Cooking Classes


Slow Food Canada National Conference

I have been attending the Slow Food Canada National Conference in Osoyoos, British Columbia for the past two days. The meetings have been very intense, the food and wine out of this world and the camaraderie amazing.

I have had precious little time for blogging. Meetings run for 6 hours each day, then a workshop or farm tour for 2 hours and the day ends with the most wonderful local food at dinners that keep us until bedtime.

The chefs have been nothing but outstanding. They have been foraging for wild watercress, balsam root and biscuit root. Beef and pork have been brined, marinated and braised for 24 hours. Fruit compotes, sorbets and infused dressings have been prepared. Breads, loaves and puddings have been baked. I have never had so much delicious and lovingly prepared healthy food at a conference. Attention to detail has been outstanding. Everything is local, from scratch and prepared with simplicity.

This market came together just for our conference. It is off season but these wonderful farmers and artisans came out to show and sell. The amazing part was that this brought in so many people from off the street that they sold way more than they ever expected. While this was on, there was a wine tasting just inside the hotel.

Now I am off to a Food and Wine Writers' Workshop in the same valley. I have another 3 days of this wonderful food and wine. I promise to blog more details when I return home.

I purchased his wonderful locally grown and smoked chipotle peppers. They smell so good.

I also purchased canned and smoked Okanagan sockeye salmon. There is a special story to go with this product.

Foraged foods.

Can you see the snail shaped bread? Made special for Slow Food.


Rita MacNeil, A Canadian Treasure Lost

This week we lost a wonderful Canadian singer and woman. Rita McNeil passed away due to complications from surgery, so unexpectedly, at the age of 68.

She was an intensely shy woman. Her fame did not come until her 40's. She was a pioneer in the women's movement of the 70's. Nothing diminished her love of Cape Breton Island and Nova Scotia.

I regret not seeing her perform live.

I saw a young and barefoot Anne Murray at the Jubilee Concert Hall in Calgary in 1975.

In 1984 I was in the audience for K.D. Lang and the Reclines as she performed her reincarnation of Patsy Cline at the Jack Singer.

In 1985 it was Blue Rodeo in the Palliser Ballroom for $25 including beef on a bun.

All of these performances were life changing moments.

This is another wake up call for me. When I was in university we were going to go to Vegas and see Elvis. The story is the same. He died before we saw him. Now again, a great artist has left us and I have regrets that I could have seen her perform and didn't.

My condolences to her family. She was a national treasure.

Thank you to the Lyric Theatre who brings wonderful artists to our small town. So many of them have amazing talent. Hopefully I will have no more regrets.


Foraged and Local Food in Recipes

A food trend that is only going to gain momentum is the demand for local and Canadian grown and produced food. We have a bounty of good food in this country.

I have spent the past year searching out interesting locally produced food products. Today I will feature Vancouver Island sea salt, Yorkton, SK garlic and foraged wild foods from Love, SK. 

Last year I was on the Island and purchased the locally produced sea salt. Vancouver Island Salt Company (, located in the beautiful Cowichan Valley near Victoria, produces the only Canadian fleur de sel. I was curious and asked founder, owner and former chef, Andrew Shepherd, how he came up with the idea to produce sea salt. He says that it was a challenge from a friend over a cold beer. After the first batch he was hooked and he formed his company in 2010. 

Andrew is self taught and makes infused salts alongside the basic sea salt. At the moment he is perfecting a blue cheese infusion and a mandarin orange and lime salt. They rely heavily on word of mouth to sell their products. He quickly adds that 95% of the fuel used to evaporate the salt water is recycled vegetable oil.

It was recently announced that he has been chosen as one of twenty food artisans from hundreds that applied from across Canada for the Ace Artisan Incubator as seen on the Food Channel. In June they will participate in a mentorship program in Toronto. They will learn more about branding, marketing and business planning and will be honoured at a showcase. Two will be chosen for further business development. Congratulations, Andrew.

In Yorkton I met up with Anna and Darrel Schaab from The Garlic Garden ( as they were harvesting scapes. Scapes are curly shoots that grow from the garlic stalk and must be removed so the heads develop fully. They have wonderful flavour and are also used in cooking.
Schaab’s purchased a small farm but couldn’t make it work with traditional grain farming. Bob, the local garlic grower, suggested they grow garlic and he became their mentor and taught them everything they needed to know.

