beef ‘n ale tarts (and meat pies too!)

I’ve got to tell you, I’m tired.

It’s been a long week of writing.  I’ve been putting on my consulting hat a number of times over the past few days (including some pro bono work).  And I’ve been battling a cold.

Maybe it is just the February blahs, but I’ve been dragging my ass for days.

And yet, Saturday is here, and I’m needing my hockey night pub grub.

It’s times like this that a chef depends on his staff for the grunt work on a menu.  He gets the sous chef to whip the brigade into action and has each of the station cooks maxed out in getting things just right.

There’s a problem using this model in the Farm to Table kitchen, however.  First of all, I’m not a chef, per se.  Second of all, I have no staff.

I do, however, have a side-kick, partner and house-pâtissière.  Thank you, Krista.  While you may not know it, you’ll be carrying the brunt of this tired Saturday evening dish.  I’ll even be a good husband and get your pastry ingredients together.

Tonight, we’re going to face the winter blahs with a hearty and homey pub dish: Beef and Ale Pies.  These little tarts are my Central Ontario take on Steak and Guinness pie, but in tart form — with a top and bottom crust.  They will be the perfect showcase for some late winter local ingredients, and a wonderful pairing with our local Publican House Seasonal Dark Ale.

Because I have the ingredients out, I’ll also make up some Savoury Beef Tarts to put in the freezer. They can act as an even easier tired Saturday night treat in the future.

Krista will be home soon. I best get the fillings together.

As usual, scroll down for the local growers/suppliers of my ingredients. *note* I use a homemade tomato paste. I’ll blog instructions on the paste at a later date.

Beef and Ale Filling

2 tbsp clarified butter
2 lbs stewing beef (1 inch cubes)
1 tbs all-purpose flour
1 tbsp red fife wheat flour
2 tsp course black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
250 ml beef stock
250 ml dark ale
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 to 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp dried rosemary leaves
1/4 cup water

1. heat butter in deep saucepan.
2. dredge beef in flour/salt/pepper.
3. brown beef in small batches — 5 minutes per batch — and remove to clean bowl.
4. deglaze with garlic/onion/water and saute until onion is just soft.
5. add beef, tomato paste, stock, ale, worcestershire, thyme and rosemary
6. cover and braise on low, bubbling, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours

Savoury Ground Beef Filling

2 lbs ground beef
2 tsp course black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
125 ml beef stock
125 ml dark ale
2 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 to 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp dried rosemary leaves
1/4 cup water

1. Mix all ingredients.
2. Brown over medium high heat, skimming fat.

Notes on the Tarts by Krista:

Unsweetened Pastry (recipe unabashedly borrowed from Moosewood cook book, with some notes for guidance)
6 tbsp butter (cut into small pieces)
1 1/2 cups flour
about 4tbsp cold water

1. Cut together butter and flour (I just use a fork)
2. Add just enough water to hold the dough together (mix with finger tips)
3. Roll out dough and cut to fit into tart shells
*Notes: rolling the dough between two sheets of parchment or waxed paper can make it easier to roll out; plan carefully so you are able to handle the dough as little as possible as you cut the crusts and lids (if you have to re-roll some scraps, use them for the lids)
4. Add filling
5. Dampen the edges of the crust & place the lids and pinch closed.
6. Seal by pressing a fork around the edges, cut off excess pastry & puncture the lid a few times
7. Bake at 400F for 25 – 35 minutes (until edges are brown and filing is bubbling!)

Local Producers:
Clarified butter: clarified from Sterling Butter (Sterling)
Stewing beef: private local supplier
All-purpose flour: Merrylynd Farm (Lakefield)
Red fife wheat flour: Merrylynd Farm (Lakefield)
Onion: Beyers Farm (Peterborough)
Garlic: Gaelic Garlic (Peterborough)
Beef stock: Farm to Table
Henry’s Irish Ale: Publican House Brewery (Peterborough)
Tomato paste: Farm to Table

noshing at a tweet-up

Farm to Table shares some brunch with Lois Tuffin, Editor in Chief, Peterborough This Week (right) and Fleming College's Alana Callan.

This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to have a “tweet-up” with some of my fellow Peterborough foodies.  The event, hosted by global gastronomic enthusiast, Jackie DeKnock, made for a most pleasant Sunday brunch.  I’ll be writing about Jackie in the blog shorty, but, in the meantime, would like to direct you to a look back at the event by my friends at PTBOCANADA.

organic red fife flour tortillas

I’m a week late in blogging this recipe, but… better late than never, right?

