Maha’s Egyptian Brunch – review

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Chef's Appetizer Platter, Maha's Egyptian Brunch

Chef’s Appetizer Platter, Maha’s Egyptian Brunch

Look at this platter.  I mean, just LOOK at the presentation (and drool), do I even need to write a review to convince you to try Maha’s Egyptian Brunch?   Because, yes, this golden platter IS as fresh and tasty as it appears.  The East end of Toronto has really stepped up it’s brunch game in the past few years and Maya’s Egyptian Brunch is part of this movement.  Located on Greenwood just north of Gerrard, this small unassuming bistro opened it’s doors in 2014.  The inside is cozy and welcoming with Egyptian elements and decorated with personal trinkets.  Outside, there is a cute patio and we happened to score a spot on this unseasonably warm day.

The chef’s platter is perfect to share between two people and surprisingly filling!  I would have been content with just the platter but the menu was so enticing, I got greedy and ordered the Po’Boy to split as well.  The platter consists of a few homemade dips: babaghanoug (eggplant), hummus (chick pea), Egyptian beet salad, pickled onions, garlic tomatoes, Roumy (Egyptian) cheese, traditional Balady bread and pita, and the best falafels I have ever tasted.  Nicely spiced and delicately fried, these falafels are light and fluffy and not heavy at all.  Well proportioned with an interesting assortment of fresh flavours, this platter is an ideal way to sample a good selection of their side dishes.

The Po’Boy is an example of authentic Cairo street food, and consists of a pita stuffed with battered, deep fried shrimp topped with homemade tehina (tahini – sesame paste) and tomeya (garlic sauce).  The marinated shrimp are juicy and thinly battered, and the soft pita is a delicious vessel for the creamy, crispy goodness that is every bite.  Indulging in Egyptian street eats is the best way to enjoy the last day of patio weather!

With friendly service, a relaxed vibe and inviting food at reasonable prices, Maha’s is a refreshing addition to the East end brunch scene, and gave me another reason to travel to Egypt!

Pharaoh's Po' Boy, Maha's Egyptian Brunch

Pharaoh’s Po’ Boy, Maha’s Egyptian Brunch

 

 

Canned Tomatoes

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My boyfriend’s “Nonna” – his Italian grandmother – grows and cans her own tomatoes and the resulting tomato sauce over fresh gnocchi is simply to die for.  This year, my friend and I wanted to start canning our own tomatoes.  I felt like I was preparing for the apocalypse, stocking my pantry with so many mason jars of canned goods!  We didn’t have time to go and pick our own tomatoes, so we ordered two crates from the West End Food Co-Op a grocery store where you can order large quantities of produce from local farms.

For nine hours we slaved over 50 pounds of perfectly ripened, shiny red tomatoes, making homemade ketchup and 15 liters of canned tomatoes!  I absolutely loved the homemade ketchup (featured below in the large jar).  Homemade ketchup is a thinner consistency than store bought ketchup, but much tastier! 

Homemade ketchup

Homemade ketchup

The canning process is very simple, we just had A LOT of tomatoes.  I can’t wait to make to make fresh pasta sauce this fall!  Now I just need to master making homemade gnocchi, and then I can recreate “Nonna’s” food at home.

Canned Tomatoes

Canned Tomatoes

Canned Tomatoes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Yield: 7 x 32oz (quart) mason jars

Canned Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 20 pounds of ripe tomatoes, washed throughly
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Prep the jars in a water canner. Set them on a rack and fill with water until jars are covered and boil for at least 10 minutes. Keep hot until ready for use.
  2. Place lids in hot water (not boiling) until ready for use.
  3. Blanch tomatoes in a another pot of boiling water for 45 - 60 seconds. Immediately place in an ice cold water bath.
  4. Remove skins (they should peel off easily - otherwise adjust blanching timing), remove stems and any bruised or discoloured areas.
  5. Pack whole tomatoes into the hot mason jar, pressing them close together. Try not too pack them too tightly or too loosely, they should be comfortably placed together so that they're aren't any big gaps . Use a wooden chopstick to help pack the tomatoes and remove air bubbles.
  6. Add two tablespoons of lemon juice, leaving 1/2 inch headspace from the top rim.
  7. Wipe rim and carefully place down lid. Screw on the bands until they are just tight (do not overtighten).
  8. Place jars in canner, ensuring the top of the jars are covered with an inch of water, and bring to a boil. Boil for 85 minutes.
  9. Remove the jars without tilting and cool upright for one day.
  10. Check seals (they should be curved downward, and when the band is removed you should be able to hold the jar by the edge of the lid).
  11. Store in a dark, cool place.

Notes

Each mason jar holds 7-8 tomatoes each. I prefer canning whole tomatoes with no added salt so that I leave my options open for when I decide to use them.

http://iseehungrypeople.net/2016/09/12/canned-tomatoes/

Mnandi Pies Review

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Beef & Kale pie, Mnandi Pies, Toronto

Beef & Kale pie, Mnandi Pies, Toronto

I’ve always been curious to try to the row of food stands on Dundas just west of Bathurst on the south side.  The Market 707 shipping container food court boasts an interesting variety of international foods and has been on my “to-eat” list for awhile now, so when my friend suggested we try Mnandi Pies before heading to the AGO, I was game.

When Evis Chirowamhangu came to Canada as a refugee in 2005, she missed the meat pies from her homeland of Zimbabwe so much that she decided to recreate her favourite childhood food.  Developing the recipe solely on the tastes and smells from her memories, she opened up a stand here  earlier this summer.

A simple menu lists four different kinds of pies: steak and onion, chicken and mushroom, carrot and kale and beef and kale.  I opt for the beef and kale pie: stewed beef and kale cooked in a tomato gravy and seasoned with a special Zimbabwe spice mix.  The tender, savory filling is perfectly packed into the light, flaky pastry, oozing out with every bite.  I was tempted to try all four at once, but was glad I held back because the hand sized pies are surprisingly filling!  I guess I will just have to come back…

An inspiring story and a testament to the diversity of the Toronto food culture, I’m so happy that our city welcomed Evis’ Zimbabwe pies with open arms.  “Mnandi” means delicious in Ndebele (a tribal language spoken in Zimbabwe) and nothing could describe her pies more accurately.