Traditional Indigenous foods with a modern twist

Caitlin Connelly/The Social
In the new book Indigenous Fusion, chef and author David Wolfman combines traditional Indigenous cuisine with the flavours and cooking techniques of other cultures. 

Chef Wolfman recently stopped by The Social’s studio to show off some of those modern recipes. 

Cod Martinis with Strawberry Peach Salsa
Makes 8 servings

  • 8 oz (225 g) fresh cod (previously frozen), skin removed
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) minced jalapeno pepper (or serrano pepper) 
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) small diced tomato 1 tsp (5 mL) kosher salt (or sea salt)
  • Pinch fresh ground black pepper 
  • For the salsa:
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) minced fresh mint 
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) grapefruit juice
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1⁄4 tsp (1 mL) ground cumin 
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) minced garlic
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) minced fresh cilantro 
  • 1 cup (250 mL) small-diced fresh peaches, skin on (or canned and drained peaches) 
  • 1 cup (250 mL) small-diced strawberries 
  • Optional garnish:
  • 1⁄2 red onion, sliced paper thin 

  1. Small-dice the fish and place in a nonreactive bowl (glass, ceramic or stainless steel) with the lime juice, jalapeno pepper, tomato, salt and pepper, and allow to briefly marinate in the fridge while you pre- pare the dressing for the salsa. Set the bowl over ice while you prepare the salsa. 
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the minced mint with the grapefruit juice, oil, cumin, garlic and cilantro. Add the peaches and strawberries and toss. Set aside. 
  3. To serve, use a slotted spoon to scoop salsa into martini glasses. Drain the fish and scoop over the salsa. Garnish with the onion if using. 
  4. Serve chilled, keeping refrigerated in a bowl set over ice until the minute you are ready to use it. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 24 hours, after draining off excess liquid. 

Note: If you make the salsa a day ahead, it will taste a lot better but the fish will toughen the longer it sits in the acidic mixture, so you should plan to serve it within one to two hours of making it.

Sexy Duck Legs with Balsamic Glaze
Makes 4 servings

  • 1 wooden skewer
  • 4 duck legs
  • 2 tbsp chicken spice mix
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp orange zest, for serving (optional)
  • 1 cup mixed salad greens, for serving (optional)

  1. Poke three or four holes in the skin of each duck leg using a skewer. Season the legs with the Sexy Chicken Spice Mix and let stand for 30 minutes in a nonreactive dish (glass, ceramic or stainless steel) at room temperature. Rub the oil on the legs, and let stand for five minutes. 
  2. Heat barbecue to medium heat (350F/175C). 
  3. When the barbecue reaches temperature, turn down the heat on one of the burners to 300F (150C). Brown legs for four to five minutes, skin side down, in the high temperature zone and with the lid down, without moving them so that their skin doesn’t tear and also so that they develop good colour. 
  4. Move the legs to the lower heat zone of the barbecue and cook, turning frequently and keeping the lid down. Cook duck legs until they reach an internal temperature of 165F (75C). Use a thermometer to test the temperature. 
  5. Remove legs from heat and let rest, loosely covered with foil, while you prepare the glaze. 
  6. Serve duck with Balsamic Glaze and garnish with orange zest and greens if using. 

For the balsamic glaze
Makes ½ cup

  • 1 ¼ cups balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (or sea salt)
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves

  1. Combine the vinegar, maple syrup, salt and ground cloves in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a low simmer over very low heat and allow the liquid to reduce by three-quarters, stirring occasionally. Do not allow this to burn! 
  2. Once the mixture reaches a thick consistency (after about five to eight minutes), remove from heat. Brush some glaze on the duck legs or pour glaze into a squeeze bottle and use to make decorative drops or patterns on the serving plates. 

Mexican Chocolate Spice Cake
Makes 8 servings

  • 2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) ground cinnamon
  • 11⁄2 tsp (7.5 mL) cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup (250 mL) butter, plus 1 tsp (5mL) for greasing baking pan
  • 1⁄2 cup (120 mL) sifted cocoa powder, plus 1 tbsp (15 mL) for dusting
  • 3⁄4 cup (180 mL) brewed black coffee at room temperature 
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups (475 mL) sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup (120 mL) buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) vanilla
  • 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) icing sugar 
  • Handful fresh raspberries, to serve (optional)
  • Whipped cream, to serve

  1. Preheat oven to 375F (190C).
  2. Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon and cayenne into a mixing bowl. Sift again. Set aside. 
  3. Melt 1 cup (250 mL) butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add 1⁄2 cup (120 mL) cocoa powder and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the coffee and heat to lukewarm. Remove from heat. 
  4. Add the eggs, sugar, buttermilk and vanilla to the cocoa mixture and stir to combine. Whisk in the dry ingredients very lightly. Small lumps are okay. 
  5. Butter a 9 by 9 inch (23 × 23 cm) cake pan and dust with cocoa powder. Pour in the batter. 
  6. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cake cool for 20 min- utes, covered with a clean tea towel before loosening edges and inverting onto a serving plate. 
  7. Sift icing sugar onto the top of the cake. Serve with fresh berries or whipped cream if desired. 

Garlic Elk Short Ribs in Sour Cherry Sauce

Makes 4 servings

  • 3 lb (1.5 kg) bone-in elk short ribs
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) kosher salt, divided (or sea salt) 
  • 11⁄2 tsp (7.5 mL) ground black pepper, divided 
  • 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) pure olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups (475 mL) chopped carrot
  • 2 cups (475 mL) chopped onion
  • 1 cup (250 mL) chopped celery
  • 2 dried bay leaves 1 tsp (5 mL) dried oregano
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) dried rosemary
  • 5 tsp (25 mL) sliced garlic
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) tomato paste
  • 2 cups (475 mL) red wine
  • 3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 4 cups (1 L) store-bought unsalted beef stock
  • 1 cup (250 mL) canned sour cherries, with juice 
  • Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350F (175C).
  2. Season ribs with half of the salt and pepper. 
  3. Heat a Dutch oven over very low heat for 10 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of the oil. Raise the heat to medium-high and brown the ribs in two batches, adding another tablespoon (15 mL) of oil as needed. Transfer the ribs to a large bowl. 
  4. Add the rest of the oil to the Dutch oven and cook the carrot, onion and celery for four minutes. Add the bay leaves, oregano, rosemary and garlic, and cook for two minutes. 
  5. Dust the pot with the flour and mix well, cook for two minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for two more minutes. 
  6. Add the red wine and parsley, and mix well using a whisk. 
  7. Heat the stock in a microwave or on the stovetop almost to the boiling point. Add the stock, all of the cherry juice and half of the sour cherries, and the remaining salt and pepper (save the other half of the cherries to garnish the dish). Bring mixture to a simmer. 
  8. Return the reserved ribs to the pot. Cover and bake ribs at 350F (175C) for two hours, stirring periodically. 
  9. Once the meat is fork tender, check that it has reached 165F (75C). Remove the ribs from the sauce and place them in a serving dish. Keep warm. 
  10. Strain the sauce into a clean pot and let reduce over medium heat until it thickens (about 5 to 10 minutes). 
  11. Serve ribs with sauce and reserved sour cherries sprinkled on top, and parsley, if using. 


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