Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Canadian Food Experience Project: Grilled Halibut with Coconut Curry Sauce and Thai Tomato Salsa

As a child growing up in Manitoba, a big part of our family tradition in the summer involved packing our house up and heading to the cottage - which for us was a 90 minute drive to Belair on Lake Winnipeg.

The cottage had been a labour of love - built by my grandparents Helen and Harry Moody, it boasted loft bedrooms for the cousins, a floor to ceiling stone fireplace in the living room, and a large country style kitchen. There was a screened gazebo off  the side porch and in every cupboard treasures like cribbage boards, Archie digest comics, and board games like Monopoly and Clue.

As a little girl it was my safe place and refuge and I can remember never wanting to go back to the city, marveling that there were actually people who lived at the lake year round and wondering, as I climbed the large boulder like rocks that lined the shore what it would be like to be one of those people.

But life had other plans for me and I ended up in my early 20's as a young police officer living and working for the RCMP in Montreal - a job and a city that were completely unsuited to me. I was fiercely unsettled but didn't know what to do about it. I had a nice car, a great apartment, and all the prestige and confidence that comes with being a member of one of the greatest police forces in the world - but I just wasn't happy.

Around that time, my parents retired to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, and world weary, I took some time off from the police force and drove across Canada to visit them.

Until the day I die, I will never forget the moment I stepped off the BC Ferry and breathed the air in Nanaimo for the first time: I looked in wonder at my parents and said: "It smells like the lake."

I had come home.

Now I live at "the lake" full time in my little 900 square foot kitchen witch cottage five minutes from the beach.

And though I am no longer a police officer, I still maintain close ties to the organization.

In my spare time, I've been fortunate enough to discover my true passion: Cooking real food and coming up with delicious ways to create dishes using local, sustainable ingredients.

The Canadian Food Project - Regional Canadian Food

 The Canadian Food Experience Project began June 7 2013. As over 80 participants across Canada share collective stories through regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity. The first Canadian Food Experience Round Up focused on an Authentic Canadian Food Experience.

Regional Canadian Food is the topic for the second challenge.

Regional Food of Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is rich in culture and food. As the traditional territory to the nations of the Coast Salish, Nu Chah Nulth, and Kwakwaka'wakw peoples, foods like grilled salmon...

Visit the link for the recipe for my Cedar Planked Maple Salmon
 Oysters on the half shell...

Visit the link to learn how to make Oysters with a Champagne Vinegar Mignonette

Or dishes featuring wild mushrooms like chanterelles or morels...

Click the link to visit my favourite recipe for Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup from Rose Reisman

Can be found in abundant variations. 

But the first dish I had when I arrived on Vancouver Island was halibut - deep fried with tartar sauce, coleslaw, and chips - and as a person who had only ever had my fish and chips made with cod, it was a love affair that began that day and never ended.

On the island we are doubly fortunate not just to have halibut in abundance during the summer, but we can also go out on charter boats and experience fishing ourselves - and I am here to tell you, there is nothing on this planet much better than fresh caught wild halibut other than fresh caught wild pickerel.

A Manitoba girl is a Manitoba girl, after all.

So for this month's post celebrating regional ingredients, I wanted to share my original recipe for Grilled Halibut with Coconut Curry Sauce and Thai Tomato Salsa.

Tender marinated halibut is grilled to perfection and blanketed in a velvety cilantro and curry infused coconut sauce...

Serve with Thai Tomato Salsa on the side to add just the right balance of acidity and sweetness and you've got a perfect dish to celebrate the regional abundance of Vancouver Island.

The place where I can smell the ocean and the pine trees when I step outside my door and am forever grateful to call home.

I hope you'll consider giving this beautiful dish a try. Mr. Kitchen Witch gives it his big thumbs up!

Note:  The Pacific halibut fisheries of Alaska, British Columbia and Washington are certified as sustainable to the standard of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Visit the printable recipe here: Grilled Halibut with Coconut Curry Sauce.

Please enjoy the easy to follow step by step video.

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • zest of 1/2  a lime
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 halibut filets

Mix the marinade ingredients together and put in a resealable plastic bag with the four halibut filets. Marinate in refrigerator for 60 minutes.  Preheat grill to medium high and grill five minutes per side

Coconut Curry Sauce

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 3 Tbsp green curry paste
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbsp water to form a slurry

Mix everything together in a pot and just bring to the boil. Add the cornstarch and stir thicken.

Thai Tomato Salsa

  • 1 1/2 cups seeded and chopped vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fish or oyster sauce 
  • 1 teaspoon Siracha chili sauce
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
  3. The salsa will keep for up to 2 days in the refrigerator.

Serve the grilled halibut over the basmati rice with the coconut curry sauce spooned over all and a tablespoon or two of the tomato salsa on the side.


Learn how to create magic in your own gardens and kitchens using everyday ingredients, minimal gadgets, and very little fancy equipment. It’s easier than you think with tips and tricks from the Kitchen Witch!

Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of all levels can accomplish.

Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.

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  1. The West Coast has a plethora of abundant seafood. We would never be bored.

  2. I think I might have been Thai in another life, because I love Thai food that much. Your Halibut recipe looks delicious and I will have to try your cedar planked maple salmon too.

    1. One of these days you and I are going to have to meet and have lunch :-)

  3. Saving the best til last... I knew I would need more time to read your post, Lyndsay. I am always in awe of what we really do have in common - or had, in common. You took the leap and are living your dream on the island. i have a great life, but to really take on such a change... well, not quite that brave, yet. Being an RCMP officer was also on my list in high school Women were just allowed to join the force at the time...I didn't do it, but seriously investigated it. And, I have just written to my mom asking about the Moody's who are friends of ours. They live in Seattle, and are cousins of my mom's. Wonder if there is a connection there, but will check it out. Halibut and Cod are the king of white fish... how would you describe the difference between the two?
    Love your recipe and seeing the photos of your lovely home.

    1. Wouldn't that be amazing if your Moody's were connected to mine? My grandfather knew everyone so you never know! Helen and Harry will show up a lot in my Canadian Food Experience because they were (and are in spirit) such a beautiful part of my life. As for halibut and cod - halibut is meatier and more substantial than cod. It is mild in flavour but perfect for grilling. Cod sometimes has a bit of grey running through it that, for me, detracts from the taste. Cod is still tasty in a pinch, though. If purchasing, make sure it is Pacific cod as that is sustainable. Atlantic cod and halibut are not.