Homemade Donairs

Originally posted by me on half-slips.blogspot.com

Ever since I became interested in food, street vendors have held a special allure for me. There’s something magical about warm, delicious, unhealthy food served to you as you stagger home drunk. I don’t believe any kind of food is more satisfying. It’s also a distinct. Every city tends to have its own take on street food.

Edmonton isn’t much for night life or street food, but we have managed to pick up a specialty which we imported from the other side of the country: the donair. Donairs are actually native to Halifax, but managed to skip over most of the county and settled in Alberta as well. I hear they’re best in Halifax, but hey, I go with what I know.

What makes a donair a donair?

  • Donairs are generally made with beef instead of lamb. That said, lamb isn’t a sin or anything. But if you buy a donair, you usually get beef.
  • Toppings are usually just tomatoes and onions. Lettuce and cheese may be found.
  • The sauce has nothing to do with tzatziki or yogourt. It’s made out of evaporated milk, sugar, and vinegar.

I love donairs, and since moving to Athabasca, I can’t get them here. The only place in Athabasca which claims to serve donairs serves a pita full of sadness and dashed dreams. My only recourse was to make them at home. I’ve now made donairs a couple of times, and have now abandoned my old meatloaf technique and now roll out the meat thin over a cookie sheet.

Donair (yields 4-5 donairs with a pita or two left over)

Required Hardware

  • 2 cookie sheets
  • A big bowl
  • Aluminum foil

Optional Hardware

  • Pizza stone or cast iron pan (replaces one of the cookie sheets)
  • Squeeze bottle
  • Stand mixer
  • Wax paper
  • Pizza cutter

Pita Bread

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 ½ tsp instant yeast, or one package
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 ½  cup warm water

Donair meat

  • 1 pound double-ground beef or lamb (either get your butcher to run the meat through the grinder a few times, pulse it in a food processor, or just wail on it with a knife until the meat is very fine)
  • ¼ cup fine bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp each of black pepper, cayenne, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder
  • 3 tsp paprika
  • Good pinch of kosher salt

Donair sauce

  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • 1 tsp garlic powder


  • Onions, sliced
  • Tomatoes, sliced
  • You can also add cheese or shredded lettuce. Donair shops typically use processed white cheese or the like. I think havarti works great.

To make the pita

Sift or whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients, knead into a dough by hand, or 10 minutes in the stand mixer. Once the dough has risen, preheat your oven to 400 with a pizza stone in the oven. No stone? Flip over a cast iron pan or a cookie sheet. Divide the dough into 8 equal parts, and roll into balls. Let rest for 20 minutes. Roll the balls out into ¼ inch thick circles. Bake as many as will fit for 3 to 4 minutes.

To make the meat

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well-combined. Lay out your cookie sheet upside-down, and cover with a lot of aluminum foil. You want a couple inches sticking out on all sides. Smear some oil or cooking spray on the foil. Plop the meat down, and then cover with wax paper. Using a rolling pin, roll the meat so that it’s even and thin over the sheet. Trim it, and then crimp up the edges to catch the juices.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for around 10 minutes. If you like your meat crunchy, bake longer. Once done, cut the meat into long strips with a pizza cutter.

To make the sauce

In a large bowl, vigorously mix the evaporated milk, sugar, and garlic powder together until the sugar is absorbed. Pour in the vinegar, and very gently stir until the sauce thickens. Store in a squeeze bottle.


Lay out a rectangle of aluminum foil and place in the pita. Place on as many strips of meat as you like, add your toppings, and douse in sauce. Make sure the side of the pita faces a corner of the foil. Lift the corner, pass it over the pita, tuck under, and then roll, making sure to tuck the bottom of the foil in. Tear down the top, and you’re ready to go!

Serve with a lot of beer.

Originally posted by me on owlpetal.net

You’re probably making your hamburgers wrong. I know, the recipe may have been handed down by your mother and you have fond memories of her hamburgers. They were also probably shaped like bowling balls and had the flavour of sad meatloaf, with family and friends turning bland food into something delicious. Honestly, I’ve had my share of sad meatloaf burgers and they’re perfectly okay. But you can make something far tastier in a quarter of the time. Sad meatloaf burgers are time consuming and mediocre. A good hamburger has three ingredients and will take ten minutes from start to finish.

Mushroom Swiss burger

I too once made sad meatloaf burgers. I bound them with eggs and breadcrumbs in a foolish attempt to make them stick together better. Verily, I would slap them down on a cold pan, and cook them at medium heat for something like fifteen minutes before smearing them with ketchup and eating them on a wonderbread bun.

But I have been saved! Rather than going up on a mountain to have a chat with God, I just read a lot of recipes and listened to people who have been doing this cooking thing longer than I have. From their wisdom, I’ve gleaned a few basic rules for making a hamburger. In honour of the rapture that wasn’t, here’s the 10 best of them.

The Ten Commandments of The Burger

1. Thou shalt not put eggs in the burger.

Eggs are not necessary to bind the burger, and they kill the juiciness.

2. Thou shalt not put bread crumbs in the burger.

Bread crumbs change the texture to a meatloafy texture and kill the  juiciness.

3. Thou shalt not cook the burger at medium or low heat.

High heat means caramelization, which means a tasty crust. A burger cooked at too low a heat will be mushy.

4. Thou shalt preheat all cooking implements.

Grill or pan should be very hot before the burger touches it.

5. Thou shalt not press on the burger while it cooks.

Leave. It. The. Fuck. Alone. Pressing on the burger squeezes out juice and we want juice. You flip it once. That’s it. The only time that PSSSHHHT noise is welcome is when the burger first hits the searing hot grill.

6. Thou shalt let the burger rest for five minutes after cooking.

Leave. It. The. Fuck. Alone. All meat has to rest after cooking. If you bite into your burger immediately you will have a dry burger and a soggy bun. If you cut into a steak immediately, I will drive to your house with a bat.

7. Thou shalt season the surface of the burger immediately before cooking.

Lots of good kosher salt on the patties two seconds before they go on the grill. Let it sit in the salt, you’re drawing out juice. A wet surface means a crappy crust.

8. Thou shalt not make the burger with lean beef.

The ‘juice’ in hamburgers is fat. Fat is delicious. If you don’t want fat in your hamburgers, you don’t want hamburgers. Use a mix of regular and lean for best results.

9. Thou shalt grind beef at home whenever possible.

Supermarket ground beef can’t be cooked below well done, and is never at the right fat content. A mix of chuck and sirloin makes a divine burger.

10. Thou shalt eat the burger medium rare.

This is only an option if you home grind beef, or buy it from a good butcher. Supermarket ground beef does have a higher chance of e coli contamination, so cook those to well done. A medium rare burger is a thing of beauty, though.

The Burger:


  • A cast iron pan or a grill.


  • Ground beef (a mix of half lean, half regular or home-ground)
  • Salt (kosher or coarse ideally)
  • Pepper (fresh ground)


If you want to grind your own meat, use a mix of half sirloin, which is lean and flavourful, and half chuck, which is chewy and fatty. Replace the chuck with pork shoulder if you feel sassy. Either use a grinder, or blitz small batches of 1/2 inch cubes in a food processor. Blitz for 10 short bursts. No matter what meat you use, it should be room temperature before you cook with it.

Preheat grill to high or a cast iron pan to medium-high. If you are working wth a grill open it during preheating, scrape it down, and apply oil to the grill with either a silicon brush or some paper towel and tongs. Close it up and then let it come to full heat.

Form the ground beef into 5oz patties. To do this, weigh or or guess 5 ounces worth of meat and start gently slapping it from palm to palm. Keep doing this and the patty will take shape. Once your patty is formed, press a divot in the top with your thumb. This will prevent ‘bowling ball burgers’ as it’ll compensate for the burger’s tendency to constrict.

Once the grill/pan is crazy hot (you want the grill at 500 degrees), season the burgers liberally with kosher salt and pepper. Place them down on your surface. Do not touch them. When it comes time to flip, get the flipper beneath, place your fingers on the top of the burger, and gently flip over. If the burger is sticking, let it cook a little more. But a hot, oiled surface should not cause this problem.

For medium rare, cook at four minutes a side. Only cook home-ground beef, or beef from the butcherto medium rare.

For well done, cook at six minutes a side.

If you want a cheese burger, toss your cheese on in the last thirty seconds, and put down a lid over the burger.

Once off the heat, let the burgers sit for five minutes on a rack if possible. Take this time to toast the burger buns (top rack of the grill for a minute works great). Resting is crucial for all dry-cooked meat as it lets the juices redistribute. Don’t believe me? Cut into one burger immediately, then let another rest five minutse before cutting. Look at the amount of juice on the plate and compare. Then give the dry burger you cut to someone else.

