Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Christmas Eve

Well here it is Christmas Eve and the weather is frightful - warming temperatures and rain mixing with all the snow creating my least favourite winter effect - slush.
Christmas comes with lots of expectation; presents, food, and being home for the holidays. I am not sure where my home really is; my loyalties are divided between two hemispheres and three continents but the food ties me to all of them. Having Christmas cake, shortbread, foie gras, and goose with red cabbage evoke memories of Christmas past; small and big gatherings, mostly happy, a few sad, where the weather was often freezing or sweltering.

This time of the year is also about endings and beginnings, a time of mixed emotions. So amidst all the celebration we should take the time to reflect and remember that the glass is always a least half full and hopefully, with a good wine.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Another good reason to work from home

This is the view from my front door. Unfortunately you can't see the wind - there was a pile of snow on the inside of my door thanks to the wind. This is supposedly the first of two storms destined to hit Toronto before Christmas, with a second is forecast for Sunday. So it looks like I'll be celebrating my birthday indoors. Luckily for me I have food, and wine in the house so I don't have to go out in the storm. Plus I have the perfect excuse to stay inside, in front of the fire and read,Vermeers Hat, The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World by Timothy Brook. This book is a fascinating look at world trade via the paintings of Vermeer.
The first painting discussed is Vermeer's View of Delft, which I have in postcard form pinned to the wall behind my desk. Even as a postcard it is exquisite and I have discovered that this work stands out in his oeuvre as only one of two surviving paintings of outdoor scenes, and the only one where he attempted to paint a large space. Vermeer usually stayed indoors, whatever the weather, and painted carefully staged interiors with people.
Vermeer's paintings are windows that Brook looks through to explain what was going on in the world at this time. I have not only learnt how to look at the paintings more carefully but also how goods, like beaver pelts, tobacco, silver, spices and people moved through the world, from one corner to another in the seventeenth century. Many people talk about globalization as a modern development but this book proves it is much, much older.

Monday, 15 December 2008

It's starting to look a lot like Christmas

Here is my Christmas cake, it has already had two doses of brandy and has been transferred to a tin. The recipe is from the cake volume of the Good Cook Time Life series of cookbooks. Alas they are no longer in print, so look for them at used book stores. While the photography is no match to today's "food porn" it is very practical and informative. The step-by-step photos explain the techniques very clearly and they provide good reference. All the recipes in the collection are from previously published cookbooks. My fruitcake is Margaret Costa's recipe from her Four Seasons Cookery Book. This book has been reprinted by Grub Street in the UK, and is worth seeking out. Margaret's recipe makes two cakes, I halve it and mess around with it a little, I can't help myself. I toss the dried fruit with a good 60ml/1/4 cup of brandy and leave them for at least 24 hours to plump up. And, as you can see from the photo, I put blanched almonds on the top. This means I can forego the marzipan much to my husband's regret. This is a very simple cake to make; it is not really baking but construction. The batter composed of eggs, sugar and a little flour is just enough to coat the fruit and hold the whole thing together while it cooks.

As I have to wait at least until Twelfth Night or later before I cut it, I also made a stained glass cake so I have something to eat right away. This is another construction cake, candied or glacé fruits and nuts held together by the bare minimum of batter. You can use any mix of fruit that takes your fancy, but larger pieces make a more interesting cake. The trick is to slice it very thinly. Now that I have cake, shortbread is next on the list and then some mincemeat tarts.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

The Tree

Finally it feels like Christmas, the tree is key. We picked ours up last Friday, selecting it in the dark and then hauling it up over the balcony into the apartment. We opted for this crazy method because the tree is tall over 3m/10ft, we have 3.5m/11 1/2 ft ceilings, and because getting it up the stairs is always a challenge. This year it would have been even more challenging as the stairwell is stacked with wood, for our wood stove. Despite the dark, cold and my lack of strength, we, well mainly my husband, landed the tree on the icy deck and then carried it inside. We set it up without too much trouble and no arguments, and there it sat all weekend, naked, cold and drinking water. We lay on the couch drinking hot liquids recovering from bad colds. Finally on Monday, our strength returned, the tree had warmed up and the lights went on, followed by the decorations.
We've had to stop ourselves from buying any new decorations; our collection was getting out of hand. We each have our favourites, Santa on the Eiffel tower, hand-crafted wooden ones from Germany, metal ones from Thailand that include an elephant, each has its own story. So now it feels like Christmas. Cards are arriving from friends, and I've written all mine. I am looking up my Christmas recipes and next will be the carols playing on the CD player. I might even make eggnog.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Christmas Preparations

