Tuesday, 31 March 2009

April Food Day

Since starting this blog I have meet, mostly in cyberspace, many interesting people. One of them, Anthenaeus asked me if I would join him and other bloggers in supporting April Food Day. Food bloggers, who are sometimes too obsessed with food in all it forms, are an ideal group to draw people's attention to those whose preoccupation with food is not what they have eaten or will eat but simply how to feed themselves and their family. Today's dramatic economic times mean that many more people are finding themselves in dire straits through no fault of their own. Take a look at Athenaeus's blog if you live in the US to see what you can do to help. As I am based in Toronto Canada, I suggest you send a donation to The Daily Bread Food Bank they are running a spring drive, more and more people need help as the price of food continues to rise. Those readers living elsewhere please make an effort to find your local equivalent. No one should have to make the choice between paying the rent and putting the food on the table, be generous.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Trying to Believe in Spring

Saturday was beautiful, warm, well 12C, and sunny. I spent a lot of the day outside, repotting plants and cleaning up the garden. I moved all my plants out onto the deck yet one more time. There was even pale pink hothouse rhubarb in the market - spring was here.
I made two desserts, a pavlova with poached rhubarb and a recipe that Mary, a writer from Ireland, sent me - an upside down cake made with a scone dough, both were simple and delicious.

Today winter is back, no sun and a bitter wind. Worse still it is going below zero tonight so I'll be hauling all those plants back inside. I know it is only March but this winter has been so long I really want spring to arrive.
I am slowly catching up after 5 days in New York, more about that trip soon. First I have to finish my taxes - now that is a harbinger of spring.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Nominated Again! WOW

Just a quick note to say that I was thrilled to learn today that Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes has been nominated in the Single Subject category for a James Beard Award. I am in New York at the moment which makes it all rather exciting. I am going out tonight with friends to celebrate, more news soon.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Spring? Not yet.

Well for two days this week I believed in spring. The sun shone, it was warm 10C (stop laughing in Australia): I opened the windows, put my fig and olive trees on the deck, and even changed coats. I've been wearing the same black, fake fur lined coat all winter. There was no need to light a fire at night and my Mediterranean natives even spent the evening outside. I know it wasn't spring, but I was just beginning to think it would be arriving soon. Then today, to coincide with springs' official arrival, the temperature dropped back below zero, my fig and olive trees came back inside and the windows were slammed shut.
The warmth inspired me to make a lamb navarin. Now navarin is just a French term for stew. While it can be a winter dish with mutton or lamb and vegetables, I always think of it as a spring dish navarin printanier lamb with baby carrots, turnips, onions, potatoes and peas. The term navarin probably comes from the French for turnip navet, whatever its origin it sounds better than stew.
If is best made with a cut of lamb that can cook slowly and has some fat, as this will result in more flavour. I had some lamb cheeks, left over from the lamb heads I'd purchased - it was the only way to get lambs' brains here it seems, so I decided to use them. Cooked long and gently with a mirepoix, a mixture of finely chopped carrot, celery and onion, rosemary and lamb stock they were meltingly tender. The vegetables, preferably small spring vegetables, are cooked separately and added at the end. I found small turnips, pickling onions and new potatoes but I had to cut my big carrots into smaller pieces. The cooked meat is removed from the cooking liquid, which is then strained and reduced. Everything is added back to the reduced sauce, with the exception of the onions, and heated through. While the vegetables are taking on the flavour of the sauce, you caramelize the onions in sugar and butter and they go in right at the end with the peas. As my lamb stock was homemade the sauce had a wonderful syrup consistency.
Well that was Wednesday; tonight winter is back so it's blood sausage, apples, Tuscan kale and potatoes in duck fat.
Perhaps there'll be some rhubarb in the market tomorrow so I can defy winter with a spring dessert.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

There's magic in the Brussels Sprout

Almost a week ago I recited these words at the third annual Silver Sprout award given by Barbara-jo's Books-to-Cooks. John Bishop of Bishops restaurant, presented me with a wood sphere. Inside was a life-size, sterling silver Brussels sprout with the testimonial, created by the talented Robert Chaplin who was at the awards. It was a really delightful evening, check out the highlights and I met many fat lovers. This award is very special to me because it was Barbara-jo's customers, people who are very passionate about good food and cooking, who voted it.
My friends know that I am not a big fan of Brussels sprouts, they are somewhere with rutabaga (or Swede as I called it in Australia), in other words at the bottom of my vegetable list. Perhaps I don't like vegetables that are country specific?? Now I am compelled to give the Brussels sprout another chance much to my husband's delight. Rutabagas and Brussels sprouts are near the top of his vegetable list.
I will start with a recipe from Union Square Cafe Cookbookfor hashed sprouts with poppy seeds and lemon. It says in the recipe introduction that it will convert the most ardent Brussels-sprout hater into a connoisseur. There are some in my fridge, my husband bought them, so I'll try them tonight and let you know. And as I cook I will recite Robert's ode to the Brussels sprout -

"Sing and shout and dance about, there's magic in the Brussels sprout
Boiled up and served in butter, baked into a pie
I love to eat the Brussels sprout
To go without would make me cry!
Have faith and never ever doubt
There's magic in the Brussels sprout
In cheese sauce or in minestrone
I will stand and testify
I love to eat the Brussels sprout
To go without I'd rather die!"

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Cold, but a warm welcome

I am in Vancouver to accept the Silver Brussels Sprout award for the best cookbook from Barbara-jo's Books to Cooks. I was hoping for warm spring weather and lots of cherry blossoms - but no. The day before I arrived it had snowed, quite unseasonable and as rode from the airport I saw patches of snow everywhere. I did note that they were sitting on green grass. Nothing green in Toronto. The weather was crisp but that meant a brilliant blue sky and wonderful view of the mountains that surround the city. The welcome was warm, especially at the Uva wine bar where over a glass of pinot grigio I had a interesting conversation with Macaulay and the manager Sebastian, about food, fat and salted butter. Sebastian hails from Brittany so naturally loves salted butter.
In the late in the afternoon I went for a long walk with Barbara-jo to Lost Lagoon Lake then along the water to English Bay. Although it was cold it was great to see the ocean again. I also spied a cherry tree, tucked into a sheltered spot, just about to burst into flower.

Sunday, 8 March 2009


Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes has been nominated in the Single Subject category in the IACP Cookbook Awards. This is great news, my first book Bones was also nominated for this award. FAT now has the privilege of rubbing shoulders with Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide by Thomas Keller and Jacques Torres' A Year in Chocolate: 80 Recipes for Holidays and Special Occasions- pretty heady company.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

mmmmm bacon

I tested a dish last night for the second time. My husband said straight away “it’s not as flavourful as the first time”. He was right but I couldn’t figure out what I had done differently. Then, when I went to serve up the main course, I realized my mistake there next to the stove was a dish of cooked crispy bacon that I’d forgotten to add. It's hard to imagine life without bacon. I've posted this whimsical photo of a bacon tree – if only you could plant a bacon tree in your yard, or have it on the kitchen windowsill next to the herbs. This photo was taken by Fred Sauceman at a Southern Foodways Alliance event and sent to me by member and good friend Miriam Rubin. Without knowing me, Fred has graciously allowed me to post his shot. Bacon lovers are good people.

Bacon has many fans and there are numerous internet sites dedicated to bacon. Recently the New York Times weighed in and then I received an email from Belgium with this link. Next Pav at Overnights, an Australian radio show where I am a regular guest, asked me about the Bacon Explosion, which it seems has traveled the world. Its fame is now assured as it has a Wikipedia page. Bacon is back. I claim to have done my bit with my book Fat and reading the responses to bacon on Mark Bittman’s blog just shows how deep our love of bacon runs. For me bacon comes from a pig, but recently I tried some lamb bacon made by Christopher at Whitehouse Meats. While smaller than regular bacon there was enough fat on the lamb belly to make it appropriately fatty and so tasty. Here it is on toast topping a spread made from lamb's testicles, more of that later.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Book Proposals

More than a week since my last post but I do have a good excuse.
I’ve been working on my next book proposal. I wish you could just say to an editor - “This is my idea for a book….. Yes, isn’t it great? Good, I’ll start working on it and expect my advance soon.”

However, publishing doesn’t work like that, at least not for me, and while I don’t like writing proposals I admit they are a good exercise. A proposal focuses on your idea and makes you think about how you are going to present it and the structure of your book. It also shows you if your idea is strong enough to carry a whole book. The proposal doesn't always reflect the exact structure of the finished book, but it does provide a framework to work with in.

My proposal is finished and emailed it to my agent who has sent it out, so now I wait and wait. Instead of sitting at my computer constantly checking emails for a response I decided to do some food styling to occupy my mind and more importantly earn some money. For the last week I’ve been in a photo studio and I am back there again next week, so don’t expect much posting. I have rediscovered just how much a job cuts into your writing and thinking time, and I have admiration for those who hold a full time job and write.

Today I am making dinner for friends and testing two recipes for the next book. Unlike last week I am thinking about what flavours go together in a dish, rather than simply considering how it looks.