THE TRAGIC TALE OF THE EASTER TULIPS . . . a tale for lovers of rabbits and chocolate

This morning I went out to  my fence garden.  Last autumn I planted dozens of tulips.      I envisioned a glorious mass of breath taking colour.  Magnificent tulips swaying elegantly against a background weathered fence.  Instead I was presented with damp, black earth scattered with the guillotined heads of tulips.    At first I thought the high wind of the previous evening was the culprit.    In a Holmes like manner I examined the scene of the heinous crime.  Rabbit prints.  Rabbit paws.  Small rabbit paws.

“I’ll catch those maundering rascals.  And I’ll do what I always do with rabbits.  I’ll nibble their ears off.    I am so angry”, I muttered under my breath as I stalked off.  I heard a quiet clearing of throat.

“Excuse me”.  I turned to see Oswald, gentleman rabbit.  “You have planted a garden dangerously close to our burrow.    And you know how rabbits like to taste everything, at least once. Chewing a bunnies ears seems a bit excessive”, he quietly pointed out.  “How else are they going to learn about this wonderful, green, growing world we live in”. I had made a rather vocal faux pas .  Now I must confess to Oswald my guilty pleasure.  I do indeed nibble rabbit ears.

“Oswald, dear Oswald.  I would never nibble off bunny ears. If I have to choose between flowers and rabbits I would choose rabbits every time.    When my children were young I always made sure their Easter baskets were filled with the finest of chocolate bunnies.  Bunnies made from the very best Belgian chocolate.  Bunnies with very big, solid ears.  And my children obliged me by sharing their chocolate bunny ears with me.”   My secret was out.  I was a closet eater of chocolate rabbit ears.  Tomorrow I would go to Jarry’s Market in the sweet, little village of Ladner.  I would buy an armful of tulips, and perhaps a chocolate rabbit or two.

 

 

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ZEN AND THE ART OF BAKING BREAD IN FIVE MINUTES A DAY

There is no perfume in this whole wide world that can match the aroma of freshly baked bread.    To fill your kitchen with this evocative smell.  To cut thick crusty slices  spread thick with butter and jam.  To share this pleasure with friends and family.    This is love in the shape of a simple loaf of home made bread.

You can  accomplish this in just five minutes a day.  I promise you.    It is so simple.  You can do this  if you can hold a wooden spoon, and have a big mixing bowl or container and two loaf pans.   Step one you mix water, yeast, flour, salt, sugar and oil all together into one easily mixed dough.  This is done in a few minutes.  No kneading.   Step two you leave the dough to rise on your counter.  It rises to heady heights but you don’t punch it down.  Step four you refrigerate it and let it have a good rest.    When you are ready to bake your bread you  remove a portion of the dough, form it into a ball, then into a loaf shape and sit it in a loaf pan to rise.  All that’s left it to bake your bread and then indulge in the joy of home made bread.

This recipe is unbelievably simply.  BUT IT WORKS.  You  can mix and store the dough in the same container using only a wooden spoon.  A stand mixer is nice but not necessary.  You need two loaf pans (if baking all the dough).  And that’s it.  You can store the dough for up to seven days in the refrigerator and bake bread when every you like.  This bread recipe is so obliging.  It’s not messy.  It requires little space.  Perfect for small kitchens.  And even better for vacation cottages when the nearest store is ten miles away.

This WHITE BREAD MASTER RECIPE  is from the book HOLIDAY AND CELEBRATION BREAD IN FIVE MINUTES A DAY by Zoe Francois.

Go to  MRS.BUTTERFINGERS for this amazing recipe.  Never, ever buy bread again.

 

ESCAPE TO SUNNY CLIMES with SPICY TOFU AND RED CURRY COCONUT SOUP

When it’s not quite winter.   Not quite spring.    When dingy snow piles up in dark corners.   When thoughts of exotic get a ways  dominate your day.     This is the time to ladle out the exotic flavours of  Thailand and Malaysia.  And this is the soup that borrows from these cuisines  and fills your soup bowl with its  spicy taste balanced with sweet and sour back notes.

I like this recipe for its ease of preparation and the readily available ingredients.   The only fiddly  part of the recipe preparation is the  julienned  carrots.    Think of it as   good time to practice you knife skills. The recipe calls for green beans.  When they are out of season I substitute tiny frozen green peas.    In fact I have come to prefer these sweet little darlings.   The recipe is easily doubled.  Step into MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen for the recipe for SPICY TOFU AND RED CURRY COCONUT SOUP.

 

IT’S NOT JAM! IT’S GOOD MORNING SEVILLE ORANGE MARMALADE

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I will never forget the first time I tasted home made marmalade.   I was visiting relatives in Scotland.  They lived on a sweet farm just outside Dumfries.        A behemoth, ancient  Aga stove  dominated their kitchen.  Several large pots simmered away and filled the air with the perfume of oranges.   Knives flashed and turned the knobbly peel of Seville oranges into fine, slender  slices.   Batches of the most perfect of preserves, homemade marmalade, cooled in small jars.

