Sunday, September 30, 2012


My Great Aunt Mary Wilson (nee MacPherson) made scones for her husband every night. I don't remember my Great Uncle Bill but apparently he thought I was adorable and I quite liked him. I was just a baby but clearly I recognised excellent taste. The story that I have built in my head (which may bear no resemblance to reality) is that Auntie Mary made a batch of scones every night and Uncle Bill ate one set in the evening as a pre bed snack and the remainder in the morning. I like to imagine that Auntie Mary, who put her hair in pin curls every night and was always made up just so, made enough for his breakfast because her morning preparation time took so long that she didn't have time to cook her husband a proper first meal of the day.

Now I make Great Auntie Mary's scones as a Welcome to London snack for friends and family who  arrive jet lagged and bedraggled from Heathrow.  The MacPhersons, though throughly Canadian, are of Scottish descent. I like the idea of the scone recipe making its way from the Highlands of Scotland, across Canada to the interior of British Columbia and then back again to London.The recipe is simple, forgiving and slightly rustic, but it is quite lovely to welcome guests to England with something so very British as warm scones, clotted cream and jam.

It serves as a focus point, a calming moment in the excitement of arrivals. As people pile into the flat, luggage strewn, hugs and chatter, mini tours around our tiny flat, I show them the Gherkin from the balcony and ask them about how they managed the journey from the airport, the table is set and water poured (dehydrated plane travellers). I fuss everyone around the table and we all have a moment to sit and breathe. Preparing your scone, (clotted cream then jam, showing the foreigners how it is done)munching away, sipping tea, we have chance to catch up on the most pertinent family details and friendly gossip. An informal snack gives us all a chance to reacquaint, test the bonds if you like, with people who we see so rarely but who are integral parts of our circle, through blood or bond.

It has become a new household tradition, in my own household. I love that a recipe from my Great Aunt has found a new spot in our family history as the welcoming bite for her descendants, years after she has died, and far away from where she lived.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bacon Rind

We don't eat a ton of bacon in our house as bacon - it's rare for strips of it to be served along side eggs or on a burger. But I do use probably more than I should as a flavour base or as a little bit of crispy salty bacon goodness sprinkled on top (of everything).  My favourite bacon comes from Upper Cuts in the St Lawrence Market in Toronto. It is called Black Forest Bacon and it is thick cut and heavily smoked. You buy a kilogram of it and they will split it and package it up for you in two plastic parcels so you can throw one in the fridge and one in the freezer so you'll never run out of bacon. It is a glorious thing.

So we move to London and start seeking out a suitable bacon replacement. Shouldn't be too hard, Britain is good at pig things, right? Sausages and the like? And so with a significant amount of trial and error we finally find two acceptable bacon suppliers in our neighbourhood, though neither are as thickly cut as the butcher in Toronto.

But here is my complaint: why do bacon makers leave the skin on? The bacon rind? And how do you British people handle it? Do you painstakenly cut it off? Trimming each piece individually as I do to get it off without sacrificing too much of the smoked bacon fat? Or do you... eat it...? I have cooked it and tried to eat it but it's inevitably tough and hard and unpleasantly like eating  a warm and salted rubber band. Because British bacon is rarely ever cooked crisply enough to get the skin to take on the texture and crunch of crackling, which is the only real acceptable treatment of bacon skin that I can think of.


Sunday, September 02, 2012

Hashbrown and Eggs

On Sunday I was an excellent girlfriend/fiancee/partner and got up early and made breakfast in bed for C. I made a mini version of Smitten Kitchen's Bacon Corn Hash with a fried egg on top. I say mini because I made just enough for two smallish bowls for the two of us and not some obscene brunch where you are too full to do anything for the rest of the day. It was great and you should make it.

It reminded me of my first roommate Anya.  Our house speciality was hashbrowns and eggs. I feel like we used to cook it more than once a week. Although I know it's not the only thing we ate (there were her mom's perogies and the unfortunate KFC incident) but it's pretty much the only thing I can remember cooking - or at least clearly recall. It's not quick and easy. Oh no. There is process involved, not to be rushed.

You take a few handfuls of frozen hashbrowns and put them on a low-medium heat in a cheap non stick IKEA pan with a bit of oil. Add a lot of seasoning salt. Preferably that stuff that people in Alberta get from a pipe company. If you're from Alberta you probably know what I'm talking about. If not I suppose regular seasoning salt will do, but know that you are missing something on some level. And you cook them. Stirring regularly. You cook them forever. Until they are crispy and golden brown. But you must do this slowly so that they aren't mushy on the inside. Patience is required.

Then you add a couple of eggs. It depends on the amount of hashbrowns you've used but trust your judgement. The egg is there to bind the hashbrowns together, but not to take over. This is afterall hashbrowns and eggs and not eggs and hashbrowns.

Serve with ketchup.