It’s hard to believe that just a mere six weeks ago, we had a relatively mild green Christmas. Here in Eastern Ontario – where we’ve been under siege since the beginning of January with snow, high winds, and frigid temperatures – that balmy green Christmas seems disproportionately long ago and far away.
After living for years in Australia, it always amazes me that life goes on in the middle of winter here; that we don’t just hibernate and reappear in spring – lean and hungry. But in fact, we do go on, and we rarely emerge leaner.
It pays to follow the aptly named Robert Frost’s advice when it comes to making it through the depths of winter – “The only way out is through.”
Frost wasn’t talking specifically of winter but his advice is sound regardless. So with that in mind – I’ve been walking daily on the frozen waters of St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario – two massive bodies of water that come together in Kingston. The ice is beautiful and strangely compelling. Some days I head east along the river – towards the Atlantic, other days I head out to one of the nearby islands or walk westward bound. At times when there is nothing but a vast expanse of ice in front of me, it is easy to imagine being in the far frozen north, like an early explorer. Everyday the ice changes a little – a pressure ridge here and there – snow drifts where there weren’t any. At first the surface was like glass but as the sun warms the upper layer, the texture changes. Occasionally you hear the water gulp and slosh under the ice. Sometimes as the ice expands and contracts, it booms like thunder or cracks like a pistol being fired and it takes your breath away. The truth is you could drive a truck on that ice. It is at least fourteen inches thick now and will not thaw until late March or early April.
Last week I followed in the tracks of a coyote perfectly captured in a skiff of snow on the ice – the prints are distinguishable by the massive sharp pointy claws. My dog Lola, glued to the scent of them, kept her nose to the ground, wary. Some days a bird of prey hovers overhead – hawks and the occasional eagle. A couple of times, I’ve seen deer. But mostly, it’s quiet and we are all just making our way towards spring.
In my kitchen, I’m already growing weary of winter fare. Of soups and stews and hearty, warming dishes. I’ve been making winter salads – mushroom-and-bacon-loaded, fried-egg-topped salads. I’m thinking ahead to the first asparagus. To fresh strawberries. To hamburgers cooked on the barbeque and bottles of cold beer in the ice bucket. To potato salad. To the days when the sunshine warms me through. To biting into a juicy, freshly picked, sun-kissed, peach – the taste of summer.
So this weekend, I got out my waffle-maker and made a batch of whole wheat waffles and topped them off with a peach and maple syrup compote. Simple and incredibly delicious. The whole wheat flour in these waffles keeps them from feeling like regular doughy white waffles. And they are surprisingly light. The compote is perfect – intensely fruity and not excessively sweet. I used canned California cling peaches. Canned peaches are a surprising nutritional powerhouse – packed with vitamins and actually higher in antioxidants than fresh peaches and there are no added preservatives or colours. Plus the taste is beautiful – as intense as the freshest peach plucked from the tree in the warm sunshine. A much-needed hit of summer in the dead of the Canadian winter.
Whole Wheat Waffles with Maple Peach Compote
For the waffles:
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil (I used sunflower oil)
- ½ cup milk or milk alternative plus more if necessary (I used rice milk)
- 1 large egg, beaten
For the maple peach compote:
- 1 398 ml California canned cling peach slices in light syrup
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
Set the waffle iron to warm.
Mix together the flours, baking powder, salt and sugar.
In a separate bowl, beat the vegetable oil, ½ cup milk and large egg together.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir briefly to mix. Add more milk one tablespoon at a time if the batter is too stiff. Don’t over mix. The batter should be quite stiff – not pourable.
If you have an oil spritz bottle, you can lightly spritz the waffle iron surfaces before starting. If not, the first waffle may stick slightly but if you let it cook until it is browned, it will generally release quite easily.
Spoon one-quarter of the batter onto the warmed waffle iron. Cook until lightly browned. Remove waffle to a warming platter. Continue making the other waffles.
Meanwhile, in a medium-sized saucepan, gently warm the peach slices in their syrup, along with the lemon juice and maple syrup over medium-low heat. Stir gently occasionally as the waffles cook. Serve warm ladled over the waffles, with whipped cream as desired.