Archive | June, 2010

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: Germany

26 Jun

By Chris Garbutt

Let’s unload my old stereotypes right off the bat: my impression of German food for a long time was that it consisted of sauerkraut, sausage and schnitzel. I did learn a while back, though, that schnitzel is really an Austrian food, and have also learned that there’s a lot more to German cuisine than wurst!

Not that there’s anything wrong with sausage. Last year I attended a conference in Waterloo, and Bratwurst played a central role in one of the meals based on food from descendants of German immigrants in the region. I don’t know if it’s authentic to have it with mustard, but oh, I did not care. (Yes it is, says this site, which also lists about a dozen different kinds of German sausages among over a thousand varieties.)

But let’s not forget how important ham is to the country – called Schinken in German, there are easily dozens of different styles of making ham. Also check out this recipe for Bavarian Ham Hocks, aka Schweinshaxe.

If all this meatiness is making your stomach a little heavy, there’s always Blaue Forelle (Blue Trout), which gets its name from the bluish hue that results from scalding the fist, then immediately fanning it to cool.

A popular snack food in Germany is called Strammer Max, which is ham and an egg on toast, and is making me hungry for breakfast.

Looking for a place to try some real German food in the city? You can get your wurst on (and even your schnitzel!) at The Musket, Little Bavaria, The Blue Danube, or Amadeus.

Friday 5 – Gazpacho 5 Ways!

25 Jun

by Stephanie Dickison

It has been insanely hot here in the city.  On Monday, my eyelids were actually sweating.

One of my favourite ways to keep cool in the summer heat is to make and consume a ton of gazpacho.  This cold Spanish soup is not cooked and is often a melange of tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables and spices.

Here is a roundup of 5 (or more) pretty spectacular gazpachos to help you beat the heat this weekend:

1. Andalusian Garden Gazpacho from The Los Angeles Times (LA would know something about eating in the heat)

2. Watch and learn the step-by-step process of making Creamy Gazpacho (with beautiful scenery in the background)

3.  A lot of restaurants put a Fruit Gazpacho on their menus at this time of year.  They are incredibly quick and easy to make and very refreshing.  Here’s a fruit & veg version and Pineapple Cucumber to swoon over.

4.  Green Gazpacho is a nice change from the red, tomato-based version that we’ve come to know and love.  To keep the green love going, give Spinach Gazpacho with Shrimp & Cream Cheese a try.

5.  One of the many great finds at farmer’s markets right now are beets.  Surprise and delight your dinner guests tonight with Beet & Ginger Gazpacho or Ginger Lemongrass Beet.  They’ll be so thankful not to have to politely eat yet another beet, goat’s cheese and walnut salad!

p.s.  My secret for making a spectacular gazpacho?  Yellow tomatoes (see picture above)!

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


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


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: France

21 Jun

By Chris Garbutt

Oh, France, why do you raise so many questions? Why don’t your people ever get fat when you have such a rich cuisine? How did you become the culinary capital of the world, and what happened that you no longer can hold that title (at least to yourself)? And what is the deal with Americans? Why are they so bugged by you?

To talk about France is inevitably to talk about its food. Bread, cheese, wine, pastry. France is where you confirm that food is culture. France inspired the great Julia Child (an American who seemed to be not-so-anti-France) to write cookbooks devoted to the country’s culinary greatness.

My introduction to French food came when I was 18* (hey – I grew up in Stouffville, okay?), and my parents took me out to celebrate my high school graduation to the restaurant they went to every year for their anniversary called La Chaumière. It’s long gone now, but I remember that the waiter brought our first course on a cart – trays of charcuterie, terrines, and uh, what’s the French word for antipasti? I was young, didn’t know better, so I loaded up. I can only imagine how gauche I looked. Then it was time for the main course – médallions de filet (beef) in a rich red wine sauce. I can still taste that dish as if it was next to me now. Fork tender, and almost buttery. (Now that I think about it, that course was probably quite literally very buttery.)

Years later, I had a chance to sit with a couple of friends on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec overlooking the St. Lawrence  River, tearing off hunks of baguette, smearing them with unpasteurized brie, and surreptitiously drinking red wine from a bottle of what was probably plonk, but to my untrained palate was a perfect complement.

