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Spinach soup

29 Apr

spinach soup

I have two spinach soups in my repetoire – this soothing, mellow one with leeks, potatoes and a splash of cream – and a spicier, Asian-influenced soup with citrus and ginger.

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Turkey soup

26 Dec

Turkey soup

Turkey soup is as much a part of our family Christmas as the main meal, and is one of those dishes that take me straight back to my childhood. There is no other dish that gives me more comfort.

We ate roast turkey only at Christmas and Thanksgiving, so we couldn’t have had turkey soup that often. But perhaps mum froze the stock and used it throughout the year. (And she also made pretty much the same soup with chicken carcasses or ham bones.) Continue reading

Bran bread

15 Nov

bran bread

I love the simplicity of this bran bread recipe. All Bran, dried fruit and milk is left to soften before being mixed with some flour and baked for an hour.

It is essentially a baked bowl of soggy cereal, but what a difference that baking makes.

The resulting loaf is toothsome, moist and flavourful. “It’s like a cross between malt bread and Christmas cake,” my daughter said, and she’s spot on.

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Fake soufflé

13 Oct

Fake soufflé was one of mum’s dinner party staples in the 1970s, but I remember she found the name embarrassing.

As if she was cheating her guests by not providing a “real” soufflé instead of this light, fluffy, delicious concoction.

I think fake soufflé could do with a rebrand. Continue reading

Salmon with crab apple jelly and horseradish glaze

9 Oct

salmon with crab apple and horseradish glaze

Coating salmon in a sweet-tart glaze before baking in the oven is one of my favourite ways to cook it.

And this combination of crab apple jelly and horseradish is probably my favourite glaze to coat it with.

Crab apples were plentiful where I grew up. They’re not much good for eating, so my mum either pickled them whole or cooked them into a lovely tart jelly.

I occasionally see crab apple jelly for sale in the UK. Whenever I do, I always buy a couple of jars. It also works well with apricot jam.

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Japanese hot dogs

5 Oct

Japanese hotdog
On our trip to Vancouver last summer, Japadog was on my list of things to do/try while we were in town.

For various reasons, I didn’t manage to eat one until we were at the airport, about to fly home. Probably just as well…

Japanese hot dogs are delicious, extremely moreish, and could definitely see myself working my way through their kurogoma kimuchi dog (turkey sausage with kimchi and black sesame seeds), ebi tempura dog (prawn tempura on rice) and yakisoba dog (“popular Japanese noodles and aribiki sausage”).

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Spinach and water chestnut dip

27 Sep

spinach and water chestnut dip

Spinach and water chestnut dip was all the rage in the 1970s, and I adored it.

An unlikely cast of ingredients – spinach, water chestnuts, powdered soup mix and mayonnaise – come together in the most silky, savoury, crunchy way imaginable.

As I remember, it was usually served in a hollowed out bread loaf, surrounded by chunks of bread for dipping. Continue reading

Lotus salad

17 Sep

Lotus salad

Years ago, my cousin part-owned a funky café-gallery called The Whip, in what was then a pretty scruffy part of east Vancouver.

The first time I ate there, I ordered the intriguingly named lotus salad – baby spinach tossed with blue cheese, dried cranberries and sunflower seeds, drizzled in a blackberry vinaigrette.

It was love at first bite, and I’ve been making my own version ever since. Continue reading

Salmon with orange-ginger miso noodles

1 Sep

salmon with orange-miso-ginger noodles

I’ve made this salmon noodle bowl several times this summer. It’s a versatile dish – equally good served hot or cold.

The orange-ginger miso sauce is the star of the show, adding richness and depth to an otherwise simple meal. Continue reading

Smoked salmon and cream cheese cigars

28 Aug

smoked salmon and cream cheese cigars

Necessity is the mother of invention and all that.

It was definitely the reason I “invented” these smoked salmon and cream cheese cigars to bring to our annual street party an hour before it started.

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Tuna melt

24 Apr

tuna melt

Whenever I eat a tuna melt it takes me back to my childhood in northern BC.

