Along the Grapevine


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Maple Baked Beans

Somewhat sweeter and spicier than most baked bean recipes, this is a dish that is bound to please all those who love maple syrup. The mixture of spices gives enough flavour that no meat is needed, although for some a little chopped bacon could be added into the mix.

This has been a record year for maple syrup – a record that is for us in our third year of tree tapping. At this point the sap is still running, but with the sudden change in weather, I expect all will be dried up by tomorrow. Our small ‘operation’ of two trees gave us a full 8 litres of syrup, and would have been more had we not given up some time ago. This is more than required for our small household, so to celebrate I decided to splurge and add some to baked beans.

The difficulty was to choose the appropriate spices and quantities to do justice to this local specialty. Garlic, chili, sumac, mustard and bay leaves seemed like obvious choices, and I have enough experience with all of these that I wasn’t too worried about how to use them. But then I came across my asafoetida, and wondered if it would fit. I have used it many times before when following other people’s recipes without really understanding what it was. Time to do a little research. And this is what I learned.

  1. It is the dried gum of the tap root of severals species of ferula, a perennial herb native to Afghanistan and Iran and cultivated in India. That explains why I had some in my pantry.
  2. As its name suggests, it is considered to have a ‘fetid’ smell. I actually like the smell, something like mild onion and garlic, but this smell is rendered less offensive to sensitive types once cooked. Interesting!
  3. It is used  mostly in the preparation of condiments, pickles and dals and has the effect of harmonising sweet, salty and spicy flavours. It is also used specifically in vegetarian dishes to add flavour and aroma. Perfect for a vegetarian bean dish.
  4. It also has a host of health benefits, not least of which being good for digestion and with the opposite effect of beans. This should have been my first choice of spices.

In short, what I learned is that this is a very useful spice, one I should and will use more often. If you are interested, here is the link to the wikipedia site where I got all this information.

Maple Baked Beans

Ingredients

4 cups cooked beans (I used navy)

1 large onion, chopped

5 cloves minced garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup tomato concentrate (preferably home-made)

1/2 cup maple syrup

a few bay leaves

2 Tbsp sumac powder

2 Tbsp chili powder

1 tsp mustard powder

1 tsp asafoetida

1 tsp salt

Method

Mix everything in a slow cooker. Set on high and cook for five hours, stirring occasionally if at all possible. It it becomes too dry, add a splash of boiling water.

When cooked, remove the bay leaves and serve.

If you don’t have a slow cooker, it can be done on the stove top, in which case it won’t take much more than an hour. However, with my bean baking experience, I prefer to give it about two to three hours at medium low, and just add water and stir if it gets too dry.

Linked to Fiesta Friday #115, Hostess at Heart and Too Zesty.


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Paneer Tikka Masala

This classic vegetarian North Indian dish made easy can be served as an appetizer or main dish. With a complex blend of spices, mixed vegetables and creamy paneer, it is an ideal dish for experts or novices alike, either to prepare to be served.
DSC02966I undertook the making of this delicious North Indian vegetarian dish in response to a recipe challenge presented by a fellow blogger at Lin’s Recipes. I seldom feature Indian dishes on my blog even though I often do make them, so I was pleased to have an incentive to develop a recipe for my blog with these wonderful flavours. Thanks to Lin and also to Parul  at Gharkepakwan who has graciously offered to act as judge.

I am bringing this to Fiesta Friday #112 which I am co-hosting with Natalie at Kitchen Uncorked. Feel free to drop by and and see the wonderful recipes, tips and stories contributed by a host of talented bloggers.

The title of this recipe says it all. Paneer is simply a fresh cheese, made from strained and pressed yogurt. Tikka refers to the pieces of meat or, as in this case cheese in the recipe. Masala means mixture and in this case refers to the mixture of spices used.