I apologize, I’ve had a busy week wearing my Small Print Writing and Consulting hat. But, a good recipe or two is worth the wait, right?

Last weekend, I live tweeted the creation of my dinner. It was my traditional “hockey night fun food adventure,” in real time. The tweeting lacked a photo element. It also should have had a blogged recipe to work from. These are lessons learned, and tools you’ll see next time around. The tweets did, I think, capture some of the fun.

Saturday night, you see, is all about the casual, sport-friendly dinner. It is about food that goes well with hockey. It is pub food, fun food, food that goes just as well with easy-drinking ales and lagers as local red wines. It is food to be consumed while wearing a Montreal Canadiens jersey. On Saturday night at Farm to Table, you are likely to find gourmet burgers, specialty pizzas, jerk chicken, chicken wings, fun sandwiches, home-baked chips. You’re likely to be given a beer. Once 7 o’clock hits, you’ll be asked to pay attention to the hockey, not just be present. You might be asked to cheer.

Anyhow, last Saturday was Fajita Night in Canada, featuring skirt steak fajitas on home-griddled red fife tortillas. Local, pasture-fed top sirloin met fresh, hot tortillas. They were topped with sautéed onions and peppers and a variety of salsas and hot sauces.

I’m going to get to the full fajita recipe later in the week, but, in the short term, will fulfill the requests for the red fife tortillas. It has been a week, after all. As usual, look to the bottom of the post for the local producers behind the local ingredients.

Let me get this out of the way first, though. There are going to be some food purists who will turn their nose up at this recipe. First of all, it is a wheat tortilla, not corn. Second of all, it contains a leavening agent (baking powder), where a traditional tortilla wouldn’t.


Tough cookies.

This is Tex-Mex, folks. It is hardly traditional Mexican.

I’m sure I will feature some authentic Mexican cuisine on this blog at some point — or as authentic as a white dude from Central Ontario can produce — but in the meantime, I’m here for some good, clean, hockey night fun.

With that in mind, I give you:

Griddled Organic Red Fife Flour Tortillas.

makes 8 tortillas

1 cup of all purpose flour
1 cup of red fife wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of melted clarified butter
3/4 cups of warm milk

1. Mix together the dry ingredients and oil.
2. Slowly add the warm milk.
3. Mix just until a sticky ball is formed.
4. Knead for two minutes on a floured surface.
5. Place in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth for 20 min.
6. Separate into eight sections and roll into balls in your hands.
7. Cover with a damp cloth and rest for 15 min.
8. Place ball in floured surface and press flat.
9. Roll with a rolling pin, starting from centre, until 7-8 inches wide, and very thin. Do not overwork! Cover until ready to fry.
10. Dry fry on a griddle or in a large frying pan, 30 second per side. They should have a just slightly charred look.
11. Cover with a towel until ready to serve.

Local Producers:
Organic all purpose flour: Merrylynd Farm (Lakefield)
Organic red fife wheat flour: Merrylynd Farm (Lakefield)
Butter: Kawartha Dairy (Bobcaygeon)

Profile of a community leader and grower: Cathy Dueck of Ecology Park

Wearing my other hat, as a freelance writer and owner of small print writing and consulting, I’ve been working on profiles of notable Trent University alumni who have stayed in “the Patch.”

I was very excited to get the opportunity to write about a dear friend and community hero, Cathy Dueck.

Because Cathy continues to be a leader in growing and promoting local food in Peterborough, I thought the profile would be a good fit here as well.

If any of you know Cathy, you’ll know that she doesn’t like the spotlight. Please refrain from passing this on to her before it goes to print. She’d block it in a fit of modesty!

Planting Seeds for Community Engagement: Cathy Dueck Helps Peterborough Grow

When Cathy Dueck attended Trent as a mature student in the 1980’s, she had no way of knowing that her research would help lead to the creation of Ecology Park, a beloved Peterborough institution and local landmark. She couldn’t have known that it would offer a rewarding career of learning, teaching, personal growth, and community empowerment. And yet, looking back on 20 years of education and gardening, she recognizes the importance of this Trent experience.

“Trent offered me a sense of confidence,” she recalls. “Confidence, and a sense of validation for the ideas that were being generated.”

