O Canada: Nova Scotia HodgePodge with Beer Bread

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

In light of the Multilinguist’s excursions in Vega, we are making October Canadian Cuisine feature month (the Pie is thrilled because none of it involves tofu).

What better way to start us off than to take advantage of what the autumn harvest in Newfoundland has to offer us?  This creamy vegetable stew is easy and comforting (vegetarian, too, though certainly not vegan).  The recipe for the stew comes from All Recipes (with my modifications), and the idea itself comes from Delilah, one of the Pie’s classmates.  The beer bread comes from my mother’s own cookbook on Nova Scotian eatery.

For the Beer Bread:

HodgePodge with Beer Bread
Didn't have any Nova Scotia beer on hand, sorry.

In a bowl, mix 3 cups self-raising flour with 3 tablespoons granulated sugar.  If you don’t have self-raising flour, mix 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt into every cup of all-purpose flour.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

Add in 1 12oz bottle of beer and mix well.  Use a commercially produced beer for a lighter loaf, or a home made beer for a denser loaf.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

This is supposed to turn out more like a batter, and you can see here that one bottle of beer has just produced a really dry dough.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

I poured in almost a whole ‘nother beer before I got the consistency I was looking for, but this will depend on your flour, your beer, the temperature/pressure/humidity of your environment, whether or not you got out of bed on the right side or the left side, whether a butterfly really did flap its wings in Brazil … you get the idea.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

Pour into a greased loaf pan and chuck it into a cold oven.  Turn the oven on to 350°F and bake for 40 to 45 minutes.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

The loaf will sound solid when you tap it and be a pale golden when it’s done.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

Serve hot.  Also good the next day if you have any left over.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

For the HodgePodge:

Peel and dice 1 medium-sized turnip.  Chuck that in a large saucepan.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

Dice 3-4 carrots and chuck those in as well.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

Trim the ends off a couple handfuls of fresh wax beans (those are the yellow ones) and cut them into 1-2″ pieces.  Do the same with several handfuls fresh green beans.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

Add enough water to the saucepan to cover the vegetables.  Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

Cube up 5-6 small potatoes and add that to the pot.  Let that simmer another 30 minutes.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

Add in 6 tablespoons butter and 1-2 cups heavy cream (we used a blended table cream here) and stir that in for a few minutes.  Soy milk would also work well here.  I have used soy milk in chowders and it provides a rich, nutty flavour that complements the vegetables nicely.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

Add 2-3 tablespoons flour to 1 cup water and stir that around.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

Pour the flour water into the saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, and cook for a few more minutes to thicken the broth.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

Season generously with salt and pepper and serve hot with beer bread.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

Frankly, both the Pie and I found the hodgepodge a little on the bland side.  It tasted kind of like invalid soup.  But it was good.  And totally freeze-able.  Next time, though, I think I’d add an onion, some garlic, and some spices.  The beer bread was excellent and we plan to have what’s leftover with some chili tomorrow night.

Deep-Fried Dinner

Deep-Fried Dinner

For the Pie’s birthday dinner, we decided to try deep-frying for the first time.  We’d been putting it off because, well, it’s incredibly unhealthy, it’s a dangerous fire risk, and our kitchen has no fume hood so we’d be dealing with the aromas of cooking oil for several days.

But we needed to learn (in the same way that we need to learn everything else we do here).  So we decided to try two different methods and make Buffalo chicken strips (with blue cheese dip) and some beer-battered onion rings.  Both recipes come from Martha Stewart’s Every Day Food magazine.  Both recipes involve buttermilk.

Now, though I’m presenting two different recipes here, I’m going to give the instructions to you in the order I did them, because that makes the most sense to me.  In order for you to differentiate the two recipes, I’ll preface instructions for the chicken with BCS and use OR for the onions.

