Blog - Curry Twist

Apple Cardamom Muffins In Ontario, Canada

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Fall is our favourite time of year, with changing colours transforming ordinary landscapes into brilliant works of art. Leaves in glowing reds, shimmering oranges and pale yellows adorn the trees, making a long, leisurely drive into the countryside one of the highlights of this season.

This year, unseasonably warm weather slowed the progress of Fall and dimmed the colours on the trees, making our scenic road trips a little less vibrant. On the other hand, this meant that we could still sit outside on a restaurant patio by the water, watch sailboats pull into the marina, and enjoy a fresh seafood lunch in the sun!

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The sandy beaches and warm waters of Lake Ontario beckoned to us on an unusually hot day recently and we headed off to Presqu'ile Provincial Park for a day of sun, sand and hiking.

This park has lovely, long, shallow sandy beaches, lots of great hiking trails and one of the oldest lighthouses in the region. It is a nice day trip out of Toronto, if you want to get away from it all.

On the way, we stopped at The Big Apple, a huge bakery, restaurant and farm market which is visible all the way from the highway. We came home armed with a delicious medley of apples and jugs of fresh apple cider. The apples were crisp and slightly tart - perfect to eat and cook with!

If you love cooking with apples, try these easy apple muffins. Loaded with chunks of fruit and delicately scented with cardamom, they are great for breakfast. Or, pair them with home made Saffron Rosewater Ice cream and wow your guests with an unforgettable dessert!

Apple Cardamom Muffins

2 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1/2 cup each: granulated white sugar, brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla essence

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup apple cider

2 apples, peeled, cored and diced into very small pieces (about 2 cups)

1/4 cup Demerara sugar for sprinkling, optional

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with muffin cups or spray lightly with cooking spray.

Combine flour, baking powder and ground cardamom in mixing bowl.

Combine butter and sugars in separate large mixing bowl with hand blender.

Add eggs, beating lightly after each addition.

Mix in vanilla.

Add the flour mixture in 1/4 cup segments, alternating with the milk.

Add the apple cider at the end and mix well to blend.

Fold in the apple pieces with a spatula, mixing them into the batter.

Spoon batter evenly into prepared muffin pan and lightly sprinkle tops with demerara sugar, if using.

Bake for 30 min or until a toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean.

Let muffins rest for 10 min, then serve warm. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate any leftover muffins.

Makes 12 Muffins

 

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Grilled Corn Chowder In Ontario

Ontario is at it's prettiest in the Fall, when changing colours burnish the landscape with shades of red and gold. This is the time to go on a long road trip to admire the scenery!

One of the most popular places to see the gorgeous colours of Fall is at Algonquin Park, in Ontario. This park is teeming with visitors from around the globe who come to marvel at the stunning and constantly changing foliage. Here you can hike the trails, canoe on the tranquil waters, camp out in the wilderness or enjoy a picnic while savouring the majesty of nature.

Fall is also when Ontario's markets are flooded with fresh farm produce, making me want to come up with new and creative ways to use them in my cooking!  The best place to buy fresh picked vegetables, smoked meats, home made preserves, pickles, baked goods and so much more is at St. Jacob's market, in Ontario. I love going there to stock up on loads of fresh produce and other goodies. And when I get back home, this grilled corn chowder is the first thing that I make. It is warming and hearty for the cooler weather and grilling adds a new dimension of flavour to the soup.

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When corn is in season, I like to grill up lots of it on the barbecue, then take the kernels off the cobs and freeze them in ziploc bags. This way, we get to enjoy that grilled corn flavour all year around!
This is an all vegetarian recipe but you can add about 2-3 slices of chopped smoked bacon if you wish. Sauteed shrimp folded in at the very end are also great add ins! Serve with some crusty bread and a salad.

Grilled Corn Chowder

3 cobs of corn, grilled

2 tbsp olive oil

2 long sprigs fresh thyme

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 each, finely chopped: carrot, celery, zucchini, red pepper

4 mushrooms, finely chopped

1 medium potato, peeled and finely chopped

2 tbsp all purpose flour

3 cups milk

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

1 cup whipping cream

2 tbsp each: grated Parmesan cheese, chopped fresh parsley

Take the kernels off the cobs of corn and place in a food processor. Pulse a few times until corn is minced but not turned into a paste. Some texture is important here. Transfer to a bowl and reserve.