The advantage of living in a northern climate is that finally all those Christmas recipes make sense. In winter our body naturally craves richer foods and as there is a limited choice of fresh fruits, cakes and puddings are made with dried fruits. I ate Christmas pudding, cake and mincemeat in Australia but, when it was 30C outside I really just wanted a bowl of fruit salad. So while I am no fan of the cold and snow, winter is the perfect time for recipes using dried fruits.
I know that Christmas cake induces a strong response from most people, there seems to be no middle ground, you either love it or hate it. I love it and luckily so does my husband. This year I've missed the deadline for making one that will be ready for Christmas. I still plan to bake one next week but it won't be ready to cut until mid-January, when I will appreciate it even more. Luckily there is a cake I can make and eat straight away - Stained Glass Christmas Cake. It's packed with colourful dried fruit and cut in very thin slices, so it resembles a stained glass. I have mincemeat in my refrigerator and a pudding in my freezer and shortbread is quickly made so I am almost ready. I am writing my cards that must be posted on the weekend to reach Australia and England in time and tonight we are going to get a tree. I grew up with fake Christmas trees so for me the real ones are very special. I love the scent, the argument over the decorating and just sitting in the late afternoon with only the tree illuminating the room.
I have a photo of holly growing in Kubota gardens, close to my friends' house in Seattle, to illustrate this post. Another plus for living in the frozen north, I'll be able to decorate my cake, with a sprig of fresh holly instead of fake.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Back In Toronto

Despite the grey skies and cold rainy weather I am pleased to be back in Toronto and sleep in my own bed. I had a great time in Seattle meeting lots of serious fat lovers. I also ate a great bowl of clams at Matt's in the market.

It was also fun in Vancouver, where I had two days of glorious sunshine and blue skies. When I craned my neck around the wall of condos I could even admire the mountains with a dusting of snow. I had a good meal at West where I was lucky enough to dine with Barbara-jo from Books to Cooks and Bonnie Stern and her son. Bonnie has a new book, Friday Night Dinners and her son is responsible for the photography. It is hard to pick out one highlight from our meal, but my local scallops on the foie gras buttered lentils, pictured here was wonderful.
My classes at Barbara-jo's were well organized and drew an interested crowd. I think I have spread the fat and made a few more converts in both cities on the west coast. A day in Toronto, which allowed my suitcase to catch up with me, Air Canada had put it on the wrong plane and it was off to Montreal. I knew there would be a lot of fat lovers there and I wasn't wrong, but more of that later.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Alive in Vancouver

Well I am still alive but I've been too exhausted to blog, sorry. My body still hasn't decided what time zone it is in. My return to Toronto from Paris was only three days before I set off for the west coast. That was not enough time for my body. I am still waking up in the middle of the night craving cafe au lait and a freshly baked croissant. Despite a wacky body clock, my Seattle was visit was great. I met some serious dedicated foodies at Microsoft; one was fellow Aussie from Sydney. They were all keen on fat and we had a passionate discussion about butter. I discovered a good choice of butters in The Creamery at Pike Place market from France, Ireland and Vermont. As I still had a three-day stop in Vancouver before returning to Toronto, I only bought the Kerry gold. Sunday morning before leaving for Vancouver, I enjoyed two thick slices of toast thickly spread with this Irish gold, and reluctantly left the rest for my friends.
During my stay with my friends, I replaced the skinny milk in their fridge with whole milk and convinced them to cook their eggs in butter. One family at a time is my motto.
The flight from Seattle to Vancouver, a mere 35 minutes was spectacular, clear skies and a wonderful view over the snow-capped mountains.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

West Coast

After just three days back in Toronto I've left it again. As you might guess from the photo I was happy to escape again.
It was snowing on the way to the airport and we were late leaving because they had to de-ice the plane. No snow here in Seattle just misty drizzle. I will make an attempt to keep you up to date with my adventures here on the coast
I am going to Microsoft to talk about Fat this afternoon.
I hope they don't find out I am an Apple girl!

Friday, 14 November 2008

Silence is not always golden

As most of you will realize I am not very techno-literate, I still don't have a cell phone! I want to thank John for emailing me to tell me my posts feed wasn't working. I seem to have fixed it by some lucky accident. While I was attempting this I discovered that as well as being able to post your comments on my blog I could reply to them. I have gone back through a month or so of comments and posted replies, although probably most of you have long given up hope of hearing from me. I apologize for my silence, I wasn't ignoring you, I am still learning this whole blog thing. Any suggestions or helpful links welcome and from now on I will try to be more responsive.

Thursday, 13 November 2008


This is just a short note to explain why I haven't blogged for a couple of days. I return to Toronto on weekend so my last few days are too precious to spend in front of a computer screen, sorry.
This photo reveals what I prefer to do. Although the weather has turned colder the cafe terraces are still welcoming. Nab a spot in the sun, or under a gas heater, away from the smokers who are now exiled to the terrace, and you can easily pass the afternoon for the price of a coffee, or in our case a beer and a kir. Time to stop, reflect, and watch the passing show that is Paris life. I can't help wondering and wonder why I would ever want to live anywhere else.

Sunday, 9 November 2008


The French have always been known for eating more challenging dishes, notably frogs legs and snails, than the anglo-saxons or les rosbifs. Oddly, in Paris at least, you see these two ingredients on menus less and less. You can buy snails in the markets, already prepared and stuffed back into their shells with a wad of garlic butter, but frog's legs are rarely for sale. My friend Laura gave me the address of snail farm on the northern edge of Burgundy and I went just to see how they were raised.

The snails, as my husband pointed out, are ranched. The farm consists of three large fenced green spaces or parcs were the snails "are sown", the eggs are imported from North Africa. As it was the almost the end of the season, the frost kills them off, there were only a few left in one of the parcs. In the photo you can see the snail farmer in the corner of the parc. The fence that surrounds it is topped with an electrically charged band to prevent the snails from escaping. Some seem more immune to the discomfort of an electric shock than others and make a bid to escape the cooking pot. They live and grow on the underside of wooden planks leant against long wooden trestles. They are feed a mixture of powdered grain and calcium and are kept moist with a sprinkler system.
Good-looking beasts they were too. Their feed gives them strong shells and a pleasant pale grey colour, while guaranteeing the quality of their meat. They are processed, removed from the shell, vacuum packed and sent mainly to Paris. We asked where we could eat them and our farmer listed several names, all famous chefs, including Robuchon and Ducasse. You can of course buy snails cooked in various bouillons, we chose Chablis, well we were in Burgundy, at the farm itself or by mail order. We took couple of jars with us and gave them to my friend Caroline, who is from Burgundy, to prepare. She bathed them in the traditional garlic butter, as seen here and they were as tasty as they look.
This really is the best way to eat them, forget stuffing them back into the shell, they are too damn hard to get out, even with the right utensils if you happen to have them. Save that challenge for eating them in a restaurant, where, if you are like me, you'll end up wearing more than you eat. All you need is good Burgundy wine and lots of bread to mop up the butter. And what do they really taste like? Well lesser beasts often taste of nothing but the butter and garlic and are chewy. These were earthy, tender and held their own against the garlic.