My one brief visit to France was not a culinary delight, but that’s my own fault. I was travelling with a friend, we were young, and mostly we ate pizza and burgers. When I go back, I will remedy that crime against culinarity.

Today I have my own favourite local French restaurant – Auberge du Pommier, where I got married, and where we still go every year on our anniversary. We had a winter wedding, and the food they served was just a perfect complement to the weather, especially the mushroom soup appetizer. And there is no shortage of French choices in the city – Le Select is still going strong, as is Scaramouche, and, for that matter, Le Papillon, if your looking for something more Quebecois. Also check out Bodega and Celestin, the latter of which had a duck confit that made me light-headed it was so good. And don’t forget to get yourself some pastries at Patisserie Sébastien, Rahier, Clafouti or Bonjour Brioche. Yes you can get a good croissant in Toronto!

French food taught me that food is to be tasted, really tasted, and experienced. Flavour matters. Complexity and simplicity can live together in the same dish. And that you have to take your time. If it’s in a field of lavender in Provence, or a cliff in Quebec, so much the  better.


* All right, I’m lying. I had tried several versions of French Onion Soup in my youth, including one made by my very own mother.

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 Friday 5 – June 18 Edition

18 Jun

By Chris Garbutt

1. Uh-oh. The world is going to have to increase its food production by 70 per cent if it’s going to keep up with population growth over the next 10 years.

2. The backlash against foodies (or foodiots!) continues, as the Toronto Star discovers. And check out this article – made more yummy by its profane (but censored) Rage Against the Machine reference!

3. James Chatto, the recently fired food writer for Toronto Life magazine, reminds us that he’s not quite dead yet, in fact he might just pull through.

4. The case for taking pictures of your food. Meh, I’m not  convinced.

5. Need a drink after all that? Here are the five things to remember about making a good martini. Sorry, Mr. Bond: gin, not vodka, and stirred, not shaken.

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: China

16 Jun

By Chris Garbutt

I wrote about China last year, when I reviewed an engaging book by a Chinese-American who sought to work with master Chinese chefs, and learn about the roots of Chinese food (and learn a little about her own roots at the same time). Nothing opened my eyes more about food in China than this one book.

One of the central storylines is the author’s quest for the perfect xiao long bao. Her descriptions of this pork “soup dumpling” had me drooling, and it wasn’t long before I went on a little quest of my own, to at least try them for myself. So Mary and I went with some friends for lunch in Markham, to Ding Tai Fung, on Highway 7 near Woodbine We sat in the crowded bright room, watching the dumpling makers through the kitchen window. When the xiao long bao arrived, our friends showed us how to eat them, using both a spoon and chopsticks. What can I say, it was soup and pork belly in a dumpling and it was great. It wasn’t even the best thing on the menu – that prize would have to go either to the green onion pancakes or the stir-fried Chinese broccoli (I imagine in China they would just call it broccoli…)

It’s just another stop in my long journey with Chinese food. But I would embarrass myself in front of my Chinese friends if I were to claim to even begin to be an expert. Besides, China’s food heritage is so rich and diverse and ever-changing, I’m sure you could write whole books on just one dish.

I’ve done a little Chinese cooking, and the highlight for me was from a wedding present – a book called Beyond the Great Wall by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. Though we in the West mostly think of Chinese food as what people eat in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, the authors of this book wanted to discover (and photograph) the foods of the people who live in primarily non-Han regions of the country. It’s a beautiful book, worth reading even if you don’t like to cook.

So to thank the couple that gave us this gift, and to try something new, we had them over for dinner and I made some dishes from the book. Here was the menu:

Quick-pickled radish threads (Tibetan)

Sprouts and Cabbage Salad (Kazakh)

Vegetable Hot Pot (Hui)

Steamed Momos (Tibetan dumplings)

I had also planned to make beef-sauced hot lettuce salad (Mongolian), but figured that these four dishes would fill us up, and I was right. Finding some of the ingredients was more challenging than I expected – the most unusual was black rice vinegar, which I actually never found and just substituted regular rice vinegar instead. Seemed to work out okay. And have you ever tried to find a daikon radish at Yonge and Lawrence? I guess I never thought of it as exotic, but in store after store, I was out of luck. Eventually I found a single one in a flower shop that had vegetables in the back. I said to the guy at the counter, “I think this is the only one in the entire neighbourhood.” He replied, “the only one for sale – I have two at home.”