Because of the diverse nature of the many different restaurants and chefs Brian Henry has worked under he is highly proficient at a wide range of cuisines.

Brian’s cooking is seasonal, inventive and smart, but in no way unapproachable or fussy. When he is coaxed out of the kitchen and starts talking about food, his passion and knowledge are instantly recognizable.

"Chef Brian Henry cooked a series of delicious appetizers for us as we sat around a table in the kitchen". Thanks

Tony Aspler, Wine writer

“Chef Brian Henry puts one hundred percent of his energy into going all the way.”

Birgit Moenke, Editor Stir Media Read More Reviews

Posts Tagged ‘jam’

Gastronomically yours,

May 10th, 2014

In the Patch –Rhubarb Patch

My first encounter with fresh rhubarb was a frightening experience for me. I was about six years old and my aunt had baked a strawberry rhubarb pie. It was a slice of heaven, lightly heated with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The next day one of my older cousins pointed out the rhubarb plant to me in the garden and suggested that I try it fresh seeing as I had enjoyed the pie so much. I eagerly broke off a stalk and started munching away. I quickly fled to the safety of my aunt’s kitchen with tears in my eyes making gagging accusations that my cousin was trying to poison me. It took about ten years for me to get over that experience before I started to eat and cook rhubarb again.

Rhubarb starting to sprout

Rhubarb starting to sprout

There is often discussion surrounding rhubarb that the leaves contain poisonous compounds. The most dangerous substance found in the leaves is oxalic acid. The median lethal dose for pure oxalic acid is about one ounce for a 150 lb person. The oxalic acid content found in rhubarb leaves vary but it would require that same 150 lb person to consume around 12 pounds of the extremely sour leaves in one sitting to cause death.

Rhubarb is indigenous to the Gobi region of eastern Asia and it is believed that the Hun’s and Mongol’s brought the plant westward with them. Rhubarb has been used throughout history as a medicinal plant in traditional Chinese medicine for its strong laxative properties and for its astringent effect on the mucous membranes of the mouth and the nasal cavity.

The consumption of rhubarb as a food became commonplace when the price of sugar fell in the late 1700’s and became available to the common people of England. Rhubarb eventually found its way to North America in the early 1800’s.

Although we cook rhubarb like a fruit it is an herbaceous perennial that is classified as a vegetable. In Iran and Afghanistan it is commonly cooked with spinach in a preparation known as khorest which is similar to stew. Polish peoples boil rhubarb with potatoes and aromatics while Italians use rhubarb to make a mildly alcoholic beverage called rabarbaro touted as a health tonic.

I enjoy rhubarb in a number of ways and prefer to incorporate it with citrus fruits and ginger. Try this traditional British recipe for Rhubarb and Ginger Jam. I recommend serving it with fresh warm scones at breakfast or serve it at dinner paired with roasted pork loin.

 

Rhubarb and Ginger Jam

Ingredients:

Two lb rhubarb
Two lb sugar
two cups of water
Four oz crystallized (candied) Ginger

One oz fresh ginger root

Zest of one lemon
Juice of two fresh Lemons

One Jalapeno or Habanero pepper seeded and finely chopped- optional for those who like it hot!

Method: Wash and trim the rhubarb and cut it into one inch lengths. Squeeze the ginger in a garlic press to extract its juice and reserve. Chop the candied ginger into small pieces.
In a heavy bottomed saucepan combine the rhubarb, sugar, water, lemon zest and juice.
Over medium high heat bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Allow the mixture to boil for 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally.
Add the candied ginger and reduce heat to medium. Allow the mixture to simmer for a further 15-20 minutes. Skim the surface with a sieve to remove any bubbles and scum. Pour the jam into sterilized jars to be sealed and cooled.

 

The Ancient Greeks referred to rhubarb as “the vegetable of barbarians” and understandably so with its blood red, celery like stalks and its strong astringent flavour peppered with the toxic oxalic acid which can make you feel like your mouth has been pulled inside out when eaten raw.

