Making and Breaking Bread with Grandma Boyd

This Apron Strings post was submitted By Mike Schreiner, Leader of the Green Party of Ontario. He’s also well known for his leadership in co-founding the award-winning organization Local Food Plus.


Also, please keep sending in your own stories and recipes. This project will continue long past Mother’s Day.

Wheat harvest on my parent’s farm was a time of hot, hard work and celebration.  Our extended family helped during those tense days of harvesting, hoping to get the crop in before a storm wreaked havoc on our hard work and income.

Most of our wheat was loaded onto one of my dad’s eighteen wheelers and shipped directly to the local co-op to be transported by train to distant markets.  Unlike his corn and soybeans, which dad sold to local feed mills for cattle, our wheat travelled far from home.

The one exception was the annual ritual of collecting bins of wheat berries for my Grandma Boyd, my mom’s mother.  Idabelle, my ten year old daughter Isabelle’s namesake, collected wheat each year from our harvest, in order to grind it into fresh flour for her famous breads, buns, and cinnamon rolls.  Thanksgiving and Christmas, in particular, would not be complete without a large assortment of her fresh baked goods celebrating the bounty of our harvest. Continue »

Zahra’s Zereshk Polo

This dish is not only delicious it’s beautiful. Zahra grids her Saffron in a coffee grinder before mixing it with water and pouring over the chicken. This makes the whole dish vibrant orange. When topped with the rice, decorated with pistachios and dried barberries, the Zereshk Polo looks like a work of art. While it feels like a shame to dig in, the taste is worth it. When Zahra served it to us, the delicately flavoured chicken was falling off the bone. Yum.


  • 500 grams of Basmati or long-grain rice
  • 1/2 of a chicken
  • 75 grams of cooking oil
  • 50 grams of butter
  • 50 grams of dried barberries (zereshk) (Other dried red berries like cranberries would work as well)
  • 1 tbsp of sugar
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Saffron
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Continue »

Mafalda & Clara’s Italian Stuffed Artichokes

As is always the case, the simplest dishes with good fresh ingredients are always the best. These stuffed artichokes burst with garlic, parsley and lemon and the subtle addition of anchovies. Really, what could be better?

The odd looking artichoke has a ton of legends surrounding it going all the way back to Zeus. In 77AD one Roman naturalist called them “one of the earth’s monstrosities.”

Sure they look funny, but man do they taste good, as Clara and Mafalda can attest.


6 medium sized globe artichokes

1/2 Loaf of Italian bread (with crust cut off and broken into small pieces)

3-4 cloves of garlic chopped finely

3/4 cup- 1 cup of parsley

2 cans of fillets of anchovies ( slice anchovies into small pieces and mix with 3-4 tablespoons of oil)

Continue »

Nooria’s Ashak (Leek Dumplings)

This is a vegetarian dumpling dish that when topped with sour cream and kidney beans (for added protein) really does seem like the Afghani version of Nachos (but of course my more refined)

Stuffing Ingredients

  • 1 bunch leek (usually there is 3 in there)
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 bunch of  coriander
  • Package of Dumpling Wrappers or Wonton Wraps (can be bought from local grocery store)

Continue »

Andaaza: It’s all Estimation

Shayma Saadat, a Pakistani-Afghan with Persian ancestry, is the author of the food-memoir style blog, The Spice Spoon: Cooking Without Borders. She is a Senior Policy Advisor for the Minister of Energy and Infrastructure. Shayma lives in Toronto with her husband.

I watched Ami, my mother, as she stirred the pot in a circular motion. Round and round her arm circled, the gold bangles glistening on her wrist. Clink, clink, they went as she stirred and stirred. The same gold bangles given to her by her Ami, when she married my father in her China-red and gold brocade gharara.

All twelve of them, 22kt gold, passed on to me as part of my trousseau. I don’t wear mine when I cook. They lay wrapped in muslin and velvet, in a safety deposit box.

I stand in my kitchen alone, making Ami’s Pakistani Ginger Chicken, and I think of her milky arms and hands, as I stir the pot.

And I hear her.

“A small pour of oil, just enough to make the bottom of the pot glossy,” she says as she tilts the bottle into the pot.

She chops an onion through its crisp layers. Not like a chef, but like a mother.

Meticulously, slowly. Continue »