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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

Twelve-bean soup

3 Mar

Twelve-bean soup

I’m naming this twelve-bean soup because that’s what I called it in Canada. Here in the UK, I have only ever found ten-bean mix. (I’m not sure which two types of beans have been omitted, but the soup seems none the worse for their absence.) Continue reading

Smoked salmon dip

2 Feb

Smoked salmon dip

Hot-smoked salmon is one of the Canadian foods I miss most now that I live in the UK. It’s slowly becoming easier to find, but cold-smoked salmon still dominates the shelves.

So I was very pleased indeed to receive a stash of hot-smoked salmon through the post recently.

Aside from its deliciousness, the versatility of hot-smoked salmon is what makes it such a pleasure to cook with. Kedgeree, pasta sauce, salads, fish pie, chowder, quiche – it’s an asset to them all.

At last week’s Burns Night supper, I shared my hot-smoked salmon bounty with our guests in this smoked salmon dip.

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Beef barley soup

29 Jan

Beef barley soup

Pearl barley is the very definition of comfort food for me. It takes me straight back to childhood – to lunches of homemade soup and grilled cheese sandwiches round the kitchen table to fortify us against whatever winter weather northern Canada was serving up outside.

I read somewhere once that “Canadians eat for ballast”, to ensure they aren’t swept away by an Arctic blast when they venture out of doors. There may be some truth in that…;-)

Whatever the reason, beef barley soup is the kind of thing I crave now that winter is making a belated appearance in the UK. Continue reading

Granola

9 Jan

Granola

Granola is mainstream fare these days, but when mum first made in the early 1970s it was pretty exotic. You certainly couldn’t buy it in the grocery store.

I’m not sure where she came across the recipe – perhaps in an issue of Prevention magazine? – but I’m glad she did.

Mum’s granola was my go-to breakfast throughout my childhood. When I went off to university, Mum would send big jars of her granola in my care packages, and there were plenty of times I’d opt for a bowl over whatever the canteen was serving up.

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Prawn cocktail

29 Dec

Prawn cocktail

My mum always served shrimp cocktail before we tucked into our Christmas dinner. Now I’m wearing the apron, I’ve dispensed with the whole idea of starters. But it wouldn’t be Christmas without mum’s shrimp cocktail appearing on a menu at some point over the holidays.

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Baron of beef sandwich

23 Dec

baron-of-beef

Baron of beef sandwiches (or beef dip) has become a family tradition on the evening we (finally!) trim the Christmas tree.

I’m not one for getting the tree up on the first of December. Grinchily resisting the girls’ pleas, I wait until the afternoon they break up from school to start our Christmas celebrations. It feels sweeter and more concentrated that way.

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Mum’s shortbread

8 Dec

Shortbread

For a recipe with so few ingredients, it is surprising how variable shortbread can be. I am completely loyal to my mother’s shortbread recipe, having never tasted anything to equal it.

Rolled thin, decorated with a single silver ball, and baked until the edges were tinged with gold, mum’s shortbread were always light and crumbly-crisp.

When you bit into one, after a second’s resistance it would dissolve deliciously in your mouth, leaving that little silver ball on your tongue like a seashell stranded by a receding wave for you to dispatch with a single, satisfying crunch.

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Butterscotch fudge

3 Dec

butterscotch fudge

This year, I’m kicking off my Christmas baking by making butterscotch fudge.

I use my precious stash of butterscotch chips for two things – oatmeal butterscotch chip cookies and butterscotch fudge, and I’m always careful to keep a bag in reserve for this moment. Christmas just wouldn’t be as sweet without butterscotch fudge.

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Skunk

26 Sep

Skunk cake

I can’t see Paul and Mary being very impressed with this 1970s classic… But as a child, I was wowed by it, particularly the stripes. We called it skunk, but it doesn’t appear anyone else did – my Google search on skunk cake brought up very different results!

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Cranberry and white chocolate chip oatmeal cookies

1 Aug

cranberry-white-chocolate-biscuits

I know we’re due for another trip to Canada when my precious stash of butterscotch chips has run out…;-)

On the few occasions I’ve seen butterscotch chips for sale in the UK, they were in the specialty imports section and crazy expensive. So I tuck a few bags into my suitcase whenever we make the trip home. And Canadian houseguests have been known to arrive bearing butterscotch chips for me (and Goldfish crackers for the girls).

When oatmeal butterscotch chip cookies aren’t an option, these cranberry and white chocolate numbers are a decent alternative.

