Tired of cooking the same handful of meals each week, I enrolled on an international cookery course.
The course may have ended, but it's just whetted my appetite....

Join me on a weekly visit to the cuisines of the world, countries from A to Z, and back again!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

C is for Canada

Where we're going this evening - CANADA

Tonight we are off to Canada - I'm not afraid of the big countries!  Canada is the bigger bit of the North American continent, with a population of about half that of the UK.  Told you about the wide open spaces, didn't I?

Canada is a real melting pot of nations, with many influences from immigrants from Europe shoving the native First Nation people rather out the picture for many years.  Although there is now much recognition of the heritage of the country with reserves established in law, and the province of Nunvut with a majority inuit population.

Canada is in the Commonwealth, with our very own Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state - Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall visited this year as part of the Queen's diamond jubilee tour.  Mind you, Canada also has huge French influences, with French and English both being official languages.

Half the country is covered in forests, and it is home to the grizzly bear, moose, caribou and beaver. Famous Canadians include actors Dan Ackroyd & Jim Carrey, model Linda Evangelista, singer Bryan Adams; newspaper mogul Conrad Black, and (sorry to mention it) disgraced sprinter Ben Johnson.

Talking of sport, Ice Hockey is a big deal, as is lacrosse, and Canada have won 13 Olympic medals to date in the current London games.  And just to prove that Team GB lets someone else play in the velodrome, Canada won a bronze medal in the Women's team pursuit.  Well done, you.

So get your snow shoes on and mush those huskies as we experience a taste of the big country...

Tonight's Menu...

Sorting out tonight's menu was tricky - how do you sum up a nation as big and diverse culturally as Canada?   There's no single national dish, just things which are popular in the various provinces - cuisine that has been imported along with the immigrants.  If I was to really get down to brass tacks, I'd look at traditional First Nation food, however that could involve moose, and (I kid you not) porcupine; native berries and not much in the way of veg.

Fortunately, there are a number of Canadian ladies who I 'know' from another hobby, and I was able to ask for opinion from Nova Scotia in the East, British Columbia in the West, Saskatchewan in the middle and Yukon in the north which has been an invaluable help.

So it's a fish dish from the east coast and a treat from the west coast.  Then the one dish which does seem pretty universal - poutine.  Now, I'll be honest, it sounds utterly vile with it's soggy chips and melty stringy cheese with gravy - and the web sites promoting its glorious unhealthiness do not help - but then I didn't embark on cookery round the world in order to just do the familiar, so in for a penny, in for a pound.

Pollock Montreal - recipe is from the Allrecipes.com website (with other research from other websites)

Put the pollock (note: I used haddock) in a buttered dish and season with paprika & black pepper; top with slices of onion, green pepper & tomato.  Cook in a medium oven for 15 mins till the fish flakes easily, then turn off the oven, top the dish with a couple of cheddar slices (note: I used Canadian cheddar. just to get in the spirit of the thing) and put back in the oven for the cheese to melt for a few minutes.

Poutine - recipe is from the matadorn life website, with additional gloating about how shockingly unhealthy the dish is from Knights Canadian. Not sure why anyone in the world would want to cook this after reading the latter link.  Anyway.

Fry chips, top with cheese curds (note: I used grated mozerella), smother with piping hot gravy.

Nanaimo bars recipe is shared by Paulette of Sweet P Quilting and Creations.  Nanaimo bars were thought up by a housewife in the town who entered her recipe in a magazine cookery contest.  She won, the bars are now Canada-wide famous.

Melt butter, cocoa and sugar in a pan, stir in a beaten egg, coconut, ground biscuits & chopped nuts (note: recipe calls for grahams wafers, which we don't get here - research suggests using digestive biscuits instead), stir, press into a deep tin & chill.  Add a second layer of creamed butter, icing sugar, vanilla and cream, and chill again.  Top with melted chocolate.

The Result

And what have we learnt? 
  • try things you are unsure about - you might be pleasantly surprised, but ....
  • ....cheesy chips are essentially the same the world over, by whatever name
  • pay attention to cooking times - a tendency to overcook would not have worked well with the delicate textures and flavours of the fish dish
  • deep frying need not be really, really scary.
  • you can't go far wrong with a recipe combo of butter, biscuits, chocolate and buttercream

And out of 10?

  • for the montreal pollack - a brilliant 9/10 - I would have thought that the cheese would overwhelm the fish, let alone the onion and pepper, but it was a triumph!  Maybe the secret ingredient was the paprika?
  • for the poutine - a non commital 5/10 - I can see it as a starchy comfort food, but frankly, why would you bother when hot toast and butter are quicker and just as tasty?
  • for the nanaimo bars - a solid 7/10 - I like these coconut chocolate jobbies - however, I do regularly make a family recipe along the same lines (but with no cream layer), which I think that I prefer.  My guinea pig tester remarked that he'd had a similar snack with a mint filling, which sounded like an interesting variation - so lots of food for thought there.


  1. The fish sounds lovely, as does the pud, but I hate soggy chips, so I can't see me ever enjoying these.

    1. I thought the onion/pepper/cheese would overwhelm the fish, but it was fab - and you MUST do Paulette's Nanaimo bars, they are really good! Yum!