Archive for December, 2012

5 gifts that support local food

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Still have holiday shopping to cram into the next few days? Whether you’re buying for the locavore on your list or simply want to show your support for Ottawa’s local food economy, here are five sure-fire gift ideas.

  1. Food and drink from Ottawa artisans

Many Ottawa food artisans handcraft unique, tasty products using local ingredients.  I list several here, but you can find lots more by checking out websites such as Savour Ottawa, the Ottawa Farmers Market, the Ottawa Specialty Food Association, and the Ottawa Locavore Artisan Food Fair (LAFF).

Carolina’s Box of Goodness: artisan brownies, custom cakes

Gourmet Sauvage: jellies, syrups, marinades, condiments

Heavenly Honey: gourmet honey, beeswax candles

Hummingbird Chocolate: small-batch artisanal chocolate from ethically sourced cocoa

Kawalsa Salsa: spicy, low-sodium salsas

Major Craig’s: aromatic chutneys

Pêches & Poivre: desserts, handcrafted cheeses

Tea & Ginseng: 120 types of tea

ThimbleCakes: organic, nut- and egg-free custom cakes and cupcakes

2.    Home-cooked meals

Know someone who doesn’t have time to cook or who needs a break from cooking? Here are two meal service businesses that source ingredients as locally and sustainably as possible:

The Red Apron (read the Earthward profile):  Menus feature sophisticated, seasonal comfort food. Dinners can be ordered by the day or the week, for pick-up or home delivery.

Scratch Kitchen: A local Ottawa family-owned and operated business, Scratch Kitchen prepares gourmet frozen meals for home delivery.

  1. Restaurant dining and catering services

Visit Savour Ottawa for a list of restaurants and caterers who use seasonal local ingredients. Many of them sell gift certificates, including Absinthe, Beckta Dining & Wine, John Taylor at Domus Café, Eighteen, The Urban Pear, Thyme & Again Catering and Take-Home Foods and Zen Kitchen.

  1. Hands-on cooking classes

Knowing some cooking basics is key to healthier, more seasonal eating. And besides that, cooking can be fun. A gift certificate for a workshop at either of these learning kitchens would please an experienced cook as well as a beginner.

Credible Edibles: Provides eco-catering and hands-on, plant-based cooking workshops. Discounts on classes are available for kids, students and seniors.

The Urban Element: This cooking and culinary event studio supports local chefs, producers, farmers and restaurants.

  1. Make a donation

Everyone should have enough to eat, yet many adults and children in this city do not. For example, each month, 45,000  people – about 37% of whom are children — turn to the Ottawa Food Bank.  Instead of buying more stuff for a friend or family member, make a donation in their name to one of the many organizations out there that feed people in need. Here are two possibilities:

Ottawa Food Bank: Did you know that, in addition to food donations from individuals, supermarkets and restaurants, the OFB grows and gathers an impressive amount of fresh, local food? Its Community Harvest program grows vegetables, gleans produce from farmers’ fields that would otherwise go to waste, and collects donations of fresh food from local farmers and Ottawa farmers’ markets. In 2012, food from Community Harvest’s combined sources totalled more than 56,000 lbs.

Hidden Harvest Ottawa: This organization plants food-bearing trees in backyards and community spaces, and picks and shares fruit and nuts that would otherwise be wasted. Buy a tree for a friend, family member or community group.

What local food gifts are you buying this year?

Have a wonderful Christmas and best wishes for 2013! Earthward will be back in early January.


Seasonal eats: Yak mincemeat pie

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Chef Susan Jessup’s yak mincemeat pie

‘Tis the season for mincemeat pies. Although the mincemeat we’re most familiar with is a mix of fruit, spices and liquor, until fairly recently it also contained meat, usually beef, which — in an era before factory farming — was at its best in fall and winter.

In this version of the classic seasonal recipe, Ottawa chef Susan Jessup uses locally raised yak meat, although beef can be substituted.  Susan is one of a growing number of yak devotees, who prize the red meat’s sweet, delicate taste, lean texture, high protein and low cholesterol levels.

A Cordon Bleu-trained chef, Susan is owner and general manager at 42 Crichton Street Fine Foods in New Edinburgh, where her menus showcase local, seasonal foods.  A self-described “die-hard defender of the farmer” and Food for All advocate, she has been appointed to the Ottawa Food Policy Council, and belongs to Savour Ottawa‘s advisory committee, the advisory board for Ottawa street food and Just Food.

Susan buys yak meat from Rosemary Kralik, who raises yak, cattle, goats and sheep sustainably and humanely at Tiraislin Farm west of Ottawa, in the Lanark Highlands.

