Canadian pop quiz: The arrival of fall in Canada brings with it:
A) A renewed love affair with the same sweater collection you savagely broke up with in April.
B) A firm personal promise — broken within 24 hours — to refrain from sampling Halloween chocolate until it’s officially Halloween.
C) An increased appetite for comfort foods that warm the heart and soul.
D) All of the above.
If you answered C or D, you aren’t alone! We the North may be hearty, polite, and undaunted by negative double digits, but that doesn’t mean we lack an appreciation for the gastronomical equivalent of a warm and fulfilling hug: also known as comfort food. Looking for some deliciously new ideas to bolster your menu rotation as the cooler weather approaches? Try one of these regionally-inspired Canadian comfort food recipes that will pass any taste test.
Alberta: Beef and Noodle Casserole
Alberta is known for beef, and grandmothers are known for both spoiling kids and for classic and totally satisfying meals. Typically one of the first actual dinner recipes a first-time-away-from-home university student tackles, a beef and noodle casserole requires only a few basic ingredients, a warm oven (or crockpot or InstaPot), and empty stomachs. Thanks to the original Grandma, Grandmere, nana, Bubba, Abuela, Gookum whoever she is, this one is a crowd-pleaser every time.
Grandma’s Beef and Noodle Casserole
British Columbia: Nanaimo Bars
One bite of a Nanaimo bar should convince anyone it should be on a comfort food priority list. Assuming you like coconut, they don’t come better than this layered treat of chocolate ganache, vanilla custard, coconut, and graham crackers. Nanaimo, B.C. history says this sweet concoction first appearing at a hospital fundraiser in the ’50s and very well may have been inspired by the dressing in layers that West Coasters have to do in the colder months.
Check out the City of Nanaimo’s official recipe for Nanaimo Bars
New Brunswick: Poutines à trou
No list of Canadian comfort foods would be complete without poutine. Loosely translated as a ‘mess,’ it’s an accurate description of the globally known Canadian favourite combination of french fries, cheese curds and gravy. Another Canadian ‘mess’ that deserves equal love in your menu planning: Poutines à trou. Poutines à trou is made of apples, raisins and cranberries baked into a round ball of pastry. Then it’s topped with brown sugar syrup — or maple syrup if you want a distinctly Canadian touch from top to bottom.
Recipe: Poutine à Trou
Newfoundland: Jiggs Dinner
While the name Jiggs Dinner was inspired by a globally popular comic strip in the 1920s, the ingredients pay homage to the influence of Irish staples of cabbage, corned beef, and potatoes. A one-pot family meal once popular as a Sunday dinner in Newfoundland, when cooked together in a single pot as intended, Jiggs Dinner becomes deliciously aromatic and readily enjoyed as a hearty meal.
Check out the recipe here: Jiggs Dinner
Nova Scotia: Donair
A small shop on Halifax’s Bedford Highway, King of Donair lays claim to the development of the donair, one of Nova Scotia’s most popular comfort foods. Particularly popular in Halifax where donairs can be found on any menu, in 2015 the city declared the donair the official food of the City of Halifax. What started as a reconstructed version of the Greek gyros — traditionally made with lamb and tzatziki — the appeal of the donair rose with the introduction of spiced beef. An evaporated milk concoction replaced the tzatziki and then poured over the beef, placed in warm Lebanese pita. Topped with onions, spices and tomatoes, if you’ve ever wondered why people recommend you ‘go East,’ in Canada it is likely meant to direct you to Halifax for the delicious donairs.
Ontario: Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
A perfect hybrid of healthy and filling, Cauliflower Mac and Cheese seems like the appropriate leading comfort food for Canada’s most populous province. Picky eaters might be hesitant to try a variation on boxed mac and cheese, but the addition of bacon and a warm, gooey, carb-rich entrée topped with breadcrumbs will win any reluctant eater over.
Ontario’s Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
This rapid-rise and fried-biscuit-like staple of many First Nations, Metis, and Inuit homes is often said to have both Indigenous and Scottish origins. It’s understandable if both wish to lay claim to it — when it comes to quick and satisfying comfort foods with few ingredients it’s hard to beat Bannock. With only five basic ingredients: water, flour, salt, baking powder, and oil (for frying) most kitchens always have this fried-dough option for whipping up at the ready. While the list of ingredients and variations on the original can vary based on family traditions, served with butter, jams or spreads it’s a quick and satisfying snack for anyone looking for some cold-weather comfort.
From the Government of Nunavut: How to Make Bannok
Quebec’s love affair with tourtière continues, with recipes being passed unchanged from generation to generation. Often compared by those not in the know to run-of-the-mill ‘meat pies,’ the French-Canadian tourtière is a double-crusted pastry that envelopes all the goodness inside. The basic recipe is still debated by devotees but includes sautéed onions, garlic, and ground pork, veal or beef with spices in a pie shell. There are literally hundreds (thousands?) of versions of tourtière today, and each family seems to have their own favourite recipe.
Traditional tourtière recipe: Tourtière
As Canadians prepare for the cooler weather ahead, consider adding one — or all — of these Canadian comfort recipes to your dinner menus. Your loved ones will thank you!
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