If you watch a lot of cooking programs on television, it can be easy to get the impression that here in the Great White North we eat nothing but maple syrup, salmon and Canadian bacon. Canada’s Favourite Recipes by Rose Murray & Elizabeth Baird dispels such notions and reflects our multicultural country in the best way possible — with the favourite dishes of Canadians from sea to shining sea.
The 160 mouthwatering selections were chosen with the passion for our richly diverse food heritage that we have come to expect from these two authors. Elizabeth Baird has been a national culinary icon for nearly forty years, many of them as the food editor of Canadian Living magazine. Rose Murray has been teaching us to enjoy the best Canada has to offer for the better part of thirty years.
Murray and Baird spent several years asking their friends, family and colleagues, “What is your favourite recipe?” Surprisingly, the answers were not the complicated, sophisticated dishes you might expect from some of the best chefs in the country. Instead, they are versions of comforting, old-fashioned foods you’ve probably enjoyed yourself at family gatherings.
There are some fantastic recipes that include indigenous ingredients like fiddleheads and peameal bacon, but this book is much more than a how-to for ingredients native to the land. It’s also a walk down memory lane for the authors and contributors. Murray talks about how the Mini Scotch Eggs are a family favourite that she updated with quail eggs to make into company fare. These rich morsels are sized perfectly for appetizers, with the rich, crispy coating wrapped around the tiny eggs, but there’s also the option to make the traditional version with hens’ eggs, too.
Draw on French simplicity with the Lamb Racks Provençal when company is coming. “Lamb racks are so easy to cook and carve, yet provide a most elegant main course,” guide the authors. When festivities have you otherwise occupied, get the racks frenched by your butcher and this recipe is sure to impress with minimal fuss. Or take the lamb to the barbeque with their loin chop variation.
There’s a definite international flavour to the dishes, but the recipes are tied together by the idea of comfort. The book is dedicated to “cooks across Canada who keep the flame of home-cooking alive and welcome family and friends to share their best-loved dishes. Cooks like our mothers.” Whether you grew up eating potstickers or borscht, the feelings of warmth and belonging evoked by these recipes are the same. No matter where the recipes originated or how they may have changed since they got here, this book is quintessentially Canadian.
The selections in Canada’s Favourite Recipes combine vintage charm with modern flavours to give us the best that our country has to offer. And it’s thorough. There are eleven recipes for home canning, sensibly preserving the bounty of our short growing season. And more than forty recipes for cookies, tarts, candies or cakes. Apparently Canadian comfort involves plenty of sweetness. Maybe it has something to do with all that maple syrup.
Canada’s Favourite Recipes is worth reading for the memories as much as the food. Share it in a warm kitchen with family, friends and loads of comfort.
JENNIFER GAGEL is a freelance writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recipes courtesy of Canada’s Favourite Recipes by Rose Murray & Elizabeth Baird (Whitecap Books 2012, $40)
Mini Scotch Eggs
You could of course use the same recipe for the meat wrapping on four regular hens’ eggs for a picnic.
16 quail eggs
1 lb (500 g) good-quality pork sausage meat
1 tbsp (15 mL) each Dijon mustard and snipped fresh chives
2 tsp (10 mL) chopped fresh thyme (or ½ tsp / 2 mL dried)
1 tsp (5 mL) chopped fresh sage (or ¼ tsp / 1 mL crumbled dried)
½ tsp (2 mL) salt
¼ tsp (1 mL) freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup (75 mL) all-purpose flour
¾ cup (175 mL) fine dry bread crumbs
1 hen’s egg
2 tbsp (30 mL) milk
2 tbsp (30 mL) canola oil (approx)
1 Set aside a bowl of water and ice.
2 Place the eggs in a medium saucepan and cover them with several inches of cold water. Cover the pan and bring almost to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Uncover, reduce the heat to a brisk simmer and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. With a slotted spoon, immediately transfer the eggs to the ice water and cool well.
3 Pat each egg dry and lightly tap all over on a hard surface, then roll gently before peeling by pulling away the membrane with the shell attached. (The secret is to get under the membrane.)
4 Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the sausage meat, mustard, chives, thyme, sage, salt and pepper. Divide into 16 portions. Wrap each portion of pork mixture around an egg.
5 Spread the flour and bread crumbs on two separate plates.
6 In a small bowl, beat the hen’s egg with the milk. Roll the sausage-encased eggs first in the flour, then in the milk mixture, then in the bread crumbs to coat well. Set aside on a platter in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
7 In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil. In batches, fry the coated eggs, turning often, until the sausage is browned on all sides, adding more oil if needed. Transfer the browned eggs to a baking sheet with a slotted spoon.
8 Bake in a 350°F (180°C) oven until the pork is cooked through, about 12 minutes.
9 Refrigerate until cold.
(Make-ahead: Cool, cover and refrigerate for up to one day.) With a sharp knife, cut in half to serve cold.
ED Note: You can skip frying them if you spray them generously with oil and turn them once during baking. Increase baking time to approximately 15 minutes or until pork is cooked through.
Lamb Racks Provençal
To french the racks, scrape the rib bones clean of meat, fat and gristle to about 1 inch/2.5 cm down from the tips.
4 lamb racks (7 to 8 ribs each)
5 cloves garlic
½ cup (125 mL) loosely packed parsley sprigs
2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
2 tbsp (30 mL) anchovy paste
1 tbsp (15 mL) red wine vinegar
2 tsp (10 mL) dried rosemary, crushed
1 tsp (5 mL) coarsely ground black pepper
½ tsp (2 mL) crumbled dried thyme
1 Dry the lamb racks well and score the outside layer of fat diagonally to make small diamonds.
2 In a blender or food processor, process the garlic, parsley, oil, anchovy paste, vinegar, rosemary, pepper and thyme until smooth. Rub all over the racks.
3 Marinate the racks, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before roasting.
4 Place the racks bone side down in a shallow roasting pan. Roast in a 450°F (230°C) oven for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350°F (180°C); roast until a thermometer registers 140°F (60°C), another 20 to 30 minutes longer for rare.
5 Let stand, loosely covered with foil, for 10 minutes before carving between the ribs to serve.
Lamb Loin Chops Provençal
1 Prepare the marinade for Lamb Racks Provençal. Marinate 16 lamb loin chops for up to 4 hours.
2 Place the chops on a greased barbecue grill 4 inches (10 cm) from medium-high heat, or on a greased broiler rack in the oven.
3 Barbecue or broil until just pink inside, about 5 minutes a side, turning once.
ED Note: Though the anchovies lend a pungent savoury component that complements the strong taste of lamb well, for those who are adverse, you can substitute an equal amount of sundried tomatoes.