Yak Mincemeat Pie

(recipe makes 2 pies)


1 lb ground yak (or lean ground beef)

1 can Muskoka Dark Ale

8 oz  smashed walnuts

4 oz each raisins, dried cranberries and currants

1 large onion, medium dice

2 large apples, grated

¼  tsp ground clove

¼ tsp ground allspice

2 tsp ground ginger

½  tsp freshly grated nutmeg

½ tsp ground cinnamon

1 branch fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried thyme

salt and pepper to taste

3 oz heavy cream

½ fresh baguette, grated (yup)

enough butter to prevent the pies from sticking to the baking pans

your favourite pastry recipe for 2 double crust, 8-inch pies

1 beaten egg for the pastry egg wash


Open the beer, drink some, warm the rest (you choose how much to add/drink) and pour over the dried fruit and walnuts in a large mixing bowl.

Preheat a fry pan to medium and add the duck fat or butter. When the fat has melted and begins to bubble, toss in the onions and sauté until golden-brown. Add grated apple and spices and spoon the whole mixture, along with the onions, into the bowl containing beer, fruit and nuts.

Brown the meat using the same sauté/fry pan. Then add it, with the cream and grated baguette, to the big bowl and combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and allow to cool while you prep the pastry.

Lightly butter the grooves of two pie plates — or unwrap purchased pastry. (Hint: Many fine local bakeries are preparing pastry in foil pans for busy home chefs.) Roll out your pastry (top and bottom crusts). Line the pie plates, leaving some extra to hang over the sides. Beat the egg for the eggwash.

Divide meat filling between the pie plates. Drop the pastry tops* on and brush them with egg wash; flip the draped lower-crust pastry over the edges of the pastry tops and egg wash those. Cut steam vents into the tops and place the pies in a 350ºF oven for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 325ºF and bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the bottom crust is cooked and the pasty is golden. (Set the timer in case your oven runs hotter than most).

Cool the pie for a few moments before slicing or prepare ahead of time and reheat at a lower temperature. Serve with onion jam or cranberry compote.

* If the pastry tops are too much fuss, use mashed sweet potatoes instead. Mash 2 egg yolks, salt, pepper, and a little butter into the baked, or boiled and drained, sweet potatoes. Delicious!

Ottawa LAFF brings together eaters and local food artisans

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012


Christmas markets are flourishing in Ottawa this year. Since many of them feature the area’s best artisanal foods, these markets offer a great way to sample what’s being made right here, with ingredients that are as local and organic as possible. Last weekend was especially busy, with three events scheduled: the Ottawa Farmers’ Market Christmas Market, A Taste of Ottawa: Westboro’s Holiday Food Market, and the Ottawa Locavore Artisan Food Fair (LAFF).

I was able to spend a few contented hours at LAFF’s December 8 market in New Edinburgh. With more than a dozen of LAFF’s 20 innovative food makers on hand, I had the chance to nosh on everything from Hummingbird’s small-batch, hand-crafted chocolate and michaelsdolce gourmet jams to Major Craig’s 1884 North India chutney. I also enjoyed a lip-smacking tomato and garlic soup from Stone Soup Foodworks, and a fiery salsa from Chef Richard Nigro, whose new store, Richard’s Hintonburg Kitchen, is set to open in February 2013.

Other creative food makers at the holiday market included: Art-Is-In Bakery; Auntie Loo’s Treats (a 100% vegan bakery);  Happy Goat Coffee Company (fair trade, organic coffee); Kawalsa Salsa; koko Chocolates; Relish the Flavour food truck; The Salty Don (gourmet seasonings); Scratch Kitchen (gourmet, home- delivered frozen meals); and World of Tea.

The Christmas food markets wind up December 16, with the last of four from the Ottawa Farmers’ Market, to be held 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Ernst & Young Centre,  4899 Uplands Drive.

What’s your best Christmas food market find?




Seasonal eats: Roasted butternut squash salad

Friday, December 7th, 2012

Locally grown butternut squash is a tasty, nutritious and versatile vegetable that makes it easier to eat seasonally over the winter. Its  smooth texture and sweet, nutty flavour pair well with many meat, poultry and grain dishes. In addition, it’s rich in vitamins A, B6 and C, as well as magnesium, potassium, fibre and folate. Butternut squash is abundant in the fall and lasts up to two to three months stored in a cool, dark basement or cupboard.

It’s also simple to prepare. Choose a squash that’s firm and heavy. Peel it, scoop out the seeds and cut the flesh into cubes. Then toss the cubes in oil for oven-roasting, purée them for soup, or boil and mash them to use in casseroles, muffins or breads. 

Here’s a recipe for roasted squash salad developed by Anna March, resident chef at The Urban Element, a culinary studio on Wellington Street that supports local producers and seasonal eating.

