Bitter Christmas

By | Christmas | No Comments
With everyone talking about Christmas baking and cooking I’d like to put a word in for eating something bitter at this time of the year. Bitter has been my life over the last year or so as I’ve been working on a book about bitter foods to be published by Ten Speed in September 2014. I think there should be a little bitter in every holiday menu. Bitter foods spark the appetite and more importantly help you digest your food, very beneficial at this time of year when we all tend to over indulge.

Dandelions are one of my favourite bitter greens: in my Paris market I was offered a choice between the familiar dark green, chewy ones and those pictured here. I chose the pale dandelions. They had been blanched, that is grown under a blanket of soil, which made them more tender, but also more bitter. I eat them bathed in a simple dressing of olive oil with a good amount of lemon and salt added. Salt and acid help balance bitter. The darker specimens respond better to a hot dressing which wilts them into submission. Place them in a warm bowl, cook up some fatty bacon and when crisp add it to the leaves. Pour some vinegar and white wine to the pan stirring to deglaze and season well. Tip the hot dressing over the dandelions and toss. Add to your Christmas menu and serve it before the pudding to restore your appetite.


Spoils of Christmas

By | Christmas, New Year's Eve | 5 Comments
One of the best things about Christmas is the leftover fat. Others may be thrilled with the latest gadget they received, but I happy knowing there is fat in my refrigerator. As delicious as our Christmas goose was, it is already slipping into my memory. However, I have its fat to cook with in the new year – pure white fat tipped off after the initial roasting, and creamy, beige fat poured off before making the gravy, both will be excellent for frying potatoes.

The golden yellow fat in foreground is from my foie gras terrine and it will be part of the bread crumb topping on my New Year’s Eve cassoulet.

Wishing everyone a year full of good tasty animal fat.

Christmas Chocolate

By | Brugges, Chocolate, Chocolate museum, Christmas, Verheecke | One Comment

This photo was taken by my friend Robyn in Brugges, en route to visit me in Paris and I couldn’t resist taking a copy of it. These goodies are to be found in Verheecke Chocolate store. Brugges bills itself as the world capital of chocolate, a bold claim but with over 49 chocolate stores and a museum of chocolate it might be justified. So if you don’t know what to get the man in your life for Christmas and happen to be anywhere near the charming town of Brugges you might consider one these chocolates.

An Appeal for Homemade Peel

By | baking, cake, Candied Peel, Christmas | 2 Comments

Less than a month to Christmas and although I’ve missed stirring Sunday it isn’t too late to begin some Christmas baking. I may let the cake slide this year but I will be making some festive breads and cakes from other countries.
Most of these cakes and breads contain candied peel so I made some today. It is the easiest thing to do and you should try it. Then you can maintain quality and know exactly what you are getting. When did melon become a citrus fruit? Here is a recipe –

3 organic lemons
3 organic oranges
2 organic grapefruit
400g (2 cups) sugar
250 ml (1 cup) water

Rinse and dry the fruit. Cut a slice off the top and bottom of each fruit and then stand each fruit upright
and using a sharp knife cut down the fruit to remove the peel in large pieces. Use the flesh for juice or fruit salad.

Place the pieces in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour, uncovered, stirring from time to time.

Drain and rinse the peel under cold water, then cut into small dice.

Place the sugar and water in a pan over medium heat, stir to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, bring the syrup to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Add the diced peel and simmer uncovered for 1 hour or until the peel is translucent.

Strain the peel and then spread in a single layer on a wax paper lined tray. Leave at room temperature for 2 hours. Transfer them to another wax paper lined tray and leave for another 2 hours.
Now it is up to you how long you leave the peel. I like it slightly soft, so I leave the peel overnight then pack it into a jar. You can leave it longer, up to 2 days so it becomes completely dry, then toss it in some sugar  transfer before packing it into jars.

Makes about 425 g (3 cups).

You can you also cut the peel into strips, then once they are candied cut dip them in chocolate.

Christmas Eve

By | celebration, Christmas, food, memories, New Year, slush | 2 Comments

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.