Sunday, 26 April 2015

Disclosure: I received compensation in the form of product for this post. This post is an advertorial for Catelli to announce the launch of their public recipe competition.

Get Creative and You Could Win With Catelli

Anyone who eats a gluten free diet knows what a challenge meals can be. Use your noodle, though, and you’ll find that a nutritious solution is a healthy bowl of gluten free pasta.

In celebration of Celiac Awareness Month, which takes place in May, Catelli Gluten Free pasta – a 2015 Best New Product Award winner, as voted by consumers – is offering three lucky Canadians a year supply of pasta in exchange for delicious, out-of-the-box gluten free pasta recipe ideas.

Catelli Gluten Free pasta is made from a unique four-grain blend of white rice, brown rice, corn and quinoa.  Available in Spaghetti, Fusilli, Penne and Macaroni, it is produced in a dedicated gluten free facility and is certified by the Canadian Celiac Association’s Gluten-Free Certification Program.

To participate in the Catelli Gluten Free Pastabilities Challenge, which takes place from May 4-31, 2015, all you have to do is:

Develop an original gluten free pasta recipe using any cut of Catelli Gluten Free pasta – Penne, Fusilli, Macaroni or Spaghetti. The recipe can be for lunch or dinner, or even for breakfast, a snack or dessert.

Visit Catelli on Facebook for contest rules and instructions on how to post your recipe – along with a photo – on Catelli’s Facebook page during Celiac Awareness Month.

The three people whose recipes get the highest number of likes on Catelli’s Facebook page will receive a year’s supply of gluten free pasta, courtesy of Catelli.

For inspiration, see the recipe below from Kathy Smart, leading North American gluten free expert.
Vanilla Banana Bread Pancakes

A delicious, pasta-infused recipe by Kathy Smart, Leading North American Gluten Free Expert

Serves 4

1 cup (150 g)  cooked Catelli Gluten Free pasta (penne or spaghetti)
2 medium eggs, room temperature
½ cup (75 g) quick cooking wheat free oats
1 tsp (5ml) organic vanilla extract
1 ripe banana, medium sized
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 teaspoon coconut oil
Dash of sea salt

Add all of the above ingredients (except the coconut oil) in a blender and blend.

Heat 1 tsp of coconut oil on a non-stick frying pan and pour in batter to form pancakes.

Lower heat to medium and flip pancakes when small bubbles start to form on the top.

Cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Serve with fresh bananas and pure Canadian maple syrup on top.

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!

Monday, 6 April 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.

Tales from India - Memories of Mai
I grew up with my Aba and Mai. My mom had a difficult second pregnancy, so I spent most of my early life with them. I adored my grandfather, and used to follow him everywhere as a child. If you read this website regularly, you will know that Aba was a huge influence in my life. But, looking back, it was my Mai who would shape my life more than I ever realised. She was an incredibly hard-working, patient woman, and looked after all of us with the kind of selfless devotion that is very rare in today's world.

Mai and I looked alike. We had the same features, the same hair – an unusual-for-India shade of dark reddish brown. We had the same personalities, quick to anger, but equally quick to forgive. She and I are both yellers. My mom said that we had the same palate, we knew when food needed more salt or if the spices were not quite cooked out. We also had similar cooking styles, breezy, effortless and simple. My grandfather was the wedding chef. My grandmother was the home cook. My grandfather was the public face of the family, my grandmother was the private heart of the home.

Tales from India - Memories of Mai

My Aba came to see me off at the airport when I moved to England almost a decade and half ago. I knew then that it was probably the last time I would see him, and he waved me off with a 'devache besawn putha' (god bless you, son). I thought he might still have a few more years in him, but less than six months later he had passed away. The grief was strong, but it was tempered with the knowledge that I couldn't put my life on hold waiting for him to die. He wouldn't have wanted that. I was lucky to have grandparents.  But for whatever reason, I thought my Mai would live forever, and I couldn't imagine her passing away.

