Tag Archives: food

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…

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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: 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

Chew On This – If You Had $100, How Would You Spend It On Food?

4 Oct

groceries

Opinion # 1 By Stephanie Dickison

This depends on whether I was going to use it to splurge or not.  Would I treat myself and get more extravagant, expensive things that I’m used to or would I try and get the most for my money?

Let’s go with extravagant, just for fun.  Now the question is would I use it for a nice dinner out with my fella or for fantastic luxe grocery items to keep in the kitchen cupboard for little bursts of luxury?

I think I’d go with the dinner, because getting the stuff for at home is a wee bit more practical and this isn’t about being practical for once.

As for where we’d go and what we’d have, that’s a tough one as we’re both food hounds and other than reading, writing, walking and spending time together, going out to eat is one of very favourite things to do.  Also, I’m a restaurant critic so there are certain restaurants that make not make the list over others.

I’d venture to say that we would probably either go for Ethiopian, Brazilian or Portuguese – the thinking being that we can get Italian, Japanese or Vietnamese any ol’ time, but these places are fewer and farther between.

Scott loves Ethiopian a little more than I do because he can’t get enough injera – the airy bread that you pull away with your fingers and acts as a utensil to scoop out other items.  I find it too goopy, but I love the other dishes, so I do just fine with my fingers.

Brazilian is awfully sexy and I love the heartiness and spiciness of it all, but I’m in the mood for Portuguese these days, so that’s what I going with for this experiment.

There are three things that I think are superb standouts in Portuguese cooking – churassco chicken, piri piri sauce, and the way they prepare fish.

I love that somehow the food is infused with intense flavours, but never overpowers the meat, fish or vegetables.  How do they do that?

I would go to a place on College Street that I’ve been only once, but the memories and flavours have remained ever since.

I would start with the Lobster, Octopus & Shrimp in a citrus, tarragon aioli ($20) and then move on to Grilled and Gently roasted Filet of Salted Cod with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Garlic ($38), while I’m sure Scott would get the Nova Scotia Lobster on risotto of saffron ($45).

I know I went over budget there a little, but I’d be happy to kick in the extra.  When you have food this good, it’s worth it.

Of course, Scott and I don’t eat dinners like this often.  Let’s face it – 2 freelance writers in one household does not an expense account make.   On a regular weeknight, I’m making  chicken and pasta and lots of veg, just like you

But it is nice to dream like this every once in awhile.  Especially while I’m off to make soup and sandwiches for dinner.

Opinion # 2 By Chris Garbutt

Every time I go to the grocery store, I wonder where we get the idea that inflation is low. Food prices have been climbing for longer than I can remember now. A hundred bucks almost doesn’t cover a week’s groceries for the two of us.*

But I think I’ll take another approach here. If I had $100 for one meal for two, then I could have a little fun. And the truth is, what I write today could change tomorrow. So with that in mind, here’s what I would do with that money today.

Now that barbecue season has begun, I think I would get grilling. I’m thinking maybe I would get some large scallops from my local fish market – Avenue Seafood on Avenue Road north of Lawrence. Then I would pick up some produce from Organic Abundance on Yonge Street. Perhaps some asparagus, potatoes, onions. Something in season for a salad – spinach, radishes? I would then walk down the street to The Friendly Butcher to pick up some locally raised bacon.

I would keep it simple:

–    Fry up some bacon for crumbling
–    Make a potato pouch with garlic and onions, and put it on the grill
–    Put some salt, pepper and olive oil on the asparagus, and grill that, too
–    Make up the spinach salad, maybe make a dressing with orange juice, shallots and olive oil
–    Sprinkle salt and pepper on the scallops, drizzle some olive oil and grill them
–    Use some of the salad dressing to create an orange sauce for the scallops
–    Crumble the bacon over both the salad and the scallops
–    Put it all on a plate and serve it with my sweetie

Now, that’s how I feel right at this moment. Give me a few seconds and I’ll start again. I’m starting to think that a lobster on that grill might be nice…

I think I’ve come well under a hundred here, so with whatever’s left, I’d buy the best sauvignon blanc I can find. What would you do?

* Well, I eat a lot of organic.

Monday Review: Food 2.0

17 Nov

food203

Food 2.0: Secrets From the Chef Who Fed Google by Charlie Ayers, DK Publishing

By Stephanie Dickison

The basis behind Charlie’s cooking at Google was, he says “I want to help people eat better.”

When he was hired at Google back in ’99, it was to create food that would energize people, stimulate them and introduce healthy, organic and sustainably-sourced food into their diets.

That’s quite a lofty list – trying to persuade programmers and computer folk to eat well AND eat local.

But Charlie made over the office cafeteria into a feast for the eyes and stomach, all the while serving healthy food, including at least 2 raw salads a day.  He says that “You can save time and enzymes by eating raw foods,” and offers 5 easy ways to go raw.

In Food 2.0, Charlie lays out what every cook should have in their pantry, with fun and interesting options.

In fact, the book is laden with helpful hints and tips, whether you are a cook just starting out or an avid foodie who never leaves the kitchen.  The whole first half of the book is actually just information – what condiments to stock, how to freeze meats and broths, and why you want to invest in a rice cooker.

The second half is all recipes, which is what I am most excited about.

And in keeping with the pro-health lifestyle that Charlie writes about, the recipes begin with yogurt, smoothies and fresh juices and shakes.  The Wake-Up Shake-Me-Up Power Shake with black tea, rice milk, honey and strawberries?  Now that’s how I want to start my day!

And for lunch, I’m going to make his Dragon Breath Noodles with fresh egg noodles, peanut butter and chili flakes!  Don’t worry, I’ve got gum for afterwards…  And then there’s the Apple and Brie Quesadillas, Seattle Jim’s Pea Salad and Silicon Valley Split Pea Soup.  This is what lunch should be like every day – fresh, invigorating and yet so very healthy.

The dinner options are just as exciting – Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki Sauce, Snapper in a Yogurt Coat and Filet Mignon with Crisp Bacon, Seared Polenta and Wilted Spinach Salad.

I am not afraid to say that there are bits of drool on some of these here pages now.  I was trying to decide what to make for dinner.  I think it’s down to the Wild Salmon and Warm Beet Salad, but it’s still early.  I may yet go with Spinach Latkes and a salad or start all over again.  The photos and layout make it completely enjoyable to flip through over and over.

For some reason, maybe because he worked at Google and that says to me big corporation and lots of computers, I was expected a very different book – a more straight-ahead cookbook of standard recipes (read: boring and expected).

But this is a lively, very of the moment book with a lighthearted, yet easy-to-follow guide of fresh recipes that are good for you and lots of advice that may just change the way you cook – and the way you eat.

This is a great gift for the upcoming holidays.  And you might just want to go ahead and order yourself a copy while you’re at it…

Monday Review: Gourmet Smarts

14 Jul

Monday Review

Every Monday, we’ll be reviewing books, cookbooks and products and anything that has to do with food.

We hope you’ll join us in discovering new recipes and ways of cooking, along with gadgets and accessories in order to make our food taste better and perhaps get it to the table a little more quickly.

Monday Review: Gourmet Smarts

By Stephanie Dickison

I love food trivia games, though sadly I usually end up playing them myself.

However, this unintimidating question and answer card game is the perfect way to bring people together, have fun and learn a little about different foods and cultures.

The game is nicely designed and easy to follow. There are 100 question and answer cards in the following four categories:

Lingo – Food terms you’ll find on even the most challenging menus
Ingredients – Meat and fish, fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices
Cuisines – Ethnic and regional foods and famous dishes
Wild Card – Tasty morsels of food history and trivia

There is a score pad and companion guide, complete with a pronunciation page (if you think you won’t need it, think again).

There are easy questions and more difficult ones.

My fella played with me to try it out and ended up getting more questions right than I did! A lot of the questions about the history of certain foods and what country first came up with tempura (you’ll have to play the game to find out!) completely stumped me. When it came to ingredients and lingo though, I held my own. Thank goodness. After all, what kind of restaurant critic and food writer would I be if I couldn’t at least tell you about mirepoix and duck breasts?

I think this would be a great after dinner or party game to play with family, friends and neighbours. It is informative, but not so much so that it’s boring (though I wish some of the answers were shorter!) and I think it would be best played while snacking on food, because it sure does make you hungry!