Three Days in Naramata

We took a short break to Naramata in BC's Okanagan Valley last week to visit some friends. Although we weren't there to be tourists we couldn't help it. It's a wonderful time to visit. In fact, it may even be the best time, with the vineyards full of fruit, ready to be picked. It seemed like every corner held another magnificent view.

Lake Breeze Winery, Naramata, BC. Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic
Vines at Lake Breeze Winery, Naramata, BC. Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic
Vines aLake Breeze Winery, Naramata, BC. Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic

We weren't on a tasting holiday per se, but we couldn't not try a few. Quickly we realized we would need more hours in the day. We made some new-to-us discoveries in the form of the delightful Pinot Gris from Poplar Grove as well as the Meritage from Lake Breeze. I feel like we only skimmed the surface and another trip is definitely in order to delve further into the delights of Naramata.

Poplar Grove Winery, Naramata, BC. Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic
Poplar Grove Winery, Naramata, BC, Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic

One of the highlights of the trip involved no wine at all but a drive up to Chute Lake, just north of Naramata. A forest fire swept through this area a few years ago, and now the new growth of deciduous trees is renewing the area. The green and gold colours lit up the barren and scorched landscape, making me feel like I had landed in a Group of 7 painting. Arriving at Chute Lake, we were greeted by a lovely lady sitting outside the café.

"Are you coming in for a cinnamon bun, fresh out of the oven?" she asked.

There's really no way to say no to that, is there? After our walk down by the lake and a perusal of the "museum", an old barn packed with antique household machinery, and farm equipment, we ordered two cinnamon buns between four of us and promptly ordered two more. In addition to being covered in sweet, gooey icing, they came with a side of butter. And no, it wasn't too much.

Near Chute Lake, looking over Lake Okanagan.  Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic
Cinnamon Bun at Chute Lake. Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic
Chainsaws, Chute Lake. Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic
Café at Chute Lake, BC. Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic
Overlooking Lake Okanagan, near Naramata, BC. Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic

On our way home, a chance to hang on to the Okanagan for a little while longer as we stopped in Keremeos to buy fruit at the row of fruit stands that dot Highway Three. I seem to have a problem, which I'm fairly sure is genetic, inherited from both my mother and father, that makes it impossible for me not to stop at a fruit stand. The consequences of this were a next day spent at home pickling hot peppers, making acorn squash soup, corn chowder and a pear tart. There are worse problems.

Salish Apples, Keremeos, BC. Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic
Pear & Ginger Frangipane Tart Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic
Acorn Squash Soup Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic
View with Vines over Lake Okanagan, Naramata, BC. Photo by Helena McMurdo/Endless Picnic

I'm already dreaming of when we can go back. Have you been to Naramata? What are your favourite wineries or experiences?

All content © 2015 Helena McMurdo. Do not reproduce without permission.

Tinto de Verano

This is what we've been drinking lately. It's a childhood favourite. Yes that's right. When we visited Spain when we were kids, we were always permitted to have a small glass of wine cut with some gaseosa, a sort of 7-up /Sprite style drink that is slightly less sweet.

Later on,  but still many years ago, when I worked at Expo in Sevilla, now a grown-up, I rediscovered this drink and discovered it had a name: Tinto de Verano or Summer Wine. The bartenders would always ask 'Con limón' or "Con gasesosa?" giving you the option to have it with lemon Fanta which became my preference.  Sadly Lemon Fanta is hard to find in Canada, but I have found some good substitutes.

Tinto de Verano. Photo by Helena McMurdo. Recipe on

Santa Cruz Lemon Soda or Good Drink Organic Spritzer seem to work well. Both are slightly sweet which makes a good combination with the wine. Although excellent on it's own, I find Lemon San Pellegrino to be far too tart for this particular tipple.

I'd take this drink any day over Sangria which is far too headache inducing for me. When it's really hot, it's the only thing that I want.


Tinto de Verano

Red wine of your choice

Lemon Soda such as Lemon Fanta or Schweppes Limón

Fill a glass with ice, fill halfway with red wine. Fill in the rest of the glass with lemon soda.

Sip and enjoy.


How Does My Garden Garden Grow?

It's been a strange summer - very hot initially - and now in August, things are cooling off. But that hasn't stopped me in the garden. When I say garden, I'm probably taking a bit of a liberty. I have a few containers on my balcony but it's a garden to me. I've just planted a few more snap peas. I'm not sure if there will be time for them to mature, but they look pretty growing up the balcony. My first batch this year gave a grand total of 13, not exactly a huge number, but it didn't stop us from enjoying them.

I made a little pea salad (emphasis on the little) from Dana Cowin's new book with the snap peas and walla walla onions instead of shallots and a simple vinaigrette. I served it tapas style with a tinto de verano. Pretty nice actually.

My pole beans were not wonderful this year. Our initial early heat didn't sit well with them so they were curled and gnarled and not as plentiful as in other years. But again, I love seeing the leaves climb up the balcony railing. They are putting out a second round now, which seems to be a bit better.  

I'm also growing a bush bean Romano which is coming ready now. It looks promising.

The lettuce has been the most satisfying plant and that's saying something because I don't even like lettuce. Well let's say that there are about 100 things I could think of to eat before lettuce. But garden lettuce is just so much nicer. I harvest a little bit every few days and that's enough for me.

Morning is my favourite time in the garden. I have my coffee on the balcony, do my watering, harvest anything that wants harvesting before the heat of the day has taken over. This morning the light was so lovely I just had to snap a few shots to share. Are you growing anything this year? What's working for you? Leave me a note in the comments below.

Cherry Clafoutis

During the height of summer, with Vancouver under an Air Quality Warning due to surrounding Forest Fires, and experiencing temperatures upwards of 30 Degrees C for some reason, all I was thinking about was baking. 

It had to do with these beauties that I saw at the Farmer's Market early in the season. For some reason, raw cherries and I have never been friends. Even well washed organic ones make my lips and mouth itch. It's not like I haven't tried, but I know when to stop.  Cooked cherries are another story - bring them on. We get on like a house on fire.

BC Cherries are perfect for Cherry Clafoutis. Photography by Helena McMurdo. Recipe on

A few weeks ago, a particularly clever friend of mine brought a delightful dessert to another friend's bridal shower: A Cherry Clafoutis. Delicious, of course. I have always wanted to make one and ever since then, the idea has been planted in my brain.

Pour the custard over the cherries to make a Cherry Clafoutis.  Photography by Helena McMurdo. Recipe on
Bake the cherry Clafoutis until it is golden. Photography by Helena McMurdo. Recipe on

Several attempts were made, some successful, others not. By my third try, I had enlisted the help of my three-year-old nephew and I think we cracked it. I thought give him the simple job of removing the stems of the cherries, but once he saw me with the cherry pitter in hand, there was no way that he was not having a part of that action. He performed admirably and remarkably, we and my mother's kitchen, emerged unscathed.

Soaking the cherries releases the juices. Photography by Helena McMurdo. Recipe on

It's wonderfully simple to make. In fact, a three-year-old can do it. The pitting of the cherries is the most time consuming element, but other than that, you are simply mixing up a custard with a consistency similar to pancake batter in the blender and pouring it over the fruit. And if you bake regularly, you'll have most ingredients on hand.

The cherry season started early this year and is finishing up now. As we move into the late summer, you can easily substitute plums. Just slice them in quarters and arrange them beautfully in the baking dish and follow all other steps in the same manner.

Allow the clafoutis to cool completely. Photography by Helena McMurdo. Recipe on

And of course, you must dust with powdered sugar. And then dust some more.

Cherry Clafoutis

I've based my recipe on this one from Simply Recipes with a few amendments. I found that soaking the cherries in brandy, (surprise, surprise) gave a great added flavour to the fruit. With this addition, I reduced the amount of almond extract slightly. I also increased the temperature to 375 which I felt worked better for the custard. My special tip is to dust the greased baking dish with sugar instead of flour which gives a lovely browned crust.  

about 2 cups of fresh sweet cherries, pitted
2 TBSP brandy
2 TBSP blanched slivered almonds
3 eggs
3/4 cup  sugar
1 TBSP brown sugar
1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of milk (2% is fine)
1/2 teaspoon of almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
Powdered sugar for dusting
extra granulated sugar for preparing the baking dish

1. Grease an 8-10 inch ceramic pie dish, dust it with granulated sugar and pop it in the freezer while you prepare the fruit and custard.

2. Pit the cherries using a cherry pitter. Don't be a hero and try to do it without. Invest in this fabulous piece of equipment (which you can also use for olives).

3. Optional step - place the cherries in a bowl and pour over the brandy. Let soak for 1/2 hour at least, preferably more.

4. Make the custard by placing the sugars, flour, salt, milk and extracts in a blender and mixing thoroughly.

5. Remove the pie dish from the freezer and arrange the slivered almonds to cover the bottom of the dish evenly. (I originally ommitted this ingredient but in subsequent trials,  found the almonds to be essential.)

6. Arrange the cherries and any juice in the dish on top of the almonds.

7. Pour the custard mixture over the cherries and place in preheated oven.

8. Bake for 30 minutes or until the centre is just ever so slightly wobbly and the top is golden.

9. Allow to cool completely and then prior to serving, dust with powdered sugar.

10. If you can't finish it for dessert, eat the rest for breakfast.



Portraits: Genevieve

I've been doing more portraits lately as you may have noticed. It's been an interesting process for me, one that has not come naturally. I think one of the reasons I like food photography is that I can take time to plan and control my shot. Yep there it is - that word - control. I like knowing that I'm in control of the situation. And with people, well sometimes you're not...Right?

But that's where the process has become interesting for me. The more I do of  these, the more I realize that actually, I get better shots if I get out of my own way and just allow things to unfold naturally. When I started doing these portraits, I was less comfortable giving direction to my subjects and while I've become more comfortable with that, the most successful portraits I've done always seem to involve some collaboration with the subject. 

Recently I was lucky enough to make some pictures with this lovely lady. Genevieve is the owner of Violet Boutique in Vancouver and we profiled her recently on South Granville Inhabiter. These are some of my favourite shots from the shoot. Her light filled space was so inspiring to work in and after spending some time with her chatting about her business, we spent about an hour making pictures together. And of course, how could we not include her adorable best friend and assistant shopkeeper Bea.

Colonial Seed Cake

Sometimes you stumble upon buried treasure.

An old friend was in town recently. I've known her for more than 40 years. Our fathers worked together and her family lived in Spain when we did and then our families both lived near each other in the North of Canada. She was at my parent's wedding when she was just 4 years old. We grew up together. Now adults, we don't live in the same city or even the same country but we've managed to stay in touch over the years. Sometimes the bond of shared history is one of the strongest. 

So when we met recently,with our extended families over dim-sum, there was lots of reminiscing. And lots of those memories involved food. My friend's mother was always hosting us for tea or organizing gourmet picnics in the snow, and I remember many a happy hour spent at her house with tea and biscuits and delicious things of all kinds. Sadly her mum passed on far too young. She was a lovely lady and taught me a lot about food and flowers and enjoying life for the simple things. She taught us to make antipasto with a recipe that we still use today.  I remembered that we had some of her recipes in among my mum's recipe collection.

I went looking for a few of them and came across this one that I hadn't remembered. The name intrigued me: Colonial Seed Cake. It seemed such a thing of the past. I had visions of ladies in India making this cake in the 1800s. It is in fact a poppy seed cake and tastes just as good today. It was lovely to find the hand-written recipe. Today we share our recipes on twitter, on blogs on instagram,  but it's not as if we invented it. Sharing was going on on long before - the old-fashioned way. The yellowed and stained paper is a testament to that.

The method is simple and not quite usual for most cakes I've made. The poppy seeds are steeped in milk for 3-4 hours, presumably for both flavour and a softening effect. There's no creaming together of sugar and butter first. The ingredients are simply mixed together all at once. Would it make a difference to do it the other way? Probably. But I have no complaints about the results of this method. It is perfectly scrumptious.

Colonial Seed Cake
Colonial Seed Cake


I haven't edited the recipe at all, except to add the bracketed metric measurements.

I know we have loved it for the sense of rediscovery as well as the memories of the lady who made it but the taste is pretty good too. I hope you enjoy it.

Colonial Seed Cake

1/2 cup (2 oz)* poppy seeds

3/4 cup (180 ml) milk

3/4 cup (180 g) butter

3 eggs

1 1/4 cups (250 g) sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 tsps baking powder

2 cups  (304 g) sifted flour

Combine poppy seeds and milk in a large bowl. Let stand at room temperature for three to four hours. Let butter and eggs warm to room temperature for easy mixing.

Grease and flour an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 pan. Preheat oven to 350.

Add butter, eggs, sugar, vanilla, baking powder and flour to poppy seeds and milk. Beat at medium speed with electric mixer for 1 minute, scraping side of bowl with plastic spatula. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake in a moderate oven (350) for 1 1/4 hours or until centre springs back when lightly pressed with fingertips. Cool in pan on wire rack 5 minutes. Loosen around edges, turn out to cool. Sprinkle with icing sugar.

