I’ve never seen the Easter Bunny, but I saw a moose cow and calf on the road to Atlin last week, and they were just as magical. So were the eight woodland caribou sifting off the highway and into the trees, who looked back at the car as if to say, Yes, did you want something? I didn’t want anything except to witness their graceful movement, and to reflect on how lucky we are to live here, to have moments such as these.

In the off-hunting season the carnivores among us have a period of grace, when we’re not faced with the sometimes painful dichotomy of respecting the animal and admiring its beauty, and loving the food it contributes to our tables. At any time of the year, the secret lies in being thankful.

Easter and Passover in the Christian and Jewish faiths are a time for reflection, celebration and giving thanks. For non-believers, those spring feast days inspire a sense of excitement and renewal as well, a revelling in the return of light and warmth, a feeling of joy that the planet still turns.

Why not celebrate this time round with a feast that connects you to the landscape; that reminds you of where you live? Bring out the berries from the freezer, bring out a bison or caribou or moose roast, do your favourite berry reduction, serve it up with pureed parsnips and maybe Brussels sprouts. Or, for a change, reach out to another land and combine Italian flavours with some real bred-in-the-north ingredients.

Happy spring feasting!

Italian-style Moose Pot Roast

Italian-style Moose Pot Roast

Yield: 4

Why not celebrate this time round with a feast that connects you to the landscape; that reminds you of where you live? For a Passover feast, just eliminate the bacon, butter and cheese.

Ingredients

  • 1 moose roast (chuck, shoulder or round), about 2 lbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 slices smoked bacon
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 stick of celery, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup canned plum tomatoes, strained and chopped
  • Half an orange, seeds removed
  • 2 cups beef, moose or bison stock
  • 1½ cups red wine
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Birch syrup
  • Chopped parsley

Instructions

    1. Preheat oven to 300F. Trim the moose roast of silver skin and sinew and roll it in salt and pepper. Slice bacon into ½-inch strips. Scatter bacon over the base of a heavy casserole, turn the heat to medium and fry until semi-crisp. Remove bacon and reserve.
    2. In the same casserole, brown the moose roast on all sides. Remove and reserve. Heat oil and butter until sizzling, add the chopped vegetables, and cook until they’re just starting to brown, about 7 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in the thyme and oregano, followed by the tomato paste. Pour in the tomatoes, stock and wine.
    3. Place the orange half flesh down on a board, slice in two lengthwise and slice each piece in half again. Turn each piece on its side and slice into small, thin triangles. Add the orange pieces to the pot.
    4. Add the moose back to the pot with the bay leaves, turn the heat to medium low and bring to a simmer. Once the sauce is simmering, cover the casserole, put it in the oven and cook the roast for 2½ to 3 hours, until the meat is tender.
    5. Remove meat to a cutting board and allow to rest while you thicken the sauce. Place the casserole over medium heat and simmer rapidly until the sauce is thick and jammy. Taste. If the sauce needs brightening, add a splash of vinegar; if it needs rounding or deepening, add a splash of birch syrup. (Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to add both!)
    6. Slice the meat into thick pieces and add briefly to the sauce to warm up. Serve on potato gnocchi tossed with olive oil, sprinkle with chopped parsley and place a few thick curls of Parmesan cheese over top.

A stew to go hunting for