This blog has now been folded over into "The Left Chapter", a blog dedicated to politics, art, writing & food!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Quick Roasting a Holiday Turkey

Written with Natalie Lochwin

With the last days of the holidays approaching, many of us are preparing for a family dinner and a roast turkey is often the centerpiece of the meal. Cooking turkey fills many with dread as making sure that a turkey is properly cooked is, of course, important, but overcooking a turkey leads to that awful dry meat that needs to be virtually drowned in gravy to be at all edible.
Many times, as well, a turkey far larger than is required is bought, and this means not only many hours of laborious monitoring, basting and attention, but also endless turkey leftovers.
In this blog we will look at a method of roasting a 12-15 lb. turkey that is quick, relatively easy, produces a turkey with a wonderfully crispy, brown skin and excellent flavour. Done right, it will come out delectably moist. We will also roast it with mixed vegetables and have a nice side of gravy for all those gravy lovers out there (and who, I must ask, does not love gravy). And this is cheaper and can be done in as little as two-and-half hours!
Right from the start, let us note that this method can only be done for a smaller bird in the 12-15 lb. range, as you actually physically turn the turkey several times during the cooking process. This method is not recommended for birds larger than 15 lbs.
First, take the turkey, remove any giblets, and salt it all over generously. Put the turkey in a large, heavy roasting pan. Then take 2 or 3 tablespoons of melted butter and 2 or 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, blend the two together, and brush it all over the turkey.

Set the oven rack to its lowest setting and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. 
Now take the turkey and turn it, inside the roasting pan, on one of its sides with the drumstick sticking up. You will likely need to crunch up some aluminum foil into several balls and place it all around the bird to prevent it from falling over. Put the turkey in the preheated oven and leave it for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove the turkey from the oven, and carefully, using oven mitts (and if possible with the help of your designated family sous-chef!) turn the turkey over onto its opposite side so that the other drumstick is facing up. Baste the bird with more of the butter/olive oil mix and put back in the oven for another 30 minutes. After 30 minutes repeat this, flipping the bird again (and basting) and then after a further 30 minutes do this one final time (meaning each side will have been drumstick up for two 30 minute cycles.)
Finally after these two hours of cooking, turn the turkey so that it is breast side up, baste again, and put back in the oven for a final 15-30 minutes. You want an instant read thermometer to read 175 degrees when placed in the thickest part of the thigh for it to be done. (If you opt to stuff the turkey, it is best if the stuffing is heated to 160 degrees, but I always prefer to cook stuffing separately as it complicates cooking times if you overstuff, or dries out or burns if you understuff.)
When you turn the turkey for the last 30 minute drumstick up rotation, you can at that point add some assorted vegetables to the pan to surround the turkey and to roast with it and its juices. Take some classics like squash, beets, potatoes, leeks, onions, and carrots (you can use any, all or others!) cut them up into nice rustic style chunks, toss them in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper, (and, if you like, other seasonings like French Fry Spice or Italian Seasoning) and some fresh or dried thyme and place the seasoned vegetables around the turkey.
After cooking, take the turkey out, place on a platter and let sit for around 20 minutes. If the vegetables are not roasted enough for you, you can put them back in while the turkey rests.
As the turkey rests, it is time to make the gravy.
Once the vegetables and turkey have been removed from the roasting pan take the pan with any cooking liquid and leftovers and deglaze it on a medium heat burner with about 1/4 cup of dry white wine or a dry cider. Be sure to scrape off any remnants of vegetables and turkey to add to the mix. Add 1/2 a clove minced garlic or just smash a clove and simmer.

Add some whole dry thyme, 3/4 of a cup of vegetable or chicken broth and bring to a gentle simmer.

In a small frying pan add some olive oil and butter, and fry your favourite giblets until almost done.

Season with salt and pepper. Slice the liver giblets thinly to resemble mushrooms and set aside.

Thinly slice seven medium crimini  mushrooms (if crimini are not available you can substitute mushrooms of a different type) and sauté in the leftover pan grease where the giblets were cooked until lightly browned and soft.

Your gravy will have been simmering for several minutes. This is meant to be a more modern, thinner au jus style gravy.

Strain your gravy using a fine sieve forcing through any vegetable remnants. They will help thicken the gravy slightly.

Pour the gravy into a new pan, add the mushrooms and giblets. Taste and season to your liking.

It is now ready to serve. Carve the turkey, serve with the vegetables, cranberry sauce and any other sides of your choosing, top with lots of gravy, pop open a bottle of nice white wine and enjoy the holidays!
The best of the season from our family to you and your friends or family. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

5 Great Winter Beers: From Bah Humbug to Montgomery's Courage

The winter holidays are a great time to sit with friends and family and enjoy drinks and food. Today we will take a look at five great winter ales and beers to warm one up after expeditions out into the cold and the snow.

1) Winter Ale, Great Lakes Brewery

A Toronto based multi-award winning craft brewery, Great Lakes Brewery makes an excellent and succinctly named Winter Ale. Full of flavour, it is fortifying with its 6.2% alcohol content. Available for only a few winter months the ale is notable for its tastes of ginger and cinnamon and fruity tones. Priced in Ontario at $6.95 for a 750 ml. bottle.

2) Bah Humbug, Wychwood Brewery

Bah Humbug is a glorious looking winter warmer with a delightful aroma of Christmas baking that hails from the Wychwood Brewery in the UK. It has a slightly sweet taste that is very smooth and easy to drink, and that reminds one, in a good way, of a cinnamon banana bread. Perfect for Christmas Day. It has a 5% alcohol content and is priced in Ontario at $3.95 for a 500 ml bottle

3) King Goblin, Wychwood Brewery

Also from the folks at Wychwood is King Goblin. A strong ale that is available year round, this is not solely a winter beer, but I find that it is at its best during this season. It is lightly carbonated with strong flavours and hints of chocolate. A great by-the-fire after dinner drink. With a 6.6% alcohol content it will warm on the coldest day and is $3.95 for 500 ml. in Ontario.  

4) Montgomery's Courage, Black Creek Historic Brewery

From the wonderful brewery that has grown out of Black Creek Pioneer Village north of Toronto and that is committed to recreating historic beers as they were brewed in the 19th century, Montgomery's Courage is a rare rye beer. And it does, indeed, remind one of the more commonly imbibed rye whiskey, though with a more malty flavour. Really pleasant to drink, you need to get this one fast. It was brewed as a one-time only beer, and when it is gone, it is gone! 5% alcohol and $3.50 for 500 ml. in Ontario.

