Coconut Chai Cake

IMG_2094When we were very young, our parents would take us exploring in our cabin cruiser, “The Hurricane” up through Howe Sound, and further up along the Sunshine Coast towards Texada Island. While I never remember staying overnight on the boat, we did do some very long day trips. We’d sit in a line along the bench at the stern of the boat, with lifejackets rubbing our chins, while the sun and wind toasted us. Dad would sit on a high seat, steering, sometimes allowing one of us to help him. There was a small cabin, with counters, a table & bench seating. It most likely converted into a bed if needed. Mom would have packed our very reliable picnic basket with egg sandwiches, some sort of cake, and cookies, and lemonade. At some point, tins of Shasta sodas usurped the bottles of lemonade.

We’d spend all day doing long runs out in the sea, or poking from inlet to inlet, getting off the boat to explore. Needing to swim into shore, or be lifted by Dad.

On a recent road trip up to Bowser, and lots of tucking into the beach all along the way, north of Parksville, we stood on the beach and looked all the way from just south of Baynes Sound towards Vancouver. With the calm waters, and the hint of summer in the air, I was transplanted back to that bench at the stern of the boat, feeling the sense of adventure we always felt when leaving the dock, and very much felt the presence of our parents. Those wonderful boat trips, although early in our lives, imprinted the need to be near the ocean in all of us.

This is a delightful snacking cake that would be perfect for a day on a boat, or a picnic. Originally from BBC Good Food, I have tweaked it a bit, a delicious idea to put the wonderful flavours of Chai into a cake. Enjoy! Continue reading

Mango & Ginger Compote

IMG_9079The first time we travelled as a family to Maui, we wanted to show the girls all the little experiences that can make a Hawaiian vacation an adventure.   Ready to explore those things that were different from home, we stopped at a VW bus parked at the side of the road with fruit for sale. The ancient hippy in his bleached-out tank top, led us into the back of his van to show us boxes of fruit. He took hold of my wrist, and placed two of his fingers on the top of my fore arm and gently pressed down, “this is how a ripe mango should feel, firm, but giving”. I’ve never forgotten that simple little lesson, and use it unconsciously when shopping.

During the same early March trip, we were buying fresh fish burritos for supper, and I asked the time of year that mangoes ripen. We were told that they usually started ripening in May. After just having bought some “local” ripe mangoes from our friendly neighbourhood hippy, I realized that he was just another huckster using a line for a sale. Although, the mangoes were delicious, and we ate them happily believing that they were handpicked from a tree somewhere in the jungle.

The burrito maker told us about a tree loaded with mangoes, which was going to be removed in a vacant lot. We headed out following the directions for the lot, with one daughter full of excitement, and the older one in disbelief that her parents were actually going to go pick mangoes in a vacant lot. She was old enough to continue on, while the three of us made good use of our climbing and reaching skills and picked many hard green mangoes.

Packing to return home, the mangoes were tucked in amongst our clothing to prevent bruising. Once home, they all eventually ripened, and were perfect. Just firm enough, yet giving, as I’d been taught.

Here’s a simple little compote to dollop on rice pudding, tapioca, custard, or Panna Cotta. Continue reading

Chinese Tea Eggs (Beijing)

IMG_6503We had a lovely little paperback book, from the seventies, with Chinese country recipes.  It was filled with folklore & woodcut images, as well as some pretty amazing recipes.  It certainly helped me when ordering dim sum, as I would be able to recognize many of the little dishes that were being served.  In it we found a recipe for Tea Eggs that is very odd, but was a favourite for our kids to make and eat.  After hard-boiling the eggs, the shell is cracked all over and then let to steep with star anise, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom & black tea.  When the eggs are cool, you peel the egg and reveal a wonderful pattern of the shell’s cracks.  The seasoning from the spices is complex, but perfect with the egg.

It was always a fun to tuck one of these eggs into a school lunch.  Lots of looks of horror from the other kids, quickly followed by a bit of envy.

Anyhow ~ here’s the recipe in a more formal version. Continue reading

Frozen Espresso Nougat with Pistachios & Bourbon

IMG_6179Frozen nougat is a lovely way to end a meal.  It is so light, and a half–cup serving is all that’s needed.  If the dinner has been a full one, it’s nice to serve something light and cool for dessert.  Remember that dessert is the last thing on your guests’ palates.  It needs to be memorable, in a good way!

I’ve served this many times over the years, but in a very simple version.  It was a bit of an epiphany for me to add in the espresso & bourbon, and switch the nuts to pistachio.  When I was making this batch, I was making enough for twenty.  After preparing the nuts (which I did the night before), it took me just over an hour to have all twenty covered and in the freezer, ready for a dinner in a couple of days’ time.

I served them with a tray of small mixed cookies, an easy but special finish to a great evening.  Continue reading