If you are in Paris just for a few days and don't have time to visit or mail order from Burgundy then visit La Maison de L'Escargot , which has been in the 15th arrondissement for over 100 years.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008


One of the reasons to be in France in the autumn is to eat wild mushrooms. There is a long tradition of mushroom foraging in France and just last week the television featured a story about harvesting mushrooms in the forest of Fontainebleau. This forest, which surrounds the chateau, is not far from Paris. The French nobility were smart in building their homes close to large woods, which provided not only mushrooms but also lots of wild game to hunt. Mushrooms can be gathered in the closer to Paris in the Bois de Boulogne, but you are likely to come across another form of wild life there!
The tradition is encouraged by the fact that you can turn up at any pharmacie and have your mushrooms checked to make sure that your sauté or omelette won't kill you or your guests. I usually buy my mushrooms at the market, that way I am sure to survive dinner but I did go foraging with my friends Lise and Franck, (the cassoulet makers), in a forest close to their country house. Their son had found a cepe the week before so we were all were convinced that we'd come back with basket full of mushrooms. The walk in the forest was invigorating, I love that swish of dried leaves under my feet and the weak sunlight straining through the trees. The only mushrooms we found were those in the photo and some pale purple ones. Even I didn't need to take a one to the pharmacie to know they weren't edible.

Back in Paris we went to the market and bought some and here is what we did with them. The first was a simple mushroom risotto made with what I call chanterelles but the French call girolles. The French don't know how to make risotto - never order it in Paris unless the chef is Italian, and even then you are probably better making it yourself or taking a train to Italy. The second is really my favourite a mixture of wild mushrooms. Here there are cèpes (porcinis in Italian), French chanterelles and trompettes de la mort. The last, a black mushroom, is also know as horn of plenty, but trumpet of death is a much more dramatic name especially as it is not poisonous. The only trick to cooking a mixture of mushrooms is to cook them separately, whatever the recipe tells you, preferably in duck fat. Then cook some shallot, garlic, and thyme sprigs in more duck fat add the cooked mushrooms back to the pan, heat through and season well and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Absolutely delicious.

Monday, 3 November 2008

From People to Amazon in two weeks

This has been quite a good couple of weeks for FAT - first a mention in People magazine - right there along with Madonna and Guy, and now I am thrilled to learn that Amazon editors have placed Fat as the number 5 in their selection of top ten cookbooks for 2008.
Authors become obsessed with Amazon numbers - I don't know what they really mean or if I am selling lots of book or none at all. However, I am proud to be in the elite company of famous chefs and authors. Now let's hope all of our books sell well.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008


Last weekend we escaped Paris for the day to visit our friends Lise and Franck in Verdon a tiny village, more a gathering of houses as there isn't even a café/bar, in the champagne region. It was a cool clear day and we drove through the valleys, tinged with autumn colours to their country home. Their house is set in a large plot of land that gently slopes down to a stream. They have a vegetable garden, a quince tree, now you know why they are my friends, and apple and cherry tree, blackcurrant bushes and a medlar tree, more about medlars later. There are also several roses bushes covered in rose hips, églantines or gratte-cul, as they are more colloquially known in French. Franc has made some rose hip jam, and has promised me a jar.
The ground floor of their house is composed of two large rooms, the kitchen/dinning room and the living room with a huge wooden beam running the length of the two rooms and at either end are wood burning stoves. These stoves not only heat their house but Franck and Lise use them for cooking too. For lunch they attacked a recipe from my book, cassoulet cooked slowly on one of those stoves and here is the result.
The first photo shows the whole pot and the second a healthy serving. It was as delicious as it looks and, best of all, they said not only was it easy to make, they had fun making. What more could a cookbook writer ask?

