OLD FASHIONED MEYER LEMON NUT BREAD . . . hold summer in your hand.

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When you harvest fresh fruit from a Meyer lemon tree in the dark of winter you hold summer in your hand.   The fragrance of the blossoms.  The glossy leaves shining in the gray light.  Your fingers caressing the finely textured skin.  Then the heavenly taste of the juice –  at once sweet and sour.

You can do many wonderful things with these delicate lemons, but I was  yearning for something classic,  simple,  old fashioned.

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I have a cookbook that is a particular favorite.  I have been baking out of it for more than forty years.  A World Of Baking by Dolores Casella has provided me with dozens of quick and yeast bread recipes.  The ingredients are readily available.   The instructions are always brief.  It is expected you already know the basics of baking.

Meyer Lemon Nut Bread  has a fine crumb.  It’s rich tasting,  studded with walnuts and finished with lemon syrup.   When Meyer lemons are not available regular lemons are more than acceptable..  Be lavish with your lemon rind.  This old fashion recipe calls for just a teaspoon but I scrape every bit of rind from the lemons into the batter.

You’ll find the recipe in MRS. BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.

MEYER LEMONS . . . thirteen plus ways to use a Meyer lemon

 

Meyer Lemons arrived today at our local grocery store.  Their season is brief.   You have just a few weeks to to create  culinary heaven from this queen of citrus fruit.

Meyer lemons have a  heavenly juice – at once sweet and sour.    A more floral scent and taste and a thinner peel than other lemons.   You can put slices of lemon under the skin of roasting chicken.  Cut into quarters,  toss it with olives and chicken pieces and roast to  heavenly caramelized  perfection.  Make Meyer lemon sorbet or lemon tart for glorious dessert treats.  There is no end  to the addictive and intoxicating ways you can use Meyer lemons. 

l. Whip cream with a little icing sugar.  Add grated Meyer lemon rind.   Mound it on slices of pound cake.

2. Arrange thin slices of Meyer lemons on a pizza crust with goat cheese, fresh rosemary and olives.

3. Drop a few slices into a pot of Darjeeling tea.

4. Put a twist of Meyer lemon into a martini. Think of James Bond.

5. Add Meyer lemon zest to French toast.

6. Slice Meyer lemons and put them into your bath with a sprinkle of lavender.  Light a few candles.

7. Throw the peel of a Meyer lemon on the grill before cooking shrimp.  Grill it golden brown and top with the cooked shrimp.

8 Perfume your sugar bowl by stirring strips of Meyer lemon peel into the sugar.

9.  Put a Meyer lemon studded with whole cloves in your lingerie drawer.  Dust with orris root as a preservative.

10. Top pancakes with a little butter, a sprinkle of sugar, a squeeze of lemon,  and grated Meyer lemon zest.  Add another pancake, repeat until you have several layers.  Slice and serve like a layer cake.

11. Rub a Meyer lemon peel around the rim of a demitasse of espresso.

12. Make sandwiches of thinly sliced Meyer lemons, smoked salmon and sour cream on pumpernickel bread.

13. Roast a combination of green, black and cured olives with olive oil, some Meyer lemon peel and fresh rosemary.

If you would you like to add to this delicious list I would love to hear from you.  You are always welcome in the kitchen.

 

REMEMBERING THOSE WE LOVED THIS VALENTINE DAY . . . The words of Dheeraj Haran

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A single rose to lane

A single rose to  slain

A single rose to hide my pain

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A single rose to turn the tide

A single rose to make roads wide

A single rose as my guide.

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A single rose to raise my soul

A single rose to widen the hole

A single rose to achieve a goal

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A single rose to melt the heart

A single rose to force the start

A single rose to cult

 

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A single rose to freeze my body

A single rose to mourn this memory

A single rose to short a life

A single rose to end the strife.

(Dheeraj Haran – poet extraordinaire )

 

Remembering those we’ve loved  this Valentine’s Day

MY ANGEL READS CHARLES DICKENS AND LISTENS TO LEONARD COHEN

There is a private place where I can slip away into another world.  It restores my soul and brings me joy.   It allows me to collect my thoughts, write, dream  and face each day with strength and resilience.    Virginia Woolf called it  A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN.

I’ve been thinking about angels.  A flicker of movement in the corner of my eye.  I turn quickly.  Nothing.  But I know it is an angel.  My angel.

