Cooking with the Wolfman: Indigenous Fusion

Written by Tracy Turlin

David Wolfman grew up far from his mother’s roots on the Xaxli’p First Nation in BC’s southern interior. In the kitchen of their Toronto home she taught him their history, along with her cooking techniques. He became a certified chef at George Brown College and later became a teacher there. Volunteering to help with the food at an indigenous event in the 1990’s led him to a successful career in catering. It was then that Wolfman began to develop what he later called Indigenous Fusion, mixing the traditions of his mother’s family with techniques and ingredients learned as a chef. And he gave back to the people of his city, operating a soup kitchen fuelled with the extra food from his catering business.

Marlene Finn and David Wolfman (Credit Michael Kohn)

Wolfman is the producer and host of Cooking with the Wolfman which originally aired on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network in Canada and is now available in the US on Nativeflix and FNX. Together with his wife and business partner, aboriginal education consultant Marlene Finn, he has curated the best of those recipes into Cooking with the Wolfman; Indigenous Fusion (David Wolfman and Marlene Finn; Douglas & McIntyre; Oct 2017; $29.95).

The recipes in Cooking with the Wolfman are a delicious mix of fine dining and backyard BBQ but they all have a common thread. They all illustrate the passion that Wolfman and Finn have for sharing their respective Xaxli’p and Métis cultures. Indigenous cuisine is as modern and varied as European food and depends on location, season and available ingredients.

You don’t need to hunt or forage to find those ingredients; most can be purchased at a good market. A quick internet search will turn up a surprising number of suppliers of game meat in our region.

With the holiday season fast approaching, I chose the following recipes because they seemed appropriate for a celebration. Chestnut and Prune Turkey Roulade with Saskatoon Berry Compote is a modern version of turkey and stuffing that doesn’t take days of preparation or leave you with a fridge full of leftovers. The chestnut dressing is rich and keeps the turkey meat from drying out. I never developed a taste for berry sauce with turkey but I’m looking forward to trying the Saskatoon Berry Compote with a pork roast.

I’m not sure why the Maple Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Icing seemed like a holiday recipe to me, except that it’s rich and sweetly spicy and just struck me as being very festive. I plan on testing this theory by serving this cake at celebrations throughout the year such as Christmas, Thanksgiving and random Tuesdays.

The longer I do this gig, the more I realize that food is food, no matter where you go. It’s steamed, fried, baked, and roasted and sometimes there are ingredients you aren’t familiar with. The bottom line is that people in every culture are simply looking for the best food they can make to share with friends and family. That thread runs through every cookbook I’ve read and every recipe I’ve tried. It was brought home to me particularly with Cooking with the Wolfman. When I opened its pages I had been unsure of what I would find. What I did find was the work of two people who have shared their peoples’ cultural past in order to preserve it for the future.

Recipes are from the book Cooking with the Wolfman: Indigenous Fusion, by Chef David Wolfman and Marlene Finn, © 2017. Published by Douglas & McIntyre. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

Chestnut and Prune Turkey Roulade with Saskatoon Berry Compote

Makes 8 servings

Do you want stuffed turkey without the hassle of roasting a whole bird and having to deal with trussing it, stuffing it, carving it and then deboning it for leftovers? Then turkey roulade will do the job. For the roulade (so named because it’s shaped like a roll), you start with a turkey breast that you slice open and pound flat for stuffing and then you roll it up and roast it. Once it’s done, you serve it in slices. Each serving includes both turkey and stuffing. Brilliant.

Indigenous chestnut trees and wild plum bushes used to be plentiful across the United States but they aren’t anymore; still you can buy the ingredients for this stuffing recipe using the newer varieties of chestnuts and prunes commonly found in stores today. Here turkey is teamed up with a berry compote.

If you want to break this recipe into two stages, prepare the stuffing and compote a day ahead. They can be refrigerated overnight.