Saturday, 25 October 2008

More Fat In Paris

If you are a foie gras lover this photo will make you swoon. Our friends Matt and Victoria, who we met at the Epicurean Classic in Traverse City, Michigan, stopped in Paris on their way home from the Frankfurt book fair. We'd planned this dinner in September at the Classic, Matt asking simply for good Burgundy and foie gras. Well that was easy, we chose Le Régalade, a restaurant close to our apartment in the 14th. This is a good, friendly restaurant (many of the staff speak English) with an excellent menu at 32 euros. Plus, there are always special dishes available for a supplement. As it is autumn, these included game, mushrooms and this wonderful foie gras. Also joining us for dinner was Victoria's charming brother Tom, who was experiencing Paris for the first time. It took us a while to make our choices but sautés of cepes, girolles (which are chanterelles in English) game pate studded with foie gras and this magnificent whole roasted foie gras were our choices for entrées.
Matt and my husband shared the foie gras (it was for 2) and joy of joys it arrived perched on a sautéed thick slice of quince - notice how it stays yellow when cooked quickly - a perfect foil for the rich foie gras.
I have a recipe for sautéed foie gras on gingered vanilla quince in my book FAT. I've only tried roasting a whole foie gras once - with disastrous results. I was left with a tiny liver and a pan of fat! Of course I thought it was my fault or bad recipe instructions but I have since learnt that the older the liver the more fat it releases. So when I try again I'll be sure that I have a very fresh liver. Until then I am happy just to walk down the street to La Régalade and enjoy it accompanied by a glass of Jurançon.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Husbands who cook

Look at this amazing pot of choucroute or sauerkraut, if you're German. My husband made it for dinner the other night. We had our friends François and Caroline, and the couple who ran the local charcuterie until they retired a year ago. My husband Haralds is a good cook, he first wooed me with a lobster dinner, and choucroute is one of his specialties. The roots of his recipe are Latvian, he claims it's his mother's recipe but I doubt she would recognise it in its current incarnation. The only problem when he cooks is that he often makes so much we are eating the same dish for days. This time he made a perfect amount - enough for our dinner and for him to eat the next day.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Amazing Quinces

Just look at these two photographs - the before and after.

Quince is one of my favourite fruits - when raw most varieties are inedible, dry and astringent. While the skin of quinces turns from green to yellow and their flesh softens slightly as they ripen they don't loose their astringency, for that they need cooking. Cooked quinces not only change texture, becoming soft and edible, this autumnal fruit like autumn leaves, dramatically changes colour, turning dark ruby red.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Guess what I ate?

On Wednesday night Haralds and I met our friends Eric and Marie-line at a restaurant in the shadow of Notre Dame. You make you way through the crowds of tourists perusing the menus of the Greek restaurants just off Boulevard St Michel and then suddenly you're in the tiny quiet street of Saint Julien-le-Pauvre that runs into the church of the same name. And there is Ribouldingue a restaurant specializing in offal.
It was not my first visit the restaurant was recommended to me by my friend Bénédict who runs a great website miam-miam and is an expert in all things gastronomic. Perhaps I should offer a prize for anyone who can guess just what exactly is in the photo - it was my entrée. Although I've been tempted to buy them from my tripier in my local market, I haven't as I don't know how to cook them. So I thought why not try them the I'll know what I am aiming for. Like many "odd bits" these anima parts are euphemistically called rognons blancs, they are nothing like kidneys or more correctly animelles. In North America we call them prairie oysters or as Gordon Ramsey would say - bollocks!
They were delicious, mildly flavoured and although donated by a ram, tasted more of veal than sheep. The texture was soft and almost aerated, like a good boudin blanc. I can't wait to try cooking some. Watch for some photos of them raw - much less appetizing.
I followed my
rognons blancs with a more everyday dish, tripe (on the left) and my husband had sweetbreads with parsnip purée, that's it on the right.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Paris and Fat

Well it's official, I just not a good blogger. I do have an excuse - last Thursday I gave a talk on fat at Type books on the Danforth in Toronto. It was co-sponsored by Cook's Place and brave fat lovers came out in the pouring rain to hear me. They also risked missing the party leaders (Canadian) or the vice-presidential (American) debate.
For once I was glad to be over 50! A young lady in the group told me that she'd grown up eating nothing but vegetable oils and fake fats - oh dear! No wonder the younger generation packs on the pounds.
The next day I left for Paris, the one in France not Texas. And yes you guessed it, the first thing I did on arriving here was eat a freshly baked baguette slathered with good French butter. Now that I have been here a few days I am beginning to settle in - getting used to croissants for breakfast, slipping into cafés and knocking back a kir in the afternoon and going for dinner at 9pm. So I promise to try and blog more frequently to keep you up to date with la vie française.

