Sticky toffee pudding, seafood stew and wild rice salad are holiday winners

Chefs and cookbook authors Lynn Crawford, owner of Ruby Watchco in Toronto, and Lisa Ahier of SoBo restaurant in Tofino, B.C., like to incorporate local and fresh food into holiday meals and get-togethers.

Here are some of their recipes to try this festive season.

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake With Eggnog Mousse and Cranberry Caramel

This recipe is a family favourite of Lynn Crawford, restaurant owner, cookbook author and host of such Food Network Canada shows as "Pitchin' In" and "Restaurant Makeover." She has updated it by creating a decadent accompaniment of eggnog mousse and cranberry caramel.

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 1 hour

Cranberry Caramel

250 ml (1 cup) sugar

45 ml (3 tbsp) 35 per cent cream

45 ml (3 tbsp) unsalted butter

45 ml (3 tbsp) dried cranberries

Eggnog Mousse

45 ml (3 tbsp) dark rum

45 ml (3 tbsp) brandy

1 envelope (15 ml/1 tbsp) unflavoured gelatin

3 large eggs, whites and yolks separated

250 ml (1 cup) sugar, divided

500 ml (2 cups) heavy cream

5 ml (1 tsp) ground cinnamon

2 ml (1/2 tsp) freshly grated nutmeg

0.5 ml (1/8 tsp) ground cloves

10 ml (2 tsp) pure vanilla extract

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake

50 ml (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan

375 ml (1 1/2 cups) sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for pan

375 ml (1 1/2 cups) chopped pitted dates

5 ml (1 tsp) baking powder

2 ml (1/2 tsp) sea salt

250 ml (1 cup) sugar

5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract

2 large eggs

White chocolate shavings, for garnish

Cranberry Caramel: In a medium saucepan, cook sugar over medium-low heat, stirring slowly with a fork until sugar is melted and pale gold. Cook caramel, gently swirling pan until deep golden.

Remove from heat and carefully add cream and butter.

Return to heat and simmer, stirring until caramel is dissolved.

Remove from heat and stir in dried cranberries

Eggnog Mousse: Prepare an ice bath; set aside.

In a small bowl, combine spirits. Sprinkle with gelatin; let soften, about 5 minutes.

In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, combine egg yolks and 125 ml (1/2 cup) of the sugar; whisk until mixture is pale and fluffy, 2 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in gelatin mixture.

Set bowl over pan again; cook, whisking, until gelatin has dissolved, about 3 minutes.

Transfer bowl to ice bath; scrape down sides of bowl and whisk until cooled slightly, 1 to 2 minutes.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine remaining 125 ml (1/2 cup) sugar with cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and vanilla. Whisk until stiff peaks form. Fold one-third of whipped cream into gelatin mixture, then gently fold gelatin mixture into remaining whipped cream.

In a clean bowl of the electric mixer, whisk egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold into cream mixture.

Transfer to a serving dish; cover. Chill until firm, at least 30 minutes or overnight. Serve chilled, garnished with caramel and other recommended toppings.

Cake: Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F). Butter and flour a 28-by-23-cm (11-by-9-inch) pan.

Bring dates and 300 ml (1 1/4 cups) water to a boil in a medium heavy saucepan with tall sides. Remove from heat; stir in baking soda. Set aside; let cool.

In a small bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl and using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and vanilla to blend. Add 1 egg; beat to blend. Add half the flour mixture and half the date mixture; beat to blend. Repeat with remaining 1 egg, flour mixture and date mixture.

Pour batter into pan.

Bake until a tester inserted into centre of cake comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes.

Invert pudding onto rack. When cool, cut cake into 6 portions.

To serve, first place a piece of the sticky toffee pudding cake on a plate, then pour cranberry caramel on top, finish with a scoop of the eggnog mousse. Finish with shaving white chocolate on top of the mousse.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: Chef Lynn Crawford with Egg Farmers of Canada (


Left Coast Seafood Stew

This rich bouillabaisse is named in a nod to Tofino's left-leaning, free-thinking attitude. It's West Coast in all its bountiful glory.

"It's a great dish for Christmas Eve or holiday entertaining. ... It's relatively simple once the broth is made," says Lisa Ahier. "Fast, good to eat, very heartwarming, very soulful and filling."

It's no problem to mix and match the seafood to your own taste.

Serve with some crusty bread on the side for soaking up leftover broth.

To debeard mussels, scrape the hairs off the outer shells under running water. With a paring knife, delicately twist/cut off the hairy "beard" at the base of the mussel (don't pull so hard as to damage the interior mussel).

To clean clams, soak them in a bowl of cold water for 20 minutes. Lift them out by hand or with a slotted spoon so that whatever sand or sediment that was ejected by the live clams remains in the bowl.


