Category Archives: Stews, Sauces & Warming Drinks

January is cold through the Great White North.

Featured this month are some recipes to keep your body cosy, and essays about food to warm your soul.

In Memoriam – Lisa Shamai – Jun 1, 1958 – Jan 31, 2015

Realizing now that I had assumed all along that she would beat this, I am deeply saddened today to have learned of the passing of Lisa Shamai, of Lisa Shamai Cuisinerie, at 2am this morning to Cancer. My deepest sympathies to Michael, Ethan, Zoey, her entire family and circle of friends, and the City of Toronto as a whole. Her passing is a loss for us all.

I have not seen Lisa in many years, but she seemed like an essential force, an eternal spirit.

I remember how generous she always was with my volunteers at The Distillery Jazz Festival, making sure people had food and something to drink when they needed it. Mostly, she gave discounts, but I also witnessed her giving food to some of the volunteers that were broke when they looked a bit too grey to work.

She would give the leftovers to them on platters at the end of the night in The Stone Distillery as well. I can only assume that she was equally generous everywhere that she went.

It was fun to see the pleasure on her face when I showed up one day with fresh, homemade pizza for her and HER crew in return, assuming that everyone likes a break from routine. I often think of her when I make pizza, and forever will.

Ethan and Lisa
Ethan and Lisa

What’s wrong with Winterlicious and Summerlicious?

…and for that matter, LivingSocial, Groupon and the defunct DealFind and TeamBuy (both of which expired owing merchants money). As appealing as it is to save money, the best way to do so is simply to be frugal in your range of purchases, while respecting the cost of their production…not stepping it up, while paying less for everything.

Eventually, someone has to pay for it and this may be your retailer, or their staff…or other consumers, but why should they? One way or the other, it’s got to affect either quality or sustainability of the enterprise, and ultimately has a huge social cost from lost revenues and the related inability to service the needs of the business.

Any high end restaurant that participates in one of these plans is doing so because they feel that the short term gain of having cash flow is servicing their ongoing bottom-line.

Like PayDay Loans, these programs take something away that can never be replaced.

The truth is that the money has to come from somewhere. Either out of the enterprise…as sometimes does happen, which is part of what bothers me about these sorts of programs; or it is spread out in overall higher prices to compensate, which is a good chunk of the rest of it .

Overall higher prices is also something that many restaurants would find it difficult to do while retaining their regular client base.

One thing that often happens in these promotions (and on Valentine’s Day btw), is the adding of extra tables or chairs, diminishing the overall experience for the diners.

Here’s a great blog post from Denmark on the topic:

Why Relae and Manfreds are not participating in Copenhagen Food Week

We keep getting those phone calls. “We have a great deal for you!” a young and ecstatic “entrepreneurs” voice says ” we fill your restaurant and you make more money!” – and this young entrepeneurs voice just says no, no and no.

Why is it so hard to understand that as soon as some “entrepeneurs” are supposed to “help” you (pls notice the extensive use of “” so far in this post…it’s a sign that I am emotionally involved in the matter) it will cost someone money? Money that will not give your guest/customer any value or make your life easier since you have to dump the prices on your menu in the end making you maybe swap to conventional eggs rather than organic and maybe eventually even cut off some staff? Many of my colleagues are drawn to the idea of filling up the restaurant on slow weekdays and I’ll be honest with you, even despite our privileged history of success we sometimes struggle to fill up the restaurant on a snowy, grey and cold Wednesday in February. Of course the idea of making less of a revenue per guest but still making a higher total is tempting but everything comes with a price and giving discounts might prove to be a disaster. So how does adding another factor to your price (the “entrepeneur”) and dumping your price at the same time add up?

My fear is that the types of home pages as sweetdeal.dk, greed.dk and dealhunter.dk are multiplying as a cancer on our industry and will eventually revert the great progress that the Copenhagen food scene has undertaken in the last ten years. With the fine-dining scene rise to stardom and international fame the middle range restaurants has improved with it giving you more and more value for money when you spend between 500-1000 kr per person. The higher volumes of these types of restaurants demanding varied vegetables and high quality produce, are able to support young and progressive farmers wanting to focus on sustainability and just plain out good food. This system is fragile and as the number of restaurants grow, and competition alike, the focusing in discounting might shift the balance from the busiest restaurants being the best to the ones dumping the price the most to come out on the other side. And this is at the cost of good food because in my opinion, if we had to shift from Hindsholm pork and organic eggs to conventional s**t to be a successful restaurant I wouldn’t have the heart to call us successful, I would call it a disaster.

