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Canadian Thanksgiving


Since Thanksgiving is generally regarded as a North American tradition, I thought I’d share some information on the subject for my Asian, European and Australian friends.

Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October unlike the American Thanksgiving, which falls in November. Some people believe this is because Canada, being farther north, has an earlier harvest. Whereas some think that having Thanksgiving in November interfered with Remembrance Day, a day set apart each year on November 11th to remember those who died in wars.


The history of Thanksgiving in Canada goes back to an English explorer, Martin Frobisher, who had been trying to find a northern passage to the Orient. He did not succeed but he did establish a settlement in Northern America. In the year 1578, he held a formal ceremony, in what is now called Newfoundland, to give thanks for surviving the long journey. This is considered the first Canadian Thanksgiving. Other settlers arrived and continued these ceremonies. He was later knighted and had an inlet off the Atlantic Ocean in northern Canada named after him – Frobisher Bay.

In 1879, Parliament declared November 6th a day of Thanksgiving and a national holiday. Over the years many dates were used for Thanksgiving. After World War I, both Armistice Day and Thanksgiving were celebrated on the Monday of the week in which November 11th occurred. Ten years later, in 1931, the two days became separate holidays and Armistice Day was renamed Remembrance Day.

Finally on the 31st January 1957 the Canadian Parliament proclaimed that….

‘A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed…..to be observed on the second Monday in October.’

Growing up we always celebrated Thanksgiving with turkey, mashed potatoes, carrots, squash casserole, string beans, cranberry sauce and last but not least, pumpkin and apple pies. It’s hard to imagine something as savory as pumpkin could be a dessert. The recipe below is one I use and when my friends try it for the first time they are amazed at how good it tastes!

Pumpkin Pie
425g. (15 oz.) pumpkin (fresh pureed or canned)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
½ cup milk
2/3 cup evaporated milk
Pastry for 1 single 9″ pie crust

Mix pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, and spices in a large bowl. Add eggs, lightly beat them in with a fork. Add both milks and mix well. Put crust into 9 inch pie pan and fill with pumpkin mixture. Cover edges of crust with foil and bake at 375f for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 25 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool to room temperature and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
The Culinary Chase’s note: I sometimes use whole milk instead of evaporated milk. Fondly enough, I don’t make this pie unless it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter.

Laksa


Laksa is an everyday soup made famous by the Peranakan (Chinese-Malay) from Malaysia and Singapore. It was in Singapore where I first discovered this rich and spicy soup. The name may originate from the Sanskrit word laksha, meaning “many” and referring to the soup’s many ingredients. Asian vegestables such as bean sprouts, bok choi or pea-sized Thai eggplant works well with this dish so feel free to experiment.

Serves 4
200g crab meat
250g uncooked tiger prawns
250g mussles, scrubbed
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 stalk of lemongrass, sliced diagonally into 2 cm pieces
2 cm ginger, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves
400ml coconut milk
600ml water
juice of 1/2 lime
350g thick rice noodles (can use thin rice vermicelli noodles)
parsely, mint, basil or coriander leaves to garnish

Laksa Paste
100g shallots
3 garlic cloves
8 candlenuts or macadamias
1 stalk of lemongrass, cut into thin rounds
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
3 fresh or dried chilies
1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste or 1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon palm sugar or demerara sugar

In a covered pan, cook the mussels with a glassful of water until open. Reserve the mussles, still in their shells and cooking liquor. Fry the crab in the oil, add the kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, ginger and coriander. Stir in the mussel liquor. Cook until almost evaporated. Add half the coconut milk and all the water. Simmer for 15 minutes, then strain.

Make the laksa paste by blending the shallots, garlic and nuts with a pestle and mortar or food processor. Stir in the lemongrass. Fry the paste in the oil to release the aromas. Stir in the chilies.
Add shrimp paste or fish sauce, turmeric, cumin and sugar to the pan. Heat through and then add the shellfish stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the rest of the coconut milk. Add the crab, prawns and mussels and simmer on the lowest heat for 5 minutes. Check and adjust seasoning. Remove from heat and add the lime juice.

Boil the noodles in a seperate pan according to instructions. Divide between four bowls and pour the shellfish laksa on top. Garnish with your choice of fresh herbs.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: There are numerous variations to laksa. The term laksa is used to describe two different types of noodle soup dishes: curry laksa and assam laksa. Curry laksa refers to noodles served in coconut curry soup, while assam laksa refers to noodles served in sour fish soup. Usually, thick rice noodles are preferred, although thin rice vermicelli also known as bee hoon and any other type of noodles can be used. For more recipes try a Google search.

Email me your favorite laksa!