The name rhubarb is Greek in origin and combined two words; rha and barbarum. Rha refers to the plant and to the Volga River where along its banks rhubarb has grown wild for centuries. It also symbolized the laxative effects of rhubarb and how it could medicinally be used to make your bowels evacuate themselves and flow like the Volga River.

too much rhubarb may have this laxative effect

too much rhubarb may have this laxative effect

Originally cultivated in China for its medicinal qualities; rhubarb became so valued that the Qing Dynasty on a number of occasions decreed that no tea or rhubarb was to be exported as foreign barbarians would surely die without these necessary staples.

It wasn’t until the 1700’s when sugar prices fell that we saw rhubarb being consumed as a food and cultivated in most people’s gardens. Since its arrival in North America rhubarb has found its home and is used in a variety of preparations that includes breads, cakes, pies, tarts and jams.

Whether you get your rhubarb from your back yard, a neighbor or the grocery store you need to know about the two basic types of rhubarb available and their differences. The traditional variety displays thick green stalks that possess a balanced mellow flavor while the modern hothouse variety has slender stalks with a deep red color which lends itself to striking presentation it is also far bitterer.

After you have selected your rhubarb you will need to rinse the stalks of any dirt and trim away the leaves as the leaves contain poisonous compounds. The most potent of which is oxalic acid. The median lethal dose for pure oxalic acid is about one ounce for a 150 lb. person. The oxalic acid content found in rhubarb leaves vary but it would require that same 150 lb. person to consume around 12 pounds of the awfully sour leaves in one sitting to cause death. Although tempting, do not peel the fibrous skin from the stalks as it holds most of the color and flavor.

If you do not plan on immediately using your rhubarb it can be stored safely for up to a week sealed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Alternately you may choose to freeze or can your rhubarb for longer storage. When rhubarb is cooked its juices will naturally thicken and the fibers will fray making it perfect to use for jams and chutneys.

The following recipe for rhubarb yogurt is delicious on its own but versatile as it can be served as a dessert topping, a salad dressing or frozen into an ice cream. Regardless I recommend getting your hands on some rhubarb and making some desserts this holiday weekend.

 

Rhubarb Yogurt

Ingredients:

2 cups stewed rhubarb

1/2 cup plain yogurt

3 tbsp. honey

2 tbsp. concentrated orange juice not diluted

Pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg

Method:

Using a food processor, puree all of the ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

 

Gastronomically yours,

June 29th, 2013

Flower Power

This year’s growing season has been weeks ahead of schedule due to our early spring. This has been challenging at times to keep up with what’s in season locally.  The easiest crop to follow and know when it’s in season this year has been flowers; in particular edible flowers which can be as delectable as they are beautiful.

The most commonly consumed flowers are artichokes, broccoli and cauliflower. While capers, lavender and saffron are flowers that are used more for seasoning our foods.  There are over 200 varieties of wild edible flowers in Ontario and the list of cultivated ones is endless.

Before you venture out into the garden and start munching away, you will need to consider the following…

Are the flowers poisonous? Make sure you know what you are harvesting and even then slowly incorporate edible flowers into your diet to avoid possible allergic reactions.  Only consume flowers grown without chemicals and away from roadside exhaust. Flowers from florists should be considered inedible unless they are certified organic. Some edible flowers aren’t that palatable but most of them are high in vitamins A and C as well as iron and calcium.

Once you have safely identified and harvested your flowers you will need to remove the pistil and stamen from the flowers and gently rinse them in cool water. Once this is done your flower petals are ready to be sprinkled over salads and desserts alike.

Other ideas to use flower petals in the kitchen include placing a few petals into your ice cube trays when making ice to add an elegant edition to any cocktail on a hot summer day.  In a Mason jar one can alternate layers of flower petals with layers of white sugar, then seal the jars and allow the floral scent to permeate the sugar.  These vibrant, perfumed sugars can be used on the table or in baking to add a delicate flavor to foods and beverages.

Venture out to the garden and pick some flowers to try in any of these delicious preparations or try the following recipes and preserve the flowers of summer for use later in the year.

