Greetings from Quebec, the train to Quebec city to be precise. They have wifi on the train which is wonderful, I can keep myself entertained and work. I had planned to snooze but who has time to sleep anyway? Not I right now.
Lots of you are asking, so I should clear up this Richmond stuff. In brief, a few months ago in grim January, when all of life seems hopeless just for a brief time, a friend spotted it and messaged me and asked if I had applied. I had no idea what she was talking about but quickly discovered, as she enthusiastically recounted, that Richmond in Canada were looking for a food blogger to go there for a year, they would pay them, house them etc. I could write my second book there and have an adventure.
It seemed perfect. I threw my name in. 1500 people applied. I didn’t think of it again for a bit.
Then I found out that I had made the shortlist of 12. That was exciting. Online voting would determine one of the final 3 and the others would be chosen by a panel. So I asked you to vote for me. Bizarrely, I was the only non North American selected. A couple of days later – last Thursday to be precise – I had a detailed hour long chat with lots of people in Richmond over Skype and discovered that the expectation would be that I wouldn’t leave Richmond even once over 365 days, they wanted the blogger to be there every day. I thought about that and decided it wasn’t for me. So I didn’t ask you to vote again.
It also made me think about my life in London, the UK and Europe and you know, I quite like it! I don’t really want to leave, not now anyway. I just hate January. I do want to continue travelling, maybe a little less than I do now in truth, but we will see. Life is good to me right now and so I will stick with it.
Back to Montreal. I spent a lovely second day in Montreal yesterday. I stayed in the flat and local area for most of the day, shopping for food, I even bought a new cast iron pan, and cooked up something indulgent and delicious, a bit of a flavour bomb. It was such a lovely bright kitchen well stocked with everything I needed, I couldn’t resist it. I want to bring it back home to London with me.
Foraging is big here, the winters are so harsh that they pickle, can and dry lots of things. I found wonderful selections of dried mushrooms everywhere, and treated myself to some dried morels, which are much cheaper here than in the UK anyway.
I decided to make something vegetarian as eating out here is a very meaty affair, but I wanted something that packed a flavour punch. So, I brought the morels back to life by submerging them in boiled water for half an hour, then I chopped them finely and added them and the morel water (passed through a sieve to remove the grainy bits) to some cream (350ml) with some chopped garlic (2 cloves) and a couple of tablespoons of fresh tarragon. I brought it to just below the boil and cooked it gently for about 5 minutes.
In this time, I had roasted some really good tomatoes, chopped in half, drizzled with oil and a little sea salt for an hour or so at 120 degrees until they were a little jammy (my tomatoes were small, if you want to recreate this it will depend on the size of your tomatoes but trust your eyes and nose). I peeled and sliced two potatoes and kept them in some water to the side so they would stay nice and white. I blanched some spinach in boiling water for just a couple of minutes to soften it and strained it dry.
I then layered them in my lovely new cast iron pan. A layer of potatoes, half of them, then tomatoes, then spinach. I added some of the morel mushroom cream ensuring about half of the morels themselves were on this layer. I then added another layer of tomatoes, the rest of the potatoes and drizzled the rest of the cream on top. If you want to be even more indulgent some cheese would be good now. I didn’t add any, but only because I forgot.
I then baked it for about 50 minutes at 180 deg C until the top was brown and the potatoes soft. It was lovely. Pure comfort and flavour, bright juicy tomatoes playing with earthy savoury morels and the comfort of spinach and potatoes.
Now, what could be wrong with that? Nothing.