Easter Feast: Part One

Grab your Easter bonnets, ladies and gents, and follow me along the virtual bunny trail as I gather up some of my favourite local treats. This week, I focus on what you need to order ahead: hams, quiches, pies, and handcrafted Easter chocolate. I share a great tip on exceptional wines and my favourite fruit salad recipe (scroll down to the bottom for Mary Katherine’s Cinnamon-Scented Fruit Salad). Next week: potatoes, homemade desserts, and decorations. Make your Easter feast special for the loved ones gathered around your table. Hippety hoppety!

If you are looking for premium local estate wines and boutique imports (many of which are not available through the LCBO) at direct-from-winery pricing, contact Oakville’s Laurie Blaha. A broker for Sideroad Twenty Cellars, Laurie will suggest wines to pair with your Easter dinner and give you a $10 off your first purchase coupon. Order on-line. Delivery can be made to your home, office, or cottage. Ontario residents only. But hurry – orders should be in by Monday April 14th for delivery by Thursday April 17th in time for Easter.

Our sizable clan is planning an easy Easter lunch. I’ve pre-ordered freshly baked quiches from Crawford’s Village Bakery & Distinctive Foods; they also sell frozen, unbaked quiches. Crawford’s is brimming with a wonderful assortment of quality gourmet pantry products and freshly baked goodies. Easter suggestions include lemon meringue or Easter Egg pies (chocolate mousse  pie garnished with whipped cream and an Easter egg, available from April 18th through April 21st only), squares (including rhubarb or lemon on a shortbread base), and cookies (including Cottontail cookies). Crawford’s handcrafted Easter chocolate, made on-site using fine Belgian chocolate, has been a long-enjoyed tradition for our family. Look at the fine detail on Charlotte and Edward and the beautifully decorated large egg, ready to be filled with Crawford’s truffles, hazelnut crisps, and caramels.

Crawfords_Easter_Bunnies

Quiches in the oven, next stop: ham. My nephew-in-law, Jean-Yves, served a succulent slower-cooker ham at Christmas, so I am giving this recipe a try for the first time: Cook’s Illustrated Slow-Cooker Glazed Ham. Cook’s Illustrated recipes are from America’s Test Kitchen and are exhaustively tested and re-tested, so I am confident the recipe will work. I bought the magazine (Cook’s Illustrated Make-Ahead Dinners 2014) at Target a few weeks ago but you can access the recipe on-line here by signing up for a 14-day free trial membership: http://www.cookscountry.com (it costs a few dollars a month to continue with the membership).

You can’t use a spiral-cut ham for this recipe because it will dry out in the slow cooker. I’ve ordered a Country Ham (uncut, bone-in, skin-on, cured/smoked) from Heatherlea Farm Market in Caledon, ON. Heatherlea’s Country Hams are sourced from Stemmler’s in Heidelberg, Ontario and are excellent quality hams from local farms. Heatherlea Farm Market raises pasture-fed, free-run, drug-free Black Angus beef and sells local free-run, naturally-raised chicken, pork, lamb, and bison. Wild boar, Berkshire pork, and emu are available on occasion.

Especially lovely at Easter, this colourful fruit salad is enrobed with a cinnamon and citrus-infused syrup. I use a different combination of fruit every time: this time strawberries, kiwi, pineapple, mango, and oranges. Thanks to my bff’s sister-in-law, Mary Katherine, for the recipe.

Cinnamon_Scented_Fruit_Salad
Mary Katherine’s Cinnamon-Scented Fruit Salad

Makes about 6 servings (easily doubled)

This keeps well for a couple of days in the refrigerator.  Delicious served alone or over ice cream or lemon gelato. It makes a good breakfast topped with vanilla yogurt and granola.

