Curry in a hurry?

Curry pot.There’s quite a lot to be said for pantry staples, and meals that come together in a half-hour while you drink the last beer and contemplate hibernation.

While I am not one to advocate one product over another, and would certainly never deliberately push a brand at you, I think that everyone ought to own a few key things to help themselves along on nights when it’s been dark all day and you’re cold and even your skin under your clothes is damp and your lips are chapping like snakeskin. For times like those, you ought to own a jar of madras curry paste. If you get yours in one of those little Indian shops, even better, and probably cheaper too.

Sure, you could make your own curry paste, but the point sometimes is not artistry or chemistry – it’s eating, fast. And because life’s too short to eat bad food, it’s got to be convenience food that tastes like slow-cookery, because it’s also got to soothe. So, on nights like these, a warm tomato curry is what you need. You can use madras, or any other curry paste that pleases you – I recommend an Indian-style curry paste, like madras or tandoori, because it goes so nicely with tomatoes. All that cumin and coriander. Use a hot paste if you like – I keep this pretty mild though.

Easy tomato curry

  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 lb. cubed boneless chicken thighs
  • 2 tbsp. madras curry paste
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 398 mL/14 oz. can of tomato sauce (make sure it’s pure – no spices, garlic, or onion powder … read the back of the can!)
  • 1 398 mL/14 oz. can of coconut milk (not the low-fat kind – it’s too watery)
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp. red chili flakes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups whole spinach leaves

In a large pot over medium-high heat, melt butter and sauté onions until translucent. Add chicken, curry paste, and garlic. Brown chicken lightly.

Add your tomato sauce and coconut milk, scraping the bottom of the pan for any delicious brown bits as you do. Stir in the tomatoes and chili flakes, and reduce to medium. Simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Season to taste, and then, just before serving, stir in the spinach leaves. Serve over rice, preferably rice that’s flecked with a little bit of toasted coconut, and maybe tossed with a handful of peas. The curry will cook in the same amount of time as the rice. Easy, simple, nourishing, and delicious. Which is what you want on a Thursday in October, you know?

Tomato curry plate.

Horses’ Arses.


I have two days off this week which is awesome and I’m finally catching up on my sleep after being sick this weekend and even though someone is very mad at me somewhere about a bill I thought I paid, I’m still being optimistic. With two days off and no money in the bank to distract me into doing things, I’m hoping that this will be the week that I finish my novel. I have to. I have managed to convince myself that if I just finish the damn story, Random House will pick it up immediately, and then it will be optioned as a movie, and then Anne Hathaway or that Evan Rachel Wood girl or someone will star as my protagonist and it will be the best chick flick ever and I’ll get really rich and then it won’t matter that I might lose my job because I’ll be in France anyway, with a villa near the water and you can all come and visit and we’ll have a grand time. This is what will happen if I just focus. It seems so easy, doesn’t it?

Which is why I went back to bed for two hours, and why I am here, now, blogging. And why I just made cinnamon buns, bonus points for them being the lazy kind. And why I did the dishes, which I never do unless I have to or unless Nick mutters something under his breath about leaving me for a harem of maids who never make fun of his eyebrows or move to the other side of the room when he eats. I remember now why I stopped writing the thing in the first place. It’s frigging hard. And also I am having a hard time making my protagonist relatable to anyone but me, because she’s manic and neurotic and painfully self-conscious but also incredibly narcissistic, and also mildly sociopathic, which is why I get her but I’m wondering if she shouldn’t just be the quirky friend of someone much more believable. Random House? Are you out there? You tell me what I should do.

Anyway, the cinnamon buns. They’re called Horses’ Arses because that’s what my Grandpa named them, because apparently if you look closely at the back end of any horse, it will be curly and twisty, and will resemble these fluffy little cinnamon buns, which are made with a baking powder biscuit base and are much quicker than the yeasty ones, which is perfect for breakfast on a weekday or for snacking all day long when you’re supposed to be doing something important and life-changing but you just can’t make yourself type another word of fiction because suddenly everything else in the whole world is super interesting and distracting.

