October Appreciation

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Sunday came and we turned our clocks back. In two days, October will be over. For me, the beginning of autumn has always seemed like the real beginning of the new year – children go to back to school, summer holidays are over and the world starts functioning again, refreshed after all that R&R. But as soon as it jumped up on us, it’s now barely within our grasp anymore as we buy the last of our pumpkins, look for Christmas-themed lattes at Starbucks and start making wish lists for Santa. I say, there’s only two days left so let’s make it count.

Today we went to the supermarket and saw piles of winter squash just waiting to be picked. So we did!

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These little fellas below were just too cute to resist! The photo below shows two Jack-be-Little’s, I’m having a hard time finding a name for the big, pale orange squash however. Can anyone help me out? In the end we bought one Jack-be-Little, one Sweet Dumpling (top-right, cream and green stripes) and the nameless pumpkin!

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Between them I’ll be making some special cupcakes which I’ll be blogging about later, and The Boy wants to do another soup, though I think it will be a very small amount! I just love these rich colours which are so warming and remind you why this time of the year is the best: steaming soups, wrapped to the hilt in scarves and jumpers, watching it get dark outside at 5pm! I’m just as eager for Christmas as the next person, I also want to show my appreciation for the Orange Month. Until next year!

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Tapatio Twists

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week.  Between seeing friends, going to the gym, finally watching Gone Girl and some great nights out, mine’s been pretty busy! I’ve basically spent the day catching up on my TV shows and made a fab chicken curry for dinner, and managed to fit in a little foodie experiment I’d been thinking about.

If you remember from one of my earlier posts when I made the tomato tart, I mentioned how I wanted to use the left-over pastry(of the shortcrust kind) for something later on rather than throwing it away. I had the idea of making little twisted strips of pastry baked with melted cheese until crispy, which could serve well as an aperitif or, as I’ll be having mine the next time, used as soldiers to dip in a runny boiled egg!

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I also made a mix of olive oil and tapatio sauce (a chilli sauce from the US that I adopted from my friend when she went back to the States), to give the twists a spicy kick. Considering I’ve spent the last 12hrs as a couch potato, this has been the easiest thing I’ve done all day!

Method

– Defrost your pastry and after warming it up for about 10-15mins in your hands, roll out to 2mm thick. Cut the pastry into strips and form twists by turning the ends in opposite directions. (Of course if you’re using fresh pastry no need to freeze/defrost etc.)

– Place on a baking tray and pre-bake on 180C for 5m. Take out from the oven, sprinkle some cheese (I used grated emmental; I think grated cheddar, comté or parmesan would also work well).

– For the tapatio sauce, mix 1/2 tspn of oilive oil with 1 tpsn of the sauce, or any other chilli sauce you prefer and is available to you, and lightly drizzle over each twist. Put back in the oven for another 15m. and ta-da!

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If you try it out let me know how it goes. Try dipping the ends in melted dark chocolate and letting it set with a sprinkle of dessicated coconut for a sweet version!

Bisous!

When life gives you pumpkins, make soup!

There are only 10 days remaining of our beloved October which in recent years has become almost as anticipated as Christmas…almost.

Orange-mania reveals itself in a myriad of ways; drifting through an endless carpet of fiery-hued, burnt leaves as we make our way to Starbucks, pepping ourselves up with an obligatory Pumpkin Spice latte. Where to next? The market of course, because what if there’s no more actual pumpkins left to carve?!

Well, the last point doesn’t really apply. We bought our little potiron about 2 weeks ago at the market and have only just got round to cutting, carving, scooping and souping. Let’s be honest, as much fun as it is to express our sadistic artistic skills on these little guys, it still takes a lot of time and effort. But in the end it’s all worth it when this…

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…transforms into this!

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And then this!

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After The Boy scooped out all the fleshy insides, he chopped it up along with one and a half carrots, two medium-size potatoes and two onions. We left it all to boil in a pan of water (just over a litre), infused with a bouillon (stock cube) and bay leaves. Once all the veggies became soft enough, it was left to cool for about 30m and then placed in the blender with some seasoning and crème fraiche. Optional spices: cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg. One thing we forgot to add was a garnish of chopped hazelnuts for added texture but will be incorporating that tonight as there’s plenty of left-overs.