Just to whet your appetite, look at the photograph below of the wonderful fatty lunch I ate yesterday. My husband and I had been at BHV (Le Bazar de l'Hôtel de la Ville) looking for a part to repair our shower. Renting helps pay our Paris apartment bills but it also means that for the first few days we are trying to find where the last tenants have put things and doing little repairs.
The basement of BHV is my husband's favourite store in Paris, it's the hardware section and he can spend hours just looking. Every time I descend those stairs I just want to scream. Well we found the shower part without too much trouble and then as we were hungry we went for lunch.

My husband spotted Le Fer à Cheval a few blocks east of BHV and we managed to snag a table just inside the door.

Now perhaps you can make out a salad in the background that was husband's choice. Yes it had some greenery, but when the dish arrived, that greenery was hidden under slices of cured ham, smoked duck breast and toasts topped with melted chèvre cheese! I was more upfront with a platter of charcuterie, which included cooked and cured ham, cured sausage, pâté and rillettes, served with baguette and butter, of course. I had a glass of Morgon, I have become an amateur of Beaujolais, and my husband drank a beer called Pichon but more of that later.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Look up

Living in the city we are removed from the source of our food. True we may grow herbs, vegetables or even some fruit in our town gardens but few of us feed ourselves. At this time of the year many of my neighbours are busy canning tomatoes. In almost every garage, along the lane that runs behind our building, whole families assemble to cook huge pots of tomatoes balanced precariously on propane burners. Some are also making their own wine, you'll see the telltale boxes of crushed grapes at the kerb on garbage day. My mother used to can, or rather bottle as we called it; peaches, pears, apricots and tomatoes all carefully packed into tall glass jars, sealed with a rubber ring and a metal lid before being processed in an electric canner. It was comforting to know, with the approach of winter, that there was a cupboard filled with the tastes of summer. Of course now we can buy almost any fruit or vegetable anytime, fresh, or at least "fresh frozen" so not many of us bother to preserve anymore. But, if you are the one who peels the tomatoes or stones the fruit, then the contents of those jars will taste so much better.
Autumn is the season of change and when I look up at the sky, which is clear and bright at this time of the year, I remember just how much we depend on Mother Nature and farmers.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Chewing the Fat

Well, as you have realised, I am not a very good blogger. I just can't seem to get to it more than once or twice a week. Is it my glamorous, fun-filled life style? Hardly, but I will admit it has been a little more hectic than usual. My book Fat is getting some press and lots of pick up on the Internet.
This is great, although I wonder if it will translate into sales (I hope so). The best part of all this attention is that I've received emails from around the world, around the world, New Zealand, Brazil, Belgium and Ireland. This has led to radio interviews with interesting people. I've even managed to break through the two solitudes of Canada and do an interview in French, with the national broadcaster Radio-Canada.
So instead of blogging I've been chatting. I hope to put these "foreign" conversations up on the blog soon. If you want to listen to my dulcet tones right now, there are some links on this page.
I also did my first TV spot for Fat on the Steve and Chris show here in Toronto. It was fun, but I discovered why I could never do television, I don't have that much energy! I much prefer chatting on the phone and blogging; I don't need make-up for either.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

A Perfect Day

Today is a perfect late summer day, clear blue sky, a crisp morning followed by an afternoon warm enough to sit outside. This weather reminds me of my arrival in Canada some 28 winters ago. The weather that September and well into October was just like today - perfect. I loved it. And like those first explorers, I too was fooled, lulled into a false sense of well-being which left me totally unprepared for winter to follow.
Let's just say growing up in Melbourne, Australia that I didn't really understand what -23C temperatures really meant or that the hairs in my nostrils could freeze solid as soon as I stepped outside. So, despite ordering two bush cords of firewood today, I am banishing all thoughts of winter from my mind and enjoying these last warm perfect days.
I am also trying to convince my fig tree that summer will last a few more weeks. As you see from this photo, it is only about a meter high but prolific. I have already eaten a dozen delicious figs and there are about another two dozen waiting to ripen, but I fear half of them won't make it. Those of you who live where figs are allowed to to rot on the ground should be feeling guilty.
I carefully nurture this 10 year old tree, it winters inside like me
and has an olive tree about the same height to keep it company. I thought I might even get two or three olives this year - but the blossoms didn't set, perhaps next year. I have a third plant to complete my Mediterranean trinity - a lemon tree. Every Christmas it rewards me with lemon blossom, wonderful as it winters in the bathroom and then lemons. Life in Toronto, even in deepest winter, is not all bad if you remind yourself like Goethe, that there is a land where lemon trees bloom.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Where have I been?

