If you’re not paying attention, London might seem a little … beige (as I once heard it described by comedian Billy Connolly). Fortunately, Alieska Robles has experience finding the heart of a place. She was raised in Caracas, Venezuela and spent several years in Buenos Aires, Argentina before relocating to London. Once here, she went looking for the vibrant network of people that make up the local food movement in London. The result of this labour of love of nearly two years is Forest City Cookbook (Alieska Robles; self-published; 2018).
The best cookbooks, to me, are stories of people and their traditions, our memories of the past and our connections to our communities. Forest City Cookbook focuses on local producers, artisans and chefs in the London region. It’s organized not by courses but by producers, and offers recipes from local chefs using the highlighted ingredients. I love this approach as it allows you to choose a recipe based on what you have on hand. It’s easy to forget but traditionally cooking is ingredient driven. If you have peaches, you make something with peaches. There’s a guide to seasonal produce in the back of the book to help you plan for that.
The author’s well-travelled parents exposed her to many different cultures, leaving her with a love of antiques, collectibles and cookbooks. This is reflected in her wonderful photography, which is unusually dark (but very effective) for a cookbook. The refreshing approach gives you the feeling of an old-fashioned, slower way of life while highlighting modern food.
Forest City Cookbook has more than a few surprises. I had no idea that we had local producers of wild boar but Perth Pork Products offers it among its selection of heritage breed meats. David Bistro’s chef Elvis Drennan’s recipe for Honey & Rosemary Glazed Wild Boar combines this delicious meat with a tart cherry compote. A potato rosti with sauerkraut adds a beautiful touch of crispy and tangy. Served with fresh green beans, it’s the kind of dish that, without being too technically difficult, makes you look like a genius in the kitchen.
I love fruit crisps because they are easy to prepare and adjust to whatever fruit you have on hand. Juliana Guy Wesseling won the Eatdrink/Forest City Cookbook original recipe contest using all local ingredients. Her Apple Crisp recipe takes this humble dessert to new heights. Generous portions of fruit and crumble topping are pushed over the top with a candied bacon caramel sauce and Gunn’s Hill 5 Brothers Reserve Cheese. This dish ticks all the yummy boxes, and then some.
Forest City Cookbook is focused on community. There’s a special mention of Urban Roots, a non-profit dedicated to utilizing underused city space to grow fresh food. Its goal is to reduce food insecurity by facilitating the placement of urban farm plots throughout London. Eatdrink’s Food Editor Bryan Lavery contributed the cookbook’s foreword and a summary of local culinary history. His recipe for Roasted Vegetable Terrine is an ideal way to bring a variety of these vegetables together while keeping their flavours and textures intact. Infinitely variable, it can be served as an appetizer or main course and tastes as amazing as it looks.
Alieska Robles’s Forest City Cookbook connects the dots between all the players in the local farm-to-table community. It’s the story of our city and some of the people who work so hard to make it a special place to be: producers, educators, suppliers, chefs and artists. Robles looks at London with fresh eyes and shows us what we may have missed in our complacency. Sometimes it takes a new perspective to make you appreciate how good we have it.
Recipes excerpted from Forest City Cookbook and reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
Honey & Rosemary Glazed Wild Boar
with Cherry Compote, Green Beans & Sauerkraut Roti
by Elvis Drennan
Prep: 20 Minutes • Cook: 40 Minutes
Pork & Wild Boar • Main • Easy
Boar is an underused meat, not commonly seen in many restaurants. This recipe comes from an eagerness to experiment with it, challenging myself to create an unconventional meal with an unusual and particularly interesting combination of flavours.
Honey & Rosemary Glaze
4 Tbsp honey
2 sprigs of rosemary, stems removed, minced
In a small pot, slightly warm the honey. Remove from heat and add rosemary. Set aside until ready to use.
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/8 Tbsp onion, minced
1/8 Tbsp garlic, minced
2 Tbsp sugar
12 local cherries, pitted, halved
1/2 cup red wine
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
In a small pan, heat the olive oil and sauté onions and garlic until soft. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer, allow the liquid to reduce until thickened. Set aside until ready to use.
1 large Yukon gold potato
1/4 cup sauerkraut, drained
1/4 cup flour
1 large egg
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
Place the potato in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and leave the potato in the water for 5-10 additional minutes. Strain and rinse the potato in cold water. Shred with the skin on.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Using a stand mixer, combine shredded potato, sauerkraut, flour and egg. Mix well until a moist dough forms and shape into 2 patties. Adjust consistency with water or flour if needed.
In a large ovenproof pan, heat the olive oil over high heat. Sear one side of the potato patties until golden brown. Season with salt, turn over and place in the oven for 10 minutes or until thoroughly cooked.
1 cup green beans
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Blanch the green beans for 2 minutes until crisp and bright green. Strain and shock in an ice water bath. Lightly sauté in the same pan used for the sauerkraut roti.
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 large wild boar tenderloins
salt and pepper
In a separate ovenproof pan, heat the olive oil over high heat. Add boar tenderloins and sear until golden brown, turn over and place in the oven for 8-12 minutes or until desired doneness.
CHEF NOTE: Ideally, the boar should still have some pink colour for best results.
