Eat Alberta 2015

I was so very fortunate to be able to attend Eat Alberta again this year. I attended in 2011, the inaugural year, and then I volunteered in 2013. Eat Alberta teaches participants all about local food, how to cook it, where to source it and how to enjoy it, through practical, hands-on workshops, sit-down learning or tasting sessions, as well as keynote and plenary sessions. (Sounds right up my alley, no?)

This year, the sessions were organized into streams, including two hands-on sessions and two learning/tasting sessions: the perfect mix of hands-on application and knowledge gathering. DSCN1202

After a wicked keynote session all about permaculture and sustainable farming from Takota Coen from Grassroots Family Farm, we started off the day with a hands-on session on corn tortilla-making with the great Elaine Wilson. I’ve always been a huge fan of Elaine’s work and spices (as you’ve seen throughout my recipes on the blog), so it was great to get the opportunity to cook with her again!DSCN1203

Elaine taught us how to make authentic Mexican corn tortillas from scratch. We learned where to get the ingredients and equipment you need to create a real Mexican fiesta right at home!DSCN1205

Start with Mesa flour (Mexican corn meal flour): 2 cups flour to 1 cup water. Then, use your hands to fully incorporate it all together. DSCN1206

You want to mix it until it starts to feel a bit like plasticine. Next, begin forming your little tortilla balls. DSCN1208

Using a tortilla press, press the ball between two pieces of plastic. DSCN1210

Pull down the lever to press, but don’t press too hard, or else your tortilla will be too thin!DSCN1211

Now you’ve created the perfect sized tortilla (about 4-5 inches in diameter)!DSCN1213

Elaine preheated her pan over medium-low heat to ensure that the tortillas would cook evenly. She didn’t use oil, which was nice (I’ve not a huge fan of oily foods). DSCN1214

Then, pop about three into your pan at a time (depending on how big it is!). Elaine mentioned that you will know its time to flip your tortillas once they begin to stream and the edges begin to lift slightly off the pan.

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See how the edges are lifting a little off the pan? It’s flippin’ time!DSCN1218

She had generously made us a whole bunch the day before, so that we could enjoy them at the end of the session. She brought a wonderful assortment of black beans, queso, and an array of condiments to fill our tortillas with. I have no idea why I didn’t take a picture of the assortment. I must have been way too distracted by the eating to remember the picture taking… sorry all!DSCN1222

Now it was our turn to try our hands at cooking the tortillas. They turned out quite nicely, having followed Elaine’s great tips and tricks. DSCN1223

Next, Elaine showed us how to make pupusas. Using the same dough, she made a patty with a small pocket in the inside. She then filled the pocket with re-fried beans, topped it off with another patty and sealed it up. DSCN1224

In Mexico, they call these Gorditas (which translates to “fat little one.” Oh yea! I just love how literal Mexican Spanish can be!) Elaine fried them up in some canola oil. DSCN1226

Here’s a picture of one cut in half. It was absolutely scrumptious!!

Next up, my sister and I got to learn how to make authentic Chinese green onion cakes with Slow Food Edmonton‘s lovely King Franks. We were originally signed up to take a cocktail tasting class at the time, but seeing I would be unable to enjoy it to its full extent, I asked it if would be possible to shift over to another session. The Eat Alberta Team was so incredibly accommodating in my request. I thank them whole hardheartedly!

DSCN1233Ming told us the story behind her family’s authentic green onion cake recipe: Her and her mom would use leftover dumpling dough to create these tasty cakes. They became a neighbourhood favourite and they began making them more frequently. For our hands-on session, Ming showed us how to create a hot water dough, for easy of cooking. First, take a pair of chopsticks to mix the flour and water together.

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When mixed, dump it all onto your work surface.DSCN1235

Then, begin kneading it together until it forms a uniform (and super hard) ball. DSCN1236

See? Ming made one the ay before to give it time to rest overnight, to show us how quickly it softens up once its had time to sit. DSCN1243

Now it was time to roll it out. DSCN1248

Try to keep it round. DSCN1249

Then baste it with oil. DSCN1252

Add salt and green onions. (Ming had some seasonal chives growing in her garden, so she use that instead!)DSCN1253

Have you ever noticed that with green onion cakes, there are tasty little layers of deliciousness as you bite into each wedge? Well, here’s how you make those layers: roll the dough up like a cinnamon bun. DSCN1254

Then, roll the sausage up from end to end, until they meet in the middle. DSCN1255

Take each end, then lay one of top of the other. DSCN1257

Here’s another shot of the dough, once the “sausage” had been rolled end to end. DSCN1258

Then twist the ends and lay one on top of the other. DSCN1259

It’ll kind look like a snail, with little green bits of deliciousness trapped inside. DSCN1260

Next, you roll it out to make the cake! Voila! All those tasty layers of doughy, green oniony flavours are all trapped inside the cake. DSCN1262

Next, it was time to fry the cakes over a medium heated pan, with about 2 tbsp of canola oil sizzling away in there. DSCN1264

The cakes will come out crispy-brown on each size. Hmm!!

Ming made us a variety of dipping sauces to eat our green onion cakes with, but again – I must have been too fascinated by the concept of eating to even remember to take a photo! (Sorry about that…)

DSCN1271 After an incredible lunch made by the wonderful chefs at NAIT (complete with desert!), it was time to learn all about egg cookery with Allan Suddaby. Allan is the Chef at Elm Cafe, and he also writes and awesome blog called Button Soup. He was extremely knowledgeable about all things eggs, and it was a great experience to be able to learn about the versatility of such an essential ingredient.

Now, I have to admit, the reason why I was so extremely excited about taking this class is because, where I have a lot of other skills in the kitchen, I have not yet mastered the art of making a egg (I know, I am still a little baffled by this as well… I mean, I can cook a pilaf from scratch, but I can’t properly fry an egg without breaking the yolk! I was so happy Eat Alberta Helped me remedy this!).

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Allan taught us the proper way to hard boil an egg – Bring a pot of water to a boil, then let reduce it to a low rolling simmer. Cook the eggs for exactly 15 minutes. DSCN1280

Then transfer them to an ice water bath right away, to stop them from cooking any further. DSCN1283

He also taught us the fine art of frying an egg without breaking the yolk (something I have never been good at.)DSCN1284

I managed it in this class, and I couldn’t have been more proud of myself!! (I think what had really helped was the amount of butter that we melted into the pan before cracking the egg in there!)

I also poached my first egg (also in a low rolling simmer, this time for exactly three minutes.) It didn’t look as nice, so I didn’t take a picture… sorry!

 

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Allan also taught us how to make a tasty homemade mayo. Separate one egg yolk into a bowl. Add salt and vinegar and whisk away. Next, begin drizzling oil into the bowl as you whisk. Allan estimates 1 yolk for approximately 1 cup of oil, but, because he was eyeballing it, it looked to me more like 1/2 or 3/4 of a cup than a full cup.

Allan’s session was really great! It really put eggs into a whole new light for me. I was so happy to finally add properly cooked eggs to my repertoire!

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Next session, we got to learn all about cooking with wild roses with Debra Krause (Deb the Locavore) and Molly MacDougall. The class was so interesting! We learned where to forage for local wild rose petals and hips and how to use them, once harvested. We got to taste incredible rose hip teas, a jelly, syrup and puree, and learn about where to get them, if you’re unable to go foraging yourself this summer… (Blush lane for bulk dried rose hips!)DSCN1293I took a picture of the syrup recipe for future, when I have a moment to hunt down the dried rose hips.

After that session, there was a wonderful afternoon plenary session with Jennifer Cockrail-King and Marlo Moo, all about food writing. In Jennifer’s care, it was really interesting to hear a real food writer talk about her career as food writer (confession: that would totally be my dream job!!).

Next, we had our wine down session and tasting boards. Again – for some reason – I missed taking a picture before devouring my plate (My pregnancy is turning me into a terrible food blogger!). It was choker-bock full of delicious local food.

This year’s Eat Alberta was a blast!! Thanks to the organizers for their incredible hard work and for the wonderful day of local foodie awesomeness.

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2 Comments on “Eat Alberta 2015”

  1. Ming Franks says:

    Great recap, Jacquie! It sounds like you really enjoyed your sessions. One quick thing about the Green Onion Cake dough you made in class….I made an error with the hot water measurement in your class (should have been 1/2 cup of water, instead of 1/4 cup). So that’s why everyone’s dough seemed so tough and hard! You can try to salvage the dough by adding more water to the dough, but it’s probably easier to just to start over with the right amount of water. Chalk this one up to first class jitters!


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