Tag Archives: quebec

Tomatoes growing on rooftop of Lufa Farms in Montreal

The World’s Biggest Rooftop Farm is in Canada — and Growing Fast

There’s an old debate that tends to come up when discussing local produce in Canada: how can we rely on local ingredients when we can’t grow essentials like tomatoes in the winter in our northern climates?

Tomatoes growing on rooftop of Lufa Farms in Montreal

Despite never growing a tomato in their lives, that question mulled around in entrepreneurs Mohamed Hage and Lauren Rathmell’s heads until they launched Lufa Farms together in 2008. Their response to that question? The world’s first commercial urban rooftop greenhouse, which first opened in Montreal in 2011. Produce is delivered to doorsteps and pickup points in customizable food baskets alongside food from nearby farms, as well as local artisans like bakers and cheesemakers.

Related: Building a Zero-Waste Kitchen is Easier Than You Think. Here’s How!

“We live in Montreal, so it’s really cold in the winter, you get a lot of snow, so a greenhouse is ideal because you can grow year-round,” said Lufa Farms’ communication director Caroline Bélanger. “Then to do it on a commercial scale allows more people to have access to local food that’s done responsibly and it’s just better for the environment in the long run.”

Lufa Farms building in Montreal

Growing food on a rooftop reduces the carbon-omitting kilometres it takes for food to get to grocery stores and then to our fridges. It also uses residual heat from the building it’s sitting on to save on energy in the winter. But perhaps most crucially, Lufa Farms grows its produce hydroponically in coconut fibre, meaning 90 per cent of water gets reused.

Related: The Ultimate Herb Guide: Varieties and Best Uses

Growing on a rooftop does have its drawbacks, though. Among them, Lufa’s produce can’t be listed as organic in Quebec because it doesn’t grow in soil, even though it does everything else required for organic certification (like not using synthetic pesticides). Lufa also can’t plant fruit trees with sprawling roots, so citrus and bananas are out of the question. Still, like the rows of bright green Boston lettuce in its greenhouses, Lufa keeps growing.

What started with one rooftop space in Montreal has expanded to four, including a 164,000 square-foot greenhouse on top of an old Sears warehouse that clocks in as the largest commercial rooftop greenhouse in the world. And ever since the pandemic hit, Lufa has ramped up its customer base (affectionately known as Lufavores), doubling to 25,000 food baskets per week, feeding 2 per cent of Montrealers.

Produce growing on rooftop of Lufa Farms in Montreal

“There was obviously a huge shift towards eating local and supporting local through more difficult times and we definitely saw that growth ourselves,” Bélanger said. “We don’t know for sure yet, but hopefully it stays that way and people really stop and recognize the need to support local businesses and farmers, as well as the benefit of being connected to where your food is really coming from.”

Related: Vegetables You Can Regrow in Your Kitchen

And Lufa Farms is far from finished its growth spurt. Bélanger said the company hopes to expand to more rooftops in Montreal as well as to other cities across the eastern half of Canada and the US.

“We never have enough tomatoes, we never have enough cucumbers, so continuing to grow in Montreal is something that we’re looking to do and our vision is a city of rooftop farms,” she said. “To be able to replicate this model elsewhere is definitely a goal, but when that happens, we’re not entirely sure just yet.”

Photos courtesy of Lufa Farms

This Venison Carpaccio With Cedar Jelly and Sea Buckthorn Jam is the Perfect Appetizer

Not only does cooking reflect culture, but it also reveals the resources found in a community’s surrounding environment. I discovered a love for food as a child, later combining my passion for cooking with the desire to know the history and cuisine of the First Nations peoples better. This is the inspiration behind my dishes.

I work with foragers and hunters in northern Québec who supply me with exceptional products such as wild cattails and currant leaves. My venison carpaccio recipe, which includes cedar jelly and a sea buckthorn jam, is a great example of my cooking technique. Slices of the freshest venison are garnished with the boreal flavours of cedar and sea buckthorn, a tart vitamin C–rich berry that can be found fresh or frozen at specialty markets.

At its essence, my work is focused on adapting the traditional pantry of an ancient culture to modern tastes. For the First Nations, respect for Mother Earth is paramount. By staying in harmony with nature, my recipes permit me to rediscover forgotten flavours that long served as a cuisine of survival. The Canadian wilderness has so much to offer: spices, herbs, flowers, mushrooms and roots, plus boreal nutmeg, peppery green alder (or dune pepper), wood cardamom, serviceberry, wild celery root and the Labrador tea, a tisane of local herbs. These are the colours in my palette of Indigenous cuisine.

Venison-Carpaccio-With-Cedar-Jelly-and-Sea-Buckthorn-Jam_888embed

Venison Carpaccio With Cedar Jelly and Sea Buckthorn Jam

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

Sea Buckthorn Jam
1 lb (600 g) sea buckthorn berries, rinsed
14 oz (400 g) apples, diced
17½ oz (500 g) sugar

Venison
12 thin slices venison
2 Tbsp (30 ml) cedar jelly
2 tsp (10 ml) duck fat
Fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper to taste
Microgreens for garnish (optional)

Related: Holiday Party Appetizers Your Guests Will Love

Directions:

1. In a saucepan with splash of water, cook sea buckthorn berries over low heat until they burst.

2. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into clean saucepan then discard seeds. Add apples to berry mixture and stir in sugar. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, skimming any foam that forms on the surface. Let cool to room temperature.

3. Place venison on serving dish. Brush each slice with cedar jelly and duck fat, then sprinkle with fleur de sel and pepper. Garnish with sea buckthorn jam and microgreens.

