(Nearly) every Wednesday night we draw a cuisine or a theme from the “Decision Bowl” and (nearly) every Saturday night we cook it. Once a month (or so) I’ll pick one to tell you about. Welcome to Saturday Kitchen…
When Grant opened the little piece of paper that read “Canada” he tried to fold it up and put it back in the bowl before Sarah and I noticed.
‘What’s it say?’ I asked.
‘Canada,’ he said.
‘Cool,’ I said.
‘I don’t know how I feel about that,’ said Sarah.
‘There’s nothing you can cook for Canada so I might as well put it back in,’ he said.
‘There’s heaps I can cook. There’s pecan pie and pumpkin pie and heaps of other things I’m sure.’
‘I don’t like pecan or pumpkin pie,’ said Sarah.
‘How do you know?’ I asked.
When Grant continued to look sceptical, I said, ‘You can use your veto if you want.’ (We each have a veto that can only be used once every 6 months.)
‘No, Sarah can use hers. I might still need mine.’
‘I’m not using mine,’ said Sarah, ‘I’ve already used one on Wales and then it got pulled out again the next week anyway.’
‘Great,’ I said. ‘Canada it is. How hard can it be?’
To be honest, I had no idea about what constituted Canadian cuisine. I’ve never been to Canada (although it’s absolutely on my list on account of the amazing scenery) so couldn’t recreate a menu that I’d tasted. My Canadian friends have spoken about Thanksgiving traditions, but other than that…?
If I’d been asked what Canadian food was like, I figured that it would probably be a little like ours ie a blend of a lot of different influences. But where Australian cuisine is a fusion of our European past but heavily inspired by our Asian neighbours, I suppose I assumed that Canada’s would be a product of English, French and North American, but with a twist that was it’s own based on ingredients and a climate that was all it’s own. But, as I said, I had no idea, so I went googling. Under must-try Canadian dishes, the following came up repeatedly:
- Poutine – the original loaded fries
- Canadian bacon
- Caesar (a cocktail like a Bloody Mary)
- Beaver Tails (not what you think)
- “Canadian” pizza
- Butter tarts
- Nanaimo bars
- Split pea soup
- Tourtiere – a very good looking double crust pie
- Ketchup – on everything
- Saskatoon Berry Pie
- Maple Syrup
- Ice wine
O-kay. So then I consulted my Canadian bloggy friend Donna who added Newfoundland Cod Tongues to the list. Yeah, nah to that one! Seriously though, she’d also suggested the pea soup, bannock and tourtiere pie – and I think if the weather had been cooler, I would have gone for these…next time. As an aside, when she spoke about BC salmon, Alberta beef, Molson Canadian beer and the wines from Niagara or Okanagan, I decided that Canada needed to move up a few positions on my travel bucket list!
In the end I decided to form our menu around ingredients rather than dishes, and no three ingredients could be more, in my humble opinion, Canadian than: bacon, salmon, maple syrup.
Oysters. Again I did some googling and came across Canadian Masterchef’s Oyster Challenge on Youtube. Ignoring that I decided to go with Kilpatrick as it combined a few of the things on the list above: bacon, ketchup and a Caesar cocktail…of sorts.
Onto my Coffin Bay oysters, I scattered some fried bacon and dolloped a teaspoon or so of the Kilpatrick sauce I’d made using ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and tabasco sauce, before popping the lot under the grill for a couple of minutes. Yum. Destination Canada off to a good, albeit familiar, start.
The main event:
It had to be salmon – although our salmon came from Tasmania rather than British Columbia. The recipe I found was this one: Cedar-planked Wild BC Salmon with Whisky-Maple Glaze. There was no way I was going to do the cedar plank thing – or rather, there was no way that Grant was going to do the cedar plank thing – so I roasted our salmon.
To the glaze I added some diced fresh hot chillis – an attempt to cut through the sweetness of the maple – and scattered spring onions across it. We served it with crushed potatoes and some steamed green beans.
Surprisingly the glaze wasn’t as overwhelmingly sweet as we feared it would be (and yes, we bought the proper expensive real maple syrup rather than the maple-flavoured syrup you get everywhere) and it worked beautifully with the salmon.
How could I resist making something described as the “sunniest dessert square the world has ever seen”? A big call, but also quite fitting.
Nanaimo is a city on the Eastern shore of Vancouver Island (a region which now has to be on top of my Canadian bucket list). It’s a city more known for its mist than its sunshine. As for the Nanaimo Bar? It’s described as “a soft layer of yellow custard sandwiched between rich chocolate ganache and a coconut-graham crust.”
Knowing that I’m a sucker for food history, Donna also sent me a link to a story of how this sunny flavoured dessert square came about. If you’re interested, you’ll find it here. While the bar first appeared in a recipe book in the early 1950s it was popping up in miner’s lunchboxes well before that. And, as is the case with many recipes, many places other than the one it was named for.
Nanaimo, however, has the name and it also has the trail – with the ubiquitous bar found in everything from spring rolls to fudge and waffles to cocktails. You can find that here. Add that to your next trip to Nanaimo.
Most of the recipes I found contained a crust made from graham
biscuits crackers – something else I had to ask Donna to explain to me. She did better than that – she sent me the link to a recipe. For the record, they’re a sweet whole-wheat cinnamon biscuit.
I, however, couldn’t be faffed making my own so used Digestives instead and added about a teaspoon of cinnamon to the mix to compensate.
As for the recipe? I went with this one and while I don’t have anything to compare it to, it looked like it did in the picture and the verdict from the oh so sceptical audience was that the recipe needed to go to the “we’ll have that again” board in Pinterest.
Oh Canada, you were delightful.