All posts by Lisa Jackson

Lisa Jackson is a food and travel writer based in Toronto who loves sinking her teeth into new flavours across Canada and abroad. When she’s not travelling or cooking in the kitchen, Lisa writes about her culinary adventures for The Globe & Mail, Huffington Post Canada, and many more. Lisa is also the founder and editor of Eat Drink Travel, a digital food and travel magazine.

The Sweet Prairie History of Girl Guide Cookies

When the Girl Guides of Canada come a-knockin’, the gut reaction for many Canadians is to pull out their wallet and loosen their belts. Few Canucks can resist a box (or two) of Girl Guide cookies, famed for their chocolate and vanilla icing, squeezed between crunchy cookie layers.

But did you know that the now famous cookies were invented on the Canadian Prairies? It started in 1927, when one Girl Guide leader in Regina, Saskatchewan baked and packaged batches of cookies for her troupe to sell, hoping to raise funds for uniforms and camping equipment. Little did she know that her tasty treats would kick off a feeding frenzy spanning close to a century! Seeing the sales of the Regina troupe, Girl Guides of Canada joined the party in 1929, making  cookie sales the official fundraising activity for the organization.

However, the types of treats have evolved throughout the decades, starting with vanilla creme, maple cream and shortbread cookies in 1946. It wasn’t until 1953 that the classic chocolate and vanilla-flavoured sandwich cookies first made a cameo on the sweets scene. Finally, in 1995, a new kid on the block was born: crunchy, chocolatey cookies with a cool mint filling. But one thing hasn’t changed; the cookie craze across Canada continues almost 100 years later, with several million boxes of cookies sold in Ontario alone. If the boxes were laid down on a road, it would reach from Windsor to Timmins. That’s a lot of cookie love!

DIY vegan Girl Guide thin mints

Get the recipe for Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegan Thin Mint Cookies

Ever since Girl Guides started selling door-to-door, Girl Guide cookies have become one of Canada’s best-loved food traditions — one that’s held a special place in Canada’s culinary history. During the Gulf War in the 1990s, every Canadian soldier was given a box of cookies upon arrival in Saudi Arabia and there are photographs of Canadian astronaut (and former Girl Guide) Roberta Bondar juggling vanilla and chocolate cookies in space.

The best part? Snacking on these crunchy and creamy cookies benefits more than your belly. The dough (no pun intended) goes towards supporting Girl Guides of Canada’s programming, which provides opportunities for girls to discover, explore, be adventurous and make a difference, while building the leadership and life skills.

Do you want more delicious Canadian food history? We roundup the history of Classic Canadian foods, from poutine to Hawaiian pizza.

Published March 16, 2017, Updated March 1, 2021

Halifax Donair

The Delicious History of the Halifax Donair

The next time you’re in Halifax, skip the lobster boil and go straight to the pizza shop instead. After all, that’s where you’ll find the city’s official snack: the Halifax donair.

Unless you’re a native Bluenoser, you may never have tasted this popular late-night snack, and experienced the unavoidable drip of garlicky donair sauce down your chin. The sloppy sandwich is a pita filled with spit roasted shaved beef, served with tomatoes and onions, slathered in the signature sauce.

“It’s spicy, eaten normally at midnight,” says Alain Bossé, a top chef from Pictou, Nova Scotia and ambassador of all things culinary in Atlantic Canada. “After a long night out, you line up at a pizza corner in Halifax. It’s a great hangover food!”

Related: 10+ Canadian First Nations Recipes to Make at Home

Halifax Donair

As the story goes, the Halifax donair was first invented in the 1970s by Peter Gamoulakos. Originally from Greece, he started selling Greek gyros (a pita stuffed with grilled lamb and tzatziki) from his restaurant located off the Bedford Highway. But the sandwich just didn’t jive with the East Coast’s “meat and potatoes” palate.

Swapping lamb for beef, the brothers whipped up a sweet “donair sauce” and tried again. This time, however, a feeding frenzy erupted and Halifax’s signature dish was born. The late-night favourite has become so popular that in 2015, Halifax city council voted to make it the city’s official food.

Related: The Sticky-Sweet History of the Butter Tart

“There’s something about this dish that’s unique to Atlantic Canada,” says Chef Alain Bossé. “People will drive miles for a donair!”

Today, almost every pizza place in the province sells the sloppy and sumptuous late-night eat, some even selling more donairs than pies. Every East Coaster has a favourite spot, but The King of Donair and Tony’s Donair have long been local favourites. Both spots have been serving the snack since the 1970s. Recently though, donair-mania has infiltrated swankier eateries.

Garlic Fingers with Donair SauceGet the recipe for Garlic Fingers with Donair Sauce

“Now that Halifax has proclaimed the donair as the food of choice, restaurants and hotels are serving donairs,” says Chef Alain. “Some are serving miniature canapés with donair meat.”

Playful renditions aside, there are traditional techniques to making the beloved sandwich. First, spiced ground beef is moulded into an elongated log that’s roasted on a spit. The donair meat is then shaved, sautéed and stuffed into a pita, along with fresh tomatoes, raw onions, and a special sweet sauce made with sweetened condensed milk, vinegar and garlic powder. As Chef Alain says, it’s adding the donair sauce that makes it.

“The sweet sauce is what makes a difference between a donair and a gyro,” he says. “My favourite? Sam’s Pizza in New Glasgow. They make their own pita, so it’s always fresh and soft.”

Related: You Haven’t Lived Until You’ve Tasted Butter Tart Cinnamon Buns

For decades, the Halifax donair largely remained a hidden treasure, scarcely found on menus outside Nova Scotia. But as more Nova Scotians started settling across the country and with the advent social media, there’s a growing appetite for this late-night nosh outside of the province. Canadian chefs are incorporating this trendy food item onto their menus and even getting creative with the recipe.

Donair PizzaGet the recipe for Donair Pizza

“The donair sauce is being used as an add-on,” says Chef Alain. “A lot of burger places are making burgers with donair sauce. There’s also pepperoni pizza with donair sauce.”

If you’re looking to truly replicate the original recipe, Mr. Donair — once the Gamoulakos brothers’ company — sells a do-it-yourself Halifax Donair kit, complete with pita bread, donair sauce and a pound of donair meat. The kits are sold in grocery stores, frequently used by chefs, and are gaining popularity in every nook and cranny of Canada.

Related: The History of Peameal Bacon — Plus Our Favourite Recipes

“Those kits are really starting to infiltrate the camps in Fort McMurray!” says Chef Alain. “With the kit, sauté the meat in a frying pan, crisping it. Then stuff your pita and just eat away.”

Once the key ingredients are ready to go, get busy adding your own influence to this classic Canadian dish. However, Chef Alain says to stick with some of the core ingredients: “It’s not a donair unless there are onions and tomatoes. And make sure to grill your pita!”

Anna-Olson-Holiday-Dessert-Hacks

Transform Festive Desserts with Anna Olson’s Top Holiday Hacks

With the holiday season fast approaching, it’s time to shine in the dessert department. In addition to the usual festive fare, why not dress things up for the holidays with Anna Olson’s sweet and easy hacks? Just follow these fun, fresh and flavourful ideas to make good use of your holiday ingredients, and take your Christmas baking to the next level.

How to Eggnog Anything

A mix of eggs, cream, sugar and booze, eggnog is the quintessential holiday drink. With a little ground nutmeg and rum extract, it’s easy to infuse this drink’s festive flavour into desserts, too. Anna shows that just a dash of rum (or rum extract) and ground nutmeg give buttercream frosting an unmistakable “eggnog” flavour. Swirl the sweet spread onto her Flourless Mini Vanilla Cupcakes and sprinkle nutmeg on top to complete the look. Or, for a decadent sweet treat, stir nutmeg and rum extract into Anna Olson’s Chocolate Truffles. If cookies are more your style, infuse the eggnog flavours into Anna Olson’s Vanilla Icebox Cookies by adding rum extract and ground nutmeg to the recipe, then, after baking, pipe frosting between two icebox cookies.

If you just can’t get enough eggnog this season, try your hand at these 15 Delicious Ways to Enjoy Eggnog.

Edible Peppermint Candy Platter

Instead of the plastic or glass trays, serve treats on an edible peppermint candy platter. Anna Olson demonstrates how to make a serving plate out of standard candies in this impressive holiday hack. If you’re making cookies, bake up a peppermint plate so you’ll have a unique and portable option for holiday parties and potlucks.

Adorable Rudolph Cookies

Shake up the holiday cookie table with these show-stopping sweets! Start with Anna’s Icing Sugar Cookies and learn how to transform them into adorable and easy decorated treats. A little royal icing and perfectly placed pretzels will help create delicious and adorable desserts. Those new to decorating will love how easy and achievable these sweets are.

Leftover Candy Canes

Got a stocking full of candy canes? There’s a recipe for that. Before you toss them, break out the food processor and pulse those broken bits into a fine candy cane crumb. This will serve as the base for tons of recipes. For a simple dessert, add crunchy candy cane bits inside and out of Anna Olson’s Vanilla Icebox Cookies. Another way to refresh your holiday treats with candy cane crumbs is to roll filled Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies into candy cane dust. If you’re looking for a festive sipper, double-up on the peppermint with this Slow Cooker Peppermint Hot Chocolate, lining the mug’s edge with candy cane bits (brush the edge with a bit of warm water to encourage sticking).

For even more recipes with the traditional holiday candy, try these 15 Tasty Recipes That Use Leftover Candy Canes.

bagged milk in bags sitting on grocery store shelf

Why Do Canadians Drink Bagged Milk?

Oh, Canada! As proud Canucks, we certainly have our share quirky traits and tastes, from profusely apologizing with “soar-ee” to our love of ketchup chips, butter tarts and poutine. But did you know that bagged milk is also a uniquely Canadian invention?

Believe it or not, milk bags have been in Canadian fridges since the 1970s, selling mainly in Ontario, Québec and the Maritimes. Each package contains three un-resealable plastic pouches filled with milk, equaling 4 litres total. Insert a single bag into a pitcher, snip off the corner and start pouring. Then put the pitcher back in the fridge, until you need it next.

It wasn’t always this easy. Until the late 1960s, milk was packaged in heavy, breakable glass bottles, racking up big bills for the dairy industry to transport. Soon, alternatives started arriving on the market, such as cardboard cartons, plastic jugs and eventually, plastic bags.

As the story goes, DuPont, a Canadian food and packaging company, unveiled thin, plastic bags that could be used to store and sell milk in 1967. Gradually, the dairy industry began ditching glass bottles and adopting this newfangled plastic pouch, which was far more practical and cost-efficient. Plus, Canada’s conversion to the metric system in the 1970s made the switch a no-brainer: while plastic jugs and cardboard cartons had to be redesigned and manufactured to be sold in metric units, plastic bags could easily be re-sized.

Related: The Delicious History of Classic Canadian Foods, From Poutine to Hawaiian Pizza

But we’re not the only ones in the world who are rocking the plastic udder. Milk bags can be found in many other countries, such as South Africa, Argentina, Uruguay, Hungary and China. In Israel, there’s a Kankomat: soft, plastic milk bags with a knife built into a plastic container. So when it comes to milk, Canadians may march to the beat of their own drum, but there are many other nations playing alongside in the band.

These days, Canadians are doing some cool things with discarded “milk bladders.” Milkbags Unlimited, a volunteer network across the Greater Toronto Area, recycles milk bags into sleeping mats. Every adult-sized mat is made with approximately 400 milk bags, which are cleaned and cut into strips. Volunteers loop and fit each bag onto a frame, weaving it into the mattress that has a lifespan of approximately 25 years. In addition to the mats, milk bags are also used to stuff pillows and to weave into handbags. The milk bag mats offer a durable and washable alternative to sleeping on cold, damp, and dusty ground, and have particularly helped people living in disaster zones. When resources are scarce, health care professionals have even used these mattresses as substitutes for operating tables. Talk about MacGyver-style upcycling.

Related: The Delicious History of the Halifax Donair

So the next time you snip off the corner of a milk bag, you should feel a twinge of Canadian pride. This may be one of our weird and wonderful national habits, but no one can say that Canucks aren’t resourceful!

Get inspired (and patriotic) in the kitchen with these iconic Canadian foods you can make at home.

The Pioneer Woman's Chicken Skillet Lasagna

The Pioneer Woman’s Top Cooking Tips for Easier Weeknight Dinners

Let’s face it: you’ve got enough on your plate during busy weeknights. While we’d all love to be a master chef, the last thing you need at the end of a long day is to improvise an elaborate meal that sucks up your time and energy. Luckily, The Pioneer Woman has some tips and tricks for making weeknight suppers a cinch.

Get the recipe for The Pioneer Woman’s Skillet Chicken Lasagna

Simple Supper in a Skillet

Making a scratch-made lasagna can be a grueling day-long affair that blows through an array of pots, kitchen utensils, and cutting boards. Forget that hassle, and instead, make The Pioneer Woman’s Skillet Chicken Lasagna in a skillet! This one-pot, one-pan Italian favourite not only minimizes mess but cuts the prep time to 10 minutes. Plus, the dish reheats beautifully – just throw the leftovers in the fridge or freezer and it’s ready to go for weeknight meals. For another inspiring skillet dish that can be pulled together in 16 minutes flat, try Ree Drummond’s Pepperoni Chicken recipe.

The Pioneer Woman's Perfect Pot RoastGet the recipe for The Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Pot Roast

One and Done

One-pot meals are a lifesaver! It only takes 15 minutes to prep The Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Pot Roast, and then just “set it and forget it” on the stovetop.  Using a large pot or Dutch oven, let beef simmer in wine, fresh thyme, and rosemary for 3-4 hours until tender. Then, serve pulled or sliced alongside a savoury side, like Grilled Taters with Onion and Garlic. Freeze the leftover meat and make The Pioneer Woman’s Hot Hawaiian Beef Sandwiches for another meal!

DIY Dinner

The Pioneer Woman’s Beef Tacos makes meals easy and fun! Put a tasty taco bar on the table, featuring ground beef sautéed with spicy seasoning and fixings like Cheddar Jack cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce. Then start an assembly line and let the family create their own taco masterpieces.

The Pioneer Woman's Kale Pasta Mason JarGet the recipe for The Pioneer Woman’s Kale Pasta Mason Jar Salad

Mason Jar Salad

Take 15 minutes to prep The Pioneer Woman’s Kale Pasta Mason Jar Salad and you’ve got a speedy side for weeknight dinners. It’s easy: just layer pasta, kale, tomato, pine nuts, mozzarella, and olive oil dressing in a mason jar. When it’s time to dig in, shake up the jar, pour into a bowl, and serve family-style. It also makes a fun, portable lunch that the kids will love.

Make the Slow Cooker Your BFF

Slow cookers make cooking a breeze: just plug it in, flip a switch, and watch dinner cook while you take care of other business (like relaxing!). For a  crowd-pleaser, try The Pioneer Woman’s Slow-Cooker Bolognese. While you’re at the office, let the rich, tangy meat sauce braise for 6 hours in the crockpot, and then all you have to do is serve a scoop over spaghetti and add grated Parmesan, basil, and parsley. It’ll be ready when you get home, and you can freeze the leftovers for future weeknight dinners.

Hot Hawaiian Beef SandwichesGet the recipe for The Pioneer Woman’s Hot Hawaiian Beef Sandwiches

Cook Once, Eat Twice

If you’re making a meal, why not cook once but eat twice? Turn pot roast leftovers into The Pioneer Woman’s Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches. A comfort classic, each sandwich is layered with provolone, sliced beef, and Ree Drummond’s homemade dressing. Pro tip: assemble a batch the night before and refrigerate for the next day’s dinner. Eating with your hands is a guaranteed hit!

Get the recipe for The Pioneer Woman’s Spanish Baked Salmon

Sheet Pan Supper

Meals that use multiple pots and pans make kitchen clean-up a hassle. Minimize mess with The Pioneer Woman’s Spanish Baked Salmon: this lightning-fast feast only requires one sheet pan to turn salmon fillets, croutons, red peppers, and green olives into a Spanish-inspired feast. It’s so easy that you’ll be tempted to use a sheet pan every night.

Breakfast For Dinner

Who says you can’t have breakfast for dinner? The Pioneer Woman’s Potato Hash makes a mouth-watering meal anytime and takes only 5 minutes to prepare. Topped with fried egg, russet and sweet potatoes are mixed with red bell peppers, yellow squash, onion, and zucchini. This tasty hash is everything!

The Pioneer Woman's Potato HashGet the recipe for The Pioneer Woman’s Potato Hash

Save the Scraps

Don’t toss the scraps – save ‘em for your next recipe! With The Pioneer Woman’s Roasted Potato Peels, turn russet potato peels into a roasted side dish, salad topper or snack. Or upcycle pie scraps into crunchy Cheese and Chipotle Scrap Crackers. A cost-saving and green-friendly kitchen hack!

Overnight Cooking

The Pioneer Woman’s Overnight Chicken Broth is so simple that you can make it in your sleep – literally. Before bedtime, put chicken bones, carrots, celery, parsnips, bay leaves, thyme, onion, salt and pepper into a large slow cooker. Cover with water by 2 inches and then cook on low for 10-12 hours overnight. The next morning, strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer and refrigerate in mason jars. You’ve got ready-to-use chicken broth for soups and stews.

Make and Reheat Meal

With The Pioneer Woman’s Brie and Broccoli Quiche, no one will guess that this dish is a reheat. This rich, flavourful quiche uses thick slices of chopped Brie, giving the dish a velvety smooth texture that’ll have everyone swooning. Make it ahead of time and then store in the freezer or fridge until you’re ready to serve it.

The Pioneer Woman's Make-Ahead Thanksgiving TurkeyGet the recipe for The Pioneer Woman’s Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Turkey

Make-Ahead Turkey

Turkey isn’t just for Thanksgiving! It makes a healthy and hearty weeknight meal with Ree Drummond’s ingenious hack: cut the bird into six sections, which will expedite the roasting time, and cook the night before. The next day, just reheat the bird for an hour and you’ve got a gourmet dinner on the table. Save the leftovers for turkey sandwiches, soups,  stir-fries, or casseroles. Get the recipe for The Pioneer Woman’s Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Turkey.

For more great recipes, watch The Pioneer Woman Saturdays at 12:00 PM E/T.

Anna Olson Assembling Cakes

Anna Olson’s Top Tips for Assembling and Icing Cakes

Dreamed of being a cake boss? From simple coffee cakes to elaborately layered tortes, it’s all within the realm of “yes, you can!” if you master the recipe and technique. When baking at home, follow Anna Olson’s step-by-step methods to creating beautiful and delicious cakes dressed to impress.

Stacking Cake Layers

Don’t be intimidated: it only takes three simple tools to successfully stack two cakes on top of each another. Plus, Anna’s easy instructions make it a cinch.

As Anna says, grab your measuring tape, wooden doweling, and a serrated knife, and give it a go at home.

How to Fill a Cake

For filling a cake, think beyond the usual frosting-cake combination: spoon lemon curd, strawberries stirred with jam, chocolate mousse, or whatever you fancy between the cake layers. Follow Anna’s step-by-step instructions and your cake will slice perfectly without squishing or sliding.

To recap, the steps are to create a stabilizing “dam” – a ring of buttercream frosting around the edges and a secret slicing ring in the centre – and then spoon filling into the gap and pop on the next layer. Repeat until you’ve got a towering masterpiece ready to be decorated.