I’m pretty sure the recipe is a Fannie Farmer recipe, but I’ve been making these for so many years now that the recipe is permanently etched onto my frontal lobe. It’s one of those family recipes that everybody’s always made, and I don’t think the recipe has ever changed, except that for my Grandpa, probably more brown sugar was added. You should make these. Go, preheat your oven right now.

Horses’ Arses

  • 2 cups all-purpose or whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar (if you don’t have this, don’t worry – I’ve omitted it before and it always turns out fine)
  • 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 425°F.

In a large bowl, whisk together your flour, salt, baking powder, cream of tartar, and sugar. Drop your butter into the mix in hunks, and gently work it into the dry ingredients. Like many doughs, it’s best if the butter isn’t thoroughly combined – you want the majority of the mixture to resemble a coarse crumb, but there should also be larger hunks here and there. This is what makes everything fluffy, and fluffy is better than not fluffy.

Stir in the milk to form a dough, and turn the whole thing out onto a floured surface and gently knead the dough, for about thirty seconds, until it’s soft and no longer falls apart or is sticky. Roll the dough out to a thickness of about 1/4 inch.

Brush the melted butter over the rolled dough. Sprinkle the sugar over top, pressing down so that it’s not loose. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m estimating that it’s a cup of sugar. It’s really about two and a half handfuls, and I have small hands – paws, you might even say. I never measure this, because I’ve never seen a parent or grandparent of mine measure it out ever. It’s probably more the case that if you like more sugar, go nuts and add it, and if you like less then don’t add as much I guess. Sprinkle the cinnamon over top.

Roll out!

At this point, you could get as creative as you wanted – add nuts, dried fruit, crumbled bacon, even – anything you like. I never add anything different, because I like it just how it is.

Roll the thing out lengthwise, like a jelly roll. Cut the roll into slices about one-inch thick – you should have about twelve buns. I ended up with eleven. Place close together in a greased baking dish, or in those round cake pans if you wanted to. My dish is about 8×10, and the buns filled it up, some touching. It’s okay if they touch.

Little assholes.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned and melty and fluffy. You can smell when these are done – the smell of cinnamon and sugar baking is marvelous, especially when it’s just for you. Serve warm, with a big glass of milk. And then maybe take another nap, because those big goals of yours can be daunting, and sometimes it feels good to procrastinate.

I still mean to tell you about my plums, and something about green tomatoes. Later today I am going to make venison burgers, using Alana from Eating from the Ground Up’s excellent brioche hamburger bun recipe. Last week I kind of fell off the face of the earth and didn’t do anything I said I would and then I felt bad, but I’ve promised myself I’d be productive and finish my story this week, so you know I will be all kinds of distracted and blog, probably more than anyone even wants to read. I say this now. I am completely unreliable, but that’s not something to worry about now – very little matters when you have a tray of warm cinnamon buns all to yourself.


This is not a post about turkey, because I’m not talking about leftovers yet.

It’s been another busy busy weekend, and we’re just at the end of it now. If you’re not Canadian, you probably didn’t do Thanksgiving this weekend, but up here, we celebrate in October. I don’t quite know why, because I had my head on my desk for much of Canadian history, because there is only so much one can hear about fur traders, and a certain amount less is all that can be absorbed by the brain and then retained. And I wanted to tell you what you should do with all that leftover turkey, but, to be honest? It can wait a day. Too much turkey all at once is why no one eats turkey at all the whole rest of the year. So leave the leftovers for now. We can talk about them tomorrow, or even the next day – they’ll still be there.

So instead of making turkey hash, sandwiches, curries, and soup, make fettuccine. With bacon and garlic. And since we’re very near first frost, gobble up the last of those heirloom tomatoes – they won’t be on the grocery shelves long. I inherited a five-pound bag of green tomatoes from my mom this weekend, and I’ve got big plans for them – I’ll tell you all about green tomato soup this week, I promise, and you’ll love it. But in the meantime, the red ones (and the yellow and orange and pink and striped ones) will be gone soon, and you must enjoy them while they last.

Tomatoes: The last of the fresh red ones for the season.Slice your tomatoes, and drizzle them with a little bit of good olive oil, a bit of your favourite vinegar, some chopped herbs, whatever kind, and a bit of cheese. And then set it aside, because in eleven minutes the rest of the feast will be ready.

