Soooo, cottage season has apparently begun. You could have fooled me! I have only been cottaging for 10 years now, but snow in April? Really? And May has felt suspiciously like November. With a property right off the water on Lake Huron’s Big Bay on the Bruce Peninsula, I should expect this. As they say, “it’s cooler by the lake.” Typically, my biggest concern is if we will have the “right” ingredients for our meals– not that my cottage weekend bag has gloves and ski underwear in it.
With two chefs in the family (my mister is a former chef turned chef instructor), a cottage weekend always includes at least one big family style meal. The cottage pantry always has crackers, cereal and of course mac ‘n cheese (but it has to be the white cheddar kind!). The more ‘chef-y’ items include (but are by no means limited to!): Bomba rice (a Spanish short grain variety), canned tomatoes, grapeseed oil, at least two types of vinegar, our family’s secret “everyday spice” and of course hot dogs in the freezer. We must have hummus and veggies too.
The first trip up to the cottage is usually a scouting mission. It’s our time to discover if the driveway has been washed away over the winter, the bears have destroyed the back shed again, or if the roof has any new leaks. So far so good, but Mother Nature’s decision to keep winter going strong meant we couldn’t turn on the water on as early as we normally do. As the scouting mission unfolds, it’s always a guess as to how many trips into the ‘big city’ hardware store we are in for. But, for today we can focus on what’s important, dinner!
A simple cottage opener weekend menu for us would be grilled flank steak, sweet potatoes with peanuts (wrap in foil and throw them on the grill too), homemade flatbread and for the veggie in the family (me), grilled paneer. Paneer is a resilient non-melting farmer cheese like Halloumi, made by curdling heated milk with the acidic properties of either lemon juice or vinegar. The high melting points means the cheese is perfect to fry or grill. Paired with flatbread, it’s a deadly delicious combo.
As per tradition, most great cottage meals start off by chatting to the neighbors over a drink. I’ve been easing myself into the beer world with radlers like the pilsner and citrus blend by Toronto’s Ace Hill Beer Company. It was surprisingly delightful! Light and fruity, it’s definitely my new go-to for the summer. After gabbing and prepping, our little one is getting restless and hungry. Time to eat! Here’s my cottage survival Bruce County Flatbread and Big Bay Grilled Paneer recipes. Bonus: If you don’t have a cottage, you can make this at home too! Wherever your BBQ is!
Rachel Nicholson’s Homemade Bruce County Flatbread
250 g all-purpose flour
10 g melted butter
125 g fire warmed water (*this sounds fancy but it’s just a water bottle on top of the wood burning stove, heated for a couple of minutes!)
1 package instant yeast (7g) *If using active dried yeast instead of instant you will need to let in bloom in the water.
5 g kosher salt
Start by mixing the flour and yeast together.
Make a well in the center of the bowl. Add the warm water, salt and melted butter to the well.
Mix the dough together until it starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Give the dough a couple turns until it becomes smooth.
Put it aside somewhere warm (the top of a wood stove works great!) to double in size. Be sure to cover it with a towel so the top and sides don’t dry.
Punch the dough down and portion into 12 equal pieces. Roll these into balls and rest until the dough has doubled again.
Once the grill is warm (medium flame), flatten each ball of dough into an oval and put it directly on the grill. Once the first side has good grill marks turn it over, brush the first side with melted butter and sprinkle with Kosher salt or herbs.
As soon as the second side has grill marks you’re done!
Keep warm until ready to eat.
This flatbread is really good as leftovers. Warm it up in the toaster in the morning and top it with avocado and honey. Delicious!
Rachel Nicholson’s Big Bay Grilled Paneer
The brine is essential for this grilled paneer—don’t skip it!
- 4 ladles water
- ¼ ladle kosher salt
- 1 onion – rough chop
- 10 cloves garlic – crush with the back of your knife or a rock
- 5 sprigs thyme
Bring the above to a boil. Add 1 block of paneer cut into slices about 1” thick.
Turn the heat off and let sit for at least 1 hr. Overnight is fine if you want to do this at home before going to the cottage. Leave it in the brine until you want to grill.
Heat the grill to medium heat.
Remove the paneer from the brine and plop onto the grill. DO NOT MOVE until you have a good grill mark. Seriously, resist the urge to move it!
Again, DO NOT MOVE until you have a good grill mark!
This is fantastic on the homemade flatbread with hummus and grilled zucchini too.
At the opulent Langdon Hall Country House Hotel and Spa in Blair, Ontario, the kitchen behind the province’s only five-diamond restaurant never closes. At 2 am, you’ll find Pastry Chef Rachel Nicholson starting her shift, ensuring all the savoury breads for the day are freshly baked.
Nicholson graduated from the pastry program at Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver in 2006 and has led a devout pastry team of 12 at the Relais and Chateaux property since 2013. In 2016, Nicholson accompanied Langdon Hall’s Executive Chef Jason Bangerter to Cacao Barry’s Or Noir lab in Paris, France, to create the hotel’s signature decadent chocolate, “Terroir.”