Pumpkin and White Bean Stew

I love the tiled mosaic picture option on WordPress, I might be super late to the party on this because I haven’t blogged in months but better late than never right? Right. Also thanks Louis for trying to help me with picture props, you’re a pal! ❤

So yes, I went there. Pumpkin already. Or maybe I’m late to this again? I don’t want to wait until October to get orangey with my alliteration. Plus last weekend we bought about 10 different types of squash so I guess we need to get this baby rolling. I can’t complain though – finally, crisp winds are blowing, I actually wore full length pyjamas to bed this weekend and just got up mid-typing to close the windows. I feel the seasonal change coming and couldn’t be happier. (I can also postpone the leg wax for another week, winning on all fronts).

The ingredients in this stew are only pumpkin and white beans (OK and onions and garlic but that’s a given). I was planning on mixing some bacon bits but I forgot to add them to the shopping list and in the end I didn’t really care. I knew this would taste bombastic without them and guess what, I was right. Concerning the beans, I’m a soak-for-24hrs kind of gal. I have absolutely no problem with using canned beans/lentils etc, it’s just I hate the slimy preserved brine they come in. Even after washing it off, I find the beans have too much of a mushy texture for my liking so I prefer to use the soaking method. Obviously this means planning the meal one day in advance but it’s worth it.

A seperate note on the spices used: I’m a huge fan of the Apples Under my Bed blog by Heidi, and a long time ago I was reading a recipe for a tomato sauce where she swears by adding a star anise. So I tried it and and became hooked. I wouldn’t necessarily use it for pasta sauce, but in this kinda of hearty, wintery recipe I think it is essential. Just one star anise with all the rest adds enormous amounts of flavour, really worth a try!

Ingredients                  Prep. time (excl. soaking time – 30mins)                Cooking time – 2hrs

2 cups of dried white beans, soaked in water for 24hrs.
500g sugar pumpkin, peeled and diced
1 small onion, diced
5-6 garlic cloves, chopped
100ml passata
1 star anise*, 1 cinnamon stick* (about 5cm long), 3 bay leaves*,  2 long pepper sticks,* salt, pepper, 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tsp paprika
*to be removed before eating

1. Soak the beans for 24hrs in cold water (leave an inch of water above the beans, they will expand). Once ready to use, dispose of the water, put the beans in a saucepan with fresh water and boil for 15m. This is to evacuate any toxins in the beans!

2. Drain the beans a second time and put in an oven-proof dish, preferably with a lid. If like me, life somehow didn’t equip you with a Dutch oven, cover your dish with tin foil. Again add enough water to cover the beans + 1  inch above, add salt & pepper and leave in the oven for 50mins at 180°C.

3. Meanwhile, peel the pumpkin and chop into inch-sized pieces. Chop the onion and garlic, add to the pumpkin in a bowl. Mix with olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika. When the beans are done, remove from the oven and add the pumpkin mixture to the dish, as well as the passata and the spices. This might make your dish veeery full so be careful putting it back in the oven (tin foil removed this time.) Leave to cook for a further 50mins.

4. Once it’s done, you’ll have a warming thick stew that is absolutely packed with flavour. Eat with crusty bread, a glass of red and enjoy in front of a film. These quantites will leave you with plenty to serve at least 5 people, otherwise you’ll have enough for left-over lunches and dinners. We love making life easier for ourselves right?

Aman x

Summertime sadness? Somewhat uncertain

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Talking about the weather is generally seen as a time-filler; that awkward smalltalk you’re forced to engage in with the granny at the busstop, waiting for your number to pick you up. But in their way, climatic conversations kinda make the world go round – we like to share what we got up to during our weekends in the sun, complain endlessly when we’re caught in the rain and leap for joy when school is cancelled because of the 2cm of snow on the ground (#onlyinEngland). And doesn’t the weather have a natural impact on our food choices? People try as much to eat seasonally, swapping their strawberries for pumpkin as soon as the first auburn leaves crackle underfoot. BBQ in November? I don’t think so.

Which brings me to something I’ve been pondering today – am I sad to see summer go? It came so late here in Paris, where normally even in late-May you’d see les femmes chics getting out their espadrilles. But we were weighed down with a seemingly endless cloud of humidity and tropical wetness that drove everyone insanely crazy. After a few weeks then stuck in a heatwave, we’re now in a kind of limbo of will-it-won’t-it. Today we went to Les Fermes de Gally to pick some fruit and vegetables, trapped under a grey sky yet dripping in the thick moisture. I need weather that is actually going to commit – autumn, I’m waiting for you with arms wide open.

*Apples, variety of squash, squash blossoms (so excited to cook with these!), green peppers, apples, carrots and salad all hand-picked this morning by us at Les Fermes de Gally.