Masking a Layer Cake

Once you learn the icing essentials, “masking” or frosting a cake is a snap.

Remember these essential tips from Anna when masking your cake:

  1. Start by using more frosting than you need
  2. Always mask at the top of the cake first, and then move onto the sides
  3. Always connect the next addition of frosting to the first
  4. When polishing the cake, start with the sides and finish with the top
  5. Use a bowl scraper to achieve clean edges on your cake
  6. Chill the cake for 30 minutes before decorating

Covering a Cake with Fondant

Why not fancify your baked creation with a little fondant? Working with this edible icing, used to sculpt or decorate cake, is easier than you think.

Remember, the key steps are:

  1. Ice the cake.
  2. Roll the fondant into a thin but stable layer.
  3. Using the rolling pin, drape the fondant over the cake.
  4. Gently press out any air bubbles.
  5. Trim the edges.
  6. With the palm of your hand, rub the fondant until it feels satiny.

Looking for more cake inspiration? Check out Anna Olson’s Best-Ever Cake Recipes.

split-pea-soup-feature

The Lip-Smacking History of Split Pea Soup in Canada

When the first chill creeps into the air, the knee-jerk reaction for many Canucks is to get soups simmering on the stove. While we love our minestrone and hearty stews, it’s hard to beat dipping your spoon into a steaming bowl of split pea soup.

This classic stick-to-your-bones soup has been a  Quebecois favourite for over 400 years. For good reasons, too: pure comfort made from easy-to-preserve ingredients.

“Split pea soup is made of yellow split peas, ham hock, vegetables, and thyme, and it’s usually served with bread,” says Ottawa Chef Marc Miron, who is an expert on the dish. “Split pea soup is a dish that can be served as a starter or as a main.”

split-pea-soup-parkersGet the recipe for Parker’s Split Pea Soup

But where exactly did this hearty soup come from in the first place? Miron has an inkling, based on his own extensive research tracing the roots of “habitant soup.” Although he’s headed up kitchens around the world and cooked for celebs like Chef Gordon Ramsay and the Rolling Stones, this busy chef was drawn to explore the history of this delicious Canadian dish.

“It’s a beautiful staple in the Canadian cuisine, not only in Quebec,” says Miron.

The soup’s origins are murky, but Miron believes today’s recipe is likely a distant relative of soup made aboard explorer Samuel de Champlain’s ships from France. On long journeys, the ships would be stocked with ingredients that preserve for lengthy times, such as vinegar, honey, cheese, rice, legumes, and salted meats and fish.

“All of those ingredients were on board that they made soup with,” says Miron. “It was probably not the split pea soup as we know now. But it was a [salted] ham-broth with some peas in it and some vegetables.”

As more habitants – or Canada’s first settlers – arrived from France and landed on Canadian soil, the soup served on ships gradually evolved and came to include game meats, pork, and locally grown ingredients.

“The habitants depended on the forests for their meat, but they farmed pigs along with vegetables, fruit, peas, and beans,” says Miron. “Soup was always part of the meal. Looking at the setup of the table, the spoon would always be there for the soup. They had to get creative with it: basically finding out that the peas matched very well with the ham hock.”

Whether called habitant soup or soupe aux pois cassés or split pea soup, this early settler soup with many names became a staple item on the menu for Quebec’s settlers. For starters, it was a filling and nutritious meal that helped them survive harsh Canadian winters.

“Going through the winter, times were pretty hard,” says Miron. “Pea soup is something that gave them everything from vegetables to legumes to protein. It’s a meal by itself.”

Most habitant farmers also had bread ovens, partly explaining why today’s version of the soup is usually paired with a slice of warm, crusty bread.

“Bread is always part the tradition,” says Miron. “When times were rough for the habitants, you needed a full meal and bread provided for that.”

Of course, the original habitant-style soupe aux pois cassés has changed over the centuries, swapping out salted meats for ham hock, but the soup has become a Canadian classic that has spanned generations.

“My grandmother is 96 and she told me that pea soup was served every Friday,” says Maxime Constantin, the owner of Cabane à sucre Constantin in Quebec where they serve a mean bowl of split pea soup. “So it’s become a traditional meal served in every family.”

In terms of regional variations, Miron says that most recipes still “respect the basics,” adding split peas and vegetables to the soup. The wildcard that he’s witnessed in the culinary world involves the broth.

“The consistency in the soup is where you see the most difference,” says Miron. “Some have it more ‘brothy,’ and some have it thicker.”

As the dish became popular across the country, dry and canned versions of the old school recipe popped up, with the first emerging in the late 1800s, according to Miron.

“They did an instant pea soup around 1867,” says Miron. “When you invent a soup dry, it’s because it’s popular.”

Pig-and-Pea-Soup

Get the recipe for Split Pea Soup.

If you’re not in a hurry, skip the ready-made varieties, and try your hand at creating a homemade batch of delicious split pea soup. There’s the traditional recipe for Québécois-Style Pea Soup made with unsmoked ham hock, but also Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup using a smoked turkey leg, leeks, and green split peas. Or follow Ina Garten’s recipe for Parker’s Split Pea Soup, which uses chicken stock instead of ham hock.

Short on time? Whip up a batch of Chef Michael Smith’s recipe Speedy Split Pea Soup using dried split peas, bacon, and frozen peas. Or if you’re not in a rush, try his more traditional recipe for Pig and Pea Soup with a ham hock broth.

For a soup with a zing, there’s this recipe for Split Pea and Ginger Soup from The Burnt Tongue in Hamilton, Ont. A warming soup with a kick of ginger spice, this dish is hearty to the core without being too heavy.

The food experts have a few tips for making split pea soup at home. At Cabane à sucre Constantin, Maxime Constantin regularly cooks up a colossal cauldron of pea soup that serves 700 people at their family-owned sugar shack. His secret to soup success? Soak the peas overnight.

“At the start, you have to soak the peas a night before,” says Constantin. “After we roast the piece of pork with carrot and onion, we add broth and peas. It has to boil about 2 to 3 hours until the peas are soft.”

For Miron, making split pea soup is a two-step process, which starts with the broth and then the soup. While the other ingredients are important, “the ham stock has to be very good.”

“It’s like roasting a chicken – the leg doesn’t cook the same way,” says Miron. “So I always de-bone and cook it separately. The pea soup is the same. To do a good ham stock, you would need 2-3 hours, depending on the size of your ham hock, to make sure the meat is cooked and falls off the bone.”

Once the broth is complete, Miron adds vegetables and chunks of ham to the rich, flavourful stock, and simmers the concoction on the stove for 30 to 45 minutes.

No matter which split pea soup recipe you choose or how you cook the broth, take pride in the fact that you’re slurping up a Canadian classic that been trending since the days of Samuel de Champlain. Now that’s definitely worthy of a Canadian Heritage Minute!

Persians-roll

The Sumptuous History of the Thunder Bay Persian Roll

If ever in you’re in Thunder Bay, Ont. there’s one thing you absolutely must do: treat yourself to a Persian.

No, it has absolutely nothing to do with the Middle East. In Thunder Bay, a “Persian” is an oval-shaped pastry that’s fried and frosted with pink berry icing. It’s a local delicacy with deep roots in this Northern Ontario town.

“It’s similar to a cinnamon bun,” says Danny Nucci, owner of the legendary Bennett’s Bakery and The Persian Man in Thunder Bay. “What makes it different from anything else is the icing on top. It’s not overly sweet. But it gives you a good feeling.”

Thunder Bay Persian

This prized pastry was first created in the 1940s by Art Bennett, the original founder of Bennett’s Bakery (formerly called “Art Bennett’s”). As the story goes, he named the sweet treat after John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing, an American World War I General who allegedly visited his bakery while he was making the dough. As a result of this memorable meeting, Bennett dubbed his now-famed pastry a “Persian.”

“General Black Jack Pershing happened to make his way to Thunder Bay and pull into Bennett’s Bakery,” says Nucci. “He and Art Bennett were talking, while Art was producing a newly formed product. They hit it off and he named it after him.”

Since then, Thunder Bay locals have been raised on these Persian doughnuts, even hosting eating competitions and selling them for community fundraisers. They’ll tell you that it’s a “must-eat” dish if you’re in town. Today, Bennett’s Bakery sells the dessert at their popular coffee shop, The Persian Man, as well as in packs of four at local grocery stores.

“The formula hasn’t changed, the recipe hasn’t changed,” says Nucci. “So it’s still the same goodness that you used to get since its conception in the mid-1940s.”

Thunder Bay Persian

Credit: The Persian Man
https://www.facebook.com/399721353422346/photos/a.399722726755542.90459.399721353422346/1041271555933986/?type=3&theater

But what exactly makes a Persian so special? The original recipe remains under wraps, so we can only speculate about its irresistible ingredients. But some claim the signature pink icing is the clincher.

“It’s a berry icing,” says Nucci. “A lot of people pick up Persians with icing on the side. What they do is put ‘em in the freezer and then put the icing in the fridge, and then have one as needed.”

There’s also an old school “toasted” version of the Persian. Back in the day, some Thunder Bay restaurants would toast the doughnut, adding butter and icing on top, and a lot of locals still adhere to this tradition in the kitchen.

“You take a Persian in half,” says Nucci. “Toast the cut halves in the frying pan until they’re golden, and put a little icing on top halves and flip over to caramelize the icing. There may be some toasted Persians still being sold in Thunder Bay restaurants.”

Regrettably, since Art Bennett’s original recipe remains a secret to this day, we’ll never know what exactly makes the Thunder Persian so dang delicious. Today, it’s been inherited by the Persian Man in Thunder Bay, who continues to use this classic recipe to make their cherished pastries.

