Thursday, December 30, 2004

Al Quayda and the American Neo-Cons

From the BBC: The Power of Nightmares

A fascinating look at the origins of American neo-conservative thought, the origins of 20th century radical islamic thought, and how the two are linked and at present co-dependant.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

post xmas/ cauliflower scramble

Christmas was part in honour of my late dad. My dad was a brit and apart from the penchant for warm beer he also loved roast beef. Now no family member is going to argue that we shouldn't have rare roast beef for xmas dinner but we like to think that we're doing it for Dad anyhow.. he probably tell us all to sod off and stop wasting the fat but there you have it.
So we had the whole shebang: 100$ roast, yorkshire pudd, onions and potatoes roasted in drippings, boiled carrots, horseradish, gravy and big bottle of red. Beauty itself.
We start with a smoked salmon app, we finish with the traditional english christmas pudd and then we move onto the quebec raw milk cheeses with Iranian dates, nuts and apples.
Another excuse to roll on the ground and curse God that the Roman Vomitorium has gone out of fashion.
In vengance, tonight we moved towards vegetarian Indian food. Basmati with leftover herbs, hot and sour fusion sambar soup, chick pea curry, and cauliflower and eggs.

Cauliflower and potatoes with scrambled eggs.
-4 eggs
-1/2 a head cauliflower
-2 onions (leftover from xmas.. so all mushy and cooked and soaked in beef fat), chopped.
-2 potatoes (again, leftover, so roasted in beef fat,) cut into rough cubes
pinches turmeric
pinches kala jerra (black cumin)
fresh coriander
1 non stick pan

Heat a bit of oil, and fry the jerry a bit. Add the potatoes, onions, and cauliflower and fry gently until it is well coloured. You can add a bit of water to speed this up, but you have to get it nice and caremilized and the cauliflower has to be cooked to the point of being spoon tender. Add the turmeric and stir it up.
Add the eggs and scramble gently. when the eggs are 2/3 rds cooked add the coriander give a good genly stir and remove from heat. Cover and let the eggs finish cooking by their own heat.
serve with rice and salad, a bit of yogurt.
Resist the urge to lie on the floor and groan, if only out of habit.

la guadeloupe mexicaine (or birthday part 2)

Having not had enough gluttony for one week, two days after the Pied du Cochon we went out for Mexican food. Me, the boyfriend, and Molester.
Le Guadeloupe Mexicaine is a Mexican resto next to a cigarette factory in working class, east end Montreal. If you don't know montreal you just have to bear in mind one thing. East=French, West=English. Despite their proximity, the two are pretty independant. Many English people who have grown up there have no clue about the French part of the city, and the same goes for the many French. Both are contentedly ignorant and feel justified in being so.
So this restaurant is run by these two big mexican mamas and what I assume to be thier extended family... you probably think that I'm just a racist and because all the staff is mexican I assume that thay're all related. that's life.
Anyhow, the food is great, the portions are massive and the service, although slower than slow is extremely friendly. Plus the fact that the chairs are meant to accomodate 300lb asses and the tables for six are big enough to hold a Medicis banquet for 12.
We go for the margaritas to start. Beautiful, fresh lime juice with a hint of zest, sweet and salty at the same time. These are not nasty lime+tequila+salt and drink. Someone has actually tasted this drink and said "no, wait, too harsh, add some sugar and a bit of love". Cheers, happy birthday.
We share an order of nachos con guacamole, and queso fundido. The queso is getting a bit cold by the time we dig in but it still hits the spot. I mean molten cheese with fried sausage meat which you have to try and sop up with a flour tortilla, fork , hands, face, whatever. It's like all the best parts of a nasty cheap pizza.
The nachos are as always better than sex. Home fried tortilla chips covered with lovely refried beans, then gratineed with cheese and .. wait for it... a dig dollop of guac in the middle. These refritos; I don't even want to think about fat content, about whole families of pigs being slaughtered so that I can have some unctuous lard laden bean purée. No, best not to... just eat the effin beans.
I want the Chile Rellenos con Nogato (?).. a large pepper stuffed with the mexican equivalent of mince meat (meat, raisins, nuts olives etc..) and the whole thing in a white nut sauce... oh and wait, they dip the pepper in batter and deep fry it. Sorry they don;t make it any more. Ok, stuff it with cheese and serve it with a red sauce, its still great. Sloppy, gooey and beautiful.
The boys have molé poblano.. chicken leg in a hommeade chocolate and chile sauce. A bit too sweet for me but the boyfriend love it, The Molester isn't sure; he's not used to strange food and chocolate and meat takes a while to wrap your head around. My mum has fed me mole poblano since I was a kid and her's was always rich and a bit bitter... Diana Kennedy. If your mum makes mole you have to like your mum's the best.. there is no way to do otherwise.
We opt out of dessert and head to the loft party but before doing so we go across the street to buy beer. The Indian man sells us some of the most basic and worst tasting paan I've ever had. Paan in the middle of France montreal.. what were we thinking... the shock should have been enough, no need to try.
Happy birthday again.