*my friend's handwritten recipe called for 1/2 cup  or (2 oz) but when I measured out 1/2 cup poppy seeds  I found this to be closer to 3 oz or 85 grams. All other bracketed measurements in grams are my own conversions using the volume amounts provided in the original recipe.

If you liked this post, and would like to receive posts like it directly to your inbox, why not sign up for my email updates here.



Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup with Kale

I sort of feel like it's unfair to call this soup cooking because it's really repurposing a bunch of leftovers. But that doesn't make it any less delicious.


This chicken soup has been developed over time after countless chicken dinners and it more often than not involves a store-bought roast chicken. The kale was a 'what happened to be in the garden at the time' addition and there may be more or less vegetables depending on what happens to be in my fridge at any given time.

Kale_HelenaMcMurdo Photography

As for the chicken stock. I often end up using a mixture of my own quick stock, made from the chicken carcass topped up with some store-bought variety.

The special touch is a spoonful of homemade sofrito which I make in big batches and freeze in ice cube trays for when I need it. Sofrito is the onion and tomato base used for many a Spanish dish and I find to have this on hand is a wonderful thing. I use it constantly to add flavour to paella, soups or even to give extra dimension to a quick spaghetti sauce.  I use Ferran Adrià's recipe from The Family Meal, which you can find hereIf you don't have the sofrito on hand, you can substitute a spoonful of tomato paste.


Finally I give this soup a shot of spice with pimentón picante, Spanish spicy smoked paprika.

The result is a robust, nourishing, soup that will take the chill off any day.


Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup with Kale and Sofrito

Chicken Stock Ingredients:

Leftover cooked chicken with the equivalent of 1 breast and 1 leg remaining
10 peppercorns
1 bunch of parsley
1 bay leaf
2 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
2 carrots in large chunks
1 onion, skin on, split in half

Soup Ingredients:

2 litres chicken stock
1 stalk celery, finely diced
3 medium carrots, finely diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 to 2 TBSP sofrito
1 bunch of Kale
2 cups angel hair egg noodles
1 tsp pimentón picante (spicy smoked paprika)
Leftover cooked chicken with the equivalent of 1 breast and 1 leg remaining
Grated parmesan to garnish


1. Make the stock.

Remove the bulk of the meat from the chicken carcass and set aside in the fridge while you make the soup.

Place the chicken carcass in a pot with peppercorns, bay leaf, onion, carrot and celery and cover with water.

2. Simmer gently for 30 to 40 minutes

Pick any remaining meat and set aside. Dispose of the carcass and the vegetables. Drain the stock and set aside.

3. Sauté the mirepoix.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and saute the onion, celery and carrots. 

4. Add stock.
Add your stock and top up with purchased chicken stock to make up the required quantity.

5. When the vegetables are cooked, add a tablespoon of sofrito (or tomato paste) and the kale. About 5 minutes later, add the noodles.

6. Cook until both the kale and the noodles are almost tender (about 5 minutes more).

7. Dice the chicken meat and add it to the soup.

8. Add the pimentón and season with salt and pepper.

9. Heat for an additional 5 minutes.

10. Serve with grated parmesan.

If you liked this post, and would like to receive posts like it directly to your inbox, why not sign up for my email updates here.

The Nostalgia of Food

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I would be participating in the first public showing of my work as part of a group show called The Nostalgia of Food which opened on February 5th at Studio 126 in Vancouver's Chinatown. The show features a number of Vancouver food photographers, illustrators, and other artists all contemplating the theme of Nostalgia of Food. In total there are 15 artists showing more than 30 works, three of which I'm very pleased to say are by yours truly.

It was lovely to see such a great turnout for the opening night. I was truly overwhelmed by the great turnout  of Vancouverites that came out to support the show, on what was possibly one of the rainiest nights of the year. It was a night of  was good food, wine, conversation, friends, family and beautiful art from all the participants.

Naturally, the theme appealed to me. As readers of this blog will know, I do tend toward the nostalgic from time to time. It's sometimes said that nostalgia can hold us back and I'm very conscious of that but somehow I've found a way to make nostalgia drive me forward. Many of my own food memories are the subjects of this blog and they inspire both my writing and my photography work. In a way, I could say my own sense of nostalgia has opened up new avenues for me. I'm frequently surprised and delighted how often people respond to my posts with "my mum used to make that" or "that makes me remember".

