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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Thanksgiving with a twist

On Thursday, January 31st, 1957, the Parliament of Canada proclaimed:

A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful
harvest with which Canada has been blessed – to be observed on
the 2nd Monday in October.

Many in Canada say that Thanksgiving is only really an American holiday, that we are simply copying them. Yet the history of Thanksgiving in Canada can be traced back to the 1578 voyage of Martin Frobisher from England (from Wikipedia). Although Thanksgiving Day had been celebrated as a civic holiday since 1872, it wasn't till 1879 that Thanksgiving Day was observed every year. In 1957 the chopping and changing ended by proclamation and fixed to the second Monday in October.

At the end of the day (sorry for the cliche here), whether it is simply a paid day off work or truly a celebration of what harvest one has reaped through the past year, it is a celebration of food. Now when talking about food most associate turkey, pumpkin and cranberries with a Thanksgiving feast. Turkeys today can be bought pre-cooked but most prefer to toil the hours basting and nursing that big bird.

Toiling the hours, that's not for me, the big or medium sized bird well that I do like. My version for a 12-14 pound turkey takes about 60 to 70 minutes. I tell you no lie, it is not a fantasy.

First of all I put the turkey into a big pot with carrots, onions and seasoning. I bring the mini beast to a boil and then boil away for approximately 30 minutes. The boiling is not to cook the bird but to loosen the flesh, make it relax for the next step as it is going to get hotter. Step two, preheat your BBQ to approximately 400 degrees. Place the turkey into a roasting pan with some olive oil and a ladle or two of the stock. Now turn down the middle burners to extreme low and place the turkey in.

After about 20 minutes turn the turkey over once, then again after another 20 minutes. The bird should be done after 40-50 minutes in the BBQ. Its skin crisp and the flesh moist and tender. Try it, many have, and not only for Thanksgiving.

On a personal note I thank every day for my precious wife and partner, and for the three glorious children who I am so very proud of. I guess they have contributed to my passion for life and for the fuel we all need.

Now that you have mastered the bird you have more time to play with taste and aromas. Try these alternatives to the regular pumpkin. I promise you the taste explosion will be worth it in the end.

Moroccan Pumpkin & Sweet Potato Stew

60 g (2 oz) butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp tumeric
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp harissa paste or cayenne pepper
2 cup chicken stock
1/2 tsp saffron thread
600 g (1 lb 5 oz) butternut pumpkin
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) sweet potato
1/2 cup raisins
1 tbsp honey

Melt the butter over low heat.
Add onion & cook till softened.
Add garlic, turmeric, cinnamon stick and harissa.
Stir over low heat for 2 minutes or until fragrant.
Pour in stock, saffron, increase heat to medium and bring to a boil.
Add pumpkin, sweet potato, raisins and honey, season with salt and black pepper.
Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Remove cinnamon stick before serving.

(Serves 4-6)


5 oz (12 g) dried red chillies, stems removed
1 tbsp dried mint
1 tbsp coriander
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp caraway seeds
10 garlic cloves, chopped finely
125 ml (1/2 cup) olive oil

Roughly chop the chillies, then cover with boiling water and soak for 1 hour.
Drain the chillies, put them in a food processor, add mint, spices, garlic, 1 tbsp oil and 1/2 tsp salt.
Process for 20 seconds, scrape the sides and process another 30 seconds.
With motor running gradually add the balance of olive oil scraping when necessary.
Spoon chilli paste into clean jar, cover with thin layer of olive oil and seal.
Harissa will keep in the fridge for up to 6 months.

Spiced Lentils with Pumpkin

275 (1 1/2 cups) green lentils
2 tomatoes
600 g (1 lb 5 oz) butternut squash
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or 1 tsp harissa
1 tsp paprika
3 tsp superfine sugar
1 tbsp Italian parsley
1 tbsp cilantro

Clean and prepare lentils, place in saucepan, add 4 cups of water, bring to a boil
and simmer for 20 minutes.
Now halve tomatoes crossways, squeeze out the seeds and grate coarsely into a bowl to the skin, discard the skins, then set aside.
Peel and cube pumpkin, then set aside.
Heat olive oil in large saucepan, cook onion till softened.
Add garlic, heat for a few seconds.
Add cumin, turmeric and cayenne or harissa.
Cook for 30 seconds then add paprika, grated tomato, tomato paste, sugar, 1/2 parsley and cilantro, 1 tsp salt and black pepper.
Add lentils and pumpkin, stir well and simmer for 20 minutes or until lentils and pumpkin are tender.

(Serves 4-6)

Pumpkin Puree

1 tsp pepper ground
1 pie pumpkin
6 shallots
2 small yellow tomatoes
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp rum or brandy (optional)
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup 10% cream
sour cream to garnish

Peel, clean and chop pumpkin. Place into a pot with water, boil till very tender.
Drain and set aside in pot.
Saute chopped shallots and tomato, drain off excess oil and place over top of cooked pumpkin.
Combine cinnamon and nutmeg and mash all ingredients together.
Now add rum, chicken broth and white wine and mix the whole mixture well.
Place pot over medium heat and bring to a boil stirring regularly.
Add cream and combine well.

The final consistency is thicker than soup but the flavours of Fall truly find a joyful expression.
Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a cinnamon stick

(Serves 6-8)

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