Canada Day in Ireland with a side of Butterbean Dip
As a perpetual expat, I may not be considered the most patriotic Canadian in the world. I mean, Canada is just so big. I haven’t seen half of it and I’ve spent most of my adult life living in other countries. I could have been coming from a different country altogether when I moved to Toronto from the East Coast. My culture, the way I speak and the things I hold dear are, often, completely foreign to people from other parts of Canada. But that’s also what’s nice about being Canadian.
I have been lucky enough to spend time in several parts of my vast country. Some of my favourite spots?
Montreal. The amazing mix of culture in this city of just under 2 million brings a plethora of sights, tastes and sounds to its many neighbourhoods. Tie that into a decidedly French/European identity with a history going back to the 1500’s and you have one of the craziest, coolest cities you could ever visit. Au Pied de Cochon, Joe Beef, Les 400 Coups… the dining possibilities are endless and the food is ranked among Canada’s best.
If you’re a beer aficionado, you’ll be interested to know that next to Portland, Oregon, Montreal has the highest number of craft breweries per capita in the world. That means the drinking possibilities are also endless!
Victoria, British Columbia is a small, beautiful city tucked into the South end of Vancouver Island. When your flight descends into the airport, you have the ocean on one side of you and the Rockies on the other. Victoria, to me, feels like the most British place in Canada – the folk are royal crazy, you’ll find roundabouts instead of intersections and high tea is a regular indulgence. My brother lives in Victoria and his in-laws have the most lovely house, right next to the ocean, with a beautiful garden. You won’t find a harsh, Canadian winter in Victoria, but you will have rain and overcast conditions for much of the year.
The best place in Canada (easily) is my home island of Cape Breton. I know I like to talk about it (a lot), but it really is special. Summer swims in the clear, beautiful rivers, beach days spent playing in the waves and lobster & mussel boils make for a great place to visit, and an even better place to grow up. Things move very slowly in Cape Breton. You won’t have cellular service in many areas, you share the roads with moose and black bears and, often, the only thing for you to do is relax and enjoy your surroundings. And you will enjoy your surroundings. They’re glorious.
Since I couldn’t celebrate Canada Day at home where I would watch the local parade, eat BBQ and cake and, after the fireworks, go to the dance in town, my sister-in-law Monica (who, incidentally, also comes from Cape Breton. Who, incidentally, I grew up with and have been friends with my whole life. Who, also incidentally, fell in love with my brother-in-law at my wedding and subsequently moved to Ireland. Her.) and I decided to celebrate Canada Day as best we could. No parade or dance, but with BBQ, cake, plenty of cold bevvies and our Kennedy family.
The weather didn’t cooperate for much of the day, but by late afternoon the skies had turned blue and, although it was still chilly, we bundled up in sweaters and enjoyed Canada Day out in our backyard in Waterford.
I made the Canada Day Cake, which was a doubled recipe of my Tres Leches cake, hastily masked in Chantilly cream and patriotically decorated with Irish strawberries. I also made some braised, shredded mole chicken legs, a pasta salad made with arugula walnut pesto (my rocket is outta control – I was able to make about a litre of pesto with it last week) and a smokey butterbean dip. The dip was delicious and the recipe will follow this post – it’s a great alternative to hummus if you don’t have chickpeas or tahini on hand.
After the BBQ, we lounged around the backyard playing charades and having a laugh. And, thusly, Canada Day was celebrated in a very Irish but nonetheless special way.
Smokey Butterbean Dip
2 240 g cans of butterbeans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup natural yoghurt
1 Tbsp butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 hot chili of your choice, finely chopped (I used 2 tsp of chili paste)
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper, to taste
- In a food processor or blender, add the drained/rinsed butterbeans.
- In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and add onion and chili. In a small frying pan, toast the cumin and coriander seeds and set aside to cool. When cooled, grind in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder reserved for spices.
- Add the smoked paprika to the onion and chili. Cook through. Add the ground cumin and coriander to the saucepan. Cook together for one minute.
- Add the lemon juice to the saucepan and allow the liquid to reduce slightly.
- Add the onion mixture to the food processor/blender with the butterbeans and blitz.
- When the mixture has been thoroughly blended (no chunks of onion, etc.) move the contents to a bowl and blend in the yoghurt. The dip should be smooth and spreadable, but not too thick. Adjust the consistency with more yoghurt if necessary. If the beans aren’t blending together easily in your blender/food processor, use a drizzle of olive oil to loosen things up.
- Season the dip with salt and pepper. It’s important not to season before this point as the butterbeans may already be a bit salty. Wait until all the components are put together, then taste and season accordingly.
- When serving in a big bowl, I mix another 2 tsp of smoked paprika with extra virgin olive oil and drizzle it over the top of the spread.
- *This is a great dip for raw veggies, flatbreads or corn chips. I like using it on my sandwiches instead of mayo and it makes a KILLER grilled cheese with some gouda and good quality sourdough.