The past week, I spent my holidays with my brother in Varadero, Cuba. Exploring both the paradise part and the cultural part of Cuba, it was simply an unforgettable and worthwhile experience. Unfortunately, Cuba was cold for 3 days, so beaches were out of the question. The weather did provide us the opportunity to explore towns around Varadero and meet some great locals. I'm amazed how easy you can enter someone's house simply by asking. Before our departure, we brought a pack of 24 2/HB pencils and candies in case we get hussled by the locals. I'm surprised that husslers are not that common around Varadaro, but do watch out once you are in the capital of Cuba, Havana. The moment you get out of the vehicle, they will start to bother you. Prepare to give your stuff away.
Anyhow, this is a brief summary of my trip. It was definitely a well deserved break. I will write one or two posts about Cuba.
Obviously, we can't leave Cuba without buying any rums and Cuban coffee, so we brought back one 1kg of coffee and 4 bottles of rums: one aged 3 years, two 5 years and one 7 years. Expect some recipes involving rums for 2011!
Food bloggers are still writing about their holiday meals, so I guess I'm not too late writing about mine also. Apart from making a successful Yule log, I also wanted to bake our classic Québec meat pie. I never made one before and it was on my to-do list for years. A few days before my departure to Cuba, my friend's parents came to town from Taiwan. This is their first visit to Montreal, what a great opportunity for me to provide them a little taste of Quebec's tradition.
I was searching for a Tourtière recipe and found a really good and convincing one from a recent post on Simple Bites. At first glance, the recipe requires over an hour to cook the ground meat. Usually, when cooking for that long, it becomes blend and hard to chew. This is not the case if you add some water during the cooking process which helps soften the meat. This is standard for all meat pies. An unusual ingredient is rolled oats. I didn't know what was it purposes until I tested it out. It seems that the rolled oats acts as a binder to hold the ground meat intact.
The original recipe is for two pies. I adjusted to make it for one pie and I only had puff pastry available in the fridge. I'm pretty amazed of the final result; the flavors match perfectly to the ones I used to eat. I'm glad that my friend's parents were very satisfied. This recipe is definitely a keeper for next Christmas!
Makes 1 pie
Adapted from Simple Bites
Preparation Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 1 h 30 mins
Baking Time: 20-25 mins
1 1/2 lbs ground pork (and/or ground beef, ground lamb)
3/4 cup cold water
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 tsp black pepper
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp sage
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup quick oats (or old-fashioned rolled oats)
2 puff pastry sheets
1 egg, beaten for glaze
1. In a large pot, combine pork and cold water. Bring it to a boil. It should be a bit soupy.
2. Turn heat to medium-low heat. Add onion, celery, bay leaves, thyme, sage, rosemary, nutmeg and cinnamon. Cover and cook for 1 h 15 mins, stir occasionally. If necessary, add a few tbsp of water if mixture dries out.
3. Halfway of the cooking process, season with salt to taste.
4. Stir in quick oats and cook for 1-2 mins. Remove bay leaves and cool until warm.
5. Meanwhile, roll out one puff pastry sheet to line a 8'' x 8'' baking pan and the other puff pastry for the top crust.
6. Preheat oven to 400F.
7. Transfer meat mixture onto the puff pastry and spread it evenly. Brush outer edges with beaten egg.
8. Place top crust and pinch edges to seal. Trim edges and cut a few slits in the top crust to vent the steam. Brush top crust with beaten egg.
9. Bake for 20-25 mins until golden brown. Serve with ketchup.
I wish everyone Happy New Year and all the best wishes for 2011!