December 31, 2010

A Day in Paris

When I was still living at my parents’ place, I had come to hate Paris. Too big, too busy, too stressful. I’m more of a nature lover and living near Paris and commuting there every day was simply not my cup of tea. However, as soon as I moved away from ‘la région parisienne’, I started to like Paris again. Being a visitor, like a tourist, it is now with great pleasure that I stroll through the capital and rediscover it.

France, and Paris especially, is a paradise for food lovers. Last week, Luke and I spent a day in Paris, in search of food delicacies.

We started with lunch at Le Café de l’Industrie, a trendy bistro serving unfussy and affordable French food. We decided to go for 2 starters: a vegetable soup followed by cèpes ravioli. This was simple and delicious. It felt so good to be indoors to escape the wind and snow falling outside.

Our 2nd stop was La Cocotte, a cooking book shop. Though the place was different from what I expected, I felt at home surrounded by cookbooks. The shop is also a café, and I could easily imagine myself spending hours flicking through books while sipping a cuppa.

We then walked to Mariage Frères, France’s first importer of tea. Hundred of tea cans line the shelves behind the counter and choosing which tea you would like to try can prove being difficult! The place is elegant and old-fashioned but also very busy at times.

Ladurée was next on our to-do list - another famous French teahouse especially well-known for its macaroons. The shop was bustling but I managed to place my order fairly quickly. The woman at the counter started to speak to me in English so I kindly let her know that I was French! I bought a selection of macaroons: caramel with salted butter, green apple, rose and ginger, raspberry, vanilla and chestnut. Though the macaroons were expensive, we were not disappointed. Our favourites were the caramel and the vanilla ones: melting in the mouth, flavoursome, delicate...

We ended the day by meeting my friend Sarah. We went to the Café Oz, drank a cocktail and talked about the good times we had when we travelled to Australia together. Our last stop was at a Japanese restaurant. It was the first time that Luke and I ate in a Japanese restaurant. We both went for a mix of sushi and maki and I have to say that I didn’t like this as much as I thought I would.

We came back home full and happy to have discovered such nice places in this beautiful city.

December 27, 2010

Weinachtsplätzchen

I hope you had a good Christmas! Mine was great, with snow and sunshine, amazing food and precious family times. I feel so lucky and grateful for this. Beautiful moments shared with loved ones.

I had told you in a previous post that I love baking around Christmas time. Here is a recipe that was given to me by my German teacher at secondary school. I have made them every year since then. Weihnachtsplätzchen means Christmas cookie. I know that my older brother really likes them, so I cooked a big batch today before he went back to Sweden so that he could take some with him to eat on his way home.

My Mum and I shared a few biscuits around a cup of tea that smelled of almond, orange and cinnamon. Even if Christmas is over, we still are in a festive spirit at home, seeing family and friends and eating gorgeous food.

Weihnachtsplätzchen

  • • 300g flour
  • • 100g sugar
  • • 100g ground almond
  • • 225g butter, cut in small cubes
  • • A pinch of salt
  • • 1 egg + 1 egg, beaten
  • • 10g vanilla sugar

  • 1. Put all the ingredients but the beaten egg in a large bowl and mix together with an electric beater with the large hooks on. When the mixture looks like big crumbs, gather the dough to form a ball. Put it into a tea towel and leave in the fridge for 3 hours.
  • 2. Preheat the oven to 175°C. Roll the dough on a work surface with a rolling pin to 3mm thick, and cut shapes with a cookie cutter. Put them on a baking tray, brush them with the beaten egg and pop in the oven for 15min until the biscuits are golden. Leave to cool on a wire rack and enjoy. The cookies can keep for at least a week in an airtight container.
  • Weihnachtsplätzchen

  • • 300g de farine
  • • 100g de sucre
  • • 100g de poudre d’amandes
  • • 225g de beurre, coupé en petits dés
  • • Une pincée de sel
  • • 1 œuf + 1 œuf battu
  • • 1 sachet de sucre vanillé

