different, with pie

We had music playing for much of the weekend, but right now as I write this the various rhythms and patters of the rain fill the house. It sounds different on the tin roof of the shed than on our shingled roof, and different still where it touches the trees and pours down the gutters. I realize that it’s Wednesday and the weekend is a distant dream, but I spent yesterday at home painting and baking and walking where wind and ravens move through tall Douglas-firs. I make no apologies for my love of the rain; I don’t even own an umbrella. I walked through this softest of statics into the city this morning. The droplets sizzled as they met the ocean and hundreds of tiny songbirds were hidden in hedges and shrubberies, trying to drown out the rain with their chattering.

For two weekends in a row now there have been pies. I feel like we’ve reached another level of settling in, here, and have relaxed into spending our days pleasurably. The first two pies we ate all to ourselves, but the next batch made it over to join a glorious feast with friends one night and a low-key dessert party the next.

IMG_1988 IMG_1992 IMG_1996 IMG_2001 IMG_2004 IMG_2006

Apple Vanilla Custard Pie
My own creation, inspired by Terroirs de France: Un million de menus. I found it best eaten cold, but it’s still perfectly tasty when warm.

3 apples
2 eggs
3/4 cup table cream (10 % cream)
1/3 cup vanilla sugar
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pastry to line shallow 8 or 9″ pie dish

  1. Roll out pastry into a disc, place in pie dish and trim edges. Decorate if desired. Place in fridge for about 20 minutes (prepare filling during this time).
  2. Preheat oven to 425°. Wash apples, but don’t peel them. Quarter the apples, remove cores, and slice into medium-thin slices.
  3. Prepare custard. Whisk eggs, then add all other ingredients and whisk until incorporated.
  4. Arrange apples in pie shell with the skin sides facing up. Pour custard on top.
  5. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350° and bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until custard is set. It should not slosh or appear liquidy when given a gentle shake, and a skewer inserted in the custard should come out clean.

IMG_2021 IMG_2019

Pumpkin Pie
adapted from my mother’s recipe, adapted from a can of pumpkin puree

1 sugar pie pumpkin (Split in half, seeds scooped out, and roasted cut-side down in a shallow baking dish with just enough water to cover the bottom of the dish. When pumpkin is soft, remove from the oven, let cool, then scoop out flesh and puree it. The pumpkins we grew yield about 567g/ 20oz puree. )

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt 2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ginger
pinch cloves
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp allspice
3 eggs
3/4 cup 10% cream

1 deep 8 or 9″ pie dish lined with pastry (Do this first, and let pastry-lined pie dish chill in the fridge for 20 minutes or so until you are ready for it.)

Preheat oven to 425°. Stir together pumpkin, sugar, salt and spices. Whisk eggs and cream, then add to pumpkin and whisk gently until mixture is homogeneous. Pour into pie shell and bake. After 10 minutes, lower heat to 350° or 375° and bake for 40 or so minutes until filling is set.

Pastry
adapted from Alana Chernila’s excellent The Homemade Pantry. Makes enough for 3 open-face pies.

1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose white flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup very cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup ice cold water* (I find I usually need more water than recipes call for- you may only need 1/3 cup)

Stir together dry ingredients with a sturdy fork. Cut in butter. Add the apple cider vinegar to 1/3 cup of the ice water, then pour it into flour and gently stir/toss with fork. Add more water as needed until you can form the dough into a ball with your hands. Let rest for at least 20 minutes in the fridge before rolling out.

Advertisements

shifting skies

You might think, from the title, that this post is about Canadian politics and the recent election. I am, along with most of the country, immensely relieved by the election results. However, I am better off writing about the weather.

All I really want to eat for supper at this time of year is roasted vegetables topped with poached eggs. If you offered me lasagna or quiche, say, I would never turn it down, but a colourful heap of oven-velvety fall vegetables is pretty undeniably glorious. I started to write that my husband would disagree, but he has been roasting broccoli, tofu and potatoes lately so I will eat my words.

To further my roasted vegetable quest, and revel in it for days at a time, I concocted a sort of “October bowl”, so named for its warm bright colours: roasted winter squash, roasted beets, and roasted garlic topped generously with grated Balderson cheddar, soft-poached eggs, sea salt and a fair amount of pepper. I may also have tipped some Little Creek Dressing into my bowl- I’m on a bit of a kick with it lately. If you’ve never tried it, it combines oil, lemon juice, tamari, raspberries, vinegar, nutritional yeast, garlic, herbs and salt in magical proportions for a very delicious dressing. Also on the subject of vegetables, however vaguely, we gave the rabbits a big old zucchini yesterday evening and there is not much left of it. They’ve been gnawing it with great vigor and following its diminishing form around the room. It’s impressive what these soft-eyed creatures can do to a gourd, and highly entertaining, for us and them.