5) St. Peter's Winter Ale, St. Peter's Brewery

Established in 1996 on an abandoned farm, St. Peter's Brewery in the UK is dedicated to crafting traditional beers that are done in historically English ways. Their Winter Ale has long been a favourite of mine and is only available during the season. This winter warmer has great seasonal hints of spice like nutmeg and clove, and is nicely malty. It is only lightly carbonated and benefits from being not too sweet. It is also strong, with a 6.5% alcohol content and is priced at $3.95 for a 500 ml. bottle in Ontario.

Hope you have enjoyed our first tour of craft brews for the winter months and that you get to try or revisit some of them over the holidays.

The Dish: Gyro & Shawarma Poutine @ Grill Pit

The Dish: Gyro & Shawarma Poutine
Where: Grill Pit, 2836 Lake Shore W. (@4th St.), Etobicoke  

Opened only a couple months ago in New Toronto just a few blocks east of Islington, Grill Pit has a lot going for it. A Gyro & Shawarma take out restaurant with only a couple of tables and a few stools, it has excellent food across the board at very competitive prices.

The gyros, for example, are generously sized, truly delicious, and cost only $4.50 before tax. The falafel sandwich is one of the better ones I have had, with a unique seasoning blend for the falafel balls themselves. They are always made moist, are, again, very large and cost only $3.99 before tax.

By themselves, without fries, roast potatoes, salad or a drink, either of these sandwiches would be an ample lunch for many.

I was already becoming something of an early regular at the Grill Pit, and had tried much of the menu (their souvlaki and Greek salads are also quite good) as the inexpensive prices, the fast and friendly service and the food itself made it an obvious lunch destination.

And then I tried the Gyro & Shawarma Poutine!

Grill Pit's poutine, while inspired by the Quebecois French Fried potato dish that has become popular across the country, does not actually have two of its most typical components, gravy and cheese. 

Instead, they take perfectly cooked and crunchy seasoned French Fries, cover them with a huge portion of assorted Gyro and Shawarma meat, top this with a thick layer of tatziki sauce, banana peppers, Middle Eastern style salad, sliced Mediterranean style pickle, and their house hot sauce. There are other toppings available, or one can hold the hot sauce, but this is the blend the owner and cook likes and recommended, and with good reason. It is fantastic!

It is pretty hard to beat this combination of flavours and textures in a French Fry dish. It is certainly one of the best and most original that I have had. It is also only $5.99 for a large size, and this is easily a full lunch or even dinner for most people.

So if you live in the west end or are out to check out the areas great parks and beaches (once summer rolls around again) be sure to stop in and try it. You will be glad you did.   

The Dish is a regular feature that will look at one dish that we particularly love at a restaurant, diner, food truck, etc. Please feel free to submit your favourite dishes from restaurants in your community. Please include a photo of the dish or establishment if at all possible.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

1922's Cocktails - How to Mix Them: With Five Great Holiday Drinks

Vintage Cookbook: Cocktails - How to Mix Them, "Robert"
Publication Details: Various editions and publishers. First published 1922

Published originally in 1922, Cocktails - How to Mix Them went on to become one of the most successful cocktail books ever printed. It ran through multiple editions over decades and remains, if you have a copy, a great resource for mixing some classic drinks.

Commonly printed in a handy pocket format, it was written and compiled by "Robert" of the "American Bar, Casino Municipal, Nice, and late of the Embassy Club, London." The "Robert" was Robert Vermeire, a well known bartender in the London club scene of the 1920's.

The book has not only Cocktails, but also Rickeys, Slings, Sours, Coolers, Cobblers and many, many more varieties of intoxicating blends, as well as a selection of non-alcoholic cocktails. It is introduced with a fanciful "history" of the cocktail as well as instructions on properly mixing them, shaking versus stirring, and so on. It ends with a fun "Do You Know That-" section of what amounts to alcohol trivia. 

Today we will share four drinks from the book (exactly as originally published) that go perfectly with winter and the holidays, and I will throw in one of my own making, The Caribbean Admiral, as an added holiday bonus!

[Editor's Note: The gill is unit of measure that has fallen out of use and is the equivalent, in the case of this book, of a quarter pint. Wikipedia has an entry giving some equivalencies.)

Hot Apple Jack Sling

Fill a tumbler half full of boiling water and Sugar Syrup to sweeten, 3/4 gill of Apple Jack Brandy or Calvados, and stir up gently. Squeeze the peel of a lemon into the glass, and add grated nutmeg.
Some people prefer a tablespoonful of fresh lemon juice also in it.

Hot Spiced Rum

Put into a tumbler 2 or 3 lumps of sugar and dissolve them in a little boiling water, add:
1 gill of Old Jamaica Rum
1 piece of butter as large as a small walnut
1 tablespoon of spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg).
Fill the glass with boiling water. Stir up well and serve.

Dragoon Punch

This punch is a favourite drink in the Northern countries of Europe, principally in Sweden and Norway. Here is the recipe for a party of four people:
1/2 gill of Brandy
1/2 gill of Dry Sherry
A small bottle of Stout
A small bottle of Lager Beer
1 bottle of Champagne
Sweeten according to taste and decorate with thin slices of lemon.
This punch is usually prepared in a big bowl, and the mixture must be well iced.


The Gluhwein is a German hot Claret Toddy, made as follows:
In a saucepan put 2 lumps of sugar, 1 slice of lemon, 1 piece of cinnamon and 1/2 pint of Claret. Boil and serve as hot as possible.

[Editor's Note: "Claret" is a generic term for a French or Bordeaux style red wine.]

The Caribbean Admiral

My own concoction, this is based on a drink I tried and modified to my own taste by substituting Ginger Beer for Ginger Ale and making a few other modifications! It is rather strong and warms without the need for any actual heat!

In a large tumbler place 2 ounces Rye Whiskey, 1 ounce bitters (like Alpenbitter), 1 ounce lime juice and 6 ounces chilled Ginger Beer. Mix by either gently shaking or stirring thoroughly. Serve poured over a two-or-three ice cubes in a large glass. (As an alternative, vermouth can replace the bitters, though I prefer bitters).


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook: A Dr. Seuss Inspired Romp through Cooking!