The Tart from St. Tropez

It’s the last weekend of August. The streets will no longer be empty in the morning, walking down the corridors at work will shortly be met with the buzz of colleagues whizzing in and out of offices and we’ll soon start complaining about the onset of the colder weather. Summer came reeeeally late this year for us in Paris, but boy has it hit us hard this past week, << HEATWAVE >>. The mercury went over 30C, this shit got serious.

Baking and cooking in general in this heat has been…hot. I became inspired to test out a tarte tropézienne after seeing a documentary about its origins in France’s beautiful south. Golden brown, glistening with crystallised bling with a sweet aroma of orange blossom, she’s got it going on. Though I’m definitely more tanned than she is right now 😉 those lunch-time sessions in the park are paying off.

I’d give the difficulty factor a 5/10, it’s more time consuming than anything as you have to let the brioche rise for 24hours. Pay attention to your crème patissière to avoid lumps as much as possible – I say this from experience! Enjoy readers, I’m gonna go melt on the couch with the sun in my eyes. Bisous.

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Ingredients

Brioche
300g plain white flour (I use Type 55)
75g powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
3 eggs + 1 yolk for browning
150g butter
45ml milk
15g dried yeast
Nib sugar – this has to be the big crystal pieces of sugar that do not melt in the oven, look in the baking section, a specialty shop or online.

Crème Pâtissière
500ml milk
Few drops of vanilla essence, or 1 vanilla pod split lengthways
75g powdered sugar
60g of flour
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons of orange blossom water (‘Fleur d’Oranger’)

Chantilly
125g whole cream
1 tablespoon of powdered sugar

Method

Day 1
Brioche – mix the dry ingredients together, EXCEPT the yeast. Crack the eggs in a seperate bowl. In a saucepan, combine the milk and butter together until melted. Take off the heat and let it cool until it reaches a lukewarm/tepid temperature, and then add the yeast and whisk well. If the liquid is too hot, the yeast won’t properly activate. I normally wait at least a full 5 minutes before adding it. Mix the wet and dry ingredients until well-combined, put into a bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave in the fridge overnight, I left mine for about 18 hours.

Day 2
Brioche – the dough should have risen to double its original size. remove from the fridge, rub some flour over and shape into how you want it to be baked. I left mine as a big round form, you can also make individual buns if you prefer. Place the dough in the baking tin to be used later, cover with a tea towl and leave at room temperature for 2 hours to rise further.

Crème Patissière – this is just the French word for custard basically. Let the milk warm up in a saucepan with the vanilla essence/pods. In a bowl, mix the egg yolks with the powdered sugar for 1-2 minutes. (Don’t throw the egg whites, I used them to make egg-fried rice for dinner.) Once the milk starts to boil, gently pour it in small quantities into the egg and sugar mixture, whisking well to avoid lumps. Once all the milk has been poured, transfer the liquid back into the saucepan. Add the flour which allows it to thicken, then the orange blossom water and just keep on whisking! Once boiled, take it off the heat and cover the surface with plastic film. Place in the fridge and leave until fully cooled down, at least 1 hour.

Brioche – after 2 hours of letting it rise, brush the beaten egg yolk all over, sprinkle the sugar nibs on top and place the tray into a pre-heated oven at 180C for 25-30mins. Mine was a little browner than I’d have preferred so keep an eye on the oven.

Chantilly – simply, whipped cream! Add the powdered sugar to the cream and use an electric whisker to beat until stiff peaks form. This is to mix into the crème patissière once the former has cooled down. Until that point, keep the chantilly in the fridge.

Brioche – once cooked, leave on a cooling rack. When it is cool enough to handle, cut the brioche horizantally like you would a hamburger. When the crème patissière and chantilly are mixed together, add a thick layer of the cream to the base layer of brioche, then add the layer with the sugar nibs on top. Et voila, the tart is finished. Perfect for an afternoon goûter or in the morning with a cup of tea.

(Quantities and inspiration from here and here, (sorry for the French!). Mixing the yeast in the butter/milk as well as rising times were taken from Rachel Khoo’s recipe on dulce de lèche brioche buns from The Little Paris Kitchen, as I’ve made that recipe a few times so I trust her method.)

Summer box of goodies

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About a week ago (or maybe two), my MIL received an unexpected package in the post. It was a box of assorted beauty products put together by the big chain supermarket in France Monoprix, and probably sent out to those with the loyaly card just in time for their summer vacation. She said that as she didn’t really have a need for the products she preferred to give them to someone who would use them – that’s where I come in!

I’m definitely not someone to spend a ton on beauty products – for example, the only make-up I own is mascara and about 2 lipsticks. That I never wear. And my last tube of mascara finished about 6 months ago and I still haven’t bought a new one. As far as hair goes, shampoo and conditioner are enough for me. Suncream? Sometimes. I have an extremely lax ‘routine’ so to speak, but I’ve just never accorded that much importance to all these expensive, designer products because it’s not something we grew up with.

