Gluten Free Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky Toffee Pudding

I know you’re not going to make sticky toffee pudding in a wood box while standing around in three feet of snow. We didn’t – well we did but we finished the dessert in the oven – and even if we had taken it all the way, it would still only be for the sake of taking pictures of it baking in a wooden wine crate. Maybe it was a result of a little cabin fever, stubbornness, and a few craft porters tipping the 10% ABV point, leaving me with little fear of the cold and non-stop snow we’d been seeing all day. Determination meant we were going to get the most wintery photo-set out of this weekend, frostbite be damned.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

The real reason for the wooden oven experiment was to show that sticky toffee pudding is pretty hard to mess up. It’s a dark, damp cake made with dates and treacly brown sugar, and because of this it can stand up to a lot of undeserved punishment. So on top of the unconventional make-shift oven, we went with a gluten free version of sticky toffee pudding. The nubbly almond meal and dousing of bourbon really make this cake dense – a bit brick-like in the stomach, which would only be a welcome thing on such a bleak winter’s day.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

This is one of those recipes that really benefits from those big impossibly plump and soft organic Medjool dates that are somehow fresher than the non-organic varieties. The bourbon is optional, though appropriate with all the butter and brown sugar happening in this cake. If you wanted to leave the bourbon out entirely, you could replace it with water.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

As for serving this cake, you have to make the sauce to accompany it. It’s rich and comforting and this pudding needs that kind of familiarity as the cake itself, though related to a sticky toffee pudding, is nothing close to what would satisfy a sticky toffee pudding purist. Though as we have taken an unconventional route thus far, you might as well add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to serve along with it, letting the melting custard meld with the hot sauce.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Hopefully soon, wintery scenes like this will be a distant memory and when we’re no longer trapped by snow and ice, we can repress those memories and replace them with this pudding. Now that it’s finally spring, it’s time to finally shift the focus onto brighter, more verdant adventures.


Gluten Free Sticky Toffee Pudding

For the Pudding
250g organic Medjool dates, pitted
50g Demerara sugar
125ml water
75ml bourbon
100g unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
200g ground almonds
20g coconut flour
3 large eggs

For the Sauce
65g Demerara sugar
65g unsalted butter
125ml whipping cream (35% M.F.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F and line an 8-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Alternatively you could butter 6 ramekins or any other dish that’s large enough to take the batter.

In a small saucepan, combine the dates, sugar, water, and bourbon and heat over medium-high until the liquid begins to simmer. Remove from the heat and let sit for 10 minutes to let the dates soften. Pour the dates and their liquid into a food processor and add the butter, ground ginger, and ground almonds. Purée everything until fairly smooth – a few bits of date are fine in the final pudding. Add the coconut flour and eggs and blend again until fully incorporated. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for approximately 40 minutes or until a tester comes out relatively clean.

For the sauce, bring the sugar, cream and butter to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 20 minutes, until it reaches the consistency of thin custard.

To serve, place a piece of the warm pudding in a bowl or dessert plate with high sides and drench in the sauce.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Hickory Smoked Venison Shoulder

I think we’re all sick of that cozy feeling we seek in wintertime. Putting on layers of constraining itchy clothes, lacing up bulky boots for a journey of only a few minutes, and wrapping a scarf around my head, up to my eyes, leaving bits scarf fluff caught in my throat, I think like everyone else, I’m over it. I want to be able to tell a story of drinking breezy cocktails in Miami or finding food along the boardwalk on Venice beach.

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I’m not going to do that though because it’s too easy. Character doesn’t come cheap and we are, if anything, paying dearly for our witty, sarcastic and bitter character. We’re still talking winter because it’s unfortunately still here. Just wait until spring actually pops up in Toronto, and then, I’m afraid to say it should I jinx it, summer along behind it. We will drop the bitterness and pick up a distinctly west-coast positivity that can only exist when the weather isn’t holding us hostage under a blanket.

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This meal was created for our ice fishing weekend. Inspired by the woodland environment, I wanted venison and I wanted it to be heavy, wrapped in an extra layer of fat (just like all Canadians in winter), and infused with hickory smoke. I like making roasts that take up a lot of time. Spending a bit of prep to get it in the heat, then forgetting about it until it’s time to eat. Venison doesn’t generally need much time in the heat though, which is why I went with a shoulder roast. For all its leanness, it still has some connective tissues that benefit from slow cooking to break them down.

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If you wanted to do this in an oven and don’t want to have a smoke out in your kitchen, you could certainly bard the roast with double smoked bacon, which would keep the roast moist while also providing a good dose of smoke flavour. I used hickory chips on the barbecue so using bacon wasn’t really necessary and even while maintaining a relatively low temperature on the barbecue, it’s still a harsher heat than the oven so barding in a heavier layer of pork fat is preferred.

