All posts by Barbara99

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls
Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls are a Christmas treat in my neck of the woods and, for many, it isn’t Christmas unless there is a batch or two of these delectable homemade confections.  They are one food item that just never seems to go out of style. And, they are addicting! Who can stop at just one!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ball
Chocolate Peanut Butter Ball

These balls are not difficult to make and only take very basic ingredients. They are, however, a bit time consuming to make because the peanut butter and butter must be melted then mixed in with the icing sugar (which you may know as confectioner’s sugar or powdered sugar) and crisp rice cereal.  Then the balls need to be formed from the mixture, chilled, and then individually dipped in melted chocolate and chilled again. It’s critical that the icing sugar be sifted (and before it is measured). No matter how soft and fluffy the icing sugar may seem, there are always little lumps/clumps that will not mix in as well as if the sugar is sifted. Take the time to do this step.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls
Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

It’s important that the balls not be formed too large as they will get larger in size when dipped in chocolate.  The size to aim for would be the size of a chocolate truffle that would fit nicely inside a paper candy cup so form the mixture into ½” inch balls. They may look small at this stage but they’ll get bigger once dipped in chocolate.  These confections are meant to be 1-2 bites and they are rich!

A teaspoon can be used to twirl the balls around in the chocolate and to swirl the tops; however, my preference is to use a spiral swirl candy dipper.

Spiral Swirl Candy Dipper
Spiral Swirl Candy Dipper

I find it is much more efficient, the excess chocolate can be dripped off the balls with a gentle tap or two of the swirl dipper tool on the side of the pot, and the tops of the balls are automatically swirled attractively when the balls drop from the candy dipper tool.

Using a spiral swirl candy dipper to coat chocolate peanut butter balls
Using a spiral swirl candy dipper to coat chocolate peanut butter balls

Various kinds of chocolate can be used in which to dip the balls.  Semi-sweet chocolate chips are the norm; however, white chocolate can be used as can peanut butter chips for the ultimate peanut butter flavor.  Sometimes, I will mix the semi-sweet chocolate chips with the peanut butter chips and this makes a lovely coating as well.  Melted chocolate in contrasting colors can be used, if desired, to decorate the tops of the balls.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls
Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

Store the balls between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  These balls freeze well.

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

Ingredients:
1 cup smooth peanut butter
¼ cup + 1 tbsp butter
½ tsp vanilla
2¼ cups sifted icing sugar (apx. ½ pound)
1½ cups crisp rice cereal

10 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips, white chocolate, or peanut butter chips (or a combination of all three)

Method:
Line two large rimmed baking sheets with wax paper.  Set aside.

Combine peanut butter and butter in small saucepan.  Melt the butters over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

In large heat-proof bowl, combine the icing sugar and rice cereal.  Pour the melted peanut butter and butter mixture over the cereal and icing sugar. Mix ingredients with large spoon or hands until all of the icing sugar has been fully incorporated.

Pinch off bits of the mixture and form into ½” balls.  Place balls on one of the prepared baking sheets. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or until firm.

Melt half of the chocolate in the top of a double boiler or heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering (not boiling) water.  Using a teaspoon, or a spiral swirl candy dipper, dip the balls into the chocolate and swirl to coat.  If using the spiral swirl dipper, gently tap the dipper tool on the side of the chocolate pot to remove any excess chocolate from the dipped balls.  Transfer dipped balls to the second prepared baking sheet. Melt remaining chocolate as needed to complete the dipping process. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Store balls between layers of wax paper in airtight container. Keep refrigerated or freeze for longer storage.

Yield:  Apx. 50-55 balls

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

A tasty confection that combines peanut butter, butter, icing sugar, and crisp rice cereal formed into balls dipped in decadent chocolate

Course Snack
Cuisine American
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups sifted icing sugar (apx. 1/2 pound)
  • 1 1/2 cups crisp rice cereal
  • 10 oz semi-sweet chocolate, white chocolate, or peanut butter chips (or a combination of all three)

Instructions

  1. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with wax paper. Set aside.
  2. Combine peanut butter and butter in small saucepan. Melt the butters over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  3. In large heat-proof bowl, combine the icing sugar and rice cereal. Pour the melted peanut butter and butter mixture over the cereal and icing sugar. Mix ingredients with large spoon or hands until all of the icing sugar has been fully incorporated.

  4. Pinch off bits of the mixture and form into ½” balls. Place balls on one of the prepared baking sheets. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or until firm.
  5. Melt half of the chocolate in the top of a double boiler or heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering (not boiling) water. Using a teaspoon, or a spiral swirl candy dipper, dip the balls into the chocolate and swirl to coat. If using the spiral swirl dipper, gently tap the dipper tool on the side of the chocolate pot to remove any excess chocolate from the dipped balls. Transfer dipped balls to the second prepared baking sheet. Melt remaining chocolate as needed to complete the dipping process. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Store balls between layers of wax paper in airtight container. Keep refrigerated or freeze for longer storage.

    Yield: Apx. 50-55 balls

 

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Cookbook Giveaway Contest!!!

 

 

 

 

Thanks to the publishers at Robert Rose Inc., I have an extra copy of Best of Bridge Sunday Suppers to give away in conjunction with the review I just published on this cookbook.

Cookbook Giveaway Rules

These Official Rules govern the Cookbook giveaway. By participating or attempting to participate in the giveaway event, you will be deemed to have received, understood, and agreed to these Official Rules.

This cookbook giveaway event is exclusively for fans of My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Facebook page and who are Canadian residents (excluding Quebec residents).  So, if you have not already become a fan of My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Facebook page, and if you wish to participate in the cookbook giveaway event, head on over to https://www.facebook.com/MyIslandBistroKitchen/ and click the “Like” button on the Facebook page, located just below the cover photograph, and then proceed with the following eligibility steps for the cookbook giveaway:

  1. Click “Like” on the specific Facebook posting that details the cookbook giveaway.
  2. Leave a comment on the posting indicating what your favorite Sunday supper is.
  3. Share the Cookbook Giveaway post (make sure your privacy setting is set to “public” so I can verify that you shared the post).

Only individuals who have correctly completed the eligibility criteria above will be eligible for the cookbook draw.

Tag a Facebook friend on the posting and you will receive an extra bonus entry!

  • No purchase is necessary to participate.
  • This giveaway is open only to Canadian residents (excluding residents of Quebec) having a Canadian mailing address and who are fans of My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Facebook page. Entrants must be 19 years of age or older.
  • Only one (1) entry per person with the exception of those who tag a Facebook friend on their entry – those who tag a Facebook friend will receive one (1) extra bonus entry.
  • There is one (1) prize only to be won – one (1) copy of Best of Bridge Sunday Suppers cookbook with an approximate Canadian retail value of $29.95. The book for this giveaway has been provided by the cookbook’s publisher, Robert Rose Inc. The prize is non-transferable and non-exchangeable. It cannot be exchanged for money value.  The prize offering is valid only during the specified allotted time as described in these Official Rules.
  • Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.
  • The submission entry period opens at 12:00 noon (AST) on December 14, 2017, and closes at 12 noon (AST) on December 17, 2017. Draw of winner will be made by 9:00pm (AST) on December 17, 2017.
  • All eligible entries received during the submission period will be gathered at the end of the submission period. One entrant will be randomly selected as a potential winner and notified through Facebook. In the event any potential winner does not respond to such notification within 48 hours of having been sent notification, declines the prize for any reason, or does not meet the requirements set forth in these Official Rules, the potential winner will be disqualified and an alternate potential winner may be randomly selected from among remaining eligible entries, or the prize may be cancelled.
  • Potential winner must correctly answer a mathematical skill-testing question to win.
  • Each entrant is responsible for monitoring his or her Facebook account for potential prize notification and receipt of other communications related to this cookbook giveaway.
  • Once the definitive winner has been determined to have successfully met all the eligibility criteria afore-mentioned, and claimed the prize, his or her name will be announced on My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Facebook page and, in order to receive the prize, the winner must agree to this publication announcement as a condition of winning.
  • Cookbook prize may not be awarded if an insufficient number of eligible entries is received. The determination of insufficient number of eligible entries will be at the sole discretion of My Island Bistro Kitchen.
  • In order to receive the cookbook, the winner must agree to provide My Island Bistro Kitchen with their Canadian mailing address to which the cookbook will be mailed. This information will be provided to Robert Rose Inc. by My Island Bistro Kitchen for the purposes of mailing the cookbook to the declared winner and the winner must agree to the sharing of their mailing address with Robert Rose Inc. for this purpose. The prize will not be replaced if lost, destroyed, mutilated, or stolen.
  • This giveaway event is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with, Facebook. All entrants agree to release Facebook from any liability with respect to this giveaway event or its prize.
  • All entrants agree to be bound by the rules of this giveaway event and release My Island Bistro Kitchen and all parties associated with this giveaway event from any liability with respect to this giveaway event or of its prize.
  • All decisions by My Island Bistro Kitchen with regards to all aspects of this giveaway event are final.
  • If, for any reason, and in the opinion of My Island Bistro Kitchen, this giveaway event is not capable of running as planned or if it is adversely affected by computer virus, fraud, technical failures, or other causes beyond its control, My Island Bistro Kitchen reserves the right to cancel, modify, or suspend the giveaway event, at any time, and at the sole discretion of My Island Bistro Kitchen, without notice.

Cookbook Review: The Best of Bridge Sunday Suppers

Title: Best of Bridge Sunday Suppers
Author: Various
Publication Date: 2017
Publisher: Robert Rose Inc.
Cover: Hardcover
Price: $29.95
Pages: 324

Robert Rose Inc. has offered me the opportunity to conduct a review of Best of Bridge Sunday Suppers.

This cookbook is a collection of standard home cooking recipes that would typify classic-style Sunday family suppers. The book has an attractive, sturdy hardcover and the pages are spiral bound making it easy for the book to stay open and the pages to lay flat for the recipe being made.

The book features a collection of 200 recipes spread out through 12 chapters: Salads, Soups, Big Roasts, Small Meats, On the Grill, Stews & Braises, Casseroles & Savory Pies, Pizzas & Pastas, Sides, Homemade Breads, Sauces & Condiments, and Desserts. At the beginning of each chapter, there is also a separate table of contents outlining the recipes (and their page numbers) found in that section of the book. There is also an alphabetical index at the back of the book.

Each recipe is accompanied by a one to two sentence lead-in about the recipe and many recipes offer tips and suggestions on ways to vary the recipe.

This book, like previous Best of Bridge books, uses capital letters in a font that I find too large and folksy. This makes the pages cluttery and difficult to read. Generally, the instructions for making the recipes are all lumped together in one or two very long paragraphs. This style of instruction-writing makes it difficult to follow the method. I find cookbooks that lay out the instructions in separate, step-by-step, paragraphs are more user friendly. Breaking down the steps of a recipe into separate short paragraphs eases anxiety and frustration as it is easier and quicker to find your place and progress in the instructions as you go about making the recipe.

I found the ingredients in the recipes are used in the instructions in the order in which they are listed and, generally speaking, most of the instructions are easily understandable. The recipes in the book call for, what I would consider to be, ordinary ingredients which makes it easy to shop for and to prepare the dishes. Most, if not all, ingredients would be found in standard supermarkets.

While, for the most part, exact quantities of ingredients are given, there are some recipes that are vague.  For example, the recipe for Roasted Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup with Apple and Sage calls for one medium sweet potato.  When I went to the supermarket, the potato bin had dozens of different sized potatoes – I had no idea what the recipe creator means by “medium-sized”. It would have been better to have given a weight measure of the potato required because there is a vast difference in sizes available and the size chosen will affect the texture and yield of the soup.  As well, some recipes call for 1 onion – onions, too, come in different sizes so, for the benefit of more inexperienced cooks, it would be preferable if the ingredients specified if it is ¼ cup, ½ cup, or 1 cup of chopped onions. Providing exact measures helps to ensure successful cooking, particularly for novice cooks.

There are 32 color photos in the book and they are of good quality but there is obviously not a photo for each of the 200 recipes so less than 15% of the recipes are accompanied by a photograph. Including photos is so important in a cookbook as, not only do photos of mouth-watering food inspire people to try the recipes but the color photos also give a frame of reference of what the finished dish should look like. Including a large book of page after page of solid print is not very inviting or inspiring, particularly when the subject matter is food. Adding more photos would have broken up the monotony of page after page of large cluttery print.

Test-driving recipes

I tested one recipe out of the cookbook. Robert Rose Inc has given me permission to share the recipe and their photo for Roasted Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup with Apple and Sage to accompany my review of this cookbook. The recipe follows at the end of this review.

Roasted Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup with Apple and Sage

This soup combines an interesting mix of ingredients – carrots, sweet potato, onion, apple, chicken stock, apple juice or cider, sage, and cream.  The instructions did not indicate what size of chunks the carrots and sweet potato needed to be for roasting.  I cut them into 1” chunks.  The method said to roast them for 20 minutes at 450°F.  The potatoes were done in about that time and I had to remove them from the oven but the carrots took 55 minutes (and I have a true temperature oven).  I have no idea what size or shape the recipe creator intended the carrots to be cut but, if I had cut them any smaller, they simply would have burned before being roasted fork-tender.  I also had no idea what size the sweet potato was intended to be for the soup. I may have chosen a small versus medium potato but the recipe ingredients provided no frame of reference in terms of weight of the potato required.

The method said to bring ingredients “to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until everything is soft”. The recipe creator probably meant “bring to a boil”, not “simmer”; however, the published instructions were what they were so, especially for an inexperienced cook, the instructions in this regard were confusing. The instructions also did not indicate if the mixture was to be covered or not during the cooking process. I covered mine to reduce evaporation.

While the soup was a lovely orange color and tasty enough (though I think the addition of garlic could have enhanced the flavor), the soup was time-consuming and tedious to make – the vegetables had to roasted, the onion sautéed, the mixture simmered then blended, and finally re-heated with the addition of cream.

Concluding Thoughts

While I didn’t find the recipes overly innovative or inspiring, I would class the book as a compendium of traditional Sunday supper meals – a mix of salads, soups, mains, and desserts.  I would suggest this book would be more of use to someone who has some experience cooking versus a novice since “judgment calls” based on experience are often required, especially in terms of amounts of some ingredients (like vegetables, onions, etc).  The biggest issues I found with the book are the cluttery pages of uppercase font with the instructions jumbled into one to three long paragraphs as well as the lack of color photos to break up endless pages of text and to give a benchmark for what a finished dish should look like.

I found some of the instructions and terminology a bit bizarre.  For example, the recipe for Sticky Carrots (p. 216) refers to a sauce as “goo”. I have never seen a recipe in a published cookbook use this type of terminology to refer to a food and, frankly, I find that unappetizing and off-putting.  The first line in the instructions for this recipe say “Choose a saucepan in which the carrots can sit snugly in a single layer along the bottom (but don’t put them in the pan quite yet)”. Then, why mention this as a step if the step is not dealt with at that point?

The recipe for Basic Gravy (p. 266-267) suggests using lemon juice or wine in the gravy.  In the instructions, it refers to using the lemon juice (or a splash of wine) if the gravy tastes “a little flat”. I’m not sure what is meant by “a little flat” and the recipe does not indicate how much wine or lemon juice is to be used and this useful detail would be the difference between a successful gravy or not.  These kinds of ingredients and instructions prompt me to suggest that the book could have benefitted from some closer quality control.

The following recipe and accompanying photo are courtesy of Best of Bridge Sunday Suppers by The Best of Bridge © 2017 www.robertrose.ca  Reprinted with permission. Available where books are sold.

Carrot-and-Sweet-Potato-Soup-Recipe
Roasted Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup with Apple and Sage (Image Credit: Matt Johannsson, Reflector, Inc)
Roasted Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup with Apple and Sage (Image Credit: Matt Johannsson, Reflector, Inc)

 

Five PEI Foodies Talk About Their Christmas Food Traditions

Herb-Basted Roast Turkey
Herb-Basted Roast Turkey

Food plays a vital role in Christmas celebrations here in Prince Edward Island. I recently chatted with five Islanders who, in one way or another, have strong food connections. Read on to find out what foods these foodies most associate with Christmas and what foods, if they didn’t have them, it just would not be Christmas for them.

(With the exception of Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s Seafood Pie,   all photos in this posting are from the food blogger’s own stock collection and are not of contributors’ specific recipes mentioned in this article.)

Wade MacLauchlan, Premier of Prince Edward Island

Food factors heavily into Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s Christmas festivities.  The premier, a great cook himself, launches into seafood pie production in mid-December.  He produces some 20 seafood pies filled with mussels, lobster, bar clams, scallops, and some fin fish like salmon, trout, or haddock.

Premier Wade MacLaughlan's Seafood Pie
Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s Seafood Pie

Premier MacLauchlan uses grated potatoes that have been cooked in seafood stock to make a heavy starchy paste which eliminates the need for flour as a thickener for the pie filling.  The ingredients are combined and placed inside a double-crusted pastry and baked.

Premier Wade MacLauchlan's Seafood Pie
Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s Seafood Pie

When asked what he does with all the pies, he tells me he gives them away as gifts. And, for those who aren’t seafood lovers, he makes tourtière and says he usually makes between 6 and 10 of those each December.

Food also plays a part in a Solstice Sunrise Party that the premier has been hosting at his home for almost two decades.  Held annually on the day of the winter solstice, the premier says he simply couldn’t stop it now even if he wanted to because the regulars would just show up anyway! Rising early to make 3-4 dozen muffins and to brew a couple of urns of coffee, the premier opens his doors at 7:30am and people start arriving to watch the sunrise together around 8:00am. It’s not uncommon for 75-80 people to attend. With a commanding view to the east and to the south out over Stanhope Bay, it’s a time for family, friends, and neighbours to visit and re-connect. Everyone brings food to contribute to the potluck event which is set up buffet style.

Christmas Day is spent with immediate family and, on Boxing Day, the larger extended MacLauchlan family gather at the premier’s home for a potluck brunch.

The premier has kindly shared his recipe for his Seafood Pie which is printed here with Wade MacLauchlan’s permission.  The premier says, although the recipe yield is for 20 pies, the recipe is easily scalable.

Wade MacLauchlan's Seafood Pie Recipe
Premier Wade MacLauchlan's Seafood Pie
Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s Seafood Pie

Peter Bevan-Baker, Leader of the Green Party of Prince Edward Island

Communal family cooking has always played a significant part in Peter Bevan-Baker’s life starting when he was a lad growing up in Fortrose, just north of Inverness, in the Highlands of Scotland. The family would all prepare the Christmas dinner together, chopping vegetables and singing Christmas carols.

Member of the Legislature and Leader of the Green Party of PEI, Peter’s first and foremost memory of a food enjoyed at Christmas time is his late father’s vol-au-vent made with leftover turkey from Christmas dinner and served with Sauce Robert, a brown mustard sauce. Sometimes, the vol-au-vents would be served as nibbles but other times as the main for a meal when they would be served with “tatties and neeps”, the Scottish names for potatoes and turnips, respectively.

Plum Pudding
Plum Pudding

When asked what Christmas dinner dessert consisted of, Peter says it was always Christmas Pudding which he did not like at all!  However, he says the arrival of the pudding at the dinner table was quite an elaborate ceremony. Everyone stood up and literally lifted the table off the floor to meet the pudding – it was a true salute to the Christmas pudding! Of course, some alcohol would be heated, poured over the pudding, and the pudding set aflame. Peter claims watching the pudding burn was the best part since he had no liking for the pudding! His father made a brandy butter to serve with the pudding. Peter says another great memory he has of Christmas as a young boy in the Scottish Highlands was visiting a rich family who lived in the area and who served Coca Cola at Christmas which was very special since it was not something he had at home.

