Donairs (Recipe from More Than Poutine by Marie Porter)

Marie Porter’s latest cookbook More Than Poutine: Favourite Foods from My Home and Native Land resonated with me in many ways. Obviously it’s all about food but it’s Canadian recipes written by a fellow expat. When I made the move to the UK, first London then Cambridge, I was delighted to meet so many fellow Canadians in the same boat as me. We all miss our favourite foods, the ones we grew up on, that gave us joy and shared with loved ones. The cookbook features a lot of comfort foods, which is a nice reflection of these feelings of nostalgia.

The book’s title really hits the nail on the head. Poutine may be the Canadian specialty that first springs to mind but the cookbook is very well researched and spans over 120 recipes from all over Canada. Rest assured there is a great poutine recipe, complete with homemade gravy. The book also includes other well-known Canadian foods such as butter tarts, Nanaimo bars, tourtière and lobster rolls.

The recipes begin with a few explanatory words, as Canada is so diverse not all Canadians might know the dishes. The cookbook isn’t only for expats though, there’s enough interesting information for those living in Canada who want to expand their Canadian cooking repertoire. It’s also a great introduction to Canadian cuisine for anyone eager to learn more about Canada’s unique and varied culture.

The recipes’ measurements are provided in both US and metric units, with a more detailed conversions section at the end of the book.

It’s also worth noting that there is a focus on providing gluten-free alternatives to the recipes so the book is a good resource for those avoiding gluten.

With recipes classed into the following categories: Breakfast & Brunch, Appetizers & Sides, Snack Foods, Main Dishes, Jiggs Dinner (Sunday Dinner in Newfoundland), Beverages & Condiments and Desserts, the cookbook covers a lot of territory, both in the geographic and culinary sense. All of my favourites are in the book: Bannock, Montreal Style Bagels, Montreal Smoked Meat, Maple Snow Taffy, French Canadian Pea Soup and Bloody Caesar (Bloody Mary’s Canadian cousin). There are even accurate replicas of Jos Louis cake rounds, Oh Henry! chocolate bars and Swiss Chalet/St-Hubert BBQ sauce, although for trademarks reasons the recipe names had to be changed. It’s fun figuring out the inspiration behind the creative titles.

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Texas Style Smoked Beef Brisket

Paulo has been honing his BBQ skills ever since we got our Big Green Egg last year. Smoking a whole beef brisket is the ultimate challenge and he decided to do it Texas style, following the method of legendary pitmaster Aaron Franklin. After all, the brisket trend originated in Texas and barbecue beef brisket is considered their national dish.

It’s important to note that US brisket is different to what we know as brisket in the UK, namely a rolled and tied cut of meat that is slow roasted in the oven. Cattle breeds in the UK are smaller so the brisket needs to be treated more delicately as it’s less able to endure heat and doesn’t have the protective fat content and connective tissue for the cooking process. Brisket from the USA is larger, juicier and more stable.

Brisket comes from the cow’s lower chest area, which has coarse muscle fibres that are tightly bound together so it’s a notoriously difficult cut of meat to get right. Get it wrong and it will be tough and hard. Brisket should be cooked low and slow in a smoker as it breaks down the connective tissue for a juicy, tender result. It’s very time-consuming but so worth it for smoky, smooth, buttery brisket with a soft, sticky crust (bark) packed with flavour!

The whole brisket, known as a “packer cut” in the US, comes vacuum packed and is left untrimmed. More on trimming the fat later but in essence, the fat helps keep the brisket moist during the cooking process. The whole brisket includes the point (the thicker, fattier end) and the flat (the flatter, leaner end). Some cooks separate the two for better control over the cooking but we did it Franklin style.

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Smoky Chilli Con Carne

Paulo and I have been making our famous chilli con carne for years but this is the first time we tried it on our new Big Green Egg. The recipe already adds smokiness by griddling whole red chillies but using hickory wood chips in the Big Green Egg gave the chilli con carne an even more smoky flavour.

