Along the Grapevine


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Rhubarb Chutney

I have been making rhubarb chutney as long as I have been cooking. It is more than an condiment for Indian dishes – it can be added to sauces, meatloaves, dressings, dips and sandwiches. It is simple and quick to make, and takes care of all that surplus, if that is a problem, in a way that will preserve it for the months to come. I have not made it the same twice – the choice of spices is endless and it is worth trying different combinations. Starting with rhubarb, sugar and vinegar, just add whichever spices you fancy. Make it as spicy or sweet as you wish, and just follow your nose (the olfactory part that is).

The problem with my rhubarb is that it is not of the ‘pretty’ variety. The middle is green, and although it tastes as good as any, it makes the chutney brown. In this recipe, I attempted to make an appealing red colour, so I offer a few tips to achieve this, as well as a method to prevent overcooking the rhubarb which I think also detracts from its appearance.

In order to do this, I used forced rhubarb, a method I described in an earlier post. This is not necessary, but it did make a difference in the colour. Below is a picture of my freshly picked forced rhubarb. It really is a bit sweeter and more delicate than the grown-in-the light variety.

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I also made a rhubarb custard pie with some of it, just to highlight the beautiful colour.

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To reduce the cooking time of the rhubarb and prevent it from collapsing into a stringy sauce, I cooked all the other ingredients first and added the rhubarb just for the last few minutes.

I processed half the jars in boiling water for ten minutes, and this also had an effect on the colour, so if you want a really pink product, it’s best to seal in jars and store them in the freezer. I also used a red vinegar, namely one in which I infused red choke cherries, but I’m not sure this made a significant difference.

Rhubarb Chutney

Ingredients

6 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups cider or red vinegar

1 onion

3 red chili peppers

1 tbsp fresh grated ginger

1 stick cinnamon

3 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp fennel

1 tsp salt

1 cup raisins (or other dried fruit)

Method

Mix the sugar and rhubarb and allow to stand overnight or about 12 hours. Strain the syrup from the rhubarb and mix it with all the other ingredients. Cover the mixture with a tight fitting lid, bring it to a boil and simmer for about 1 hour. Remove the cinnamon stick and add the rhubarb. Continue to cook for a further 20 minutes or until the rhubarb is just soft but not disintegrating.

Makes 1.5 litres.

DSC03387.JPGLinked to Fiesta Friday #172

Dandelion Flower Syrup on Punk Domestics

Other rhubarb recipes: Rhubarb Ice Cream;  Crabapple, Rhubarb and Ginger Jam;  Sumac and Rhubarb Soup;  Rhubarb and Berry Crisp;  Spruce Tip Panna Cotta with Rhubarb Sauce;   Wild Berry Tarts with Rhubarb Curd;  Rhubarb Crabapple Ketchup


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Savoury Apple Juniper Soup

DSC03243.JPGThis has been a great year for apples – so good in fact that I have heard pleas on the radio for people to do the trees a favour and pick the fruit because the branches are breaking from the weight. The fruit may be smaller than usual because of the horrific drought, but they are more numerous and, even better, sweeter than ever.

The problem is what to do with all those apples. Those I can’t use right away I preserve either by making applesauce, and when freezer space runs out I dehydrate the rest. For the applesauce I cut them in half to make sure the insides are not infested or bad, chuck them into a pot of water, seeds, skin, core and all and cook them until soft. Once they are pressed through a food mill they can be frozen. The rest get peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes (roughly) and dehydrated, while the cores and peel are used for scrap vinegar.

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For my recipe this week I wanted to make a savoury dish so I did a search for soups. I read several tempting recipes from around the world, especially China and Eastern Europe, but either they called for ingredients I didn’t have or they were too sweet and better suited for a dessert. This one was perfect – a spicy Norwegian soup using juniper berries, a local ingredient I had just been collecting and drying and was keen to find a use for.DSC03219.JPG

If you don’t have any in your area, they can also be purchased at a good spice shop.

I altered the recipe somewhat, including using applesauce instead of chopped apples and then pureeing the whole batch. I liked my method because there is still some texture with the onions which I prefer, it being less like baby food. The combination of spices is not too strong, none overpowers the flavour but adds a subtle taste of exotica to the apples.

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Savoury Apple Juniper Soup

2 Tbsp oil

1 onion, chopped fine

1 inch ginger

1 Tbsp juniper berries

4 cardamoms

3 allspice berries

1 stick cinnamon

a few sage leaves

4 cups chicken stock

1 cup water

4 cups unsweetened applesauce (preferably home-made)

2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Fry the onion and ginger in the oil until soft. Add the stock and water. Wrap the other spices and herbs in cheesecloth and place in the stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Remove  the spice bag, stir in the applesauce, salt and pepper and heat through.

dsc03241Serve hot garnished with sour cream or apple slices.

Linked to Fiesta Friday #141, Foodie on Board and Food for the Soul.


