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Donair, Pizza Delight style

I love Donairs!  I could eat them at least once a week. There is just something about the spicy flavor that my taste buds adore! That being said, I also realize that eating out can get very expensive. I tried the store bought “Donair meat” and sauce but found every brand to be lacking in something, be it texture, smell, taste or spiciness. They all had some kind of drawback. Then I thought to myself (with help from the Mrs) “Self, what if you made your own authentic Donair meat?”

“Hmmm…” I mused out loud. Time to do some research.  Well that research paid off.  My Mrs found an “Authentic Maritime Donair  Meat” recipe. It  proved to be simple and incredibly delicious. It was so good that we were “forced” to share with our friends and neighbors, whom have all commented on how it was the best Donair they have ever had.  I love the texture and taste of this recipe, combined with our super awesome sauce, the donair comes alive with delicious spicy sweetness.  If you would like to try the recipe out yourself, we have included the recipes for the meat and the sauce as well as assembly tips.

Background

The Maritime Canadian version of a Donair has close links to the Turkish Doner Kebab, which means “Rotating Roast”. It was traditionally made of lamb or beef or both. The meat is cooked on a vertical spit and cut into long thin slices and can be served in many different ways.

The Canadian version was introduced in Halifax in the early 1970’s by a restaurant called “King of Donair”. The meat is a combination of beef, flour or bread crumbs and a blend of spices. It is most often served with a sweet garlic sauce on a flatbread pita, with tomatoes and onions.

Maritimers have grown to love Donairs and is one of the most sought after “take-out” items when residents move away from the area. Purists will argue that the King of Donair’s version is the only acceptable one but much-loved variations abound. From the addition of pepperoni, mozzarella and lettuce, Donair meat and sauce can be found combined with any of these in a pita, on a pizza, in a sub sandwich, in an egg roll, and in other tasty concoctions.

Making the meat and sauce are actually very simple and the ingredients are readily available in many kitchens or easily obtained at your local grocery store. And the best part is that you really don’t need a special vertical spit to cook the meat.

DONAIR MEAT RECIPE

I followed this recipe for the meat

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground oregano
  • 1 tsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 pound ground beef

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F (175C). In a cup or small bowl, mix the salt, oregano, flour, black pepper, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper.

Place ground beef in a large bowl, and use your hands to blend in the spice mixture. If you want the smooth texture of meat that you see in a real Donair shop, you must do this in a steel mixing bowl and on a sturdy surface. Pick up the meat, and throw it down with force about 20 times, kneading it after each throw. This also helps the meat hold together better when you slice it. (You can also use a food processor or sturdy stand mixer)

Form the meat into a loaf, and place it on a broiler pan. If you do not have one, a baking sheet will do.

Bake 1hr 15min in preheated oven, turning the loaf over about half way through. This will ensure even cooking. Refrigerate the meat overnight before slicing.

DONAIR SAUCE RECIPE

I followed this recipe for the sauce

Ingredients

  • 2/3 c sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 c  white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp  garlic powder

Directions

Stir the milk and garlic powder together.  Add vinegar then stir the sauce for a couple of minutes in order for the vinegar and milk to mix properly.  Leave it sit for a few minutes then refrigerate.  The Donair sauce will last a few weeks in the refrigerator and I find that it is best served cold.

Doubles easily by using the whole can of condensed milk and doubling the other ingredients.

ASSEMBLING YOUR DONAIR

For a Halifax-style Donair:

  • 4oz thinly sliced Donair meat
  • Chopped fresh tomato
  • Chopped fresh or sautéed onions
  • Donair sauce
  • Pita bread

For a Pizza Delight-style Super-Donair, add:

  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Shredded iceberg lettuce
  • Sliced pepperoni
  • Small pre-cooked pizza shell (instead of pita)

Halifax-style Donair: Add sliced Donair meat to a hot pan with a touch of oil and stir fry it until it is hot. Steam pita by placing it on the heating meat. Once warmed, place meat on pita, top with sauce, onions and tomatoes. Roll it up and enjoy with lots of napkins.

Pizza Delight-style Super Donair: Heat Donair meat and pepperoni in a pan. Place meats on a small pre-cooked pizza shell.  Add shredded cheese. Broil until cheese is melted and starting to brown. Add lettuce, onions, sauce and tomatoes. Roll and enjoy with lots of napkins on hand.