Peter’s father was a great cook and modeled to his children that it was okay for men to be in the kitchen cooking. Today, Peter and his wife have four adult children (two of whom are chefs) and cooking remains very much a family event. Vol-au-vents will make an appearance over the holidays in keeping with his long-standing family tradition. While the family usually has a turkey dinner for Christmas, Peter says it will usually be with a contemporary twist of some sort that may include some dishes from other cultures.

Bill Martin, Mayor of Summerside and Owner of the Water Street Bakery

Mayor of the City of Summerside, Bill Martin has very fond memories of waking up on Christmas morning to the scent of meat pies baking.  His mother, a Scottish war bride, had an absolute Christmas morning tradition and that involved homemade meat pies.  The family enjoyed the meat pies, complete with homemade mustard pickles, after opening presents on Christmas morning.  Mayor Martin continues that tradition today. He and his family enjoy Christmas breakfast of bacon, eggs, homefries, and toast along with the meat pie and mustard pickles.  To this tradition, they have also added the Acadian dish, Rapure, a grated potato casserole.

Acadian Rapure
Acadian Rapure

Mayor Martin and his wife have run the Water Street Bakery for the past 29 years. They make meat pies year-round now and, in December alone, they will make more than 2000 meat pies which are made with pork, chicken, turkey, potato, onion, and spices, all covered in a biscuit dough crust.  These pies are in such demand during the Christmas period that the bakery has rented additional freezer space. In fact, on the first Saturday in December, they made 200 meat pies and sold 100 of them the same day. As a bakery owner, the other two most popular items that Martin says never go out of style are the chocolate-covered peanut butter balls and the cherry balls, both of which are available at the bakery only at Christmas which makes them more special treats.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls
Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

Irwin MacKinnon, Executive Chef, Papa Joe’s Restaurant and PEI Chef of the Year 2017

Long-time executive chef at Charlottetown’s Papa Joe’s Restaurant and recently-named PEI Chef of the Year 2017, Chef Irwin MacKinnon says it would not be Christmas in his household without the “Jimmy Jams”.  These delightful cookies have been made by ancestors on his mother’s side for years. Today, his mom is the principle baker of these Christmas treats that his children look forward to each Christmas.  As MacKinnon describes them, Jimmy-Jams are two round shortbread cookies, about 1½“ – 2” in diameter, sandwiched together with plain white icing.  Each sandwiched cookie is iced again on top and then decorated with rainbow-colored sprinkles.

Everyone has his or her own version of the stuffing for the turkey and Chef MacKinnon discovered how important that tradition is when he and his wife married 25 years ago.  On his side of the family, they make what he calls “Grammie’s Stuffing” which is bread-based and the ingredients are bound together by mashed potato and lots of butter and seasoned with onion, summer savory, and salt and pepper.  A bit of brown sugar is added just to give a sweet tone.  On his wife’s side of the family, they make the stuffing (dressing) completely opposite and Chef Irwin classes it as a potato stuffing made with mashed potatoes, onion cooked in butter, and seasoned with summer savory.  This is baked in the oven and there is no bread in this version.  If you are an Islander, you’ll get and appreciate the significance of family recipes for the turkey stuffing/dressing!

Roast Turkey
Roast Turkey

So, whose stuffing recipe will be on the Christmas table in the MacKinnon household this year? You guessed it – Irwin will be making his grammie’s stuffing recipe to go along with the fresh turkey from Larkin Brothers in New Glasgow. To this, he’ll include a wide variety of veggies that include potatoes, turnip, carrots, squash, and brussel sprouts.

For dessert, Chef Irwin’s mother-in-law’s plum pudding will grace the table complemented by Irwin’s rich brown sugar sauce made from a rue of butter and flour with caramelized brown sugar added.  Chef Irwin says a slice of pudding topped with ice cream and a good drizzle of a glossy brown sugar sauce is the ultimate Christmas dinner dessert.

Since he cooks everyday for a living, I asked Chef Irwin if he lets someone else cook the Christmas dinner but he says it’s him that spearheads the dinner at home and one of his greatest joys is to cook for his own family.  Other members of the family pitch in and bring contributions to the dinner as the family melds their different traditions from their blended families.

Glenda Burt, Chef, and former owner of The Home Place Restaurant in Kensington, PEI

For Chef Glenda Burt, the highlight of the Christmas dinner is the plum pudding and warm sauce.  She says that, even though you might be “stuffed to the gills” from the main meal, there is always room for plum pudding!  Glenda makes a rich toffee sauce to serve with her plum pudding, a sauce made with brown sugar, whipping cream, butter, and vanilla.

Plum Pudding
Plum Pudding

Glenda grew up in the family that originally owned Mary’s Bakery in Kensington so baking and candy making are certainly second nature to her. She has very fond memories of the chocolate, brown sugar, and divinity fudges that her mother made at Christmas and how they would appear in a plastic Christmas motif tri-sectioned dish on Christmas Eve. Homemade raisin bread toasted on Christmas morning is an annual tradition in the Burt household. Glenda doesn’t prepare a big Christmas Day breakfast because she says the whole day is spent eating; however, the raisin bread must be present to start the day off.

Other foods that will make their appearance over the holidays will be gingersnaps, dark fruitcake, meat pies (that Glenda says are pure comfort food) and, in deference to our Maritime culture, some kind of seafood which could be lobster in the shell or seafood chowder.

Chef Glenda is hosting her family Christmas on Boxing Day this year and she will be doing the cooking of the traditional Christmas dinner that will include roast turkey, stuffing, and veggies. Glenda will be serving her famous turnip casserole as well. This yummy dish is made with mashed turnip, a white sauce with Parmesan cheese, and topped with buttered bread crumbs.  Of course, all the traditional fixins’ like homemade rolls, pickles, and beets will be on the table to complement the turkey dinner.

 

My thanks to Premier Wade MacLauchlan, Leader of the PEI Green Party Peter Bevan-Baker, Mayor Bill Martin, Chef Irwin MacKinnon, and Chef Glenda Burt for sharing their Christmas food traditions with me.

Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini

If you are like me, you are always on the hunt for tasty little appetizers or hors d’oeuvres to serve at functions.

Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini
Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini

These easy-to-prepare savory little toasts are my latest creation and are packed full of flavor. Red onion, garlic, mushrooms, and red pepper are sautéed in butter and seasoned with nutmeg, summer savory, and thyme. The seasoned and sautéed vegetables are combined with cooked quinoa added for texture and visual appeal along with Parmesan cheese for additional flavor. The ingredients are bound together with chicken stock, cream, and maple syrup to add a touch of sweetness.

Spooned on to olive-oiled baguette slices, each crostini is topped with grated cheddar cheese.  For mine, I used a locally produced cheese –  Appletree Smoked Cheddar Cheese produced in PEI by COWS Creamery.

Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini Hors d'oeuvres
Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini Hors d’oeuvres

These hors d’oeuvres are easily made into a gluten-free version. Simply use a gluten-free baguette and ensure that all other ingredients are gluten-free.  One important factor to keep in mind with hors d’oeuvres is to ensure that they can easily be eaten with grace by guests – that means no huge chunks of ingredients that can pull apart when chewed into. Hors d’oeuvres should be able to be eaten with the use of only one hand.  While the mushrooms could be sliced, instead of chopped, for this hors d’oeuvre, they would need to be very small.

Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini
Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini

[Printable Recipe Follows at end of Posting]

 Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini

 Ingredients:

1½ tbsp butter
¼ cup red onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup white button and/or cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp red pepper, finely chopped
1/8 tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp dried summer savory
1/8 tsp dried thyme

4 tsp chicken stock
2 tbsp heavy cream
2 tsp pure maple syrup
¼ cup cooked quinoa
4 tsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

¼ cup grated Cheddar cheese

Fresh herbs for garnish

1 French baguette
Olive Oil for brushing on baguette slices

Method:

Over medium heat, melt butter in saucepan.  Add onions and garlic and sauté for 1 minute.  Add the mushrooms and sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the red pepper, nutmeg, summer savory, and thyme.  Sauté for an additional 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.

In small bowl, combine the chicken stock, cream, and maple syrup.  Add the quinoa, Parmesan cheese, and sautéed vegetables.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and combine all ingredients well.

Slice baguette into 16 slices between ¼” and  ½” thick.  Brush each slice with small amount of olive oil.  Divide mixture evenly between the 16 slices.  Sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese.  Place crostini on baking sheet and broil for 1-2 minutes or just until cheese has melted.  Garnish with fresh herbs. Serve hot.

Yield:  16 appetizers

Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini

These easy-to-prepare savory little toasts are packed full of flavor.  Featuring mushrooms, quinoa, cheese, and select seasonings, these tasty bites are sure to be a favorite hors d'oeuvre at your next gathering.

Course Appetizer
Servings 16
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup white button and/or cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp dried summer savory
  • 1/8 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 tsp chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • 2 tsp pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup cooked quinoa
  • 4 tsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated Cheddar cheese
  • Fresh herbs for garnish
  • 1 French baguette
  • Olive oil for brushing on baguette slices

Instructions

  1. Over medium heat, melt butter in saucepan.  Add onions and garlic and sauté for 1 minute.  Add the mushrooms and sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the red pepper, nutmeg, summer savory, and thyme.  Sauté for an additional 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.

  2. In small bowl, combine the chicken stock, cream, and maple syrup. Add the quinoa, Parmesan cheese, and sautéed vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste and combine all ingredients well.
  3. Slice baguette into 16 slices about 1/2" thick. Brush each slice with small amount of olive oil. Divide mixture evenly between the 16 slices. Sprinkle with grated Cheddar cheese. Place slices on baking sheet and broil for 1-2 minutes or just until cheese has melted. Garnish with fresh herbs. Serve hot.
Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini
Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini

Cookbook Giveaway (Just in time for Christmas!)!!!!!

THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.

The winner of the cookbook is Terry Gall of Kamloops, BC.

————————————————————————————-

Thanks to the publishers at Penguin Random House Canada, I have an extra copy of The Simple Bites Kitchen: Nourishing Whole Food Recipes for Every Day to give away in conjunction with the review I just published on this cookbook. You can read my review of the book here: Cookbook Review of The Simple Bites Kitchen: Nourishing Whole Food Recipes for Every Day

Please read the following which explains how to participate in this Cookbook Giveaway, then head over to My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Facebook page to enter!

Cookbook Giveaway Rules

These Official Rules govern the Cookbook giveaway. By participating or attempting to participate in the giveaway event, you will be deemed to have received, understood, and agreed to these Official Rules.

This cookbook giveaway event is exclusively for fans of My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Facebook page and who are Canadian residents (excluding Quebec residents).  So, if you have not already become a fan of this Facebook page, and if you wish to participate in the cookbook giveaway event, head on over to https://www.facebook.com/MyIslandBistroKitchen/ and click the “Like” button on the Facebook page, located just below the cover photograph, and then proceed with the following eligibility steps for the cookbook giveaway:

  1. Click “Like” on the specific Facebook posting that details the cookbook giveaway.
  2. Leave a comment on the posting indicating what your favorite simple food is to make for yourself or your family.
  3. Share the Facebook post about the Cookbook Giveaway (make sure your privacy setting is set to public so I can see that you shared it).

Only individuals who have correctly completed the eligibility criteria above will be eligible for the cookbook draw.

  • No purchase is necessary to participate.
  • This giveaway is open only to Canadian residents (excluding residents of Quebec) having a Canadian mailing address and who are fans of My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Facebook page. Entrants must be 18 years of age or older.
  • Only one entry per person.
  • There is one (1) prize only to be won – one (1) copy of The Simple Bites Kitchen: Nourishing Whole Food Recipes for Every Day cookbook with an approximate Canadian retail value of $32.00. The book for this giveaway has been provided by the cookbook’s publisher, Penguin Random House Canada. The prize is non-transferable and non-exchangeable. It cannot be exchanged for money value.  The prize offering is valid only during the specified allotted time as described in these Official Rules.
  • Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.
  • The submission entry period opens at 7:00pm (AST) on November 30, 2017, and closes at 7:00pm (AST) on December 3, 2017. Draw of winner will be made by 9:00pm (AST) on December 4, 2017.
  • All eligible entries received during the submission period will be gathered at the end of the submission period. One entrant will be randomly selected as a potential winner and notified through Facebook. In the event any potential winner does not respond to such notification within 48 hours of having been sent notification, declines the prize for any reason, or does not meet the requirements set forth in these Official Rules, the potential winner will be disqualified and an alternate potential winner may be randomly selected from among remaining eligible entries, or the prize may be cancelled.
  • Potential winner must correctly answer a mathematical skill-testing question to win.
  • Each entrant is responsible for monitoring his or her Facebook account for potential prize notification and receipt of other communications related to this cookbook giveaway.
  • Once the definitive winner has been determined to have successfully met all the eligibility criteria afore-mentioned, and claimed the prize, his or her name will be announced on My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Facebook page and on this blog posting and, in order to receive the prize, the winner must agree to this publication announcement as a condition of winning.
  • Cookbook prize may not be awarded if an insufficient number of eligible entries is received. The determination of insufficient number of eligible entries will be at the sole discretion of My Island Bistro Kitchen.
  • In order to receive the cookbook, the winner must agree to provide My Island Bistro Kitchen with their Canadian mailing address to which the cookbook will be mailed. This information will be provided to Penguin Random House Canada by My Island Bistro Kitchen for the purposes of mailing the cookbook to the declared winner and the winner must agree to the sharing of their mailing address with Penguin Random House Canada for this purpose. The prize will not be replaced if lost, destroyed, mutilated, or stolen.
  • This giveaway event is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with, Facebook. All entrants agree to release Facebook from any liability with respect to this giveaway event or its prize.
  • All entrants agree to be bound by the rules of this giveaway event and release My Island Bistro Kitchen and all parties associated with this giveaway event from any liability with respect to this giveaway event or of its prize.
  • All decisions by My Island Bistro Kitchen with regards to all aspects of this giveaway event are final.
  • If, for any reason, and in the opinion of My Island Bistro Kitchen, this giveaway event is not capable of running as planned or if it is adversely affected by computer virus, fraud, technical failures, or other causes beyond its control, My Island Bistro Kitchen reserves the right to cancel, modify, or suspend the giveaway event, at any time, and at the sole discretion of My Island Bistro Kitchen, without notice.

To enter this giveaway event, pop on over to My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Facebook page and see the post pinned at the top of the page and follow the instructions on the post.

Good luck!

Cookbook Review of The Simple Bites Kitchen: Nourishing Whole Food Recipes for Every Day

Title:  The Simple Bites Kitchen: Nourishing Whole Food Recipes for Every Day 
Author:  Aimée Wimbush-Bourque
Publisher: Penguin Random House Canada
Price: $32.00 (CDN$)
Pages: >300
Available:  Bookstores across Canada and online

Penguin Random House Canada has offered me the opportunity to conduct a review of Aimée Wimbush-Bourque’s latest cookbook, The Simple Bites Kitchen: Nourishing Whole Food Recipes for Every Day .  Wimbush-Bourque is a Canadian food blogger and former chef who makes her home with her family in Montreal.  Devoted to healthy family-focused food, this is Wimbush-Bourque’s second published cookbook.

The book features a wide collection of 100 varied recipes categorized into seven chapters:  Nourishing Breakfasts, Wholesome Lunches and Snacks, Homegrown Vegetarian, Fresh-Air Gatherings, Everyday Suppers, Simple Bites, Staples, and Preserves Pantry. The book has a general table of contents at the front and then each chapter has a more detailed table of contents listing each recipe to be found in the chapter.  In addition, an index at the back of the book makes it easy to quickly find a particular recipe.  Each chapter is introduced by a 2-page narrative written by the author which lends a personal touch to the book and allows the reader to get to know a bit about the recipe’s creator.

The book is filled with lots of common sense tips to make food preparation easy.  For example, there are tips and hints on how to host a soup swap with friends, fridge organization, how to cook pulses and, of interest to families and office workers, information on lunch box renewal.  Appealing to a wide audience of home cooks, the book contains a mix of recipes that range from old favorites like strawberry rhubarb pie, harvest corn chowder, and roast beef with Yorkshire pudding to more modern dishes like lentil cottage pie with rutabaga mash, tofu vegetable stir-fry with cashews, Tahini maple tea cookies, Tequila-lime BBQ chicken, and tangy quinoa carrot chicken salad.

The recipes are well laid out with instructions using the ingredients in the order in which they are listed.  I found the instructions complete and easy to follow. Each step is clearly delineated and numbered. For the most part, the ingredients would be ones likely to be available in most supermarkets.  Each recipe is introduced by 1-2 paragraphs about the dish and several of the recipes contain useful tips at the end.

Full page color photos accompany each recipe on the page opposite the recipe.  This is important as it gives a benchmark of what the finished dish should look like.  The photos are clean and simple and are not overdone with unnecessary props and styling. This keeps the focus on the food.

Test-driving recipes
The real test of a cookbook comes when you make some recipes out of the book.  I selected three:  Maple-Roasted Pears in Granola (p. 29), Brown Sugar Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal (p. 48), and Butternut Squash Casserole with Apple and Leek (p. 214).

Maple-Roasted Pears in Granola
These pears are super tasty. I used Bosc pears and my own granola. Brushed with butter and maple syrup, roasted, then topped with granola mixed with maple syrup and roasted for a few minutes more, these are yummy treats served with a dollop of yogurt.  While these are in the Nourishing Breakfast chapter in the book, I’d gladly eat them any day for dessert!

Maple-Roasted Pears with Granola
Maple-Roasted Pears with Granola
Maple-Roasted Pears with Granola
Maple-Roasted Pears with Granola

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal
This is an excellent replacement for the individual packets of quick oatmeal. I made a batch of this mix and now have it in a jar in my desk at work.  Simply add hot water to the mix, stir, and let sit for a few minutes before consuming. I found it took longer than the five minutes that the recipe’s instructions indicated in order for the water to be sufficiently absorbed by the oats. I should point out that I used gluten-free oats for this recipe and perhaps they may take longer than the regular quick cooking rolled oats to absorb the water called for in the recipe. In any event, I didn’t find it a big deal – I just simply let the oats sit a while longer before consuming.

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal
Brown Sugar Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal
Brown Sugar Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal Recipe
Brown Sugar Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal Recipe

Butternut Squash Casserole with Apple and Leek
I found this recipe easy to make and an interesting combination of three principle ingredients – butternut squash, apple, and leek.  This is a very tasty side dish that would go perfectly with poultry, pork, or beef and I would definitely make the recipe again.

Butternut Squash Casserole with Apple and Leek
Butternut Squash Casserole with Apple and Leek
Butternut Squash Casserole with Apple and Leek Recipee
Butternut Squash Casserole with Apple and Leek Recipee

 

Concluding Thoughts
This is a beautifully planned and laid out book and it is one that I simply enjoy reading.  The focus is on modern healthy foods for modern, busy families. The book itself is printed on high quality paper giving it a distinctively professional and polished look and feel.  In my opinion, this is a lovely collector’s book for anyone with a cookbook collection and is a book that the cook would return to time and again as a kitchen resource tool.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of The Simple Bites Kitchen: Nourishing Whole Food Recipes for Every Day  from Penguin Random House Canada for the purposes of conducting a review of the cookbook. I received no compensation for this review and was under no obligation to provide a positive review. All opinions expressed are purely my own.

