Turnip 'Pakoras' aka My new Holy Grail of snacks.

My turnip obsession continues.  It's like I've got some kind of masochistic streak in me.  I don't like the things much but I can't stay away from them.  I've been spending some time ('cause god knows I've got so much of that to spare right now) thinking about why turnips have become so embedded in my psyche.
Here are some of the reasons that I've come up with:
1.  It's the challenge.  They basically suck.  I am the super hero who can change all of that.  I can find a way to rescue turnips from their own suckiness.  It's like that guy you were dating because you were pretty sure that if you could just work on him for a while that your love would rescue him... yeah, that totally worked.

2.  They're big - usually.  I have to use them to 2 or 3 dishes because using a whole turnip for one dish is really just unthinkable quantities of turnip all up in your face.

3.  I feel some sort of seasonal commitment at the moment.  Maybe it won't last forever or maybe it's my new paradigm, I'm not sure yet.  Whatever it is it means that turnips are, at least for the moment, a part of my late winter world.  I've accepted it and am moving on.

4.  I feel somehow sorry for the butt-ugly turnip.  Somehow my weird-ass brain has personified this vegetable and if I don't use it I feel like I'm rejecting it.  Weird-ass brain.

I love that UK food magazines are picking up on this whole seasonal thing in a way that North American ones just simply are not.  It's cool.  I'm finding parsnips, rutabaga, squash, turnip... all that crap.  So it was in the Good Food magazine that I found this Swede Fritters recipe.  I passed it by completely the first few times I paged through the magazine.  Somehow today it just caught my eye and my imagination.  Why hadn't I thought of this before.  It makes so much sense.  Adding bacon aside, spicing the living crap out of turnips would definitely improve them right?  RIGHT.  Yes.  I've done it.

I've rescued turnips from themselves.  From their drab, frumpy little corner of the root cellar.  (Number 1 covered)  I have found a way to use up that half that was leftover from the stew last week.  (Number 2 covered)  I have found a way to use turnip on their own - just a little onion - no other vegetable.  Completely seasonal. (Number 3 covered)  I used turnip.  I no longer feel guilty about it sitting in the bottom of my fridge waiting for my pot.  (Number 4 covered)
Make these.  They really don't suck at all.  I reheated 3 for work today and they were fan-friggin-tastic without any condiments at all.  I would make these again anytime.  And they were easy.  I still don't like turnip much but I no longer feel guilty or afraid that it can't be redeemed.  If only I hadn't ordered another one.

Turnip 'Pakora' Fritters adapted from 'Good Food Magazine UK'
made about 14 med/small ones

4 cups turnip/rutabaga diced fairly evenly
3/4 cup all purpose flour
plain yogurt
whole milk
1 lg egg
1 small onion, diced
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp curry powder (I used west indian)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp pepper sauce or cayenne
oil for frying

Boil the diced turnip for only 15 minutes or until just softened.  Drain and set aside.
In a bowl mix the yogurt, milk, egg and mix well.
Add in the onion, garam masala, curry powder, cumin, salt, turmeric, coriander, cardamom, sugar and cayenne.  Mix well.  Finally add in the flour and mix well until it forms a paste.
Mash the turnips but only barely.
Add the turnip to the flour mixture.  Mix well.
Heat a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add the oil of your choice - I used lard that I had rendered but you could also use coconut oil or ghee for something authentic.  Otherwise just go with what you have. - to the hot pan.  Place about 1/4 -1/3 of a cup of mixture into the hot oil and quickly form into a rough circle.  You can put as many circles in the pan as will fit.  Turn after 3 - 4 minutes on each side.  It should be golden brown and slightly crispy.  Once both sides are done remove the fritter from the pan and place on a paper towel to rack to cool and drain just a bit.
Serve all alone or with your favourite chutney or tamarind sauce.

Pear Coffee Cake

I'm not sure if it would be possible for me to find a way to have changed this recipe any further from it's original than say, ummm, just using a completely different recipe.
It was originally a Pumpkin Coffee Cake.
It was not supposed to have a 3 egg cake as it's bottom layer.
It shouldn't have had as much butter as I added.
I could go on but  instead I think that we need to take a moment here and consider inspiration and the roll that even the most mundane and everyday can have on inspirations' stage.  My inspiration for this Coffee Cake... a jar of pears.

If you've been following this blog for any length of time you may have picked up that I'm on a year long experiment so to speak.  I started canning seriously last summer and am now sitting back and watching how things get used up.  Did I make too much of this, too little of that.  That kind of thing.  Well, I've never done this before so I guess I should have maybe thought things through a little more and started smaller with a couple of things (I didn't think that 25 jars of jams would be too much).  I am now starring down 12 very large jars of canned pears.  Beautifully canned in a vanilla, cinnamon syrup.  Ready to be eaten with ice cream, plain yogurt (sounds great) or a simple pound cake.  I haven't done any of those things with the pears.  What I've done thus far is give 3 jars to my parents.  That felt good.
This situation needs some serious tackling and my first order of business was to come up with a way to get through a decent amount of pears (try about a half a jar here) in the most kid-appealing way possible (not so sure that this was a success in that department).
I must thank the author of this book because while I was meandering through it before falling asleep I kinda just latched onto this pumpkin coffee cake thing and my brain ran.  And ran.  And ran.  I like where it ran to with the pear thing.  I like that it has a topping and that after a day or so it got even better  'cause the topping got kinda soft and squidgy with the pears.  I definitely screwed up on the egg thing and put 3 eggs in the bottom layer where there should only have been 1... Oops.  It worked fortunately.
If you make this cake please don't pass final judgement until the day after it's been baked (or maybe the evening if you baked it in the morning) because I found it much improved with 12 hours under it's belt.

