Tag Archives: cooking

Hungarian comfort food – Plum Dumplings!

I was just looking at Food52.com for some ideas and came across a recipe that looked oh so familiar!  It was for an Austrian dish called “Zwetschgenknödel”.  Hungarians make these too!  They are called Szilvas (Plum) Gomboc (pronounced ‘gumboltz).  They are a plum filled dumpling smothered in toasted and sugary breadcrumbs.

The dough is made with mashed potatoes and flour.  The dough is rolled out and cut into squares with a plum, prune or spoon of thick plum jam placed in the centre; then bring all corners up to the centre and pinch off making sure the filling is sealed inside.  The dumplings are boiled and then covered with browned breadcrumbs.

Definitely an unconventional dish, especially to eat for dinner, but it could be served for dessert or brunch.  Our family loves this Hungarian Comfort Food.   I made these with my Mom – baking together was always something very special since I lived far away in Vancouver.  My Mom has now passed away so I continue to make them to share with my Dad, brother and sisters.

You can find the recipe for the Austrian version at www.Food52.com by searching for ‘Zwetschgenknödel’ or check out the April 2013 edition of Chatelaine for the Hungarian version.  They are basically the same although the Austrian version rolls the dumpling into a ball and then pushes a plum into the middle and then pinches the opening closed.  You may find that method easier.  Maybe this will become one of your favourite dishes.

Hungarian Comfort Food
Hungarian Comfort Food

It’s almost Pancake Day! Or do you know it as Shove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday?

pancakes - Shrove Tuesday-Pancake Day-Fat TuesdayIt’s almost Pancake Day! Or do you know it as Shove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday?  Anyway you say it or make it, pancakes are a wonderful dish to be enjoy at brunch or for dinner.

Crepes rather than pancakes were more the norm in our household.  And we called them palacinta – the Hungarian version of a crepe.

We filled ours with a sweetened cottage cheese filling with a sprinkling of cinnamon and sometimes some raisins.  We spread the filling over the crepe – not to close to the edges, and then rolled them up.  There was a nifty trick to holding the palacinta in our hands – you bent it in half and put the back half between your pinky and ring finger and the front half was placed between your first finger and thumb.  And if you didn’t like the cottage cheese filling, you could spread it with homemade strawberry jam.

Over the years I have added more variations such as drizzling a nice warm fruit compote on top or using ricotta instead of cottage cheese.  My cousin tells me she makes them with a walnut filling which sounds absolutely fabulous.  I think my sisters and I would like them with a poppy seed filling.  Of course these new variations necessitate eating them with a fork and knife.  Until now, I had forgot about the original way to eat palacinta.  Perhaps I’ll make them for Fat Tuesday / Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday.

Sunday morning breakfast at Prospect House

Sunday morning breakfast at Prospect House – yes breakfast, not brunch.  Something I’m not all that familiar with.  When on my own, I try to sleep past breakfast and move straight to brunch.  In Vancouver, I often walked over to my favourite restaurant, which closed, God Rest it’s Soul, to eat brunch at The Wild Garlic.  Luckily I was in Vancouver in March 2012 and enjoyed a couple of brunches with friends and dinner out with some good friends who were also regulars.  It was a small, stylist, friendly restaurant where the people who worked there were always happy to see you arrive.  Big hello’s, how are you doing?, and even some hugs when I had to say goodbye. Little did I know that the restaurant would later close. Sad news indeed.  This little café served the best breakfast in the City.  Perfect basted eggs, perfect fried potatoes, some grilled Italian sausage, perfect toast and a damn good cup of coffee, bottomless.  And the price couldn’t be beat.  When I first went, the price was unbelievably cheap at $3.50 and over several years the final price was $6.00.  The quality stayed the same and even at that price, it was a good deal.  The menu also offered eggs benedict, French Toast, omelettes – most items had a hint of garlic and sometimes a nod the owner’s heritage, with barbequed pork or bok choy. Sandy was from Hong Kong. I wonder what she is doing now that the restaurant is closed.

