Tag Archives: Indian

Egg curry and roti on kitchen countertop

Eat Leftovers for Days With This West Indian Egg Curry and Roti

This recipe holds a very special place in my heart. It’s another West Indian dish like channa that encourages breakfast ingredients for dinner and is a play on all five senses. But what makes it stand out is the memory of my extended family gathered together while egg curry with potato was cooking on the stove. Truly made for a crowd or big batches with plenty of leftovers, the process of cooking egg curry is how we cooked from the heart — a dish enjoyed with our hands, honouring my dad’s recipe, paired with my grandmother’s roti recipe. It’s our family’s version of a labour of love. And if there was ever a meal to bring us together, it’s this.

Egg curry and roti on kitchen countertop

West Indian Egg Curry With Roti

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

12 eggs, room temperature
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
3 scallions, thinly sliced, plus additional for serving (optional)
1 tsp chopped thyme
1 Scotch bonnet pepper, stem removed
2 Tbsp curry powder
1½ Tbsp garam masala
1½ Tbsp geera
¼ cup olive oil, divided
2 large yellow-fleshed potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tsp salt, plus additional for seasoning
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock
Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving (optional)
Roti, for serving

Directions:

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Using a slotted spoon, carefully lay the eggs in the water. Cook for 7 minutes, then immediately drain the water and transfer eggs to a large bowl of ice water. Crack each egg and return to the ice water. Once cool enough to handle, peel the eggs, rinse any bits of remaining shells off and place the eggs on a paper towel to dry.

2. Place the onion, garlic, scallions, thyme and Scotch bonnet in a food processor and blend until it forms a smooth, thick paste, adding a splash of water if necessary.

Related: The Best Ways to Prepare Eggs Around the World, From France to Japan

3. In a small bowl, combine curry powder, garam masala and geera, then set aside.

4. Heat 3 Tbsp of oil in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once the oil begins to smoke, pour in the seasoning mixture. Fry for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until fragrant and starting to brown. Sprinkle in the spice mix and continue to fry, stirring frequently, for an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Add small splashes of water as the seasoning sticks the bottom of the pan to prevent it from burning.

5. Add the potatoes, season with salt and stir until coated in the curry. If the curry is sticking to the bottom of the pan, add a splash of chicken stock or water to loosen it. Lower the heat to medium and cover the pot for 5 minutes, stirring the potatoes halfway through. Stir in the tomato paste until combined, then pour in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover and cook until potatoes are fork-tender, about 10 minutes.

Related: Slow Cooker Curry Recipes That Deliver All the Comfort

6. Heat a cast-iron skillet on medium-high, then pour in remaining oil. Ensure the eggs are completely dry, then cut four 1-inch lengthwise slits in each, just through the egg white, and place them in the oil. Fry the eggs for 2 to 3 minutes, turning occasionally, until browned and blistered on all sides. Using tongs, place the fried eggs into the curry and lightly boil, uncovered, until the curry has thickened to a gravy consistency, about 8 to 10 more minutes. Serve
in a bowl with roti on the side.

Tip: Cutting slits into the eggs allows them to soak up some of the curry sauce and prevents them from exploding while frying.

Cover of cookbook 'Eat With Us'Excerpted from Eat With Us: Mindful Recipes to Make Every Meal an Experience by Philip Lago and Mystique Mattai. Copyright © 2021 Philip Lago and Mystique Mattai. Photography by Mystique Mattai. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Eat With Us: Mindful Recipes to Make Every Meal an Experience, Amazon, $25.

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Toasted Spices and Creamy Coconut Make This South Indian Chicken a Comfort Classic

Traditional dishes don’t become iconic by accident. Classic recipes become part of a culture by getting passed down through the years and around the world — a phenomenon that you’ll be grateful for if you’ve never tried the rich, spicy bite of nati koli saaru. In this version, chef and founder of Podi House, Deepa Shridhar, makes this South Indian marinated chicken dish ultra savoury with a bath of coconut milk, a mix of toasted spices and jaggery — a variety of caramelized cane sugar that can be found in your local Indian grocery store.

“There are many versions of nati koli saaru, some written, most verbally communicated from one generation to the next,” says Deepa. “It’s classically a South Indian/Kannadiga dish, spicy and rich with chunks of chicken meat. This recipe is based on a version I enjoyed in Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) and brings to it techniques I use in my own supper clubs and pop-ups. Here I take the flavours to a whole roasted butterflied chicken. I call for crushed tomatoes, but I also love using fermented tomatoes instead for depth and tang. This is a great dish to pair with rice, or dosa, and perfect for a dinner party.”

