Cooking Classes


Low and Slow Beef Brisket Makes Amazing Chili

I have been holding out on you with this recipe. A couple of weeks ago I became a registered barbecue judge. Yep, I can judge anywhere in the Pacific Northwest in both Canada and the USA. Yeah! I will try to get and see some good 'cue.

The same weekend I jumped right in and judged at the North Battleford 'Those Were The Days'. What I find interesting about judging is that any meat I don't eat, I can take home. We each bring our own personal cooler. My low and slow barbecue brisket became this amazing chili.

I don't know if this authentic Texas chili but it is loosely taken from a recipe by that name. I had a squash on hand. Bonus! I love the flavour of it in chili and would never have thought to use it. Usually I find beans of some sort in chili.

Low and Slow Beef Brisket Texas Chili

1 lb. fully cooked barbecue brisket, cubed
1 c. chopped onions
6 slices bacon, diced
1/2 butternut or kabocha squash, seeded, peeled and cubed
1 can whole tomatoes
1 fire roasted poblano chili, finely chopped
2 tbsp. finely chopped cilantro stems
1 dried ancho chili
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. cumin
2 large garlic cloves, peeled

Soak dried ancho chili in 1/2 cup boiling water for 30 minutes or more.

In a Dutch oven, cook bacon until tender but not browned. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add beef.

In a blender, puree the ancho chili, garlic cloves, chili powder, oregano and cumin. Pour over beef. Add can of tomatoes and remainder of ingredients to the beef mixture.

Bake in a 350F oven for 1 hour. Serve. Garnish with sour cream, diced avocado, fresh cilantro leaves and shredded Monterey Jack cheese. Serves 6 generously.


Pizza on the menu today

You may have read on my blog awhile back that I had to buy a different oven for baking my bread. I was so lucky to find something suitable right here at home. I have this huge Blodgett commercial pizza oven on my patio! This is a picture the day it arrived. Delivered but not yet connected to the natural gas.

It makes wonderful bread. Everything is baked on a stone. The oven has even heat and fits 10 loaves of bread at a time. Without it I would not be able to supply what I need for the market.

Today I invited a neighbour over to make pizzas. I have not yet cranked up the heat to 625F and wanted to see what it could do.

It was a beautiful hot summer day. A perfect day for al fresco dining and a perfect day not to be baking in an indoor oven.

The results were stellar. Homemade pizza crust baked evenly crisp on the bottom. Hannah made a broccoli, chicken, ricotta, mozzarella with basil pizza. Mine was feta, fresh tomato, roasted garlic, roasted red peppers and parmesan. No tomato sauce on either. We brushed the crust with olive oil before baking.

It was so good and we wolfed it down too quickly. One piece of each with a green salad made a perfect summers midweek meal.


Lamb Biryani

It was in the Victorian era, during the British Raj, that Britain first started borrowing Indian dishes, creating Anglo-Indian cuisine. Queen Victoria made it fashionable by having her Indian cook make this food everyday. To this day it is still one of England’s most popular ethnic cuisines.
The word curry is not used in India. It is a general word for the sauces from the subcontinent and refers to light, coloured, spiced sauces on food.
According to the Times of India, biryani is made with the heart and not the mind. The ratio of meat to rice should be half and half. One essential component is that the person who cooks eats last after serving everybody else and that best biryani is at least 5 kg (11 lb.) of ingredients. That is a lot of biryani and the idea is that whatever is left goes to charity. 
The manager of our real estate office where I worked for many years was ethnic Indian. It was always a treat when he made a special biryani for our office potlucks. I am so delighted to have discovered a recipe that I enjoy.

