Cloudberries, Tea Buns & Chocolate Shoes:
A Postcard from Newfoundland, Atlantic Canada
Dreams are made of this…….
Bite-sized Chunks of my Culinary Adventures in Newfoundland:
Part Two – Friendship and the Journey Continues……
The light seeped through the curtains in my hotel room and as I opened my eyes I realised it wasn’t raining…….in fact there appeared to be rays of early morning sun streaking over the walls and bouncing off the bedside table. Day two in St John’s Newfoundland had arrived and on blearily checking the time, I released with a shock that it wasn’t so much early morning, but the crack of dawn as it was only 5:30 am – I was obviously still on UK and French time. (They were 4 and 5 hours ahead respectively) I opened the curtains and the magic of St John’s was laid out before me……the rosy glow of sugar-coated clapboard houses in a myriad of jelly bean colours glowed warm in the sun’s early rays, and I could just see the lapping of water against the hulls of boats in the port, it was different, exciting and almost looked like an old tapestry, faded here and there with the odd splash of bright hues and colours.
Today was my first full day since arriving and I so looking forward to meeting Lori Butler, the Island Chef and cooking alongside her, whilst we explored Newfoundland recipes and ingredients through her pantry, in fact Lori described it as “A tasting tour through my pantry. This will include bottled rabbit, bottled moose and other various preserves. I will show her the many berries that grow here including bakeapples, partridgeberries, blueberries, black currants and gooseberries. We will choose some of the berries to make a dessert”…..
…….Amy Fisher from the Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism board collected me after a rather stunning breakfast of Lobster Benedict was enjoyed at the Sheraton Hotel’s excellent OPPIDAN restaurant…..tender chunks of fresh local lobster were sat provocatively on a toasted muffin with a poached egg, all doused in Hollandaise sauce and served with “breakfast potatoes” which were crispy little morsels of fried potatoes with a crumb and black pepper coating – it was an excellent start to the day.
Amy drove me to Lori’s home where her mother-in-law was also waiting to greet me, Regina and the three of us never stopped “gassing” and laughing all day! The table was set for breakfast and I was immediately struck about how “British” it all looked……blue willow pattern plates were set out along with cups and sauces and a big teapot was filled and refilled all day…….the food I was about to learn about and enjoy may not have been familiar, but the hospitality and friendship that Lori and Regina offered me was wonderfully warm and welcoming, as we discussed, debated and delighted in familiar and some unfamiliar recipes (and ingredients) common to all of us.
There is something very comforting about the realisation that traditional and family recipes are loved and cherished wherever you travel in the world, and I was surprised and delighted to see that many traditional Newfoundland recipes most definitely have their roots in Ireland and Great Britain, but with the addition of some popular local ingredients that make it their own. As well as some familiar names such as Figgy Duff, Raisin Bread, Fish Cakes, Fruit Cakes, Scones, Peas Pudding and Date Squares, I learned about (and watched Lori make) Fish and Brewis, Newfoundland style Fish Cakes with Summer Savoury, Toutons, Molasses Raisin Bread and Tea Buns, and then in time-honoured fashion, we all sat down around the table to enjoy what had been made, with a pot of tea!
So, what are these wonderful Newfoundland recipes? Well, here’s a list of what they are, what they are made of and how you would serve them:
Pronounced tout(rhymes with pout)-ens and NOT toot-ons as I pronounced it, French style!
Fried white bread dough in the style of pancakes or hotcakes; serve with butter and molasses, traditionally made with leftover bread dough for a filling after work or school snack – also made for breakfast and brunch. Lori made hers with some freshly made white bread, she shaped them into a pancake and then fried them in pork fat that she had rendered from some back fat. We then enjoyed them with butter and molasses.
Fish and Brewis:
Pronounced: Fish and Bruise or Brews
Fish is always cod in Newfoundland and this is a traditional recipe made with salt cod and hard bread (Hard Tack or Ship’s Biscuits) both of which are soaked overnight; the cooked dish is then served with Scrunchions, which are small pieces of fried pork fat similar to pork scratchings in the UK. It is thought that the recipe was devised by fisherman who were at sea for a long time, and this seems wholly feasible if you look at the ingredients. salt cod and hard tack would have been common on boats and ships.
