I was flipping through a cooking magazine the other day published by my favourite chef, Ricardo, a French Canadian cook with a penchant for preparing foods high in cholesterol, sugar and fat, or at least that’s the impression a reader would get from this one issue. The magazine features his take on all the (traditional) foods that I grew up with as a boy in Quebec, like hot chicken sandwiches smothered in gravy, poutine, mac and cheese, and chocolate donuts. As if this wasn’t incentive enough to pick up a copy, the remainder of the magazine paid homage to the splendours of chocolate and is replete with new and creative ways to rot teeth and keep dentists employed. One recipe in particular (if a recipe with a single ingredient even qualifies as a recipe) struck me as ingenious and I felt compelled to share it.
Those of you who work with me may already know I’m referring to a bowl made entirely of chocolate, like the one I brought in midweek to keep as far away as possible from my house. It is not as daunting as it appears and the method for creating it is so quick and easy that you’ll almost slap yourself after I reveal it. I feel like I’m giving away something esoteric, like a solution to the magic trick where a women gets sliced in half; but recipes, unlike David Copperfield secrets, are meant to be shared and enjoyed.
There are so many things one could do with the chocolate bowl, the least of which is devour it as is. They are also great to use for serving ice cream, cereal, or chocolate covered strawberries. I made the latter, as I had some melted chocolate leftover that I didn’t want to waste. I haven’t yet served hot soup in it, though I can pretty much guarantee your table cloth will need to be laundered. Enjoy!
I wouldn’t be a true Canadian if I didn’t have a hankering for doughnuts. Between Tim Hortons and Dunkin Donuts, I was practically weaned on these caloric concoctions, and it was likely one of my first words. They are the ultimate comfort food, whether accompanying a hot cup of coffee and crossword puzzle on a lazy weekend morning, or savouring a bag-ful at an outdoor market in the summertime, fingers coated in cinnamon sugar. Mini carnival doughnuts are the most lethal and underestimated of the doughnut genus, as their diminutive size confounds the stomach – the hand bypasses the brain on its way to grab another and the bag is empty before the brain finally catches wind of the ploy. When my mom sees a mini doughnut stand at the Saturday Saltspring Island Market, she’ll buy a dozen, quickly eat one, then shove the bag towards me with an emphatic “Get them away from me!”
After I made these at home one morning before work, I sampled one doughnut hole still warm, and immediately swallowed 3 more without chewing. My willpower is not strong enough. But who can resist a dessert that can also be eaten as breakfast? I wouldn’t recommend keeping leftovers at home, unless you’re planning on running a marathon in the days ahead. I brought a tupperware container to work and handed doughnuts out in meetings throughout the day, keeping them at the opposite end of the table from me. Enjoy!
I first tasted this dish – known as Khao Niaow Ma Muang – in Kanchanaburi, a city in Thailand notable for its Bridge on the river Kwai, otherwise known as the Death Railway. Despite its murky past, where during World War II the Japanese forced Allied prisoners to build a railway from Thailand to Burma, the city is now very quaint: scenic river views, internet cafes, outdoor night markets and elephants that will pose for food or money.
It is most likely in Kanchanaburi that Sonia contracted Dengue Fever, though she wouldn’t know about it until a few days later once we had already left town. The mosquitos there were kamikaze-crazy and they marauded through the humid streets in thick swarms with an electric, infuriating hum. Oblivious to the impending “break bone fever” that was to come, Sonia and I both dined at a restaurant that resembled a tiki jungle hut, where our guidebook recommended mango and sticky rice for dessert. Before then, I had never conceived of rice being eaten with mangos – and certainly not as a dessert. I haven’t tasted it again in a restaurant since returning home, though looking through photos of the trip recently a Pavlovian response ensued, which left me salivating and craving the sweet and salty sticky rice with a side of cool, freshly sliced mango. Enjoy!
Finally, a dessert post! I’ve been told that there have been too many healthy recipes on this site recently and I have to agree; there hasn’t been a hint of chocolate in over a month and I’ve been getting the shakes from withdrawal. There is a long list of desserts that I’ve been dying to get to, including tiramisu, panna cotta with caramel sauce, deep-fried Mars bar and New York Style Cheesecake. I’m also always open to requests…
This jelly roll is sugary, yes, but made using Angel Food Cake, which is lighter and fluffier than a traditional Swiss roll; it practically eats itself. I love Angel Food Cake for the way it almost melts in the mouth and I would normally eat it in the summertime smothered in fresh strawberries and homemade whipped cream. It’s not quite summer yet, though here in Victoria the lawnmowers are already whirring in activity, the daffodils are in full bloom and the cherry blossoms that line the streets are beginning to lose their petals in a florid flurry of pink.
I’ve included the basic recipe for Angel Food Cake, though if you are short on time and already feel like you’re being put to work enough by having to laboriously roll up the cake and daub it with jelly, then take a shortcut and pick up the angel food cake mix from the grocery store. Otherwise, it is easy enough to make from scratch. You can also buy store-bought jam or make your own; I used the homemade strawberry-raspberry jam I had made a few weeks ago. A tip, however: if you’re anticipating leftovers, the roll will soak up the moisture from the jam overnight and will likely be a bit soggy the next day – which is not ideal. It will taste much better within the first few hours of making.
Whenever I think of maple sugar cream fudge, or sucre a la creme, I think of two things. First, of my mom guiltily sneaking samples from the fudge vendor at Saltspring’s Summer Market when my step dad isn’t looking. Being raised in Quebec, her favourite flavour is naturally maple. I also think of Quebec during the winter holidays, of the late night festivities during reveillon and of the doting French Canadian women who serve platter after platter of food and stare you down until your plate is wiped clean. The food is mouth-watering and worthy of a Lipitor commercial it is so artery-clogging. Sometimes, you’ll find a few unexpected menu items at these dinners, like Cheese Whiz served on hot dog buns or on white bread without crusts, or mini hot dogs in sauce. All in all, though, French Canadians serve up exquisite desserts that’ll leave you with a sugar high: you’ll get to splurge on homemade doughnuts and cakes drizzled in maple toffy and of course, my favourite, maple sugar cream.
If you haven’t yet had the privilege of being invited to a reveillon, I’ll describe one to you. Usually taking place around Christmas or New Year’s Eve, reveillon is an all-night, family-friendly house party with limitless food and alcohol, traditional music and plenty of cheek-kissing. When entering the person’s home and after the customary two-cheek kiss, the host will normally take one’s boots or footwear and toss them into the bathtub where they’ll sit with a dozen other pairs, likely the cleanest method of containing the slushy mess from outdoors. The newly arrived will make the tour of the room, exchanging pleasantries and many more cheek-kisses until their lips are well-chapped. Continue reading