No, we aren’t moving. But De La Casa is!
After much deliberation, I recently bought my own domain, Christina Bartlett Dot Com, as a way to showcase my photography portfolio. Loving the new system, I decided to bring along De La Casa at the same time. You will find it here at http://www.christinabartlett.com/delacasa. There is still work to be done but from now on you will find me posting there!
I will move all current subscribers over, but you will have to re-subscribe to stay updated. If you no longer wish to follow (I will be sad!) but I thank you for following me thus far. For those who want to stay posted simply subscribe at the bottom of the new site! See you on the flip side!
I’ve been flicking through the pages of the latest Little & Friday Cookbook, themed Celebrations and full of wonderful, celebratory recipes for a host of occasions. And every time I bookmark yet another recipe that needs to be tested, ie that I am dying to taste. Chocolate Beetroot Salted Caramel Cake for a Chocolate 21st, Raspberry Coconut Lamingtons (a Kiwi favourite) for a Kids Party, Turkish Pide for a picnic, Baby Cakes for Mothers Day..
This Cinnamon Chai Bundt Cake drew my attention because, although I am not a chai tea fan, I do enjoy the spice mix of cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and ginger. As if slathering it with chocolate ganache wasn’t enough, the simple vanilla cake is layered with a crumble of chocolate, chai spices, walnuts and medjool dates.
I’ve always loved the large, soft medjool dates, however, in NZ they are ridiculously expensive. And are located in the produce section of all places, stored in a bulk bin and sold individually. If I could ever actually locate them in the store (why not stock them in an obvious place like, I don’t know, the dried fruit aisle with all the other dried fruit?) the price always put me off.
At our local grocery here in Calgary, they are still located in a somewhat crazy spot (with the sweet potatoes) but are very much affordable. And what a treat. I love packing one or two in my handbag for when my sugar levels plummet – my form of candy.
On that note, and this might just be Canadian ignorance, but I scoured our grocery for ages recently looking for the cocoa. The clerk looked at me like I was a crazy person when I asked where it was stored, “uh with the coffee of course”. With the coffee? Is that normal here?
When I went back to the exact same store a couple of weeks later for my next round of cocoa I headed straight to the coffee aisle, scouring the shelves for it.
Of course it was in the baking aisle.
I made this cake with a good friend who, like me, was able to analyse and critise the recipe where necessary. There were a number of edits we would make to this recipe. The crumble was much less a crumble and more a paste – most likely because the dates were warm and melted the chocolate. However even when cooled it was in no way crumble form. Instead of buying chai syrup we used the syrup remaining from soaking the dates. The vanilla cake was rather bland despite adding about 1/4 cup of the chai syrup. Plus the batter was super thick. I would be tempted to add 1/3 cup of the chai syrup right off the bat next time. Finally, the recipe calls for 4 layers of vanilla cake with 3 layers of the ‘crumble’. This was not possible with the tin we used, and we could barely stretch the between three layers – they were quite thin. Perhaps a round standard cake tin would work better.
Cinnamon Chai Bundt Cake
Recipe from Little and Friday (NZ Cafe Cookbook)
Makes 1 25cm cake
1 cup chopped dates (medjool)
2 chai tea bags, to infuse
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup walnuts
1 tbsp good quality cocoa
3 tsp cinnamon
4 tsp chai powder (from chai tea bags)
150g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup yoghurt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3 cups flour
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
250g butter, unsalted
1 1/4 cups castor sugar
1 tbsp chai syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
Because the cream here is more carrageenan, gum and other fillers than actual milk we opted to use coconut cream instead. Warm 1/2 cup coconut cream in a saucepan until just below boiling point. Remove from heat and stir in 200g of chopped quality dark chocolate until melted and smooth. Allow to cool and thicken before using.
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease a 25cm bundt tin and dust with flour.
