After making the butternut squash pie (see last post), I had some pastry left over so I decided to make a small tomato, mozzarella and ham tart. Again, this was so easy, it took 30 minutes to make from start to finish.
Start with a squirt of tomato purée…about two tablespoons.
In my pursuit of writing different blogs around the end of the year, after the popular ones that I did around Christmas time, here is one, that I think will interest you. The story about mistletoe as much as it is fascinating, it also has a morbid side..
What is mistletoe?
It is a parasite plant type that grows in bunch within a branch or sometimes within a tree, with green leaves and white berries.
The magic of mistletoe.
It dates back from the ancient time, when the mistletoe of the sacred oak was used by the druids as part of their ritual, five days after the new moon of the winter solstice.
On the sixth night of the new moon, druid would cut it with golden sickle, then it was hung on ceiling or placed above stable doors and houses to prevent the arrival of evil and witches.
It was also considered to bestow life and help fertility.
The legend of why we kiss under mistletoe?
Some would trace the tradition of kissing under mistletoe back to the Saturnalia, with the Greek goddess Artemis who used to wear a crown of mistletoe as symbol of fertility and immortality. However, the most popular legend regarding mistletoe comes from the “Norse”mythology of the Vikings, as they believe that mistletoe had curative powers and could raise humans from the dead. It is a legend related to the resurrection of “Baldar”, a “Norse” god.
The story goes as follows.
“Baldar” who was the god of the summer sun, saw his death in one of his dream. When he told his mother “Frigga”, about his dream, she compelled all the elements of nature (plants and animals) to not kill his son. But she neglected to extract this same promise from the unique mistletoe. Then, the evil god “Loki”, realizing that mistletoe grows on trees and has no roots, made a poisoned dart its juice and shot it to kill “Baldar”. His death brought winter and his mother’s desperation.
“Frigga’s” tears over her son body, changed the color of mistletoe berries from red to white and helped “Baldar” rise from the dead.
It is then, that for gratitude, she blessed everyone with a kiss, when walking under a mistletoe. She then declared, that mistletoe must forever bring love rather that death into the world.
Did you know?
In South Africa, the berries of mistletoe are mixed to form a sticky mass, which is then wrapped around small tree branch, to catch birds.
As the end of the holiday season is approaching, I sincerely hope that everyone had a great time and that you enjoyed my small stories around this time of year.
As in the western culture, the time will arise in less than one week, to celebrate the arrival of new year 2012. I am definitely sure, that most of us will pop the cork and drink “Champagne” as the clock strikes midnight. So I decided to write about it.
Meaning of “Champagne”.
“Champagne”, is a sparkling wine made by inducing a second fermentation inside the bottle, to get the carbonated effect.
Origins of “Champagne”.
“Champagne”, has its origins in France. It was created by an English scientist, “Christopher Merret”, who first added sugar in the fermentation process, back in 1662. Thus creating “The Method Champenoise”.
The tradition of drinking “Champagne”
The tradition to drink “Champagne” to celebrate different occasions, actually dates back to the royal court of certain European countries, where the expensive drink was viewed as a symbol of status in the late 18th century.
It became a worldwide phenomenon in the late 19th century, as it started to be used, to christened ships and cruise ships.
Race drivers, shakes them after a victory, but don’t drink it. (what a waste!!!!)
What is “Champagne”?
“Champagne” is exclusively made of:
White Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier Only (the juice, not the skin).
Based on the grape variety used, you will have the grade of “Champagne”.
- “Blanc de Blanc” will use exclusively Chardonnay.
- “Blanc de Noir” will be a mixed of Chardonnay and either or both Pinot Noir.
- “Rose” will be a mixed of one of the above, and added with either the juice and the skin already macerated or simply a dash of the original Pinot wine.
Sweetness category of “Champagne”
It is based on the amount of sugar added per liter.
