Archive | July, 2011

Serbian Food Festival

31 Jul

The Serbian Food Festival is held at Holy Trinity Banquet Hall (700 Fischer-Hallman Road) in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.

The Serbian Food Festival (July 29 to 31, 2011) highlights the culture and cuisine of Serbia.  There is a wide variety of barbecued dishes, sweets and drinks to sample as well as live music, dancing and Nole (the festival mascot).

There were a few charcoal pits with skewered lamb and pigs.

I tried the pita (or sometimes called burek) which is a flakey savoury pastry filled with cheese and is often served with yogurt. It is made into a shape of a long tube and then wound into a oval shape.  The pita has a crispy and flakey crust with a soft chewy center.

A cheese filled flakey pastry, $5.

I also ordered chevaps which are a cross between small sausages and mini-hamburgers.  It is served on a bun dressed with Serbian butter (kajmak), raw onions and a small dollop of coleslaw. The chevaps were my favourite and it also seemed like everyone’s favourite or at the very least quite popular.  Other entrées included kabobs, goulash with pasta and roasted lamb and pork.

Chevaps served on a large buttered bun with onions and coleslaw, $10.

A few kabobs waiting for the grill.

For dessert, I had palatschinke which is a thin soft chewy crêpe and the one I tried was filled with chocolate.  There was also an assortment of bite-size sweets, such as waffles, cupcakes, poppyseed swirl, and a large ice cream truck.

An assortment of Serbian sweets.

An ice cream truck with an awe-struck admirer.

It was quite a treat to try the unique dishes, hear the lively music and watch the crowd groove to traditional Serbian tunes.  The only thing I regretted was not bringing my own cutlery to help the environment.  If you can’t make it out this year, there is always next year.

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Banana Bread

22 Jul

A slice of banana bread.

  • four ripe bananas, peeled, sliced and mashed in a large mixing bowl.  TIP: use a potato masher to mash the bananas; if you don’t have a masher, a fork is fine, too.
  • 1/3 cup unsalted melted butter, cooled
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup sugar (a bit less if the bananas are super ripe)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1.5 cups of flour

Four bananas. These should be ripened some more before using to make banana bread.

Using a potato masher to mash the bananas.

Into the banana bowl, add in the butter, egg, vanilla and sugar.  In a separate bowl, mix the baking soda, salt, cinnamon and flour. Gradually add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  The batter will be thick and have a caramel-like colour.

Banana bread batter.

Pour the batter into a buttered 5 by 6 inch baking dish.  Bake for 45 minutes in a pre-heated 350° oven.  Cool before serving.

Batter poured into a buttered baking dish, ready for the oven.

After the batter has been baked for 45 minutes. It's now banana bread.

Chicken Quesadillas

15 Jul

Chicken quesadilla.

The following recipes makes four chicken quesadillas.

  • 1lb extra lean ground chicken
  • 4 whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 gloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 sprigs of green onion, cleaned and chopped  (optional) (it’s mostly for colour)
  • 1.5 cups of cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tbsps honey
  • 3 tbsps of extra virgin olive oil

Heat a pan on high and once it becomes hot, add in the oil, garlic and onion. Turn down the heat to medium and sauté until the onions  are soft.  Add in the ground chicken.  While the chicken is cooking, use a spatula to break up the chicken into as small pieces as possible.  Sprinkle in the salt, pepper, paprika and honey. When the chicken is fully cooked, add in the green onions and cook for another minute or two.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Seasoned ground chicken with onions.

Place a tortilla in a pan on medium heat.  Once the tortilla begins to warm, flip it over and sprinkle cheese on half of the tortilla.

Whole wheat tortilla with cheddar cheese sprinkled on half of it.

On top of the cheese add the ground chicken and then another sprinkle of of the grated cheese.

Whole wheat tortilla with cheese, then a layer of cheese and topped with another sprinkle of grated cheddar cheese.

Fold the tortilla so it is now a semicircle shape.  Using a big spatula, flip the quesadilla over and cook for another minute or two. The cheese helps to hold the chicken inside but some of the filling will spill out.  You can always push the filling back inside the quesadilla. The first quesadilla is now ready.

The filled tortilla folded and then flipped. It's now a chicken quesadilla and ready to be eaten.

Repeat for the remaining three quesadillas.  If so desired, serve with a generous dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream.

Homemade Beer

8 Jul

A glass of cold golden homemade beer (homebrew). Behind the glass is the bottle the beer came from.

Many of the supplies needed for making your own beer can be purchased at Canadian Homebrew Supplies.  The following recipe makes approximately 60 bottles of beer and requires two hours to prepare with an additional 10 days for the fermenting process.

  • 2 packs (1 oz each) of Willamette Hops
  • 1 pack (1 lb) of caramel malt
  • 3 grain bags about 6 by 8 inches in size
  • 1 bag (4.25 oz) of Wyeast;  the yeast needs to be activated ahead of time. Please read the package for instructions on how and when to activate.
  • 2 packs (3lbs each) of Briess Amber, (essentially this is dry malt extract and acts like sugar)
  • water
  • sugar
  • food processor, blender or coffee grinder
  • 1 large (enough to hold 30 or more liters of liquid) sterilized barrel with lid.  This will be used to store the beer as it ferments for 10 days.  TIP: Ensure the barrel and lid is completely sterilized.  Using bleach to sterilize works well.
  • 1 large (enough to hold 8 or more liters of liquid) stainless steel or aluminum pot
  • a big stirring spoon

After ten days have passed, the following will also be needed:

  •  bottle capper
  • approximately 60 sterilized beer bottles and corresponding sterilized bottle caps
  • sterilized tube for siphoning
  • clamp
  • corn sugar (dextrose)
  • bleach

Two packs of Willamette hops, $2.99 each

The inside of a package of Willamette hops.