To make crumble filling place dates and 2 chai tea bags in a saucepan with 1 1/2 cups water. Simmer for 5 – 10 minutes until dates are soft (there will be quite a bit of liquid remaining if using medjool dates). Let cool. Place remaining ingredients in food processor and pulse until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add cooked dates and pulse to combine.
To make cake, place sour cream and yogurt in a bowl. Mix in baking soda and let stand for 15 minutes until foamy. Meanwhile sift flour, ginger, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside. In an electric mixer beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add chai syrup (or reminaning liquid from simmering dates) and vanilla and mix to combine.
Using a large metal spoon, fold a third of the dry ingredients into creamed mixture, followed by a third of the sour cream mixture. Continue in this way until all combined.
Spread a quarter (I recommend a third) of the cake mixture into prepared cake pan and top with a third (I recommend half) of the crumble mixture. Repeat the process, finishing with a layer of cake mixture.
Bake in centre of oven for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in tin. Trim top of cake flush with tin before turning out. Gently warm chocolate ganache and drizzle over cake.
This past weekend we saw the ocean, we breathed salty air, we walked through wet, green grass and strolled through old, brick alleyways. Calgary is a wonderful city, but one gets a bit bored of the white blanket (still) covering our lawn and dreams instead of the freshness of the coast.
That dream became a reality on Sunday. Jesse and I hopped on an early morning flight with simply our backpacks (sporting a camera, reading material and a great hunk of cake) for a day on the Island off the coast of Vancouver.
We rented a car and explored the quaint city of Victoria before heading inland. First stop in Victoria; coffee.
Thanks to recommendations from our friends we knew where to head. A morning at Habit ensured some much-needed down time to read, relax and enjoy one another’s presence, most importantly with a good (NZ style) espresso in hand.
Victoria has some EXQUISITE buildings and the oldest Chinatown in the country (and second oldest in the world next to San Franciscos). We strolled the alleys downtown before making our way to the indoor Public Market.
The Market was fairly insignificant, mostly because Calgary has ruined me for the size and range of Farmers Markets available. However we did enjoy visiting the vendors and learning what Vancouver Island creates itself, from cheese to teas, handcrafted meat products to French baking (although we regret trying a croissant at The French Oven – certainly not the lightest, flakiest pastry).
Our homesickness for NZ had us hovering around the waters edge, delighting in the waves on the rocks and the persistent rain. We ordered fish and chips from Red Fish Blue Fish and devoured our salmon taco and fried halibut on the boardwalk, the rain bouncing off our heads, as we watched the seaplanes from Vancouver land in the bay.
Heading North we stopped by a local handcrafted chocolate store before hitting Cowichin Valley.
There something beautiful happened; I had the pleasure of meeting Korena in the Kitchen, in her own kitchen. We enjoyed tea while we munched on Smitten Kitchen’s Blue Sky Bran Muffins and shared stories of our blogging and food experiences. As an avid follower of Korena’s blog, it was quite surreal to meet her personally (hi Korena!).
We continued North to Cowichin Bay and visited a very cool classic marine store (my Dad would love it!), a delicious smelling artisan bakery and some cute antique stores.
A drive back down the island to Victoria for dinner at Rebar, a restaurant whose cookbook is a favourite for their healthful, vegetarian cafe-style recipes (way back I made their Vegan Energy Bars). I enjoyed a rich, vegetable and tofu curry on brown rice, and Jesse devoured his Almond Burger with miso-sesame dressing.
It was a whirlwind of a trip, and we returned to Calgary with grins on our faces, reflecting on the new sights and tastes of the day. We are grateful for flight benefits (thank you Air Canada) and to be living in such an expansive, explorable country.
Now.. where to next?
Curry is a common meal in our house. It’s a quick, pick-me-up dish taking no more than 10 minutes to prep, with 20 minutes of hands-off-simmer time; ample time to put on a load of washing, practice guitar and write a blogpost while the house is flooded with a sweet, spicy aroma.
I recently got Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean vegetarian cookbook from our Central Library. It’s made me realise how long it has been since I’ve followed a recipe for dinner. Finally I branched away from the usual steamed greens and pan fried protein and made a real meal.
