When I lived in Toronto, I did my best to have a balanced diet. Patrick and I would grocery shop every Saturday or Sunday and sometimes I’d be able to make it down to the farmer’s market for produce. I worked in very busy restaurant kitchens until just before I got pregnant, and then, with the same restaurant company, moved to the marketing team so I wouldn’t have to lift 20kg bags of flour every day. The move also meant a lot more food writing, an opportunity to learn and grow and much less snacking during my workday. It was a great experience.
I admit, the constant taste, season, taste, season aspect of being a professional cook had me a bit blobby around the edges. So much cream, butter and, my personal favourite, poutine (the last restaurant where I worked has a duck confit poutine pizza on the menu – so, so wrong and yet, so right). And then, coming home from a long work day, Patrick and I would often opt for a dinner of takeout Thai, pizza, or, on our better days, we’d walk to the Korean restaurant down the road for their amazing kimchi jiggae (I’m telling you, Torontonians, Makkal Chon is the best Korean restaurant in the city).
Makkal Chon, Scarborough, Toronto
Having moved to Ireland, our diet has gotten exponentially better. A big part of this is the fact that there is no poutine in Waterford (yet… gimme a few years!). Another reason is that I haven’t really met anyone or made any friends, which means eating out is not something we often do. I don’t mind, I know I’ll meet people eventually, and for now the quiet time is nice since in less than two months I’ll be busy with a newborn baby.
The third, and my favourite, reason our diet has gotten better is because it’s IRELAND. We have access to such delicious fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat here. My father-in-law has a deep-freeze full of lamb joints that I am always encouraged to help myself to. When we’re in Tipperary on the weekends, we are frequently gifted with fresh eggs (both chicken and duck). Patrick and I love trying the different artisanal food products – the jams, jellies, compotes, sauces, baked goods and cheeses, all pesticide and preservative-free – that are abundant here.
Even though I’m baking a lot more, it’s not having too much of an adverse affect on our diet. Since I’m not “working” I have plenty of time to grow some of our own food, maintain a sourdough starter and make healthy dinners every night. Patrick often gets a good workout on the farm most weekends and we go walking regularly on nice evenings. So while we may be indulging a bit more than we’re used to, we’re also using better ingredients. It’s a nice balance.
I wanted to make blueberry grunt last night, but that can wait for my mom to arrive, who will hopefully be sourcing some Nova Scotian wild blueberries for me (fingers crossed!). I had some blueberries and strawberries lying around and decided, instead, to make a cobbler for dessert. A grunt is similar to a cobbler, but the dumplings usually get steamed instead of baked.
This cobbler is a great summer dessert. I sprinkle slivered almonds over the top before baking for a little added crunch and flavour. Cobbler is great on its own, but with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream (or Haagen Daas, whatever you have) it reaches dessert perfection. Serve it warm for complete satisfaction.
Summer Berry Cobbler
2 pints fresh blueberries
1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
1/4 cup orange juice
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 Tbsp sugar or honey
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup slivered almonds
sugar, for sprinkling
milk, for brushing
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees (190 degrees Celsius, no fan).
- In a baking dish, arrange the berries so they’re evenly spread out.
- In a small bowl, mix the icing sugar, orange juice and vanilla. Drizzle over the berries and lightly toss to coat in the glaze.
- In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Rub or cut in the butter until the mixture is coarse and crumbly, with the butter well incorporated.
- At this point, if you’re using honey instead of sugar, mix it in with the milk. Add the milk to the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. If the mixture is looking too dry, add a bit more milk to reach the right consistency. It should look wet and sticky but still hold it’s shape, like scone dough.
- Drop the batter by wooden spoonfuls onto the berry mixture. You can choose to spread the batter to cover the berries entirely, or maintain the shape of scones, leaving some room for the berries to bubble up while baking (I always do this because I find it easier to portion once baked).
- Brush the tops of the scones with a bit of milk, then sprinkle a bit of sugar on top (brown or white, your choice). Sprinkle the almonds over the tops of the scones.
- Bake for 30-45 minutes, checking after 30. The scones should be golden brown and crunchy on top and the berries should still be whole with a nice, bubbly sauce.