Enjoy, bisous!

Homemade Galette de Sarrasin with Cheesy Chorizo and Egg

Happy Sunday!

I know that might be a bit of a misnomer for some of you but being currently out of the job loop means I don’t get that dreaded Monday feeling, which has pros and cons all of its own! The Boy and I used to go for long walks in Saint Germain most Sundays but we haven’t in a while, so in order to make the most of the beautiful autumnal weather we had today we spent some time at the park .

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However, before we indulged in such sunshine we spent the morning making from scratch galette de sarrasin (those buckwheat savoury crêpes I mentioned in one of my previous posts). So so so so good!!!

Credit where it’s deserved – The Boy made the batter and the galettes themselves tasted exactly like the restaurant version, not to mention the delicious ingredients I added – cheese, spicy chorizo and a sunny-side up egg on top. So filling too, I couldn’t believe he didn’t want seconds!

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The recipe is as follows:

The batter

2 eggs
250g buckwheat flour
50cl of cold tap water
40g of melted butter
Dash of salt (and pepper)

Mix all together, you’ll find it has a much more watery consistency than standard crêpe batter. Pour a ladle-sized amount into a very hot pan (I used extra virgin coconut oil to fry these bad boys and you couldn’t detect a hint of its flavour; standard butter or oil are obviously fine too). Once you’ve got a good stack going on, you can keep them on a plate in the micro-wave or oven so they stay warm.

The filling

Slice your chorizo and heat in a pan with about half a tin of chopped tomatoes (I didn’t add oil as the meat itself has enough). I added chilli powder and paprika to strengthen the look and taste. In a seperate pan, crack however many eggs you require and leave to cook. When all is done, put your galette back in the pan to regain some heat, sprinkle the cheese and add the chorizo and the egg (see photo above). Fold the sides, (if you can manage!) and slide on to your plate.

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Break fast is served 🙂

Kitchen Staples

Bonjour mes amis! The weather in Paris is getting decidedly worse by the day and the flat gets absolutely freezing sometimes, so to cheer myself up I’m going to tell you about a few of my coup de couer, (meaning favourite) kitchen items. Not only are they extremely handy and practical, I think they’re lovely to look at too!

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Monsieur Mixer

Living on a budget, I definitely could not afford one of these trendy blenders like a Vitamix, and even the cheapest brands in Paris are still really expensive, so I used to use a hand-held pulverizer to make all my smoothies and soups. It still worked a dream but I was limited with how many ingredients I could use and the quantity I was able to make. Then it broke. So when the unofficial-in-laws asked us what we would like for Christmas I immediately knew what to suggest, and guess what? Joyeux Noel to me because they bought it for us early! The boy came home with the blender in one hand and patisseries in the other on the weekend, what a doll. Christened it with a melon and banana smoothie, yum!

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Lady Shaker

About a month ago, we did a big shop at a Zodio, which is a French home decoration store/warehouse with an amaaazing array of items for every domestic need. I wasn’t too keen on this little cocktail shaker at first, preferring the classic silver type but now I absolutely love it. It includes 4 recipes on the sides with all the measurements so you’ll never get lost whilst shaking up a storm, unless you’ve had a few too many…

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Madame Théière

When I was working for a family and teaching English to their two little girls here in France, I always admired their théière, a cast-iron teapot with a large, deep strainer set within for tea leaves. They originate from Japan where they are called tetsubin or kyūsu , and are traditionally hung over a fire to boil water. They come with tiny handle-less cups to drink from which are very efficient at burning your fingertips so be careful! As a tea lover, there’s nothing better than sipping in style.

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Papa Pestle (& Mortar)

The Boy was sooo keen to get this and when someone is that adorable you just can’t say no. Pestle and mortars have an ancient, apothecarial feel to them, (yes I’m making up words now, feel free to join me) which should really make no sense anymore in our modern world. However our porcelain pal was a cracker at smashing up M&M’s when we made our crêpes last week. Modern medicine at its best!

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I know these names are so silly, but once I started I was on a roll!

Bisous!

Every day can be Pancake Day!

Now I haven’t made crêpes at home in a looooong time. If I ever eat them in Paris it’s usually the savoury variety, known as galettes de sarrasin (roughly translated as buckwheat cake as this is the type of flour used) when I’m out at a restaurant, called crêperies, which cater specifically to these flying-saucer beauts.

