St Lawrence Market, Toronto – where all the world’s people meet

This week I was in Toronto, where I met up with two good friends of mine, Tihana and Val. I had met the two of them at a 6-week writing class, which extended into a two-year workshop in some of the more colourful bars across Montreal.  Asides from writing, the two of them share my love for all things food, and on Saturday morning we ventured over to the St Lawrence market; the largest market in Toronto, and where my two friends now live.

This market is almost as old as the city itself, with its first farmers’ market opening in 1803.  Today, the market is split into 3 buildings, with the North market, the location for the Saturday’s Farmers market, the South market home to some 120 speciality vendors, and then the St Lawrence Hall which houses businesses and can be rented for special evens.

St Lawrence market, late 1800’s

Voted in 2011 as one of National Geographic’s picks for the top-ten food markets in the world, St. Lawrence is a celebration of Toronto’s multicultural make up.

IMG_3277I first heard of Toronto when growing up in suburban Australia; immigrant friends and neighbours of Italian, Greek, German, Irish backgrounds would explain how their brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles had immigrated to Toronto.  To me it was a sister city, and much like the city I grew up in, was a major destination for European and Asian immigrants. As I was to find out later, following the Irish potato famine, a large Irish Catholic population settled in Toronto, and they were followed progressively by war refugees from Eastern Europe. After that came the Chinese, Vietnamese and Cambodian escaping various socio-political crisis in their own countries. I can’t help but mention that immigration to Toronto hasn’t just been from outside the country, after the resurgence of the Quebec sovereignty movement, many Anglo Canadians (including some 300 millionaires) also hotfooted out of Montreal and across the border!!


This multi-ethnicity is evident at the St-Lawrence market; where Italian, Greek, Quebecois, Mexican, Ukranian, British, and wait for it, even Australian specialty foods are found.

“They have Kangaroo,” said Val, and look, “Crocodile!”

Camel anyone?

Kangaroo sliders, Camel steak (introduced to Australia, not a native animal), Crocodile fillets and my favorite; the meat pie and vegetarian pasty.  I was leaving that afternoon, and the smell of the freshly smoked Italian sausage in my bag stopped me from taking anything else home –yet who said I couldn’t make my own?

As we walked out, we agreed that St Lawrence does well – the food is great, the vendors are super friendly, it’s a convenient, well organized place. Although it may not have the madness and even endearing strangeness of some of the other markets I have been to, for the great many of us who now live so far from home, including my two friends, the St Lawrence does well in welcoming us to our new abode.

My take on the Aussie meat pie

At the St Lawrence market, there were Steak and Kidney, Green Curry, Cornish Pasty, Chicken Pot Pie, Egg and Bacon to name a few.  Here, I do my take on the classic Aussie meat pie which is far different from the beast I grew up with, full of gristle and other unidentifiable objects.

I got the inspiration for this recipe from Donna Hay’s Seasons where she includes a beef and red wine pie. Instead of wine, I use beer, and also add a few Indian spices for a bit of curry flavour.

  • 500g minced beef (or a combination of beef and veal)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 ½ cups of beef stock
  • ½ cup of beer (or the equivalent in water)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon of dried oregano or thyme (optional)
  • 1 potato diced
  • 1 tablespoon of flour
  • Salt, pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika (optional)
  • 1 tsp garam masala (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 x 200 g sheet shortcrust pastry, thawed
  • 1 x 200g sheet puff pastry, thawed

Preheat the oven to 200 c. Sauté the onion in the olive oil, add the beef mince, then the garlic and continue to sauté until meat is browned (about five minutes).  Season with salt, pepper, the spices and then add the potato.  Stir in the beef stock and beer, bay leaf and oregano. Simmer covered for about an hour.  Add a tablespoon of flour or cornstarch to thicken the gravy in the end.

Line a 22cm pie dish (or two smaller pie dishes) with short crust pastry.  Spoon in the meat mixture. Fold over with a sheet of puff pastry, pinch at sides to seal.  Brush with a little milk or egg yolk. Bake for 40 minutes until golden brown. Let sit for five minutes before cutting, and serve with a little tomato sauce.

Spinach and feta mini rolls

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 x 200g sheets of thawed puff pastry
  • 200g spinach or (200g baby spinach leaves)
  • 200g feta cheese, crumbled
  • ½ cup cheddar or mozzarella cheese
  • Salt, pepper

Preheat the oven to 210C.

Boil or steam the spinach for 3 minutes, drain well and pat dry.  Chop up roughly.

In a bowl, combine feta with spinach, 2 eggs, and the cheddar, stir through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place one sheet of pastry on a greased baking tray.  Add spoonfuls of the feta and spinach mixture down the middle of the pastry sheet. Fold over the two sides of the pastry and pinch together in the middle to seal. Brush with either a little egg or milk and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack before slicing in mini rolls to serve. Serves 4.


4 responses

  1. It was so much fun to see you and visit the market together. i hope you’ll come back and we can take you to some of the city’s other fantastic markets, like the ones at Evergreen Brickworks, Wychwood Barns and Dufferin Grove Park and the new one in Leslieville. Sean thanks you for the sausage, which I dutifully sauteed with rosemary this evening.

  2. Ahhh – when I lived in Toronto in the mid-to-late 70s they used to say ‘everyone’s an immigrant here’ – and so it seemed. Certainly ‘natives’ to the city were far outnumbered by ‘foreigners’ wherever I went 🙂

    Amazing to hear St. Lawrence Market has been named among the ten best food markets in the world – do you think that’s right, or is it because the ‘food’ markets of the world are declining at such a terrific rate?

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