And that’s it! I like my burgers with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, and some homemade mayonnaise but you can dress your burger as you wish. So long as the patty is good, the toppings are up to you.

How to Roast a Chicken

Originally posted by me on owlpetal.net

Since the last post was all about exploring weird new areas in food and science, I thought I’d share my take on a classic dish. This is really a dead simple recipe, and most of the steps are even optional. The trick is to roast a dry, well-seasoned chicken at 450 for around 50 minutes. You do that, it’s gonna taste good.

You know you want it.

Roast Chicken

Preparation time: 20 minutes + 12 hours in brine + 1 hour of tempering
Cooking time: 50 minutes
Yield: 2-4 depending on how hungry people are


  • 1 whole chicken, ideally free range
  • Salt and pepper
  • Thyme (optional)
  • Root vegetables (optional)


  • 1 ovenproof pan
    1 cutting board that can handle some chicken juice

Short Directions:

Brine. Preheat to 450. Pat Dry. Cut out the wishbone. Bring to room temperature. Truss. Season. Toss the root veggies in the pan. Roast on top of the root veggies for 50 minutes. Rest. Carve. Snack.

See? Super easy, one-pot recipe. Here’s a breakdown of each step and why I do it the way I do for those of you with questions and patience.

Brine (optional)


A brine is a salt and sugar bath which is used, for example, to make pickles. Think of it as a marinade, except with salt instead of acid.


Through the magic of science (diffusion and osmosis) the bird will become juicier and more flavourful. This is optional, but highly recommended. The brine should be kept cold, either in a cooler with ice, or in the fridge.


A brine is 16 parts water, 1 part salt, ½ part sugar. So a gallon of water would have a cup of salt and half a cup of sugar. A litre would have 1/4 cup salt, 1/8 cup sugar. Mix these up, add any other flavours you like, and immerse the chicken. I use a ziptop freezer bag in the fridge, but use whatever you have handy. It’s important to keep the chicken cold.

Preheat your oven to 450


Crispy skin is your friend with chicken. If you cook at a lower temperature, you’re not going to get the desired crispiness. Low and slow until ‘falling off the bone’ gets you dry, mealy chicken. Save low and slow for your pot roasts or a great chicken stew.

Pat dry


When dry cooking, steam is your enemy. Steam creates rubbery, rather than crispy skin. The only moisture when roasting a chicken should be in the meat itself.


Use paper towels or a tea towel you don’t mind washing. Completely pat the chicken dry inside and out. If you’re hardcore and have a clean fridge, put it uncovered in the fridge for a few hours.

Cut out the wishbone


If you’ve ever tried to carve a chicken, the dratted wishbone is what gets in the way of cutting off the breast perfectly. If you remove the wishbone before the chicken is cooked, you won’t have any problems with tasty juices escaping.


Scrape at the top and sides of the back cavity of the chicken with a paring knife until you see the wishbone. Then, run the knife along the sides, wiggle your fingers in, and yank it free.

Bring to room temperature


By tempering (slowly bringing to desired state) your meat, you ensure that the cooking is even and that your recipes’ advice actually works. If you start with cold meat, you immediately drop the oven temperature and create uneven, and unreliable cooking.  Trust me, this is safe. We’re cooking it all the way through.



By tying the legs tightly to the chicken, you’re ensuring even cooking by increasing the density. Not doing this will result in different doneness for your white and dark meat.


Season the inside with some salt and pepper, and then watch this video.



To season means to coat with salt and pepper. Everything you cook of any kind needs seasoning of some sort. Meat especially. Season from higher up because the salt will disperse and get you a more even coating.


Pinch kosher or fine sea salt between thumb and forefinger, and then sprinkle from around a foot above the chicken. Cover the entire bird, and repeat with pepper. If you have it, sprinkle some fresh thyme leaves overtop.



If you have some root vegetables, chop ‘em up and put them beneath the chicken. Tasty! Anyways, stick it in the oven for 50-60 minutes. For a ‘normal’ chicken, which is around three pounds, go for 50. An oven thermometer should read no less than 161 in the thigh. It will continue to cook for a bit once out of the oven. Ignore those lying fucks who tell you that chicken should be served at 180.



