Thursday, October 18, 2018

Root & Leaf: Big, Bold Vegetarian Food

I love the idea of big, bold vegetarian food, so I was pleased to be offered a preview copy of Root & Leaf: Big, Bold Vegetarian Food by English chef Rich Harris. I was even happier when I realized that the recipes live up to the title. Root & Leaf serves up a full seven courses of creative, flavourful recipes from around the world and Harris encourages readers to be flexible and not afraid to mix things up.

Endless Variety of Flavours 
Harris isn’t a vegetarian, but he does believe we should all be eating more fruits and vegetables. He wants people looking at his cookbook “to get excited about cooking with vegetables and the endless variety of flavours and textures that are at our disposal if we make them the main event.” 

Licorice-scented fennel is a vegetable that we don’t see all that often in Canada, but recipes for Braised Fennel with Pangrattato and Fennel Tarte Fine are appealing. Some of the recipes are simple and straightforward but still add dollops of flavour – Roast Carrots with Miso Honey Butter, Carrot Cake Granola, Spiced Pumpkin Chocolate Mousse, and Carrot Apple and Ginger Frozen Yogurt.

I was pleased to find a recipe for No-Fish Sauce, an ingredient that is so critical to Southeast Asian cuisine. Harris says, “This should taste intensely savoury and very salty with just enough funk to replicate the pungency of Thai fish sauce.”

Circling the Globe 
Harris’ recipes include flavours from around the world. There are Indian (Chilli Paneer, Baingan Bharta), Asian (Lotus Leaf Parcels with Shiitake Mushrooms, Smoked Mushroom Ramen), and Italian (Spinach and Blue Cheese Polenta, Artichoke and Lemon Orzo Risotto) dishes. One recipe that really intrigued me is King Oyster Larb, a vegetarian version of a Lao/Thai salad.

There are pancake-like recipes from at least 4 different countries: Onion Rava Dosa from India, Banh Xeo from Vietnam, Okonomiyaki from Japan (recipe provided below), and Winter Vegetable Frittata from Italy.

Some of the recipes really surprised me, such as the Smoky Potato Terrine, which uses a dusting of smoky bacon-flavored crisps [potato chips] to add flavour. Or you can try Chargrilled Greens with Garlic Custard or Kimchi Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. I was intrigued to see a dessert recipe for Celeriac Rice Pudding, but Harris says, “That sweet, earthy flavour combined with subtle spices in a classic rice pudding tastes pretty incredible.”

Harris isn’t afraid to mix things up. There’s a Korean-inspired version of the iconic Spanish dish, patatas bravas (recipe provided below). He’s also flexible: “If recipes are approached as a set of strict rules that must be obeyed to the letter, then cooking ceases to be fun, and if it’s not fun, then what’s the point? . . . there’s no harm in using alternatives as you see fit. . . . if you can’t find baby vegetables just buy the grown-up size and get busy with your knife.”

My thanks to Octopus Publishing and Ron Longe for the preview copy as well as recipes and photographs.

These Japanese pancakes are as fun to make as they are to say; the name literally translates as ‘how you like it’, which I take to mean that you can add pretty much any combination of ingredients. The most important thing is to slice all of the vegetables finely enough so that they cook at the same rate and retain a little crunch. It’s possible to buy specific okonomiyaki flour in Japanese food shops, but a combination of plain flour and cornflour does the trick just as well. 

Serves 2 as a main or serves 4 as a side

150g plain flour
20g cornflour
300ml Vegetable Stock (page 200)
5 medium eggs
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and grated
1 large Hispi (pointed) cabbage, shredded
8 fresh shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
6 spring onions, finely sliced
80g shredded red pickled ginger
generous pinch of fine sea salt
groundnut oil, for frying

For the sauce:
6 tablespoons tomato ketchup
2 tablespoons Mushroom Ketchup (page 204)
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1½ teaspoons dark brown soft sugar

To serve:
Kewpie (Japanese) mayonnaise
 aonori (seaweed flakes – optional)

Mix together the plain flour and cornflour in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Whisk together the stock and eggs, pour into the well and gradually whisk into the flour mixture until you have a smooth batter. Fold in the prepared vegetables and ginger and season with the salt.

Whisk together the ingredients for the sauce in a separate bowl and set aside.