Ingredients:

1 orange
1 large lemon
About 5 to 6 cups total of assorted, ripe but still firm fruits, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces (combos of citrus, berries and tree fruit work well)
1 cup of water
1/4 cup of sugar
1 cinnamon stick

Directions:

  1. With a sharp knife or vegetable peeler, remove only the peel (leaving the bitter white pith behind) of the orange and the lemon; slice peel into thick strips and set aside. Segment the orange, cut into bite-sized pieces and add to a large 8-cup capacity bowl; set aside. Juice the lemon; add about 3/4 of lemon juice to large bowl (reserve remaining 1/4 to adjust acidity level to your taste at the end).
  2. Add assorted fruit to large bowl; stir gently to coat with lemon juice to prevent browning.  Chill in refrigerator.
  3. Meanwhile, heat water to boiling in a small saucepan. Add sugar; stir until dissolved. Add cinnamon and reserved peel; immediately reduce to medium heat. Simmer gently until slightly reduced, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat; cool to lukewarm.
  4. Strain syrup; pour over prepared fruit and fold in gently so as not to bruise fruit. Discard peel but keep cinnamon sticks for garnish. Taste salad and if desired, add remaining 1/4 of reserved lemon juice; fold gently. Cover and store in airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Garnish with cinnamon sticks, if desired.
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GTA West’s Finest Dosas: Mississauga’s Guru Lukshmi

Ever since an Indian friend introduced me to dosas at Guru Lukshmi – a restaurant, she asserted, that serves the finest, authentic South Indian vegetarian cuisine in our region – I have been hooked. The food has the flavours of India that I love but without heavy sauces and rich meats it tastes bright, clean, and healthy. Fresh, quality ingredients are prepared using traditional family recipes that have been passed down – and mastered – through generations of the family who owns Guru Lukshmi.

Don’t worry if you aren’t familiar with this type of Indian cuisine; Guru Lukshmi’s menu will guide you through the many choices. South Indian cuisine is usually hotter so start out with mild choices and work your way up.

Rasam soup is a fiery blend of lentil, tamarind, and tomato juice – not for the faint of heart. I can’t handle the heat but my husband loves it.

Sambhar is a spicy soupy stew made with tamarind, vegetables, lentils, red chili peppers, and spices.  Chutneys are fresh delights: the tomato chutney seems to be the hottest, the coriander chutney is sweet and bright, and the coconut chutney is cooling.

Idly are two soft pillows of ground, fermented, and steamed rice and lentils – sponges for the wonderful sambhar and chutneys you dip them in. You can order them plain with sambhar, coconut chutney, and tomato chutney on the side for dipping (photo below);

Guru_Lukshmi_Idly

or order them “dipped” (as Sambhar Idly) and they come soaked in spicy sambhar sauce and topped with ghee, chopped tomato, fresh coriander, sweet purple onion, and coconut chutney (photo below). Either way, they are quite filling and should be shared as an appetizer.

Guru_Lukshmi_Sambhar_Idly

The dosas are absolutely addictive: traditional South Indian crepes (made of fermented rice and lentil batter) that are delicate and crispy, yet deliciously satisfying. Create your own custom dosa by selecting one of many flavourful pastes, toppings (onions, green/red peppers, coriander, ghee butter), and whether you want to include a potato filling (“aloo masala”: a mild potato stuffing with fried onions, herbs, and spices), and cheese.  You can also specify the spice level, amount of oil (cholesterol-free vegetable oil), and texture (soft, medium, or crispy). My preference is mild and crispy.

How do you eat a dosa? Tear off a piece with your fingers and dip it into your sambhar and one of the chutneys or take the messier route and pour the sambhar onto your dosa, tear off a piece and dip it into some chutney. It’s fun to double dip, mixing two or three chutney flavours with each bite.  Dosas come with sambhar and three chutneys (tomato, coriander, and coconut).

My favourites are Guru Lukshmi’s signature dosas that are so flavourful the family had them trademarked to prevent others from copying their creations. Mysore Bhaji Aloo Masala Dosa is spread with a mild mysore paste (garlic, herbs, and spices), aloo masala potato stuffing, fresh onion, coriander, green and red peppers, butter, and secret spices – it is uniquely ambrosial (photo below). Though it is rated mild on the menu, the heat is head-tickling and sinus-clearing but pleasant and not painful; a great choice for those who can handle what I think of as medium heat.

