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Conversing in Converstions: Metric System 101

11 Oct

One thing that is vital when cooking is understanding food measurements. Whether you’re reading a foreign recipe or buying deli meats and cheeses at the market, a lesson in conversion is pretty helpful. This blog post would have seriously come in handy for me last year when I was studying abroad.

While studying in Montreal, my friends and I decided to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving, and I was left with the task of cooking the turkey (probably one of the most difficult things I’ve ever cooked before).

Oh Canada!

When I went to the grocery store, I had come thinking I need a 14 pound turkey to serve everyone. I was surprised to find that I could not buy things in pounds—thanks to America’s alternative to the metric system—but I had to figure out 14 pounds in kilograms. Needless to say, I was lost.

I asked a man behind the butcher counter if he could tell me the conversion, but he responded something in Quebecois French that I could not decipher, and then proceeded to show me a pork leg.

“No,” I said. “Nevermind.”

I called my Dad, who was on the road , if he knew the conversion and that was another deadend.

“Maybe you should call your mother on this one,” he suggested.

So I called my mom, who was just home from work, so she was a little on edge as she settled back into my chaotic house. “Mom, I am at the grocery store, and I have no clue how big I should get my turkey. Can you look up the conversion online for me?”

She searched on my home computer conversion charts for pound to kilo and found all kinds of numbers and equations to help solve my turkey problem. “I think you multiple .45 to whatever the poundage is, or maybe it’s division. Wait a sec this website says something about ounces. Are there ounces on the a label?”

The overload of multiple kinds of information was not helpful. I ended up just picking up four or five turkeys and just guessing.

Though when it came time to cook the turkey, it was a lot more hassle not knowing the weight of the bird. If you’ve ever cooked a turkey you know that for every four pounds of poultry, you cook it for about an hour and a half. I had no idea what the size of my turkey was except for the not-so-exact measurement: big.

So confusing!

To make matters worse, the turkey cooking instructions were in Celsius. Kill me now was all I could think.

In the end, the turkey came out amazing thanks to a lot of patience, intuition, and the motivating smells of deliciousness.

To make it easier on all you studying abroad, however, I’ve included a link to a website that explains and calculates conversion way better than I ever could.

http://www.france-property-and-information.com/metric_conversion_table.htm

http://www.calcul.com/cooking-conversion

Why America? Why?

Two Meals, One Buy: Shoulder Roast of Lamb Tonight, Lamb Stew Tomorrow

30 Mar

This was one of my favorite meals – well, two meals – while I was studying in Dublin. Growing up I never really cooked for myself, the reason being because I didn’t really need to. I guess you could say I grew up blessed with a family of culinary geniuses who can make delicious meals on the cheap. My mother and brother are both excellent cooks, and though I never really prepared a full meal for myself, I learned a lot just by watching them over the years. The point here is: so can you, even if you’re relatives aren’t good cooks, you can learn a lot just by watching others and experimenting. What better place to experiment with your culinary skills than in a foreign country – where you’re actually required to feed yourself – no more café plan or WingsOver every night of the week.

Day 1: Shoulder Roast of Lamb

This one is really easy and cheap, too. First order of business: go over to Meath St. (if you haven’t already found this gem – you should). Meath St. is directly off of Thomas St. and runs parallel with Francis St. (the one you walk almost every day to get to campus). Meath St. has at least 3 or 4 butchers with huge selection and great value.
You’re going to want a shoulder roast of lamb; however this meal will work with any type of roast. Shoulder roast of lamb is cheap and it has a lot of meat and a lot of fat, which is one of the reasons the stew the next day will be so tasty (fat = flavor). If you’re cooking for your entire room, 1 shoulder of lamb should suffice.
After you’ve gotten the meat you’re going to want to get the other ingredients, however chances are that you already have them in your apartment.

Here’s a list of the ingredients you will need (again, this is about experimenting so feel free to omit or add anything):
 Shoulder of Lamb (1 should suffice but 2 to be safe)
 Potatoes (aka spuds, Lidls has huge 3kg bags of spuds for about 3 euro) I usually would quarter up a potato per person, depending on the appetites of your roommates
 Carrots (can be found in any store, but the street vendors have great deals)
 Celery (can be found in any store, but the street vendors have great deals)
 Salt (to taste)
 Pepper (to taste)
 Rosemary (you can find this in the garden behind the academic centre!)
oSide note on this: I used rosemary in just about everything I cooked in Dublin because there’s a free and fresh supply in the garden at school
 Tomato Paste (1 small can – you can get this at the Mediterranean Market on the left side of Thomas St. directly after Tom Kennedy’s Pub – which if you also don’t know about go there!)
 Bay leaves (these are essential for any stew/soup and I found mine for pretty cheap at the Mediterranean Market)
 Other spices that aren’t necessary, but will definitely add to taste (again, you can experiment with this): thyme, parsley, & chives

