Saturday, 14 June 2014

#readcookeat challenge : Newfoundland cuisine (inspired by Beneath The Surface)

Ever since I started joining in with the #readcookeat challenge on Galina's Chez Maximka and Chris's Cooking Around the World blogs, I've started making a conscious note of all the mentions of food in the books that I'm reading. For the last couple, there were hardly any mentions at all, so I had to make do with Smoked Salmon Pâté and Steak & Salad, but as soon as I picked up Mike Martin's Beneath The Surface, I was in literary gastronomical heaven ! There are so many mentions of Newfoundland recipes and dishes that I couldn't decide which one to make but in the end, I plumped for Newfoundland Raisin Molasses Bread. Here are the ones that didn't quite make it, but that still had me googling to find out more and that I may very well come back to.

Yellow Split Pea Soup image courtesy of Wikipedia on their "Pea Soup" page, which mentions Newfoundland Pea Soup

Off to a healthy start with Newfoundland Split Pea Soup : p10 "The pea soup came first. It was the traditional creamy Newfoundland split pea soup with tiny flecks of salt meat and a rather doughy looking dumpling in the middle." There's a recipe here.

Cheesecakes may seem more American than typically Newfoundland, but I do like the sound of Windflower's favourite type : p14 "Windflower pointed to a quiet table in the corner and soon all three men were enjoying large mugs of hot coffee and slices of the Mug-Up's speciality cheesecakes. Langmead had plain baked cheesecake with fresh blueberry jam; Tizzard had the same cheesecake with his favourite partridgeberry jam. And Windflower had his dream dessert, peanut butter cheesecake." I'd never thought of making peanut butter-flavoured cheesecake before, but even Nigella Lawson has had a go at this one.

This next one made me smile. Despite never having set foot in Canada, this is how my mum drinks her tea ... and her name's Sheila - how freaky is that?! p20 "There was nothing better for many Newfoundlanders than a strong cup of black tea, the blacker and stronger the better. Most took it without sugar, as did Stoodley and Windflower,but some, like Herb Stoodley, also added Carnation condensed milk. It was almost like white syrup that you poured liberally into your tea, and it was an acquired taste, one that Windflower had never acquired." 

Newfoundland breakfast photo courtesy of Wikipedia, on their "Toutons" page

Breakfast is supposed to be the most important meal of the day and the Newfoundland variety sounds particularly delicious. p24 "Tizzard joined the two men and both ordered the breakfast special of fried eggs, bacon and homemade toast with fresh jam. He and Windflower also decided to share an order of toutons, dough fried in fatback pork to a golden brown, and then smothered in molasses."

The guys all seem to be very good cooks in Sgt. Windflower's Newfoundland and, even if I'm not a fan of rabbit, this stew sounds so lovely, I may have to reproduce it with chicken or pork. p48 "Oh, that's my secret rabbit sauce," said Ford. "Normally I've got the rabbit cut up and stewing in it by now, but I didn't have enough time today. So I sautéed some onions and garlic, and then put the rabbits in the sauce long enough to braise them. Then I added a little sage, thyme and oregano and some water and let the rabbit soak in its own juices for a couple of hours. It should be ready by six as planned.I'm just cutting up a few carrots and celery, and when we throw in some canned tomatoes and cook up a little rice we should have ourselvesa fine scoff," said Ford."

I love the sound of this Newfoundland twist on potato cakes and will definitely have to have a go at making these. p82 "Por' cakes (or pork cakes) were a Grand Bank staple and had been for as long as anyone around there could remember. They were cheap and easy to make, with the only basic ingredients being minced fat back pork and potatoes, along with a little baking powder and flour to bind them together. Baked in the oven and served hot with molasses and a bowl of pea soup, this was the traditional Saturday morning lunch in Grand Bank."

There is also a reference to "beer can chicken" which had me intrigued, especially as, when I mentioned it on twitter, several people had already tried it. In essence, you place a whole chicken on a half-full beer can (push it into the neck cavity and cook it standing upright) then put it on the grill so the beer steam keeps it nice and moist while allowing the fat to run off. It turns out that you can even buy beer can holders for using on the barbecue or in the oven which make the whole thing look a bit more stable. How cool is that ?!

Sheila's signature dessert, Blueberry Buckle, also gets several mentions. p129 "It was golden brown on top, and when he sliced off a large chunk, he could see that the rich cake batter had enveloped the blueberries in the middle. He knew that Sheila mde her buckle from an old Newfoundland recipe that had been in her family for years. She told him that she divided the cake batter in half, and poured it in to the bottom of the cake pan. Then she mixed up the batter with the blueberries and added the topping which was kind of like a streusel. Once it started to bake, the batter would rise up around the fruit, causing the topping to start to buckle. That's where the blueberry buckle got its name." Sgt. Windflower loving his food, he tops this off with a scoop of ice cream which sounds utterly delicious.

Another sweet treat that often gets a mention are tea biscuits. Having googled, I discovered that these are very similar to British scones. (There's a recipe here.) p108 "Tizzard and Windflower laughed and almost simultaneously broke open their tea biscuits and watched as the steam escaped. Then they smothered both sides in butter and for a few brief moments were completely silent, as they savoured their morning treat."

Fish & Brewis with Scrunchions photo courtest of Wikipedia on their "Fish and Brewis" page

Another traditional Newfoundland recipe that gets a mention is fish and brewis. p156 "My friends showed me," said the other man, forking a generous heap of the salt fish and brewis into his mouth. "It's easy enough if you've got some salt fish and hard tack. Although I had to ask them what 'ard tack' was. Who would have thought that it was these rock hard Purity biscuits? And who could have imagined that they would taste so good fried up with a bit of fat pork and salt fish?"

If you're worried about your waistline having read all that, I'll finish off with a lovely-sounding salad. p170 "The menu for dinner included a Matane Shrimp Salad with field greens, Coq au Vin as the main course, and Chocolate Lava Cake for dessert. The salad featured a dozen or so tasty shrimps from the Gulf of St. Lawrence with small pieces of celery and avocado in a dressing that had a taste of lemon and a bite of horseradish. It was presented on a bed of mixed green lettuce, and along with fresh, hot rolls from the kitchen, was absolutely delicious."

If this has got you hungry for more, the ever-hungry Sgt Windflower's adventures can be followed in Mike Martin's Beneath The Surface, which I reviewed here.

A special mention also goes to the lovely Karen at Lavender & Lovage who has recently been to Newfoundland and tried out some of these lovely dishes and more in person. 

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

#ReadCookEat recipe : Lemon scones (inspired by Above All Things by Tanis Rideout)


  1. Oh what a fab foodie review of the book! I wonder what partridge berries are. A fascinating glimpse in the local cuisine. Thank you, Cheryl!

  2. Oh, so much food in that book. That's lovely indeed!