Our holiday recipes are back!
Latkes, butter tarts, wellington, and more
In need of some kitchen inspiration this holiday season? Feminist Food Journal editors Isabela Vera and Zoë Johnson and social media coordinator, Sigríður Héðinsdóttir, along with Theo Cadbury, our good friend and founder of the UK-based NGO Xenia, have put together a list of our favourite recipes for this festive time of year. We also offer reflections on what these dishes mean to us.
In this newsletter:
Chickpea confit, and the serendipity of clumsiness
Flatkaka, and remembering the arrival of garlic on one’s shores
Winter Wellington, and the complexities of longing for home
Latkes, and the omnipresent shame of not really knowing your own culture
Butter Tarts, and their complicated colonial history
Pierogi, and building new traditions
We hope all of you are enjoying a festive and delicious holiday season.
With love and gratitude,
Note: this newsletter is for paid subscribers only. If you’d like to become a paid subscriber, now is a great time — all new paid subscribers this December are entitled to a free tote bag and holiday card, mailed to an address of your choice (perfect for a late Christmas gift!). If you’re already a paid subscriber, thank you so much for supporting us!
Chickpea confit, a tasty mistake
By Isabela Vera, Founding Editor
It’s not duck and my French inlaws won’t like that. But it’s delicious, even if it came about by accident. Famously clumsy, a nervous twitch of my hand led to me dumping half a litre of olive oil into the baking sheet instead of giving it the light drizzle I intended. But you know what they say: when life gives you too much olive oil, you just need to soak it all up. I added in a generous sprinkling of nutritional yeast and flaky sea salt, stirred it all around, baked it for a random amount of time, and the rest is history. The confit’ed chickpeas should emerge from the oven golden brown and crispy on the outside, but soft, rich, and tangy on the inside. They’re delicious added to a warm salad, spread with crisp kale over freshly-made brown rice, or honestly even eaten by the spoonful straight from the baking pan. This recipe will produce a lot of leftover olive oil, mouth-wateringly thick and cheesy from the nutritional yeast, which can be used immediately as a dressing or saved for later.
Disclaimer: if olive oil is very expensive where you live, this may not be the best recipe for you; we live in Spain, where olive oil is cheaper than water (OK not exactly, but not too far off either).
Recipe: Chickpea Confit
Chickpeas - one can rinsed (and patted dry), or dried chickpeas, cooked (and patted dry)
Olive oil, like a lot of it
Cracked pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 220°C.
Dump (if you saw my finesse in the kitchen this word would resonate) the chickpeas into a baking pan and spread them evenly.
Pour olive oil over them until they’re considerably covered. You want to be looking at underwater chickpeas, sinking forever into the depths of an ocean of olive oil.
Sprinkle in nutritional yeast and salt (to taste) and mix well.
Lower the oven temperature to 200°C-210°C and bake for 30-40 mins, stirring the chickpeas halfway through to check that the outsides are browning evenly.
When they look golden and delicious, remove the tray from the oven, wait for the chickpeas to cool to an edible temperature, crack a few twists of pepper, and enjoy.
Icelandic Flatkaka, a saving grace
By Sigga Héðinsdóttir, Social Media Coordinator
I’m from Iceland, where our culinary traditions aren't exactly considered something to write home about. My parents actually remember when garlic arrived in the country. I didn't know what an avocado was until I was 18. And Icelandic food is very meat-oriented, which is challenging for me as a vegetarian. Traditional holiday recipes include smoked leg of lamb (hangikjöt), served with boiled potatoes in a sort of a béchamel sauce alongside canned red cabbage. There’s also boiled ptarmigan — yes, boiled, a disgraceful cooking method for delicate game meat — served with sugar-coated boiled potatoes. It’s a festive dish handed down through generations, although the smell is generally unappealing to those who were not raised eating it.
