver if you fall asleep while cooking. ( It happens right, Louie!)

This particular kettle like device has no glass or easily breakable parts and stows easily in the trunk of the car or in a saddle bag on your scooter. The price with a 20% off coupon came to $11 .
It paid for itself on the first meal which was around $5 not including the plastic spoon I grabbed
from the lobby at check in. Coffee cups are not just for coffee they make a good substitute for a bowl.

Not to be limited to one meal, I made instant coffee and oatmeal for breakfast several days.
You could boil eggs in a jiffy. Fresh eggs will keep a short time without refrigeration but
don't pack well on the bike. You could buy 6 at a time and hard boil them for lunch.
Teas are not a problem for this powerhouse as it boils water in a flash and has a variable thermostat that will keep water warm if you hosting. A former roommate of mine Bodo K.
used to boil his bass guitar strings in a similar appliance to get a bit more life out of them.

If your on the road now sit back and watch this small movie I call " Boil in Bag"

From way out there,


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Spam Tacos

Hard to wax poetic about a decidedly proletariat food like Spam.
I have managed to " Pimp my Spam" by literally putting lipstick
on a pig. I think there is a lot of pork in this dish!

The key to this one is using a cheese grater to grate up the chilled spam.
Than you take it and fry it up in a pan with chili seasoning. No need to add
fat or salt as Spam is well endowed with those two items.
I used smoked chedar, and fresh greens to complete the fillings.

The taco shells are the standard hard shell kind.
I finished it of with a bit of lipstick red taco sauce.
I would recommend using the reduced sodium and reduced fat version of Spam.

All in all it is a pretty good taco!


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Truck Food IX

Hard to believe that 9 times we have ventured forth and 9 times we have found great food!

This one weekends in Brooklyn like so many of the midtown trucks. After a bit of black space navigating, ( the GPS always blacks out in Brooklyn), we found the Dumpling Truck and the crew got down to business. Afterwords we went to a nice bakery, Sweet Melissa's, and had coffee.
Have a few ideas for Truck Food X...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Carnival Market

This is a short video I edited. It was shot in Mazatlan by my friend and his wife while on vacation.
It is always nice to get away from the hotel and see what's really happening. Lots of fruits and vegetables. Every time I listened to this song I would think of this group of videos and once I located them in the archives it pretty well fell together.

Interesting diversion on a rainy day!


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Peanut Butter Cookies

This cookie was an all time favorite while growing up. I had the original recipie but there is
an unfortunate error. The amount of butter is actually for the double size batch.

YOU MUST ONLY USE 3/4 of a cup of butter and no more.

If you do as I did on the first few times I tried this you will end up with greasy peanut flavored wafers. The rest of the instructions are quite good.

But once I reviewed the proportions I was able to come up with the true originals.

Enjoy these classic Canadian cookies!

The recipie is here but remember the butter amount is ONLY 3/4 of a CUP
( or if you double all the ingredients except the butter you will be fine)
Also I had to cook mine for 12-15 min to get the desired browning


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Boiled Raisin Cookies

These cookies are always a favorite of mine. The combination of spices gives them an
interesting irresistible taste. The recipe itself uses a cake like batter and results in a
chewy cookie that has the texture of a muffin top.

The original recipe is below, a couple of observations:

A Raisins Tale,

I would recommend adding the raisins to the boiling water and boiling them for three minutes.
Then cover and let cool and steep while you prepare the balance of the recipe. DRAIN and fold them in at the very last step. If you add all the raisin water you will have a very runny dough.

On Salt and Typo's

If you use salted butter or margarine ( Imperial) you don't need to add the extra salt.

The double 1/4 tsp of all spice is probably a typo as one measure is enough if its freshly ground.

Enjoy this Classic in moderation, freeze the balance or keep in your cold room as they are moist and will spoil if you leave them out.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Loaf Bakery and Bistro, A Tropical Treat

A while back I had the great pleasure of spending a few days on a tropical isle.
I also had the pleasure of having tea and pastries at The Loaf Bakery and Bistro.

The food and service were fit for a Prime Minister, which should come as no surprise
as the ex Malaysian Prime Minister is a partner. I have a little video of the whole experience,
I added a little J. Blunt to set the mood. Enjoy this tropical interlude while your car battery freezes solid!