Brut zero has less than 3 grams of sugar per liter
Extra brut, has less than 6 grams of sugar per liter
Brut, has less than 12 grams of sugar per liter
“Champagne bottle size by names”
Small: 0.1875 L
Half: 0.375 L
Standard: 0.750 L
Magnum: 1.5 L
Jeroboam: 3 L
Rehoboam: 4.5 L
Methuselah: 6 L
Mordechai: 9 L
Balthazar: 12 L
Nebuchadnezzar: 15 L
Melchior: 18 L
Solomon: 20 L
Sovereign: 25 L
Primat: 27 L
Melchizedek: 30 L
Quote from “Madame Lilly Bollinger”
“I drink it when I am happy and when I am sad. Sometime, I drink it when I am alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I triffle with it if I am not hungry, and drink it, if I am. Otherwise, I never touch it¾unless, I am thirsty”
Did you know?
Rumor has it, that the origins of the first generation of Champagne glasses which were like cups also known as “Coupe” in French, are said to be made out of a mold from the breast of Marie Antoinette!!!.
So no matter if it is true or not, “Champagne” should never be drank in those, but rather in the “Flutes” as for the connoisseurs of the famous beverage, it has the tip of its lips slightly inward, with a long thin body to preserve the bubbles and its bouquets, thus heightening the “Champagne” experience, versus, the “Coupe”, which is wider, warms up the “Champagne” quickly and goes flat faster. FACT!!!
So, keep your “Coupes” for ice cream or other drink you might like.!!!
Is it common to become intoxicated (drunk) faster with “Champagne”, as alcohol is absorbed faster when mixed with carbonated water.
Anyhow, I sincerely hope you will enjoy a wonderful year of the Dragon (2012), and that you will drink your “Champagne” responsibly.
In hope, that my small article, enlighted you, I would like to take this occasion to wish everyone a happy new year, and many more to come.
A short and simple blog about the private book signing that Peter from the Global Chef David Marteau Team did with another very good friend of mine: Lee Ting. it all started as a suggestion when they both came to enjoy a wonderful Easter BBQ Sunday that i did at the hotel. As usual, i was mingling with my customers and of course cooking the BBQ with my team, when Lee and Peter called me over for a small chat. After ordering myself a nice deserved Grande Cafe Latte, no jokes here, they starting to talk to me about a germing idea: Organizing a private book signing to help me promote my latest cookbook. The all idea seemed a great one, now even though i was becoming very excited about, i really did not know about how to set it up or even who to contact, to come and attend. That is where Peter and Lee, told me that they will take care of it 100%. Indeed, they invested their time and effort to make it happened. Lee was mainly in charge of contacting a good friend of hers to secure the venue, and Peter, was going to design the invitation, as it was only with RSVPs. So they set up a date and it was decided to be May 29th. As the event was approaching, me on my side, i was, of course in charge of doing the food for the event. I did prepare some mini crème brulee, mini tiramisu cups, ham and melon, some assorted cookies, and some amazing smoked salmon roses which i served on small tiny spoon. I did a to secure for the event to have a local television coming over to do some TV shooting. After having Peter and Lee, deciding about the venue and having sent the invitation via email, it turned out that they managed to gather 40 persons at the event. I brought all the equipment that i will be needed the day before, Peter, brought the table, for me to sign the books for whomever wanted to have a signed copy. Then, when the day of the event finally came, as i was also very nervous, Peter graciously brought some nice hot coffee to relieve the pressure, then Lee who was also waiting for me, brought some amazing wines, we were almost ready to get going and have fun. As the time started to run short, i did settle myself in the kitchen and started to prepare my plates with the small assorted canapés that i did, as well as getting organize for a beautiful cooking demonstration. I planned to teach everyone who attended, to teach them on how to do a nice Wild Mushroom Risotto with Mascarpone Cheese. Then, our first guess started to come, and we got started on nice conversation about my career, my travel, which was really nice, as they did enjoy the canapés that i prepared with the wonderful wine. That is then that the TV crew came over and started shooting. As more persons were coming in, Peter decided that it was time to introduce me, Lee and himself to everyone. He did an amazing speech and even had the courage to do some of it in French, maybe to impress the TV crew? Then i went directly into the kitchen, my field, my territory, where i have to be honest, that is where i feel more comfortable, no doubt about that. So i started explaining the difference between such and such grain of risotto rice and cooking at the same time, then while doing so, i took some questions as well, which by the way were very interesting ones. I could see that the persons that were invited were very knowledgeable about food and were very interested. So after finishing my famous risotto, i went on to finally sign some copies of my cookbook: “Creative Cooking for the Global Kitchen: I have to admit that it was a very successful event, i manage to sell 32 books out of the 40 persons that came. I guess the rest just wanted to try my food. I am now thinking to ask Peter and Lee to do another event, but a bit bigger for the next time. We will see if that will happen, and will let you know.
