Canadian comfort food

Taste the Wild author Lisa Nieschlag’s recipes have a true north flavour

Who doesn’t dream of setting off into the Canadian sunset, leaving everyday life behind to explore new places? These recipes—prawn skewers with sriracha dip and poutine as starters; wild rice frittata with mushrooms and bacon, and also chicken and mushroom pot pie for the main; and for dessert, maple cheesecake with strawberries—will paint an enchanting picture of Canada’s forests and water, plenty and simplicity, campfires and wilderness.

Conjure up adventure in your kitchen with these recipes, which are perfect for a holiday season family meal, or a parents’ date night in.


Prawn skewers with sriracha dip

Canada actually supplies most of the world’s prawns. Prawns are very easy to prepare – simply add a little oil, salt and lemon juice to allow their own flavour to shine. They go incredibly well with this sriracha dip. These skewers are also excellent grilled.

Makes 6–8 skewers


800 g (1 lb 12 oz) raw prawns, peeled and deveined


4 tbsp canola oil

Juice of ½ lemon


For the dip:

1 celery stalk

2 large garlic cloves

1 tbsp canola oil

400 g (14 oz) jar tomato passata (puréed tomatoes)

3 tbsp sriracha sauce

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce


Freshly ground black pepper


1 crusty baguette, for serving


For the dip, wash, trim and finely dice the celery. Peel and coarsely dice the garlic. Sweat the celery and garlic in a small saucepan with the canola oil. Add the tomato passata and simmer for 15 minutes.

Purée the tomato mixture with a stick blender until smooth. Season with the sriracha sauce, honey, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Set the dip aside to cool a little.

Rinse the prawns and pat dry. Thread the prawns onto wooden skewers, using three or four on each. Sprinkle with salt. Heat the oil in a frying pan over high heat and sear the prawns, turning them once. The prawns should still be a little glassy in the middle. Drizzle the prawns with lemon juice and serve with the dip and sliced baguette.


In many countries, chips are eaten with tomato sauce or vinegar. Try a different, authentically Canadian version of everyone’s favourite fast food with gravy and haloumi cheese. You’ll be hooked in no time!


Serves 4


For the gravy:

500 g (1 lb 2 oz) soup vegetables (carrot, onion, celeriac, leek)

1 garlic bulb

500 g (1 lb 2 oz) beef bones or 4 cups (1 litre) beef stock

2 tbsp tomato paste (concentrated purée)

1 tbsp canola oil

2 bay leaves

4 juniper berries

3–5 tbsp cornflour

For the chips:

1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) floury potatoes

1 tbsp plain flour

8 cups (2 litres) canola oil

For the topping:

225 g (8 oz) haloumi

2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley


Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). For the gravy, wash and coarsely dice the soup vegetables. Place the vegetables, garlic and beef bones on a baking tray and roast for 30 minutes.

Heat the tomato paste and canola oil in a large saucepan. Deglaze with a little water. Transfer the roast vegetables, beef bones, bay leaves and juniper berries to the saucepan and add 8 cups (2 litres) water. Simmer for 2 hours to reduce the liquid by half. (If using beef stock, simply pour over the roast vegetables –you won’t need the beef bones in this case.)

Strain the liquid into another saucepan through a fine sieve. Bring to the boil. Dissolve the cornflour in 3 tablespoons cold water and slowly whisk into the gravy until it reaches the desired consistency. Set aside.

Thoroughly wash the potatoes and cut them into chips. Transfer to a bowl and toss with the flour. Heat the oil to 180°C (350°F) in a large saucepan. Deep-fry the chips in two batches, stirring occasionally. Cook until golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.

Divide the chips among serving plates and crumble the haloumi over the top. Pour the warm gravy over the chips and serve immediately, garnished with a little parsley.


Wild rice frittata with mushrooms and bacon

With its delicate long grains and a nutty taste, wild rice is very different from plain rice in both appearance and taste. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as wild rice is actually the seeds of a wild reed grass that is not related to rice at all. It imparts a wonderful flavour to this frittata and makes it a satisfying meal.


Serves 2

⅔ cup (125 g) wild rice

1 tsp salt

5 eggs

2 egg whites

3 sprigs parsley

½ tsp salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 red onion

2 tsp olive oil

1 sprig rosemary

200 g (7 oz) mixed mushrooms (chanterelles, button mushrooms)

3 small slices bacon

½ cup (45 g) grated parmesan


Place the wild rice in a sieve and rinse thoroughly in cold water. Transfer the rice and salt to a saucepan together with 230 ml (73⁄4 fl oz) water. Bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and simmer the rice over low heat for 40–50 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Whisk the eggs and egg whites in a bowl. Rinse the parsley and shake off excess water. Pick off the leaves and chop finely. Stir the parsley, salt, pepper and nutmeg into the egg mixture. Peel and finely dice the onion. Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof frying pan. Add the onion and sweat until translucent. Rinse the rosemary and shake off excess water. Pick off the leaves and add to the onion. Wipe the mushrooms with a clean tea towel and halve. Transfer to the pan, increase the heat to high and sear. Reduce the heat and add the wild rice.

