Winter Recipe Roundup


What happens when you give drunk people fire and tell them to spell.

Judging by my Facebook feed, everyone wants this winter to die a fiery death and never return.  Well, suck it up, because I have more winter photos to share, as well as a reminder of the winter recipes we posted.  Hopefully soon this winter will be a distant memory, and you can look back on this post fondly in October when you’ve forgotten that time when it was technically spring but still -14 degrees Celsius and snowing outside.

Also, we busted our asses in a snowstorm to take these photos “in the name of Crustcrumbs!“, so you are going to look at them, okay?  Okay.

Actual snowstorm.

Our shooting conditions.

Winter Recipe Roundup

1. Ice Fishing & Perch Soup

For this recipe, we trekked over to Minet’s Point Park in Barrie to visit the cool ice fishing tepees.  We pretended to go ice fishing to the amusement of the locals while John cooked fish on a portable grill and served it up in a soup.  In a glorious display of grace and finesse, I slipped on the ice and injured my hip like a 90 year old woman.

Perch Soup

2. Hickory Smoked Venison Shoulder

The venison was smoked on the BBQ.  I made John go outside in the snowstorm to check on the meat while I took pictures through the window “for artistic purposes”.  This was also my first time trying venison and it was tasty, but not as tasty as the wild rice salad John made as a side dish, which I am still obsessed with to this day.

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3. Gluten-Free Sticky Toffee Pudding

We baked a cake in a wooden wine crate in a campfire (sort of).  Spoiler alert: the wood crate caught on fire.  The cake was still tasty, because John says it’s impossible to screw up sticky toffee pudding.  Even when it’s gluten free.  I didn’t take a good photo of the final product because cider.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

More Pictures

Ice fishing huts

Cooking Outdoors

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Sticky Toffee Pudding

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Sticky Toffee Pudding

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Enjoy spring!

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

An Octopus for the Rest of Us

When I saw a Toronto streetcar plastered with advertising for the new Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, featuring an octopus stretched along the outside of the car, I thought “neat, I should take a picture.” When I didn’t take a picture, I was happy to see more ads plastering the inside of the car, and yes, more octopus.

Octopus on the Streetcar

Over the last several years Toronto has been swept up under a tidal wave of octopus dishes, featured on both high and low-end menus. We can’t get enough of it apparently, and so at the time of taking that picture I thought of how the new aquarium could make for a great front to supply Toronto chefs with more octopus. Of course, what I found out when we went to the aquarium is that they actually do stock quite a bit of fish that appears regularly on seafood menus. Not only did they have un-photogenic octopus, they had tanks of trout, haddock, halibut, Alaskan snow crab, and lobster. All that was missing was our host with a towel and fishnet to let us pick out which creature we wanted for our dinner.

Aquarium field trip

Some might think this a twisted way to look at the aquarium but I really think it’s just a way of acknowledging what our food is and where it comes from. When we were at the aquarium with the thousands of children quoting lines from Finding Nemo, I over heard one of them repeat, “fish are friends, not food”. Keep telling yourself that, kiddo.

Chef cooking octopus

I, like many Torontonians, love octopus. I order it almost every time I see it on a menu, thinking it’s not something I would attempt at home for fear of creating a dish that’s tough and inedible. Maybe it’s fitting that a creature that carries so much lore and mystery should be slightly intimidating for home cooks.

Chef cooking octopusOctopus boiling on the stoveOctopus boiling on the stove

My favourite bit of octopus cooking witchcraft comes from something I’ve only ever heard of Spanish cooks performing. While there are plenty of brining, marinating, freezing, rock bashing, and drying techniques all for the sake of tenderizing this creature from the deep, in Spain it seems to be common practice to dip the octopus in a large pot of salted boiling water, three times for three seconds at a time before setting it in the pot to cook. I’ve done it this way too because I really see no harm in playing along with the ceremony but I highly doubt it makes a difference. No more difference anyway than it does to leave an avocado pit in a bowl of guacamole to keep it from browning or adding a match to a pot of simmering water when hard boiling eggs. It’s harmless and makes cooks feel like magicians, so I say do whatever makes you happy.

Octopus drying on rackOctopus drying on rack

This is possibly the easiest recipe for octopus and it makes an impressive starter. It’s a recipe adapted from the Barrafina cookbook, a book I trust for luscious and beautifully authentic Spanish cuisine. It consists of a few simple ingredients, meaning you should take the time to source out the best you can find. The paprika I prefer in this dish is a mild and sweet one, more widely sold as Hungarian sweet paprika. I’m sorry it’s not Spanish. If you’re lucky enough to find Spanish paprika, please go ahead and use it. You could use a smoked variety as well if you prefer a smokey octopus.