One of my first friends had parents who belonged to the Royal Order of Elks. My parents weren’t remotely interested in joining clubs, but it looked pretty good to my young eyes.

Her parents got to march in the parade in bright purple jackets. And there were social events, like the summer barbeque or children’s Christmas party that I’d attend as her guest.

But what I liked best about the Elks was going to the lodge.

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Salmon quiche

24 Feb

salmon quiche

Salmon quiche is something I think to make when I have leftover cooked salmon hanging about or a couple of fresh fillets that need using up.

I tend to make my own pastry, but with a sheet of ready-rolled, it’s five minute’s work to turn out this dish.

A superior lunchtime centre-piece for not much effort at all…

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Seedy bites

12 Feb

seedy bites

This recipe for seedy bites is actually more of a template. I pulse some rolled oats for a base, then add whatever I’ve got in the fruit and seed department.

When the mixture resembles damp sand, I pack it into the mini-muffin cups and bake for ten minutes.

They are a bit soft when they first come out, but as long as I let them cool completely in the tin, they firm up nicely.

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Tomato soup

31 Jan

Tomato soup

I haven’t bought a tin of soup in years, but if I were to buy one it would definitely be Campbell’s tomato soup.

Their cream of mushroom soup always had disturbing starchy lumps, the veggies in their minestrone were weirdly tough, but everything about their tomato soup was just right. Continue reading

Roasted tofu

11 Jan

Roasted tofu

These little roasted tofu cubes are dead simple to make.

The girls snack on them warm from the oven, they keep well in the fridge, and are a great addition to stir fries, Asian noodle soups, and salads. Continue reading

Beet, bean and bulghur salad

5 Dec

Much of the pleasure of this salad is in the contrast of textures — chewy bulghur wheat, crispy beans, juicy beets.

Adding a hard-boiled egg makes it more of a meal…

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Roasted almonds

1 Dec

Roasted almonds

Every Christmas, my sister-in-law made these salted almonds.

Even as a child, I didn’t have much of a sweet tooth, and I looked forward to salted almonds at least as much as the cherry slice, Nanaimo bars and shortbread. (Though maybe not the butterscotch fudge…) Continue reading

Pumpkin bread

14 Nov

pumpkin bread

Unlike Halloween Thanksgiving still isn’t a thing in the UK. I still like to observe it, and each year we have a Thanksgiving meal with the same family friends.

I’m Canadian and they have American roots, so we diplomatically set a date between the start of October and end of November. We take turns hosting, and the travelling family brings the pies.

Tinned pumpkin still isn’t readily available in the UK, and on several occasions I’ve made my own purée from squash or sweet potato before baking the pumpkin pie.

Now that the Internet era upon us, I can order pumpkin purée online. This year I picked up an extra tin so I could  make pumpkin bread. Continue reading

Bloody Caesar

31 Jul

Bloody Caesar

If Canada had a national cocktail, it would be the Bloody Caesar.

It was invented in 1969 by a Calgary restaurateur with the conviction that the flavours of clam and tomato could make a great drink. Unlikely as it sounds, he was right…;-) Continue reading

Avocado-tuna boats

19 Jul

Avocado tuna boats

Avocado-tuna boats are a longstanding lunchtime favourite around here.

The tuna filling is entirely flexible, varying with the contents of the fridge and preferences of my lunch companions.

Radish can stand in for celery, fresh tomatoes for sundried, green onion for red, sliced olives for capers…

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Mum’s potato salad

11 Jul

Mum's potato salad

This is the potato salad I grew up eating. A sunshine-yellow mixture of potatoes and hard-boiled eggs, tangy with mustard and thick enough to spackle a wall.

The kind of potato salad that was served with a scoop and landed with a thud, compromising your precariously loaded paper plate. The potato salad of every barbeque, picnic and potluck dinner I ever attended.  Continue reading

Fruit pizza

27 Jun

fruit pizza

What I knew as fruit pizza growing up I recognise to be a pretty standard fruit tart.

Maybe it’s because the biscuit base was cooked in a pizza pan? The sweetened cream cheese we spread on top? Or the thinly sliced toppings (kiwi, grapes and berries rather than pepperoni, mushrooms and olives)?