You’ve probably been cooking all weekend, or at the very least doing a lot of things this weekend that took up a lot of your time, so pick up a package of fresh pasta. Dried pasta will work fine too, but dinner won’t be ready for sixteen minutes then, and you’ll want that extra five minutes for sitting and sipping wine and enjoying the quiet. You’ll be hovering over the stove souping up those leftovers soon enough.

Fettuccine Kind-of-Alfredo

  • 1 package fresh fettuccine noodles (350g or 3/4 lb.)
  • 3 strips of bacon, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated aged Gouda (or other hard aged cheese)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

While your pasta water is on its way to boiling, fry up your slices of bacon over medium-high heat.

When they are crisp and brown, reduce to medium, and add the butter and the garlic. About this time, the water should be boiling – dump in your pasta, and boil for three minutes. Right before the pasta is done, add the cream to your buttery garlicky bacon, and let simmer until the pasta is to your liking.

Dump the pasta into the frying pan, and then add the cheeses. I find that tongs are most useful for mixing this all together – you want the cheese to be melty but not sticky, and you don’t want the noodles to feel dry. If this has happened, add more cream. Nothing bad ever happens if you add a little bit more cream.

Once coated, toss with fresh parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot, with a side of sliced tomatoes, and revel in the easiness of this. This weekend marks the beginning of the eating season, which often means a lot of large, complicated meals that, while delicious, are an awful lot of work. There’s a lot to be said for lazy, hearty pasta dishes during this time of year – they’re like lulls, and you should certainly enjoy them (with wine).

The long shot.Busy week though last one was, I hope to be able to tell you about a lot of lovely things this week. It may be soup week, because I’ve got a bit of zucchini and onion that’s itching to be made into this spicy Korean thing that will surely kill any cold that threatens you, and that green tomato business that I mentioned before. And the stew. You want a showstopper stew that’s not actually all that much work but tastes like you slow-cooked it for two days? Got it, in a pumpkin. And maybe something with turkey, though there’s a lot to be said for freezing the leftovers for a week or two. Or three. Maybe I’ll haul it out to celebrate American Thanksgiving in a month or so. It’ll be about time for it again then, yes? I think that sounds about right. But I’ll let you know if anything changes. And in the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving!

The close-up.

I pretty much just like saying “Wellington.”

I mentioned something the other week about my life exploding. It does that, from time to time, and I’m not sure if it’s an outward explosion as much as it is the disaster in my own head leaking out like biowaste, but the long and the short of it is that I am terrible with money. Just awful. I have bills, but in the past I have moved often and forgotten to reroute my mail or forgot I had certain bills, only to remember them six, eight, ten months later when the shit has not only hit the fan but spattered and slapped me awake at midnight on a work night and when that happens I can’t sleep and start filling out Expressions of Interest online in the hope that I’ll qualify for a move to New Zealand.

I do. Qualify, that is. As a “skilled migrant,” imagine that!

I paid off my last credit card last week. Paid it off in full. The cards are gone, chopped to bits, and that chapter in my financial saga has closed. That chapter, but not the one where I owe the government for that education it funded and now wants me to pay for. It’s an unnerving thing to realize that your moderate success in paying off an aggressive strain of debt is worth only minor celebration, because there’s this other bill that you haven’t been paying attention to, and you don’t know what’s going to come of it.

I have an appointment on Saturday to talk about debt consolidation and being a responsible adult. And, it’s almost midnight, and I can’t help but log in to my account with Immigration New Zealand and look at my in-progress application and sigh. Running away isn’t going to solve anything, is it?

This thing is dogging me in my real life, and the stress of this and work and finding a new apartment is making me quite insufferable. I’m cranky at work. I’m fussy at home. I ruined the polenta yesterday. And I scraped the seeds out of a very hot pepper this evening, using my thumbnail, and every time I habitually pick at my bottom lip, I feel burning and then I tongue it and then my tongue burns too.

It’s at times like these when comfort food is oh-so-necessary. I love meatloaf. I also like the way the word “Wellington” sounds and feels to say. And it’s coldish out now – long sleeves and leggings weather. Sweaters and jeans weather, almost.