However, I’m not one to turn down a gift *chuckle chuckle* and as I don’t buy such products on a regular basis I guess I can enjoy these. Here’s what was inside:

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From bottom left:

Pacifica Persian Rose Solid Perfume, a waxy substance that you rub on your skin as perfume (vegan, no animal ingredients, animal cruelty-free, zero parabens);
Bioderma SPF 50+ pocket-sized sun cream (paraben free);
Nuxe ‘Prodigieux’ golden shimmer shower gel (paraben and sulfate free);
Erborian Bamboo Waterlock hydro-pumping skin mask;
Compeed adhesive foot plasters x 5;
Mini bottle of white wine (!!);
Foot file;
Batista dry shampoo (vegan and not tested on animals!);
Caudalie Divine Oil for body, face and hair (zero parabens; sulfates or animal-derived ingredients)
Taaj Micellar Water, cleanser and make-up remover (zero parabens);
Nail file;
Phytoelixir cleansing care cream for hair (botanical and nautral origins).

I was ready to post this and then started reading up on some of the ingredients in the products and was interested to see that some were 100% vegan, others not tested on animals, others with no sulfates or parabens. I’m not a crusader on these types of issues, and nearly all of the time I’ll blindly choose products that just do the job without getting into the politics of it, but I do think that consumer-consciousness is important. It’s not always a wallet-friendly approach that everyone can take on but I guess wherever we can we should make an effort to buy animal and human-friendly products that are good for us and our environment.

OK rant over 🙂 I’m off to check on my brioche that has been (I hope) slowly rising in the kitchen. The result – check the next blog post!

Aman x

Weekend break in Normandy

This weekend we went to Normandy in the north of France for an impromptu weekend away. A friend of ours was staying there and invited us up, and as I’d taken the Friday off work (just because I wanted to), it was perfect timing. We were in a small village/town called St Maurice en Cotentin which took 3 1/2hrs to drive up to.

The idea of a stay-cation really appeals to me – firstly, there are so many interesting places to see in France apart from Paris. A few weeks ago we spent a week in Bordeaux and it was lush to be able to visist wine country at St. Emilion and be able to go to the beach in the space of an hour! Secondly when you don’t have oodles of cash to spare but want a break, why not see more of the country you’re in? There’s always going to be something to surprise you.

We drove up on Friday early afternoon and arrived around dusk. For Normandy we were surprised it was so warm but clearly not complaining! Saturday morning we all went to the local market to buy some goodies for a home-made lunch that Louis made sous-vide. For starters we had chicken enrobed in a spicy coating with grilled peaches, salad and mozzarella; the main was salmon cooked with vanilla pods and mini leeks, and for dessert there were a selection of mini pastries from the boulangerie (I didn’t take photos of everything though, too busy eating!)

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As the sun was shining bright and we had Pokémons to hunt, we took a trip to the beach in the afternoon. The tide was low so there was a lot of bare, wet sand around. We sat for a few hours on the dunes though, shooting the breeze and all that jazz. Good times. You could actually the coast of Jersey from where we were! Or maybe it was Guernsey.. Anyway, in the evening we went to see a firework show in one of the local towns. I have never been that close to fireworks in my life – the lights were blinding, the bangs definitely deafening and we all had bits of cardboard from the explosions scattered in our hair 🙂 it was a beautiful sight though!!

Sunday was very chilly and drizzly, so I guess we got the best of both worlds. We spent the morning at the Maison des Biscuits, literally the ‘house of biscuits’, which is a speciality shop selling cakes, biscuits, chocolates, jams, preserves, local beers, honey etc. I bought a small box of chocolates to share with my colleagues at work, whereas Louis bought €50 worth of meringues and biscuits!!! The thought of all that sugar literally makes me cringe, I have no idea how we will ever get rid of them! All in all though it was a pretty sweet weekend, (no pun intended :P), and the intense change of landscape was so relaxing. I didn’t grow up around the water so it’s never been something I miss but I guess that makes it all the more lovely when I get to spend a few days in its presence. (Plus I got to top up my tan which I wasn’t expecting, bonus!)

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Aman x

A Work in Progress

It’s been a while folks, I know, but I’m pretty much over the ‘omg it’s been soooooo long im soooo sorry I’ll do better’ routine.

Getting back to basics, I’d started this blog to document my trials in the kitchen when I was at a pretty ‘simple’ time in my life, i.e. I was still working as a PA in a fairly low-stress professional environment with standard working hours and Louis was still doing a lot of work and research from home into his own food-based business. This meant that even though both of us were working full-time, we were still able to have and enjoy our free time together without the stress and anxiety of our jobs getting in the way. Coming home and getting in the kitchen never felt like a chore and I never felt tooo exhausted to create something interesting and blog about it.

Ever since I got this great new job as a communications assistant in an international organisation, (praise the Lord that this even happened!!!), I’ve definitely had a lot more responsibilities to take into account which I am so grateful for but of course these are bound to take a toll in other areas of your life, mainly the free, non-working time. During the super busy period of getting our economic publication finalised, I would literally wake up, work and then sleep. That’s basically what it felt like, and as Louis’ business is getting ever serious, it left little time to unwind.

And to be honest (I know I shouldn’t start a sentence with ‘and’!), I was just really lacking in any cooking inspiration. I quite simply had lost interest in anything more complicated than “I need to eat to function”, I wasn’t interested in the funky accounts I follow on Instagram or the blogs I usually spend hours trawling over. It just became something I had to accept for while – I wasn’t going to force writing articles and posting pictures if I didn’t really and truly want to. The OCD-ness in me got quashed once I accepted the fact that I wouldn’t have a neat, chronological account of posts on the blog (you’ll see there are more gaps than posts for 2016), but hey, there are actual real life problems to sort out.

So what is the point of this post? Well I’m not here to say bye-bye to blogging, actually it’s re-bonjour! This past month and a half has been very calm, so much so we even spent a week in Bordeaux relaxing and this weekend we’re making an impromptu trip to Normandy. I’ve started feeling a lot more inspired by some new as well as some old faithful blogs that I’ve been following for a while, to start using my time more efficiently and consciously so I can incorporate other personal goals into my everyday life. I’m not sure I want this blog to be 10000% just about food – as much as I am a private person, I feel that sharing other aspects of my life and routine that interest me can be just as thought-provoking for you too. There’s no recipe attached to this post, just me, myself and words. For now 🙂

Aman x

 

Double-chocolate brownies, because why wouldn’t you?

The betch is back.

To-do Did
New computer: check
New job: check
No more moaning about the two previously mentioned subjects like I did before: check.

Life has evolved pretty nicely since the last time I posted. As the first line on my to-do list explains, I finally bought a new laptop. This machine feels like a beast compared to my previous 8-year old dinosaur that was literally falling apart at the nails and screws. This was a sweet purchase I was finally able to make, being fortunate enough to now be paid like a real human being at my new job!!

I very unexpectedly upgraded my professional occupation in March – during the space of a month, I had a phone interview, 3 face-to-face interviews, handed in my notice, (took a weekend trip to Bruges!) and started at the new place. In the interest of sharing, I’m now working as a communications assistant in an international economic organisation, (can I get a hell yeeeeeh). So far I’ve learnt masses and I’m loving the rich and diverse responsibilities I get to be involved with.

Not to bore you with too much real-life talk (I mean yeah, some background is nice but we all only really care about the food), lets move on to the real star of this post. Chocolate brownies. A classic. The comforting taste of gorgeous, rich, dense chocolate is loved by everyone – but admittedly, this can go wrong more often than right.

I knew I wanted to make chocolate brownies during the week, mainly to bring to the office because everyone shares something cute and delish every once in a while with the rest. And for me, you either go home-made or go home. In the past, I normally encoutered the struggle of making them too cakey; the interior was fluffy and light instead of dense. Saying that, I’m also not really on the ‘fudgey’ side of brownies, I prefer compact rather than sticky. Oh the ordeal! I had a browse on the net as to what ratios people used to get the right consistency and took to composing a recipe from here and here. Result? I honestly think they’re the best I’ve ever made and will stick to the basics of this recipe from now on, changing only the almonds for example with walnuts or cranberries etc. ALSO, for the crazies out there (jk, sometimes I’m one of them too), this recipe happens to be gluten-free and refined-sugar free. So there!

Double-chocolate brownies, because why wouldn’t you (Yes, this is the official name).

Ingredients

130g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa
60g coconut oil*
3 medium eggs*
6 tablespoons of agave syrup*
2 tablespoons of 100% cacao powder**
3 tablespoons of rice flour**
150g sliced almonds
*organic, because we’re fancy like that
** these two can quickly dry out a recipe so don’t go crazy

Method

Break the chocolate into pieces and put in a saucepan with the coconut oil over a low heat. Stir occasionally until all melted and take off the heat to cool down. (Coconut oil gives a luscious gloss to the chocolate, try and stop yourself sneaking spoonfuls straight from the pan.)

Crack the eggs in a bowl, add the agave syrup and whisk until the mixture has doubled in size. When the chocolate has cooled down, add to the egg mixture and slowly incorporate. Next add the flour and cacao powder and fold in gently.

Add a handful of sliced almonds into the mixture. Line a small baking dish with parchment paper, pour the mixture and cover the top with a light scattering of almonds. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 10mins at 170 C.

Remove from the oven, allow to cool and cover lightly with powdered sugar. Slice into squares and serve, or stuff your face with them. I leave that choice entirely up to you. Happy Sunday x

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