I’m also interested by the cultural iconography of nostalgia as it relates to food. Does a home-made pickle made by a grandmother taste better than one made by a professional in a state-of-the art facility? Are we responding to the taste of the pickle or the experience or memory? How is that we can imagine these cues from experiences that may or may not have occurred. Are we being true to the real experience?  Or do we all attribute meaning to our memories that may not be there? No one in my family ever made pickles but I imagine them in an old-fashioned way. Why is that? 

One of my works on display, shown above, is called Rashers and Eggs. With this piece as with much of my photography, I'm exploring the simplicity of these ingredients which recalls a simpler time, when these items were the product of the farmhouse, not the factory. How many of us have actual memories of eating this way? Or are we responding to a collective imagined experience? Why do we long for that simpler time? Is it because it is just that? Simpler.

The whole experience of showing was an interesting one, from selecting the works to be included, to determining how I wanted them to be framed or even if I wanted to frame them. In the end, I decided that as they were to be offered for sale, I wanted to offer them as I envisioned them being hung on the wall. Because my photographs are printed on a fine art paper with a lot of texture, I wanted the edge of the piece to be visible and so I decided to float them on a back matt. I really like this effect because it feels natural and in keeping with my work.

One of the best  parts  in this whole process was being introduced to Anna and Ryan at Studio 126. Not only do they promote local artists and artisans but they are also artisans themselves, making the most stunning furniture out of reclaimed wood and welded metal, which is also for sale in their shop. They have created a beautiful space to sell and show not only their own work but the work of others. Being in their space is a nostalgic experience in itself. The room is stripped to the bare bones highlighting the old exposed brick and steel beams and it makes me think of the secrets of history that live within those walls. It's a lovely place to stop in, say hi and just enjoy a quiet moment looking at beautiful things. 

So all in all, the experience has been a lovely one which in years to come I know I'll look back on with a new sense of nostalgia for that time when I put up work for my first art show.

The Nostalgia of Food runs until March 1st at Studio 126, 126 Pender Street, Vancouver

Opening Times: Wednesday - Saturday 12-6pm

There's also a series of workshops associated with the event involving pattern making with food and preserving. More details are available on the Studio 126 website.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you with your thoughts on nostalgia. Are there any foods or eating experiences that spark particular memories for you? Does nostalgia hold you back or drive you forward?


UPDATE: The show has concluded. If you are interested in purchasing one of my fine art prints, you can contact me


Kale Salad with Candied Walnuts, Dates & Preserved Lemons

Our preserved lemons are done. And by done I mean ready. Back in January we made two beautiful batches. I was introduced to these a few years ago by Mourad Lahlou. I reviewed his cookbook and subsequently had the great pleasure to interview him as well. We talked about food's ability to bring people together and the role of food and memory, themes that seem to pop up all the time for me. 

Preserved Lemons. Helena McMurdo Photography on Endless Picnic.

Before this, I'd never eaten preserved lemons, let alone considered making them, but once I tried them, I was hooked and so was G. In fact, in our house, because he likes them so much, it's now G who takes charge of this process in early January when the citrus is beautiful and lovely. Basically the scrubbed, quartered lemons are packed with kosher salt. They are squeezed into a litre size jar and then topped with lemon juice. Then they sit to and you wait for the magic to happen. The rind becomes beautifully tender and packs a salty, lemony punch. If you have never made preserved lemons, I encourage you to consult Mourad's excellent book for more details about how to prepare them and give it a go.

Removing the rind from the flesh. Preserved Lemons. Helena McMurdo Photography on Endless Picnic.

Now that ours are done we've been digging into them in every possible way. I'm popping a slice of the rind in my gin and tonic, we're using them to top little anchovy toasts, (I prefer white anchovies in vinegar. G prefers the regular kind), and to make magical mouthwatering devilled eggs. 

Preserved Lemons. Helena McMurdo Photography on My Endless Picnic.

The subject of today's post is born out of a desire to put my preserved lemons to good use and to find yet another way to consume them, although, let's face it, I would be perfectly happy to eat the rinds straight out of the jar whilst watching television.

My inspiration comes from my friend Wendy, with whom I've shared many an interesting food conversation and who in her turn has convinced me to try an ingredient I already love in a new way. Kale. 

Kale. Helena McMurdo Photography on Endless Picnic.
Preserved Lemons. Helena McMurdo Photography on Endless Picnic.
Massaging the kale. Helena McMurdo Photography on Endless Picnic.