  • 1. Mettre tous les ingrédients sauf l’œuf battu dans un grand bol et mélanger à l’aide d’un batteur électrique auquel on aura mis les fouets en plastique. Lorsque le mélange ressemble à de grosses miettes, former une boule de pâte. La mettre dans un torchon et la laisser au réfrigérateur pendant 3h.
  • 2. Préchauffer le four à 175°C. Etaler la pâte à l’aide d’un rouleau à pâtisserie sur 3mm d’épaisseur et couper des formes à l’aide d’emporte-pièces. Mettre sur une plaque à four, étaler du jaune d’œuf avec un pinceau sur les biscuits et mettre au four pour 15min jusqu’à ce que les biscuits soient dorés. Faire refroidir sur une grille et déguster. Les biscuits se gardent sans problème au moins une semaine dans une boîte hermétique.
  • December 22, 2010

    Jerusalem Artichokes with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

    It finally has come: white, powder-like and so pretty. I love watching the big soft flakes falling from the sky, go for a walk and listen to the cracking noise it makes under my feet. Snow makes me so happy. I feel like a child and get so excited about it. When we left Exeter last weekend, it had just fallen during the night. We had the best sunrise, illuminating the city and the fields around in a pink-golden colour. The scenery on the train was breathtaking and we even saw a fox making its way through a field.

    Our time spent at Luke’s parents was so relaxing. Just enjoying being with his family and not doing much but resting. I will spare you the details of the long and unpleasant journey we had to go back to France, but we made it and that’s all that counts.

    Jerusalem artichokes are one of winter’s delicacies. Here is a recipe which I find enhances their beautiful flavour.

    Jerusalem Artichokes with Olive Oil and Sea Salt – serves 2

  • • 12 Jerusalem artichokes
  • • 4tbsp olive oil
  • • Sea salt

  • 1. Cook the Jerusalem artichokes in a large pan of simmering water for 20min. Drain well.
  • 2. Peel the artichokes only partially and cut them into slices.
  • 3. Serve in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt.

    Topinambours à l’Huile d’Olive et à la Fleur de Sel – pour 2 personnes

  • • 12 topinambours
  • • 4cs d’huile d’olive
  • • Fleur de sel

  • 1. Faire cuire les topinambours dans une casserole d’eau frémissante pendant 20min. Bien égoutter.
  • 2. N’éplucher les topinambours que partiellement et les couper en tranches.
  • 3. Servir dans un bol avec un trait d’huile d’olive et de la fleur de sel.
  • December 15, 2010

    Vegetable Hotpot with Home-Grown Chilli

    I am dreaming of the day when we’ll have our own vegetable garden. I have wonderful memories of the food that my grand-father was growing in his back garden. Not only can home-grown food be delicious and organic but also, I love the idea of the process and effort that growing your own food involves.

    Waiting for the day when we’ll have our allotment, we have been experimenting the last 2 years in growing a few things in pots on our balcony and in our flat. This year, we have been quite unfortunate: our plants have been invaded by black, white and then green flies. Our courgette and aubergine plants haven’t resisted and died pretty quickly. What we seem to have been the most successful at growing so far has been chillies. We both are fond of chillies and so it was naturally that we thought about trying to grow some. They are actually quite easy to cultivate in pots. This year we’ve planted some bird-eye chilli, scotch bonnet chilli and peperoncino chilli. This is such a pleasure to cut one from a tree and use it straight away in your cooking.

    At this time of year, to make a change from all the rich food and cakes that we are eating, I like to cook healthy vegetable dishes. At first, this one should have been a stir-fry. Considering the ingredients I had at home I thought that I would rather make a stew. But when I brought it on the table, Luke pointed out that a stew is supposed to be liquid in some way – which was not the case of this dish. We finally decided to call it a vegetable hotpot. Ideal food for the soul.

    Vegetable Hotpot with Home-Grown Chilli – serves 2

    I am a bit vague in terms of quantities in the following recipe. I didn’t measure how much kale, broccoli and chestnut I used, but just used what I had in the fridge. Feel free to adapt the recipe with whatever vegetables you have at home.

