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chickpea puree with octopus, mexican chorizo and cilantro salsa verde

I know that I am the best cook(er) in the world because my three year-old son tells me so when I make him fridge surprise for dinner. (The surprise being that there is anything remotely edible in our fridge.) Naturally, this makes me exceedingly happy, especially so since he tends to eat such meals with gusto. However, it is not just gastronome children who appreciate our particular brand of cookery. No, indeed. Last year, one of our pictures (from this post) was liked on Instagram by top Philadelphia restaurant Alla Spina, no less.

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chorizo, watermelon, papaya, red onion and feta salad
While awake in the middle of the night, hoping like hell one’s infant will go back to sleep soon, one experiences a range of emotions, including, but not limited to, joy, frustration, fatigue, anger, sadness, despair and, with any luck, relief. And, as one sits rocking away or pacing incessantly in the inky blackness of the wee hours, one’s mind has a tendency to wander. If sleep deprivation didn’t rob one’s short-term memory, I’m sure some of those wandering thoughts would be quite fascinating to recall. Equally, I’m sure, most would be best left unremembered.

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Poutine with Brussel sprouts

“Je me souviens”
I shall not forget / I remember

– Quebecois motto

You never forget your first poutine the saying doesn’t go. But it should. After all, what gastronomic experience could be more profound than the comforts of crispy fries, luscious gravy, and melty cheese curds, followed immediately by sleepiness, the fat sweats, and self-loathing? I can tell you when and where it was I plowed into my first poutine. And, if it wasn’t life-altering exactly – in truth it was very prosaic and transactional – it was certainly an experience that I have not and shall not soon forget. Continue Reading »

calves liver a l'estragon, L'Express, Montreal
As Montreal braces for its annual mid-winter festival, a lot of which takes place au plein air as they might say, much of the US East Coast braces itself for the kind of frigid, snowy conditions that Montrealers witness 6 months of the year, illustrating just one of the ways they and their city distinguish themselves from the rest of us.

In October 2008, we visited Montreal for the first time over Columbus weekend (US) aka Canadian Thanksgiving and came home fatter and much closer to our first stroke, but enchanted. Even though we hardly had time to scratch the surface on that brief sojourn, it didn’t stop us describing our chastening experience at the cruel hands of Martin Picard in excruciating detail nor blabbering on garrulously in a podcast about how fabulous it all was. Since then, we’ve barely touched foie gras, but we’ve been jonesing to return. The small matter of having two children making that rather more challenging. Continue Reading »

Uzbeki Lamb Pilaf (Plov)

It’s not unusual to get a little cabin-fever during Yuletide as weather, darkness and social engagements restrict one to indoor activities, but that norm has been compounded for us this Christmas by the arrival of our second child just two weeks ago. As anyone who has had infant children knows, social occasions quickly become hassles, and it’s almost impossible to leave the house with a newborn without first making sure to have milk, diapers, changes of clothing, blankets, pacifiers and assorted other junk on hand, at which point, it will almost certainly start to rain or snow, forcing you to re-wrap the baby in extra layers or throw hands in air and abort plans altogether.

We’ve had the immensely good fortune of assorted friends and relations having visited or stayed during Emiliana’s first weeks which has been a huge help but being so housebound has forced us to be rather more imaginative than usual in the preparation of our meals. It’s hardly been a hardship, however: those of you that follow us on Instagram know that the extraordinarily good garlic, rosemary and sage-marinated leg of lamb we roasted over potatoes and turnips on Christmas Day provided most succulent leftovers that we progressively turned into fillings for souvlaki and tacos. What you don’t know is that this inventiveness reached an extraordinary pinnacle on the third day of Christmas with a spectacular Uzbek-style plov, or pilaf.

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Bunny Chow
“There once was a tall bloke from Durban
A Sikh, oft’ seen sporting a turban.
A white country loaf
in curry afloat,
was the lunch he’d chase down with a bourbon.”

The future is a frustratingly unpredictable thing. Perhaps most frustratingly, when there are predictable events in that future but the circumstances in which you expected them to take place do not turn out as anticipated. For example, our second child is on the way imminently, but I was recently made unemployed and totally didn’t see it coming. Now we are scrambling to figure out how to extend health insurance coverage in order to avoid having to ruin ourselves financially in paying for the hospital stay. You know, that kind of nuisance. Continue Reading »

Francis Mallmann's Peached Pork

Anyone who works in a company of any size will tire at some point of hackneyed sports analogies when discussions around departmental or organizational performance occur. I certainly had more than my fill this past week during day-long 2014 strategic planning sessions, but perhaps surprisingly the most common sports cliche “practice makes perfect” didn’t come up. This is a shame because of all the hot air made about around teamwork and communication, I would argue that trying to improve at your craft and learning from your mistakes is the most important element of success in any arena. I would include learning to be flexible in changing circumstances under that too. Continue Reading »

Matambre

“I dream of the South, a huge moon, the sky reversed,
I am looking for the South, the open time, and its thereafter.”

– Vuelvo al Sur, by Astor Piazzolla

One may be inspired by the unlikeliest of sources, and sources of inspiration do not come much more unlikely than John Unsworth. John – Jack to his friends – is from Penistone, South Yorkshire. Inevitably, he came to be known to us as Jack from penis town, a moniker he bore with great forbearance. Skinny and pale, dour, but slyly humorous, and given to obsessions over cult movies and the quality of his tea-leaves, he was in many ways a typical Yorkshireman, particularly in his love of pies. Frequent were the conversations around the texture of the perfect lard crust, achieved at such and such pie shop in Barnsley. Sadly for Jack, these ethereal creations traveled poorly, forcing him to seek solace in the arms of Fray Bentos. Continue Reading »

IMG_7976

Revolutionary is a loaded term in the United States, especially in early July, but if the term can be said to have a single locus it’s perhaps the nation’s first capital and venue for the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Philadelphia. However, revolutions come in all shapes and sizes and in a variety of milieux, and nearby, South-east Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Valley has witnessed plenty of such: politically, in terms of fisticuffs between the rebellious colonials and the crown, and in developments that moved the country forward economically. Continue Reading »

Slovak Potato-Crusted Pork Chops

“A smooth sea never a skilled mariner made.”
– English proverb

In the summer of 1997, two friends and I decided it would be a hoot to spend six weeks visiting a variety of countries that had recently emerged from behind the Iron Curtain. It turned out to be rather more of a hoot than even a trio of 19 year olds hell-bent on sampling every brand of cheap local vodka could have possibly imagined. In fact, during one particularly ill-starred episode, we were ordered off a train at gunpoint by a quartet of grim-faced Belarusian border guards. Oh, the mirth.

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saute of lamb's offal on potato gallette

The world of social media seems to have been created for the sole purpose of allowing the general public to share its idiocy as widely as possible. Along with this opportunity also arrived the penchant for inventing ridiculous new expressions and forming them into one of the most odious aspects of modern life, the hash tag. It is for this reason, among several others, that we are rarely to be found on Twitter. However, the recent decision by Facebook to adopt these irritating little phrases to align themselves with the rest of the social media world seems to suggest that the hash tag is here to stay, at least until something twice as grating comes along. Continue Reading »

English Christmas Trifle with panettone

Like the ghost of Christmas past, leftovers from rich holiday meals have a habit of malingering in the fridge awaiting an inspiration that is progressively less likely to arrive as the holiday season fades into memory, especially in the broadening context of one’s waistline, try as one might to conceal it beneath this year’s hideous knitwear gift from Aunt Hilda. In our household, it is usually around the second week of January that we finally face up to the fact that no one is going anywhere near what’s left of the nut loaf. Continue Reading »

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