Guru_Lukshmi_Mysore_Bhaji_Dosa

When I want something a little less filling, I order the Vegetable Spring Dosa (a.k.a. diet dosa) without the aloo masala potato stuffing but with cheese and coriander paste.  It is stuffed with shredded carrot, green cabbage, sweet purple onion, sweet green pepper, chopped tomato, and a hint of ghee (photo below). Fresh, bright, clean, and just spicy enough to warm me nicely from my ears to my toes.

Guru_Lukshmi_Vegetable_Spring_Dosa

Opened in 2003 by husband and wife team Kumar Gurutharan and Thana Lakshmi, Guru Lukshmi has since moved from its Erin Centre Boulevard location to Derry and McLaughlin, while steadily gaining popularity. On my latest visit, I arrived when the restaurant opened at 11:30 a.m. on Friday and easily found seating; by 12:00 p.m. the restaurant was full and shortly after, a healthy line-up formed. Apparently it is busier on the weekends – the reason why the owners have recently allowed reservations with some seating saved for walk-ins. Service is efficient, fast, and friendly. Décor is chic Indian: dark walls with silver wall decorations and pretty lights.

Guru Lukshmi
7070 Saint Barbara Blvd Unit 45 & 50
(Derry and McLaughlin)
Mississauga, Ontario L5W 0E6
Telephone: 905-795-2299
 
Hours:
Monday & Tuesday: 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Wednesday: closed
Thursday: 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Friday: 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Reservations are welcome – read the reservation policy here: http://www.gurulukshmi.com/reservation.html

www.gurulukshmi.com

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Fun Farmer Felfies

“What on earth is a felfie” you ask? A “selfie” is a photo that you take of yourself and post to social media. Our farmers are taking the selfie trend and turning it into something cool: selfie + farmer = felfie.

To celebrate the 2014 International Year of Family Farming, I have collected felfies from some fun local farmers that you really ought to get to know. I hope you will be inspired to visit their farms and follow them on social media. Since it is #ThankaFarmerThursday, let’s tell these families how grateful we are for their farm-to-table-fresh, quality products. Be sure to check my Farm/Farmers’ Market Directory for a listing of local farm markets and farmers’ markets.

#felfie #familyfarming #ThankaFarmerThursday

 

The Thatcher Family:

Dana_Thatcher

#naturallyraised #farmbeauties #farmlove

“This is Dana and Sophie Thatcher, and their wee friend, of Thatcher Farms. We raise beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey and cut fresh meats here at the farm 5 days a week.  We have an on-farm butcher shop, bakery, and country store.”  [Dana Thatcher, Thatcher Farms]

Small-scale, mixed working farm. Naturally-raised, hormone, and additive-free meat; raised on farm, fed on their own farm-grown feed. Custom-order butchering. Meat pies, ready-made meals, sweet honey, eggs, pure maple syrup, artisan cheese, jams, and jellies, gift baskets, raw pet foods, and butchery classes. Click here to find out why Dana and Adam Thatcher earned the 2013 Ontario’s Outstanding Young Farmers award.

Thatcher Farms
#5727 5th Line of Eramosa, RR# 1
Rockwood, Ontario N0B 2K0
 
Telephone: (519) 856-4073
Website: www.thatcher-farms.com
Twitter: @DanaBuylocal
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Thatcher-Farms-Butcher-Shop-and-Bakery
 
Open year round (check website for Christmas hours):
Tuesday and Wednesday: 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Thursday and Friday: 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Saturday: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Sunday: 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
 
Farm-stand at: Guelph Farmers’ Market
 
 

The den Haan Family:

John_den_Haan

 #hardworkers #farmdog

“John den Haan or as some of us know him as “Poppa John” is a second generation farmer. His dad and mom (Opa and Oma) purchased the farm we now farm on today when they came from Holland. John’s duties include… well everything. He is a jack-of-all-trades; whether it’s milking the cows morning and night, feeding, or in the fields he’s hard at work. Megs, our Border Collie and mascot, helps to round up the cows in the morning and can often be found wherever John is. She spends her spare hours greeting customers at the farm store. John and Megs are a true picture of hard workers.” [Marianne den Haan, daughter, Sheldon Creek Dairy]

Emily_den_Haan

#nextgeneration #happyfarmer #yougogirl

“Emily den Haan is 23. She is farming full-time on her own farm across the road and at Haanview Farms. She actually has her very own herd of purebred shorthorns. These shorthorns are pretty special – they belonged to Archie Currie, our father/grandfather. Emily has taken over much of the herd and is the next generation to have these cows and well, let’s just say she definitely shares the same passion for cows as grandpa did.” [Marianne den Haan, daughter, Sheldon Creek Dairy]

On-farm production and glass bottling of whole, non-homogenized, minimally-processed, naturally fresh milk and yogurt products from John and Bonnie den Haan’s own herd of happy and healthy cows that graze the pastures of the 3rd generation Haanview farm in Sheldon Valley. On-farm store; products also available in other retail locations. The 3rd annual Sheldon Creek Dairy Day on the Farm will be held on June 14, 2014, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m..  It’s a great opportunity to meet the den Haan family and the cows, tour the barn, and enjoy the local farmers market, live music, face painting, kids craft, cooking demonstrations, and product samples.

Sheldon Creek Dairy
4316 RR#2
5th Concession
Loretto, Ontario L0G 1L0
 
Telephone:  (705) 434-0404
Website: http://sheldoncreekdairy.ca/index.php
Facebook: www.facebook.com/sheldoncreekdairy
Twitter: www.twitter.com/sheldondairy
Instagram: www.instagram.com/sheldoncreekdairy
 
Open year round:
Monday to Saturday: 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Sunday: 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
 
 

The Laidlaw Family:

Laidlaw_Family

#familyroots #seventhgeneration #heirloomorchard

“I did capture our family planting a new orchard… (my favourite felfie). The tiny twig in the middle is in fact a baby apple tree! The feet belong to Spencer, Margo, [and their parents] Laura and Mark Laidlaw. And the last one is a little Hallowe’en vignette [of Laura] in our barn.” [Laura Kelly, Carl Laidlaw Orchards]

  Carl_Laidlaw_Orchards

#creative #countrycharm

Seventh generation heirloom orchard and on-farm market: 20 varieties of pick-your-own or already-picked apples (including heirloom varieties), 3 varieties of pears, sweet corn, honey, and candy apples. Bring in baked goods, local squash, garlic, jams, and preserves.  Make your own pie on-site or buy already made. Barbeque hot dogs, sausages, corn, and drinks available on weekends. Old-fashioned fall family fun in a charming vintage setting. For details, please read my post “Happy Under the Apple Boughs: Carl Laidlaw Orchards”.

Carl Laidlaw Orchards
9496 Heritage Road
Brampton, Ontario
L6X 0A1
 
Telephone: (905) 456-2095
Website: www.carllaidlaworchards.ca
 
Open: daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. during September and October, possibly into November depending on Mother Nature.
 

Thanks so much to my farmer friends for submitting your felfies!

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Hello Spring! Lime Mint Pea Purée

Put on some perky Edith Piaf tunes, quick up your heels, and throw open the windows while you clear out the cobwebs and welcome spring, even if it doesn’t quite feel like spring yet.

Celebrate spring with an easy and healthy purée of sweet green peas, tangy lime, and fresh mint. A quick swipe on grilled baguette makes a fast lunch when you are busy with spring chores. A dollop on crisp cucumber makes a pretty spring hors d’oeuvre. Oh, Spring how we’ve longed for you. Happy, happy spring everyone!