Vintage Cookbook: Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook, Georgeanne Brennan

Publication Details: Random House, 2006

Published in 2006, though sadly already out of print, The Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook is a truly fun and zany look at cooking through a Dr. Seuss inspired lens. Meant to appeal to Seuss fans young and old alike, it is full of illustrations of Dr. Seuss characters and photos of over-the-top food offerings.

It is also full of really great recipes, over 40 of them, with terrific ideas to jazz up breakfast, lunch, snacks, dessert (of course!) and mains. The recipes are specifically designed with ideas and components that kids should be able to participate in the making of.

Today we are sharing two recipes, one for Hoop-Soup-Snoop Group Potato Soup and one, needless to say, for Green Eggs and Ham! The text and recipes are exactly as originally presented.

Hoop-Soup-Snoop Group Potato Soup  

Soup is good for spooning and sipping, and this creamy potato soup is worth jumping through a few hoops for, especially with its toppings of croutons, cheese, and bacon - and more, if you want.


1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into several pieces
1/4 cup chopped onion
6 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
4 slices crisply cooked bacon, crumbled
1 cup croutons
1/2 cup minced green onion (optional)

1. In a large saucepan, combine the potatoes, onion and water and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
2. Drain the potatoes and return them to the hot saucepan. Mash them with a potato masher.
3. Stir the milk into the mashed potatoes and return to medium heat, stirring, until the soup is well blended and hot, about 5 minutes. Taste and add slat and pepper as desired.
4. Put the cheese, bacon, and croutons, and, if you want, the green onion in spate bowls to accompany the soup

Makes 4 servings

Green Eggs and Ham  

If you, like Sam-I-am, also like green ages and ham, you will like these green guacamole eggs and green glazed ham-just try them. You can make the guacamole as mild or as spicy as you like. (If you don't want to cook a whole ham, try making a tablespoon or two of the glaze for a slice of ham.) You can also eat them here or there. You can heat them anywhere.

Ingredients for Ham:

1 Fully cooked and smoked ham, about 8-10 pounds
1 cup apple or mint apple jelly
3 medium tomatillos, husked and minced
1 cup minced cilantro leaves or 1/2 cup minced cilantro leaves and 1/2 cup minced parsley leaves

Ingredients for eggs:

4 ripe avocados
juice of 2-3 limes
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons white onion, minced (optional)
2 Serrano chilies, seeded and minced (optional)
4 ounces butter or 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or other light cooking oil, such as canola or sunflower
12 pasteurized eggs (pasteurization is necessary for safety when yolks aren't fully cooked)

Directions for Ham:

1. Heat the ham as directed by the package instructions. Let cool to almost room temperature, about 20 minutes.
2. Mix the apple jelly and the minced tomatillos together to make a glaze. Spread the ham all over with the glaze, except on the cut side.
3 Using your hands, gently pat the cilantro, and parsley, into the glaze until it is solid green.

Directions for Eggs:

1. Cut the avocados in half and remove the pits. With a spoon, scoop the flesh out into a bowl. Mash it with a fork, then add the lime juice and salt and, if you want, the onions and chilies. Mix again.
2. In a large frying pan, melt the butter or heat the oil over medium heat. When hot, crack the eggs into the pan.
3. Cover the pan and cook until the yolk has a pale white film over it and is slightly to very firm.
4. With a spatula, gently slide the eggs onto plates or a serving platter.
5. Spoon the guacamole over each yolk, covering it. Serve immediately.

Makes 12 servings.

Editors Note: If you cannot find pasteurized eggs, simply cook the eggs fully and then top. This loses some of the effect, but ensures safety.

Next Post: 5 Great Winter Ales.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Fiery Okra Jalapeno Slaw‏

Submitted by Natalie Lochwin

This intense, delicious, and very spicy side dish, inspired by Caribbean and Southern cooking flavours, is a great accompaniment to West Indian food, BBQ, picnic food, or just about anything that goes with heat and coleslaw! It also puts good use to okra, a woefully underused delight.

Here it is pictured with clay baked, curried goat!

  • 1/2 cabbage
  • 1 onion
  • 7 fresh green okra (frozen would likely work just fine)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 fresh Jalapeno's
  • red hot pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp curry powder (I used Madras)
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • vinegar
  • cider, wine or broth
  • lemon
  • salt & pepper to taste
Cut the cabbage into a medium shred. You want a texture that is not too fine and is less shredded than many slaws.
Dice the onion.

Slice the okra into 1/2 " rings.
Slice the garlic, seed and slice the jalapeno. Always be careful seeding a jalapeno, as the seeds can irritate your skin, eyes, etc. Especially if inexperienced you might want to wear gloves. Seeding is a good idea, however, as if you don't, the dish will be intensely spicy and enjoyable for only the most seasoned spicy food palate. 
Add 1 TB olive oil to a hot medium or large sized frying pan.
Fry the onion until soft, add the jalapeno and cook for about 5 minutes. 

Add the okra. Okra has a viscous quality which blends well with other ingredients. It will act as a thickener. Cook for 8 minutes or so, until soft.
Add the curry powder and a small pinch of hot pepper flakes,  around 1/4 tsp (you can adjust later and add more if you'd like it hotter) cook for a bit, then add some cider or wine (a splash at a time) as your pan is drying out. Add garlic, and cook a little longer until fragrant. Add 1 tsp of vinegar.
Add the cabbage and cook down for several minutes, adding 1 Tbsp. of butter if desired (a  delicious addition).
Add salt and pepper to taste. More hot pepper flakes or a bit of cayenne may be added now if you'd like it even hotter. Finish with a squeeze of lemon.

This can be both made more al dente if you prefer a crunchy cabbage dish or on the softer side. Both ways are great.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Grey Cup Sunday "Game Day" Chili

Chili is a wonderful thing. Vegetarian or meat, it is hearty and fortifying which is likely why it is most closely associated with fall and winter. Chili is also a great way to make a lot of food for family or friends for relatively little money. If making just for your own household, it will usually leave days of leftovers that can be had over pasta and whose flavour will actually "age" well. It keeps up to 3 days in the fridge if made with ground meat (longer in some other cases) and will taste better as each day passes!

I have several chili recipes, including a terrific Cincinnati style chili and a Cowboy Chili, which is all meat and seasoning, with no beans or tomato, and will share those, as well as a really good vegetarian bean chili, later in chili season.