“I got the recipe from working at the shop,” says Nucci. “Juliet Bennet ended up selling the bakery to my dad and his two cousins in 1962. It’s a secret, especially the dough product itself. There’s no set ingredients in the listing on the bag product.”

But don’t despair: instead, try your hand at making the doughnut in your home kitchen with this recipe for Thunder Bay Persians. Biting into the light-as-air fry bread and creamy icing, you can salute General Pershing and baker Art Bennett for gifting this doughy delicacy to the world.

Ginger Beef

The Delicious History of Ginger Beef

There’s one iconic Canadian dish that’s a “must try” in Calgary and you won’t find it at the steakhouse. Instead, head straight to Chinatown — the birthplace of sticky-sweet ginger beef. Here, you can savour a plate of crispy and golden battered beef swimming in a sticky, spicy sauce, often served over rice. “It usually has deep-fried beef, ginger, peppers, carrots and onions and is served in a sweet sauce that is a bit like General Tso’s,” says Lenore Newman, food historian and author of Speaking in Cod Tongues: A Canadian Culinary Journey. “I see it as an excellent example of the early mixing of Canadian and Chinese tastes.” Food lovers have likely encountered this crunchy, satisfying dish in restaurants across Canada and abroad, but there’s nothing quite like eating ginger beef in Calgary.

Ginger Beef

Get the recipe for Ginger Beef With Carrots and Rice

“Whenever I go to Chinatown in Calgary, ginger beef is in the back of my mind,” says Ryan O’Flynn, chef at Calgary’s acclaimed The Guild Restaurant and Canadian Culinary Championship winner.  “It’s a staple. When the Chinese restaurants get ready for a busy night, they’ve got the 150 portions of ginger beef ready and probably 30-50 of everything else.”

Chinese food wasn’t always so popular in Cowtown. In the early-  to mid-20th-century, Chinese-owned restaurants struggled to popularize Peking-inspired dishes and instead served comfort fare like burgers, fries and grilled cheese sandwiches. In the 1970s, George Wong, chef at The Silver Inn in Calgary, was looking for ways to boost business and make his menu more appealing to Western patrons. Playing with a recipe from Northern China and inspired by British pub grub, George deep-fried shredded beef and then simmered the crispy strips in a spicy chili sauce. He dubbed the dish “deep-fried shredded beef in chili sauce” and began serving it to patrons.

“It had that fast food flavour,” says Ryan. “It’s kind of ingenious — George Wong was one of the first to adapt and push the boundaries in Calgary.” Turns out, George’s creative cooking instincts were bang on: customers gobbled up the newfangled dish, loving the zingy sauce and the beef’s crunchy texture. “It caught on and became known as ‘ginger beef,'” says Karen Anderson, president of Alberta Food Tours. “Because Canadians mistakenly believed there was ginger in the sauce.”

Today, ginger beef remains a staple on The Silver Inn’s menu and has become such an iconic dish that it was even included in the Royal Alberta Museum’s Chop Suey on the Prairies exhibition. Several decades later, there’s a growing appetite for this dish across Canada, with more chefs incorporating ginger beef onto their menus.

Related: Tasty Chinese Takeout Dishes You Can Master at Home

“To think that a dish from Calgary built in the 1970s can now be found in Victoria to Toronto to Halifax is pretty fantastic,” says Ryan. “It gained way for other Chinese restaurants to do a new style of Asian food.”

The original recipe has evolved over the years, to reflect changing tastes and ingredients. Some renditions include ginger and garlic, and it’s more common now to add sauteed onions, peppers and carrots into the mix before serving. Regardless of the fixings, the outcome is always tasty. “The result is tender morsels of beef in a crispy coating with sweet hot sauce and brightly coloured vegetables,” says Karen. “When it’s done right, it’s out of this world delicious.”

Some daring chefs are even playing around with this Canuck favourite, creating everything from ginger beef poutine to a sesame ginger beef burrito. The dish has even fuelled a “Ginger Beef Throw Down,” a one-time cooking competition between food trucks that was hosted by the Royal Alberta Museum.

Although you can make your own at home or try it at various restaurants across the country, Ryan says:  “You must go to The Silver Inn… You can’t have it anywhere else! Have it there first, so you know what it is, and then go and check out other renditions.”

Published January 5, 2017, Updated January 1, 2018

Pecan-Butter-Tarts

The Sticky-Sweet History of the Butter Tart

How do you like your butter tart — firm or runny? With raisins or bacon bits? Made with butter or shortening? There are a gazillion and one ways to make (and eat!) a butter tart, but only one truly great place to enjoy them: in Canada, the birthplace of this sweet, satisfying treat. “The butter tart is 100 per cent Canadian,” says Anna Olson. “It’s an individual tart, as opposed to a full-sized pie.”

In case you’ve been in hibernation, a butter tart is a flaky, round pastry shell filled with a gooey buttery filling that’s semi-solid, with a crunchy top. Taste testing is almost a patriotic duty, offering a delicious way to sink your teeth into Canadian history.

whiskey butter tarts

Get the recipe for Pecan Whisky Butter Tarts

Like many legendary dishes, the butter tart’s origins are fuzzy. It’s believed that filles à marier (“marriageable girls”) created a crude version in the 1600s. These newly arrived Québécois brides filled their French tarts with New World ingredients: maple sugar, freshly churned butter and dried fruit such as raisins.

“The idea of mixing a syrup with eggs and dried fruit to form a dessert is an old one — and was likely born out of necessity to make do with ingredients on hand,” says Dr. Lenore Newman, food security and environment director at the University of the Fraser Valley.

Others believe the butter tart has roots in pecan pie, brought to Canada by Americans or possibly is related to Québec’s sugar pie or even Scottish border tarts. And some experts credit pioneer cooks for creating the beloved version known today, tracing the earliest printed recipes back to the 1900s. Ultimately, no one knows for sure, but the tart’s origins are likely a combination of all of the above. “It just slowly evolved and appeared,” says Anna. “It looks like a lot of other tarts: like the French [Canadian] tarte au sucre or a treacle tart [a traditional British dessert].”

Four hundred years later, the butter tart has become the quintessential Canadian sweet treat. It was all the rage in the 1920s and 1930s, and it’s one of the few authentically Canadian recipes that exists on paper.

“The butter tart’s success in Canada is likely linked to our general love of sweet desserts,” says Dr. Newman. “However I do feel that the butter tart is being influenced ever so slightly by Canada’s cuisine with its dedication to local foods. British and French settlers loved sugar, but butter tarts also fit a model of early Canadian foods that needed to pack a really high calorie load into each bite. We worked outside in the cold and needed to eat a lot more than we do now.”

Related: Butter Tart Spots to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Today, the craze continues. There are even butter tart trails that dessert lovers can follow, with Ontario’s Kawarthas Northumberland Region and Wellington County offering maps and self-guided itineraries to explore local bakeries and cafes. What’s even more incredible is the butter tart has become an international superstar.

“No matter where I am travelling, I’m always asked to demonstrate a butter tart,” says Anna. “I have demonstrated butter tarts in Argentina, Moscow, Dubai, all over Southeast Asia. I just hosted a chef from the Philippines and the one thing on his checklist was trying a butter tart. Because the world knows the butter tart as ubiquitously Canadian.”

What makes an “authentic” Canadian butter tart? It’s a hotly debated topic within the baking community, especially when it comes to three aspects: should the tart’s filling be runny or firm? Should it contain raisins? And how far can you stray from the original recipe? According to Anna, there’s no clear answers: it really depends on the baker and the proof is, well, in the pastry.

“The butter tart has as many recipes as there are people who make them,” says Anna. “But whether it’s a filling made with maple syrup or corn syrup is very particular to the [baker]. Some swear by lard pastry, others by butter. To call it a butter tart, you can’t change the shape or syrupy filling.”

Nonetheless, bakers and pastry chefs are making endless and ever-evolving variations on this favourite Canuck dessert. Some stuff the flaky pastry cup with toasted pecans instead of raisins or even chocolate or bacon fillings.

The bacon butter tart has become a staple — it’s that salty crunch in the bottom,” says Anna. “I’m seeing more with chocolate melted into the syrupy filling. You could even put in marshmallows and chocolate chips for an s’mores butter tart!”

In recent years, some maverick chefs and bakers are even masterminding butter tart-flavoured foods, such as ice creams, cookies, cobblers and Butter Tart Cheesecake.

Butter Tart Cheesecake

“While you may not change the butter tart, you can integrate those flavours and textures elsewhere,” says Anna. “For my new cookbook, I want to do a butter tart swirl cheesecake that has that the same pastry crunch, butteriness and drifty caramel swirl.”

It’s worth taking a tantalizing tart trip across Canada to try all the variations and recipes, with Anna naming Niagara’s 13th Street Winery and The Pie Plate Bakery & Café as being among the best. If you’re feeling adventurous at home, try mastering Anna’s Pecan Butter Tarts. For holiday entertaining, you could even build a butter tart buffet that will entice guests to the table.

Pecan-Butter-Tarts

Despite her playful renditions, there’s one thing that Anna is old-fashioned about when it comes to making a classic Canadian butter tart. “Can you make a low fat butter tart? No way!” she says. “But you could make them miniature sized.”

Published November 14, 2016, Updated January 1, 2018

ketchup-chips-history

The Crunchy History of Ketchup Chips

It’s no secret that Canadians love their ketchup chips. The crunchy, thinly sliced fried potatoes, doused in a tangy reddish powder, have been a favourite flavour since the early 1980s, sparking snack attacks and staining fingers across the nation. It’s bewildering that a Heritage Minute hasn’t been created for Canada’s signature snack.

But what’s the story behind ketchup chips? French fries and ketchup have gone hand-in-hand since the early 1800s, but the duo really became BFFs in the 1940s with the rise of fast food and drive-ins at the time.