 I love Kale. I do. But up until recently I wasn't big on the raw version. I mean what's the point, when it tastes so good cooked with bacon or chorizo or in a hearty soup? But Wendy turned my head to the raw version when she introduced me to a fabulous kale salad that she featured last summer on her blog, The Garden Next Door, which is all about growing and eating your own produce. 

Since I found her salad I've made it in its original format and adapted it many times. And while I'm hardly going to go out and buy myself a kale smoothie, (sorry juicers - I don't get it), this salad has opened my eyes to a new way to enjoy kale. It's a salad that is extremely versatile with a nut component and a dried fruit component that can be easily switched out with other options. My desire to adapt it has very little to do with the quality of the original which is excellent but more to do with what might be in my cupboard at any given time. Wendy's original version calls for dates and almonds but I've used dried cranberries, raisins, pine nuts, walnuts and so on.

Honey Kissed Walnuts. Helena McMurdo Photography on Endless Picnic.

For today's version, I'm keeping the dates, substituting the lemon juice for the liquid from the preserved lemons and using a little more honey and a little more heat  than the original recipe, to counteract the salty punch of the lemons. Finally I'm adding a finishing touch of sweetness with the addition of honey-kissed walnuts.

I love to make this salad any time, but it's perfect for a pot-luck or party because so much of the preparation can be done the day before.

Kale Salad with Dates, Candied Walnuts & Preserved Lemons.
Preserved Lemons. Helena McMurdo Photography on Endless Picnic.

So that's the story of how we got to here, by sharing stories and learning from others, checking our cupboard stores and finding out what works. So with that in mind, I give you the following. 


Kale Salad with Dates, Candied Walnuts & Preserved Lemons

Kale Salad with Dates, Candied Walnuts & Preserved Lemons. Helena McMurdo Photography on Endless Picnic.

3 TBSP preserving liquid from preserved lemons
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tsp honey (plus additional below)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
kosher salt to taste

2 bunches kale 
3 TBSP olive oil 
4 quarters preserved lemons, rind only

40 grams (1/2 cup) walnuts
1 TBSP honey
8 dates, pitted and chopped 
70 grams (1/2 cup) finely grated parmesan

1. Prepare the dressing.

In a small bowl, combine the preserving liquid, shallot, honey and the red pepper flakes. At this point, taste the liquid and if required, add additional kosher salt to taste. The preserving liquid is already quite salty so you may find you won't need any additional salt. Set the dressing aside.

2. Prepare the kale.

Begin by washing the kale and removing the central rib. Chop the kale into bite-size pieces and make sure it is well dried. Yes, I often chop the kale first and then spin it in a salad spinner to dry. It seems to be easier to handle this way. Now tip the kale into a large bowl along with the olive oil. Now massage it. Yes massage it. Now repeat. You can read all about what Wendy says about massaging and it's true. It helps to soften up the kale and makes it more palatable in its raw format.

3. Prepare the preserved lemons.

Separate the rind from each of the lemon quarters with a sharp knife. Discard the flesh of the lemon or set aside for another use. Slice the rind into thin strips or dice finely as you prefer.

4. Dress the salad and refrigerate.

Combine the kale, dressing and preserved lemons and refrigerate for at least one hour. Ideally make the salad to this point the day before you wish to serve and it will be beautifully flavourful and the kale will have softened up nicely by the time you are ready to eat it.

5. Prepare the nuts

Chop the nuts into small pieces, quarters should do it. In a dry, hot frying pan, stirring all the time so they do not burn, toast the walnuts until golden. Remove the pan from heat, add 1 generous  TBP honey and stir rapidly to coat while the pan is still hot.  Tip the nuts out on to a sheet of parchment and set aside to cool.  

6. Finish the salad.

Add the cooled walnuts, dates,and parmesan to salad and toss it gently until it all leaves are thoroughly coated.

Enjoy.  I hope you will try it and please let me know in the comments how it works for you or what other ingredients you would make this with.

Hope you are all having a lovely weekend.

If you liked this post and would like to read more like directly in your inbox, sign up here.


Portraits: Shannon

Here's another portrait from the South Granville Inhabiter, In their Habitat series - the lovely Shannon. I first met Shannon about 10 years ago in the local. I was new to the neighbourhood she immediately made me feel welcome. When the opportunity came up last year to photograph her for South Granville Inhabiter, the answer was easy. 