I was counting down the days when I could get back to India, after an absence of almost four years. I excitedly told Adz all about my life with Mai and Aba, and how this time she would remember her great-grandmother.

Mai passed away three months before my visit. Three bloody months!

I was devastated. Kay told me it wasn't about me, or what I wanted. Mai had been ill for a long time. She was blind, and her hearing was almost gone. She couldn't move from the bed, and all she wanted was a peaceful death. Kay reminded me of this, how being bedridden was like a jail sentence for my incredibly active Mai. But the devastation and anger remained. I'd finally figured out what I wanted to do with my life and I had so much to ask Mai, to tell her, to get her recipes and her life story. I was ready to listen to her this time, not half halfheartedly like I had in the past, but with purpose. And now I couldn't. Adz was two when she last saw Mai, and she doesn't remember her, unless I show her pictures and videos. I couldn't introduce Adz to Mai, and have Adz remember her this time around.

I couldn't cry for Mai. Her passing felt like a betrayal, like she should have waited for me before she went. Just three more months. But she didn't.

Tales from India - Memories of Mai

When I went back to India, it was Christmas time. We had a subdued Christmas in memory of Mai. Adz and I then went back to my grandparents' house in Karkal in time for the big three day church festival that Attur, my grandparents' village, is famous for. It was lonely without Mai. My aunt Justine and cousin Joy were down with colds, so my other cousin Hemma and I morosely hung around the house, and after a while, I took Adz to a few places around the house and the woods behind it, where my sister and I played when we were little. I wanted to get away from the silence.

That evening was the night of the church festival. When my grandparents were alive, it was a time of merriment and joy. Mai and Aba were busy all day and evening, and the cooking went late into the night. Spices were pounded, onions, chillies, garlic and ginger were chopped in industrial quantities. Masalas were made, sannas were steamed and clay pots sizzled on wood fires, filled with aromas of cooking meats and vegetables. We all hung around the house, waiting for the cooking to be done, and around midnight we would fill our steel plates full of steaming boti and dukra maas and chicken curry, all soaked up with soft, steaming sannas. Mai would ask me to check the salt in the dishes, and I would tell her if the curry needed more salt or vinegar. The loudspeaker in the church in the valley was loud and played devotional music all night, and the steep way to the house was lighted with precariously placed fluorescent tube lights, to guide late night visitors. We went to bed, almost too wound up to sleep, with all the excitement floating around us.

Tales from India - Memories of Mai - Making Boti

This time, it was too quiet. There were no late night guests, and the music that blared over the loudspeakers felt out of place. The gorgeously lit up church seemed vulgar and all I wanted was my Mai, and the excitement of the feast back. That was when my cousin Hemma and I decided that we would make Mai's famous boti, late at night, in memory of her.

My aunt had already sourced and boiled the offal, so Hemma and I painstakingly chopped it all up into tiny dice. I chopped onions and aromatics, and we both toasted spices for the bafat masala that would go into the dish. We ground up our spice mix, and I started the curry, placing it all in clay pots over the old wood fired stove. I sent Hemma out to the garden with a flashlight for fresh bay leaves, as we simmered and seasoned the boti. As it slow cooked, we chopped vegetables, made rice and dal and started steaming sannas. I toasted coconut to add to the boti, once it finished cooking.

My cousin Joy was still too sick to move, but Aunt Justine managed to come into the kitchen and sit down with us, offering us advice and tasting the dishes as we made them. Hemma and I continued to cook together, just the two of us, doing all the work that Mai used to do, preparing for the feast. It was almost midnight by the time we finished. Adz was already in bed, and fast asleep, and I had a twinge of regret that she didn't have the joyful and loud experience of the feast that I did when I was younger, with all my cousins and relatives and friends.

Tales from India - Memories of Mai - Making Dal

When we finished cooking, Hemma and I sat down and slowly ate the boti, with sannas, dal, vegetables and pickles. The boti didn't taste like the one my Mai made, but it was close. Aunt Justine reckoned it should have been spicier, as we sat down and reminisced about all the feasts we spent together as a family.