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It’s not essential to have a Big Green Egg to make this recipe so I’ll provide the stove top and EGG versions. However, if you are considering getting a Big Green Egg I heartily recommend it (I’m not getting paid to write that!). It’s more of an oven than a barbecue and can be used year round. So on a crisp winter’s day, Paulo and I donned our Aabelard aprons and fired up the Big Green Egg. They helped keep us warm too!

aabelard-aprons

Aabelard aprons are top quality (again, not getting paid for this recommendation). Made with waxed cotton, double-faced Italian leather (it’s like butterrrr) and antiqued brass buckles, it’s the only apron I’ll ever need and the cross back strap makes it super comfortable. I initially got one thinking that I would share it with Paulo but it became apparent that we each wanted our own apron, so I bought Paulo one in his favourite colour and even got it personalised with his initials. And besides, there’s nothing like a bit of brass and leather to spice up our culinary experiences! Ooo-err!

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We used Big Green Egg’s Dutch Oven but you can use any cast iron pot, even an enamelled one. You won’t need the lid for this recipe.

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Double Truffle Tagliatelle

I love truffles… the subterranean fungus, that is (although I’m quite partial to the chocolate sweets). I had the pleasure of meeting Will Bailey of Truffle Face, a Cambridge-based importer of high-quality affordable truffles from Orvieto, Italy. I interviewed him for Flavour, Cambridge’s food and drink radio programme (podcast here).

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Will even made me a truffle-laden lunch… The Ultimate Truffle Grilled Cheese sandwich (recipe here). What a treat!

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As we talked all things truffle, I couldn’t resist purchasing a pack of Tagliatelle al Tartufo, made by artisan company Margió, based in Umbria where Truffle Face source their truffles. I knew the tagliatelle would be tasty as the truffle is baked right into the pasta. You can actually see the yummy bits. All of Truffle Face’s products, such as truffles, pasta, cheese, oil and condiments can be purchased through their website.

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Tortiglioni with Tomato and Aubergine

Aubergine, eggplant… however they’re named, I just love them. Unfortunately, Paulo “not so much” so we hardly ever used them in our cooking. I knew I had to find a compromise and this is it! It’s a dish for those who don’t like aubergine, but I’m convinced it will convert all aubergine-haters. Once they’re fried, they have a meaty texture and any bitterness is eliminated.

Pasta Norma in pan

This recipe is basically what’s known in Sicily as Pasta alla Norma. It’s a famous dish named after the opera Norma by Vincenzo Bellini. Its flavours are definitely a work of art! The pasta shapes vary but I prefer a sturdy pasta, such as tortiglioni or rigatoni, to take on a sauce this thick and chunky.

The Sicilian way is to top the pasta with ricotta salata (salted ricotta) but it can be tricky to find. It’s a saltier, aged version of soft ricotta. Good substitutes are salty cheeses such as feta or Pecorino.

My version of Pasta alla Norma is quick and easy but still delicious. One day I will travel to Sicily and experience the traditional recipe!

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Penne with Tomato & Tigernut Meat Sauce (Recipe for Bim’s Kitchen)

Bim’s Kitchen are known for adding exciting ingredients to their African inspired sauces and condiments. In my latest collaboration with Bim’s Kitchen to develop recipes for their website, I concocted this pasta dish with their delicious African Tomato & Tigernut Relish.

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I tried tigernuts at one of Bim’s Kitchen demonstrations and I was surprised at their sweet taste and chewy texture. In fact, tigernuts aren’t nuts but tubers of the yellow nutsedge, a grass-like plant. They’re healthy too… high in iron, potassium, magnesium and vitamins C and E.

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The African Tomato & Tigernut Relish contains crunchy tigernuts, tomatoes, spices, Anglesey sea salt and chilli for a bit of a kick (it’s labelled “medium chilli heat”). The relish went well with my bolognese-type sauce and enhanced the flavours of the meat.

