Julian Armstrong is a writer whose specialty is Quebec, including its chefs, food and drink producers, and restaurateurs.
Her new cookbook "Made in Quebec: A Culinary Journey" is inspired by her years of travelling around the province and writing for the Montreal Gazette.
The recipes celebrate the best and freshest ingredients that Quebec has to offer. Here are three from the book to try.
Quiche aux legumes rotis (Roasted vegetable quiche)
Jane Livingston, an Eastern Townships caterer, likes to give familiar vegetables a bit of class by roasting them with herbs, then making them into a vegetarian quiche. You can vary the variety you choose, says Livingston. Yogurt and cheese enrich this combination. If desired, omit the pie shell and cook the vegetables in a baking dish.
1 l (4 cups) sliced fall vegetables of your choice (carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, zucchini, parsnips)
45 ml (3 tbsp) olive oil
15 ml (1 tbsp) fresh thyme leaves
15 ml (1 tbsp) fresh rosemary leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
125 ml (1/2 cup) plain yogurt or whole milk
175 ml (3/4 cup) shredded aged cheddar cheese
1 deep-dish ready-made frozen pie shell (optional)
Preheat oven to 190 C (375 F). Oil a baking pan large enough to hold vegetables.
Cut onions, if using, into 8 pieces each. Peel and slice remaining vegetables so they are about the same size. In a large bowl, toss vegetables with oil to coat well. Season with thyme, rosemary and generous pinches of salt and pepper.
Place vegetables in the prepared pan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil, stir vegetables, reduce oven temperature to 180 C (350 F) and roast, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for another 20 minutes.
In the same large bowl, beat eggs with yogurt. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in 50 ml (1/4 cup) of the cheese. Add vegetables, mix well and pour into frozen pie shell spreading mixture out evenly. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until centre doesn't jiggle when the pan is gently shaken.
Makes 3 to 4 servings.
Pate chinois (Fresh and healthy shepherd's pie)
"They say shepherd's pie is Quebec's national dish," says Armstrong. "It's in every little restaurant called pate chinois."
In "Made in Quebec," she offers several explanations for the name, which translates as Chinese pie. Folklore attributes the recipe to a town in Maine called China, which in fact was not the case, though the pie was found throughout New England where thousands of French Canadians found work after leaving Quebec between 1850 and 1930.
Montreal food historian Jean-Pierre Lemasson sought to uncover the mystery too and speculated the dish had something to do with the appliance used to mash potatoes, whether that was a ricer or the chef's conical strainer called a chinois. But he ultimately has decided that "the true original and Chinese name are lost in time."
Louis Rheaume, a multi-talented Montreal chef, likes to reduce the fat in traditional recipes and increase the vegetables. Armstrong calls his easy and comforting, yet healthy, variation on shepherd's pie an example that is "simply delicious."
"It's made with squash and it's healthier and it's good," she says.
1 spaghetti squash
4 ml (3/4 tsp) salt, plus extra for sprinkling
Pinches freshly ground pepper
60 ml (4 tbsp) olive oil, plus extra for coating
1 large onion, finely chopped
750 g (1 1/2 lb) lean ground beef
5 ml (1 tsp) ground cumin, or more to taste
1 large sweet potato, peeled
2 ml (1/2 tsp) ground nutmeg, or to taste
125 g (4 oz) fresh spinach leaves
Chopped fresh thyme, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F). Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
Cut squash in half, scoop out seeds and filaments and sprinkle liberally with pinches of salt and pepper. Place both halves cut side down in prepared baking pan. Roast for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until tender to the fork but not mushy.
Meanwhile, in a large, heavy frying pan, heat 30 ml (2 tbsp) of the oil over medium heat and saute onion until softened, about 5 minutes. Add another 30 ml (2 tbsp) oil to pan and add beef, breaking it up with a fork. Cook until beef is browned. Season with 4 ml (3/4 tsp) salt, some grindings of pepper and cumin. Spread evenly in a 2-l (2-qt) baking pan.
Thinly slice sweet potato with a mandoline or a very sharp knife. Sprinkle with pinches of salt and pepper and drizzle with enough oil to coat. Set aside.
When squash is cooked, hold each half over a bowl and, using a fork, scrape out flesh. (It will form threads.) Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Arrange over meat in pan. Spread spinach leaves on top and sprinkle with thyme. Cover with sweet potato slices, overlapping them if necessary. Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
"The tarte tatin is fantastic. It's the best tarte tatin I've ever eaten and it's not too complicated," says Armstrong.
Montreal gastronomic teacher Rollande Desbois taught her how to make this version of upside-down apple pie during a course in classic French cooking, Armstrong writes.
Desbois advises using firm apples, or the filling will soften and the circles of apple wedges won't be as distinctive.
250 ml (1 cup) all-purpose flour
30 ml (2 tbsp) granulated sugar
75 ml (1/3 cup) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
45 ml (3 tbsp) ice water
1 kg (2 lb) cooking apples, such as Cortland, Spartan, Empire, Golden Delicious or Granny Smith
75 ml (1/3 cup) unsalted butter
75 ml (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
Pastry: In a mixing bowl, stir flour with salt and sugar. Add butter and cut it in using a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture is consistency of oatmeal.
Add water, mixing it in quickly with a fork or metal spatula, until pastry forms a ball. Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
Apples: Peel and core apples, cut in half, and cut each half into 3 wedges. In a heavy 23- to 25-cm (9- to 10-inch) frying pan with an ovenproof handle, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in sugar, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook butter mixture slowly, watching carefully and shaking the pan from time to time, until it turns a caramel colour. Be careful not to let it burn.
Arrange apple wedges closely together in circles on top of caramel and continue cooking until apples begin to soften and turn golden. Remove pan from heat and let cool.
Assembly: Preheat oven to 190 C (375 F). Roll out pastry on a floured surface to a circle about 5 cm (2 inches) wider than diameter of frying pan. Prick pastry all over with a fork. Spread pastry over apples in pan, tucking in edges and then crimping them. Bake for 40 minutes or until pastry is firm and lightly browned. Remove pan from oven and let stand for 5 minutes.
Wearing oven mitts, place a serving plate larger than pan upside down over pan. Grip plate and pan firmly on sides and turn over quickly. The tart should fall out onto plate. If some apples stick to pan or are knocked out of their rows, restore them to their place with a fork.
Serve tart warm. Do not refrigerate.
Makes 8 servings.
Source: "Made in Quebec: A Culinary Journey" by Julian Armstrong (HarperCollins Canada, 2014).