Hot Polka Dot
26Sep/10

Project Food Blog #2: The Classics.

“Ready to tackle a classic dish from another culture? Pick an ethnic classic that is outside your comfort zone or are not as familiar with. You should include how you arrived at this decision in your post. Do your research then try to pull off successfully creating this challenge. Try to keep the dish as authentic as the real deal, and document your experience through a compelling post.”

I represent a diverse combination of cultures from around the world. On my dad's side there's Irish, Scottish and possibly a little Native Canadian mixed in there somewhere, but we're not too sure. On my mom's side there's Dutch and Indonesian.

I could have chosen to make any classic dish from any culture, but that wouldn't be as meaningful. Sure it would probably be delicious and I'd learn a lot about it, but I'd prefer to learn a bit about my own culture and, in turn, learn something about myself.

I'm pretty familiar with Scottish, Irish and Dutch food so I opted for something a little outside my comfort zone and also very challenging. Though I am part Indonesian I've never tried any Indonesian desserts like this Kue Lapis Legit (Indonesian) a.k.a. Spekkoek (Dutch) a.k.a. Thousand Layer Cake.

Through my research I found out that this cake was born out of the colonial period in Indonesia when Dutch settlers were melding with the native people. Both cultures influenced each other and out of the diverse sharing of traditions came this cake. Dutch baking methods collided with Indonesian spices.

The symbolism of the layers is poetic. Two cultures, both unique and beautiful, both contributing equally to make something sweet. Everyone has their layers and we would be lucky if they were made of sugar and spice and everything nice.

I like to picture my beautiful Indonesian great great grandmother baking this cake with her loving Dutch husband. It's a sweltering morning on the island of Sumatra and the lazy breeze sends the scent of this new cake whirling through the settlement past banana trees and around mischievous monkeys. She hums a curious tune to herself as she adds the final layer to the cake while he puts another log in the oven.

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7Aug/10

Honey for My Honey.

Just bear with me here and allow me to put my serious hat on for a few minutes. If you don't want to read on about a gooey love story and how ridiculously giddy it makes me then I'd suggest you stop now or skip ahead to the cake part. I won't tell. Promise.

A year ago today I had bangs and actually pulled it off nicely. A year ago today I lived three provinces away in a basement apartment where I hid my cat from my landlords. A year ago today I spent more of my free time on the phone than other people spend breathing or blinking. A year ago today I was a bundle of nerves waiting patiently for the love of my life to walk through my door.

We hadn't even met in person and I loved him more than life itself. Naive? Of course. True. Certainly.

Today I've grown out my hair and it doesn't even annoy me. Today I'm sure I have more laugh lines and I don't even care because of how they were gained. Today I woke up next to the man that is my match in every way. Today is our one year anniversary and I couldn't be happier.

Because he holds the truck door for me every time. Because of how safe I feel in his arms. Because of his amazing daughter. Because of how we finish each others sentences. Because of the way he laughs when we do the fist bump explosion. Because of the way his hand fits into mine. I made this Honey Lemon Pound Cake for my Lee, my honey. I love you.

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26Apr/10

Words of Wisdom and Pudding of Rice.

I'm not sure that I've ever told you that I'm not professionally trained in the kitchen. I think that goes without saying, but I thought I'd just put it out there. I'm mostly self taught though I've gotten loads of good experience with my family. My mom taught me how to make lumpless gravy and my dad showed me how to make a mean lasagna, among other things of course.

I don't think you need to go to a fancy culinary school to learn a thing or two about food. Anyone can be a cook and a darn good one at that. Like most worthwhile things in life, it takes time, practice and an open mind.

Here are a few things that I've learned through my trials and tribulations in the kitchen...

Don't ever, under any circumstances, leave a pot of milk alone on the stove. It will always boil faster than you think it's going to and bubble over into the burner below. Let me tell you if you've never smelled the sickly sweet and sour smell of burnt milk count yourself lucky. It's right up there with burnt hair and baby poop.

