sukuma your wiki

Well, I’m still running into a few consistency challenges with these kale burgers but who has time to wait for perfection? Just eat your greens.

Sukuma Wiki Burgers
makes 4 patties

stay together for the kids

I adapted this from a couple different recipes for spinach burgers, adding my own flavours and using sukuma wiki — Kenyan kale, literally meaning “stretch the week” since it is extremely inexpensive and therefore popular with those who need to stretch their grocery budgets. (Lots of people here hate it because they ate it so much as kids, but it’s way more nutritious than the staple “fill kids’ bellies” food in Rwanda: green bananas.)

Kale is a lot coarser than spinach, so I did significant tweaking from the recipes that used spinach… therefore I don’t know if this is backwards compatible with a spinach substitution. If anything, I used more liquid because I think kale’s stiffness requires more sticking power, so if you want to try this with spinach maybe err on the side of less wet ingredients. Also I think maybe the spinach in those recipes was supposed to be cooked, and my kale was raw. So… yeah. Have you decided yet that you don’t trust me, or this recipe, at all? LET’S JUST COOK AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS. With sesame oil and parmesan in a frying pan it is doubtful this will taste bad.

Combine in a bowl:

  • 1 + 1/2 c roughly chopped kale (packed)
  • generous 1/4 c grated parmesan (plus a slice to eat while you cook)
  • 1/4 c chopped coriander
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic powder, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder, or to taste
  • chilli powder to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste

Toss those ingredients to combine well, then add:

  • two eggs
  • 2 tsp tamari
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Mush it together with your hands! Once everything is goopy and fantastic, slowly add:

  • 1/2 c breadcrumbs (approximately… just add until it seems like its the right consistency to be burger-ified.)

Set the mixture aside. Add to a skillet over medium heat:

  • olive oil or other fat for frying — these suckers soak up oil, so add the amount you’re willing to ingest. The more, the crispier.
  • a few drops of sesame oil

While the oil is heating, make your burgers.

This is where I ran into technical difficulties. It can be hard to make your little burgs stay in one piece. I roughly formed each burger as a ball in the palm of my hand, and then placed it on a chopping board and really pressed down to make it all flatten out and stick together — then transferred it to the frying pan with the spatula. Once it hits the heat of the pan, everything on the outer surface binds together, so it holds together pretty well… the hard part is just handling the raw burger.

Fry 3-4 minutes each side in a covered pan. Watch carefully — mine burned. (Both times I made them. Ok now you definitely don’t trust me.)

Enjoy with your leftover Spiced Lentil Rice from last night, and a side of smugness. You are eating kale burgers, you are so healthy. (Just exercise selective memory when it comes to how many “one more small one” slices of parmesan you ate while you were waiting for the burgers to cook. Ahem.)

kale patties + spiced lentil rice with yogurt and curry powder on top + the tail end of a lonely cucumber = dinner

feed me something

My food strategy is simple: eat real. I don’t go for a lot of packaged or processed foods. No shame, friends. It’s just that I like to cook. I think it’s fun. I think things taste better from scratch. And I think it’s a good way to challenge myself. However, “real” foods are not always low-calorie. Such as… butter… cream… maple syrup… cheese… almost-mooing ribeye. Just a few of my favourite things.

Cooking (ok, fine, eating) gives me a sense of stability, so I tend to do it more when I travel. I also find myself wanting to sample all the new snacks I come across, much of which are far from diet food. Examples in Kenya: bhajias (battered, fried potatoes w/ cilantro and tumeric), battered and fried sausages, fried samosas, fried tilapia (head still on!), fried chicken (head removed – thankfully), mandazi (fried dough… theme?). Also the local pizza chain makes a killer Hawaiian.

glorious mandazi, made with rice flour. just right.

Gaining a few extra pounds is no big deal, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, right? Normally, yes. However. I’m going home to Canada for Christmas, and it is entirely possible that none of my jeans will fit. Somehow I don’t think my forgiving Kenya wardrobe — skirts, dresses, wraps — will be so useful in a Canadian winter.