You’re probably a million times more responsible than I am, and surely your life never explodes. Hopefully yours doesn’t keep you up at night. But I am certain that at some point this winter, you are going to want to be cuddled, and if your version of Nick is also addicted to oppressively loud and rather gruesome first-person shooter games, you’re going to have to find love in food.

Fortunately, meatloaf wellington will love you right back. And it never charges.

Make the meatloaf the day before you want to make this. It will be a bijillion times better, though make sure it’s at room temperature before you wellington the thing. The meatloaf part of the recipe has been adapted from Fannie Farmer, though I’ve made it so many times that it’s morphed some, and is now an improved version. Not as good for you as Fannie’s, but I don’t think you visit here for your health.

Meatloaf Wellington

  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 lb. ground beef (don’t use extra-lean – regular lean will be fine here. For moisture’s sake)
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 4 slices of bacon

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, combine all of your ingredients except the bacon, and mush together with your hands. You want the ingredients to mix together, but you also want the meat to keep a bit of texture.

Press into a greased loaf pan, and top to cover with the four strips of bacon.


Peek-a-boo!I like to make sure there’s no sticking at the bottom of the pan, so I always cover the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.

Bake for 45 minutes, and then pull out of the oven and let cool in the pan. Set aside, preferably overnight. Once again, it should be at room temperature for the next steps, so if you refrigerate the thing overnight, then take it out an hour or so beforehand to take off the chill.

Wellington part:

  • 1 large onion
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. Dijon or Bavarian mustard
  • 1 large sheet of puff pastry (enough to wrap a meatloaf … if the piece you have isn’t big enough, layer the second piece [there are always two to a package] so that the meatloaf is completely enveloped.)
  • 1 egg, beaten

Slice the onion into very thin strips and caramelize in the butter over medium heat until dark golden. This should take 20 to 30 minutes, and you will periodically need to deglaze the pan with a few tablespoons of water.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out your puff pastry to a size that will suit your meatloaf, and spread with the mustard. When the onions are ready, spread them out over the pastry as well. Be sure to leave plenty of room around the edges for folding and sealing the pastry.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Place the meatloaf in the centre of the pastry, bacon-side down. Paint the edges of the pastry with a bit of egg, and wrap the pastry around the meatloaf as if you were folding the world’s meatiest present.

Turn over and rest on a baking sheet lined with parchment, seam-side down. Paint the top and sides of the wellington with the egg, sprinkle with salt, if you like, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the pastry is golden and puffed.


Perfection.Serve with gratin potatoes and garlicky mushrooms and the kind of wine that’s tasty but also affordable. You can think about other things, like New Zealand, tomorrow.


My First Pavlova.

I feel like by titling this “My First Pavlova” I should be able to write about the lovely meringues I made in my Easy Bake Oven or something. I can’t believe I was intimidated by this thing for so long – maybe it was the size thing, or the fact that it requires hours and hours of uninterrupted oven cooling time. I don’t know. You know what? It’s not hard at all, and if you just follow a few simple steps, you can make this in your grown-up oven too.

This whole idea came out of Saveur, and the September 2009 article about New Zealand and pavlovas. Apparently the Australians hijacked the pavlova and claimed it as their own, which is why I have always thought this was an Australian thing. Apparently New Zealand invented and perfected the pavlova, and since Saveur told me this very convincingly and with very lovely pictures, I decided that it was New Zealand’s classic pavlova that would finally allow me to embrace meringue.

I’ve given you the recipe for the pavlova, which in the magazine calls for homemade lemon curd and provides a recipe, but you can find a better recipe for lemon curd at Fine Cooking. Or you can buy it. But, hint? Don’t fold the lemon curd into the whipped cream at the end … it will just glom all over the place and not stand up and the whole thing will look terribly messy. Oops. Oh well.


(From Saveur, September 2009.)

  • 8 egg whites, at room-temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp. white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, at a low speed, beat the egg whites and the sugar slowly until combined.

Increase speed to medium-high, and beat for about 14 minutes, or until soft peaks form.

Meanwhile, combine cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla. Once the mixture has hit the 14-minute mark, add the cornstarch mixture and continue beating for an additional five minutes, or until the mixture is very stiff with glossy peaks. You’ll know what I mean when you see it – it’s impossible to miss.