So look here, don't shrug off those mundane moments as completely lost time.  Those hours spent in line.  The waiting at the Dr's office.  The time spent waiting for your phone company to have an 'available representative'.  Those times when you get so desperate for a snack that you eat 3 tablespoons of peanut butter in a row (and not the healthy kind of peanut butter).  Those could be just the moments that will somehow produce that epiphany.

Pear Coffee Cake adapted from Winter Harvest Cookbook

3 cups sliced pears (canned or fresh)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and diced
1/3 cup milk
3 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cardamom
3 tbsp brown sugar

Grease a 9x13 inch cake pan.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Combine the milk and eggs together in a bowl and set aside.
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together in a bowl.   Cut in the butter until the mixture forms a crumbly texture (mine never really truly got there but close enough).  Divide the flour mixture in half(ish).  Add the eggs/milk mixture to one of the flour bowls.  Stir until mixed and pour into the greased baking pan.  Bake for about 10 minutes or until just barely firm in the middle.
Place the sliced pears on top of the warm cake.
In the remaining flour bowl add the cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and brown sugar.  Mix.  Pour the mixture on top of the pears.  Bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until the topping looks somewhat melted to the pears and the edges of the cake are golden brown.
Cool for about 10 minutes before cutting.

Pumpkin Cloverleaf Buns

Sometimes I am a b*&%h.
I was recently having a conversation with D in which I got little heated.  Not at him, at someone else.  A situation that I was describing to him was really getting to me.  He was telling me that I was being a real b#%*h.  His accusation was dead on.  I was being a b@&*h.  I told him that I was totally ok with it.  I was completely and totally accepting of my own bitchiness.  I think that it makes me a more balanced individual.  In fact, I will go out on a seriously politically incorrect limb here and say that I think there are situations which demand some serious and heartfelt bitchiness.
At the time I was describing a situation in which an acquaintance was discussing his wife's shopping habits to a large group of people.  This person publically implied that he let his wife off the leash to go crazy shopping.  The sub-text being that these are the things that men must put up with to keep (and to reward) a happy marriage.  Now while I whole-heartedly applaud this individual's desire for a happy marriage, I can't even begin to express how offended and revolted, disgusted and angry I was with the comment.  I was so 'moved' that in discussing this whole thing with D I used some pretty choice words... and the kids were around.
I apologized to them afterwards because I wasn't exactly proud of my vocabulary but it did give me a chance to talk to Kid #1 about why my reaction was so strong.  Being the Mom to this wonderful daughter of mine means that I have a responsibility to tell her about the root of my anger and bitchiness.  We ended up having a serious discussion about how important I feel it is that no matter how wonderful her partner is that she remain confident and empowered in the relationship.  Equitability to me means that I don't need to ask for permission to spend money either because I make my own or it's not something that either one of us do frivolously and we both trust each other in that.  I know that if D spends money he's doing it for a damn good reason.  I also know that he feels the same way about me.  I have never been questioned about a purchase.
However, I also made it clear to Kid #1 that if she had money available to her and wished to 'live large' with that money that she had every right to do so.  We have a cousin who is a highly respected and recognized lawyer in the UK.  She has worked hard.   Damn hard.  She gives her time not just at her job but with numerous organizations that help educate and empower women.  She makes a lot of money and she spends it.  Done.  She gets a lot of flack for her spending habits.  Many in the family will talk about it, pass judgement even.  I made it clear to Kid #1 that I have no problem with how our cousin spends her money.  If our cousin were a man no one would say a word.  In fact, they might very well pat him on the back for being so successful ... and most certainly they would never question it. Because our cousin is a woman her spending is treated differently.  The wonderful thing about our cousin is that she doesn't care.  She does what she does and she's proud.  She is generous to a fault and enjoys herself freely and openly.
I guess what really got my goat about this whole thing was that rather than people jumping on this guy for being so down right patriarchal and condescending towards women, he was applauded.  Applauded.  That was the shocker.  I'm still speechless about it.

I cook.  I clean.  I work both in the home and out of it.  Because I have to and because I want to.  I'm not the craziest feminist out there for sure but I want my daughter to live in a world where she can be herself.  Where she can get paid the same salary as a man for the job she does.  Where she has access to jobs that even now are limited for women.  Where she can wear a head scarf if she wishes or knee high boots without fear.  I also want her to be able to stay home to parent, cook and clean if she wishes.  It's important.
This bread is an homage to my past.  To Women's collective past.   To kneading and baking bread whilst fully appreciating all the choices that I now enjoy as a woman.  So yeah, this is definitely one those situations in which I am proud to be bitchy.