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There are a lot of robust flavours venison can pair with. I like juniper, garlic, pepper, wine, bay, oregano, lemon, thyme and onion to not only flavour the meat but any sides to be served with it. Sweetness and acidity are also welcome additions to game meat, hence the pomegranate molasses in the marinade, which also caramelizes on the roast as it cooks.

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We kept the sides simple for this dinner because we’d spent the entire day outside in the snow and could barely manage to lift a pot by the end. A wild rice salad, featuring a vinaigrette of lemon, fresh oregano, parsley and olive oil, with some shallot and pomegranate molasses mixed through is a nutty and herbaceous compliment to the venison. Roasted celeriac purée, simply flavoured with heavy cream and fresh thyme is extremely satisfying and dare I say, cozy, along side.

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Hickory Smoked Venison Shoulder

Serves 4-6

1.13 kg boneless venison shoulder, tied
pork fat for barding
1 bag hickory wood chips, soaked
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

For the marinade:

1 tablespoon whole juniper
1 tablespoon whole allspice
5 whole cloves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
3 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
300ml red wine
100ml sweet sherry or port
100ml olive oil
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

Combine the juniper, allspice, cloves, peppercorns, and garlic in a mortar and pestle and crush until the spices are coarsely ground. To a large heavy freezer bag or a vessel big enough to hold all the marinade ingredients plus the venison, add the spices and the rest of the marinade ingredients. Mix to dissolve the sugar then plunk in the venison. Leave to marinate overnight or up to 2 days.

When ready to barbecue, remove the venison from the marinade, season with the salt and tie the pork fat around it. Place the venison in a barbecue safe pan and decant the marinade into a separate foil pan. In another foil pan add the soaked wood chips and cover with aluminum foil, piercing the top, which will allow the smoke to escape later.

With the lid down, preheat the barbecue to 275°F, placing the pan with the wood chips over direct heat. When the chips begin to smoke, place the pan with the venison over indirect heat and the pan with the reserved marinade somewhere in between direct and indirect heat. Leave the venison to cook for approximately 2 hours, opening the lid to check as little as possible to help keep the smoke from escaping.

When ready, let the meat rest at room temperature for 10 minutes, then remove what’s left of the barding fat before serving.

Ice Fishing for Warmth

Early Saturday morning we left the perfectly warm indoors to take pictures in defiance of winter. My parents used to go ice fishing regularly in the winter, drinking Dubonnet and lemon, pulling behind them a sled with a bundled up baby tucked inside. I know these acts are not a part of my genetic make-up. I’m half Finnish but that half is non-practicing. It seems to me a joke that this going out on a lake with ice a full foot thick, to fish for the day, has anything to do with my ancestry.

Ice fishing huts

Jen and I make our first stop at the little convenience store at the park’s entrance to see how we get started. We look the part, in matching red Canada Goose parkas and bulky black snow pants but really we have no idea. My outfit isn’t my own but borrowed from Jen’s dad. I’m more worried that my leather city boots are going to get ruined in this real arctic tundra. Inside, we’re told to go talk to Sean out on the lake as he could hook us up with rods and a hole in the ice – the two things we were aware we needed for this shoot to work.

Ice Fishing

Towards the lake we go, making another stop to talk with the French Canadian man handing out mini fishing rods. We explain we have no interest in fishing *spoiler alert* but we want to take pictures to make it look like we’re fishing. He supplies us with rods and points us out to the lake to speak with someone else about setting us up with a hole. Now I feel like we’re playing a mission in RuneScape, chatting up merchants and locals, collecting bits and pieces of information that will help us on our quest.

Ice Fishing

With a bit of wandering we make it to one of the brothers running the hut program. He directs us to one of the brothers out further with the snowmobile because he’d have the ice auger we’d need to get that hole. Our story is that we’re working on a “project” since we’re both too embarrassed to say the words “food blog” in front of outdoorsy types.

Perch fillets in snow

Like everyone before him, the brother with the ice auger was incredibly accommodating and was kind enough to make us a hole in the ice for our shoot. Promptly after he left us to our work, Jen fell good and hard on that thick lake ice. It wasn’t like we had forgotten we were on ice or that it was slippery when the layer of snow was slicked with water but Jen’s graceful side plant (so as not to crush the camera) helped to drive the point home to take extra care.

Cooking Outdoors

The whole point of this exercise and as it turns out, winter weekend, is to show what people do when the environment you live in turns to snow and ice. There’s still warmth to be found from the people and traditions out in the bleakest of places. There’s also life underneath all that snow and ice. The lake is full of perch, reminding us of warmer days spent fishing off the end of the cottage dock.