"Te" Quick Pasta and Herb Tea Restaurant


Te (Roppongi Hills) opened October 2005 and is a hidden gem in the midst of a wet market located on the corners of Gage Street and Cochrane Street. This is a Japanese franchise where young chefs prepare the al dente spaghetti mixed with a choice of 12 sauces. There are the usual pasta sauces such as: garlic and olive oil, Genovese (pesto), Carbonara (bacon & cream), Bolognese, Siciliana (eggplant & bacon), Pescatore (seafood) to name a few. Plus, two interesting Japanese sauces: Spaghetti Japonese (short neck clams & shimeiji mushrooms) and Mentaiko Spaghetti (fish egg cream sauce). Grab a stool and sit at the open kitchen area to watch these chefs cook your meal. Everything is prepared like clockwork in this very ultra white restaurant.

I came by Te quite by accident as I was wondering along Lyndhurst Terrance (near Cochrane Street) trying to decide where to eat. As I looked up, I noticed the words “Te” and some photo’s of pasta. Curious, I decided to see what this restaurant was all about. I was warmly greeted and asked to make my choice of pasta sauce from the 12 on the board. Te has a customer reward program.
For every purchase of 10 pasta dishes, the next one free. I sat in the front so that I could see my food being prepared. Before I knew it, my dish was being served (I think all of 5 minutes passed).
My choice was a piping hot spaghetti Sicilliana (HKD$58.00 or CAD$8.28). The pasta was al dente, just the way I like it and the sauce was just the right amount all served in an oversized white pasta bowl. Open daily from 12:00 to 22:00.

The Culinary Chase’s Rating: My experience with Te was great, however, I would recommend that they use real parmesan. For those in a hurry this is the place to go.

Moussaka


Moussaka is the best known of all Greek foods. Greeks believe that moussaka was introduced when the Arabs brought the eggplant, although Arabs, especially in Lebanon, think of this dish as a Greek dish. Moussaka is also found in Turkey. Some Moussaka recipes show potatoes as part of the ingredients. However, potatoes would never have been used when this dish was originally made because this vegetable of the “New World” has never managed to totally infiltrate the Middle East dishes.

Serves 6
150-175ml (5-6 oz.) olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
900g (2 lb.) lean minced lamb
a splash of red wine
400g (14 oz.) can of chopped tomatoes
5cm (2 inch) piece of cinnamon stick
handful of fresh oregano leaves, preferably Greek oregano, chopped
3 large eggplants (aubergines), cut lengthways into slices 5cm (1/4 inch thick)
salt and pepper

Topping:
75g (3 oz.) butter
75g (3 oz.) plain flour
600ml (1 pint) full milk
50g (2 oz.) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2 medium eggs, beaten

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a pan, add the onion and garlic and fry until golden (just before turning brown). Add the minced lamb and fry over a high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the wine, tomatoes, cinnamon and oregano and simmer gently for 30-40 minutes. Use this time to prepare everything else.


Heat a frying pan until it is very hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and a layer of eggplant slices and fry quickly until tender and lightly colored on both sides. Lift out with tongs and arrange over the base of a deep square or oblong, approximately 25×25 cm or 39×28 cm ovenproof dish. Season lightly with a little salt and pepper. Repeat with the rest of the oil and the eggplants, seasoning each layer as you go.

Topping: Melt the butter in a pan, add the flour and cook, stirring, over a medioum heat for 1 minute. Gradually beat in the milk, stirring until thick (about 10 minutes). Add the cheese and some salt and pepper to taste. Cool slightly before adding the beaten eggs.

Preheat oven to 200c. Remove the cinnamon stick from the lamb sauce, season to taste with salt and pepper and spread it over the eggplant. Pour topping over the sauce and bake 25-30 minutes, until golden and bubbling.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: This dish is excellent for a buffet and not as difficult to make as it may seem. You can also prepare this a day ahead and after it is baked, store it in the refrigerator and reheat at about 180c, covered with foil. If you like, you can use zucchini in place of eggplant.

Eggs in Prosciutto Baskets


My husband is an early riser and at the weekends he’s always up before me. So he gets the coffee ready and checks his email. I usually awake to the aroma’s of freshly brewed coffee; that’s because my husband brings a cup to my bedside table (along with a pastry). By the time I’ve had my first cup, I’m ready to make breakfast. My daughter loves anything that has prosciutto in it. She normally dissects the dish leaving the prosciutto to the side which she then eats as the very last thing (saving the best for last!). Anyway, this is an ultra easy dish to prepare.