The foregoing recipes and photographs were excerpted from The Simple Bites Kitchen: Nourishing Whole Food Recipes for Every Day by Aimée Wimbush-Bourque. Copyright © 2017 by Aimée Wimbush-Bourque. Photos copyright © Tim and Angela Chin. Published by Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

 

Sultana Cake Recipe

Sultana Cake
Sultana Cake

Sultana Cake, believed to be of British/Scottish origins, is so named because sultana raisins are the main ingredient.  Often served at tea time, this unfrosted cake is a cross between a war cake, a Dundee cake, and a fruitcake. More sweet than a war cake and definitely less rich than a traditional fruitcake, this is a hearty, stick-to-the-ribs, kind of cake. Unlike a fruitcake, liquor is not common in a Sultana Cake.

Traditionally, I believe, Sultana Cake only had the raisins and maybe some nuts in it. My recipe, however, is slightly more luxurious with the addition of currants along with some glazed cherries and mixed fruit though the raisins are still the main ingredient.

Sultana Cake
Sultana Cake

This is a much easier and quicker cake to make than is a fruitcake.  There is no need to soak the fruit in liquor for a day or two before making the cake.  Essentially, the raisins, currants, glazed cherries, and mixed fruit are dredged with 1/2 cup of the flour just before they are added to the batter to prevent them from dropping to the bottom of the cake during baking. I like to add some grated orange and lemon rind for extra flavour.

The butter should be softened at room temperature (not microwaved) for about 45 minutes or so before creaming.  Microwaving the butter changes its consistency and it is more liquified.  Butter that is softened naturally at room temperature is much creamier and fluffs better when beaten with the sugar. Yes, that lovely fluffy texture of the butter and sugar is what results in a soft even crumb in cakes.

The eggs and milk should be at room temperature for about 30 minutes or so before mixing in to the batter.  The eggs need to be at roughly the same room temperature as the butter. If the eggs are cold and hit the soft warm butter, guess what? The eggs harden the butter again and this will un-do all the lovely creaming that has been done and will affect the cake’s texture, creating a dense hard crumb.  The same holds true for the milk which also needs to be at room temperature to allow it to blend smoothly into the butter-sugar-egg mixture.  Ever see cold milk poured into the cake batter that immediately looks lumpy or curdled?  This can result in uneven baked products.

Sultana Cakes are traditionally made in round baking pans.  My recipe calls for a 10″ round tube (funnel) pan that is 4″ deep. It has a 16-cup capacity so there is adequate room for the cake to expand as it bakes. Tube pans are great for dense cakes as they provide more uniform baking.  With dense cakes, like Sultana Cake, it is sometimes difficult to get the outer edges of the cake and the center evenly baked at the same time. Removing the “center” of the cake eliminates this problem. Some pans have a removable bottom and these are very useful when it comes to removing the cake from the pan.  I line the bottom of the pan with a layer of parchment and then spray the sides of the pan with cooking spray.

Placing a small pan of water on the bottom shelf, or floor, of the oven while the cake bakes helps to keep the cake moist. If the cake starts to brown too much, loosely tent it with tin foil.

Sultana Cake
Sultana Cake

Unlike a fruitcake that needs to age three to four weeks before serving so flavours are deepened, a Sultana Cake does not need to age. That said, I usually do wrap and leave my Sultana Cake for 48-72 hours before cutting.

This is a delightful anytime cake although I often make it around Christmas.  It’s a perfect alternative for anyone who finds fruitcake just a little too rich for their palate. It’s especially nice with a lovely cup of tea.

This cake freezes very well.

Sultana Cake
Sultana Cake
[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Sultana Cake

Ingredients:

1 lb sultana raisins
¼ lb currants
8 oz red and green glazed cherries
8 oz. mixed glazed fruit

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1¾ cups brown sugar packed
5 large eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon flavoring
1½ tsp grated orange rind
1½ tsp grated lemon rind

3½ cups all-purpose flour (reserve ½ cup for dredging the fruit)
1¼ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt

1 cup milk, room temperature

Method:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray 4” deep 10” round tube (funnel) pan with cooking spray and line bottom with parchment paper.

In large bowl, mix the raisins, currants, glazed cherries, and mixed fruit.  Dredge with ½ cup of the flour called for in the recipe.  Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat at medium-high speed for one additional minute. Add the vanilla and lemon flavoring and mix well. Add the grated orange and lemon rind. Mix well.

Sift remaining 3 cups of flour, baking powder, and salt together.  Add to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Beat at medium-high speed for 1 additional minute. Add the floured fruit mixture and stir just until ingredients are combined.

Spoon batter into prepared pan, using knife to smooth top.  Place small pan of hot water on lower shelf, or floor, of oven to provide moisture to the cake as it bakes.  Bake cake in center of middle rack for approximately 2½ hours or until cake tester inserted in or near centre of cake comes out clean. Let cake cool in pan for about 30 minutes before carefully removing from pan by inverting it on a tea towel and removing the paper.  Carefully turn the cake top side up on to a wire cooling rack.

Yield:  One 10” round cake

Sultana Cake

Less sweet than a fruitcake, this Sultana Cake, enhanced with glazed fruit, is moist and flavorful.


Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 lb sultana raisins
  • ¼ lb currants
  • 8 oz red and green glazed cherries
  • 8 oz. mixed glazed fruit
  • 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • cups brown sugar packed
  • 5 large eggs room temperature
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp lemon flavoring
  • tsp grated orange rind
  • tsp grated lemon rind
  • cups all-purpose flour reserve ½ cup for dredging the fruit
  • tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk room temperature

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray 4” deep 10” round tube (funnel) pan with cooking spray and line bottom with parchment paper.
  2. In large bowl, mix the raisins, currants, glazed cherries, and mixed fruit. Dredge with ½ cup of the flour called for in the recipe. Set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat at medium-high speed for one additional minute. Add the vanilla and lemon flavoring and mix well. Add the grated orange and lemon rind. Mix well.
  4. Sift remaining 3 cups of flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat at medium-high speed for 1 additional minute. Add the floured fruit mixture and stir just until ingredients are combined.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared pan, using knife to smooth top. Place small pan of hot water on lower shelf, or floor, of oven to provide moisture to the cake as it bakes. Bake cake in center of middle rack for approximately 2½ hours or until cake tester inserted in or near centre of cake comes out clean. Let cake cool in pan for about 30 minutes before carefully removing from pan by inverting it on a tea towel and removing the paper. Carefully turn the cake top side up on to a wire cooling rack.

 

Sultana Cake
Sultana Cake
Sultana Cake, so named because sultana raisins are a key ingredient, is a lovely moist cake that is a cross between a warcake and a fruitcake.
Sultana Cake

Old-fashioned Jam Squares

Old-fashioned Jam Squares
Old-fashioned Jam Squares

Jam Squares are an old-fashioned favourite that I grew up with.  They are easy to make and only take common ingredients.  While any kind of jam may be used, they are most showy when red jam, such as raspberry, is chosen. They are a treat at any time and look especially good on sweet trays for special events.

Jam Squares
Jam Squares

[Printable Recipe follows at end of posting]

Old-Fashioned Jam Squares

Ingredients:

1/3 cup butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp almond flavoring
½ cup white sugar
1 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon
⅛ tsp cardamom
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
½ cup raspberry jam

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°.

Assemble ingredients.

Prepare 8”x8” pan by lining with parchment paper.

With electric mixer, beat butter well in medium-sized bowl.  Beat in egg, vanilla, and almond flavouring.

Sift  sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom together.  Stir in grated lemon rind.  Add to butter-egg mixture and blend thoroughly.

Shape dough into a small oblong shape.  Cut off about one-third of the dough and place in freezer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, press remaining  dough into prepared pan.  Place pan in freezer for 15 minutes.

Remove both the reserved dough and the pan from the freezer.  Evenly spread the ½ cup raspberry preserves over dough in pan.

Using a grater, grate the reserved dough evenly over the jam.

Bake for 35 minutes or until topping on square is lightly golden in color.

Let square cool completely in pan before removing and cutting into 16 squares.

Old-fashioned Jam Squares

Yield: 16 squares

These easy-to-make showy squares take only common ingredients. While any kind of jam may be used, they are most showy when red jam is chosen.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp almond flavoring
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ? tsp cardamom
  • Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup raspberry jam

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Assemble ingredients.
  3. Prepare 8”x8” pan by lining with parchment paper.
  4. With electric mixer, beat butter well in medium-sized bowl. Beat in egg, vanilla, and almond flavouring.
  5. Sift sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom together. Stir in grated lemon rind. Add to butter-egg mixture and blend thoroughly.
  6. Shape dough into a small oblong shape. Cut off about one-third of the dough and place in freezer for 15 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, press remaining dough into prepared pan. Place pan in freezer for 15 minutes.
  8. Remove both the reserved dough and the pan from the freezer. Evenly spread the ½ cup raspberry preserves over dough in pan. Using a grater, grate the reserved dough evenly over the jam.
  9. Bake for 35 minutes or until topping on square is lightly golden in color.
  10. Let square cool completely in pan before removing and cutting into squares.
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Jam Squares

An Autumn Savoury Tea

As I write this post, it’s autumn – the days are shorter and cooler and leaves are off the trees, all signs that winter on PEI is not far off. This time of the year always makes me think of warm and cozy teas leisurely enjoyed in front of the fireplace.

Teatime
A Fireside Tea

My late day event today is what I’m calling a “savoury tea” – which, because of my menu choices, most closely resembles (but is not quite) a “high tea”. I’m drawing the menu from previous postings to my food blog so those interested in the food items can access my recipes by clicking on the hotlinks throughout this posting.

Some people refer to the traditional afternoon tea of dainty (and always crustless) sandwiches, scones, and an array of sweets as “high tea” (which it isn’t). I’m not sure why this happens – perhaps it is because the food is often served on a tall (hence “high”) three-tier server (pictured below), or curate stand, along with fancy cups and saucers on the table or it may be because the mere mention of afternoon tea evokes the notion that it is a “high” society event. In any event there is a distinction between a “high tea” and an “afternoon tea” (the latter sometimes referred to as a “low tea”).

Three-tier Server
Three-tier Server

Originally, afternoon teas consisted of light refreshments served on low tables like coffee tables, for example. The idea of an afternoon tea was to have some refreshments, mid-afternoon, to counter the sluggishness often experienced in the afternoon and to stave off the hunger until dinner was served later in the evening. Partakers would often be seated in comfy armchairs as opposed to formal dining chairs and would use the low tables upon which to set their cup and saucer and refreshments. In fact, some high-end hotels in London serve afternoon tea in the surroundings of their lobbies and, indeed, comfortable armchairs and sofas are still used along with low coffee tables. Today, however, the traditional afternoon tea is most often served at regular height tables. What characterizes a traditional afternoon tea are crustless finger sandwiches, scones, sweets and, of course, tea.

High tea, on the other hand, is more like a light supper featuring hot menu items which are most frequently served at a regular height table. Foods denoting a high tea might include egg dishes like quiches, and/or dishes that include meat and fish. Bread or biscuits would most commonly be served but less likely sandwiches if hot savoury dishes are part of the menu. And, of course, there would indeed be tea! High teas, then, tend to be comprised of more substantial fare and are typically served later in the afternoon or early evening as in the case of mine today. For those who watch the British soap opera, Coronation Street, you’ll often hear the characters invite others “round for tea” – it’s “high tea” or supper they are referring to in this context. (Yes, I’m a “Corrie” fan!)

Because of the choice of menu items I am serving, my savoury tea is, therefore, most similar (but not quite identical) to a “high tea” versus an “afternoon tea”.

A Savoury Tea
A Savoury Tea

The Table

I was fortunate enough to find an antique Gibbard tea trolley, in relatively decent condition, a few years ago and it is, indeed, handy. I love to use it for displays in my dining room and, because it has a double drop leaf, it often serves as my tea table when it is just tea for two. It’s the perfect size to hold all the tea elements and is easily wheeled to whatever location in the house I choose for the tea. (I am still on the hunt for a Roxton maple tea trolley in excellent condition to match my dining room set so, if anyone on PEI has one they are interested in parting with, or knows someone who does, please get in touch!)

Tea Trolley
Tea Trolley

The Linens

The tablecloth square on my tea table is one I bought in Burano on my last trip to Italy. Yes, when I’m looking for mementos of trips, my interests usually veer toward tabletop items and foods local to the area!

The Tea Table is Set
The Tea Table is Set

Napkin folds for tea tables tend to lean toward basic, classic designs, much like the simple triangular fold I’ve chosen here. Most often, the folds tend to be flat designs as opposed to stand-up folds and the napkins are usually plain in color.

Simple Teatime Napkin Fold
Simple Teatime Napkin Fold

The Flowers

I like to include fresh flowers on my tea tables. They don’t have to be anything more elaborate than a simple bouquet of mini carnations. The arrangement, however, does need to be proportionately sized. Floral arrangements for tea tables are typically quite small, especially if it is a tea table set for two. Using a single color and variety of flower keeps the look simple and uncluttered.

Bouquet of Mini White Carnations for the Tea Table
Bouquet of Mini White Carnations for the Tea Table

Dishes and Glassware

Sometimes, it’s nice to use a formal tea set or pieces from formal china for tea settings. Matching pieces do lend an air of formality and cohesiveness to the setting. However, it’s totally acceptable to have a mix of dishes on the tea table so long as they coordinate in style and color.

Always use small tea-sized plates, or supper plates, for tea events. Small portions of food characteristic of tea fare just look better on small plates as the food does not appear so minuscule and “lost” as it would on a large dinner plate, for example. These pink design plates were a thrift shop find.

Tea Plate
Tea Plate

From my collection, I have simply chosen two different teacups and saucers that I particularly like. They both have pink designs to compliment the plates.

Teacup and Saucer
Teacup and Saucer

Both cups have wonderful designs inside and outside.

China Teacup and Saucer
China Teacup and Saucer

The teapot, a Sadler, also has a pink theme. The pink shades coordinate with the salmon pink shade highlighted in the tablecloth.

Sadler Teapot
Sadler Teapot

I found these little pedestal glasses with cranberry trim at a second-hand shop and knew they would be perfectly sized for tea tables. They lend an air of elegance and color to the table.

Cranberry Glass
Cranberry Glass

I adore my three-tier servers! They give an air of elegance and sophistication to any tea table. Plus, they are super useful and an efficient way to serve the food. All the food items can be brought to the table at once on one unit, taking up less space as tea tables tend to be small and compact. Sandwiches/savoury items go on the bottom tier, scones/biscuits on the middle tier, followed by the tempting sweet treats on the top tier.

The Menu

So, here is what is on my five-course savoury tea menu.

~ Starter ~

Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Squares

~ Savoury ~

Harvest Quiche

Baked Stuffed Fingerlings

Mini Lobster Cakes

~ Biscuits ~

Biscuits served with lemon curd and preserves

~ Sweet Offerings ~

Dark and Light Fruitcake

Frypan Cookie Balls

Gluten Free Earl Grey Cranberry-Orange Shortbread

Gluten Free Melting Moments

~ Dessert ~

Luscious Lemon Curd Tartlets

~ Tea ~

Fortnum and Mason’s “Afternoon Tea” blend

The traditional order in which to consume tea foods are sandwiches/savouries first, followed by the scones/biscuits, and ending with the sweets. So, let’s take a closer look at the menu items.

Starter Course

For the starter course, I’m serving my homemade cream of roasted tomato soup with tiny squares of grilled cheese.

Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Squares
Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Squares

In keeping with the small portion size conducive to tea serving size, I’m serving the soup in small soup cups and threading the grilled cheese squares on to a skewer.

Cup of Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Squares
Cup of Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Squares

Savoury Course

For the savoury course, I have selected three hot items – mini harvest quiches, baked stuffed fingerlings, and mini lobster cakes. By clicking on the foregoing hotlinks, you can access my recipes. I will often plan ahead for tea events when I am doing my batch cooking for the freezer. In this case, I made some mini quiches and lobster cakes earlier and had them frozen. This allows me to add some variety to my tea events that I probably might not otherwise have if I had to mix up special small batches especially for a tea event.

Mini Harvest Quiche
Mini Harvest Quiche

The fingerlings are stuffed with sausage, cheese, tomato sauce, and seasonings and are tasty little bites.

Baked Stuffed Fingerlings
Baked Stuffed Fingerlings

Living on PEI, lobster fishing is one of our main fisheries so, naturally, I am going to include it in some fashion on my menu. The small lobster cakes are served with a small dob of sour cream.

Mini Lobster Cake
Mini Lobster Cake

Keep the size portions small – they can be the same size as appetizers/hors d’oeuvres or very slightly larger. For example, I use the small individual tart shells for the mini quiches because I like the look of a complete, uncut quiche for each serving. If using pieces cut from a larger quiche, I recommend making the quiche in a small quiche/pie plate 6” – 8” in diameter, no larger.

Biscuits Course

Because this is a savoury tea, I am swapping out the traditional scones associated with afternoon tea and am replacing them with biscuits. I currently have two biscuit recipes on my food blog –  classic tea biscuits and whole wheat biscuits.  Either works well with this type of tea.

Homemade Biscuits
Homemade Biscuits

Biscuits are less sweet and rich than scones and I think they go better with my savoury tea. That doesn’t mean, however, that lemon curd and preserves can’t be enjoyed with biscuits!  It’s a great way to transition the palate from the savoury course to the sweets!

Lemon Curd, Jam, and Marmalade
Lemon Curd, Jam, and Marmalade

I have made a batch of my lemon curd to enjoy with the biscuits. Sometimes, I will use small dishes for the preserves but, if I have the small jars, I will often use them because I like the look of the tiny jars clustered together on a server plate!

Sweets Course

Fruitcake is often (but not always) found on tea tables. I am including both my light fruitcake  and dark fruitcake, cut into small pieces. Fruitcakes are rich and are best served in small pieces (and they go particularly well with a fine cup of tea). Two kinds of cookies – Gluten Free Earl Grey Cranberry-Orange Shortbread and Gluten Free Melting Moments are also included along with Frypan Cookie Balls.

Tea Time Sweets
Sweets on the Tea Table

Desserts Course

This is an optional course because, really, the sweets themselves are generally sufficient.  However, a nice touch is to add one special signature dessert.  With my fresh batch of lemon curd, a luscious lemon curd tartlet was an obvious choice.  I added some bright red raspberries for contrast along with a sprig of greenery.

Luscious Lemon Curd Tartlet
Luscious Lemon Curd Tartlet

Tea Selection

My tea selection is one of my personal all-time favorites – Fortnum & Mason’s “Afternoon Tea” blend which I brought home from my latest trip to London.  When in London, I always try to make time for a stop at Fortnum & Mason’s flagship store on Piccadilly to browse through their food halls and to pick up some of their tea. This tea from Ceylon is crisp and refreshing yet full bodied so it goes equally  well with a savoury tea as it does with a traditional afternoon tea.

Fortnum and Mason's "Afternoon Tea" Blend
Fortnum and Mason’s “Afternoon Tea” Blend

I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to go out for afternoon tea but, unfortunately, where I live, there are no restaurants or hotels that offer this option. I think that’s why, when I’m in London, I allot time for 1-2 afternoon teas which are always a highlight of my visits. I often agonize over which ones to choose because there are so many wonderful options. I have written postings on three I particularly enjoyed and you can access those by clicking on the following links:  Afternoon Tea in London and “Scents of Summer” Afternoon Tea in London.

Tea time can be elaborate or simplified and, with some planning, can be made in to an event for entertaining family and friends at home. You’ll find inspiration for tea events of all sorts here on my blog. Simply go to the “Afternoon Teas” menu or type “Afternoon Tea” in the search box on the home page.