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Gingersnaps

2 Jun

Gingersnaps

As a university student, spent a couple of summers working with a treeplanting crew in northern BC. Back-breaking piecework (we were paid 10 cents a tree), it involved dragging panniers of trees up a recently logged slope, stopping every couple of metres to stick a seedling in the ground.

Up before 6am after a lousy night’s sleep in a freezing tent, a bone-jarring ride in the back of a crummy, ten hours relentless physical labour, another tooth-rattling ride, a shower if you were lucky, dinner, and bed.

Loading up the crummy

Ten – maybe fourteen days straight – before we got a day off to visit the nearest town. Lots of people didn’t last a weekContinue reading

Cabbage dill slaw

25 May

 

Cabbage dill slaw

I’ll often throw together a quick cabbage salad to serve with a sandwich or jacket potato. When I have fresh dill on hand, this cabbage dill slaw is one of my favourites.

Cabbage and dill always play together nicely. And the mustard-honey dressing is a change from the sharp vinaigrettes and sweet, watery mayonnaises that spoil cabbage salad for some people.

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Chocolate sugar cookies

21 May

Chocolate sugar cookies

Chocolate sugar cookies aren’t on the decadent, gooey, indulgent end of the chocolate spectrum. They’re simple, satisfying, and slightly old-fashioned.

Chocolate sugar cookies are firm with just a bit of give – the addition of baking powder giving them a subtle cakiness. Adam describes them as “chocolate pudding in a biscuit.”

Because they keep their shape so well, chocolate sugar cookies make excellent filled biscuits – or little ice cream sandwiches. Continue reading

Carrot cake-muffins

5 May

Sometimes it’s hard to know where muffin leaves off and cupcake begins…

Is it the method – a brief stir with a wooden spoon, instead of using a food mixer? The nod towards “healthiness” – wholewheat flour, oil instead of butter, fruit instead of chocolate chips, going au naturel instead of sporting icing?

These carrot cake-muffins don’t do much to resolve the issue. Muffin by method and ingredients, the end result is so delicious it feels disingenuous to consider them a breakfast food.

And that’s before you add a generous spreading of the optional cream cheese icing..;-)

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Margo’s martini

25 Jan

Margo's martini

With only two ingredients to worry about, you’d think it would be a straightforward matter for a bartender to make a decent martini.

But the number of crummy martinis I’ve been served over the years are proof that this isn’t the case.

Happily, we are in the fortunate position of having two good friends who are known for their skill with martini shaker. Continue reading

Eggnog ice cream

29 Dec

Eggnog ice cream

Given that eggnog has always tasted like rum-laced melted ice cream to me, I’m surprised it took me so long to hit on the idea of eggnog ice cream.

I made a batch a couple of days before Christmas as an alternative dessert for people who don’t like Christmas pudding.

It turns out I don’t know those kind of people… My guests like their Christmas pudding topped with both brandy butter and a goodly scoop of eggnog ice cream.

The pudding and ice cream combo is such a winner, that I think we’ll forgo the brandy butter altogether next year.

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Date squares

19 Dec

date squares

Each December I faithfully reproduce the traditional family Christmas baking, and each year the ghost of Christmas past haunts my efforts.

The shortbread, cherry slice, butterscotch fudge and nanaimo bars are never as good as I remember them tasting in my childhood.

The only exception to this slightly depressing state of affairs are the date squares. Continue reading

Roast carrots with pomegranate molasses

8 Dec

roast-carrots-with-pomegranate2

In January my friend Margaret sent me a copy of the gorgeous “A Taste of Haida Gwaii” by the Canadian writer Susan Musgrave.

This wonderful collection of stories, recipes and photographs documents Musgrave’s life in the islands, where she is proprietor of The Copper Beach bed and breakfast. Continue reading

Blueberry cheesecake pots

9 Nov

Blueberry cheesecake pots

Much to my girls’ disappointment, I’m not much of a dessert person. While I’ll occasionally make a batch of ice cream or throw together an apple crumble, it’s generally fruit, yogurt, fruit-and-yogurt, or maybe a biscuit on the dessert menu around here – none of which generate much enthusiasm.