Despite the meat-centricity of our cuisine, one thing I miss dearly while living abroad is the Icelandic version of a flatbread (flatkaka). It is eaten all year long, often with smoked lamb or with a generous serving of coarse lamb liver paté (kindakæfa), and often used for leftover meat during the holiday season during family gatherings throughout the month of December. I am happy to report that it is equally delicious with hummus, avocado, or some sliced cheese.
The dough is rather easy to make, but the frying can be dangerous. Make sure to have plenty of ventilation when you fry the cakes (over a hot, electric, stove burner). If you have a portable hotplate you can bring outside — even better. Traditional recipes include only lukewarm water and 1 kg of rye flour, but here I suggest a slightly more complex version. It yields roughly 10 flatbreads.
Recipe: Icelandic Flatkaka
200 grams all-purpose flour
200 grams whole wheat flour
200 grams rye flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
500 ml boiling water
Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Add the boiling water. Knead well.
Cut the dough into 10 pieces. Flatten each piece into an approximately 3 mm thick round cake. You can use a plate to cut the cakes into a uniform form and size. Stack the cakes in a pile and pierce the stack in several places with a toothpick or a fork. This helps the cakes bake evenly.
Heat a crepe pan over very high heat. Place the cakes into the pan, pushing them down to ensure they are evenly baked. Bake for 1 minute on each side.
Dip each cake quickly into cold water when you remove them from the pan. Store the cakes under a damp cloth to prevent them from turngin hard and brittle.
Store the flatkakas in an air-tight box for up to 3-4 days, or pop them in the freezer to enjoy them for a longer time.
Winter Wellington, a taste of home
By Theo Cadbury, Friend of FFJ and Founder of Xenia
It’s somehow easier to identify with the place you’re from when you don’t live there anymore. The idea of home is complicated when you come from a family of multigenerational migration or a city like London, in all its dynamism and diversity of people and cuisines. It gets even messier when home is a country responsible for irreparable damage to countless other lands and cultures because of its history as a colonizer.
Perhaps that’s why I’m conflicted every time my feeling of longing for home manifests. I feel it in my frustration with the thud of dry dust instead of squelching wet mud under my feet, and in my yearning to see green across landscapes instead of ochre and sand. But this feeling is strongest — occasionally even defensive and a tad ferocious — when someone scoffs at my longed-for home foods. Isn’t all British food bland and overcooked? What’s to love about roasts and pies? I say, what’s not to love? After a bright winter walk, I crave flaky pastry and gravy so delicious I could drink it straight from the jug. And what could possibly beat a perfect roast potato to soak it up, with its crisp coat cracking to relieve the steaming hot, fluffy comfort within?
This recipe offers me comfort while I’m far away from home. Many of the ingredients are interchangeable, so I encourage you to make it your own, embellishing or adapting it so it may offer you comfort as well. I suppose that in this sense, it is less of a recipe and more an invitation — to try something new and hide within it what you find most precious and comforting about your home.
Recipe: Winter Wellington
Finely chopped nuts
Your favourite festive condiment (mine is redcurrant jelly)
Root vegetables, equivalent to around 1½ large butternut squash
Start with the delicious filling. I love root vegetables such as squashes and parsnips, roasted in the oven at 180°C for about 40 minutes (depending on size) with half olive/half rapeseed (canola) oil, plenty of salt and pepper, and any spices you fancy. Cumin works well, or coriander — but really this is all to play with. What’s important is to roast them until they are cooked but still firm. Leave these to cool.
While they’re in the oven, make the pastry undercoat. Think of this as the unexpected layer of cozy. My chosen ingredients are finely chopped cooked chestnuts, mushrooms, red onion, and garlic but I think pistachios and apricots would make a delicious alternative. Cook these down over the hob, then squeeze out any excess liquid, and leave to cool. After being cooked and cooled, the undercoat should be somewhere between the consistency of olive tapenade and pico de gallo.
Next, get going with the pastry. My choice is puff (ready-rolled, or if you’re into pastry-making then Paul Hollywood’s rough puff is excellent) but can also try this with filo (if you do, then make sure to brush each sheet with olive oil between applications). Either way, the final oven time will be based on the pastry you choose, rather than what it’s wrapped around.
