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.


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.


By | Australia, travel | One Comment

The frigid weather has me thinking about traveling and living elsewhere. I spent 10 days on the west coast, Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle and San Francisco promoting Bitter. Victoria was rainy, but a lot milder than Toronto. I went crazy tweeting photos of daffodils and camellias in bloom as it was only the end of January. However, I’m not sure I could live on an island and endure the continual grey skies.

Vancouver was my next stop where it was clear, sunny and around 12C, positively balmy after Toronto. I admit the view of the mountains and the ocean make it special, although I’m not sure I could put down roots there. Seattle has many of the same charms, mountains and water, however it was San Francisco that stole our hearts this trip. I stayed with friends, who make great martinis, so that swayed my judgment plus I arrived to perfect weather; sunny, warm 23C, and clear, not always the case in early February. This time the city reminded me even more of my birthplace, Australia. There were eucalyptus trees everywhere and wattle trees in flower, like the one pictured here.

I consider wattle a quintessential Australia flower, although acacias now grow around the world. You see them in the south of France and they’re called mimosa. I’m headed back to Australia for a few weeks going from -30C to +30C, it will be quite a shock to my system. I won’t see any wattle in flower, it’s the end of the summer down there, but I will see flowers, feel the warmth and be able to go out without wearing long underwear, boots, gloves, scarf and heavy winter coat. I can’t wait to have my morning coffee on my friends deck.

I’ll also do a little promotion for Bitter so check out Books for Cooks I’ll be there in March. Mostly I will be soaking in the heat and dipping my toes into the warm ocean water. I can’t wait.

I’ll try to post if I can manage on a mobile device, in the meantime feast your eyes on the wattle. And for all of you stuck in the north east of North America remember that one day spring will come…… it will.


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