Related: 20 Recipes From Around the World That’ll Help Fill Your Travelling Void

Roasted Nati Koli Saaru

Active Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 14 hours (includes marinating time)
Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

Chicken and Marinade
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 ½ tsp black peppercorns
2 whole cloves
1 cup shredded coconut
One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
5 to 7 cloves garlic, depending on size, peeled
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp jaggery
2 Tbsp coarse sea salt crystals
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
4 to 5 jalapenos
Juice of 1 small lime
One 4-to-5-lb chicken, butterflied (see Cook’s Note)

Sauce
¼ cup neutral oil (sunflower or grapeseed work great)
1 yellow or white onion, sliced
2 sprigs curry leaves
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp Kashmiri red chili powder
2 tsp turmeric powder
One 13 1/2-ounce can coconut milk
Salt
1/2 lime
Cilantro, for garnish
Cooked jasmine rice, for serving
Lime wedges, for serving

Roasted Nati Koli Saaru on rice

Related: Indian-Inspired Breakfast Recipes to Spice Up Your Morning Routine

Directions:
1. For the chicken and the marinade: Place a medium cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add the sesame oil. Add the fenugreek, cumin, black peppercorns and cloves and toast for about 30 seconds. Turn off the heat and let the mixture sit in the hot skillet for another 30 seconds, and then transfer to a mini food processor. Return the skillet to medium-low heat and add the shredded coconut to the skillet. Stir until toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the mini food processor. Add the ginger, garlic, cinnamon, jaggery, salt and cilantro to the processor.

2. Place the same skillet the spices cooked in over medium-heat heat (no need to add any more oil). Add the jalapenos and cook until blistered and charred. Plunge the jalapenos into a bowl of cold water. Peel the jalapenos and discard the stems. Add to the processor with the spices. Add the lime juice and process until the mixture forms a thick paste, adding a little water if necessary to get a smooth texture.

3. Place the chicken in a baking dish or other container large enough so the chicken will lay flat. Rub the bird all over with the marinade, cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours or overnight.

4. When it is about 2 to 3 hours before serving, make the sauce: Place a large cast-iron pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the oil and onion. Move the onions to one side and add the butterflied chicken, skin-side down. Add the curry leaves when the onions start to sizzle. Once you have a good sear on your chicken, carefully flip it over. Add the tomatoes, chili powder, turmeric, coconut milk and 1 1/2 cups water and stir together. Lower the heat and simmer the sauce for 15 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Pop the dish into the oven. Check every 20 minutes; you are looking for the chicken to start to break down, the sauce to thicken and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh not touching bone to register 165ºF.

6. Taste the sauce and add salt if needed. Finish with the juice of half a lime. Garnish with more cilantro and serve with rice and limes wedges on the side.

Cook’s Note: Butterflying, also called spatchcocking, involves removing the backbone of a chicken so that it lays flat. A butcher can do this for you, or you can do it yourself: Using kitchen shears or a heavy knife, cut down around either side of the backbone and lift it out. Turn the chicken breast-side up and press down very firmly on the breast with both palms until you hear a crack and the chicken flattens.

Want to add more Indian flavours to your dinner table? These easy Indian recipes are better than takeout.

Punjabi cha straining in glass

Classic Punjabi Cha (Not Chai) Straight From a Punjabi Mom

Some say chai, others say chai tea, which is completely wrong as it translates to tea-tea. People from Punjab called it cha (not chai). Every Indian family has their own way of making cha, but this is the real deal — an authentic cup made by my mom, which is the backdrop of many childhood memories for me. My mom grew up in a small village in Punjab in the ’60s. Back then, simple spices such as cardamom pods were a bit of a speciality item used in tea when guests came over, as the pods would perfume the house. Note this isn’t masala cha, just an everyday cha that is so flavourful and easy to make.

Punjabi cha straining in glass

Punjabi Cha

Prep Time: 3 ½ minutes
Cook Time: 3 ½ minutes
Total Time: 7 minutes
Servings: 2

Ingredients:

1 tsp fennel seeds
4 cardamom pods
1 ¼ cup water
1 Tbsp loose leaf black tea
1 Tbsp jaggery
½ cup homogenized milk

Punjabi cha ingredients

Directions:

1. Crush the fennel seeds and cardamom pods together in a mortar and pestle, until pods open up and their aroma is released.

