Continuing my series of eating for one… here is an update on what I have been eating Monday-Thursday for my first six weeks back at work after Christmas. I’ve talked before about how I meal plan and what my priorities are — note that in most cases I make enough for two portions and take the leftovers for lunch the next day.
Monday 8th: My housemate’s vegetable curry with sauteed broccoli
Tuesday 9th: Kale Caesar
Wednesday 10th: Carrot & ginger soup
Thursday 11th: Ate out – Japanese restaurant
Monday 15th: Kale Caesar
Tuesday 16th: Sweet potato & chickpea curry
Wednesday 17th: Kale Caesar & leftover curry [repetitive week!]
Thursday 18th: Pizza (takeout)
Monday 22nd: Omelet with sauteed broccoli
Tuesday 23rd: (bought) Chicken tenders with spinach salad
Wednesday 24th: Haggis, tatties, & carrots (Burns night celebration)
Thursday 25th: Pea ravioli with spinach and sauteed broccoli
Tourtière is a meat pie dish originating in Quebec. There are different versions of this pie across Quebec, the Maritimes, and New England. I decided to try this as a part of my new “weekend cooking” regime for a couple of reasons: 1) I’d never made it before and 2) I love cooking Canadian recipes, even though sometimes it is difficult to get a hold of specific ingredients.
I used Craig Flinn’s recipe, which calls for ground pork and beef. But, as the Wikipedia entry on tourtière says ……. “there is no one correct filling”! I decided to switch out the beef for haggis. Why? We had a lot of haggis on our hands — we were planning on hosting a Burns supper, but ended up having to cancel it for several reasons.
All of the meat for the pie is cooked beforehand. Haggis takes 90 minutes to cook so that was an important factor in planning. I added the spices (cinnamon, allspice, clove, plus salt and pepper) to the pork, along with an onion. The haggis already contains a lot of seasoning so this was a very savoury combination. Once both fillings were ready, I combined them and then assembled the pie. In the end, I ran out of time to make the pastry from scratch so ended up using some pre-bought that I had on hand.
I was worried that the pie might be a little on the dry side, but that was not the case. It came out of the oven after around 40 minutes tasty, moist, and really delicious, proving, I think, the flexibility of this traditional dish.
This unfortunately did not photograph well, so please use your imaginations!
As we start the new year and H. and I once again are back to being separated throughout the week, I decided I wanted to try to institute a ritual of cooking together one evening on the weekends. Depending on schedules, this isn’t always possible of course, but it’s something we love to do and winter is the perfect time for it. There are additional challenges, however, when we don’t live together. The only way to do this is to plan ahead, and plan carefully. No problem — I am a born planner! I started by compiling a list of a few dishes I wanted to make and then assigned them different dates. First up was this pork shoulder ragu.
This is a great dish for chilly, rainy days, which we have had every weekend of 2018 so far. There is something so comforting about putting something in the oven for several hours and letting science take over. It takes time to cook this, but not a lot of effort. The smell was amazing throughout the late afternoon, and the results were good. The meat was extremely tender — melt-in-your-mouth — and very flavourful.
However, while I enjoyed it, unfortunately this was too rich a dish for me overall. I actually felt slightly nauseous afterwards….It was a lot with the pasta and cheese, and I couldn’t finish mine. It needed something to cut the fat, and even though we had it with a peppery salad, it was still a bit too much for me (H. loved it though!), and I am not rushing to make this again.
There are many meals/fishes that I have never attempted to make at home because a) I don’t think my versions could measure up to eating out and/or b) it seems like too much work to make them. Wings are one such dish. Both H. & I love wings. For a couple of years, we have had a favourite tradition, Wings Wednesday, at our local pub, where they make the most delicious, non-greasy spicy wings with a tasty blue cheese sauce. Unfortunately, now that I no longer live in London during the week, we only managed it a couple of times in 2017.
As I mentioned in my previous post, we spent NYE 2017 with my aunt and uncle. My aunt mentioned that she was making wings on New Year’s Day. This got me thinking that I should try the same. My plan is to try out a few different recipes to see if anything I make at home can match up. I’m going to share the results here.
First up was Deb Perelman’s (Smitten Kitchen) sticky sesame chicken wings. These wings were not bad, but in no way did they impress us. The taste was too underwhelming — they didn’t pack any punch. They were also too dry — they needed a sauce or more marinade. I made an accompanying salad spontaneously — chopped cucumber and red pepper with a dressing made of lime juice, fish sauce, a hint of sugar, and chopped peanuts — and I even found myself saying that I liked it more than the wings at one point!
Happy New Year, readers! 2018 is upon us and so is another year of cooking and baking. My 2017 ended with both a bang and a whimper: I spent the second half of December in bed struck down by, I’m not kidding you, the worst virus I’ve ever had. It came on on Tuesday 12th and the first day I woke up with no symptoms was the 31st. Horrible. But now to the good news: on the 27th, H. proposed! We’re now engaged. 🙂 I definitely call that a good ending to the year.
For the first time in recent memory, I did NO holiday baking or even cooking. My mum’s family gathered together this year and I did hardly anything, I was feeling so bad. This banana bread is the only thing I made over the entire holiday season.
