The best part of making these cookies always came after we made the dough — after I fought with my younger brother over who got to crack the eggs and who got to sift the flour. The dough exuded accomplishment and challenge, and the mood in the kitchen shifted: now it was a race.Eggs and sifter forgotten, my brother and I were a team, our small hands eagerly rolling the cookies into existence, trying to stack a wall high up the side of the bowl before our dad could pilfer our building materials and sugar-coat them for the oven. The later batches were even better, because then our fun was infused with the warm spiciness of baking, tempting our mom to forgo her post-work nap and join our family tableau. Once we were finished we’d take a few of the cookies to each of our neighbours.Last year in my dorm kitchen, after cracking the eggs myself and bemoaning my lack of sifter, I snapped a picture of my set-up to my brother: dough in one bowl, sugar in the other, single baking tray ready to hold batch after batch. “We have to make them again when you come home!” he sent back quickly. Even across 1,000 kilometres, these cookies connect us, bringing teamwork, love, warmth, and generosity. Make some yourself and help spread a little of the hope that is sorely needed this holiday season.
1 ½ cups of vegetable shortening
2 cups of sugar
½ cup of molasses
4 cups of flour
½ teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of cloves
2 teaspoons of ginger
4 teaspoons of baking soda
Preheat oven to 325° F.
In a larger bowl, combine Crisco, sugar, and molasses. Add eggs one at a time.
Sift flour, salt, baking soda, and spices together. Add to wet ingredients slowly.
Roll dough into balls that are about the size of a quarter — or even a little bigger.
Roll the balls in sugar and place on the baking tray well-spaced apart — they will expand!
Bake for seven to 10 minutes. Let cool before removing from tray.
Makes about six dozen small to medium cookies.
Ghriba are a traditional Moroccan shortbread cookie typically made with almonds and orange blossom water. I know the holidays are approaching when I can smell toasted almond and cinnamon wafting through the corners of my house. My fondest memories of the holidays are those of my mother teaching me how to make these delicious holiday treats while watching holiday movies on TV and wishing for a snow day. Paired with mint tea, these cookies remind me of the warmth and love that makes the holidays at my house special.
4 cups of flour
1 cup of unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup of sugar
½ cup of ground toasted almonds
½ cup of cinnamon
2 tablespoons of orange blossom water
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Mix flour, butter, almonds, cinnamon, orange blossom water, and sugar in a bowl.
Work these ingredients thoroughly with your hands until you get a smooth dough.
Form little balls with the dough, closing your hands tightly to hold it together.
Flatten the balls slightly.
Place the ghriba on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, one inch apart.
Bake the ghriba for 15 minutes or until just pale golden. The ghriba will have tiny cracks all over them, which is normal.
Let the ghriba cool completely before storing in an air-tight tin at room temperature.
Makes about two and a half dozen ghriba.
These three recipes comprise one of the most traditional meals in Cuban culture. While these dishes are most commonly eaten at New Year’s, we pretty much use any excuse we can find to enjoy good food. The strangest thing about eating this meal in Canada is that it still feels and tastes the same. It’s almost magical in a way — I’ve moved countries, mastered a new language, and graduated high school, yet the taste remains the same. Even far away from my family and birthplace, I can experience home through food.
Congrí is a mixture of black beans and rice.
1 laurel leaf
1 cup of black beans
2 cups of rice
2 cups of bean broth
½ teaspoon of salt
½ a head of garlic
1 onion, sliced
1 tablespoon of oil
Put the beans and laurel leaf into a pressure cooker filled with water for 35 minutes.
When the beans appear to be soft, mix them with the rice.
Cook rice and beans mixture in the rice cooker with remaining ingredients.
Similar to potatoes, it is a starch that can be boiled, fried, or baked. Most commonly, Cubans boil it and add a vinegar garlic sauce called a ‘mojo’ on top as a finishing touch for flavour.
½ teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of oil
1 bitter orange or 1 tablespoon of vinegar
Drizzle salt on the yuca.
Fill a large pot with water and place the yuca inside. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer until yuca is soft.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a separate pan.
Cook the bitter orange and the crushed garlic in the pan, mixing it with the oil.
When the yuca is ready, lay it on a plate and pour the garlic and bitter orange concoction on top. The yuca will absorb the sauce and become seasoned.
This Cuban-style roasted pork dish also pairs well with mojo.
1 pork leg
Crushed garlic to taste
1 bitter orange
Cumin to taste
Salt to taste
Season the pork leg in garlic, bitter orange, and salt a day prior to cooking and let it marinate.
When you’re ready to cook the pork, place the pork in the oven at 200° F for five to six hours.
Every 30 minutes, take out the pork and drizzle some bitter orange, garlic, and cumin on while poking the pork through the centre to help the seasoning enter.
Once no red liquid appears when you pinch the roast, broil the pork until the outside layer becomes crunch and toasty.
My maternal grandfather died when I was 10 — I didn’t know him very well. But from the bits and pieces I’ve been told, he was a passionate gourmand and chef. Mum tells me that as children, she and her siblings would constantly clamour for my grandfather’s scalloped potatoes. I’m not entirely certain they have actually stopped as adults. Point is, the dish has been a staple at nearly every Christmas dinner for the last 50 years.I like to believe that when my grandfather emigrated from Hong Kong and established the family fish shop in Vancouver’s Chinatown, he came not only for prosperity but also for the cornucopia of novel foods in Canada.I hope that this recipe also reminds you to adventure and try new foods.
1 pack of bacon
1 clove of garlic, grated
1 onion, sliced
2 or 3 russet potatoes, peeled and sliced evenly
1 can of Campbell’s mushroom soup
¼ cup of milk
½ cup of grated mozzarella
Julienne the bacon.
Fry bacon in pan over medium-high heat until it begins to brown.
Add onions and garlic to the pan. Stir well to prevent overcooking the onions.
Separately, mix milk and soup until the mixture is well blended. Add the milk-soup sauce to the pan.
While the sauce cooks, grease bottom and sides of medium oven proof casserole dish.
Place a single layer of sliced potatoes on the bottom of the greased dish.
Add about ¼ of the sauce to the casserole dish. Spread evenly.
Spread ¼ cup of grated mozzarella evenly across the dish.
Mix remaining potato slices into the pan. Coat each slice well.
Pour potato-bacon mixture into casserole dish.
Spread remaining ¼ cup of grated mozzarella evenly across the top of the casserole dish.
Bake at 350° F for 25 minutes, then 425° F until brown.
Pairs well with Chin Chin Grass Jelly Drink.
Serves eight people.