Whilst it might sound silly to make such bold declarations about a country which covers 6% of the world’s entire landmass, and whose cultural legacy includes Leonard Cohen, Drake, Sandra Oh and Celine Dion, but Canadian cuisine looks set to be the next big thing.
Overlooked and underrated for far too long, Canadian cuisine’s beauty comes from the fact that it encompasses a broad spectrum of international cuisines and influences, driven forward by the thriving, thrusting multiculturalism of its major urban centres, Toronto and Montreal.
Indeed, Canada’s culinary traditions stretch far and wide, drawing from the cooking traditions of the First Nations, Inuit and Metis, fusing them with French techniques and recipes, and taking influences from immigrants from South and East Asia, the Caribbean, Southern Europe and more.
Combine these disparate but delicious influences with the bounty of incredible ingredients found on the country’s doorstep, and it’s safe to say that Canadian cuisine is one of the most exciting on the planet.
That said, here in the UK, it can be hard to find the good stuff, with the country pretty bereft of authentic Canadian restaurants. You may know where we’re going with this one…
If you’re keen to explore the country’s cuisine from the comfort of your home, then you’re going to have to roll your sleeves up, don that apron, and get cooking! Here’s how to cook like a Canadian with these 3 must-try recipes.
HOW TO COOK POUTINE LIKE A CANADIAN
We realise we’re not the first to say this, but we just love poutine, a dish of French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy that originated in Quebec but is now enjoyed all across the country. The ultimate Canadian comfort food, you’ll find it served from food trucks and street food vendors in every city. Grab a fork (you’ll need one) and dive in!
Today, you can get all sorts of toppings for poutine, such as pulled pork, butter chicken and Korean style beef, but if you’re keen to make a traditional one at home, here’s how.
When it comes to cooking, the equipment you use makes a world of difference. You will need sharp knives, peelers, and cutters for this recipe. Moreover, a tabletop, deep fat fryer is recommended. Having one will make the job easier, as you need to double fry the potatoes.
As the guys at ComfyNorth.ca tell us, you could make this admittedly calorific, fat-heavy dish a little healthier by using an air fryer. They tell us that the French fries element of the poutine ‘’can be made by placing the sliced potatoes in an air fryer basket and cooking them at 390°F for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes until they reach the desired crispness.’’
Food for thought, indeed.
Here’s the list of the ingredients you’ll need to make poutine with homemade gravy:
- Two large potatoes
- Two cups of cheese curds
- Three tablespoons of butter
- Three tablespoons of flour
- One cup of chicken gravy
- One cup of beef gravy
- A cup of vegetable gravy
- One tablespoon of cornstarch
- One tablespoon of Worcester sauce
- A pinch of salt and pepper
First, cut the potatoes into even pieces so they can fry at a similar speed. The thickness you go for is up to you, but generally, the French fries used for poutine tend to be pretty thick-cut.
Cutting the potatoes into roughly index finger-sized pieces (planks) will allow them to cook evenly whilst keeping a little crunch on the outside.
Generally speaking, there’s no need to boil your potatoes first for a poutine-style French fries; just a little soak in cold water to draw out some of their starch is fine. Next, you want to double-fry the already-cut spuds at two six-minute intervals. As a result, they’ll be crunchy from the outside but tender within. When they’ve reached that stage, drain your French fries on paper towels.
Next, prepare the gravy. Firstly, let the butter melt and add your flour. Keep mixing until the flour is incorporated and your ‘roux’ mixture has a biscuity aroma. When your kitchen smells of McVitie’s Digestives, add your chicken, beef, or vegetable (ideally the former) gravy, and continue mixing until it thickens.
Add a little cornstarch if your gravy is too thin, and most importantly, a good dash of Worcester sauce, which is integral to the traditional poutine flavour profile. If you’d rather use a vegetarian seasoning sauce, check out our list of seven of the best here.
Now that your fries and gravy are ready, it’s time to put the dish together. Add your golden fries to a dish, and add as many cheese curds as you desire. Next, drizzle on your gravy. However, be sure not to add too much gravy, as you can over melt the cheese and soften the crunch of your fries. The cheese should still be a little squeaky when you take a bite; the mark of a great poutine!
THE DELECTABLE NANAIMO BAR RECIPE
Nanaimo bars are no-bake cookies from the Canadian province of British Columbia and beloved the whole country over. They are a three-layered dessert with a chocolate cookie crust at the bottom, a buttery custard layer in the middle, and chocolate on top.
You’ll have to search pretty hard to find a proper Nanaimo bar in the UK, but it’s a pretty fun recipe to make at home. Preparing this recipe may take up to an hour of your time, but it’s worth it.
For this recipe, you’ll need four pieces of equipment. Firstly, you’ll want a non-stick eight-inch square pan. You will use this pan to mold your bars. Secondly, you’ll want to ensure you have access to a stovetop. In addition, you will need a double boiler. Lastly, you’ll need a pot to melt your chocolate in. When you have all of this equipment, you’re ready to get started.
- One cup of butter
- Five tablespoons of cocoa powder
- One cup of Graham cracker crumbs
- 1/2 a cup of white sugar
- One cup of flaked coconut
- One cup of sweetened flaked coconut
- 1/2 a cup of walnuts (optional)
- Three tablespoons of heavy whipping cream
- One egg
- Two tablespoons of custard pudding mix
- Two cups of powdered sugar
- 1-ounce of baking chocolate
- Two small sticks of butter
Add half a cup of butter, cocoa powder, and sugar to your double boiler on the stovetop and stir until blended. Next, crack your egg into the mixture and beat for two minutes, or until the mixture becomes thick. Next, add the Graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and walnuts. Add your mixture to your pan and press it down gently.
Next, make your custard. Add the other half a cup of butter, whipping cream, and the custard pudding mix to a bowl and stir until combined. Afterward, add your powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Finally, add your custard on top of your base and allow it to settle.
Prepare the top chocolate layer by melting your chocolate and sticks of butter on low heat. Once melted, pour your chocolate on top of your settled custard. Most importantly, allow everything to cool (yes, we know it’s almost impossible to resist!) before cutting them into bars, the size of which depends on your greed!
MAKING YOUR OWN MAPLE SYRUP: CANADA’S LIQUID GOLD
The maple leaf is arguably one of Canada’s most prominent symbols, and for a good reason. Maple syrup is one of the most popular food items in Canada. To cook like a Canadian, you should know how to make your own at home.
- A cup of water
- One cup of white sugar
- One cup of brown sugar
- A tablespoon of pure maple extract
Pour the water, white sugar, and brown sugar into a pan and stir everything together on low-medium heat. Once combined, increase the heat to medium. Next, add your maple extract and continue to stir. Once everything is evenly melted, remove from the stovetop and allow to cool completely. For thicker maple syrup, add more brown sugar.
The Bottom Line
Canadian cuisine is a vast and glorious mix of many cultures, from Indigenous nations to the French, British and all those who have given a little to the country along the way. That said, there are a few dishes and preparations that every Canadian should know; and now, you know them, too!