Soft glossy peaks.While all of this is happening, roll out a bit of parchment paper and trace onto it the base of a 9″ cake pan, with a pencil. Turn the parchment paper over, so that the pencil side faces down, and place it on a baking sheet. When the egg white mixture is ready, spread it out with a spatula onto the circle. Use all of your egg white froth – it will be fat and tallish when you’re done.

Spreading ...

Spread.Place in the oven, and immediately reduce the heat to 215°F. Set the timer for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Please do not open the oven door at any point after the pavlova goes in.

After the timer goes, turn off the oven. Once again, do not open the oven door. Let sit in the oven for three to four hours, until the pavlova has cooled. This is important. Humidity is the enemy of a crisp-on-the-outside, marshmallowy-on-the-inside pavlova. It might just deflate and turn to goop if you open the oven door. Be afraid of the oven door.

Crispy crunchy marshmallowy delicious.Once cooled, you can store the meringue in a dry, non-humid place (no refrigerators!) until you need to use it – mine sat for about five hours.


  • 1 cup chilled heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup chilled plain yogurt
  • 2 tbsp. confectioner’s sugar

Beat the cream, yogurt, and sugar until stiff peaks form. Top the cooled pavlova with this.

Top with any fruit you like, and then drizzle with the lemon curd. Serve immediately.

This is what happens when you fold in the lemon curd. Please don't do that. Eek. It still tasted good, but wasn't as pretty as it could have been.
This is what happens when you fold in the lemon curd. Please don't do that. Eek. It still tasted good, but wasn't as pretty as it could have been.

And so, I made a pavlova, and it was easier than I thought it would be. Look what eggs can do! Tremendous. And very, very tasty.

Sliced, delicious.

Earthy toasty mushroomy deliciousness, a thing you should eat with wine while wearing pajamas.

Shroomy.I’ve been very alone this weekend, which is never a bad thing, as Nick has been out of town and it’s been just me during the days. I almost always manage to find someone to entertain me in the evenings, but tonight, with Nick away and a busy weekend behind me, and an even busier work-week ahead, I thought that this would be a good evening to do nothing. Which always involves wine and eating.

Today I found mushrooms at the market and fell instantly in love, as one does. Fat white mushrooms, earthy-looking criminis, a meaty, sturdy shitake, and a few wispy yellow chantrelles. The thing about fancy mushrooms is that you don’t need very many – I spent exactly two dollars and eight cents on all of my mushrooms, more than enough for dinner for one. Actually, two even, because this made more than I thought it would. Most of them were the cheaper white ones – those were the base.

I decided it was a good night for a hearty, comforting meal of mushrooms on toast, which doesn’t sound like much. Indeed, it isn’t, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s simple and filling, garlicky, buttery, and autumnal, a thing you might imagine eating after a fox hunt or something similarly British. Top with a couple of soft-poached eggs and serve with a heady, oaky white wine. It’s exactly what you should eat on a foggy, misty night when it’s cool out. Or, better yet, when there’s a Julia Child retrospective airing on PBS.

I’m going to tell you how to make enough to top four slices of French bread, but you can adapt this as you like, to suit more or less, or to make it an appetizer or a side dish. Multiply, divide – math it up. It’s an easy one, and not fussy.

Mushrooms on toast

  • 4 thick slices of French bread, toasted
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 slice of bacon, cut into pieces about a quarter-inch wide
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 1/2 cups mushrooms, cleaned with a damp cloth and then chopped, whatever kind you like
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme, dried or fresh
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup oaky white wine, such as chardonnay
  • 2 tbsp. creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 2 tbsp. finely grated cheese, such as comte, gruyere, or an aged cheddar
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 eggs, poached (optional)

Since you’ve opened the wine, pour yourself a glass.

Set the oven to broil.

Melt the butter in a pan on the stove, and toss in your bacon. Let cook until the bacon is browned and crisp, two to three minutes. Add the garlic, mushrooms, thyme, nutmeg, and pepper, and fry until mushrooms have softened, another three minutes.