As I am doing my daily blog, I just realized that writing articles around Christmas is not that easy, are they is so much to write about.
The things that we do in the blink of an eye, without thinking, just because it is a tradition, makes you wonder, why we do it.
Today I chose to talk about the infamous candy sugar cane, as yesterday I venture into the shops with my kids, and stumbled upon them.
The history of sugar cane!
As we all know, one of the most seen Christmas goodies we encounter, has to be the sugar cane candy.
I think it all started with the celebration of Christmas around Europe, as we know it, since the early 1900’s. (please read my other articles around Christmas).
Since, in the old days, most of the Christmas tree decoration were made out of food, like nuts, dried fruits amongst others. The predecessors of candy sugar cane, appeared in the late 17th century, in a form of a white straight candy.
It was first started in Germany (like most, if not, all the Christmas tradition!!!), more specifically, in Cologne, when a choirmaster, started to give them out in 1670, in his cathedral. The originality of his candy, chocked more than one, has it had the shape of a “Sheppard’s cane”. He gave them out to the children when they came to sing. Because, its shape was not ordinary as that time, it quickly spread throughout Europe.
It was not until the early 20th century, that candy sugar cane, started to look like we know them now, with a red striped and a mint flavor.
Sugar cane, a religious candy?
Throughout the centuries of the making of the candy sugar cane, and in religious beliefs, it is also said, that it does resemble the letter “J”, for “Jesus”. Keep in mind, the beginning of the story, as I mentioned, it was in the shape of a “Sheppard’s cane”. In the religious belief, they are both recognized as a symbol, as “Jesus” too, used a cane to walk and watch over his little lambs (children).
The candy sugar cane, is also hard like a “rock”, a representation of the great foundation of the church.
The mint flavor, is actually related to it, but called “hyssop”. It was used in the “Old Testament” for purification and sacrifice.
The legend also says, that the white color in the sugar cane, could have represented the purity of “Jesus”. (Not confirmed). As for the red stripes, around it, they are supposed to represent the love that “God” gave. As you will notice, if you look closely, there are only three red stripes on each sides of the sugar cane, again, because of religion, it is said, that each one of them, represents the “Holy Trinity” (the father, the son and the holy spirit), others thinks, that is made to resemble the blood “Jesus” shed when he took his beating before his death.
From its early days, with religious belief or not, for its sharp white and red color, candy sugar cane will always be associated with the spirit of Christmas, and is the meaning of the great holyday season we enjoy today.
Please feel free to comment as being a non religious person, sometimes it is not easy to talk about it, as I am not at ease, but nevertheless, i will never try to understand and educate myself.
I’ve been cooking all of my Christmas presents this year and I’m making something really cute and special, one of the components being marshmallows. These aren’t just any marshmallows though, these are homemade vanilla marshmallows. Firstly I would like to say that I freaking hate store-bought…
As I pursue writing my blog around Christmas, it came to me yesterday, while decorating our home with my wife and children, that I did not even think about Christmas stockings until we hanged them at home.
After thinking about it, I decided to write about it.
As once more, like many Christmas tradition, there are no written proof on how it started, but the legends will always be there.
The legend of Christmas stockings.
One of the many stories that hang around the Christmas stocking, is that a long long time ago, there was a very poor man living in a small village with his three very beautiful daughters, and his wish was to have them married before his death. But being very poor, he did not know what to do.
As Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus) was passing through the poor’s man village, he heard most of the villagers talking about him and his three daughters, and wanted to find a way to help him. So, Saint Nicholas decide to help, but knowing that the poor man did not want charity, he decided to go at night. Passing by the front window of the poor man, he saw that his daughters had finished washing their clothes and hanged near the fire place their stocking apparently, it was not lighted). That is when he decided it was a good time for him to go through the chimney that night to drop off three small bag of gold, one for each of the daughters.
The next morning, when the daughters woke, they found their stocking filled with a small bag of gold which was going to be enough for them to marry. ( in the medieval time, it was customary to bring a dowry to get married, luckily for us this tradition has stopped and it is great as we are all broke anyway!!!).
