Memories are quite often made in the kitchen.
Meals and special dishes are the focus of almost every special occasion I can think of, from birthday cakes to thanksgiving turkeys, and at Christmas that’s even more the case than on any other occasion in the year.
Whether that’s Aunt Edna’s Scottish shortbread or Uncle Helmut’s stolen loaf, commonly turkey is part of it, as is gingerbread, Christmas cake, ham and pies, but in Canada, particularly Quebec, on Christmas Eve, it’s traditional to serve a special, rich meat pie called a tourtiere.
Despite the fact that one side of my husband’s family is French Canadian, no recipes for this spicy pie have come my way from that side of the family, so I had to do some research and come up with my own version of this tasty way to welcome in the season.
Turned out quite excellent, we thought, so I hope you have a chance to try it over the holidays and that you enjoy it as much as we did.
Chocolate is an important food group as far as I’m concerned, so easy chocolate desserts are a must-have in my lexicon and this mousse is quick and easy to make, so I hope you try it too.
By now, you should have done all your shopping, which I hope included mostly Canadian-made, or home-made gifts, to support local neighbours and keep your cash circulating in our economy, and you should be able to put your feet up and relax for at least part of the festive season.
Remember that the little personal things you do for those you love are far more important than the big gifts you might be able to buy them, so concentrate on them.
Getting together with friends and loved ones is a big part of this season and of course, food is a big part of such get-togethers, so I hope you enjoy some lovely new flavours over the next couple of weeks.
There are lots of ideas for festive food in my book, Jude’s Kitchen, with 200 recipes organized by the season, through the year, focussed on what’s available fresh and local, even in winter, which arrives Friday.
Pick up a copy at local bookstores such as Mosaic Books or wine shops such as the B.C. Wine Museum or Discover Wines, Quails’ Gate or Calona Wines.
Relax and enjoy the company of family and friends this Christmas.
Excellent Easy Chocolate Mousse
This is the easiest, but most satisfying dessert you could serve around Christmas and it can be made ahead and kept cold until you’re ready to serve it. It’s always a good idea to have a few make-ahead dishes up your sleeve during the busy time of the year.
1 lb. (500 g) dark chocolate chips
2/3 c. (150 ml) hot coffee
1/2 c. (125 ml) rum
1 1/2 c. (375 ml) light cream
Scald light cream and put all ingredients into blender. Blend at high speed two minutes. Pour into little souffle dishes or stemmed dessert glasses and chill. Decorate with whipped cream and chocolate curls or sprinkles before serving. Add a maraschino cherry for colour.
Christmas Eve Tourtiere
This is a traditional dish served by French Canadians to celebrate Christmas Eve, and it’s a scrumptious combination of herb and spice-infused meat pie, sweetened with vegetables and thickened with grated potato. Pair this with the luscious, dark berry-full Sandhill Merlot, with its hints of spice that match well with the spices in this meat pie. Some of winemaker Howard Soon’s Small Lots wines are crafted from a single block in a single vineyard where exceptional grapes are grown.
drizzle of oil
2 stalks celery
1 lb. (454 g) lean ground pork
1 lb. (454 g) lean ground beef
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
3 garlic cloves
1 c.(250 ml) dry red wine
1 c. (250 ml) beef stock
1 tbsp. (15 ml) fresh rosemary
1 tsp. (5 ml) dried thyme
1/2 tsp. (2 ml) allspice
1/2 tsp. (2 ml) cinnamon
1/4 tsp. (1 ml) cloves
pastry for a double crust pie
Dice onions and soften in a drizzle of oil over medium heat in a deep frypan.
Meanwhile, slice celery and carrots and chop mushrooms.
Add meat to the frypan, stirring to break up clumps, but leaving some for texture. Sprinkle with salt and freshly-ground black pepper.
While that’s cooking, turn it over occasionally, and grate one potato and cut the other into quarter-inch dice; mince garlic and chop rosemary. Add vegetables and garlic to the pan and stir in well.
Stir in wine and beef stock, herbs and spices and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15 or 20 minutes or until it begins to thicken. Don’t let it dry out. Add a little water if necessary.
Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Pre-heat oven to 375 F. Roll out pastry and line a 9-inch deep dish pie pan with it. Brush pastry with egg wash, mound in cooled filling and cover with top crust.
Leftover filling can be frozen to be used another day, or we used it for a shepherd’s pie a couple of days later.
Use kitchen scissors to snip several holes in the top to allow the steam to escape. Brush with egg wash and bake until golden brown, 40 minutes or so.