2. Over medium heat, pour water into the pot and simmer, not boil. Add spices to the water. Simmer for about 1–2 minutes. Add tea. Simmer for 30 seconds.

Related: Sweet and Savoury Matcha Recipes to Give Your Plate a Boost of Green

3. Add jaggery. Turn up the heat to boil for 45 seconds. Add milk. Boil for 30 seconds. Watch to make sure the cha doesn’t boil over.

Punjabi cha boiling on stovetop

4. Using a mesh strainer, strain cha directly into two teacups evenly.

5. With the back of a spoon, squeeze out the extra spices and tea flavour from the strainer directly into the individual cups.
Enjoy!

Punjabi cha in two glasses

Like Deepi’s cha recipe? She tried a $45 takeout meal that comes in a jewellery box.

The 30-Minute Instant Pot Curry a Nutritionist Makes Every Week

Once a week, I make a large batch of healthy, vegetable- and protein-filled curry in my Instant Pot. It’s a top pick in my house and feeds us for lunch a few days after it’s made. Cozy, adaptable to any dietary preference and made in about 30 minutes (give or take five to 10 minutes for the Instant Pot to come up to pressure and the steam to release), it’s a staple in our weekly rotation. And clean up is a breeze!

Along with the chicken curry recipe below, you’ll find ways to switch it up, which I often do, whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or omnivore. I also have a few suggestions for my personal favourite part of the curry: the toppings.   

Instant Pot Chicken and Sweet Potato Curry (Adaptable)

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6 

Ingredients: 

Curry
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, left whole (scroll to bottom for plant-based and pescatarian options)
1 white or yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium red new potatoes or 2 Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp kosher salt
1 (14 oz) can full-fat coconut milk
1 (5.5 fl oz) can tomato paste
⅓ cup water or broth
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, ghee or coconut oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice, plus more for serving

Toppings and Serving Suggestions
Naan or roti
Cooked white or brown basmati rice
Plain yogurt, raita or cottage cheese
Lime or lemon juice
Fresh cilantro or mint
Mango chutney or sweet chili jam
Raisins
Ghee or butter
Nigella seeds
Toasted chopped cashews
Diced fresh chili or red pepper flakes

Directions: 

1. In your Instant Pot, stir to combine chicken, onion, garlic, ginger, potatoes, garam masala or curry powder, cumin, turmeric, salt, pepper, coconut milk, tomato paste and water.

2. Seal the lid and sealing switch on top. Cook on High Pressure for 15 minutes (Manual). After the time is up, turn the sealing switch to release the pressure, and then open the lid.

3. Remove chicken, shred or chop and add back to the pot with butter, ghee or coconut oil and lemon juice. Stir everything to combine and serve with any of the suggested toppings and accompaniments.

Tips for Modifying the Recipe:

1. Add more vegetables
Replace the new or Yukon gold potatoes with ½ head cauliflower cut into florets and stir in ½ cup frozen peas or a few handfuls of spinach right before serving (press Sauté to warm through if the frozen peas cool the curry down too much).

2. Make it vegan
Replace the chicken with 1 (19 oz) can drained and rinsed chickpeas, 1 block extra-firm tofu, or ½ large head cauliflower cut into florets.    

3. Make it vegetarian
Replace the chicken with with 1 (19 oz) can drained and rinsed chickpeas and top with a poached or soft-boiled egg. 

4. Make it pescatarian
Replace the chicken with peeled and deveined shrimp, adding only after cooking the curry base and vegetables. Once the pressure is released, press Sauté, add shrimp and cook, stirring often until cooked through, about 2 minutes.  

You’ll want to add this recipe to your roster of healthy Instant Pot meal ideas. And if you’re on a belly-warming recipe kick, try these slow-cooker curries along with The Pioneer Woman’s best soups and stews.

Slow Cooker Saag Paneer

Slow Cooker Saag Paneer is the Tastiest Way to Eat Your Greens

Looking for new and exciting ways to eat your greens? We’ve got the perfect healthy slow cooker recipe for you. This saag paneer is loaded with spinach, fresh cheese, spices and a hint of lime juice, leaving your taste buds happy. We’ve given this traditional Indian dish a twist by omitting the heavy cream that’s commonly used and replaced it with coconut milk to add natural sweetness. A big bowl of saag paneer will definitely warm you up on a cold day, especially if you have some naan handy to heat up and dunk in!