Warm oil in deep skillet over medium heat. Add thyme, onions, garlic, carrot, celery, zucchini, red pepper, mushrooms and potato. Saute, stirring occasionally for about 10 min or until vegetables are lightly browned and slightly softened. 

Add flour to skillet, saute 1 min.

Add milk, stirring all the while. Add salt and pepper as well as the reserved minced corn. Cover skillet and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to low and cook covered for 15 min for flavours to blend and soup to thicken.

Add cream, cook 2 min. Turn off heat, then fold in the Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Serve right away.

Serves four

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Fried Perch In Erieau, Ontario

Near the shores of Lake Erie lies one of the most inspiring places in Canada - the Elgin Settlement in Buxton, Ontario. When the Reverend William King, an Irish born Presbyterian minister, found that he had inherited the Louisiana estate of his recently deceased wife and become the owner of 15 slaves, he resolved to set them free and move with them to Canada where they would be safe. The settlement that he founded in 1848 became one of the largest black communities in Canada and attracted many more settlers escaping slavery in the United States.

All newcomers were welcomed - the bell that was rung to announce the latest arrivals still hangs outside the Buxton museum, which has also preserved some of the original buildings from the settlement. Each new family was assigned a 50 acre farm that they could cultivate and eventually purchase.

Education was one of the most important missions of the Elgin settlement. After black children were denied admission into local schools, the settlers built their own schoolhouse. The quality of teaching was so good that soon other parents in the area were clamouring for their children to to be admitted. Racial barriers were swept aside in the school and photographs of these well integrated classes hang on the walls of the schoolhouse today. Graduates of the school went on to become successful doctors, teachers and political leaders, both in Canada and the United States.

The sleepy charm of rural Buxton and the surrounding Chatham Kent area is best explored at a leisurely pace. Spend some time in the delightful village of Erieau where you can relax on the sandy beach or dip your toes in the warm waters of Lake Erie or explore nearby Rondeau Provincial Park where you can go hiking, fishing or bird watching.

The charming Retro Suites Hotel in downtown Chatham is a good place to stay if you want to spend a night or two in the area. It certainly lives up to it's name and is full of quirky and quaint pieces of decor. We were delighted with our stay there, as well as the amazing breakfast they served up. 

One of the pleasures of taking a road trip in Ontario in late summer is seeing the gorgeous produce in the fields, just waiting to be harvested. When we passed field upon field of red, juicy, sun ripened tomatoes, it was all I could do not to stop the car and help myself! Luckily, there are many roadside farm stands for city folk like us who just can't get enough of all this farm fresh goodness! We returned home with our car stuffed with fresh picked vegetables, home made preserves, fresh pressed apple cider as well as smoked and frozen seafood from the lake.

If you are driving around the Chatham Kent area, you will find plenty of restaurants serving creative, outstanding food. A wonderful restaurant in Chatham, called Casabella on the Thames is housed in a lovely, gracious old building on the banks of the Thames river. We had exquisitely prepared, fresh seafood while gazing out at the water, admiring the sunset and letting the peace and tranquility of our surroundings soak in.

One of the best places to try local fish is at Molly and OJ'S, a family restaurant that has been serving up fresh perch (and other good food) to enthusiastic customers in the picturesque Erieau area, since 1966. Their crispy, flavourful fried perch is delicious and just one bite will make you want to keep coming back for more!

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Chef Tom Vidler, co owner of Molly and OJ'S graciously shared his justly famous recipe with us. Easy and delicious, you can serve the perch with fries and coleslaw for the authentic experience or with a fresh sliced salad as I have done. It is fantastic either way!

Fried Perch

1 cup all purpose flour

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

2 eggs, beaten and lightly seasoned to taste

2 cups finely crushed soda cracker crumbs or bread crumbs or panko

1 lb yellow perch fillets (about 4)

1/2 cup unsalted butter plus 4 tbsp extra for de-glazing

1 lemon, juiced, plus extra wedges for garnish

Combine flour, salt and pepper in shallow bowl.

Place eggs and breadcrumbs each in separate shallow bowls. Place them all near the stove.

Dip each fillet of fish in the flour, eggs and breadcrumbs in turn, coating completely all over.

Warm 1/2 cup butter in large frying pan set over medium heat.

Cook fillets, in batches if necessary, until golden and crisp, about 3-4 min per side, turning once.

Transfer fish to a serving platter.

Add remaining 4 tbsp of butter to skillet, along with the juice of one lemon. Stir to loosen crispy bits at bottom of pan. Cook until bubbling gently, about 30 sec.

Pour warm lemon butter sauce over fish and serve right away with additional lemon wedges.

Serves four

Pan Fried Trout In Ontario

Ontario is at it's most beautiful in the Fall. The leaves change colour to shades of red, yellow and orange, the air turns cooler and fresh produce fills the markets, tempting me to get creative in my kitchen!

My favourite Fall activity is taking long, scenic drives around the country side, marvelling at the glorious colours, exploring farmer's markets along the way and stopping at scenic spots for an impromptu picnic of the goodies we have picked up.

Ontario is dotted with many beautiful provincial parks that provide the perfect opportunity to hike wooded trails, canoe on the lake or just sit by the waterfront and soak it all in. On a recent extended road trip, we explored northern Ontario with stops at Killarney park, St. Jacob's farmer's market and Lang Lake to name just a few. The peace and tranquility of the area, the stunning scenic beauty and the flavours of fresh, local food will remain golden in our memory. 

Locally caught fish such as trout and pickerel were featured on most restaurant menus during our recent trip. We loved their delicate flavour and the myriad of ways they were prepared in the form of soup, chowder, deep fried, grilled, steamed or bathed in a cheesy, creamy sauce. My favourite was a simple preparation of crisp pan fried trout, seasoned with herbs and lemon juice. Not only was it flavourful and healthy, it really let the taste of trout shine through.

In my recipe here, I have followed a similar cooking technique but punched up the flavours a bit by adding my own favourite spices - garam masala and cumin. It's surprising how well these spices blend with the delicate flavour of trout.

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Pan Fried Masala Trout

You can play around with the spice and herb profile of this recipe. Simply substitute the cumin and garam masala with herbs du provence or oregano and the coriander with fresh basil or Thyme. Serve with Fall tomato jam and a nice salad!

1/4 cup each: all purpose flour, fine breadcrumbs

Salt to taste

1/2 tsp each: ground black pepper, ground cumin, garam masala, paprika

1 lb trout fillet, or any other fish of your choice, cut into 4 pieces

2 tbsp each: oil, chopped fresh coriander leaves

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Line a tray with parchment to hold dredged fish. Have another platter ready to hold fried fish.

Combine flour, breadcrumbs, salt and spices in medium shallow flat bowl or plate. Dredge each fillet in spiced flour mixture and place on tray. Do not stack fish on top of each other. 

Warm oil in heavy skillet over medium heat. Fry fish in batches so as not to overcrowd pan. Place dredged fish skin side down in pan and cook for 3-4 min until skin is crisp and cooked through. Gently flip fish and cook for another couple minutes until it is golden and lightly crisp. 

Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over fish and garnish with fresh coriander. 

serves four

Credit for the lovely produce pictures in this blog goes to my friend Karen Bergmann. Thank you!

Curried Pumpkin Sabzi In Ontario, Canada

Fall in Ontario is always breathtakingly beautiful. Cool crisp nights and warm sunny days encourage you to go explore forest trails, where you can walk for miles surrounded by trees whose leaves display the entire palette of colours, from brilliant reds and oranges to pale yellows and greens.

Driving around back country roads, stopping occasionally to buy fresh fruits and vegetables straight from farm stands and picnicking by a stream or waterfall is my favourite way to enjoy a beautiful fall day. Hiking in the many gorgeous conservation areas around Ontario, trampling on crunchy fallen leaves, admiring the tapestry of changing colours from a peak, while the dappled sunlight shines through the trees is another favourite!

Sun ripened, farm fresh produce is a real luxury this time of year and I try to make the most of it by practically turning vegetarian! Pumpkins are one of my favourite harvest vegetables and I love to cook them with spices, the way my mother used to when I was growing up in India. Just passing a field filled with ripe pumpkins evoked so much nostalgia in me that we had to stop and buy a couple to bring home!

Curried pumpkin sabzi is a delicious sweet, sour, hot and spicy creation that is best made with fresh pumpkin and enjoyed with warm naan, chapati or deep fried puris!

Curried Pumpkin Sabzi

2 lb fresh ripe pumpkin

2tbsp each: vegetable oil, butter

2 dried whole red chilies

1/4 tsp each: cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds

A tiny pinch of asafoetida (Hing), optional

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 tsp each: cayenne pepper, turmeric, ground coriander, ground fennel, garam masala, dried fenugreek leaves (Kasoori methi)

Salt to taste

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp amchoor (dried mango powder) or lemon juice

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

Cut pumpkin into quarters, remove and discard peel and seeds. Dice pumpkin into small 1 inch bite sized pieces. you should have about 5 loosely packed cups (750gm) diced pumpkin to cook with.

Warm oil and butter in deep non stick skillet over medium high heat. Add red chilies, cumin, fennel and fenugreek seeds. Let sizzle for 30 sec, then add asafoetida, if using.

Add onions and garlic, saute for about 5-7 min until softened. Add diced pumpkin, cayenne, turmeric, ground coriander, ground fennel, garam masala, dried fenugreek leaves and salt. Mix well, cover skillet, reduce heat to medium low and cook for about 20 min or until pumpkin is tender.

Add sugar, amchoor (mango powder) or lemon juice. Cook, covered for another 10 min, stirring occasionally. Uncover skillet, turn up the heat to medium and cook off some of the excess sauce for about 2 min. Fold in the fresh coriander.

Serves four

 

 

 

Fall Tomato Jam In Ontario, Canada

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Fall is my absolute favourite time of year! The trees create a gorgeous kaleidoscope of reds, oranges and golds as their leaves change colour. The days are cool, crisp and filled with glorious sunshine. And best of all, the abundance of fall produce inspires me to get creative in the kitchen!

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Living in southern Ontario, I like to best experience this season by taking long scenic drives through the countryside, along winding roads where we can admire the stunning fall colours. Stopping at farmers' markets along the way to pick up local specialties such as smoked meats, preserves, fruits and vegetables, and savouring them by the side of a serene lake is my idea of a perfect weekend!

Traveling through small Ontario towns  lets you discover hidden gems of restaurants, where chefs use locally grown produce in wonderfully creative ways. The best recipes are those that let the flavour and freshness of the ingredients shine through. It is amazing how a few fresh ingredients, simply cooked can taste so fantastic.

Fall fruits and vegetables, sun ripened and picked at the peak of their freshness have an unforgettable flavour all their own. Although there is a huge variety of fresh produce available this time of year, sun kissed, vine ripened tomatoes top my list of favourites! Bursting with flavour and sweetness, i just can't get enough of them. I end up buying so many that i can't possibly cook with all of them and have to act quickly to preserve them. One of the ways i do that is by making jams and chutneys which let me enjoy their delicious flavour throughout the year.  

This tomato jam doubles as a chutney and is perfect with Indian food. It is also great with toast, crackers, burgers, grilled meats, poultry and seafood! Quite often, I'll just spread it on a thick slice of olive bread and make that my breakfast. Ah, what a way to start my day!

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If you wish to have a milder flavoured jam, pick out the whole garam masala spices at the end of cooking. I usually leave them in and the jam gets more and more aromatic and full flavoured as time goes on! 

Tomato Jam With Whole Garam Masala

10 large ripe plum tomatoes

2 tbsp oil

10 each, whole: cloves, cardamom

1/2 inch stick cinnamon

1/4 piece of nutmeg, optional

1 star anise

1/2 tsp whole black peppercorn

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup each: sugar, apple cider vinegar

Salt to taste

1/4 tsp chilli pepper flakes 

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add tomatoes, bring to a boil again. Remove from heat, drain tomatoes and transfer to a bowl. Cool to room temperature, then peel and chop them roughly.

Warm oil in deep non stick skillet set over medium heat. Add cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg (if using), star anise, black pepper and bay leaf. Saute for a minute, until spices are fragrant and darken in colour. Add tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, salt and chilli pepper flakes.

Mix well, cover skillet partially and bring contents to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook until jam is thickened, about 30 min., stirring occasionally. Tomatoes should be well cooked into a jam like consistency at the end of cooking time. If that hasn't happened, uncover skillet, turn up heat to medium and cook off excess liquid, stirring all the while.

Taste for seasonings, adding more if necessary. Transfer to a sterilized jar and keep refrigerated.

Note: the whole spices in this jam are not meant to be eaten.