Archive for What I Ate

Farm Fresh Ratatouille with Polenta {Vegan}

Ask me about my food philosophy, and it’ll be the same answer every time: obviously it needs to be delicious, made with love, mostly plant-based, and ideally, sustainable, local and in season.

You see, what we eat has far-reaching effects, probably more so than we realize. By supporting local farmers and eating seasonally, it’s much better for the environment. Our carbon footprint is reduced when we eat locally-produced stuff, and the truth is, it tastes better, too. Now, I’m not saying I don’t buy bananas (I totally do), but given the choice between a locally-grown cucumber and one grown a continent away, I’ll choose the local one every time.

Cucumbers growing int he greenhouse

Cucumbers being grown in a greenhouse.

Supporting local farmers also supports our local economy. I’m a small business owner, I want to support other small business owners, and hopefully they will support me. More money stays in our local economy, and that’s also a good thing.

BC Greenhouse Vegetables

I really love visiting farms, so I was stoked to get invited to a long table dinner last week that took place inside a working greenhouse where they were growing cucumbers. It was a really cool experience to see how they are able to grow way more cucumbers hydroponically, by growing them vertically instead of on the ground. And it’s not just cucumbers. Other farms are growing eggplant, peppers and tomatoes.

BC Greenhouse Longtable Dinner

The dinner was fantastic, and paired with lots of other local ingredients, like cheeses and wine from Mt. Lehman, and local meats as well.

Roasted red pepper bisque Veggie Fritters Lemon curd with rhubarb

We went home with very full bellies, and also a bag of superfresh produce. I decided to turn mine into ratatouille, which is a kind of French peasant stew made of vegetables. You could serve it plain, or as a side, but I like serving mine on a bed of creamy polenta.

It’s such a great spring/summer dish, the perfect thing to make after a trip to the Farmer’s Market.

Hug a farmer, you guys! They work so hard, and without them, our lives would be much less colourful and a whole lot less delicious.

Ratatouille and Polenta

Ratatouille with Polenta

Ingredients for the stew:

  • 2 tbsp–1/4 cup EVOO
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small green zucchini, not peeled, quartered and sliced into 1/2″ dice
  • 1 small yellow or light green zucchini, not peeled, quartered and sliced into 1/2″ dice
  • 1 small eggplant, peeled or not peeled, quartered and sliced into 1/2″ dice
  • 1 yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced into 1/2″ dice
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced into 1/2″ dice
  • 3-4 vine-ripened tomatoes (small to medium), diced
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olives (optional)
  • 1/4 cup fresh herbs: parsley, basil, oregano
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce or 2 tbsp tomato paste plus 2 tbsp water
  • salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for the polenta:

  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup non dairy milk, unsweetened, unflavoured
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup corn flour
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 2 1/2 tsp vegan butter

Vegan Ratatouille and Polenta


  1. In a dutch oven on medium heat, heat up 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add the diced the onion, season and stir well. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the eggplant and zucchini and stir well to coat with oil (add more if needed). Season. Allow to cook for another 5 minutes or so.
  3. Add the garlic and stir well to combine.
  4. Add the peppers and stir well, allow to cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes and the tomato sauce. Stir everything well together and allow to cook for 20-30 minutes until the vegetables are soft and the sauce has thickened. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and the olives. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
  6. Lastly, stir in the fresh herbs just before serving, reserving a few for garnish.
  7. To make the polenta: bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Combine the polenta and the corn flour together, and then add it to the boiling vegetable stock in a a steady, slow stream, whisking all the time.
  8. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to whisk until the polenta is a thick, porridge-like consistency. Remove from heat and whisk in the vegan butter and the vegan milk. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
  9. To serve: pour the polenta onto a large serving platter and top with the ratatouille. Garnish with fresh herbs, balsamic vinegar, EVOO and (if you’re not vegan) a little cheese.


Portugese Tarts In Vancouver

Last summer, when I was in the UK, I was staying with my friend Jeremy about an hour outside of London in Brighton.

I set aside one day to take the train in and explore my favourite places in London; I had lunch at Nopi (an Ottolenghi dream come true), I shopped on Oxford Street, I hit the Tate Modern. You can watch my vlog from that day here.

Later in the day, I had dinner with my friend Shae, who was from Vancouver, but had been living in London for about a year at that point. Shae and her friend had just arrived back in London from a quick trip to Portugal, and they brought back with them a sleeve of Portugese tarts. She gave me two; one for me, one for Jeremy.

Portugese Tarts Vancouver

I ate them both on the train on the way home.

I have no regrets.

(I did buy Jeremy a makeup tart the next day, though).

What is it about Pastel De Nata? If you’ve never had one, a Portugese Tart is ostensibly quite simple: a flaky tart pastry shell, filled with an egg-based custard. But in this case, the whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts. They’re sweet, and flaky and creamy. They’re served traditionally with a sprinkle of cinnamon, which brings additional warmth to a pastry that is already incredibly comforting.

So, of course as soon as I came home, I made it my business to suss out the best Portugese Tarts in Vancouver. Turns out, they’re hard to find. It’s more likely you’ll find their Asian cousin, the Egg Tart at one of our many Asian bakeries around town. I know I have personally enjoyed the tarts at T&T, and pretty much whenever I go out for dim sum.

As it turns out, the Chinese Dan Tat is really more of a descendant of the Pastel De Nata. By all reports, Europeans introduced the egg-based tart to Hong Kong in the early 1900’s.

Portugese Tart vs Egg Tart

Portugese vs Egg Tarts

So, what’s the difference? First off, the crust of a Portugese Tart is more akin to a croissant than a pie crust. The Chinese version has two varieties of crust: one more like a pie crust, and the other more like a shortbread cookie. In addition, the Portugese version is sweeter, more vanilla-y, and the Chinese version tastes eggier. The Portugese version is also puffier, and will have dark caramelized spots on the top, which you would never see on the Chinese Egg tart. That’s the best way to tell the two apart.

Okay! Let’s get to the good stuff. If you want to partake in one of these goodies for yourself, where can you get your mitts on Portugese Tarts in Vancouver?

Michele Cake Shop, 6033 West Blvd

Michele Bakery Portugese Tart

This one is kinda two-for-one, because they sell Pastel De Nata and egg tarts side-by-side, so this is really the best place to try them both and compare.

Fortuna Bakery Ltd, 4240 Hastings St

Fortuna Bakery Portugese Tart

Tucked away way up in Burnaby Heights, Fortuna is an old-school Italian/Portugese bakery. They have deli, bread, the whole works. The tarts here will set you back a mere $1.50, but they were my least favourite of all the ones I’ve tried so far.

The Union Market, 810 Union St

The Union Portugese Tart

Look, if you haven’t ever been the Union Market, well, you haven’t lived, my friend. The Union is the gem of Strathcona, part grocery store, part bodega/deli. They sell killer coffee, lots of tasty soups and sandwiches, and yes, some of the best Portugese Tarts in town. Be prepared to make friendly with the neighbourhood cats and dogs which will no doubt be hanging out there.

Natas Canada (seasonally, weekends outside 562 Granville St)

For my money, these guys are making the most authentic Portugese Tart in town. However, they can be a bit hard to track down, as they are an online business most of the time. In the summer, you can find them on weekends peddling tarts outside Urban Grill Sushi. Follow them on Instagram for info.

Nandos (various locations)

Nando's Portugese Tart

As a non-meat-eater, I don’t go to Nando’s very much, as the menu is very chicken-heavy, and there’s not much there for me to eat. My son, however, loves it there, so sometimes we do go. They serve Portugese chicken, so it seems like a no-brainer that they’d also have Portugese Tarts. Let me just say I was surprised by how good they did them. I think I had pretty low expectations, but they certainly exceeded them.

T&T Portugese TartT&T Supermarket (various locations)

As it turns out, T&T sells both egg tarts and Portugese Tarts, and their Portugese Tarts are pretty fine! They don’t make as many as they do of the egg tarts, though, so be sure to get there early, as they sell out pretty quick.

First Avenue Bakery Portugese TartFirst Avenue Bakery, 2800 E 1st Ave

This place is oooooold school. It looks like it hasn’t changed at all since the ’80’s. It’s not fancy, and in fact, it didn’t seem all that clean, either. It’s in the plaza with a T&T and lots of other small businesses, like ramen shops and the like. They sell both egg tarts and Portugese Tarts. The quality was not amazing. St Germain Porugese Tart

St Germain (various locations)

Samesame. Egg tarts and Portugese Tarts, both.

For me, the clear winners were The Union Market and T&T, simply because they are the best quality, with the easiest access. Natas is the most authentic, if you can get them.

Have I missed any? I know there were a couple of other places that served them, but they seem to have shut down. Let me know in the comments below so I can add them to my list!



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