Slow Cooker Saag Paneer

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours on high, 4 hours on low
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes on high, 4 hours 10 minutes on low
Serves: 2 to 3 as a main, 4 as a side


Ingredients:

2 small or 1 large yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
3 tomatoes, diced
2 bunches fresh spinach
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, plus more for serving
3 tsp garam masala
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk
1/2 lime, squeezed
3 tsp maple syrup
2 tsp coconut oil
1 brick of paneer (fresh Indian cheese), cubed
1/4 cup toasted shredded coconut

Directions:

1. Toss all ingredients except coconut oil, paneer and toasted shredded coconut in a large slow cooker. Replace lid and cook on high for 2 hours or on low for 4 hours. When the saag (spinach) mixture has about 15 minutes left to cook, make the paneer.
2. Heat a large skillet (non-stick ensures easy turning) over medium and add coconut oil. Place the cubed paneer into the skillet and fry until golden, flipping around every so often until most sides are brown, about 7 to 10 minutes. Set aside pan-fried paneer while you puree the saag mixture.

3. Once the saag mixture has finished cooking, use an immersion blender to puree inside the slow cooker until smooth, or carefully transfer to a blender, puree and add it back to the slow cooker to keep warm. The green colour will have dulled but the flavour is huge.
4. Add the reserved pan-fried paneer to the slow cooker with the pureed saag and stir until combined and warmed through. Or, keep pan-fried paneer on the side and add on top of bowls of saag right before serving, like we did in the photo.
5. Divide saag paneer into bowls or enjoy as a side dish. Garnish with additional cilantro and toasted shredded coconut. Serve warm.

Cool things down after dinner with Indian-inspired Mango Coconut Ice Pops.

Roti

The Tasty History of Roti in Canada

Here’s some good news for Canadians from coast to coast: you don’t have to travel 11,000 kilometres across the ocean to get your roti fix. “Everywhere we go [in Canada], there is a roti shop to be found,” say Marida and Narida Mohammed, co-owners of Twice De Spice. Born in Trinidad, sisters Marida and Narida Mohammed grew up eating this delicacy on a daily basis, calling it the “equivalent of what sliced bread is to Canadians.” But with a gazillion and one ways to make and eat this warm, chewy flatbread, what exactly is “roti?”

Mona's Roti in Toronto

“In the [Indian] subcontinent, ‘roti’ is a generic word for bread and is often a synonym for chapatti,” says Richard Fung. “In Trinidad, [the word] is used generically also: Indo-Trinidadians eat sada roti, alu puri and paratha, also known as ‘busupshut.’ Dal puri [generally refers to] what Canadians call ‘West Indian or Caribbean roti.’”

Fung should know: he grew up eating roti in Trinidad and produced Dal Puri Diaspora, a documentary exploring the roots of roti in Trinidad, India and Toronto. Eating his way across the “roti trail,” Fung’s film showcases just how diverse the dish can be.

Related: Want Layers of Flavour? This Flaky, Crunchy Guyanese Roti is a Meal-Time Must-Try

Many food historians believe that this ancient flatbread originates from the Indian subcontinent, where even today, no meal is complete without a side of roti. “In India, puris are deep fried — so what we call dal puris in the diaspora might perhaps more correctly be a dal paratha,” says Richard. “The cooking method and the ingredients (white flour, split peas) are the results of conditions on the plantations.”

The dish began to reach all corners of the earth in the 19th-century, when indentured workers from India introduced the recipe to southern Caribbean colonies of Britain and the Netherlands. Over the decades, the dish gradually garnered its own Caribbean flare.

“Caribbean roti is a large flatbread made with white all-purpose flour and stuffed with ground, seasoned split peas and cooked on a griddle,” says Richard. “In its commercial form, it’s wrapped in a style similar to a burrito around curried meat or vegetables.”

Cooking roti

Much like the origins of roti, the roots of roti in Canada are a bit fuzzy. With waves of immigration in the 1960s, the wrapped roti from Trinidad arrived in North America, where it was popularized in big cities like Toronto and New York and became known as “Caribbean” or “West Indian” roti. “A lot of people migrated [to Canada] from [Caribbean] islands and Guyana,” says  Marida and Narida. “Coming to Canada and the US, they brought their culture here to North America. As it travels, it changes and the spice levels.”

According to Richard, Ram’s Roti Shop was the first roti eatery in Toronto, opening in the 1960s (now closed) and serving Indian-style roti. Today, roti restaurants are scattered across the Greater Toronto Area and there are plenty of choices for hungry hordes eager to sink their teeth into this satisfying dish. “Toronto has a huge West Indian population,” say Marida and Narida. “In the Caribbean-populated areas like Scarborough, West Etobicoke, Brampton and Mississauga, you’re going to find a roti shop tucked in somewhere.”