Oh! Inhale! So fragrant.Pour in the wine, coating the bottom of the pan, and scrape up any browned bits. Stir in the creme fraiche or sour cream. Pour over toasted bread, and grate your cheese over top.

Broil for three or four minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and the edges of the bread are golden brown. If you love eggs like I love eggs, feel free to top the thing with soft, runny-y0lk eggs. But you don’t have to. This is lovely, LOVELY, all on its own.

Here it is without the eggs:

No egg ...

Here it is with the eggs:

.... eggs.And now, I am a happy little badger, and very full. And Julia has just come on, so I have to go. Back soon, and I’m looking forward to waxing poetic about peanut butter, maybe tomorrow.

Bon appétit!

I guess it’s fall now, the crock pot is out. Or, “A recipe for hearty baked beans.”

The musical fruit!

The other day I told you about the coronation grape granita I made for company, and how wonderful that was. Well, lately whenever we’ve got guests, Nick insists that we have ribs so before the granita, we had several racks of pork ribs, a batch of cornbread with blackberries that I was kind of disappointed in, and baked beans. Which I was not disappointed in, because they were awesome. It wasn’t just me who thought so, either, which is the mark of a good recipe. I suppose.

I made these in a crock pot earlier in the day and then set them aside because I wasn’t doing much in the morning – I let them cool and then reheated them in a much more attractive pot, which I served them in. And while from first step to final step actually took somewhere in the neighbourhood of 22 full hours, they weren’t actually much work. You don’t have to do much – it’s all waiting. And it costs, like, nothing to make. All you need is a crock pot – but if you don’t have one, you can make these in the oven – bake covered at 250°F for 8 hours, remove the lid and cook for an additional 30 minutes. I haven’t tried it that way, but it sounds legit.

Baked beans

  • 1 lb. dried small white beans, such as navy or pea beans (actually, dried black beans of about the same size would probably also be awesome)
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 lb. bacon
  • 1 cup beer (whatever you’re using for the ribs, or else something in an amber or cream ale would be nice)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 5.5 oz. can of tomato paste
  • 2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper

Worth its weight in beans!Pour dried beans into a 9″x13″ glass baking dish, and cover with water, to about 1/2 an inch over the tops of the beans. Soak for eight hours, or overnight.

When you’re ready to start, boil the beans in six cups of water, with the salt. Simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered, and then remove from heat and let sit, still uncovered, for 90 minutes.

Fry up your bacon and your onions, until the onions are golden and translucent and your bacon is brown and crisp. Deglaze the pan with the beer, scraping up any delicious flavour bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour over the beans, then add the sugar, molasses, tomato paste, cinnamon, mustard, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. Mixish.

Mix thoroughly, and then pour the whole thing into your crock pot. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or, like I did, on high for 5 to 7 hours. I ended up cooking mine about six, but I think it depends on your crock pot. My mom once made baked beans in a brand new crock pot using the low and slow method overnight, which was how she always did it, and woke to find that the pot had cremated the beans overnight, leaving a black, crusty mess behind. I like the 5 to 7 hour plan, because if you do it when you’re awake, you can monitor the beans’ progress. Taste and check your seasoning. They’ll be smokey delicious.

Crock pot beans,

As I said, you can totally take these and cool them off, and then reheat them before serving, and they’ll be fine. Delicious, even. You may want to cook them a bit over low heat to reduce the sauce, if it’s runny.

Serve, to all kinds of acclaim. I heard they might even be better than the ribs. Maybe. Says Nick, who only wants to eat beans and meat for the rest of his life. Enjoy!


Coronation grape granita: How to say “I love you, Me.”

I was going to make this for other people. And I did – I shared. It was dessert, and it was lovely. But the next time I make this, I am taking the phone off the hook and not going online and sending Nick away and eating the entire batch myself, because this is what love tastes like. It’s robust and rich, and reminds me of something you might eat to cool off in Napa, where the air smells like fruit must and sea salt and redwoods and everywhere you go you hear the rustle of leaves and the pop of red wine corks pulling free. It’s like that: winy, concentrated purple bliss, with hints of caramel and just the right amount of puckery bittersweetness. Make it, the grapes are ripe now. It’s time, and I’d hate for you to regret not having this.

Coronation grape granita

(Serves six to eight.)