It was my go-to place where I would take my friends and family, but most often I went on my own, read The Georgia Straight, a section of The Globe & Mail or The Vancouver Sun and sometimes I’d take one of my novels. As much as I enjoyed taking my friends, I truly enjoyed going on my own. I never felt lonely or sad to be eating by myself because I always had someone to talk with. It was an open style kitchen so I got to know the chefs. In the morning it was an older Chinese woman and later the young male chef would arrive to start prepping for the dinner crowd. The waitresses were friendly – always smiling and very efficient. But I digress, as this post is about my Sunday morning breakfast at Prospect House.

These musings didn’t start as a post, but instead it was an email that I sent to a friend, Pat.  This is what I told her about my early Sunday morning:

“Up, too bright and early for me.  I’m working at Prospect House, so I’m cooking breakfast.  There’s only one resident this morning, Norman, and myself.  I should have asked him if he wanted to sleep in this morning, because he seems to be doing just that.  It’s 8:10 and he’s not down yet.  Usually, the residents show up right on time for meals.  Oh well, the coffee is ready, the bacon is keeping warm on the stove and I have time for an email.”

I was writing to her because I wanted to send her a link to the Oxford Artists’ website so that she could see the artwork of Krista Osinga.  She was the Artist of the Month for January at Station Arts and Pat hadn’t been.

I went on to tell Pat that “I had sent Krista an email following her show saying how I liked her work, etc. It was quite a nice, complimentary email.” Krista had quite a unique style using coffee as her paint for a full range of browns from dark brown-black to ruddy reds.  “I guess I wrote her a fan email by telling her how I loved her style and technique, the subject matter which included old trucks, farm tractors, animals – all of which was perfect for the rural roots that most people in Tillsonburg, including me, are familiar. I mentioned that I couldn’t find a website for her.  I just got her reply last night, and disappointingly, Krista didn’t even acknowledge my kind, enthusiastic words. 

This is what she wrote, and I quote:  I’m one of the artist on the artists of oxford website.  Just do a serch (sic) for it and I’m their (sic) with the other members. artistsofoxford.com, end quote.  Frankly, I think she needs a lesson in PR.  I like her art very much, but this cryptic email didn’t leave a very good impression.  Is it because she’s young?  Did she send her email from her phone and therefore she’s used to texting  short emails?  Is she already jaded at this early stage of her career? Or was she just in a hurry to get out her response since I had sent the email about 10 – 14 days ago. Maybe she doesn’t like email – too old-fashioned compared to texting or twitter?  Although, the bio I picked up at the Gallery only listed an email address and as I already said, my google search didn’t turn up any links to this artist.  So perhaps in addition to a PR lesson, she also needs a lesson in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in order to get her name to pop up within the first page of a web search. She’s young, I’m older, maybe is it the proverbial generation gap?”

And there I go, and digress again.  Back to Sunday morning breakfast at Prospect House.  My email continued:  “Well Norm is downstairs for breakfast – a little sleepy, but he’s having his first cup of coffee and I’m about to fry up some eggs.  As the cobwebs cleared from his head we had a nice chat over breakfast.  I was much more awake than him because I had now been up since 7:30 am, cooked breakfast and had finished one cup of coffee.

I tried to hold back my chatter – I was wide awake and anxious to talk.  I asked Norm if he knew the term ‘full bifter’ or ‘half-bifter’? Or does it have two ‘f’s’ and spelled ‘biffter’?.  He did not.  This is a term I’ve used for some time and found out it was also in use by my Scottish friend Ronnie.  We tried to find out the origin of the word and I think Ronnie even asked a librarian friend all to no avail.  I use the term to mean something like ‘everything on it’ as in a pizza, the full bifter would mean the pizza had every possible topping.  A full English breakfast or fry-up could also be called a full bifter when it has eggs, bacon, sausage, baked beans, fried potatoes and toast.  A half-bifter might only be several of those items.  I think this was too much information for Norm while he was still trying to wake up so I went back to eating my breakfast.”

Now as I’m writing this post, I have a sick feeling about the word ‘full bifter’.  We used to call the toilet or outhouse ‘the biffy’.  I hope ‘full bifter’ isn’t related to this term.  I leave it to your imagination to figure out how those two terms could be related.  But again I digress.

