Monday, 27 July 2015

How many of us remember when flying was special and magical? The days when you dressed up in your best clothes, packed carefully, counted down the days to that flight, arrived that airport four hours in advance, were all excited to go through security, bounced all over duty-free, and then... joy of joys, walked into the plane, fiddled with all the buttons, thought long and hard about what to eat and drink and how to sleep well. Perhaps, if you were lucky, the captain would let you come on deck and show you the controls too.

See, I didn't grow up with aeroplanes and airports. For me, it was rickety buses and rattly trains all the way. While they had their own magic, flying was still out of reach for the ordinary people, so you can imagine my excitement when, at age twenty, I was offered the chance to head to Thailand and South-East Asia on a plane. On. A. Plane. For the first time. Oh, the squeals of excitement!

The first time I flew, I asked if I could head in to the pilot's cabin. And I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to do so. The pilots were amazing, as we flew over the brightly lit cities in India, they pointed them out to me. The stars were huge in the sky, as they told me which ones were planets and all the constellations. It was certainly a magical first flight.

Ever since then I have flown many times, across continents and oceans, as flying has become more and more common. But through this all, a small kernel of excitement has always remained, and I certainly wish that more people felt the same, instead of just seeing flying as being just another way to get from one place to another, with a few sides of grumpiness and annoyance and frustration.

Well, it doesn't have to be that way now, does it?

Edmonton International Airport, also known as EIA, wants to let you know that your holiday starts at the airport. Along with three lovely Edmonton food bloggers, I was invited to the airport to experience cocktails and food in their various establishments. One of the things I've always moaned about (well, discreetly) has been the lack of transit service to the airport, and now, to my delight, the 747 now takes less that twenty minutes to the airport from Century Park transit centre. Even better, the bus is rarely crowded and even boasts free Wi-Fi... you know, just in case that important email has to be answered! So does EIA, by the way, so if you can't bear to leave the social media behind, just log on and you are in.

We started our food journey through the airport with Chili's Grill. The EIA franchise has some unique dishes that are not available anywhere else and it was the perfect start to our journey. We shared some bulldog and regular margaritas (and some come in their own little shaker) as well as some pickle Caesars. Pickles and Caesars = match made in heaven. We shared appetizers, and as you know, I am a sucker for wings, so I indulged to my heart's content. I must admit, though, that like most of the other bloggers with me, my favourite was the queso dip, and we gorged on it. A shout out, also, to the perfect onion rings. I don't normally do heavy meals before flying, but the appies and drinks at Chili's would be the perfect way to start off a holiday.

We moved on from Chili's to the Heineken Lounge, right beside EIA's famed (and rightly so) Living Wall. I breathed in the lovely fragrance of the fresh, green waterfall of plants, as Marlow Moo and I goofed about around it. At the Heineken Lounge, the food is Dutch-inspired, as is the beer. Cathy opted for the beer, while I decided to slow down on the drinks (after my Bulldog and Caesar at Chili's). I ordered a plate of waffle fries... after all, frites! I absolutely loved the curry mayonnaise that came with it, it was faintly reminiscent of coronation style salad dressing, a personal favourite of mine. That said, I looked on enviously at Cathy's chicken curry and naan. Jacquie ordered the mac and cheese, while there was also a cheese platter on order that looked gorgeous. I slightly regretted my overindulgence at Chili's, but the lovely lady at the lounge offered to pack up my fries, so I didn't feel that guilty in the end.

Our next stop was Sorrentino's at the airport. Now Sorrentino's in general is one of my favourite places in Edmonton, so I was thrilled to grab a latte and a scoop of Spumone gelato. I wish I'd had the room for more desserts, especially the amazing looking cakes, but I snapped one up to take home to indulge. The barista at Sorrentino's is quite the latte artist, so don't forget to let him swirl up a special treat for you on your way. Sorrentino's serves up Lavazza, the espressos I love, so it was a perfect ending to a lovely tour of the airport.

So, here we are. I've always maintained that we need to bring back the gentle art of flying. So why not start with a relaxing meander around your friendly, local airport instead?

It is one of things I aim to do with my little one. I don't want her to see flying as a stressful, crazy thing, so we always get to the airport early enough, so we can chill out, relax and enjoy the fact that we can, today, do something that is so incredible, something magical - fly!

Check out posts from my fellow bloggers: 

Cathy from Walsh Cooks (also known as the funniest woman in food in Edmonton)
Lindsay from Edible Woman (also known as baker extraordinaire!)
... and our host, Jacquie from Parkallen Home Kitchen

Disclosure: My meals were paid for by EIA. 