Therefore I am making a few last-ditch tweaks: less wine/fat/carbs, more water/vegetables/lean vegetarian protein. Strangely, what’s keeping me going with the health-craze is perusing recipes for disgustingly rich holiday treats… the kind that only North Americans can dream up. (Such as my personal favourite LeBreton Flats, made entirely out of Breton crackers, melted chocolate, butter and brown sugar. I also came across a recipe today that involved baking mini chocolate bars into globs of cookie batter and then covering them with frosting. YES.)

So, in the meantime…

Spiced Lentil Rice

This makes enough for a decently-sized dinner for two, if you add some other dish (stir-fry, curry, big salad?). Or just scale it up. In my sad little case, it made dinner for one + leftovers. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwsadface.

Add to a medium saucepan, over medium heat:

  • a splash of olive oil
  • 1/2 c lentils (I used green)

Saute the lentils for a minute or two, then add:

  • 1 + 1/2 c water

hello my pretties

Simmer for 10-15 minutes, until lentils are beginning to soften. While the lentils simmer, dice:

  • one medium red onion
  • 3-4 green onions
  • half a head of garlic

Heat in a skillet over medium heat:

  • a blurb of olive oil (so precise)

Then add your onions and garlic. Saute until soft, then add:

  • 1-2 tbsp garam masala (or a cumin-ish curry-like spice mix sort of thingy… yeah)
  • chilli powder, salt, and pepper to taste

Once the spices seem to be getting a little toasty (you may need to add more oil to prevent sticking/burning), add:

  • 1/2 c raw brown rice

Toast the rice for a minute or two, then add the whole mixture to the lentils. Be sure to scrape in all the good stuff that stuck to the pan. Add water to cover. (A little too much is better than not enough, you can always boil it off.) Then add:

  • 1 medium tomato, chopped

Simmer for about 30-45 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. When you think it’s close to being done, add:

  • a whole ton of fresh cilantro, chopped… or less, if you’re not obsessed with it like I am. (It’s 12 cents per bunch here! I can’t stop! Someone get me help.)
  • optional: more spices/seasonings, to taste
  • optional: I made mine too spicy so I added 1 tsp raw cane sugar to counteract the mouthfire. Tomato paste would also do the trick.

If everything’s cooked and soft but it seems a little soupy, either boil off the excess water or just remove from heat and let it stand for 10 minutes. I had it with kale burgers (recipe tomorrow maybe, still tweaking) and salad… but I’ve also eaten it on its own, with just tamari (and an episode of The Wire).

all of my photos came out blurry. whatever this isn't Pioneer Woman, deal with it.

it’s the end of the world as we know it

I got really quite horrifyingly ill last week. I will spare you the details, but it involved undercooked chicken and the digestive tract equivalent of Fukushima Daichi — your personal experiences with salmonella poisoning can fill in the rest.

As I laid in bed on Wednesday contemplating the sweet release of death, the sky outside my window increasingly darkened. A huge clap of thunder shook the walls, and then it started hailing. Yeah. Like, ice falling from the sky. Pea-sized chunks of frozen water pummelled the earth, mixed with rain and general atmospheric chaos. Keep in mind Nairobi is just a few latitude south of the equator. It’s supposed to be summer here.

I stared in disbelief out the window. Then I thought about the plague infesting my body… and all I could think was, “Yup. It’s the apocalypse.”

Talk about pathetic fallacy. I managed to struggle out of bed and get my camera soaking wet, just to document the moment — for future proof that I hadn’t been delirious. In the end, I was spared a hospital visit by my travel medicine doctor in Montreal… more specifically, the little bottle of miracle antibiotics she prescribed in May. This was not the first time I’ve found myself deploying 1000 mg of cipro-fury on a stomach bug, and I never cease to be amazed at the effectiveness. I may name my first-born Ciprofloxacin.

Anyway, don’t feel too sorry for me. I’m better now. And a week from today I’ll be waking up here. Jealous? Distract yourself with this crazy story [via Goulet]. Or this awesome element of American society. (The whole rice and curry thing is getting old. I could really go for some grippachos or alligator jerky.)

a taste of home

Canadians gathered last weekend with one goal in mind: eat to the point of physical discomfort. Being thousands of miles from home doesn’t mean we can shirk our responsibility to overindulge, so a little group of Canucks gathered in Nairobi last Sunday. Mission: accomplished.

oh my.

We started with pumpkin soup, then came turkey, stuffing, potatoes mashed and roasted, garlic green beans, roasted carrots, gravy, cran, and a steady flow of red wine. Then two pumpkin pies, a red wine chocolate cake, ice cream and banana bread. We had a lot to be thankful for.

these pies have equally fantastic back-stories: one was made from an actual pumpkin, and the other from a can of pumpkin pie filling transported all the way from Canada in a suitcase.

Meredith documented the saga of preparing the glorious feast, so head over there for more photos, commentary and general merriment.

la piece de resistance: an 11-kg turkey named Jalal. (thanks Meredith for this photo.)

Happy belated Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends. I hope your celebrations were as memorable as mine.

a day of contradictions

As Nairobi shook itself awake on Saturday morning, I was already beelining through downtown, averting taxi-drivers and newspaper vendors with a smile and “hapana, asante” (“no, thanks” — one of the Swahili phrases I use the most). It was nice to be out early, before the crowds gobbled the streets and it became more a matter of weaving than walking. I was off to visit my cousin — in town on business from Ottawa — who had kindly offered to treat me to breakfast at his glorious hotel. But when I entered into the lobby of the Serena Hotel, I thought maybe I was still dreaming. A day of contradictions began.

one of many tables sagging under the weight of my desire

The breakfast spread was stunning. It would have been decadent in North America or Europe, but the smorgasbord of food on display was even more amazing when you think that just a few hours’ drive north, Kenyans are literally on their deathbeds due to malnutrition. There was hot and cold cereal with all the toppings: hazelnuts, walnuts, raisins, dates, pecans, toasted coconut. There were fresh-squeezed  juices: watermelon, passionfruit, paw-paw, papaya, cucumber, orange. A server was on hand to make custom waffles or crepes, topped with maple syrup, whipped cream, chocolate sauce. There was lime jam, croissants, chocolate ganache, brioche, crusty breads, marmite, pain au chocolat, peanut butter, marmalade. There were foods I couldn’t recognize and can’t pronounce. Cut fruit was piled high on platters: papaya, jackfruit, watermelon, pineapple, kiwi, banana, strawberries, passion fruit, honeydew melon. Smoked sailfish, ham, Italian salami. Most of all, there was cheese. Gouda, blue, herbed goat… OH MY.

Oh, and that’s not even including the hot buffet — eggs with caviar, lemon chicken, two kinds of sausages, potatoes fried or curried, rice, beans, grilled tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, chapati, ratatouille, grilled fish, Mount Kenya toast. I can’t even remember what else. Oh. BACON. (My now-favourite cousin — I’m easily bought — invited me back for breakfast again this morning, and it’s possible that I’ve eaten an entire pig in the last 48 hours.)

there's a famine in this country?

I’m not going to lie. I gorged. Many, many thanks are due to my amazing cousin Curtis for his generousity. And for not judging how many times I went back to the buffet.

Stuffed to the point of verging on pain, I returned to reality to do a few more interviews for my feature article on the Kenyans for Kenya campaign. Across the street was Uhuru (“freedom”) Park, where hundreds were gathered to raise money for the 3.5 million Kenyans at the complete opposite end of the spectrum from my fortunate self — those that are at risk of starvation, living in the arid and semi-arid areas of the north, north-east and south of the country. It was the last day of the four-week campaign, which mobilized corporate and individual Kenyans to donate to the Kenya Red Cross — and had raised more than 680 million shillings (CDN$7.2 million) before the concert even started on Saturday.