Today, being Grey Cup Sunday, I am sharing my basic chili recipe, that I make most often, especially for gatherings, so I call it my Game Day Chili. It is easy to do with ingredients that are easy to get.

I like my chili spicy, and I think the heat enhances the flavour, but this recipe does allow a "sliding scale" depending on how hot you like it!


 2 lbs. Ground beef
2 lbs. mushrooms
2 large cans herb & spice diced tomatoes
1 large jar sliced jalapenos
1 large jar sliced pizza olives or cocktail olives
1 packet chili, 1 packet taco & 1 packet Sloppy Joe seasoning (or 2 chili and 1 taco if you cannot find Sloppy Joe seasoning)
1 can red kidney beans
1 teaspoon browning liquid
Salt & Pepper to taste.
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1-5 tablespoons Mexican or Tabasco style hot sauce.

Slice the mushrooms. Brown the ground beef in a large pot over medium-low heat, adding the mushrooms as you go.
When the beef is nearly fully browned  (usually a few minutes when this much) add the seasoning mixes, stirring constantly.
When the beef is fully browned add the tomatoes. Do not drain.

Drain the jars of olives & jalapenos and add them.
Add the beans, browning liquid, Worcestershire Sauce, and hot sauce. (My favourite for this recipe is Goya Salsita Habanero Sauce, but Cholula is good as well...or any one with that Mexican or, if you prefer, Louisiana Tabasco style taste), stirring constantly.
Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for NO LESS THAN 3-4 HOURS!!! I prefer 4-6. But 3-4 is a must. Less than that is just not good enough. It needs to thicken and the flavours need to come out. Stir occasionally and check to make sure it is not boiling or simmering too much.
Every hour or so, give it a taste and add salt & pepper to taste & more hot sauce to taste.
Serve with beer, football, sour cream, grated old cheddar cheese, nacho chips, etc....
It is a good one! If you do try it...let me know what you think!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Egg and Cheese Oven Bake with Vegetables or Meat (or both!)

What to do with leftovers? A common concern for those of us on tight budgets or not wanting to waste. Today we will take a look at an egg and cheese bake recipe that can use a variety of different vegetables or meats that are sitting around in the fridge or pantry. The basic recipe never varies, but what you do with it does. It is very flexible and can be made as a breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner meal and can have meat or be vegetarian.  

And, it has the virtue that it is fast, easy and hearty.

(We will be using portions that are family sized and suited for a 15"x11" baking dish. For smaller or larger portions, adjust accordingly.)

For all ingredient variations you will need 6 pieces of white or brown bread. You should use a standard sized thickness, not a rye or thin sliced bread, as you want the bread to absorb the egg mixture. You will also need 8 eggs and 3 cups of milk.

In a large mixing bowl blend the eggs and milk together with a whisk. Add salt and pepper to taste (I tend to use 1 tablespoon of each), 1 teaspoon of dry mustard and, if you want a little kick, a teaspoon (or two!) of red hot chili pepper flakes. Blend thoroughly.

Meanwhile, rip the bread into chunks, a few chunks a slice. Line the bottom of the baking pan with the bread chunks. Then top these chunks by evenly sprinkling over them 1 1/2 cups of grated cheese (I suggest old and sharp cheddar, but marble, mozzarella, or whatever grated cheese strikes your fancy, work as well). Then you add the leftovers (or whatever ingredient you want!).

This is really the best part. For the bake I picture here, I used pepperoni slices leftover , unused, from some homemade naan bread pizzas we had made a couple of nights before. I spread them evenly over the bread and cheese. But you can use leftover chicken slices, other sliced meats, or any number of vegetables, like mushrooms, onions (sautéed is particularly good), zucchini, etc. Experiment and use more than one. Olives and cooked bacon for example. Or sliced up left over turkey with chopped celery. Or leftover cooked spinach. You want to use about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of these ingredients.

Once you have laid the layers of bread, cheese and other ingredients, pour the egg/milk mixture over it.

Place into a preheated 350 degree oven. You want to cook for 40-45 minutes. It is done when the eggs are set and the cheese golden brown.

Take out and let sit for 5 minutes. The bake will have risen and it will settle by "deflating" a little. The bread will have formed into a kind of crust and you will get a great blend of flavours and textures.

Cut the bake into slices and serve.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cooking Favorites of Long Branch with Perfect Meat Loaf & Christmas Cake

Vintage Cookbook: Cooking Favourites of Long Branch, Women's Committee St. Agnes Anglican Church
Publication Details: Self-published, c. 1970's

Cooking Favorites of Long Branch, the historic lakeside south Etobicoke community that I call home, is a nearly perfect embodiment of the old style community cookbook. Put together in the 1970's by the church Women's Committee to raise money for the local St. Agnes Anglican Church  (which was closed in 2005) it is full of folksy recipes and advice contributed by residents of Long Branch.

It is divided into the usual sections, like "Pickles and Relishes", "Salads, Vegetables and Soups", "Meat, Fish & Poultry", etc. In addition, it ends with a section dedicated to oven and time charts, ingredient substitution, measurement tables, etc, as well as a neat page of "Super Quantity Cooking" like doing Cabbage Salad for 175! (20 lb. cabbage, 1 1/2 qt. Miracle Whip, 4 large cans crushed pineapple, 2 bunches carrots).

The cookbook is full of advertisements for community businesses (some of which are gone, some of which remain) and has blank pages for the addition of new recipes one comes across.

As with so many of these community books, it really captures, almost like a snapshot, a tone and a feel for a time and place and the recipes speak to what people saw as "home cooking" and "comfort food". It is also completely free of pretension.

As always we are sharing two recipes exactly as they appeared that reflect the feel of the book overall.

Perfect Meat Loaf 

Submitted by Prudence Smyth (Mrs. R.W.)

1-1 1/2 lb ground beef
3/4 cup quick cooking oats
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 - 8 oz. tomato and mushroom sauce

Combine first 6 ingredients thoroughly with 1 can tomato and mushroom sauce. Pack firmly into pan (8x4x3 inch loaf pan). Chill one hour. Unmould into a shallow baking pan. Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees F.) for one hour. Pour remaining sauce over loaf. Bake 20 minutes more until loaf is nicely glazed. Makes 6-8 servings.