New best friend

New best friend

The only time I really desire to make them at home is on Shrove Tuesday as we call it in the UK, (usually simplified to Pancake Day when I was growing up, which works just as well). In France it’s known as ‘Mardi Gras’ meaning ‘fat Tuesday’ and there is also another special occasion when the French love whipping up the batter, called La Chandeleur celebrated on February 2nd (this is another Christian-based festival commemorating the presentation of Jesus).

History lesson over! We had some batter left from last night when we made crêpes for dessert, which were really delicious and light after a heavy meal and so decided to make them again for breakfast. I used Nigella Lawson’s recipe which can be found here (I got 10 super-thin crêpes out of the batter), simple and fuss-free. We also added a splash of rum and liquid cane sugar, just to live on the wild side.

I don’t have pictures from last night as we were all too busy devouring them, but I ate mine with melted chocolate on the base, sliced banana and whipped cream from the can on top. The boy and his friends crushed a handful of M&M’s in the pestle and mortar and sprinkled it on theirs with chocolate too. As you can see in the picture, this morning I added raspberry confiture and honey to the mix. Other great toppings you could use are: nut butters such as almond or peanut, desiccated coconut with honey, chocolate and berries, caramelised apples with ice-cream…the possibilities are endless and equally as mouth-watering!

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Tomato & Mozzarella Tart

When I was at school, I remember one of my teacher’s telling us that she lived without an oven in her apartment during her 20’s. It simply didn’t come included. I thought, ‘What the hell is she talking about? How can you possibly survive without making food in the oven, without roast chicken, jacket potatoes, PIZZA?!?!’

Then I moved to France, and and lived that nightmare first hand (as well as having to use a communal toilet in the corridor instead of having one in my own room…that’s for another time though).  Not being able to cook with an oven was definitely a pain at times but surprisingly easier than I imagined. I mean how often am I actually going to cook a roast? Exactly. Potatoes in the microwave, pan-frying chicken and salmon instead of grilling, it wasn’t really a problem.

In my second year however I moved into a much bigger, more modern apartment which instead of a microwave…had an oven! I was over the moon, seriously. Beouf bourguignon, cherry clafoutis, roasted vegetables, M&M cookies, etc yum etc. Now I’m in my third year here, and after moving in with the boy, I think you can already guess the pattern forming… Yep, stuck with that darn microwave again.

After getting so used to cooking more experimentally in my previous abode, it is definitely frustrating going back (again) to basics and trying to cook healthy, imaginative meals when you’re so limited with equipment and space. At least this time around it’s a microwave-oven so I can play around sometimes and get creative. For example, this lovely tomato and mozzarella tart I made last night.

I was sceptical at first that it would turn out to be anything but a disaster but I was pleasantly surprised at how good it tasted. I used shop-bought pastry, and after covering the tray and poking a few holes (my favourite part ha!) to prevent it bubbling up, I pre-baked it for about 5mins on 200C.

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Then I started slicing the tomatoes ready to layer once the pastry was done. In the end I only needed two toms because the dish was pretty small. Before layering, I spread some Dijon mustard over the pastry to give the tart some bite. I sprinkled thym and about a tablespoon of olive oil over the tomatoes, as well as seasoning and adding a few bay leaves for extra aroma, then popped it back into the micro-oven for 20m again on 200C.

I was left with a reel of pastry trimmings due to my baby baking tin, so as I was waiting for the dish to cook I decided to get artsy and do what all people do with the left-overs: cut out some leaves. Ta-da!

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With the rest of the pastry, I wrapped it up and put it back in the freezer – with enough left-over dough, I’ll be able to make another tart!  After the 20m was up I then added mozzarella and also sliced some ham into the mix just to use up things in the fridge. I placed my pastry leaves on top, (that was just for my personal kicks; they’re honestly better suited when making a pie for example, and there is a layer of of pastry on top as well as underneath), and baked again for only 10m on 200C.

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I was really happy with the end result and given we have another roll of pastry waiting to be used, I might make a chocolate and raspberry tart as the boy has been asking non-stop for one! I hope you enjoyed reading and for anyone else out there stuck with a darned micro-oven, you got a friend.

Bisous!