Now Diningweek.dk has had a few years of great growth and success selling as much as 50.000 tickets offering a 3-course menu for 200 kr at one of the “best restaurants in the city” (- here we go again) and I was horrified to see how Politiken, one of the leading Danish newspaper had filled most part of their lifestyle section with a huge ad from Dining Week, basically listing up all the restaurants participating. To call it the “best” is a bit out there but the biggest problem is how this organization and event is portrayed as a festival celebrating gastronomy. For 200 kr you get 3 courses (and a bottle of San Pellegrino) in week 7- notoriously a tough week for the industry- and all the restaurants are happy to fill up their restaurants- right? But how is this celebrating gastronomy? Beside that the few people going out in that week will probably be tempted to choose the cheap night out not considering the potential consequences? What never seems to be put out there is that Dining Week is arranged by Cofoco, a big restaurant chain counting numerous restaurants in the lower-middle range as Höst, Trois Cochons and many more. All these of course participating in the “festival” and I guess like all the other restaurants paying a 20 kr fee per booking to the Cofoco-headquarters for their participation. 20 kr doesn’t not sound like much for a guest in your restaurant but considering the 50.000 -and growing- sold tickets it might even turn out as a pretty good deal for these “entrepeneurs” as well. The big questions is if we will let our industry face the same trouble as retail, suffering customers waiting for the SALE signs to pop up all over the city before buying anything but a Christmas present. Or wether we want to react and understand that as soon as someone wants you to dump your price they are not out to help you, they just want to be an “entrepeneur”. We are not like retail- we make a craft with our hands. Nothing we do at Relæ is produced in China by cheap labour or outsourced to India. The veggies are browned locally, the fish is butchered in house and we make our own bread with flour made from Danish wheats and we cannot afford to go on a discounting frenzy because the only thing we would be able to cut the price on by now would be quality. We are not like retail and we need to admit that a reasonable pricing of our menus is the only way to go. Some customers will always go for the discounts and I don’t blame them. We just need to take responsibility for what we do and make sure that we always, always, offer a great value for money and this way smudging the “best” off on the Dining Week ad. Because if you truly make quality you shouldn’t want to see your self on this or any others “entrepeneurs” homepage, portfolio or list.

Singapore Noodles

It’s neither a soup nor a stew, but it is a curry, and it’s one of those great dishes that simply feels good no matter what time of day you have it, but especially in the winter. It has long been one of my favourite takeout/delivery meals for a rainy/cold day and I love it as leftovers for breakfast on the weekends.

As with so many things that they are used in, the onions you choose can really make or break this dish. Be sure to use a nice flavourful Spanish onion for the best results.

 

Biriyani

One of my favourite cookbooks is Indian Cooking by Lalita Ahmed. Every recipe that I have tried from it is excellent and authentic tasting, rivaling anything I’ve had in the best Indian restaurants I’ve been to.

The book was published in the UK only but ended up here in a stack at the wonderful old Coles bookstore that used to be at Yonge and Charles in Toronto. It has been through many editions, which is always an indication of an excellent book. The cover here is for the book that I personally own, but there are different covers on the other editions.

Indian Cooking by Lalita Ahmed
Indian Cooking by Lalita Ahmed

Mine is from Coombe books. Out of print for many years, copies of this book are shown on Amazon for as much as £50, (or $100CAD, more or less).

Lalita Ahmed Bio (from IMDB.com)
Lalita Ahmed (maiden name Chatterjee) was born in Lucknow, India on November 25th 1939. She worked for All India Radio before moving to London in the 1950s, where she joined the Hindi language department of BBC World Service Radio. She worked as a presenter on Asian programs for BBC television and presented Indian cookery on BBC Pebble Mill. She has also written a number of cookery books. As well as her film roles Lalita has appeared in a number of British television shows.

This Biriyani recipe below is one of my very favourites from this book.

We are one!

