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Wednesday, 07 October 2015 14:03

Cooking in colour

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Twenty storeys above sea level, a Pacific sun sinks though clouds that caramelize into ribbons the colours of tropical fruit salad.

Mango and papaya. Pineapple and passion fruit. Dragon fruit.
And, more locally, there are whorls of pale amber, the colour of the Chardonnay in our wineglasses.
A pastry chef in the sugar kitchen would be inspired by these colours.
In the near distance, a cruise ship leaves English Bay, carrying more food than any cargo vessel weighed down with global produce.
Elsie K. Neufeld, a poet/memoirist/kindred spirit, has loaned us this Vancouver writer’s retreat.
Chefhusband and I are here on a food expedition that has already taken us through Fraser Valley berry country, where endive plantations and chicken farms are at home with artisan cheese makers and drive-through corn on the cob huts.
Once in Vancouver, before this sunset, we began the restaurant portion of our four-day safari by walking 15 minutes to one of the city’s landmarks: Hon’s Wun Tun House on Robson.
Here, crispy and deeply golden barbecue ducks dangle in the window. The decor is unluxurious, the tableware made of indestructible plastic, and the menus are washable. A vegetarian dish with chicken is featured on page three.
Grassy green tea, steaming and served in plastic tumblers, arrives at our table, followed by hot and sour soup in a sharing bowl the size of a sink. Potstickers are next, then chicken dumplings and spicy beef with green beans, in portions that make us blush.
 Surely there is enough food here for a family of five, we think.
Soon, though, our early estimate turns to four and then three, and we take away meagre leftovers in two poly containers that will never, before Kingdom come, biodegrade.
This is Hon’s, and with the exception of the polystyrene, we wouldn’t ask them to change a thing.
From there, we walk back to English Bay and along the sea, past a hot dog cart (I’ve never had a hot dog from a cart, and don’t have room for one tonight), then a crépe and lemonade stand that takes down its awning and packs up its crépe pans before we can order.
We’ll make crépes when we get home.
Meanwhile, salt is in the air and ships dance slowly around their anchors.
In Stanley Park, four raccoons, in two pairs, pat the ground, exploring beneath berry bushes with their black-gloved hands. Swans paddle in circles as though operated by coin.
Then, back at the apartment, as we listen to the rattle of a shopping cart being pushed over the sidewalk far below, the sun begins to set.
When this day began, I thought the recipe we’d take away would be hot and sour soup. Now that it’s over, though, this horizon, from our seagull’s-eye view, makes us want to swim out to one of those container ships, ask whether they have any papayas, then go into the kitchen and begin to cook in colours.
English Bay Compote for Crepes
2 1/2 cups rough-chopped pineapple and trim from other fruits
1 cup water
2 tbs sugar (less or more depending on fruits’ sweetness)
1/2 tsp unsalted butter
1 tbs sugar
1/2 cup finely-diced pineapple
1/4 cup finely-diced mango
8 cape gooseberries, hulled and quartered
1/4 cup diced papaya
1/4 cup Malibu rum
juice of 1 passion fruit
Place pineapple and other fruit, together with water and sugar, in a medium pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook until very soft. Puree with a blender. Strain out and discard pulp. Set aside puree.
In a large non-stick pan over high heat, toss diced pineapple together with butter and sugar. Cook until just tender. Gently stir in mango, followed by gooseberries, then papaya, about 15 seconds apart. Add rum and passion fruit juice. Add the fruit puree from above and continue cooking until heated through.
Serve as a filling for crepes or as an ice cream topping.
Where to find it: For my favourite crepe recipe, visit

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