Christmas Cake

Submitted by Eleanor M. Smith

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter
5 eggs
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. each of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup grape juice
3 cups seeded raisins
1 cup seedless raisins
1 1/2 cup dates, chopped
2 cups mixed peel, chopped
1 1/2 cup candied pineapple
1 1/2 cup red and green cherries
1 1/2 cup almonds, chopped

Sift 3/4 cup flour over all fruit. Cream sugar, butter, eggs. Add liquid alternately with flour and spices. Fold in fruit and nuts. Put into greased paper-lined deep pan and bake at 250 degrees F. to 275 degrees F. for two hours.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Pooh's Fireside Recipes: Comfort food for kids of all ages with Potato Pancakes & Honey Cake

Vintage Cookbook: Pooh's Fireside Recipes, Katie Stewart
Publication Details: Methuen Children's Books, 1985

Inspired by A. A. Milne's classics Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner the truly charming cookbook, Pooh's Fireside Recipes was published in the UK in 1985.
A rather small book, at only 32 pages, it was aimed at children and getting them involved in and interested in cooking, but it is a joy for adults as well with 14 classic comfort food dishes as well as four ideas for making toast (i.e French toast or cinnamon toast). It is illustrated throughout with lovely little sketches of all the Pooh characters by Ernest H. Shepard and is appropriately shaped like an old fashioned honey jar. There was a companion volume, Pooh's Picnic Recipes that was published contemporaneously.

The author, Katie Stewart was the cooking editor for Woman's Journal at the time.

While technically not a seasonal cookbook, I have always associated it with fall, and its recipe for potato pancakes with bacon is one of my family's favourites for a cool October or November afternoon or evening.

As always we are sharing two recipes, as they originally appeared.

Potato pancakes with bacon

[Editor's note: When I have made these I like to serve them with sour cream for the pancakes, and I generally simply fry some good smoked bacon slices to accompany them as opposed to the grill method outlined below]

Serves 4

400 gr/ 1 lb. potatoes
1 onion
2 eggs
25g (2 oz. or two rounded tablespoons) plain flour
1 level teaspoon salt
pinch of pepper
8 bacon rashers
2-3 tablespoons oil for frying

Find a potato peeler a grater, a large mixing bowl, a wooden spoon for mixing and a tablespoon. Chose a large frying pan and find a pair of scissors for trimming the bacon rashers.

Peel the potatoes and the onion. Grate the potatoes and the onion, through the coarse side of a grater, into a large mixing basin.  Take care not to grate your fingers! Add the eggs, the flour, salt and pepper and using a wooden spoon mix the ingredients thoroughly.

Using a pair of scissors, trim the rinds from the bacon rashers. Arrange the rashers neatly in the grill pan (remove the grid first). Place the fat part of each rasher overlapping the lean of the next and set aside ready for grilling.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the potato mixture in tablespoons at a time. Fry only 3-4 pancakes at a time as you spoon the mixture in flatten them slightly.

Fry the pancakes over a moderate heat until brown on the underside-it should take about 5 minutes. Then turn over and brown the second side.

As the pancakes are cooked, lift from the pan and place on a hot serving plate. Keep the prepared ones warm, while cooking the remainder. You should get about 12 pancakes.

When they are almost all ready, turn on the grill. Place the bacon rashers under the grill, about 7.5 cm (3") from the heat, and grill for about 3-5 minutes.

These are something to have when your friends come round for high tea. Get them to help you make them and serve straight away, together with the grilled bacon rashers.

Honey Cake

Makes 24 squares

175g (7 oz.) (or 7 rounded tablespoons) self raising flour
125g (5 oz.) butter or margarine
100g (4 oz.) (or 4 rounded tablespoons) soft brown sugar
150g (6 oz.) (or 6 rounded tablespoons) honey
2 eggs
1 tablespoon water

Find a sieve, a square of foil or greaseproof paper, a saucepan and a wooden spoon. Take an oblong cake tin of about 27.5 x 17.5 x 2.5 cm. (11"x7"x1") or a small roasting tin, grease the tin and line with a strip of greaseproof paper. Turn the oven heat on to moderate 180C (350F or Gas No. 4) and find a pair of oven gloves.

Sift the flour on to a square of greaseproof paper or foil and set aside.

Measure the butter or margarine and the sugar, honey and water into a saucepan. Place the pan over a low heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the fat has melted. Do not allow to boil. Draw the pan off the heat and allow to cool for about ten minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, beat the eggs into the honey mixture one at a time. Tip in the flour mixture all at once. Stir until it has blended and then beat thoroughly.

Pour into the prepared cake tin and spread evenly. Place in the centre of the preheated oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the cake is well risen.

Remove the cake from the oven using oven gloves. Loosen the sides of the cake with a knife and turn out. Allow to cool and then cut in squares.

Honey cake keeps well in a tin so you can take a piece out anytime your tummy rumbles.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Weekly Food News Roundup: Canadian food bank use at near record level, UN says climate change threatens food supply & more

This week's food news roundup, sharing news, links and stories of interest to or from those of a lefty viewpoint.

The number of Canadians using and depending on food banks remains at a near record high level at over 800,000 citizens:

FoodShare launches a fresh food vehicle in Toronto:

Very stark UN report states that climate change directly threatens the world's food supply:

UN believes that some stability may come back to global food prices:'pullme'%3EIn%20short,%20when%20you%20empower%20a%20woman,%20you%20change%20the%20world%3C/span%3Ettp://

Are Yelp restaurant reviews being faked?:

Lawsuits lead companies to quietly drop "natural" claim from labels:

Chef Amanda Cohen calls out Time Magazine's "Gods of Food" for its sexism:

Various salad products recalled due to Listeria monocytogenes by CFIA:

The recession in the UK drives families to cut back on healthy foods:

US FDA contemplates a trans fat ban...and how this could affect Canadians:

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"Green Bay Packer" Wisconsin Beer Brats with Sauerkraut & Mixed Vegetables

A shrine to the Packers...yes I admit it is a bit sad...
I am a huge fan of the community owned National Football League team, the Green Bay Packers. One of only two community owned professional teams in North America, it is not run by a corporation or one the many overbearing, interfering and only barely rational super rich "personalities" who "run" many other franchises...often into the ground!

Instead the Packers have several thousand owners, all of whom own a stock which gives them voting rights as shareholders. Many of them are in Wisconsin, though there are others spread around the world. The stock pays no dividends and the money raised by their issue, and by the team itself, is put back into the team. This community ownership structure, of course, is the only reason that a city the size of Green Bay has a pro team at all.

