18 August 2014

Hot town, anda in the city

Toronto has a shimmer about it in the summertime.

I'm not talking about the streets themselves, or the weather... it's more about the people who live here or who come here to visit making things seem really shiny.  Everyone and every place seems extra beautiful, extra special, extra real.  Whether they're old or young, talking and laughing in a group, or a couple, or a solitary person with somewhere to get to (and fast), they're out and they're on patios or they're in backyards or they're just walking or on the TTC or on their bicycles... being gorgeous.

And it's nice.  Really nice.  I've lived downtown for over seven years now, and each summer has astonished me.  This summer has been no exception.  

We spent yesterday morning just wandering about the Beach - walked a beach/boardwalk combination from Northern Dancer Boulevard over to Kenilworth Street, then back along Kew Beach Avenue.  The beautiful residents and visitors made the already lovely surroundings sparkle, and it was a really excellent way to spend a couple of hours.


To make sure we had energy for such a jaunt, I made breakfast of anda bhurji, an Indian spicy scrambled egg dish (recipe below), and warmed some chapatti.  This was first made for me by my mother-in-law, and it was love at first bite.  You'll note that I've added corn - I had roasted some Ontario corn the night before, so I had some leftover that I added to the recipe.  Corn is not a traditional add-in, so don't worry if you don't have it.  It added a nice touch of sweetness to the dish, however.

Anda Bhurji (spicy scrambled eggs)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup of minced onion
Scant1/3 teaspoon of turmeric powder
2 cloves minced garlic
1.5 inches of ginger root, peeled and minced (about 1 tablespoon of pureed ginger)
1 to 3 small green chillis to your taste, deseeded and minced (alternatively, you can cut a slit down the side of a whole green chilli or two and throw them in like that)
1/2 teaspoon of cumin powder
6 eggs (free range, organic - think of the hens, please!)
1/3 cup of water or milk
Half of a tomato, diced small
1/2 teaspoon of garam masala (my favourite blend is also included below)
1/4 cup of cooked or frozen corn
Lots of chopped cilantro - probably about 3 tablespoons' worth
Want it spicy?  Add 1/4 teaspoon of Indian red chilli powder (not to be confused with Western chilli powder, which is a blend of spices - Indian chilli powder is just ground up chillis)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in frying pan on stovetop - medium heat.   Add onion and turmeric, and cook until the onions are softened and becoming translucent.  Then, add your garlic, ginger, green chilli, and ground cumin and fry for two minutes, till the garlic loses its raw smell.  

While onion mixture cooks, beat your eggs in with the water or milk till a little frothy. 

Add diced tomato, corn, cilantro, garam masala, and optional chilli powder.  Stir well.  Let cook 1 to 2 minutes.  Then, add the egg mixture, and salt and pepper the whole concoction.  Keep stirring to scramble the eggs.  Once it looks like it could be ready, taste to see if salt is to your taste.  Add more if necessary.  

Serves 4.  Eat with chapattis or on its own.  

Garam Masala blend
1. I will unequivocally state that everyone probably has their own preferred taste when it comes to garam masala.  This is just what I prefer.  It's great to experiment with your own blend.
2. You need a coffee grinder that's dedicated solely to grinding spices for this.  If you use your regular coffee grinder, it's probably going to make your beans taste like Indian food for at least three grinding sessions.

1/4 cup whole coriander seeds
2 tablespoons of whole cumin seeds
2 green cardamom pods
4 black cardamom pods
3 inches of cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon cloves
1 dried red chilli pepper
Pinch of grated nutmeg

Buzz everything up into a powder in your spice-specific coffee grinder.  It'll keep in an airtight container for about a month or so.  

You can also dry roast the spices before grinding them, but that gives a different flavour.  I tend to prefer this one for most cooking.  

11 August 2014

Hanging in Halifax

My husband and I spent an extended long weekend in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada) to celebrate his 33rd birthday.  We were able to visit with great friends while we were there, and to enjoy all the hospitality Halifax and the surrounding area could offer.  

The following is a bit of an annotated triptych of our time there.  Photos were mostly taken with my iPhone, so they're not amazing quality, but they're better than having no photos at all.

Day 1 - drive to Lunenburg (it's on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites)
Lobster roll lunch at the Salt Shaker Deli - the lobster was lightly dressed, not overwhelmingly mayonnaise-y, and very tasty.  We had mussels in a tomato-sausage broth to start - they have several options for mussels, but they make their own sausage, which made our decision easy.  

Shopping in Lunenberg - Dots and Loops for handmade stuff, like housewares and jewelry and accessories; Amos Pewter for pewter jewelry, housewares and ornaments; Luvly for Canadian designed/made women's clothing.

Dinner at Two Doors Down in Halifax - we shared kimchi fries and some calamari to start - the fries were great, and the sauce for the calamari was balanced really well between sour and sweet and salty.  My main dish was a bowl of scallop and basil pesto spaghetti, which was a wonderful dish with fresh flavour from the basil and the scallops in each bite.  

Day 2 - drive to Annapolis Valley (Grand Pre is on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites, too) and the Bay of Fundy
Mussels for lunch at the Port Pub in Port Williams

Walked the ocean floor at Burncoat Head Park during low tide, and watched the tide start to creep back in by marking its progress against a rock.  Views through Grand Pre are incredible (sorry, no photos at the moment) and well worth the drive.

Drove back in time for dinner at Cafe Chianti, an old school Italian place right in Halifax.  To start, I ate seared scallops served with a panzanella salad (possibly my new favourite combination), and for main I had beautifully cooked pasta and meatballs.  

Day 3 - day in Halifax proper
Shopping and breakfast at the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market.
Lunch of shared "social plates" at the Stubborn Goat - see photo below of our heaped table that included arancini, stuffed meatballs, and house made pickles. 
Dinner at home of oysters, lobsters, and veg from the farmers market.
Watched fireworks for Natal Day and then managed to sneak in to Cows for ice cream right at closing time before we went home.

Day 4 - last day in Halifax
Breakfast at home with farmers market haul.
Wander around the harbourfront, and picked up a chocolate rum cake to bring home to one of my husband's colleagues at Rum Runners.
Lunch of beet salad and poutine at the Henry House pub.