Simply food

A (MOSTLY) VEGETARIAN FEAST

If the bleak midwinter* is getting you down, it’s time for a comfort food feast that will appeal to your vegetarian (or at least pescatarian) friends.

The new north building rises

Off to our favourite shops at Toronto’s historic St. Lawrence Market to get goodies for our feast. The new north market building is rising across the street and I’m glad to see it will at least fit the scale of the neighbourhood.

First stop is at Seafront Fish Market, where we are always well looked after. Owner Pina comes over to say hello and help pick out the freshest fish. Today we are looking for salmon, cod and haddock, organic of course, and nicely skinned and deboned. Then it is just across the aisle to Urban Fresh Produce, which has all organic veggies and fruits. We pick up carrots, ginger, green beans, apples and cranberries. Anthony and Luis are on hand and cheerful as ever.

Shopping for cheese with help from Alex

Steps away, we stop at Chris’ Cheesemongers, where as far as I can tell there is no one named Chris. Caerphilly, Wenslydale and Gloucestershire are all essentially the same and so when I ask for my usual chunk of British Regional White, it’s always a nice surprise to see which one the ever-helpful Alex or Geoff will produce. Today, we’re looking for genuine English white cheddar. Nothing less will do and they do not disappoint. These and other favourite vendors in the market all featured in my TV series Market to Table Episode 2 still watchable on YouTube.

Laden with our shopping bags, there’s time to take a quick side trip to the nearby Distillery District. Even in January, when the seasonal festivities have ended, there’s still plenty to see and do in the historic and nicely restored pedestrian precinct. As we are starting to feel peckish, I drop in at the Brick Street Bakery where I am thrilled to find the Boxing Day hot sandwich is still on offer after many years. It has turkey, stuffing and cranberries. I always believed left-overs on Boxing Day were better than the overloaded feast on Christmas Day, so this satisfies my inner Scrooge.

Back home, we get to work preparing the feast. My beloved is a vegetarian who will eat fish and dairy, so that accounts for the “mostly” in the headline. Honestly, all these dishes are truly scrumptious!  

CURRIED CARROT SOUP

Shopping list

  • 1 1/2 lb / 680 g carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup grated fresh ginger (or less)
  • 3 cups stock (vegetable, chicken or turkey) (or more)
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Edible flowers for garnish (optional)

Preparation and cooking

  1. Wash, peel and chop the carrots into small pieces. Peel the fresh ginger and grate coarsely. Peel and finely chop the onion.
  2. Soften the onions in hot oil, add curry powder, turmeric and garlic powder, stir in well until the powders are well integrated. Add carrots and ginger and coat with oil and onions mixture.
  3. Pour in the stock and simmer for 20 mins, or whenever the carrots are tender. Let it cool for a few minutes and then dump as much as you can into a blender (don’t fill it to the top or you will be decorating the kitchen). Blend so the mixture is pureed and smooth. Do in two batches if you need to.
  4. Return to the pot and reheat when needed. Test for seasoning before serving. Add more stock if it ends up too thick.

CUMBERLAND FISH PIE

Shopping list

  • 1 1/3 cup full-cream milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 300g piece of salmon, skinned
  • 300g piece of cod, skinned
  • 300g piece of haddock or halibut, skinned
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 4 TBSP plain flour
  • 1/2 cup grated medium white cheddar cheese
  • 4 TBSP Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs

For the mashed potatoes

  • 1kg floury potatoes, peeled and cut into even chunks
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 1/2 cup full-cream milk
  • 1/2 cup grated medium white cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation and cooking
Step 1: Make the mashed potatoes.

Cook the potatoes in a saucepan of lightly salted boiling water for 15-20 minutes, until tender. Drain well, return to the pan and mash with the butter and milk until smooth. Add grated cheese and stir in until combined. Season well and set aside.

Step 2: Make the filling.
Put the milk and bay leaf in a wide, deep frying pan over a medium heat. Bring just to simmering point, then add the salmon, cod and haddock (cut up to fit in the pan, if necessary). Poach for 5 minutes, then transfer to a baking dish using a slotted spoon. When cool enough to handle, flake or cut the fish into bite-size pieces. (This is a good time to check for any errant bones or pieces of skin you missed earlier.) Strain the infused milk into a jug, discarding the bay leaf.

Step 3: Make the sauce.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (390°F). Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Gradually stir in the warm infused milk and bring just to the boil, stirring constantly. Simmer for a few minutes until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the mustard and grated cheese until it melts. Return to the heat if necessary. Season well.

Step 4: Assemble and bake.
Gently mix the sauce with the fish in the baking dish. Top with the mashed potato. You can just spoon it on and make furrows with the back of a fork, or you can get fancy and pipe it on using a piping bag and a wide star shaped nozzle. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs all over the topping. Place the pie on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for about 35 minutes or until turning golden and bubbling hot throughout.

Serve with green veggies.

APPLE & CRANBERRY CRISP

Shopping list

  • 6 tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

Topping

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed down
  • 1/2 cup butter, hard but not frozen
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preparation and cooking

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F/190°C
  2. Peel and core apples and slice into medium size chunks. Wash the cranberries and mix in. Sprinkle on lemon juice and toss to prevent the apples turning brown.
  3. In a mixing bowl combine the oats, sugar and spices, reserving a couple of TBSP of sugar for later. Cut in the butter and mix by hand until it looks and feels like wet sand.
  4. Pack the apple and cranberries into a fairly deep baking dish and spread the topping all over. Gently press the topping down, and add the rest of the sugar, which will caramelize in the oven.
  5. Bake in the middle of the oven for 50 min, or until the apples are tender and the top is crunchy. 

Recipes are from Market to Table: The Cookbook or Gentleman’s Portion: The Cookbook © 2021 Nigel Napier-Andrews.

Featured image: Cumberland fish pie has added cheese

*PEAKY BLINDERS NOTE: ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ is a poem by the English poet Christina Rossetti, published in 1872 and later set to music by Gustav Holst in 1906 and widely sung as a carol. Fans of Peaky Blinders will recognize the phrase as the family’s coded reference to their near-death experience in the First World War. Season 6, the final season, is eagerly anticipated on Netflix in June 2022.

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This is Nigel’s 333rd blog on Gentleman’s Portion. The SEARCH function at the top works really well, if you want to look back and see some of his previous stories.

The link to Gentleman’s Portion: The Cookbook is now live, well priced at $9.99 or £9.99 and available on AmazonApple Books, Barnes & NobleGoogleKobo and Scribd.

Categories: Simply food

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