Remove from oven and brush thoroughly with rosemary glaze. Transfer to a cutting board and allow to rest for 3-5 minutes before slicing.
Serve with sauerkraut roti and green beans. Top with cherry compote.
with Candied Bacon, Bacon Caramel Sauce & Aged Cheese
by Julianna Guy Wesseling
Prep: 35 Minutes • Cook: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
Apples • Dessert • Easy
Apple crumble and apple pie with cheddar have always been top contenders on my father’s favourite desserts list. He would even ask for them instead of birthday cake! This recipe quickly became my family’s “go-to” dessert but needed a little “extra something” to be a contest-winning recipe for submitting to the Eatdrink Magazine recipe contest. Combining sweet and peppery bacon with creamy, salty caramel, and sharp aged cheese is a twist on a classic that is sure to impress!
3/4 cup flour
1 cup quick oats
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup butter, frozen, grated
In a large bowl, mix flour, oats, brown sugar, white sugar and salt. Using your hands or a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour (the butter should hold its shape when pressed). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the apple filling is ready.
Filling (makes 6 cups)
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground cinnamon
8 medium Royal Gala apples, peeled, medium diced
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
In a large bowl, combine sugar and cornstarch. Add nutmeg, cinnamon and apples. Drizzle with vinegar and toss until the apples are evenly coated.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the apple filling into a 9×9 baking dish. Evenly cover the apples with crumb topping, making sure to fill all the little nooks and crannies around the sides. Bake for 45–55 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.
CHEF NOTE: Don’t worry, the mound of apples will cook down!
500 g double smoked bacon, thinly sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar
freshly cracked black pepper
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Evenly distribute the bacon and generously cover each strip with brown sugar. Evenly sprinkle the black pepper and bake for 15-20 minutes until glazed and crispy. Rotate halfway through. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Try not to eat it all!
Candied Bacon Caramel Sauce
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp water
1/4 cup candied bacon, crumbled
1/4 cup butter, cubed
3/4 cup 35% cream
In a medium pot, bring sugar and water to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 6-8 minutes without stirring, occasionally swirling the pot until the caramel reaches a medium amber colour. Add the candied bacon to the caramel and remove from heat. Add butter and cream and whisk until well combined. Transfer to a glass jar and allow to cool until ready to use.
200 g Gunn’s Hill Five Brothers Reserve Cheese
In a deep plate, scoop a portion of the apple crisp, drizzle with caramel sauce, add a few pieces of Five Brother’s Cheese and top with a strip of candied bacon. Enjoy!
Roasted Vegetable Terrine
By Bryan Lavery
This colourful terrine is best prepared in the fall, when fresh local produce is abundant. The dish holds up well as either an appetizer or a main course. Once prepared, this dish only improves with flavour and subtle nuances. It is best served with a nice garlicky aïoli or a spicy rémoulade.
Prep: 35 minutes • Refrigerate: 4 hours • Cook: 60 minutes
Traditional • Small Plate • Intermediate
2 large leeks, ends trimmed
Bring a medium pot of water to a simmer. Poach whole leeks until tender and translucent. Strain and slice lengthwise. Separate the layers and set aside.
1 small pumpkin, peeled, seeded, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 large red peppers, seeds removed, quartered
2 green zucchini, sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick
1 large eggplant peeled, sliced lengthwise 1/2 inch thick
2 large golden beets, peeled, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
good quality olive oil as needed
salt and pepper
CHEF NOTE: Using a mandoline gives you perfect, even slices. Do not use red beets, they will colour the terrine. Golden beets hold their colour.
Preheat the oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Brush both sides of the vegetables with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 45-50 minutes turning over as needed until the vegetables are tender.
Remove from oven. Peel blackened skins off red peppers, and allow to cool.
1 large head of garlic
Place the whole head of garlic on a small baking sheet and roast for 35-40 minutes or until soft. Using a small fork or your fingers, squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins. Allow to cool and set aside.
Spinach and Swiss Chard
1 Tbsp good quality olive oil
500 g Swiss chard, trimmed
500 g spinach, trimmed
In a medium pan, heat oil over medium-low heat. Sauté Swiss chard and spinach, stirring occasionally until wilted. Add roasted garlic, stir and remove from heat. Allow to cool.
1 cup unsweetened apple juice
1 Tbsp gelatin powder
In a small pot, pour apple juice and sprinkle with gelatin. Allow bloom for 5 minutes. Gently heat over low heat, whisking often until the gelatin has dissolved.
Line a 9×5 inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving at least 4 inches of overhang on the sides of the pan. Line the pan over the plastic wrap with leek layers, leaving an overhang of 4 inches or more.
Place half of the roasted pumpkin at the base of the loaf pan and distribute half the remaining vegetables in layers. Pour enough apple juice and gelatin mixture to cover the vegetable layers. Place the sautéed Swiss chard, spinach and roasted garlic mixture at the centre of the terrine. Repeat the vegetable layers one more time, pouring gelatin mixture over each layer.
Finish with the remaining half of roasted pumpkin and pour the remaining apple juice gelatin mixture over the top. Press hard a couple times to disperse the juice evenly, and bring the overhanging leeks up and over to cover the terrine. Seal with the plastic wrap overhang and refrigerate for at least 4 hours until set.