Reviews and Such Books

A Taste for Vengeance – Martin Walker

The Follow up to A Taste for Vengeance, The Body in the Castle Well, is due out on June 3rd of this year. I can hardly wait. 

A Taste for Vengeanceis the latest novel in the Bruno: Chief of Police series by Martin Walker. I only discovered this series earlier this year, and I’ve really enjoyed it. One of the things I like about the series is the emphasis that it places, not only on good food, but also on good company gathered around good food.

Martin Walker, A Taste for Vengeance.
The cover of A Taste for Vengeance by Martin Walker.

Having read most of the books already, I decided I wanted to do something different with this post. In addition to reviewing the book I thought it would be a good idea to try and find one of those Dordogne region wines that Walker is always writing about. I did find one while doing a web search, but it was unfortnately out of my price range, so I kept on looking. One thing I learned while doing my search is that Winnipeg Wine Stores have terrible websites. The cynical side of me thinks that this is to protect their status as experts. Of course, it could simply be they don’t put the proper resources into running their websites properly. Internet searches having failed me, I decided to stop by my local Manitoba Liquor store to see if they might be better able to help me. I explained what I was looking for and why I was looking for it (book review) and I must say they responded more than favourably, They spent a good amount of time looking in their computer system, checking the shelves, and evev getting in touch with other locations to see if they might have something in stock. Alas, the one high priced bottle was the only one available in the city. Not wanting to put out the money necessary I decided to go back to the books to find out what else might be suitable. It turns out that, thanks to his English friends, Bruno has been introduce to the delights of single malt, and Bowmore in particular.  This turned out to be an ideal solution as not only was Bowmore availabe I could get it in a small size. That being taken care of, I hunkered down with a glass of Bowmore, and read the book. I found this to be one of my favourite entries in the series. There are two main plot lines. The disappearance of a woman coming on vacation to the new cooking school being run by Bruno’s friend Pamela, and a major upheaval in the life of the star of the town’s star female rugby player. Bruno’s position in the police has changed, a necessary and overdue element in the development of the the character Bruno, yet his love for St. Denis has not. The story opens at the rugby pitch where Paulette, the star of the women’s team leads them to a victory. Bruno is interrupted by a call from Pamela worrying about a guest at her cooking school who hasn’t shown up. Bruno promises to look into it. At the end of the game Paulette, collapses. sick. We discover that she is pregnant which may ruin her chances of making the French national squad. The woman who was to show up at the cooking school is later found dead, along with an Irishman with whom she was traveling. Soon questions emerge, what was her relationship to the Irishman, and what was his relationship to her husband, a man of significance in the military. Along the way Bruno’s colleagues, J.J., the Brigadier, and Jack Crimson are all drawn into the mystery and intrigue. Of course as Bruno readers would expect, at some point, Isabelle, Bruno’s great, lost love is also made part of the investigation.

A Taste for Vengeance Bowmore
A little bit hazy, but here’s the Bowmore that went with A Taste for Vengeance.

While working on the case, Paulette’s pregnancy and the consequences of it force Bruno to examine his beliefs, and also his motivations as they relate to Paulette and her future. One of the strengths of Walker’s writing is the way in which he weaves together seamlessly Bruno’s involvement in criminal cases with national and international consequence with story lines that deal with the everyday lives of the citizens of St. Denis. As with all Bruno books, much of the best detecting work is done while gathered around the table. It doesn’t matter what culinary treasures of the Dordogne are being enjoyed, when shared in solidarity and friendship they make the reader appreciative and hungry. I was on the Penquin Random House site as I was writing this, and discovered there is another Bruno book due out next spring. A Taste for Vengeance will certainly whet your appetite if you haven’t read any of the Bruno books before. However, I would suggest that you start at the beginning, and work your way through to the most recent so you can enjoy them as a series of delectable courses in a lesiurely feast. After reading the book, I was wandering around the Bruno website one day, and realized that I had never tried to prepare any of the recipes listed there. I’m an all right cook, but when I try to cook recipes that I find in books or online, I tend to stick with the simplest recipes, particularly those with the fewest ingredients. For the Bruno recipes the Cabécou du Périgord potato cakes. You can find the whole recipe by falling the link, but I’m going to list the ingredients below: 4 cabécous (any semi-firm goats’ cheese will do in a pinch) 4 large potatoes 2 egg yolks a bunch of fresh basil salt and freshly ground pepper 1 tbsp olive oil a pinch of fennel seed As you can see, the recipe calls for a specific type of cheese, but does allow for a good substitute. Trying to get as close to the actual recipe as possible, I emailed The Cheesemonger’s Fromagerie. They didn’t have any Cabécou in stock, but they were familiar with it, and suggested Monsieur Emile, a similar goat’s cheese made in Quebec.

A Taste for Vengeance grated potatoes.
A bowlful of grated potatoes before the seasonings were added.

I really enjoyed the dish, the only problem that I had was I used red potatoes, and I found that they released a lot of water when they were grated. As a result, the patties didn’t stay together as well as I hoped, and the frying ended up leaving a surface that was a little more charred than I hoped. I also didn’t add the fennel until after I had taken my first couple of bites. The fennel certainly adds to the dish, as the sweet anise taste of the fennel responds well to the savoury, creamy flavour of the cheese.

A Taste for Vengeance potato cakes
The potato cake patties about to go under the grill.

This is definitely a recipe that I would like to try again. I think instead of using grated potatoes, I would use leftover mashed potatoes. Less work than grating the potatoes, and probably easier to get the moisture just right. They make a great accompaniment to whatever you culinary reading of the moment is(I’m finally working my way through Slow Food Nation)Enjoy the Bruno books, and as Julia Child would say, Bon Appetit.

By Donald McKenzie

Anglican priest, and food blogger. This blog is focused on Food. It will feature reviews of places to eat books, and the odd recipe. I also write about what it means to gather together around food.