I first discovered Boreal spices d’Origina through chef Martin Gagné of Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations in Wendake, Quebec. One of 80 chefs featured in my À la bonne franquette cookbook, he chose these indigeneous spices from Canada’s forests as his “coup de coeur” or fave local product.
From Labrador tea to sweet gale seeds, Boreal fruits, roots and leaves have long been known and used by First Nations to prepare infusions and cook food. Should Québec experience its very own Scandinavian-style food revolution as explicited in Claus Meyer’s Nordic Cuisine Manifesto (a foodie must-read here), Boreal spices may well be one of the first steps on the road leading back to our unique terroir.
Actually, more and more Québec chefs have started experimenting with distinctive local products and brands from d’Origina to Gaspésie sauvage. Add the rediscovery of elderberry and marsh samphire; the world-leading number of raw cheeses produced by our artisans (more than are made in France!); the appelation contrôlée sought by ice cider and the one already secured by Charlevoix lamb; plus, of course, the amazing unicity of our maple syrup; and there’s no doubt in my mind that Québec has the food riches needed to sound its own revolution.
Knowing that fear of trying new foods acts as a deterrent, d’Origina has created a trial kit with 5 spices: Sweet Gale Seeds, Peppery Green Alder, Wintergreen, Wild currant and Labrador Tea, in whole or powdered format. The Labrador Tea also comes in a second pouch for brewing the mellowest, subtlest tea you can ever wish for (of course I made a cuppa the moment I got home)
Also included in the kit is a brochure with sample recipes to test-drive your new spices:
• Zucchini and Sweet Gale Seed Gaspacho
• Raspberry Ostrich Carpaccio with Peppery Green Alder
• Apple, Brie and Wintergreen Power Filo Pastry Puff
• Grilled Salmon Steak with the Subtlety of Wild Currant Wonder
• Confit Lamb Parmentier with Wintergreen Powder
• Sautéed Veal with Sweet Gale Seed
• Cranberry and Orange Clafoutis with Labrador Tea Spice
It makes a wonderful hostess gift for that food lover in your entourage. And of course, with its friendly $15* price tag (what I paid at Moulin aux Épices in the Laurentians’ Piedmont), it’s the perfect chance for you to experiment.
Here’s the first recipe I tested for you from the booklet enclosed. There are also many recipes on the d’Origina website that you may want to try your hand at or just peruse to make up your mind.
So, how about we start Québec’s food revolution right here and now? And if they say I’m a dreamer, then surely I’m not the only one…
* On the d’Origina website, you can also find a gift box for $49.99.
Zucchini and Sweet Gale Seed Gaspacho
Pair with Pinot Griogio from Northern Italy or California.
• 500 ml (2 cups) uncooked zucchini, partly peeled then cubed
• 5 ml (1 tsp) ground sweet gale seeds
• 20 ml (4 tsp) grapeseed oil
• 125 ml (1/2 cup) chicken or vegetable broth (I used vegetable to make this vegetarian)
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• 1 tomato, diced
1. Cut 8 thin slices of zucchini and reserve for garnish.
2. In the food pro, purée zucchini, sweet gale, oil and broth. Season to taste.
3. Serve in small cups or bowls, garnished with zucchini slices and diced tomato.
Sweet gale seeds, which are tangier than their name would let you think, remind me of a strong oregano.