Hot Cross Buns with Currants & Orange

IMG_9470 (1)Good Fridays, for many years, were spent making dozens of hot cross buns to share with our family and friends over the Easter weekend. Ready to be delivered to homes to be enjoyed. Every year I’d tweak the recipe a bit for each batch, always starting with a basic sweet dough made with milk & butter. Sometimes too much spice sometimes not quite enough, and working towards the right combination. Always the purist, I would stick with currants as the only fruit, with the exception of some orange zest.

When I took out the recipe for this year’s I was reminded of the many years of development, by the fact that I have attached all my ideas into a stapled wad of pages. The top page is the “final” version, and the one that I’m sharing with you. These are very simple to make, and have good staying power, so if they’re made on Good Friday, they’ll last well through the Easter weekend. Continue reading

Focaccia Bread

IMG_6923Once upon a time, I had been invited to join my sister & her partner at Bishop’s for dinner.  It was a lovely late spring day, and I was so excited to be going to one of my favourite chef’s restaurants.  I had no idea just how much that visit would help me in understanding the true art of customer service in the food industry.

As we were seated, I looked around at the beautifully appointed room, with heavy linens, and lovely tableware, but nothing ostentatious.   It felt like I was in someone’s much loved home.  There was quiet chat all around us, with people enjoying the food, their friends, and their surroundings.  Home.

It wasn’t long before John Bishop himself came and joined the three of us for a few minutes at our table.  Pulling out the fourth chair he became one of our group. He already new the other two, but I was a new face.  He found out we lived on a producing farm, and was instantly interested in all aspects of how we raised our animals, how we sold our meat, and so on.  Through the conversation he also learned that I was a caterer. I don’t usually bring this up to “real chefs” as I am untrained, and tend to put chefs on pedestals, of which I will probably never rise to.

After no more than 10 minutes, he was off to run his room.

We ordered dinner, and enjoyed a small amuse bouche he brought to us.  Before we were served our main meal, he came to the table and asked if I would like to come into the kitchens, and see the workings, how it was all set up, and the like.

We moved from station to station looking at sauces simmering, meat being expertly trimmed and cooked, all while there was a very professional but happy energy happening.

Looking at me with a twinkle in his eye, he asked me to follow him out the back door to the alley, as he wanted to show me something.

On the landing of the turn of the stairs, no more than 8 feet square, there was a very homey patio table with an umbrella and 4 or 5 chairs. He was so excited to show me these.  One of his best customers had called only to find that the restaurant was fully booked for the night.  Not to let her down, he gave her an al fresco option.  He’d asked his wife if she would be able to bring their set from their own home (with children helping) to set up a very special dining experience in the alley way for this treasured client.  We sat for a few minutes enjoying the late evening sun, while we both spoke of both our standards of customer service and how feeding people had brought us to these points in our lives.

As we walked back to the dining room, he asked if I would come and spend three days or so in his kitchen in the near future. I would have loved to, and it was a door I should never have let close.  Regrets? Maybe, but at the time I knew my place was on the farm with my family.   All these years later, it still remains my favourite room in Vancouver.

This recipe for focaccia bread is based on a recipe from Bishop’s.

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Hamburger Buns


IMG_2510

IMG_2416 Thetis Island is a ferry dependent community with very few services.  If you don’t have something at hand, it is rarely worth making a trip to Vancouver Island just to get it.  You might ask a few people, but in most instances, we learn to make do.  This is probably a skill that everyone should have, regardless of where they live.  The essential component of disaster preparedness is to plan ahead.

But what if all you want is hamburger buns? Use this recipe, as is so easy, and always successful.  I’ve been using this same recipe for years.  It gives a light, yet firm bun that holds up even when sauces saturate it.  These buns nicely fit a quarter pound burger, or a big scoop of pulled pork.  Offer to bring them to a BBQ, and your friends will love you for it.  I have no idea why I’m thinking of BBQ late in February, but I am!  I guess ‘cause the birds & frogs are chirping, the earliest leaves just starting to unfurl.  Yup, summer’s ‘round the corner. Continue reading

Farmhouse Bread

I could probably make this with my eyes closed. In fact I may well have!  This is a simple bread recipe that lends itself to many different additions.  I’ve made it for weddings, fund-raisers and just for the family.  When I’m catering, I use one loaf for 8 guests, and rarely have any leftovers.  I use my Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook, but there’s no reason you can’t make this with hand kneading. In these photos, I was making a version using pistachios and toasted ground flax. Continue reading