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Featured Country of the month: Canada

Canada is known for many things - a distinct food culture is not one of them. However, J’ADORE poutine so here we are.

The Canadian diet is largely comprised of Western influenced dishes; France and Britain being two of the major immigrant groups that occupied Canada. However, the influences are not limited to just these nations; the former prime minister described: "Canada has a cuisine of cuisines. Not a stew pot, but a smorgasbord." Original dishes may not be Canada’s biggest forte, but outstanding produce can be found there. Maple syrup of course, has to be noted, but the world’s longest coastline also means that high quality seafood is consumed in abundance. I briefly considered cooking lobster for the first time and creating a Nova Scotia Lobster Roll - but with the cost of living crisis and all that, I decided to dial back on costly purchases and stick with just paying for cheese curds and clamato juice to be shipped to me (yes you did read that correctly).

Other contenders which I have to mention because they made me laugh were ‘Pizzagheti’; yep, spaghetti on pizza, a hybrid created in Quebec, ‘Sushi pizza’; Toronto’s answer to a pizza based monstrosity and finally - Beaver Tails, a fried pastry dessert.



Poutine

About

There are various origin stories for Poutine, from truckers coming up with creative orders, to happy accidents of ingredients being mixed together but the one thing they all have in common is that they all originate in 1950s Quebec.

Poutine consists of just three ingredients - french fries, gravy and cheese curds. Although simple in theory - all three of these ingredients need to be spot on to constitute a good poutine. The chips need to be crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside in order to withstand a good sogging from the gravy; which is often a mixture of beef and chicken in order to get a full bodied but not overly powerful flavour. Finally, the cheese curds need to be squeaky. In order to retain squeak, cheese curds need to be fresh. The dish then just needs to be assembled! What happened?

The hardest part of making this dish was getting a hold of cheese curds. They are not a common item to find in shops in the UK but I was able to find a supplier not too far away that was able to deliver: https://batchfarmcheesemakers.co.uk/product/squeaky-cheese-curd/

With the dish being as simple as it is, I went the whole hog and made my own chips. Double fried for extra crispiness, of course. I took onboard the various recommendations online to do a mixture of chicken and beef gravy and the result was exactly what I wanted; a rich tasting but not overwhelming flavour. I assembled the dish and gave the cheese curds a few minutes to melt properly.


Did you like it?

Yes. I haven’t been to Canada before but I have experienced Poutine in a restaurant in Manchester (Brewskis) and I was pleasantly surprised with how similar my own version tasted!

Marks out of 10: 9/10



Caesar

About

Is it a Bloody Mary? No! It's a Caesar.

There is one key ingredient that makes this distinction, and it is, of course; CLAMATO JUICE. Clam juice is funny, but to mix it with tomatoes and call it Clamato juice.. Priceless. I love it.

Caesars are so beloved in Canada in 2010 it was named the official cocktail of Canada and given its own national day which is actively celebrated every year.

So you are probably wondering what makes it so good, and the answer is the clams. Tomatoes are one of the world’s most naturally umami laden ingredients and when this is paired with the clammy taste of the sea, oh boy, it’s good.

A note on the garnishes - much like the Bloody Mary, there is no holding back on these. The glass is rimmed with celery salt and additional adornments will typically include a celery stick, olives, a lemon wedge and a stick of salami, but there is no need to stop there. Bacon, eggs, fried chicken - whatever you want - they can all be shoved on a stick and stuck in this drink.

What happened?

I don’t think I’ve made a drink as one of my dishes before but given the amount of extras that are involved in this, I reckon it practically classifies as a meal in itself.


I followed the 1-2-3-4-5 method to make this; 1 shot of vodka, 2 dashes of hot sauce, 3 shakes of salt, 4 dashes of worcestershire sauce and 5 ounces (150ml) of clamato juice. I added in a few more dashes of hot sauce to give a bit of a kick and garnished with the classic ingredients listed above.


Did you like it?

Move over Espresso Martini, I have a new favourite cocktail. I enjoyed this so much that when I started writing this section I suddenly remembered that I had some clamato juice leftover and well.. If you notice a marked reduction in quality throughout the rest of this newsletter, you will know the reason why. Marks out of 10: 10/10



Butter Tarts

About

A butter tart is a very simple Canadian dessert consisting of a flaky pastry case and sugary buttery filling which is baked until it has a slight crunch on top. A good butter tart should ooze once bitten into. A much debated aspect of the tart is the presence (or absence) of raisins, although there is evidence to suggest that the OG tarts did not contain them.

The origins of the tarts are believed to be the result of ‘filles du roi’ (King’s Daughters); the immigration of 800 French women in the years between 1663 and 1673 sent by the French King to encourage the further colonisation and occupation of Canada by the French. The young ladies were allegedly told to bring traditional European recipes over with them but had to adapt them based on the ingredients available to them - hence the butter tart was born.

What happened?

I was feeling lazy and just bought shortcrust pastry. The filling was much easier than I anticipated as you simply beat the sugar into the softened butter along with egg and vanilla essence, you don’t actually make a caramel prior to cooking. The butter mix simply gets distributed between the pie cases and then baked!

Did you like it?

I probably baked these just a minute or two too long but it didn’t affect the taste. Mine were not the most aesthetically pleasing but I was chuffed with the crumbly pastry and sweet oozy centre.

Marks out of 10: 7/10

You can view all previous 'Country of the Month' articles HERE.

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