The season for these sour oranges is short.  Just a few weeks in late January and February.    Sometimes you can still find them in stores as late as March.  Our divine Ladner food store, JARRY’S MARKET,  made it possible to make marmalade this late in the year. Every marmalade aficionado know the best marmalade uses Seville oranges.  Their thick, bitter peel holds the secret to this most heavenly concoction.   It is this peel and pits that supply the necessary  pectin.    One can buy marmalade but it never tastes quite as delicious or gives us the same satisfaction of making it ourselves .

Making Seville orange marmalade is a two day process.   However, it is not difficult.   You juice the oranges and thinly slice or finely chop the rind the first day and have it  sit quietly over night.  The next day you add the sugar and cook the marmalade.  You do need a good size pot and a candy thermometer.   Absolutely no pectin is added.

One does not refer to marmalade as jam.  Jam is made with fruit and even vegetables, but marmalade is always and only made with citrus fruits.  The name is Portuguese in origin and refers to a preserve made with quince.

The recipe for SEVILLE ORANGE MARMALADE awaits you in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.  Bon Appetit dear friends.

 

 

 

CANADIAN BAKED BEANS . . . remembrances of things past.

 

January was always  the cruelest month when one grew up in Northern Saskatchewan. The excitement of Christmas still a warm memory, but  January was a biting,  bitter, angry cold that left you weeping.  Freezing eye lashes together.  Turning feet into numbing blocks of ice.    A January  cold that groaned and complained.  A cold that split the ice on our outdoor rink  into  large cracks   catching the blades of our skates and sending us tumbling into snowbanks.  We loved it.

Night come early in the Far North.   Darkness by four o’clock.  Snow crunched with   every step.  The evening sky dazzled with a light show  of a million  stars.   Scarf wrapped, double layers of hand knit mittens and socks,  we waited.  The  Northern Lights  lite up the sky with breath taking brilliant colours. They flashed, soared, danced filling our world with a  show we never took for granted.    Mittens were discarded.  Hands clapped.  We were absolutely certain we had the ability to make  The  Northern Lights dance to our applause.   Then chilled to the bone hunger drove us home for supper.

Remembrances of things past.    The crackle and smell of a wood burning wood stove.  The small, warm kitchen filled with  the comforting aroma of baked beans.  Crusty bread lavished with butter.   A childhood recollection of home.    Marcel Proust wrote of the joys of madelines.  For me it will always be  baked beans.     Fragrant beans simmering all day  until the pork dissolved into a rich sauce and beans become  tender bursts of flavour.  This is the baked beans of my childhood.   The remembrances of things past.  This is not an exotic recipe.  The ingredients are those of more than seventy years ago.  Most important is –  what is not in this  Northern Saskatchewan recipe.    No molasses.   Ginger gives the beans a  counter balance to the sweetness of the sugar.

Quoting Proust  wrote “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy;  they are the charming gardeners who make our souls bloom.”   May you be happy with this simple recipe.  May your January skies be filled with Northern Lights, and may you enjoy  the simple pleasure of skating on an outdoor rink in the mysterious darkness of the night.

MRSBUTTERFINGERS  has the recipe.  Bon Appetit dear friends.

 

 

THE PROCRASTINATORS FRUITCAKE LOAF . . . make it, bake it and enjoy it the same day.

Procrastinating fruitcake lovers  do not despair.  All is not lost if you didn’t have time for the ritual baking of Christmas cakes back in October.   This quick FRUITCAKE LOAF can be whipped up in the morning and enjoyed with afternoon coffee the same day.    It’s wonderful, spicy fragrance fills your home with an aroma that is pure Christmas.   It slices beautifully and the beguiling perfume of allspice, cloves and nutmeg is perfection itself.

The ingredients are simply guidelines.  The recipe calls for candied mixed peel and dried fruit.  Your pantry has dried figs and lemon and orange peel.  Use what you have.  Pecans, slivered almonds and chopped pistachios replace chopped walnuts.   It will all taste like Christmas.  The brandy decanter is empty then substitute sherry or perhaps an exotic liqueur.  The recipe is so forgiving.

There is so much frantic pressure surrounding the Christmas season.   We need to be calm and take a step back.  Enjoy our family.  Glory in the season.  This fruitcake loaf is more than the sum total of its parts.  Its very simplicity gives one a chance to take a breath and enjoy the simple act of preparing food for those we love.

The recipe for QUICK FRUITCAKE LOAF awaits you in MRSBUTTERFINGERS kitchen.

Merry Christmas dear friends.   XXX Virginia

 

 

 

HOW I MET OSWALD GENTLEMAN RABBIT

This is the time of year when we believe in magic.    We sing about a  snowman who dances  and a reindeer whose red nose  saves Christmas.    We read fairy tales to our children and watch “once upon a time” movies.

I write about a gentleman rabbit called Oswald.    I came upon him quite unexpectedly in my garden.   He was enjoying sun and taking pleasure in the day.  I apologized for disturbing his peaceful moment and turned to walk away.    He raised a paw to stay me.  Introduced himself and told me this story.

Rabbits have the stewardship of all growing things .  This is an enormous responsibility for the rabbits.  It was made especially difficult  for many refused to believe our planet was in grave danger.    And that is how the tales  of Oswald began.    The story of Oswald’s celebration of the winter solstice has been told before, but like all good fairy takes it is lovely to revisit.