Cooking Outdoors

I wanted to capture the warmth and its simplicity in these photos. The meal that brought us here is a basic perch soup made simply by frying perch fillets in plenty of butter and serving them in a stock made from the bones and heads. The burned cabbage may sound odd but is easy to do over the gas flame of a camping stove and not only does it make for an interesting garnish, the toasting brings out a flavour reminiscent of kale chips. It’s the kind of lunch that works well for the middle of a frozen lake where warmth must be made.

Cooking Outdoors

On our way back to the car, we did find Sean and admitted sheepishly that we were shooting for our food blog. We talked a while about how successful their hut program is running this season and how they hope to make some pretty fancy huts by next season, tricked out with potbelly stoves. I hope by next winter, once we’ve had a full summer to warm up, we can go back and take pictures inside one of those mini cabins on the lake. A potbelly stove inside would make it so much easier to find warmth.

Perch Soup

Though making your own fish stock is easy to do when you’re dealing with whole fish for this recipe, you can absolutely stick to a pre-made stock, seasoned lightly with the spices below if you caught your fish fillets at your local fish monger.

Perch Soup

Serves 4 as a light lunch

4 small whole yellow perch, cleaned
2 litres cold water
1 fresh bay leaf
5 allspice berries
5 whole white peppercorns
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 leek, sliced finely, tops reserved
8 leaves savoy cabbage
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
fennel fronds, for garnish
salt and pepper to taste

Fillet the perch, reserving the heads and bones. Add the water to a large pot and add the perch parts, minus the fillets, then the allspice, white peppercorns, salt, and leek tops. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Strain the stock, and return to the pot over low heat.

Using a pair of tongs hold a leaf of cabbage over an open flame to toast it, allowing it to burn in places. Repeat with the rest of the leaves and reserve. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat and gently cook the leeks just until tender. Remove the leeks form the pan and set aside. Season the perch fillets lightly with salt and pepper. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan and fry the perch, skin side down until lightly golden brown. Flip the fish and cook for an additional 20 seconds.

To assemble the soup, in a wide bowl place the leeks on one side and a burned cabbage leaf on the other, followed by a fried perch fillet. Garnish with a fennel frond.

Perch Soup

6 Disastrous Dishes to Avoid on Valentine’s Day

You’ve wisely decided to skip the restaurant scene this year. Who needs the added pressure of getting a reservation on Valentine’s Day, anyway? You’re not an amateur. You can pull off a romantic evening at home, no problem. Just have to figure out what to serve. Best advice we can give you is don’t fuck it up.

Sugared Roses

All menu planning, the way I see it, is a manipulation of your guests. How hungry do you want them to be when they take their first bite of the main course? How full should they be when they finish dessert? Are you worried they’re going to eat and run and if so should you plan to eat the minute they arrive so they understand the party doesn’t end when the meal is over? These are decisions you need to make before you decide what food you want to serve.

Sugared Roses

Valentine’s Day has its own set of rules for menu planning. We talk a lot about traditional eating around here and Valentine’s Day is no different. Do you go for the obvious aphrodisiacs with oysters and chocolate or do you get sentimental and make your partner’s favourite? Maybe you want to make something you both have fond memories of. Listen, all food is good but sometimes Valentine’s Day isn’t the time for it. This is our list of six disastrous dishes to avoid.

Anything with Parsley

Parsley is one of my favourite herbs in the kitchen. There are several parsley salads I make throughout the year but all of them are banned on Valentine’s Day. You might be thinking, you both love Middle Eastern foods. Remember how you met at that shawarma place after a particularly awkward night of goth karaoke? You may be thinking tabbouleh is a good option on the menu but don’t do it. It’s like rule one of romantic menu planning, unless you want to spend the rest of the evening grooming each other’s smiles, ridding them of a seemingly endless field of parsley.

6 Disastrous Dishes to Avoid on Valentine’s Day

Tabbouleh from Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Heavy Food

Sure it’s mid February and all you really want is comfort food and why not? Everyone loves macaroni and cheese, right? Well if your plan is to follow dinner with going straight to bed to have cheese dreams, you really need to consider something lighter. If you want cheese maybe splurge on some Coeur de Neufchâtel and have a nibble before dinner.

6 Disastrous Dishes to Avoid on Valentine’s Day

Macaroni and Cheese from The Farm by Ian Knauer

Food That Makes You Go Poof

You know enough already to leave high fibre foods off the menu tonight. Beans and lentils are not sexy foods, no matter what your vegan friend tries to tell you. Jerusalem artichokes at first glance and to the uninitiated locavore might seem like a good choice. A bit different, in season, and known for their luxurious creamy texture, they’d make a great side. The other, lesser advertised bit of information on Jerusalem artichokes is that apart from them being high in fibre, they also contain inulin, a complex sugar that can’t be broken down easily in digestion. Nothing in your evening following this meal will be quiet, that’s for sure. You might well have served a bag of dried apricots for dinner.

