Summer Bounty

By | summer | 2 Comments

With August you are just beginning to realise how wonderful summer is. I had bounty of gooseberries, a good crop of raspberries and not so many red currants that have all come to an end. Gooseberries went into pie, were gently poached to serve with lots of cream and there so many I’ve also tucked them into the freezer to cheer up mid-winter evenings.  Most of my raspberries along with the red currants became summer pudding. I’m on my third one and I’ve also have one in the freezer.

This year, for the first time I made raspberry jam, just four jar because my friend Ilze had so many they were dropping to the ground faster than she could pick them. The recipe I followed Christine Ferber’s recipe, and it’s so delicious I’m going to have trouble keeping it until winter.

There is one fruit in my garden that is still going strong and will continue into the autumn, my wild strawberries or fraises de bois. I love these intensely flavoured fruit that are all the more precious because I can never gather more than a small handful at a time. Enough to top an individual tart but I don’t bother, I simply eat them warm and juicy from the sun.

Celebrating

By | Bitter | No Comments

I was thrilled to learn on Saturday morning that Bitter had won the James Beard Award for Single Subject cookbook. I was asleep in Paris when all the excitement was happening in New York City. My email was full of congratulations from friends and colleagues. It is wonderful to be nominated, but it is an even bigger thrill to win, especially against stiff competition.

Of course we had champagne in the cellar, but my husband decided to buy a cake. This is never a problem in Paris and we went to La Pâtisserie des Rêves on rue du Bac. Our gâteau of choice there is usually a Saint Honoré, we buy one every May to celebrate our wedding anniversary, so we decided to try something else. I’d just read Paris by Mouth’s choice of the best Paris-Brest and as I’m a fan of cycling, the choice was obvious, plus I like cakes with a back story.

As Paris by Mouth points out this cake was created by pastry chef Louis Durand  in 1910. The Paris-Brest bicycle race went right by his store in Maisons Laffitte a suburb of Paris.  The cake is a ring of choux pastry topped with sliced almonds, baked then split and filled with a praline cream. I’ve made this cake in cookery school, and eaten many, but I knew Philippe Conticini would create a fabulous Paris-Brest with a twist. Read the description here. To say the cream filling is light, while true doesn’t convey the richness and intensity of its hazelnut flavour and the liquid praline within is just genius. With a glass, or two  of champagne it was the perfect way to celebrate.

Thanks to everyone for their kind wishes and next time your in Paris, run to La Pâtisseries des Rêves, you can buy an individual one.

Chicago

By | Bitter, Cookbooks | No Comments

The weekend after Easter I was in Chicago. I must have pleased the local weather gods as I had fabulous weather. Sunny, clear and warm, after Toronto, at 15C. It was a little windy the first day, just Chicago living up to its reputation, but it was wonderful to see lots of green, blossom and flowers. The locals are very friendly and I met lots of interesting people. My first event for Bitter was at the Arts Club of Chicago, a private club in Chicago, which will be celebrating its 100th anniversary next year. It seems to be a well kept secret because many people I talked to in the city didn’t know about it. If you live in Chicago check it out. I was interviewed by the charming and well read Victoria Lautman. As an author you always know if someone has read your book, or just glanced at the press release. Victoria had not only read Bitter, but delved into all my books. We had a great conversation with interesting questions afterwards. The club chef even made some dishes from book for the luncheon that preceded the interview.

My second event was on Saturday with Chicago Foodways and the Chicago Culinary Historians. These are two very active groups that hold events at Kendall College. If you are interested in food you should be a member.

I haven’t illustrated this post with a photo of the city of Chicago, you can see a couple here. Instead I wanted to show you one of the best things I ate – the menudo at Carnitas Uruapan, a tiny hole in the wall in the Pilsen area of Chicago. I found it thanks to Mark, and you should take a look at his interesting blog. The food was great, it was crowded and cramped. Any spare space in the restaurant was filled with people lining up for takeout, but they managed to fit in a kid with a guitar who sang Mexican songs. It’s not a fine dining experience, but it was fun, delicious, friendly and cheap.  So this bowl of menudo is my homage to Chicago.