I based my recipe on this one, but made a few changes according to what I had on hand. For example, as I am not able to buy ready made paneer in my neighbourhood, contrary to all recommendations on any recipe for this you will find, I had to make my own. Home-made paneer tends to be too soft, and therefore is difficult to mix into the sauce and keep its integrity. However, I found that straining the yogurt, pressing it with a weight to squeeze out as much liquid as possible over a mesh strainer, and then setting it in a very low oven (170 degrees F) for about an hour was all it needed to make it firm enough to cook with. In fact, it was the best paneer I had ever had, but if you can buy it, you can skip this step altogether. I also added sumac powder, not a commonly used spice in Indian cooking but one I use regularly to add a lemony flavour and red colour. To stay with the local theme of my blog I served it with rice made with maple sap, the delicate sweetness of which complements the spiciness of the masala beautifully.

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Home-made paneer

Paneer Tikka Masala

Ingredients for the Marinade

250 grams paneer, cut into cubes

2 medium sweet peppers (I used red)

1 small zucchini

5 Tbsp yogurt

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground fresh ginger

1 tsp finely grated fresh garlic

1 tsp. garam masala

1 tsp ground coriander seeds

1/4 tsp freshly ground  nutmeg

1/2 tsp cornflour

oil for grilling

Ingredients for the gravy

oil for frying

1 large onion

2 Tbsp thick tomato paste (preferably  home-made)

1 Tbsp grated ginger

1 Tbsp ground garlic

1 Tbsp garam masala

1 tsp chili powder

1 Tbsp sumac powder

1 tsp ground coriander

pinch of methi (dried fenugreek)

1/2 cup water or stock

Method

Mix the yogurt, spices and flour in a bowl. Cut the peppers into roughly 1 inch squares, cut the zucchini into 1/4 inch rounds and place in a casserole with the paneer. Pour over this the marinade, stir to coat and allow to sit for at least an hour or up to 24 hours.

Meanwhile, to make the gravy, chop the onion very finely. A food processor is useful for this process. Fry it gently in about 2 Tbsp of oil until it softens. Add the ginger and garlic and fry for another 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and spices and continue to cook, stirring frequently until the mixture is quite dry and is like a thick paste which will come away from the sides of the pan. Add the water and cook a further 2 minutes, stirring to make sure it doesn’t stick. Set aside until the vegetables and paneer are ready to be added.

Place the marinated vegetables and panner on a grilling sheet and drizzle with a little oil. Place under a broiler and when they start to sizzle, turn them over and broil until they look cooked and slightly browned. The time this takes will depend on your broiler and proximity to the heat. I found it took about 5 minutes per side, but keep a close watch on it.

Mix all this with the gravy, reheat and serve it as an appetizer or a main dish with rice or flatbreads.

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Gravy mixture before adding water

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Grilled vegetables and paneer

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Paneer Tikka Masala with maple sap rice

 

 

 

 

 


20 Comments

Elk Filet with Highbush Cranberry Wine Sauce

As I continue to learn about the abundance and variety of wild edibles in our area, it is only reasonable that this knowledge should affect my cooking and menu planning. What better time to develop a really special recipe with some of the under-used ingredients than a holiday like Christmas. There’s no rule saying I have to prepare a turkey, or anything else for that matter, so for our celebration I bought elk filets wrapped in elk bacon – an easy option and very elegant. All I needed was a marinade and sauce to make this lean meat worthy of a special occasion.

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While foraging in my freezer, I found some cranberry sauce I made some time ago. I thought the acidity of this sauce would be perfect for a marinade, and the tartness of the berries a perfect accompaniment for wild game of any sort. From there on my task as chef was easy.

For marinading six filets, I combined 1/4 cup oil, 2 tsp. highbush cranberry sauce, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 2 cloves garlic and 1/4 cup red wine.

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Pour the marinade over the meat and allow to stand about three hours, flipping half way through. Meanwhile, for the sauce, melt 1 Tbsp each of butter and olive oil, 1/2 cup red wine, 2 Tbsp highbush cranberry sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer the mixture until it has reduced by half, then add 1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water. Heat until cooked through and thickened.

Fry the filets in a hot skillet for about 2 minutes on each side (depending on thickness and how you prefer them) and spoon the sauce over them.

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Served with brussels sprouts roasted with sumac powder, potatoes mashed with olive oil, garlic and parsley, it was a deliciously local and refined mix of flavours.

