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The G20 Series:United Kingdom

27 Jun

by Stephanie Dickison

I am half British, so it makes sense that I get to write this post.

Though it took me awhile to appreciate the food.  I mean, it can seem a bit boiled and gray, especially for my Mom, Grandma and Great Grandma.  They didn’t have Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey or my own personal hero, Nigel Slater, to help them along.

They also didn’t have the immense ingredients available to them.  In fact, my Grandmother and to this day my Mom still has a bit of the rationing mentality leftover.  You should see the cans piled up at my parent’s place.  There are just some things that tattoo themselves on you.  Having enough cans to survive on for a good year or two is my Mom’s ink of choice.

Growing up, I never had Marmite or trifle, but I did occasionally have Bubble & Squeak and lots of Liver & Onions (which I love and which is hugely popular in the UK).

Strangely enough, the most popular food in the UK is curry, thanks to the vast Indian population.  And high end food is what you’ll get when eating out**, aside from the fish and chip shops.

The most confusing part of British food perhaps, is the terminology:

Fries are chips, and potato chips are crisps.  A popsicle is a lolly, bangers are sausages and rasher is bacon.  And just to confuse our Texas friends, biscuits are not those breakfast ones that you cover in gravy every morning, but cookies.  They call shrimp prawns and rutabagas swedes.

And that’s just a few of them.

Beans on Toast is comforting to me in the way that I think most people feel comforted by ice cream or a glass or warm milk.  It makes me think of my Mom and how she’s spent her whole life loving me unconditionally.

The recipe above is not how my Mom made it.  I think she took a can of baked beans, heated them up in a pan, while she made whole wheat toast and then poured the beans on top.

See?  Food doesn’t have to be fancy to be good.

** When in the UK, say take away instead of take out.  You’ll save yourself a lot of time and trouble…

The G20 Series: Turkey

24 Jun

by Stephanie Dickison

Usually when you think of Turkey, you think of  Turkish Coffee.

I think the perception is that it is similar to Greek coffee in that it is strong, as well as thick.

Nope, just thick.  Turks get their caffeine from tea, funnily enough.

Here in Toronto, many Turkey dishes are readily available – Doner Kebap, Koftes, Baklava, Borek (flaky pies filled with meat, cheese or potatoes) – but I am fascinated by one of their breads called Pide. It looks like a cross between a french loaf and pita bread.

Here is a Turkish Pide Bread Recipe from Epicurean.com.

Ingredients:

4 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup warm water

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

3 1/2 cups bread flour

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon lukewarm water

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Nigella seeds and/or sesame seeds

Directions:

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in warm water and let stand in a warm place for 10 minutes, until frothy. Stir in the flour, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise 30 minutes.

To finish the dough, put the flour in a large bowl, made a well in the center, and put in the sponge, salt, olive oil, and lukewarm water. Gradually work in the flour to make a soft and sticky dough. Knead the dough on a floured surface for 15 minutes. The dough will be very sticky at first, but as you knead, it will gradually cease to stick to your hands. You should have a damp and very springy dough that will offer no resistance to kneading. Put the dough in a buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise 1 hour, until well swollen.

You can refrigerate the dough at this point until you are ready to use it. To shape the pide, divide the dough into 2 pieces and shape each into a ball. Cover with a towel and let rest 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 550 degrees, and heat the quarry tiles 30 minutes before baking. Flatten one piece of dough slightly. Wet your hands, press and enlarge the dough outward into a circle. Stretch out the circle, pressing hard, particularly with the sides of your hands.

When the dough is stretched to a 10-inch circle, paint it generously with egg. Using the sides of your hands, mark a border 2 inch wide all around the edge. Dip your fingertip in egg; holding your hands above the circle, 4 fingertips pointing down, mark 4 horizontal rows of indentationsparallel to each other with your fingertips, staying within the border. Rotate the circle halfway (180 degrees) and mark 4 rows of indentations parallel to each other and perpendicular to the previous rows. Let your fingertips go down deep, stopping short of piercing the dough. Sprinkle a wooden paddle with some flour. Lift the pide, holding it at both ends, and stretch it into an oval shape while placing it over the paddle.

How it should measure approximately 9 by 15 inches. Make sure it is well brushed with egg and sprinkle it with some nigella seeds or sesame seeds. Slide it gently onto the hot tiles and bake 6 to 8 minutes. As it comes out of the oven, keep it in the folds of a towel. Repeat with the remaining dough. Pide will be at its best fresh from the oven, but can be reheated in foil if necessary.

Makes two large loaves.

Binnur’s Turkish Cookbook has a recipe for Spinach Pide, which is making me drool all over my keyboard.

