FOOD AND THE CITY

2 takes on a tasty, traditional tourtière for your holiday parties

Though it's traditionally made with meat, this savoury, seasonal pie can also be created with chickpeas and mushrooms for a vegetarian-friendly main dish.

Warm spices make the vegetarian-friendly main dish sing

What makes this savoury dish unique is the addition of warm spices — cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves — but there are as many versions of tourtière as there are cooks making it. (Julie van Rosendaal)

Tourtière, a savoury Quebecois meat pie popular at this time of year in eastern provinces, is traditionally eaten at reveillon, a Christmas Eve feast taken after midnight mass. 

But over time, it has come to be part of Christmas celebrations across Canada.

The dense pie is most often made with pork, often mixed with beef, chicken and even wild game, with a wide variety of variations depending on the region. Some are deep dish, baked in a cast iron pot. Others are more shallow, made in a traditional pie plate.

Sometimes the meat is chopped into small cubes, but in Montreal ground pork is used, along with onions, celery and sometimes finely diced potatoes.

What makes it unique is the addition of warm spices — cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves — but there are as many versions of tourtière as there are cooks making it.

If you're looking for a vegetarian version, this filling made with finely chopped mushrooms and chickpeas is inspired by Quebecois cooking show host and cookbook author Ricardo Larrivée, via the online version of his namesake magazine.

The biscuit pastry is different. Traditionally tourtière is made with a butter or lard shortcrust pastry. But this biscuit-like crust is slightly thicker on account of the baking powder. It's also buttery, but not as much so, with only 1/3 cup per 2 cups of flour.

It isn't as finicky as pastry. You can roll it out and not bother trimming or crimping. Just tuck the edges over or under, whatever works. It will rise slightly, and look rustically wonderful regardless.

Tourtière 2 ways (pork & vegetarian) with a biscuit crust

The pork version of tourtière is fairly standard, but comes from my old neighbour Pascal's mother in Quebec. 

The mushroom and chickpea filling is a slight variation on one I came across on the Ricardo Cuisine magazine website. (I added butter, some fresh rosemary and dialled back the warm spices. Feel free to add more cinnamon and allspice.)

Tourtière, a savoury Quebecois meat pie popular at this time of year in eastern provinces, is traditionally eaten at reveillon, a Christmas Eve feast taken after midnight mass, but has come to be part of Christmas celebrations across Canada. (Julie van Rosendaal)

Pork filling:

  • 1 small onion, diced.
  • 2 celery stalks, diced.
  • 1 ½ lbs ground pork.
  • 2 garlic cloves.
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg.
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon.
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves.
  • Parsley (optional).
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Or for the mushroom + chickpea filling:

  • 3 cups white mushrooms (about 1 lb).
  • 1 19 oz (540 mL) can chickpeas, drained well.
  • Canola or olive oil, for cooking.
  • 2 tbsp butter.
  • 2 onions, chopped.
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed.
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary.
  • 2 tbsp grainy mustard.
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg.
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon (optional).
  • ¼ tsp allspice (optional).
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Biscuit pastry:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour.
  • 1 tbsp baking powder.
  • ¼ tsp salt.
  • 1/3 cup cold butter, cut into pieces.
  • 3/4 cup milk.

Method

To make the pork filling, set a large skillet over medium-high heat, add a drizzle of oil and sauté the onion and celery for a few minutes, until soft.

Add the pork, garlic and spices. Add a half cup of water and simmer for 20 minutes or so, stirring often, breaking up the pieces of meat until it's no longer pink.

To make the mushroom and chickpea filling, halve or quarter the mushrooms and pulse them in the food processor until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and do the same thing to the chickpeas, pulsing until coarsely chopped.

Drizzle some oil into a large skillet set over medium-high heat and add the butter. Once it melts, add the onions and cook for three to four minutes, until soft.

Add the garlic, rosemary and mushrooms and cook for four to five minutes, until the mushrooms are soft and any excess moisture has evaporated.

Add the mustard, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and chickpeas, season with salt and pepper and cook for another minute, stirring until everything is well combined. 

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

In a large bowl, blend the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and blend with a fork or pastry cutter (or rub with your fingers) until well blended, with pieces no bigger than a pea.

Add the milk and stir by hand just until you have a soft dough.

Divide the dough in half (with one half just slightly larger than the other) and roll the larger piece on a lightly floured countertop to about an 11-inch round. Transfer it to a pie plate and gently fit it inside without stretching.

Roll out the other piece of dough into a nine- or 10-inch circle and fit it over the filling, folding the overhang under the edge of the bottom crust (or vice versa) and pinching/crimping roughly to seal—it doesn't have to be perfect.

Cut a couple of vents in the top crust to allow steam to escape and, if you like, brush the top crust with a bit of milk or cream.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the pie is deep golden. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 8.


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener