San Diego's tourism folks have spent a lot of time and money cultivating an anti-winter mentality for the region. We're the place you folks in the frozen hinterlands come in January and February for respite. So, back in October when I received the book Home Made Winter by Yvette van Boven ($35/Stewart, Tabori & Chang) and we were having a bit of a last-ditch heat wave, I had a hard time seeing the relevance. van Boven, a recipe writer, food stylist, culinary editor, and illustrator, is Dutch and grew up in Ireland, so naturally much of the emphasis in this book is on dishes that anyone in northern Europe would thrive on as fall segues into harsh winter. But I wasn't looking for warmth. I live it.
Then December hit and the temperatures had a freakish drop--for us. Frost warnings, highs in the upper 40s, brisk winds. Rain. We were cold. And, even now as January melds into February, the weather continues to chill and the heat in my house is still on. So I've found myself more than in the mood for some home made winter.
van Boven's cookbook follows her previous book Home Made. It's wonderfully quirky, filled with stories about her Irish and Dutch heritage, her time in France, and celebrating winter holidays. Some of the recipes appear in your standard rendition; others, like her Quince Jam with Star Anise & Cardamon, are casual illustrations, replete with arrows, little warnings, underlined emphases, and, of course, sweet drawings. There are recipes printed on brown paper and others have the typeface running alongside the side of a building. Combined with the lavish photography, mostly by her husband Oof Verschuren, that melds food porn with inviting travelogue, you truly are transported into a dreamy old world tableau. Certainly not bright and tidy suburban San Diego.
And the recipes? Many of them have very traditional Irish roots, such as Bannock bread and Flapjacks, a chewy oatmeal bar filled with butter, honey, and brown sugar. I made this recipe, adding toasted walnuts, dried fruit, and 70 percent chocolate. It's easy and it's divine.
Other recipes update traditional ones from Ireland, France, and Holland. Tartiflette with cod, a very French dish, substitutes cod for bacon and Comté cheese for Reblochon for a beautiful fish pie. There's a more traditional Daube Provençale with brisket, the Dublin Lawyer (lobster in a cream and whiskey sauce--"Because lawyers from Dublin are fat, rich, and always drunk..."), and Irish stew with lamb and Galette Des Rois. And, there are outliers--pulled pork, pizza, white chocolate and star anise mousse. And the one I'm going to try when my willpower is at its lowest ebb: Sticky Chocolate Cake in Your Coffee Mug in 3 Minutes. Unreal!
All of this is to say that even in sunny San Diego, Home Made Winter has won me over. I have recipes to turn to when the chill here is making my toes cold and my body crave hefty, warming meals. Now I'm looking forward to van Boven's next book Home Made Summer.