In the fall of 2005 they planted their first crop and the rest is history. On a typical day at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market they sell 200 lb. of garlic. In addition they produce a variety of garlic products. They primarily grow a hard neck variety called Music. I still have some in my cold room from last summer’s harvest and it is firm and fresh. 


A most unusual business is Prairie Infusions ( in Love, SK. The website says, “We specialize in the wild harvest of non-timber forest products in Saskatchewan. We forage for science, retail, industry, gastronomy, and individuals.”

As I catch up with owner and founder Elisabeth Poscher, a University of Arizona trained scientist, she is still foraging in the winter weather. What do you find in the winter? “Right now we are picking balsam poplar buds and chaga, a rare type of mushroom. Soon it will be maple and birch syrup season.”
In her own words, “I am fascinated, almost obsessed, by drylands such as the Prairies, and Saskatchewan for me was love at first sight. I've made my passion my business while at the same time making my tiny contribution to a more peaceful and healthy world.”
I am curious how she finds the mushrooms, fiddleheads and a large menu of other plants. She says that she uses flora and fungi identification literature, herbaria, libraries, maps, microscope and spore prints as research tools for her quest and she applies her training and expertise.
Fiddleheads are the unfurled fronds of the ostrich fern and get their name because they resemble the head of a fiddle. They are foraged in cool, moist forest areas during late April and May. They have a delicate green flavour and best served simply with butter or olive oil, a sprinkling of sea salt and a squeeze of lemon. Use with pastas, quiche or omelets.
They are an excellent source of beta carotene, niacin and Vitamin C and are low fat and calories.
According to Health Canada, fiddleheads must be cooked before eating. Steam or boil until crisp tender and serve hot or chill in ice water to use in salads. They can be frozen by blanching for 2 minutes, chilling and draining well before packing into freezer bags.
Several varieties of wild mushrooms are foraged. The season is late summer and early fall. Because they have a short shelf life, the mushrooms are dried. The flavour is intensified and they need to be reconstituted in liquid before using.
Vegetable Ragout            
1 small squash
carrots, sliced into rounds
shelled fresh peas
unsalted butter
thyme sprigs or dried thyme
1 bay leaf
dried wild mushrooms
reserved mushroom broth
garlic, minced  
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
There are no amounts listed. Use what you like best and for the number of people being served. Estimate 1 c. (250 mL) per person. Leftovers can be refrigerated.
Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds. Spray lightly with oil, season with sea salt and place cut side down on a baking sheet. Bake at 350F (175C) for 25 minutes or until fork tender. Set aside.
Hydrate dried mushrooms in boiling water to cover for at least 20 minutes. Reserve the flavour rich water to use in this recipe.
In a pot of salted water boil the fiddleheads until crisp tender, approximately 4 minutes if fresh or 2 minutes if frozen. Drain and add to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking, then drain on paper towels. Boil the carrots in the same manner for 3 minutes and chill.
In a large heavy skillet combine butter, shallots, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, roughly chopped mushrooms, some broth, and salt and pepper to taste and simmer the mixture, uncovered, for 5 minutes to reduce slightly if too much liquid.
Add fiddleheads, carrots, peas and more broth or water, if necessary. Simmer mixture, for 1 minute. Discard the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper.
Serve in baked squash.
Cedar Planked Steelhead Trout with Birch Syrup
cedar plank
fillet of salmon, steelhead trout or Arctic char, skin on
olive oil
birch syrup
sea salt
poplar buds or juniper berries, optional
Soak plank overnight.
Preheat oven to 425 F (215 C).  With a mortar and pestle, grind sea salt, fennel and poplar buds or juniper berries.
Pat fillet dry with paper towels. Rub with olive oil and season with salt mixture, then drizzle with birch syrup. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile preheat plank in oven until smoking hot. Brush with olive oil.
Lay marinated salmon, skin side down, on plank. Return to hot oven and bake about 10 minutes per inch or until almost cooked to medium in the thickest part. Do not overcook. It will continue to cook after removing from oven. Salmon cooked to medium is very moist, tender and full of flavour.
This can also be done on the barbecue using the same procedure. Don’t worry if your plank smoulders. The smoke will add another dimension to the flavour.