Sadly, in the NFL at least, this type of non-corporate or non-individual ownership is no longer allowed and the Packers were "grandfathered" in. They remain, however, something of a highly visible though little discussed example of how alternative ownership structures based around community instead of profit are actually possible.

Years ago, while flipping through a magazine article on "tailgating", which is essentially the practice of eating food and drinking beer in parking lots before the "big game" on Sunday, I came across a recipe for doing Brats that hailed from a Packer fan. They would make them tailgating at Lambeau Field, the storied stadium home of the team. I have long lost the article, but, this is my version of their  recipe, with a few minor modifications of my own.

The first thing you need is to get some good German Bratwurst or Oktoberfest style pork sausages. You can use any style of thicker sausage, but these are the ones the recipe is designed for. For the portions laid out below, we did 12 sausages.

Using an indoor, or outdoor gas or charcoal (always my preferred choice as it gives them that smoky flavour) you need to grill the sausages for about 10 minutes, five a side.  You do not need to cook them fully, as this is only the first step.

Meanwhile, cut into slices a large green pepper, one large yellow hot pepper or, if you want it more mild, one large Cubanelle Pepper, (or, if unavailable use two green peppers) and two medium sized onions.

In a large pot blend together six cups of chicken stock and three cups of a lighter ale or pilsner beer. You can use any beer, but I used Kalnapilis, a somewhat lighter Lithuanian pilsner. Add the chopped vegetables to this and bring to a boil.

Add the grilled sausages to the pot and reduce to a good simmer. Simmer the whole lot, stirring occasionally, for a further twenty minutes uncovered.

When done, serve on buns on a bed of Sauerkraut with the now wonderfully soft vegetables as toppings. Add any other toppings, of course, of your choosing. I like to add a rustic style country or Dijon mustard.

The sausages will have both a grilled aspect and an incredibly moist texture. The flavour of the brats and the vegetables are also completely transformed, in a good way, by the stock and beer.

They are really great to accompany watching a football game, or if sports are not your thing, watching whatever it is that you like to with friends or family on a fall weekend day.


Monday, November 4, 2013

The Magnificent Salads Cookbook 1988 with Bean Salad & Layered Taco Salad!

Vintage Cookbook: Magnificent Salads Cookbook, Kathryn Ramsay
Publication Details: Magnificent Cookbooks Publishing, 1988

Magnificent Salads Cookbook is a wonderful piece of late 80's kitsch. Done with a sturdy spiral binding and illustrated with a full page, full colour, and fully 80's picture for each recipe, it runs the gambit from the solid and traditional to the almost absurd and over-the-top.

Part of a series of cookbooks from a small Richmond Hill, Ontario publisher, they also released "Magnificent" cookbooks for cookies, casseroles, muffins and more, none of which, sadly, I have yet been able to get my hands on! If the salad cookbook is any indication, they would likely be rather fun.

Yes...this is a real photo from the book!

Magnificent Salads has 60 recipes with names like "Harvest Vegetable", "Warm Spinach", "Eggs Benedict Salad", "Molded Salmon" (which rather needs to be seen to be believed!), and so on. These are all over the place from healthy and vegetarian to "Steak Salad" which is pretty much as it sounds!

I have an affection for this cookbook that is entirely in inverse proportion to its culinary seriousness. This is perhaps due to the fact that so many of the salads are really, really good as well as the fact that they could be made by absolutely anyone.

So, without further delay, as always we are sharing two recipes as they originally appeared and that reflect two opposite poles of what you will find if you ever pick this up this little blast from the 80's past.

Bean Salad: 

Yield: 8-10 servings

Green beans 1lb/500g
Yellow beans 1lb/g
Red kidney beans 2-14 oz. cans/796 ml.
Chick peas 19 oz. can/540 ml. can
Spanish Onion 1 large

Vinaigrette - Yield 1 1/2 cups (375 ml.):
Corn oil 1 cup/250ml
White vinegar 1/4 cup/ 50ml
Lemon juice 1/4 cup/50 ml
Salt 2 teaspoons/10ml
Granulated sugar 1 teaspoon/5 ml
Dried thyme leaves 1 teaspoon/5 ml
Ground black pepper 1/2 teaspoon/2 ml
Celery salt 1/2 teaspoon/ 2 ml
Dijon mustard 1 tablespoon/15 ml
Worcestershire sauce 2 teaspoons/10 ml

Trim the ends of the green and yellow beans and break them into pieces of the desired length. Wash them, put them in a pot and cover them in cold water. Bring the water to a boil and cook the beans until they are firm but can be pierced with a fork, about 5 minutes. Drain them well and place in a large bowl.
Drain the juice from the kidney beans and chick peas and rinse them under cold water. Drain them well and add them to the beans.
Chop the onion into small pieces and add it to the vegetables. Toss all the ingredients to combine well.
To make the vinaigrette place all the ingredients in a jar, blender or food processor and combine until thoroughly mixed.
Pour the dressing over the beans and toss to coat all the ingredients. Cover the salad well and refrigerate several hours to allow the beans to absorb the flavor of the dressing. Stir the salad several times while marinating and toss again just before serving.

Layered Taco Salad

Yield 6 servings

Ground Beef 1lb/500g
Taco seasoning mix 1 package
Iceberg Lettuce 1/2 head
Tomatoes 2 medium
Kidney beans 15 oz/425 ml can
Grated cheddar cheese 1 cup/250 ml
Chopped green olives 1/2 cup/125ml
Chopped black olives 1/2 cup/125 ml
Chopped green onions 1 bunch
Avocado 1/2 medium
Lemon juice 1 teaspoon/5 ml

Dressing-Yield 1/2 cups (375 ml):
Salsa picante 1 cup/250 ml
Sour cream 1/2 cup/ 125 ml.

Tortilla chips

Cook the beef and the taco seasoning mix together according to package instructions. Set aside to cool.
Mix the salsa picante and sour cream together in a small bowl.
In a large glass bowl shred the lettuce. Pour 1/2 cup (125 ml) of the dressing over the lettuce. Peel the tomatoes, cut them into wedges and arrange them on top. Drain the kidney beans and lay them over the tomatoes. Cover with 1/4 cup (50ml) of the dressing. Sprinkle on the cheese and pour 1/4 cup (50ml) of dressing over. Spoon the cooled meat over top and pour on the remaining dressing.
At serving time, sprinkle the olives and onions around the edge. Cut the avocado into slices, moisten it with lemon juice to prevent discoloring and arrange it on top of the salad. Surround with tortilla chips and serve.
HINT: This is also very attractive if made in individual dishes. Salsa picante is available in the Mexican food section of most grocery stores.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Weekly Food News Roundup: Celebrity chefs debate seal hunt, Amazon to enter the Canadian grocery business, US food stamp cuts hit & more

This week's food news roundup, sharing news, links and stories of interest to or from those of a lefty viewpoint.