  • • 3tbsp olive oil
  • • 1 onion, sliced
  • • 1 red chilli, sliced
  • • 1 red pepper, cut in thin strips
  • • A bunch of Tuscan kale (cavolo nero), blanched and cut into strips
  • • A bunch of purple sprouting broccoli, cooked 4min in boiling water
  • • 2tbsp tomato purée
  • • A bunch of peeled cooked chestnuts
  • • A can of cannellini beans, drained
  • • Salt, pepper

  • 1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or sauté dish. Add the onion, chilli and pepper and cook on a medium heat for 10min until soft. Add the tomato purée and kale, mix well, cover and leave to cook for another 10min.
  • 2. Add the cannellini beans, chestnuts and broccoli and cook 5min. Season with salt and pepper and serve at once.
  • Potée de Légumes au Piment du Jardin – pour 2 personnes

    Je suis assez vague en ce qui concerne les quantités dans la recette suivante. Je n’ai pas pesé le kale, le brocoli ou les châtaignes, mais j’ai utilisé ce que j’avais au frais. Soyez libre d’adapter la recette en fonction des légumes que vous avez déjà.

  • • 3cs d’huile d’olive
  • • 1 oignon, coupé en rondelles
  • • 1 piment rouge, coupé en fines rondelles
  • • 1 poivron rouge, coupé en fines lamelles
  • • Une poignée de kale cavolo nero, blanchi et coupé en fines lamelles
  • • Une poignée de brocoli violet, blanchi 4min dans une casserole d’eau bouillante
  • • 2cs de purée de tomate
  • • Une poignée de châtaignes, cuites et pelées
  • • Une boîte de haricot cannellini ou de haricots blancs, égoutée
  • • Sel et poivre

  • 1. Faire chauffer l’huile dans une grande casserole ou dans une sauteuse. Ajouter l’oignon, le piment et le poivron et faire revenir 10min à fau moyen. Ajouter la purée de tomate et le kale, bien mélanger, couvrir et faire cuire pendant 10min.
  • 2. Ajouter les haricots blancs, les châtaignes et le brocoli et faire cuire 5min. Assaisonner avec du sel et du poivre et servir.
  • December 09, 2010

    Pear, Ginger and Chocolate Muffins

    Chocolate. Ginger. Pear. This tastes like winter. What a great combo for these moist and spicy muffins. Muffins never last long at home: we like them so much.

    December is finally here. What are you doing to get ready for Christmas? Me? I’m baking.

    I love winter days when the sun is shining and it is really cold, going out for a long walk, coming back home and enjoying a cup of tea with a slice of cake...or a pear, ginger and chocolate muffin.

    Oh, and by the way, we finally had snow. Not a lot, but enough to look wintry and Christmassy.

    Pear, Ginger and Chocolate Muffins – makes 12

  • • 3 large ripe pears, peeled and cored
  • • A thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • • 100g dark cooking chocolate, cut into small chunks
  • • 280g plain flour
  • • 1tsp baking powder
  • • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • • A pinch of salt
  • • 125g sugar
  • • 1 egg, beaten
  • • 80ml milk
  • • 90ml groundnut oil

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 190°C.
  • 2. Mix the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a big bowl. Blend the pears until you obtain a thick purée. In another bowl, mix together the pears, sugar, egg, milk and oil.
  • 3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until they come together. Add the ginger and chocolate and mix.
  • 4. Spoon the mixture into 12 muffin paper cases in a muffin tray. Bake in the oven for about 25min until the tops are lightly brown. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy.

    Muffins aux Poires, Gingembre et Chocolat – pour 12 muffins

  • • 3 grosses poires, pelées et dont on a enlevé le cœur
  • • Un petit morceau de gingembre frais, râpé
  • • 100g de chocolat pâtissier, coupé en petits morceaux
  • • 280g de farine
  • • 1cc de levure
  • • 1cc de bicarbonate de soude
  • • 1 pincée de sel
  • • 125g de sucre
  • • 1 œuf, battu
  • • 80ml de lait
  • • 90ml d’huile d’arachide

  • 1. Préchauffer le four à 190°C.
  • 2. Mélanger la farine, la levure, le bicarbonate de soude, et le sel dans un grand bol. Mixer les poires jusqu’à l’obtention d’une purée épaisse. Dans un autre bol, mélanger les poires avec le sucre, l’œuf, le lait et l’huile.
  • 3. Ajouter ce mélange aux ingrédients secs et mélanger. Ajouter le chocolat et le gingembre et mélanger de nouveau.
  • 4. Verser le mélange dans des caissettes à muffins disposées dans un moule à muffin. Faire cuire au four pendant environ 25min jusqu’à ce que le dessus des muffins soit légèrement doré. Laisser refroidir sur une grille et déguster.