Fish, Fish and more fish

By | Australia, Fish | No Comments

I thought if I kept posting photos of the beach you might stop reading. Even if you continued I might have stopped writing. The perfect beaches made me wish I had stayed in Australia, where although the autumn has started, it is a lot warmer than Toronto. Here it is supposedly spring, but the temperatures are still in the basement and there is nothing green in the garden. We even had snow flurries yesterday!

One of the many delights of my Australian visit was the seafood, I ate it at almost every meal and was spoiled for choice. I ate snapper, barramundi, garfish, oysters, prawns (shrimp to North American readers), but my favourite were the sardines pictured above. I love sardines, fresh or canned. We often think of canned fish as some how less than fresh, but it’s not true.

Canned fish was once a luxury, but it has lost much of its appeal. However, in France where canning began, canned sardine are often millésimé, like wine with a vintage date stamped on them. These cans are carefully stored for up to twenty-five years, during which time their contents turns into a rich paste that sardine aficionados relish. I have some in my basement in Paris and turn them every 6 months.

Canned fish also take pride of place in tapas bars in Spain, and elsewhere, check Bar Raval in Toronto. I always have canned fish in my pantry, it makes a quick meal. Canned sardines, not millésimé, were the fast food of my childhood and I remember opening them with the big key attached to the bottom of the tin. Now they have a ring pull, more practical perhaps, but not nearly as much fun. Here, from Bones: Recipes, History, and Lore is that childhood dish, improved with experience.

Serves 2

One 100 g can good quality sardines, packed in olive oil of course

4 not-too-thick slices country bread

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons chopped dill

Fleur de sel

A lemon

Preheat the broiler.

Toast the bread under the broiler: well on one side and lightly on the other, so that it is dry and just colored. Spread the lightly toasted sides of the bread with the mustard. Arrange the sardines on top, then drizzle with olive oil from the can. Place on a baking sheet and broil until the sardines are hot and the bread is darkening on the edges.

Sprinkle with the chopped dill, and a little salt. Give them a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and serve with a lightly dressed salad of frisée or arugula, a little bitter to balance the oily sardines.

If you need more ideas on how to cook with canned fish you should check out my friend Barbara-jo’s book Tin Fish Gourmet: Great Seafood from Cupboard to Table.

Sardine

Hot Cross Bun Recipe

By | Easter, Hot Cross Buns | No Comments

Here is a quick post for all those listening to Overnights with Trevor Chappell – Check this page  Hot Cross Buns  for some history of these buns, Perhaps you will agree with the Tudor law banning their sale, except on certain days. They are traditionally eaten on Good Friday. Below is my favourite recipe from the wonderful Elizabeth Baird. Hot Cross buns are at their best toasted and topped with lashings of good butter

Makes 16 buns.

65 g granulated sugar

125 ml warm water

1 package (8 g) active dry yeast (traditional)

175 ml whole milk

60 g butter

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon allspice

500g plain flour

125 g dark raisins

40 g mixed peel

3 tablespoons corn syrup

Add 1 teaspoon of the sugar to the warm water, then stir in yeast. Leave until the yeast has softened and bubbly and yeast.

Meanwhile, heat the milk, butter, remaining sugar and salt over low heat until the butter melts and sugar has dissolved. Let cool to lukewarm.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle, mix the eggs, egg yolk, and spices, then, add the yeast and milk mixtures.

Add half the flour and mix at medium speed to make a smooth batter, about 3 minutes. Add the  raisins and peel and then with a wooden spoon mix in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft sticky dough. Turn the dough into a greased bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm spot until doubled, about 1 hour.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Knock the dough down and leave for 10 minutes. Then tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide in two. Flour your hands and roll each piece into a log, the cut each log into 8 pieces (I use a scale to make my buns equal in size).

Form each piece into a ball and place onto the baking sheet, leaving space around them. Cover with a towel and leave to rise, in a warm place, for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Meanwhile, hone your sharpest knife. With light but deft strokes, cut a shallow cross in the top of each bun. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until evenly browned and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Brush the top of the buns with the corn syrup and place the pan to a rack and leave to cool.