  • 1 1/2 lbs. Coronation grapes
  • Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tbsp.)
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water

Pluck 1 1/2 pounds of coronation grapes from their stems, and plop them into a pot on the stove. Add sugar, lemon, and water, and simmer over medium-high heat until the grapes are soft and the liquid is purple and dark.


Remove from heat, and mash with a potato masher. Squeeze through a fine-mesh sieve into a 9″x13″ glass baking sheet, and put into the freezer.You're hot ...

Every hour for the first three hours after that, pull the juice out of the freezer and scrape with a fork to move the ice crystals around, which keeps them from becoming a solid mass. After that, just pop in every once in awhile to be sure that all is well, scraping as needed.

... then you're cold.

Remove from the freezer about ten minutes before serving, and scrape with a spoon into serving dishes. Serve as is, or with whipped cream. Swoon.


Did I just tell you about dessert first? I guess I did. Come back soon – I have lots to tell you, all about baked beans and ribs and cornbread with blackberries and wonderful things like that.


*Note: I originally called the grapes “concord” because until this morning when I read the package, I thought that’s what they were called. No. They’re coronation grapes, and they’re marvellous. But you can make this with concord grapes if that’s what you’ve got. Cheers.

In which it takes me a very long time to get to the point, the point being soufflé.

This was going to be a post about blackberries, because we’re right smack in the middle of a DIY revolution and I’m calling myself a revolutionary because I’ve never been cool and I thought this – this – might be my chance. I was going to pick the berries, and then preserve them elegantly with plums and other berries and Christmas spices, which is a thing I discovered in England (at the Queen’s grocer, no less) and give them to everyone at the holidays, which I believe is the pinnacle of DIY … that is, inflicting crap you made on people at Christmas under the guise of caring even though they know you’re actually just cheap.

Pickers.Anyway. This was going to be a post about blackberries, but it isn’t.

And let me show you why:

Sharp.Prickles. No, thorns. I was expecting a magical time where fat little blackberries would pop right off the plant into my palm, all juicy and lovely, just begging me to turn them into blackberry sorbet and Christmas jam. Instead, the berries were mostly red, and the black ones were almost all hidden behind skin-shredding barbs, almost all of them out of my reach. I think we gave it a solid 40 minutes before Grace was all, “Can we go home now?”

Stupid little jerks.And so we piled into James’ car and headed back home, a little disgruntled. Revolution isn’t supposed to be so prickly, I thought. I didn’t pick enough to do much with, so I turned them begrudgingly into clean-out-the-crisper jam. Which might be my best jam of the season, as it turns out, but I didn’t write it down so I can’t tell you about it until I reconstruct the recipe. Next year.

The surprise of the morning, the thing I’ve been dawdling at telling you about, was the soufflé. One can’t participate in any sort of revolution without a rich breakfast.

I am not sure how one finds himself in his third decade without so much as a taste of soufflé, but neither Grace nor James had ever made or consumed soufflé ever before, not even once. Le shock! Which leads me to believe that there are others. And I hope to correct that.

Soufflé is a kind of fluffy egg cloud filled with cheese, held up by butter and cream, and flavoured with any of many spices, the combination of which makes your kitchen smell like France. Not the sewery smells that unhappy tourists report, of course, but the France of my, and perhaps your imagination. Eggs and cheese. Melting. Fluffy. Clouds. That’s all the introduction I needed.

This recipe was adapted by Molly Wizenberg from Julia Child, and I’ve since adapted it a bit further. Recipes are not things to just read and obey – they are suggestions, and if you have no gruyere but you have gouda, don’t go out and buy a different sort of cheese. And if you feel like cumin seeds? Add those too. Hate nutmeg? Omit it then. This is a dish you can make entirely out of things you already have on hand. And breakfast should never be any more complicated than that.

Classic Cheese Soufflé

(Serves four to six as a main course.)

  • 2 tbsp. finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 cup (packed) coarsely grated gouda cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Butter a six-cup (1 1/2-quart) soufflé dish. I used my Corningware dish that looks like a giant ramekin. I think that’s what’s meant by a soufflé dish. Round. It should be round. Add Parmesan cheese, coating the bottom and sides. Don’t worry if it doesn’t get everywhere.