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Scott’s martini

24 Jun

Scott's martini

There are a lot of strong opinions about what makes a great martini. Personally, I’m pretty flexible. I’ve enjoyed them with gin and vodka – dry, wet or dirty. I’m happy with olives, lemon peel or a cocktail onion (though actually I think that’s a Gibson).

Two essentials for me: A great martini must be icy cold. And it must achieve a satisfying balance between its elements. Otherwise, it’s just a cold glass of gin…

I’m in the happy position of having two good friends who make great martinis. As Scott is visiting from Canada this week, I’m featuring his version here (with permission).  Continue reading

Spinach salad

20 Jun

Spinach salad

Healthy without being worthy, quick to throw together, spinach salad makes a great supper on a warm evening.

For a veggie version, omit the bacon or replace it with thinly sliced cauliflower florets. Continue reading

Hamburger mince gravy

13 Jun

Hamburger mince gravy

At some point in my childhood, the responsibility for cooking the family meals shifted from my mum to my dad. I don’t remember what brought on this change – I’m not sure that I ever knew.

Before that point, I can recall him making only two things – the occasional roast dinner and his delicious sourdough bread. Once he became the main cook, Dad brought a typically structured approach to feeding the family. Continue reading

Frozen banana “ice cream”

23 Apr

Frozen banana

Frozen banana “ice cream” is a little bit of culinary magic – just sixty seconds in a food processor to transform frozen slices of banana into a smooth, silky dessert.

I first discovered it in David Cohlmeyer’s The Vegetarian Chef in my student days, and have been happily whipping up batches of the stuff ever since.  Continue reading

Mum’s meatloaf

4 Apr

Mum's meatloaf

Mum’s meatloaf is my dad’s favourite meal, and he’d always request it for his birthday supper. I included her recipe in Fern’s Food, but over the years I’ve made a couple of changes. I doubt my dad would approve, but this is the way we like it. Continue reading

Chocolate chip zucchini bread

25 Mar

chocolate-chip-zucchini-bread

This zucchini bread recipe comes from my high school cookbook – which is quite the period piece now, with its marshmallow Waldorf salad, Waikiki meatballs, ham and rice ring and “sex in the pan”.

The original recipe calls for raisins, but after substituting chocolate chips once, I’ve never switched back. It also makes two loaves. Sometimes I’ve halved the recipe by beating the three eggs together and only using half, but usually stick the second loaf in the freezer for later. Continue reading

Chocolate pudding

14 Mar

Chocolate pudding

I remember reading about a study that demonstrated how forbidding foods triggers cravings. A group of schoolchildren with an equal liking for raisins and dried mango had access to one of them restricted.

Within a very short time, the denied snack was in much greater demand, with some children resorting to violence to get their hands on the forbidden fruit. Which may explain my childhood obsession with canned pudding…  Continue reading

Cherry slice

5 Dec

Cherry slice

This tray of cherry slice officially opens the Christmas baking season in our house. Each year, I bake a number of the treats my mum and my sister-in-law always made. Cherry slice, butterscotch fudge, date squares, Nanaimo bars, shortbread and fruit cake are the definites – Christmas wouldn’t feel the same without them.

But that pair didn’t stop there… Continue reading

Easy chocolate brownies

1 Dec

chocolate-brownie2

I’ve tried a lot of brownie recipes over the years — cakey brownies,  gooey brownies, fudgy brownies, “ultimate” brownies — but the one I make most often is this family standby.

These brownies tick all the right boxes for me. The cocoa powder and flour give them some cakeiness, and adding chopped chocolate to the mixture ups the goo factor. The tops are nicely dry and crackly, and the insides moist and melty.

Also, while I’m all for using good quality ingredients, I’m a bit skeptical about recipes that call for 400g of top quality chocolate and six eggs to produce a pan of brownies… Continue reading

Uncooked cookies

25 Nov

Unbaked cookies

I adored these cookies when I was a child. We didn’t have them often – I imagine my mum considered them too sugary to make them regularly. I even remember her telling me she’d lost the recipe, and making her usual granola cookies instead. Continue reading

Oatmeal butterscotch chip cookies

10 Nov

Butterscotch oaties

I only recently learned the difference between caramel and butterscotch. Caramel is white sugar that has been boiled until it darkens, while butterscotch is made with brown sugar and butter. I’m a great fan of both, which is why I love these oatmeal butterscotch chip cookies. An oatmeal chocolate chip cookie is a fine thing, but to my mind these are even better. Continue reading

Broccoli soup

3 Nov

Broccoli soup

Since becoming a mum, I’ve cooked daily for my own children – and pretty regularly for their friends. It’s been a surprise to me how many of these kids like broccoli. I serve cooked vegetables with pretty much every dinner, and given a choice, most kids pick broccoli over carrots, peas or green beans. Even over corn – unless it’s on the cob. Continue reading

Applesauce

28 Oct

Applesauce

I love applesauce – such bright, cheerful stuff, and a great way to reduce a trug of apples from our trees down to size. Every autumn, I make several batches to freeze for the winter. Our apples are pretty tart, so I generally add some sugar, but it’s not necessary.