Preheat the oven using the grill function. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and allow to set over low heat. Top with the bacon and parmesan. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake the frittata under the grill for about 5 minutes.


Chicken and mushroom pot pie

Savoury pies are incredibly popular all over Canada. In this recipe, flaky puff pastry encloses chicken and mushrooms, but feel free to give your imagination free rein in developing your own fillings. Leftover Sunday roast chicken or lamb is a delicious choice, for example.


Serves 4–6

100 g (3½ oz) spring onions (scallions)

500 g (1 lb 2 oz) mixed mushrooms (chanterelles, button mushrooms, oyster mushrooms)

300 g (10½ oz) chicken breast fillet

3 tbsp canola oil

1 sheet frozen puff pastry

1½ tbsp cornflour

1 tsp mustard

2 tbsp crème fraîche

200 ml (7 fl oz) chicken stock




1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing


Wash, trim and thinly slice the spring onions. Set aside a little for garnish. Wipe the mushrooms with a clean tea towel and coarsely dice. Pat the chicken dry and slice into thin strips. Heat the canola oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add the mushrooms and sear until golden brown. Add the chicken strips and spring onions and continue to fry briefly.

Remove the puff pastry from the freezer and leave to soften a little. Combine the cornflour, mustard, crème fraîche, chicken stock, salt and pepper until the cornflour has dissolved. Add the mixture to the chicken and mushrooms, stirring continuously, and briefly bring everything to the boil. Pour the mixture into a 25 x 15 cm (10 x 6 inch) baking tin.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Cut the puff pastry sheet to fit the baking tin. Carefully place the pastry over the filling and press the edges to stick to the tin. Generously brush the beaten egg all over the pastry. Cut a cross into the centre of the pie to allow the steam to escape as it cooks. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.


Maple cheesecake with strawberries


A North American classic with a Canadian twist, this cheese cake is made with maple syrup for a delectably distinctive flavour. If you prefer a milder maple flavour, use light-coloured syrup. Dark maple syrup has a much stronger taste, which gives the cake a slightly tart flavour that harmonises well with the sweet strawberries.


Makes one 26 cm (10½ inch) cheesecake


150 g (5½ oz) oatcakes (or use the crackers from p. 163)

⅔ cup (75 g) walnuts

90 g (3¼ oz) butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

1 pinch sea salt

750 g (1 lb 10 oz) cream cheese, softened

115 ml (3¾ fl oz) maple syrup, plus extra for serving

3 eggs


1⅔ cups (250 g) strawberries

2 tbsp lemon juice

1–2 tsp icing (confectioners) sugar


Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line the base of a 26 cm (101⁄2 inch) springform tin with baking paper and lightly butter the side of the tin. Coarsely crush the biscuits. Transfer to a food processor with the walnuts and chop finely. Add the biscuits, nuts, butter and salt to a bowl and mix well. Press the mixture firmly into the tin.

Whisk the cream cheese. Stir in the maple syrup. Add the eggs, one at a time, and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture into the base and level the top.

Bake the cheesecake for 45–50 minutes. Remove from the oven, slide a knife around the side to loosen and leave to cool in the tin. Refrigerate the cooled cheesecake for 4 hours.

Wash, trim and quarter the strawberries. Gently toss with the lemon juice and icing sugar in a bowl and set aside to marinate briefly. Serve the cake with the strawberries and maple syrup.


Makes about 30


For the crackers:

⅔ cup (100 g) plain flour

1⅓ cups (200 g) wholemeal plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

¾ cup (150 g) brown sugar

1 pinch salt

2 tbsp honey

4 tbsp milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp ground cinnamon

100 g (3½ oz) butter, melted

Combine the flours, bicarbonate of soda, brown sugar, salt, honey, milk, vanilla and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and knead everything briefly to make a smooth dough.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Divide the dough in half and transfer one half onto a sheet of baking paper. Cover with another sheet of baking paper and roll the dough out very thinly to the size of a baking tray. (If you like, spray the paper with a little water underneath to stop it from sliding.) Transfer the dough onto a baking tray and carefully pull off the top sheet of baking paper. Trim to make a rectangle with straight edges, then use a sharp knife to cut the dough into small rectangles. (Otherwise, there’s a risk that it may break after baking.) Repeat with the remaining dough. Prick the dough all over with a fork.

Bake each tray for 10–15 minutes until the dough has just a little softness left. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely before breaking the crackers into pieces along the cut marks.