Ketchup Chips

Inspired by this classic combo, adding ketchup-flavoured seasoning to potato chips came to be sometime in the 1970s. Each chip was dusted with tomato powder, garlic, onion and spices, infusing smoky, salty and sweet flavours with a tart bite into every crunch. Since then, millions of chip bags have been torn open and devoured by hungry hordes of Canadians, who can’t get enough of this quirky and addictive ketchup-y flavour.

Although a quintessential Canadian snack, the origins of ketchup chips are mired in mystery, with no one stepping forward to officially take the credit. At its simplest, it’s believed that this red-powdered snack was first invented by Hostess Potato Chips in the early 1970s, and sold exclusively to the Canadian market. The newfangled flavour was a huge hit in the Great White North, triggering a ketchup chip craze to erupt from coast-to-coast.

Digging deeper, it appears that the story could be more complicated. An American company in Pennsylvania, Herr’s Snacks, has reportedly been making ketchup-flavoured chips since the early 1980s. A decade later, the Heinz Ketchup company got on board with Herr’s, realizing that potato chips and ketchup seasoning makes a killer combo. They’ve since blended the brands to create Herr’s Heinz Ketchup Flavoured Potato Chips.

The bottom line? Although ketchup chips likely hold dual citizenship, it’s definitely a Canadian classic to the core. While the flavour tends to be scarce south of the border, Canadian store shelves are almost always well-stocked with bags of this favourite Canuck snack. Plus, smaller Canadian-owned companies are jumping on the ketchup wagon and making their own versions.

Ketchup Chip Seasoning

Featured on Food Network Canada’s Food Factory, the Covered Bridge Potato Chip Factory in New Brunswick uses their grandmother’s recipe to make their chips, but revamped the recipe to include Homestyle Ketchup Chips. Made with Russet Potatoes, these ultra crunchy chips are dusted with tomato powder and other goodness, making it a favourite Canadian brand.

Nowadays, Canadians can do more than rip open a bag, as chip lovers are taking ketchup-style snacking to the next level. For one, the ketchup-y powder makes a sensational seasoning for many other tasty snacks, and it’s easy to make in your home kitchen. With this homemade ketchup chip flavouring, you can spice up everything from popcorn to roasted potatoes to squash, without adding artificial flavours and colours.

Short on time? You can also buy ready-to-go ketchup seasoning from the Covered Bridge Potato Chip Factory (along with bags of chips too!). Or just crush up some ketchup chips and use the bits as a crunchy topping for hot dogs or other mains. For more adventurous home chefs, why not try making a batch of Ketchup Chips Chicken Strips? The crispy batter of crushed ketchup chips transforms routine pub grub into a tangy and sweet dish.

The verdict? Ketchup chips hold a special place in the history and hearts of our delicious nation — but we’re still waiting on that Heritage Minute!

For more Canuck eats, check out these 45 Canadian Comfort Food Recipes.

Roti

The Tasty History of Roti in Canada

Here’s some good news for Canadians from coast to coast: you don’t have to travel 11,000 kilometres across the ocean to get your roti fix. “Everywhere we go [in Canada], there is a roti shop to be found,” say Marida and Narida Mohammed, co-owners of Twice De Spice. Born in Trinidad, sisters Marida and Narida Mohammed grew up eating this delicacy on a daily basis, calling it the “equivalent of what sliced bread is to Canadians.” But with a gazillion and one ways to make and eat this warm, chewy flatbread, what exactly is “roti?”

Mona's Roti in Toronto

“In the [Indian] subcontinent, ‘roti’ is a generic word for bread and is often a synonym for chapatti,” says Richard Fung. “In Trinidad, [the word] is used generically also: Indo-Trinidadians eat sada roti, alu puri and paratha, also known as ‘busupshut.’ Dal puri [generally refers to] what Canadians call ‘West Indian or Caribbean roti.’”

Fung should know: he grew up eating roti in Trinidad and produced Dal Puri Diaspora, a documentary exploring the roots of roti in Trinidad, India and Toronto. Eating his way across the “roti trail,” Fung’s film showcases just how diverse the dish can be.

Related: Want Layers of Flavour? This Flaky, Crunchy Guyanese Roti is a Meal-Time Must-Try

Many food historians believe that this ancient flatbread originates from the Indian subcontinent, where even today, no meal is complete without a side of roti. “In India, puris are deep fried — so what we call dal puris in the diaspora might perhaps more correctly be a dal paratha,” says Richard. “The cooking method and the ingredients (white flour, split peas) are the results of conditions on the plantations.”

The dish began to reach all corners of the earth in the 19th-century, when indentured workers from India introduced the recipe to southern Caribbean colonies of Britain and the Netherlands. Over the decades, the dish gradually garnered its own Caribbean flare.

“Caribbean roti is a large flatbread made with white all-purpose flour and stuffed with ground, seasoned split peas and cooked on a griddle,” says Richard. “In its commercial form, it’s wrapped in a style similar to a burrito around curried meat or vegetables.”

Cooking roti

Much like the origins of roti, the roots of roti in Canada are a bit fuzzy. With waves of immigration in the 1960s, the wrapped roti from Trinidad arrived in North America, where it was popularized in big cities like Toronto and New York and became known as “Caribbean” or “West Indian” roti. “A lot of people migrated [to Canada] from [Caribbean] islands and Guyana,” says  Marida and Narida. “Coming to Canada and the US, they brought their culture here to North America. As it travels, it changes and the spice levels.”

According to Richard, Ram’s Roti Shop was the first roti eatery in Toronto, opening in the 1960s (now closed) and serving Indian-style roti. Today, roti restaurants are scattered across the Greater Toronto Area and there are plenty of choices for hungry hordes eager to sink their teeth into this satisfying dish. “Toronto has a huge West Indian population,” say Marida and Narida. “In the Caribbean-populated areas like Scarborough, West Etobicoke, Brampton and Mississauga, you’re going to find a roti shop tucked in somewhere.”

While Marida and Narida name Ali’s Roti and Drupati’s as being among their favourites in Toronto, you can also mosey over to Mona’s Roti — a Scarborough eatery visited by Great Canadian Cookbook host Noah Cappe and that’s famed for serving mouth-watering roti. Here, the bread is stuffed with a slew of delicious fillings, such as tasty curries (chickpeas and potato, chicken, goat and shrimp), stews (beef and king fish) or veggies. The chicken curry is a bestseller!

Mona's Roti in Toronto

Of course, Toronto isn’t the only place to enjoy this delicious dish. As Marida and Narida say, no matter where you go in Canada, you’re bound to find “a roti shop tucked away somewhere.” Snag a spot at Calabash Bistro in Vancouver, where you can indulge in six types of Caribbean-style roti. A must try is the goat curry wrapped in a fresh busup roti served with organic mixed greens.

Plus, it’s impossible to tire of eating this favourite dish. There is no shortage of chefs across Canada who are making endless and ever-evolving variations on roti. As Richard points out, some Toronto chefs are adding new flavours and ingredients not found overseas. “Immigrants directly from the subcontinent began marketing rotis with fillings typical of North Indian cuisine, such as saag panir or butter chicken,” says Fung. “Places like Mother India Roti and Gandhi sell hybrid rotis that one wouldn’t find in India or the Caribbean, but are very much a result of an encounter in Toronto.”

Marida and Narida are kickstarting “dessert roti,” which they predict will be “the next big thing.” “You can never go wrong with Nutella and bananas with whipped cream on any kind of warm bread,” they say. “Sweet rotis — that’s a trend that we’d like to put out there!”

Photos courtesy of Great Canadian Cookbook/Moni’s Roti

Tourtiere anna olson

The Meaty History of Québécois Tourtière

No visit to Québec would be complete without indulging in a savoury slice of tourtière, the famed double-crusted meat pie with a flaky, buttery crust. But did you know this delicious dish has deep roots in an old Christmas tradition dating back centuries?

“It’s the type of food you will find only in the winter season, and nowadays, close to Christmas,” says Ricardo Larrivée, chef and host of the Food Network Canada’s Ricardo and Friends. “You will do it maybe once a year, a bit like going to the sugar shack. It’s a tradition.”

Tourtiere

Tourtière can be traced back to the 1600s, when Québécois settlers attended midnight mass on Christmas Eve and celebrated afterwards with réveillon, a late-night festive feast fit for a king. A tradition borrowed from Europe, the table would be overflowing with seafood, meat dishes, wine and luxurious sweets, consumed late into the evening. Tourtière was always on the table, and in 17-century Québec, the pie was traditionally served in a cast-iron cauldron and stuffed with cubed meats, often wild game (rabbit, pheasant, or moose).

Four centuries later, the pie remains a staple dish both at réveillon and in Québécois households. Although recipes vary, the basic ingredients are the same: a buttery pastry shell is filled with spiced meats and vegetables, and then baked until the crust is golden and flaky.

“It’s part of our heritage and it’s nice to keep it alive,” says Ricardo.

Some food historians believe tourtière may be related to a 5th-century pie called “La Patina,” made in a bronze pot with layers of pastry and a hole in the crust’s centre. However, in Québec, the earliest recipes for tourtière appeared in La cuisinière canadienne (1840), likely the first French-language cookbook published in Canada. And there are all kinds of theories about the history behind the name, “tourtière.”

“A ‘tourte’ was the name of a bird like a pigeon, and they were making pie with these types of birds,” says Ricardo. “So they called it ‘tourtière.’ Another other explanation is that it got the name from the dish — a tourtière is also the [pie pan] in which this meat pie was cooked and baked.”

Tourtiere

But what makes an “authentic” Québécois tourtière? It’s a hotly debated topic within the culinary community, with no clear-cut answers or consensus.