Published October 13, 2015, Updated December 28, 2020

Pudding Chomeur is The Québec Dessert We All Need in Our Lives

It’s no secret that some of our favourite foods are French Canadian classics; Tourtière, split pea soup, maple everything and of course, gravy-and-cheese-curd-smothered poutine. But when it comes to desserts, nothing beats syrupy, sweet pudding chomeur.

What is Pudding Chomeur?

If you haven’t had this classic, quintessential Québec dessert and you love the taste of fresh maple, this is definitely one you’ll want to add to your recipe box. The dish first rose in popularity during The Great Depression, when factory workers were forced to be a little more creative with what they had on hand, especially if they wanted to indulge their sweet tooth. For French Canadians that meant all the staples for a basic cake (flour, butter, milk and eggs) and tons of maple syrup that they sometimes sourced in their very own backyards. (If they didn’t have access to maple syrup, they used brown sugar as a caramel stand-in instead.)

The result was pudding chomeur, which roughly translates into “unemployment” or “poor man’s” pudding. Don’t let the name fool you though; once you dig into these single-serve cakes and all of their glorious maple goodness, you’ll feel like you’re indulging in the richest (not to mention easiest to whip-up) dessert ever.

Anna Olson has her own elevated riff on the dish, where she takes a regular old cake base—no added vanilla or lemon zest here—and gussies it up with some additional butter and brown sugar for a little extra luxurious richness.

Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Pudding Chomeur.

Then comes the really delicious part: the maple syrup concoction. Olson simmers up maple syrup, water, vanilla and more butter and then douses her uncooked cakes until they’re swimming in the stuff.

“You’re going to think it’s too much syrup,” she advises. But it’s not. It’s really, really not.

For you see, as the pudding chomeur bakes up, the maple syrup bakes down, thoroughly soaking the cake and transforming it into a sweet, syrupy ramekin of heaven. You end up with cake on top and all of the maple goodness for dipping and dunking underneath.

It’s so simple you could make it on a weeknight, but it’s also rich enough to serve to guests at the end of a fancy dinner party. Another bonus? Your house will smell absolutely incredible.

Now that’s what we call une bonne idée.

Want to try your hand at more classic dessert recipes? Take a look at this list of Anna Olson’s classic baking recipes.

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.

Palak Paneer: An Indian Favourite

By Suganya Hariharan

One of my most craved, all-time favourite Indian dishes, palak paneer is a scrumptious curry made of rich cottage cheese cubes simmered in creamy spinach sauce—“palak” meaning spinach and “paneer” is the Indian cottage cheese. This dish is famously served alongside fragrant rice and garlic naan in India.

To make it your own, replace the spinach with kale or create a blend of your favourite leafy greens. Spinach already goes well with garlic and cheese, and when it becomes a curry mixed with fragrant spices it becomes infinitely more delicious.

This dish takes only 30 minutes to prepare at home. To make it purely vegan, replace paneer with firm tofu, avoid cream and use oil instead of butter. It tastes great with basmati rice and warm naan.

Palak Paneer: Spinach with Indian Cheese, Courtesy of Suganya Hariharan, relishthebite.com, Montreal

Take your leafy greens to new heights with this traditional Indian spinach and cheese curry dish.

PalakPaneer_888embed

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Yield: 3 cups

Ingredients
2 tbsp (30 mL) ghee, unsalted butter or oil, divided
1 small stick cinnamon
3 cardamom pods
1 small dried bay leaf
1 tsp (5 mL) cumin seeds (jeera)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
5 fresh green chillies, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece ginger, minced
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
1 tsp (5 mL) chilli powder
½ tsp (2 mL) salt
¼ tsp (1 mL) turmeric powder
8 oz (250 g) fresh spinach (or other leafy greens), washed
1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp (15 mL) kasuri methi leaves, crushed
½ tsp (2 mL) garam masala powder
½ tsp (2 mL) chilli powder
3 tbsp (45 mL) cream
8 oz (250 g) paneer

Garnish
1 tsp (5 mL) fresh cilantro
1 tsp (5 mL) cream
Pinch garam masala

Directions
1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaf and cumin seeds and sauté briefly, until slightly golden in colour. Add onion, chillies, garlic and ginger; sauté until soft.
2. Add the tomatoes, chilli powder, salt and turmeric powder to skillet; sauté 5 to 7 minutes, or until well mixed and soft. Add spinach and cilantro and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, or until wilted.
3. Remove bay leaf. Transfer the spinach mixture to a blender and pulse it few times until smooth but not puréed, being careful of hot splashes.
4. Return spinach mixture to skillet; add remaining 1 tbsp (15 mL) oil, crushed kasuri methi leaves, garam masala and chilli powder and cook over medium heat. Stir in cream, adding water, if mixture seems too thick.
5. Add paneer to skillet and simmer, covered, for 5 to 6 minutes or until the paneer has absorbed the curry flavours.
6. Remove from heat. Garnish with coriander leaves, cream and garam masala.

Tip: For extra flavour, try frying paneer lightly in butter before adding to the curry.

Jump over here to print, save or share this recipe.

Do you have a delicious dish to share with the rest of Canada? Submit your recipe here for a chance to be featured on Great Canadian Cookbook and Food Network Canada!

Relish the Bite
My name is Suganya Hariharan, author of Relish the Bite. I do the cooking, writing and photography for the blog. Visit my site for all kinds of recipes but mainly tasty, spicy, flavourful Indian recipes. Never be afraid to try new flavours in your cooking!