By | Citrus | No Comments

I love this fruit, but I only discovered it a couple of years ago, thanks to a friend who ate it in restaurant then emailed me a photo. He told me you could eat the whole lemon. And so you should, this is not a juicing lemon.

Cedrat cut

There is very little flesh, the lemon is mainly pith and, it is not bitter at all. It is delicate and almost sweet. There is a little bitterness in the peel that balances it.

It’s a cédrat or citron and it’s commonly turned into candied peel. I prefer to eat this lemon as a salad. I thinly slice it then dress it with good quality olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. It’s that simple and so delicious  that I haven’t tried it any other way. Any suggestions?

Cedrat -sliced

Grapefruit, white of course!

By | Bitter | No Comments

When it is -20C outside, colder if you factor in the wind chill, you need something to cheer you up. Nothing grows in Ontario in this weather, but citrus fruits are everywhere in the market. They arrive from warmer climes. Seville oranges stay for only a brief moment, don’t miss them, and the cédrats/ citrons from Sicily (more about them next week) are here too. Grapefruit, always available in these days of jet setting fruit, are at their best at this time of the year.

The grapefruit is a relatively new addition to our fruit bowl, (mid 18th century) and it’s the only citrus fruit that doesn’t originate in Southeast Asia. Citrus trees hybridize easily and grapefruit are the result of an accidental cross between an orange and the largest of all citrus fruit, the yellow, thick-skinned pomelo. Today growers believe we prefer the sweet pink and red grapefruit developed at the beginning of the last century, I do not. Thankfully white grapefruit are back at my local market and I’d like to think I’m partly responsible after my promotion of them in Bitter. White grapefruit have a bitter edge that makes them much more interesting to cook, especially when making a dessert.

A friend bought me a bottle of Suze, back from Montréal so as well as drinking it I decided to make the Suze Sorbet recipe from Bitter. It’s freezing outside and I am making sorbet, yes. It’s the perfect end to a meal of rich, fatty cassoulet and the recipe couldn’t be simpler –

1 1/2 cups / 375 ml freshly squeezed and strained grapefruit juice (about 3 medium)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice, from about 1 ⁄ 2 lemon
3 1 ⁄ 2 ounces / 1 ⁄ 2 cup / 100 g superfine (caster) sugar
1 ⁄ 3 cup / 75 ml Suze

Stir the grapefruit and lemon juices together with the sugar and Suze until the sugar is dissolved. Cover and refrigerate the mixture overnight. Also, place a container for the sorbet in the freezer to get cold.

The next day, remove the sorbet mixture from the refrigerator, stir again, then churn in an ice cream machine following the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the sorbet to the cold container and freeze until ready to serve.  You will have about 2 cups / 5oo ml enough for 6 to 8 serves.

Reprinted with permission from Bitter: A Taste of the World’s Most Dangerous Flavor, with Recipes by Jennifer McLagan, copyright © 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC

The colour is a soft yellow and the taste bitter-sweet. The digestive powers of gentian, the main ingredient of Suze, help digest the cassoulet.

Suze Sorbet

Seville Oranges

By | Bitter | 4 Comments

Bleakest mid-winter in Canada holds little joy, except for the arrival of Seville oranges. And they are here now so get some and make marmalade. I add my dram of whisky to my homemade marmalade as a salute to my ancestors and the bard,Robbie Burns as his birthday is coming up. Seemingly a quintessential English food, marmalade’s beginnings however have nothing to do with England, or even oranges.

Marmello is the Portuguese word for quince. The Portuguese mixed this fruit with sugar to make marmelada a solid, dry preserve, much like today’s quince paste. Served at the end of meals, marmelada as a digestive, and to settle the stomach, an early antacid. Whether it was the taste, or its therapeutic effects, marmalade became popular and other fruits were added, notably apples and oranges. Today, in many European languages, the word marmalade is a generic term for what English speakers call jam.

During the eighteenth century, the Scots introduced marmalade at breakfast. As both orange peel and sugar were believed to warm a cold stomach and stimulate the appetite, they believed the best way to start the day was with marmalade washed down with a glass of whisky. It was still a thick paste, and not until the end of the century did it start resemble the jam we are familiar with today. In 1797 Janet Keiller, a Dundee grocer’s wife, popularised “chip” or Dundee-style marmalade. This was made with finely cut pieces of Seville orange peel suspended in a soft jelly that could be spread. Serving marmalade (and toast) at breakfast quickly became the norm.


With the expansion of the British Empire marmalade traveled the world, to Antarctica with Scott and up Everest with Hillary. Its popularity in remotest corners of the globe transformed marmalade yet again, and recipes using limes, kumquats, ginger and pineapple began to appear. Seville orange marmalade with a splash of whisky added is my favourite. On dark winter mornings, it may not warm my stomach, but it definitely brightens my mood.





Another new year

By | Bitter, Epiphany, New Year | No Comments

I will not say I have made a resolution to blog more often, resolutions never work. But having given myself the month of December off, I was doing a lot of book promotion, I plan to be more diligent with my social networking.

The end of the year is always about lists and I was thrilled to learn that Bitter made many of them. It is always a little odd to be judged in this way. My focus was on promoting the book in Toronto and Montréal before Christmas and now I am preparing to go to the west coast to visit Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle and San Francisco. Please check my Facebook page for details, all the events will be posted there, plus there is a video of myself making bitter drinks with Montréal Gazette writer Lesley Chesterman.

Tomorrow is Epiphany and the day to eat one of my favourite cakes Galette des Rois and here is the recipe part 1 & 2. Of course you can buy the puff pastry, but trust me it is not that hard to make. And don’t worry if you haven’t started, you can eat your galette all week. It is fun to celebrate the year with special foods, we have all enjoyed our Christmas favourites, so let’s start the New Year off on the right foot.

Bitter Greens

By | Bitter, Cooking | 2 Comments

The world of food is full of surprises, that’s what makes it so interesting. There is a Portuguese couple in my local market who sell olives, dried fruits and nuts, a selection of charcuterie, (they have a fabulous spicy chorizo), salt cod and a few Portuguese wines. Every time I see wine for sale in a market I think how archaic things are in Canada. Last week when I was buying salt cod to make brandade de morue,  a dish of cooked salt cod mixed with pureed potatoes and garlic, I noticed a pile of greens at the back of the stall. This was unusual because they don’t sell fresh vegetables. I asked about them and the first thing they said was that they were bitter. Great! They called them turnip tops. What we call rapini or broccoli rabe is known as cime di rapa in Italian, or turnip tops. I bought a big bunch and was told, everyone in the markets loves to tell you how to cook your purchases, that I should blanch them first to remove some of the bitterness, then cook them in a little olive oil and garlic. I protested saying that I loved bitterness, so they allowed that I could cook them without any preliminary blanching.

The bunch resembled rapini, the leaves had hollow stems, but there were no tight flower heads, just a few stray yellow flowers. The wife told me to bend the stems until they snapped, like you do with asparagus, otherwise they would be too tough. I followed her advice, then rinsed the leaves well, pulling out a few stray weeds, I’m guessing they were grown on a friends farm. As the leaves drained in a colander, I heated a little olive oil in a large saucepan and gently cooked a couple of sliced garlic cloves until they  began to colour. I dumped in all the damp leaves, gave them a stir, then covered the pot and cooked them until they were wilted and tender. The taste was like rapini, but significantly more bitter – I loved it. I am not sure my guests that night were as keen. However, that just meant I was able to enjoy the turnip greens the next day reheated in a frying pan topped with a couple of eggs. I am hoping they will have more this week.