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Yummy! It smells so good in my shop today! I decided that I would cook supper for my ladies tonight as they both are going to be busy ! I thought a wonderful spaghetti would be great.  Then I thought I would do a thick meaty sauce but Mrs wanted a marinara type sauce, so that is what I made. I started with some red onion, green peppers and portobello mushrooms. I diced everything really fine, except the mushrooms, which I left a little bigger. To this  I added some light olive oil and salt and pepper. I allowed the veggies to sweat for a little bit until they started soften up. I then added some La San Marzano tomatoes and broke those up. Some tomato paste followed then some regular Ragu sauce because of time factors. As this was coming to a slow simmer, I finely chopped some of my garden fresh rosemary, oregano, parsley and a tiny bit of cilantro. I was able to pick up some basil from my local market, which completed the herb blend. I put this all together in the pot and let it simmer for about 3 hrs. I have my shop door open and folks wandered by saying “What smells so good”. I also cooked up some whole wheat spaghetti to mix into this wonderful sauce!

A woman even came into my shop to see my soaps and after we chatted for a while, I learned that she was Italian and a recent transplant to the city. Of course I had to have her taste my spaghetti sauce and she said it was fantastic. I’ll take that as a compliment any day. Thank you Franca!

Mrs and the girl both reported that the spaghetti was fantastic. It was just what my Mrs was looking for. I can’t wait to have some on my break later tonight!

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I feel like I’ve uncovered the Caramilk Secret to getting perfectly oven roasted potatoes. In the past, my attempts at roasting potatoes either yielded undercooked potatoes or ones that were overcooked and burnt on the outside.

Then my wife found this recipe the other day on the Whole Foods app on her iPod touch. The recipe described two methods of cooking the potatoes. The first method got my attention right away because I was hopeful for a solution to my previous potato bombs. It seemed too simple to be the piece that would make the difference. One little step: Steam the potato pieces for 6 minutes, then roast in the oven. That’s it? I gave it a try with some nice red potatoes. Cut into wedges then steamed for 6 minutes. I tossed the steamed potatoes in a bit of olive oil, then seasoned with salt, pepper and chopped fresh rosemary and roasted on a baking sheet for 30 minutes in a 375F oven, turning the potatoes over halfway through. The potatoes turned out perfectly: Beautifully cooked on the inside, crisp and seasoned on the outside. Delicious!

A few days later, I tried the same trick with sweet potatoes and achieved the result pictured here. It was sweet potato nirvana. I will be cooking potatoes this way again and again. And now you know the secret  too. Go forth and roast.

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My wife wanted some nice white fish for supper on Friday so I headed over to the market to see what was available. The fish monger hooked me up with some nice fresh halibut steaks. As I walked around the stalls, I noticed some mangoes and thought that would go nicely with the halibut. When we got home, I found this recipe for mango salsa and modified it to the following (since it’s what I had on hand):

  • 2 large ripe mangoes peeled and cut into bite-size chunks
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 whole chopped green onions
  • juice of 1/2 a lime and 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/3 of a jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • handful of fresh chopped parsley and tarragon
  • ground sea salt and ground black pepper

I combined all of these in a large flat bottomed container and then used a chopper (similar to the Slap Chop) to cut up the pieces a bit finer. Then I transferred it all to a serving bowl.

I rubbed salt and pepper onto the halibut steaks then placed them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. I drizzled olive oil and fresh lemon juice on both sides then baked it for about 8 or 10 minutes.

I served it all up with some fresh steamed fiddleheads (seasoned with salt & pepper, lemon juice and butter) and orzo pasta (with garlic and chili powders).

The combination of the mango salsa with the fish was amazing. It was cool and sweet and fresh. The flavour layers were perfect. I will definitely make that again. My whole family loved it and I highly recommend it. The fiddleheads were cooked perfectly. There is nothing like fresh fiddleheads in the spring here. They are a highly anticipated food item in my household. The sprinkle of lemon on them made them pair perfectly with the fish and salsa. The orzo was a bit too mellow tasting for this meal. I think a nice light rice would have been better. But overall, this meal was a complete success, unfortunately with no leftovers for later. So I bought some more mangoes yesterday. I want to try this salsa over scrambled eggs next.