6 Disastrous Dishes to Avoid on Valentine’s Day

A Pan Fry [of Jerusalem Artichokes] with Duck Fat and Bay from Tender: Volume 1 by Nigel Slater

Spicy Food

For some, spicy food is okay but you’d better know that going in. A bit of spice tonight is what you want because it speeds up the metabolism and gets your heart racing. It also clears the sinuses, which is the biggest problem. There is nothing worse than needing a nose tampon to stop a relentless flow of “cleared sinuses” at the dinner table. If this doesn’t apply to you, then carry on.

6 Disastrous Dishes to Avoid on Valentine’s Day

Goan Pork Vindaloo from Mangoes and Curry Leaves by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

Literal Food

It’s good you’re being creative and really thinking about the menu but it can be easy to take it too far. Stick with heart shaped candy and boxes of chocolate. Eating animal heart tonight – though I’d recommend it on other nights – is not appropriate unless you’re into some Star Trek Klingon role play and you need to fortify yourselves on the heart of a beast before fracturing a few clavicles.

6 Disastrous Dishes to Avoid on Valentine’s Day

Grilled, Marinated Calf’s Heart from The Complete Nose to Tail by Fergus Henderson

Phallic Food

It’s a double standard for sure that you could absolutely serve a meal of oysters and papaya tonight but geoduck is off limits. Blame society’s imbalanced views on the sexes and really weird looking seafood. Sashimi is a very good idea for Valentine’s Day. It’s light and fresh tasting, simple to prepare and luxurious. Geoduck sashimi though creates too many Lorena Bobbitt-like scenarios. It’s just bad foreshadowing for the events to follow in the evening. At best it’s going to remind your partner of the time she had an online dating profile and was bombarded with numerous photographic come-hithers.

6 Disastrous Dishes to Avoid on Valentine’s Day

Geoduck Sashimi from Serious Eats: The Nasty Bits by Chichi Wang

The Waffle Obsession: Up with Raised Waffles!

As a culture we may be a bit preoccupied with waffles. And I’m thankful for it. Though I personally speak to the Canadian aspect where anything that acts as a vehicle for maple syrup is a thing worthy of obsession, I know our neighbours to the south also share our obsession.

Growing up it was never homemade waffles but from-frozen Eggos, waffle cones and special trips that included hotel breakfasts and diners where the waffles share little resemblance to a balanced breakfast, topped with billowing whipped cream, drenched in dessert sauce. Later, in University I discovered how well waffles worked in savory preparations. It was a valuable lesson in keeping an open mind to all things edible.

Waffle House

At the Starving Artist in Toronto, a restaurant with a waffle-heavy menu I had my first chicken and waffle BLT. That sandwich, which left my hands smelling like sweet waffles when I was finished, opened up the gateway to a waffle addiction that until then was completely under control. Waffles started replacing Sunday morning pancakes – the loud waffle iron alarm sounding off another batch of golden-crisp waffles became part of our breakfast soundtrack.

Waffle House

That is what brought me to this recipe. Making waffles at home creates a challenge not uncommon to most mass breakfast productions. By the time the last batch of waffles has sounded, the first batch, that’s been kept warm in the oven, has lost much of it’s crispness. This recipe for waffles produces what I expect to receive in a diner. A batter that’s old fashioned, tried and true. The recipe, which has been highly publicized around the Internet comes from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. The reason it works so well at home is because the batter cooks at a very high heat in the waffle iron, something many other batters can’t withstand, producing a waffle with a crispness that lasts until the last batch is finished.

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The flavour of this batter is also something special. Some batters taste as though they’re just pancakes that have been poured into a waffle iron. This one tastes faintly of yeast, which is what gives it that old fashioned charm. Though there’s not much to be improved upon in this recipe, I sometimes like to replace the sugar for maple sugar to give it a boost of maple flavour before I drench them in dark maple syrup.

Waffle House

Raised Waffles

Adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham, Fannie Farmer Cookbook Corporation, Archibald Candy Corporation, and Lauren Jarrett

1 x 8g package active dry yeast
125ml lukewarm water
500ml lukewarm whole milk (3.25% M.F.)
90g salted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons maple sugar or granulated sugar
355g all-purpose unbleached flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda

In a bowl large enough to hold everything double (these will rise), dissolve the yeast into the water. Add the milk, butter, salt, sugar, and flour and whisk together until evenly incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest overnight at room temperature.

The following morning whisk in the eggs and baking soda until thoroughly combined. Preheat your waffle iron to its hottest setting (temperatures will vary) and pour in the batter being careful not to overfill the iron. Cook until the waffles are golden brown. Serve as you like, but preferably with maple syrup and butter.


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Waffle House

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