I think about the music my angel would listen to.    Beethoven’s Moon Light Sonata,   a love song without words.   Cohen’s Hallelujah,  over and over again.   The final chorus of angels from Gounod’s Faust.

My angel likes her wine decanted .  Wine from a bottle dusted with age and filled with grace.  She was there when the grapes were planted.  The vineyard at  least a hundred years old.    But my darlings this angel like most angels  is much, much older .

There are over 129,000,000 books in the world.   My angel has read all of them.  She is re- reading  Dickens’s   A TALE OF TWO CITIES.  She likes Dickens.   I know a Christmas Carol would be more appropriate in keeping with the season but this angel considers   Dickens important for our present time.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredibility, it was the season of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Oh dear! Of all the books in this wide world why is my angel reading this book.   I certainly didn’t intend to take my angel back to 1859.   A TALE OF TWO CITIES  ends badly for many BUT  there is a sense of optimism in Dickens’s last words.

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done;  it is a far, far, better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

There is a strong sense of optimism in Dickens’s final words in TALE OF TWO CITIES.  We must take heart and take care – of ourselves and our fellow man.

The idea of my  wine sipping, music loving  angel makes me smile with delight.    At night when the skies are black and the stars are sharp as ice I catch a flash of white and the strains of  music . . Hallelujah  Hallelujah  Hallelujah.  Thank you, Angel.

 

 

 

CHRISTMAS 1944 AND OUR FATHER’S MINCE TARTS

Christmas 1944   – The three sisters brave the cold .  The youngest, Heather is wearing a snow suit.  I am standing Mona’s right.  We are all wearing real fur trimmed parka style headgear

It is the childhood memories of Christmas that evoke the strongest feelings. 1944 and the rationing of almost everything meant making do, making over and often going without.  But Christmas was still bright and wonderful and our Christmas stockings were always filled with mysterious wonderful things.

In early November we  began the school day practising  songs for the annual Carol Festival.  This long anticipated event  was held in one of the cities beautiful old churches.  All the schools in the city performed.    The Carol Festival marked the beginning of the celebrations of Christmas.

It was bitterly cold the first week of December.  My Mother and my sisters bundled up for the mile walk  to the church.  There were no bus service after 6:00 p.m.  Our Dad wasn’t able to drive us in the family car.  Gas was rationed.    We dressed for the cold.

Two layers of hand-knit mittens.

Heavy hand-knit woollen scarves cross-crossed across our faces.

Our eye lashes rimmed with frost and when we spoke it was as if we were filling the air with puffs of smoke.

So much excitement, so much anticipation we never felt the cold.

We sang our way on the walk home.   The sky was clear.     Stars so  brilliant we felt we could reach up to heaven and grab them like a handful of diamonds.

Northern Lights  were flashing, glowing  and dancing across the Northern  sky..  Magnificent emerald greens, yellows, pink, magenta and occasionally sapphire  blue  sweeping back and forth.  We stopped and shouted.  We clapped our hands.  We truly believed the lights responded to the sounds we made.

Home at last.  The wood stove crackled.  The kitchen was filled with the sublime spicy aroma of mince tarts.   Our father  taking them  out of the oven.  How absolutely  glorious to walk into our warm house,  and eat the pies hot from the oven.

Dad’s  mince tarts were so delicate and  flaky they melted in your mouth.  His secret – he always used    lard to make the pastry.      We sisters still use our  Father’s recipe.  It’s pretty simple (or at least we pastry makers feel that way).  But if you follow the directions, and cheat a little (roll the pastry between wax paper, chill the flour) you can pull these beauties out of the oven and wow your family and friends.    Every home should have mince tarts baking in the oven at this time of year.

FATHER’S MINCE TARTS   …   makes around 30 morsels of delight

Pastry:

2 cups all-purpose flour chilled

2/3 tsp salt

2/3 cup chilled lard cut into small pieces

5-6 tbsp cold water

l egg yolk beaten with a little water.

Before you start making the pastry put the flour and salt mixture into the  freezer for 30 minutes or so.   Chill a cup of water at the same time. Cut the lard  into the flour mixture with a pastry blender,  or if you’re using your food processor use the pulse button to process just until it looks like large flakes of oatmeal.

Add the water gradually, a tablespoon at a time tossing the mixture lightly with a fork.  If you are using the food processor add the water and process JUST until mixed.  It should be loose in the  bowl.