Notes on Cedar Planks
Cedar planks can be purchased at cooking stores. You can also make your own by simply cutting a piece of 2” x 8” cedar to a length that will fit in your oven or barbecue. Be sure it has not been chemically treated.
Notes on Birch Syrup
1c. (250 mL) of birch syrup requires 6.6 gal (25 L) of birch sap. It is twice as much work as making maple syrup. It is comprised of two sugars, fructose and glucose. The flavour is much less sweet than maple syrup and more like a balsamic vinegar reduction. It has many nutrients and is considered to be beneficial in the treatment of arthritis, muscular pain, hypertension, tendonitis, and an immune system support for geriatric patients.


Sea Buckthorn...A Real Super Food

Sea-buckthorn is a deciduous shrub originating in Europe and Asia. Climate and soil conditions are ideal in Saskatchewan and as a result, it is now being grown here. The berries are tightly packed around the branches and surrounded by large thorns.
I purchased these berries from Northern Vigor Berries, a Saskatchewan family business ( I spoke with owner Betty Forbes and she tells a story of her stepfather planting an orchard of these shrubs in 1998. “My stepfather is never afraid of a new venture,” says Betty, President of Northern Vigor. “When he heard about the tremendous nutritional value of sea-buckthorn, he was eager to try this new crop.” Betty and her brother, Gregory Bloodoff, have cared for the crop ever since.
According to Agriculture and Agri Food Canada ( sea-buckthorn berries are among the most nutritious and vitamin-rich fruits found in the plant kingdom. They are rich in vitamins C, E and K, carotenoids, flavonoids, antioxidants, 18 amino acids, and 24 chemical elements such as phosphorus, iron and magnesium. Oil from the seed contains unsaturated fatty acids and omega 3 and 6.
Harvesting the fruit is the biggest challenge. “The long thorns are dangerous,” Betty says. “We wear protective clothing and even the toughest gloves only last a few days.” The branches are cut and put into trucks operating at -20F (-30C). “They have to be kept really cold because of the high oil content in the berries,” Betty explains. The fruit is then taken to a facility where it is cleaned and packaged.
Finding recipes for new food products is a challenge. I have been playing in my kitchen with these berries and developing recipes. I start by cooking them in water and straining to collect the juice. The flavour of these berries reminds me of a blend of oranges and apricots with an exotic twist. I add vanilla bean to mellow out the tartness but I also see it pairing well with cardamom, almond and even chiles.
The berries will taste good in sorbets, ice cream, fools, baked goods and smoothies. The jelly is bursting with flavour.
Green Salad with Sea-Buckthorn Vinaigrette
1 c. sea-buckthorn berries 250 mL
2 tbsp. honey 30 mL
1/2 vanilla bean
2/3 c. olive oil            160 mL
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar 30 mL
1 tsp. Dijon mustard 5 mL
2 tbsp. shallots            30 mL
1/2 c. whole pecans, toasted 125 mL
1 clove garlic, minced
sea salt, to taste
mixed salad greens
feta or goat cheese
Gently simmer berries in enough water to cover. When berries have popped remove from heat. Strain through a jelly bag without squeezing the bag.  Boil the juice with honey until thickened slightly. Add a few more whole berries, scraped seeds from the vanilla bean and simmer gently. Cool.
Make the vinaigrette but adding oil, vinegar, Dijon mustard, sea buckthorn sauce, shallots and garlic to a jar with a lid. Shake to mix.
Toss salad greens, pecans and vinaigrette. Crumble cheese over the top and serve.
Sea-Buckthorn Jelly
In the recipes I found added pectin was used. A common comment is that these berries are low in natural pectin. I tried making jelly with only sugar and it worked perfectly fine. In my opinion, without scientific tests, these berries do have natural pectin but probably only if you use the whole berry including the seed inside.
sea-buckthorn berries
Put berries into a heavy bottomed pot. Add enough water to cover. Boil until berries have split open. Mash berries to break them up.
Strain in a jelly bag and save the juice. Set pulp aside for another use.
Measure juice into heavy bottomed pot and add equal amount of sugar. Boil gently until approximately 220F (104C) on a candy thermometer. Do a jelly test. If the syrup sheets off the side of a spoon, it is ready and pour into jars. If not, continue to boil until jelly stage is reached. Refrigerate or water bath process the jars until ready to use.
Sea-Buckthorn and White Chocolate Scones                                    adapted from Baking, From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
1 large egg
2/3 c. cold heavy cream 160 mL
2 c. all purpose flour 500 mL
2 tbsp. sugar 30 mL
1 tbsp. baking powder            15 mL
1/4 tsp. salt 2 mL
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled 75 mL
1/3 c. sea-buckthorn berries 80 mL
1/3 c. white baking chocolate, coarsely chopped 80 mL
Centre an oven rack and preheat to 400F (200C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Whisk egg and cream.
Mix flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Add cold butter and cut in until mixture is pebbly. Add the berries and chocolate. Toss to coat with flour.
Pour the egg mixture into dry ingredients and stir with a fork just until a dough forms. Gently knead with your hands.
Turn out the dough onto a work surface and gently knead until it holds together. Divide in half. Pat each into a rough circle, about 1 inch (5 cm) thick. Cut into 6 wedges and place on baking sheet.
Bake 18-22 minutes or until tops are golden. Cool at least 10 minutes before serving.
Duck Breast à la Sea-Buckthorn
1/4 c. sugar 60 mL
2 tbsp. water 30 mL
2 tbsp. tarragon vinegar 30 mL
1/3 c. sea-buckthorn juice 80 mL
2 tbsp. shallots, minced 30 mL
1 1/2 c. chicken stock            350 mL
4 duck breasts, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 tbsp. unsalted butter            30 mL
2 tbsp. sea-buckthorn berries 30 mL
Preheat oven to 350F (175C). Prepare juice by simmering 1/2 c. (125 mL) sea-buckthorn berries with 1/2 c. (125 mL) water. When the berries burst and are soft, strain through cheesecloth. Reserve juice for this recipe and set aside pulp for another use.
Boil sugar and water for several minutes, until the syrup caramelizes and turns golden brown. Add vinegar, shallots, and chicken stock and simmer until sauce is reduced by about half and slightly thickened. Stir in butter, juice and berries and simmer only until berries are soft. This can be made the day before and refrigerated until use.
With a sharp knife, score the skin on the duck breast in a crisscross pattern being careful not to cut through the meat. In a preheated ovenproof skillet, sear duck breasts, skin side down over medium low heat until browned and much of the fat has rendered out. Remove excess fat as necessary. Turn them and place pan in oven to cook until internal temperature reaches 145F (62C), approximately 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil to rest for 10 minutes. The duck will continue to cook and reach an internal temperature of 160F (70C).