US Humane Society led boycott of Canadian seafood to protest the Canadian seal hunt called "ill-considered" by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain:

Canadian celebrity chef Michael Smith follows suit:

Other chefs disagree:

Health Canada issues warning over bacteria in bottled water produced by the Blue Glass Water Co. and found across Southern Ontario:

Federal government launches food recall app; NDP health critic Libby Davies says the most important thing is food labeling:

Canada-EU Trade Agreement to place restrictions on the use of 145 food names:

Amazon to get into the Canadian grocery business:

Disgraceful and devastating $5 billon food stamp cut takes effect in the USA:

Some residents of Irwindale, CA say that fumes from the local Sriracha factory are seriously hurting air quality: 

McDonald's drops Heinz as its ketchup supplier after Heinz appoints former Burger King chief exec as their new CEO!:

Food is a "human right" Vatican Archbishop tells U.N., saying "Hunger is not just a technical problem awaiting technological solutions. Hunger is a human problem that demands solutions based on our common humanity.”:

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Clay Baked Spicy Curried Goat

Though its popularity and use in North America is much less prevalent,  goat meat is the most widely consumed red meat in the world and features prominently in many cuisines. While it is making some inroads on major food retailer's shelves in Canada, it is still often only found in specialty stores or in markets.

This is a real shame, as goat is a delicious, tender meat with a distinctive flavour that has a nice hint of gaminess.

I have tried goat cooked a variety of ways, but I find that I both order it and cook it curried or West Indian style most often. It lends itself to these flavours perfectly.

Today I will share a basic recipe for Spicy Curried Goat done in a clay baker. I am using the clay baker as it is a cooking method that will produce very moist, fall-off-the-bone goat in a relatively short time, as well as making a thick and flavourful gravy as the goat cooks.

If you are not familiar with the ancient and very accessible technique of clay baking, we did an introduction to clay baking that you can take a look at on The Simple Art of Clay Baking. 

For this dish you need 2-3 lb. cubed goat meat, preferably bone-in. As always with a clay baker fill both sides with water and let stand for 15 minutes. After emptying the water out, take the goat meat and place it in the clay baker and sprinkle curry powder over it so that it covers the meat. Pour in one full bottle (350 ml.) of a Caribbean style curry cooking sauce (Grace makes one) or, if not available, the same amount of water and a tablespoon of curry paste. Add an equivalent amount of beef or chicken stock (or water and a bouillon cube as it will dissolve during cooking).

Add either 1 or 2 crushed scotch bonnet peppers (simply push on them with a spoon and then toss them in) or 1-2 tablespoons of your favourite Caribbean style hot sauce.  You can, of course, omit this, but that does change the flavour, and not for the better!

Add a small piece of crushed ginger, a half a teaspoon of browning liquid, a teaspoon of dry mustard, and a teaspoon of salt.

Again, as you always must with a clay baker, cover and place in a COLD oven. Set the heat to 400 degrees.

Cook for two hours. After the first hour, remove the baker, stir the goat and put back in.

After two hours, remove from the oven, skim off any fat, remove any undissolved ginger, add one tablespoon of flour to the liquid and stir it in gently until it is all dissolved. This will thicken the gravy. Let it sit for about 5-10 minutes and then serve!

This dish goes wonderfully with rice or rice and peas, with roti or naan style bread or with a french style bread, and with red wine.



Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Doing a fall Standing Prime Rib Roast two ways: On the BBQ or in the oven with mushroom gravy

There is something truly special about a standing Bone-In Prime Rib Roast, despite the costs associated with them. But, if you can either get them on sale or use them as a terrific substitute for the equally expensive and often far less tasty holiday turkeys or hams, they are well worth the investment.

Though only, we should note from the start, if they are cooked to a proper rare to medium rare. There is simply no point in cooking a Prime Rib Roast if you intend to cook it beyond this point of "doneness". 

Previously I blogged about how to do more "inferior" roasts using the Hi-Low heat method. This method is, in my opinion, also the perfect way to cook the royalty of roasts. Follow these instructions exactly to oven cook a fall Prime Rib with two exceptions. 

First, a Prime Rib Roast does not need the olive oil. Its delightful fat layering and marbling will take care of the moistening that the olive oil is a substitute for.

Also, it is called a "standing" rib roast for a reason. Being bone-in, the roast will come with a curved bone rack on the underside. You want to stand the roast up while cooking, bone side down, fat side up. For smaller roasts, 4 pounds or less, you might find that they fall over at some point during the cooking, but that is OK. Whether the roast falls over or not, you must never, under any circumstances, open the oven. 

When the roast is done, and has been allowed to sit as outlined, I am always partial to cutting the slices a little on the thicker side. The photo at the start shows both the size and doneness that I think makes for a perfect Prime Rib Roast. This will have a great and contrasting texture,  will be incredibly moist, and will be full of flavour.

If you want a gravy, and why wouldn't you, take the tray that you cooked the Prime Rib in and leave all the drippings in it. Add some mushrooms, place it on a medium-low burner and stir to brown them. Add salt and pepper to taste as you go. After a few minutes, add a cup of beef stock and, if you want, a little red wine, and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer, adding a tablespoon or two of flour to let it thicken to taste, stirring this in to ensure that it fully dissolves. Simmer and blend down to your desired thickness.

Different people like very different gravies. You will find yours!  

If you want to try for something a little different, and truly spectacular, you can do the Prime Rib Roast over charcoal on the BBQ using the indirect method. This always sounds daunting, but is, in fact, rather easy once you get the hang of it (though you should not let family or friends know that!). 

This method only really works for roasts that are 3-4 lbs or less, so if you are having a few folks over, you will have to do at least two. It is also a great way to keep the grill in action during Fall.

First, after following the instructions for starting up the charcoal grill that I laid out in a previous post, instead of dumping all the charcoal in the centre, you must instead divide the hot coals into two separate piles along the side of the BBQ drum, leaving the centre without coals. This can be done with a cheap accessory fitted side tray for charcoal made by Weber and other companies, or by simply piling it!

