Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Family Classics

I honestly don't mean to let the blog lag so much and I'm realizing why it was so great to do the 100 Mile Challenge during the winter when I had the time to cook and blog. While life is continuing to pick up speed, I really do enjoy blogging and when I'm making meals, just being in the blog mind frame has helped me think both critically and artistically about preparing food and serving goodness. I just wish I had more time to share it all with you!

Guyanese Beef Curry

So I offer up a triple whammy. I'll share my recipes for Split Pea Soup and Baked Beans, but you'd have to be married to me or a decade long friend to learn my family recipe for Beef Curry. This recipe was handed down by my grandmother from her time of living in Guyana as a child and young woman, when her father was stationed in what was then British Guyana. She eventually married and settled in Canada, bringing with her a cooking style heavily influenced by Indian and East Indian flavours. My father grew up to weekly curries and Pepper Pot, which he carried on and now the smell of a stewing curry brings me back to the aroma of my childhood. Curries are a great way to use a cheap beef shank, as I did. Stewing made the shank so succulent and tender and it doesn't hurt that the beef is all local. In addition to using cheap meat, is it's an excellent way of cleaning out your fridge. I like making it stretch with some chick peas and adding vegetables like baby corn, carrots and peppers. Often, I'll add spinach, potatoes, peas or cauliflower. Basically, curries are a blueprint and if you don't make your own curry foundation, I know there are lots of packaged curry mixes that will suffice. The key is patience and building blocks of flavours that work in conjunction with your curry blend, like kaffir lime leaves, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, coriander/cumin/mustard seeds. Oh, and a rich coconut milk doesn't hurt either. I usually serve it over a brown basmati rice or with some Naan bread (President's Choice has some nice whole wheat ones).

Mango Ginger Lime Glazed Ham

At Saturday's market, I picked up the most delicious, freshly smoked local ham. It was incredible. I made a quick glaze from my own jam, recipe here. The photo is horrendous. Clearly, we were anxious to tuck into it, as it looks more hacked than carved. Still, it was tasty and the fringe benefit of a bone in ham is Pea Soup!

Split Pea and Ham Soup

I love pea soup. Adore it, actually. It's tasty, hearty and freezes well. This would probably be our family classic as it's the soup Jeff loves the best. Every bowl, he exclaims my pea soup to be his favourite and I love cooking food for people who love to eat it. Here's how I make it:

Ham bone/ham hock
Enough water to cover your ham bone/hock
1.75 lbs of yellow split peas
3 carrots, peeled and diced
4 stalks of celery, chopped
2 medium onions
1-2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried parsley
couple dashes of hot sauce
2 cups of broth (chicken or vegetable) if necessary
salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil ham bone, for about an hour. Remove bone and let cool - reserve any meat to be added back to soup.
2. Rinse your split peas and to the ham bone water add peas, vegetables and seasoning.
3. Stir. As it thickens, you need to stir more frequently as it risks sticking and burning the bottom. If you need to add more liquid, add some broth. The ham bone lends a lot of flavour, but you still might need an extra kick. I cheated and used about a tsp of instant chicken broth. 
4. Enjoy!

Baked Beans
Lastly, baked beans. I know none of these pictures are particularly stunning, but after a full day in the kitchen and a full day as a Mom, I only managed pictures as I was putting it away. Still, I hope the molasses-y deliciousness is coming through in the picture. These suckers take a while to make and you have to be committed, but the good news is you can go big, like real big and freeze all that you can't eat. It actually tastes better the longer you leave it. It's my mother-in-law's recipe and it is exactly what I love about her: it's comforting, reminds you of home and there's love and care in every bite. You get this warm, deep down feeling with these beans and as a family, we enjoy them as a meal, or beside a breakfast dish and even as a snack. Here's my mother-in-law's recipe, I like to quadruple it (if you do, remember to times everything by 4)

1 lbs beans
6 cups of water
1 large onion chopped
1/4 lb local smoked bacon
*1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup ketchup
2 tbsp molasses (or more, if you really like it)
2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1 large Granny Smith apple, or any apple that holds it shape, cored and cut into 1/8th wedges
* 1/3 cup brown sugar 
2 tbsp melted butter/margarine
1/4 cup rum, optional (I've never done this. Scared, I guess.)

1. Sort and pick out any stones, discoloured or broken beans. Tedious, but worth it.
2. Soak in water overnight.
3. Next morning, bring beans and water to a boil, reduce to a simmer until tender, but not mushy (about an hour). Be careful not to let them boil over. My mother-in-law and I do this each and EVERY time. 
4. Drain and reserve water.
5. Put beans in a deep, roasting pot and add ketchup, maple syrup, onions, bacon, molasses, mustard and salt. Add enough of the reserved water to cover the beans. Stir well and cover.
6. Cook at 300 degrees for 3 hours, stirring occasionally and add more liquid if needed to keep beans covered. After 3 hours, uncover and top with apple sections, brown sugar and butter/margarine. Bake, uncovered for another 1 hour until apples are done. Just before serving, sprinkle with rum. Yum.

* I find the original recipe too sweet, so cut back by almost half if you're sensitive to sugars or don't want the sweetness to overwhelm the other flavours. 

So there you have it, three family classics that taste great and freeze well. Do you have any family favourites to share?

1 comment:

  1. I have no problem going as jar as marrying you to get that recipe but you will have to move to Ontario and I'll have to get my husband to pack all his stuff :)


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