Thursday, December 29, 2011

Never Too Late

Like I mentioned in my last post, the holiday season was a particularly busy one at the restaurant. So I had been remiss with my yearly reminder to give with a difference. However, I do believe it is not too late to make up for it. If you are like me, I am sure there are a few of you still searching for the perfect gift, despite Christmas having come and gone. Perhaps you are already getting ready for next year...

Maybe some of you have taken your Buy Nothing Day promise to the next level, and have not given out any physical gifts. In any case, after all the commercial hoopla of the holidays, you might be feeling that the perfect gift has slipped you by, perhaps you are still looking for that perfect gift with meaning. How about donating to a worthy cause? 

Like many organisations, Nature Conservancy of Canada is appealing to the public to make worthwhile gifts with a difference. The Nature Conservancy works directly at the source by securing sensitive land, either through donations or purchases. Their work ensures that Canada's natural beauty is preserved for future generations to come.

Happy Holidays!

P.S. For those of you who know me, and are feeling a tad guilty. Don't. Just drop off a few extra cans at a local soup kitchen. Now that is what I call the perfect gift for a foodie.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Hi. I’ve missed you. Sorry about the month-long radio silence, I’ve been a little busy at work.

For those of you who celebrate, I hope you’ve had a wonderful Christmas. For everyone else, I expect you’ll be enjoying some well-deserved time off.  I know I am: from the last week of November to just a few days ago, I was sucked into the vortex called ‘the holiday season’, only emerging from it midway through last Friday when it occurred to me that it was finally over. You should have heard the sigh of relief that escaped my lungs!

Which is why Christmas tends to be a quiet affair in my household. Oh, we still exchange presents and have a grander than usual breakfast/brunch, but there is no hoopla, no large gathering, and absolutely no fuss. We save it all for New Year’s. The few days of rest and the distance from the madness allow us to go whole hog in welcoming the New Year. It kind of makes me feel nostalgic for all those childhood Christmases: the magic of it all; the wonder and amazement; the toy display on the fifth floor of the Eaton department store on Sainte-Catherine Street...

The following dish is perfect at anytime of the year, but it is especially suited for the holiday season since almost everything can be prepared well in advance (like weeks!), assembled the day before it is needed, and thrown in the oven minutes before it is to be eaten. Best of all, it is absolutely lovely with leeks, which are still available locally, and cheap as chips -despite the recent hike in grocery bills.

Œuf en cocotte, also known as baked eggs in English, literally means eggs in a heavy pot. They are traditionally baked in miniature lidded pots, but you can use any oven-proof ramekin, lids optional. In its simplest form, eggs are baked with some heavy cream and a generous dash of seasoning, but it can be as elaborate as you wish -some outrageously expensive white truffles, anyone? They are in season at the moment, and I hear it is a good year for them...

Œuf en Cocotte with Leeks
Serves 4

4 Eggs
1 leek, trimmed of dark green parts
125ml/ ½ cup heavy cream 
salt and pepper to taste

Slice the leek crosswise as thinly as possible.
Was under running cold water if it is gritty.
Over medium heat, melt a tablespoon of butter, and add the leeks. 
Sweat out the leeks until they are completely wilted, but are barely coloured. The wilted leeks can be refrigerated for a week at this stage.
Add the cream, and bring to a low simmer: you want the cream to reduce until it is quite thick, but not split, about 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, butter 4 oven-proof ramekins.
Divide the creamy leeks amongst the ramekins, and break one egg into each.
Season with salt and pepper on the eggs, and pop into a 180°C/350°F oven, and bake until the eggs are done to your liking: about 5 minutes for barely set whites, 7 for cooked whites and runny yolks.

Serve the eggs hot from the oven, or barely warm. They are lovely as it, but you can jazz them up a bit to get people talking. A pinch or two of cumin seeds added to the leeks will add warmth and earthiness, all the intensifying the sweetness. If you have them, roasted tomatoes are a zippy addition to the eggs, and will brighten the whole. And if that isn't enough flavour for you, why not top the eggs with some cheese on their way out of the oven? 'Tis the season for Stilton, and it is the holidays after all!

Bon app'!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Keep Calm and Buy Nothing

The British World War Two slogan 'Keep Calm and Carry On' was already quite popular in North America when I left Montreal, but it is positively everywhere in the UK, in all its forms. I like that the UK organisers of Buy Nothing Day are using the posters' popularity to their advantage. Every year, I like to remind everyone of this anti-consumerist campaign, which falls on November 25th (exactly one month before Christmas!) in North-America, and on November 26th in the rest of the world.

Why is Buy Nothing Day/Christmas so important to me? Because. Over the years, I've become increasingly alarmed by how far we are straying away from the true meaning of Christmas: namely, good will, peace, love and humanity. I am not religious, and I would hardly consider myself a spiritual person, but if anything, I have a deep belief that the winter holidays should be about friends, family, and sharing; not about accumulating a wealth of gifts, nor about spending money on consumer goods we could all do without.

2011 was another hard year, in a long string of bad years. Most of us could really use the extra money that will be spent on gifts. Most of us already have more stuff than we really need. Many of us can't really afford to pay for the gifts we will place under the Christmas tree. I am the first to admit, that despite all my good intentions, I have accumulated more stuff than I can actually make use of in a lifetime. I especially felt it when I had to pack up my life and move to another country a mere two months ago.

The holidays are about giving, but who says that you need to give a physical object? A few alternatives are: giving your time to a charitable organization; making a donation to a cause that is close to your or your recipient's heart; sharing a cherished recipe with someone who enjoys or is beginning to cook; having a friend over for tea. You can find other ideas over here.

The Foodie's Quest is all about food and sustainability, which is why this foodie isn't going to buy anything on the 25th and 26th, and will make this holiday season a waste-free one.

Have a good Buy Nothing Day! And Bon App'!

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