The Daring Cooks - No Bones About It

I have always wanted to know how to bone out a chicken and voila! That is our Daring Cook's Challenge this month. I chose a duck rather than a chicken. I can see so many applications for this new skill.

Since I had no one else to feed I stuffed the legs only with a wild rice, shallot and dried apricot mixture. I saved the breasts for another recipe.

For the April Daring Cooks Challenge, Lisa from Parsley, Sage and Sweet has challenged us to debone a whole chicken, using this video by Jacques Pepin as our guide; then stuff it, tie it and roast it, to create a Chicken Ballotine.

Jacques Pepin's video is so helpful. You can learn the entire process by watching him a few times.


Casual Friday - Trofie al Pesto

I like fresh ingredients but I prefer them in season. We seem to have a penchant for fresh food regardless if it is in season. I remember being in Florence and ordered a pizza al funghi. It was winter and obviously wild mushrooms were not being harvested. They had no qualms about using the dried version. So I say, if it is good enough in Italy it is good enough for me on the prairies.

This ramble is to introduce the pesto. Fresh basil is terribly expensive and shipped from afar at this time of year. An ideal way to preserve basil is in a pesto. I don't use it often enough. These interesting little pasta bits gave me the push I needed to use pesto.

I rarely eat only pasta these days. Too many calories! No fibre! No protein! But these carbs are sometimes so satisfying. I live in a small prairie city so when I get to a bigger city I always visit the Italian store. I buy things I cannot get at home. Finally I opened this package of trofie. This is a Ligurian pasta that is traditionally dressed with pesto. Top with freshly grated parmesan.


Braised Lamb Ribs with Hoisin Sauce and Small Town Living

When I left the big city four years ago I wondered if I could live in a small prairie city. We don't have a top 40 radio station. All the tunes I bopped to as a teen are still being played and it feels totally retro. Restaurants still serve open faced turkey sandwiches on white bread with gravy,  jello or ice cream for dessert. I can leave my bedroom window open at night for fresh air. I am not driving around town noticing vehicles with side windows smashed. There are no street corner drug deals. I can buy excellent local lamb albeit I have to buy the whole animal. It is never sold by the cut at the butcher shop. Go figure? I have purchased two lambs since I moved here from two different farmers. Both lambs were delicious.