Linked to Fiesta Friday #100

 


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G&T Coriander Walleye

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This recipe was inspired by two recent events. First, I had just made the most delicious tonic water ever which I was keen to use in as many ways as possible. The other is that I was the lucky winner of a draw for a fabulous cookbook, Pimp My Rice by Nisha Katona thanks to a lovely blogger, Anjana, author of At the Corner of Happy and Harried. She wrote a very compelling review in this post which will help explain my pure delight in receiving this collection of varied and inspirational recipes using every kind of rice I know of for sweet, savoury and everything in between.

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To add my own thoughts on this book, it appeals to me for two main reasons – its sheer diversity of origins and the use of what I consider to be really good ingredients and flavours. To wit, I have found some of my old favourites, like Indonesian gado gado, Portuguese piri piri and kedgeree from the British raj – all pimped in such a way it is like discovering these dishes for the first time. There are others not so familiar but which I look forward to trying such as Fig Anise Dribbled Pancakes, Hibiscus Lime Sherbet and Tea Steeped Chickpea Pot to name just a few.

As for the ingredients, I was particularly drawn to those I have in abundance in my garden but am still looking for ways to use  – lavender, rose, juniper berries, rhubarb and capers. Also lots of great spices and no shying away from using beer, wine or even the hard stuff for flavouring in a few recipes. Definitely my kind of cookbook!

My original intention was to follow her recipe for Gin and Tonic Coriander Salmon and follow it rigorously, using of course my own tonic water just because I can. However, at this time of year my freezer is pretty full and I try to limit myself to using what I already have, so the one thing I did differently was to use some local walleye (aka pickerel) which I had picked up at a gas station just a week ago. In the recipe I write, I will just refer to fish fillets, and as long as it is a good firm variety, you can pick your own, although the salmon is rather pretty!

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The other change I made in the recipe was to omit the ‘tenting’ in foil. Instead, I baked it in a shallow, covered casserole dish which worked just fine.

G&T Coriander Walley

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

1/2 tsp olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 juniper berries, crushed

grated zest and juice of 1 1/2 limes

2 tsp coriander

1 tsp chopped coriander leaves, plus extra to serve

3 tbsp gin

5 tbsp tonic water

1 – 1.5 lbs fish fillets (original recipe calls for 4 x 4 oz salmon fillets)

1 lime, cut into wedges

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the oil, garlic, juniper berries, lime zest and juice, ground coriander and leaves and gin and tonic in a mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper. Put the fillets, flesh side down, in the mixture and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. (I did about 20)

Preheat the oven to 200 C or 400 F/ or Gas 6.

Select a shallow heatproof casserole. Transfer the fish and the juices to the casserole and bake for 15-20 minutes.

Spoon the cooked basmati rice around the sides of this into the juices. Sprinkle with a few coriander leaves, grind a little black pepper over the top and dot with lime wedges to serve.

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Her recipe for the rice is exactly the way I make it. Rinse and drain 1 cup of rice and put it in a heavy based saucepan with 2 cups of water (a little salt is optional). Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until the rice has absorbed almost all the water. Clamp a lid on the pan, remove from the heat and leave for 10 minutes.

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Linked to Fiesta Friday #97


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Stinging Nettle Ravioli with Sage and Black Garlic Butter

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When I first figure out how to use a wild edible from the garden, I like to keep it simple to see how the particular ingredient tastes and feels. I have done enough with stinging nettles that this time I wanted to make something a little more complex – and find a way to use up my prolific patch before it all goes to seed. Stinging nettle tastes very much like spinach, and loses its sting once cooked. It can be used in any recipe calling for cooked spinach, and vice versa.

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I’ve made plenty of pasta dishes before, but never ravioli, so that seemed a good place to start. I also wanted to make a sauce to serve with it, one which is not so substantial that it would take over the dish, but with enough flavour to jazz it up. Enter black garlic – an ingredient I have been wanting to make myself but not sure that with the risk it involves it would be worth using the amount of electricity required. I did pick up a package of black garlic when in Spain, so this seemed a good time to try it out. Mixed with sage, butter and a little lemon sounded like a plan. Some might like a little grated parmesan on the finished product, but hardly necessary.