With a strong personal belief in the importance of community, it is hardly surprising that Dueck also recognizes an atmosphere of support and nurturing as one of the keystones of her education. “I have lifelong friends at Trent,” she says. “I still have a valuable support network there.”

It takes a combination of bravery, perseverance, and dedication to attend university as a 36-year old mother of two. It then takes a good deal of effort to transform this experience into a meaningful award-winning career. It is these traits, however that have shaped much of the work that Dueck has put her mind – and her back – to.

dueck 2As a student, she was a pioneer of inter-disciplinary research, attempting to tackle a complex combination of sociological, psychological, and ecological issues through a single thesis. It was an approach that was, at the time, not at all common – or advised. And while it took some persuasiveness on her part, faculty at Trent came to see this approach as integral to the creation of educational community gardens – and to her thesis.

As the Manager of Ecology Park (and the Rogers Street Ecology Garden before that), Dueck has invented and introduced a host of programs that marry community engagement with public education and ecosystem preservation. In short, she has gotten her hands very dirty doing a tough task: getting the general public to embrace the importance of their natural world.

By all accounts, she has done her job well.

Dueck has been named an Honorary Master Gardener by the Master Gardiners of Ontario. Among her numerous personal achievements: a 2007 Canadian Network for Environmental Education National Award for Excellence in Environmental Education, as well as two 2009 awards from the Ontario Horticultural Association recognizing Community Improvement and Education. Ecology Park has received numerous awards as well, including the Evergreen Hands for Nature Award in 2005, and a Trillium Foundation Favourite Environmental Project in 2003.

Ecology Park was named Crown Jewel of Peterborough by the 2005 Provincial Communities in Bloom judges and is recognized in The Good Garden Guide: A Guide to Outstanding Gardens of Ontario and Restoring Nature’s Place by the Ontario Parks Association.

Of course, hands get even dirtier when up to the elbow in soil. Despite her role as Manager of Ecology Park – or perhaps because of it – Cathy can be found shoveling compost or transplanting native trees as often as she is planning the next great park program. She leads by example, setting an often daunting pace – one that staff and volunteers are eager to try and match. Her energy, her experience, her commitment to her work and to the park have earned her that kind of respect.

“Cathy’s commitment and dedication to preserving our native biodiversity is exceptional, as well as contagious,” explains Ecology Park Educator, Johanna Hart. “She inspires staff and volunteers around her to pour as much energy into their work at the Ecology Park as she does – whether it is in the plant nursery, with visiting school groups, or with the public.”

Cathy is quick to point out that the park is community project – one that takes many hands to run. And while Ecology Park recruits staff and volunteers from across Peterborough, there is always strong Trent representation.

This is due, in a large part, to the reputation that Ecology Park holds with Trent faculty. The park has become a regular destination for Teacher Education classes, placements, and practicums. It is also introduced to many classes in the Environmental Studies and Science departments.

If that weren’t enough, Cathy has recently started instructing in Environmental Studies courses related to food and community development.

dueckOftentimes, the lessons learned at Ecology Park are just as valuable – or even more so – than the ones gained at Trent. The park has a rich tradition of being a stepping stone for impressive careers in the environmental sector: Peter André, a Professor of Environmental Policy at Carleton University (and formerly at Trent) was one of the original student employees at the park, while Keith Stewart (PhD, York) another early student connection, spent 11 years with the Toronto Environmental Alliance before becoming the Director of Climate Change Programs with WWF Canada.

Then there are the countless staff and volunteers who have gone on to become teachers, environmental educators, and passionate environmentalists.

It’s a wonderful legacy. One that both Peterborough and Trent should be proud of.

Ecology Park will be celebrating its 20th growing season this year. It is a lasting testament to the willingness of a community to embrace meaningful ecological change. It is also testament to the dedication of a Trent alumnus who had a passion for community betterment.

Celebrations are in order.

nutella lawsuit — another reason to eat locally

i mean, it's got to be healthy. just look at it.
this just in: the folks at nutella are facing a class action suit. a mother of a 4-year old in california is taking issue with advertizements that claim that nutella is “nutritious” and part of a “healthy breakfast.”

of course, the first two ingredients are sugar and vegetable oils. this should give people reason to doubt the “healthy” aspect of the spread.

perhaps she forgot to read the label.

for more information on nutella, and why it might not fir into your diet, please hit the mighty wikipedia.

just another reason to eat locally.