Opening a package from my freezer often is like opening a mystery bag from the dollar store that  people buy for ridiculous prices. I have never figured out that mystery bag thing. Why would I part with $5 or $10 for a bag of I Don't Know What? You don't have mystery bags in your stores? Earlier this week I opened a package from my freezer labelled shoulder roast to make Lamb Biryani. They were ribs. Actually ribs were attached to my shoulder roast. I had to think about that for awhile. Ribs, shoulders? Are they attached? Obviously. Were those some ribs from my rack?

I detached them and put the ribs away to cook separately. Now I am pondering the feasibility of having the whole butchered carcass delivered and I will learn how to cut it myself. I haven't had a good rack of lamb yet and I so crave it. Or perhaps they can deliver the front half whole for me to cut and cut the back half only? I don't even know if I am joking or serious. I love the flavour of my local lamb but I just wish the butchers would forget beef when they cut lamb. It is so different really.

Today is the day to cook my little slab of lamb ribs. This recipe would be great in a slow cooker. Sear the ribs before adding to the cooker along with all the other ingredients. I am making them stovetop because I don't want to heat the oven for a puny little slab of ribs.

Braised Lamb Ribs with Hoisin Sauce

lamb ribs
olive oil
salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 c. beef broth or dark beer
1/2 tsp. chili powder
3 tbsp. Chinese or Japanese style vinegar
1 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1/2 c. hoisin sauce

Season meat with salt and pepper. Heat oil in saute pan and sear lamb ribs. Remove from pan and add garlic and ginger careful not to brown too much. Add remaining ingredients except hoisin sauce. Simmer for 3 hours or until fall apart tender. Add water if necessary. Add hoisin sauce and simmer an additional 30 minutes.

Serve with herb boursin mashed potatoes and sauteed greens.


Chicken Tenders and Is It Spring Yet?

I cannot believe that I just walked out of my front door and to my car without the treachery of winter ice. There is no snow or ice on my driveway or sidewalk. The garden is snow free. My back yard only has sketches of the white stuff. Is it possible that spring will come again this year?

We had our doubts as the snow continued to fall and obliterate any part of my garden that the sun exposed.

Do I dare hope? It is only April and we can have our most wicked storms in April.

I spent my day making Lamb Biryani that I will post later. Yesterday was Chicken Tikka. They were both yummy. I am getting ready for my newspaper article for Victoria Day. Did you know that it was in Queen Victoria's reign that Indian food made its debut in England? Neither did I. Well, it wasn't true Indian food. It was Anglo-Indian food. But they loved it and still do today.

Today I give you a simple treat. If you love chicken fingers then here is a way healthier version. This is real chicken, oven baked and has all the flavour of the deep fried kind you get in the bars.

Baked Chicken Tenders
Choose chicken tenders rather than wings because they are lower in fat. These can be frozen after baking for easy fast food later. To make them crispy again, shallow fry in cooking oil to reheat. I use panko breadcrumbs because they absorb less oil but you can use what you have on hand.
1 lb. chicken tenders                                               
1 1/2 c. panko bread crumbs                                    
1 c. finely grated parmesan cheese                      
1 c. buttermilk                                                           
1 tsp. garlic powder                                                
1/2 tsp. paprika                                                
1/2 tsp. crushed chili peppers                                  
1 tsp. salt                                                            
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper                                   
Mix buttermilk, salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili peppers, and paprika. Place chicken tenders and buttermilk mixture in a resealable bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour or overnight.
Mix breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, cayenne. Drain chicken tenders and roll in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing to completely cover.
Bake on a rack that has been placed on a baking sheet at 500F  for 15 minutes.
Serve immediately with vegetable sticks and low fat ranch dressing.

Casual Friday - Beef au Jus

I write a food column for a weekly farm newspaper. Often I wonder if my recipes are too fussy for the lifestyle but I just like good food made from scratch. It usually isn't any more work than tossing it together with a mix. There are only 8 ingredients and all of them can be kept on hand in your pantry.

This is so easy and so tasty! Just toss it all in a slow cooker and you are ready. Nice side dishes with this are coleslaw, baked beans or oven baked fries.