Hawaiian Curry with Sweet Potato and Bananas
Serves 8 – 10
Recipe from The Eat Clean Diet
I’ve never thought to use banana in a savoury dish – but a quick Google search shows its actually quite common. The raisins bring a sweetness to the creamy curry while the banana tops it off with a fresh kick. The chopped walnuts and toasted coconut provide the perfect complimentary crunch. Next time I would pan fry the tofu first as I much prefer the texture.
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 onion, diced
1 rib celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 glove garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 Tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
1 15oz can (440ml) white kidney beans
12oz (340g) extra firm tofu drained and diced into 1 inch cubes
1 large sweet potato, peeled and dived into 1/2 inch pieces
1 13oz (400ml) coconut milk
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
2 bananas, sliced
3 cups steamed jasmine rice
Heat coconut oil in large pot on medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrot, garlic, ginger, curry, cayenne, salt and pepper and allow to sweat until onion is soft and translucent. Add beans, tofu, sweet potato, coconut milk and raisins and stir to combine. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes or until sweet potato is tender.
In the meantime, toast walnuts and coconut in a dry pan.
Serve curry over rice and top with banana, walnuts and coconut. Garnish with cilantro.
Spring is in the air – with ladybirds and fresh grass, the warmth of the sun lingering later into the day, the sun setting shortly after 9pm. I won’t speak too soon – I have been duly warned that Calgary is famous for throwing out another burst of snow even in late May.
This is not a bad thing. Not for us snow lovers. Late snowfall means spring skiing. Spring skiing means warm days on the slope – no need for layer upon layer of merino or hand warmers tucked into the mitts.
I have visited the mountain two weekends in a row – this is why we moved to Canada! To have family within 2 hours drive in the very cute town of Banff, within 20 minutes of a ski hill is a blessing we have only just started to appreciate.
To put this into perspective, a ski hill in New Zealand means a small, tree-less mountain with one or two runs on each side. It means a long (4 hour) drive from home, a half hour break to put chains on the tires, a 1 hour wait in traffic while the whole of NZ swarms the one mountain, 10% of the day skiing (in artificial snow) and 90% of the day waiting for a chair lift. (You think I’m exaggerating).
To spend a day on the mountain with NOT ONE wait for a chair (on Easter weekend at that!), to ski a run with no-one in front or behind, to pop into a Kiwi overrun cafe for a Flat White midday, to ski 20 runs without repeating the same one, is a heck of a blessing. Canada does do it’s ski hills well, and we are definitely learning to appreciate what we have on our back door step.
As it warms up, and the snow around town dissipates, we begin to seek summer activities instead – hiking, cycling, camping trips. But, to Calgarians disgust (and our joy!) we have a few more weeks to soak up these ski hill opportunities.
Chocolate Quinoa Layer Cake with “Cream Cheese” Frosting and Strawberries
Adapted from Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood
Serves 8 – 10
This recipe was created by Korena in the Kitchen for a gluten and dairy intolerance. Having a good friend with similar sensitivities it made for a simple, delicious birthday celebration cake. The use of Tofutti was terrifying at first, but as a tofu lover, it’s actually now quite appealing. Margarine in general, not so much, but there are plenty of great, healthful (albeit expensive) ones available if you too are wanting to avoid the hydrogenated canola oils. The cream cheese frosting was surprisingly similar to the ‘real’ thing and a nice change from the usual whipped coconut frosting. This cake holds itself well as a layer cake, remaining moist while being fairly dense and hearty. A small slice goes a long way.
2/3 cup quinoa
1 1/3 cup water
1/3 cup almond milk
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
1 ½ cups white or cane sugar
1 cup cocoa
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
Bring quinoa and water to a boil. Cover, cook for 10 mins. Turn off heat and leave for another 10 mins. Fluff with a fork and let cool.
Preheat oven to 180˚C. Grease two 8 inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper.
In blender combine milk, eggs, vanilla. Add 2 cups quinoa and the melted coconut oil and blend until smooth. Add sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt to the blender and blend until well mixed. Pour into the pans and bake for 30 – 40 minutes until knife inserted in centre comes out clean.
Dairy Free Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe from Korena in the Kitchen
8 oz / 1 cup dairy-free Tofutti cream cheese, softened
8 oz /1 cup dairy-free margarine, softened
3 cups icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
In the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, cream the Tofutti and margarine on medium-high speed for several minutes until very light and fluffy, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure even whipping. Once smooth and light, add the icing sugar, vanilla extract and salt and beat again for several minutes until you have a smooth, creamy, and light buttercream that resembles cream cheese frosting.
Layer the Chocolate Quinoa Cakes with the frosting and decorate with chocolate dipped strawberries.
As a proud Kiwi, there are a number of Canadian traits I don’t buy into. Don’t get me wrong - Jesse and I love Canada. We truly do. We love the people, the welcomeness, the extreme weather, the opportunities for adventure. We take joy in adapting to the Canadian cultural norms, jokes and cuisine.
However there are some practices we have had to draw the line at.
To mention a few…
- Kraft Dinner (and its beloved cousin, Hamburger Helper)
- Doggie bags for restaurant leftovers (don’t get me started!)
- Supersized everything (is it really a good bargain if you can’t fit your supersize Mayo in your fridge?)
- Not calling a spade a spade (are you really using that room to wash, or rest, or take a bath?)
- Tim Hortons. The worst of them all.
We had our first Tim Horton’s experience the moment we landed in Canada for the first time (two years ago today!). Having heard so much about Tim Horton’s coffee we naturally (ignorant Kiwi’s) assumed it was a top notch coffee roaster that had sent the Third Wave of coffee viral in North America.
terribly horrified a little disappointed on the first taste. Ylech! This is Canadian coffee?
And so we embarked on seeking out what New Zealanders consider a cafe experience – quality beans, roasted locally, ground perfectly and prepared by a qualified barista (commonly in the form of a Flat White) in a boutique cafe served (always with a teaspoon) alongside homemade scones or fresh muffins served with yogurt.
No paper plates, no neon OPEN signs, no artificially-flavoured, dairy-free, hyrdrogenated-oil based French Vanilla creamer, no deep-fried mass produced donuts.
Our first month, spent in Vancouver, was less than fruitful, not knowing anyone in the coffee industry or down which alleyways the boutique cafes were hiding. Our following 18 months in Norman Wells, NWT were no better, where the only cafe in town serving quality coffee beans was mine. And I am certainly no barista.
What a relief to move to Calgary and discover not only true cafe experiences, but outstanding local roasters, perfected espressos and award winning baristas.
Our two favourite roasters in Calgary (really the only two competitive ones) are Phil & Sebastian (roasted at the end of our street) and Rosso (roasted in the neighbouring community). We had Rosso’s Nicaraguan beans on hand this last weekend and a friend (who also happens to be a barista at Rosso) treated us to a lesson in pour over coffee.
A new experience for us, pour over has quickly become a favourite alternative to espresso. This Japanese-style method is quite the art, producing a coffee where the flower and the fruit of the bean can be easily depicted and appreciated.
While it snowed outside, we enjoyed our pour-over coffee in the comfort of our home, alongside warm banana bread fresh from the oven, studded with crunchy millet and sweetened with creamy honey. Home baked goods, like this crinkly banana bread leaves any Tim Horton’s donut in the dust.
Honey & Millet Banana Bread
Recipe slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Unfortunately out of the 8 or so cafes that serve good coffee in Calgary, few have nailed the food side of things. Most import baked goods from another bakery or an external kitchen, never will your carrot cake be served with raspberry coulis and natural yogurt and good luck finding a gourmet savoury muffin with a homemade chutney. Until this improves we are happy providing our own baking, de la casa.