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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

 

 

 

 

 


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Smooth Sumac – Rhus Glabra

DSC02836I have written several posts on staghorn sumac, by far the most common of the red-berried shrubs in this area but by no means the only edible variety. When I accidentally stumbled upon another variety, rhus glabra or smooth sumac, I was interested in finding out just what the differences between the two types is.

First I discovered that this smooth variety is actually more common throughout North America than the staghorn. It is also reputed to be more tart. Both varieties ripen in the late summer, but can be picked well into the winter and are perfect for foraging at this time of year.

The bushes are bare of leaves, so you have to rely on the berries to identify them. The smooth variety looks very much like the staghorn, but without the fuzz on either the berries or the stems. Here are pictures of both for comparison.

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Just as I was contemplating writing this post, I came across an article extolling the medicinal properties of the rhus glabra. While my purpose in foraging is purely culinary, it is still of considerable interest to learn about the health benefits of any of the ingredients I use from the wild and this article helped me understand just what a remarkable plant I was dealing with. It is a wonder that with so much of it around it still remains unharvested.

I treated it the same as I did with the staghorn sumac. I placed the entire drupes in the oven in a single layer at a low temperature (170 degrees F) for a couple of hours until thoroughly dried. Then I remove as many berries as can be easily scraped off with a knife. These berries get finely ground in a spice or coffee mill, then passed through a sieve leaving a citrusy powder which can be used in everything from soup to nuts!

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Smooth Sumac on Punk Domestics

The remaining berries still attached to the drupes are placed in a large saucepan and covered with warm water and left to soak for about half an hour and then strained. In order to extract as much of the flavour and volume as possible, I give them a second soak in boiling water. This liquid can be used to make tea or sumac ‘lemonade’ which is the way it was most often used in these parts in the past.

DSC02851Perhaps my favourite way of using the liquid is by making sumac mead, although I will be publishing another drink recipe within a couple of days which gives a whole new purpose to collecting this prolific plant.


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Tandoori Pickerel and Curried Spring Vegetables

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A dear blogger pal very kindly passed on to me some of her home-made Indian spices which I have been keen to feature with some of my own local ingredients. Although I haven’t posted many Indian recipes before on this blog,  South Asian cuisine is one of my favourites. I began to learn to cook during our two-year stint in Delhi, just before the craze for spicy Asian food hit North America in the 70s, and I have been at it ever since. It was in India where I really learned to appreciate local and fresh food, including home-ground spices which made everything from soup to nuts just so much tastier.

So when Sonal offered me some of her handiwork, I was thrilled. You can find her fabulous recipes on her blog, simplyvegetarian777 where you will discover some truly original recipes with a strong South Asian influence. Do drop by and check out her fabulous fare.

I met Sonal through The Novice Gardener’s weekly event, Fiesta Friday, so it is only fitting that I share these recipes with this week’s crowd. Our co-hosts this week are Effie @ Food and Daydreaming and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook who will be working hard to keep the party lively.

The spices Sonal sent me were a tandoori masala, a curry and Kasuri Methi, or dried fenugreek. This latter I intended to use as a garnish and then unfortunately forgot, but I did taste it and it would have made a wonderful accent for the two dishes I did make.

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For the tandoori spice mix I decided to make a fish dish using local wild pickerel, but you could use any firm fish.

Tandoori Pickerel

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 45 minutes
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Ingredients

1 lb pickerel filet, skinned and cut into serving portions

1 Tbsp tandoori masala

1 Tbsp sumac

1 Tbsp flour, rice, chickpea or jerusalem artichoke

1 tsp grated ginger

1 tsp grated garlic

1 tsp chili powder

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

3 Tbsp plain yogurt

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 tsp salt

Method

Mix all the ingredients except the fish in a bowl to make a paste. Coat the fish pieces with the paste and place them on a grilling pan in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Turn the pieces over and continue to cook for another five minutes or so, depending on the thickness, until the fish is cooked through.

I managed to achieve a nice red-coloured paste thanks in part to the addition of sumac which also goes well with this mixture taste-wise.

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To accompany this fish I wanted to make a really green curry with ingredients all from  my garden. The scapes, garlic, mustard seed and green chili are left over from last year’s crop, but the young dandelion leaves, lily shoots, and some nettles were all picked just moments before cooking.

Curried Spring Vegetables

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Print

Ingredients

oil for frying

1 tsp mustard seed

1 green chili, seeded and chopped finely

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tsp curry powder

3 packed cups of mixed greens, e.g. lily shoots, scapes, dandelion greens and nettles

salt to taste

juice of 1/2 lemon (optional)

Method

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet and add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, lower the heat to medium and add the chili and mustard. Cook for 1 minute and then add the curry powder. Cook for another two minutes, stirring continuously. Add the washed, but not dried greens starting with the sturdier ones like scapes and shoots. When they start to turn a brighter green add the dandelion and nettles, cover and cook until they are just wilted. Remove from the heat and drizzle with lemon juice.

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Beans with Sumac (Two Versions)

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Many people keep sumac powder in their pantries to add some lemony tang and colour, particularly to Middle Eastern dishes. I see it being used in an increasing number of recipes, and am happy that this versatile and tasty spice is catching on. What many people don’t realize is that our local staghorn sumac in Ontario, as well as neighbouring provinces and norther states, is the same product. It is plentiful, easy to identify and gather, has a long shelf life, and is easy to turn into powder or liquid. For information on its nutritional value, I recommend looking at this article.

It has been a tough year for gathering sumac in this area – just too much rain. The rains tend to wash away the tasty bits, so I only collect sumac after a long dry spell. The good thing about winter here is there is little or no rain, and the sumac is still good for picking, so I set off last week to restock my pantry. A full five minutes of picking off a few clusters of berries was sufficient to fill a sack to be dried or soaked.

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I have figured out a few things about preserving sumac.

First, when drying, it is simpler to dry the whole cluster. It doesn’t take any longer, and the berries are easier to remove when dry. Just pop them all in a single layer in a low oven or dehydrator and leave them until they feel completely dry, about five hours. Each cluster is made up of several small cones, so if you just pull them apart, you can easily rub the berries off right down to the centre stalk.

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The dried berries need only be ground (I use a coffee grinder) and then sifted.

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The second thing I learned is if you want a liquid infusion, just covering them with tepid water and letting them soak for anywhere from 10 minutes to a couple of hours. Strain off the liquid through a cloth. I then repeated this process with more water and the second batch was as dark and tasty as the first. I prefer this method to simmering them, which although gives a deeper infusion, will destroy the vitamin C. If cooking with the infusion anyway, this is not a problem, but when I use the product raw, it is best to preserve its full nutritional value.

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Now that I have a good stock of sumac, I will be posting more recipes using this super local super food. Meanwhile, I did make a recipe for baked beans I have been meaning to get to for some time now. A ridiculously easy and satisfying dish for the winter months, it needed a bit of a makeover to move with the times. The addition of sumac gives it a mildly fruity flavour and richer colour than the original recipe. It is as easy to make a big batch as a small batch, and any extra can be frozen for later use without losing any of its original flavour or texture.

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I divided the recipe in half – to make one vegan and the other with meat. For the meat version, I used pork crackling left over from my lard rendering, but bacon, pork or sausage, raw or cooked, would work just as well.

Beans with Sumac


Ingredients

3 cups cooked navy beans

1 cup onion, chopped

1 (or more) clove garlic, chopped

1/2 cup pork crackling (for a meat version)

1/2 tsp dried mustard powder

2 tsp chili powder

2 Tbsp sumac

1 tsp salt

1 cup pureed tomatoes

2 Tbsp dark molasses

1 cup sumac juice or water

Method

Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan or slow cooker. Bring to a boil and then simmer gently, covered, for 3-4 hours. Add more liquid if they become too dry.

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I am bringing this hearty winter dish to Angie’s 51st Fiesta Friday. You are cordially invited to drop in and join the party, with or without a contribution of your own. You are sure to meet some talented bloggers and find some original and tantalizing recipes. Hope to see you there!


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Fermented Cucumbers

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The wild grape vines this year are a bust.  Not just mine, it seems to be the case everywhere in this area. I will be lucky if I can gather enough wild grapes for one good recipe. However, the leaves are still useable, and although some of them are too mature to pick, there are still enough young ones to use for cooking.

Now that it is pickling season, grape leaves are especially useful for adding to pickles you want to be really crunchy. A few leaves in each jar will prevent your crisp vegetables from going mushy. This is because grape leaves contain tannins which inhibit the enzyme that makes the vegetable soft. If you don’t have grape leaves, a pinch of black tea leaves, or a few oak  or cherry leaves or horseradish will have the same effect.

In order to test this theory, I decided to ferment cucumbers, which takes a few days but no extra effort. To do this you will need a brine made of 2 Tbsp salt per quart of water (non-chlorinated) and some flavourings, such as garlic, onions, herbs and spices. You could just use a ready-made pickling mix, but I decided to make my own mixture using primarily seeds, herbs and spices mostly from my garden.

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For one jar, I filled it with whole, small cucumbers, a few cloves of garlic, 3 allspice berries, 10 peppercorns, 1 chopped dried chili pepper, 1 tsp each of mustard, fennel and coriander seeds, and a few dill flowers and leaves. I used about 5 young grape leaves at the bottom and top of the jar, and covered it all with brine. The grape leaf on top prevents any of the other ingredients from floating to the top. In addition, I placed a sterilized stone on top of the grape leaf to keep everything well immersed.

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I then covered it with a cloth and let it sit for about a week. When I figured it was ready by tasting, I put a lid on it and placed it in the fridge. It will continue to ferment a little there, and I hope the garlic mellows out a bit yet, but the flavour and texture of the cucumbers was perfect.

 

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