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Category Archives: Lunch

French Fancy & Nigella Naughtiness

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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Tastes of Paris

Bonjour mes amis! I’ve been neglectful of the blog for a little while, but can you blame me, I’ve been in Paris? Whisked away by The Boyfriend upon his return home, we’ve been eating our way through Frances food repertoire and working it off by a lot of walking around The City Of Lights. And I did this all for your reading pleasure, selflessly taking the calorie hit so you, dear reader, don’t have to. The things I do for my “craft”. So clearly I haven’t been doing a lot of cooking, but what is the point of travelling and eating good food if you can’t brag about it upon your return to patient (but ultimately bored) friends?

Now, in four days we obviously weren’t going to get a chance to try every famous French meal, but we absolutely gave it our best shot. Frogs legs, snails, horse meat, all missed opportunities, although I really will draw the line at eating snails. I’ve heard they are delicious, but I can’t get my head round the idea of eating the slimy things so am happy to leave the snail eating to others. I’d much rather try horse meat. I know that might be a bit controversial over here, but I have as much emotional attachment to horses as I do cows and chickens, which is nil. They may have been one of my mums favourite animals, but she also loved ducks and I have eaten a lot of that so if she would ever have disowned me it would have been on that fateful day I had a Chinese crispy duck pancake for the first time. Hooked. Some animals just taste too good. Speaking of delicious animals, one of the highlights of my Parisian meals was the steak frite meal we had at Relais Les Entrecôte on a street just off the Champs Elysees. The Champs Elysee isn’t known for good food, generally being full of tourist traps serving average food, but venture off it and you’ll find this gem. The guide book described it as possibly serving the best steak frites in town, which i think may be pushing it and gives you unreasonably high expectations, but it certainly was delicious. If you go, arrive early as its a badly kept secret and we queued to get a table (they don’t take reservations) but I felt its worth it. They don’t give you a menu, they only serve steak frites, and give you a pretty tasty little salad and sourdough bread while you wait for your main. Its a bustling restaurant and if you like your space this isn’t the restaurant for you as the tables are claustrophobically close together. The steak itself was perfectly cooked, pink in the middle and super soft, covered in a delicious sauce.The recipe for this is apparently a closely guarded secret, but between us we could detect some curry powder, mustard, cream and er, that was about it! Definitely not the best food detectives around, but who cares, it tasted good and was a good dunking vehicle for the french fries. They were also pretty good. Best thing about this restaurant though is that once you’ve cleared your plate, the waitresses come round with trays of steak and chips and pile your plate up again with seconds. Forget stuffy restaurants with teeny portions and over inflated prices, this is the sort of French food that totally satisfies. Even though we had seconds, we found space for pudding (unlike the mains, their dessert menu is extensive!), The Boyfriend had raspberry sorbet and I had profiteroles, which were filled with vanilla ice cream and covered in a gooey, rich and utterly gorgeous chocolate sauce. Total chocoholic heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other French foodie highlights include eating more ice cream under the Eiffel Tower (we both pigged out and had 3 scoops in a cone – mint chic chip, banana fudge and my old favourite, pistachio), crepes while sat in cafe on Place des Vosges (mine banana and rum, The Boyfriends filled with Nutella), French onion soup, and mussels in  a creamy parsley sauce. The French onion soup was seriously good, but should have been renamed cheese soup for the sheer scale of the amount of cheese contained underneath the croutons. I’m not complaining, it was flavoursome, filled with caramelised onions and gooey, stringy, melted cheese, and topped with crispy, cheese covered croutons. How can one complain about that? There were some disappointing foods, mainly the croissants I had for breakfast in the cafes which blatantly just came out of a packet. For the life of me I could not find a bakery near our hotel that sold croissants freshly baked which is really annoying when you’re very aware that the city is full of good bakeries but you can’t sniff them out. Plus, if you don’t like anything heavy for breakfast good luck finding somewhere that doesn’t force feed you baguette and croissant as soon as you sit down. The breakfast menu at this cafe said that it did eggs/bacon/omelettes, but when The Boyfriend asked for this he was told ‘non’ and subsequently given croissants (which he dislikes) and baguette, no sign of fried eggs and bacon. It was no use arguing, this waiter had it in for us tourists and decided to go all Dictator on our breakfast and pretended to not speak English, which was unfortunate as our French is pretty appalling. Very good reason to learn French if you’re planning a holiday to France, to get one up on the rude waiters (of which there are a lot of in Paris, it’s as much a part of Paris as the Eiffel Tower and the Seine) and get the breakfast you want, nay, deserve!

