When you type in searches for French-Canadian soups on the internet you get a plethora of results. “Plethora” is one of my favourite words. That and the Spanish “desafortunadamente,” which gets me every time.
Jess sent me this beauty, passed down from the Iroquois nation. I decided, however, that the ingredients were slightly too close to the hodgepodge I made earlier, and I want to give you guys some variety.
There are also a ton of recipes out there for a yellow split pea soup that is quintessentially French-Canadian. Turn the peas green and you get pea soup from the Maritimes. Thicken it up a little and steam it in a wee bag and you get pease pudding from the Atlantic.
I dislike all pea soups. Sorry. You won’t see one here.
If you happen to Google “French-Canadian bean soup” you get further interesting results. Apparently, Arthur Flegenheimer (who went by the name of Dutch Schultz), was a rum-runner and all-out nasty mobster during Prohibition in the US in the early part of the 20th century (as a bit of Canadiana for you, pretty much all the contraband booze smuggled onto American soil during that time came from Canada, which wasn’t really into teetotalling). Anyway, while using the men’s room at a New Jersey hotel, Schultz was repeatedly shot. It took him about two and a half hours to die of his wounds, and when the police arrived to arrest the dying man, one of the officers recorded his words. One sentence involved “French-Canadian bean soup.” Who knew? These words have been turned into all sorts of literature, most notably that of Hunter S. Thompson. Weird stuff.
But we’re making soup here, not discussing books.
I cobbled together a recipe from here, here, and also from Jess’s suggestion above.
Preheat your oven to 400°F.
First, I got myself some local fall vegetables, some sweet potatoes and an acorn squash. Use whatever squash you like. Or none at all. Soups are pretty fluid, both conceptually and literally. Ha. Ha.
Slice up your squash and remove the seeds.
Slice up some sweet potato too.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
Roast them until they’re browning at the edges and fragrant, about 45 minutes. Remember to flip them every once in a while.
Meanwhile, drain and rinse 3 cans of beans. I used romano, white kidney, and chickpea. Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) seem to be consistent throughout these recipes, so I would make sure to use that one. But other people use cannelini beans and lima beans and whatever else they have on hand.
Dice up an onion. I have two halves of a red and a white so I’m going with that one.
Chuck the onion in a large saucepan with some minced garlic and some dried herbs, such as basil, and sauté until tender.
Dice up some carrots and celery and add those to the mix.
Plop in the beans as well.
Add 1 can diced tomatoes.
When your roasted vegetables are ready, peel off their skins, cube them up, and chuck them into the pot. Don’t fret too much about cutting up the squash super small — it will fall apart and smush itself as it simmers in the pot.
Cover with vegetable or chicken stock and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and allow to simmer for 30-40 minutes.
Now for the bannock. As a child, on every field trip we went that involved learning some aspect of Canadian history (the Goldrush, the Fur Trade, the Potlatch, the Salmon Fishery …) we ended up making bannock on green peeled sticks over a campfire. Every. Time.
As a result, bannock in my mind will forever taste of ashes and stick.
But you can make it in a skillet too. To avoid the taste of raw stick and ash.
Apparently, bannock is a Scottish flatbread, stolen from the Romans so very long ago. If you squint your eyes you can kind of see how the Latin panecium can be bastardized into the Gaelic bannock. Sure. But remember that so many different cultures make a form of flatbread. It’s some form of grain or bean flour plus water and heat and boom – flatbread. The First Nations people of Canada, in the course of their various interactions with European settlers (good or bad), adopted and adapted bannock such that it is also recognized by many to be part of a bunch of First Nation food traditions. Because it’s bread. Everyone eats bread.
Some recipes for bannock use dried milk powder and shortening to fluff up the bread, but I firmly believe that this should be a flatbread, made with the barest minimum of ingredients.
So. Dry ingredients. Mix together 1 cup flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 tablespoon sugar, and a pinch of salt.
Add enough water to form a dough and mix thoroughly. This will be dependent on the moisture content of the air and your flour. I added probably half a cup to this one. You want the dough to be slightly tacky.
Divide the dough into appropriate serving sizes and flatten into patties. Feel free to wrap a patty around a stick and shove it into a fire.
Or you can slip the patty onto a hot buttered skillet and fry, flipping halfway through, until both sides are golden brown.
Serve with honey, butter, jam, salsa, soup, spaghetti … whatever you want. It’s bread. It’s flexible.
More Words on Bannock
Art of Manliness: Baking in the Wild