Turn your pastry out onto your board and form into a ball.  Flatten the ball and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a good 15 minutes or more.  This allows the pastry to relax.  And everyone knows pastry should be relaxed.

Divide the pastry in to two portions.

Roll out one portion 1/8 inch thick.  Cut into circles about  1 3/4 in diameter.  This will be your base.  Cut the second half into circles about 2 1/2 inches across.  These will be your tops.

Moisten the edges of your base and put a small amount   of mincemeat on each circle.  Top with the larger circles.  Press the edges to seal.   Brush with egg wash and bake around 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Enjoy!

Chefs note:

We made our own mincemeat at our restaurant  Roxy’s Bistro.  We used a traditional recipe using suet and a good dollop of brandy.   Taste your purchased mincemeat.  You will probably need to add some additional flavour.  Add a little freshly grated nutmeg, a sprinkle of powdered cloves, a good amount of cinnamon, some allspice and a little lemon or orange juice.  And if you have some brandy.

Happy tree trimming.

IT TAKES A BIRD TO MAKE A BETTER CHICKEN POT PIE

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My two sisters are as passionate about food as I am.  It’s in our DNA.    On visits to my home town of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan,  we cooked for each other and we cook together.  It is a marvellous way to spend your vacation.

My older sister,  Mona,  has what is known as “a dab hand with pastry”.  She has a special marble counter exactly the right height for rolling pastry.  She uses lard for all her pies – sweet and savoury.  Her pastry is so light so flaky it literally drifts on to your plate.  She keeps everything chilled.  Even her flour.  In her opinion using a pie bird is the secret for tender pastry for chicken pot pipe.

We were making chicken pot pie.  My sister  putting the chicken filling together and rolling out pastry..  My job  – to make the béchamel sauce.  The  sauce that binds.   To add extra flavour to the chicken pot pie I used rich chicken stock instead of milk and made it extra thick. After it was cooked I thinned it with a generous amount of cream.  You do know I have a reputation for gilding the lily.

The pie bird was positioned in the centre of the filling. On went the pasty with a slit cut for the bird.    The edges were crimped.  A little egg wash and the crust was sprinkled with coarse sea salt.    The pie bird vents excess moisture from the pie filling (whether it is chicken and vegetables or fresh fruit), and  prevents a soggy pie crust .  These ceramic birds are available in most well stocked kitchen shops.

Now you know my older sister Mona’s secret for amazing pie crust . A trick to use the next time you make a  juicy fruit or chicken pot pie.   Tell your friends “a little bird told you”!

 

AN ELEGANT CHRISTMAS WREATH GATHERED FROM THE GARDEN

Early morning and wisps of river fog creep across the fields. The brilliant summer sky pales into autumn. In the garden the hydrangeas change colour.  Vintage verdigris.   Bruised blues and purples. Faded lavenders and pinks. It is now when the hydrangea   blossoms take on the rich colours of a renaissance painting I gather them by the armful. They dry beautifully.   Tucked away from the light they wait to play the part in the familiar  rituals of Christmas decorating.

 This Christmas will be unlike any other.   This year I  planned something completely different from my  traditional  decorative wreath.  I wanted to take the beautiful days of summer and hang them on our front door.  This year these summer memories will adorn our home far into the new year.

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These wreaths are wondrously  easy to make.   You need a vine wreath.  A vine wreath is important as the tangle of vines allows you to easily poke the hydrangea stems into place.   The stems of  the flowers cut around 6 inches.  A generous armful of flower  and a few  sprigs of cedar or fir boughs and ribbon  is all you require.  No glue or wire required to fasten the flowers.

For a lush, generous wreath tuck the blooms into the sides of the wreath and then on the top.  Intersperse them with the green cedar boughs.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  There is no right or wrong way to arrange your flowers.

You can hang the wreath plain and unadorned.  But the colours of the wire ribbon are an elegant touch.  It takes  about an hour to make a wreath.  I always make two wreaths at Christmas.  One for our door and one for my friend and neighbour.   

Stay safe dear friends – wherever you are.

Love Virginia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REMEMBRANCE DAY IN THE TIME OF THE PANDEMIC

WORLD WAR TWO ended September 2nd, 1945.   That year winter came early to my home town of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.  On November 11th with my classmates we walked in bitter cold  the two miles from school to attend the Remembrance Day ceremonies at  the Armouries.    For the first time in seventy five years I will not  attend a Remembrance Day ceremony.  We will watch the laying of wreaths on television and then my husband and I will place our poppies on the Cenotaph  in our village of Ladner, British Columbia.

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If I should die, think only this of me:

That there’s some corner of a foreign field

That is forever England.  There shall be

In that rich earth a richer dust concealed:

Gave,  once,  her flowers to love, her ways to roam,

A body of England’s, breathing English air,

Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home

 

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And think, this heart,all evil shed away,

A pulse in the eternal mind, no less

Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given,

Her signs and sounds; dream happy as her day;

And laughter, learnt of friends;  and gentleness,

In hearts at peace,  under an English heaven.

 

My father-in-law  grew up in a quiet town in Southern Ontario.  He enlisted and his training as a flight sergeant took place in an equally small town in Saskatchewan.  This is where he met and married.    He returned from the war to live t he rest of his life in    Saskatchewan.  He is survived by his two sons.

 

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My uncle,  Bertram Henry Henderson grew up in my home town, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.  He and his two brothers all enlisted in the Regina Rifles.  He died in action October 27, 1944.  His last letter home was dated October 27, 1944.  It was written in the dim light of a candle in a bottle.  The letter was in his effects returned to the family.

 

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My older sister and myself with my Uncle shortly before he was shipped overseas.

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This document shows the location of his grave in Belgian.  It also identifies the family who would be responsible for the maintenance and care of his grave site.

 

 

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Our Uncle’s grave continues to be looked after by the Belgian Family entrusted in their care more than 70 years ago.  Members of that family continue to maintain contact with our family.

 

My father grew up in a small village in southern England.  He fought in the war to end all wars (World War One).  When war ended he immigrated to Canada to join his older brothers in Northern Saskatchewan.  The only time he talked about the war  was to tell us how  he had befriended some Turkish prison of war soldiers and they had taught him  to make Turkish coffee.

Today we fight a grim and different war.    There are no battlefields.  The enemy is unseen.  If we follow  the health protocol that has been given us we will win this battle.

 

 

 

(  poem  … The Soldier – Rupert Brooke)

I DIDN’T MAKE THE BED FOR YOU

 

There is nothing more wonderful then curling up in bed with a good book.  And when your bed is outside surrounded by  quiet green fields this is my idea of   paradise.     I  plundered the linen cupboard for everything French.   I wanted this to be a place where I could escape  for just a while.  A place of calmness.  A place where I could put aside for a brief time the uncertain realities of our present world.  I wasn’t expecting to find a rabbit who thought my bed was the perfect place for an afternoon nap.

We have a relationship with the rabbits.  Their burrow is under a large cedar hedge .   Through the years the hedge has grown in size and now it is very close to the patio.    It is not unusual to see  small bunnies noses pressed against the patio door looking into our home.

We love rabbit watching.  We have a rabbit who walks on his hind legs eating  the tops of high grass.  Another rabbit who eats only clover and ignores grass completely.     Then there is the rabbit  who likes to curl up in a basket beside by my outdoor bed. I have marvellous and rather esoteric conversations with him.   His name is Oswald, and he quite famous in the rabbit community.   I write about him in  A GLASS OF WINE AND CONVERSATIONS WITH A GENTLEMAN RABBIT.

This will be a summer of drifting through the days reading about exotic far away places.  There’s always pleasant work in the vegetable garden.  A place we also share with a tiny bunny.  Not by choice, but bunnies will be bunnies.      And I am hoping Oswald rabbit will join me on the patio again this summer.   A glass of wine and his take on world events would be most interesting.  Take care and be safe dear friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COOKING TUSCAN STYLE – PORK LOIN in the STYLE of PORCHETTA

 

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It’s late afternoon in a kitchen in a rambling stone farm house in Tuscany.   You’ve  gathered fennel, garlic, onions and rosemary from the garden.  There’s  a glass of crisp, cold sparkling Prosecco on the  counter.  You’re preparing dinner.  Arista  the traditional pork roast studded with garlic and rosemary and spit-roasted over hot coals.  Porchetta a nearly boneless whole suckling pig, rubbed with rosemary and stuffed with its own highly seasoned innards.

Tuscany is a wonderful dream.   How lovely to create this state of mind in your own kitchen.  This recipe for stuffed loin of pork has all the gorgeous flavours of these Tuscan dishes.   Put on your apron and you’re in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.    Click on PORK LOIN IN THE STYLE OF PORCHETTA  for this recipe I have adapted  from Mario Batali’s book Molto Italiano.