Friday, October 19th, 2012

Pumpkin Pie

Filed under: how to — alison @ 22:19

Marijn came to visit for a month, and while he was here I put him to work making pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dinner. This recipe comes to me from my great grandmother, Deborah Ferrier.

Don’t bother trying to prepare a regular pumpkin for pie this way as your mash will be too watery and kind of stringy. Pumpkins may have been more edible and less decorative in Deborah Ferrier’s day.

For the shell, I like to make a nut crust out of finely chopped walnuts or pecans but whatever your favorite crust is will be perfect.

Pumpkin Pie (imperial)

3 cups of either:

  • canned pumpkin
  • baked* and mashed butternut squash
  • steamed and strained carrots
  • 1½ cups sugar or Splenda
    3 eggs, separated
    ¾ cups melted butter
    ¾ cups cream
    1½ t cinnamon
    ¾ t nutmeg
    ¾ t ginger
    1 T vanilla

    Combine all ingredients except the egg whites. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the mixture. Pour into two 9-inch or one deep 10-inch unbaked pie shell. Bake 45 minutes at 375°F.

    *Halve a butternut squash. Bake it cut-side down on a baking sheet for an hour or so at 325°F.

    Pumpkin Pie (metric)

    750 mL of either:

  • canned pumpkin
  • baked* and mashed butternut squash
  • steamed and strained carrots
  • 375 mL sugar or Splenda
    3 eggs, separated
    200 mL melted butter
    200 mL cream
    8 mL cinnamon
    4 mL nutmeg
    4 mL ginger
    15 mL vanilla

    Combine all ingredients except the egg whites. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the mixture. Pour into two 22-cm or one deep 25-cm unbaked pie shell. (I like to make a nut crust out of finely chopped walnuts or pecans.) Bake 45 minutes at 195°C.

    Saturday, June 16th, 2012

    Notes from Bangladesh: Elephant shakedown

    Filed under: business,elephants,Notes from Bangladesh,protection — alison @ 13:05

    Patrick is in Bangladesh, taking the philosophical view.

    *** *** ***

    Picture from the Internet, not taken by Patrick.

    Picture from the Internet, not taken by Patrick.

    Yesterday I was waiting in a long, slow-moving queue for a government service. The queue was an everyday affair, so small tea stands and coconut carts had set up parallel to the shuffling crowd. After I had been there an hour or so an elephant came along with a mahout and passenger astride. The elephant stopped at a stand, ate some of the discarded coconuts shells, rose on his hind legs, waved his trunk around, and shouted. It was clear there was mayhem on his mind. Every merchant understood the drill. Very quickly and with obvious trepidation, each approached proprietor held out a ten taka note (about ten cents), which the elephant took with his trunk and passed up to the mahout. The apparent alternative was to have the stand’s product consumed, dispersed, or destroyed.

    The whole operation was enormously entertaining for the people in the queue, was carried out efficiently, and took very little time. A model for the rest of us.
    Kuda habis (take care),

    Sunday, February 26th, 2012

    Fish salad

    Filed under: how to — alison @ 13:36

    My father and I were invited to supper with old friends last night. He informed me that I had volunteered to take a fish, which I was more than happy to do. I would take my mother’s cold salmon with caper sauce, which would be doubly appropriate since my friends had loved my mother.

    Except, I realized, that is what I had served these friends at my father’s seventieth birthday party. This would not do.

    Time for a new plan. It should be yummy and interesting for people who know and care about food. It should be easy to get right, since this would be a dish I’d never made before. Most importantly it needed to be good after being transported and sitting around for a while, which is not easy for a fish.

    I’d heard of ceviche, and even thought I might have had some at a tapas bar once. It might do. I looked it up in the Joy of Cooking (from which it was absent) and on the Internet (on which it is present in hundreds of disparate versions, often with specialized ingredients unavailable at short notice). I began to despair, but then realized that if the recipes were all so different that the details must not matter. Citrus juice was a constant, almost always lime, but the amount could vary between half a cup and 20 limes. Soaking time was even more broad, between ten minutes and twenty-four hours. Another constant was something bland or starchy, but this could be avocado, yucca, popcorn, potato or coconut. It should also have onions and a chili pepper preparation. And seafood.