ALWAYS REST MEAT AFTER COOKING. When meat cooks, the juices inside become active and rush to the surface. Think of a fist tightening in the water. Letting the meat rest is like relaxing the fist, which allows the juices to redistribute. Rest for minimum ten minutes, but twenty or even half an hour is good too.



By removing the wishbone you have made life very easy. With a long, sharp knife slice along the top of the breast, and then down. Gently pull the knife back along the entire length of the chicken until you hit the bottom, making sure you’re outside, not inside of the ribs. You’ll hit the thigh and wing joints, and may have to wiggle that free. You should end up a leg & thigh piece, and a wing & breast piece.


Grab the little oysters from the small of the back, and the crispy pope’s nose. You’ve earned it!


Your nicely cut half chicken can be served on top of your roasted root veggies. Pour over the pan juices and then sprinkle with a bit of finishing salt if you have it. Share, and enjoy!


Quick update, this blog has been untouched for years, but I always loved the name and header. I’m going to move the wayward food blog posts I’ve scattered over the internet to here, and use this site when I feel like posting a recipe.

Every time I mention to someone that cooking is a hobby of mine, I’m immediately asked what my ‘best’ recipe is. Most what I do involves just randomly grabbing recipes from the internet and trying them out; I don’t have many staples, and I have even less I’d say that I can really show off. There was the occasional dish I thought I could do really well. I think I know how to PROPERLY barbecue an excellent steak, my penne with veggies dish is a long term favorite of Tracy, and some trickier common recipes like lasagna go over well.

But since I started cooking, I’ve had an obsession with making a good ragu bolognese. Normally served over spaghetti (traditionally tagliatelle) it’s the Italian sauce that everybody knows and loves. I’ve never made pasta from scratch, though I intend to learn, but I have learned how to make the next best thing.


Continue Reading »

I hate corn silk.

In the history of mankind, perhaps the universe, I don’t believe that there is any more substance that has evolved on our planet more irritating than corn silk. Don’t try to lead me astray with your lies, either. Removing it under running water, slicing around the bottom, just removing the stuff by hand, even using (gasp) a microwave. I’ve tried them all, and they are LIES. The stuff can never be completely removed.

With that out of the way, I present my triumphant return to food blogging! Both of my readers have missed my sporadic updates terribly, and I do enjoy writing about my attempts to cook. Today, I present a grilled chicken sandwich with aioli, along with a grilled corn salad!

Continue Reading »

I bought a roast on the weekend with the purpose of making beef stew. I was looking for an excuse to use the slow cooker. We found this one at Coopers for seven dollars. There are a couple of great butchers in the area, but with gas prices being in the $1.40 range, it’s hard to justify travelling all over the city. This, apparently, is a sirloin tip oven roast. A name like that screams “chop me up for stew!”

Sirloin tip oven roast

Continue Reading »

Neglect and Muffins

My parents have this cat. Miss Kitty. She’s 18 years old and she’s looking a little rough around the edges. She’s blind and I think she may be going deaf, her back legs don’t work so well, and if she weighs more than five pounds, I’d be surprised. My parents went away for a couple weeks and asked if I’d stay here to look after Kitty. The neighbours were going to do it, but I think they’re a little worried that kitty may die on their watch. She doesn’t seem to be in any pain, which is good, and she as a healthy appetite, but she gets lost and confused and frequently runs into walls. And she doesn’t like to be alone.

How does cooking fit into this?

Continue Reading »

So last week, we were all laid off. By all of us, I mean Dave, Chris, Kristy, and myself. Now, Dave and Chris were given positions immediately. I’ve submitted a resume for a chance to go overseas, but in the meantime, I’m finding ways to amuse myself. One of these amusements is cream of potato soup. This is a top five favourite dish of mine. When I went to Germany in 1999, it was one of the few things I ordered when eating out, since I could actually figure it out on the menu (I knew the fish too, but that’s another story).

Anyway! While washing clothes this afternoon, I decided that I would like mashed potatoes for lunch. Then I got to thinking that within two hours of lunch, Dave would be home. And Dave would want to cook dinner. So why don’t I boil up a lot of potatoes, mash some of them, and turn the rest into cream of potato soup? We have milk, we have chicken broth, we have a billion pounds of potatoes, what could go wrong?

Continue Reading »

I’m not dead!

Really not, I just lost the writing bug temporarily and there was a huge kerfuffle with me losing my job, and getting a new one, and getting thrown into five weeks of training in six days. Either way, more cooking posts will be coming, including one by Tracy!