Coconut Chai Rice Pudding with Crunchy Lemon Coconut, cooking in the woods edition

Every year I make a pilgrimage to the same place.  It changes, like a nebula, gaining limbs (friends) and losing others (uh, also referring to friends here), but the change is slow, organic, natural and altogether comfortable.  In the woods, time passes in it’s own microcosm, and the city just… doesn’t matter.  Ceases to factor in.

chai tea bags + coconut milk + raw sugar + brown rice = easiest forest treat ever.

It’s the kind of environment you might expect me to leave my kitchen tools behind in, while I’m on the train of liberty, right?  But, I dunno.  It’s in my animal nature to dice things and boil water, and make something from nothing, from maligned vegetables and extra time and waking up refreshed from 10+ hours sleep and the clacking of trees and birds and drumming.

Some context:  Many years running, my friends have thrown a kind of intimate woods festival, with a generator to make christmas lights and music, an exceptionally well equipped and beautiful kitchen, a classy kaibo (read: outhouse with tarps instead of walls),  absolutely no running water, and enough calm vibes to soothe even the most frazzled entrant upon making it through the big green gate.  It’s a little slice of paradise, and I’m lucky enough to be given some freedom in the kitchen there, turning the daily donations of fresh fruit and veg into stuff that’s more akin to dinner than the usual camper rations of dried crackery things.

Some years we even make sushi!  Okay, maybe, every year we make sushi.  It’s kind of a tradition at this point.  I was grateful I didn’t have to spearhead that operation this year, and it’s a good thing it was up to two of the other incredibly talented cooks working in the kitchen.  I don’t know how they did it, but was the nicest sushi rice I’ve tasted in like, a year.   Seriously.

one of the most talented and lovely chefs I’ve had the pleasure of cooking with. Together we made curry night happen! And that wild blueberry apple compote with rosemary cashew-crisp topping? Genius.

If you’ve never organized a festival kitchen (and I never really have, I’ve only stuck my hand in to help for a few days, and observed a bit along the way), there are a few things to keep in mind.  First: Keep It Simple.  For everyone’s sanity, and your enjoyment, and frankly, as a favour to the food.  It’s not the time to try and reinvent the wheel or get all mission impossible about things.  Work with what you’ve got and cook it well.  Have eggplants and tahini?  Salt those, wring them, fry them and drizzle with sesame goodness, lemon and mint – faboo.  Have too much stale bread and old bananas?  Vegan french toast, my friends.  Coleslaw is easy, colourful, keeps well, and there’s always big hard grate-able veggies around – notwithstanding that I think it’s important to aways have a good crunchy salad out there on the front table to counteract the effects of partying all night and day.  No wimpy lettuce.  Tell your friends not to bring lettuce.  Cut up plenty of fruit for people.  Figure out how to A: boil (sanitize) water, B: make coffee, and C: keep the dish-pit supplied with said sanitized water.  Do some dishes when no one’s around.  Other things.

it’s all for you <3

And so, when it rained on the last day, like a biblical 6AM head-bucket of lake-sized proportions, turning my tent (without fly, without tarp) into a swimming pool in about eight seconds, I turned to the campstove for warmth and made morale-chili while everyone was asleep.  And, later when I had to finally take my toes from the soft ground and force them back into socks and sneakers and turn them towards the loud distilled air of the city, I was cool with it (I guess).  Because it won’t be for long, really.  I’m going to the maritimes in a week, and I’m bringing my campstove, my metal dishes, and a few select spices with me. ;)

Coconut Chai Rice Pudding with Crunchy Lemon Coconut

Serves 8-10

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • two 400ml cans of coconut
  • 1 litre carton of rice milk
  • 2 chai tea bags
  • 1/2 cup raw organic sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • pinch of cloves
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit (raisins, apricots or mango would be nice)
  • maple syrup (optional)

Add all ingredients except the dried fruit to a large sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and gently simmer, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t burn, for at least 60 minutes or until the rice is very soft and thick.  Stir in the fruit.