400 tonnes of UNIMIX -- high-nutrition porridge -- bound for southern districts of Kenya

Even though the campaign only ended this weekend, the Kenya Red Cross has already been able to use 101 million shillings of the funding to buy 1000 metric tonnes of high-nutrition porridge, which has been distributed to about 200,000 children through school feeding programs. The outpouring from “ordinary” Kenyans has amazed many of the organizers, as donations as small as 10 shillings rolled in from thousands of people. Kenyans gave what they could. I spoke with the partnership coordinator of the Kenya Red Cross, Rosemary Mutunkei, and she said that in a strange way (a contradictory way, one might say, if they were trying to engineer a unifying theme for their blog post), this crisis is actually allowing Kenyans to regain their dignity — to demonstrate to the international community that Kenyans can look inwards and test out local solutions to their internal problems. Aside from food aid, the Kenya Red Cross is working on a number of long-term food security initiatives for the drought-affected areas, like greenhouses and boreholes… initiatives that have been successful in other parts of the country. (For more, pick up Wednesday’s copy of the Daily Nation!)

The Kenyans for Kenya benefit concert in Uhuru Park -- the skyline of Nairobi in the background.

The concert was uplifting — the sunshine and the dancing and the laughter in the lush greens of Uhuru Park made it easy to forget that it was a fundraiser for people who are on the verge of death, in parched lands only a few hundred kilometers away. As the head of the Kenya Red Cross, Abbas Gullet, said, “You just have to get a few hundred kilometers out of Nairobi and you face a different terrain.” It’s easy to forget that Nairobi isn’t Kenya — gotta get out of the city soon.

sightseeing, fried chicken and the first president of kenya

Hard to believe I left Canada only a week and a half ago — nights warming my toes by the bonfire, breezy afternoons on the back porch with a book, and sleeping-in mornings in my cluttered bedroom at home seem like years ago. (Yet, I have no doubt that clutter will be waiting patiently for me in seven months.)

Exploring downtown Nairobi, finally in the sunlight.

Saturday was a glorious day for exploring the city — just wandering downtown to see what we could find. We got almost-hustled at a Maasai market, dodged traffic, and predictably found a bar with a couple cold Tuskers, some samosas and a football game.

Monday was the big day. Paige and I started work at the Daily Nation. It was an early morning coming off a late night, but we managed to scrape ourselves out of bed for an 8 a.m. start, which we promptly re-negotiated to a 9 a.m. go-time starting on Tuesday. We’d already been to the office last week for a quick tour and HR logistics, but this was our first time reporting to the newsroom.

On the editors’ desk there is a big book, with line-upon-line of loopy handwriting. This book is the bible of the Daily Nation — it lists all the assignments for the day, and beside each assignment is the name of the reporter slated to cover the story. Paige and I each got to pick a reporter to shadow on their assignment, and that was that — we were off to the races. (For the moment, we’re working at the Daily Nation, which is the English-language daily newspaper. The Nation Media Group has many, many media holdings, and once I figure them all out myself I’ll fill you in.)

Waiting for a glimpse of the president.

I went out with a reporter named John, to cover a wreath-laying ceremony commemorating the 33rd anniversary of Jomo Kenyatta’s death (the first PM-then-president of Kenya). Aside from Kenyatta’s family, the mayor of Nairobi, and many other VIPs, the current president himself was slated to lay a wreath. So all the journalists stood out in the sun waiting for him to arrive. (And so did all the people in the picture to the right.) Of course, it was one of the first hot days we’ve had, but in a burst of professionalism I chose to wear a blazer and pants. Making a good impression on your fellow journalists isn’t so easy when you can feel the sweat trickling down your spine.

When Mwai Kibaki showed up, everything went nutty — Stephen Harper sure doesn’t get photographers into that kind of a tizzy just by showing up to a ceremonial event. The president (accompanied by what I’m sure were the who’s who of Kenyan political society) went into the mausoleum, laid his wreath (presumably, we weren’t allowed in, being mere print reporters), then they played the national anthem and we were off to church for a service in the late Kenyatta’s honour.