Article and photographs by Gayle Hurmuses and Hurmuses family archives,  featured image by Brandi Deziel

A year. 58 recipes, a couple of dozen articles, many reviews, and 16 contributors with more coming soon!

Grampa's store, Main St, Vancouver
Grampa’s store, Main St, Vancouve

It’s been an exciting year and a growing experience full of opportunities to meet great people, to try new foods, and to share the love of cooking.  At the end of the day, that’s what this site is for, to teach about food, to discuss it, and to share a passion for food and its annual rituals.

On the Ptarmigan
On the Ptarmigan

I grew up cooking, in a food industry (fish exports, restaurants, grocery markets) household where everyone not only cooked, but each had their own specialty. Funny thing, we were all so busy cooking that it’s one of the few activities we don’t really have pix of us doing.

My folks would regularly host parties with 100 people or more and we’d cook as a family enough food to feed all of them. Christmas dinners were often for 35 to 40 people, with furniture moved out of the way and tables brought in from everywhere.

The National Cafe - Vernon, BC. - Uncle Jeff
The National Cafe – Vernon, BC. – Uncle Jeff

In those days it was a lot more common for people to preserve their own foods, and it’s what I grew up doing…certainly during my childhood. Both my mom and Mrs Davidson the next door neighbour, would each can bushels of food every year, with Mrs Davidson having the edge on volume and variety.

BushelTomatoes1I don’t make everything myself from scratch, but have always made it part of my objective to know how to do so, to understand how things are made and how to work with the seasons. There are some things that I always want to do for myself, or I’d simply do without them…like canned tomatoes.

For me, there is no comparison between home canned tomatoes and even the best that one can buy commercially. In a pinch, I might consent to use commercial tomatoes for a pasta sauce, but never for tomato soup, where the taste of the fruit itself is the key note.

Last year I did one bushel of tomatoes and really ought to have done two, as I usually do. The sauce was gone in a moment and I’m already down to only 3 quart jars of tomatoes, which I could easily use up in a week. I still have a good amount of ketchup and salsa…which makes me happy.

Sadly, my computer was held hostage to an evil repair company in September (note to self, always go to the Apple Store) and I was unable to post almost anything during that month, although I certainly did a lot of canning and preserving. I’m planning to post some of those retroactively, as soon as time permits.

Canned Tomatoes, Salsa, and Ketchup
Canned Tomatoes, Salsa, and Ketchup

That bushel of tomatoes netted me 7 litres of canned tomatoes, 3 litres of tomato sauce, 16 pints of salsa, and 9 pints of ketchup. The ketchup is entirely bonus, as it’s made from the skins and cores of the tomatoes, which most would normally toss out. It’s almost the best part of cooking a bushel of tomatoes simply to get the ketchup.

The thing about canning is that it’s not about the money you save, it’s about the quality you get…and it’s about owning the food you eat and share with the people in your life.  It’s a great family project, and adds enormously to the appreciation of the food we eat.

Grape leaves
Grape leaves

This website celebrates the importance of the seasons as part of the calendar of food and of keeping us grounded. It’s a reminder that everything we eat comes to us directly out of the earth. So, this year, as last year, we’ll look at planning a garden for cooking and follow that process all the way through to cooking from the garden, preserving the harvest and later use of that food during the winter months. Over time, we’ll look at planning these activities year over year…one doesn’t need to make every canned item every year…if you’re not a nomad, you can plan your preserving in 2 or 3 year cycles, or join a canning exchange group in order to assure a good variety of canned goods.

From seed to jar, food always provides a context for being grounded, for following the seasons, enjoying the best of food as it appears, and setting some of it by for later use in the winter.

Yes, it’s work, but it’s a joyful celebratory labour that creates fun from beginning to end and it’s an act of love and caring to share with the people who are important in your life.

Grampa Hurmuses Turkey
Grampa Hurmuses – The Turkey Master

Margaret’s Coconut Curry Soup

No one likes to think about flu season, but when it’s with us, there’s nothing like spicy food to cut through the fog of grumble-nothing-tastes-good-today.

Here’s a nice hearty, spicy, and warming soup to thin the blood, make you sweat just a bit and make you feel so much better! This is the first of several spicy rich recipes to help us through the cold…and the colds.

Thanks to Margaret Turney for this one!