au Pied du Cochon

last weekend for my boyfriends birthday we finally made it to the Pied du Cochon.
The other three had a roquefort, endive, and walnut salad to start. Yummy but standard.
I had the brandade. I have to remember that the apps at this place are the size of mains, but I always choose to forget this because part of the experience is being so totally gluttonous that you have to roll out the front door. The brandade was great, creamy and quite soupy with some leeks, gently cooked to bring out their sweetness, making all the diffrence. Never had brandade with leeks, more people should do this.
Brother in law (aka The Molester) had chicken pot pie. It comes with a deep fried chickens foot sticking out top. The waiter said that you could eat the whole foot as all the bones had been removed and only cartilage remained. Well he lied.
The pie was apparently delicious, and had a big hunk of foie gras in the middle of it. Oh, if you have never heard about this resto, everything, EVERYTHING, has foie gras in it.
Tandy Sr. had rognons de veau (veal kidneys) in a cream sauce with .. you guessed it, more foie gras. He adored. I hate kidneys. I want to like kidneys but to no avail.. it's like eating a meaty, squeaky, piss sponge. I know.. the don't taste like piss. Bullshit; people who eat kidneys just don't mind the taste of piss.. nothing wrong with that.
The wife had the 'Plogue a champlain'. Buckwheat pancake + potatoes + pan fried foie gras... all topped with maple syrup. Sin. Greasy, rich, sweet, and not too large a portion. I've hardly ever seen my boyfriend so happy.. apart from delux dim sum, or recieving spontaneous oral sex, I don't think anything makes him happier than foie gras. If you combined the three and had like a blowjob with foie gras dumplings he'd probably have a coronary.
I had the confit'd lamb shank with a tomato tombée. delicious. undersalted.. but so bloody lovely and moorish that I almost finished it.
No one had dessert except for Tandy Sr. who declared the creme brulee a triumph. We toasted the pirthday with some courvoisier and rolled home to lie prone.

Monday, December 13, 2004

chick pea curry

OOOOOOooooo I ate too much of this.. it's good but it's quite rich.. you could dilute it even further or use a thinner coconut milk..

1 heaping Tbsp mung dal
1/2 Tbsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin
10 curry leaves
3 dried red chilies
2 onions sliced thinly
4 Tbsp oil
6 -7 canned tomatoes, roughly chopped
2-3 heaping Tbsp Baba's jaffna curry powder
1 1/2 cups thick coconut milk (or a bit less coconut cream)
1 small can chick peas drained and rinsed, half of them crushed up with your hands
2 or 3 lime leaves

Heat the oil and add the mustard seeds, and cumin, and dal. cover the pan and listen for the popping. When they have finished popping add the chilies and curry leaves and cook 30 seconds more. Add the onions and fry on med hi heat until they colour and have softned. Add the curry powder and fry out for for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes and fry on med heat for 10 minutes or so until the paste has thickned. The oil should start to separate by now.
Add the rest of the ingrerdients and add 1 -2 cups of water. season to taste with salt/fish sauce/ soy and stew for 30 minutes or so. This out as you need to adjusting the salt as wanted.

Serve this over noodles or with rice, and garnish with hard boiled eggs cut into 1/4's, deep fried tofu, coriander, blanched green leafy veg. Whatever you do, serve with lots of chili sauce and lime or vinegar.

A good hot sauce: crush green chilies and garlic with a good pinch of salt. Add some finely chopped tomato (a greener tomato is well suited to this), and crush some more. add white vinegar and a bit sugar (not too much), balance for salt.... you can do like me and use a nice dirty mortar and pestle that you used to grind toasted fenugreek seeds.. gives an interesting flavour.

Monday, December 06, 2004

buttermilk "curry" with rice

After a week of overeating this was a nice break. The buttermilk curdled, which in the end wasn't unpleasant but I might avoid it next time by adding a Tbsp or two of besan (chick pea flour) to the buttermilk, which I have in the recipe... might work :).

grind together:
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp dessicated coconut (or use fresh and double the ammount?)
2 shallots peeled and sliced
pinch salt
1 tsp cumin seeds

4 cups buttermilk
2 Tbsp besan
2 green chilies roughly chopped
2 coins ginger thinly sliced
2 pinches turmeric
2 shallots, peeled and sliced
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds (1/4 tsp toasted and ground, the other 1/4 mixed with the mustard seeds)
2 dried red chilies roughly crushed
5-6 curry leaves
1 small potato peeled and cut into cubes
1 small asian eggplant cut into cubes (or use comprable ammount of other eggplant)
1 Tbsp mung dal (or other small dal)
1 tbsp ghee or oil (maybe a bit more)

In a pan big enough to accomodate the buttermilk, heat half the ghee and briefly fry the green chilies and ginger for a minute. Add the turmeric and about 1/4 cup of water and cook for a few minutes more until the water has almost completely evaporated. Add the besan and cook out a bit then slowly add the buttermilk. give a good stir and transfer to an appropriate sized bowl.
Heat the pan again, on med hi, with the other half of the ghee. Add the mustard seeds and whole fenugreek and when the begin to splutter, cover the pan and wait for the popping to subside. Add the curry leaves and dried chilies and give a good stir. Add the shallots and lower the heat to medium or med low. Cook until the shallots begin to brown around the edges (add more oil if need be). Now add the ground coconut and the toasted fenugreek and cook on med low for a while to bring out the oil and let the whole mix become fragrant. Add the vegetables and then slowly add the buttermilk (let me know if it curdles eh!). season as need be and simmer until the veg and lentils are cooked.. about 20 -30 mins.

I served it with rice, that I had cooked with a few bits of ginger and a bit of oil, and a good helping of yogurt.
This dish was very soupy, but quite tangy and flavourful... a great light dinner when you can't face a big meal.

cod with onions and harissa

This is a lovely dish based on one that was much less spiced... I tend to like the heat a bit better

1 filet of cod (enough for 4 portions)
2 tbsp harissa
10 or so large plump kalamata olives (or as you want)
zest of 1/2 a lemon
1 large spanich onion sliced thickly
4 Tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
(depending on how spicy your harissa is: 1/4 tsp toated ground cumin, a few gratings of orange peel)

heat 2 Tbsp of the oil and fry the onions over med hi heat with 1/2 the harissa, lemon and orange peel, cumin and salt to taste, until the onions are softened, 3 or 4 minutes. Place 1/2 the onions on the bottom of an ovenproof dish and scatter with 1/2 the olives. Cut the cod into portions and season with salt and pepper. Place them on top of the onions and cover with the other half of the onions and the olives. Mix the rest of the olive oil, harissa, and lemon juice then pour the fish.
Place in a 450 degree oven until the fish is cooked (10-20 minutes). Serve as you will, with some bread, rice or potatoes.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Jolee and the Indian you don't know

