Lovers of all things carb will be thrilled to discover the newly opened Kokom’s Bannock Kitchen at the Fresh & Local Market and Kitchens (formerly Avenida Food Hall.) If the lines at the Calgary Stampede’s bannock booth are anything to go by, Calgarians have a deep fondness for the chewy, crispy treat. But for Leslie Bull, the owner of Kokom’s Bannock Kitchen, making bannock is about increasing awareness and recognition of her Cree cuisine and culture. “Lots of people still don’t know what bannock is, and the stall is our opportunity to take that first step into the food community in Calgary,” she says.
In its simplest form, bannock is a delicious bread made of flour, water, salt, and sometimes baking powder, milk, or lard.
In its simplest form, bannock is a delicious bread made of flour, water, salt, and sometimes baking powder, milk, or lard. Today, the most popular version of bannock is deep fried, although a denser oven-baked version is also popular for those watching their cholesterol. As a staple in Canadian Indigenous cuisine, bannock recipes and bannock-making skills are often passed down from generation to generation. This was the case for Leslie, who learned to make bannock by watching her grandmother in the kitchen. She has similarly taught her youngest daughter, Jasmine, who works at the stall on Fridays.
While singularly delicious, bannock’s origins are difficult to trace. In the 18th century, Scottish fur traders brought a form of oatmeal bannock to Canada, where Indigenous Canadians were making a form of bannock with ground plants, such as camas bulbs. Indigenous cooks used traditional methods of pit cooking or roasting bannock over a fire. Later European settlers introduced cast-iron pans for frying bannock, a common technique still used today.
At Kokom’s Bannock Kitchen, each piece of bannock is made by hand, after mixing and kneading batches of dough to the perfect consistency. Despite her busy schedule of working with at-risk families of the Louis-Bull Tribe during the week and manning the stall during the weekends, Leslie somehow finds time to experiment with new bannock flavours and ideas. The results are clear in the stall’s bannock pizza, bannock taco, and infused bannock, which features flavours like maple and bacon, cinnamon sugar, and cheese and herb. Leslie shares that “a lot of it is trial and error” and that her grandchildren “give the final thumbs up” when it comes to taste-testing.
Try bannock pizza, bannock taco, and infused bannock, which features flavours like maple and bacon, cinnamon sugar, and cheese and herb.
While she has been making bannock for years and thinking of opening her own stall, Leslie says that the catalyst for Kokom’s Bannock Kitchen was a desire to show her grandchildren that they can have anything they want with hard work. Bannock lovers can stop by Kokom’s Bannock Kitchen Wednesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Fresh & Local Market and Kitchens (12445 Lake Fraser Dr SE).