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.

Celebrating with Gin and Tonic

By | Cookbooks | 2 Comments

The drink pictured is gin with my homemade tonic. This last week we’ve had glorious summer weather despite the calendar telling us it’s autumn. It has been perfect gin and tonic weather, which was lucky as it was the star beverage at my book launch.  I celebrated Bitter’s arrival on Canadian shelves with a an event at Reposado. This wonderful tequila bar is owned by friends of mine who, also organized a gin sponsor for the event. Thank you! So the tonic was mixed with Bombay Sapphire East gin and it turned out to be a great match. Bombay Sapphire East has notes of pepper and lemongrass with a mild citrus flavour, and tonic is a mixture of citrus, lemongrass, star anise, allspice and pepper –  perfect harmony.

Homemade tonic is not clear like commercial brands. The cinchona powder colours it orange brown and gives it a bitter taste. (Quinine is extracted from cinchona bark).  You don’t drink it straight, but mix it 50/50 with sparkling water, and add a slice of lime.  It is the quintessential summer drink and it is even good without gin. We forget that bitterness is much more thirst quenching than sweetness, so I urge you to try it. One person who did said,

“…the sensation of drinking homemade tonic water after a lifetime of the store bought stuff was like seeing a full-colour movie for the first time after being stuck  all my like with black and white.”

And we all need a little more colour in our life.


Bitter cover – what is it?

By | Cardoons, Cookbooks | 3 Comments

I love the cover of my new book, it has no dust jacket. There are strong feelings about dust jackets. Some people remove them immediately, others take them off  to read the book putting them back on when they’ve finished. That doesn’t really work for cookbooks, well I hope it doesn’t for mine, I like to think people not only read them, but constantly use them. Currently it’s popular to produce cookery books without dust jackets, although this is not new. Stephanie Alexander’s fabulous The Cook’s Companion first published in 1996 for example, although the gold lettering is disappearing. More recent naked cookbooks are those by Nigel Slater and Yottam Ottolenghi. Read More

Chicago – my kind of town

By | Cookbooks, travel | No Comments
Here I am in the Butcher and Larder with owner Rob Levitt. We had a great demo, Rob braised lamb neck with olives, lemon and mint from Odd Bitsand I made blood pancakes, which surprised and fascinated the group. There was a complaint – they didn’t taste weird enough! They just tasted delicious. With such a keen and educated group I’m expecting blood waffles, blood bread and pancakes will be common fare in Chicago soon.

I had a great time with the Culinary Historians. I love this group as I always learn something, this time it was about medieval philosophy, more later.

So I want to thank everyone, but especially Mark S for encouraging me to come back to Chicago. Not only did Mark advise me where to eat and drink, he introduced me to like minded foodies over a very spicy Northern Thai lunch. Thank you Mark, thank you Chicago, and thank you weather gods for providing the summer like weather.

Warm sunshine, blossom, nose-to-tail eating, fabulous cocktails and a green river to celebrate St Paddy’s day. Chicago is my kind of town.

In my hands

By | Books, Cookbooks | 6 Comments

The first copy of Odd Bits is in my hands. It is very exciting to be holding something that you ave only seen on a computer screen or endless black and white printouts. There is still and always will be something special about a physical book. Here is a sneak peek……

The front and back covers. The cut piece of meat on the cover is half a pig’s trotter and on the back is a dish of sweetbreads with morels and fava beans (broad beans in if you speak English and don’t live in North America.

Anyone familiar with my first two books Bonesand Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipeswill know that I love end papers. It is such a lot of space that is usually wasted in cookbooks. How beautiful is that tripe? Wouldn’t it make a stylish cardigan?

And here is the contents page, the only place you can beg for a double page spread – love it! Want to see more? You’ll have to wait until September.

PS: For anyone interested the cream didn’t really soften the tannins in the red currant ice except, but it did make it paler and firmer in the freezer. On subsequent tastings the tannin doesn’t bother me, the ice is refreshing, palate cleansing and delicious.