    This would definitely qualify for hard to get wrong and easy to transport. As far as pleasing those knowledgeable about food I would simply ask for suggestions for improvement which would supply conversation.

    I was highly pleased with the results, as others declared themselves to be, which means that guests will almost certainly be offered a variation of Alison’s Fish Salad this summer. Recipe forthwith:

    (for six)

    1 kilo fish. I used tilefish because it was there, but anything fresh would probably do, including scallops and squid. (That’s 2 lbs for my American friends.)
    5 limes
    Red peppercorns
    Bell pepper, diced fine. I used an orange one.
    100 g (4 oz for my american friends) cherry tomatoes, quartered. Italian tomatoes are often suggested.
    1 small sweet potato, boiled and diced fine.
    1 T cilantro, finely chopped.

    Squeeze the limes into a glass bowl. Grate ginger into the lime juice and throw in a handful of red peppercorns. Skin the fish, slice into fine strips and stir into the lime juice. Let sit until shortly before you eat. Stir in the bell pepper, tomato and sweet potato. Transfer to a brightly-coloured serving dish. Sprinkle with cilantro.


    Now is that yummy and easy or what?

    Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

    Moving Day: from Ottawa and Jamalpur to Dhaka

    Filed under: Beli,Isha,Notes from Bangladesh,Patrick,sewing — alison @ 10:01

    A letter from my father in Bangladesh; possibly the first of many as he settles into a new, bi-continental lifestyle.

    *** *** ***
    Dear All,

    I arrived in Dhaka on August 22nd. Beli and thirteen month old Isha arrived at my guest house two days later. Most of the following week was getting to know Isha and vice versa, and looking for a flat. Both endeavours were successful. Isha is a total delight and seems to think I’m okay. We celebrated Eid ul-Fitr together on the 31st with Beli cooking in the guest house kitchen, then B&I returned to Jamulpur (eight hours by bus) to prepare for the shift to Dhaka. Beli has just called to say they are returning tomorrow. The household goods have already arrived. (See below.) If it sounds like we are in the process of forming a family unit, that’s what it feels like, too.

    The flat is brand new, 1450 square feet, 7th floor, tile floors throughout, three bathrooms and a servant’s bathroom and will be serviced by an elevator as soon as the electricity is fully installed. For now, it is like a mini Grouse Grind (Vancouver torture climb, for those not in the know), eight or ten times a day.

    At 11:30 Sunday night, Beli’s brother-in-law, Abul Khair, phoned from the border of Lalmatia. Would I take a rickshaw to where he was waiting with the truck and lead them to my flat?

    I found Abul Khair, the truck, and driver and we bumped our way back to the flat. Labourers arrived shortly after — contracted through tough negotiations earlier in the evening. The labourers carried the contents of the truck up seven flights of stairs, mostly on their heads. Chairs, tables, beds, china, pots and pans, fridge, and a huge steel box containing curtains, table mats, and a great deal of stuff yet to be uncovered — the contents of the house I had left nearly three years ago. When the truck was empty, Khair and I found a couple of mattresses and slept.

    The next day was like opening a summer camp left mostly unattended for two or three years. After depositing the goods in her village eight hours north of Dhaka, Beli traveled her own small odyssey through a marriage, the birth of a baby, and divorce. The goods didn’t follow her through most of this but they did weather three monsoons. Everything in the steel box is pristine. A mahogany table, a glass-topped rattan table that I use as a desk, a bed, two comfortable rattan chairs, and six dining table chairs are very much fit for service. China doesn’t deteriorate and cook-ware has been in use since Beli returned to Jamalpur ten months ago.

    Yesterday, the electrician from the guest house installed fans and lights, repaired the surge-protector for the fridge, then helped me buy and install a new ‘chula’ (two-burner cooker) and gas canister. Khair, who had had a hand in the packing and knew where most things were, did most of the unpacking — taking a break every once in a while to make the flat clean and tidy. This morning while I went out to buy take-out breakfast, Khair sorted out the curtains, which we put up after breakfast.

    My office projects from the front of the flat, with four large windows on three sides allowing a nearly constant breeze and light and the reflection of cumulus clouds on my glass-topped desk. This afternoon a technician will install wireless throughout the house. Tomorrow I will probably go out and buy a printer; then CEP, South Asia branch, will be fully operational.

