Saturday Kitchen: Destination Canada

(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:

  1. Poutine – the original loaded fries
  2. Canadian bacon
  3. Caesar (a cocktail like a Bloody Mary)
  4. Beaver Tails (not what you think)
  5. “Canadian” pizza
  6. Butter tarts
  7. Nanaimo bars
  8. Split pea soup
  9. Tourtiere – a very good looking double crust pie
  10. Ketchup – on everything
  11. Saskatoon Berry Pie
  12. Maple Syrup
  13. Bannock
  14. Ice wine
  15. Salmon

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.

The starter:

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.

Dessert:

Nanaimo Bars.

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.

Author: Jo

I write, I bake, I chase sunrises.

36 thoughts

  1. Jo, Love this post and your Nanaimo bars look perfect! I hope Grant and Sarah enjoyed the Canadian dinner that you prepared. Have a wonderful weekend!

    1. Lovely to meet you! The salmon was so yummy – we eat a lot of salmon, but this was the first time I’d tried a glaze like that – we’d normally go for more Asian inspired flavours. Thanks for dropping by.

      1. I never liked salmon until about 15 years ago when I was at a dinner that had run out of the chicken I ordered so I got the salmon. Ever since, I order it whenever I go out. I’ve never tried cooking it myself though. I love the Asian sauces with salmon, too!

  2. Being a true blue Canadian, you picked the best of Canadian food. Nanaimo bars are the best and now I am hungry for them so I may have to whip up a batch. I live in Spain right now and I’m often asked, What is traditional Canadian food? I never know how to answer it but now I’ll use your menu. I have a great salmon recipe too.

    1. It’s such a difficult question – I wouldn’t know how to answer about Australian cuisine either. Thanks for dropping by.

    1. Thanks so much for dropping by. I always hope that I’ve shown the country we’re cooking (so to speak) respect. Now I want to taste the real thing!

  3. Great idea Jo on ways to select what is on your special Saturday night menu. Canada is so beautiful and I was lucky enough to visit last year and actually meet Donna IRL. It was definitely not long enough and I would be back in a heartbeat if I could. I have seen the Poutine but no, not for me thanks. I look forward to more of your Saturday Kitchen and am inspired to bring back our Saturday night specials. In the past, Mike and I would take turns in selecting and preparing a 3 course meal each Saturday. Since we moved this seems to have fallen by the wayside so thanks to you I’ll be bringing it back! Maybe you need to start cooking classes on YouTube! Have a great week. xx

    1. I laughed at the idea of me presenting anything on a camera… but seriously it’s so much fun researching and trying new things or visiting places through the plate.

  4. I am still giggling at your husband trying to put “Canada” back into the bowl. Funny! Jo, I don’t need any more temptations to bake. More exercise would be required.
    Having said that, those slices do look like heaven on a plate and oh so tempting 🙂

    1. He & Sarah are hopeless. I hate to think what their attitude will be when I pull out Poland or Scandinavia or Russian…

  5. Hi Jo – I spent a year in Canada on the Island, but sadly never met Donna – would now meet her like a shot. But Canadian is the best of things … just delicious … seafood, those Nanaimo slices … soooo good. I heard about Tomato Wine – but it’s still fairly specialised … the farm was started by a Belgian in the last 8 years or so … it’s to be found outside Quebec … the short BBC video I saw on the farm showed something really interesting – and innovative. Take care – loved this post – Hilary

  6. I have to say that Canadian food sounds about as exciting as Irish food, and that isn’t exactly a compliment, ha ha. I love all the Canadians I have met, and I’m Irish too so I can poke a little fun.

    This was a fun read and as a faithful reader of Donna and Retirement Reflections, i appreciate the chance to read about how someone got creative with the challenge of reproducing Canadian specialties.;-)

    Susan Grace

    1. Thanks for dropping by. I must say, I have no idea what I’ll be cooking when we draw Ireland out, but I imagine soda bread and potatoes & guinness will be featuring lol.

      1. Well I happen to adore soda bread and potatoes so my Irish is showing, but I never developed a taste for Guinness though!

        I think the Irish cook up salmon too just like the Canadians – no surprise as many Scots-Irish emigrated to Canada.

        All best
        Susan Grace

  7. Hi Jo, I came over from Donna’s blog, love this whole idea of picking the chef and a particular countries food out of a bowl. Such an interesting way to cook and learn about foods from around the world 🙂 The bars sound yummy!

    1. Lovely to meet you – and thanks for dropping by. The Destination dinners are something we’ve been doing for a little while now, but it’s a fabulous way of trying out new techniques & researching cuisines and dishes.

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