Photographers and camera-operators jockey for position.

President Kibaki and his entourage (mostly security). The fabulous woman in blue is Kenyatta's widow.

The Holy Family Minor Basilica in downtown Nairobi.

We headed on foot to the Holy Family Minor Basilica, where a 90-minute service treated us to hymns in Swahili and English — plus a little dancing in the aisles. The structure is impressive. High vaulted ceilings, stained glass stretching to the heavens. During the service the journalists on either side of me alternately crossed themselves and checked their smartphones, then John and I weaved our way back to the Nation building. “There’s no story here,” said John as we dodged pedestrians and traffic, which is exactly what I had been thinking but was too shy to voice. The president hadn’t spoken, and the tributes to Kenyatta were heartwarming but generally predictable niceties. The president is apparently not one for speaking at public events; Prime Minister Raila Odinga, on the other hand, can be counted on for a speech on most occasions.

Inside the basilica. Not pictured: TV screens projecting the lyrics to the hymns.

Aside from seeing the president it wasn’t the most compelling first day, but things are picking up. Tuesday I went out with another reporter, Beryl. She’s an intern from Eldoret, working at the Nation for 10 weeks (and hoping to get a job when she’s done — the job market is tough). We were assigned a story on the Kenya Red Cross, which meant a drive out to their office in a part of town called South “C”. It was a basic story about a corporate donation for famine relief, so when we got back to the office I figured I might as well take a crack at it to see if my print reporting skills were just rusty, or seized up entirely. Apparently I shook off the dust — and I got my first byline (shared with Beryl, happily). I also successfully pitched a feature story to the editor of DN2, the current affairs pull-out in the Daily Nation. Not bad for Day Two, although now I actually have to navigate writing a 2,000-word feature in a country where I’ve only lived for eight days.

We’re finally settled into our two-bedroom apartment, so the city is actually becoming home. For the first time today, I had a pang of oh-my-time-is-ticking-by! and I had to remind myself that March 31, 2012 is still very, very far away… which is a change from the predictable homesickness that kicks in at unexpected moments. In a departure from toast and instant noodles, I also cooked a real meal for the first time in our new place — spaghetti bolognese with carrots and kale. The kitchen is pretty well-stocked in terms of utensils, and you can find most ingredients you want at the super market… but what I would give for a block of parmesan and a grater.

Officially no chance I'm coming home thinner than I left.

In the meantime — check out what I chowed down on for lunch today at Kenchick Inn, on the street behind the Nation Media building. Yup, that’s friiiiied chicken and chips! The chicken is already cooked, but when you order it they pop it in the deep-fryer for about a minute, just to make sure it’s good’n’saturated’n’crispified with oil. Pop it on top of a bed of fries and boom.

Then go home and eat a carrot for dinner. (Or leftover bolognese, shhhh.)

day three and four in links and pictures

This has nothing to do with Kenya, but I think back on my crooked, heavy-handed writing on the blackboard in Grade 9, and I am blown away by this. (Someone once told me that the key to writing on a blackboard is originating your strokes from the shoulder.)

Hunter S., via Flavorwire.

This has nothing to do with Kenya either, except for the fact that I enjoyed reading it while lying in bed in Nairobi. I can’t say I’ve read much Hunter S. Thompson until now — the most I really knew about him for sure was that he looked pretty great in a swimsuit. I found the article here, which is an interesting collection, although I don’t think I would go as far as “best ever”.

And then there’s this. I think I am constantly operating in what they describe as a state of ego depletion – my default choice in any situation is whichever route will keep my options open. Fascinating article, although what I really took away from it is I should eat whenever I have to make a decision. Fine by me.

You wanted to hear more about Nairobi? Here’s what I can tell you: I took a bath so hot my skin was pink, the Internet’s fast enough to download This American Life, I get goosebumps if I go outside in short sleeves, and Dr. House is making witty wisecracks on cable TV. This is not an Africa I have experienced before.

Muindi Mbingu Street. Part of my morning commute, starting Monday.

I also can’t wait to go to this, which Dustin kindly told us about. Blankets and Wine? They’re appealing to the Montrealer in me.

Until that magical musical afternoon in September, we’ll have to settle for Thursday night karaoke in Westlands. Alex, Paige and I were just looking for a nightcap, and completely accidentally had a fantastic evening at the Santa Fe, complete with Bon Jovi and Coolio… but unfortunately no Journey. It was another side of Kenya I wasn’t expecting — a side where they ply you with free liquor to participate in karaoke night. Clearly I haven’t spent enough time in Africa’s big cities.

Our first nyamachoma.

We had our first nyama choma yesterday and I cannot say enough good things about it. A lot of people think of it as one of the few truly Kenyan dishes, as a lot of the fare here is common to the rest of East Africa, or is borrowed from India… and in the city, pizza, fried chicken and burgers also abound. Nyama choma is basically bbq’ed meat, almost always goat, cut into bite-sized pieces — greasy and a little salty and served with lots of toothpicks for afterwards. I’m doing a really bad job of selling it here, but it completely hit the spot. We had it with ugali (maize flour turned into a thick porridge, the white doughy-cakes you see on our plates) and a really delish tomato, red onion and cilantro salsa/salad. The best part? You eat it all with your hands, using the ugali as you’d use flatbread in the Middle East.

NOT our first Tuskers.

And of course, the meal wasn’t complete without a few cold Tuskers. (The “cold” part of the equation is important because room-temperature beer is an option here. Whenever you order a beer, the server asks “warm or cold?”) Fun fact: Tusker is named after the elephant that killed one of the company’s founders. It’s the most popular local brew from what I can tell, and it’s about a buck-fifty for a 500 ml bottle in a restaurant. I could get used to this.

We were lucky enough to share it all with Tony, a Kenyan friend of Dustin. He took us on a drive around the city, to meet his warm and welcoming mother and drink perhaps the best tea of my life. A little ginger goes a long way, apparently.

Today — Saturday — is the first sunny day so the plan is to get off the computer and out into the sunshine… at least to stock up on more bananas and mangoes, as I’m running low. Here’s hoping it will reset my body clock so I stop sleeping until noon, and that it’s warming the air enough that I can wear a t-shirt outdoors without shivering.

memories light (like?) the corners of my mind… sing it Babs.

I’ve been flooded with waves of nostalgia for the last 24 hours — first, sorting all my worldly belongings and then cramming the stuff that made the cut (sorry, faux-suede boots from 2002) into a cargo van and trucking it for two hours, from Mtl to home sweet home in the Gatineaus. Saying goodbye to Mtl and all the memories it holds wasn’t the easiest way to spend a Saturday afternoon, but two hours in the car can do a lot to erase tension… and coming home-home can work miracles. I thought I was I was feeling pretty much fine by the time we approaching the final hill before Chelsea on the A5, but as we dipped down the last little gully and I saw the “Chelsea” sign, every muscle in my body let go just a little bit more.

After we unloaded the van, we used it to truck some family belongings from my grandfather’s house to my dad’s and then from my dad’s to my mum’s. Out it all came: photo albums (my first bike, my first ice cream, my first laugh), Barbies, Polly Pockets, Littlest Pet Shops, Playmobile, those crazy Bossons heads that always hung on my grandad’s mantle.

And then the third wave of nostalgia. My month-long orientation for this Kenya trip is being held at Carleton University. So here I am, seven years later, back in residence. Walking through the tunnel to the residence commons, the murals on the walls made me nostalgic to the point of dizziness.

So that’s what’s been going on… but enough about me. Here is some news you can use: butter, brown sugar, peaches.

peaches, butter, brown sugar. Come to mama.

Fannie Farmer’s Peach Upside-Down Cake

This is wonderfully retro, but not in the canned-fruit-whipped-cream-and-Jell-o way. It also fits with the nostalgia theme, since it was one of the few desserts my mum made as a treat. Warning: extremely sweet.