An Autumn Savoury Tea

Gluten Free Light Fruitcake Recipe

Gluten Free Light Fruitcake
Gluten Free Light Fruitcake

This posting contains my newly-developed recipe for gluten free light fruitcake.

This cake is so tasty that it’s hard to tell it is actually gluten free!  The flours I use in this recipe are the one-to-one gluten free flour along with almond flour and coconut flour that add lovely flavour and texture to the cake batter.

Gluten Free Light Fruitcake
Gluten Free Light Fruitcake

As always, ensure that all ingredients (not just the flours) called for in the recipe are indeed gluten free and have not been cross contaminated with products containing gluten.

Gluten Free Light Fruitcake
Gluten Free Light Fruitcake

Rather than rewrite all the tips I have for making fruitcakes, I am directing readers to my previous postings for dark fruitcake and light fruitcake. While these two recipes are for regular fruitcakes that are not gluten free, the tips I have provided in those postings apply equally to this gluten free version of a fruitcake.

Gluten Free Light Fruitcake
Gluten Free Light Fruitcake

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Gluten-Free Light Fruitcake

Ingredients:

¼ lb golden sultana raisins
1½ oz green glazed cherries
2½ oz red glazed cherries
1½ oz glazed pineapple rings, chopped
3 oz mixed glazed fruit
2 tbsp citron
3 tbsp brandy
3 tbsp flaked coconut
½ tsp finely grated lemon rind
½ tsp finely grated orange rind

¼ cup butter, softened at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, separated
¼ tsp pure vanilla
¼ tsp almond flavoring
¼ tsp lemon flavoring
3 tbsp applesauce

¾ cup one-to-one gluten-free flour
1½ tbsp almond flour
1 tbsp coconut flour
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp zanthan gum
Pinch salt

1½ tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp brandy

Few glazed cherries for cake top decoration (optional)
Extra brandy for brushing on cake as it ages and for soaking cheesecloth in which to wrap the cake

Method:

In medium-sized bowl, combine the raisins, cherries, glazed pineapple, mixed glazed fruit, and citron. Mix well.  Stir in the three tablespoons of brandy to coat the fruit.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand for about 24 hours to macerate the fruit, stirring occasionally. When ready to mix up the cake, add the coconut and grated lemon and orange rind.  Stir well.

Prepare 6-inch square fruitcake pan that is at least 2¼” deep and has a removable bottom:  Lightly spray the bottom and sides of the pan with cooking spray.  Line the pan (bottom and sides), with brown paper or double thickness of parchment paper.  Lightly spray the paper.

Preheat oven to 275°F.

In medium-sized bowl, and using an electric hand mixer, beat the butter until creamy.  Gradually add the sugar and beat until mixture is light and creamy. Separate eggs and set aside the whites. Add the egg yolks to the creamed butter and sugar, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula to ensure ingredients are all incorporated. Beat 1 additional minute. Beat in the vanilla, almond, and lemon flavorings.  Stir in the applesauce.

Remove 3 tbsp of the one-to-one gluten free flour from the ¾-cup called for in the recipe and set aside to flour the fruit.  Sift the remaining one-to-one gluten free flour, almond flour, and coconut flour together with the baking powder, zanthan gum, and salt.

In measuring cup or small bowl, combine the orange and lemon juices along with the two tablespoons of brandy.

Add the dry and wet ingredients to the beaten butter-sugar-egg mixture in three additions, starting and ending with the flour mixture.  Transfer batter to a larger bowl, big enough to accommodate the amount of fruit to be added.

Sprinkle reserved 3 tablespoons of the one-to-one gluten free flour over the macerated fruit to which the coconut and grated lemon and orange rind have been added. Toss ingredients lightly and quickly.  Gently fold the fruit mixture into the batter.

In clean bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the batter.

Transfer batter by large spoonfuls into the prepared baking pan.  Use a knife to evenly spread the batter in the pan, smoothing the top.  Add a few glazed cherries as decorations to the top of the cake, if desired.

Place small pan of hot water on the lower rack in the oven.  Place fruitcake in center of middle rack and bake for approximately 1¼ – 1½ hours, or until cake is firm to the touch and cake tester inserted into centre of cake comes out clean. After about 35-40 minutes or so of baking, loosely tent cake with tin foil to prevent it from browning too much. When cake is baked, remove from oven and place on rack.  Let cake cool in pan for about 40 minutes before carefully removing from pan by inverting it on to a tea towel and removing the paper.  Carefully turn the cake, top side up, on to a wire cooling rack.

Let cake cool completely before brushing well with brandy and wrapping in brandy-soaked cheesecloth, followed by plastic wrap and tin foil. Store in a sealed plastic bag in a cool, dry area.  Remove wrapping and brush cake top and sides with brandy once a week for 2-3 weeks, as the cake “ages”, before cutting and serving. After cake has aged 2-3 weeks, it is recommended to refrigerate the cake or, if not using in near future, freeze it.

Yield:  1 – 2 lb cake (apx. weight)

NOTE:  As always, ensure that all ingredients used in the recipe are, in fact, gluten free.

Gluten Free Light Fruitcake Recipe

Yield: 1 - 2 lb cake (apx. weight)

A gluten free light fruitcake that is studded with a mixture of brandy-soaked glazed fruit baked within a batter made with gluten free one-to-one flour, almond flour, and coconut flour.

Ingredients

  • ¼ lb golden sultana raisins
  • 1½ oz green glazed cherries
  • 2½ oz red glazed cherries
  • 1½ oz glazed pineapple rings, chopped
  • 3 oz mixed glazed fruit
  • 2 tbsp citron
  • 3 tbsp brandy
  • 3 tbsp flaked coconut
  • ½ tsp finely grated lemon rind
  • ½ tsp finely grated orange rind
  • ¼ cup butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • ¼ tsp pure vanilla
  • ¼ tsp almond flavoring
  • ¼ tsp lemon flavoring
  • 3 tbsp applesauce
  • ¾ cup one-to-one gluten-free flour
  • 1½ tbsp almond flour
  • 1 tbsp coconut flour
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp zanthan gum
  • Pinch salt
  • 1½ tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp brandy
  • Few glazed cherries for cake top decoration (optional)
  • Extra brandy for brushing on cake as it ages and for soaking cheesecloth in which to wrap the cake

Instructions

  1. In medium-sized bowl, combine the raisins, cherries, glazed pineapple, mixed glazed fruit, and citron. Mix well. Stir in the three tablespoons of brandy to coat the fruit. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand for about 24 hours to macerate the fruit, stirring occasionally. When ready to mix up the cake, add the coconut and grated lemon and orange rind. Stir well.
  2. Prepare 6-inch square fruitcake pan that is at least 2¼” deep and has a removable bottom: Lightly spray the bottom and sides of the pan with cooking spray. Line the pan (bottom and sides), with brown paper or double thickness of parchment paper. Lightly spray the paper.
  3. Preheat oven to 275°F.
  4. In medium-sized bowl, and using an electric hand mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until mixture is light and creamy. Separate eggs and set aside the whites. Add the egg yolks to the creamed butter and sugar, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula to ensure ingredients are all incorporated. Beat 1 additional minute. Beat in the vanilla, almond, and lemon flavorings. Stir in the applesauce.
  5. Remove 3 tbsp of the one-to-one gluten free flour from the ¾-cup called for in the recipe and set aside to flour the fruit. Sift the remaining one-to-one gluten free flour, almond flour, and coconut flour together with the baking powder, zanthan gum, and salt.
  6. In measuring cup or small bowl, combine the orange and lemon juices along with the two tablespoons of brandy.
  7. Add the dry and wet ingredients to the beaten butter-sugar-egg mixture in three additions, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Transfer batter to a larger bowl, big enough to accommodate the amount of fruit to be added.
  8. Sprinkle reserved 3 tablespoons of the one-to-one gluten free flour over the macerated fruit to which the coconut and grated lemon and orange rind have been added. Toss ingredients lightly and quickly. Gently fold the fruit mixture into the batter.
  9. In clean bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the batter.
  10. Transfer batter by large spoonfuls into the prepared baking pan. Use a knife to evenly spread the batter in the pan, smoothing the top. Add a few glazed cherries as decorations to the top of the cake, if desired.
  11. Place small pan of hot water on the lower rack in the oven. Place fruitcake in center of middle rack and bake for approximately 1¼ - 1½ hours, or until cake is firm to the touch and cake tester inserted into centre of cake comes out clean. After about 35-40 minutes or so of baking, loosely tent cake with tin foil to prevent it from browning too much. When cake is baked, remove from oven and place on rack. Let cake cool in pan for about 40 minutes before carefully removing from pan by inverting it on to a tea towel and removing the paper. Carefully turn the cake, top side up, on to a wire cooling rack.
  12. Let cake cool completely before brushing well with brandy and wrapping in brandy-soaked cheesecloth, followed by plastic wrap and tin foil. Store in a sealed plastic bag in a cool, dry area. Remove wrapping and brush cake top and sides with brandy once a week for 2-3 weeks, as the cake “ages”, before cutting and serving. After cake has aged 2-3 weeks, it is recommended to refrigerate the cake or, if not using in near future, freeze it.

Notes

NOTE: As always, ensure that all ingredients used in the recipe are, in fact, gluten free.

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Gluten Free Light Fruitcake
Gluten Free Light Fruitcake
Gluten Free Light Fruitcake studded with glazed fruit and flavored with brandy

Rustico Sheep Farm Produces Cheese and Yogurt

On PEI, there are a number of small-scale farmers who are producing artisan-quality food products. Produced on small-scale, it allows the producer to focus on quality and on producing products, or varieties of products, that larger-scale producers might not. I recently paid a visit to the Ferme Isle Saint-Jean in Rustico PEI.

Snack Time at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI
Snack Time at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI

Owned and operated by Deirdre and Gabriel Mercier, the new farmers bravely forged ahead in 2015 with dreams of becoming cheesemakers using sheep’s milk. When Deirdre’s family home and small hobby farm became available for sale, the couple decided the time was right to pursue their entrepreneurship dreams in Deirdre’s home community of Rustico. Gabriel attends to the day-to-day farm operations and the yogurt and cheese making while Deirdre looks after the farm’s bookkeeping.

Isle Saint-Jean Sheep Farm in Rustico, PEI
Ferme Isle Saint-Jean in Rustico, PEI

Currently, the Merciers are milking 104 sheep that produce, on average, between 1 – 1½ litres of milk each a day.  They have two breeds of sheep. The first, East Friesian dairy sheep, originate in northern Germany and are, according to Gabriel, the highest milk-producing sheep. The second breed, the Lacaune, are a dairying sheep breed originating in southern France. The Lacaunes produce less milk than the East Friesians but their milk has a higher fat and protein content.

Sheep Herd
Sheep at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean in Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy of Isle Saint-Jean Farm)

The farm’s new milking parlour allows for 24 sheep to be milked at once.

Sheep Milk Dairy Milking Parlour
Milking the Sheep at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean Sheep in Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy Ferm Isle Saint-Jean)

Gabriel is new to a career in farming having spent nearly 10 years in military service. He spent time on a work term on a farm in Quebec followed by a month working in a cheese plant – Nouvelle France Fromagerie – and has taken a course in cheesemaking in Quebec.

Currently, the farm is producing yogurt and cheese by transporting the milk to a cheese factory in Mont Carmel, PEI, where Gabriel goes to make the products. Some cheese is made in a facility in New Brunswick that has an aging room for the cheese, some of which takes time to ripen. In addition, the farm also has lamb sausages available which are made for them by Island Taylored Meats.

Cheese and Yogurt Produced by Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy of Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)
Cheese and Yogurt Produced by Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy of Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)

When asked what the biggest challenges are to sheep farming in PEI, Gabriel says operating costs, labour involved, and the long days and 24/7 commitment as the sheep are milked twice a day during lactation for the first 90 days after giving birth then once a day afterwards.

Baby Lambs at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)
Baby Lambs at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)

Particularly during lambing seasons, the days can be very long as the lambs start arriving in February when it is cold on PEI and so attention is required to ensure they quickly get their first drink and are kept warm.

Young Lambs at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)
Young Lambs at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)

I love the sentiment captured in the photo below of a mama with her baby lamb!

Mama Poses with her Baby Lamb at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean in Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)
Mama Poses with her Baby Lamb at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean in Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)

Despite the work and commitment, the Merciers find great satisfaction in sheep farming.  Gabriel says he has a passion for cheesemaking and enjoys taking a raw product and converting it into something else like yogurt and cheese. The other bonus is he gets to see more of his young family than he would if he worked off the farm.

The three cheeses presently made from the farm’s sheep milk are Alexis Doiron, Blue d’acadie, and Patrick Mercier.  The Alexis Doiron, a firm cheese that is not ripened or aged, is made by Gabriel at the plant in Mont Carmel. Gabriel classes this as a table cheese that he particularly likes grated on eggs.  He says this cheese is grillable and is very good barbequed because it doesn’t actually melt.  He also suggests it can be grated on pizza as well.

Grillable Alexis Doiron Cheese from Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI (Photo Courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)
Grillable Alexis Doiron Cheese from Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI (Photo Courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)

The Blue d’acadie is made in a federally-inspected plant with an aging room in New Brunswick.  It is a semi-firm ripened blue cheese that is suberb on burgers or steak, used in a sauce, or as an addition to a cheese tray.

The newest cheese, Patrick Mercier, is made with unpasteurized sheep’s milk and aged at least four months at the same plant in New Brunswick where the Blue d’acadie is made.

Gabriel produces 200 – 500ml jars of yogurt each week. This yogurt is 100% sheep’s milk plus culture and is available unflavored.  Add some pure maple syrup and toss some granola on top for a special treat or top it on your favorite cereal along with some fresh fruit.

Sheep Yogurt with Blueberries on top of Cereal (Photo courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)
Sheep Yogurt with Blueberries on top of Cereal (Photo courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)

What about all the wool on those sheep?  The sheep are sheered once a year, in November, which allows them to grow back a wool coat before the really cold weather strikes PEI.  The wool is transported to MacAusland’s Woolen Mills in Bloomfield, PEI, where it is turned into yarn and woven into blankets.

Sheep Shearing at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean in Rustico, PEI
Sheep Shearing at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean in Rustico, PEI (Photo Courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)

This past summer, the Merciers opened a retail shop on the farm where the cheeses, yogurt, and lamb sausages can be purchased at source and where customers can enjoy some samples of the yogurt and cheeses.  During the winter months, the shop is open by appointment only.

Gabriel Mercier in his Retail Shop at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI
Gabriel Mercier in his Retail Shop at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI

The farm’s products are currently available in several locations including Riverview Country Market, Kent Street Market, Brighton Clover Farm (all in Charlottetown), as well as at the Charlottetown Farmers Market , the Farmed Market and Craft Butchery and the Summerside Farmers Market, both in Summerside, and Gallant’s Country Market in Rustico. Several Island restaurants, including those in the Rustico area, are serving yogurt and cheeses from the farm as part of their menus.

A visit to Ferme Isle Saint-Jean in Rustico, PEI. Sheep dairy farm produces sheep cheese and yogurt.

Homemade Beef Stock Recipe and Tips (or is it Beef Broth?)

Beef Stock/Broth
Homemade Beef Stock/Broth

Beef stock and beef broth are terms often used interchangeably. However, there is actually a difference between the two.  True beef stock is made principally with bones and water and little to no seasoning.  It typically simmers for hours on the stove. Beef stock is nutrient dense, protein rich, and a good source of minerals and gelatin. Traditional beef broth, on the other hand, is usually made mainly with meat (though some bones may be included) and it often has additional flavorings (from vegetables, herbs, and spices) added to it. Beef broth typically simmers for less time than a true beef stock and is, therefore, a lighter product.

It seems the theory is that stock, made from the bones, is more pure and versatile than broth.  This is because the unseasoned stock can be used in more dishes in which seasoning can then be added, unique to each dish as it is made.  I actually like the soup, sauce, or casserole base (i.e., the stock/broth) to already have some seasoning in it to start with and I don’t experience any issues with my already-seasoned stock/broth in any recipe I am making.  I like the extra flavour boost the seasoned stock/broth gives to dishes. So, regardless what it is technically called, what follows is my recipe for beef stock/broth (or a combination or modification thereof).  Plan to make this on a day when you will be home for the day as this stock/broth will take 6-8 hours to simmer slowly.

Beef Stock/Broth
Beef Stock/Broth

A good stock/broth is a handy staple to have on hand in the cook’s kitchen (or freezer).  Of course, if it is made as a broth with some seasonings, it can be used as a drink and is particularly useful in situations where one must follow a clear liquid diet. But, the stock/broth can be used as the base for soups, sauces, braised dishes, and gravies and it can also be used when called for in a host of recipes and other dishes. With a homemade stock/broth, you know what is in it, there are no preservatives, and the amount of salt can be controlled.  I find that a lot of commercially-made stocks and broths are way too salty for my taste.

So, about 5 pounds of meaty bones with marrow from the local butcher will be needed for my recipe. By “meaty bones”, I am referring to bones that still have some meat on them. In fact, I like to include a couple of bones that have a substantial amount of meat on them as this, in my opinion, deepens the flavour of the stock/broth. Marrow is the fatty gelatin-like matter found in the cavity of large bones.  If you tell your butcher you are making stock/broth, he or she will know what product you are looking for – i.e., beef bones with marrow – ribs, shanks, knuckle bones, and so forth. I call my butcher a couple of days in advance to ensure that the butcher shop will have the right product and amount set aside for me and I always ask that the meaty bones be cut into 2” – 3” thick chunks so they are easier to handle in both the roasting and simmering processes. The photo below shows a sampling of the bones/meat I typically use in my stock/broth.

Beef Bones for Stock/Broth
Beef Bones for Stock/Broth

I like lots of deep flavor and color in my beef stock/broth. One way to get this is to roast the meaty bones.  The roasting process will caramelize the meaty bones and this will yield a rich brown-colored stock/broth.  Roast the bones at a high temperature (450°F) for about 30 minutes then brush some tomato paste over them and return them to the oven to roast for about 30 minutes longer.

Because I like lots of flavour in my stock/broth, I add some aromatic and flavourful vegetables – carrots, leek, parsnips, onion, celery, mushrooms, and a hefty dose of garlic. There is no need to peel the vegetables (except for the rutabaga that often has a wax coating).  Just make sure they are very well washed.  You want all the flavour and colour you can get from the vegetables, some of which is contained in the skins/peelings which will later be discarded anyway once the stock/broth is cooked and strained.

Celery is a big flavour agent in this stock/broth and that’s why, in addition to the three stalks of celery called for in the recipe, the celery leaves and the base of the three stalks are used to intensify the flavour. Any kind of mushrooms can be used in the stock/broth. Portobellos would be my first choice because of their earthy flavour and deep colour which will contribute to the colour of the stock/broth. I have, however, made great stock with the simple white button mushrooms which, of course, are more economical than Portobellos. Toss the vegetables with olive oil and add them to the roaster during the last 30 minutes of the roasting bones. It’s important to ensure these don’t burn or char so keep an eye on them and turn the veggies, if necessary, as they roast.

Once the bones and veggies are roasted, transfer them to a large stock pot. Don’t discard all those lovely brown bits and scrapings left in the roasting pan!  Simply add a small amount of water to the pan (or you can use a bit of red wine, if you wish), place the roaster over medium heat, and scrape those bits up and transfer them to the stockpot, too.  There is a lot of valuable flavour in those scrapings, too good to lose.

