I acknowledge, that despite this being a Christmas dish, the fact that I’ve taken the traditional French Canadian meat pie and made it without, well, ‘meat’ may add fodder to the national unity to debate (again). I want to assure everyone that my Canada not only includes Quebec but it most certainly includes the traditional meat-filled tourtière as well. I mean no disrespect but I’ve done this in the spirit of creation, invention, and trying new things; this is not a rejection of meat or the traditional tourtière, but rather it is my bid to create a version of it that can be included by those who may not (always) choose to eat meat.
Truly, I’m a very happy and content omnivore. I like my meat and especially love all things pork; I relish my veggies; I can’t live without dairy; and I crave my carbs and grains. I do love the traditional meat pie that ranges from Northern and Eastern Ontario (including Ottawa) all the way across Quebec to the Gaspé and beyond. That is a big part of this country and it is very much a traditional Canadian dish. However, tourtière, even when made well, can be a bit a much in terms of the amount of meat and saturated fat that makes it so juicy and flavourful. Therefore, I headed out on a quest to reinvent this dish as part of my recent contribution to the Canadian Food Experience Project.
To re-create something that is ostensibly meat wrapped in pastry without the meat, was going to be a challenge. The meat adds flavour, texture, colour, smells, and obviously protein. So in replacing it, I wanted to honour as much of these things as I could. My other goal was to make this more nutritious than the traditional recipe, but it still had to be mouth-watering and good. And, finally, I was committed to not relying on processed meat-substitutes to effect this transformation. As much as possible, I wanted this to made with ‘real’ food and real ingredients.
As such, I worked to round up a bunch of so-called super foods, ancient grains packed with nutrients and protein: quinoa, millet, and chia seeds even. I bulked this up with some brown rice to ‘bind’ and included potatoes as they’re a traditional component of most tourtières anyway … but I also used cauliflower and squash to sneak in some veggies for balance and some sweetness. To create colour I opted for beets which would also add more vitamins. Truthfully, I wanted golden beets but I couldn’t find them in any of three stores I tried before creating this recipe, so I settled for regular purple beets. They worked well in almost every regard, except the colour transformation was more intense than I wanted, so, in that regard, this dish failed — though, I’ll admit, it is about the most festive looking ‘meat’ pie I’ve ever seen. I would recommend you find the golden beets if you can. The last consideration was the issue of texture. I wanted something that would give the pie some tooth feel to it. First, I added some black beans which brought more protein, some ‘meaty’ flavour, and some toothiness. And finally, I deviated from my principle of unprocessed foods when I decided to use TVP, an incredibly poorly named ingredient made from soy and which takes it’s name from the mechanical process used to ‘extrude’ it: textured vegetable protein which is produced when the oil is removed from the soy, producing an ‘isolate’ that is otherwise analogous to protein powder … that has been ‘textured.’ In my non-expert opinion, TVP is no more denatured than tofu and so I opted for it’s inclusion. If this offends you, however, increase the quantities of the other grains, and omit it.
And if my bastardization of the traditional tourtière was not already complete, I also opted to place my filling in a gluten-free pie crust … which turned out amazingly well as evidenced by this half-started piece. Note the flakiness of the crust. The recipe for it can be found here where I posted it the day before.
The result is certainly one of the healthiest dishes I’ve ever made or eaten and while there is no mistaking that this doesn’t contain meat, what it does contain may surprise you to be actually very tasty. It definitely fills you up, leaves you full (i.e. there is a good amount of protein in it), and leaves you very satisfied.
Cooking tips: the trick to this dish will be, depending on where you live, finding all the ingredients, but your typical health food store, bulk store, and well-stocked grocers will have all the ingredients which are very reasonably priced. Assembling the dish is no more complicated than making rice — all you’re doing is cooking a number of ingredients similar to rice and then assembling them together to create the dish. What pulls it all together are the spices at the end. Quite frankly, it takes as much time to make one pie as it does two, so I recommend making two, eating one, and freezing the second for another day. And, finally, to make this dish perfect, serve it with an excellent chow, fruit salsa, or ketchup. I have to say, my green cherry tomato ketchup was the perfect side for this dish. Yum!
