Bannock: The North's Comfort Food

BANNOCK: THE NORTH'S COMFORT FOOD

Bannock has been a northern favourite for centuries. Its ingredients are basic - water, flour, baking soda and lard, plus sugar or salt, depending on whether  you want dinner or dessert. Classic bannock has a smoky, almost nutty flavour blended with a buttery taste, while dessert bannock can have flavours resembling a donut or shortbread.

Making bannock is an art that takes years to perfect. Though the recipe may be simple, you'd be astonished at the sheer number of first-timers who've botched their would-be bannock.

ANYWAY YOU LIKE IT

Everyone makes it differently. Families pass recipes down from generation to generation. Naturally, everyone thinks theirs is best. If you do decide to take a crack at your very own bannock, be careful who you share it with - and do a taste-test first. A seasoned northerner with hundreds, even thousands, of bannock tastings under their belt won't shy away from informing you if your bannock isn't cutting it.

Versatility is where bannock shines. It can be cooked over practically any heat source, each resulting in a distinct flavour and texture. You can bake it in an oven or pan-fry it over a wood stove, but nothing beats cooking it over an open fire in the bush.

A hunter back in the old days could easily pack a bag of flour on his sled and go hunting for weeks, throwing the mixture over a campfire each night for a dinner in no time.

GET COOKING!

Aside from the basic ingredients, you can add practically anything on hand. Eggs and milk add some fluffiness. Raisins and cinnamon are delicious sweeteners. In the Dehcho region, locally picked blueberries are a common addition.

Want a taste of the North? We've shared a Dehcho bannock recipe below. Among the Dehcho are many master bannock-chefs, making it hard to choose just one recipe. We're lucky enough to share a bannock recipe by lifelong Fort Simpson resident Agnes Mcpherson. It's a classic, dating back to 1972. It originated with Elizabeth Horasay and was passed down to her son, David, who then passed it on to Agnes.

Agnes has become a master over the years and made the recipe her own. She's regularly asked to whip up some bannock for church services, family gatherings, community events and bake sales.

Try making it yourself. One final tip before you start: don't overknead the dough; make sure the ingredients are mixed well, then get cooking.

"AGGIES OVEN BAKED BANNOCK BISCUITS"

"Aggies Oven Baked Bannock Biscuits"
Makes a batch of approx. 24

What you will need:
  20 cups of flour
  3 tbsp baking powder
  1 tbsp salt
  3 cups of lard
  Water
  Rolling pins
  Baking sheet - greased with lard
  Round glass cup/empty clean soup can or cookie cutter

How to make it:

  • Pre-heat oven 400°F and set rack(s) to lowest level.
  • Mix dry ingredients together.
  • Knead in lard.
  • Add a little bit of water at a time, mixing until batter becomes sticky.
  • Add more flour before kneading dough and than it should start to become smooth.
  • Once it's kneaded and smoothed out, start rolling the dough out until it's 1½ to 2 inches thick.
  • Use round cutter tool to cut out circled biscuits.
  • Bake for 12-15 min - bottom should be golden brown.
  • Then take the rack and put to the top of the oven and turn on broil. Grease top of bannock and put back in the oven until golden brown. Keep a close eye on this because it should take less than 5 min.
  • Serve hot with butter, jam or your favourite moose stew.

Warning: delicious bannock may result in guests refusing to move from dinner table.