I crawled into bed with Adz at around half past twelve. As I cuddled my baby girl, I felt the presence of Mai all around me, and for the first time since she passed away, I started to cry. I cried for her and my Aba, I cried for me, and I cried for Adz, who wouldn't really know these two amazing people at all, people who basically brought me up to be the person I am. I felt the incredible hole that was left by my Mai's passing. I felt so much regret at the time I wasted being selfish and not wanting to spend time with them. I missed her soft, lilting voice, as she told me stories of when I was a child, and staying with them. I took so much about her for granted. But cooking her favorite meal, in her own kitchen, finally gave me the closure I needed to move on.

I finally let my Mai go. Rest in peace, Mai. I miss you so much, and I will never stop missing you.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

One of my friends recently posted a picture of her baby girl – who just turned six. I left an offhand comment on the post, saying that our children would be teenagers by the time we considered ourselves adults. Afterwards, I spent a long time thinking about that offhand comment. I've always considered my generation of Indians a rather unique generation – a lost one. My contemporaries were almost all born in the late seventies, and we are definitely not Millenials. We are also not flower children, or children of the war, or children of the freedom fighting generation. Nowhere else is it more obvious than when I go back to India and catch up with all my friends. In India, I revert back to being a teenager. When my friends and I all catch up – some of us after more than ten years – it is a warm, comforting familiarity, like we were never away, like we were still young and carefree, like we had families, but we were absolutely comfortable with leaving the kids with our parents when we are out drinking socialising.

This lost-ness is obvious in our professions, in particular. When we were growing up, we had two options (which increased to four, by the time I'd graduated) – doctor or engineer (or IT/ software specialist and investment banker or both). Somewhere along the line, things changed in my generation. When I go back now, I catch up with architects, advertising gurus, writers, entrepreneurs, those dagnabbed investment bankers, speculators, small business owners, restaurateurs and artists. In my generation, a switch flipped, turning us from robots who did what we were told to do (and what everybody else did), into bright sparks who followed our own way. However, a lot of us are still conflicted and this is where the gap is most apparent.

I mean – take my own story. I moved from a science based background, to being a sociologist to a grad student, to an academic, to a food writer. My teachers thought I'd end up being a poet (okay, I do consider food to be poetry, so they may be right there?). When my sister and I were born, my mom and dad became parents. They behaved like parents, they provided like parents, they loved like parents. When I became a mother, I found the deepest love I could have for another human being. But somehow, I didn't lose myself the way my mom did in us. I still stayed the same, and in many ways, I saw that sameness in my friends, in that retaining of their individuality, of what makes them who they are.

However, when I go back home, despite the familiarity and comfort, and the rightness of hanging out with my friends – there is a gap somewhere. That gap comes in when I meet the next generation, the one born after the Millenials (Generation Y? Z?). That gap acutely brings back to me the discomfort of being old enough to be considered an 'aunty', but young enough to easily get all the cultural references of Generation Y/ Z, thanks to the overwhelming reach of the internet. That gap, which is so painfully familiar to me and my generation of in-betweeners. I am always wondering where I fit in and this lack of space is what I always struggle with when I go back to India.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Chef Michael Stadtländer is an internationally renowned chef, whose Eigensinn Farm dinners are legendary among food lovers. A staunch supporter of the farm-to-fork movement, he was also the driving force behind 'Foodstock', one of Canada's largest culinary protest movements. In an earlier post on farmer John Schneider, I talked about the 'No Farms No Food' organization that mobilized the local agricultural movement against development, so when I heard about Foodstock, it felt like a sign, a theme, if I may call it that, of protest movements based on preserving food and agricultural traditions and making sure that food security continued to be an issue of paramount importance.

I was invited to a NAIT Culinary Arts Program lunch featuring the food of Chef Stadtländer, who is the current Hokanson Chef-In-Residence. But before that, I was lucky enough to get a interview with Chef himself, and I was curious to know more about the philosophy that drives his food and cooking style.