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Review: The Good Food of Szechuan

by Robert A. Delfs

1974 Kodansha International Ltd.   ISBN-13: 978-0870112317

This book is almost four decades old now but I only recently came across it Amazon where used copies were being sold quite reasonably by third party dealers. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting too much from it as many books on Sichuan cuisine that are older than ten or fifteen years are not generally that good. This one, though, is really quite decent given its age. It is not very long, and the dishes are mostly limited to classics, but the recipes that are provided are very representative of proper Sichuan cuisine and not just the usual sort of poor western interpretations one would typically get in many contemporary publications…  Read more

Experiment: Shepherd’s Pie

Lamb is not all that popular amongst most Canadians but when I was a kid growing up in England roast lamb was a very popular Sunday dinner. In many households, the main joint would invariably be followed, sometime later in the week, by that old leftovers stand-by, Shepherd’s pie.

Shepherd’s Pie has always been a mainstay of institutional cooking – school cafeterias and the like – and most people associate it with a composite of ground beef, various vegetables and potato. Strictly speaking though, versions with beef are actually Cottage pies whereas a true Shepherd’s pie, as the name suggests, should contain lamb… generally ground cooked lamb that is leftover from a roast.

The basic pie consists simply of ground meat (usually with added onion) baked under a topping of mashed potato. There are endless permutations on the theme, however, involving a whole host of diverse additions. Peas are quite common; as are carrots, and celery, and quite a few recipes add cheese to the potatoes. My mother used to make a version with applesauce in the meat mix and I love it this way, especially with corn niblets added. For this current, experiment, however, I want to go back to the basics and make a very traditional, simple pie…  Read more

Foodstuff: Patak’s Lime Pickle

I have never been terribly fond of Lime pickle. It was often on the table as a condiment with curry when I was growing up but I didn’t usually partake. Since those days, I have had several commercial brands, and have even tried making it myself, but I have generally found that it has the same slightly ‘soapy’ taste that I associate with Cilantro. When I saw the variety put out by Patak’s at our local grocery I almost gave it a pass but then I reconsidered and decided I really ought to give it a try…  Read more

Review: The Highlander Pub – Ottawa

115 Rideau Street, Ottawa, (613) 562-5678  Website

Date of Visit: March 23rd, 2012.

I have been visiting the Highlander Pub on every trip to Ottawa for the last 7 or 8 years … sometimes just to sample one of their huge selection of single malt scotches, but occasionally to eat as well. Mostly, I tend to visit during the evening but on my last excursion to the capital I went for a long and relaxing (partly liquid) lunch … Read more

Review: Chinese Snacks

By Huang Su-Huei

1985: Wei-Chuan Publishing  ISBN-13: 978-0941676113

Wei-Chuan Publishing has a number of publications devoted to snacks and light dishes and this is one of the better ones. It has a very good selection of ‘small-eats’ (小吃) but potential purchasers of the book will be well warned that many of the recipes are definitely not for novices…  Read more

Experiment: Indian Butter Chicken – Murgh Makhani

Butter Chicken, or ‘Murgh Makhani’, is an Indian dish, possibly originating in the Punjab that has become widely popular as a standard on the menu in Indian restaurants around the world. Essentially, it consists of chicken in spiced sauce with tomato and cream but there are many variations on the basic idea. The chicken can be bone-in or boneless and the sauce may be made using tomato puree or either fresh or canned tomatoes. I have had many, many versions of this in restaurants all over the place but the best I can recall was one I had in Vancouver about 6 or 7 years ago. That version used fresh tomatoes and is the version I want to try and reproduce for this post.

Some recipes use fresh chicken, either light or dark meat, but leftover Tandoori chicken is supposed to be more traditional. There is a story to the effect that the dish originated when a chef in Delhi had to come up with a chicken dish on very short notice and threw some Tandoori chicken pieces into a sauce with tomato and cream to the delight of his customers. Personally, I tend to take such stories with a grain of salt as there are similar versions about dozens of other dishes, but I do think that using leftover Tandoori chicken makes for a superior result. For a recent ‘Foodstuffs’ post on two different Tandoori Masalas, I cooked up three batches of Tandoori chicken, two to test the Masalas, and then an extra one to use for this experiment… Read more

Foodstuff: Sesame Mochi

I saw these up at the Wa Kiu Market in Ottawa in March and picked them up on a whim as I was checking out my other purchases. I am not a big confectionary eater but I have heard of Mochi before and I thought I would grab this little box as a treat so my wife and I could finally get to see what it is like…  Read more

Source: Ding Fung Seafood

 808 Somerset Street West, Ottawa, (613)983-8828

I made many visits to Otttawa’s Chinatown before I even noticed that this store existed. I first saw it last August and I made a point of visiting it on my most recent trip south. It isn’t very large inside, but there are lots of interesting things on offer…  Read more

Review: The Japanese Kitchen

By Kimiko Barber

2007: Kyle Books   ISBN-13: 978-1904920663

This is not a typical cookery book; rather, it is a compendium of 100 foodstuffs commonly used in Japanese cuisine. It is not as comprehensive as it could be, but it is very nicely illustrated and is a decent little book to just browse through…  Read more

Foodstuff: Crocodile Meat Soup Mix

I picked this package of Chinese soup mix up at the Wa Kiu Chinese Grocery in Ottawa a few weeks ago. I have seen these packages many times and always wanted to give them a try. There are lots of different varieties available in this brand, many with some very unusual ingredients, but I was curious to see what the crocodile meat variety might be like…  Read more

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