Heat a splash of groundnut oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and pour in the vegetable mixture. For the first minute, shake the pan around and keep the vegetables moving, then let everything settle. Fry for 4 minutes without moving the pan, then cover the pan with a large plate and flip over both the plate and pan together so that the pancake falls onto the plate. Add a little more oil to the pan, then slide the pancake back into the pan and cook for a further 4–5 minutes until the pancake is set and the vegetables are crisp around the edges.

Slide the pancake onto a warmed serving plate and brush the sauce over the top. Drizzle over the mayonnaise and top with the aonori, if using. Cut into wedges and serve.

Kimchi Bravas 
I always used to be of the opinion that you shouldn’t mess with classic dishes, particularly something as iconic as patatas bravas. However, times change and these are bloody delicious, so I’m happy to ignore my former self. The sauce for any good bravas, Korean-inspired or otherwise, should be deep red and sticky enough to cling to the crisp exterior of the potatoes. Toss them together moments before serving so they’re coated in the sauce but still stay crispy underneath. 

Serves 6

150ml olive oil
fine sea salt
750g Désirée potatoes, peeled and cut into roughly 3cm dice

For the sauce:
250g kimchi
250g passata

For the aioli:
1 medium egg yolk
2 teaspoons gochujang (Korean hot red chilli paste)
1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed
100ml vegetable oil
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice vinegar

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Pour the olive oil into a roasting tin and put it into the oven to heat.

Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add the diced potatoes and boil for 10 minutes, then drain thoroughly. Tip the potatoes into the roasting tin, toss to coat in the hot oil and roast for 25 minutes until golden and crisp, tossing occasionally in the oil.

Meanwhile, for the sauce, put the kimchi and passata in a liquidiser and blend until they form a coarse paste. Pour into a saucepan, bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat.

For the aioli, put the egg yolk, gochujang and garlic in a large bowl and whisk together until smooth. Combine the oils in a jug and, whisking constantly, begin to pour the blended oil into the bowl in a very thin, steady stream. Continue steadily adding the oil and whisking until it’s all incorporated, then whisk in the vinegar.

Remove the roasting tin from the oven, lift the potatoes from the tin with a slotted spoon and briefly drain on kitchen paper. Tip the potatoes into a bowl, add half of the sauce and quickly toss to coat. Spoon the remaining sauce into a serving dish, top with the potatoes and spoon over the aioli.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Flavourful Saskatoon, October 15, 2018

Bread & Berries, Oct. 28 
Make bread and jam from scratch (you even get to grind the grain) from 12:30-3:30 pm, Oct. 28. Register in advance with or (306) 655-4575 ($10 fee).

Hallowe’en Spooktacular, Oct. 31 
Little monsters, kittens, and mini-heroes are invited to attend a Hallowe’en Spooktacular at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market from 11 am-3 pm, Oct. 31. There will be age-appropriate activities, pumpkin painting, and trick or treating indoors from the market vendors.

Prairie Pours, Nov. 3 
The Glen at Crossmount is hosting Prairie Pours with alcoholic beverages from a variety of different local businesses from 6-11 pm, Nov. 3.

Vegetarian Ukrainian, Nov. 8 
Join Chef Jenni and learn how to make some Ukrainian classics on Nov. 8 at The Local Kitchen.

Steep Hill Food Co-op
Steep Hill Food Co-op has been in operation as a co-operative selling organic food for 40 years. That’s a remarkable achievement and well worth celebrating. If you’re not familiar with Steep Hill, here’s an article I wrote about them a few years ago.

HomeQuarter Coffeehouse & Bakery 
Riverbend Plantation has a new name and a new location (they can still be found in the Saskatoon Farmers' Market building as well). HomeQuarter Coffeehouse & Bakery is now open across the street from the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market at #110 – 405 Avenue B South. The menu includes sandwiches, home baked pies, cheesecake, and espresso.

I had an excellent lunch at Picaro on Friday and there were lots of vegetarian options to choose from – fried tomatillo sandwich, jackfruit tacos or burritos. The lunch special includes two tacos, kale salad, and a small bowl of soup.

Urban Food Production 
Urban areas can produce more food than we sometimes realize. The Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre harvested 21,720 pounds of food from their site, despite a short, dry growing season.

One-in-five cities in the United States produce enough eggs and milk to feed their residents; another one-in-ten could completely satisfy local demand for fruit and vegetables using what they grow within their metropolitan boundaries.”

Make-Your-Own Bento Boxes
Four relatively simple, absolutely beautiful bento boxes that you can take to work for lunch.