Start assembling the wellington by laying the pastry out flat and spreading the pastry undercoat across the whole surface (do make sure it’s not hot, otherwise you’ll have a sticky mess on your hands). Now add the extra flavour. Because it’s what was traditional on the table where I grew up, I add a thin layer of redcurrant jelly to the top of the pastry coating for a little tartness and sweetness. Pile in the roasted veggies, all laying in one direction. If you’re using shop-bought pastry and it’s rectangular, you’ll want to lay the vegetables parallel to the shorter side.
Roll up your little bundle bit by bit, taking care to keep it tight enough but not pulling and causing the pastry to break. Lay it, seal-side down, on a baking tray and brush with your choice of wash (egg, or maybe oat milk if you’re vegan). If you think your pastry can hold, make a couple of gentle diagonal slashes on the top.
Roast for as long as the pastry needs, until it’s golden and crisp. Serve in slices, with roast potatoes (recipe to be found another day if you haven’t already got the perfect ones down), and plenty of Jamie Oliver’s vegan mushroom gravy.
Never accuse British food of being bland again.
Latkes, a last tether to tradition
By Isabela Vera, Founding Editor | From our 2021 FFJ for a Friend newsletter
Every year, in the winter time, Ashkenazi Jewish families around the world sit down to enjoy heaping plates of latkes: essentially, fried potato pancakes, traditionally prepared to celebrate Hanukkah. Apple sauce and sour cream are spooned; candles are lit; wine is drunk, and stories of ancient struggle and survival are told.
Latkes, to me, are a fraying — if delicious and crispy — tether to these old traditions, largely lost in my family. Latkes are stumbling over the blessing as I light a menorah for gentile-majority tables, thankful that none of them can point out my uneven pronunciation (which I’d taken pains to internalize a few hours earlier by reading jewfaq.org). Latkes are thinking about whether I wish that my parents had put me in Saturday school (or at least sent me to something like Saturday school, but for learning how to carry on religious traditions in a secular way). I’m not religious and I cannot imagine myself becoming so, but I wish I at least knew how to be. Does that make any sense? I’m not sure.
I am sure, though, that I made the right choice at age 13 when my mom offered me to either have a bat mitzvah ("but you’ll have to learn Hebrew and we barely have any living Jewish relatives to compensate you for your time!") or to visit London and Paris over spring break. On that trip I put my sneakered eighth-grade feet on a new continent for the first time and kept a diary that rated every crème brulée I ate on a scale of one to five. My shame for being so poorly able to recount the legacy of the Maccabees comes and goes each year, but the pride of cataloguing Paris’ sweetest treats — and by luck of the highest order, doing so just before I succumbed to a paralyzing fear of dessert for the remainder of my teenage years — is forever. At least, that’s what I tell myself. Could you pass the sour cream?
Recipe: My Mom’s Latkes with Apple Sauce
For the latkes
2 large Russet potatoes (about 1 pound or 500 grams), peeled
1 large onion, peeled
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon fine sea salt), plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon baking powder
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Sunflower or other oil, for frying
For the apple sauce
4-5 apples peeled, seeded, and cut into small cubes
⅔ cup or 150 ml of water
Sugar and cinnamon (optional), to taste
Make the apple sauce: In a lidded pot, on low-medium heat, cook the apples with the water, until the apples are cooked and the sauce reaches the desired consistency. The recipe traditionally includes sugar and cinnamon, but since latkes are largely a savoury dish, adding these is a matter of personal taste.
Prepare the latkes: Using a food processor or a hand grater, grate the potatoes and the onions together. Get the moisture out of the mixture by using a salad spinner (if you don’t have one, use a clean towel to squeeze the moisture out). The less wet the potatoes, the crispier the latke. Add the eggs, baking powder, salt, and pepper, and mix well.