Friday, 15 May 2015

Tales from India - Memories of Mai

It was mid-morning late in January, just over five years ago. Adz and I were visiting India, before our big move to Canada from England. I was lying on the bed next to my maternal grandmother, Mai. I must have been flipping through a magazine or a book of some sort. I was also wearing one of Mai's housecoats – it smelt faintly of her talcum powder, and the soap she used – as it was too hot to wear anything else.

Adz, then two, was sitting at our feet, chattering away, playing happily with Mai's rosary, the warm wooden beads worn smooth from all those years of her fingers caressing them in prayer. The sun filtered its rays through the ancient wooden shutters, warming the room. When the heat got unbearable, I got up and turned on the ceiling fan. Its whirling was hypnotic, as I lay back next to Mai, dozing off and on.

Tales from India - Memories of Mai

Mai was talking. I was only half listening.

"... and you were a saitan, devil of a child", I heard her say, with amusement. "You decided that the best time to go and pull on the cow's horns was when I was milking her. She kicked at me, and the half filled pail was knocked over. Before I could come around and grab you, you'd disappeared. Even at that age you had a fine sense of drama. Probably ran and hid behind your grandfather, who was always too indulgent of you. Luckily for you, I had to go and finish milking that cow, otherwise you'd have had a smack. And then, I finished milking, and came around to the kitchen with that pail of steaming milk, and there you were, innocent look and all, standing there with your little kutte (small mug), looking up at me hopefully with your big big eyes. I couldn't stay angry with you. So I filled your kutte up with milk and you drank it all in one go, like we were starving you. After that you grabbed all the cooking pots from my shelves and decided to bang them together."

Surprisingly, I actually remember that incident with the poor cow, though I must have been pretty young. I smiled at Mai lazily, and noticed that her eyes were closed. She was falling asleep, so I grabbed Adz and we headed out into the courtyard of my grandparents' home for a rousing game of chase-the-kittens. My cousins Hemma and Blaise joined us, and we hung around chattering away.

It was also possibly the last real conversation I had with Mai.
Chicken with Morel and Chanterelle Mushrooms

I love food magazines. I was devastated when I had to leave behind my carefully curated collection back in England when I first moved to Canada, as there simply wasn't enough room to bring them over. I did keep a selection of my favorite Delicious magazines, and a bundle of recipes that I had clipped from others.

When I moved to Canada, my first order of business was to resubscribe to a whole bunch of magazines. During this time, I came across Ricardo, and I bought some intermittently. There is something about buying a magazine, a secret treat, if you will, that makes me happy. Perhaps it is because they aren't that expensive, plus the feel-good factor is pretty high. Researchers call this the 'lipstick economic indicator', as it's been noted that lipstick sales rise when there is an economic downturn – women want to treat themselves to something small and relatively inexpensive, but something that makes them feel good about themselves. My lipsticks are food magazines, as looking the beautifully shot food and recipes gives me a high and allows my own creativity to flow.

Chicken with Morel and Chanterelle Mushrooms

I was offered an opportunity to pick a recipe from Ricardo Cuisine's chicken collection and write about my experience. I do love Ricardo's recipes, and I bookmarked several to try out. The recipe that caught my eye, though, was this chicken with morel and chanterelle mushrooms. I love mushrooms and morels are a rare delicacy for us. Luckily for me, local vendor MoNa Foods sell morels and chanterelles when they are in season. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get to the farmer's market in time to pick up fresh morels (though, now that I have made and love this recipe, I certainly will), I found some fabulous dried morels from Untamed Feast. They are certainly not cheap, but oh my goodness, are they ever delicious.

The first time I made the recipe, I substituted shiitake and oyster mushrooms, but kept the rest of the recipe the same. It was so good, I knew I had to make it again, and this time I added my own touch to it. I swapped out the whisky for white wine (as the original recipe was pretty strong on the whisky). I used chicken thighs from local poultry farmer Sunworks Farm, instead of a whole chicken cut up. I had some crème fraîche in my fridge, so used that in place of the whipping cream. I also added some thyme leaves, as I thought they would be gorgeous in this recipe (and they were). I also wanted to bulk up the recipe for dinner, so I cooked some local fingerling potatoes and added them to the chicken and sauce when it was almost cooked.

I also made a couple changes to the techniques, as I pulled out the chicken once I browned it and made the sauce, after which I returned the chicken back to the sauce to cook. It was just a little easier to fry the onions that way, and I could scrape up all the lovely caramelized meat from the bottom of the pan.

I tested this recipe on my in-laws and judging from their ecstatic reactions, this recipe was a huge success. So much so that I had to email the recipe to my mom-in-law to make when she got back home. Now that is what I call a truly fabulous recipe.