 

Lastly, how could I got to Paris and not try my cooking nemesis, the macaron? Unsure of what they should taste like and what their texture should be, I finally got to see what these tricky little devils should be like. Surprisingly, I’ve not actually been that far off when making them myself, which is a bit of an ego boost for me – I’m not as bad at making them as I thought, wahoo! Of course, I could never make such picture perfect macarons and the flavour combinations on offer at Pierre Herme were a million miles more ambitious than I could ever attempt, but I’m taking this as a victory over the tricky French meringues. Well, you take your victories where you can. I’ve not tried all the flavours I bought, I don’t want to wolf them down too soon as they were not cheap, but when they look like such perfect works of art you can see why they are such a delicacy. I went for salted caramel, chocolate and passion fruit, mint, pistachio,peach with apricot and saffron, and finally, lemon. So far, so delicious, I just need to take my time with these babies and savour the moment instead of just shoving them in my mouth like cheap toffee. Paris is absolutely a destination for food lovers, and while it’s tricky to avoid the tourist traps and disappointing food, there are still treasures in every district and, in the wise words of Chef Gusteau in the fabulous cartoon Ratatouille, “good food will always come to those who love to cook”. He sure knows his stuff!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

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Foodie Memories

Not much cooking going on in Neglected Cookbooks kitchen this week I’m afraid, I’ve gotten lazy in the run up to The Boyfriend returning home. I have far too much left over food in the fridge / freezer so I’m ploughing through that before I start to fill it up once he’s flown away to distant lands again. So, like a Friends compilation episode where they look back at funny/poignant clips from the year (you know the ones, you always feel a little disappointed when its these episodes and not Ross’s fake tan disaster or Rachel and Ross hiring a ‘manny’), here’s me reflecting on my favourite foodie moments. Sorry.

The One Where I Eat So Much I Am Nearly Sick: This pretty much happens whenever I visit my Aunty down in TOWIE land. She always cooks way too much for guests, but fortunately she is a great cook so it’s easy to help polish the lot off. When younger my brother actually was sick after a BBQ at hers, all down to gluttony, my favourite of all the sins. A weekend at hers will then result in avoiding the scales and repenting at the gym for weeks, but you know what? Its definitely worth it. Her homemade curry is amazing, I keep meaning to steal the recipe from her but no luck so far. Her favourite saying in the kitchen? ‘Its soooo easy”, and she’s right. Keep it simple and keep it tasty. And always serve with a chilled glass of wine.

The One Where We Ate Ice Cream On The Seine: Life doesn’t really get much better than eating pistachio ice cream with The Boyfriend on a sunny day, while floating on the Seine’s boat taxi between the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. It was definitely the best long weekend I’ve had, and the pistachio ice cream was divine. Not a lot of food stood out on that trip, we were a lot younger and just drifted around the city, popping into random places for food, but the pistachio ice cream stands out. The only other memorable meal from then was finding an Indian restaurant in the middle of a residential area where no tourist had clearly ever been before. They hunted around for the English menu for a good while, dusted it off and while the food was great (and very different from English curries) that uncomfortable feeling of being the only English people in a room full of snobby Parisians glaring at us was the pervading memory of that meal. Good times.