12 cups large-diced sandwich bread (2.8 L; approximately 15 slices)
¼ cup (60 mL) medium-diced dried prunes
¼ cup (60 mL) pure olive oil
½ lb (225 g) pork sausage (or diced breakfast sausage), casings removed
2 Tbsp (30 mL) butter
¾ cup (180 mL) small-diced celery
¾ cup (180 mL) small-diced onion
½ tsp (2.5 mL) kosher salt (or sea salt), plus more as needed
½ tsp (2.5 mL) ground black pepper, plus more as needed
2 cups (475 mL) White Stock (see recipe, page 39) or store-bought unsalted chicken stock
⅓ cup (80 mL) finely chopped roasted chestnuts


1 whole boneless turkey breast (2½ lb/1 kg), with skin on
1 tsp (5 mL) dried marjoram
½ tsp (2.5 mL) kosher salt (or sea salt)
¼ tsp (1 mL) ground black pepper

1 To make the stuffing, spread the bread over a baking sheet and leave in the open air overnight so that they dry out thoroughly, or dry them in a 250°F (120°C) oven for 15 minutes. Set aside.

2 Place prunes in a cup or small bowl and cover with water. Heat in the microwave on high for one minute. Let the prunes soak in the warm water for five minutes; drain.

3 Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook sausage meat, uncovered, breaking it up with a spoon, until it loses its pink colour (about three to five minutes). Drain off excess oil and reserve.

4 Turn the heat to medium-low and add butter, celery, onion and salt to the meat. Cook for five minutes, stirring frequently. Add pepper and stir.

5 Heat stock in a small saucepan or in the microwave to the boiling point. Remove from heat. Add 1 cup (250 mL) of the stock, plus the bread, prunes and chestnuts, to the sausage mixture, and stir to combine well. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl.

6 Deglaze the pan by adding some of the remaining stock and scraping up the brown bits stuck to the pan. (Normally stuffing is made on the dry side because it will absorb fat from the roasting bird, but this mixture should be fairly dense, moist and heavy when it goes into the oven, as there is no fat to absorb from a turkey breast.)

7 Add the rest of the stock to the pan and stir. Pour over the stuffing and combine well. Adjust the taste of the stuffing with more salt and pepper as needed. Set stuffing aside to cool.

8 Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C).

9 Remove the skin from the turkey breast and reserve. Butterfly the turkey breast [Instructions are included in the book, or look online through YouTube].

10 Shape the butterflied breast meat into a rectangle. Season both sides with marjoram, salt and pepper.

11 Carefully spoon the stuffing in an even row along one of the longer edges of the meat, leaving about 2 inches (5 cm) of space along this edge.

12 Keep the stuffing together as much as possible as you roll the meat into a tight roll, starting from the side with the stuffing. Once the roll is completely formed, wrap it up in the reserved turkey skin.

13 Tie butcher twine around the roll, tying it every inch (2.5 cm) or so for the full length of the roll to keep it firmly together. Place the roulade on a parchment paper–lined baking pan. Brush roulade with the reserved oil using a pastry brush, and season the roulade with more salt and pepper on the outside.

14 Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered, and then turn down heat and bake at 350°F (175°C) for another 30 minutes, or until meat reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (75°C). Baste the roulade from time to time using the reserved oil.

15 Let the roulade rest, loosely covered by foil, on a cutting board for about 15 minutes before serving.

16 Remove string and slice. Serve with Saskatoon Berry Compote or with Brown Sauce if you prefer (see the Roasted Goose with Hazelnut Stuffing and Giblet Sauce recipe, page 206).

Saskatoon Berry Compote

Makes 2½ cups (600 ml

Did you know that the city of Saskatoon got its name from the saskatoon berry, which got its name from the Cree, who call it mi-sask-wa-too-mina? The saskatoon berry is also called Pacific serviceberry, western serviceberry, western June berry, chuckley pear, sugar pear, Indian pear, shadberry or just “saskatoon.” Regardless of the name, this berry was a traditional staple for the Cree and Blackfoot on the prairies, since it was good, fresh or dried, in meat or in soups, and the bush’s bark was carved into tools.

