Indigenous chef gives traditional recipes a modern twist

Search the internet for “indigenous cookbooks” and you will find a handful of books featuring wild game and foraging and books written by non-indigenous authors who use ingredients indigenous to our land.

Some feature a single ingredient, such as bison, but few move into today with a modern theme on recipes inspired by generations of indigenous cooks.

Enter Shane Chartrand, executive chef at the River Cree Resort and Casino in Enoch, Alta., on Treaty 6 territory outside Edmonton.

In his cookbook Tawâw (pronounced ta-WOW), he presents modern recipes while sharing stories of his background as a Cree raised by a Metis father and Mi’kmaw-Irish mother.

The book is inspirational while encouraging us to try new and familiar ingredients in comfortable ways that honour the First Nations people among us.

Tawâw, come in, you’re welcome, there’s room, celebrates Chartrand’s journey as a chef. The cookbook cover photo illustrates his award winning dish at Gold Medal Plates Edmonton in 2017. It is a brilliant red pepper sauce handprint on a pristine white plate as background to a composed salad of quail legs and wheat berries. The recipe is in the book.

I find this to be a very cookable cookbook. It is part autobiographical and all about the food. Recipes are unpretentious and allow for easy substitutions of ingredients you may have on hand.

Many ideas are adaptable to your regular home cooking. Take bee pollen as an example. I have never thought to use it as a garnish. It’s brilliant.

The wild rice and garlic cream potato recipes can be used with many main courses.

These are the recipes I have tried so far and every day I find another one that piques my interest.

Honey brined roast pheasant

Any upland game bird can be used in this recipe. I used Hungarian partridge. These birds have delicate skin and hunters often prefer to skin them rather than pluck them. If you have a skinned bird, rub it generously with olive or canola oil or lay pieces of bacon across the bird to prevent drying while roasting.


  • 8 c. water 2L
  • 1/2 c. kosher salt 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. honey 125 mL
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp. whole black peppercorns 30 mL
  • 1 lemon, halved


  • 2 pheasants, plucked and cleaned
  • fresh sprigs of sage, rosemary and thyme
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large pot, bring all the ingredients for the brine to a boil. Remove from heat and completely cool.

When the brine is cool, put the pheasants into the brine. Cover and refrigerate for four hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove pheasants from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Discard brine.

Stuff the cavity with the fresh herbs and four cloves of garlic.

Place bird in a roasting pan and place on the bottom shelf in the oven. Reduce heat to 350 F (180 C). Roast for 30 to 40 minutes. The internal temperature of the bird should reach 165 F (72 C). Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes.

Carve pheasants and arrange on a platter with wild rice and vegetables.

Seared salmon with cracked wild rice and bee pollen

There are seven species of Pacific salmon. Steelhead trout is considered the eighth. I have easy access to steelhead so that is what I used in this recipe.


  • 1 c. wild rice 250 mL
  • 3 c. pheasant stock 750 mL
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 tbsp. butter 30 mL


  • 2 1/2 – 3 lb. Chinook salmon, skin on and pin bones removed, cut into individual portions 1-1.5 kg
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp. canola oil 15 mL
  • 1/4 c. bee pollen 60 mL

Make the rice by combining stock, rice and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium-high heat for 45 minutes, or until the rice is tender and most have split open.

Prepare the salmon by cutting the salmon into serving size pieces. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a heavy, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Place the salmon pieces skin side down and cook until golden brown, about four minutes.

Transfer the pan to a preheated oven and continue cooking for four to six minutes, until the fish is fully translucent and flakes easily with a fork.

Remove pan from the oven and immediately transfer the salmon to a plate to stop the cooking.

For each serving, scoop some wild rice onto a plate and top with a piece of salmon, skin side up. Garnish with bee pollen. Serve with vegetables of choice.

Potatoes boiled in garlic cream

  • 4 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1/2 medium white onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 c. whipping cream 500 mL
  • 1 c. half and half cream 250 mL
  • 1 c. pheasant stock or good chicken stock 250 mL
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped parsley 60 mL

In a large pot, combine the potatoes, onions, garlic, creams and stock. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until tender, about 30 minutes.

Strain and reserve the garlic cream for another use, such as a sauce for seafood or pasta.

Toss potatoes with salt and parsley.

Serve piping hot.

Poached sweet and savoury autumn apples

This goes well with pork but is sweet enough to be served as a savoury dessert.

  • 1 c. birch syrup 250 mL
  • 1 c. maple syrup 250 mL
  • 1 c. sherry vinegar 250 mL
  • 2 – 3 inch cinnamon sticks
  • 6 apples
  • 8 fresh mint leaves, rolled tightly together and finely cut into ribbons
  • 1 tbsp. porcini powder 15 mL

Combine the birch and maple syrups, vinegar and cinnamon sticks in a pot and bring to a boil over high heat.

Cook until the volume has reduced by about half, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Leave the apples whole, or cut them in half and remove the seeds and core with a paring knife. Place apples in the pot and roll them around in the liquid to ensure they are well coated.

Cover the pot with a lid and cook over medium heat, rolling the apples around every five minutes, until soft and easy to cut with a spoon, but not so cooked that they start to split their skin and dissolve.

Remove pan from the heat.

Uncover the apples and let cool until warm, about 15 minutes.

Place the warm apples in one large bowl to serve family style or divide them into individual serving bowls. Drizzle with the cooking liquid. Garnish with the finely cut fresh mint and dust with mushroom powder.

Recipe contest

We all have family favourite recipes that for reasons of diet, food restrictions or personal preferences we have adapted to meet these needs.

We’re asking our readers to share their adapted family favourite recipes. The contest draw will be made Dec. 2 for a basket of baking ingredients.

Please submit your adapted family favourite recipes, along with your name, address and phone number, to or mail:

The Western Producer, Adapted Favourites

1000 – 3530 Millar Avenue

Saskatoon, Sask.

S7P 0B6

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at Contact:

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