Fresh herbs can, of course, be used in this recipe but I have given amounts for dried herbs because we don’t all have access to quality fresh herbs year-round.  Even though this stock will be strained, I still like to gather up all the herbs and spices into a bouquet garni because it corrals them and keeps the stock cleaner.  To make the bouquet garni, cut an 8” square of double layer of cheesecloth, place the herbs and spices in the center, gather up the cheesecloth, and tie it with string.  Add this lovely aromatic sachet to the stock pot.  As the stock/broth simmers, it will be infused by the herbs and spices. Add the cold water, vinegar, bay leaves, and sea salt.  The vinegar will draw the gelatin, nutrients, and minerals from the bones through the slow simmering process.  Because only a small amount of vinegar is used, it will not leave a negative taste to the stock/broth.

Beef Stock/Broth
Beef Stock/Broth

Bring the ingredients almost, but not quite, to the boiling point over medium-high heat.  It’s critical that this stock NEVER boil – that will make it cloudy and the look you’re aiming for is a translucent liquid. Reduce the heat to a low simmer.  The temperature of the liquid should reach and stay around the 200°F point. A candy thermometer is useful to verify the heat from time to time as the stock/broth simmers. If the temperature of the liquid dips below 200°F, simply increase the heat just a bit to bring the temperature back up to the simmering point. If it exceeds 200°F, drop the heat back. It’s okay if you see tiny bubbles forming but they should not break the surface of the liquid. The other tip to a translucent stock/broth is not to stir it as it is simmering. This will stir everything up and can cause clouding to occur, resulting in a murky stock/broth. While a cloudy broth will not affect its flavour, a translucent broth is more eye appealing.

As the mixture is simmering, you will notice some fat from the bones rising to the surface. Periodically take a large spoon and skim this fat away and discard it.  Don’t cover the stockpot while the stock/broth is simmering as it is more difficult to keep the liquid at the simmering point if it is covered. Also, some reduction of the liquid is required in order to achieve desired flavour. If you find that too much of the stock/broth is evaporating too quickly, reduce the heat and add a bit more cold water to ensure all the ingredients are submerged in the liquid. However, be cautious about adding too much water as it will dilute the flavour of the stock/broth.

Beef Stock/Broth
Beef Stock/Broth

Once the stock/broth has simmered for 6-8 hours, remove it from the heat and strain it.  To do this, line a large colander with a double layer of damp cheesecloth. Place the colander over a clean stock pot and pour the stock/broth into the colander.  Discard the bones, vegetables, and bouquet garni.  Place the stockpot containing the strained stock/broth in a large sink filled with ice water to cool it quickly.  Skim off any further solidified fat as the stock/broth cools. If you are super particular about having a totally clear stock/broth, free of all impurities, I recommend straining it twice through a colander lined with damp cheesecloth. The stock/broth in the photos in this posting were strained once. Some tiny impurities are visible. They don’t bother me but a second straining of the stock/broth would remove them. Place the strained stock in the refrigerator to chill completely then remove any remaining solidified fat.  For more intense flavored stock/broth, it can be placed back on the stove at medium-low heat and reduced to one-half, yielding a stronger, more concentrated flavour but there will obviously be less quantity.

So, apart from the necessity to use the right ingredients in the stock/broth, the three big tips I have for making a clear, high quality stock/broth are:  1) Don’t boil it; 2) Don’t stir it; and 3) Don’t cover it while it simmers.  Basically, put the ingredients in a large stockpot, get the liquid to the simmering point and let it do its thing.

Beef Stock/Broth
Beef Stock/Broth

This stock/broth will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days or it can be frozen, at this point, in containers of desired size.  I usually freeze and label mine in different quantities based on what recipe I intend using it in. I will often freeze some stock/broth in ice cube containers and use them for flavoring dishes, like rice or steamed vegetables, where smaller amounts may be needed.  So, regardless whether the ingredients and method used in this recipe are technically a “broth” or a “stock”, I use this tasty product in any recipe calling for either beef stock or beef broth.

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Homemade Beef Stock/Broth

 Ingredients:

5 lbs meaty beef bones with marrow (shank, ribs, knuckle bones)
Olive oil
1 – 5 oz/156ml can tomato paste

2 large carrots, unpeeled and halved, cut into 3” chunks
1 large leek, light and white parts only, halved
2 parsnips, unpeeled, cut into 2” chunks
1 large onion, unpeeled, halved
11 oz rutabaga, peeled, cut into ½” slices and halved
1 head garlic (containing apx. 9-10 cloves)
3 large celery ribs (with leaves and base of stalks included), cut into 3” chunks
6 oz mushrooms, halved

1 tbsp dried parsley
1½ tsp mixed peppercorns
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried basil
6 whole allspice
4 whole cloves

12 cups cold water
1½ tbsp cider vinegar
2 bay leaves
1½ tsp fine sea salt

Method:

Preheat oven to 450°F. Grease large roasting pan.  In large bowl, toss meaty bones with olive oil to lightly coat.  Place bones in roaster and roast for 30 minutes.

Place carrots, leek, parsnips, onion, rutabaga, garlic, celery, and mushrooms in a large bowl and add enough olive oil to lightly coat.

Remove bones from oven, turn, and brush them with tomato paste.  Add the olive-oil coated vegetables to the roasting pan and return the roaster to the oven.  Roast for another 30 minutes, turning the vegetables once or twice to ensure they do not burn.  Transfer roasted bones and vegetables to a large stockpot.  Add a small amount of water (or a bit of red wine) to roasting pan, place it over medium heat, and stir scrapings left from the roasting process.  Pour into stock pot with the bones and vegetables.

Using a small 8” square of double cheese cloth, gather the herbs and spices together in the center and tie up cheesecloth to make a bouquet garni.  Drop the sachet in to the stock pot. Add the cold water, vinegar, bay leaves, and sea salt.

Bring mixture to just below the boiling point over medium high heat. DO NOT BOIL. Reduce heat to a low simmer (liquid temperature should reach and remain around the 200°F point) and let stock simmer, uncovered, for 6-8 hours. If liquid evaporates too much and too quickly, reduce the heat and add a bit more water (e.g., 1 cup or so).  Periodically, skim the fat, as it forms, from the surface of the stock as it simmers. Do not stir mixture as it simmers as this may create a cloudy stock/broth.

Prepare a large colander with a double layer of damp cheesecloth.  Place colander over large clean stock pot and pour the stock/broth mixture into the colander to strain it.  Discard bones, vegetables, and bouquet garni.  Place stockpot containing the strained stock/broth in large sink filled with ice water to cool the stock quickly.  Remove and discard any solidified fat. Place strained stock in refrigerator to chill completely then remove any remaining solidified fat from the chilled stock/broth.

Use stock/broth immediately or store, covered, in refrigerator for up to 3 days.  Alternatively, pour stock/broth into containers of desired size and freeze for future use.

Yield:  Apx. 10 cups (depending on amount of evaporation and reduction that has occurred).

NOTE:  Strained stock/broth may be reheated over medium-low heat and reduced to one-half. This will yield a stronger flavored and more concentrated product but, naturally, there will be less quantity.

Straining the stock/broth twice through a cheesecloth-lined colander will yield a clearer broth, free of any impurities.

Homemade Beef Stock (or is it Beef Broth?)

Yield: Apx. 10 cups (depending on amount of evaporation and reduction that has occurred)

Roasted bones combined with long, slow simmering yield a deep, rich flavoured beef stock/broth that has a multitude of uses.

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs meaty beef bones with marrow (shank, ribs, knuckle bones)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 – 5 oz/156ml can tomato paste
  • 2 large carrots, unpeeled and halved, cut into 3” chunks
  • 1 large leek, light and white parts only, halved
  • 2 parsnips, unpeeled, cut into 2” chunks
  • 1 large onion, unpeeled, halved
  • 11 oz rutabaga, peeled, cut into ½” slices and halved
  • 1 head garlic (containing apx. 9-10 cloves)
  • 3 large celery ribs (with leaves and head of stalks included), cut into 3” chunks
  • 6 oz mushrooms, halved
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1½ tsp mixed peppercorns
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 6 whole allspice
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 12 cups cold water
  • 1½ tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1½ tsp fine sea salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Grease large roasting pan. In large bowl, toss meaty bones with olive oil to lightly coat. Place bones in roaster and roast for 30 minutes.
  2. Place carrots, leek, parsnips, onion, rutabaga, garlic, celery, and mushrooms in a large bowl and add enough olive oil to lightly coat.
  3. Remove bones from oven, turn, and brush them with tomato paste. Add the olive-oil coated vegetables to the roasting pan and return the roaster to the oven. Roast for another 30 minutes, turning the vegetables once or twice to ensure they do not burn. Transfer roasted bones and vegetables to a large stockpot. Add a small amount of water (or a bit of red wine) to roasting pan, place it over medium heat, and stir scrapings left from the roasting process. Pour into stock pot with the bones and vegetables.
  4. Using a small 8” square of double cheese cloth, gather the herbs and spices together and tie up cheesecloth to make a bouquet garni. Drop the sachet in to the stock pot. Add the cold water, vinegar, bay leaves, and sea salt.
  5. Bring mixture to just below the boiling point over medium high heat. DO NOT BOIL. Reduce heat to a low simmer (liquid temperature should reach and remain around the 200°F point) and let stock simmer, uncovered, for 6-8 hours. If liquid evaporates too much and too quickly, reduce the heat and add a bit more water (e.g., 1 cup or so). Periodically, skim the fat, as it forms, from the surface of the stock as it simmers. Do not stir mixture as it simmers as this may create a cloudy stock/broth.
  6. Prepare a large colander with a double layer of damp cheesecloth. Place colander over large clean stock pot and pour the stock/broth mixture into the colander to strain it. Discard bones, vegetables, and bouquet garni. Place stockpot containing the strained stock/broth in large sink filled with ice water to cool the stock quickly. Remove and discard any solidified fat. Place strained stock in refrigerator to chill completely then remove any remaining solidified fat from the chilled stock/broth.
  7. Use stock/broth immediately or store, covered, in refrigerator for up to 3 days. Alternatively, pour stock/broth into containers of desired size and freeze for future use.

Notes

Strained stock/broth may be reheated over medium-low heat and reduced to one-half. This will yield a stronger flavored and more concentrated product but, naturally, there will be less quantity.

Straining the stock/broth twice through cheesecloth-lined colanders will yield a clearer broth, free of any impurities.

Be sure to read the accompanying blog post to this recipe as it contains additional information and tips on making beef stock/broth.

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Beef Broth

Rustic Apple Pie

Apple Pie
Rustic Apple Pie

There is something warm, inviting, and nostalgic about walking into a kitchen to the tantalizing scent of an apple pie baking.  In my opinion, one of the best desserts is homemade apple pie, especially when topped with a nice round scoop of high-quality vanilla ice cream!  Fall is a great time to make apple pies (and some extras for the freezer) because the apples are so fresh and there is a great selection. The house smells so divine while the apple pie bakes!

Apples
Apples

One of my favorite fall rituals is to go picking apples.  I love being out in the middle of an orchard on a crisp, sunny autumn day surrounded by trees heavy laden with gorgeous big apples.  Typically, we make the annual trek to Arlington Orchards, west of Summerside, to pick a supply of apples.  It’s fun to load up some apple baskets into one of the orchard’s little red flyer wagons and strike off through the orchards.  They have many different varieties of apples from which to choose.

The Apple Wagon
The Apple Wagon

I like making pastry and baking pies and have been doing so since I was about 11 years old.  I watched my mother and grandmother make pies and as soon as I could mix the dough and handle a rolling pin, I was off and running! And, apple pie just happens to be one of my favorites to make.

Not all apples are suitable for making pies.  Some (like MacIntosh variety) are just too soft and, essentially, become apple sauce while the pie cooks. Soft flesh apples that have no crunch when you bite into them are not suitable for pies. It is important to choose apples that have good structure – i.e., those that will cook well but, at the same time, hold their shape.  A slice of a good apple pie will reveal the apple slices still in tact and recognizable.

Apple Pie
Apple Pie

My favorite apples for pies are Cortlands, Spartans, Honeycrisps, Lobos, and Pippins. The one thing each of these apples has in common is crisp texture which makes them ideal choices for pies because they don’t break down in the baking process.  I also like to use more than one kind of apple in my pies because each brings its own flavor and characteristics and, in my opinion, a blend of different apple varieties with various degrees of sweetness, tartness, and juiciness will result in a pie with a great depth of flavor.  Cortlands are a bit tart and quite juicy and, of these five varieties, perhaps has the least crisp texture which means it will soften the most in the pie and that will help to bind the filling .  Honeycrisps have a sweet-tart flavor and are quite aromatic which gives the pie that lovely scent while it is baking.  Spartans are juicy and have an ideally balanced sweet-tart apple flavor. Lobos are a bit tangy and Pippins have juicy flesh, are very aromatic, and reveal a balance of sweetness and acidity.  A combination of any three of these apples will yield a tasty pie. Some apples of each variety can, of course, be used in the pie if you have them.

For this 9” pie, 3½ pounds of apples are needed. It may look like a lot but the apples will settle as the pie bakes and the pie looks more impressive if it has some depth to it.

Apple Pie Under Construction
Apple Pie Under Construction

I peel, core, and quarter the apples when preparing them for pies.  I then slice each quarter, horizontally, into slices about ¼” thick and toss them with a tablespoon of lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.

Apples Sliced for Pie
Apples Sliced for Pie

A perfect blend of spices is necessary to enhance the flavor of the pie.  I use cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. It is important that just the right amounts of spices be used because they are meant to enhance, not dominate or mask, the flavour of the apples.  Because apples are juicy, some thickening agent needs to be added to the pie – either all-purpose flour or cornstarch works for this. I like to use a blend of brown and granulated sugars in my pie.  I find the addition of brown sugar gives a deeper flavour and an enhanced color to the pie filling.

Apples mixed with spices for pie
Apples mixed with spices for pie

Mix the sugars, spices, a bit of salt, and the thickening agent (flour or cornstarch) together in a small bowl then toss the dry ingredients with the prepared apples to coat them.  Immediately transfer the apples to the pie plate fitted with the bottom crust pastry, ensuring that they are arranged so that any gaps are filled in.  Dot with some pieces of cold butter.

Once the top crust pastry has been placed over the apples, be sure to cut slits in the pastry to allow the steam to escape as the pie bakes. I also use the tines of a fork to prick the pie pastry in various places. It’s important that the steam have an escape valve as, otherwise, it may cause a soggy pie crust if it is trapped inside with the filling.

Venting the Apple Pie
Venting the Apple Pie

I don’t always brush an egg wash on the top crust of the pie but, for a more rustic looking pie, it does give a nice finish and appearance as it browns well.  If the pie browns too quickly before the apples are cooked, simply loosely tent a piece of tin foil over it.

I recommend placing the unbaked pie in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow the filling to settle and to chill the crust to prevent shrinkage during baking.

Fruit pies are known for bubbling out as they bake, even if they are well vented.  I think, so long as they aren’t too messy, some filling that has escaped to the top pie crust just makes the pie look like a good homemade pie and it really doesn’t bother me too much at all. However, the one thing I do not like is a messy oven to clean after the juices of a pie have boiled out. For this reason, I recommend placing the pie on a rimmed cookie sheet lined with tin foil.  If the pie does boil out, it’s on the disposable tin foil making clean-up easy.

Apple Pie Ready for the Oven
Apple Pie Ready for the Oven

For this pie, I pre-heat the oven to 425°F and bake the pie at this temperature for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 400°F for the remainder of the baking time.  Be patient. This pie will take at least 50 minutes (maybe a bit longer) to bake. To check for doneness, carefully insert a fork into the center slit of the pie – the apples should be fork tender, not baked to mush, but not too firm that they will taste somewhat raw in the pie.

Apple Pie
Rustic Apple Pie

What follows is the apple pie recipe I have been making for many, many years. I hope you enjoy it!

Apple Pie
Rustic Apple Pie

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Rustic Apple Pie

Ingredients:

3½ lbs apples, peeled, cored, and sliced ¼“ thick (any combination of Spartans, Cortlands, Pippins, Honeycrisps, Lobos)
1 tbsp lemon juice

Pastry for double crust 9” pie

2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
¼ cup all-purpose flour or cornstarch
1¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter, chopped into small pieces

1 large egg yolk + 1 tbsp milk
Apx. ½ tbsp granulated sugar

Method:

Prepare apples, place in large bowl, and toss gently with the lemon juice. Set aside.

Roll pastry for bottom crust to approximately 1/8” thickness.  Transfer to pie plate and trim pastry flush with edge of pie plate.

In small bowl, combine the flour or cornstarch, sugars, spices, and salt together.  Mix into prepared apples.

Arrange the sliced apples in the pie plate, taking care to ensure that any gaps are filled in.  Top with small pieces of butter.

Prepare pastry for the top crust in the same manner as for the bottom crust.  Brush edges of bottom crust along pie plate edge with a bit of water to moisten. Transfer pastry to the top of pie filling. Trim excess pastry from the pie plate edge.  Press the edge of the pastry all around the pie plate rim with tines of fork to adhere top crust to bottom crust.  Cut slits in top of pie pastry to allow steam to escape as pie bakes. For additional venting, prick the pie in several places with tines of a fork.

In small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolk and milk together.  With a pastry brush, lightly brush the pie with the egg-milk mixture.  Sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Place pie in refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow filling to settle and to chill pastry to reduce shrinkage while it bakes.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Transfer pie to oven. Bake at 425°F for 10 minutes then reduce heat to 400°F. Bake for another 40 minutes then test with fork inserted into slit in center of pie to determine if apples are cooked. Apples should be fork-tender when pie is done. If not done, return pie to oven and check every 5 minutes until apples are fork tender.  If pie browns too quickly before it is cooked, loosely tent pie with tin foil.  Remove pie from oven and transfer to cooling rack.

Yield:  1 – 9” pie (apx. 6 servings)

Rustic Apple Pie

Yield: 1 - 9" double-crusted pie

A classic apple pie made with a combination of sweet and tart apples and a perfect blend of spices.

Ingredients

  • 3½ lbs apples, peeled, cored, and sliced ¼“ thick (any combination of Spartans, Cortlands, Pippins, Honeycrisps, Lobos)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Pastry for double crust 9” pie
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour or cornstarch
  • 1¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp butter, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 large egg yolk + 1 tbsp milk
  • Apx. ½ tbsp granulated sugar

Instructions

  1. Prepare apples, place in large bowl, and toss gently with the lemon juice. Set aside.
  2. Roll pastry for bottom crust to approximately 1/8” thickness. Transfer to pie plate and trim pastry flush with edge of pie plate.
  3. In small bowl, combine the flour or cornstarch, sugars, spices, and salt together. Mix into prepared apples.
  4. Arrange the sliced apples in the pie plate, taking care to ensure that any gaps are filled in. Top with small pieces of butter.
  5. Prepare pastry for the top crust in the same manner as for the bottom crust. Brush edges of bottom crust along pie plate edge with a bit of water to moisten. Transfer pastry to the top of pie filling. Trim excess pastry from the pie plate edge. Press the edge of the pastry all around the pie plate rim with tines of fork to adhere top crust to bottom crust. Cut slits in top of pie pastry to allow steam to escape as pie bakes. For additional venting, prick the pie in several places with tines of a fork.
  6. In small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolk and milk together. With a pastry brush, lightly brush the pie with the egg-milk mixture. Sprinkle with granulated sugar.
  7. Place pie in refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow filling to settle and to chill pastry to reduce shrinkage while it bakes.
  8. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  9. Transfer pie to oven. Bake at 425°F for 10 minutes then reduce heat to 400°F. Bake for another 40 minutes then test with fork inserted into slit in center of pie to determine if apples are cooked. Apples should be fork-tender when pie is done. If not done, return pie to oven and check every 5 minutes until apples are fork tender. If pie browns too quickly before it is cooked, loosely tent pie with tin foil. Remove pie from oven and transfer to cooling rack.
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Classic Apple Pie made with a combination of sweet and tart apples and a perfect blend of spices

 

 

Classic apple pie made with a combination of sweet and tart apples and a perfect blend of spices
Classic apple pie made with a combination of sweet and tart apples and a perfect blend of spices

Early Fall Bistro Style Dinner on the Front Verandah

Serving the Charcuterie-Cheese-Fruit Board Appetizer
Serving the Charcuterie-Cheese-Fruit Board Appetizer

Our fall this year has simply been fabulous. Uncharacteristically for the Island this time of the year, there have been days this fall where we were still able to dine on the front verandah and today was one of those days.  This will probably be the last “outdoors” dinner this fall. I thought you might like to take a little peek at the table.