The One Where We Discovered Cheesecake Heaven: Have I mentioned my obsessive, compulsive love for The Cheesecake Factory here before? I’m fairly certain it might have come up at some point or another. When me and The Boyfriend first discovered the sheer amazingness of their Banana Cream Cheesecake, we’d been at Universal Studios in Florida and found a cafe there that served their cheesecakes. Needing a snack to keep us going until dinner (we’d done a lot of walking, alright?), we made the stupid mistake of sharing a slice. How we didn’t break up right then and there while passionately arguing over who should have the last bite, I’ll never know. Since then, we’ve had a love affair with the place and any visit to the States HAS to include a trip to the nearest Cheesecake Factory. Its another long distance relationship I’m happy to be in. I’ve never had a better cheesecake than the Banana Cream one, ever. It really is a thing of beauty. If I know anyone going to America, the first thing I say is “you have to go to the Cheesecake Factory”, and if you don’t then you have made a grave error of judgement. Moral of the story: Never share cheesecake.

The One Where Its Sunny And The BBQ Must Come Out: When still living at home with my dad and stepmum, it became very clear to me over the summer that the slightest hint of sunny weather would mean that the BBQ gets rolled out and its burgers ago-go. I’m not complaining, I love BBQ’s and sitting outside with a good book and a glass of wine while someone else does all the cooking is fine by me (when it comes to BBQ’s, I’m more of a spectator than a cook). Even the cat would become less antisocial and mingle with the inferior humans, hovering behind the BBQ for some dropped pork chop and begging at the table. Happy faces all round!

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2012 in Food, Lunch, Puddings

 

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Double Whammy – Samosas and Cupcakes

So today I finally got round to baking after getting the oven fixed last week. The parents came round for some lunch, which I saw as a perfect opportunity to tick off a couple of recipes on the list. The recipes I chose were lamb samosas from Rachel Allens Favourite Food At Home, and pineapple cupcakes with a lemon cream cheese frosting from Irresistible Cupcakes by, err, Next! Making the samosas was fiddly work, I used ready made filo pastry and pretty much as soon as I’d got the pastry out of the bag I’d torn it. Luckily it was salvageable, but it made for interesting looking samosas. I lack finesse at the best of times when it comes to cooking (who am I kidding, when it comes to anything!), so working with torn pastry  took away any finesse I may have had. If I was on Masterchef – which  I never would be because I’m not a masochist – John Torode would have a heart attack at my lack of presentation skills and my disgracefully messy cooking style. It aint pretty! Luckily I am not on Masterchef, and my dad and step mum do not expect Michelin standards of me. They’d be very disappointed if they did. Anyway, enough about me and back to the samosas. Despite the fact that they were stuck to the pan, leading to an escaping  lamb/pea situation, they were pretty tasty although they could have been a bit spicier. Everyone seemed to like them, and there are plenty left to snack on through out the day. With the samosas I also served ham (cooked in cherry coke) baguettes, mini duck spring rolls and spicy prawns (these were from Tesco, I have a limit to how many nibbles I can make myself in one morning). Not a bad spread. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Onto the cupcakes. These were from a book that todays guests bought me as a Christmas present, and my opinion on them was that they were a little bit dull. I adore pineapple, and even though it had chunks and juice from the fruit in it, it just didn’t taste enough of pineapple for me to love it. The cream cheese frosting was delicious and lemony, and without this the cakes would have been instantly forgettable. I don’t know if I feel this way because they genuinely are tasteless, or because I know someone who makes the most amazing cupcakes I’ve ever had, and therefore all cupcakes pale in comparison to her creations. I’m not kidding, they are delicious, and look amazing and are covered in the most decadent icing ever. She has wisely gone into business with these bad boys. My personal favourite is the mint chic chip flavour that she does, immense and a very popular choice amongst the lucky people to have eaten them. So perhaps my cupcakes were always doomed. But as I’ve got 2 more recipes from this cupcake book to cook, I will assess the cupcake situation at the conclusion of this challenge. Its still too soon to call!  

 

I’m hoping that eventually I will cook something in this challenge that I actually love, as other than the chicken fettucine a few weeks ago, I’ve not had much success. Fingers crossed next week will improve, I’ve got some lovely sounding recipes planned so I have high expectations!

 

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2012 in Baking, Books, Cooking, Indian, Lunch

 

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