Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

We are Italiano

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

For Christmas, I bought Sir Pubert Gladstone a pasta maker. He eats an unusually large amount of the stuff and had mentioned his desire to own a machine so he could make his own. It was an obvious choice for a christmas present but his constant mentioning of this being on his ‘christmas wish list’ to every family member/friend/bearded man who asked was a little annoying considering I had already purchased one and no one needs multiple pasta machines.

Anyway, the purchase has resulted in our four attempts at ‘filled pasta’ – whether that be ravioli, tortellini or pastaloni as our non-traditional shapes would suggest. And clearly we have italian blood seeping through our bodies as we have managed to create some mighty fine pasta-pockets.

pasta machine

Ready to roll.

Our first attempt was on New Year’s Eve where we went for roast pumpkin, stilton and walnut ravioli with a sage button sauce, accompanied by parmesan roasted fennel. Holy guacamole, it was good eating.

pasta

There’s pumpkin in there. And cheese as well.

Sir Pubert then challenged me to create two different fillings as a ‘surprise’ for him (although I suspect it was just his way of tricking me into cooking for him) and I delivered a seriously good spinach and ricotta filling and one with mushrooms with thyme.

pasta

Dough pillows.

While the idea of making your own pasta seems somewhat time consuming at first, it is remarkably quick and easy to do. I think the Italians would agree that simplicity is key so there aren’t many ingredients to worry about. Plus it is much lighter and far more satisfying than buying the dried stuff from the supermarket – knowing you have kneaded the dough means you’ve already worked off most of the calories. More pasta for you!

French ANZACs

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

It is amazing how your pride for your country emerges when you are living overseas. Suddenly national holidays become very significant and I feel like marching and saluting and drinking VB. Actually, that last bit is a lie. I’d never drink VB. Anyway, today being ANZAC day was a great excuse to make biscuits. I have always been an ANZAC biscuit maker. They are so good. Essentially butter balls – who wouldn’t want to make and eat them?

Butter

Now that's butter.

Of course, France posed some problems for me when it came to gathering the ingredients. They are not complex things – butter, oats, flour, golden syrup and sugar. That’s about it. However, we’re talking about Paris where I usually visit two to three supermarkets every day in order to get all of the ingredients I need to make a very simple dinner. The two challenge ingredients – oats and golden syrup.

Essentially, I failed on both. I managed to find some quick cooking oats and added some “Toasted Flakes of Five Grains” that one of my ex-Canadian neighbours gave me when she left the Récollets. The golden syrup became impossible and I gave up after three supermarkets. Research on the internet suggests it is possible to find, but many ‘foreign’ ingredients are only found in certain areas of Paris, depending on who lives there. Clearly there aren’t many Brits living in Montmartre or the 10th arrondissement. So an experiment with honey and maple syrup was required.

After 12 minutes in my little Seb oven, deliciousness was created. Amazing!

ANZAC biscuits

Crunchy on the outside, chewy on inside.

Not quite a true blue ANZAC but not bad for a French version.

HAPPY THANKS GIVING!

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

The great thing about living at the Récollets is that I get to meet people from all over the world who bring with them delicious food-based holidays. Tonight Tom and I have been invited to a belated Thanks Giving dinner with our two American friends, Jen and Greg. They have recently managed to score themselves an apartment in Paris (how they managed to do this is still a mystery to me) and so we’re celebrating with turkey and pilgrims.

As I am the proud owner of an oven and I stupidly said, “I’ll do it!”, I have been put in charge of the pumpkin pie. I figured it couldn’t be THAT hard because everyone in America and Canada makes pumpkin pie every year and if they can do it then I can too. It was then that multiple Americans informed me that the now ‘traditional’ way of making pumpkin pie is to buy a pre-made pastry case, pour in canned “Pie Pumpkin” and then bake. That’s called cheating. I not only REFUSED to use canned pumpkin, I also realised there was no way in the world I would ever find it in France, so I then had to find a real pumpkin. That’s almost as difficult. Pumpkin isn’t really France’s number one vegetable, despite it being versatile and utterly delicious! Crazy French. But by some sort of Thanks Giving miracle, I managed to find myself a butternut pumpkin in the first fruit and vegetable store I looked in. Thank you, Holy Pilgrims.