Newfoundland Fish Cakes:
Traditionally made with salt cod, onions, summer savoury and always mixed with HOT mashed potatoes to make them light and fluffy. Lori made hers with all of the above ingredients, but the recipe varies throughout the province and some people omit the savoury and make them with fresh cod. Again, Lori fried these in rendered pork fat and served them with a selection of home-made pickles – Zucchini Pickle, Rhubarb Relish, Bread and Butter Pickles and Pickled Beets. We also enjoyed some fried White Pudding from Halliday’s Meat Market in St John’s and Lori’s home-made bread.
A staple in many Newfoundland kitchens, these are similar to non egg-enriched scones, and have raisins in them. They are often made with evaporated milk and the leavening agent is baking powder, similar to American Biscuits. Lori served hers with molasses, jam and some tinned “Fussell’s Thick Cream”. (There was a shortage of this cream over the Christmas period Lori told me and people took to social media to swap, beg or borrow a tin for the festive period!
I will be making all of these recipes over the next few weeks and will share my adapted recipes here, as well as Lori’s notes and recipe ideas too, so keep popping back! We ended the morning with another cup of tea before Amy came to collect us all for a special trip to the Newfoundland Chocolate Company.……situated in the centre of St John’s this wonderful chocolate company has a very loyal following and having tasted their chocolates, I can see why.
We were welcomed to the store and chocolaterie by Shaun and Lauren, who sounded very British and were indeed from Blighty! Shaun “came for the girl and stayed for the chocolate” he said, and Lauren’s family were originally from Newfoundland, although she was born in Britain. The shop is an Aladdin’s cave of chocolates; they adorn each and every wall and there are even “bouquet’s” of edible chocolate roses on a central table…….and amongst the elegance and cocoa decadence was a bag of chocolates that made me chortle, a bag of Shag-Ups! The name obviously doesn’t have the same smutty connotations as it does in the UK and apparently it means something that is not quite right………so, it would be appear that all the broken or misshapen chocolates are then made into shag-ups – same delicious taste but not quite the shape they should be!
Shaun and Lauren took us “behind the scenes” and then we then ended our tour with a “chocolate tasting” session, which was extremely interesting. With thanks to Shaun and Lauren for my tour, my GORGEOUS goodie bag filled with chocolates and the Newfoundland Chocolate Company for allowing us to see behind the scenes……if you are ever in St John’s, make sure you head for Duckworth! My favourite chocolates from the visit were these delightful “Jelly Bean Houses” all in a row……they look good and they taste delicious, especially the Wild Berry ones.
Day one may be over, but please check back next week for part three, that’s my NIGHT in St John’s on an amazing St. John’s Food Tour: A taste of Newfoundland, old and new. Follow me on a guided food tour through the streets of Downtown St. John’s. I visit four of the top restaurants in the city and taste their specially selected offerings with paired beverages and an explanation of each dish, it was nothing short of sublime and I am eager to share it with you in part three. I will also be sharing some notes from Mallard Cottage in Quid Vidi Village too, so stay tuned! Karen
PS: Where do the Cloudberries come in? Well, I baked my OWN Newfoundland dessert at Lori’s house – she let me loose on her preserves and I made a Bakeapple Pudding with her bottled Bakeapples, which are also known as Cloudberries. Recipe to follow soon.
Disclaimer: I was the guest of the Canadian Tourism Commission and Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism and all my flights, accommodation and meals were included, as well as all trips, excursions and special cookery sessions with local chefs. With profound thanks to all the people and organisations that looked after me and made my trip so memorable and exciting. With a special thanks to Lori and Regina for such a fabulous day, and for making me feel so welcome.
Links to my other Atlantic Canada Eats Posts are here:
The Featured Herb of my Visit – Summer Savoury/Savory: