dimanche 31 janvier 2010

Beet and Chocolate Fudge Brownies

It was another snowy weekend in Luxembourg and surrounding areas. I have not seen this much snow in the previous 10 years that I have spent in Europe combined. My colleagues have been commenting that this would be nothing for me being a Canadian and that I must be used to the cold and the snow. To which I point out that I came here to avoid the very snowy and cold Canadian winters. The impression here is that the vast wilderness of Canada is very beautiful in winter. It can be in urban areas when one does not have to go to work. In the cities the story is very different – the snow can turn to slush and then freeze making roads and sidewalks very hazardous. It is not fun to experience -20°C especially when wind chill factor is factored in. Fortunately we have not experienced such cold weather here (hope I am not jinxing that by stating it). The older I get the less tolerant of winter I become.

There is still work to be done in the vineyards even in the snow.

To compensate for the weather, I decided to make something chocolaty. Since I had raw beets (rather hard to come by in the grocery stores here), I cooked them intending to make salad but in the end sacrificed one for these moist and delicious brownies.

Beet and Chocolate Fudge Brownies

250 mL (1 cup) butter

100 g (4 oz) unsweetened chocolate (70% cocoa)

250 mL (1 cup) cassonade (or Muscovado) sugar

5 mL (1 tsp) vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 large cooked beet, grated

250 mL (1 cup) all-purpose flour

2.5 mL (½ tsp) salt

Melt half of the butter and the chocolate in a double boiler. Let cool.

Cream together the remaining butter, sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape bowl and blend in the cooled chocolate mixture. Beat in grated beet. Stir in flour and salt. Pour into a greased and floured 29 x 23 x 4 cm (11-1/2 x 9 x 1-1/2 “) baking pan; bake in 175°C (350°F) oven for 45 minutes (or until done). Let cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into squares.

dimanche 24 janvier 2010


I was in Port-au-Prince, Haïti during the last week of November, 1985 just two months before President Jean-Claude (Bébé Doc) Duvalier was ousted from power and exiled to France. It was also the time that AIDS was spreading and Haïti was hit hard by the epidemic and the loss of tourism.
Haïti was once known as the "Pearl of the Caribbean" and was France's richest colony (owing to slaves working in the sugar plantations). It is now the poorest of the Caribbean nations. A striking example of that is just a stones throw from the Presidential Palace, Cité Soleil, the worst slum in the Americas. This nation that is the western third of the island of Hispanola has had a long and difficult history. It has suffered from invasions, political unrest, corruption, hurricanes, floods and earthquakes. The poverty is overwhelming to the point that it has aggrivated the deforestation
which in turn lead to mudslides that choked the ocean and killed the fish causing even more food shortages.

The people are very resilient and the smiles on the faces of the school children beam. My memories of Haïti include:
- the little boy who poked me with a stick (to see if I was real I guess) then laughed and ran off
- a visit to La Belle Epoch restaurant where I first ate conch soup and fried plantain chips
- the view of the very outside of Cité Soleil
- the amazing colourful paintings (which sadly I didn't buy)
- world's best vanilla and coffee
- visit to an orchid nursery
- seeing how snails are packaged for shipping to a US restaurant
- visit to the industrial park outside Port-au-Prince where they made baskets by hand

I feel for the losses of the survivors of the earthquake but live in the hope that they will be able to build a better Haïti out of the ruins.

Unfortunately I don't have any Haitian creole recipes to share but will work on finding some.

dimanche 10 janvier 2010

Tangy Tender Spareribs

Europe is experiencing one of the most severe winters in decades. Snow has been falling and staying on the ground due to the freezing temperatures. Driving has been hazardous and there have been lots of train and flight delays and cancellations. Today on the Germany / Luxembourg border we have a light dusting of snow and a temperature of -3°C with more of the same expected for the rest of this week.

Snow covered vineyards beside the Mosel in Germany

With all this wintery weather I might be forgiven for thinking about posting a recipe for comfort food instead of something light and healthy to make up for excesses of the holiday season. Spareribs are probably thought of as summer food - parboiled and finished on the barbecue. In this recipe, they are covered in sauce and slow cooked in the oven. The pork will be fall off the bone tender but a bit greasy. You could wait until the ribs are partially cooked to remove some of the grease before adding the sauce. The barbecue sauce and lemon make this dish tangy. I suggest serving it with coleslaw and rice.

Tangy Tender Spareribs

½ cup water
1-1/2 tsp Bisto
½ cup barbecue sauce
500 g (1 lb) pork spareribs cut into individual ribs
1 onion cut in slices
1 lemon, cut in slices

Mix together water, Bisto and barbecue sauce. Place ½ of onion and lemon slices on the bottom of a glass baking dish. Place the ribs in a single layer on top, then the remaining onion and lemon slices. Cover with sauce and bake in a 180°C (350°F) oven for 2-1/4 hours to 3-1/4 hours, until ribs are tender.