Lemon Coconut

  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup coarse organic sugar
  • juice of 1 lemon

Toast the coconut in a heavy skillet over medium heat until golden brown.  Add the coarse sugar and lemon juice and toss until the coconut is well coated in crystals.  Let cool, and serve sprinkled on the pudding.


Tachido, home of the gorilla and the glutenless sandwich

tchotchke – (Yiddish) an inexpensive showy trinket


1965–70, Americanism ;  < Yiddish tshatshke  < Polish czaczko bibelot, knickknack

(now obsolete; compare modern cacko  withsame sense, orig. dial.); of expressive orig.


collectablecollectible – things considered to be worth collecting (not necessarily valuable or antique)
Going for a sandwich on a rather flingy whim didn’t necessarily prepare me for the requisite mile end arty-collage space that I should have seen coming.  I’ve only lived here in this neighbourhood for how long?  (Galleries are actually a place to get pizza, I’m pretty sure).  True to form, Tachido is home to a mass mural from the same people who decorated l’Espace Go, to our latent osmotically gained hipster-vibe delight, and even more knick-knacked curios lit up with fairy lights all over the tiny sandwich shop – the new resto on Parc street, but already proving to be a laid back hangout for randoms of all types.  Laid back randoms, anyway.
But dear, sweetie, how was the food?  Tachido serves food, right?  Mexican kinda sandwiches, involving the usual suspects of black beans, pork, chicken, cheeses, guac and hot sauces, AND gluten free options, if that’s something you care about.  They have fresh juices (agua fresca), of which a melon kind we partook.  I liked it, but I’m a sucker for melon anything, and it kinda pink-efied the meal a bit and I don’t care if it’s winter, I’ll refreshen up anytime!
We got some cheap sandwiches, a pulled pork torta sandwich on fresh housemade bread, and a huitlacoche (mushroom, corn and cheese) quesadilla, also housemade.  A little deal for the side is a hot pot of spicy black bean sauce/soup and a couple of hot sauces in red and green for about 3$, and I pretty much insist that you add this onto the order.  Reasoning for this is that while the food is fresh, hot, healthy and inexpensive, it isn’t outlandishly… shall we say, flavourful.  A shot of the saucy sides fixes that up okay.
They serve beer and cocktails (margaritas!), and get coffee from Toi, Moi & Cafe up the street, which probably means that there is at least a decent selection of brew (I haven’t been there in years but I remember a dizzying array).  They also have homemade pastries, and if I’d known that at the time I’d be just that much closer to being entirely made of sugar than I am now.  They’re probably good, judging by the bread (which is good, really).
+ points for the decor
+ points for the vegetarian/gluten-free/kid friendliness of it all
– points for normal tasting food (replace the mozza-type cheese with some real face-punching salty queso, and THEN we’d be talking!)
+ it’s such a family-run place – we talked to the guy running the show that day and he explained to some depth his brother’s toy-and-oddity fascination
+ Tacorama Fridays after 9pm!  I can only imagine the joy of that.  Woah, hey, dudes, now we have TWO late night taco places in the mile end!  Sweet.

Tachido on Urbanspoon

So, you know how I ordered a huitlacoche quesadilla?  I knew it was a mushroom.  I didn’t know it was also called CORN SMUT!
*dies laughing*
oh, that’s awesome.

The mascot of midwinter Café Falco?

Resolutions mean nothing to me.  But quiet is a resolute panacea.  I’ve given up a few things this month to make room for meditation, drawing, reading and the occasional blustery foray into the few hours of sunshine that we get in January times.

No sex.  No music, television, alcohol, meat, sugar, diet soda, dancing, makeup/jewellery, staying up late, harsh words, daydreaming, the like.  No chaos.

