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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Bannock – Toronto (Canada)

Bannock is one of the unique and innovative restaurants in the Oliver & Bonacini portfolio, renowned in Canada and especially Ontario. The creation of Peter Oliver and Michael Bonacini, Bannock is a Canadian comfort food restaurant and café enviably located in Hudson’s Bay flagship store in downtown Toronto.

The café is a great place to grab a quick sandwich, salad, pastry or coffee but the restaurant, past the centrally located open kitchen, is the place to be. The beautifully designed space is stunning and lends a real Canadian feel with its sweeping ceiling of interlocking hemlock boards reclaimed from a 150-year-old wharf in Lake Ontario. White washed pine, concrete imprinted with planks, banquettes, wooden chairs, marble tables, a communal table and atmospheric lighting all contribute to the modern Canadian aesthetic.

However, it’s not all style over substance. Bannock offers Canadian comfort food at its best. Although the restaurant is named after the traditional Scottish flatbread adapted by early Canadian settlers and indigenous peoples, the bread is their own take on bannock and is the inspiration for some of their menu items, such as the sandwiches and pizzas.

“Bannock’s honest approach to food is rooted in familiar, wholesome ingredients that are reflective of Canada’s rich regional and cultural diversity, delivered in an innovative and playful way”. (Official website)

Paulo and I couldn’t pass up Bannock’s excellent poutine so we shared a portion as our starter. Made with skin-on fries from Yukon Gold potatoes smothered in artisanal cheese curds and chicken gravy, there was so much to love in this classic Canadian dish. A sprinkling of spring onions and rosemary added some colour and elevated the poutine to posh status.

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Pig Out BBQ – Pickering, Ontario (Canada)

Where do you go when you want to pig out on some good barbecue? Well, a great place would be the aptly named Pig Out BBQ in Pickering. If that’s too far east of Toronto for you, there is also one on Spadina Avenue near the University of Toronto that picked up on the success of this first location.

Pig Out BBQ Outside

The menu features comfort food staples such as pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken wings, burgers, ribs, smoked sausage, tacos (fish, chicken, beef or pork), sweet potato fries, onion rings, poutine, baked beans, mac n cheese, corn bread, warm banana bread pudding and more pig-out worthy dishes.

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Although located on a busy road in Pickering, it’s a real hidden gem. Or should I say, it was… until Food Network Canada’s hit TV program You Gotta Eat Here featured Pig Out BBQ on one of their episodes, which aired in 2014. Canadian readers can watch the episode here. The show airs in a few countries, including the UK, so keep an eye out for it.

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Mill Street Brew Pub – Toronto (Canada)

The Mill Street Brew Pub is located in Toronto’s historic Distillery District amid the restored Victorian-era buildings of Gooderham and Worts, once the largest distiller of alcoholic beverages in Canada. Mill Street Brewery’s award winning beers are brewed on the premises as well as in a larger facility east of Toronto.

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The Mill Street Brew Pub offers tours of the brewery as well as an on-site shop to stock up on beers and merchandise. It’s definitely a tourist destination but an excellent one at that… and it’s always a good sign that it’s popular with the locals.

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The Mill Street Brew Pub serves decent fare, mostly comfort foods that go very well with their beers. The atmosphere is always jovial and the servers are helpful and friendly.

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