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post articles about food that is good, clean and fair; travel; and books. You may also enjoy EcoFriendly Sask profiling Saskatchewan environmental initiatives and events. 

You can follow Wanderlust and Words on Facebook, Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Friday, October 12, 2018

Darkside Donuts

“Simple donuts done really well” 

Darkside Donuts, a new venture by Bryn Rawlyk of The Night Oven Bakery, will be opening its doors to the public at 9 am, Saturday, October 13, and Saskatoon is in for a treat. I was fortunate enough to be invited to the soft opening on Friday evening and the donuts are delicious!

Each donut is big and thick with a generous layer of icing dripping down the sides and pooling at the base. The manager explained that their goal is to serve simple donuts done really well. The ingredients are all organic and they’ll be using as many local, seasonal ingredients as possible.

There were 6-8 varieties available when I was there and I sampled the strawberry and chocolate. Both were excellent, but I’ll be going back for the Darkside chocolate donut as the icing was fabulous – dark, rich, and fruity. The other choices were very tempting – sourdough cake, filled pumpkin pie, Venn coffee, cranberry fritter, and animal cracker (vanilla icing sprinkled with crumbs).

Two standard donuts – honey dip and Darkside chocolate with housemade sprinkles – will always be available. In addition, they’ll have a few monthly and one weekly special. And the Sunday Funday option will be savory. This coming Sunday, you can treat yourself to a bacon jam donut stuffed with ricotta, blue cheese, and bacon and glazed with honey and a walnut-parmesan dusting. Prices range from $2.50-4.50 per donut.

There will always be two vegan options – one of the standard donuts and one of the specials. Both the donuts I sampled were vegan.

There are benches along one wall and a counter beside the window. The focus is on the donuts, but you can have a cup of brewed Venn coffee and there may be additional drink options in the future.

Darkside Donuts is located at 631 Avenue H South, next door to Fable Ice Cream. Gangsters Italian Sandwiches and a small grocery store are just around the corner and there’s a park across the street. All the fixings for a gourmet picnic!

Darkside Donuts is open 7 days a week:
     Monday-Thursday – 7 am-4 pm
     Friday – 7 am-6 pm
     Saturday – 9 am-4 pm
     Sunday – 9 am-2 pm

Visit Darkside Donuts and enjoy a really great donut – and, as a bonus, you can feel good about the fact that you’re supporting a local, organic business using as many local, seasonal ingredients as possible.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Flavourful Saskatoon, October 8, 2018

Citizenship Ceremony, Oct. 12 
Welcome new Canadian citizens, including Jennifer and Adi from Kaleidoscope Vegetable Gardens, at 10:30 am, Oct. 12, at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market.

Nosh Rummage Sale, Oct. 14 
Nosh is holding a rummage sale with baked good, plants, and random wares at 5 pm, Oct. 14.

Food Not Bombs, Oct. 21 
Food Not Bombs is having their next cook on Oct. 21 if you want to help or are looking for a warm, healthy meal.

Italian Wine Seminar & Tasting, Oct. 27 
Doug Reichel Wine Marketing is hosting an Italian wine tasting with winemaker Antonio Antonelli from Cantine Galasso winery in D’Abruzzo, Italy, from 7-11 pm, Oct. 27.

Three Farmers 
Three Farmers Foods started selling camellina oil in 2011. They’ve come a long way in the past 7 years and are now 170th on a list of Canada’s top 500 fastest-growing companies. Congratulations!

Best Food Writing 2017
I’m always fascinated by the different aspects of food that are covered in each year’s edition of Best Food Writing. Best Food Writing 2017 encompasses fighting cold Atlantic waves to harvest kelp, a barbecue restaurant with a history of racism, a $240 sushi roll, and several opinions on food and cultural appropriation.

Tackling Food Waste 
Tackling food waste is a recurrent theme these days. Here’s one interesting development. A bakery in England is reusing its leftover bread to make and sell fresh bread

The other article is more thought-provoking as it juxtaposes competing values. Do you support a venture-backed startup selling imperfect produce from industrial farms throughout the world or do you support local CSAs and local farmers?

Old Coots 
A group of self-proclaimed old coots set up a stall at the Salt Lake Farmers’ Market and offered free advice. What do you think? Is this something we need in Saskatoon?

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post articles about food that is good, clean and fair; travel; and books. You may also enjoy EcoFriendly Sask profiling Saskatchewan environmental initiatives and events. 

You can follow Wanderlust and Words on Facebook, Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Monday, October 1, 2018

Flavourful Saskatoon, October 1, 2018

Craft & Bake Sale, Oct. 6 
Support Street Cat Rescue by attending their craft and bake sale from 9:30 am-6 pm, Oct. 6, at Market Mall (next to Safeway).

Sask Craft Brewers Festival, Oct. 13 
Enjoy a selection of Saskatchewan-made beer at the Saskatchewan Craft Brewers Festival from 3-8 pm, Oct. 13, at Winston’s English Pub.

Frisk Market
Here’s a review of Frisk Market, Saskatoon’s first vegan grocery store, for those of you like me who haven’t yet made the trip out there. You can pick up a sandwich or grain bowl in the bistro.

Saskatoon Farmers’ Market 
There was an excellent turnout at City Hall this week for the discussion about the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, and we’ve made some progress. Councillors now appreciate the difference between a public and a farmers’ market and have changed their RFP to include a 3-day-a-week farmers’ market. I wish they hadn’t attached that to somehow “animating” the space for the rest of the week.

I was interviewed on television (at about 18-19 minutes) and quoted in the newspaper.

Markets as Intersections of the Urban & Natural World 
I came across this quote from a photographer when researching a completely different topic and thought it was relevant:

“In many regions of the world, we are divorced—physically and psychically—from the work of food, the work of nature and its role in human survival. We go to the grocery store, we buy food. Sometimes we go to farmers’ markets. One of the most vivid intersections of the natural and urban world is at markets. When I travel, key destinations for me are markets and areas of natural harvest—places in cities where people still make their living from the land. In any such a collection of images from markets and nature-work in cities there is certainly beauty, and bounty, and color—nature’s gifts in abundance. There is also back-straining work, and the risks of weather and poor harvests and uncertain incomes. Although all these images come from India, they are scenes repeated around the world, from Andean or Amazonian markets to early morning truck unloading at the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City.”

No More Boring Sandwiches 
The Guardian has published 20 packed lunch recipes (4 separate posts) that are incredibly varied. Take a look and see which ones appeal to you the most.

Here are a couple of interesting articles if you’re vegetarian or thinking about going vegan. The first article recommends starting a conversation about vegetarianism by underscoring the benefits. The second offers advice on making the transition to vegan.

Photos are from the market in Carcassonne, France. Six weeks until I'm back in France!

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post articles about food that is good, clean and fair; travel; and books. You may also enjoy EcoFriendly Sask profiling Saskatchewan environmental initiatives and events. 

You can follow Wanderlust and Words on Facebook, Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Monday, September 24, 2018

Flavourful Saskatoon, September 24, 2018

Local Food Trail, Osler, Sept. 29 
Visit the farms on Osler’s local food trail on Sept. 29 on a bicycle tour organized by the Saskatoon Food Council.

Zero-Waste Microgreen CSA
Green Cycle City Farm, a member of the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market Co-operative, is introducing a Fall Microgreen CSA starting mid-October. You’ll get two varieties of greens in a glass jar along with a recipe. The CSA will be zero waste and have super-low food miles – not to mention healthy, flavourful greens as winter sets in. Contact Haley at if you’re interested.

Support your Local Farmer 
This has been an emotional week for me as many of us have joined forces to let Saskatoon City Council know that we support the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market Co-operative.

We live in a funny age where local farmers are being threatened with eviction while at the same time major supermarket chains are using “fake farm” branding to mislead their customers into thinking their products come from small-scale producers.

It breaks my heart to know that a handful of multinationals grow rich while local farmers wonder whether they should buy seed to plant in the spring or horde their money to see them through the hard times ahead, when a young man, wondering about the future of the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market Co-operative, says he just hopes he will be able to keep on farming.

Eat Your Weeds! 
A research study shows that urban weeds are not only safe to eat but very high in nutritional value.

Organic Wine on the Rise 
L’Express magazine records a rise in the number of organic, biodynamic, and sulfur-free wines being produced and sold in France. Large French supermarket chains are carrying up to 10% organic. It will be interesting to see whether that trend carries over to North America.

Thirsty Dragon 
What is wine? A beverage, an agricultural crop, a status symbol, an easy mark for fraudsters? It’s all of these and more when you read about China’s rage to possess and imitate Bordeaux wines over the past 10-15 years. Thirsty Dragon: China’s Lust for Bordeaux and the Threat to the World’s Best Wines is a fascinating read – and it’s all the better because I’ll be spending 3 days in Bordeaux in November!

Flavourful Saskatoon is a weekly Monday feature. I also post articles about food that is good, clean and fair; travel; and books. You may also enjoy EcoFriendly Sask profiling Saskatchewan environmental initiatives and events. 

You can follow Wanderlust and Words on Facebook, Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Future of the Saskatoon Farmers' Market - Let's Move Forward, Not Backward

The City of Saskatoon has big, bold dreams for the future of the old electrical building (current home of the Saskatoon Farmers' Market Co-operative). That’s fantastic, but I believe their plans are fatally flawed. Here’s why.

Party or Buy Food?
The City wants more “animation” at the market site. First of all, I’m not sure what that means. Secondly, I go to the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market to buy locally grown food. I don’t go there to be entertained. If your primary goal is to bring lots of people to the site, turn it into a Tim Horton’s or a discount fashion outlet. If your goal is to support local food production and food security, then a farmers’ market is your best option.

It’s true that Granville Island Public Market is animated 6 days a week. (In fact, it’s so busy there are traffic jams and locals have turned the site over to the tourists.) But Saskatoon isn’t Vancouver. We don’t have the population, the idyllic location, or easy access to tropical Asian fruits. Instead, we have an out-of-the way location and a limited amount of space.

The City complains that Market vendors attend community markets held in various locations around town. What they fail to realize is that the public attends those markets because they’re conveniently located and provide ample free parking.

Do We Want to Be 1980s Nashville?
On the surface, it appears reasonable to combine a public market with a farmers’ market in order to hold a 6-day-a-week market, especially as the City says they’d make local food a priority. But let’s look at how it works in practice.

Public markets provide a space for retailers to sell their wares. They don’t have to grow or produce the food themselves. They can purchase it from wholesalers, add a mark-up, and sell it on to consumers. It may look more attractive than a supermarket, but it could well be exactly the same produce. You won’t know where the produce was grown. You won’t be able to talk to the farmer. You won’t be supporting the local economy.

Some of the retailers at a public market will be selling mainstream brands of yogurt, milk, dried goods – convenient yes, market-worthy no. It would be great to have a downtown supermarket, but let’s not try and force a market into that mold.

Farmers’ markets in Alberta are 80% local farmers/producers and 20% resellers. That sounds okay until you look at it in practice. The resellers can afford large booths that take up most of the space. Local farmers are squeezed into the corners, forced to compete over price with large-scale resellers.

Peterborough Market resolved the conflict between local farmers and resellers by kicking out genuine farmers who had questioned the resellers’ practices. The public started boycotting the market and both attendance and revenue went down.

The Nashville Farmers’ Market was founded in the early 1800s as a producer-only market. In the 1980s, they changed their mind and vendors were selling commercially available, often resold, products. By 2014 vendors had realized this model wasn’t working. It was at odds with the current emphasis on local foods, traceability, and transparency, and they switched back to being a producer-only market. In 2015, the Nashville Market had its best season ever with 4 times as many farmers and peak-season sales more than making up for the drop in the low season. A comprehensive review of the Nashville Farmers' Market's decision is available online.

A Sense of Community
The City says its goal is to ensure quality of life and meet community needs. Those are praiseworthy goals – that can be best met by providing the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market with an extended lease and full municipal support.

There’s a huge sense of community at the Market. A trip to the market is a part of many families’ weekly routine. Friends get together over breakfast; we catch up with our neighbours; and we spread our purchases out between our favorite vendors. Tourists enjoy an authentic experience they won’t find at a public market.

In addition to Market events, the Co-operative participates in a wide range of community events – from NatureCity Festival in the spring to Nuit Blanche in the fall. It’s been an absolute delight over the past few months to see how the Co-operative has partnered with the Saskatoon Open Door Society to provide Newcomers with an opportunity to test-drive their food-based businesses.

If It’s Not Broke, Don’t Fix It
We have a fabulous farmers’ market, which is regularly on Chatelaine’s list of the top 10 farmers’ markets across Canada. Let’s focus on what we have and support it rather than threatening to shut it down.

Edmonton City Council supports the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market with free parking and a $1/year lease for an indoor market building that is only open on Saturdays. That’s the kind of support Saskatoon needs for local food, local farmers, the local economy, and local food security.

Please join me in showing support for the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market Co-operative at the Saskatoon City Council meeting at 1 pm, Monday, September 24. Here is the agenda for the meeting. You can request to speak for 2 minutes.

See also: I Support the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market – Here’s Why