A few weeks ago Jessica and I received an exciting parcel from my sister in the States. If I’m honest, all parcels are exciting – boxes and packages waiting to reveal their contents, some known, some unknown. Although the unknown parcel is generally the most exciting (What is it? Who sent it? Does it rattle?), the best parcel has to be the eagerly anticipated one, when you actually consider taking time off work to make sure you don’t miss the postman. (Which in my case is almost essential, as those Twitterati who followed my latest hideous experience at the Royal Mail collection office will know).
Anyway, this parcel did not require queueing for the requisite twenty minutes in the freezing cold, followed by watching the postie walk backwards and forwards at least three times trying to work out where it had been put in the overflowing pile of brown boxes. No, it was kindly taken in by a neighbour and brought round when Jessica and I got in from the childminder/work. Phew! I couldn’t imagine having to wait another 48 hours.
Ok, ok, time to quit rabbiting on and share the treasure with you. Wrapped safely amongst a wonderful selection of pinafores, tunics, leggings and jeans (my American niece is exactly a year older than Jessica, hooray for hand-me-downs), was a pre-sale copy of La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life. I can honestly say I’ve never been so excited about a cookbook. I’ve read Béa’s blog for years, right from the beginning, drooling over her photographs, following her stories and enjoying her recipes. Here, in my hands, was her first book. It was a magical moment…
…interrupted rather abruptly by Jessica, who had continued unpacking the box and had discovered her equivalent of Béa’s book. Abby, Abby! she squealed, completely beside herself with the excitement of discovering her very own Abby Cadabby costume. It would be another couple of hours before I could savour the pictures, the stories, the new recipes – a couple of hours during which a little girl learnt that even fairies have to take off their tutus and put on their pyjamas at bedtime!
So what do I love about my new reading pleasure?
The photographs, for sure. Béa has an instantly recognisable style: fresh, colourful, enticing – and one for every recipe. The stories of family in France, in Boston, on holiday. Reading the inordinate number of food blogs as I do these days I’ve got used to my recipes coming with an anecdote – recipes without a little story seem less satisfying somehow. Her measurements are in cups, imperial and metric although the ingredients are gloriously American (I love being reminded of holidays with my sister, but not everybody will enjoy translating eggplant, zucchini, arugula and confectioner’s sugar). As a pharmacist I love the lists in part 1: flours, chocolate, equipment (and they’re not long lists either!).
Béa’s recipes are full of vegetables, herbs and spices. They are also predominantly gluten free. Next February, when her book is available on general release, I suspect it will fly off the shelves as we crave vibrant, light, flavourful meals after a winter’s dark nights and comfort foods.
What treats have we feasted on? Not enough, that’s for sure! This week a table full of friends supped Carrot and red lentil soup with coconut milk, took joy in Tartines with walnut, lemon and ricotta pesto and sautéed mushrooms and broke conversations for Buckwheat and almond chocolate cake.
I was attracted to Béa’s chocolate cake primarily because for the simplicity of its ingredients and method, but also because it is gluten free. A number of friends, including Jessica’s childminder, have coeliac disease and its great to have a quick and easy chocolate cake up your sleeve that everyone will enjoy. I served it with crème fraîche, but its moist enough to scoff straight from the plate.
Béa recommends baking at 180 degrees C for 30 minutes, but I found it was better in my oven (which is a fan oven) at 170 degrees C and it was ready at 25 minutes.
I ordered my pre-sale copy of Béa’s book at www.latartinegourmandebook.com – international shipping is available, Abby Cadabby costumes not included!