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
1 large egg
1/3 cup coconut oil, warmed until it liquefies, or olive oil
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup creamed honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup uncooked millet
Preheat your oven to 350°F and butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan. Place mashed bananas in a large bowl. Whisk in egg, then oil, brown sugar, honey and vanilla extract. Sprinkle baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves over mixture and stir until combined. Stir in flour until just combined, then millet.
Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake until a tester comes out clean, about 40 to 50 minutes. Cool loaf in pan on rack.
As part of this month’s Sourdough Surprises, I was challenged to create an Irish Soda Bread using my sourdough starter. A contrary concept – making a quick bread using a slow rise levain – but a very simple and very tasty one. Soda bread, traditionally risen using the activation of baking soda is basically a scone. In this recipe, yogurt is used for moisture and flavour, as well as a good dollop of pesto – a bit of a lame attempt at working in the St Patrick’s theme to an already Irish good..
Check out other Irish Soda Breads from the Sourdough community at the link below.
Sourdough Pesto Irish Soda Bread
Recipe adapted from Allison and Simon Holst’s NZ Bread Book
Makes 1 20cm boule
This is a super simple and super quick loaf! Warm from the oven with a pat of butter and a smear of pesto… perfect for a cozy evening in while the snow (continues to) fall.
1 cup sourdough starter
2 cups standard plain flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
2/3 cup milk
2 Tbsp basil pesto
1/2 cup plain unsweetened yoghurt
Sift the flour, salt, sugar, baking soda and cream of tartar into a large bowl.
Measure the sourdough, milk, pesto and yoghurt into a small bowl and stir to combine.
Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and gently fold the mixture together, trying to combine it evenly but without over-mixing.
Tip the dough onto a lightly floured board and shape it into a ball. Flatten a little until it is disc-shaped and measures just over 15cm across and place it on a lightly floured or baking paper lined baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, cut a deep cross (about halfway down) into the dough so it opens nicely during baking.
Bake in the middle of the oven at 350°F for 45–50 minutes or until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped.
A kiwi classic that appears at many high teas, barbeques or dinner parties is the corn fritter. In New Zealand, a corn fritter is a savoury pikelet – a basic pikelet recipe with the addition of fresh or frozen corn.
Pikelets are New Zealand’s (and Australia’s) take on the scone – tiny, barely sweet, flat pancakes topped with cream and jam and typically served at morning or afternoon tea time. It is the first thing many Kiwi kids learn to make, whipping together the simple batter, flipping them as bubbles appear and eating them hot off the griddle with a smear of butter.
I’ve yet to make traditional jam and cream pikelets for friends in Canada. However, the savoury version (aka corn fritters) served with salmon and creme fraiche have gone down quite a treat here. Although I have had to change the name from corn fritter to blini or corn pikelet as ‘fritter’ in Canada is associate with deep fried batter, not the sweet, light delights that these are. Excellent served as an appetizer or as finger food for a dinner party. I’ve been known to bring the batter over to BBQs to cook on the flat plate – which I quickly learnt doesn’t work in Canada – for some reason Canadian BBQs only have grills! How would you cook the onions at the sausage sizzles??
Recipe adapted from Edmonds Cookbook
The pikelet recipe used most commonly by New Zealanders involves self-raising flour – a low-gluten flour with the addition of a raising agent like baking powder. I’ve never looked for this flour in Canada but I imagine it is available, likely called ‘self-rising’ flour instead. I have adapted recipe below for those using standard flour.
1 cup standard plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon each of sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup milk, approximately
1 cup frozen (or fresh) corn kernals
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped
finely chopped spring onion
Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. In another bowl whisk together egg, sugar and milk. Add to dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold through the corn, herbs and spring onion. Drop tablespoons of the mixture onto a hot, lightly greased pan. Turn pikelets over when bubbles start to burst on top surface. Cook second side until golden.
Serve topped with sour cream mixed with cilantro, salt and pepper with a roll of smoked salmon on top. Garnish with thinly sliced spring onions.