Thursday, March 7, 2013

Recipes from Eastern Canada

Someone laughed at me this week when I said I was dividing Canada up into regions. Maybe it is a tad silly, I mean, it's not like Canada is known for its cuisine or anything. I've seen French restaurants, Indian restaurants and Chinese restaurants, but I don't think I've ever seen a Canadian one. Though I did once go to an "American" restaurant in the UK. All the waiters wore cowboy hats and I think there was sawdust on the floor.

Anyway, Canada is a big country and it is actually pretty diverse, so I still stand by my decision to divide it into regions. And in fact this week's meal was considerably different from the meal I did for Central Canada, so that is yet more evidence that it was the right thing to do.

The Battery, St John's, Newfoundland. Photo credit: manumilou via Compfight cc
Depending on who you ask, Eastern Canada is either everything east of Manitoba, or it's just the eastern coastal provinces. Now, when I did Central Canada I included Quebec and Ontario in that region, so for the purposes of this post I focused on Newfoundland, Labrador, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia (also called Atlantic Canada). And then as I was narrowing it down to just the three recipes I ended up serving, I was down to just Newfoundland.

It probably won't surprise you to hear that a lot of the cuisine from this part of Canada is seafood-based. The seafood industry in Newfoundland and Labrador alone is a $1 billion industry employing more than 20,000 people. Cod was once the most important fish harvested in this area, until overfishing drove the Canadian government to place a moratorium on it in the early 90s. Today, snow crab and shrimp have replaced cod as the region's most important harvested species. Aquaculture is also an important part of the industry: atlantic salmon, steelhead trout, and blue mussels are all farmed in Newfoundland.

So yes, I chose a seafood recipe. I wanted something that was pretty traditional, so I searched until I found this recipe on a website called Newfoundland Island Recipes:

Salmon Pie
  • 8 oz cooked salmon, flaked
  • 1/2 cup butter, divided
  • 2 lbs potatoes (use an extra pound if you want your topping to be thick)
  • 1/4 cup warm milk
  • 1 egg, unbeaten
  • 1 1/2 cups reserved potato water
  • 2 onions
  • 3 tbsp flour
Martin likes to eat his pies with baked beans, so I thought it would be fun to make some baked beans from scratch—having only ever eaten them out of a can. Wow that sounds so embarrassing when I say it out loud.

Here's the Newfoundlander's version of Old Fashioned Baked Beans:
  • 2 lbs dried white navy beans
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4  lbs salt pork, sliced
  • 1/2 cup molasses
And I also chose a sweet bread for dessert, although this would have been fine served with the meal, or even for breakfast and/or with a cup of coffee:

Lassy Bread
(also from
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups milk or water
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 6-7 cups flour (all-purpose)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp mace
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 4 cups raisins
Starting with the beans:

I feel like I should put this is all caps and hot pink text or something, because I'm always forgetting to soak beans. So the day before you make this meal, SOAK YOUR BEANS. Amazingly, I did remember to do it this time.

The next morning, rinse the beans then put them in a pot with water. The water level should be about two inches above the top of the beans. Now boil for about 30 minutes, or until the beans are tender.

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Transfer the beans to a casserole dish and mix in the rest of the ingredients. (Note: you can get salted pork at Safeway! It comes packaged and can be found with the sausages or with the bacon, depending on your store).

Cover and bake for 6 hours, then remove about 1 cup of the beans and mash them with a potato masher. Mix them back in and return to the oven for another hour, this time uncovered.

Now if your husband has also never eaten baked beans that did not come out of a can, he might be horrified to discover (as mine was) that old fashioned homemade baked beans are quite a bit drier than what he is used to. This actually may be the first time in my life that I've made something from scratch, only to be told that I need to do a better job emulating the stuff that comes out of a can. So if your family (or you) like a saucier bean, I don't think it's too off the recipe to mix a little water in with the beans towards the end of the baking cycle.

So meanwhile, make the bread. Now you already know I do everything in my bread machine, even bread recipes that aren't really intended for a bread machine. But if you want to do it the traditional way:

Add the sugar to the water and then use that mixture to dissolve the yeast. Let stand until frothy (10 to 15 minutes). Meanwhile, put the butter and milk in a small pan and heat until the butter melts. Remove from the stove and let cool to lukewarm.

Meanwhile, mix the molasses with the yeast mixture, half of the flour, spices and raisins. Mix well. Add the rest of the flour bit by bit until you get a soft dough. Knead for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and let stand in a warm place until it is about doubled in size. Now divide the dough in half and transfer to two greased 9x5 loaf pans.

Cover with a clean, damp tea towel and let rise again for 1 to 2 hours, or until it doubles again.

Bake in a 370 degree oven for 1 hour. The bread should be golden and should make a hollow sound when you knock on it. Remove from the oven and brush with a little melted butter.

Finally, you can get started on the fish pie. It helps if you have two ovens, because the baking temperatures are quite a bit different between the beans and the pie, and the beans have to be cooked for a long time. Don't have two ovens? You'll probably need to finish the beans an hour before the pie, and then reheat.

So first, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Boil the potatoes until soft, reserving 1 1/2 cups of the water. Now mash the potatoes with the warm milk, half of the butter and the egg and set aside.

Now melt the rest of the butter over medium heat, then cook the onions in the melted butter until soft. Reduce the heat and add the flour, whisking continuously until you get a roux. Keep whisking while you add the potato water, then add the salmon.

Transfer the salmon mixture to a casserole and then spread the potatoes on top. Bake until the potatoes turn a nice golden brown color.

So, I made this for me and Martin, because of that whole fish problem that my kids have. But I still made way too much, so really I might as well have made this for everyone because I would have ended up throwing about as much of it away anyway.

It was a nice meal but pretty basic. I think I would have preferred a fish pie with a few more spices in it, just to dress it up a little. The baked beans came out great, except (apparently) for being too dry. They did taste almost exactly like baked beans in a can, which begs the question: why go to all that trouble to make them from scratch when my husband would clearly rather have the canned variety anyway? I had tons of leftover beans too, but I made pot pies later in the week and they went really nicely with them as leftovers. My kids all ate them, except of course for Hailey who really doesn't like anything unless it's bread. You know that time-honored parental threat: "I'm going to send you to your room and you can have stale bread for dinner!"? That would not have a negative impact on Hailey. She would love to have stale bread for dinner alone in her room, where she can draw in peace.

The lassy bread was really good. The kids had it for breakfast the next morning and I think they even took some of it to school to have with their lunches. We ate it with butter but it would have been totally fine without butter, too. It was a really nice versatile bread—easy to make and delicious.

So that's Eastern Canada, ay? (Sorry.) Next week: Ecuador.

For printable versions of this week's recipes:

1 comment:

  1. I'm making the bread today. I made the beans and salmon pie last week. My husband HATES beans from the can and loved the beans in the recipe. I did heed your advice though, and I saved some of the water that the beans boiled in and poured it into the pot every hour or so. Not much, about .25 cups every hour. It's a keeper. :) The salmon pie---I'm looking forward to turning it into a nice soup, and we'll leave it at that.


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