We had some bananas that really needed to be used up, and I had everything on hand at my grandfather’s where I was staying. I usually make Tessa Kiros’ banana bread, but used a recipe from Smitten Kitchen this time. Though whisky is my favourite spirit, I decided to go full Nova Scotian and use rum. It also just so happened I also need to bring dessert to our NYE soiree. I wouldn’t normally bring banana bread as a dessert but I figured homemade is always preferable so decided on bringing it.
This couldn’t be any easier to throw together — it’s a one-bowl, no mixer needed kind of banana bread. I followed the recipe very closely, and it turned out well: moist and delicious, not too sweet. We served it with some whipped cream and ate it with my aunt and uncle after our decadent NYE prime rib roast and lots of wine!
Regrettably, I do not have a photo of the banana bread, so you’ll have to use your imagination. I will however leave you with this picture of a beautiful winter Nova Scotian sunrise (a green, but cold one– the snow came a few days later).
Outside of work-related reading, I read 42 books in 2017. Most years when I look back on my reading, I have a standout winner. This year, it’s a bit trickier. I rate all books I read out of 10, and I gave only one a 10/10 this year: Gary Younge’s Another Day in the Death of America. However, I’m not sure that this is the book that stands out the most in my mind. That goes to Katherena Vermette’sThe Break, a novel unlike any other I’ve read and one that made a big impression on me. Highly recommended. Here are my reading highlights of 2017.
Fiction I read two Michael Crummey novels this year, The Wreckage, an older one, and Sweetland, his most recent. Both were excellent. Newfoundland story-telling at its best. Christy-Ann Conlin’sThe Memento was one of the most unique books I read this year — whimsical and spooky. Very well-written. And it’s set in Nova Scotia. 🙂 Ian McGuire’s The North Water is the most violent book I have ever read, which was very jarring at times and could definitely put people off. However, this is a fantastic adventure story. I also have to give an honourable mention to Barkskins by Annie Proulx, which I am about a third of the way through right now, and really loving.
Non-fiction I really enjoyed Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road, which details her career and life as a journalist and activist. Very readable and inspiring. Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon’s Shadow of Doubt was a fantastic summary of a high-profile murder case in Atlantic Canada. I sped through it. I also likedBad Feminist, by Roxane Gay, a series of essays on a variety of topics loosely connected by the theme of the complexities of contemporary feminism. My final non-fic recommendation is Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, Born to Run. It’s not as good as Life by Keith Richards, but it’s fantastically written and candid.
Goals for 2018
1) Get back into fiction — I’ve been in a fiction rut since the late summer, though Barkskins is helping me get out of it.
2) Read more obscure/diverse fiction. I have been let down too many times by bestseller lists.
Where has 2017 gone? Happy December! I’m counting down the days until my Christmas holidays — cannot wait. It has been a very busy and exhausting semester. Here are my favourites for this month.
◌ H. & I are a bit behind on Blue Planet 2, but it’s extraordinary. So good it seems CGI’ed.
◌ Someone Knows Something released a third season. I’m not exaggerating when I say David Ridgen is, I think, the best podcasting journalist I’ve heard. Season 2 blew me away, and season 3 is very good as well.
◌ I’ve had many nights this past month where I have barely known my own name, let alone had the brain capacity to engage with anything cerebral. Teaching 5 hours of university classes a day will do that to you. I’ve found the perfect Netflix show for this: Highway thru Hell. I love it. It’s about the tow trick industry in BC and Alberta.
I’ve been in a bit of a slump when it comes to cooking lately, particularly on the weekend when H. & I like to make a meal together at least one of the nights. Despite having a whole shelf full of cookbooks, an rss feed full of blogs, and a cooking magazine subscription, I haven’t been able to find much that interests me.
Ottolenghi’s recipe for lamb meatloaf, which I saved from a recent Guardian weekend magazine, caught my eye, and without any other ideas I decided to try it. Meatloaf is not normally my first choice, but, like everything Ottolenghi touches, this one seemed a bit different. I was intrigued by the tahini sauce.
Unfortunately, this dish was mediocre for me. A disappointment. This is one of the only recipes by him that I haven’t enjoyed. I loved the tahini sauce and the taste of the lamb was okay, but the texture was off for me. H. liked it, but I found it too wet and soft. Meatloaf, to me, needs to be a bit crisp and drier than this one was. I guess meatloaf was not going to be the dish to get me out of my weekend cooking slump! 😉
No surprise that meatloaf doesn’t photograph well, so I didn’t even try this time!
As I have mentioned several times before, I don’t do nearly as much cooking as I once did, now that I am living in two places. An exception to this came recently when I decided to make this “baklava,” from a recent edition of delicious magazine (it is a Sabrina Ghayour recipe, previously featured on the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen which is where I have linked the recipe from). This is definitely a weekend project — preferably a cozy Saturday with a glass of wine, the paper, and some nice background music.
Although this dish takes a lot of time, it is not at all difficult and there is very little “fuss” involved. The most difficult part is assembling it, but even that is very easy. So, don’t be put off — what this requires most of all is time, not effort.
I bought a lovely pork shoulder at our local butcher — I have to admit that it was a bit unfortunate to cook it and then not just eat it right away and bury it in the baklava. Next time I buy it I’m not doing anything to it!
The recipe called for fennel, which I left out because I don’t like the taste if it. I think it’s complex enough without it though. The end result looks impressive and was really tasty — the honey means it has a tiny taste of sweetness. My only bugbear was that the sauce ended up a touch dry for me.