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French Fancy & Nigella Naughtiness

25 Aug

Thanks very much weather. I had some lovely plans today to do a bit of foodie exploring in London and check out a pickled shark at the Tate (for art, not food. The Chinese craze for shark fin soup makes me sick to my stomach) but the miserable rainy weather put paid to that idea. Not that I can complain too much as it just gave me a rainy day opportunity to try out my new French cookbooks and do a bit of baking. Over the last year I’ve fallen hard for French food and I’m starting to come to the conclusion that deep down I’m actually French. After all, I adore the smell of garlic, eat a lot of cheese and bread, and most importantly, have complete and utter contempt for the general public. But then Saturday mornings in Tesco will do that to a person. I make exceptions of course, but only really for Beyonce, Nigella and the entire cast of New Girl, although it may be a bit of a stretch calling those guys ‘the general public’. So you see, clearly I must have some French ancestors somewhere in my family tree,explaining my love for all things French right now. Lunch today then was that classic, quintessential French recipe, French onion soup from my new cookbook French Brasserie by Daniel Galmiche which is a gorgeous book full of recipes that are easy to cook at home. The ingredients for this soup consist mainly of onions, wine, cheese and baguette, so you couldn’t get more Gallic if you tried. It takes a little while to cook as you have to sweat down the onions to make them soft, golden and release all their flavour but despite this it’s really simple as the most it requires you to do is chop and stir. I have to say, I wasn’t all that won over by this soup which is a real shame as I loved it when I ate some in Paris. However, Daniel does advise getting the best quality onions, preferably the Provence variety, which I must admit I couldn’t be bothered to hunt around for so just bought bog standard onions from the supermarket. Not very Parisian of me I know. Perhaps a better quality onion would have given the soup more taste and taken away the blandness. The one saving grace of this soup is that you top it with cheesy slices of baguette which add some texture and the deep taste of a mature cheddar. The recipe recommended using Comte cheese but the last block was taken right in front of my eyes by some sodding member of the general public (see why I feel such contempt?) so I stuck with some tangy mature cheddar, which always tastes good. I’d definitely like to try this recipe again but not until I’ve sought out some decent onions from a farmers market. I should have known they wouldn’t taste that strong, I didn’t cry once while cutting them into slices. A sure sign of dud onions that is, still having perfect mascara.

It’s been a little while since I cooked a Nigella recipe, but today she is back, and with a bang I must say. I read this article (http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/aug/19/nigella-lawson-confessions) the other day and it was as if this woman was me. Nigella has inspired so many people to get in the kitchen and she is such a fantastic writer that you feel you know her through reading her books. It’s not just women she’s enchanted either, I know men who love her books too, although how much of this is owed to her womanly figure and food double entendres rather than her recipes, I wouldn’t like to say. I too fantasise about owning her red chilli fairy lights and stunning Kitchen Aid mixer, but unless I win the lottery it’s unlikely I’ll have £600 spare to buy one. Anyway, the author of the above article references the snow flecked brownies recipe from Feast, and kindly includes the recipe for those without the book, so naturally I had to cook them. This has to be the definitive brownie recipe, because they are an absolute knock out. If a murderous alien race came down to Earth and asked for one good reason not to destroy the entire human race, these brownies are what I’d present them with. You’re welcome Earth. Rich, chocolatey, gooey, soft, warm…. In a word, heaven. I’ve got no problem whatsoever with brownies filled with nuts, cherries etc but the simplicity of these and the sole filling of white choc chips (the snow of the recipe title) is all that is necessary. I used Maldon salt flakes in this recipe, which I highly recommend you do too instead of the salt in your grinder, as the subtle saltiness you get from these flakes cuts right though the richness of the goo and stops it being too sickly sweet. I wish I could describe better the taste of salt in a brownie, but please just take my word for it that its really good. I would not lie to you guys. So once again Nigella justifies her place at the top of the pedestal, and she came along when I needed her most. This week has been an absolute bitch, what with The Boyfriend going and the highs of the last month coming to an end, but at least with a chocolate brownie the world starts to seem right again and with the current weather October really doesn’t seem so far away. The power of The Lawson!

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