While Marida and Narida name Ali’s Roti and Drupati’s as being among their favourites in Toronto, you can also mosey over to Mona’s Roti — a Scarborough eatery visited by Great Canadian Cookbook host Noah Cappe and that’s famed for serving mouth-watering roti. Here, the bread is stuffed with a slew of delicious fillings, such as tasty curries (chickpeas and potato, chicken, goat and shrimp), stews (beef and king fish) or veggies. The chicken curry is a bestseller!

Mona's Roti in Toronto

Of course, Toronto isn’t the only place to enjoy this delicious dish. As Marida and Narida say, no matter where you go in Canada, you’re bound to find “a roti shop tucked away somewhere.” Snag a spot at Calabash Bistro in Vancouver, where you can indulge in six types of Caribbean-style roti. A must try is the goat curry wrapped in a fresh busup roti served with organic mixed greens.

Plus, it’s impossible to tire of eating this favourite dish. There is no shortage of chefs across Canada who are making endless and ever-evolving variations on roti. As Richard points out, some Toronto chefs are adding new flavours and ingredients not found overseas. “Immigrants directly from the subcontinent began marketing rotis with fillings typical of North Indian cuisine, such as saag panir or butter chicken,” says Fung. “Places like Mother India Roti and Gandhi sell hybrid rotis that one wouldn’t find in India or the Caribbean, but are very much a result of an encounter in Toronto.”

Marida and Narida are kickstarting “dessert roti,” which they predict will be “the next big thing.” “You can never go wrong with Nutella and bananas with whipped cream on any kind of warm bread,” they say. “Sweet rotis — that’s a trend that we’d like to put out there!”

Photos courtesy of Great Canadian Cookbook/Moni’s Roti

SlowCookerButterChicken

Slow-Cooker Chicken Sliders With an Indian Twist

By Sarah Huggins

My husband and I hail from vastly different culinary traditions. We are both Canadian-born and raised, but he’s from a vegetarian Indian family and I’m from a meat-eating British one. Our wedding was a two-day affair at which our guests enjoyed a taste of each food heritage: chai, naan and chana masala on Day 1, and lamb chops, oysters and B.C. pinot gris on Day 2.

Six years and two kids later, we have evolved our own shared culinary tradition, which can be best described as a Canadian “mash-up.” Our four-year-old eats seaweed salad alongside her chicken curry, and our 20-month-old is just as likely to shovel in a bowl of tabbouleh as he is to devour a piece of pizza.

If we had a poster child recipe for this new family cuisine, these Slow Cooker Butter Chicken Sliders would be it: shredded slow-cooked chicken bathed in rich butter chicken gravy, piled onto a soft bun and garnished with fresh veg. Is it “Indian food”? That might be a stretch. But it’s our food. It’s authentic to our experience as a mixed family living a busy life in the most multicultural city on earth. There are few things more Canadian than that.

Slow-Cooker Butter Chicken Sliders, Courtesy of Sarah Huggins, kiwiandbean.com, Toronto

These bite-size butter chicken sliders are perfect for get-togethers – and they’re easy to make ahead.

SlowCookerButterChicken

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 7 hour
Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients
2½ tbsp (27 mL) butter or oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 thumb-size pieces gingerroot, peeled and finely grated
2 tsp (10 mL) garam masala
2 tsp (10 mL) cumin
1 tsp (5 mL) tsp turmeric
½-1 tsp (2-5 mL) cayenne pepper (optional)
14 oz (398 mL) can full-fat coconut milk
5½ oz (156 mL) can tomato paste
3 lb (1.35 kg) boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 tsp (5 mL) cornstarch
¼ cup (50 mL) whipping cream (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste
10 small slider-sized hamburger buns
shredded cabbage
sliced cucumber
chopped cilantro
mango chutney

Directions
1. Heat butter in medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until softened and starting to brown. Add garlic and ginger; continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is brown and caramelized.
2. Add garam masala, cumin, turmeric and cayenne pepper, if using, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant.
3. Stir in coconut milk and tomato paste. Bring to boil, then remove from heat.
4. Make ahead: Transfer mixture to airtight container; cool and cover. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to use. Or pour into slow cooker and proceed.
5. Add chicken thighs to coconut milk mixture in slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until chicken thighs are very tender.
6. Remove chicken to plate and shred. Whisk cornstarch into the sauce and turn the slow cooker to high. Stir in whipping cream, if using. (To prevent cream from curdling, add 1 tbsp (15 mL) butter chicken sauce to whipping cream to bring to room temperature, and then pour into crock pot). Add salt and pepper to taste.
7. Return shredded chicken to sauce and stir.
8. Serve on slider buns; garnish as desired with cabbage, cucumber, cilantro and chutney.