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30+45 minutes
Total Time: 90 minutes
Yield: 2 Tourtière pies
- 2 medium onions, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons of oil
- 1/2 cup brown rice and/or mixed wild rice, plus 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup millet, plus 2 cups water
- 4-5 small-medium sized potatoes, peeled
- 1 small honey-nut squash, peeled
- 1 cup of canned black beans
- 2 medium sized golden beets
- 1/2 cup quinoa, plus 1 cup water
- 2 cups TVP, covered in hot water
- 1/2 head of cauliflower, finely chopped/ground
- 1/4 cup chia seeds, plus 1/4 cup warm water
- 1½ cups vegetable (or chicken) stock
- 1½ tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon dried savoury
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground gloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1-2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
Plus 2 bottom pie crusts and 2 tops to complete. Find recipe for gluten-free crusts here.
- This isn’t a hard dish to make, but it will use every burner on your stove and every pot in your kitchen. Place the brown rice on to boil — this, along with the beets, will take the longest to boil, so put them on to boil as well in a separate pot, removing the greens but otherwise leaving the beets whole and covered in water. Both will take roughly 40 minutes to simmer away.
- Wash and peel the potatoes and bring them to boil. Boil for about 20-30 minutes until just fork tender. Don’t overcook. I also added the squash to the pot of water. The squash will only take about 5-10 minutes to soften, so watch carefully and remove with a spoon when done — this saves you a pot.
Meanwhile, wash and core the cauliflower head and separate the florets. When potatoes are done, drain, and leave potatoes in the pot. Add the cauliflower florets, cover, and let them slightly steam and soften along with the potatoes as they cool.
- Wash and clean the millet, ensuring there is no dirt, debris, or ‘rocks’ in it. Cover the millet with about 2 cups of water and simmer uncovered until water is evaporated and millet is cooked, about 15 minutes. Stir every 3-5 minutes to prevent sticking and burning and add more water if necessary. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Prepare quinoa by washing and rinsing it as you did with the millet above. Add water, simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from heat and leave covered for 15 minutes to absorb the water.
- Prepare TVP by measuring it into a bowl and laddling in enough boiling water (from the potato water works well) to cover. Let stand and watch the water get absorbed and the TVP puff up. Let cool while doing other prep, but before adding it to tourtière, squeeze out as much water as you can.
- Prepare the chia seeds by covered them with warm water and letting them puff up and absorb the water.
- Prepare cauliflower now by removing it from the potato pot and using a food processor, ideally, pulse it until it is finely ‘ground’ but not puréed.
- Prepare your pie pastry following your own tried and true recipe or using my own gluten-free recipe here. Grease your two pie pans and preheat your oven to 425ºF.
- Dice the onions and heating a stainless-steel pan over medium heat, add oil and onions and sauté for about 5 minutes until onions are golden.
Squeeze out the TVP of water and add it to the onions.
Add in the millet and quinoa.
Add in the minced cauliflower.
Add in the brown rice.
Add the chia seeds.
Peel the beets and finely dice them and then add them to the tourtière.
Using a ricer, rice in the squash and each of the potatoes. I prefer the ricer in this instance because it provides more ‘texture’ to the mixture, however, if you don’t have a ricer, coarsely mash the potatoes and squash together and add them to the tourtière.
Add in 1-cup of canned black beans. Don’t rinse them (contrary to instructions on the can) — this adds flavour and some moisture to the tourtière.
- In a small bowl, mix together the stock, the spices, and maple syrup. Add salt to taste which will vary depending on the stock you used. Stir the stock mixture into the tourtière.
- Mix all the tourtière filling together and let stand.
- Roll out the bottoms of your pie crusts …
And split the filling between them.
Top with crusts, seal the edges, and cut vents into the top. Optionally brush on an egg wash if you want.
- Place the pies in the oven on the lower-middle rack bake at 425ºF for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350ºF and continue baking for another 35-45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Remove and let cool 10-15 minutes before serving.
- Slice and serve…
… with your favourite vegetables and, ideally, a green ketchup or another sweet and tangy side.