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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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Hangover Breakfast

This week I seem to have turned into an all singing, all dancing version of myself. I spring out of bed in the morning, twirl the cat around and hum some delightful made up songs (“I don’t like tea, so I will make coffee” being just one of many examples) while boiling the kettle and pouring some fruit juice. My cameo in Glee is surely inevitable now, Hollywood- call me! You thought Gene Kelly could sing in the rain, well you ain’t seen nothing yet. Have I lost what little sanity I had left? Realised my true calling as a musical star? These could all very well be true, despite the fact my voice is a little rough around the edges, but in actual fact it’s because The Boyfriend is finally coming home and I only have 4 more sleeps to go until we are reunited! Very good reason to act like a cast member of One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest without actually being sectioned. So yes, naturally I am very excited and impatient for Thursday to roll around. Being apart for so long is obviously very hard and not ideal, but it’s worth it to feel this happy and excited to see him in person and to act like a child in the week before Christmas. When your boyfriend coming home from work makes you this giddy, you know it’s meant to be. I’ve been telling everyone approximately every 20 minutes that he’ll be home soon, which must be very irritating, especially when I’ve had a few drinks and tell everyone every 5 minutes instead. So I’d like to apologise to the friends who had to put up with me acting like a lovesick puppy all night.
Speaking of last night, I decided I’d make myself a nice, filling breakfast to help recover from my hangover. Any normal person would have some bacon in the fridge and some fresh bread on the side to calm the hangover, but not me. Believe me, at times while making breakfast I was thinking why oh why hadn’t I just made a bacon sarnie like a normal, non cookbook obsessed person would? Apparently though, I don’t like to make my life any easier, but in the interests of new tastes and mixing things up a bit I persevered. Breakfast was haddock kedgeree from my cook book of the moment, Jamie’s Great Britain. It starts with boiling some rice and eggs, which is effortless, and chopping some garlic and onion, whose fragrance is a comforting way to clear the head of alcohol fuzziness. To be fair to the recipe, nothing in it is hard or taxing, but you need several pots and pans and the whole thing takes an hour to put together, which is a considerable nuisance when your tummies rumbling and your eyes are drooping with the lack of sleep. But ever the professional, I got it finished and impressively, cleaned some of the kitchen while waiting for the fish to poach. My favourite part of making the kedgeree involved peeling the shells off the hard boiled eggs, something about removing the crisp shell from the wobbly but firm eggs is very satisfying in a stress relieving way. I’m not sure what a psychiatrist would make of that, so let’s not ponder on that for too long, shall we? Although it was a faff to make first thing this morning, eating it really did the trick and was restorative and filling. Only the English would come up with a breakfast whose ingredients include curry spices, boiled eggs and smoked fish, but bless us for inventing it as its warming and tastes great. It also looks very pretty, with the bright yellow of the turmeric stained rice and near fluorescent orange from the egg yolks. In typical fashion, I made way too much so it looks like I’ll be having this for breakfast for the rest of the week. Life’s hard sometimes!

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Posted by on July 22, 2012 in Books, Cooking, Fish, Food

 

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Surf ‘n’ turf Saturday

Does this dinner presented below (ignore the presentation and focus on the food!) look like your idea of Saturday dinner heaven? :

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If not, then please stop reading, turn around and never darken my door again. We can never be friends! Anyone who could look upon steak with king prawns and mashed potatoes and say ‘meh’ must be either out of their mind or vegetarian. No offence to vegetarians, I respect the fact that meat isn’t for everyone, whether thats down to taste or ethics, but I could never give up meat and would never want to. Last night I was really craving the sort of food that Americans do best and would remind me of holidays over there, so I scoured the Internet to find the perfect dinner. I’ve got quite a few American cookbooks which are all awesome, but when it comes to surf n turf, there isn’t really a great recipe selection unless you want to go down the lobster route. Now I love lobster, and I know I bang on about making an effort with food even if you’re on your own, but even for me, cooking up steak and lobster just for one seemed a tad excessive. Plus I had king prawns in the freezer. The recipe I used came from All Recipes Australia and NZ website, and was steak with prawns in a garlic sauce with mashed potatoes and asparagus. What can I say, it totally scratched the itch for American ‘holiday’ food as it were. The garlic sauce was quite thick and claggy, but tasted of garlic, basil and parsley which made up for the odd texture and brought everything on the plate together well. Sadly I overcooked the steak, barely any trace of blood or pinkness in it, which sadly is how I always end up cooking steak. I don’t know how I do it, I follow advice given by chefs but just can’t master cooking steak, it’s either so rare it’s still mooing, or grey throughout. The steak still tasted nice but would have been nicer had I been able to master the art of medium rare. One day! I piled absolutely loads of asparagus on the plate to try and make up for the butter and delicious red meat, but as it was Saturday night I managed to fight off the guilt pretty easily.

Sticking with the American theme (well it is Independence Day on Wednesday after all) I had pancakes for a post-gym brunch this morning. But these were totally different pancakes called Apple Puff Pancakes from USA by Sheila Lukins (yes, the one where she eats her way around America… bitch). Instead of cooking them in a frying pan, you pour the batter over some cinnamonny and sugary apple chunks in a small pie dish then pop in a really hot oven for 20 minutes. The result is a light, fluffy, risen pancake that tastes of apple and cinnamon. It was so yummy, I’m a big fan of American breakfast and pastry goods as they usually have loads of cinnamon contained within them which wakes the taste buds up first thing in the morning. The Boyfriend detests cinnamon so while he’s still away I may as well cook as much of it as I can. I would have taken a photo of it but while getting it out of the pie dish it fell apart and it’s appearance did not do its taste any justice. So instead of judging it by it’s looks, my words will have to make do. Maple syrup really makes this dish, it tastes wonderfully sweet next to the tartness of apples and warmth of the cinnamon. Thank you very much America, and Happy Independence Day for the 4th!

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2012 in Baking, Books, Cooking, Food

 

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