I know you are supposed to blog often but I've been too busy to blog, sorry. I've been talking up animal fats in the Midwest as a presenter at the Traverse City Epicurean Classic.
My session was titled "Fat is not a four letter word". I wasn't sure how I would be received, especially as en route I stopped to pick up a coffee. Usually I drink my coffee at home so I am confused, early in morning by the plethora of choice. Finally, I negotiated a tall cappuccino with an extra shot of espresso, what ever happened to small, medium and large? Then I was side swiped by "skim or 2% milk?" "Whole milk", I replied. Then I was told that 2% was whole milk!!!!!!! I patiently explained that whole milk was 3.8% fat and better in every way. I was tempted to whip out a book and let them know I was the FAT lady. However, there was no convincing this barista, so 2% milk it was, and she explained "it was Michigan thing". How could I talk about fat if these people didn't even drink whole milk?

The barista was wrong. Midwesterners appreciate fat and they liked what I had to say, that it's OK to put quality animal fat back in your diet. Fat won't make you fat, eating too much will.
I met lots of people, they are very friendly in the midwest, and I also was able to meet some of the other chefs and cookbook authors who were at the event. If any of you are in the area in September, make sure you go. And, if you can't make the Classic, at least visit Traverse City. It's a interesting town, in a beautiful location with lots of good restaurants, a perfect place for a holiday.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Les fraises des bois

An Autumn chill may be in the morning air but I'm still eating strawberries from my garden. I have several fraises des bois plants that have colonized the ground between my red currant bush and raspberry canes. I guess while mine should correctly be called fraises de jardin, they are also known as wild or alpine strawberries, that's why they do so well in Toronto, they don't mind the cold. Whatever you call them they are delicious. Their fragrance is intense and their flavour mimics strawberry jam balanced by a touch of acidity. I first tasted them in France where they are commonly served with crème fraîche and a sugar shaker. They appear early in the summer and stay in the markets late into the autumn. They are always expensive, and I now know why. The plants are not prolific, less than half a dozen tiny berries a day from my good sized patch. This photograph shows a day's harvest, but I hadn't touched my plants for a few days so there was everything from overripe soft berries to barely red ones. And as you can see the berries are tiny, the largest is no bigger than the nail of my smallest finger.

Mixed together, they were a perfect mouthful . Their heady fragrance intensifying the taste and keeping summer alive.
Read more about strawberries, the only fruit that has its seeds on the outside.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Talk, Sell, Talk, Sell

I've started the interviews to publicize Fat. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to talk to food people from all over North America and even from Australia, but I find it mentally very tiring. Perhaps I am not skilled at talking about myself, I know I'm not good at small talk. But this is different I really believe in this book and I want people to look at animal fat again and realise that it's not the evil killer. I want them to understand that is essential to the flavour of what they cook and eat. So I happy to talk about fat and try convince anyone who'll listen.
I carefully prepare for every conversation, try to remember those key messages, stay bright and energetic but somehow there is always a question I misunderstand or one that causes my mind to go completely blank so that I can't even remember my name.
Do I sound, smart? Convincing? Does the reporter and the audience believe me? And most importantly will they buy my book? With all the wonderful cookbooks out there how do you convince someone to buy yours? Especially such a contrarian one!

Monday, 1 September 2008

Corn on the barbecue

I always boiled my corn. Removing the husks and silk then dropping them into boiling salted water, before draining and slathering with butter, adding nothing more than sea salt and freshly ground pepper. The pepper surprised my husband who, until he met me, only added salt. Then, like many who read food magazines, I began the torturous task of peeling back the husk, attempting the impossible task of removing all the silk before rewrapping the cob in its leaves and soaking the whole thing before barbecuing. Superior taste and flavour was the promise. False. It was simply a tiresome way to steam the corn. Even worse, it tasted just like boiled corn.
My husband, the real corn lover in the family, decided to barbecue it, taking his inspiration from the street vendors in Toronto's India town, where grilled corn is a popular snack. After several attempts he has now perfected his method. The naked cobs are brushed with a fat and spice mixture. Lard, goose or duck fat, whatever is in our refrigerator, is blended with salt, cayenne or chili powder, garam masala and paprika. He brushes the cobs all over with this flavoured fat then cooks them over medium high, turning four times. When you here the corn popping and see some crisp burnt kernels, it's ready.

Monday, 25 August 2008

A Free Book!

Well if any one is reading this yet and they are interested in my book Fat, you should check out Mark Bittman's blog as quickly as possible. He wants you try making my recipe for bacon fat mayonnaise and send in your comments. A tip - make sure the bacon fat is liquid but not hot.

And if you can send me your comments too I'd love to read them. I don't have any books to send out as I have only one copy.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Psst, do you have any Burrata?

The habit began, as many do, quite innocently. I was watching a program of French television about buffalo milk mozzarella and the problems of dioxin contamination.

It was informative, and made me glad I don’t live in Naples, but as I watched the workers pulling the cheese curds, uncontaminated ones, and forming mozzarella by hand I started to get hungry.

Saturday, 16 August 2008


Some years ago in Luberon a beautiful region of southern France, my husband and I discovered Rinquinquin – it’s pronounced ‘ran-can-can’ through your nose, if you can. Rinquinquin is a popular aperitif but the reason we first tried it was, of course, its name.

In French the verb requinquer means to buck up - “un bon grog vous requinquera” – a hot drink will cheer you up – well despite ours being cold being served over ice, Rinquinquin had a definite restorative and relaxing effect on us.

Since then, Rinquinquin has been for me the perfect summer aperitif, as opposed to cocktail and then it is gin and tonic. Its rich peachy flavour is muted by a slight bitterness. It’s made by marinating yellow and white peaches, the cracked peach kernels and even the leaves for six months to a year, in a mixture of alcohol and wine.
The solids are then distilled and mixed with the infused liquids, sugar is added and voilà a drink that weighs in with 15 % alcohol. It’s a good idea to add ice.

Alas this peachy aperitif is not easy to find outside of France. Even in France it is not that well know but Lavinia the big wine store near the Madeleine church always stocks it and luckily my local Monoprix does too.
I brought two bottles back with me in June as it is not available in Ontario. There is only one distillery making it and they are better know for the very popular pastis, a licorice flavoured drink similar to Pernod. Their pastis, Henri Bardouin won a gold medal at the General Agricultural Competition Paris 2008

It ‘s obviously their best seller as the letters HB are embossed into all their bottles, even my Rinquinquin bottle. They make a range of aperitifs flavoured with orange, nuts and gentian. Gentian is a flowering plant, found in Provence, the Auvergne where it’s root used to make Gentiane and Suze.
Although I like bitter aperitifs, Campari for example, I prefer them in the winter – for the summer it’s the sweet taste of peach. I could create some recipes using Rinquinqun but I’d rather just be on my deck, sipping it over ice.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Blogging and Lorem ipsum

Some people may have noticed I have a blog, not too many I hope, because it is filled with loren ipsum, words used by graphic designers when they don't have real text. Lorem ipsum appears to have quite an interesting history.

I rather like the look of this perhaps meaningless text so it will fill up this page for a little while longer while I slowly start blogging. Give me a little time, as I am over 35 and my technology skill set is limited, I don’t even have a cell phone!
Come back in a week and there will be more than lorem ipsum to read, I promise.

Monday, 11 August 2008


Lorem ipsum vim ut utroque mandamus intellegebat, ut eam omittam ancillae sadipscing, per et eius soluta veritus.