Along Canada’s coasts, it’s not uncommon to find meat pie made with salmon or trout. In Montreal, it’s all about ground pork, beef, or veal baked into a delicate shell, while others in Saguenay-Lac St. Jean lean towards making giant pies stuffed with game meats — enough to feed a family of twenty.

“In Gaspésie, we are making layers of dough, under which we will have either game or meat, and even sometimes potatoes,” says Ricardo. “The top is crusty and golden brown, where the inside pieces of dough will be soft as if you were having a dumpling.”

Virtually every Québécois family has a recipe. But regardless of these regional renditions, four spices are almost always included — cinnamon, clove, allspice and nutmeg — which distinguish this meat pie from the others.

The “pie love” knows no boundaries in Canada, with the recipe being constantly replicated and adapted. Some renegade chefs are getting creative in the kitchen, making funky renditions such as Bite-Sized Tourtières, Tourtière Phyllo Triangles and Tourtière Spring Rolls, perfect for parties and pairing with condiments like Dijon mustard, chili sauce, chutney, red pepper jelly or pomegranate jelly. Oh mon dieu!

But despite these playful renditions, Ricardo says that tourtière is a relatively rare dish to find on the menus in Québec and across Canada.

“The reason why this particular dish won’t be in the hot spot is pretty simple: it takes a lot of time and it’s pretty expensive,” says Ricardo. “There are six to eight pounds of meat in that. It’s something unique — it was a country staple food. Rarely will a restaurant do it.”

Tourtiere bites

Since it’s slim restaurant pickings, why not try mastering the classic Québécois tourtière at home? Start with this classic tourtière by Anna Olson, packed full of savoury meats and spices, or for a Montreal-style recipe, try “Chuck’s Tourtière,” a crust teeming with ground pork and veal seasoned in onions, cloves, and spices.

Martin Picard has long been a tourtière champion, making a mean version at Montreal’s Au Pied de Cochon. Give his Tourtière De Ville recipe a go, stuffing the pastry with ground pork and meaty chunks of braised pork shoulder flavoured with spices, wine, and garlic.

As for Ricardo, he often makes his pie with hand-chopped pork, instead of minced meat spiced with nutmeg and clove. But no matter which recipe you choose, Ricardo says to expect one thing every time.

“Be prepared not to sleep for a whole night,” he says. “Because you have to wake up – four, five, six times – to add some broth into the hole on top of your dough. It’s good when it’s moist! It will take at least 8 hours to bake slowly. It’s a heavy dish, probably 20 lbs!”

Looking for more Québécois treats? Try these 15 Delicious French Canadian Recipes.

Schwartzs Deli-Smoked-Meat-montreal

The Delicious History of Montreal Smoked Meat

What better way to get a taste of Canadian history than by sinking your teeth into a Montreal-style smoked meat sandwich?

In case you’re a first-timer, Montreal smoked meat — or viande fumée — is a cross between corned beef and pastrami, and typically served on rye bread smothered in zesty mustard. Developed by Jewish delis in Montreal and influenced by New York City’s pastrami, this succulent sandwich is traditionally made by salting and curing beef brisket with spices. Smoky and savoury with a peppery zing, it’s no wonder this meaty delicacy has been popular since the early 1900s.

Montreal Smoked Meat

But like any legendary dish, the origins of Montreal smoked meat are fuzzy and hotly debated among food historians. Some credit Benjamin Kravitz, founder of the famed Bens De Luxe Delicatessen and Restaurant that opened in 1908 (and closed in 2006), for introducing smoked meat to Montreal. After fleeing Lithuania in 1899, Kravitz and his wife, Fanny Schwartz, started serving smoked-meat sandwiches from their fruit and candy shop, using an old family brisket-curing recipe. By the early 1960s, the deli was open 22 hours a day and serving almost 8,000 peckish patrons a day, including big names like Leonard Cohen, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Bette Midler, and René Lévesque.

Others say that Reuben Schwartz put Montreal-style smoked meat on the map. A Jewish immigrant from Romania, he was the original founder of the iconic Schwartz’s Hebrew Delicatessen. Considered the oldest deli in Canada, this legendary hot spot has been serving preservative-free brisket braised in fine herbs and spices since 1928 and is practically a city landmark.

However, Eiran Harris, the Archivist Emeritus of the Jewish Public Library in Montreal, believes neither can claim credit for introducing Montreal-style smoked meat to the city. According to this sandwich sleuth, the origins are much more complex.

“The actual genesis was the arrival in 1884 of Aaron Sanft from Yassi, Romania,” Harris said in a 2009 interview. “He became Montreal’s first kosher butcher. Although I don’t know the exact year he introduced [the dish], I do know that he was the first to advertise it.”

In 1894, a full-page advert in a Jewish newspaper proclaimed: “A. Sanft Kosher Meat — 560 Craig Street, Montreal’s largest butcher shop, clean and fresh meat daily. Manufacturer of salami, smoked meat, corned beef, smoked beef and sausages. Same quality as New York. Guaranteed not to spoil.”

By the turn of the 20th century, it wasn’t the only delicatessen in town selling smoked meat. Competition was fierce, with numerous purveyors advertising the “kosherest” smoked meat in the Jewish newspaper. From his research, Harris believes it was a New Yorker, Hyman Rees, who opened Montreal’s first “real, sit-down delicatessen restaurant.”

Montreal Smoked Meat

“On May 9th, 1908, he opened the British-American Delicatessen Store on St. Lawrence Boulevard,” says Harris. “The 5 cent smoked meat sandwich caused long lineups around the corner to Ontario Street. Customers were encouraged to vacate their seats as soon as they consumed their meals in order to make room for hungry patrons waiting in line.”

Ultimately, no one knows for sure who “officially” introduced Montreal smoked meat, but the experts can agree on one thing: the dish is likely Romanian and Jewish in origin. It takes a little time-travel across the pond to trace the recipe’s roots.

“Historians believe that modern day smoked meat originated in Turkey and was brought to Romania by invading Turkish armies,” says Harris. “Romanian Jewish butchers improved the curing process, resulting in an exquisitely tender delicacy.”

But what makes Montreal-style smoked meat so special? Pastrami was first popularized in New York City’s Jewish delis in the early 1900s, and this type of kosher-style deli meat eventually made its way to the Great White North with waves of immigration. However, smoked meat in Montreal eventually developed its own flavour, and according to Harris, it all boils down to how the meat is cooked.

“Traditionally, the dry curing process commenced with salt and spices being rubbed on the surfaces of briskets,” says Harris. “They were then piled into wooden barrels, where they remained marinating in their own juices for a period of 12 to 20 days, depending on the thicknesses, and being turned over a couple of times.”

Afterwards, the cured briskets were hung up on racks inside a smokehouse and cooked for six to nine hours depending on brisket size. As Harris says, this dry cooking technique “resulted in the unique quality and flavour of Montreal-style smoked meat.”

In contrast, Harris believes the “need for speed” influenced the American-style cooking tradition. Some purveyors used the “wet cure,” whereby briskets were rubbed with spices and soaked for only four days in a brine-filled barrel of nitrate and water. Another technique involved “heated smoked meat” — cooked briskets that were steamed for just three hours prior to being sliced and served to order.

Schwartz's Deli

Schwartz’s Hebrew Delicatessen in Montreal.

Since New York City’s cuts were considered superior in the early to mid-1900s, it took a bit for patrons to work up an appetite for the Montreal-style smoked meat. In the 1930s, Schwartz’s played a big role in popularizing the dish with their succulent 13 cent sandwiches, attracting hungry hordes and leading other delis to pop up across the city after the 1950s.

Today, the feeding frenzy continues in countless delis across Montreal. Aside from the legendary Schwartz’s, get your fix at Lester’s Deli, a family-run “smoked meat institution” for deli lovers, or mosey over to Reuben’s Deli and Steakhouse for a Famous Super Sandwich — a 10-ounce sandwich piled sky high on rye bread with mustard. But make sure to pull up a stool at Wilensky’s, a hole in the wall hangout since 1932. Rumour has it that Anthony Bourdain loves this joint, and a must try is their “Wilensky Special” — a grilled beef salami and beef bologna sandwich with “compulsory” mustard.

If you’re overwhelmed by the endless delis in Montreal, take a food tour with Fitz and Fowell Co. Over a half day, you’ll get a crash course in the history of Montreal-style smoked meat sandwiches, as well as get to sample the best of the bunch. If you still have stomach space, take away some Montreal smoked meat from a local deli and build your own sandwich at home with this recipe from Christine Cushing. Or for something different, try making this tangy Montreal Smoked Meat Pizza or Smoked Meat Poutine!

Irish Coffee

The Boozy History of Irish Coffee

What do flying boats and Irish coffee have in common? Everything, and more.

I should know: my family tree has a direct bloodline to Joe Sheridan, the legendary chef who invented this classic Irish cocktail. Nutty and caramely, it’s a rich, hot blend of dark coffee, fiery whiskey, brown sugar and a swirl of thick whipped cream. An Emerald Isle favourite for over 70 years, this quintessential Irish beverage has unorthodox beginnings.

Tracing the roots of Irish coffee requires venturing to Foynes, a tiny town on Ireland’s west coast that was once the epicentre for the aviation world. During World War II, Pan Am’s famed flying boats (a.k.a. clippers) transported a range of people, from celebrities such as Ernest Hemingway and John F. Kennedy, to refugees (children fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe). It’s here that commercial air travel was born — as well as Irish coffee.

Irish Coffee

One wintery night in 1943, a clipper departed from Foynes to North America, but the flight didn’t get far. After battling bad weather conditions for several hours, the captain decided to return to Ireland. As the weary passengers offloaded into the airport’s restaurant, Chef Joe Sheridan decided to prepare a special treat to spread some cheer. He brewed dark, bitter coffee, and to each cup added a shot of Irish whiskey, a little brown sugar and whipped cream on top. As the perked-up passengers slurped up the steamy drink, one asked, “Is it Brazilian coffee?”

“No,” Sheridan said. “That was Irish coffee!”

With those four words, a classic Irish drink was born. However, it took almost a decade before the toasty tipple traveled worldwide. In 1951, Stanton Delaplane, a travel journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle, took his first sip and was instantly hooked. Back home, Delaplane raved about the newfangled Irish coffee drink to Jack Koeppler, owner of the Buena Vista Café. The duo tried to re-create Sheridan’s recipe, stirring and sipping all night, but the taste was off and the cream collapsed on the surface.

Enjoy Sheridan's original recipe for Irish coffee at the Foynes Maritime Museum

Enjoy Sheridan’s original recipe for Irish coffee at the Foynes Maritime Museum.

After a slew of taste tests and a “research” trip to Ireland, the two men finally cracked the code: the tricky cream only floated when aged and frothed to a precise thickness. Regardless, they decided to poach another key ingredient: Chef Sheridan himself. In 1953, Joe Sheridan immigrated to the United States and started working at the Buena Vista Café.

Chef Sheridan’s original recipe is still served at the Buena Vista Café in San Francisco and the Foynes Maritime Museum, where there’s a small exhibit dedicated to the drink. Of course, virtually all bars and restaurants in Ireland have this boozy beverage on their menu, though flavours may vary.

However, there’s no need to travel across the pond for a mouthful of this hot cocktail. Just gather all the ingredients in your kitchen and follow these instructions. If you’re really looking to impress guests, pair the drink with a plate of Irish Coffee Pie or Anna Olson’s Irish Creamy Fudge.

valerie's irish coffee

Once you’ve mastered the recipe, get playful and try this decadent recipe for Valerie Bertinelli’s Irish Coffee, made with espresso and topped with Lemon-Vanilla Whipped Cream. Or, delight guests with Irish coffee with a Canadian twist, spiked with Canadian whisky, a drizzle of maple syrup, and maple-laced whipped cream.

For a fancy after-dinner nightcap, make a batch of Nancy Fuller’s Dressed Up Irish Coffee, sprinkled with shaved dark chocolate, it’s almost a dessert in a glass. The options are endless.

This St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll be celebrating my bloodline to booze legend, Chef Joe Sheridan, by raising a glass of Irish coffee. From my family, to coffee and whiskey lovers everywhere, I say: you’re welcome and Sláinte!

Restaurants for Change

Restaurants Where You Can Dine for a Good Cause

Rejoice, Canada! For once, stuffing yourself with finger-licking Canadian fare can benefit more than just your belly.

On October 19th, 2016, more than 68 restaurants in 16 Canadian cities are taking part in Restaurants for Change, an annual fundraising event to support healthy food programs across Canada. Each participating restaurant will donate proceeds from dinner service to Community Food Centres Canada and other organizations that bring people together to grow, cook, share and advocate for healthy food for all.

“We continue to support Restaurants for Change each year, because the answer is simple to us: every Canadian should have the right to healthy food,” says Chef Lora Kirk from Ruby Watchco. “We need to remind ourselves that people power matters. When it comes to food, we are all responsible for how we set the table.”

Participating in the event is easy, as long as you bring your appetite. Visit the Restaurants for Change website to find a restaurant in your ‘hood, and then make a dinner reservation for October 19th.  Dine at one of these 10 tasty restaurants, or make a reservation at one of the 68 fantastic eateries participating from coast-to-coast.

RGE RD bison

Rge Rd (Edmonton, AB)

Brace yourself for an “untamed” feast at Edmonton’s Rge Rd, an urban eatery where the farm dictates the menu. Owner and chef Blair Lebsack uses premium ingredients grown in Alberta’s bountiful backyard, such as Alberta field strawberries or market-fresh greens, as well as prairie-raised livestock. Expect to indulge in hearty and homegrown dishes inspired by Alberta’s terroir, such as pasture-raised beef or Grilled Bison with White Currant BBQ Sauce.

Ruby Watchco (Toronto, ON)

It’s a nightly four-course feast at Chef Lynn Crawford’s Ruby Watcho in Leslieville, featuring hearty, home-cooked delicacies. The menu is ever-evolving and announced daily, but expect dishes like smoked ribs and sausages, home-smoked rainbow trout, or moist carrot cake made from an old family recipe.

Le Bremner (Montreal, QC)

When he’s not starring in Chuck’s Day Off or judging Chopped Canada, Chef Chuck Hughes is making seafood for the soul at Le Bremner in Old Montreal. Descend speakeasy-style into a sunken basement, and enjoy eclectic dishes such as crab kimchi on chewy rice cakes or the southern-inspired garlic shrimp with cornbread, served with an étouffée sauce and a spicy cognac butter.

Mallard Cottage (St. John’s, NFD)

Savour gourmet comfort cuisine and a gorgeous setting at Mallard Cottage, an award-wining restaurant near St. John’s Quidi Vidi Harbour. Inside, former Top Chef Canada competitor Chef Todd Perrin presents a terroir-driven menu of freshly foraged fare, wild game, and classic Newfoundland seafood (imagine halibut, cod, turbot, lobster).

Drake Devonshire (Wellington, Ontario)

This high-end boutique hotel and restaurant in Prince Edward County is trending for its cutting-edge architecture and incredible “lake to table” comfort cuisine. Sink your teeth into the fresh Ontario walleye, served with wild rice and quinoa, or the legendary “Devonshire Burger” — a thick patty made from local beef and stacked with Black River cheddar, crispy bacon and Russian dressing.

Charcut Roast House

Charcut Roast House (Calgary, AB)

Bring a bib and a hefty appetite to sup at Charcut Roast House, famed for their mouth-watering meat-centric menu. Top Chef Canada finalist, Connie DeSousa, and her co-chef John Jackson serve everything from house-made sausage to rotisserie chicken to pig’s head mortadella, but all are sourced from local farmers using a farm-to-plate philosophy. On the way out, make sure to grab a warm “so perfect” cookie (or two!) from their neighbour, Sidewalk Citizen Bakery.

Chives Canadian Bistro (Halifax, NS)

Looking for Halifax’s catch of the day? It’s always fresh at Chives Bistro, where Chef Craig Flinn uses the best of Nova Scotian bounty in his kitchen. The seasonal menu showcases whatever is local and fresh from the market, such as grilled Digby scallops, Cape Breton snow crab, or heritage pork, and naturally, there’s plenty o’ East Coast lobster.

Farmer’s Apprentice (Vancouver, BC)

Vancouver’s Farmer’s Apprentice may be small, but its organic, seasonal menu is mighty. Chef David Gunawan fuses exquisite Asian flavours with local ingredients sourced from nearby markets, artisan producers, and whatever the ocean yields. Given that it’s on the wild West Coast, seafood and vegetables dominate this kitchen, with toothsome dishes like BC spring salmon and ramps or an elderflower yogurt sorbet.

The Berlin (Kitchener, ON)

K-town just got cooler with the unveiling of The Berlin, a new farm-to-fork eatery that’s already wining rave reviews and award nominations before turning one year old. When he’s not guest-judging on Top Chef Canada, Chef Jonathan Gushue cooks up modern European dishes in the kitchen — often using a massive wood-fired grill — and even butchers and cures his own meats in the cellar. The menu constantly changes, built around whatever local ingredients are available, but expect divine dishes like hardwood-grilled beef rump, local trout, or tender, wood-smoked quail.

Enoteca (Winnipeg, MB)

Winnipeggers vie for a table at Enoteca, a tiny 30-seater bistro set inside a strip mall and that’s considered one of the best restaurants in Canada. In the kitchen, Chef Scott Bagshaw experiments with international flavours, creating playful, shareable plates such as short ribs bathed in a wine sauce or ricotta dumplings with shrimp, caramelized miso and bacon bits. Bon appétit!

Wild rice

Delicious Ways to Enjoy Canadian Wild Rice This Fall

As the leaves turn colour and the air gets crisper, it’s the perfect time to bring the harvest’s bounty to your table. Along with fall classics like butternut squash soup and pumpkin pie, why not include wild rice on the menu? This quintessential autumn dish has been a staple food for indigenous communities for thousands of years, and it’s traditionally harvested in the fall season.

“In late August and early September, people would gather together at the rice beds, and harvest it in canoes,” says Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, a member of Alderville First Nation who often harvests rice. “There’s nothing more beautiful than being out on a lake in the fall, gently knocking the grains of wild rice into the canoe.”

Surprisingly, this chewy, elongated grain is not actually a member of the rice family. It’s a semi-aquatic grass that grows annually from seed, mostly in the upper freshwater lakes of Canada, and produces a valuable grain that’s low in fat but high in protein, fibre, B vitamins and minerals.

It’s also incredibly tasty; when cooked properly, wild rice gives off nutty and smoky flavours that blend beautifully with soups, salads, stuffing or as a stand-alone dish.

Wild Rice

“I really like that you can get earthiness out of it, but also an umami flavour,” says Chef Rich Francis, a member of the Tetlit Gwich’in and Tuscarora Nations, and a former Top Chef Canada contender.

As Francis says, wild rice is a longstanding delicacy among indigenous peoples, usually mixed with bear grease or duck fat and then added to soups or stews. Aside from being delicious and nutritious, this flavourful food holds cultural significance for many indigenous communities in Canada, many of which celebrate the crop with traditional songs, stories and dances.

“A lot of our food is based around tradition and ceremony,” says Francis. “Every harvest, they’ll be a rice ceremony. We could trade [the wild rice] and it could be used as currency for our people. It was something that was valued, because it was plentiful.”

Of course, there are many ways to eat this versatile grain, and Francis has created some sumptuous dishes that fuse old and new culinary traditions.

