Make your own Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival feast

Chef Billy Alexander shares the venison meal from his solstice festival virtual cooking class.

Chef Billy Alexander shares the venison meal from his solstice festival virtual cooking class

Chef Billy Alexander will lead a virtual cooking class to help you create this venison meal during the Ottawa Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival. (Billy Alexander)

For the second straight year, the Ottawa Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival has had to go virtual.

This year, chef Billy Alexander of the Caldwell First Nation in Leamington, Ont., will be leading a special online cooking class as part of the festival.

It's been a busy pandemic year for the chef, who's overseeing Caldwell First Nation's new restaurant venture, Three Fires, set to be the largest Indigenous restaurant in the world, according to Alexander.

"We're happy to be offering that as well as the first Indigenous wines in eastern Ontario," he said. 

Chef Billy Alexander. (Submitted)

During the demonstration, Alexander will use common Indigenous elements such sweet grass and dried sage, as well as ingredients such as venison, blueberries and the "three sisters" of corn, squash and beans.

Here's the recipe for Alexander's festival feast. You can purchase a meal kit in time for his June 20 class through the festival's website.

Sage-roasted sweet potato medallions


  • 1 large sweet potato (cut into 1⁄3-inch-thick medallions)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 oz maple syrup
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


First, preheat oven to 425 F. While the oven is preheating, wash the sweet potatoes and remove any growths or blemishes, but do not peel them. The potato rind helps keep the wedges crisp and held together when baking. Plus, it's a good source of fibre and nutrition. Add to a small bowl and drizzle olive oil over medallions and lightly toss until evenly coated. Then add in paprika, garlic powder, sage and maple syrup and toss again. Add to lightly oiled pan, spread medallions evenly on the baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Finally, bake in oven for a total of 40-45 minutes, flipping once about halfway through. Both sides should be lightly browned and crispy on the edges.

Black and blue sweet grass sauce


  • 1½ cups blueberries
  • 2 cups blackberries
  • ½ braid sweet grass, lightly torched
  • 1⁄3 cup water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice


Lightly torch sweet grass and add to a saucepan. Combine all of the ingredients into the saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then continue cooking for about 10 minutes, or until the blueberries and blackberries begin to pop and the compote has thickened. Let cool and store in the refrigerator until ready to use, but keep sweet grass in sauce while storing as its flavour will continue to release. Best made the day before.

3 sisters and honey beetroot noodle stack


  • 1 large beet, spiralized or thinly cut
  • 1 handful green beans cut into small slivers
  • ½ butternut squash, spiralized or thinly cut
  • ½ corn on the cob, kernels removed
  • ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley or micro greens leaves for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Place a medium skillet over medium/high heat. Add oil and heat until hot but not smoking. Add the squash noodles and beet noodles. Cook until it begins to soften (about two minutes or so). Add the honey and stir to coat noodles evenly. Add in beans and corn and cook for about 30 seconds or just until squash begins to brown and all vegetables are evenly mixed. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper. Plate the noodles first, pile high, then finish by spooning corn and beans on top. Top with any remaining oil and honey from pan and garnish with parsley or microgreens and serve.

Seared venison frenched rack loin


  • 8 oz venison frenched rack
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp olive oil


Preheat oven to 350 F. Dry off surface of venison with paper towels and liberally sprinkle with paprika, salt and pepper. Heat an oven-proof skillet on high with olive oil. Once hot, place venison into skillet to sear, flipping after about two minutes or so to make sure all sides are cooked. Then place pan in the oven for seven to 10 minutes, depending on thickness. Remove from oven and pan, place on foil sheet and allow to rest 10 minutes before
slicing. Plate and top with blueberry sweet grass sauce down the centre.