We just returned from a canoe trip in what I believe is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Nothing can truly describe this place, just as photographs can never come close to rendering its beauty. You have to be there to smell the air, to feel the angle of the sun on your face, to hear the music your paddle makes as it breaks the lake’s surface, to see your shadow on the deep, azure waters of O.S.A. Lake. I find it simultaneously reassuring and disheartening that most Canadians have never experienced the magic that is Killarney. It’s reassuring because the stunning lakes and trees and ancient granite are only wild and pristine because most people do not have the ability to reach them – you either have to hike or paddle to get into the heart of the park. It’s disheartening because I don’t think that the average Canadian even has a clue of how majestic and spectacular the Canadian Shield – the world’s oldest exposed rock – truly is.
We are big on the belief that just because you are abandoning civilization for several days does not mean you must abandon good food. We paddled 50 km in three days, and if I hadn’t eaten well, I would have lost steam after 10. Normally we paddle with another couple, and our favourite canoeing couple not only share this food philosophy – they take it to a whole new level! I remember paddling the French River delta with them a few years ago, and after a vicious storm, we set up on an island. Sitting on a drenched log, clad in gore-tex, rain water dripping off our hoods and blackflies and mosquitoes devouring us, Ian surprises us by revealing the reason for his abnormally heavy pack. He pulls out a fantastic South African red from Vintages and we sip wine from collapsible stemware – wine has never tasted so good. It was the next morning – much sunnier but cooler morning – that we awoke to a wonderful aroma; a sweet, multigrain bannock being cooked on the camp stove.
So on this recent Killarney trip, we wanted to make their multigrain bannock but our journey was planned in such haste, I did not have time to call them. I decided to wing it – following an old, traditional bannock recipe, I just threw in everything that I love…and it worked! It worked so well that Michael begged me to make another batch for his fishing trip. Aren’t I the little domestic housewife?! it takes, I reminded him, a special kind of woman to make bannock for the guys!
The good news about this recipe is that you don’t have to be in the wilderness to enjoy it. You can cook it in a pan on a stove in your own civilized kitchen. If you want to make it for the trail, simply pack all the dry ingredients in a zip lock bag. If you are making it at home, put it in a bowl.
1 1/2 cups white spelt flour or all-purpose flour
1 cup whole spelt flour
1/2 oat bran
1/4 cup oats
1/4 wheat germ
1 tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp maple sugar (or brown sugar)
1 tsp cinnamon
4 dried mission figs, finely chopped
6 dried apricots, finely chopped
2 medjool dates
2 tbsp sour cherries, pitted (optional)
2 tbsp slivered almonds
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp slivered pistachios
2-3 Tbsp butter or ghee
Milk or water
Mix all dry ingredients (including fruit) in either a zip lock bag (for camping) or a bowl (home). When you are ready to prepare the bannock, cut in 2 tbsp of the butter (home) or ghee (camping) and mix it in with your fingers until the dough is crumbly. Start adding milk (home) or water (camping) slowly, and mixing with hands. Being with about 1/4 of a cup, and then add in increments of 2 tbsp until you have a dough that is moist but firm (not sticky). Divide the dough into four parts and roll in to a ball. Grease a hot pan (over a stove, camp stove or campfire grill) with remaining butter or ghee. Press the dough ball gently into the pan and cook approximately 2 minutes until golden (watch it closely). Flip and cook on the other side. You might need to repeat this process. The bannock is done when a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Eat it with maple syrup or jam – we enjoyed ours with a jar of fig jam.