Where I could explain to you in detail the how-it-works of the siphon drip system that Café Falco offers and the origins of it’s countless artisanal accoutrements, I will instead impress upon you that what’s truly important is the expression of inventive serenity that it all adds up to.  It’s hidden in an industrial part of Mile End, the ground floor of an imposing, grey-striked building with an uneventful front and a dubious entrance door.  The inside reveals, though.  Probably one of the nicest places to experience the dead of winter – the warmth and precision of the homespun / futurespun cube-space sets off the snow and slate-sided buildings from across the street well – and really, how better to appreciate the human creation of windows and walls than with hot hands cupped around one of the best kitten-smooth coffees in the neighbourhood?  Stronger than the usual but still long (ie: not espresso), like coffee should be (to this non-European, anyway).

Falco also offers repast for those wanting a bit of gentleness and brown rice to hopefully negate greasy memories.  A chalk menu lists the Japanese/French fare – rice bowls with tofu or meat, sticky onigiri, miso soup, salads, sandwiches on fresh bread from nearby Boulangerie Guillaume and sweet things (muffins etc) from the same place.

sweet potato salad flecked with tiny onion + syphon コーヒー

The miso soup was perfect.  A cup of energetic stillness, made with a proper dashi and sipped from from a dark umbre bowl.  The rice and tofu dish is the kind of thing that I used to eat while vegan, each element (carrots, tofu and lentils) carefully dressed and seasoned individually.  While it’s hard to handle with chopsticks for the exact reasons mentioned here – maybe that’s just a clue to either work more patiently on one’s eating technique, or perhaps use the broth from the soup to clean the last few grains from the bowl as monks do.

The most surprisingly delicious thing was the onigiri – made with sticky soft rice and filled with chunks of sweet salmon – it was a delicate but un-shy example of the form.  It’s not something very difficult to make, but making them this well is rare, and I really should go back to try the others.  I think there were 3 or 4 varieties that day.

There’s a hammock in the corner and shelves of thin brown pottery, sculptures, a falcon, globe lanterns and a happy-looking staff.  Few private tables, but then, we’re all eating next to each other anyway when we go out to that third place, might as well be neighbourly about it.  And peaceful.

(lunch for one, with siphon coffee, rice bowl, soup and onigiri = 16$.  Pricey, but organic and very good)

Café Falco on Urbanspoon

South Indian vegetarian lusciousness at Maison Indian Curry

A long time ago, in a curryshop far, far away, I was tucked warm and cozy with the boyfriend and extended family eating spicy goo and dipping all kinds of flatbreads into it.  I think the only reason I hadn’t thought to mention such a good dinner until now was perhaps knowing how vivid it remained in my mind, and thus preserved until such time as Bubble Tea warranted a warming burst of cumin-laden air.    WhOOOOSH!

Having heard good things about Maison Indian Curry, we braved the considerable sunday night (!) lineup and worked up a good hunger for the north AND south indian food that awaited.  For yes, they do offer alternatives to the relentless parade of butter chicken and tikka masala!  There are dosas and sambars, idli and fenugreek and lentils, coconut and tamarind and rice, oh my!

It was a rather vegetarian meal this time, it being impossible to ignore the multi-page spread of vegetable dishes that all sounded pretty unique.  It was hard to choose just a few, but samosas are a must in our city-wide quest to find the perfect one, so we started with these gems served with creamy minty sauce and tangy tamarind.  Passably delicious, if that makes any sense in samosa-talk.  A reasonable size, too.

Actually, I need to talk about something IMPORTANT (haha ok).  I am looking for a specific kind of samosa here in Montreal.  Imagine if you will, a filling that is mostly whole toasted spices, cooked down greens, a few peas and even fewer potatoes, with a noticeable sour taste, and in a perfect world, available in baked format as well as fried.  I know I can get them in Ottawa, but has anyone tasted a samosa like that here?  It would be amazing to find.  ~ Signed, carb-lovin’ mango hot sauce usin’ nommer ^^;;

We also started with a Chana Puri plate, with comes with fried breadstuffs that can be tenderly ripped into chunks and used to scoop up what I’ve heard is an incredibly authentic chickpea curry.  Absolutely addictive, light and rich at the same time, and the garlicky yogurt on the side makes for a transporting combo.  Please order this!!