Ingredients:
Prosciutto slices (1 slice per egg)
Fontina cheese (about 1 oz. per dish. more if you like)
eggs

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 200c. Grease muffin pan (muffin size 3″ wide 1.5″ deep). For this size of muffin pan, cut the prosciutto in half and fit the slices such that they form a basket to hold the egg. Add the cheese and then the egg to each prosciutto basket.
Bake 10 minutes. Remove by running a knife around the outer edges of the pan and lift out with a fork or spoon.

The Culinary Chase’s note: Feel free to experiment with different cheeses, bearing in mind that the prosciutto will add a salty taste to the egg. You can also add pesto before the egg. The next time I make this I’ll saute some onion & sprinkle that in before adding the egg. Serve with chopped tomato.

Pumpkin Risotto


For some cooks the word ‘risotto’ conjures up long hours in the kitchen. However, risotto is quite easy to prepare so don’t be put off making it because someone told you it’s time consuming. Just remember that a good risotto means choosing the right kind of rice such as Arborio or Carnaroli as these will release starch and create a perfect creamy mixture. Risotto originated in North Italy (Eastern Piedmont and Western Lombardy) where rice paddies are abundant. It is one of the pillars of Milanese.

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
500g pumpkin, peeled and diced
800ml chicken or beef stock (heat it up until hot)
1 1/2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice
60g. Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
salt and pepper

Method:
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat and sauté the onion and garlic until golden. Add diced pumpkin and 1 cup of boiling broth, cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Then add the rice, stir and add a ladleful of boiling stock. Before adding each ladleful of stock, make sure the previous stock has been completely absorbed into the rice. Be sure to gently stir with a wooden spoon as you don’t want to mash the rice. This process of adding the broth & stirring should be about 18-20 minutes. Remove from heat, add salt and pepper to taste and stir in the remaining butter and parmesan. Serve immediately.

The Culinary Chase’s note: You want the broth to be hotter than the rice, so that when you add it to the pot it doesn’t cool down the rice, (which would detract from the quality of your risotto) so be sure to bring it to a boil. Adding butter at the end is known in Italian as the “mantecatura.” As the butter melts it coats each grain of rice, yielding a richer, creamier risotto.

Nyonya Rice Salad


This dish is typical in northern Malaysia and is usually served as part of a banquet.

Ingredients:
150g flathead fillets (can use any firm, white flesh fish)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons dried shrimps, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes, drained and coarsely chopped
700g (3 1/2 cups) steamed jasmine rice (about 240g uncooked), cooled
1 stalk of lemongrass, white part only, thinly sliced
4 snake beans, finely chopped (alternatively use green string beans)
3 shallots, thinly sliced
45g (1/2 cup) desiccated coconut, roasted
Pinch of caster sugar
5 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced (can substitute for zest of lime)
1/2 cup Vietnamese mint, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Thai basil leaves, thinly sliced
1 small Lebanese cucumber, seeded and finely chopped

Preparation:
Rub fish with 2 teaspoons sea salt, then heat oil in a frying pan, add fish and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until golden. Drain fish on paper towel, cool, then flake into small pieces and place in a large bowl.

Add soaked shrimps, rice, lemongrass, snake beans, shallots, roasted coconut and sugar, then season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and gently combine. Gently fold in hersb and cucumber, then transfer salad to a large bowl or plate and serve immediately.

The Culinary Chase’s note: This dish is lovely on its own. If Thai basil is not available then use regular basil. I used only one shallot as the one I had was large, however, you can always add more if needed. Don’t be put off by the pungent smell of the dried shrimps. Once soaked in the hot water, the smell is reduced and adds a nice salty flavor to the sweetness of the coconut.


Nyonya food is an interesting amalgamation of Chinese and Malay dishes thought to have originated from the Peranakan (Straits Chinese) of Malacca over 400 years ago. This was the result of inter-marriages between Chinese immigrants and local Malays, which produced a unique culture. The ladies are called nyonyas and the men babas. Peranakan means “locally born” in the Malay language.

Porcelain is another important part of Peranakan households. Most of these wares have intricate motifs of flowers, butterflies and phoenixes in bright yellow and rose pink, unlike typical Chinese porcelain.

This is a ceramic nyonya dish I bought when I lived in Singapore. It comes with four sections; each able to hold different foods. I have used it on a few occasions and not only is it a lovely display piece for your table, it’s always a topic of conversation.

Dukkah


Dukkah (pronounced ‘do -kah’) is an Egyptian blend of coarsely ground nuts and spices. Use it by dipping bread in extra virgin olive oil then into the Dukkah mixture. I remember the first time I encountered this curious looking mixture when I was still living in Singapore. My husband and I went out for dinner at The Cellar Door and while we were waiting for our drinks, we were served Dukkah with bread. We looked at the waiter and asked what it was and how to use it. From that moment on, I had Dukkah in the fridge ready for consumption!

