Where is spring?

By | Australia, summer | No Comments

I’ve been back from Australia, less than a week and my body clock is still playing up. I’m tired when I don’t expect and hungry at the oddest times. I knew it wouldn’t be warm when I returned, but I’d hoped for some respite from the long winter. It seems it’s not to be. Not only is it cold, but bitterly cold with the wind chill plunging the temperature to -14C. That feels even colder after the warmth of the Antipodes. I’ve dragged out my winter coat however, I refuse to wear my boots, after weeks in light summer sandals I can’t deal with their weight.

At least I’ve had 3 weeks of paradise and memories of coffee on the deck, walking along the beach and swimming are keeping me warm. As the sun streams into my office and all I can see is blue sky, I flip through my photos and am instantly transported back, it’s good to know my friends are warm and drinking gin and homemade tonic water. It will warm up here, eventually but I’m not sure how long I can wait.


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.


Gin & Gooseberries

By | Gin, Gooseberries, summer | 5 Comments
It’s an exceptional summer in Toronto. The heat began early and by the time I returned mid-June it was very hot and humid. I love the heat, but the humidity can drain all your energy, so that by the afternoon all you want to do is snooze in a chair. The upside of all this heat is that it’s perfect weather for gin and tonic, my preference is Hendricks gin with sliced cucumber.
The heat has also made all the fruit in my urban garden ripen more quickly than usual. I managed to harvest some green gooseberries, the green ones have good acidity, which makes them a perfect foil for oily fish.
Most of my gooseberries changed colour before I could harvest them. This means my gooseberries are sweeter and softer than I like them but they can be eaten without cooking and make good desserts.
Instead of making ice cream, I prefer ice cream when it’s cold, yes it’s a quirk, that I can’t explain, but I do like ices and sorbets when it’s hot. I’ve been tinkering with this recipe since I first made it. Just gently cook 450 g / 1 pound gooseberries with 125 g / 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, stirring from time to time until soft and tender. Let everything cool slightly and then pass it through the fine grill of a food mill. Chill overnight before churning it in an ice cream machine.
You can make this recipe with green gooseberries, just check the sweetness and it will turn a paler shade of pink.