What's prairie cuisine?
That's a question popular food blogger Karlynn Johnston sought to answer in The Prairie Table, her new book, which is filled with a collection of recipes inspired by Johnston's own background, growing up Ukrainian in Winnipeg.
Johnston dropped by CBC Friday to talk about her new book and try to define what constitutes prairie cuisine.
"On the prairies here, we are so intertwined with farm life," she said.
"Light lunches followed by heavy dinner, of comfort food after a long day on the farm. And not only that, but the getting together in the book reflects rural communities and how that was really the only time that you would visit with your neighbours as everyone got together for socials, or parties, or dances."
The Prairie Table is Edmonton-based Johnston's follow-up to her first cookbook, Flapper Pie and a Blue Prairie Sky, which was a bestseller. It earned Johnston an appearance on QVC, the largest shopping network in North America, where she was featured on In the Kitchen with David, a spot that is coveted by food writers.
A longtime food blogger, Johnston's Kitchen Magpie blog features over 1,000 recipes, all of which she tests out on her children, husband, friends and family.
Johnston said that for the follow-up to Flapper Pie, it was important to stick to a prairie theme.
"It's doing what you do best and just sticking with it," she said.
"I've been asked a lot if I'm going to go into gluten-free and vegan, because there's a lot of bloggers who do that. And I would rather just stick to what I know, because that's what I do the best — and that's what I love doing as well."
Ukrainian home cooking
The book contains a number of Ukrainian staples, including holopchi (cabbage rolls), two perogies (one Polish, one Ukrainian), and Johnston's personal favourite, nalysnyky, or Ukrainian crepes, made with dill and a cottage cheese/ricotta filling.
What's the secret to making great Ukrainian food?
"Practice — that's why babas [Ukrainian grandmas] are so good at it. Decades of practice.The touch, the feel. You know when it's not overworked and when it's just perfect."
Johnston says her recipes aren't complicated, either.
"Most of them are really simple. I think the perogies are what you have to learn the most — and one of them is easy. I deliberately put it in there so people could practice."
Johnston not only teaches readers how to prepare prairie favourites, but she learned something creating Prairie Table.
"The measurements to all the Ukrainian recipes because they cook by look and by touch, so I had to get mom to measure stuff — so for first time, I know the measurements to her recipes," she said.
And as far as what might be the quintessential ingredients for her prairie recipes?
"For Uke stuff, it's dill, and garlic and onion," she said.
"For desserts, it's Saskatoons — the quintessential prairie berry."
With files from The Homestretch