In a heavy-bottom pan heat about half a centimetre (a quarter of an inch) of oil. Once the oil is hot, set your stove on medium-high, and cook the latke in batches using a big spoon to pour the mixture into the oil and a spatula to press them down the pan. When the sides of the latkes start becoming brown and crispy (about 4-5 minutes), flip them and cook the other side until golden brown. If you’re cooking multiple batches, feel free to add in a little bit more oil as you go; this will ensure all your latkes are golden and crispy.
Serve with sour cream and applesauce.
Butter tarts, a complicated sweet from the colonial frontier
By Zoë Johnson, Founding Editor | From our 2021 FFJ for a Friend
Butter tarts — their saccharine filling punctuated with the pop of raisins and offset by the thick flake of their crust — taste to me like Christmas. Of course, nobody makes them better than my mum, who always smiles slyly as she feeds them to me for breakfast alongside my coffee (“Is it Christmas?”). Little known outside of Canada, my mum has always taken pride in butter tarts’ quintessential Canadian-ness.
I recently learned more about the story behind the dessert I’ve enjoyed for so long. I should not have been surprised — given the gender dynamics of “traditional” cooking and Canada’s colonial history — to discover the link between butter tarts and colonialism and patriarchy. Butter tarts, it turns out, were invented by the Filles Du Roi, young women sent to Canada between 1663 and 1673 by Louis XIV to marry, cook, clean, and procreate in support of France’s efforts to colonize New France. These women, faced with the limited resources of their new lives on the “frontier”, developed the butter tart out of simple and readily available ingredients.
Butter tarts are an edible reminder of the intimate links between food and national identity and of the importance of interrogating these identities along with the often exploitative, violent, and exclusionary histories that underlie them. Interrogating “Canadianness” requires reckoning with this country’s abhorrent history of colonialism. The story of the Filles Du Roi also forces us to think about the intricate ways in which the patriarchy and colonialism intersect to blur the lines between victim and perpetrator; these women were both the victims of a patriarchal system that exploited their reproductive labour for the glory of a monarch and perpetrators of a violent and racist campaign of dispossession.
This year, I’m sad not to be going home for the holidays, but I will definitely be making my mum’s butter tarts as a reminder of the sweetness of home and family. As I savour their gooeyness, I will also be marvelling at the rich, and often troubling, stories hidden in the mundane all around us — especially in what we eat.
Recipe: Canadian Butter Tarts
Adapted from a March 2000 edition of Saveur magazine. This version swaps butter for the shortening suggested by the original recipe and honey for the corn syrup. Warning: it makes a big batch!
For the tart shells
688 grams (5 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoon salt
454 grams (1 pound) butter
1 tablespoon white vinegar
For the filling
318 grams (2 cups) raisins
43 grams (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
400 grams (2 cups) packed brown sugar
118 millilitres (½ cup) pure maple syrup
59 millilitres (¼ cup) honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Make the dough: In a large bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Using a pastry cutter or 2 knives, work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, vinegar, and 1 cup cold water, then drizzle the liquids into the flour mixture while stirring with a fork, just until a shaggy dough begins to form. Lightly flour a clean work surface, then turn the dough out onto it. Give the dough several quick kneads to smooth, then shape into a 1-inch-thick disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.
Meanwhile, make the filling: To a medium pot, add the raisins and enough cold water to cover by 2.5 centimetres (1 inch). Bring to a boil over high heat, then drain, discarding the cooking liquid. Transfer the raisins to a medium bowl, then add the butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, and honey; stir until the butter melts and the mixture is combined. Set aside to cool slightly, 3–4 minutes. In a small bowl, beat 1 egg well, then fold it into the raisin mixture; repeat with remaining 3 eggs. Stir in the vanilla and set the filling aside at room temperature. (The raisins will sink to the bottom and need to be stirred up again when you fill the tarts.)
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Meanwhile, retrieve the dough from the fridge and unwrap. Lightly flour a clean work surface and a rolling pin, then roll out the dough to an even 0.6 centimetre (¼-inch) thick sheet. Using a 10-centimetre (4-inch) round cookie cutter, cut 28 circles from the dough, gathering the scraps into a ball and rerolling as needed. Press the rounds into standard-size muffin tins, then fill each with 2 tablespoons of filling. Bake until the crusts are lightly golden and the filling is crackly and dry on the surface and barely set, 12–15 minutes. Cool the tarts completely, then use a thin, offset spatula or butter knife to lift them carefully from the tins. Serve at room temperature.
Pierogi, a new taste of Christmas
By Zoë Johnson, Founding Editor
When I was little, every time my mum and I would visit Granville Island Market, an indoor market located in an old industrial manufacturing area under Vancouver’s Granville Street Bridge, I would insist on getting pierogi. The Perogy Place served up heaping plates of steaming hot potato and cheese dumplings, smothered in watery sour cream pumped through a large soap-pump style dispenser, and heaped with caramelized onions (or bacon, which we forewent as vegetarians). The pierogi were smaller than normal (though of course, I didn’t know this at the time) and perfect for my little mouth. As I got older, I always told myself I’d branch out from the Perogy Place and try some of the other food options on offer in the market’s food hall — Mexican, Thai, French, Japanese, Italian, or some local seafood or freshly baked bread — but somehow, I was always drawn to the doughy goodness of those pierogi.
When I met my partner, whose parents are Polish, I was surprised to learn that pierogi did not hold as special a place in his heart (or childhood food traditions) as in mine. However, during the pandemic, when kitchen adventures were the most exciting things on offer, he agreed to indulge my passion and we tried making them ourselves for the first time. In the tiny, ill-equipped kitchen of our Berlin sublet, we rolled the dough out with a wine bottle. By the end, the whole room was covered in flour and sticky dough, but the results were worth it.
Later in 2020, when the pandemic prevented us from making the journey home to Canada for the holidays, my partner and I got to work planning festive events that might dull the ache of homesickness that plagued us. Somehow the idea of Christmas Eve pierogi was raised. While not a traditional Christmas food in Poland, I liked the way they wove my partner’s roots and my happy childhood memories together. What started as an idea for a simple pierogi buffet ballooned into a Polish feast, featuring barszcz czerwony (beet soup), vegetarian bigos (hunter's stew with pickled cabbage and mushrooms), gołąbki (cabbage rolls), czerwona kapusta (braised purple cabbage), garlic greens, and szarlotkę z jabłkami (apple cake). And of course pierogi: pierogi Ruskie (with cheese and potato) and pierogi grzybowe (with mushrooms). We shared the dinner with a small group of friends, a bottle of vodka on the table to drown our pandemic sorrows.
Christmas pierogi are now our tradition. In 2021, finally home for the holidays again, we recreated this decadent feast, bringing both of our families together on Christmas Eve. (I’m happy to report that my partner’s mum was impressed by our Polish cooking.) This year, we will sadly be far from many of those we love most once again, but are looking forward to sharing 2022’s pierogi+ with dear old friends who will surely soften the sting of missing our families. And back home, my parents will be eating pierogi too, so we can feel close even from afar. And that’s what holiday traditions should do: bring us together in reminiscence of the past, as well as anticipation of the future.