“I’ve used it in sushi, as an Asian-Aboriginal fusion,” says Chef Rich. “Or I’ll make a stock out of sweet grass and medicinal sage, and then cook the rice with the stock and water in the oven.”

Wild Rice Pancakes

Ree Drummond’s Wild Rice Pancakes.

If it’s your first time cooking wild rice, start simply by boiling a batch in water. Just follow Francis’ advice and have “lots of time on your hands” — wild rice requires ample water (approximately 2 cups of cold water per half cup of wild rice) to cook, and it takes anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour for the grain to split and become tender.

“Coming into the fall season, cook up a little bit more and then store it in the fridge,” he says. “Then incorporate it into a soup, or serve it in a cold presentation, like in a salad with blueberries.”

One of his signature ways to enjoy it is as a Wild Rice and Steel-Cut Oat Risotto. Rich and creamy, it’s cooked with wild game stock, double smoked bacon, wild mushrooms and herbs, and is best served with a fillet of herb-crusted salmon on top.

Looking for more easy entrée ideas? Shake up meals by adding cooked wild rice to a main, like this Wild Rice Chicken Skillet simmered in mushrooms, spinach, basil, and chili flakes. Or, try a Wild Rice, Artichoke and Kale Salad topped with a protein, like grilled halibut or chicken. You can even add wild rice to pancakes or stuffing for the Thanksgiving turkey. But no matter how it’s served, wild rice is sure to be a fall favourite at any table!

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Noah Cappe’s Tips for a Romantic (and Delicious) Date Night

We can’t all be suave superstars when it comes to planning a romantic night out. Luckily, there’s a guru for that: Noah Cappe, host of The Bachelorette Canada. From choosing the right lighting to romance-inducing menus, Noah shares his expert tips on how to plan a special evening that will capture your bae’s heart.

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Dress to Impress

While we all love to rock sweatpants at home, this is not the time to dress down. Showing up scruffy for a date is a one-way ticket to the friend zone.

“Dust off your fancy outfit and put it on,” says Noah. “Is there anything more beautiful than looking across the table at your partner, and they look beautiful and you feel connected? That’s a moment.”

Getting a little gussied up sends a message that you care about your date. But opt for an outfit that best suits the activity; a suit for a picnic in the park is a date night fail.

Be Choosy About the Dinner Venue

Pick a place with an intimate atmosphere. It may require a bit of leg work, but finding the right restaurant can help avoid date night awkwardness.

“There’s such a movement to pump cool music loud and everyone is yelling over each other,” says Noah. “That’s obviously the opposite of a romantic evening. The focus of a romantic night is about conversation and finding the beauty in the quiet moments. It won’t happen in a place that has a local DJ.”

Phone ahead and ask questions: Does that five-star bistro transform into a noisy nightclub after 8 p.m.? What are their peak hours? Is there a seating section that’s more secluded? Know before you go! Not sure where to start? Try these 10 Romantic Restaurants from Coast to Coast.

Get an ‘A’ for Effort

Nothing stirs romance like showing your date how much you care. Whether you’re dining in or out, pull out all the stops to create a special evening.

“It comes down to effort and thought,” says Noah. “Put time into planning something, even if it’s just putting a folding table in the backyard with some patio lights.”

It doesn’t have to be an over-the-top event: cooking your partner’s favourite dish or a surprise picnic on the beach can be just as meaningful as reservations at a ritzy restaurant.

“It’s never about the four walls — you can create a romantic dinner everywhere,” says Noah.

Lighten up (the Room)

Speaking of ambiance, Noah says lighting is key to setting the scene. No matter where you go, dining by candlelight creates a cozy vibe that’s sure to get sparks flying. “Candles mean romance!” says Noah. “It’s seems cliché, but there’s something so traditional and wonderful about candle lights.”

Mind the Menu

For date nights, what’s on your plate is just as important as where the table is set.

“It comes down to the menu,” Noah says. “I don’t care how many candles you light. If your partner is across from you, shoving a cheeseburger in their mouth, you’re going to struggle to find a romantic connection.”

With menu influencing mood, Noah shares a few guidelines for adding a side of romance to your entrée:

Go local: A menu that showcases local specialties is sure to delight your date, as well as feed the conversation. “In Vancouver, seafood is probably the best call,” he says. “Or if you’re having a romantic dinner in Alberta, a beautiful steakhouse. Work with the environment you’re in!” If you’re hosting a home-cooked meal, incorporate local or seasonal ingredients into the recipes. On the East Coast, impress your date by making Chef Michael Smith’s Lobster a la Rachel, a steaming bowl of pasta smothered in creamy tomato sauce and chunks of lobster meat.

Know thy date: Is your date gluten-free or allergic to seafood? Ask your partner so you can accommodate their dietary preferences. “From a menu standpoint, what’s most important is to know your partner,” says Noah. “My wife is a vegetarian, so taking her to a steakhouse where she can only order two sides isn’t very romantic.” You can even make one of these delicious gluten-free dinners or vegan dishes.

Feature sensual foods: Get the mojo flowing with the magic of food science! Research shows that what we taste can affect how we feel, and certain foods may especially spark l’amour. In particular, eating dark chocolate has been shown to trigger a spike in dopamine, which induces feelings of pleasure. “Chocolate will always be the most romantic, go-to option,” says Noah. “Plus, there’s eight million ways to do chocolate!”

Share a decadent chocolate fondue with cherries, sliced bananas, and strawberries (also believed to be romance-provoking fruits), or a plate of freshly shucked oysters, a notorious aphrodisiac. If you’re playing chef for the evening, get fancy and try marinating oysters four ways with this recipe from Lynn Crawford.

The Bachelorette Canada premieres Tuesday, September 13th at 9 pm E/P on W Network.

Chef Michael Smith on How to Throw a Labour Day BBQ

Food Network star Michael Smith is one of Canada’s best-known chefs — and also a barbecue fiend. The Chopped Canada judge recently launched Fireworks, a restaurant celebrating everything barbecue, and is Prince Edward Island’s hottest new eatery.

“We have every live fire cooking method known to man,” he says. “We have a smokehouse, a hearth, and a wood-oven. It allows us to do different techniques, and every single one using live fire and coals.”

If you can’t make it to Prince Edward Island to enjoy the fine barbecue at Fireworks before the end of summer, don’t worry. Chef Michael shares his top tips for throwing an amazing Labour Day barbecue at home. Before you get grilling, read this!

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Start with the right equipment.

It may seem old-fashioned, but Chef Michael swears by the power of cast-iron cookware for grilling.

“Cast-iron is a revelation to us,” says Chef Michael. “It radiates heat so evenly; things just don’t burn in it! We cook with cast-iron every single thing we do. Dutch ovens, skillets, planchas. That’s one big take-away: consider using cast-iron.”

Cook with live fire (if you can).

Whether you’re a first timer or a barbecue master, Chef Michael encourages those with backyard space to use “real wood fire” for grilling.

“Have one fire that’s generating your coals,” says Chef Michael. “Then sweep the coals over to the other side of the hearth — that’s where you do your cooking.”

The type of wood matters too; always use dried-out hardwood over softwood, which tends to leave an oily film on food, spoiling the flavour. “Hardwood burns hotter, slower, and tastes better,” says Chef Michael.

Maple Planked Salmon

Don’t cook over a flame.

When grilling, avoid direct contact between flame and food. Instead, let the flame die down to a hearty, thick bed of coals, no matter what fuel source you’re using. “We don’t cook over flame,” says Chef Michael. “Flame scorches food, and leads to black.”

Dress to impress (your meats, that is).

Add a gorgeous aroma by smoking meats with fruit wood chips like apple, available at most hardware stores.

“These are the caviar of wood,” says Chef Michael. “The wood has a distinctive flavour, tasting fruity. Reserve this special aromatic wood if you’re smoking food.”

It’s easy; just let the fire burn down to embers, and then top dress with fruit wood at the last minute. Or for a flavour-packed punch, consider brining your meats.

“If you’re really looking to amp up your barbecue game, brine,” says Chef Michael. “Chicken and pork in particular really benefit.”

It’s all in the technique.

To master the art of barbecuing, follow Chef Michael’s essential grilling tips:

  • Pre-heat your grills: “It’s probably the biggest tip of all. Food will not stick to hot metal. It sticks to cold metal.”
  • Sauce at the end: “Never, ever put barbecue sauces on your food before you grill it! Many sauces are packed with sugar, and immediately burn. Brush your sauces on towards the end of the cooking process.”
  • Be patient: “Often, we rush the process and miss the opportunity to fully cook the meat. If there’s a little tugging or sticking, that’s the meat saying, ‘I’m not ready to flip yet!’ Take your time — it’s very much in your favour.”
  • Understand the process: “The whole point of searing meat is to build flavour. Searing meat encourages juices to come out of the meat. If you’re rushing and not pre-heating, then you’re not adding flavour.”

Grilled Pineapple Salad

Have fun with the menu.

Lots of foods are grill-able, and consider broadening the barbey beyond burgers and hot dogs. Chef Michael suggests smoking freshly-shucked oysters on the grill for 2-3 minutes, top dressed with fruit wood. Or make a Grilled Pineapple Salad, Chef Michael’s “all-time favourite.” For drinks, seared lemon or lime make great garnishes, or whip up a pitcher of grilled lemonade. Best of all, barbecued fruits work beautifully as a fiery dessert.

“Use the grilled fruit component as a simple dessert,” says Chef Michael. “Big thick rings of grilled pineapple served with some kind of funky ice cream. I like to grind up fresh cilantro and sugar in a food processor, and then sprinkle it onto grilled pineapple — delicious stuff!”

Chill out.

Last but not least, invite plenty of friends and family, and “don’t worry so much about the food.”

“It’s really about who’s at the table, not what’s on the table,” says Chef Michael.

All this talk of food got you hungry? Check out Michael Smith’s Best Seafood Recipes.