    I will be returning to Ottawa towards the end of September, and then back to Dhaka for a month or so in January. Note that I now have room for guests (not luxury) in both cities and time to spend with them.

    PICTURES: Each picture showcases a different dress. Each sewed by Alison. There are seven in all, and they all went to Jamalpur for the baby parade.





    Sunday, July 24th, 2011

    Summer Sauce for Pasta

    Filed under: Conversation,food,Kate,recipes,Satisfaction,Vera,weather — alison @ 09:57

    I’m hung over this morning, I think. It’s been about thirty years since the last time so I’m not sure, but I had a lovely time last night eating and drinking in the garden talking about current affairs and unions and now I’m kind of fuzzy-headed.

    Picture me now, lying in my hammock as I copy out the recipe for what we ate from the New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant cookbook. I would be happy to eat this every warm day all summer long.

    Summer Sauce for Pasta
    Serves 4

    On those hot, lazy, sultry summer days, when, like a character in a Tennessee Williams play, you haven’t got the energy to do much more than lie around the house in an old tattered slip, try this quick, uncooked sauce. It’s fragrant, refreshing, and light.

    6 ripe tomatoes, chopped
    2 cups sliced mushrooms (8 ounces) [500 g]
    6 to 8 ounces [200 g] mozzarella cheese, grated or cut into thin strips
    1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1/2 cup olive oil
    1 teaspoon salt

    1 pound [500 g] spaghetti or linguini

    1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (1 ounce) [30 g]

    Mix all the sauce ingredients together and let sit at room temperature for an hour or so, for the flavors to mingle.

    Cook and drain the pasta. While the pasta is piping hot, serve it in well-warmed bowls, topped with a ladleful of sauce and garnished with Parmesan cheese.

    Of course I don’t make it exactly like that. I use fewer mushrooms, less olive oil, more garlic (which I crush instead of mincing) and I hate Parmesan so I use Romano instead. But you won’t make it exactly like that either.


    Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

    Twitter: messages in bottles from stranded naufragés

    A very dear friend Twittered last night that he might be dying.*

    Depuis 15 h, ma température est passée de 99,3 à 100,7. Je suis conscient que ma vie peut se jouer dans les heures à venir. Sentiment d’aventure…

    He’s worried about the folks he’d leave behind.

    Il y a des gens ici qui ont besoin de moi. Je ne dis pas émotionnellement, bien que cette dimension soit évidemment présente, mais directement, de manière très concrète, parce que leur vie est imbriquée dans la mienne. Je ne connais pas de tristesse plus profonde que ce sentiment de devoir, peut-être, abandonner ces gens qui m’ont donné leur confiance. À nouveau se battre.

    He has a form of muscular dystrophy. Ten years ago he weighed 56 pounds, including the three steel rods in his spine; today he probably weighs less. He has trouble breathing because of his muscle wasting and he has just caught some sort of nasty cold from one of his staff. She was really really sick, so he is expecting to get really really sick, and when someone in his condition gets that sick they don’t always get better. He was watching his temperature go up last night and wondering whether to call an ambulance to be taken to the Montreal Chest Hospital. I’ll be making calls later this morning to find out the outcome.

    He and his sister (who has the same genetic condition and lives in an adjacent apartment) do some wonderful, intensive work for people who are marginal in our society. They have employed illiterate people, drug addicts, people without family, and immigrants – particularly from Haiti. They employed me. They don’t pay much: they receive an allowance from the government to hire staff for a little over minimum wage, so the staff they hire are people who are unable to find better-paying work. They teach them french, they coach them in relationships, they explain Québec culture and help people figure out how to cope with their new situations. They have shared their living space. Whatever they can do to help someone develop their full potential. Most of all, they offer profound, unjudging friendship.

    My friend is a disabled man without paid employment, but far from being a burden on society he is a householder who will leave behind people who will be poorer for his loss.

    We all know he is going to die. We first met in the late eighties, when he was seventeen. He thought he might have ten years left then, for the last five of which he wouldn’t have the strength to lift a pencil. He’s outlived everyone’s expectations. But we all hope… not yet. Please.

    *** *** ***
    A friend responds, “What an incredible opportunity to thank him for all that he has meant to you and the world.” Wise advice, and I will follow it.

    * If you’re wondering why these tweets are longer than 140 characters, it’s called Twitlonger.

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