Oxtail Soup

IMG_5318 The first time we went in to pick up beef from the butcher, he asked if we’d like the licker, the flicker, or the ticker.  We stood looking at him like a couple of newbies.  I’m not sure if he actually rolled his eyes, but probably somewhere in his head he was.

The tongue, the tail, or the heart.  Not having had much experience with any of them, we opted for the least embarassing, and said, “yes please.”

So started my fascination with slow braising of the most intensely flavoured muscle meat that a beef animal has to offer.  These aren’t actually organs, they are constantly used muscles, tough because of their use.  They pump, lick, help to swallow, and flick away flies.

The more a muscle is used, the more flavour it has.  The trick is how to get that flavour in an accessible way. In other words, without much chewing!

This soup is one of my all time favourites.  I think I was first introduced to it in a red & white labelled can.  Now it is made once or twice a year (there’s only one tail per animal).  Cook the meat, creating the stock, one day; put together the soup the next.  Take your time, no one is expecting you to rush while making a pot of soup.  Continue reading

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

Struan Bread

Bread making is a passion for some, while for others it’s a way to have in-home made bread.  Then there are those that like to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labour. There are still millions of people who do it simply because they need to feed their families.  I get pleasure from the sight of uniform loaves that have an aesthetic appeal, that smell great and can be enjoyed just as is.  I used to hand knead all my bread, and while doing it would fondly remember the maple bread counter that Dad built Mom when they redid their kitchen in Vancouver about 40 years ago.  It was the perfect height for Mom to knead on.  It was secured on three sides, and made of 2” thick boards.  Although it was a wee bit too high for me at the time, it would be perfect for me now, as I ended up to be the same height as my mom.  We didn’t consider it an essential when planning our kitchen, and now, with the Kitchen Aid, I can cope well without it.  Before the arrival of the Kitchen Aid, I would stand at a broad expanse of the kitchen counter faithfully kneading for 10 minutes, or however long was required, all the time wishing I was just a couple of inches taller.  But the view over our front meadow was always worth it. 

The original version of this recipe is from Peter Reinhart’s Brother Juniper’s Bread Book.  It is a favourite of mine, as it is good on its own, with a smear of butter, toasted, or the start of a great sandwich.

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Toasted Barley “Risotto” with Roasted Cauliflower

One evening, in the mid-seventies, our family had neighbours over for dinner.  Their recent high-school graduate daughter had just returned home from a Katimavik type course.  We were told that she was now a “vegetarian” which sounded a lot like “alien” coming out of my mom’s mouth.  What to serve?  Mom had recently adapted to our father’s new diabetic diet, and now here she had to come up with another special dish.  She created a mushroom barley casserole (using tinned mushrooms) that fit the bill. While we chatted and heard the stories of groups of young people finding their way (I still have visions of everyone in corduroy caftans with wooden bead necklaces), I watched as Mom’s casserole emptied.  Everyone was eating it to the last scrap.  I was so proud of her, how clever!

Nowadays, when cooking for even just a couple of guests, there seems to always be someone who’s intolerant or allergic to certain foods, or on a special diet due to a more severe medical condition.  Mom used to toast the barley in her version of essentially an oven-baked barley risotto.  Here I’ve toasted the barley, and roasted the cauliflower giving the dish a wonderfully earthy flavour, so that once again, every last scrap will get eaten.  I’ve put quote marks around risotto, as there isn’t a “scrap” of rice in it! Continue reading