Preheat oven to 400. Get yourself a 9×9 baking pan or large cast iron frying pan. In it, place:

  • 3/4 c butter

Into the oven it goes. It doesn’t have to be preheated yet, we just want the butter to melt. Once it has (3 to 5 min), remove from oven. Pour off 1/2 c of the butter into a measuring cup to use in the cottage pudding (this will make sense in a minute). I repeat, pour off 1/2 cup and reserve — this recipe will be a heart-stopping/clogging disaster if you don’t heed my words. Now, add to your 1/4 c melted butter:

  • 1 c brown sugar
  • chopped pecans to taste (completely optional. I never do this.)

Mix it all together and spread it out evenly on the bottom of the pan. Now, lay out on top of the butter/sugar mixture, in a single layer, cut side down:

  • one 28-ish oz can (the big cans) halved peaches — about 9 halves

Try to put them as close together as possible, and let them drain at least a little bit as you go. Now you have a little landscape of peachy mountains. Sprinkle with:

  • lemon juice

Next, you need to make cottage pudding (which you can bake on its own if you want to skip the peach upside-down part, a.k.a. you are crazy). I really hate the name cottage pudding because it reminds me of the term “cottaging” — it’s not the gay part that turns me off, it’s that while I’m making dessert I don’t want to think about anyone having random sex in public washrooms. Anyway. Beat well:

  • your 1/2 c melted butter from before (you followed my directions, right?)
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 egg

Whisk together, in a separate bowl:

  • 1 and 1/2 c flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c sugar

Frankencake: it all tastes the same in the end.

Stir the wet mixture into the dry one, spread it over your peachie bumps, and bake for 30-35 minutes — until golden brown on top and cooked through. Insert a knife to check for doneness. Otherwise you’ll think it’s done, start to serve, and then have to Frankencake the thing back together so it can bake longer. (See right.)

Once it cools a little, you can flip it out onto a serving platter, or just cut-and-scoop it out of the pan if it’s just you, your manfriend and a terrible movie. (The first time I made this we were watching Twilight. Didn’t even bother to pause the movie while we baked. Oh the nostalgia.)

Top with ice cream or whipped cream. Praise be to peaches.

ginger steak salad, emphasis on the steak

Friends, I am gorging on salad. Partly because my gym membership ran out and did bad things to my waist, but also because I’m moving to Kenya, a land where eating a salad is kind of like playing Russian roulette with your intestines. I’m not a fan of cholera, and safe salads are usually expensive or hard to come by. (That said, the peel-able produce — mango, banana, papaya — is magnificent.)

sans boeuf: waiting for its prince to come.

Hence, I am sharing with you here my favourite dinner salad, inspired by Pioneer Woman. In terms of mass it’s mostly steak, so it’s really only a salad in the sense that the basis of the dish is a load of lettuce. BUT you can say you’re having salad for dinner and feel virtuous as you tear into a pound of rib-eye. Sorry to those of you who don’t eat meat, you’ll have to sit this one out… or I bet it would be good with tofu. NOT.

First, marinate your steaks, at least 45-90 min before you want to eat. I do one whole steak per salad, but that’s because I am a greedy, greedy carnivore. You could definitely get away with half a steak per person. For one rib-eye (or something fancier if you’re not a recovering grad student), combine in a Ziploc bag:

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sherry or white wine
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Now toss your steak in there. If you’re using more than one steak, just use common sense to scale this up — you probably don’t need to double it for each steak, they just need to be surrounded by marinade goodness. Turn the bag over periodically to ensure an even application of flavah.