This is also the challenge with The Daring Cooks this month. Grace, one of our talented non-blogging Daring Kitchen members, was our Daring Cooks’ August hostess who shared with us some of her family’s tried and true Bengali Biryani recipes – all of them delicious and all of them prepared fresh from our own kitchens!
Lamb Biryani           
pinch of saffron threads
1/4 c. boiling water 60 mL
2 c. basmati or long grain rice 500 mL           
1 c. ghee or unsalted butter, approximately 250 mL
2 medium sized onions, peeled, cut lengthwise and then sliced paper thin
1/4 c. each unsalted cashews, slivered almonds, pistachios and raisins 60 mL
2 tsp. salt 10 mL
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh ginger root 15 mL
1 tsp. finely chopped garlic 5 mL
1 tsp. cumin seeds 5 mL
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper, as cayenne 1 mL
2 lb. lean boneless lamb, beef or chicken cut into 1 inch cubes 1 kg/5 cm
4 inch piece of cinnamon stick 20 cm
8 whole cloves
6 whole black peppercorns
1/4 tsp. cardamom seeds 1 mL
1/4 tsp. ground mace 1 mL
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg 1 mL
1 c. chicken stock 250 mL
1/2 c. plain yogurt combined with 1/2 c. light cream 125 mL/125 mL
Place saffron threads in small bowl with 1/4 c. (60 mL) boiling water and soak until needed.
Bring large pot of salted water to a boil and slowly add rice. After 10 minutes test rice as you would pasta. When rice is al dente, strain and let rest. When well drained it will be light and fluffy.
Heat 1/4 c. (60 mL) butter or ghee in heavy bottomed large pot, saute onions until soft golden brown. Set aside. In same pan, sauté nuts and raisins until lightly browned. Add more butter if necessary. Set aside.
Add ginger, garlic, cumin and cayenne stirring constantly for a minute. Add meat and brown on all sides.  Then add cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, cardamom seeds, mace, nutmeg. stock and yogurt cream mixture. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until meat is tender.
In oven proof serving dish, layer half the rice. Spoon over 2 tbsp. (30 mL) of the saffron water with some of the threads. Then add meat and another layer of rice. Add remainder of saffron and water over the rice. Add layer of sautéed onions. Spoon some of the liquid from meat, pouring slowly down inside of dish. Cover securely, with aluminum foil if necessary.
Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes or until fully heated.
To serve, remove from oven and top with toasted nuts and raisins. In India this dish would be further garnished with small sheets of edible silver leaf. Serves 12-14.


The Canadian Food Experience - Local Food Heroes

The Canadian Food Experience Project is the brainchild of Valerie at A Canadian Foodie. This is the third edition of a yearlong project. I can see a cookbook in our future. This month we have 80 participants. I am blown away by the participation.

My Earliest Memory of Canadian Food
Regional Canadian Food - SW Saskatchewan 
These are the links to my previous challenges. My first memory...home made bread. Regional food...flat pie.

And the winner is.....

This month we are highlighting a local food hero. I live in Swift Current, SK. We are almost in the Middle of Nowhere. I say almost because if you drive an hour south you are really in the middle of nowhere. We are 5 hours to Calgary, 3 hours to Saskatoon or 2.5 hours to Regina. South, we are 5 hours to Great Falls, Montana which only has a population of 58,000. In fact there isn't a city in Montana with more than 104,000 people.

One would imagine that our choices for a local food hero might be limited. Not so.

I could talk about Farmer Bill. That is what I call him. Bill purchased an acreage formerly owned by Adolf Heyer. This is an exerpt from the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame.

"Adolph Heyer received international acclaim for his work in developing hardy tree fruits. Many of his selections are still being grown on the Prairies. He was born in Lunner, Norway, in 1875 and moved to the United States in 1904. In 1905, he took out a homestead near Neville, Saskatchewan.
Distressed by the lack of trees in the area, he first tried unsuccessfully to transplant young trees from nearby coulees. He obtained his first seedling spruce from Woodstock, Ontario, in 1913 and they thrived. He became so enthused with spruce that by 1918 he had thousands of them. He also planted acres of peonies. These provided a splash of color on what was formerly open prairie."

Bill has continued in Adolf's steps and has a completely organic farm with a multitude of herbs, berries, vegetables, Adolf's apple trees and chickens, turkeys and laying hens.

Or I could introduce you to Val and Bob Newland who raise Black Welsh and other heritage breeds of sheep, practice ethical farming and honour the animal until the end.

I could introduce you to Ron DePauw. He has been the principal wheat breeder at the Semiarid Prairie Research Centre near Swift Current, SK. This is an excerpt from The University of Saskatchewan when he was awarded an Honourary Doctor of Science in 2012.

"Dr. DePauw, a Saskatchewan native, is an outstanding citizen of the province, of Canada and the world. His contributions to the wheat industry of Canada are unparalleled. He has developed over 50 varieties for several classes of spring wheat for Canada. Because of the demanding requirements for quality in Canadian wheats, this is one of the most difficult crops to breed. His varieties have been extremely well received by prairie farmers, typically occupying more than 50 per cent of the seeded acreage. The incremental value of these contributions is estimated to be well over one billion dollars."

My choice for a local food hero are the Peterson's at Tompkins, SK that is less than an hour down the road. They were growing red fife years before it was on the list to sell. Only grains registered could be sold. They held their red fife in granaries for 5 years but were determined that it should be available. Chef Michael Smith buys their red fife flour for his hamburger buns at his Great Canadian Grill at Queen's University, Kingston, ON.

This is a delicious rustic pie using red fife flour.