Note: Leftovers can be cooled in the fridge and then frozen in Ziploc bags or containers.

(Cooking For) Kiwi and Bean
(Cooking for) Kiwi & Bean is all about simple, wholesome family recipes: dinners you can create with pantry staples when you walk through the door at the end of the day, breakfasts you can whip up the night before, and snacks and treats that you can make with your kids.

Grandma’s Date Squares that Taste Like Home

The first time I tasted date squares I was about four years old and I absolutely hated them. But because they were at all of our family events, I eventually grew to love them, asking my grandmother to bake them for my eighth birthday.

To me, date squares taste like home. They’re sort of crunchy with the rolled oats on the outside, while date-filled centre is kind of gooey, especially when you warm them up.

2caroline-tobins-bollywood-jig_BlogEmbed

Because Newfoundland is an island, people didn’t always have the luxury of fresh fruit year-round, so canned fruits were always a hot commodity, and many traditional dishes here are made with dates. It was my mother’s mother, Grandma Morrissey, who taught me how to make date squares. I’d say I eat them once or twice a month, if I’m lucky, and at all family events, especially on my grandfather’s birthday. When I make them, I use homemade butter that my father’s mother, Dolores Tobin, taught me to make.

When my father was a child, my Nanny Tobin opened a creamery in Ship Cove, outside of Placentia. They started making butter and called it Spyglass Butter, as she would make prints on top with an old-fashioned wooden stamp shaped like a spyglass. My grandmother gave her kids shares in the creamery when they were young, and to earn their keep, she had them do things like watch the machines and churn the butter.

The photo on the butter label was of my great-aunt: Nanny Tobin’s mother’s sister. As a young girl, my great-aunt had a cream cow named Bessie, and it was her chore to make butter for the family. As she got older, she learned to make stamps of butter. She gave these stamped celebration butters to people for birthdays and holidays.

They were really, really good, so one day when Nanny Tobin was about my age, she asked her sister, “Can you teach me to make them, too?” Nanny said it was the hardest thing she’d ever done because the churning was all done manually, and she wasn’t used to that kind of work. When her aunt passed away, my grandmother continued to make the butter and started her company.

Nanny Tobin’s Spyglass Butter was eventually sold all over Newfoundland and in Ontario, too. The creamery grew so big that today it’s part of Central Dairies, and the butter is no longer made by hand.

Around Christmas, I go to my grandmother’s house where she has a big wooden bucket on the porch and we churn our own butter manually, just as she was taught by her aunt. For my date squares, I buy a lot of Spyglass Butter to bake them with, and that’s what makes them taste so good.

Grandma Morrissey’s Date Squares
Recipe courtesy of Caroline Tobin.

date-squares-_blogembed

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 ¼ hours
Yield: 12 servings

Ingredients:
2 cups (500 mL) dates
1 cup (250 mL) hot water
1 cup (250 mL) packed brown sugar
1½ cups (375 mL) rolled oats
1 cup (250 mL) flour
¾ cup (175 mL) Spyglass Butter or other butter
1½ tsp (7 mL) baking soda
½ tsp (2 mL) salt

Directions:
1. In saucepan, combine dates, water and ½ cup (125 mL) of the brown sugar, then let simmer over medium heat until dates are mashable. Give them a stir to ensure the dates have fallen apart completely.
2. In a large bowl, mix together oats, flour, remaining brown sugar, butter, baking soda and salt until crumbly.
3. Divide oat mixture in half. Press half (or slightly more than half) into the bottom of an 8-inch glass baking dish. Spread the entire date mixture overtop, and crumble remaining oat mixture over top.
4. Bake at 350°F for just under 1 hour or until golden brown. Let cool and cut into squares.

Written by Caroline Tobin, as told to Valerie Howes

Caroline Tobin is a young teen living in Mount Pearl, N.L., near St. John’s. Date squares are one of her favourite things to bake because they bring together traditions from both her mother’s and her father’s sides of the family.

Print, save or share Grandma Morrissey’s Date Squares recipe.

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