If you are not familiar with black garlic, it is garlic which has been cured over several weeks at a warm temperature, and then aged further. The cloves turn a definite black, are soft and gooey in texture, and have a wonderful smokey, sweet flavour which works in just about any dish calling for garlic. These came in a box of two heads with the papery skin all in tact. It is expensive though, and if you don’t have it, roasted garlic would be a good substitute.

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For the pasta

2 cups flour (I used whole wheat)

3 eggs

2 Tbsp cooked, pureed sweet potato (optional)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp olive oil

1 beaten egg

Make a well in the flour salt mixture and pour in the sweet potato, eggs and oil. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until it is well combined. Wrap it up in a wet cloth or plastic and refrigerate for at least a half hour or up to 24. Bring it back to room temperature before rolling it.

Using about one-fifth of the dough at a time, form it into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick then roll it out either with a rolling pin or a pasta machine. Either way, roll it several times. I started with the widest setting on the machine, folded the pasta over and passed it through again, repeating this several times. As I worked down to the thinnest setting, I folded the pasta in two each time, aiming for as rectangular a shape as I could get. This repeated rolling makes the pasta stronger and less likely to rip, even when very thin.

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Remember to keep the dough you are not using covered so it does not dry out.

Place the rectangle on a board and cut in two. Brush the edges of one sheet with the beaten egg, including around where you expect to cut the ravioli. I brushed all four edges, one line down the centre lengthwise, and then across according to the size I wanted. Bigger is less work!

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Fill the centres with a heaping tsp. of filling and place the other sheet on top. Press down around the edges of each piece and cut. Fork the edges to secure. Set on a floured surface and cover with a damp towel while you do the remainder.

For the Filling

1 1/2 cups cooked, chopped stinging nettles

1 Tbsp dried onion flakes

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Squeeze any excess water out of the nettles. Mix all the ingredients.

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For the Sauce

1/2 cup butter

one handful of fresh sage leaves

3 cloves black garlic, chopped

1/2 tsp salt

a splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice or a lemon zest

Melt the butter in a saucepan. When it starts to foam, add the leaves and garlic. Continue to cook about 3 minutes. Add the salt and lemon.

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Cook the ravioli in boiling salted water, about five minutes. Serve with a little of the butter sauce drizzled over it.

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The sauce with the sage and black garlic is a winner. I will either have to cure my own, or maybe travel back to Spain for more, depending on which is more cost-effective.

I apologize for my late arrival at Fiesta Friday this week, but hope there are enough party-goers around to give this 3-part recipe a try.


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Escabeche de Walleye

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I don’t fish myself, but luckily I do have a source of locally caught walleye or pickerel. As I have been craving an escabeche for some time, my most recent ‘catch’ was used to make this dish of Spanish origin but also very popular in Latin America since the days of the ‘conquista’.

Originally escabeche was a way to preserve fish. Marinated in a mixture of wine and vinegar along with vegetables and spices which were removed after cooking, the fish could be kept for several weeks. Nowadays the ingredients are much the same, but it is not used so much as a method of preserving. However, the wine and vinegar keep working their magic and the dish improves after resting a couple of days. It can be served hot or cold, so is an ideal dish for the hot summer months.

Some recipes call for frying the fish first. I broiled it after coating with a fine spray of oil. This was not so much to save on calories as it was to avoid the hassle of frying and the fish losing its integrity.

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Many vegetables would go well with this dish, but I limited it to carrots and red onions for their colour. I used one habanero, although when I took the photo I intended to use two. One was nicely spicy but if you like it hot …

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This dish has an acidic flavour from the vinegar, and is also spicy, although feel free to up or down the heat according to your preference. I added mustard, cumin and sumac which are not traditionally used but worked very well with the fish.

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Escabeche


Ingredients

olive oil for frying

1 kg walleye fillet or other white fish

2 red onions, sliced

4 carrots, cut in thick strips

1 or 2 hot peppers, seeded and chopped

3-4 cloves garlic

1 tsp cumin

1 Tbsp sumac (optional)

1 tsp chili pepper

1 Tbsp Dijon style mustard

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup dry white wine

salt and pepper to taste

hard boiled eggs and black olives to garnish

Method

Place the fillets on a broiling tray, spray lightly with oil and broil about 8 inches from the broiler until cooked through. Set aside.