Beef au Jus
3 lb. beef chuck roast                                    
1 large onion, thickly sliced
1 tbsp. butter                                                
2 c. beef broth                                               
1 c. cooking sherry                                    
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 tbsp. Italian seasoning                        
1/2 c. soy sauce                                    
grated mozzarella, if desired
Saute onion in butter and add to slow cooker. Place roast on onions, add other ingredients. Cook on low setting 6 to 10 hours.
Shred meat with two forks until all large chunks are gone. Serve immediately or continue to simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Strain beef from liquid. Reserve the ‘au jus’ for dipping. Can be refrigerated overnight. Remove hardened fat from top before reheating. Serve on toasted crusty buns. Top with cheese and place under the broiler, if desired.


Virtual Supper Club - Deceptively Easy Gourmet

Happy April Fool's Day! But today's beautiful food is no joke. It is my turn to host the party this month and look what everyone is bringing! And the good news is that you don't have to loosen that belt to enjoy good food.

We all lead busy lives but want to have nice food. It doesn't have to be all that difficult. Together we have selected a menu that is so easy but so nice! Enjoy.

Jerry - Jerrys Thoughts, Musings and Rants  Phyllo Wrapped Asparagus with Prosciutto
Susan Linquist –The Spice Garden    Ham, Corn and Cheese Souffle
Roz - La Bella Vita    Pork Saltimboca with Polenta
Sandi -Whistestop Café Chocolate Souffle with Creme Anglaise 
Val- More Than Burnt Toast     Carmelized Espresso Frappe

Ceviche de Camaron

This recipe takes me right back to my very first visit to Mexico. Serve with the traditional saltines and you will forget about this terrible cold weather.

You can leave the shrimp whole and serve it like a shrimp cocktail as an appetizer. I roughly chopped mine so I could serve it with crackers. 

    1/2 c. chopped onion
    6 c. water
    3/4 c. fresh lime juice, divided
    1 lb. medium shrimp
    1 c. chopped peeled cucumber
    1/2 c. ketchup
    1/3 c. chopped fresh cilantro
    2 tbsp. Mexican hot sauce (such as Tamazula)
    1 tbsp. olive oil
    1/4 tsp. salt

Place chopped onion in a colander, and rinse with cold water. Drain.
Bring 6 cups water and 1/4 cup juice to a boil in a Dutch oven. Add shrimp; cook 3 minutes or until done. Drain and rinse with cold water; peel shrimp. Coarsely chop if you wish to use this as a dip. Combine shrimp and 1/2 cup juice in a large bowl; cover and chill 1 hour. Stir in onion, cucumber, and remaining ingredients. Serve immediately or chilled.


Pear Sorbetto with Maple Walnut Brittle

It is Easter weekend but hardly spring like. It is two steps forward and one step back with our snowy weather. Yesterday the snow was melting and the water was running. Today there are big soft snowflakes gently falling to cover the accomplishments of yesterday's sunshine.

Such is life on the prairies. Spring will be here when it is ready. Until then we have to make lemonade... er... I mean... pear sorbetto. I used BC pears that I put away in my freezer from last season. This dessert was prepared for a dinner guest with a lot of dietary restrictions. I like a little crunch with my meal and this Maple Walnut Brittle is satisfying.

Maple Walnut Brittle

1/4 c. cane sugar
1/4 c. dark maple syrup
1/4 c. light corn syrup
3/4 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. baking soda

Prepare a baking pan by lining with parchment paper.

Melt sugar and syrups over medium heat until it reaches 300F (hard crack stage). Add walnuts and vanilla and stir. Add baking soda and mix thoroughly. Pour onto prepared baking sheet spreading as thinly as possible, and cool. Break into small irregular pieces.

Pear Sorbetto      adapted from Jamie Oliver

  • 1/4 c cane sugar
  • 1/4 c water
  • 2 c. soft pears, peeled, quartered and cores removed
  • juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tbsp. vodka, or to taste

  • Bring sugar and water to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Add pears and, unless they're super soft, continue to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, leave to one side for 5 minutes, then add the lemon juice (minus the pips) and zest. Pour everything into a food processor and whiz to a purée, then push the mixture through a coarse sieve into the dish in which you want to serve it.

    Add the vodka, stir, and taste. The vodka shouldn't be overbearing or too powerful – it should be subtle and should work well with the pears. However, different brands do vary in strength and flavour, so add to taste. Be careful though, if you use too much alcohol the sorbet won't freeze. Put the dish into the freezer and whisk it up with a fork every half-hour – you'll see it becoming pale in colour. After a couple of hours it will be ready. The texture should be nice and scoopable. Delicious served with delicate crunchy biscuits.

    PS This sorbet will last in the freezer for a couple of days – after that it will crystallize.