Make your salad dressing ahead. This is enough to dress two large salads. The longer it sits and the flavours bleed together, the better. Combine:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tbsp lime juice*
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tsp jalapeno, seeded and diced (or more if you can HANDLE IT)

For the salad, combine in individual bowls:

  • lettuce (romaine, mixed greens, whatever)
  • cherry tomatoes
  • green onions
  • soft goat cheese (that stuff that comes in a tube with herbs or black pepper all over it)

Once you have your salad assembled and your steaks have been marinating for long enough, you’re ready to cook. First, toast some sesame seeds. You can leave this part out with no grave consequences, but I think it’s worth it for the minimal effort. Toss your sesame seeds into a dry frying pan (about 1 tbsp per salad), put it on medium heat and toss them around periodically, until they go golden-y. Do not walk away. They will be fine, fine, fine and then all of a sudden BURNED. Remove from heat and set aside.

Now cook your steak. Put a frying pan on medium-high, spray it with a bit of non-stick. Put your steak(s) in there with some of the marinade juice, and cook to taste. Personally I like my steak still totally raw and bleeding and mooing in the middle, which is only about a minute (or less) of searing on each side. But we’re not all fans of raw flesh, so you do what you gotta do. This salad really does sing if you use tender, less-cooked meat though, if you think you can possibly handle it.

oh me oh my.

When the meat is done: remove from frying pan and slice into thin strips. Dress your salad(s). Slide the meat on top, and top with some of the marinade reduction (from the frying pan, NOT the Ziploc), and then sprinkle your toasted sesame seeds on top.

The first time I had this salad I actually felt the need to bring it up as a topic of conversation in the days that followed, it’s that good. I hope you feel the same way. Mail me one in Nairobi, won’t you?

P.S. Lime-related rant:

* you can substitute lemon juice for lime, but please don’t. I am huge, huge fan of lime juice. I think it’s one of those ingredients that adds a certain je ne sais quoi to a dish — it’s the same category of ingredients as cilantro or butter. You can substitute but it’s never the same.

Will and Kate, plus eight… scones. Half of which I already ate.

it's scone-a be amazing.

Getting up at 5 a.m. to watch strangers get married is an opportunity that comes along once every, oh, 30 years. Seriously. Charles and Diana got married in 1981. The next direct heir to the thone isn’t even born yet. And I’m the kind of person who feels the need to participate just because it’s there.

I’m even sleeping at my mum’s tonight so we can get up and watch together. (That’s not pathetic by the way, that’s bonding. Like the time we spent two full days watching the last Liberal leadership convention. I still give Gerard Kennedy a big frigging F for that one.)

However, I figure I’ll still need a little incentive to shake off the sleep deprivation and get excited about who designed the dress. Hence: scones for breakfast.

This was my first attempt at scones and they were magnifique. Thank-you, Joy of Cooking. Apparently scones are easy. Who knew?

Preheat oven to 450. Sift together:

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp sugar (half that if you don’t like sweet scones)
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  • 1/4 cup cold butter

Cut in that butter until the mixture resembles large-ish crumbs. Use two knifes, a fork or a pastry cutter. Or your hands (but try not to let your hot little hands melt the butter).

In a small bowl, whisk well:

  • 2 large eggs

Remove 2 tablespoons of the eggs and set aside for your glaze, then add to the remainder:

  • 1/3 cup heavy cream (or, since I didn’t have cream, 1/4 cup milk topped up with yogurt to make 1/3 cup. And maybe toss in a little extra butter during the previous step.)

Pour your wet mixture into you dry and stir together with the minimal amount of strokes. This is where I would add lemon zest or currants or some delicious surprise. I’ll experiment and get back to you. Add more milk/cream if necessary, but only so it JUST sticks together. Turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and flatten it out until it’s about 8 inches round and 3/4 inch thick. Cut it into 8ish pieces (triangles, squares), place on an ungreased cookie sheet, and brush over the remaining 2 tbsp egg. Or if you don’t have a pastry brush, your fingers will work just fine. Sprinkle with:

  • sugar or coarse salt

Bake 15 minutes. Serve with butter, more butter, and jam. Or marmalade if you’re into that kind of thing. OR! Devonshire cream.

Fly that Union Jack high, put on a British accent, and remind yourself that Harry’s the good-looking one, anyway.