As the daughters were very happy and explain to the other villagers their new found fortune, it is then, that everyone in the small villages started to hang their stocking in hope that Saint Nicholas will bring them fortune too.
The filling of the stockings.
As the symbolic reason to pursue the legend, we do even today, fill our children stockings with usually and depending where you are from, with one orange, representing the color and the size of the bag of gold Saint Nicholas gave to each daughters. It is also filled with candy cane, dried fruits and a variety of nuts.
Only since recently, we do not or rarely fill them up, due to the size of the Christmas gifts we give our children. (maybe we should not, hmmm!).
As myself, being a Canadian, living in China, I still bring the tradition at home (in Shanghai), to educate my children about the spirit of Christmas.
Did you know?.
The world’s biggest (so far) stocking was made by the volunteer emergency service organization Publica Assistenza Carrara E Sezioni (in Italy). The stocking is 51.35 meter long. (now there are even more space to place the bags of gold!!!)
So, let me ask you.
Are you planning to hang your Christmas stocking this year?
Don’t be fooled by the “Low-Cal” in the title of this dish. Yes, the recipe calls for 2% milk and low-fat cream cheese but I promise you, you won’t be able to taste the difference. Seriously. It’s wonderfully cheesy, creamy, and just downright tasty. Plus, it’s a quick weeknight dinner you…
As most of us do during the Christmas, we go out on the market and venture around with our children to find the most beautiful tree to be brought home. Then, the children decorates it with ornaments, tinsels, garland, sugar cane candy, cotton balls and of course the traditional star or angel at its peak, representing the angels or the star of the Bethlehem from the nativity. Now that the tree is ready to be gathered around, lighted and gifts placed under, one might ask himself:
Where did the Christmas tree come from?
Why do we decorate it?
Well, here are SOME of the answers as I know them.
As like a lot of things in history, as long as we cannot find any written proof, there will always be some debate about such stories. The Christmas tree is one of those story.
Depending on what and where you will be reading your articles, they almost all say the same thing.
- That it dates back to the 7th century, as it was a monk named St Boniface, who came to Germany to teach Christianity. It said that when he arrived, they were singing around an oak tree. He was so disappointed that he decided to burn the oak tree. Then, to his surprise, once the tree was burned, he discovered a small green tree growing at its place. He then took it as a sign of faith, and started to teach them about Christianity.
- That it was widely used in Latvia in the 15th century, to celebrate the winter solstice from December 21st till 24th, as they also believed that the sun was a god, and as it was not shining anymore during that time, they believe it got sick. So they used the Christmas tree or “Fir tree” as a symbol of freshness, that reminded them of the good days, when during summer time everything was green, and wishing the sun to become healthy.
- As part of other mystical tradition, it is said that Christmas trees were known as the “tree of paradise”, and used in some Northern European countries as liturgical commemoration for Adam and Eve. Thus, now some true believer do not put up and decorate their tree before the 24th, or Christmas Eve.
It is also believed that the first ever decorated tree was done with some apples, once more to celebrate the “garden of Eden” supposedly where Adam and Eve come from.
Some others give the lighting of the tree to Martin Luther, who placed candles in it, to show the children how all the stars in the universe were shining.
Nevertheless, it really became a tradition in the 16th century, when the Germans decided to place them in their home and decorate them with silver tinsels, as it was in abundance at that time.
As part of other cultures, as you can imagine, it was brought by someone else who copied the great idea.
In England, in the early 19th century, Queen Charlotte and her husband, George 3, started it but it was not spread around England until Queen Victoria who was married to Prince Albert, of German descent, that it became wide spread.
In Canada, it was brought in the 18th century, under the initiative of General Friedrich Adolf Riedesel and his wife, whom by now you guessed was of German descent, that they celebrated Christmas with a tree filled with candles and dried fruit, to help boost the morale of the troops during the war.
Just to name a few.
I believe in our days that the main important things about the Christmas tree, is that it helps bring joy in our families, and helps gather our children around it on Christmas day, not for its beauty but for its gifts. (And we all know that, don’t we!!!).
Please share with me, your thoughts on the history of Christmas tree and the good time you had when you were still a child.