1 bulb fennel, white only, thinly sliced

30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil

2 leeks, whites only, thinly sliced

1/2 medium red onion, diced small

50 ml (1/4 cup) minced garlic (10 to 12 cloves)

5 ml (1 tsp) saffron threads

500 ml (2 cups) small-diced tomatoes (2 to 3 medium tomatoes)

125 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine

1 l (4 cups) fish stock


6 medium red potatoes, cut into 2.5-cm (1-inch) cubes

50 ml (1/4 cup) butter

Salt and pepper, to taste

15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

4 pieces (each 175 g/6 oz) halibut, ling cod or combination

500 g (1 lb) live mussels, scrubbed and debearded

500 g (1 lb) live clams, scrubbed and free of sand

8 large raw shrimp or prawns, peeled and deveined

50 ml (1/4 cup) Red Pepper Aioli (recipe follows)

1 Dungeness crab, cleaned and steamed for 12 minutes (optional)

Broth: In a medium saucepan over low heat, saute fennel in olive oil for 2 minutes. Add leeks, red onion and garlic and saute for another 3 to 4 minutes. Add saffron threads and saute for 2 minutes, then add tomatoes and sweat until all vegetables are tender.

Increase heat to medium, add white wine and reduce for 1 minute. Add fish stock and simmer broth, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Stew: Preheat oven to 190 C (375 F). In a small saucepan, place potatoes and add just enough cold water to cover them. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. The potatoes should be just cooked through, tender enough to be easily pierced by a fork but not mushy. Strain potatoes and make sure they are as dry as possible before roasting.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Add potatoes with salt and pepper, and toss in butter until coated. Place potatoes on a baking sheet and bake in centre of oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until they are golden-brown, crispy croutons.

Meanwhile, lightly oil another baking sheet with 15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil. Season both sides of the halibut with salt and pepper. Place fish on baking sheet and drizzle a little more olive oil over top. Bake for about 10 minutes or until opaque throughout (try to time this so potatoes and fish finish at the same time; the fish should be on a higher rack than the potatoes).

While potatoes and fish are baking, increase heat under broth to high and add mussels and clams to pot. Cover and steam them for 1 to 2 minutes, then reduce heat to medium and add prawns for another 1 to 2 minutes. Discard any mussels or clams that do not open. The prawns should be pink but not overcooked.

Divide baked fish pieces among 4 bowls. Ladle shellfish and broth over top. Top with crispy potato croutons and drizzle with red pepper aioli.

If you are using crab, evenly divide crabmeat among bowls of stew once plated. For visual effect, lay a few of the legs and claws on top.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: "The SoBo Cookbook" by Lisa Ahier with Andrew Morrison (Appetite by Random House, 2014).


Red Pepper Aioli

1 egg yolk

125 ml (1/2 cup) pureed roasted red pepper

30 ml (2 tbsp) lemon juice (1 medium lemon)

30 ml (2 tbsp) white wine vinegar

20 ml (4 tsp) minced garlic (4 to 6 cloves)

5 ml (1 tsp) smoked paprika

250 ml (1 cup) olive oil

2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt (approx)

In a food processor, combine egg yolk, red pepper puree, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic and paprika. Pulse for 2 seconds. With motor running, drizzle oil in slowly until mixture becomes creamy. Add salt to taste. Refrigerate mixture for up to 2 to 3 days.

Makes 250 ml (1 cup).

Source: "The SoBo Cookbook" by Lisa Ahier with Andrew Morrison (Appetite by Random House, 2014).


Wild Rice and Dried Berry Salad

Lisa Ahier says she likes the contrasting flavours and textures of this salad. The pecans are crunchy, the fruit is chewy and the rice has a texture somewhere in between. It can be served on its own or over a bed of baby field greens.

"That's a really good Christmas dish and it goes great with turkey, chicken, well, anything. You can put any protein with it. It's good at room temperature or hot," she says.

250 ml (1 cup) uncooked wild rice

1 l to 1.25 l (4 to 5 cups) vegetable stock or water

1 ml (1/4 tsp) salt

50 ml (1/4 cup) pecan halves

50 ml (1/4 cup) dried cranberries

50 ml (1/4 cup) dried cherries

3 green onions, thinly sliced

50 ml (1/4 cup) mix of cranberry and orange juice

15 ml (1 tbsp) orange zest

Salt, to taste

Rinse rice under cold water until water runs clear. Place rice, stock and salt in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 45 minutes or until rice is tender, adding more stock if necessary.

Preheat oven to 200 C (400 F).

While rice is cooking, toast pecans on a baking sheet in oven for about 5 minutes.

When rice is cooked, rinse it again to cool and then drain.

Mix rice with pecans, dried fruit, green onions, fruit juice and orange zest. Season with salt.

Makes 4 servings as a side salad.

Source: "The SoBo Cookbook" by Lisa Ahier with Andrew Morrison (Appetite by Random House, 2014).