Here are some places to discover Turkish cuisine in Toronto:

Anatolia Traditional Turkish Cuisine – 5112 Dundas St. W.

Cafe Istanbul -1440 Bathurst St.

Champion Kokorech – 980 Danforth Ave.

Levante’s Gourmet Kebaps -1406 Yonge St.

Pizza Pide Restaurant -949 Gerard St. E.

Turkish Delights Istanbul -444 Yonge St.

The G20 Series: The Republic of Korea

22 Jun

Korean Hot Pot (Photo By Stephanie Dickison)

by Stephanie Dickison

I am not going to discuss the political difficulties between North and South Korea.  I just want to talk about the food.

On May 21st, I attended the Korean Food Products and Beverages Exhibition Toronto 2010 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.  I brought my fella and my good friend Cindy, who is Korean and was excited to see her culture celebrated.

It was not just disappointing, but devastatingly heartbreaking.  A mere 6 booths were set up and speeches were being given by various politicians and business folks the entire time.  We got ourselves a DVD entitled “Korea Sparkling: A Sparkling Journey to Korea” and a pack of dried noodle soup.

We left after 10 minutes (and that was stretching it out) and went and got ourselves a stiff drink.

I think it was so soul crushing because we all love Korean food so much.  The blend of sour, sweet, hot and salty tastes  makes for some of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had.

In Toronto, we have our own Little Korea or Koreatown, that runs along Bloor Street between Bathurst and Christie. Not only can you get amazing food, but you can watch walnut cakes being made, shop for ingredients at the many fresh fruit and vegetable markets and even get Korean housewares.

I love the many places to get fried chicken and cutlets, the bevvy of hot pots available and have you had pork bone soupDolsot Bibimbap?  It’s easy to get vegetarian dishes when eaten Korean fare, but for meat-lovers like myself, I can tuck into noodles heaped with various cow and pig parts, otherwise unappreciated in other parts of town, and Korean beef ribs, which could give some of the Southern States a run for their money.

And if you’re wondering how to recreate it all back in the comfort of your own home, I refer to Quick & Easy Korean Cooking: More Than 70 Everyday Recipes by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee.  It is easy to use and gives fantastic, authentic results.

One of my favourite new dishes to make at home is Korean PancakesThis is the mix that I buy. This humongous bag is only $2.69, I think and it will make enough pancakes to get you to Christmas!

Okay, now I’m hungry!

p.s. If you’re from the Korean Food Products and Beverages Exhibition, Cindy and I are available to put together next year’s event and do it up right – standing room only

The G20 Series: South Africa

20 Jun

by Stephanie Dickison

Probably the thing I consume the most from South Africa is their wine. Expensive, but delicious!

In terms of the food, what I like most about South African cuisine is that there is a little bit of everything from around the globe.  A little bit from the British Isles (meat pies), the Germans brought their pastries and touches from various areas give South Africa a cuisine that is unlike any other.  And gives you the diner, the pleasure of trying so many different tastes and influences without having to travel very far.

The names of the dishes are as intriguing as the flavours – Green Bean Bredie (Lamb and Green Bean Stew), the fish and rice combo called Cape Kidgeree, the beef pie named Bobotie, served with yellow rice,  Biltong (jerky) Klappertert, or Coconut Pie to us North Americans and Mielie Pap, which is a staple of their diet – a cornmeal mix.

I was surprised to learn that South Africans love to barbecue.  Theirs are called braais.  This is where the spicy sausages called Boerewors are cooked, as well as many other meats.

I don’t know about you, but this post is making me hungry.

Anyone know where I can get a Boerewors on a bun?  Maybe two?

In the meantime, you can read up on the history of South African cuisine.  It’s absolutely fascinating.

The G20 Series: Saudi Arabia

17 Jun

by Stephanie Dickison

Look, I’m going to be straight up with you. I don’t know a lot about Saudi Arabian cooking.

It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that it hasn’t really made it onto our restaurant scene here in Toronto, unless you count hummus, which is carried at mainstream grocery stores, and falafels, which is one of our city’s latest trends in fast food.

Getting  qahwa – Arabic coffee (from the Bedouins), sometimes called “The Wine of Islam” – though, may prove a bit more of a challenge.  I don’t know of one place that carries it.  As you’ll see, it’s  a little more complicated than your regular pot of joe, but a very important part of the culture.

And talking about drinks, there are no bars in Saudi Arabia because The Qu’uran states that alcohol is strictly forbidden.  You can get alcoholic-free beer and cocktails at hotels, where “bars” are located, but we both know that not being able to have a glass of wine or beer, or at least the option, will change how you think about dinner.

Being a Muslim country and the only one in the world to adhere its laws to based on The Qu’uran, pork too, is not allowed.

I am going in search of Saudi Arabian food here in the city.  In the meantime, you can read about the fascinating dishes they serve in Lyn Maby’s Food from Saudi Arabia.

The G20 Series: Russia

15 Jun

by Stephanie Dickison

I love the fact that Russian cooking includes a lot of cuisines.

In The Best of Russian Cooking by Alexandra Kropotkin, soups not only get their own section, it’s early on in the cookbook, which isn’t always the case with North American cookbooks.  I like to believe this is because they place a lot of importance on them.

I also love that there are a ton of both cold and hot soups available.

According to Wikipedia:

“Russian soups can be divided into at least seven large groups:

  • Chilled soups based on kvass, such as tyurya, okroshka, and botvinya.
  • Light soups and stews based on water and vegetables.
  • Noodle soups with meat, mushrooms, and milk.
  • Soups based on cabbage, most prominently shchi.
  • Thick soups based on meat broth, with a salty-sour base like rassolnik and solyanka.
  • Fish soups such as ukha.
  • Grain- and vegetable-based soups.”

Over at Yulinka Cooks, Julia in Wisconsin gives you the low down on Borsch with her Borsch 2.0 entry (note there is no “t” in hers).

I like the decoding of Uzbek Soup in Anna’s Recipe Box.

Schi, a traditional Russian soup, might sound a little hearty for this warm weather, but I say give it a try.

If you live in Seattle, you can learn to make Russian soups like a pro.  But since you probably don’t, you can make some of the soups from The Food and Cooking of Russia by Lesley Chamberlain, discover Russian Food Culture and learn to read Russian menus.

And on your way to Russia, shop here for your authentic ingredients.

In the meantime, Clear Russian Fish Soup with Lime and Dill sounds delightful:

* 8 cups fish stock, clarify

* 1 pound white fish fillets, sliced into 6 serving pieces (salmon fillets are also excellent)

* 6 paper thin slices of lime

* 1 Tablespoon finely cut fresh dill leaves

Bring stock to a boil in a large saucepan. Lower in the fish fillets and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 3-4 minutes–until the fish is just opaque. Carefully lift the fish out and put into flat soup bowls. Pour hot stock on top, squeeze a little lime juice into each bowl, float a thin lime slice on top, and sprinkle with dill. Serve at once.

The G20 Series: Mexico

13 Jun

by Stephanie Dickison

Funny, I was just thinking along the same lines as Chris – how the hell do you sum up an entire country’s food in a mere 3-4 paragraphs?!

You can’t.  I can’t, anyway, so I thought long and hard about what sets Mexican food apart for me from the rest of the crowd (I had to fight getting up in the middle of the night to make tacos).

Here’s what I came up with:

Mexican food is perhaps one of the most fun, messy foods to eat.

Tacos and tacitos drip hot sauce and juices from pork and chicken,  enchilada sauce bursts forth from your entree, and ceviches blot your napkin with lemon or lime juice.

Salsas are perhaps one of the messiest condiments, with the water from the tomato or tomatillo and citrus juices making it sometimes difficult to get on your tortilla chip or breadstick.  And when your  fajitas, quesadillas and tacos have salsa on them, just  know that it might take a few tries to get the hang of it and not have it end up on your shirt front.

The good thing about salsa is it is simple to make an outstanding one as long as you have fresh ingredients on hand, and because you don’t have to cook it, it can be made quickly.  The base ingredients include tomatoes or tomatillos, cilantro, onion, garlic, citrus juice and hot peppers.  Some pros say salt and pepper too, but I’ve never done that.  (Hmm, I’m going to try that next time….) I like to chop and mix it all by hand, but many people use their food processor.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is the making it fresh always trumps a store-bought one. And this way, you can make it as hot or mild as you like.  The best way to add heat to your salsa is to remember that:

1.  the smaller the chili, the hotter it is

2. add a little at a time and taste as you go

The other thing I’ve learned is, salsas vary in Mexico, depending on the region.   Northern Mexico is known for its hearty grilled beef dishes, so you want something vibrant to stand up against the heaviness.

In The Cuisine of Puebla by Karen Hursh Graber, Northern Mexican “Drunken” Salsa is the perfect accompaniment.  And she says if you don’t have tequila, an extra 1/4 cup of beer will do just fine.

Ingredients:

  • 1 mulato chile, seeded and deveined, soaked in hot water until soft, drained
  • 3 pasilla chiles, seeded and deveined, soaked in hot water until soft, drained
  • 3 large garlic cloves, roasted on a comal or griddle, then peeled
  • 1 tablespoon chopped onion
  • 3 tomatoes, roasted on a comal or griddle
  • ½ cup beer
  • 2 tablespoons tequila
  • 1/3 cup pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar or piloncillo
  • salt to taste

Preparation:

Grind the chiles, garlic, onion and tomato in a molcajete or blender. Add the beer, tequila, pineapple juice and sugar and blend to combine ingredients. Add salt to taste.