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The next part of Saturday’s supper consisted of a very simple Mexican Bean Salad (recipe here). I followed the recipe pretty much as written except that in Canada, our standard large can sizes tend to be 19oz rather than 15 so I used the whole thing.

The only real change I made was with the dressing and even that was minimal. My wife didn’t want it to be just an oil and vinegar dressing so I used about 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise and reduced the amount of oil and vinegar in the recipe by about half. This gave the dressing a nice creamy consistency. The other thing I did was to reduce the chili powder to 2 teaspoons instead of 1 tablespoon because we thought it might be too spicy. In the end, we found that it would have been ok to use the whole amount called for in the recipe because it really wasn’t spicy at all. If I make this again, I will use more chili powder. Now there’s something I never thought I would hear myself say.

We all loved this recipe, as did my 12 year old daughter. We brought leftovers of this salad to my mother in law’s the next day for Mother’s Day supper and everybody there loved it too. In fact, we are still finishing it up in work and school lunches. This recipe makes a LOT so it would be perfect for a potluck not to mention that it was super easy and quick to put together.

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Twice Baked Potatoes

Last Saturday, my wife made up a couple of twice baked potatoes to go with our supper. I scrubbed 2 large baking potatoes, then pierced them with a fork and cooked them in the microwave on the baked potato setting. When they were done and nicely soft on the inside, my wife cut them in half lengthwise. She then scooped out the cooked potato into a bowl, leaving about a quarter inch thick potato shell. She mashed the removed potato with about a tablespoon of butter. She then added some salt, pepper, a tablespoon of chopped cooked bacon, 2 heaping tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley, a whole minced green onion, and about a cup of shredded old Cheddar cheese. She mixed the filling well and then spooned it back into the potato shells and topped each potato half with about 2 tablespoons of shredded old Cheddar cheese and finished with a sprinkle of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.

The potato shells were placed on a baking sheet and placed in a 350F oven for about 20 minutes, which was just enough to perfectly melt the cheese on top and get the inside of the potato nicely hot again. We had them with a dollop of sour cream and they were delicious! Stay tuned for posts about the rest of our supper that night. It was amazing!

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Last Sunday, as you probably have gathered already if you’ve been reading my previous posts, we made a supper of lamb chops and perogies. My wife and daughter were in charge of the perogies while I looked after the lamb chops and the rub for them.

We had never eaten lamb chops before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve had so many people tell me that it’s a strong meat and that they don’t like lamb at all but we wanted to try it for ourselves.

I created a rub for the lamb chops, with some ingredient suggestions from my wife. I rubbed it all into the chops, wrapped them up in plastic, then let them sit in the refrigerator for a few hours (more like 5). When supper time neared, I sauteed about 2 cups of sliced mushrooms then removed them from the pan. Then I pan seared the lamb chops in some butter and olive oil in a hot pan. I let them brown for a minute or so on each side then allowed them to finish in the oven.

Earlier in the day, about the same time I was making the rub, my wife and daughter began making the perogies using this recipe. They cooked up the potatoes, mashed them and added the rest of the filling ingredients. They then whipped up the dough, let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes, then divided the dough into 16 balls. Each ball was rolled out individually and a spoonful of filling was placed in the center of each rolled dough round, which was then folded over and sealed closed in the traditional perogy shape. Aren’t they beautiful?

The finished perogies were then boiled, 4 at a time, for about 6 minutes per batch. They were then set aside until it was closer to supper. My wife pan fried them all in some butter in a hot pan, until they were golden and crispy on each side. They were served up with the requisite sour cream at supper time. See what my brilliant wife did with the leftover filling?

Our lamb chops and perogies came together beautifully for supper, accompanied by some steamed asparagus. If we make the perogies again, we will make them a bit smaller, and use the stick blender to make the filling smoother. Our verdict on the lamb chops is that we really enjoyed the flavour. Neither of us felt that it was strong tasting and we probably would have been hard pressed to tell it apart from beef, but that may have been due to the very savoury rub on it too. We did find the chops to be very fatty so if we have lamb again, we might go for a different cut next time. Maybe we’ll do lamb kabobs, or lamb stew, or lamb roast, or… so many possibilities.

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