About Julie

If I had to choose a favourite place to be, most days I’d pick in the kitchen with people. My own kitchen, when friends are packed into the nook rather than spreading out into the rest of the house – or my parents’ when everyone is over and attempting to tag team on dinner or brunch and collectively get the cousins fed. But I really love being invited into someone else’s kitchen, especially a person or family with a history of dishes outside my usual repertoire (not that I really have a usual), who have been making certain dishes for years to feed their families, who cook for people so often they have drawers full of portable Corningware to fill and send out the door, like Dilshad and Rozina. (I try to adopt a lot of my friends’ moms, aunts and grandmas.) Dilshad and Rozina – the mom and aunt of a friend and also sisters who live together with their husbands, who are brothersContinue reading

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We don’t wait for lunar new year to make dumplings around here – they’re one of W’s favourite foods, and long ago we started filling and pinching them together. It’s not as difficult as it looks, a great way to spend 20 minutes catching up with someone you love, and little fingers are particularly adept at manipulating the soft dough. In the end, it doesn’t matter how you seal them – fold them in half like a peroghy, twist it into a little topknot, pull up the corners and make a tent, add a couple pleats or don’t. As long as they’re sealed, they’ll cook up just fine and taste wonderful. (Kids will come up with tiny packages you’d never have thought of.) There are, of course, millions of ways to fill a dumpling – essentially you start with ground meat (pork is very common, but some are made with beef, chicken, turkey, shrimp or veggies) and season it with soy sauce, finely chopped greenContinue reading

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Meat on a stick. Anything beefy that can be eaten with your fingers and dragged through tangy-spicy peanut sauce I’m on board with. This is what happened recently when I dug through the deep freeze in search of something that could be cooked quickly. Occasionally I have a flash of insight, picking up beef when it’s on sale and quickly hacking it up and freezing it in a bag of marinade while we unload the groceries. A marinade can be anything, really – often I just go to town with an open fridge, pouring in OJ, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and garlic, something sweet like honey or brown sugar, something acidic like lime juice or balsamic. Plain yogurt that needs using up makes a good vehicle for flavours and spices, even a lob of curry paste. I try to convince myself it’s a good idea to label before tossing it in the freezer to marinate while in stasis, and the resulting package lies inContinue reading

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Pulses! You know I’m a fan. (Did you know I wrote a book on the subject?) If you’re not familiar with the term, it refers to the edible dried seed of legumes, like dry peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils. Pulses are quite possibly the world’s perfect food – high in fibre and protein, low in fat, inexpensive, versatile, easy to store, and good for the environment – as they grow, pulses fix the nitrogen in the soil, reducing the need for fertilizer in crop rotations. And they can be found in virtually every cuisine in the world – a pulse is as fitting in a bowl of Cacio e Pepe in Italy as in an Indian chana masala or daal, or a can of British baked beans. And they’re a huge Canadian crop – 65% of the world’s lentils come from Canada, mainly Saskatchewan – which makes me love them even more. Today is the second annual Global Pulse Day, a global event to celebrateContinue reading

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Apologies for the plain photo, but this is what real life looks like – W was hungry (OK, we all were), and to be honest I didn’t plan to share this until I got several requests on Instagram. People like sloppy lentils! It was a last minute, just-drove-home-from-Edmonton-and-rummaged-through-the-freezer dinner, with a small handful of red lentils thrown in to boost fibre and other good things. Dry split red lentils cook quickly and mask themselves perfectly, soaking up the sweet-vinegary flavours of sloppy Joe sauce – no one has a clue they’re there. (If you like, you could use canned brown lentils instead – they work just as well.)

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Apparently Albertans love their turnip puff. This is believed to have originated in the original Best of Bridge cookbook series – made with rutabaga, turnip or winter squash (or try a combination), the veggies are mashed and mixed with a bit of butter, brown sugar and egg, which makes it puff up slightly as it bakes, giving it a lighter texture. Some people assemble it ahead of time, refrigerate and bake it when they need it. I made it yesterday for the Eyeopener, and fed the leftovers to my dad, a longtime root vegetable non-enthusiast. It was a hit both times. If you haven’t had rutabaga before, it’s a brassica vegetable also known as a yellow turnip or Swede (short for Swedish turnip) – it’s big, about the size of a coconut, and purply, making it look like a large turnip. They’re believed to be a cross between cabbage and turnip, but taste more like mellow winter squash – raw, they’re crunchy and snappy, andContinue reading

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Banff in the winter is a wonderfully happy place, perfectly festive when it needs to be, and that cozy place to warm up, eat well and hunker down under ironed sheets after a day out exploring. It’s the place we’ve retreated to on weekends since I was a kid, a comfortable hour’s drive through the Rocky Mountains I try not to take for granted – just long enough to feel like you’re away from it all, but not so far that you have to forfeit half a day and pack snacks. (OK, I always pack snacks anyway.) We rarely venture out in that direction too close to Christmas, knowing so many other families take the opportunity to (our schedule is more flexible than most), but this year we went out for a few days the first week of winter holidays, post-school and pre-Christmas, which allowed for some gloriously quiet shopping, coffee and games by the fire, and some exploratory food research to kick me outContinue reading

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One day over the holidays, I asked out loud to a room full of family, “what foods should everyone eat more of in the new year?” (I was planning my first radio segment of January.) My nephews answered, “apples!” “Vegetables!” The youngest yelled out, “TACOS!!” Everyone continued with their vaguely healthy resolution-style suggestions. Charlie kept yelling, “TACOS!” And so it seems fitting to start the new year with tacos. Also, we wound up with two open bottles of nice, local stout, and because no one wants to drink flat beer but it’s perfectly fine for braising meats with, I picked up some pork shoulder. (I told you I don’t like to waste food.) And who doesn’t have at least a few squidgy mandarins at this time of year? These were juicy and sweet, but soft with drying-out leathery skins, making them tough to peel. I did it over the pot of meat, tucking chunks of peeled orange in the spaces between. It worked beautifully.

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I associate trifle with Christmas – my great aunt Maud (who was British) used to make trifle – the kind with sponge cake in the bottom doused in sherry or brandy, a layer of fresh or tinned fruit, Bird’s custard and whipped cream on top – but it’s truly a year-round dessert. This is my aunt Maud’s trifle bowl, the stand long since broken off – I decided to bring it back this holiday, after chatting with a friend’s mum visiting from Worcestershire about trifle and the Great British Bake-off and the jelly-vs-no jelly debate (I say no jelly). It can be as summery or wintry as you like, and it still seems festive to me when made with a quick sponge roll spread with blackberry jam from the height of summer. If you’re not familiar with trifle, it’s a British thing traditionally made with layers of custard poured over sherry or brandy-soaked sponge cake, jelly roll or ratafia (similar to amaretti) and jam, stewedContinue reading

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