Sunday, December 14, 2014

Apples to Truffles

Since it is December 14th, and the the Solstice is almost upon us, I think it is high time to write a blog entry for the Autumn Season!

I was reminded of Fall's fruitful bounty on Hornby when I recently stumbled across a box of long forgotten apples in my pantry.  I saved just enough of them to make my newest favourite apple dessert.

I am referring to the supremely delicious Tarte Tatin of french fame which I first tasted in a french restaurant  in Saigon last winter, I had barely managed the difficult task of  prying my barnacle-like husband, Glen, 'off the rock'.  The result was a very interesting and enjoyable cruise on the Mekong River.  (More on that later.)

To our delight, we discovered that one of the more positive results of the colonization of the Mekong Delta by Napoleon the third in the late 1800's, was the culinary legacy.  For a pittance of what you would pay in Paris, there are a  plethora of wonderful French restaurants.

Here we are, with some of the friends we made on our travels,  outside one of the best, Les Trois Gourmand, on the outskirts of Saigon.  We enjoyed a five course four hour dinner with wine for less than $50 dollars a person.
Owner and Chef Gils prides himself on his cheeses, foie gras, and truffles.  Look at these beauties that he proudly displayed to our astonishment.  

And here you see the new favourite dessert in our family.  The one on the right is the Tarte Tatin. And yes, this whole plate full was dessert for one, namely me!

Glen and I also enjoyed a dinner at La Badiane in Hanoi, housed in an old home of the vertical variety popular in Vietnam and Cambodia. (Stay tuned for more on the architecture of the region.)

I managed to get photos of the starters, lobster ravioli, and scallops of some sort, as well as one of our desserts.

And here we are at home on Hornby ready to partake of my last Tarte Tatin of the season!  
So Yummy!

Recipe for Tarte Tatin below.  If you want pictures and step by step directions google-


What You Need

6 Granny Smith apples, or other hard, tart apples
1 9-inch pie crust dough
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Ice cream or crème fraîche, optional for serving
Vegetable peeler
10-inch ovensafe skillet, cast iron or stainless steel preferred
Pie plate


→ Heat the oven to 375°F.
1. Peel and core the apples. Peel the apples, slice them into quarters, and remove the core. Roll out the pie crust to a little larger than 10 inches on a piece of wax paper and keep chilled in the refrigerator while you cook the apples.
2. Start the caramel sauce. Melt the better in the skillet over medium to medium-high heat, then stir in the sugar. It will be grainy and clumpy at first, then start to dissolve into a syrupy liquid.
3. Add the apples to the sauce. When the sugar and butter are bubbling, add the apples and sprinkle with salt. No need to be fancy with how you arrange the apples now.
4. Cook the apples until caramelized. Cook the apples, stirring every few minutes, until the sauce darkens to a deep amber caramel color. This should take 12 to 15 minutes. Be sure to turn the apples as you stir them so they are coated with the caramel sauce. A good indication of when the caramel sauce is done is if a drip holds its shape on a cool plate.
5. Top with the pie crust. Remove the pan of apples from the heat. With a fork and a spatula, turn the apples so their rounded surfaces are agains the bottom of the pan and arrange them in concentric circles. Remove the pie crust from the refrigerator and drape it over the hot apples. Be careful not to touch the hot caramel sauce! Tuck the edges of the pie crust into the pan and prick with a fork.
6. Bake the tarte Tatin. Bake the tarte Tatin for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.
7. Cool the tarte Tatin briefly. Set the tarte on a cooling rack and cool for 10-20 minutes.
8. Invert the tarte Tatin. Run a knife around the edge of the pie crust to separate it from the pan. Shake the skillet a few times to loosen the apples in the caramel sauce. Place the pie plate over the top of the skillet. Using oven mitts, grip the plate and the skillet and swiftly turn them both over so the pie plate is on the bottom and the skillet is on top.
9. Remove the skillet and make presentable. Gently lift the skillet away and re-arrange any stubborn apples that have gotten jostled out of place. Scrape any remaining caramel sauce from the pan and drizzle over the tarte.
10. Serve warm with ice cream or crème fraîche. Serve the tarte Tatin while it's still warm, topped with ice cream or a dollop of crème fraîche. Leftover tarte can be kept refrigerated for several days (and make an excellent breakfast).

Additional Notes:

• Tarte Tatins with Other Fruits: Fruits of a similar hardness (quince, asian pear) can be cooked like apples. Softer fruits (apricots, pears, peaches) should be added to the skillet at the end of cooking the sauce, once the sauce has cooked to a dark amber color.
• Salted Caramel Tarte Tatin: Add an extra half teaspoon of salt to the caramel as it cooks, then sprinkle the top of the finished tarte with crunchy sea salt.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

May Morning in the Meadow

May Morning in the Meadow

The covenanted Garry Oak Grove located on High Salal, Hornby Island, was once called The Thousand Oaks. This is the most northerly Garry Oak Grove in North America and is considered an endangered ecosystem. The owners of the High Salal Strata are slowly removing some of the invasive fir trees that shade out the oaks. They are also protecting the young oaks from the deer, who love to munch on the tender young leaves. 

This morning I would like to share the beauty of the meadow, of the oaks are decked out in their finery, amongst the Arbutus trees in full blossom.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Fine Dining, Hornby Style

Roquefort Quiche

I made this last night for dinner and since I have a habit of forgetting how I adapted recipes, I am taking advantage of my own blog to record my diversions.

About 1 cup crumbled Roquefort cheese
2 pears (sweet and juicy, if possible- mine weren’t so I just cut them small)
4 beaten eggs
2 cups cream (I forgot to put the second cup in and just as well as it overflowed with 1 cup)
Salt and Pepper and nutmeg
I added one large caramelized onion and I also put some emmentaler cheese on top of my quiche.

To caramelize the sliced onion cook at low heat until golden brown, covering for except for the beginning and end. I had just made two strawberry rhubard pies for the freezer and had made a double double pastry recipe using 5 cups flour so I had enough dough left for a single crust pie. I favour a crust made with all butter. So that was 1 pound for 5 c. flour and about 2/3 +c. cold water.
Peel and dice pears. Beat Roquefort and add to pears. Beat eggs and cream. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg (fresh grated is best).
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put pie shell on baking sheet in oven and pour filling in. Sprinkle with grated ementaler cheese. For extra filling pour into a greased custard dish and bake. Bake quiche for 30 minutes or more until it is set in the middle.
Delicious served with a crisp salad. And darn good left over for breakfast!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Morning Walk

I love living in the oak grove at High Salal where I can have this morning walk on my doorstep:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Feed Your Soul

On Saturday, April 5, 2014 we attended yet another fabulous event at the Hornby Hall. This was a Cajun BBQ and Silent Auction fundraiser, which was particularly heartfelt so no wonder the hall was packed to the gills with folk who were there to show their support.

It never fails to amaze me how distinguished the Hall appears decked in a new fashion for each event. Tonight white table cloths, bountiful daffodils, and twinkling fairy lights lent a festive air.

A Beautiful Setting: photo courtesy of Ian Thomson

The stage was set for the much anticipated music that would follow. The lineup of tonight’s talented singers were warmed up and accompanied by our own Jazz Band, veteran volunteers.

photo courtesy of Ian Thomson

We chose our tables, socialized, and viewed the walls of beautiful and bountiful Art donated by local
artists, a veritable treasure trove of remarkable pieces.

The dinner was wonderful, lots of variety for all diets and really tasty. I was reminded of the Four
Seasons Hotel in Vancouver in the 70’s when the ‘girl’ came along with a dessert tray complete with
a bowl of whipped cream on the bottom. And in the background notice the Gospel Gals. They did the
most delicious rendition of Kahlil Gibran’s, Your Children Are Not Your Children, which was originally recorded by Sweet Honey on The Rocks.

Fully satisfied, everyone settled back to enjoy the local talent with only occasional sneaks up to the
silent auction sheets to see if they had been out bid.

photos courtesy of Ian Thomson

It was a close one, but this irreverent saint, by Elaine Savoie, now hangs in MY house!

P.S. The evening brought in a profit of $20,000 for the young man and his family. It’s a Hornby way of donating to charity, to the people we know and love, in their hour of need.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Harbinger House Concerts

Harbinger House Concerts have been a happening thing on Hornby for many years.  Now, I don’t know if they were called Harbinger when I went to my first concert at Lex’s house.  I do recall the intimate ‘Hornby house’ setting with a cool group of contemporary folk musicians called Fish and Bird, playing banjo, fiddle, guitar, and bass drums.

Their bio page on their website describes their music as:
“Their take on ‘folk’ includes original songs in odd time signatures and traditional murder ballads with rock beats.” Which sounds about right.

Sadly, I missed one of Harbinger’s recent concerts, featuring Shari Ulrich, the songbird with Pied Pumpkin who many of us followed in the 70’s.  AND I would have loved to visit the beautiful home where the concert took place.
However, on April 6, 2014, Harbinger brought a concert to our house!

Born and bred in Duncan, B. C. Linda is now living in Nashville with her husband, James.  Linda is a folk, blues, roots singer songwriter and multi-instrumentalist performing on banjo, guitar, accordion, and vocals. She and James are a great song writing team and she entertained about 30 of us in my very own living room. 
Thanks to Melissa Devost and Ted Tanner and whoever else might be the Harbingers  of House Concerts.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Tastes of Spring

Tarte au Citron 

One of the joys of living on Hornby is sharing a meal with friends, and this lemon tart is one of my favourites for serving this time of year. 

100g ground almonds
1 cup flour 
3 T. sugar
6 T chilled butter
2 T. ice cold water

2/3 cup fresh lemon juice 
1/2 cup sugar
3 T. crème fraiche/sour cream
4 large eggs

Combine ground almonds, flour, salt, and sugar. Cut in butter as for pastry. Add cold water and form a ball. Make into a disc and chill one hour.

Roll dough to 12 inch round and put in tart pan with removable bottom. Make sides thicker than bottom. Pierce all over with a fork and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until brown. Cool on rack. Maintain oven temperature. 

For filling, whisk lemon juice and sugar, blend in crème fraiche, then whisk in eggs one at a time until well blended. Pour into crust. I find it easiest to put the crust on the oven rack and pour filling directly in there…saves spilling as you transfer from counter to oven. 

Bake about 35 minutes covering top if browning too fast.

Cool, then refrigerate about 2 hours. Garnish with lemon slices.