It's best to whip cream in a cold bowl with cold utensils. Something about the low temperature creates the best stiff peaks. I imagine that with all that whipping the friction might create a lot of heat as well so it's good to counteract that with chilly tools. Julia Child even suggests to put ice under the mixing bowl but that's a bit overkill in my opinion.

You don't need a fancy schmancy egg separator to divide egg whites from egg yolks. I don't even use the egg shell method either since I've had a few too many pierced egg yolks that way. I just use my own hands. They're much softer than pointy egg shells and much less expensive than egg gizmos, plus they have these built in movable parts to allow the egg white to flow through the cracks, aka fingers.

Less is more. I'm not trying to tell you that you should have one cookie instead of two. I wouldn't presume to have that kind of power over your portion decisions. I mean that the best recipes are the simple ones. Why complicate a good thing with oodles of ingredients that only end up masking and muddying the flavours? Think of the best combinations. Chocolate and peanut butter. Strawberry and banana. Lemon and blueberry. Cinnamon and nutmeg. Tomato and basil. Onion and garlic. Don't mess with a good thing people.

It's important to have fun in the kitchen. I know most of you probably have to cook everyday and you might even struggle to make things interesting for every meal. Don't stress! The moment you start to stress over food is exactly when it becomes a chore. Experiment a little, try something new once in a while, don't be afraid and, above all, keep it fun. I listen to music a lot in the kitchen and I'm not scared to admit that I dance... and sing... a lot... in my pajamas. There, I said it.

And without further delay, the moment we've all been waiting for. Cranberry Orange Rice Pudding. Would you believe I've never tried rice pudding before? It's sad but true. Today was the day and, let me just say, what a good day that was.

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21Apr/10

Ode to a Broken Spatula.


Oh spatula, poor spatula...

You were nothing fancy, but you were my favourite. I didn't tell the other spatulas for fear of making them jealous. We kept that secret to ourselves. You were so beautiful with your comfortable bright orange handle and your one convenient rounded silicon edge.

You were always there when I needed you, waiting and ready to help me out with countless culinary creations. You were there to fold egg whites into chocolate. You stood by me when I poured cake batter into round pans. You even let me use you to lick clean my mixing bowl when I happened to make a particularly scrumptious frosting.

But today, yes today was different. Today I pulled open the drawer where I let you sleep and snatched you out to mix together these rather delicious scones. Not 10 seconds into mixing, with a sudden and final loud snap you broke clean in two.

You lived a long useful life considering I bought you two for a dollar. I miss you spatula. I'm sorry I broke you.

Yours truly,

Lindsey

PS: Thank you for these amazing Cranberry Orange Scones. Your final epitaph. Your legacy. Your masterpiece. Something to remember you by, though they'll not last very long.

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13Apr/10

It’s a Good Thing.

I've just realized that all this time I haven't been properly creaming butter and sugar. Many cookie recipes start out by telling you to “cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy”. I read this and thought, ok cool thirty seconds should do it. I the peek inside the mixer with satisfaction and say, that looks pretty fluffy.

Wrong!

Martha has shown me the light. In this recipe she asks you to cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy for not one, not two, but five minutes. I was like, what?! Seriously that long? Well alright. If you say so, Martha. And then something magical happened. My butter and sugar became one harmonized ingredient and fluffed like nobody's business. It's a good thing.

Now, don't get me wrong, it's not like I've been ruining countless batches of cookies before this epiphany. There's lots of evidence to the contrary. They all turned out just fine, apart from that one sheet of peanut butter cookies I tried to shape like four leaf clovers for St. Patrick's Day, but they still tasted just great if a little lopsided. You never saw those. Be grateful you didn't.

So I guess we learn something new everyday. I've learned to obey the greatness that is Martha Stewart. But then again, maybe I didn't. I changed a lot with this recipe. I'm sure the original recipe would be delicious without my tweaking, but I wanted a bit more lemon flavour and a pinch more crystallized ginger. That's ok right? Forgive my insolence Martha, but I made them yummier. Now please don't hurt me.

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