Fried Rice ~ Basic Recipe

IMG_9565_2For several months one year, we had two young women staying with us through the Canada World Youth Program; one was a Canadian university student from Sherbrooke, Quebec, and the other, an economics student from Jakarta, Indonesia. Language was one of the key components to their stay here, as well as volunteering in the community. While I struggled with Indonesian, finding it difficult to separate the words, as the language is so fluid, I did find my high school French coming back to me so quickly. The three of us would laugh, quite often pointing, or drawing pictures to communicate. But slowly it all started to happen. Often just a quick sentence, but the intent was picked up on.

Besides language, food was a huge part of us getting to know each other and our cultures. Our household became used to the scent of rice in all its cooked forms. During Ramadan, the two of them would get up before dawn, and start cooking the early meal. Usually it was a simple assembly of fried rice. A few pieces of garlic, onions, and hot peppers, fried with leftover rice from the evening meal. Other bits of vegetables or meats would be added, and served with sambal oelek and ketjap bentang. This meal would last them right through until the late meal. Our Quebec guest found it very hard to manage the long days of fasting, but did it to experience her counterpart’s religion. Our tiny, Indonesian friend explained to me, that if you eat less, it is far easier to make it through the day, as she watched with glee as our young Canadian friend wolfed down a bagel with cream cheese following her fried rice.

Frying the rice before cooking it (instead of frying leftover rice) gives it a nuttier flavour. The recipe still uses small amounts of vegetable, meats, and egg to make it a complete meal. Be creative with this, as it is a very simple meal, using what is at hand. It can easily be fully vegetarian, or just use the egg if you like. Continue reading

Hot & Sour Soup

IMG_8778One of our family’s favourite soups is Hot & Sour Soup, slightly spicy, sweet & sour with just a few ingredients; this is perfect for a light meal. There are some additions that do make it more authentic, but even this very basic version makes for a very happy meal. I can remember many busy school nights when this was served, always leaving us satisfied! Continue reading

Double Stuffed Mushroom Caps

IMG_8805Mushroom caps have long been a staple on appetizer buffets, and rightly so! They’re easy to do, usually just a mouthful or two, a perfect finger food. They’re typically filled with cream cheese, maybe with some crab mixed in. Cheese seems to be in so many appetizers, so if there’s a way to hold back on the stuff (this is me talking, She Who Wants Cheese) I try to do it whenever possible. This recipe is full of umami, and can easily be adapted to be Gluten Free or Vegan (see following main recipe). I usually allow for 3 per person if they’re to be plated and served before the salad course. However, if they’re part of an appetizer buffet allow for 1 – 2 per person.   Continue reading

Guinness Braised Beef with Shallots & Mushrooms

IMG_6493When I get an idea for a recipe in my head, it tumbles around until the pieces get sorted.  It takes several tries to get it right, and sometimes it needs to be left alone for a long while, until something pops into my head to make it right.

Last year when we were in Oceanside, Washington, we had an amazing Guinness and beef soup.  It was delicious. But at the time, their fabulous Irish Soda Bread was what set my wheels turning, so the soup was relegated to a back shelf in my brain for the time being.

When our beef was cut this fall, we came home with several good-sized Eye of Round roasts.  They would be perfect for a large group dinner, so that idea was put on a shelf, maybe beside the Guinness soup, for thinking about later.

Knowing I would be cooking for a large Seniors Dinner in late February, I started “playing” with Guinness braised steaks sometime in January.  The length of time cooking, so that the steaks were tender, but not over done, took some tweaking.  The thickness of the sauce and its ratio to the steaks was important, as well.

It may not be a soup, but the soup definitely inspired the dish.  After eating more steaks than originally planned, here’s the recipe.  I suggest it be served with fluffy, buttery mashed potatoes. Continue reading

Sautéed Mushrooms with Baby Kale

Served up with some local ham.

Served up with some local ham, and sweet & sour mustard.

My older sister has just bought a small home on Thetis.  I tell you, this island is somehow in our blood.  We have a small photograph of our grandparents standing on the rocks by the Chemainus boat slip in 1921, with Thetis in the background.  This might not seem unusual, but my grandfather met my grandmother in London while convalescing after WW1.  He came home to Canada, and then turned around and went back to England, bringing her to the Fraser Valley to be his bride.  It was on their honeymoon, while travelling around Vancouver Island, that the photo was taken.

Allan & Grace Carruthers Chemainus 1921

Allan & Grace Carruthers
Chemainus 1921

Now another of their granddaughters is making a home here.  She was on the island last weekend, measuring rooms, going over the water system and such, with the present owner.  She brought along a friend, and we gathered for dinner one evening.  I knew what I was serving, so was very relaxed as our evening slipped along.  At least I thought I knew what we were going to eat.  When I got out the Brussels Sprouts, I realized I had only enough for three or four per person.  I was going to sauté some mushrooms and decided to extend them with some baby kale.  Here’s what I ended up doing, and towards the end of the meal we decided the recipe was a “keeper”. Continue reading