Yesterday evening I made the pastry and the pumpkin mush, in preparation for today, thinking I might be heading out and doing something. Turns out I have spent the entire day at home making this thing. Pastry and I aren’t really friends although I have managed to produce something resembling short crust pastry. It’s just a bit stumpy in the pan and resulting in the size of my pie being reduced significantly. Therefore I had far too much filling, the left overs of which I have just cooked in the oven without pastry in order to taste the pumpkiny-centre to check that no one will die.

And it has been a success! It tastes GOOOOOOOOOOD! I am looking forward to having the pastried version now and am feeling slightly less worried about presenting the pie to my relatively new friends. I figure it isn’t my fault it isn’t the perfect pumpkin pie because I’m not American and therefore do not have the genetics to create such a thing.

Pumpkin pie

Mmm... pie...

Wombat (I Mean Rabbit) Stew

Monday, November 21st, 2011

For a few months now, I have been in discussions with another resident of the Récollets (a dutchman by the name of Friso) about how one would go about purchasing a rabbit from the markets and subsequently cook it. Friso had assured me that it was all possible and easy to do and that one day we would undertake this challenge. After many postponements and reorganisations, we finally settled on a dinner date – this last Saturday.

My friend Sonja was in town so she joined us on our rabbit hunting adventures. At the respectable hour of 10am, the three of us met in the front courtyard of the Récollets, asked each other how we all were and then headed off across the Gare de L’Est train station, dodging early morning joggers, homeless people and the usual Parisians who don’t look where they are going. We went to Marche Saint Quentin – a covered market, open from Tuesdays to Sundays, that is a three minute walk from my apartment. In this market you will find butchers, fish mongers, bakers, fruit and vegetable sellers, wine caves, and florists. There are also a few restaurants and speciality product stores selling food from Italy, Spain and South America.

Entering the markets we looked at the price of rabbits at the first shop we passed but continued on to an always reliable boucherie. Tom and I had once bought veal, lamb and beef mince from this boucherie and instead of the mince being a pre-ground concoction of who knows what, the butcher had selected three cuts of meat and then minced it right there in front of us. Who knew mince could be so delicious? The concept of ordering Steak Tartare (raw chopped up meat served cold on a plate) at a restaurant suddenly seemed slightly more appealing.

To our delight, rabbits (lapin) were on special for a bargain price of 6.50 Euros a kilo. It took a while for us to be served, this being largely my fault as I stood taking photos of the little bunnies and talking in English. Clearly we weren’t there for any real purpose other than being stupid tourists. But not the case! Friso stepped up and took charge, wishing the butcher a good morning and declaring he was there to buy a rabbit.

Lapin

Bunnies!

The butcher seemed surprised but accepted the challenge and grabbed one of the poor lifeless fellows and plonked it down on the scales. A three-pounder was perfect for the recipe Friso was working from and he asked the butcher to ‘couper en grands morceaux’. So while we paid our 8 Euros for a whole rabbit, the butcher grabbed his knife and chopped that little guy up into large pieces, butterflying the head and resting it on top of the meat pile. Amongst the legs and ribs and body bits were the heart, liver and kidneys, just in case we should want to add them to our stew. After a brief consultation with Sonja and myself, Friso agreed that it would be best if we left the head and bodily organs out of the stew because no one really wanted to eat them.

The rabbit purchasing process only took 10 minutes meaning we had time to grab a coffee and discuss what cheese we should bring that evening. As it was Sonja’s last day in Paris, she and I headed off to explore the city and left Friso in charge of cooking our little rabbit. We would rejoin at 7pm for the official eating ceremony.