When BBQing prime rib I suggest using a Montreal Style steak spice as you would on any steak. Coat the roast liberally on all sides with it, other than the bone-in side. As always, leave the roast to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking.

After you have the separated coals glowing a red or white hot, take the Prime Rib and put it directly over one of the piles for 5 minutes a side. You want to get grill marks and that lovely searing.

Once you have done this, put the roast in the centre of the grill, with no coals underneath. If it will stand, fine, but usually you are better off to simply rest it one side down and flip it half-way through.

You need to cook the roast a further 15 minutes per lb., again making sure to evenly spread the time out in terms of what side is cooking, to get a medium-rare. You should do this "lid on" for the most part, keeping the flue open, and taking the top off every few minutes to allow the coals to get hotter again. You will get the hang of it. 

 If you do not like the timed method, simply check the roast for "give" as you would a steak.

After done, let the roast sit for only 5 minutes, uncovered,  as opposed to the 15 for an oven roast. Again, I suggest slightly thicker slicing.

The BBQ method is incredibly flavorful and worth the effort. The Prime Rib will come out wonderfully juicy and moist, but also with a distinctive smokey charcoal grilled  taste that is impossible to acheive any other way. It is truly delicious.


The Urban Peasant Quick & Simple with Lamb & Pumpkin Stew and Stuffed Papaya

Vintage Cookbook: The Urban Peasant Quick & Simple, James Barber
Publication Details: Urban Ink, 1993

Beloved by many Canadian home cooks in the 1990's, James Barber was the host of a CBC Television cooking show, The Urban Peasant, that became something of a hit not only in Canada but in other countries as well. Barber had a very warm, friendly, accessible style that was really the antithesis of what many see as the "celebrity chef"

Barber sought to demystify cooking and to feature ingredients used in ways that anyone could handle. This was done without any fancy or unusual preparation normally, but with often surprising and always delicious results. His show was a real pleasure to watch (and likely still is, out there somewhere in syndication) and was almost relaxing, a seeming contradiction given the nervousness with which many approach cooking. It even ingrained this atmosphere in its set, which was of an open-concept living space as opposed to an impersonal professional style kitchen.

Barber died in 2007 as he had lived, cooking. His wife told the CBC "As far as we can tell, James was sitting at the dining room table, he was reading a cookbook, and he had a pot of soup simmering on the stove."

In 1993 he released one of several companion cookbooks to the series, and one of which I am particularly fond. This was his Urban Peasant Quick & Simple cookbook. As he himself put it on the back cover, this one was "completely practical" and with "no trimmings, no romance". It is almost entirely unillustrated (though the few drawings that there are are his own charming ones) and while it might at first seem a bit spare, it is also full of terrific recipe after terrific recipe, all of which are, as the title would imply, quick and simple. And there are dozens of them. It is a real resource of new ideas.

Today we are sharing, as always, two recipes, as they originally appeared. And one has the seasonally appropriate and wonderful ingredient of pumpkin.

Lamb & Pumpkin Stew Served in a Pumpkin  

1 lb/500g pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
1/2 lb./250 g cubed  leg of lamb
2 Tbsps olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tomato, chopped
1 tsp ground ginger
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp ground cumin
Salt & Pepper

Heat the oil in a frypan and brown the meat. Add the onion, cayenne pepper, sugar and garlic and stir well. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the cumin, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour into a hollowed out pumpkin and put in a 400F/200 C oven for 30 minutes. Garnish with cumin and some more chopped cilantro. 

Stuffed Papaya    

1 papaya
Cottage cheese
Fresh peeled shrimp
Fresh prawn tails
Freshly ground pepper

Halve the papaya and remove the seeds. Scoop out the flesh and chop. Half fill the shells with cottage cheese and arrange the chopped flesh around it. Top with a mound of fresh, peeled shrimp and decorate with a few fresh prawn tails. Grind some pepper over the top and garnish with cilantro. Serve on crushed ice.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Dish: Bun Rieu (Crab Cake Noodle Soup) & Pho Tai Nam (Rare Beef Brisket Noodle Soup) @ Pho Pasteur

The Dish: Bun Rieu & Pho Tai Nam
Where: Pho Pasteur, 525 Dundas St. W. Toronto

Pho Pasteur is a twenty-four hour Vietnamese restaurant in the heart of downtown Toronto's Chinatown that is one of the best places to get pho, a traditional Vietnamese street food and soup, in the city. Unlike many of the places we review, it also has lots of seating and excellent, very fast, table service. (It is, one must note, cash only however, so be prepared!)

There are lots of great reasons to go to Pho Pasteur, from their terrific Shrimp Rolls, to the excellent prices, to their delightful rice dishes, but there are two soups that they serve that are so good that they deserve a special mention; the Pho Tai Nam and the Bun Rieu. These keep me coming back for lunch, dinner and, were I still footloose and fancy free, they would no doubt draw me in for a late night, after the bars close, meal!

The Pho Tai Nam (number 6 on the menu) is a rare beef brisket pho with thin rice noodles. It comes in a nicely salty and seasoned broth and the beef cooks as you stir it into it. This assures that it will be tender every time. For added flavour and spice ask for a side dish of Satay Sauce to mix in. It is a quintessential pho dish and it is done perfectly. Pho Tai Nam is available in sizes from small to large, but the portions are generous and a medium will certainly satisfy most people for lunch. At $8.99, it is hard to beat.

The Bun Rieu (number 20 on the menu) is a crab soup in a spicy, partly tomato based broth with thicker vermicelli noodles. It also has shrimp, sliced pork and an array of other ingredients that give it a terrifically complex flavour where each bite is something new. It is very rich, and its generous size means that for $8.99 it is a really great deal. This is a soup that is a meal and that will warm you on a cold fall or winter's day or night and is truly among the best I have had at any restaurant, Vietnamese or otherwise.

Both dishes are served with a side plate of lime, which should be added to the soups, mint, Thai basil, hot peppers and bean sprouts. 

So next time you are in downtown T.O.. looking for a great inexpensive meal, or looking to take the edge off a long night out, maybe I'll see you there, at 3 p.m....or a.m.!

The Dish is a regular feature that will look at one dish that we particularly love at a restaurant, diner, food truck, etc. Please feel free to submit your favourite dishes from restaurants in your community. Please include a photo of the dish or establishment if at all possible.