Blueberries are a decent substitute for saskatoon berries, but they are not the same. Saskatoon berries have a taste that is a little earthier, and they make a nutty-tasting compote that goes well with poultry or game birds of any kind. Maple sugar is dehydrated maple syrup; look for it in fine food shops or health food stores, or use brown sugar instead.

2 cups (475 mL) saskatoon berries, fresh or frozen
¼ cup (60 mL) maple sugar (or brown sugar)
¼ cup (60 mL) water
2 tsp (10 mL) lemon juice
Pinch ground cloves

1 Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes on medium-low heat, stirring frequently. If the mixture is not thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, simmer it for five to seven minutes more, stirring frequently.

2 Remove compote from the stove and pour into a server. Chill compote for 10 minutes before serving. Chilled, this compote will last for up to two weeks.

Maple Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

Makes 12 servings

Native Americans enjoyed pumpkins long before the Pilgrims arrived on the scene. Unfortunately, cooking pumpkins are hard to come by now. I’ve found it very difficult to get access to fresh pumpkins at any time other than October, and even then, stores usually carry just the decorative ones. So I keep canned pumpkin (pumpkin purée) in stock instead, and that is what’s used in this recipe. There is another pumpkin option: growing your own!

I modified this recipe from our good neighbour Lauren Powers in Muskoka. Lauren and Marlene are both July babies so they used to share birthday celebrations. We really miss our times together with Lauren and Jamie Hassard, hanging out on the deck and jamming in their recording studio. It’s where I learned to play the drums! But I digress. Lauren used gluten-free flour when she made this originally but I switched to regular all-purpose flour here and it works just fine. I added the icing because who doesn’t like cream cheese icing?


1 cup (250 mL) vegetable oil, plus 1 tsp (5 mL) for greasing pan
3 cups (710 mL) all-purpose flour, plus 1 Tbsp (15 mL) for dusting the pan
4 eggs
1 cup (250 mL) sugar
½ cup (120 mL) maple syrup
2 cups (475 mL) canned pumpkin purée
½ cup (120 mL) applesauce
½ cup (120 mL) chopped raw pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) or raisins
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
3 tsp (15 mL) cinnamon
2 tsp (10 mL) baking soda
I tsp (5 mL) baking powder
1 tsp (5 mL) table salt
½ tsp (2.5 mL) ground ginger
½ tsp (1 mL) ground cloves


¼ cup (60 mL) softened butter
¼ cup (60 mL) softened cream cheese
1 cup (250 mL) sifted icing sugar
1½ Tbsp (22 mL) 5 percent cream, divided


¼ cup (60 mL) toasted walnuts or edible flowers

1 Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and flour a 10 to 15 cup Bundt pan.

2 Beat eggs and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Add maple syrup and combine. Add the pumpkin, 1 cup (250 mL) oil, applesauce, pepitas and vanilla, and combine.

3 In a separate bowl, combine 3 cups (710 mL) flour with the cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger and cloves. Add dry mixture bit by bit to the wet ingredients. Mix with a spoon until well combined.

4 Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 60 to 70 minutes. Test for doneness at 60 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes with a clean dish towel on top before inverting onto a cooling rack.

5 Allow the cake to cool completely before icing.

6 To make the icing, beat the butter and cream cheese together with a hand mixer or stand mixer until the mixture becomes light and fluffy (up to five minutes).

7 Gradually beat in the icing sugar, mixing well to combine.

8 Add 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of the cream. Mix until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Repeat this process until all the cream has been added and the icing is perfectly smooth. This will be a creamy icing.

9 Slowly pour it onto the inverted cake, very gradually, allowing icing to slip over the edges and down the centre.

10 Garnish cake with toasted walnuts if using. Chill before serving. Freeze extra slices in an airtight container.

About the author

Tracy Turlin

Tracy Turlin is a freelance writer and dog groomer in London.
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