I always make applesauce in a pot on the hob. My mum used to make it in the pressure cooker. I’m not sure why, as it’s so quick to make, but she did. In one of my earliest memories, I was sitting at the kitchen table while Mum was making applesauce. There was a problem with the pressure cooker lid, and she called for my dad to help. Continue reading

Tuna chowder

14 Oct

Tuna chowder

The word “chowder” has such a North American ring to it. You don’t seem to get chowders much in the UK, which is a shame because its a perfect match for the English climate and local ingredients. There is nothing fancy about this tuna chowder – just potatoes, onions, tuna, corn, dill and milk, transformed into something supremely tasty and satisfying.

This was one of my favourite dinners as a child. Mum had a big china tureen she would transfer the tuna chowder into before bringing it to the table. I don’t own a tureen myself, and probably wouldn’t use it if I did. But I always liked the way she took that extra bit of effort to make family dinners feel special. To make us feel special really… Continue reading

Spaghetti squash bake

30 Sep

Spaghetti squash bake

Tucked into the corner of my birthday veggie bag was something heavy, oval-shaped, and pale yellow. I lifted it out and laughed in happy disbelief – a spaghetti squash!

I adore spaghetti squash, and cooked with it all the time when I lived in Vancouver. But since moving to the UK, I’ve had it exactly once. When I arrived almost twenty years ago, it was very difficult to get any type of squash in the supermarkets. Over time butternut, acorn and kabocha squash have found a regular place in the produce section. but there have been less sightings of spaghetti squash than the Beast of Bodmin Moor. Continue reading

Grilled cheese sandwich

24 Sep

Grilled cheese sandwich

Mum made two kinds of grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. The first was a crappy, open-face sandwich that involved slapping a plasticky cheese slice on a slice of bread and melting it under the broiler. This was always adorned with a  little ketchup smiley face.

The second kind involved two slices of buttered bread and real cheddar, and was cooked slowly in the electric frying pan until it transformed into crispy-melty-cheesy deliciousness. To my disappointment, we ate a lot more of the first kind… Continue reading

Baking powder biscuits

8 Sep

Baking powder biscuits

My mother used to say, “use a new word ten times and it’s yours”. She applied the same method to teaching me to cook. When I was eight years old, she had me make baking powder biscuits ten times over a couple of weeks, until I mastered them.

Many years later, I still remember the recipe and adapt it to all sorts of things. I make them larger and smaller, thicker and thinner. I sometimes add cheese or herbs to the dough (cheddar and dill biscuits are particularly nice). I always save any bacon fat or chicken fat in the fridge, and it makes a delicious biscuit when swapped for the margarine. Continue reading

Mushroom piroshki

19 Aug

Mushroom piroshki

My mum would make these little mushroom piroshki at Christmas, where they were a welcome counterpoint to all the sweet treats. I have no idea where this recipe came from originally – I found it on a handwritten card in mum’s recipe box when I was gathering recipes for Fern’s Food. Continue reading

Blueberry bran muffins

27 Jul

Blueberry bran muffins

We’ve been making these muffins pretty much every weekend since I included them in Fern’s Food more than ten years ago.These are known as Margo muffins around here – after the family friend who provided the original recipe.

The fruit varies with what’s in the house. Banana walnut with a slug of maple syrup is good, as is grated apple and cinnamon, chopped pear and ground ginger, or even a couple of handfuls of raisins.

We make a serious dent in them the morning they’re baked, then add any that are left over to packed lunches over the week. Continue reading

Banana bread

23 Jul

banana bread

I think Adam must be the only person who eats bananas around here. Or at least who eats bananas that have a single bruise or brown spot. Which is why I always end up with overripe bananas sitting sadly in the fruit bowl, while the nectarines, flat peaches, grapes and kiwis disappeared around them.

I sliced up two and stored them in the freezer to add to smoothies or make banana “ice cream” with. The other two I mashed up and made into banana bread. This is the banana bread my mum made. The recipe comes from The All New Purity Cookbook, the bible of Canadian cooking – at least when I was growing up.

Now that school’s out for summer, I don’t have to worry about adding nuts to my baking. Like the nuts, the rum is optional. I like the way it works against the sweetness of the banana, and the kids don’t seem to mind… Continue reading