Indian food has, as chinese food, been almost thoroughly bastardised to make it into the occidental palate spectrum. This is a mixed blessing and a terribly interesting story. It make a food acceptable that would otherwise be unacessible while at the same time changing it irreprably. The story of this food, especially in the British context, where Indian food has had a longer history is fascinating. The fact that we eat mostly Bengali takes on Anglo-Indian food is who other ball game.
This brings us to South Indian, and in the case of Jolee, Sri Lankan food. Although they are by no means the same, they're a lot closer than the local delivery Jalfrezi. Both rely heavily on the coconut, as well as mustard seeds and curry leaves.
The mosty fascinating thing for me here is the starches. String Hoppers are little noodle pancakes made from toated rice flour that are steamed and then used to sop up curries and other sauces. Left over string hoppers can be chopped up and fried like noodles or rice (Kottu string hopers), the same trestment is given to roti (like parathas, flaky bread). You have to try stir fried bread bits.. I mean how can that not be good.
What I wanted this time was Puttu. Puttu is the same batter as the string hoppers (toasted rice) but it is steamed in a cylindrical mould and ends up resembling a large irregularly shaped couscous or smaller hardish spatzle. They are a sort or purple grey colour. The waiter is impressed with my choice, if a little unsure of what this white boy wants with Sri Lankan food. In all honesty I find them very filling. The flavour is good, and the texture is a little hard, the lamb curry is spicy and great if a little tough. The mung bean dal is nice and the chick pea curry is really nice... all in all very tasty and for 6$ probably the best lunch deal in the city... on par with Pushaps.
The rest of the menu, the dosas, the samosas, the birianis are at the least competent, at the best.. a flavourful, yummy steal.
To recommend are all the Kottu dishes, the Lamb curry is delicious and heavily spiced, the saag paneer is creamy spinach with bits of paneer stirred through (not the usual fried chunks). The dosas are good too and when stuffed with potato curry and served with sambar on the side, is a nice light lunch. I don't dig the vadas.. oversized falafels arn't for me.
But get lunch, order extra food for friends at home or later for dinner, then sit and have a nice masala tea and enjoy the exotic.

scallops and tartare

After a hard day of food styling, my boyfriend invited my for a drink. Now considering that recently I've been working a grueling 1 day a week this drink was well deserved. It's one thing to work 10 hrs a day 5 days a week, entirely another to have a week of Moksha yoga ( ) and relaxation and then suffer an intense 12hr Friday.. especially when artisanal Calvados and Nappa Valley bubbly are involved.
It had been snowing for most of Friday and everything was covered in a disorienting white. We decided to head for Reservoir, a lovely brew pub pub and restaurant on Duluth just east of St Laurent. Now, I was weaned on british beer (gin and tonic as well but that's another story); some people think that beer is a preference, they don't realise that for some people (british and czech mostly) it's actually part of your genetic makeup. So all this is to say that although I do like the beer at Reservoir.. it just isn't flat and warm enough for me, and is ever so slightly too acidic. Be that as it may, I think brewpubs should be encouraged as anything beats the big name national brands (piss water mostly). And Reservoir is just oh so hip, all natural wood and glowing transparent photographs, slightly snobby staff (oh you french from france), and a clientele that just oozes their cool savoir vivre all over the floor. I once, during a slow happy hour, asked for a complete pint (the one I got was about a good two inches shy). What I got was a look of pure loveliness, pure unadulterated cold wet parisian winter I just stepped in dog shit loveliness And no top up. This is atypical though, usually the staff are just really really busy. Courteous but in no way overjoyed at being alive.
What I really love at Reservoir is the food. Lovely little dishes, somewhere between tapas, appetizer and small main course, based for the most part on Quebec and Canadian products. The blackboard is not extensive (5 or 6 choices) and there is a printed menu as well, but that doesn't make it any easier as I want to order them all. We opt for tartare of New Brunswick salmon with confit'd lemon, and scallops baked with cream an pecans. My boyfriend drinks the Scotch Ale (almmost always) which I find a bit too boozy. I go for the pale ale which is damn fine. As we sit at the bar watching other peoples food go out our hunger mounts. Finally... The scallops are delicious little fresh buggers from PEI, I've seen them at the fish market earlier in the week and what they lack in size they make up for in deliciousness. Baked on the half shell in fresh cream and sprinkled with ground pecans (or maybe a pecan breadcrumb mix?) these little devils are bliss. Screw dessert, I want more scallops. This recipe seems so simple that I'm totally sold on trying it myself. The tartare is perfect. Hand cut, and well seasoned with a small salad of greens and fennel shavings. The slighly charred grilled crouton that comes along with is a great rustic accompanyment. Both total winners.
Are the portions small. Yes. Is it priced a little on the high end. Yes. Is it worth it. Beyond all doubt.
Fortified by two pints each and now positively ravenous my mate wants to head for the Pied de Cochon. A gastro-temple of all that is meat, especially foie gras. The boyfriend has been sold on this place ever since our first visit, a carnivores paradise..... we trudge down Duluth and wait in line for 10 minutes only to discover that we're going to have to wait another 45 minutes if we want a seat. We head for L'express as one of us has never been there and well.. if you've never been to L'express and live in Montreal, it's inexcuasble, like having never eaten poutine.
We squeek into l'express, beating a group of cell phone wielding chinese who are defeated by their numerical superiority. The Maitre'd seems to relish exaggerating the wait time, and I love his slightly sadistic streak.... this is not the cool of Reservoir, this is an efficient man who deals with a full dining room on a daily basis.
Again we sit at the bar. Mr Masson the barman is, as always, at the height of his art. Running around, bantering with the clients in a crisp, humerous fashion. He forgets sugar cubes on a saucer and jokes that once again he is trying to save money for the maison. L'express is on a diffrent plane of reality than the rest of the city.. it rejoins a parisian arrondisment somewhere. This is full on theatre, the art of the bistro.
We start with little appero and cheers over a plate of fresh oysters on a bed of ice and seaweed. A bit on the scrawny side but in no way bad. I head for the Salade de pourpier as an apps, a nice pile of fried lardons (bacon cubes) and potato slices, deglazed with vinaigre and dumped on top of fresh purslane. Great flavours, meaty, fatty and beautifully cut with the acidic splash of vinaigre. My chum has the chevre chaud. a classic of warm creamy goats cheese on croutons, a bit of salad and that's all. Simple and exactly what you expect.
The Gwurts is too sweet but that's my poor wine knowledge at work.
We both opt fot he raviolis as mains, seems to be a little bit smaller on the portion side but that, I might be imagining. As a write about these raviolis I'm welling up inside. Little pillows drenched in a lovely veal based butter sauce. It is sin, it is indulgence, it is a must. I could easily eat a double portion but my heart would probably stop. My boyfriend was now solidly sauced. We settle up and head home.
I worked at L'express briefly when I was about 21. There I discovered what monté au beurre meant. Monst sauces were "Deglaze with booze, add veal stock and reduce, add butter and monté". At first I was aghast, the best sauces I had seen up to then were devoid of butter. Stock reductions, infusions and juices but no butter. This was a shocking discovery and quite revealing. People drench things in fat because it tastes good and the sauces at L'express were addictive, I discovered the respect of the cuisine bourgeoise for fat of all kind.

ADDRESS: 9 Duluth (corner St-Laurent)
TELEPHONE: 849-7779
CREDIT CARDS: Everything except Amex, but who needs Amex.
HOURS: Mon-Fri noon-3AM; Sat-Sun 11AM-3AM

3927 Saint-Denis. Sherbrooke métro—difficult to spot because only sign is in sidewalk
Tel. 845-5333. Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday, 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. (Reservations required Thursday through Sunday, tables usually available without reservation after 2 pm and 10 pm.)