BCS/OR: Turn your oven to 250°F.  Put some cooling racks on top of rimmed baking sheets and put those in the oven.  Those will be your warming and draining trays for your chicken and onions.
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OR: Slice 2lb onions into thick rounds and submerge them in 2 cups buttermilk for about an hour before cooking.  The buttermilk takes the acidic bite out of the onions, making them sweet and tender.  Just a warning: following this recipe results in a heckuva lotta onion rinks, so if you don’t want to fry up a million, I suggest halving it, or even quartering it.
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BCS: Crumble up 1 cup blue cheese (I used 400g here and it crumbled to about a cup) and 1/2 cup buttermilk.
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Stir that around and set it aside.
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Cut up some vegetables while you’re at it, why don’t you?  You’re about to consume pure fat — you should probably add in some vitamins.
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BCS/OR: Plop about 1 1/2 cups flour in a shallow dish and put that near your stove.  That’s for the batterin’.
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OR: Crack two eggs into a bowl.  Whisk ’em.
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Whisk in 1 bottle lager or pale ale.
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Whisk in 1 1/2 cups flour and 2 teaspoons coarse salt.  Set that near the stove as well.
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BCS: In yet another bowl, combine 1/3 cup hot sauce with 3 tablespoons butter.  Stir well and set that aside for now.
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Slice up 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts into finger-sized pieces.
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Dip them in 1 cup buttermilk.
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Then into that flour you have ready.
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Lay them out on a baking sheet.
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I think we’re about ready to start cooking.  While I’m sure you could do these two dishes at the same time, I am far from experienced with hot-oil cooking, rather prone to accidents, and I only have one large-sized element on my stove.  So I am going to cook the chicken first, as it doesn’t need to be crispy and can therefore sit in the oven for longer.

As a safety note, we had a box of baking soda handy at all times during this, in case of flareups.  Never leave hot oil unattended, and never, NEVER add additional oil of any kind or any temperature to oil that is already hot.

BCS: Heat 1/2 cup to 1 cup vegetable oil in a heavy skillet.  You can tell if the oil is hot enough for frying when a pinch of flour dropped into it fizzes rapidly.
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Slide a few chicken pieces in, working in batches.
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Cook for about 6-8 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the chicken is golden brown.  Remove the cooked chicken to the rack in the oven.
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This was a very spatter-y process, so I wore long sleeves and kept my face averted from the pan.  My hands kept getting burned from little splashes of oil.  In the end I pulled on a pair of work gloves to protect them and worked happily after that.
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Make sure to let that oil cool before you move it anywhere.

OR: In a large, wide saucepan, heat up 5 cups vegetable oil.  I know, that’s a lot of oil.
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Use a candy or deep-fry thermometer and continuously adjust the temperature of your element to keep the oil at 375°F.  If it gets too cold, it won’t cook the onions all the way through, and if it gets too hot, well … let’s not think about that.
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What was interesting was the cool pattern the oil made while it heated.
Deep-Fried Dinner

Take a ring of onion out of the buttermilk and dip it in the flour, then into the beer batter.  Shake off the excess.
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Slide the ring carefully into the hot oil.  Cook in small batches, rotating halfway through, for about 5 minutes.  Remove to the other rack in the oven to drain and keep warm.  This method of frying was wayyyyy less spatter-y, if you were interested to know.
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We had a lot more onions left to cook after we had cooked as many as we thought we could eat.  We figured they would keep until tomorrow and we would try again.
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BCS: When everything is cooked and you are ready to go, take the chicken strips out of the oven and toss them in the hot sauce.  These will be served with the blue cheese dip we made earlier.
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OR: For the onions we had a nice tzatziki dip as well as a chipotle mayo.
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All told, it was pretty epic.
Deep-Fried Dinner

Steamed Veg with Basil

This is my first blog post from my parents’ kitchen.  It also marks the first in what I hope to be a series of posts I make while cooking in kitchens other than my own (also known as “invite me over and I will FEED YOU”).

To accompany a luscious pork tenderloin (where I learned a nifty trick about the membrane and taught my dad one of my own, post to follow), I made a carrot and spinach butter mash and some steamed vegetables.

It was another case of cleaning out what’s left in the fridge, and in this instance we had some nice broccoli, cauliflower, and a few home-grown zucchini, courtesy of our friendly but incredibly weird neighbour.I cut up the vegetables standing next to a glorious basil plant, one of several my mother has throughout her garden.Needless to say, basil was a no-brainer to add to my dish.So I simply plopped the vegetables in a pot with some water and gently steamed them, not too long, about seven minutes.Then I just drained the pot and dropped in the basil to let it wilt a little in the heat.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.