Ok, so for the roast: This one is really simple. Preheat your oven to 200 (don’t forget to turn on the hood fan). Get out a big plate and rub the roast in some type of oil, olive or vegetable (vegetable oil is cheaper). Once it’s lathered up you want to rub the spices into the roast. Next you want to sear the roast. Searing the roast basically cooks the outside a little bit to seal in the flavor while its roasting – you don’t want all that fat in the meat to get out while it’s in the oven. Get out your frying pan and toss a bit of butter in it and throw it on the stove on a high heat. Remember you’re not cooking the roast on the frying pan, just cooking it on the outside until all the exposed surfaces have a little color on them. Once this is done you can throw it on your roasting pan and toss it in the oven. If you want to have potatoes and carrots with your roast, throw them in with the roast and they should end cooking at about the same time. If you’re going to do this you should halve the potatoes and throw some oil, salt & pepper on them. The cook time isn’t the same for every roast so for this you’re going to have to judge yourself the first time. It shouldn’t take more than an hour, and if you’re unsure if it’s cooked or not you can cut it open to check for doneness. You only want to cut into it as a last resort, because one of the keys to having a good roast is letting it rest once it’s removed from the oven, and prematurely cutting it will let all the juices get out. You only need to let it rest for about 10 minutes, and while it’s resting it will actually be finishing cooking (that is if you don’t prematurely cut it open). This is why its important to sear the roast before it’s in the oven – it seals the flavor in and allows your roast to come out tender and juicy and full of flavor. Now you can start trying to cut into it and begin eating. The first time you try cutting into it could be a bit daunting, there’s a proper way to cut into a roast, but I don’t know a thing about it, so I just went at it with the knife. The knives they give you at the apartment aren’t the sharpest, so we bought a couple at Dunnes and also a sharpening stone for probably 20 euro total. After you’ve all eaten you want to start getting the stock for tomorrow’s stew ready. All this involves is finding your biggest pot and putting the remaining bone/meat/fat into it and filling it with water leaving only about an inch from the top. Also throw in some salt & pepper, a couple bay leaves, some rosemary sprigs from the garden, and a couple crushed garlic cloves. Garlic and rosemary go great with lamb. Now all you have to do is put a lid on the pot, put it on a burner on the lowest heat (you don’t want this to start boiling and overflow). Now you’re done for the day, you can leave this going all night until you wake up the next day.

Day 2

After you’ve woken up from a night at the Pale, cooking might be one of the last things you want to do. Don’t worry; this isn’t going to be that hard. Turn the heat off your pot and take a look inside. Now just let the pot sit off the heat for a while and nurse your hangover. Go out and get a full Irish breakfast – the ultimate hangover cure. Ok now you’re back and ready to do a little work. Now you want to take out the bone and put it on a plate. You want to pick all the meat off the bone – it will come off the bone with your fingers – no knife necessary. Put the meat aside. Next you want to take the pot with the stock in it and separate out all the stuff you threw in last night. The easiest way to do this is to get another pot and put it in the sink with your pasta strainer over it and slowly pour the stock into it. Now you’ve got your clean stock, put it back on the burner on a heat of about 3-4. If you don’t think you have enough meat for your stew left over from the roast, take out your second shoulder of lamb and cut off some pieces of meat and cube them. The next few steps are all prep. You want to cut up your celery and put that in first, next do your carrots and potatoes. Stir all of this stuff in with the stock and then get out your can of tomato paste. Use a soup spoon and use one big spoonful and stir it in. Now for the meat, throw in the meat that was left over from the roast. If you cubed some more meat, take it all and put it on a big plate. Put a little oil on and rub it all around. Next get another plate with some flour on it and put the cubed pieces in there and get each side covered (the flour is going to add thickness to the stew). Next put some salt & pepper on the meat and throw it on a hot frying pan with some butter/oil in it(same idea here as the searing). Cook the meat for a little bit then throw it into the stew pot. Now all you have to do is kick back and relax, stirring occasionally, adding spice to taste, and making sure it doesn’t begin to boil and overflow. As a general rule of thumb, the longer you let this cook the better it will taste, we usually waited about 4-6 hours so don’t start this stew too late in the day.

Vegan Meals and Community in Montreal

21 Mar

Montreal offers a diverse array of restaurants for all tastes and preferences. One student recently pointed out two unique and delicious (and cheap!) spots for warm meals and great company.

Rabit Hole Cafe:
The Rabbit Hole Café is a safe haven where students living in Montreal can go to enjoy a delicious, warm meal and some great company on a Friday afternoon. From 12:30 to 3:30 pm, Rabbit Hole Cafe opens its doors to invite students to eat a scrumptious 3-course vegan meal for just two dollars (and washing your dishes after)! All the proceeds go directly into sustaining the program. We will not turn away students who cannot pay the suggested donation. (The last time I was there, they had a chocolate chip cookie with an oreo baked inside.)

Midnight Kitchen
The Midnight Kitchen is a non-profit, volunteer and worker run food collective dedicated to providing affordable, healthy food to as many people as possible. Based out of McGill University in Montreal, QC we provide free/by donation vegan lunches 5 days a week, Monday through Friday, at 12:30 in the Shatner building on McGill campus.

Another locations for connecting with food and community:
The People’s Potato
The People’s Potato is a vegan soup kitchen at Concordia University – a student initiated project. We offer by donation meals each day of the week during the Fall and Winter semesters. We serve more than 400 meals daily to students, community members with the help of our dedicated volunteers. We are committed to educating about healthy cooking and food politics and to broader goals of social and environmental justice.
Contact us: 514-848-2424 x7590 email: peoplespotato@gmail.com
Address: 1455 de Maisonneuve west, H-733, Montreal, Quebec H3G 1M8

The IGA and Provigo

5 Nov

The two grocery stores we use the most in Montreal are the IGA and Provigo. They’re both about a five minute walk from the UQAM dorms and are both fully fledged grocery stores. We all had our different opinions on which one we preferred and which was better for different kinds of groceries. The best way for you to find out, of course, is just to try them both. Here’s my little heads-up and summary of them. Continue reading

Dublin Markets: Quick Reference List

28 Oct

The first step in cooking is buying groceries. Here’s where to go in Dublin.

Dublin Food Market in Temple Bar every Saturday from 10 am to 4:30 pm. Great place to go for fresh bread, local produce, cheeses, and more. There’s a Mediterranean stand Continue reading

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