It’s necessary to talk briefly of the weather; I was near convinced it would start snowing this morning. There was a fog over the city and it was unusually cold. It felt like a late October day in the mountains, where it just might start snowing. And then I reminded myself I’m in Victoria. It rarely snows in December here. Last year, I left Nelson just before the snow started to fall. I do miss the beauty and wonder of those first snows of the season. Island life, Island life, Island life. We have had some spectacular skies lately, liquidamber* light and painted clouds reflected on the ocean, even a sundog rainbow one afternoon.

(* thank you Elise, xo)

IMG_1951 IMG_6257 IMG_1948 IMG_1907 IMG_1955 IMG_1922

magnificent creature

My cat Heidi (Pudding) passed away on Friday. She was sixteen, and had decided her time had come. We’d been watching her get thinner and more arthritic all year, and this past week she lost her appetite completely. There was more to it than that, of course, but she made it clear she wasn’t interested in hanging on any longer.

She was a delightful cat. She spent her kittenhood running up trees after squirrels, then turning around, tail cocked, and running down them, with her ears pinned back and her wildest expression on. She grew to love food, and would put on a concert of yowls until someone would open a can for her in the morning. She was gentle and cuddly, and very quirky. Her warm solid weight was the cause of many accidental couch naps. In her old age she licked the gravy from the wet food and sought sunbeams and warm laps.

325 956 IMG_1855

almost

I wish I could do this every day. I’m sitting in a sunlit, clean house with a mug of tea and a jar of water and a square of dark chocolate. The birch tree out front has almost completely turned yellow. I’ve already wandered the garden several times (two raspberries!), tidied up and made a nest for our elderly cat, and tossed yet more onions and tomatoes in the oven. I feel – almost – at peace.

We’ve been enjoying a long weekend (yay!). Yesterday I spent all afternoon painting white rabbits and yellow aspen on scraps of wood while listening to a charming audiobook, fed on a pleasant diet of tea and fresh caraway raisin bread that Jeremy started the day before.

I went to a lovely friend’s lovely wedding reception recently, with the best bunch of friends. The weather was stormy, but delightfully so. The whole day was one long happy moment.

It’s funny how moments like these can coexist, or at least be contrasted by those reigned by the less fun feelings. I have been so exhausted lately that the lovely moments seem few and far between. Sunday I spent curled on the couch, again with tea, and read. I feel very lost and frustrated when I think of how I spend most of my time at a job I really don’t enjoy. It is a perfectly decent job, I’m sure, but somehow manages to be both the most boring and most stressful job I’ve experienced. At the reception it was so nice hearing about how my friends are following their passions and have found or are creating meaningful work. Over here at whine central (but without the wine), I have yet to figure that out for myself.

Still, there is plenty of good to celebrate. I made this pear tarte Tatin several weeks ago, and have been meaning to post about it ever since. I’m a little late for Canadian Thanksgiving, but it’s a tasty way to end most any meal.

IMG_7120 IMG_1840 IMG_8440

Pear Cardamom Tarte Tatin
Recipe: Choosing and Using Spices. Pastry: Terroirs de France, un million de menus

1/4 cup (50 g) butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
seeds from 10 cardamoms
1 tsp + ground cardamom
225 g (8 oz) puff pastry or use pastry recipe below
+/- 4 ripe pears (the number of pears will depend on the size of the pears and the size of your pan)

1. Preheat oven to 425°. Spread the butter over the base of an ~8″ cast iron skillet (or ovenproof pan or stoveproof cake tin). Spread the sugar evenly over the butter, then sprinkle the cardamom and cardamom seeds over the sugar. On a floured surface, roll out pastry to a circle slightly larger than the pan. Prick pastry lightly and set it on a baking sheet and chill.

2. Peel the pears, cut them in half lengthwise and core them. Arrange the pears, rounded side down, on the butter and sugar. Set pan over medium heat until the sugar melts and begins to bubble with the butter and the juice from the pears. If any areas are browning more than others (you can carefully lift a pear to check), move the pan, but do not stir.

3. As soon as the sugar has caramelized, remove the pan from the heat. Place the pastry on top, carefully tucking the edges down the side of the pan. Transfer to the oven and bake for 25 minutes until the pastry is well risen (for puff) and golden.

4. Leave in the pan for 2-3 minutes until the juices have stopped bubbling. Invert the pan over a plate and shake to release the tart. (Put a large plate face-side down over the pan. Keep one hand flat on the center of the plate to hold it in place while the other hand lifts and flips the pan in one smooth motion. The hand on the plate needs to keep pressure on it and move with the pan.) It may be necessary to slide a spatula under the pears to loosen them. Serve warm.

