A Canadian First Nations Staple Recipe
Whilst travelling in Canada recently, I saw the emergence of more and more First Nations restaurants and cafes in the towns and cities I visited, where Bannocks, Fry Bread and Indian Tacos are the signature dishes at most of these authentic indigenous eateries; and, whilst eating in these restaurants, I learned that the bannock is more than just daily bread to the First Nations Peoples of North America, it’s a symbol of their identity, history and culture, it’s so important, that The Ministry of Forests produced Bannock Awareness in commemoration of Aboriginal Awareness Day, which is celebrated annually on the 21st day of June. I was fascinated with the Canadian First Nations’ Bannock, as being part Scottish, I know bannocks as a traditional Scottish recipe, and although the bannock in Canada is reputed to have come across with the Scottish fur traders who worked with and for the Hudson’s Bay Company, there is also evidence that the Indigenous Peoples already had their own bannock type recipe, which the following article by Michael Blackstock explains:
“The Aboriginal staff of life, Bannock, is common to the diet of virtually all North America’s first peoples. The European version of bannock originated in Scotland and was made traditionally of oatmeal. The bannock of Aboriginal people was made of corn and nut meal, and flour made from ground plant bulbs. There were many regional variations of bannock that included different types of flour, and the addition of dried or fresh fruit. Traditionally, First Nation groups cooked their bannock by various methods. Some rolled the dough in sand then pit-cooked it. When it was done, they brushed the sand off and ate the bread. Some groups baked the bannock in clay or rock ovens. Other groups wrapped the dough around a green, hardwood stick and toasted it over an open fire. Pioneers may have introduced leavened breads to the Aboriginal people. The use of leavened breads spread and adapted from there. Pioneers also introduced cast-iron frying pans that made cooking bannock quicker and easier. Today, bannock is most often deep-fried, pan-fried and oven-baked. Bannock is one of the most popular and widespread native foods served at pow wows, Indian cowboy rodeos, festivals, and family gatherings.”
I am sharing two recipes today, one for Bannocks, but the Fry Bread variety, and one for Indian Tacos, the bannock recipe was found here: Basic Bannock Recipe (Fried or Stick-cooked), and I changed the measurements to metric for use in Europe and Australasia. Michael Blackstock also shares a recipe for Indian Tacos, but I tried to replicate today’s recipe from the dish I enjoyed at Feast Cafe and Bistro in Winnipeg, so, my recipe is slightly different to his, which is shared below:
Cook the Navajo Fry bread in cooking oil that has two tablespoons of lime juice added.
Top the cooked bannock with: chilli, shredded strong cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, chopped tomato and onion (sour cream and salsa are optional).
– Michael Blackstock –
Navajo Fry Bread (Bannock)
3 cups unbleached flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup milk mixed with
3/4 cup hot water (hot enough so mixed liquid is almost too hot to touch)
1 tbsp oil or shortening
oil or shortening for deep-frying (heated to 360°F)
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl. Stir in milk/water mixture and knead briefly with lightly oiled hands until smooth. Rub the remainder of the one tbsp of oil over the dough. Cover and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Pat or roll enough dough to fit in the palm of your hand in a circle about 1/8” thick (at least, a touch thicker is better). Deep-fry the dough in hot oil or shortening for about one minute per side, or until golden brown. Makes 10-12 pieces.
– Aboriginal Tourism – Native Cuisine –
I was very pleased with the way my fried bannocks turned out, and even happier with my Indian Taco! I’ve shared both recipes below, and I think they’d be wonderful for an alternative family mid-week supper, or for a TV sports day or weekend, with a beer or two. (Six Nations Rugby I’m thinking at the moment!) Fry Bread Bannocks are definitely on my weekly menu now, as well as the baked versions that I have seen, more akin the original Scottish bannocks recipe my grandmother used to make; they can be made sweet or savoury, and as a quick unleavened bread, they are a Godsend for frazzled cooks with not much time on their hands. This is the first in a new series of Canadian recipes I will be sharing, so do keep popping back to see more recipes from Canada, both historical and modern.
Before I go, I’d like to share a list of some of the First Nation’s cafes and restaurants in Canada – if you know of any more that I may have missed, do please let me know in the comments below! I hope you will try my Bannocks (Fry Bread) and Indian Taco recipes, and DO let me know if you make them, and how you enjoyed them. I will also be back very soon with a new post, “Why Not Winnipeg in the Winter”, based on a recent press trip to the city, and with lots of activities you can enjoy, as well as places to eat in the city…….have a great week, Karen
Canadian First Nations Restaurants: