Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Just banging a few pots

The idea for this blog came from a gift my mother gave me 25 years ago. It's a cookbook filled with her recipes. What We Ate At 4 Teakwood (the family home for 50 years) is a quirky collection of recipes, my mother's illustrations and bit of family lore.

I have never believed that my father, depicted in pastels as a chef holding a knife, ever baked a London broil in his life. If he was in the kitchen he was likely pouring himself a glass of scotch from the cabinet over the fridge.

My mother was the cook. When we were kids, the pay cheques didn't always stretch from one Friday to the next. That's when we'd have fried Bung bologna and eggs or soup from a can that my mom dressed up with available root vegetables.

The food of my childhood tended to be heavy on the classics of Winnipeg's North End: Perogies, cabbage rolls, homemade chicken soup and, on very lean days, pinches.

I remember pinches as a treat, the sort of meal made to reward good little boys and girls. Here's the recipe:

To three lightly beaten eggs add enough flour to make a soft dough. Pinch
off small pieces and drop into a rapidly boiling water .... they float when
cooked. Drain, add two tablespoons of butter. Stir in half carton of uncreamed
cottage cheese. Serve with sour cream and seasoned salt.

I made these for my ex and our daughter years ago. They gagged.

But something (and I swear it wasn't Julie and Julia) made me drag out What We Ate a few weeks ago. I was depressed. I didn't want to work. I wanted to sleep. It had been a summer of coping with my father's stroke, the need to sell the family home, their move into an assisted living place, the garage sales and the instant expertise in electric wheelchairs and home care.

I was tired. I was sad. I needed the comfort of my mom and she needed me to be the one in charge.

And so I set out to cook the meals of my childhood. I started with the bread, a staple in our house. We'd run home from school and smell it before we were in the door. It was the smell of caring, of a mom who wanted us to have a hot snack, a mom who could sew our clothes and help with homework. This was a mother who used to smoke as she talked on the kitchen phone, her ashes piling up on the aborite table, the boredom of a housewife's life writ clear on her face.

I don't smoke anymore.

But I cook. That's how I show love and caring. I cook to nurture and I cook to show off. I was married to a man with perfect culinary pitch, a man who could eat and dish and identify every ingredient and replicate the result.

I'm not that good.

But I cook with enthusiasm and swearing, throw fits when the dishes don't get done and sulk when no one appreciates my efforts.

I began my quest with my mother's recipe for perogies.

Let us begin by using Aunt Lee's perogy dough recipe:
5 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup warm water
4 tablespoons oil
2 eggs well beaten

Mix water, oil and eggs. Sift salt and flour. Add liquids to flour. Cover
and let rest for one hour.

Now prepare the filling: to hot mashed potatoes (about one-half of a 2
quart potful) add one diced onion, sauteed in butter, 2 cups of grated cheese.
ground pepper.


Method 1
Using flour liberally, roll out dough. Cut rounds, place filling on one
half, fold over, pinch closed securely. Drop a couple of dozen into boiling
water ... perogies float to the top as they cook ... takes about 5 minutes.
Drain. Pour sauteed onions and melted butter over. Serve with sour cream.

Method 2:
Make 24 perogies in 4 easy steps by using Hunky Bill's Little Perogie
Maker*, following instructions, makes 8-9 dozen.

To freeze:

Place cooked and cooled perogies on oiled sheets** and place in freezer.
Pack into plastic bags, tie and store. Shake out, fry in butter (or zap in
micro) and enjoy!

* If you've never heard of Hunky Bill's perogy maker you likely didn't grow
in Western Canada. It's a round plastic disk that you layer with a circle of
dough, then press in the filling and toss on another layer of dough. Use a
rolling pin to form the perogies. It's a pain in the neck.

** The oil is important. I froze my last batch on wax paper. Bad

Tomorrow? The world's best salade Nicoise.


  1. Hi Lindor: You say add the liquid to the flour but don't say whether you make dough or just leave like that. I am still unable to make good dough and want to try your recipe. I love perogys!

  2. Gerry:

    You're making a dough. It will be a little wet so feel free to add a bit more flour. Also it's critical to flour the Hunky Bill (if you're using one). If you don't they'll stick.


  3. This starting to turn into recipe swap. Here's a vinetarta recipe from a reader.

    I am not testing these. I'm a cranky middle-aged journalist. You want tested? Try Canadian Living.

    Hi Lindor, Great column about the recipe book

    Don't worry about making VInaterta or Vina Tart as our family calls it.

    My aunt (90 yrs. old) makes lots of them each year, and I have her great recipe. I also can give you some pointers that make it easy as pie.

    First. My aunt makes hers in the round, but I find that there is too much waste at the edges so I have changed my method to square Tertas.
    1.) Make sure you have two pans (or more) the same size. Regular aluminum cookie sheets. This makes it like a production line.
    2. Make up your dough, and press it into the pans, take a rolling pin and make sure you roll the dough evenly across the whole pan. this way you won't have layers that are uneven and each layer will be exactly the same thickness
    3.) Bake as instructed.
    4.) When the dough is nicely done, remove from oven, and while still hot, using a ruler, cut across the middle evenly so now you have two layers, exactly the same size. If you have used two pans, you are already starting with 4 levels of terte
    5. When quite cool, just turn the pan over, and the two layers will pop out.
    6.) Repeat process till you have as many layers as you want.
    7.) While the second batch of dough is baking, you can start spreading the prune filling on the first layers.
    8.) When completed, wrap the whole thing very well, and place in fridge till it mellows.

    Using this method, all your slices will be even, with only a bit of harder crust on the edge which you can cut off and snack on. There is no waste, or uneven wedges as you would have with a round version.

    You can also make with a Apricot filling, which is to die for. My personal favorite, but I digress.

    Here is the recipe, which can be doubled of course. Also, this is an old recipe, and the amount of sugar used is from the olden days. Adjust to taste.

    2/3 Cup Butter
    1 1/2 cups Sugar
    2 eggs
    2 tblsp. Milk
    4 cups Flour (Scant)
    3 tsp. Baking Powder
    2 tsp. Vanilla
    1/2 tsp. Salt

    Bake at 300 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

    1 1/4 cups prunes or apricots.
    1 1/2 cups Sugar or to taste
    Cover with water and cook till softened and broken down.
    2 tsp. Cinnamon
    1 tsp. Vanilla

    Mix well, and let cool before spreading on crust.

    Hope this helps.

    Heather Brenan