Pastry (pâte brisée) – the high butter content of this recipe makes it a tasty substitute for puff dough
200 g flour
100 g chilled butter
50 + g ice cold water
pinch salt
Stir together flour and salt. Cut butter into small cubes, then cut into flour with a pastry cutter. Add enough water that you can form dough into a ball, then let it repose in the fridge for 30 minutes. This recipe makes slightly more than is needed for the tarte Tatin, so save the extra in the fridge for spontaneous weeknight baking, or something.

the butter

This is a post that was almost lost to the havoc a rabbit’s fuzzy feet can wreak on a keyboard. My cavorting Zephyr, I love you very much, and you will teach me to save my work.

We happened to mention scalloped potatoes, one of us to the other, and they immediately claimed a space in our weekend, our supper (two nights in a row, now), and our bellies. It was decided that Julia Child should be the voice of authority on the matter, and a very good decision that was. I will say this, however: the butter! I know she has a reputation for her love of butter, and so do I, truly, at least among family and friends. But the quantities! I get a little anxious when our butter supply runs low, and though generally generous with the good stuff, even I voiced concerns of it being excessive and threw in a few “Oh Julia!”‘s for good measure. What follows is a rough rendition of what we ate.

As I’m writing this, the fire is burning slow and bright in our fireplace; this first fire of the season. It emits a warm glow that stretches faintly toward our single-paned windows. Jer has been industriously plastic-sealing them for the winter, and though not attractive, it is a little less drafty in here.

Two Sunday nights ago (ages, I know, but I meant to exclaim about it): the moon! I hope you all saw it if you had the chance. It was steeped in an autumnal blush from all the reflected sunrises and sunsets of the world. We watched the light crawl back up into it from below and sensed that we really were seeing something. Somehow all the preceding eclipses (ever) skipped us by, either due to late inconvenient timing or cloudy skies, so this one seemed especially striking.

IMG_1784 IMG_1789 IMG_6664

Scalloped Potatoes
adapted lightly but interpretatively from Julia Child, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking

– an ovenproof dish about 10″ across and 2″ deep (we used a 9×13 pyrex dish, but we did have extra potatoes).
1 clove of garlic, cut in half. Rub the baking dish with the cut garlic. (we sliced up the garlic after and put it in with the potatoes)
– 4 tbsp butter (it seemed like so much more when Jer had a great hunk of it looming on the counter and being dispersed freely in great lumps- he may also have measured rather generously)
– 2 lbs “boiling” potatoes (we used 3lbs Yukon Gold but that may have been too much as it cooked slower than expected. We did end up with a pleasing amount of leftovers. I didn’t peel the potatoes and they turned out delicious, but I suppose you could if you felt you had to.) Slice the potatoes fairly thinly (no thicker than 1/8″) and place in cold water for now.
– 1 cup milk, heated until it boils
– 1 cup or so grated cheese (we probably used more like two cups, mostly Parmesan and some mozzarella because that was what the fridge contained)
– salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425°. Drain the potatoes and dry them in a towel (or skip the whole water step above if you work quickly). Spread half of them in the bottom of the dish and cover with half of the cheese, butter and salt and pepper. Arrange the remaining potatoes on top and cover with the second half of the cheese and butter and seasoning. Pour on the boiling milk. Place baking dish over heat and when simmering, set in upper third of preheated oven (we completely missed the stovetop step but I imagine it is helpful for cooking the potatoes quicker). Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender, milk has been absorbed, and the top is nicely browned.

bright sunshine

Today: Coombs Market in the sunshine with my mum and my husband. Bright colours, strings of light, things. Beautiful and wonderful, but also kind of ridiculous. This is a place steeped in childhood memories of goats on the roof, ice cream cones and shopping for animal stamps in the special rubber stamp store. The goats are still there, along with more ice cream than ever, but the stamp store is sadly gone. It wasn’t how it used to be, but then- things don’t need to stay the same. It was still a fun way to pass an afternoon.

Today also, a wren and a nuthatch in the garden.

I was tired when we got home, and feeling under the weather (is that possible in this gorgeous weather?). Thus, this simple soup came about, an excellent and speedy false onion soup. It involved hot water left in the kettle from when I made tea, a spoonful of mugi (barley) miso, and a larger spoonful of caramelized onions. This got stirred together and covered in a light snow of grated Parmesan and few turns of cracked black pepper. I also sprinkled it with toasted sunflower seeds because they were sitting on the counter in front of me, but a better choice would probably have been homemade croutons.

IMG_1875 IMG_1879 IMG_1882