Mushroom Barley Soup

IMG_1819Barley & Mushrooms are great companion foods.  In a risotto type dish, stew, or soup, they have a restful flavour, reminiscent of a walk in the misty forest of late fall.  Scotch Broth and Oxtail soup are similar soups except that they require meat and several more ingredients.  This is a very simple soup, usually the ingredients are on hand, and it takes about 45 minutes to make.   If you have this recipe in your repertoire, you can pull a hearty, nutritious, vegetarian dinner out of a hat in under an hour.  Just serve with some great bread, such as Hearth Bread.    Continue reading

Hearth Bread

IMG_1949We visited the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village in Alberta last summer.  They grow, harvest and mill wheat using traditional methods.  It is very special to be able to use a grain that is harvested right where it’s sold.  This bread is great for trying out specialty flours, germs and brans from different grains.  The lemon juice acts as a flour conditioner and helps to make things work well when improvising.

We’re about to leave on a short trip, and I thought it might be nice for our farmsitter to have some really moist & robust bread to eat with many, many farm fresh eggs, so I baked a batch this afternoon.  My husband and I ate a few slices from one loaf, but I kindly froze the other two loaves so we won’t eat it all before we leave.  Continue reading

Winter Soup with Potatoes, White Beans & Cumin

044A number  of years ago, I catered a family event where all the siblings were in their sixties, and they hadn’t all seen each other for years.  They had planned a wonderful weekend together using Thetis as their base.  One evening they gathered for a simple, progressive meal before they watched a DVD of their lives growing up.  There were many tears that evening, as well as hilarity.  The gift of sharing, when we all come from the same place, regardless of our position in that place, acknowledges the long fiber that connects us.  Partners can join in on this commonality as they’ve heard the stories, lived the tears.

As I quietly worked away in the kitchen, I could relate to so many of their stories and emotions.  I served a supper that was familiar to their farming background, but had enough twists to keep it current.  The lighting was low, and the evening passed along unhurried and full.  This was the soup I created to start the evening. Continue reading

Emily Allen’s Fruitcake

034This is our family’s fruitcake.  My parents had it for their wedding cake; we had it for ours, and many cousins and other relatives have as well.  Pounds of it are made every Christmas, soaked in brandy and left to age.  It makes a great snack for hiking, boating & fishing on the west coast (would probably work on any coast), so extra is made to use during the rest of the year.  Often I still have a piece in the pantry from the year before, found when I’m cooking that year’s batch.

Emily Allen was my mother’s mother’s mother.  She lived in London in a big old house on Palmers Green (still stands today) with her husband and large family.  Pictures we have of the early years of the 20th century show them scrambling over seaside rocks or climbing over hills and dales (literally) with picnic baskets and sports equipment in tow.  Her recipes from that time are barely legible now, faded on well used and splattered pages.  Her recipe showed two forms, a dark fruitcake and a light fruitcake.  There’s only a couple of ingredients that create the difference.  Honey and cider for the light cake and molasses and grape juice for the dark cake. There was a scribbled note about black currant jelly, and she may have used it instead of the molasses. I wonder if it really is her recipe, or was it her cook’s?

We prefer the light cake, so that is the recipe I have written. If you want to try the other form, just replace the two ingredients.  I read a description of perfect fruitcake written by a monk in the 1800’s.  He suggested that there should be barely enough cake to hold the fruit together and when sliced thinly it should resemble a stained glass window.  This recipe meets both of these requirements. It easily cuts to ¼“.040

I don’t know if glacé cherries are the same now as they were a hundred years ago, but today’s version will have to do.  The rest of the ingredients are pretty ageless.  I used to make hundreds of pounds of this cake, selling it to make Christmas money. A 1# wrapped cake would sell for $10 in the 80’s.  I finally stopped when I realized that from late October to the last weekend in November (my latest date of production), that I’d made at least 2 batches if not 3 each day.  I decided I’d rather spend time with my family than make money to spend on them!037

I still like to make some 1# cakes for gifts, and enough 2# cakes to keep our extended family happy.

Note: mixed peel – be sure it is actually citrus peel and not preserved rutabaga.  This is an inexpensive alternative that finds its way into Christmas cake fruit mixes.  Also, when buying cherries, be traditional and stick with red.  Green & yellow aren’t acceptable.

Each batch makes 6# of baked cake. Continue reading

Creamed Brussels Sprouts Soup

019Our neighbouring farmer called today, looking for any sort of meat grinder that could make short work of the pig fat she had on hand, in preparation for rendering.  I had an old rotary model that had made many shepherd’s pies in the past, and lovely lamb for moussaka.  She came over to pick it up, and arrived with an armful of Brussels sprouts from their own Jollity Farm still on the stalks.  “Do you eat Brussels sprouts?” she asked.  We love Brussels sprouts.  Roasted, steamed, sauced, and souped.  We had been working outside all day, and were ready for a hearty lunch of something.  So I made soup.  This recipe takes about 30 minutes from start to eating, so you don’t really need to plan too much ahead. 013

What was she going to do with all the lard?  Candles and bird treats.  This family is fairly new to farming, and doing things like rendering lard still fit in the “fun” category.  There’s a point when you realize that there are some jobs you are glad we no longer need to do to survive.  Continue reading