  Tarte Tatin
This French classic is much easier than making traditional pastry. Take it from stovetop to table.
5-6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thickly sliced
rind and juice of one lemon
1/2 c. sugar 125 mL
1 c. sugar 250 mL
6 tbsp. butter 90 mL
1/2 tsp. cinnamon 3 mL
1 tbsp. cognac or brandy, optional 15 mL
whipped cream, ice cream and sliced almonds as accompaniments
Mix apples with lemon and 1/2 c. (125 mL) sugar. Let sit for 20 minutes. Drain liquid.
Preheat oven to 425F (230C)
Heat 1 c. (250 mL) sugar and butter in a cast iron skillet until brown and medium caramel in colour.  Remove from heat and add the drained apple to the caramel.  Cook at medium high heat for about 10 minutes, basting with juices. Cover and cook another 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Roll pastry into a circle.  Place crust on top, tucking in the sides. Cut slits to let steam out.
Cook 20 -30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.   Let cool about an hour before serving with whipped cream or ice cream and sliced almonds.
3/4 c. all purpose flour 190 mL
1/3 c. red fife flour 80 mL
1/2 tsp. salt 3 mL
1 tbsp. sugar 15 mL
1/2 c. cold butter, cut into small pieces 125 mL
2 tbsp. frozen lard, cut into small pieces 30 mL
1/4 c. cold water 60 mL
Add dry ingredients to food processor and pulse to blend.  Add butter and lard and pulse a few times until it is still a little chunky but not as fine as cornmeal.  Gradually add water while pulsing just until the dough comes together. Remove to a floured counter top and gently knead 1 or 2 times. Form into a flattened disk and chill for an hour. Then roll into a circle and top the apples.
Makes 8 servings.


Taco in a Bag with a Low Cal Twist

This month's Cooking Light Virtual Supper Club is featuring food from the Fall Fair (or summer fair, since it is only the beginning of August!)

Val from More Than Burnt Toast is our host this month. She is serving a fabulous lobster roll. Be sure to check it out. I wanted to offer a lighter version of the so popular Taco in a Bag. For starters, I didn't use a bag of those oh-so-yummy flavoured taco chips. Make your own bag and use some baked chips and use fewer. Load up on the filling. This is so light using Greek style yogurt rather than sour cream and the avocado and lime kicks it up a notch, lightly sauteed chicken rather than the ground beef chili and a vinaigrette on an herbed lettuce. You can pile it on without guilt.

See what else is for dinner here...

Val at More Than Burnt Toast has Lobster Roll with Shaved Fennel Salad
Sandi at The Whistle Stop Cafe made Carmelized Banana Sundae
Jerry at Jerry's Thoughts, Musings and Rants has Grilled Corn on the Cob with Jalapeno Butter
Susan at The Spice Garden lightened up Onion Rings

What a great line up for lazy days.

Ancho Chicken Tacos with Avocado Cream

  • 1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/4-inch strips 
  • 3/4 tsp. ancho chile powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. sea salt 
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/8 tsp. grated lime rind
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice, divided 
  • 1/4 c. thick yogurt
  • 1/2 ripe peeled avocado, diced
  • 2 c. thinly sliced iceberg lettuce
  • 1/2 c. thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tbsp. canola oil 
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  1. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Sprinkle chicken evenly with chile powder, garlic salt, and cumin. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove chicken from pan.
  2. Combine rind, 1 tablespoon juice, yogurt and  avocado in a blender or food processor; process until smooth.
  3. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon juice, lettuce, onions, cilantro, oil, and salt, tossing to coat.
  4. This will make about 6 servings. Add to bag in order -  tortilla chips, chicken mixture, about 1 tablespoon avocado mixture and 1/2 cup lettuce mixture.


So You Wanna Be a Barbecue Judge...

Barbecue competitions are an addiction. That is my final conclusion. I was accepted into the PNWBA sanctioned judging class and that is my final answer. There is no money in it. The judges can be somewhat inexperienced but the adrenalin rush of winning overrides all. That is what I call an addiction.

Today was my 5 hour class to qualify me to judge throughout the Pacific Northwest. It was way more knowledge than I ever expected. I had no idea how picky it would be. A piece of tin foil can be a tell?! Huh? Any foreign object in the box presented to the judges must be pointed out to the head judge. If you can see it right away, it could be a signal from a competitor. Therefore, that entire box of food is disqualified. If, and it is a strict difference, the tin foil is stuck underneath the food and is only exposed by the removal of the food, it is not disqualified. Picky details.

Here are the steps to winning in a BBQ competition -

Step 1 - hand in your food in the provided compostable clam-shell container. The computer scans the code and provides a number for the box. If you are  more than 4 minutes and 54 seconds late, so sad, too bad.

Step 2 - The sample is passed by each judge for a visual inspection. The judges will determine if there are any foreign objects, the correct number of pieces and grade the visual presentation.

Step 3 - The food is passed to each judge. The tongs are passed from one judge to the next. Take what is easy to remove and take everything that your tongs grasp. Take the correct number of pieces.
Step 4 - Smell the food. That will prepare the judge for the flavour.
Step 5 - Taste with your eyes closed. Determine points for flavour and texture. Water is the only beverage the judge will consume during the competition.

