Between the ages of 12 and 16, when at school, I had the exact same lunch every day. Lunch break consisted of 45 minutes of rugby, 5 minutes of getting changed (no shower as I was a disgusting and typical teen) and 10 minutes of shoving as many calories as I could down my throat. The calorie mountain came in the form of Chips, Cheese and Beans. I would sprint from the sports hall, across the playground to the canteen and get there in time to get the dregs. Two ladles of chips, one of grated cheddar on top and then on top of it all a ladle of baked beans scraped from the bottom of the serving tray. The beans melted the cheese, which in turn made the chips soggy and turned the whole bowl into a glutenous mess which could be quickly shoved down. I loved it and never tired of it, and until today when I cooked Poutine I didn’t think I would have anything close again.
I’m into week 34 of cooking around the world and until this week I hadn’t been too surprised when looking into traditional dishes but Canada’s dish really shocked me. I expected influences from North America or more likely France, but Poutine was neither. In fact it reminded me more of scram you might get in North Yorkshire. Poutine is chips, cheese and gravy and not much more than that. Created in the 1950’s at a Montreal Truck Stop it has grown and grown and many Canadians believe it to be their national dish now – ahead of Pancakes and Maple Syrup (which I didn’t make as I find pretty nasty).
Poutine is pretty flexible in that it can be topped with whatever you like, but the basis of it is a mound of chips covered in cheese curd and then a thick beef gravy. Cheese curd is easy to get your hands on in Canada, but less so in West London. I did some research and found that Indian Paneeer cheese is curd so I used that, alongside mozzarella and some grated Monterey Jack. I used three cheeses as they all melt differently and that is important as it adds some texture to otherwise a very sloppy dish. To make the gravy I made a roux with flour and butter and then added two cups of beef stock. I slapped it all on one large plate and topped with chopped frankfurters! Classy.
It’s a very comforting dish, probably best eaten on a snowy night in December – and that is probably why it is so popular in Canada!! Make it, but not often as apparently each portion tops 800 calories!