Finally the moment arrived when we lifted the lid from Friso’s Le Crueset pot and the delicious smells of white wine, mushrooms, herbs and bunny rabbit hit our noses. Served with potatoes, I can very happily announce that our rabbit was one of the most delicious little creatures I have ever eaten. He was tender, flavoursome and down-right tasty, and I lift my hat to Friso for his cooking talents. While, yes, that rabbit may have been happier bounding across the fields and making lots of baby bunnies, I can say that his death was very well received and he went down with style, taste and good glass of wine.

This rabbit adventure and a recent cooking escapade of Tom where he bought a whole fish from the markets and stuffed it with herbs and lime and baked it in the oven to perfection, makes me want to become a bit more adventurous in my cooking. There are so many amazing foods to try at the markets but I am usually put off as I don’t know what to do with them. But it appears that simple is best and by finding a good recipe you can make miracles.

Veal brains

Maybe next time I will get the veal brains, sweetbread, tongue or kidneys...

Why Are You So Salty, Mr Chicken?

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Once again those French have tricked me and tricked me good. Tonight I made an ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS dinner using a recipe from my new Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall cook book, Veg Everyday (recommended to me by Ben, my wonderful darling brother who asked to be mentioned.) It was quinoa with courgettes and onion. YYUUUUUMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!! Even Tom was mmming and yumming. As it was a completely vegetarian recipe and I was feeding a male, I bought some chicken to grill on my BRAND NEW Bodum grill pan (yay!).

Quinoa and zucchini

Everyone is jealous of my dinner. Jealous, jealous, jealous.

Now, visits to the supermarket are annoying and difficult enough as French supermarkets are generally useless and never have everything you need. I managed to scrounge together most of my required ingredients and made a few compromises in order to not have to go to another shop. I was quite pleased about this fact. It wasn’t until we were eating our meal that I realised I must have gone awry somewhere. The chicken was very, very salty. I am quite sensitive to salt as I don’t add it to anything except when I’m baking potatoes and so I was slightly confused as to why I felt like I was eating salted peanuts and needing more and more water. It wasn’t just me either – Tom agreed and so I wasn’t going crazy. Something was different.

Tom went and checked the herbs I had put on the chicken and questioned me over and over again as to whether or not I had added salt – no. Then we checked the packet the chicken came out of and discovered that the chicken was ‘marinated naturally’ in all sorts of salt. Real salt AND fake additive salt. How I was supposed to notice this I’m not sure as it was in exactly the same packet as ‘normal chicken’ except with a tiny piece of text that said it was marinated. Yum. So my extremely healthy, utterly delicious meal was RUINED by evil French additives. I guess it teaches me a lesson as I should really buy meat from a butcher but I had to buy toilet paper and we have already discussed my dislike for visiting more than one shop in a day.

A Visit From Big Brother

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Last week saw the arrival of my older brother, Ben, visiting his little sis before heading to England to learn how to bake at the School of Artisan Food. Despite being siblings, we tend to get along quite well and have quite a few things in common, including a desire to make things. We went on an exploratory tour of Paris’s sewing and knitting shops and discovered a few new gems that I will return to another time to either undertake courses or buy fun things like knitting needles, wool and cross stitch patterns. We also completed two courses – a macaron baking course and a knitting course. Fun fun!

The macaron course was run by La Cuisine which delivers English courses on a variety of cooking topics. The course consisted of around 10 people and was run by Jenni, the woman who also happens to bake the cakes that I eat at my favourite coffee shop, Kooka Boora. The students were split into two teams – the other group made a chocolate ganache macaron, while Ben, Tom, another student and I worked on a salted butter caramel macaron. Despite the class only going for two hours, it was very hands on and it was up to the students to make everything. Jenni provided clear explanation and assistance while the students made mixtures, piped macaron biscuits and heated sugar.

The end results were quite impressive for a first attempt and everyone left with a box full of macarons to take home. While Jenni suggested we sample a macaron in its fresh state, she also suggested we leave the rest in the fridge over night as macarons are best served a day old. She was right – by leaving them to settle the outside shell becomes crisp while the inside softens and becomes chewy.

Macaron

Salted butter caramel macaron

It was a really fun experience and I want to take some more cooking courses. Soon I might rival my brother in his culinary abilities – it will be France vs England in the battle of the baked goods.

The knitting course Ben and I took was held at Sweat Shop, a local sewing/knitting/craft zone where people go and use sewing machines and learn how to sew. We took a two hour course with a very cool, knitted-sweater-wearing Frenchman called Sebastien who in two hours had taught us how to knit, purl, and knit with two colours. Ben was a bit more advanced than me, having learnt to knit in the past few months, but I managed to progress quite quickly which Sebastien was very happy to see. He showed us some of the other beginner students’ work and they were full of holes and generally useless. Not us. We’re pros. So now I have ordered a bunch of knitting books online and am eager to start a project. I’ll need to find some decent knitting needles but I don’t really know what size to purchase. I will investigate once I have a project to work on. I might knit socks and then turn them into sock creatures. That sounds like a good use of time.

Knitting at Sweat Shop

My knitting is just beginning

If you would like to see some more photos of Paris that actually feature me and you want to see what my brother is up to, check out my brother’s Flickr site and visit his website, abitofbutter.

 

It Stinks

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

The particularly unpleasant smell of someone cooking French beef in butter is permeating my apartment at the moment. French beef has a lot stronger flavour and smell than Australian and it really smells when you cook it. I wish they would stop.
Meanwhile, there appears to be a concert happening in my backyard (aka. the park behind my apartment.) I’m going to go and check it out this afternoon. At the moment all we have heard are sound checks and fairly average guitar playing. Hopefully things improve or it’ll be a noisy afternoon in Paris.

Park

The sounds are coming from somewhere behind those trees

Let’s Bake!

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

We have a new family member! His name is Seb and he is a mini-four! He arrived by courier this morning and is oh so lovely. He will bake and roast and grill and re-heat for us! I love Seb.

Oven

Tom helps Seb out of his box

Oven

Meet Seb! He has a fan.

Seb delivered a valuable message. Children beware!

Danger symbol

Poor baby.

Birthday Deliciousness

Friday, December 10th, 2010

My Aunt bakes THE BEST chocolate brownie in the world and she recently gave me the recipe so I can make it myself. As we are having family over for my brother’s birthday tomorrow, I decided now was a good time to give it a go. I don’t think mine is as good as my Aunt’s but I’m still willing to eat it.

Chocolate brownie

Mmm... brownie...

When a brownie calls for 250 grams of sugar and just as much butter and lindt chocolate, you know it is going to be good.

2 Courses, 3 Kitchens, 4 People, 1 Dinner

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

On the weekend I managed to pull off an organisational feat of immense proportions – I cooked dinner for Tom and two friends. While this would generally be easy enough, I had to buy the ingredients in the morning, make dessert at my house, gather all potential ingredients and utensils required, and then take them to Tom’s house where half of the ingredients were waiting for me. Here I made a salad and prepared the chicken. We then drove everything to my friends’ house where I then cooked the chicken and served dinner. AMAZINGLY enough I think it turned out quite well, although you never really can tell what people honestly think of the food you put in front of them. But I liked it so that’s all that matters.
Anyway, I wanted to tell you about the dessert I made. The recipe is from the November edition of Delicious magazine – a Chocolate and Red Wine tart. Oh so good. You have to buy Careme pastry (found at speciality food stores or some IGAs) and this recipe calls for their dark chocolate short crust.

Careme pastry

Mmm... chocolate pastry...

While the pastry was good (it was chocolate so it can’t be bad), it was awesome. Next time I’d probably just try and make my own with some quality cocoa powder. However, pastry and I not really friends so this did make for an easy option. The filling is easy to make – just eggs, sugar, cinnamon, cocoa powder and a whole lot of merlot. The end result is a very winey filling and it reminded me of Vin Chaud from the Christmas markets in Europe. I liked it but I think if you don’t like wine then you should probably avoid it. More for me then.

Chocolate wine tart

Straight from the oven.

Chocolate wine tart

My piece.

In the baking process, my brother and I tested out the cookie cutter I bought him for Christmas. It worked well.

Chocolate camel

Better than a chocolate Jesus