As I write this, I’m half listening to Michael Enright on The Sunday Edition on CBC 1 that plays from 9 am to 12 noon.  Right now there is a feature about MS focussing on the question of whether it is caused by a deficiency of Vitamin D?  It seems to mostly affect people of European ancestry which includes many of us that live in Canada.  Is it the northern climate?  Is it a white persons’ disease?  In Canada 133 people get MS while in India only 1 person will get the disease.  India is a Vitamin D rich country and is a different ethnicity.  The show is also featuring interviews with people considering the ‘Liberation Therapy’.  Time to stop writing and listen to this interesting program.

It’s a beautiful sunny Sunday morning. There is a deep blanket of pristine white snow which fell through the night and most of the day on Friday. There are some snowflakes fluttering out of the sky. It’s a perfect day.

Just call me Mom

Just call me Mom.  I’m working at a group home in Tillsonburg.  This is my 2nd weekend and only 4 people around (7 residents in total).  I arrived this morning about 7 am so they got cold cereal and toast for breakfast, but I did make my favourite bannana crunch muffins in time for morning break!  Only two for lunch so I made toasted western sandwiches.  Tonight for supper I’m making a home-made chicken pot pie with biscuits.  The recipe is from the Barefoot Contessa recipe book and I made it once before for my sister Rosemary, her husband and my Dad  and it was really good – especially the biscuits! 

All this cooking is reminding me of when I used to cook for the harvest gang on our tobacco farm.  At this place they get 2 additional snacks so I’ve got to come up with more ideas.  Not only am I the cook, but I have to stay overnight at the house – I hope the bed is comfortable.  The residents are very nice and friendly and they like my cooking.  Last weekend I made them chicken paprikash with rice and a pear crisp and they loved it.  Hey maybe I’ve found my new niche. 

Another Day Goes By

Angel food cake
Image via Wikipedia

March 9, 2012.  It’s the end of another day.  I’ve just finished baking an Angel Food cake – from a mix because it’s not worth making one from scratch – what would you do with all those egg yolks?

I managed to fritter away the whole day.  What a great word:  fritter.  The definition in the Merriam Webster dictionary says:  to spend or waste bit by bit, on trifles or without commensurate return.  I was supposed to meet a friend for lunch, but somehow I didn’t get to bed last night until about 4 am this morning.  I was feeling rather tired and I started to worry that I should be doing something in preparation for the party I’m having on Saturday night.

Somehow I didn’t really accomplish that much which is exactly what you are supposed to do when you fritter away the day.  I spent too much time on the computer reading emails and writing some, opened some more mail that piled up while I’ve been in Ontario (nothing all that important), stared outside my window glad that I got out yesterday for a walk because the weather has taken a downturn (7 day forecast is for rain and more rain), checked to see if Rufus, my Great Blue Heron was at his post (yes, standing there like usual), ate a couple of meals, and from time to time, thought about my party.

Tomorrow is d-day for the party.  I guess I like leaving things to the last minute.  I’m planning to make two kinds of martinis – Green Apple and Pommegrante.  Some of my friends are bringing some finger foods.  A little bit of clean up, last minute shopping and then setting up the table & bar.  Hopefully I’ll have time for an afternoon nap.

A Walk in the Park with Wanda and Kate

March 7 & 8, 2012.  Not quite what the weatherman predicted, but the sun did come out mid-afternoon.  If it reached 8 degrees it didn’t feel as warm as I would have expected.  First stop was coffee at Milano where I met my friend Wanda Chau and her lovely Olde English Bulldog Kate.  A good strong latte was just what I needed to give me some pep.  Wanda is a chef and operates Bah! Baked at Home – you can find her delectable baking at The Baker’s Market, call her up for a special made-to-order batch of my favourite gingersnap cookies and to-die-for mini cupcakes.  She will also come to your home to prepare a meal for your dinner party or she might be giving cooking lessons at the Cook Shop.  We met while I volunteered with Soup Sisters where she graciously donated her time and expertise in the kitchen to oversee soup-making by groups of like-minded charitable souls at either Quince or The Dirty Apron, two of Vancouver’s fine cooking schools.

