Making Yule Bread

Anne with Yule BreadIn preparation for my family’s arrival and keeping with Christmas tradition, I spent the weekend making ten batches of my Aunt Louie’s Yule Bread. This year we turned out eighteen small and six large loaves!

The small ones we wrap in cellophane and ribbon and give to our neighbors and friends, and it is tradition to gift one large loaf to each of my two children. The remaining large loaves we serve for breakfast through the holiday, toasted or plain and spread with butter.

I look forward to making my Aunt Louie’s Yule Bread each year. It takes me right back, remembering the days when the aroma of Christmas bread wafted through the house. Cheers!

Happy Christmas! – Anne

Talleyrand at Dinner

Talleyrand_01I have just happened upon this charming piece written by Mark, my husband, as I was doing some research on Antonin Carême and the dishes he cooked for Talleyrand in the early 19th century. What a good find!

“I’ve recently come across an anecdote about Talleyrand at dinner in Paris, which I have never seen before in the usual sources. It appears in the 1787-1817 diaries of Frances, Lady Shelley (published for the first and last time in 1912) and caught the attention of Maria Polushkin Robbins, editor of the small “The Cook’s Quotation Book – A Literary Feast” published in 1983 by Pushcart Press in New York. I suspect that Lady Shelley’s diary remained obscure until it was added to student reading lists and it has now been reproduced widely in inexpensive editions available from

I checked the quotation in Ms. Robbins’ book against the original in the diaries themselves and it is in essence the same. The date is August 25. No year is given but evidently the Duke of Wellington was in Paris just before the battle of Waterloo and accompanied Lady Shelley to dinner to mark the occasion. Lady Shelley was Frances Winkley by birth and married the heir to the Shelley baronetcy, thus becoming the poet’s aunt. Her diary is a lively, colourful account of her socializing in Pars at a time when so many legendary figures were there to negotiate a lasting European peace.

“…Let’s go to Crauford’s and end with Talleyrand’s,” she said. After a number of other observations, Lady Shelley continues: “At the beginning of the week we dined with Talleyrand… During the whole repast the general conversation was upon eating. Every dish was discussed, and the antiquity of every bottle of wine supplied the most eloquent annotations. Talleyrand himself analysed the dinner with as much interest and seriousness as if he had been discussing some political question of importance.”

In my own experience of accompanying my foodie wife, Anne Willan, on special dining occasions, I have observed how the topic of cooking, eating and drinking can take over the entire conversation. I am encouraged that even such an august personage as the Prince de Talleyrand fell into the same habit and wonder if it is peculiar to the French? The British, I suspect, are sill embarrassed by conversation about food and cooks, and prefer small talk about the weather. Or has the rise of celebrity chefs in England changed the dynamic of English table talk while dining?”

La Cocina Que Canta

The beautiful Rancho La Puerta in Baja, California.Next Fall I’ll be headed South of the border to Rancho La Puerta, where my dear friend Virginia Willis and I will be teaching three cooking classes, two hands-on and one demonstration, all with healthful ingredients, if you can imagine that!

Rancho La Puerta is beautiful spa and hotel with an organic garden, and just a quick jaunt across the border from San Diego. Classes will be held between November 7 through 13. Hope to see you there!

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Anne Willan to Food & Wine Weekend in Santa Barbara

julia1Anne Willan will be joining Santa Barbara’s top chefs, artisans and winemakers for a Food & Wine Weekend at Bacara from April 16th through 19th, 2015. Inspired by Julia Child’s lifelong passion for learning and love of eating well, this three-day culinary weekend will feature cooking classes, wine tastings and panel discussions. A portion of the proceeds benefits The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts.

For tickets or more information, please visit here, or call (855) 456-6800.

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Petits Propos Culinaires Reviews “One Soufflé at a Time”

PPC101“One summer pleasure was to linger over Anne Willan’s memoir, written with Amy Friedman, called One Soufflé at a Time,” writes Tom Jaine in Petits Propos Culinaires.

PPC is an international journal on food, food history, cookery and cookery books. Mark and I are on the board of editorial advisors and it is truly one of our favorite journals. It is edited and produced in Britain and has been coming out three times a year since the beginning of 1979 when a group including Elizabeth David, Alan Davidson, and Richard Olney founded it. It is edited in Devon by Tom Jaine and published by Prospect Books.

