Le Sun 26 June 2016
Before I headed over to Canada in 2015 to explore BC and look at the opportunities for engineers I was browsing through my Lonely Planet guide when I came across the section on “Cuisines of Canada”. Until that point I had not realised the extent to which the various immigrant groups to Canada had created an interesting diversity of cuisines across the country. The article was topped with a picture of Poutine, a dish voted as Canada's National Dish in an unscientific poll run by the Globe and Mail Newspaper. Apparently it occupies the same place in a country's cuisine that Pie Floaters (Adelaide), Vindaloo (UK), and Fish and Chips (NZ), do. So a good accompaniment to a beer or similar.
When I got over to Canada, I sought out Poutine. They were great and I found them to have an unexpected level of spiciness that really appealed to me. The various examples of Poutine I tried had slight variations in flavour, but had the basic components that a Poutine must have; french fries, a brown gravy, and cheese curd.
Naturally I was keen to have a go at making it for my Partner when I got back to New Zealand. This proved to be challenging. Despite New Zealand being an exporter to dairy products (well actually just milk powder really), you'd think getting cheese curd would be easy. Without making the curd myself, getting hold of cheese curd was impossible. A local cheese niche manufacturer suggested Ricotta, but when I tried that in a trial Poutine it was the wrong texture and taste.
We finally solved it by using Paneer. This gave the right texture and taste, as well as the “squeak” found in the genuine Canadian-made Poutine. The picture below is of such a meal. In this case I used some chips rather than making my own potato wedges, and Kale has also been added to keep my Partner happy. For a genuine Poutine, ditch the green stuff.
So here is the recipe I came up with for Poutine as rendered using New Zealand ingredients.
- Finely chopped or crushed Garlic (3 cloves)
- 2 chopped chillis
- 3 sundried tomatoes
- 1 Beef stock cube (equivalent to about 1tsp of dry stock)
- 1 Chicken stock cube (equivalent to about 1tsp of dry stock)
- 2½ cups of water (add more if it looks like it is getting too thick)
- 2 or 3 Tablespoons of oil
- ¼ or ⅓ cup of flour or so
- ¼ teaspoon of paprika
- ½ teaspoon of dried oregano
- 1 Cup (thereabouts) Paneer
- Broccoli, or kale, or silverbeat (optional)
(if not using chips (french fries) from the local Fish and Chip shop)
- 5 or 6 small to medium sized potatoes
- Shake or two of Paprika
- Sprinkle of Salt
To get the true experience and alcohol absorption potential for this meal I would recommend buying a scoop of chips from your local fish and chip shop. However if you are after a less oily alternative then home made spicy wedges are the best.
- Chop the potatoes into slices about 12 – 15mm thick, and chop those into quarters.
- Put the chopped potatoes onto a microwave proof dish and cook on HIGH in 4 minute rounds, until they are almost cooked. Turn the potatoes over at the end of each 4 minute cooking period so ensure they are as evenly cooked as your microwave allows.
While the potatoes are cooking prepare the gravy.
- Put the beef and chicken stock cubes into a cup of hot water and dissolve.
- Put the oil in a saucepan, and lightly fry the garlic, chillis, and sundried tomatoes.
- Add the flour to the pan and adjust the amount of oil so that the flour is “damp” with oil. Keep the mix moving as it lightly cooks, and add oil if it is too dry.
- When the flour mix is cooked enough (as if you were making a white sauce) pour in the cup of stock and add in the extra cup of water. The sauce should thicken up quite quickly. Add more water if it starts getting too thick.
- Add in paprika and oregano.
- Heat through until it starts to bubble.
- Leave to keep warm with the heat turned to low.
Hopefully the potatoes will be done by this stage. Take them out of the microwave, sprinkle them with the salt and paprika and start heating a frying pan with a couple of tablespoons of oil or so. Pan fry the potatoes until they have a light crispness or goldenness to them. Turn them often to achieve a good even toasting. This does not take very long.
Close to the time you are about to serve, add the greens directly to the gravy. Give the gravy a couple of minutes more heating for the greens to cook through before serving.
Also, just before you are about to serve, chop the Paneer into 1cm cubes and lightly heat in the microwave until it just begins to soften.
Assemble the meal with the potatoes or chips scattered across the plate, dump the paneer and broccoli over the top, then pour the gravy over the whole lot.
More recent editions of this have included some of our own brewed fermented chilli sauce in the gravy. This has given it a real spiciness. I am pleased to say the flavours achieved with the recipe described above pretty much match what I experienced in Canada.
Although I haven't tried it, I think the gravy will freeze well and be able to be reheated easily for a quick meal.