Alfresco Dining on the Front Verandah
Alfresco Dining on the Front Verandah

Charcuterie, cheese, and fruit trays (or a combination of all three) are common for entertaining.  They are relatively quick and easy to prepare, plate well, are attractive and appetizing, and they are tasty, too.

Charcuterie, Cheese, and Fruit Starter Board
Charcuterie, Cheese, and Fruit Starter Board

These trays, or boards, can be used for a wide variety and style of events – entertaining friends at home, picnics, potlucks, and just about any kind of get-together.  You can check out a couple of picnics in which I have used combination charcuterie-cheese-fruit boards, ranging from the very simple version (click here) to the more elaborate (click here).

These kinds of boards can also be used as an appetizer or starter to a meal which is how I am using them today.  Sometimes, I’ll prepare a communal tray and set it in the middle of the table where it doubles as a centerpiece.  Other times, I’ll prepare individual boards for each guest as I have done here today.

Charcuterie, Cheese, and Fruit Boards Make Great Appetizers
Charcuterie, Cheese, and Fruit Boards Make Great Appetizers

Before I explain what is on the individual charcuterie-cheese-fruit boards, let’s construct the tablesetting design, starting with the blank canvas – the tablecloth.

Linens
Even though this table is set for a casual get-together on the front verandah, I’ve still opted to use my favorite blank canvas – the white tablecloth.  White is my “go-to” for many of my tablescapes because I like the look of clean, simple white table linen – it’s always in style and food and other elements in the setting look exceptionally good against a blank white canvas. I also think white linen lends an air of sophistication to any tablescape. The tablecloth I have used here is a vintage Irish linen cloth but any good quality white cloth or tablecloth will do…just make sure it is pressed, free of wrinkles, and doesn’t sport any stains that could suggest to guests that it has not been laundered since its last use.

White Table Linens Make the Elements of the Tablesetting Stand Out
White Table Linens Make the Elements of the Tablesetting Stand Out

I always recommend good quality dinner-size napkins be in the host’s or hostess’ linen drawer.  Just like white tablecloths, they go with anything and always look crisp and chic. I’ve kept their positioning very simple on this table, simply folding them and placing them, unobtrusively, under the forks.  This is intentional to maintain the casual ambiance of the table.

Centerpiece
I have owned the ikebana (seen in photograph below) handmade by PEI potter, Peter Jansons, of the Dunes Studio Gallery and Café in Brackley Beach for a very long time.  Peter is well-known for these ikebanas which he produces in various colors, sizes, and shapes.

Ikebana
Ikebana

Fitted with a floral frog, the ikebana is super easy to work with and an attractive contemporary-style floral arrangement is possible with any flowers and with little to no flower arranging abilities.

Contemporary Floral Design
Contemporary Floral Design

The flowers in this simple arrangement were gathered from our flower and herb beds, nothing too fussy.  There is no need to spend a fortune on flowers for centerpieces; sometimes, nothing more is needed than what can be found in one’s own backyard!

Fresh herbs, such as oregano, are great in casual floral arrangements
Fresh herbs, such as oregano, are great in casual floral arrangements

Dinnerware
For the main meal, I’m using my basic white dinnerware.  But, what I’m focusing on for this posting are the very basic, simple, small wooden breadboards for the starter course – the charcuterie/cheese boards.  Plates can, of course, be used for this part of the meal but, for presentation purposes, the wood boards lend a more casual, rustic, and interesting look to the table.  The boards I am using are inexpensive and are proportionally sized to fit within each placesetting space.

Small breadboards are ideal for individual-sized charcuterie boards
Small breadboards are ideal for individual-sized charcuterie boards

Flatware
I tend to prefer good quality basic flatware, not overdone with design.  Unless you wish to spend a lot on flatware and have multiple sets, choose a plain pattern that works equally well with casual and more formal tablesettings.

Glassware
I’ve mixed my antique water glasses with plain wine glasses.  The cut glass in the water glasses will give some sparkle to this outside tablesetting as the sun hits it.  The plain wine glasses are in keeping with the casual “bistro” style dining look I am using.  The plain wine glasses will also allow the color and clarity of the wine to show well.

Plain Wine Glasses Show Color and Clarity of Wine Best
Plain Wine Glasses Show Color and Clarity of Wine Best

Additional Accents
I have added a large water pitcher to the table. Apart from being functional, I like the design of the pitcher and it is in keeping with the casual dining look of this setting.

Starter Course
Starter Course

A box of locally-grown plums from Arlington Orchards rounds out the look of the tablesetting.  I like to include edible props in my tablescapes, especially when they are in season and are in keeping with the theme of the meal.

Plums
Plums

What’s on the Boards?
As mentioned earlier, I’ve opted to prepare separate boards for each guest in lieu of preparing one board and placing it in the middle of the table (which would also work).  The benefit of doing individual boards is that each board can be tailored to each guest’s personal food preferences or dietary needs.  For example, if one guest likes mild meats and another prefers spicier meats, their boards can be custom-prepared with that in mind.  Likewise, if someone has gluten-free requirements, there is less chance of cross-contamination if that individual’s board is prepared separately. A sign of a good host or hostess is one who is aware of guests’ dietary needs/preferences and accommodates them. This extra touch of thoughtfulness is always appreciated by guests, especially those with dietary restrictions.

Individually-prepared Charcuterie-Cheese-Fruit Boards
Individually-prepared Charcuterie-Cheese-Fruit Boards

I also think it makes each guest feel more special if they sit down at the table and have a lovely individual charcuterie/cheese board set in front of them.

Herb-infused Olive Oil
Herb-infused Olive Oil

We grow a lot of herbs and I make good use of them in multiple ways. Today, I have included them on the boards in these adorable small bottles of high quality dipping olive oil.  The herbs infuse the oil and they also add an element of interest to a simple little bottle of oil.  The small white dishes under the olive oil bottles are, of course, for the oil to allow for easy dipping of the bread.

Dill-infused Olive Oil
Dill-infused Olive Oil

I often make my baguettes in small individual sizes because they are perfect for these types of occasions.  In keeping with the rustic look, I’ve wrapped the small baguettes in pieces of jute tied with chives  and garnished with a fresh sprig of thyme. They dress up the boards!

Individual-sized Baguettes
Individual-sized Baguettes

I have opted to go with two nibbling cheeses – a good quality Havarti and a really interesting mosaic-patterned cheddar from  Ireland.  I always try to find at least one kind of unique cheese to include on my boards and this gourmet white cheddar cheese produced by Cahill’s Farm in Limerick certainly creates a statement on the board. This is a mild cheese made with Guinness-brewer porter and covered with a brown wax coating.

Cahill's Irish Porter Cheddar Cheese
Cahill’s Irish Porter Cheddar Cheese

The choice of meats for the board does not have to be exclusive.  Local delicatessens offer lots of options in this regard.  Generally, for these boards used as appetizers, include two to three kinds of meats.

Tasty Appetizer Board
Tasty Appetizer Board

Everything is in the details.  Adding a few almonds add variety, interest, color, and texture to the boards.

Colors and Textures of a Charcuterie Board
Colors and Textures of a Charcuterie Board

The black cherries contribute color and shape to the board and are a great way to finish off the starter course.

Black Cherries
Black Cherries

Wine
My wine selection for this course of the meal comes from Wheatley River, PEI.  A new meadery opened in PEI in summer 2017 and it produces several kinds of mead made with fermented honey.  You can click here to read my story on this new meadery.

Wildflower Mead from The Island Honey Wine Company in PEI
Wildflower Mead from The Island Honey Wine Company in PEI

I have chosen to pair the Island Honey Wine Company’s Wildflower Honey Mead with this starter course.

Wildflower Honey Mead
Wildflower Honey Mead

So, there you have it!  Stylish little boards that make a great starter course and are sure to be conversation pieces to the start of a leisurely bistro-style dinner. Bon Appétit!

Serving Appetizers
Serving Appetizers
Dinner on the Front Verandah

 

An Acadian Lobster Feast

At the PEI Fall Flavours 2017 event, "Le Festin acadien avec homard"
At the PEI Fall Flavours 2017 event, “Le Festin acadien avec homard”

If there is one consolation to summer’s end on PEI, it’s the anticipation that September brings the annual PEI Fall Flavours Festival. The Island’s emerging culinary scene with all its fine foods is showcased each September in an array of culinary events that comprise the festival. What started out in 2008 as a small 10-day festival consisting of a few culinary events aiming to extend the Island’s short tourism season into September, the festival has grown into a full month-long feast extravaganza.

Potato Harvesting in PEI
Potato Harvesting in PEI

September is the perfect month for a PEI food festival as the produce is at its prime, potato harvesting is getting underway, and the fall lobster season is open in certain zones around the Island. We are lucky here in PEI – we have a wonderful array of fresh local foods from the land and sea and the festival is a great celebration of our love of local foods.  Culinary events are spread out in communities across the Island and each tends to highlight foods that come from a particular area and/or that are associated with a certain region’s culture.

The “Festin acadien avec homard” (or lobster feast) at Abram-Village, west of Summerside, is always the first PEI Fall Flavours Festival culinary event of the season and it signals a tasty month ahead. Tickets for this event sell out weeks in advance and it is one Fall Flavours event that is certain to draw a lot of Islanders to the Evangeline area. In some respects, it’s almost like a homecoming weekend as family members travel home to the Island’s Evangeline region for the annual Evangeline Agricultural Exhibition & Acadian Festival.  There is no better way to learn, first hand, about the culture of a region than to partake of the regional foods and entertainment.  “Le Festin acadien avec homard scores high points on both counts.

This year marked the second year that I attended this event – that’s testament to how much I enjoyed it the first time!  While the menu remained almost identical to the previous year, what changed was the entertainment and the headline celebrity chef who, in 2017, was Chef Danny Smiles, Chef de cuisine at Restaurant Le Bremner in Old Montreal. This was Chef Smiles’ debut at the PEI Fall Flavours Festival.

Chef Danny Smiles at the PEI Fall Flavours "Le Festin acadien avec homard" event 2017
Chef Danny Smiles at the PEI Fall Flavours “Le Festin acadien avec homard” event 2017

The lively musical entertainment was provided by Vishten, a trio of talented musicians (two from PEI and one from the Magdalen Islands).  Rooted in traditional music from the two east coast islands, their indie-folk style fuses Acadian and Celtic genres and motivates foot stomping and hand clapping.  The performers are multi instrumentalists and they easily transition between various musical instruments that include violin, guitar, accordian, and keyboard.  The trio tours and performs internationally and has five albums and more than 1000 performances to their credit.

Vishten entertaining at the PEI Fall Flavours "Le Festin acadien avec homard" event 2017
Vishten entertaining at the PEI Fall Flavours “Le Festin acadien avec homard” event 2017

The “Festin acadien avec homard” event has been running for several years and organizers have it well organized and they are very efficient in carrying it out.  MC Georges Arsenault is a very capable and effective Master of Ceremonies.

Georges Arsenault, Master of Ceremonies at the PEI Fall Flavours "Le Festin acadien avec homard" event 2017
Georges Arsenault, Master of Ceremonies at the PEI Fall Flavours “Le Festin acadien avec homard” event 2017

Georges had lots of fun in store for the evening that included a demonstration of different ways that lobster can be cracked and eaten.

Chef Danny Smiles Demonstrates How He Opens A Lobster
Chef Danny Smiles Demonstrates How He Opens A Lobster

Georges selected a young person from the audience who had never cracked open a lobster before, celebrity chef Danny Smiles, and Odette Gallant from the Evangeline area who has been cracking open lobster with her teeth all of her life – yes, her teeth!  I wondered how many sets of teeth she might have gone through because those lobster shells are hard!

Using Teeth to Crack Open a Lobster
Using Teeth to Crack Open a Lobster
Young Man Gets Some Professional Instruction from Chef Danny Smiles on How to Crack Open A Lobster
Young Man Gets Some Professional Instruction from Chef Danny Smiles on How to Crack Open A Lobster

Georges also had audience participation on stage as a member of Vishten taught Chef Danny and others how to step dance.

Stepdancing Lessons at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)
Stepdancing Lessons at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)

All of this entertainment took place in between courses of the meal.  Oh yes, the menu……

As this event took place in the region of the province that has a high concentration of the Island’s Acadian population, it is obvious that the evening’s menu would focus on Acadian fare along with lobster and potato salad since the region is known for its farming and fishing industries.

Serving up Steamed PEI Mussels at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)
Serving up Steamed PEI Mussels at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)

Like many PEI gatherings, the evening started off with steamed PEI mussels.  Patrons were then invited to sample three new soda flavors produced by Upstreet Craft Brewing in Charlottetown.

Sampling New Line of Sodas from Upstreet Craft Brewing of Charlottetown, PEI at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)
Sampling New Line of Sodas from Upstreet Craft Brewing of Charlottetown, PEI at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)

Known for their craft beer, making soda is a new venture for Upstreet.  The event proved to be a great opportunity for the brewery to showcase their new products – Strawberry Rhubarb Basil, Apple Ginger Elderflower, and Malt Spice Cola.

New Line of Sodas from Upstreet Craft Brewing of Charlottetown, PEI at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)
New Line of Sodas from Upstreet Craft Brewing of Charlottetown, PEI at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)

Dinner was served, family style, at long communal tables.  Servers, garbed in traditional Acadian dress, brought bowls or platters of food to both ends of the table and the food was then passed from one diner to the next with each person serving him or herself.

Serving Chicken Fricot at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)
Serving Chicken Fricot at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)

The first course was Chicken Fricot, a traditional Acadian broth stew made primarily of chicken, onion, and potato and seasoned with summer savory.

Chicken Fricot
Chicken Fricot

Every time I have a bowl of this stew, I’m always amazed at how tasty it is given that so few ingredients are in it.  I maintain it’s the summer savory herb that makes this dish.  Summer savory is used a lot on PEI and most Island cooks add it to their poultry dressing/stuffing.

Chicken Fricot
Chicken Fricot

This was followed by the second course comprised of Râpure and Acadian Meat Pie.

Acadian Meat Pie (left) and Rapure (right)
Acadian Meat Pie (left) and Rapure (right)

Some may know the grated potato dish, râpure as “rappie pie”, a name that stems from the French verb “râper” which means “to grate”. The grated potatoes are squeezed through cheesecloth to remove the liquid which is then replaced by adding broth (usually chicken) and baking it, casserole style, with onion, and cooked meat such as chicken or pork. The end result is a hearty and tasty dish.

Acadian Rapure
Acadian Rapure

The second course also included Acadian meat pie or, pâté, as it is sometimes called.

Acadian Meat Pie
Acadian Meat Pie

This is a very common dish in Acadian communities and is an integral part of Christmas Eve celebrations in many Acadian homes on PEI, though it is now commonly served at other times of the year as well.  Molasses is often drizzled on top of the meat pie to add a touch of sweetness to this savory dish.

Acadian Meat Pie with Molasses
Acadian Meat Pie with Molasses

Our server, Velma Durant, was very pleasant and most accommodating to me with my camera clicking away throughout the evening!

Server Arrives at Table with Platter of PEI Lobster (at the Le Festin acadien avec homard event, PEI Fall Flavours Festival 2017)
Server Arrives at Table with Platter of PEI Lobster (at the Le Festin acadien avec homard event, PEI Fall Flavours Festival 2017)

Then, of course, it was time for the pièce d’résistance – PEI lobster in the shell served with true, authentic homemade PEI potato salad – these folks know how to make a perfect potato salad!

PEI Lobster served with homemade Potato Salad (at the Le Festin acadien avec homard event, PEI Fall Flavours Festival 2017)
PEI Lobster served with homemade Potato Salad (at the Le Festin acadien avec homard event, PEI Fall Flavours Festival 2017)

It just would not be a PEI lobster feed without the potato salad!

PEI Potato Salad
PEI Potato Salad

French biscuits were on the table, too, with that good ADL butter!

French Biscuits
French Biscuits

And, for those who still had room, homemade apple pie polished off the evening’s menu.

Apple Pie
Apple Pie

One thing is for sure, no one would have gone away hungry after this mammoth meal!

For stories on other PEI Fall Flavours culinary events I’ve attended, click on the links below:

PEI Shellfish Festival (2012)
Farm Day in the City (2012)
Savour Victoria (2012)
Toes, Taps, and Taters (2013)
Lobster Party on the Beach (2013)
Applelicious (2013)
The Great Island Grilled Cheese Challenge (2013)
Feast of the Fathers (2014)
Lamb Luau at Crowbush Cove (2014)
Feast and Frolic Dinner (PEI International Shellfish Festival) (2014)
Beef and Blues (2014)
A Taste of New Glasgow (2015)
Beef ‘n Blues (2015)
Chef on Board (2015)
Cooking with Chefs Anna & Michael Olson in Brudenell, PEI (2015)
Le Festin acadien avec homard/Acadian Feast with Lobster (2016)
The Great Big Barbeque (2016)
Mussels on the Hill (2016)
Toes, Taps, & Taters (2017)
Taste of Georgetown (2017)
Taste of North Rustico – A Rustico Kitchen Party (2017)
Taste of Tyne Valley (2017)

PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event "Festin acadien avec homard"

Autumn-themed Thanksgiving Tablesetting

Thanksgiving has a way of creeping up on me before I am ready for it!  The fall is such a busy season for me and there is always lots to do.

This year, I cooked the full turkey dinner. It’s a lot of work but nothing beats a home-cooked turkey dinner and the best part…..there are leftovers!

Roast Turkey
Roast Turkey

The color theme for my tablesetting was orange. The table linen is a soft white which really allows the charger plates and other elements of this tablesetting to stand out.

Thanksgiving Tablesetting
Thanksgiving Tablesetting

I found these lovely burnt orange charger plates with a leaf motif on them. I will use these right through the autumn season, not just for Thanksgiving dinner.

Charger Plates
Fall-themed Charger Plates

I have had the leaf-designed napkin rings for awhile and the pumpkin-themed napkins pair well with them.

Pumpkin-themed Napkins
Pumpkin-themed Napkins

The centerpiece is really nothing more than herbs from our garden and some leaves picked from nearby ditches. My mother has some bayberry bushes on her property so bay leaves form the base of the centerpiece. I also added some oregano and sage which both smell wonderful and then some bright yellow frothy dill for pops of color.  The centerpiece cost me nothing and only took very few minutes to pull together.

Nature's Centerpiece
Nature’s Centerpiece

I have added in some little votives wrapped in birch bark to keep the natural look flowing.