I am very happy to see a short review of my memoir in the 101st issue of the journal:  “Her memoir is full of everything you can imagine: travel, family life, personalities… A sense of well-being shines forth from these pages. And there are also plenty of recipes. Many will know that Willan recipes work.”

To read the full article, visit their website here.

Cheers, Anne

The Hospitable Globetrotting Gourmets

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf the adage “no rest for the wicked” rings true, then La Varenne alumnus Robert Carmack must be very wicked indeed. Earlier this year, after nearly three decades living in Australia, Robert and his partner Morrison Polkinghorne packed their bags and moved to Cambodia. They just published The Burma Cookbook in March (which I wrote the foreword to!), and in the midst of their publicity tour in the U.S. and Australia they have also taken on the daunting task of opening a Bed and Breakfast.

For the last four months Robert has been renovating a three-story premise in the heart of colonial Battambang whose doors will open in November. The mission statement for the Bed and Breakfast is most inspiring: They will host styling workshops (Morrison is a textile authority and designer/photographer for The Burma Cookbook), as well as invite other international experts to come and teach the locals for free.

Robert and Morrison chose colonial Battambang for the location of their Bed and Breakfast specifically for its architectural charm and nascent art scene. And it’s not just the French colonials who can take credit for the city’s numerous mansions and waterfront shop houses; Thailand lorded over there until 1904 and the country’s contemporary architectural influence was heavily adapted from Italy. The end result is a city that feels like you’ve entered a time warp and is up for consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The dynamic duo also hosted a culinary group tour of Burma in June and July and they are already planning next year’s itinerary. If you want to be the first to know the finalized dates of the tour and keep current on what these two wickedly busy bees are up to, visit their fantastic blog The Globetrotting Gourmet.

A big congratulations and best of luck to Robert and Morrison as they take the plunge into the hospitality business! – Anne


Robert, Morrison and Anne

Socca, traditional to Provence, are thin pancakes based on chickpea flour and mixed only with water and a spoonful of olive oil. Possible flavorings include an aromatic spice such as cumin or a chopped herb such as thyme or rosemary. Socca have become favorite cocktail snacks, at their best piping hot, though they are just

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Cynthia Nims Goes Fully Digital

Cynthia Nims

While already an accomplished cookbook author, La Varenne graduate Cynthia Nims is now serious about eBooks. She recently published seven, yes seven, different eCookbooks for Kindle. One series features three iconic Pacific Northwest foods: Salmon, Crab and Wild Mushrooms. Each book celebrates the featured ingredient, provides resources for local sourcing and includes ten different recipes as well as cooking tips. Other titles in her eBook series include Breakfast, Appetizers, Main Courses and Soups, Salads & Sandwiches. These “course” eBooks cover about twenty five recipes each.

Cynthia has another digital side, this one multi-media style: her courses on Craftsy. If you don’t yet know Craftsy, it’s a rapidly growing website that provides educational videos and courses for – you guessed it – all things to do with crafts. They started squarely in the knitting and sewing realm and have now expanded into gardening and cooking. One of Cynthia’s courses entitled “French Home Cooking: The Essential Techniques” demystifies the key French cooking techniques and classic recipes that channel the flavors of France. So far, more than 1,000 students have enrolled in her course. It delivers the goods!

In her other Craftsy class, “Homemade Salty Snacks,” Cynthia guides us through more than a dozen salty snacks. Her popular Mustard Soft Pretzel recipe was featured in a piece for Woman’s Day magazine. Click on the recipe title for step-by-step photos on how to make the treat, and there you’ll also find a special offer on Cynthia’s Salty Snacks class along with access to six other short cooking classes for free. Cooking school at the click of a button!

If Cynthia’s work strikes your fancy, you should check out her charming and educational blog, Mon Appétit. It features a wealth of interesting posts, recipes and stories. – Anne

Aunt Louie’s Cheese Balls

Cheese Balls

This is my Aunt Louie’s recipe for Cheese Balls. She was a real grande dame – she knew everyone in the village and always organized the village fête. When she drove up the street, she would wave with a regal bow. Auntie Louie was famous for her luck in a raffle (she once won a

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