Country #28 – Canada

028 Canada

Challenge Log:

#28        Date selected:    14/4/16 Date completed:  22/4/16

Country selected:  Canada

Dining Selection:  Cooked Own

What was on the menu/recipe address:

·        Asparagus Salad with Canadian Ricotta Fritters

·        Newfoundland Pea Soup

·        Maple Creme Brulee with Hazelnuts

To be honest, I’m really not sure which direction this challenge is going to go.  Canada is such a large country and it’s very similar to Australia in terms of size and population  From the best of my knowledge, the cuisine is also very similar though I’m excited about discovering what traditional recipes I might be able to uncover.

The county is the second largest in the world by total area (fourth by land area).  Canada’s border with the United States is also the longest land border in the world.  Like Australia, much of Canada’s land area is sparsely populated though its climate is a lot colder.

Canada has a long and rich history with indigenous populations including the First Nations and Inuit people.  In 1000 AD, the first known attempt at European colonisation began when Norsemen settled briefly at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland.  Then no further exploration happened until the Atlantic coast was claimed by John Cabot in the name of King Henry VII of England in 1497.  Basque and Portuguese mariners established seasonal fishing and whaling outposts along the Atlantic coast and eventually the colonisation by the French began in 1534.

In modern times, Canada has become a multicultural society and in recent months has made worldwide headlines Justin Trudeau’s new parliament.  It has been dubbed the most diverse ever with 88 seats being held by women and with more Muslim and First Nation members than ever before in the nation’s history.

The cuisine reflects the multicultural nature of the nation but the overarching style of Canadian cuisine can be difficult to define.  In addition to the Aboriginal influences, much of the cuisine has been influenced by its European roots with particular emphasis on British and French tastes.

Friday 22nd April 2016, 3.09pm

It took me quite a long time to decide what I wanted to make for this challenge.  I spent quite a bit of time looking at poutine (because, well….Canada!) but cheese curds were an issue.  I hunted high and low for sheep curd but it’s exceptionally hard to find in Melbourne.  Goats curd is available but not sheep for some reason.  I did look up alternatives and self made curd-like mix and baby bocconcini can be substituted but I felt uneasy about not using the real deal for this one.  I felt that for a dish that is essentially just chips, cheese and gravy, substituting one of the key ingredients wouldn’t be right.  I decided to ditch the poutine as an option and go with something else instead.

First on the list was Asparagus Salad with Canadian Ricotta Fritters.  Once again, cheese was a bit of an issue, with Canadian Ricotta unavailable here.  This dish was a bit more complex however and I felt more comfortable with substituting Australian ricotta for the real thing.

The dish is made up of thinly shaved asparagus spears with roasted walnuts and a dressing, topped with fried ricotta fritters.  It’s a rather elegant dish which would make a beautiful light summer lunch or – as in this instance – a great starter.  The asparagus is crisp after sitting in the ice water bath.  The dressing has a nice acidic kick to it and the fritters are beautifully rich and creamy.

028 Asparagus Salad with Canadian Ricotta Fritters
Asparagus Salad with Canadian Ricotta Fritters

I like how different this is to your ordinary salad.  Without the tips, the asparagus flavour is only subtle and the textures blend well together.  It looks a lot more fancy than what it actually is and would be a nice addition to any dinner party.

For the next dish I decided on Newfoundland Pea Soup, served with Sieonas Painitsiak.

The Pea Soup takes quite a while to prep and several hours to cook but is actually relatively simple.  I chose corned beef for the meat and soaked that with the yellow split peas overnight.  The meat is boiled the following day.  Once cooked, it’s diced into pieces then boiled with the peas for another hour.  A mixture of diced (mostly root) vegetables are added to the soup and boiling continues until the vegetables are tender.

The end result is a hearty winter soup perfect for the cold weather that we’re experiencing here in Melbourne at the moment.  Dicing the vegetables means that each bite of the soup brings a different flavour to the palette.  The meat gives everything a comforting salty flavour and the peas help to thicken the broth nicely.

028 Newfoundland Pea Soup
Newfoundland Pea Soup

This recipe makes a TON of soup!  I used only half quantities and had enough to fill a large pot.  It would easily serve 4-6 people (if not more).  It is also really economical and would be a great choice for a large family on a budget.  I only used a portion of the corned beef roast in the soup but you could easily add the whole thing if you wanted to ‘up’ the meat content.

In looking at choices for this challenge, I decided that I really wanted to try an indigenous recipe.  I came across an Inuit recipe called Sieonas Painitsiak which are like fried dumplings.   I still have absolutely no idea how to pronounce the name of them, but I thought that these would go nicely with the soup.

The dumplings were very easy to make, puffed up beautifully in the hot oil and came out a gorgeous golden brown colour.  They were crispy on the outside and light and doughy on the inside.

028 Sieonas Painitsiak
Sieonas Painitsiak

Now I’m not sure if it was simply a typo in the recipe, but these dumplings were incredibly salty!  It struck me that they were salt-heavy when I was mixing the dough but I didn’t realise quite how salty they would actually be.  It was almost like eating fried play dough!  I thought perhaps they might work better in the soup but alas, this didn’t work for me either.  The salt just overpowered everything.

I concede that it’s very possible that the recipe was designed to be salty in order to give the eater extra nutrients in, what I imagine to be very extreme wintery conditions, however, if you’re not a fan of salt, I would highly recommend substituting the tablespoons of salt listed in the recipe for teaspoons instead.  I think if I had done this, I would have really enjoyed this as a side.

For dessert, I went from super salty to super sweet with Maple Crème Brulee with Hazelnuts.  I had decided that making something with maple syrup was a must and I quite like crème brulee so this seemed like a winner to me.

I found the recipe easy to follow and this would be an easy dessert to make in ahead of time, with only the caramelised sugar needing to be then done before serving.  Don’t miss the sugar part as it creates a hard toffee-like shell on top of the brulee which needs to be cracked in order to get to the creamy goodness underneath.

The dish is definitely a sweet one so keep that in mind.  The hazelnuts do help cut through the sweetness but it’s still very much a sugar fest (probably heightened by the amount of salt contained in the last dish) so beware!

028 Maple Creme Brulee with Hazelnuts
Maple Crème Brulee

That said, it is delicious, and in small servings would make a lovely end to a lighter, less salty meal.

Overall, I was very happy with the end result of this challenge, even if one of them wasn’t to my liking.  I think I was able to get a good range of different types of dishes and several of these will be making their ways onto my ‘make again’ list.

But for now, it’s time to choose another challenge…..

029 Iran


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