Lime_Mint_Pea_Puree

Lime Mint Pea Purée

Makes about 1½ cups

Make this delicious purée in advance and serve it chilled. The flavours will be brightest the day you make it but it will keep nicely in the refrigerator longer. Don’t defrost the peas before you sauté them; take them straight from the freezer to the sauté pan.

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil (divided into 1 and 2)
2 shallots, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 package 340g / 12 oz. (3 scant cups) frozen green peas
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
10 fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 lime (finely grated zest and juice)

Accompaniment:

1 English cucumber, thickly sliced
or
1 baguette, sliced and toasted

Garnish:

8 fresh mint leaves, julienned

Directions:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add shallots; sauté until tender, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Add garlic; sauté for 15 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the frozen peas; sauté until peas are very tender, stirring frequently, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat.
  2. Transfer mixture to a food processor. Add salt, pepper, chopped mint leaves, lime juice, lime zest, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil; purée until smooth.
  3. Transfer to a covered, airtight container. Chill until ready to serve. Serve chilled, spread on toasted baguette or cucumber slices. Garnish with julienned mint leaves.
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My Irish Eyes are Smiling: Halving the Potato at Cuchulainn’s Irish Pub

Okay, so I am not exactly Irish though I like to believe that everybody’s got a little Irish in them. When St. Patrick’s Day rolls around, here is how I love to celebrate it: Cuchulainn Crisps shared with good friends at Cuchulainn’s Irish Pub, in Streetsville. As the Irish saying goes, ‘it’s easy to halve the potato where there is love’.

Cuchulainn_Crisps

These homemade Irish potato chips are a tasty tribute to the humble potato. Fresh potatoes are sliced just thick enough to have a little potato substance to them, fried up crisp, and then smothered with melted cheese and green onion. Add crumbled bacon and chopped fresh tomato, if you wish. Served with sour cream for dipping.

Now my friends have me hooked on Cuchulainn’s Hill o’Chips, a traditional Newfoundland dish known as CDG (chips, dressing, and gravy): French fries are topped with a Newfoundland-style bread dressing (stuffing) made with savoury (instead of sage) and smothered in beefy gravy. They say it is Newfoundland’s answer to poutine; I say it’s SDG (so darn good). Add chicken curry, if you like.

Cuchulainn_Hill_o'Chips

Cuchulainn’s is an authentic, family-owned and managed Irish pub, serving Irish whiskeys, scotches, a wide selection of draught beer, and Irish and British food. My nephew likes the Guinness Stew: beef braised in Guinness beer with potatoes, carrots, and onions and served with Irish soda bread. My son loves the Dublin Dip: a thinly sliced roast beef sandwich topped with onions, mushrooms, and mozzarella and served with beef jus for dipping.

Enjoy Irish dancers and live music on Monday March 17th 2014, from 3:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. A five dollar donation to The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada (CCFC) will be accepted at the door. Check Cuchulainn’s events page for St. Patrick’s week celebrations.

It may not be spring yet but as the song goes “When Irish eyes are smiling…’tis like the morn in spring. In the lilt of Irish laughter, you can hear the angels sing.”1 To all of my Irish friends, and the rest of us who want to be Irish for a day, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Cuchulainn’s Irish Pub
158 Queen Street South
Mississauga, ON
L5M 1K8
Telephone: 905-821-3790
Website: http://www.cuchulainns.ca/index.html
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CuchulainnsPub
 
Hours of Operation:
Sunday: 10:00 a.m. to midnight
Monday: 11:00 a.m. to midnight
Tuesday: 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.
Wednesday: 11:00 a.m. to midnight
Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.
Friday: 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.
Saturday: 10:00am to 2:00am
 

1When Irish Eyes are Smiling:
Songwriters: George Graff, Ernest R. Ball, Chauncey Olcott.
Published by Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., EMI Music Publishing, WINDSWEPT HOLDINGS LLC, CARLIN AMERICA INC
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