Recipe: Pierogi Ruskie (potato and cheese) and Grzybowe (mushroom)
Makes around 50 pierogi, enough for a crowd
For the dough (adapted from the New York Times Cooking)
500 grams (4 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
2 teaspoons salt
85 grams (6 tablespoons) butter
2 large eggs, beaten
For the filling - Ruskie (potato and cheese)
227 grams (½ pound) waxy potatoes, peeled and cubed
450 grams (1 pound) white or yellow onions (around 2 medium-sized), chopped finely
43 grams (3 tablespoons) butter
100 grams (½ cup) quark (we used a mix of goat quark and regular quark; cottage cheese would work too)
40 grams (a heaping ¼ cup) grated cheddar
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the filling - Grzybowe (mushroom)
43 grams (3 tablespoons) butter
227 grams (½ pound) white or yellow onion (around 1 medium)
450 grams (1 pound) assorted mushrooms (e.g., white, shiitake, trumpet, oyster, cremini, etc.), finely minced
20 grams (¼ cup) dried wild mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes and finely minced (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Thyme and/or parsley, minced
Prepare the dough
Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Set aside. In a small saucepan, heat 118 millilitres (½ cup) water and the butter over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, until the butter is melted. Pour the buttery liquid into the flour gradually, stirring it in as you add it. Add the egg and mix until combined. Knead the dough on a lightly floured work surface until smooth. (It should take around 5 to 7 minutes). Cover the dough with a dampened towel or plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Prepare the potato and cheese filling
Add the potatoes to a large pot, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon salt and cover with cold water. Place the pot over high heat, bring to a boil, and then lower the heat and cook at a simmer until the potatoes are tender (around 25 minutes).
While the potatoes cook, melt the butter in a pan over medium-high. Add the onions, season generously with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and softened (around 12 minutes).
Drain the water from the cooked potatoes and combine with the onions in a large bowl. Add the cheese, stir to combine, mashing the potatoes slightly. Season generously with salt and pepper, then let cool.
Prepare the mushroom filling
Melt butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and cook until they start to turn translucent (around 6 mins). Add the fresh and dried mushrooms (if using). Cook, stirring occasionally until mushrooms are tender and the volume has been significantly reduced. If necessary, you can use the water from soaking the dried mushrooms to deglaze the pan throughout.
Remove from heat and toss through the chopped herbs. Season generously with salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste.
Prepare your station with a small bowl of flour, a small bowl of water, and a towel for keeping your hands clean. Cut the dough into two even pieces. Leave one piece under the towel to stay moist while you work with the other piece. Dust some flour onto a baking sheet (for holding the assembled pierogi) and your work surface, then roll out one portion of dough until 3 millimetres (⅛-inch) thick. Using a 7- or 8-centimetre (3-inch) cookie cutter or inverted glass, punch 12 to 15 disks of dough. (You can save and refrigerate the scraps to boil as a rustic pasta, in soup or for another use.)
Working with one disk at a time, spoon a scant tablespoon of filling onto the middle of it. Fold the dough in half to enclose the filling, bringing the edges together to form a crescent shape. Pinch the two sides together at the top, then work your way down on both sides, pinching the dough over the filling and pushing in the filling as needed, making sure the mixture does not break the seal. If needed, you can dip your fingertip into water and moisten the dough in spots as needed to help the two sides adhere together.
To form a rustic pattern on the curved seal, pinch the rounded rim underneath using your pointer finger and middle finger and press an indentation on top with your thumb, working your way along the rounded rim. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. (If you’ve gotten some filling on your fingers, dip your fingertips into the bowl of water then dry them off on the towel.)
Repeat with the remaining disks, then repeat the entire process with the remaining portion of dough. You’ll want to work fairly quickly, as the pierogi can be harder to seal if they start to dry out. (If cooking the pierogi at a later point, transfer them on the baking sheet to the freezer until frozen solid, then transfer the pierogi to a resealable bag and freeze.)
Cook and serve
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add a single layer of perogies to the pot at a time. Let them cook until they rise to the surface, about 2 minutes, then cook another 2 to 3 minutes until puffy. (With frozen dumplings, you will need to increase the cooking time by a couple of minutes.) Use a slotted spoon to transfer cooked dumplings to a colander to drain, then boil the remaining dumplings.
You can also pan-fry your pierogi, working in batches by melting 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-high until crackling. Add a few boiled pierogi in a single layer to avoid overcrowding, and cook until crisp and golden, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining pierogi, adding butter as needed.
Serve hot. Top with melted butter, warm caramelized onions, sour cream, and fresh dill.
Did you try any of these recipes? We want to hear about it! Reply in the comments or send us pictures of your creations at email@example.com, on Instagram (@feministfoodjournal), or on Twitter (@femfoodjournal).
Happy cooking! 👩🍳