Cold weather is setting in, the days are getting shorter and even on the sunniest of days, one still needs to bundle up. This is the weather that requires tucking into a warm bowl of soup or stew after coming in from the cold. Thanksgiving comes earlier in Canada, we celebrate it a month earlier than Americans, and last week we made a chicken chili instead of having the traditional turkey. (We would have used turkey, but my Mum didn’t have her readers on when she went to pick it up. To be fair, though, the chicken and turkey (both ground) were close together.)
This will have been only the second recipe for chili I’ve made so far, and it’s a good one. It was an instant favourite with my family – there were no leftovers – and it has the traditional chili flavours with bacon and ground turkey (or chicken, which is tofu-like in that it absorbs the spices and flavours of the ingredients) and the addition of cocoa powder gives it depth and a subtle flavour of its own. (I had not used cocoa powder before in chili and despite my doubts, I was pleasantly surprised and happy I went along with it.) We also used red and white kidney beans in celebration of Canadian spirit.
I think it was last week that I thought I’d made chowder and tweeted about it. Well, I think I simply replicated the flavour of the clam (and lobster) chowder I’d eaten while down in San Francisco and Anaheim, California but nonetheless I’d made something tasty and it was made again. As cooking is often less precise than baking, it took the second round for me to get down the measurements or at least a fair estimate so that I could share it here. As much as I am fond of those recipes that leave you to your imagination and being creative – in other words, recipes that serve more as guidelines – it’s always helpful to have some pointers so that – later on, if you feel like it – you can improvise and make it your own.
I tried my hand at doing a bit of food styling – at least, more than usual as I’ve lately been inspired by the Donna Hay magazine and Katie Quinn Davies of What Katie Ate. I did a set up with a bamboo cutting board (one of my birthday kitchen gadgets – a cutting board can be considered a gadget, right?) and I folded a striped blue dishtowel that I thought would compliment the bowl holding the stew. A spoon was added later. As for the stew itself, afterward I wished that I’d added a little extra colour to make it more interesting (even adding corn kernels would have added some of that extra something) but I don’t expect myself to hit all the marks of food styling on the first round.
This stew is very simple. While it’s thickened with cornstarch, most of the help comes from pureeing cauliflower – if you’ve made cauliflower soup before, you’ll then get the gist of it: pureeing until it’s a very smooth puree, ideally without any lumps. The flavour comes from the beef, which is stewed with onion and mushroom – enhanced if you use beef or chicken stock also – and is rounded off by a pat or two of butter. For a dairy-free and casein-free alternative to the butter, coconut milk would also work I’m sure. Continue reading
It’s a skill to take photos on the go and not add extra time to the prep or cooking time, often I’ve only one shot and that’s it – it’s even harder when I take the final, what I call representative, shot and it’s someone else’s serving. (I can spend all day taking pictures of my dinner until it’s cold, I don’t care. I’ve written about this before.) Such was the situation last Saturday when I was making dinner as I simultaneously coaxed the food to pose for photographs while at the same time trying to avoid getting my camera lens steamed up. Trying to do this all faster than usual so that we all could watch the third episode of Sherlock sooner, a BBC drama that has modernized Sherlock Holmes and it is stellar. The stories, the acting, the photography, are excellent and everyone is riveted for the entire ninety minutes of an episode. Now we all have to wait until autumn of next year – not April, as previously thought – to see what happens next and it’s sheer agony to have to wait.
One of my favourite scenes from Sherlock, in the first episode A Study in Pink. The version in the unaired pilot is even funnier, when John Watson discovers Sherlock hasn’t eaten in several days:
Sherlock: “The brain’s what counts, everything else is transport.”
John: “You might consider refueling… So, do you have a girlfriend who feeds you up sometimes?”
Sherlock: “Is that what girlfriends do? Feed you up?”
I have a special relationship, for lack of a better word, with this dish. Clipped out of an issue of Martha Stewart Living from 2004, my family and I made it several times and it quickly became a favourite. One time when I was making it on my own back then, I was low on one of the spices and I ended up using half a teaspoon of cayenne powder to compensate.