Next was a walk in Stanley Park which was teaming with squirrels, ducks, Canada Geese and Blue Herons – all to Kate’s delight.  We dropped by The Fish House hoping to see Karen Barnaby, Executive Chef, but she was busy with a photo shoot.  We continued on our way to the corner of Denman and Davie for our own photo shoot by The Laughing Man sculptors – an incredible sight to see and walk among the giant sculptors of, you guessed it, laughing men, all based on the artist’s own likeness.  It’s part of the Biennale but looks like it may become a permanent installation as the City has the opportunity to keep it for the next 20 years.

Our tour of my ‘west of Denman’ neighbourhood took us along Denman Street where I pointed out the House of empanadas, a new little eatery I tried for lunch yesterday, passed another new shop – Ayoub’s dried fruits and nuts which is as beautiful to look at as is delicious to eat, an authentic Iranian shop with silver display cases and crystal chandeliers, unlike anything I have every seen before.  We walked and talked until we ended up by the Safeway grocery store where we parted ways.

It was so good to get out walking in the fresh air, something it seems I’ve forgotten how to do since I’ve been living in small town Tillsonburg where I have access to my Dad’s car.  In Vancouver, it’s second nature for me to walk everywhere – something I will find easier to do when I return to Ontario as I will be moving to a house which is close to the downtown making walking an option again.

Yesterday I got together with my good friend Claudette.  We’ve known each other since our days in Whistler in 1979 when we worked at the old Cheakamus Hotel. Today we’re a couple of 50+ women, but back in Whistler – well we both have stories we like to reminisce about when we were both a little wild and crazy.  That carried on for a while when we both moved to Vancouver and lived in the same apartment building on Pendrell Street.  In those days we liked to go out and party at The Railway Club, concerts at The Commodore and all the other hot spots at that time.  I still remember playing The Talking Heads full blast on the stereo as our preamble to our night on the town.  I’m sure no one who saw us eating dinner at Zefferelli’s last night would ever suspected we were those same young women!

The great thing about Zefferelli’s – of course the fantastic food, is that their plate of pasta is huge and I almost always take half home.  So tonight was Zefferelli’s Part Two – house made pasta with a crab and artichoke cream sauce.

So a couple more things checked off on my list of things I want to do while here in Vancouver.  Claudette and I started off on South Granville at Starbucks for coffee, we strolled along Granville Street popping in and out of the many independent art galleries. The best was the whimsical and colourful art of Glenn Payan at the Ian Tan Gallery which I can best describe as reminding me of the scenery in Dr. Seus’s movie adaptation of The Lorax. Next we transported ourselves by bus over the bridge to get to Robson Street where Milestone’s was our destination for a pre-dinner Bellini.  Too bad I got several brain freezes which migrated such that I also felt it in my chest.  Can’t say I enjoyed that aspect of the drink – maybe I’ll have to ask them to warm it up to room temperature for me.  Is that a sign of getting old?. And last, but certainly not least, was dinner out at Zefferellis which calls itself a sophisticated spaghetti joint.

Zefferelli’s has hardly changed during the last 20 + years that I’ve been coming.  I wouldn’t be sorry to see them get new chairs – there’s something odd about them that you instantly notice when you sit.  The truth of the matter I think it’s the tables that are too short.  But once you get lost into your glass of wine, their in-house baked bread served with their Italian version of salsa, the chairs almost become a moot point.  I mentioned these things to our server and she assured me that there was at least one change – there is now a heater in the women’s washroom.  It always was mighty cold in there.  Another great day and night in Vancouver.

The last time I lost my purse was on the skytrain in Vancouver. Here I go again!

Well I did it again.  Just last weekend in a mad rush to pick up groceries, a bottle of wine and then head out through the stormy night to London to visit my friends Wayne and Marlene, I did just that – forgot my purse.  I was cooking dinner so I guess I had lots on my mind.  Unpacking the car I realized my purse was missing.  I wasn’t really too worried as I figured someone would find it.  A call to the grocery store and they had just found my driver’s license and my name with everything showing my Vancouver address and this was in Ingersoll Ontario.  So I asked them to keep it for me and I would pick it up on my way home.  Relieved.  I knew how lucky I had been.  It was an odd weekend though to be ‘without purse’.  I don’t know how men get along without one as I could never carry all my essentials in my pockets.  Everytime I reached for something in my purse I felt a little lost.  But I managed without it, enjoyed my weekend in London and then stopped by the grocery store to pick up my purse and carried on like nothing unusual had happened.