 

 

 

 

 

FLOWER JELLY

Ingredients:

Two cups of white wine
One cup of fresh rose or nasturtium petals
Three cups of white sugar
juice of one half lemon
Three ounces of liquid pectin
One quarter cup of additional fresh flower petals

Method:

In a non-reactive pan bring the wine to a gentle boil. Remove the pot from the heat, add the petals, cover and let steep until cool. Strain off the flower petals.

Combine the cooled flower infused tea with the sugar and lemon juice. Return the pot to the stove and bring to a boil over high heat.  Once the sugar has dissolved, stir in the pectin and let the mixture return to a rolling boil for one minute while constantly stirring.  Remove the jelly from the heat and skim off any foam. Let the jelly cool slightly and add the remaining flower petals.  Pour the mixture into sterilized jars. Process the jars in a hot water bath or seal with paraffin.

 

 

FLOWER BUTTER

Ingredients:

Three-quarters of a cup of chopped fresh flower petals
One pound of sweet unsalted Sterling Creamery butter

Method:

Finely chop flower petals and mix into softened butter. Let mix stand for several hours at room temperature, then refrigerate for three days to bring out the floral flavours. This recipe is great to use on bread and in sugar cookie or pound cake recipes. This butter can be kept in the freezer for up to three months.

 

Lilac Love

 

The heady scent of lilacs wafting through the air after a spring rain shower can be quite intoxicating especially if the sun comes out after the rain to increase the humidity making the scent of the lilacs almost seem to stick to us.

Lilacs and their beauty pass quickly, never staying open more than a week, being able to preserve their scent to be enjoyed at other times of the year can easily with a bit of time and sugar. The time that it will take to harvest, clean, and process the blossoms of the flowers will vary depending on the size of the blossoms. Large plump groupings of lilac flowers will hang like clumps of grapes allowing for an efficient harvest. Be sure to clip just the flower clusters as you do not want any of the leaves or branches to add any bitter flavours to your lilac concoctions.

Lilac sugar is easily made by sealing some lilac flowers and granulated sugar in a mason jar for a week and tastes great with black tea. Candied lilacs are made by brushing the petals with sugar and egg whites. Other culinary preparations to preserve your lilacs include vinegar, wine and jelly.

Lilac flowers will retain their colour if used fresh but if you heat them at all the flower petals will turn brown while cooking. If used in muffins, bread, or cake the end product will have a faded yellow appearance.

When harvesting any wild edible foods I advise to avoid those growing along busy roadsides as these flowers are exposed to heavier amounts of pollutants from exhaust and vehicular fluids.

Fill your kitchen and home with the wonderful smells of spring by trying the following recipe is for lilac flowers but can be used for any flowers depending on which you prefer. It works well with apple, rose and nasturtium flowers. Flower petal jellies will preserve the aroma and taste of flowers but not their colour. Most flower jellies are tinged with yellow and brown hues. To give your flower jelly a naturally intensified colour that represents the flower you may want to add some natural fruit juices to your recipes. For lilacs, blueberry and pomegranate can produce a rich violet colour to accent its appearance.

 

 

Lilac Jelly

 

4 cups lilac blossoms

2 cups water

2 cups white wine

Juice of one lemon

2 packages powdered pectin

6 cups sugar

¼ cup additional lilac flowers

 

Method:

In a non-reactive pan bring the water and wine to a gentle boil. Remove the pot from the heat, add the petals, cover and let steep until cool. Strain off the flower petals.

Combine the cooled flower infused tea with the sugar and lemon juice. Return the pot to the stove and bring to a boil over high heat.  Once the sugar has dissolved, stir in the pectin and let the mixture return to a rolling boil for one minute while constantly stirring.  Remove the jelly from the heat and skim off any foam. Let the jelly cool slightly and add the remaining flower petals.  Pour the mixture into sterilized jars. Process the jars in a hot water bath or seal with paraffin like you would any other jelly.

reservation
Chef Brian for Hire
The Spice Co.