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Chicken Cashew Stir-fry with Noodles

I love the speed and ease of cooking with a wok. My recipe for Chicken Cashew Stir-fry with Noodles is a breeze to prepare. Once all the ingredients are chopped, they go straight into the wok and everything cooks rather quickly. The sweet hoisin sauce and toasted sesame oil give this dish its distinct oriental flavour while the cashews provide a contrasting texture. Add the convenience of ready noodles and you’ve got some seriously good comfort food. So wok this way!

Chicken Cashew Stir Fry with noodles

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Chicken with Potatoes, Peas & Tomato Cashew Curry Sauce (Recipe for Bim’s Kitchen)

Bim’s Kitchen have a range of African inspired sauces and condiments, including a few curry sauces. I have been collaborating with Bim’s Kitchen to develop recipes for their website but never tried any of their curry sauces. I love cashews so I couldn’t wait to start cooking with their African Tomato & Cashew Curry Sauce.

Bim's Kitchen African Tomato & Cashew Curry Sauce

It wasn’t too difficult to create this recipe as the main feature is Bim’s Kitchen delicious ready-made curry sauce. It’s already packed with a variety of flavourful ingredients so there’s no need spend time looking for all of the little extras that go into making a tasty curry. The sauce includes all of the following mouth-watering ingredients: tomatoes, roasted cashew nuts, onion, lemon juice, tamari gluten-free soy sauce, alligator pepper, paprika, leaf coriander, fenugreek leaves, birdseye chillies, cubeb, coriander seeds and celery seeds.

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I thought about what foods would complement the curry sauce and came up with curry staples chicken, onions, potatoes and peas. Bim’s Kitchen African Tomato & Cashew Curry Sauce is labelled “medium chilli heat”. I didn’t find it too spicy, just fragrant and succulent. I didn’t do it on this occasion, but I would recommend serving the curry with some rice. This would offset some of the spiciness but also marry well with the curry sauce. The sauce is so delicious, you need something to mop it up with, if not rice then bread. Yes, it’s that good. In fact, we found ourselves saying “yum” louder and more forcefully after every bite… if only just to remind ourselves that we weren’t dreaming!

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My Mom’s Magic Orange Cookies

It’s wonderful how food can evoke memories. My mom used to make a big batch of these cookies at Christmas, Easter and other special occasions. It’s a recipe she developed herself and perfected over the decades. When I moved to England, I took her recipe back with me. However, I struggled to recreate it and finally figured out how to convert the Canadian ingredients into ones I could find in the UK, namely the flour and vegetable shortening/lard. It was an ongoing project that my mother and I enjoyed working on.

I lost my mom only a few months ago and I miss her every day. In the midst of dealing with my grief, my thoughts somehow reverted to this recipe and all of the times we made it together as well as the conversations we had about adapting it to the UK when I moved away. I know I won’t ever have this experience with my mom again but I can keep her memory alive with sights, tastes and smells. And I can pass on the recipe to my son, who loves to bake with me. Some of the best moments we have together are in the kitchen so we made my mom’s recipe together for this blog post.

Cookies on Rack

We always called them cookies, although they are a bit like cupcakes or muffins. In fact, these cookies never really had a name. We just gobbled them up before we could think about identifying them into a specific category. It was only when my niece Amanda once asked my mom for her “magic” cookies that I came up with the name for the recipe. They have a whole cup of orange juice in them so I added “orange” to the name. So there you have it… My Mom’s Magic Orange Cookies.

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Manomasa Beef Nachos

Nachos, nachos, nachos! A yummy snack that’s perfect for sharing. But some combinations can be very boring and lack flavour. There are two secrets to my scrumptious beef nachos recipe. The first is… use good quality, tasty tortillas, such as the ones from Manomasa. I used two varieties of their premium tortillas: Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper and Manchego & Green Olive. They are sturdy tortilla chips that withstand the weight of the toppings and the heat from the oven.

Manomasa Beef Tortillas

Each variety of Manomasa tortillas is shaped differently and they are packed with flavour, which is the key to this tasty beef nachos recipe.

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