Pumpkin Cloverleaf Buns adapted from Gourmet Magazine 'Comfort Food'
makes about a dozen

5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 packet)
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp warm milk
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour (a little more for kneading)
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp each nutmeg, cardamom
1/3 cup pumpkin/squash puree (canned is fine)
1 lg egg + 1 egg yolk

1 tbsp water
1 egg

Combine the yeast, warm milk and brown sugar together  and set aside in a draft free spot to proof for about 10 minutes.
Combine the flour, salt, nutmeg and cardamom together in a bowl and set aside.
Once the yeast has proofed and is all bubbly and doubled in size then add in the pumpkin, 1 egg + 1 yolk and the butter.  Mix until incorporated.
Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until it forms a soft dough ball.
Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 8 minutes or until the dough is silky smooth and almost feels light when working through it.
Oil or grease a large bowl.  Place the dough in the greased bowl and turn the dough so that all side are greased.  Cover with a clean cloth and place in draft free spot to rise for 1 1/2 - 2 hrs or until doubled in size.
Punch down the dough (do not knead). Divide the dough in half.  On a lightly flour surface roll half of the dough out into a long log.  Cut the log into 6 pieces.
Cut each piece into 3 small pieces.  Form each piece into a ball shape.
Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Grease a 12 cup muffin tin.  Place 3 balls into each muffin cup.  Cover with a clean cloth and place in a draft free spot to rise for 1 - 1 1/2 hrs (until the dough is about an inch above the rim of each muffin cup.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Combine the remaining egg and water.  Brush the egg wash over the top of each bun.
Bake about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Best consumed the same day.  Otherwise cool and freeze.  Just warm them up as you want to each them.

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

I'm stuck.  Staring at the computer screen.  I'm desperately trying to come up with something that is absolutely deep and thoroughly enlightening.  Trying to sit here and type away with abandon.  Focussing hard on the words flowing out of my fingers. But the reality is that this is my first day off all week.  I've got a naked 5 year old reading the words out loud as I type and singing at random intervals.  Occasionally that same five year old squeezes and kisses my arm and then bounces off with a balloon.  The laundry buzzer goes off and then Skype rings and there I am completely distracted.  I know that there is stuff in me that's waiting to come out.  I feel it in there.  Something deep like a tree root.
I would love to come up with something profound to say about community and civil involvement.  I wish that I could adequately express how disturbed I am that there was a Canada wide recall on beef patties this past week and how revolted I am that the cheap food we've all been brain washed into buying is killing us and our world.  I'd love to go on about how I feel about gated communities and fear and how our possessions have ended up defining and possessing us instead.  How ownership in it's extreme capitalist consumer based form (as we now live it) - I don't even know if that makes sense - has rendered 'my stuff' more important than your life or our planet.   I wish that I could be more eloquent in expressing my disgust that a hoodie is somehow justification for a pedestrian to become a walking target.
But there it is.  I'm stuck.  And sad.  A little blurry on the inside.  Working to muscle my focus through a zany five year old, skype and laundry.  I'll stop trying now and get to the cake.

As promised:  Banana Cake.  I'm gotten over my shame about having so many sweet recipes in a row.  Whatever.  There are some food bloggers who only post sweets and baking.  So this ain't so bad.  I also need to add by way of further justification that this recipe is delightfully 'uncakey' when it comes to dessert cakes.  This cake got me through the week.  Occasionally it became my lunch which predictably launched me into a minor sugar coma for the rest of the afternoon.  To be honest it's not a half bad way to work through the afternoon.

Oh... before I forget, this recipes makes a lot of batter so I just kind of eye-balled it and made 4 cupcakes as well as the round cake.  If you find yourself in this predicament I can tell you that what worked for me was putting those cupcakes in a box and sending them off with some friends.

Crazy Cute box courtesy the most best KT.  BFF.

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Icing adapted from The Wednesday Chef
makes 1 10 inch round cake and about 4 med/lg cupcakes

2 2/3 cup pastry flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt (I use sea salt)
3 - 4 med/lg bananas, very ripe and peeled of their skins (if there is a lot of liquid then you could easily drain them for a little bit)
3 lg eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Your favourite cream cheese icing (Look - I don't get fancy here.  It's cream cheese it's just a little dab of butter and enough icing sugar to bring it all together so that it's nice and icingy... throw in some lemon zest if you want but why mess with perfection)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour either a 9x13 baking pan or a 10 inch springform pan. (this is what I used)
Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.

Whisk or mix(er) the very ripe bananas until all goopy.  Add in the eggs one at a time and continue to mix away happily.  Add in the buttermilk, oil and vanilla next and mix until well incorporated.

Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture and stir by hand until everything is wet and mixed together.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake - for the springform pan it took about 50 - 55 minutes before a tester came out clean - for the 9x13 pan 45 - 50 minutes should do but make sure you test the middle with a cake tester.  If you make some muffins with the extra then the muffins should stay in for about 25 - 30 minutes.
Cool completely.
Ice with your favourite cream cheese icing once the cake and/or muffins is/are completely cooled.

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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