Another specialty of the Maison is the dosa, which comes – huge as a battleship – a crispy footlong carapace stuffed with a choice of tandoori chicken, hot masala potatoes, or regular potatoes.  Alas, I wanted this to be amazing so badly, having heard such good things about it, but ultimately it suffered from non-integrated oddly yellow chicken inside, and a dosa itself that tasted like the crispy bits on the side of grilled cheese sandwich.  Not necessarily bad, but not half as good as some that I’ve made at home, even.  It was all much improved by dipping things in the accompanying soup and coconut-ty sauce, but even that was kind of awkward to coordinate.  The veggie version is probably better, I do suspect.

Vegetables also stole the show as the mains rolled in, with the okra (the OKRA, people!) winning the little crown as “tastiest thing nestled in an ornate metal vessel on the table,” it was scraped clean before long.  The lamb vindaloo was only succulent and complex in comparison, and the eggplant goo (as well as rhyming with “vindaloo,”  aw cute) was a rich slather best saved for non-dieting months, albeit really delish on naan bread.

Oh yeah, the naan was average.  Good though.  Just thought I’d mention.

While not as spicy as some, and having only decent samosa and naan, what Maison Indian Curry DOES have is a delightful sour taste to it’s food, and a fresh, multi-layered and varied palette.  A haven for vegetarians!  And with more south Indian dishes on the menu, a place to return to for more interesting options than the usual Punjab fare.  (The prices are also comparatively good for the neighbourhood… that is to say, cheap).

Maison Indian Curry on Citeeze

Maison Indian Curry on Urbanspoon

Jardin du Cari – goat on the corner


So’s, I love me some goat, y’know?  It’s kinda like lamb but with more guts, heft, and twang (woo!).  Annnnnd, it’s not the sort of the thing you’re going to find at the local sandwich shop or one of the myriad sushi express places that pepper most neighbourhoods.  Thankfully, for the goat lovers there are options in the Mile End.  Well, I know of one place now.  Jardin du Cari.

The air when you enter is thick with spices.  The walls are deep brick red and even in the depths of winter it almost feels like a short whirring fan in the corner to combat the “heat” would make the atmosphere complete.  Jardin does Caribbean food in a simple and straightforward way and if you were curious about the exotic details of the cuisine this might not be the place to learn much, but it’s pretty tasty stuff for a fast lunch and it’s real food.

Cloudy got one of the famous rotis – curried chicken wrapped in a soft flatbread (7.30$), and I had to (obviously) get the goat curry (8.75$) with the optional addition of baked pumpkin on the side (+.75$).  The pumpkin was bright and crammed with ginger and the curry was warmly spiced, smooth and studded with potatoes and fat chunks of long-stewed goat.  The rice was just rice but it soaked up the ample sauce nicely and once slathered with the housemade hot sauce (DELICIOUS housemade hotsauce with real heat and real flavour), it was a treat of a plate.  Also featured: fried plantains (a touch too sweet, but oh well), and a decent salad with actual vegetables and a zesty simple dressing.

I didn’t try so much of the roti, but the place slowly filled over the course of our lunch with relaxed locals… eating roti.  So, it’s probably really awesome.  Anything involving fresh bread, flat or otherwise, is generally a win.  And, there is that amazing hot sauce.  So… recommended.   (The owners are also super nice.)

For the record here is a quick guide to Jardin du Cari’s menu:

Choose a protein – shrimp, goat, chicken or chickpea.


Choose a foods type – roti, curry, guyanese chow mein, or fried rice

= your thing.  tada!

One more thing – YOU MUST ORDER THE PEANUT PUNCH!!  Holy, it’s delicious and only 2.50$.  It’s like if peanut butter collided with a milkshake and made an ice cold frothy nut baby.  Mmmmmmmmmm.

Jardin Du Cari (Le) on Urbanspoon