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Toad in the Hole

Occasionally it occurs to me that I don’t make Toad in the Hole often enough. Ever, really. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s essentially a pan of baked sausages into which you’ve poured a Dutch baby or Yorkshire pudding-like batter in the middle of cooking, when the pan gets really hot and the sausages are half done. It’s about as easy as dinner gets, and as you can imagine, it would be as well suited to breakfast or brunch… you could, in fact, top it with fried eggs and splatter it with hollandaise and bring the whole pan to the table to feed everyone.

Toad in the Hole
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Papdi Chaat 1

If you’re not familiar with papdi chaat, I’d like to put it forth as the ideal snack food, and one of my hands-down favourite things to eat. Chaat is a blanket term used to describe a wide range of snacky, savoury Indian street foods, and papdi (or papri) are the crisp fried crackers used as a base for (or served alongside) diced potatoes and chickpeas tossed with chaat masala (a spice blend customized specifically for this purpose, which you can make yourself or buy pre-mixed), minced onion, fresh mint-cilantro chutney, and a drizzle of sweet-tart tamarind chutney and cool spiced yogurt. Papdi chaat is everything you want in a snack—salty, sweet, sour, tangy, crunchy, spicy and soft. Layers of interesting colours, flavours and textures. It’s all served in one bowl, and you can eat it with your fingers.

Papdi chaat ingredients with text

It’s typically something I order at a restaurant, or have had friends make for me, but I’ve been meaning to give it a go myself for years, and I’m glad I finally did.
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Plum Chutney

I need to squeeze this in, before the plums are gone – it seems every year I wind up putting up jars of jelly and chutney that I’m most excited about having once cheese season begins. That is, the holiday party season during which I seem to be putting out a cheese board every few days, even if it’s just for whomever is sitting around our kitchen table. And one of my favourite components of a cheese board is the little bowl of rosemary-apple jelly or tart plum or apricot chutney. Of course a deep plum chutney is equally at home with samosas or roast pork, but mine inevitably gets doled out with cheese – plums make a perfect pairing for cheese of every texture and intensity. It’s simple to simmer a batch, and measurements are approximate – this is also a great way to use up plums that are starting to get wrinkled or squishy.

If you’re nervous about the jarring process, don’t sweat it – keep it in the freezer, in small quantities in ziplock baggies, even, and its sugar content will keep it from freezing solid. Spoon (or squeeze) it out into a bowl whenever you’re ready for it, and it will thaw quickly.
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Apricot tart 1

Before we all move on to apples and pumpkin, lets make the most of the last stone fruits-apricots, peaches and plums, the former and the latter so delicious in cakes and tarts, and so often overlooked in favour of the almighty apple pie.

Apricot Tart 5

This beauty comes from one of my favourite new books of the summer, How to Eat a Peach, by the great British food writer Diana Henry. (The title was inspired by a night in Italy when the author was in her twenties, and a couple at the next table at the outdoor trattoria she was dining at were served a bowl of ripe peaches, which they sliced into glasses of cold moscato; they’d then sip the bubbly wine, now infused with peach, and eat the peach slices, now imbued with the flavour of the wine.)
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Frittata in a Jar 1

I’m not sure where August went, but apparently school is back in. Suddenly it’s dark at 8 o’clock, and I’ve put on my wooly socks and hoodie – although I’m strongly resisting turning the furnace back on.

And so we’re shifting gears back to rushed mornings, packed lunches and dinner at a more regular hour than it has been over the summer. But because W turned 13 in August (!!) and is now as tall as me, he’s hungry all the time! Fortunately he can cook, but isn’t always inclined to do so. He can turn out a decent omelet and over-easy egg – his go-to meals or snacks when he wants to cook something himself, but as part of the year-long video series I’ve been doing with the EggcentricTV and the Egg Farmers of Canada, we decided to make frittatas in a jar, in part as a way to deal with the leftovers that always seem to be taking up space in the fridge.

Frittata assembly 1

This isn’t a recipe so much as a process — and like the kind of frittata you make in a pan on the stovetop, this can be made with just about anything you can think of: grated or crumbled cheese, bits of cooked meat, fresh herbs, green onions… anything that pairs well with eggs, which is just about everything.
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Chicken Enchiladas 1

Friends! It’s been way too long. I’m sorry. I can’t believe I haven’t posted here since early July – I haven’t gone so long without posting in over ten years! – and some of you have been emailing to ask what’s up. I appreciate it so much. Really, it’s just been summer, and work, and catching up, and finally organizing the basement storage room that you’ve only been able to step through gingerly, navigating boxes and paint cans and cobwebs, for approximately the past 12 (!!) years. And is it just me, or is time a runaway train these days?

But! Enchiladas. I’m often lured to buy a package of locally-made corn tortillas, which come wrapped in thick paper in a far larger stack than I ever manage to get through before tucking the rest away in the freezer. And so because we had a string of spatchcocked chickens on the barbecue that provided leftovers to work with, I decided to make enchiladas, which can be rare in these parts. Because Las Tortillas makes slightly thicker corn tortillas, which aren’t quite as pliable as other varieties, I kept them open like tacos, shunting them up against each other in the pan, and poured the enchilada sauce overtop to soften them as they baked. The result was like tacos meets lasagna meets chilaquiles meets enchiladas. It was a delicious mess, and I kept the last of the tortilla stack out of the freezer so I can make another batch tomorrow.
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Baked Bean Muffins 1

Hey, hi! So I’m in the middle of the craziness that is the Calgary Stampede, and have 8 shows down on the grounds this week – partly because I’ve been asked to do cooking demos for Bush’s Beans, sponsors of the Kitchen Theatre for the past 5 years. As you know, I’m a bean enthusiast, and always happy for an excuse to cook with them – and this time, I challenged myself to come up with something unique using their small pull-tab cans of baked beans, which are being handed out at the kitchen and at pancake breakfasts across the city.

I do love baking with beans, and canned varieties make a particularly smooth puree, so I started experimenting with muffins and came up with these. I pureed the whole batter in the blender (or food processor), so you only have to clean one “bowl”, and can pour the batter right into your muffin cups. And because the beans themselves have some fibre and starchy structure, you can get away with only using them and oats – there’s no flour in these. And yet they have a surprisingly light texture – they aren’t gummy at all, but slightly grainy, not enough to be heavy. W has been asking for them every day, surprisingly. If he only knew they were made with beans and oats…

Baked Bean Muffins 2
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Manti 3

About a dozen years ago, the Elbasi family immigrated to Canada from Turkey, opening one of the best eateries in town – Anatolia Turkish Cuisine in the Crossroads Market. They now have a bricks-and-mortar location downtown, and at their farmers’ market location they have the only phyllo sheeting machine in Canada. But more importantly, they’re a lovely family, cook wonderful food, and when I was researching different varieties of dumplings for CBC, walked me through how to make tiny manti – Turkish dumplings filled with lamb or beef, encased in a soft dough and drizzled with melted butter.

Manti 2

On the day I was pestering them with questions, they happened to be making some for that evening’s iftar. They said tomatoes were typical, and when I came across some browned butter tomatoes, I couldn’t not make them.

Manti 1
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Watermelon mojitos

Those little watermelons you see everywhere in grocery stores this time of year? Turns out they make the perfect vehicle for fancy patio drinks for one. I watched Alton Brown juice a whole watermelon with a hand-held immersion blender, and the next time I saw a stack of mini watermelons I envisioned a coconut or pineapple-style cocktail, only it’s far easier to access the innards of a watermelon, and being 94% water, it blitzes up into juice in a few minutes.

So we gave it a try at Camp Hoo-ha this weekend, and it worked beautifully – we made watermelon-mint mojitos with rum and fresh mint, although you could do margaritas or really any other cocktail you can dream up. I made them again in a segment on BT Calgary on Monday, along with a snacky kind of patio nibble made up of cubed watermelon, olives and feta in a smear of garlicky yogurt.

Watermelon patio nibbles
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