Fry the onions in oil until soft. Add the garlic and chopped chilis and fry another two minutes. Add the dry spices and fry another minute. Add the mustard, vinegar and wine and blend completely. Add the salt, pepper and olives, cover, turn the heat to low and continue to cook until the carrots are tender.

Pour the vegetables over the fish in a casserole. You may put it in the oven and reheat for about twenty minutes if serving hot, or let it cool and serve at room temperature. Place a few halves of boiled eggs on top.

Leftovers can be refrigerated and served cold the next day or three.

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I am bringing this to Angie’s Fiesta Friday # 70, co-hosted by Dina @ Giramuk’s Kitchen and Molly @ Frugal Hausfrau. Hope everyone enjoys it!


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Japanese Knotweed Strata

DSC02041 Foraging for Japanese knotweed (polygonum cuspidatum) is not only worthwhile in terms of finding a delicious and nutritious food source. You will also be doing the environment a big favour, as it is arguably the most invasive of all invasives. Initially we tackled a large grove of it growing in our front garden with the lawnmower. We almost succeeded when it occurred to me this might be an interesting wild food, at which point I salvaged a few sprouts, transplanted them to an appropriate area and have just begun to harvest them. DSC02040 If you are not familiar with this plant, here are a few characteristics which should help you identify it. Where to find it: Along roadsides, riverbanks, fields where the earth has been disturbed. Originally from South East Asia it now grows in North America, Europe, Australia and Tasmania. How to identify it: It is usually grown in clumps and resembles bamboo with its hollow stems. The stems are green, spotted with red and divided by joints, or knots. The young shoots are deep red. The leaves are smooth-edged, hairless and broad oval in shape with a pointed tip and hanging from a long stem. Edible parts: The young leaves and stems before they attain a height of about a foot are commonly used. The rhizomes are usually reserved for medicinal purposes. DSC02052 As I contemplated my modest haul, I was wondering how best to prepare them. I must have had a flash from the past, because suddenly the word ‘strata’ popped into my head, a word I have not heard in decades, but am familiar with the dish. That seemed a good place to start, as it involves few ingredients and no strong flavour which might overpower it. Strata is often made to use up old bread, typically with vegetables and sausage (or ham/bacon) and cheese and cooked in a custard. I used a crusty sourdough bread, but any crusty good quality bread will do. I only used cream cheese because a stronger cheese would just be too much flavour, but a hard cheese could be grated on the top if you like. I omitted meat, and pumped up the vegetable content with lots of caramelized onion. Having tasted some raw bits, I thought it tasted like a gentle rhubarb, so used sumac and mustard to pair with the fruity flavour. DSC02049

Japanese Knotweed Strata

Ingredients 2 cups Spanish onions, sliced thin oil for frying 2 cups chopped knowtweed stems 2 cups leaves, tightly packed 4 cups bread cubes 1 cup cream cheese 4 eggs 3/4 cup cream (18%) 1/2 cup milk 1 tsp salt 1/2 tsp ground pepper 1 Tbsp sumac powder 1 tsp mustard powder Method Fry the onions in oil gently until they begin to caramelize, about 20 minutes. Add the knotweed stems and continue to fry about five minutes longer, until the stems are cooked. Add the leaves, cover the pot and cook gently until the leaves are wilted. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, place the bread cubes in a casserole in a 325 degree oven until they are slightly toasted. Mix together the cheese, eggs, cream, milk, seasoning and spices until they are well blended. To assemble, grease a casserole dish lightly and place the bread and vegetable mixture in it, stirring gently to combine. Pour the cheese mixture evenly on top, making sure that all the bread is soaked. Place in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes until it is brown and crisp on top and cooked through.
DSC02053 This dish lends itself well to all sorts of variations, but I was very pleased with it just as it was. Perhaps if we all made use of this remarkable vegetable, it would not be such a pest.

Japanese Knotweed Strata on Punk Domestics