Warm milk in small heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat until steaming.

At the same time, melt the butter in larger saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk for about 3 minutes, until it is golden and doughy. Do not let it brown. Remove from heat and let stand for one minute. Pour in warm milk, whisking until smooth. Return to heat and cook, whisking constantly until very thick, another three minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in paprika, cumin, salt, and nutmeg. Add egg yolks one at a time, whisking to blend after each addition. Scrape soufflé base into large bowl. Cool to lukewarm. I made this part ahead, and then went fussed about with the music for a little while, and bothered Nick.

Beat egg whites in another large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/4 of whites into soufflé base, so that the mixture begins to look airy, and the colour is lighter. Fold in 1/2 the remaining whites while gradually adding cheese, then fold the remaining whites into the batter. Do not stir. If you stir it, you’ll break it.

Pour batter into your buttered dish.

Place dish in oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Bake until soufflé is puffed and golden brown on top and center moves only slightly when dish is shaken gently, about 25 minutes (do not open oven door during first 20 minutes). Serve immediately. People will be excited that you’ve placed this in front of them.

CHEESE CLOUD!Serve with a vegetable. I grilled some fresh pattypan squash (toss halved squash in olive oil, 1 tsp. kosher salt, and 1 tsp. black pepper, grill six to eight minutes per side) instead of frying up hash browns because it’s summer squash season.


Breakfasty.A little bread and jam is nice too, and bacon makes everything better, so don’t forget that. All in all, an excellent start to the day, even if the day made us bleed. Note to self: Just buy blackberries. And definitely, DEFINITELY make soufflé.

Warm cucumbers? A good idea, actually.

One of the benefits of being so beyond-excited about food is that people like to give me stuff. My sister-in-law periodically gives me her overstock, or things she’s bought but has no real use for. Rose, at work, has given me lovely fresh basil, a jar of her homemade pesto, and a selection of delightful jasmine teas from her personal collection. I’ve come by garden-grown zucchini, green beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes. And on Friday, Nick came home with a bag of fresh goodies harvested from the garden of one of the ladies he works with. For me. For me! There was still damp soil on the squash, that’s how fresh it was.

Included in the bag of goodies was a rather round cucumber. Nick had thought it was a zucchini, but it was, in fact, a short, stubby cucumber, about two inches in diameter with no tapering. A fat little guy, with firm flesh … the kind that stands up to a bit of braising.

From here, this looks like a close-up on a pickle.
From here, this looks like a close-up on a pickle.

I’ll admit, I hadn’t really thought about this until Julie & Julia. I’ve read recipes for this dish before, but kind of skimmed over them, barely reading, having always considered cucumbers a raw-eating vegetable, a thing suited to salads, and generally a pleasant sort of bland. I see now the error of my ways. And given that this dish is low-risk, requiring little investment of either time or money, it’s something you really ought to try. And it’s summer, and you might even have cucumbers in your garden; if not, they’ll be all over your local market.

Braised Cucumber

  • 1 large cucumber
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 2 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh mint (if you don’t like the sound of mint, you could use fresh dill, which would also be lovely, or a bit of fresh parsley … anything you like)

Peel cucumber. Cut in half, and scoop out the seeds. I find that scraping them out with a regular old spoon works great. Chop cucumber into one-inch pieces.

In a pan, melt the butter. Add the cucumber, make sure it’s coated in the butter, cover, and let cook covered for about five minutes over medium heat.

Remove lid, and add salt and lemon. Cover and cook for another minute. Remove lid, add cream to coat the cucumber, and cook for another minute.

Before serving, toss with mint. And then dive right in.

So fresh-smelling!
So fresh-smelling!

It’s an odd thing, and at first you may be a bit surprised – cucumbers are not all that notable, and they can often go without notice on your dinner plate. When turned into pickles, they are a thing to celebrate. And when they are freshly plucked from the garden and cooked in butter, they are a lip-smacking revelation, a buttery blend of flavours, with a satisfying touch of crunch. And the mint makes them even more lovely. I’ll be adding this to my list of staple side-dishes immediately.

No, really. Go make this right now.
No, really. Go make this right now.