Votives
Candlelight

Some small pumpkin-shaped gourds tucked in around the centerpiece give an authentic Thanksgiving look to the table.

Autumnal Colors
Autumnal Colors
The Thanksgiving Tablesetting
The Thanksgiving Tablesetting

I tend to use a lot of heavier cut glass in autumn – the candlelight picks up the cuts in the glass and makes them quite enchanting.

Glassware
Glassware

The placesetting is quite simple.  I was setting a rather small table and, with the centerpiece, there was no extra room on the table. I wasn’t serving either a salad or soup course so there was no need for extra cutlery.  The dessert fork and spoon were brought to the table when the dinner plates were cleared and dessert served. If there is room, I often include them at the top of the plates but this setting didn’t permit the space.

Place Setting
Place Setting
Candlelight
Candlelight

I like to present the turkey, dressed, on a large platter.  Sometimes, I use it as the table centerpiece and, other times, I have it placed on a sideboard in the dining room.

The Thanksgiving Turkey
The Thanksgiving Turkey

To “dress” this turkey for dinner, I have opted to go with a seasonal red-green-yellow theme, choosing corn on the cob, cranberries, and  rosemary and bay leaves along with some whole chestnuts.

Turkey Styling
Turkey Styling
Turkey Dressed in Style for Dinner!
Turkey Dressed in Style for Dinner!

I mixed some finely chopped fresh herbs with melted butter and basted the turkey with this mixture – I like the black-specks on the turkey! I think it gives the bird some character!

Herb-Basted Roast Turkey
Herb-Basted Roast Turkey
Roast Turkey Dinner
Roast Turkey Dinner

It is not necessary, of course, to “dress” the turkey for table presentation.  The turkey can, instead, be carved in the kitchen out of sight of the guests and brought to the table.  I always like to see it nicely carved and presented on a meat platter.

Carved Turkey
Carved Turkey

Make the platter look more attractive by inserting a few fresh herbs, here and there, to fill in any open spaces and to give definition to the platter.

Plated Carved Turkey
Plated Carved Turkey

To view other Thanksgiving tablesettings from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the following links:

Thanksgiving Tablescape
Thanksgiving Tablesetting
Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Tablesetting

A Taste of Tyne Valley, PEI

The month-long PEI Fall Flavours Festival, held annually each September, offers visitors the opportunity to delve into local culture in a unique and tasty way through attending culinary events at various locales across the Island. Originally started as a 10-day festival that could extend PEI’s short tourism season into September, the Festival has grown into a full month of a wide variety of culinary events for every taste.  A popular Festival with foodies, visitors travel great distances and several return each year especially for the Festival.  Now in its 10th year, the Festival puts local food at the forefront of the visitor experience and, in so doing, also builds and strengthens collaboration between food producers, chefs, restauranteurs, local communities and, more broadly, the Island tourism industry.

The PEI Fall Flavours introduced three new culinary events in 2017 – Taste of Georgetown, Taste of North Rustico, and Taste of Tyne Valley. With a view to getting visitors out in to the more rural areas of the province closer to the local food sources, visitors were drawn to experience the different regions of PEI and they also had the chance to connect more directly with food producers and local chefs.

Jeff Noye, Valley Pearl Oysters, Tyne Valley, PEI
Jeff Noye, Valley Pearl Oysters, Tyne Valley, PEI

A growing trend amongst the foodie tourist population is the interest in incorporating good local cuisine and culinary experiences into their travel adventures.  The evolution of food and drink festivals are a driving influence in the culinary tourism aspect of vacation travel. While products like PEI oysters, for example, are shipped all over the world where anyone can have access to them, those consumers will not have the full cultural experience that they can get from eating oysters at a PEI Fall Flavours event. Such events allow consumers to interact directly with the oyster grower who farms the product just up the road and who is the one actually shucking and presenting the oysters right before event attendees. And, of course, it goes without saying that the closer you taste the food to its origins, the fresher and better its taste and the more personal connection you have with the food.

For those who want to experience authentic local culture, there is no better way than to attend a culinary festival, like the PEI Fall Flavours Festival, where regional fare can be sampled and local hospitality and music enjoyed.  These three components are the essential ingredients of a true local food and culture experience of a place.

Island Blue Mussels at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Island Blue Mussels at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

This was none more evident than with the recent “Taste of Tyne Valley” culinary event.  This event was also a community-building activity for the Tyne Valley community, located about 20 minutes west of the City of Summerside.  Local food producers and the three restaurants in the heart of Tyne Valley worked collaboratively to provide event goers with an authentic food experience complemented by West Prince hospitality. When we speak of authenticity in terms of food, we are talking about a food trend that involves local fresh food that is simple, natural, and has roots and history in an area. So, when we think of the Tyne Valley and surrounding environs, in particular, we think of local foods with a long history in the area – foods such as oysters, mussels, beef, potatoes, and wild blueberries, all of which were included on the event’s menu.

Tyne Valley, PEI
Tyne Valley, PEI

Organizers report that 110 people attended the Tyne Valley event and, for the first time that I’ve attended a Fall Flavours event, I think the locals may have outnumbered the tourists! When a tablemate, a resident of Tyne Valley, was asked what the population was, she looked around then, with a smile, jokingly said “they’re all here tonight…, well, at least 80% of them”! There were certainly some off-Island visitors at the event, too, and they got to mix and mingle with the locals while enjoying some fine Island foods.

Site of "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Site of “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

The evening began with a gathering hour in a large tent where Valley Pearl Oysters served up steamed mussels and raw oysters.

Shucking Oysters at "Taste of Tyne Valley" Event 2017
Shucking Oysters at “Taste of Tyne Valley” Event 2017

The mussels were steamed just outside the tent and the oysters were shucked by the oyster growers as people passed through the line. The food just doesn’t get any fresher than that!

Damien Enman Prepares to Steam PEI Blue Mussels at "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Damien Enman Prepares to Steam PEI Blue Mussels at “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
PEI Oysters
PEI Oysters

Mussels and oysters are popular PEI foods so there was always a steady line-up for them.

Serving up Island Blue Mussels at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Serving up Island Blue Mussels at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Island Blue Mussels at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Island Blue Mussels at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

Because food and music are a common combo at PEI gatherings, local music also plays a part in virtually every Fall Flavours Festival event.  During the gathering hour in Tyne Valley, visitors were treated to music provided by local area musicians, Spencer Phillips and Ellen MacQuillan.

PEI Musicians, Spencer Phillips and Ellen MacQuillan, Entertain at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
PEI Musicians, Spencer Phillips and Ellen MacQuillan, Entertain at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

The format of this event was part roving feast and part sit-down table service meal.  The center of Tyne Valley has three restaurants, all located in close proximity to each other.  After enjoying the mussels and oysters, patrons took their appetizer “passports” and began the short stroll to the three participating restaurants – Backwoods Burger, Dillon’s, and Tyne Valley Tea and Company.

"Passport" to Appetizers at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
“Passport” to Appetizers at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

The benefit of involving three local restaurants and having event attendees visit each one to sample an appetizer is that it exposed the restaurants to visitors who, if visiting the area, might otherwise have chosen only one restaurant at which to dine. Diners could choose the order in which they visited the restaurants.

Backwoods Burger Restaurant, Tyne Valley, PEI
Backwoods Burger Restaurant, Tyne Valley, PEI
Backwoods Burger, Tyne Valley, PEI
Backwoods Burger, Tyne Valley, PEI

Backwoods Burger (which always reminds me of an English pub), pictured above,  served a slice of their delectable potato and bacon pie which was beautifully presented.

Potato and Bacon Pie from Backwoods Burger, Tyne Valley, PEI
Potato and Bacon Pie from Backwoods Burger, Tyne Valley, PEI

Layers of PEI potatoes are the main ingredient in this delectable pie.

Potato and Bacon Pie from Backwoods Burger, Tyne Valley, PEI
Potato and Bacon Pie from Backwoods Burger, Tyne Valley, PEI
Dillion's Convenience Store and Pizzaria, Tyne Valley, PEI
Dillon’s Convenience Store and Pizzaria, Tyne Valley, PEI

Dillon’s (seen in photo above), a local pizzeria, served the perennial favorite appetizer of bacon wrapped scallops which they served on a bed of greens.

Bacon-wrapped Scallops from Dillion's Pizzaria, Tyne Valley, PEI
Bacon-wrapped Scallops from Dillion’s Pizzaria, Tyne Valley, PEI

Dillon’s also served a choice of wine or punch with their appetizer.

Dillion's Pizzaria, Tyne Valley, PEI
Dillon’s Pizzaria, Tyne Valley, PEI
Dillon's Pizzaria, Tyne Valley, PEI
Dillon’s Pizzaria, Tyne Valley, PEI

The Tyne Valley Tea and Company, a small tea room that opened in 2016, served an Asian-inspired appetizer nestled in a Wonton dish.

Tyne Valley Tea and Company, Tyne Valley, PEI
Tyne Valley Tea and Company, Tyne Valley, PEI

This colorful appetizer featured carrots, garlic, and green onions with a cucumber sweet chili sauce, with many of the ingredients sourced locally from the gardens of the nearby Doctor’s Inn.

Aisan-inspired Appetizer from the Tyne Valley Tea and Company ("Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event)
Aisan-inspired Appetizer from the Tyne Valley Tea and Company (“Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event)

Once everyone had made their way back to the tent, dinner service began, family style, at the long communal tables.

At the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
At the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
At the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
At the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Party Favour - Silicon Tea Strainer (At the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event)
Party Favour – Silicon Tea Strainer (At the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event)

The main meal was prepared by guest Chef Jesse Vergen who is chef/co-owner of Saint John Alehouse and owner of Smoking Pig BBQ, both in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Jeff Noye, MC (left) introduces Guest Chef, Jesse Verden, at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Event MC Jeff Noye (left) introduces Guest Chef, Jesse Verden,(right) at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

A Top Chef Canada All Star, Chef Jesse is no stranger to culinary challenges and, as he puts it, curve ball competitions; in fact, he’ll tell you he thrives on them.  With no existing or mobile kitchen onsite from which to serve 110 meals, Chef Jesse, in his words, was “rocking it out” from the back door of the little pizzeria and convenience store next to the event location!  This is where I caught up with him putting the final touches on the main meal.

Chef Jesse Vergen at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Chef Jesse Vergen at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Chef Jesse Verden Prepares the Main Meal at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Chef Jesse Verden Prepares the Main Meal at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
At the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
At the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

Bowls of PEI rustic potato salad and heirloom tomato salad arrived at the table.

Potato Salad at "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Potato Salad at “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

 

Heirloom Tomato Salad at "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Heirloom Tomato Salad at “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

This was followed by large trays bearing the sliced brisket in the center surrounded by large clam shells filled with mushroom purée, butter-poached bar clams, and stout mayonnaise. These were broiled in the local pizzeria’s pizza oven and were, as Chef Jesse says, “a take on a classic Coquilles Saint Jacques but with a Tyne Valley twist”.

Beef Brisket
Beef Brisket

The brisket had been smoked slowly for 14 hours in a traditional barbeque pit with applewood and Chef Jesse says this long slow cooking process turned the meat into a melt-in-your mouth-like-butter texture.

Trays of Beef Brisket
Trays of Beef Brisket

Many hands make light work! Great motion and energy in the photo below!

Guest Chef, Jesse Verden, and Local Volunteers Prepare the Main Meal at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Guest Chef, Jesse Verden, and Local Volunteers Prepare the Main Meal at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

As dessert was arriving, the energetic Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys band took to the stage providing lively toe-tapping music.

Island Fiddler, Gordie MacKeeman Performing at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Island Fiddler, Gordie MacKeeman Performing at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

This award-winning band has toured extensively, nationally and internationally. Members of the band are Gordie MacKeeman, Peter Cann, Thomas Webb, and Jason Burbine.

Island Musicians Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys Band Performing at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Island Musicians Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys Band Performing at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

Dessert was prepared in the small kitchen of the Tyne Valley Tea and Company just across the road from the event location.  Served in the trendy mason jars, this tasty creation was a take on the traditional English Eton Mess dessert.

Blueberry Dessert at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Blueberry Dessert at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

The layered dessert featured Lennox Island blueberries, along with crumbled meringues and scones, all topped with Earl Grey-infused whipped cream. A small ginger cookie, shaped like a teapot, garnished the dessert.

There is no doubt this was a community-building event for the Tyne Valley area and the passion of the local people, restaurant owners, and others who participated, was evident.  Carol Rybinski, owner of the Tyne Valley Tea and Company says the PEI Fall Flavours concept was “right up our alley – locally-sourced dishes and a shared community experience”. 

…the PEI Fall Flavours concept was “right up our alley – locally-sourced dishes and a shared community experience” -Carol Rybinski 

Chef Jesse concurs, saying he was impressed with the event and community collaboration to pull it off.  He says he considers it an honour to have been asked to participate in the Tyne Valley event. One thing is certain – there was lots of fun and laughter to go along with all that fresh local food!

For the entire month of September, visitors to the PEI Fall Flavours Festival can take advantage of all that this amazing small Island on Canada’s east coast has to offer – sample locally-sourced fresh food prepared by talented chefs, listen to lively local music, mix and mingle with the locals, and discover beautiful vistas from one end of PEI to the other. If you’re a true foodie, there is no better time to visit PEI than in the month of September which is filled with dozens of different culinary events offering something for every taste.  PEI has earned a reputation for excellence in food production and is now seen as an authentic food destination. There is a reason why PEI is known as Canada’s Food Island and events like “Taste of Georgetown”, “Taste of North Rustico”, and “Taste of Tyne Valley” prove it.

To read stories about other PEI Fall Flavours events I have attended, click on the links below:

PEI Shellfish Festival (2012)
Farm Day in the City (2012)
Savour Victoria (2012)
Toes, Taps, and Taters (2013)
Lobster Party on the Beach (2013)
Applelicious (2013)
The Great Island Grilled Cheese Challenge (2013)
Feast of the Fathers (2014)
Lamb Luau at Crowbush Cove (2014)
Feast and Frolic Dinner (PEI International Shellfish Festival) (2014)
Beef and Blues (2014)
A Taste of New Glasgow (2015)
Beef ‘n Blues (2015)
Chef on Board (2015)
Cooking with Chefs Anna & Michael Olson in Brudenell, PEI (2015)
Le Festin acadien avec homard/Acadian Feast with Lobster (2016)
The Great Big Barbeque (2016)
Mussels on the Hill (2016)
Toes, Taps, & Taters (2017)
Taste of Georgetown (2017)
Taste of North Rustico – A Rustico Kitchen Party (2017)

Taste of Tyne Valley

Taste of Tyne Valley

Taste of North Rustico, PEI – A Rustico Kitchen Party

North Rustico Harbour, PEI
North Rustico Harbour, PEI

Culinary tourism is a steadily growing part of the whole worldwide tourism industry. This has evolved because today’s foodie tourists want to learn more about their chosen vacation destination through experiencing the local food, drink, and culture. Culinary Festivals are quite common in many regions around the world and are a great way for tourists to experience the local cuisine that reflects the authenticity of a destination.  Tourists who seek culinary experiences and adventures are typically looking for food that is simple and rooted with a history in the local area as opposed to gourmet fare that may, or may not, reflect a particular geographic area.

Each year, in September, PEI celebrates its authentic local foods by hosting the PEI Fall Flavours Festival. In 2017, the Festival celebrated 10 years of great gastronomic events. What started as a short 10-day festival to extend the Island tourism shoulder season has now morphed into a full month of culinary events, big and small, that feature PEI’s finest foods….and we certainly are privileged to enjoy an abundance of them.  The Festival lures some of Canada’s best chefs and local culinary stars and these, along with the great PEI food, music, and hospitality, draw thousands of visitors to the Island each September. Many take in three or four of the Fall Flavours culinary events and several return year after year, specifically planning their vacations around the Festival.

In 2017, the Festival introduced three new events – Taste of Georgetown, Taste of Tyne Valley, and Taste of North Rustico.  The idea behind these events is to get visitors out in to some of the smaller Island communities, closer to where our foods are grown, raised, fished, or produced so they can explore that region’s culture, cuisine, and heritage.  It’s also a way to engage local chefs, restaurateurs, and food producers by giving them the opportunity to showcase their products to foodies who are passionate about food and who are interested in learning more about direct food sources and methods of preparation and serving. Many of today’s foodies are looking for an experience to go along with the food.  Each of these three new events provided that experience that combined a glimpse into our local food and music cultural scene. These are the kinds of events that make for great travel memories. Are you ready to have a “Taste of North Rustico” and attend a Rustico Kitchen Party?

North Rustico, PEI
North Rustico, PEI

North Rustico, a fishing town on PEI’s north shore, is a well-known tourist destination during the summer months when the population swells.

North Rustico Beach, PEI
North Rustico Beach, PEI
North Rustico Beach, PEI
North Rustico Beach, PEI

With its beautiful sandy beach, it has long been a mecca for sunbathers as well as for artists and photographers.

Lighthouse at North Rustico, PEI
Lighthouse at North Rustico, PEI

An abundance of picture-perfect scenes abound everywhere in and around the town and it’s always fascinating to watch the fishers heading out to sea and returning with the day’s catch.

Preparing for Setting Day
Eve of Setting Day in the Fishing Village of North Rustico, PEI, Canada

And, after that perfect day of enjoying the sea, sand, and many fine attractions in the area, no doubt appetite is calling. There are a number of seasonal restaurants that operate in North Rustico and which have earned the town a deserved reputation for fine local authentic food, some of which would have been fished earlier in the day and brought to shore by one of the many local fishing boats. North Rustico has long been known, both by Islanders and tourists alike, as a good place to get a great meal. Therefore, it was a very fitting location to host a PEI Fall Flavours culinary event.

Fishing Boats at North Rustico Harbour, PEI
North Rustico Harbour, PEI

With the scenic backdrop of the fishing boats in North Rustico Harbour, the “Taste of North Rustico” event offered tastings from several local restaurants and nearby local food producers and it served up a real old-fashioned kitchen style party complete with local music. A “Taste of North Rustico” proved to be a celebration of the rich culture, authentic food, and heritage of the scenic and bountiful north shore of PEI.

Site of "Taste of North Rustico" PEI Fall Flavours Event
Site of “Taste of North Rustico” PEI Fall Flavours Event
Site of "Taste of North Rustico" PEI Fall Flavours Event
Site of “Taste of North Rustico” PEI Fall Flavours Event

A large tent was erected in a parking lot just beside the harbour and as folks made their way to the tent, their appetites were tantalized by the scent of Island beef and pork sausages cooking over an open fire.

Grilling over a Wood Fire - "Taste of North Rustico" 2017
Grilling over a Wood Fire – “Taste of North Rustico” 2017

Inside the tent, a stage was set up surrounded by numerous round tables.

Tables at Taste of North Rustico Event 2017
Tables at Taste of North Rustico Event 2017

At each place setting, a set of wooden spoons was included as a take-home memento of the evening. These were also put to good use later in the evening to keep time to the lively music.

Taste of North Rustico 2017
Taste of North Rustico 2017

Designed as a “roving feast”, local  chefs, restaurateurs, and food producers had their “grazing” stations set up around the perimeter of the tent where they were serving up delectable food tastings. The 125 patrons who attended were free to choose the order in which they wished to visit the various stations to sample the food options.