Made a few hours ahead of serving, this salsa develops a deeper flavor. Makes 2 cups

If you want to make something from the South, use a smoked jalapeño called Chipotle.  The Aztecs who lived in central and southern Mexico from the 14th to 16th Centuries, came up with the idea.

The only other thing I would suggest is a lot of napkins.

You’re going to need ‘em.

Friday 5 – Pretty Pictures

11 Jun

(photo by Stephanie Dickison)

by Stephanie Dickison

Doing restaurant reviews undercover, I take photos of the dish before me.  It quite often doesn’t resemble the plate on the restaurant’s website.

So today I thought I’d highlight some really amazing food photographers that make food look so appetizing that we drool on our keyboards and race home to recreate what we’ve just seen.

1. Robin Sharpe – If Looks Could Fill

2. Jonah Calinawan – Food Portraits

3. Jackie Alpers

4. Leemei Tan

5. DarioMilano Food Styling & Photography’s Photostream

The G20 Series: Japan

10 Jun

by Stephanie Dickison

Japanese is just about one of the only cuisines I could have every day for the rest of my life.

I like that there are so many aspects to it.  We North Americans are taken with sushi, sashimi and maki, but in Japan there are noodle houses, dumpling houses, tempura delicacies as well as many unusual ingredients from the sea.

You can search for Japanese restaurants outside of Japan to find out where to get authentic Japanese dishes near you and The Japanese Food Report offers lots of pictures and videos.

My favourite Japanese restaurant in Toronto is Daio Sushi (45 Calton St. 416-260-2116 ) which unfortunately doesn’t have a website.  Daio is family-run and really authentic – there are rice paper walls and the servers dress in kimonos.

What it great about Daio is that it is not fancy, so you can go with a group of friends and feel comfortable, and it is not expensive, especially when you consider the ingredients and preparation.

They have items on the menu that many “sushi joints” pass over in favour of cream cheese-filled rolls and other Americanized plates.  Torigarage is deep-fried dark meat chicken served in pieces, Japanese style.  This is the kind of treat you would find in an izakaya in Japan.

Sukiyaki and Shabu Shabu are also available.  These are Japanese hot pots that are incredibly delicious and oh-so filling!

Your server brings out not only the homemade broth and all of the fresh, thinly sliced ingredients, but the heavy  cast iron pot and table-top element to cook it all in.  It says that it serves 2, but 3 or 4 could easily tuck into this lovely dinner.

And if you can’t resist getting makimono or sushi and sashimi, choose some of the more interesting selections that Daio offers, such as Burdock (Yamagobou maki) and Sea Urchin (Uni temaki hand roll).

To make authentic Japanese fare at home, try:

Harumi’s Japanese Home Cooking: Simple, Elegant Recipes for Contemporary Tastes by Harumi Kurihara

Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook by Mark Robinson and Masashi Kuma

Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen by Elizabeth Andoh

どうぞめしあがれ or Douzo Meshiagare – “Enjoy your meal!”

The G20 Series: Italy

8 Jun

by Stephanie Dickison

In Toronto, we have so many Italian restaurants that I could review one a week and never have to do one twice.

We are also fortunate enough to have our very own Little Italy, located on College Street from Euclid Avenue to Shaw Street.  This area of the city that became a hub for Italians back in the 50’s,  used to house many of the city’s best and most authentic restaurants, which has now become more gentrified, and as a result, offers almost every cuisine you can think of.

But each year, the Taste of Little Italy (happening  June 18-20 2010) festival celebrates foods that Italians make like no one else.

This year, you’ll be able to eat with abandon from one end of the village to the other, with tomato sauce dripping veal sandwiches, prosciutto and arugula-wrapped bread sticks, sausage and peppers on a bun, arancini (rice balls) stuffed with veal and peas, stuffed eggplant paninis, and because it will mostly likely be incredibly hot out, you’ll want to finish it all off an espresso granita.

That is, if you can find the room.

And while there will be plenty of pasta on hand to indulge, there is much more to Italian cuisine than spaghetti and ravioli.

Next time you’re out for an Italian dinner, try:

Grilled Boneless Sardines, Seared Veal Shank, Beet Risotto, Mediterranean Sea Bass, Buratta Mozerlla, Assorted Salumi Tray andRapini with Garlic and Pepperoncino, instead of your usual bowl of ziti.

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