It’s easy to adapt this recipe to suit the number of people you have to serve. We used a smallish 3kg octopus, which was enough for four as a light starter. Remember what seems like a beast before cooking will of course become more manageable and shrink down after cooking. To go alongside I tossed purple watercress with some green chilli left to macerate in lime juice with a little salt. The counter-hit of heat from the chilli and sharpness from the lime makes for a refreshing accompaniment.

OctopusOctopus with Capers

Octopus with Capers

Adapted from Barrafina: A Spanish Cookbook

1 medium to large octopus, frozen and thawed (3 – 5kg)
1 large white onion, peeled and sliced
1 fresh bay leaf
150ml olive oil
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
50ml extra virgin olive oil
100ml jar capers packed in salt, rinsed
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
large flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a very large pot of water, salted like the sea, dip the thawed octopus for three seconds and repeat three more times before placing the beast head facing upwards in the pot, adding in the onion and bay leaf. Simmer gently for 1 hour and 15 minutes then turn the octopus so that the head faces down and continue to cook another 30 minutes. Remove the octopus and allow to cool slightly and drain on a tray. Discard the head and beak and with a knife and your hands remove some of the skin and suckers, as much as you desire, dismantling the rest of the octopus into large bite-sized pieces.

In a large heavy bottomed frying pan, add the olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the octopus pieces and fry briefly on each side to brown slightly. Remove from the pan and arrange the pieces on a serving board. Sprinkle the pieces generously with paprika then drizzle over the extra virgin olive oil. Scatter over the capers and parsley and season lightly with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Octopus with Capers

Field Trip to the Aquarium

In retrospect, it was a terrible idea to visit the new Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada during the holidays, with the crowds of horrible children pushing and shoving, and their parents sticking their iPads in people’s faces to take terrible direct-flash 0.7 megapixel photos.  Nevertheless, when John suggested a field trip to the new Toronto aquarium that opened in October, I jumped at the chance.  Our main purpose was to take pictures of the octopuses, in preparation for a food post about cooking octopus.  (Yes, I’ve been told that’s kind of twisted.)

Sometimes, as a photographer, you approach a situation with a clear shot in mind; something that will truly capture a subject in its all its majesty:


… but instead you end up with this:


Or, this:


Nevermind the aforementioned horrible children and their parents, nor the tiny octopus tank with curved glass that distorts everything, nor the reflections, nor the lack of light… octopuses are nocturnal.  We were at the aquarium for almost 3 hours, and when we looped back through to visit them again at the end of our trip, neither of them had moved.  So, I ended up with the worst octopus photos in the history of octopus photos.

Luckily, John can’t fire me because I own the Crustcrumbs domain (ha HA!), so I’m going to share some other pictures of fish from the aquarium.  However, fish and seafood are so not my thing, so I cannot promise the scientific accuracy of any of my captions.  On the other hand, seafood is John’s thing, so if you stay tuned later this week, he’s going to write more about the edible kind of fish.  He might even use their real names.

Shiny fish.

Aquarium field trip
Drunk fish. Sarah took a pretty good video of these guys, who seem to just float around all day going “whoa…”

Aquarium field trip

Aquarium field trip
Colourfish!  Bonus Crustcrumbs game: guess how many children found “Nemo” while we were looking at this tank?

(Highlight for the answer: ALL OF THEM.  ALL OF THE CHILDREN FOUND NEMO.)

Aquarium field trip

Aquarium field trip
Lazy shark who rests on top of the shark tunnel.

Aquarium field trip
Fat sharks.  (I’m not crazy, right?  These sharks are pretty chubby, yes?)

Aquarium field trip
They still have pretty sharp teeth, though.

Aquarium field trip
Here’s a pile of dead sharks that look like rocks.  (Note: not actually dead.)

Aquarium field trip
Fabulous glitterfish.

Aquarium field trip

Aquarium field trip
This is a stingray photobombing a picture of another stingray.

Aquarium field tripAquarium field trip

So, I may not have taken a really good photo of an octopus, but I did take an average snapshot of a stuffed octopus in the gift shop.

Aquarium field trip

Stay tuned on Thursday for octopus.  Cooked, this time, and much more cooperative as a photography subject.