Mayor of North Rustico, PEI - Anne Kirk
Mayor of North Rustico, PEI – Anne Kirk

There was certainly passion and pride in place displayed by the town of North Rustico as their mayor, Anne Kirk, greeted patrons at the entrance to the tent.  She, herself, is quite entertaining and she had a lot of fun on stage with Chef Michael Smith, presenting him with bottles of her homemade pickles and beets and coaxing him to sample them to see if they’d be safe to serve to her family and friends!  I later caught her capably playing the wooden spoons to the rhythm of the music.

Chef Michael Smith with the Mayor of North Rustico, PEI - Anne Kirk ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
Chef Michael Smith with the Mayor of North Rustico, PEI – Anne Kirk (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)

This event was very well organized and I did not experience any long line-up at any of the grazing stations.

Raspberry Point Oysters ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
Raspberry Point Oysters (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)

My first stop was at the Raspberry Point Oyster station where Chef Michael Smith was busy shucking oysters.

Chef Michael Smith shucking Raspberry Point Oysters ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
Chef Michael Smith shucking Raspberry Point Oysters (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)

No matter how hard he coaxed (he tried at the Taste of Georgetown event, too), I just could not slurp a raw oyster!   For this, he denounced me for not being a “good Island girl” and, of course, I unwittingly made things worse by asking the unthinkable…”do you ever cook the oysters?”  Let’s just say we need to be thankful Chef Michael didn’t have a coronary on the spot!  I got the evil eye look and was quickly informed that one only cooks inferior quality oysters, never PEI oysters!

Chef Michael Smith shucking Raspberry Point Oysters ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
Chef Michael Smith shucking Raspberry Point Oysters (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)

But, on the upside, I gave him a good grade on his oyster shucking skills! He claims he’s shucked a few……a few thousand oysters that is!

Chef Michael Smith shucking Raspberry Point Oysters ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
Chef Michael Smith shucking Raspberry Point Oysters (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)

I then made my way over to the station of PEI Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurant where they were serving up bowls of piping hot seafood chowder made with scallops, haddock, shrimp, and lobster in a traditional rue base.

Serving up Seafood Chowder from Fisherman's Wharf ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
Serving up Seafood Chowder from Fisherman’s Wharf (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)

Perhaps you have heard of Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurant – they are famous for their traditional PEI lobster supper that also boasts a 60’ long salad bar. This is a very popular destination for many visitors to our Island.

Fisherman's Wharf Restaurant, North Rustico, PEI
Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurant, North Rustico, PEI

I also had to try one of the yummy fish tacos from their Pier 15 restaurant. Made with crispy haddock bits wrapped in corn tortillas and topped with pico de gallo, jalapeno lime slaw, and cilantro sour cream, these were a hot ticket item!

Putting the finishing touches on the Fish Taco from Pier 15 at Fisherman's Wharf ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
Putting the finishing touches on the Fish Taco from Pier 15 at Fisherman’s Wharf (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)
Fish Taco from Pier 15 at Fisherman's Wharf ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
Fish Taco from Pier 15 at Fisherman’s Wharf (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)

My next stop was at the Blue Mussel Café’s station where they were plating up their house-made charcuterie plates.

Preparing the Charcuterie Plates from Blue Mussel Café ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
Preparing the Charcuterie Plates from Blue Mussel Café (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)
House Made Charcuterie Plates from Blue Mussel Café ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
House Made Charcuterie Plates from Blue Mussel Café (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)

This was a very bountiful plate featuring roasted beet salmon gravlax, house smoked mackerel, local cheeses, apple blueberry chutney, pickled harvest vegetables, and a micro green salad.

House Made Charcuterie Plates from Blue Mussel Café ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
House Made Charcuterie Plates from Blue Mussel Café (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)

The Blue Mussel Café is a busy and popular seasonal restaurant located near the North Rustico lighthouse and close to the Rustico beach.

Blue Mussel Café, North Rustico, PEI
Blue Mussel Café, North Rustico, PEI

From there, I made my way to the Yellow House’s station.  The Yellow House is a new restaurant in North Rustico, located right by the harbour. This restaurant has drawn great reviews.

The Yellow House Restaurant, North Rustico, PEI
The Yellow House Restaurant, North Rustico, PEI

You can see why it has quickly become a popular eating spot when you check out their mussel rolls – yes, those are tasty little PEI blue mussels with fennel, orange zest, and dill in a creamy sauce on one of the Yellow House’s signature house rolls.

Mussel Rolls from the Yellow House Restaurant in North Rustico, PEI ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
Mussel Rolls from the Yellow House Restaurant in North Rustico, PEI (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)

They also served mini Acadian meat pies and smoked salmon bubble and squeak with PEI quail eggs but I wasn’t quick enough to get photos!

Jordan Liantzakis from PEI Charcuterie Prepares Trays at "Taste of North Rustico" 2017
Jordan Liantzakis from PEI Charcuterie Prepares Trays at “Taste of North Rustico” 2017

Coming from a little distance away in Westmoreland, near Crapaud, the PEI Charcuterie station was offering all kinds of their house-made charcuterie.

Tray of locally-made Charcuterie from PEI Charcuterie ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
Tray of locally-made Charcuterie from PEI Charcuterie (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)

The folks from Glasgow Glen Farm, home of fine Island-made Gouda cheese, served up a tasty potato corn soup in small mason jars accompanied by buttermilk biscuits.

Homemade Potato and Corn Soup from Glasgow Glen Farm ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
Homemade Potato and Corn Soup from Glasgow Glen Farm (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)

While folks were enjoying the roving feast of appetizers, North Rustico’s own Olivia Blacquiere provided musical entertainment.

Olivia Blacquiere Performing at "Taste of North Rustico" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Olivia Blacquiere Performing at “Taste of North Rustico” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

The main meats consisted of a wood-fired mixed grill featuring PEI beef and Heritage Breed Berkshire pork sausage served with potato bannock.

Grilling over a Wood Fire at "Taste of North Rustico" 2017
Grilling over a Wood Fire at “Taste of North Rustico” 2017

This was overseen by the event’s guest chefs Connie DeSousa (a Top Chef Canada finalist) and John Jackson, co-owners of the Charcut Roast House in Calgary, Alberta.

Guest Chefs Connie DeSousa and John Jacson, Co-owners of Charcut Roast House in Calgary, AB ("Taste of North Rustico" PEI 2017)
Guest Chefs Connie DeSousa and John Jacson, Co-owners of Charcut Roast House in Calgary, AB (“Taste of North Rustico” PEI 2017)

It took a good trailer of wood to get the grillin’ done!

Firing up the Grill at the ""Taste of North Rustico" Event
Firing up the Grill at the “”Taste of North Rustico” Event
Sample of Grilled Beef and Pork at "Taste of North Rustico" 2017
Sample of Grilled Beef and Pork at “Taste of North Rustico” 2017

Upstreet Craft Brewing representatives were on hand serving up some of their famous microbrewed beer as well as their brand new line of soda pop introduced in 2017 – they currently have three flavours available – Strawberry Rhubarb Basil, Apple Ginger Elderflower, and Malt Spice Cola.

Pouring a sample of Upstreet Brewing Company's new soda - "Taste of North Rustico" 2017
Pouring a sample of Upstreet Brewing Company’s new soda – “Taste of North Rustico” 2017

And, for anyone with room left for dessert, the Blue Mussel Café delighted palates with chocolate bourbon mascarpone tartlets while the Yellow House served mini sugar pies.

Chocolate Bourbon Mascarpone Tartlets from the Blue Mussel Café - "Taste of North Rustico" 2017
Chocolate Bourbon Mascarpone Tartlets from the Blue Mussel Café – “Taste of North Rustico” 2017
Tarte au Sucre (Sugar Pie) from The Yellow House - "Taste of North Rustico" 2017
Tarte au Sucre (Sugar Pie) from The Yellow House – “Taste of North Rustico” 2017

Chef interaction is a big part of these types of culinary events. Unlike going to a typical restaurant where patrons would rarely, if ever, see the chef who prepared their meal, these culinary events are built around connection and direct communication with the chefs.  Not only could patrons chat with the chefs at the various grazing stations but, during the evening, Chef Michael Smith hosted an engaging question and answer period with guest chefs Connie DeSouza and John Jackson.

Chef John Jackson (left), Chef Connie DeSousa (center), and Chef MIchael Smith (right) at "Taste of North Rustico" 2017
Chef John Jackson (left), Chef Connie DeSousa (center), and Chef MIchael Smith (right) at “Taste of North Rustico” 2017

Folks were invited to ask them questions and some fun was had when they were asked to tell what their most embarrassing moments were as chefs and which beef they thought was best – PEI’s or Alberta’s. For the record, they capably and diplomatically handled that question very well!

Guest Chefs John Jackson and Connie DeSousa from Charcut Roast House in Calgary, AB, at "Taste of North Rustico" PEI 2017
Guest Chefs John Jackson and Connie DeSousa from Charcut Roast House in Calgary, AB, at “Taste of North Rustico” PEI 2017

A true North Rustico Kitchen Party would not be complete without some great local music.  Brendon Peters and friends provided lively tunes mixed in with some north shore humour.  Toes were tapping, hands were clapping, and those wooden spoons were put to good use.

Brendon Peters and Friends Performing at the Taste of North Rustico Kitchen Party (PEI Fall Flavours Festival 2017)
Brendon Peters and Friends Performing at the Taste of North Rustico Kitchen Party (PEI Fall Flavours Festival 2017)

The carefully designed and executed menu for this event reflected authentic foods local to the North Rustico and surrounding areas and it capably achieved what it intended – it gave visitors a “Taste of North Rustico” foods, culture, and heritage.

The PEI Fall Flavours Festival has grown to be one of PEI’s most anticipated events that offer visitors the opportunity to discover and experience the vast spectrum of food produced on PEI as the culinary events take them right in to the heart of food source locales, like North Rustico.

As I mentioned earlier, some visitors return each year especially to attend several PEI Fall Flavours events.  In fact, four of my tablemates at this event came from Regina, SK, and two of them have come to PEI for the past 10 years that Fall Flavours has existed.  Something I have observed this year from attending several Fall Flavours events and talking with visitors is the far distance that people travel specifically for this Festival and how many of the events they attend, and how long they vacation on the Island as a result of the Festival.  PEI has now earned its reputation as a fine authentic food destination that offers world class culinary experiences and events.

So, if you’re looking for taste bud tempting travel that will allow you to experience wonderful regional food specialities, musical culture, and a chance to explore our special little corner of the world, September is a great time to visit PEI. You’ll find endless opportunities to experience authentic local culture by indulging in our many fine foods and drinks, seeing spectacular scenery, meeting friendly and hospitable Islanders, and discovering talented local musicians.

To read stories I have written about other PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival events, follow these links:

PEI Shellfish Festival (2012)
Farm Day in the City (2012)
Savour Victoria (2012)
Toes, Taps, and Taters (2013)
Lobster Party on the Beach (2013)
Applelicious (2013)
The Great Island Grilled Cheese Challenge (2013)
Feast of the Fathers (2014)
Lamb Luau at Crowbush Cove (2014)
Feast and Frolic Dinner (PEI International Shellfish Festival) (2014)
Beef and Blues (2014)
A Taste of New Glasgow (2015)
Beef ‘n Blues (2015)
Chef on Board (2015)
Cooking with Chefs Anna & Michael Olson in Brudenell, PEI (2015)
Le Festin acadien avec homard/Acadian Feast with Lobster (2016)
The Great Big Barbeque (2016)
Mussels on the Hill (2016)
Toes, Taps, & Taters (2017)
Taste of Georgetown (2017)

Homemade Cream of Celery Soup

Cream of Celery Soup
Cream of Celery Soup

Every year we try to grow two or three new vegetables in our garden.  Here, on PEI, we have a very short growing season and so, whatever we grow, must be suitable to that climate. One day, in late June, I was at John’s Greenhouses in Summerside and they had trays of very healthy looking celery starter plants.  On a lark, I bought a tray of six plants and transplanted them.  Never, in my wildest imagination, could I have contemplated how well they would grow!  With leaves on stalks intact, they grew to be 30″ tall.  The celery had a nice crisp bite to it but, seriously, how much celery could we eat raw?

Celery
Celery
Celery
Celery
Celery
Celery

I began thinking about what I could do with the celery and how I could process it into something else. Thus was born my recipe for Cream of Celery Soup which has now elevated itself to one of my favorite cream-based soups.

Cream of Celery Soup
Cream of Celery Soup

I have made and tested this recipe several times (well, you know, we did have a lot of celery in the garden!), adjusting the ingredient amounts and perfecting the method.  This process results in me publishing a recipe for a tasty soup I am delighted with.  It also enables me to share my lessons learned and tips for successfully making this soup.

Ingredients

Use the freshest celery you can find for this recipe.  Chop it finely because celery takes a long time to soften during cooking – the smaller the pieces, the faster it will cook.   I use both onions and leeks in this recipe as they each contribute their own unique flavor to the soup.  They may come from the same family but their unique flavour qualities add levels of complexity and depth to the celery soup.  Always use freshly minced garlic in this recipe – it will have more flavour than a bottled version.  Either chicken or vegetable stock may be used as a base in this soup. I typically use chicken stock.

To get that silky smooth texture for which great cream soups are known, use a combination of whole milk and cream (18% MF). Fat-reduced and skim milks do not do well in this soup. This soup can be made entirely with whole milk but using cream for a portion of the dairy content in the soup will yield a richer and smoother soup. Also, this soup will freeze well if whole milk and cream are used. In fact, I make this soup as part of my batch-cooking menu and freeze it in individual portions. It’s great for work lunches.

I add shredded cheddar cheese to this soup.  Celery and cheese have long been great partners so why not pair them in a soup.  I also add a couple of tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese to the soup as well.

I love my herb garden and make good use of it.  It’s important to choose herbs for this soup that will pair well with the other ingredients.  I have chosen dill, parsley, and either rosemary or thyme.  Only add these to the late stage reheating of the soup, after it has been puréed, and the milk and cream added.  Softer stemmed herbs such as dill and parsley tend to wilt and become discolored if they are overcooked.  While the more woody rosemary or thyme can withstand a bit more heat, I tend to add them all at the same time, near the end of the cooking process.  The amount of seasoning is always a personal preference. My strategy in herb usage is that they should enhance, not overpower, the dish.  I recommend using the amounts I have indicated in the recipe the first time you make the soup – the herb quantities indicated are considered modest amounts. Then, the next time you make the soup, adjust the quantities of the herbs according to your personal preference.

Method

Celery takes a long time to soften during cooking.  Melt the butter in the saucepan and give the celery the benefit of a head start of about 5 minutes cooking before adding the onions, leeks, potato, and garlic. Cook the vegetables until they are softened – about 15 minutes.  Then, add the thickener (regular or gluten-free flour) followed by the liquid stock (chicken or vegetable) and continue to cook the mixture for 30-35 minutes. The goal is to ensure the vegetables are thoroughly cooked and softened and that time has been allotted for the flavors to blend.

The mixture needs to be puréed until smooth, either in a blender or food processor or, alternatively, via an immersion blender.  I typically use the blender for this and I let the soup cool for about 30-40 minutes or so before putting the hot mixture into the jar of the blender.  I have learned the importance of blending part of the mixture first and then adding the remainder of the mixture while continuing to purée it as, otherwise, it is very difficult to get a  smooth soup.  Because celery has a “stringy” component to it and because, sometimes, no matter how much blending, there can always be little bits of the vegetables that have not puréed completely smooth,  I recommend straining the puréed mixture through a medium mesh wire sieve into a clean stockpot to get rid of any unpuréed residue.  This will result in a smoother textured soup.

Once the puréed mixture is transferred to a clean stock pot and the milk/cream blended in and heated, the cheeses and fresh herbs can be added.

Never boil a cream soup; instead, gently heat it just until the cheeses have melted.

Serving

This soup should be served hot.  It can be garnished with croutons, slivered almonds, croutons, fresh herbs, or a sprig of celery leaves.  Serve it in small quantities as a starter to a meal or in larger bowls as a tasty lunch or light supper. The soup is great served with homemade biscuits, rolls, or bread.

Making this cream-based soup is a great way to make use of fresh celery.

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Cream of Celery Soup
Cream of Celery Soup

Homemade Cream of Celery Soup

Ingredients:

¼ cup + 1 tbsp butter
8 oz celery, chopped fine (apx 2 cups)
2½ oz leek (white and green parts only), sliced thin (apx. 1 cup)
2 oz onion, finely chopped (apx. ½ cup)
4 oz potato, peeled and diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup flour (to make it gluten-free, use 1/3 cup of 1-to-1 gluten-free flour)

2 cups warm chicken stock
2/3 cup whole milk
2/3 cup 18% cream
Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
¾ tsp fresh dill, minced
1 tsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
¼ tsp thyme or rosemary, finely chopped

Celery leaf, croutons, or slivered almonds for garnish (optional)
Sprinkle of nutmeg for garnish (optional)

Method:

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat.  Add the celery and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to just below medium and add the leek, onion, potato, and garlic.  Cook until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes, stirring often.

Sprinkle flour onto vegetables and stir for approximately 1 minute.  Add chicken stock.  Cover. Bring to a boil.  Add the bay leaf. Cover and reduce heat to simmer and cook for 30-35 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching.  Cool for 30-40 minutes.  Remove bay leaf.  Transfer mixture to blender or food processor, starting with a good half of the mixture, puréeing, and then adding in the remainder and continuing to purée until smooth.  Strain puréed mixture through medium mesh wire sieve, into clean stock pot, to remove any bits of ingredients that have not completely puréed.

Add milk, cream, salt, and pepper to the mixture.  Heat over medium heat.  Do not boil.  Add the grated cheddar and parmesan cheeses along with the fresh herbs.  Stir until cheese melts. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with a sprig of celery leaf, croutons, or slivered almonds and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Yield:  5 cups, approximately 4-5 servings (1 to 1¼ cup/serving)

Delicious Cream of Celery Soup with layers of flavor. Perfect as a starter or for a light lunch or supper.

Homemade Cream of Celery Soup

Yield: 5 cups

Serving Size: 1 - 1 1/4 cups

Delicious homemade Cream of Celery Soup with layers of flavor. Perfect as a starter to a meal or for a light lunch or supper.

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup + 1 tbsp butter
  • 8 oz celery, chopped fine (apx 2 cups)
  • 2½ oz leek (white and green parts only), sliced thin (apx. 1 cup)
  • 2 oz onion, finely chopped (apx. ½ cup)
  • 4 oz potato, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup flour (to make it gluten-free, use 1/3 cup of 1-to-1 gluten-free flour)
  • 2 cups warm chicken stock
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 2/3 cup 18% cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¾ tsp fresh dill, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp thyme or rosemary, finely chopped
  • Celery leaf, croutons, or slivered almonds for garnish (optional)
  • Sprinkle of nutmeg for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add the celery and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to just below medium and add the leek, onion, potato, and garlic. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes, stirring often.
  2. Sprinkle flour onto vegetables and stir for approximately 1 minute. Add chicken stock. Cover. Bring to a boil. Add the bay leaf. Cover and reduce heat to simmer and cook for 30-35 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Cool for 30-40 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Transfer mixture to blender or food processor, starting with a good half of the mixture, puréeing, and then adding in the remainder and continuing to purée until smooth. Strain puréed mixture through medium mesh wire sieve, into clean stock pot, to remove any bits of ingredients that have not completely puréed.
  3. Add milk, cream, salt, and pepper to the mixture. Heat over medium heat. Do not boil. Add the grated cheddar and parmesan cheeses along with the fresh herbs. Stir until cheese melts. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with a sprig of celery leaf, croutons, or slivered almonds and a sprinkle of nutmeg.
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Cream of Celery Soup
Cream of Celery Soup