Ingredients:
125g sesame seeds
50g coriander seeds
50g cumin seeds
75g macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
30g Maldon sea salt (please don’t use table salt!)

Dry roast all spices individually until fragrant; don’t burn:
1) Sesame first, quickly pan fry (dry pan), stir and then remove
2) Add coriander and cumin together and dry roast until fragrant
3) Roast macadamia nuts in oven until golden brown, 200c for about 5 minutes (let cool before processing)

Place spices in a spice grinder or pound with mortar and pestle. Grind to a rough consistency. When macadamia nuts are cooled, place in a food processor until fine but not a paste. Combine spices and nuts with sea salt and pepper to taste. Store in an airtight container preferably in the the fridge.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: You can also substitute the coriander and cumin seeds for ground coriander and cumin. Other ways to use Dukkah:
* Spread pita bread or pizza bases with some olive oil and Dukkah, and then lightly grill. Cut into wedges and serve.
* As a crust or breading for foods like lamb, shrimp, fish or chicken.
* Sprinkle over salads or pasta dishes.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich


Ok, so the photo isn’t so hot but the sandwich is! It’s been a favorite of mine for a very long time. For me, it’s a classic staple and when one is running short for time or you just don’t want to spend any time in the kitchen, this fits the bill.

Ingredients:
2 slices of bread
grated cheese – about 6oz. (such as cheddar, fontina, mozzarella)

Traditionally the bread is buttered but an alternative is to brush one side of each slice of bread with olive oil. Place 2 slices on a work surface, oiled side down. Distribute the cheese evenly over 1 slice. Top with the other slice of bread, oiled side up.

Stove Top Method:
Heat the skillet over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Put the sandwich in the skillet and cook for 2 minutes, or until the underside is golden brown and the cheese has begun to melt. Turn the sandwich with a spatula, pressing firmly to flatten slightly. Cook for 1 minute, or until the undersides are golden brown. Serve immediately.

Sandwich Maker Method:
Preheat the sandwich maker. Follow directions for sandwich assembly, and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

What’s in a Name?

I’m always intrigued to know where words originate and wondered how the word ‘sandwich’ came to be. Some believe it was named after John Montagu who was the 4th Earl of Sandwich. Legend has it that in 1762 he asked for meat (most probably salted beef) to be served between slices of bread to avoid interrupting a gambling game.

However, the first recorded sandwich was by Rabbi Hillel the Elder in the 1st century BC. He started the Passover custom of sandwiching a mixture of chopped nuts, apples, spices and wine between two matzohs to eat with bitter herbs. The filling between the matzohs served as a reminder of the suffering of the Jews before their deliverance from Egypt.

It is said that Peanut Butter sandwiches were created by the American soldiers in World War Two. The soldiers combined bread, peanut butter and jelly from their c-rations (ready pack meals). This filling spread through the ranks and when they returned home after the war, peanut butter and jelly sales soared. Food historians have found nothing written about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before 1940. It would seem most likely that this would be the birth of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Oh, the stories a slice of bread can tell! What’s your favorite sandwich?

Fresh Figs with Goat Cheese and Peppered Honey


When figs are in season, this is the time to make this recipe. As a matter of interest, fig newtons and dried figs are NOTHING like a fresh fig! A fresh fig tastes like a mix of a peach and a strawberry! Figs won’t last long at room temperature, but a mildly cool refrigerator will keep them several days. Figs with light brown to violet or greenish brown in color are the best ones to eat fresh. Figs provide more fiber than any other common fruit or vegetable. The fiber in figs is both soluble and insoluble. Both types of fiber are important for good health. Figs can be used as an appetizer, in a main dish or as a dessert.

1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 fresh figs
1/4 cup soft fresh goat cheese

Mix honey and pepper in small bowl. Starting at stem end, cut each fig into quarters, stopping 1/2 inch from bottom to leave base intact. Gently press figs open. Spoon 1 teaspoon cheese into center of each. Arrange figs on platter and drizzle with peppered honey.

Makes 4 servings.

The Culinary Chase’s note: Depending on the size of the figs, I would serve two per person as three figs each might be a bit much. If goat cheese isn’t a favorite, you can always try other soft cheeses or try combining mascarpone and goats cheese. For a variation on today’s recipe, wrap thin slices of proscuitto around the cheese filled figs (omit the honey), put on a baking tray and grill in the oven until procsuitto cooks or cheese is caramel in color (watch closely as it’ll cook quickly). A simple but delicious dish.