A graduate of Algonquin College’s chef training   program, Anna has honed her culinary style at acclaimed restaurants across Canada, including Ottawa’s Beckta and Farbs Kitchen and Wine Bar, and Vancouver’s Fuel. She was also chef at Mariposa, the Plantagenet duck and goose farm that serves Sunday lunches of regionally sourced, country-style fare. Anna says she hopes her enthusiasm for food and cooking inspires others to use fresh local ingredients and make cooking a fun, exciting part of every day.

 Roasted squash salad with granola and maple vinaigrette

Chef Anna March

2 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed

1/4 cup canola oil

1 bunch fresh thyme

1 bunch sage

3 cloves garlic, smashed

salt and pepper to taste

3 granny smith apples cut into cubes at the last minute

1 shallot, minced

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese curls or chips (use a peeler)

1 recipe of honey roasted granola (see recipe below)

1 recipe of maple mustard vinaigrette (see below)

1. In a large bowl, toss the squash cubes with oil, salt and pepper, herbs and garlic. Spread evenly on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 375°F for about 15 minutes or until the squash is tender but not falling apart. To ensure even cooking, remove the squash halfway through and toss.

2. Prepare remaining ingredients, including the granola and vinaigrette.

 3. Drizzle maple vinaigrette over the baked squash and combine with the other ingredients.

Serve the salad as a main course or side dish.

Honey roasted granola

Tip: Toss the granola a few times during baking to make sure it’s evenly crisp.

1 cup pumpkin seeds

1 cup sunflower seeds

1 cup oatmeal

1/2 tsp cayenne

1 cup honey

1 tsp salt or to taste

1 cup almonds (if desired)

1. Heat the honey, cayenne and salt in a small saucepan.

2. Pour honey mixture over the remaining ingredients in a bowl and toss to combine. Check the seasonings and adjust as necessary.

3. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, spread the granola on top and bake at 350°F until golden brown and crispy.

4. When the granola cools, break it into small pieces.

Maple mustard vinaigrette

Yield: 2 1/2 cups

Tip: Vinaigrettes work best with a three-to-one ratio of oil to vinegar. Plug any oils or vinegars into this equation for a well-balanced vinaigrette. Here, you can always adjust the acidity with a little sweetness from the maple syrup.

2/3 cup sherry vinegar

1 1/2 cups grape seed oil

2 tbsp grainy mustard

3 tbsp maple syrup

salt and pepper to taste

1. Whisk the mustard, maple syrup and vinegar together in a bowl.

2. Whisk in the oil In a steady stream until well blended. Season to taste.

What are your favourite recipes for winter squash?

5 easy steps to seasonal eating

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Photo: Nick Saltmarsh,


As consumers in a global economy, we’re used to buying and eating whatever we want, whenever we want it. Whether it’s June or December, we can walk into the grocery store and find asparagus and tomatoes, lamb and shellfish. No wonder we’re losing our sense of different foods being seasonal – raised, harvested, and at their peak of flavour at certain times of year.

This loss is part of our growing disconnection from food.  Fewer Canadians farm the land than ever before, and most what we eat is grown, processed, packaged and shipped, by a handful of multinational food companies, far from our communities and out of public view.

While we can’t expect to eat all- local or all-seasonal here in Ottawa, with its short growing season and long winters, we can become more aware of what we’re eating and the effect that our food choices have. The benefits of doing this, as I wrote in an earlier post, include enjoying better-tasting food, supporting the local economy and helping to build a lower-impact food system.

Here are five simple ways to eat more seasonally.

  1. Find out what’s in season when. (And don’t just think fruit and veg. Meat, poultry and eggs, fish  – all are at their best at different times of year.)
  2. Collect recipes for favourite foods so if you’re suddenly swamped with beans or zucchini from the garden or the CSA farm you belong to, nothing will go to waste because you have options for preparing it.
  3. Buy extra food when it’s in season and freeze or preserve it by canning, pickling, dehydrating or smoking.  Turn a bounty of fall tomatoes into juice, salsa, chutney, paste or ketchup. When cabbage is plentiful, make sauerkraut. If you’re new to food preservation, attend Just Food’s workshops or consult the many books (Put a Lid on It! and Putting Food By to name just a few) and online resources (such as Bernardin Canada or on the topic.
  4. Get the right equipment for storage or preservation. Invest in a standalone freezerbuy canning equipment, build a root cellar or use your basement to store fall and winter vegetables such as squash, potatoes and carrots.
  5. If you’re too busy for freezing and preserving, you can still make a big difference by purchasing local foods when they’re available instead of buying the same items from half-way around the world. 

What’s your favourite seasonal food? How do you like to prepare or preserve it?

Watch for the next Earthward post: it will be the first of a regular series of recipes from Ottawa chefs featuring local, seasonal ingredients.