Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Celebrating Victoria Day in Ireland

Yesterday, I'm guessing most Canadians had the day off and likely celebrated Victoria Day in their own fashion. Some held BBQs, some acknowledged the unofficial start to summer, a few took part in races and I'd imagine some actually honoured The Queen's birthday or the current reigning Canadian sovereign's official birthday. In our little corner of the world, following the Queen's visit to Ireland and in the midst of America's President and First Lady visiting Ireland, we celebrated Victoria Day with a few of my favourite Canadian treats. Well maybe they're more like British Columbian treats; but for all intensive purposes and the spirit of this blog we'll consider them Canadian.

I lived in Vancouver for 3 years prior to arriving in Ireland. There's a handful of things and people I love from my time in Vancouver, even experiences I know I will never be able to repeat again. For instance, eating Garlic Wings with my Foodie co-workers-come-friends in Chinatown. Picnics with wine and friends on the beach in Kitsilano. Pints at the Railway Club. Walking through fog thick-as-thieves to get to work, while drinking a coffee and munching on toast and jam. Walks around the Seawall and through Stanley Park. Even creating foods to share with my co-workers!

Yesterday, wasn't quite the day for a BBQ. The winds were so strong it was a perfect day to stay indoors and reminisce about my time in Canada, read up on Canada's National Holiday and spend time in the kitchen creating one of my favourite dishes and a popular sweet treat. Thankfully, Patrick is game for nearly everything I create in the kitchen which makes this new hobby quite fun, with this in mind I made Maple Curry Chicken Salad and Nanaimo Bars. Both were a hit; I know this because Patrick licked his plate and said I can make both again whenever I like!

The Maple Curry Chicken Salad is my version of a salad available at Maple Delights. A co-worker introduced me to this pricey, but tasty salad and I quickly fell in love, realizing the best way to repeat the experience was to figure out how to make it - which I did. We enjoyed the salad many more times with my version.

Here's what you'll need to serve 2 people:
4 chicken breasts, cubed and cooked in a moderate pan
2 bunches romaine lettuce, chopped
2 green apples, cored and cubed

For the sauce, in a small saucepan:
2 T yellow curry or the curry powder of your choice
1/8 C water or enough to wet curry powder
1 C milk, reserve 1 T to mix with 2 T cornstarch for thickening
1/4 C maple syrup or 4 T maple butter from Maple Delights

Mix the above until hot and a nice thick consistency. Allow to cool for best results on salad. Otherwise, toss cooked chicken, lettuce, apples and sauce in a large bowl and serve with your favourite French Loaf.

For the Nanaimo Bars, I followed a recipe I found on the Internet from the City of Nanaimo. I'm quite pleased with the results and the only thing I changed was that I used pistachios in place of almonds, since that's what I had on hand. I think next time, I'd use milk chocolate for the top layer or even just make the base alone with a few marshmallows.

Our version of Victoria Day was lovely and low-key. We enjoyed our taste of Canada and only wish we'd had a Canadian beer to go with our dinner and sweet treat.

Now to plan for the next holiday/food/culture celebration... if you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them, otherwise I'm leaning towards one or a few of the following:

Memorial Day (one last May celebration)
Shavou'ot / Pentecost
Flag Day
St. Baptiste Day

Friday, May 6, 2011

Back... and ready to eat!

And we're back! That's right, I'm here with my very special Miss Niamh.

After months away from this blog, it's time to revive and freshen it. I now have a little girl and have been thinking of all the things I would want her to learn in her lifetime, especially while she's young and Patrick and I have influence of the subject matter. That said, yesterday was a holiday I like to acknowledge and celebrate, Cinco de Mayo. This is a mostly American holiday, I know many Americans and Mexican-Americans who like this holiday for the drink and festivities; however, I like the holiday because it is intended to celebrate the Mexican's independence from the French and because I love Mexican food.

It dawned on me last night, Patrick and I can have great fun teaching our daughter about the people of the world by acknowledging significant holidays and enjoying food from around the world. So last night, marks the beginning of what I hope will become a favourite memory for Niamh as she gets older and as a bonus will help her to know and love the people in this beautiful world we live in.

On the fifth of May many people in America and in certain areas in Mexico celebrate Mexican independence, this holiday, Cinco de Mayo, is one of my favourites even now as an American living abroad. I like the idea of remembering those who fought for their freedom and celebrating this annually, plus I love to eat, so why not learn and eat at the same time, might make for a good dinner conversation along the way.

To kick start my new idea, last night we enjoyed beef burritos. Ok, these aren't a traditional Cinco de Mayo food, but I figure every idea has to start somewhere. The ingredients for Mexican food are a bit difficult to come by in Ireland and at times you have to do your best and be a little open-minded and creative.

Cinco de Mayo Burritos for two - Irish style

1 pkg flour tortillas
1 pound ground beef (mince)
onion, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder
1/2 cup bulgar wheat
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 ripe avocado, mashed
1/2 cup salsa
Lettuce, tomato and avocado to garnish
Shredded cheese

Brown meat with onion and cook bulgar wheat, mix together in pan and season to your liking. Spoon mixture into tortilla shells and wrap into burritos, place in pan and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Heat in moderate oven until cheese melts. Meanwhile, in pan, mix together mashed avocado, salsa and yogurt over medium heat, this will top the burritos with other garnishes when the burritos are ready. Serve with your favourite cerveza and tortilla chips.