Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Hot Pot Cookbook Developed by Seniors in Bathurst-Finch... Ukrainian Borsch...

I have been doing some recent work in the Bathurst and Finch Avenue West core in North York, namely with high school Northview Heights Secondary School to get ready for our exciting large-scale hands-on cooking event on Food Revolution Day (more on that in my next post). At the same time, I've been scoping their adjacent community garden at the Bathurst-Finch Community Hub as a spring volunteer to help empower people of all incomes to grow and eat healthy, home-grown local food. I have come to learn that this area embodies a rich mix of diverse cultures, coupled with an ageing population.

I was thrilled to read an article in my local paper about a newly published cookbook titled Hot Pot Cookbook that reflects the plethora of cultures in Bathurst-Finch.  A group of community agencies wanted to celebrate the different heritages by socially engaging local low-income seniors and food was the inspiration. The project of creating a cookbook full of recipes contributed by seniors was embraced by North York Harvest Food Bank (NYHFB), operating the Bathurst and Finch Community Food bank which is the largest food program in the neighbourhood. The food bank serves a large number of Russian-speaking seniors about 700 households a month. The bank is located in the Northview Heights high school as a dignified and inviting space for food assistance. Aside from the great teachers and a wonderfully-run Culinary department, it's another reason why I love Northview so much- their inclusivity and sense of community!

With the following excerpts from the community North York Mirror article, Hot Pot Cookbook Reflects Bathurst-Finch Culture written by Fannie Sunshine, "Once NYHFB was on board, an editorial committee made up of nine people of Iranian, Russian, Italian, Jewish, Caribbean and Indian backgrounds was put together to come up with a vision for the cookbook, how to get the recipes, and how to determine what went into the book.They asked older clients of the food bank to contribute hand-written recipes to be put into a box. Roughly 60 recipes were collected, double what was expected, said Lara McLachlan, director of community engagement for NYHFB, adding recipes contained ingredients supplied by the Bathurst-Finch Community Food Bank."

"A group of 18 taste-tasters was then formed, who cooked and sampled the recipes using Unison Health and Community Services’ kitchen in the nearby Bathurst-Finch Community Hub. Unison provided dieticians to work with community groups to promote good health through focusing on nutritious food and helping to run community kitchen groups. Toronto Public Health offered a dietician to help review and test the recipes. In total, 48 recipes were selected for Hot Pot: A Collection of Bathurst and Finch Recipes

The project was funded through the New Horizons for Seniors Program (NHSP) of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada." Scroll to the bottom of post to see how you can order a free copy. It truly captures the vibrancy of a rich culturally diverse neighbourhood.

Photo Credit: Hot Pot Cookbook: A Collection of Bathurst and Finch Recipes

Flipping through the colourful pages, there were many interesting recipes that stood out to make for my family. One in particular was Ukrainian Borsch. I've always loved Borsch and funny enough it is a soup that is often offered in Hong Kong-style Chinese eateries serving comfort food- a bowl of hot borsch before the main meal. However, they use tomatoes as the base rather than beets and the addition of kidney beans here is a first. I also discovered much to my amazement, that the fourth country of my highest blog audience is from Ukraine, preceded by Canada, U.S. and France in that order. As a shout out to my wonderful Ukrainian readers, I'm making your classic beet soup to enjoy with my family! 

Ukrainian Borsch (adapted from the Hot Pot Cookbook recipe serving for 10)
Makes 6 servings

5 cups water
2 beets, thoroughly washed with skin and ends trimmed
1 large or 2 medium potatoes, peeled, diced
1/4 cabbage, thinly shredded
2 Tbsp. oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, grated
1/2 Tbsp. ketchup
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 can (540 mL) kidney beans, drained and rinsed well
dill or parsley, chopped
salt and ground black pepper to taste

Fill a large pot with water. Add the beets and cover to simmer on medium for an hour. Beets are ready when beets can be pierced smoothly with a butter knife. Remove and set aside to cool.

Beets are done when a butter knife can pierce them.

Drain beets and rub off skins with hands under cool running water. (Ha, I read about this skin removing trick after I peeled the beets with the peeler). Transfer to a non-porous plate or cutting board such as glass so not to stain; cool, then slice into rounds then cut into match sticks.

Add the potatoes in the same water and boil for 15 minutes. Add the cabbage when potatoes are halfway done. Meanwhile, heat oil in a saucepan on medium high heat and sauté the onions and carrots until they are soft. Stir in the ketchup when the mixture is almost done cooking about three minutes.

Add beets back to the pot with the potatoes and cabbage. Add chicken broth, lemon juice, bay leaves and kidney beans to the pot; then add the onions and carrots along with the dill or parsley. Cook for 10 minutes until the cabbage is done. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with sour cream or mayonnaise.

Tomorrow is earth day so what better way than to celebrate with a dish honouring the many precious treasures from our mother earth.
дуже смачний! (Delicious! in Ukraine). The natural sweetness of beets is divine-tasting!

"Launched March 19 at the Bathurst-Finch Community Hub, the cookbook offers breakfast, dessert, main dishes, salads, side dishes, soup, and vegetarian recipes, all of which are translated into Russian. Five hundred copies of the cookbook have been printed and are available for free at NYHFB, 640 Lawrence Ave.," McLachlan said. Those interested in obtaining a copy can email lara@northyorkharvest.com. Please consider donating $10 to the North York Food Bank as a small token for the great cookbook.

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