You can visit the whole series of In Their Habitat Portaits on South Granville Inhabiter.

A New Year and Nostalgia

This will be the my first post of the new year and while custom tells me I should be looking forward to things ahead (more on that later), it is in fact nostalgia that occupies my mind. 

Two weeks ago my family celebrated a special anniversary – 40 years since our arrival in Canada. Naturally, this has brought on lots of memories and we have been reminiscing with my parents about what it was like to travel to Canada from Europe with 3 little kids and to begin a new life in a new land. We arrived in Edmonton en route to Yellowknife, north of the 60th Parallel, and the first order of business was to go to the Hudson’s Bay and buy snowsuits for all and our new life as Canadians in the North.

Yellowknife was filled with interesting people who all seemed to be from other parts and brought with them their food and traditions. My character being what it is, my thoughts turn to the things that we ate. With relatively less fresh food available north of 60°, we ate a lot of frozen things and a salad meant iceberg lettuce and a pale beef steak tomato.(Readers of this blog will know I'm not a particular fan of salad anyway). But there were some spectacular things as well. We had a lovely friend who taught us how to make rose petal jelly from the pink petals of the wild roses that grew rampant along the roads. We ate them on tiny scotch pancakes as kids and I long for the taste of them still, all these years later.

Reliving more recent history, I’ve also been making empanada, trying desperately to replicate the most excellent crust the ones we had last summer in Spain. While the testing is enjoyable, I’m not there yet. I hope to share soon. For now here’s a peek at some of the process. Why is it we try to recapture that experience?

The dough, before kneading.
My version of Empanada Gallega pre-oven.

My version of Empanada Gallega pre-oven.

La empanada de Begoña. The one I dream about.

La empanada de Begoña. The one I dream about.

As for what lies ahead? More nostalgia actually.

I’m thrilled to be participating in The Nostalgia of Food, a group art exhibition exploring the theme of nostalgia as it relates to our food and food experiences, featuring photography, painting, illustration and sculpture.

The show was imagined by Joey Armstrong, herself a talented photographer,  responsible for curating the show along with Anna of Studio 126, a furniture studio and gallery in Vancouver’s Chinatown.

Although Joey and I had been following each other on Instagram, we’d never met until I attended an exhibition of her work during the East Van Culture Crawl. When she mentioned the theme of this new show to me, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Because like come on, nostalgia is sort of my whole thing. Right? I’m honoured to be a part of this show, of the new relationships it has opened up and excited to see the work from the other artists attending. We've had some interesting conversations about the personal nature of nostalgia - what may be nostalgic for one person, may not be for another. 

I’ll have three works for sale, one of which, Pickling, is featured on the show’s poster below,designed by Joey. I’m touched that this image was picked to promote the show.

The Nostalgia of Food - Mark your calendars. Photo by Helena McMurdo / Design by Joey Armstrong

The Nostalgia of Food - Mark your calendars. Photo by Helena McMurdo / Design by Joey Armstrong

For me, pickles are in their very essence a nostalgic food item. They reflect a former time where preserving food in this way was a necessary part of life. It seems like everyone has story about their Grandma’s pickles and how good they were. In fact, I never made pickles growing up, but this image reflects much of the way I expected that experience would have been if I had.  That’s the funny thing about nostalgia – how much of it is real? How much of it is imagined or borrowed? Certain foods just seem to be imbued with more nostalgia than others. Today we have other ways of preserving food and we may make pickles for different reasons. Perhaps one of them is to recollect part of that way of life and recall a simpler time. They still taste pretty good too.

The Nostalgia of Food's opening reception takes place on February 5th at Studio 126, 126 E Pender, Vancouver from 7-10 pm. The show will continue until March 1st. I hope that those of you in Vancouver can drop by. For more info and to register for free tickets, visit the Eventbrite page.

So here's to nostalgia and good things ahead.



May all the Pleasures of the Season Be Yours

At this time of year, we often have a list of jobs that drive us. Between rounds of shopping, meal making and organizing, and the added stress of unexpected events, it's fair to wonder if it's all worth it.

Holiday Wreath © 2014 Helena McMurdo

So this is my wish for you...that you have time to enjoy some of the simple pleasures that the season brings. A day on your own, making cookies away from the crowds. A day making cookies with someone you love. A drink with a friend you haven't seen in a while. A mandarin orange in the toe of your stocking. 

Peace. Love. Joy.