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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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Vive la France!

Time for a quick hop across the Channel to France for today’s cooking task. Without even realising that it was Bastille Day today until about 10 minutes ago, I’d decided to make macarons and even wore this snazzy, on-theme tee. –

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Therefore proving that I am indeed psychic, nothing at all to do with watching Ratatouille or the last episode of Sex and the City to get my Paris fix. That is all purely coincidental. I adore Paris, and even though there is a touch of hostility between the ‘Frogs Legs’ and ‘Le Rosbifs’, I secretly (until now that is) love the French. Yes, on our first trip to Paris we experienced some seriously rude waiters and had many French people cut us up in queues, but this is part of the English person in Paris package deal right? They just do what they want, don’t give a toss and their food is outstanding. They’ve given us baguettes, croissants, duck confit, creme brulee, tart tatin, moules mariniere, to name but a few, so how can I stay angry at them? Plus Paris is beautiful, so if I have to put up with a bit of rudeness then fair deal. If it bothers you, fear not for when the French are in the UK, we give them a dose of their own medicine. While queuing at a petrol garage, a French man tried to cut in at the front of the queue, and there was uproar. Good old Brits, we put up with a lot of crap at times (Cameron, Osbourne, I’m talking about you), but mess with our queues and you’re for it. Suffice to say, Frenchie shuffled to the back of the queue looking thoroughly ashamed of himself (quite right too). Anyway, it’s a happy accident that I chose to make macarons on Bastille Day, and justifies the need to bake should The Boyfriend go “tut tut, more baking eh?”.

The recipe came from Marian Keyes book Saved By Cake, which is a delightful and cheery cookbook, which is a testament to her writing skills as she touches on depression and suicidal thoughts quite a lot in the intro. Don’t let this put you off, the recipes are great and covered in glitter, which definitely brightens my mood on a bad day. These macarons are different and incorporate the ingredients of the Italian dessert tiramisu, so the filling is made with mascarpone, coffee and Marsala wine. I’ve always thought its the case that when you enjoy sweet things that have coffee and/or wine in them, it means you’re grown up and sophisticated. Ergo, I must be a proper adult and sophisticated too. Don’t hate me, I didn’t make up the rules. Oh wait, that’s right, I just did. In reality, I’m far from sophisticated (I spilt coffee all down my nice French t shirt while making these. Proof if any were needed that I am not sophisticated) and have liked coffee chocolates and cakes since childhood. The macarons (or macaroons depending on how authentic you want to sound) are a piece of cake to make, and the mascarpone filling goes a lovely latte colour once the coffee and wine are mixed in. Once assembled they don’t look like the picture perfect ones you see in patisserie windows, but unless you’re planning on selling them to Laduree or Harrods, there really is no need to worry about symmetry. Marian calls them ‘bockety’ and I think this is the perfect description of mine. To be completely honest, I’m not entirely sure I actually like macarons. I’ve only ever eaten home made ones, so maybe it’s just my cooking, but I find them too chewy and bitter. My teeth actually hurt after eating them, and I then ask myself why I didn’t just make some cupcakes instead. These macarons do really taste like tiramisu, and are a real grown up treat, but it makes me crave the pillowy softness of an actual tiramisu instead. No disrespect to Marian though, I imagine for fans of macarons these are a delight, but I think when it ones to a sweet treat, I’m more of a softy than a crunchy. Think cakes, crumbles drowning in custard, tiramisu and you are speaking my language! I’ll leave the crunchy macarons to the sophisticated French, who have done a great service to the world of good food. For this, Happy Bastille Day, and Vive la France!

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Posted by on July 14, 2012 in Baking, Books, Cooking, Food, French

 

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