Chicken with Morel and Chanterelle Mushrooms

Chicken With Morel and Chanterelle Mushrooms
(Printable Recipe)
Adapted from Ricardo Cuisine (original recipe link)
Serves 4

3/4 cup chicken broth
10 grams dried morel mushrooms
10 grams dried chanterelle mushrooms
1 teaspoon cornstarch
4 large bone-in chicken thighs (around 750g total weight)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon light olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely diced (about 1/3 cup)
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 teaspoons thyme leaves, picked, divided
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons crème fraîche
10 fingerling potatoes, halved and boiled until just tender 
Salt and pepper, to taste


Heat the chicken broth. Add the dried morel and chanterelle mushrooms, and rehydrate them for 20 - 30 minutes. When the mushrooms are plump, drain the broth. Carefully pour out the broth into a clean bowl, discarding any sandy bits that may have settled at the bottom. Stir in the cornstarch into the broth and add the mushrooms back in. Keep aside.

Skin and trim any fat off the chicken thighs. Season them with a little salt and pepper.

Heat the butter and oil on a medium heat in a heavy based skillet. Add the chicken thighs, and brown all over. Take the chicken pieces out of the pan.

Add the onions to the same pan, and fry for 3 - 4 minutes. Add the garlic and 1 teaspoon thyme leaves and sauté for a minute. Pour in the wine and let it bubble for two to three minutes, scraping up any leftover caramelized meat.

Add the mustard and crème fraîche, along with the mushrooms and broth and stir. Taste and season with a little salt and pepper.

Return the chicken thighs to the pan, and cover and cook for 30 - 35 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked. Turn the chicken in the sauce, and tuck in the cooked fingerling potatoes around the chicken pieces. Cook for an additional 5 - 10 minutes, if required.

Taste and adjust seasoning. Sprinkle over the remaining thyme leaves to garnish.

Disclosure: I did not receive any payment for posting this recipe, but I was offered a subscription to Ricardo magazine. I tested the recipe twice and all changes and photographs are my own.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Last week, you may have seen more than a few wedges of delicious cheese on my social media feeds. I was lucky enough be asked to style the winners of the Canadian Cheese Gran Prix 2015 for a few media events here in Edmonton. After the work was done, the fun began, as my partner-in-cheese-crime, Addie Raghavan and I tasted some of the most incredible cheeses that this country has to offer.

I don't know much about cheese, except that I like it (and I ended up eating a ton with some lovely wines), so Addie offered to guest post. Addie, and his friend Ian Treuer of the number one cheese blog in the country 'Much To Do About Cheese' (kindly, ha!) tasted the cheese for me, and here are Addie's thoughts. Over to Addie.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Turkey Waldorf-Style Salad

You know how it all shakes out, right?

The day you have a really expensive hair appointment, spend a couple hours in the salon, and step outside, with your pretty, shiny, beautifully blow dried hair.

Cue - thunderstorm and hailstone sized raindrops. Sigh! Goodbye pretty hair. Welcome, completely chic wettus-rattus look.

And that, my friends, is what it's like to live in the metropolis of Edmonton. Summer one day, slightly chilly spring the next, winter the third day, and a few thunderstorms, you know, to break all that monotony. Maybe I am being a bit unfair on my fair city though. Summer in Edmonton is one of the best seasons, and the warm weather with a hint of breeze brings out the shorts and tee shirts and smiles in everybody.

When Kay and I lived in England he always told me about the suddenness of the changing seasons in Canada. Changing seasons are not something I was used to, having grown up in the warm sunny tropics. In England, though, spring felt like it took forever to arrive. In Canada, on the other hand, one minute it is snowing and the next you're looking at the pretty budded leaves on trees and birdsong in the air. Sure, it is unpredictable, but that's the beauty of my world now.

In the first of my brand new series of recipes for Tasty Turkey, I channel all that spring-like hopefulness, minus the hair disasters into a beautiful spring-like salad. The Waldorf salad, with its sweet, savory notes is the perfect salad for evoking warm summer evenings, stretched out on the deck with a chilled glass of white wine, the smoky scents of barbequing meat wafting into the sultry evening air.

I like to use leftover roast turkey breast to make it, however, you can also poach a turkey breast and use the moist, seasoned meat in this salad. I use crème fraîche instead of sour cream for a more delicate dressing, but you can also use low fat yogurt and mayonnaise to make it healthier. You can also substitute pecans for walnuts if you prefer. This salad is always a hit at potlucks and with kids, and is really easy to put together.

So what are you waiting for? Head on over to the Tasty Turkey website to download your recipe now!

Click for the recipe - Turkey Waldorf-Style Salad

And as usual, if you have any questions, mosey on back and I'll be more than happy to answer them for you :) Enjoy!