A 1lb bag of caramel malt, $2.29.

A 6-by-8 inch grain bag, $5.99 (or there abouts).

A package containing billions of yeast cells, about $10. This bag was activated three hours before.

A package of Briess Amber which essentially behaves as sugar, $12.99.

In a metal pot, bring 4.5L of water to a boil and then turn down the heat so the water is at a gentle simmer.  Pour one pack of the hops’ pellets into a grain bag and close securely.  Place the bag into the simmering water and steep for 20 minutes.  The water will turn a moss green.

A bag of willamette hops steeping in 4.5L of gently simmering water.

In a coffee grinder, coarse chop the caramel malt.  A blender or food processor should work too.  Remove the hops’ grain bag, draining any excess liquid still lingering in the grain bag and in a new grain bag, pour in the crushed caramel malt, close securely and place in the liquid for 15 to 20 minutes.  The water will turn a golden shiny brown.  Before removing the bag, squeeze out any excess liquid.

A grain bag filled with caramel malt steeping in liquid infused with willlamette hop.

Gradually, add both bags of the dry malt extract.  Stir continuously while adding the malt extract and ensure there are no lumps in the liquid (which now has a special name, wort).

While the dry malt extract is being added, stir continuously until there are no lumps in the liquid.

Pour in the second bag of hops into a new grain bag and close securely.  Place the bag into the wort and steep for 15 to 20 minutes and once the time has passed, remove the bag but before doing so squeeze out any excess liquid.

In the large barrel, add 18.5 L of cold tap water.  Add to this the wort and then pour in the package of yeast.  (Do NOT add the yeast directly to the wort.  It will be too hot and will instantly kill all the yeast.) Give it a good stir, put the lid on and store for ten days in an out-of-the-way room temperature spot.

Wort containing yeast which will ferment to make beer. This will take ten days.

After ten days, the wort is now beer.

Once the ten days have passed, the beer can be siphoned and stored into individual beer bottles.  This will take approximately 2 hours.  To begin, sterilize all the beer bottles and caps.  The easiest way to do this is to submerge the bottles and caps in a tub of water with a generous amount of bleach added. Soak for a few minutes and then thoroughly rinse the bottles and caps.

To each bottle, add precisely 3ml of corn sugar. Now the bottles are ready for their beer.

A bag of corn sugar (or dextrose) which was purchased at Home Hardware for $5.99. One bag lasts quite some time. Substituting with regular sugar is possible but not advised.

To remove the beer from the white barrel, use a tube to siphon out the beer. Once the beer is flowing in the tube,  set up a system that will make distributing the beer easy and efficient for yourself and fix a clamp to the free end of the tube. The clamp makes distributing from bottle to bottle much easier.  During this process, some of the beer will inevitably spill.

Just a note:  do not siphon out to the very bottom. An unwanted sludge will have formed at the bottom which should not enter into the beer bottles.

Setup of siphoning system for distributing beer into individual bottles.

The clamp controls the flow of beer.

After the bottles have been filled, cap each bottle and ensure a complete seal has formed over the opening of each bottle.

A bottle capper purchased in the 70s.

The filled bottles will need to sit at room temperature for at least tens days during which time the beer will carbonate.  Once the time has passed, chill the beers before serving.

A BIG thanks to Michael Dunphy for sharing his homebrew recipe.

Pat’s Restaurant

2 Jul

Pat's Restaurant, 887 Division Street, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

Based on the name you might be surprised that Pat’s Restaurant located in Kingston, Ontario serves Cambodian, Thai and Vietnamese cuisine.  It’s done quite well with generous portions and reasonable prices.  It’s a sit down establishment with about ten tables and has a modest feel to it.   The restaurant’s take out option is also very popular.

Beef satay with pickled carrots and cucumbers, $5.95.

To begin, I tried the beef satay which comes with pickled carrots and cucumbers. The vegetables have rippled edges and a tangy taste with a crisp texture.  The beef satays are marinated and then grilled on skewers which gives it a subtle smoky taste.

Vermicelli with spring rolls, barbecued pork, shrimp, fish sauce, carrots, bean sprouts, cucumbers, lettuce, mint and peanuts, $9.50. (I asked for no shrimp.)

The vermicelli bowl is a bed of plain soft slippery (vermicelli) noodles topped with barbecue pork, grilled shrimp, spring rolls, fresh veggies (carrots, bean sprouts, cucumbers and lettuce) and garnished with julienned mint and crushed peanuts.  There is also an accompanying side of fish sauce.  The flavours are clean, crisp, fresh and particularly ideal on a warm summer’s day.

Red curry beef with sweet potatoes and rice, $9.95.

A specialty of the restaurant is the red curry beef with sweet potatoes.  It’s a creamy sweet and salty sauce with tender bites of beef, large chunks of sweet potatoes, slivers of onion and a few green beans served with rice. The sauce is a perfect balance of curry, coconut and peanut flavours.

Most of the items on the menu are $10 or less and there are quite a few dishes different from the familiar Thai and Vietnamese options. As well, the soups are meals on their own and all come with a bowl of rice on the side. In my opinion, Cambodian cuisine is a mix between Thai and Vietnamese but at the same time has its own unique distinction.

The service is efficient, clear and unassuming.  The waiter warns you about the long wait (because of the popularity of the take out) even before you sit down, water is provided without asking and when you’re ready to leave, you simply go up to the counter and pay. The vibe at Pat’s restaurant is really no fuss and no pressure with great food.