This is a package of food leftover from the judges. See the beautiful 'money muscle' from the pork butt and some shredded pork. This part of the shoulder looks like a tenderloin but it isn't. Notice how the fresh parsley garnish enhances the appearance of the presentation.

The competitors do this for the fame and love of the game. Fairness is of the utmost. Without the training to be a judge it would never cross my mind that a teeny tiny piece of foil would sway the scores. Fascinating.

In the class we were fed samples as follows... 2 x pork. One was slow cooked and one was slow cooked and shredded. 2 x beef brisket. 2 x chicken. One was thigh and the other leg. 2 x pork ribs. Only pork ribs are allowed. Never beef.

This is the class food. Not as pretty as above!
The 'kick me down and make me spit on the dirt' crappy thing about this class is that we were served meat that would never win in competition. We were served the worst of the food likely ever to be presented in competitions. We had to learn what the best is by seeing and tasting the worst. Now, if you were only here to eat the meat that would be downright disappointing.

This is another picky little detail. They are specific about which and what cut of meat is allowed. An experienced judge knows everything about every cut of pork and beef.

There is only one free card and that is Chef's Choice. That can be determined by the hosting committee.

Count them up and it is only 8 pieces of meat that we tasted in the class. I was so full but then at times I was so hungry so I ate the whole thing. You know the saying that if you eat too fast the brain doesn't catch up when you are full? It's true. In an actual judging situation you would be judging 6 samples of each category. The categories are pork, beef, chicken and ribs, then the Chef's Choice, in that order. 6 x 5 = 30 tastes of meat. But get this, each judge has a doggy bag. The left overs of your tasting is swiped into a ziplog bag and you can take it all home. Imagine the gumbo you could make with all that meat. They suggest that each person bring their own cooler to keep the meat chilled.

In the end I was mentally exhausted and digestively clogged. I have decided that the only way to know if I am up for the challenge is to jump right in. Next Sunday I have volunteered to judge in North Battleford. We thought it was only a 1 hour drive from Swift Current but it is actually 3 1/2 hrs. If I could put numbers in caps I would. 3 1/2 HOURS? Are you kidding me? I have to be sitting in my chair at 10am sharp or I will be at risk of being kazumped by some other qualified person wanting to do it. Don't even mention that I will be at the Farmers' Market on Saturday selling my heart out and coming home totally exhausted the night before.

Have I inadvertently acquired their addiction? I'll tell you next week.


A Visit to the Saskatoon Farmers' Market

The family has been making these green wooden boxes for their display for two generations. I love them.

My weekend in Saskatoon has been very full. After picking up some bread flour and a little other shopping I met Penny for iced drinks at City Perk just north of downtown. Penny and I have been online pals since I attended the "Nourish the Senses" Slow Food Conference in Osoyoos back in April. Penny leads the Saskatoon convivium for Slow Food and it is nice to finally meet.

Thank you Penny, the same Penny but thought I would introduce you to her blog, at Wanderlust and Words for reminding about the farmers' market. Since I was in town for the barbecue judge certification program, I was so focused on that. However, my hotel was only 5 minutes away and I always enjoy a visit to this market.
I love this display of cabbages. It reminds me of when I was cycling in Viet Nam and saw their cabbages neatly arranged to fill the back of a truck up to about 5 ft high.

Farmers' market vendors take great pride and care in presentation and display.
This is Betty's seabuckthorn display. I really want more but it is perishable and I just have to wait for another time.
I finally met Betty Forbes from Northern Vigor Berries. I wrote about Betty and her seabuckthorn in the Western Producer. I bought a very large package of frozen berries from her last Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed them and trying new recipes. Wish I had a freezer in the trunk of my car! I tried her seabuckthorn gelato. It was fantastic. I came home with tea made from the smaller leaves of the trees. I had also found her products in Sask Made Marketplace on 8th Street near Louise Ave. It's a nice store and worth the stop. There was more product than I was expecting and a very nicely presented shop.
Yeah! Bread! Love it!

Today was the barbecue judge class but I will cover that in another post. There is lots to say and it is nothing like the market! Tomorrow I will again attend the Ribfest and BBQ competition to observe the judging process.

The weather has been absolutely perfect. The entire weekend has been the beautiful summer weather that I remember about Saskatchewan. It has been comfortably hot, complete sunshine and mild in the evening. Even with sunscreen I have picked up a little more tan.


Hot BBQ Weekend in Saskatoon

Check back. Tomorrow is the big day when I will learn all about judging barbecue. Southern barbecue, that is. Not this grilling that we call bbq. I walked through today to see the set up. These guys spend serious payola on their rigs. See that commercial kitchen equipment? Wait 'til you see the full displays. Y'all come back now.