So it was a pleasant surprise to see their excitement when I produced these little blueberry cheesecake pots the other day – which are essentially fruit, yogurt, and a biscuit. The power of presentation – and added sugar and fat of course…;-)

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Roasted pumpkin seeds

31 Oct

Roasted pumpkin seeds

Along with pumpkin soup, roasted pumpkin seeds are a Halloween night staple. As soon as we’ve scooped out the pumpkins for the jack-o-lanterns, I get digging through the slippery pumpkin innards to collect the seeds.

Tossed with oil and seasoning then roasted in the oven, pumpkin seeds are great to snack on while carving the jack-o-lantern. They are also almost certainly the healthiest thing the kids will eat all day. Continue reading

Beef stroganoff

9 Oct

Beef stroganoff

Beef stroganoff is one of my life-long favourite meals – I can remember choosing it for my special birthday dinner.  I recently unearthed a class cookbook from first grade, and there in all its faded mimeographed glory was “Beef Stroganoff, by Andrea”.

Stroganoff was where my love affair with rosemary began. So I was genuinely stunned that in a survey of numerous beef stroganoff recipes online, not one of them included rosemary.

To my mind, rosemary is an integral part of the dish – it simply wouldn’t be stroganoff without it. (The poppy seeds on the noodles are non-negotiable as well.) Continue reading

Ed’s clam chowder

5 Oct

Dad's clam chowder

My dad Ed cooked only a few recipes – spaghetti, hamburger mince gravy, sourdough bread, clam chowder – and he cooked them very well.

His clam chowder is as good as any I’ve ever had. The much-loved and lamented clam chowder that the BC Ferries used to serve wasn’t a patch on my dad’s version.

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Mexican layered dip

10 Aug

Mexican layered dip

Needing to bring something to our annual street party last weekend, I decided to make Mexican layered dip. While I’ve always adored this dip,  I did wonder how it would be received in London.

There is something slightly 1970s “hostess-with-the-mostest” about it. And despite having Mexican in its name, it seems unlikely to have originated south of the Rio Grande.

That said, when it is made with good quality ingredients, it is very tasty thing indeed – and it went down a storm. Continue reading

Bean salad with smoked paprika dressing

6 Aug

Bean salad with smoked paprika dressing

Having made many a bean salad over the years, I’ve pretty much settled on this version.

I love the combination of smoked paprika, honey and vinegar in the dressing, which elevates the prosaic bean salad to unlikely heights. Continue reading

Sourdough bread

5 Jun

sourdough-bread-1

I grew up eating homemade sourdough bread. My dad got bitten by the sourdough bug (metaphorically, of course), and eventually built up a little business selling his extra loaves to colleagues and neighbours. He installed a second oven in the basement, doubling his output to four loaves a day. Continue reading

Nanaimo bars

26 May

Nanaimo bars

Nanaimo bars are a national institution in Canada. I’d always assumed these delicious bars of nutty, creamy, chocolatey goodness were first in Nanaimo (a town on Vancouver Island) – and research bears this out.

Loved across the country, there was even a knockout round in the first season of MasterChef Canada where competitors had to make desserts inspired by Nanaimo bars. Continue reading

Sourdough starter

4 May

Sourdough starter

Sourdough bread baking is on the rise (pardon the pun). To get in on the action, the first thing you need to do is acquire some sourdough starter.

There are three ways to go about this. The easiest way is to get some from a “culture-d” friend (like me). You can order dried starter culture through the mail, which should arrive with instructions on how to activate it. Or you can make your own. Continue reading

Lemon bread

25 Apr

Lemon bread

What I now recognise to be a mighty close cousin of the British classic lemon drizzle cake, went by the more modest name of lemon bread round ours.

Christmas baking aside, lemon bread was my hands-down favourite out of everything mum baked. I particularly adored the way the lemon syrup crystallised on the crust before seeping down to creating that thin layer of sticky citrusy goodness. Continue reading