Spicy sausage pasta bake

Evening folks, alas my absence has come to an end! Trying to find a spare moment in December to post was just impossible, and never would I have thought that January would be just as crazy! Not that I have anything against January, I just kinda see it as that meh month after Xmas celebrations, where no-one has any money and you don’t end up leaving the house. How wrong I was. Apart from not having money, that is literally a weekly occurrence ><

The beginning of 2016 has flown by, but I’m hoping that some of my objectives for this year will remain steady. I’m not really into the term ‘resolutions,’ everyone knows that’s just code for ‘this is bullshit.’ I also don’t necessarily believe in starting new ventures at the beginning of a new year – who imposes these time restrictions on us? We do, therefore we can just as easily change that and realise new objectives at any point. However from a financial aspect one of my aims for 2016 did have to wait until now, that being starting driving lessons in France!! I literally can’t stop thinking about having the freedom to do what I want on my own schedule and not having to rely on transport/Louis to drive me places that don’t necessarily interest him (see: shopping centres). Having been lucky enough to receive a nice bonus from work at the end of 2015, I can pay for the theory straight up and start saving on the side for the practical lessons. (Note: if you have the choice, do not take driving lessons in France. Costs a bloody arm and a leg and takes at least 9-12 months!! I’m biting the bullet though, it just has to be done.)

As a little goodbye to January (you’ve been fantastic), I’m posting a recipe that I just made tonight but haven’t eaten yet because our dinner guest is late :@ Oh well, it’s given me time to catch you all up 🙂 hope this tickles your fancy!

Spicy Sausage Pasta Bake

Ingredients

500-600g pork sausage (seasoned with sea salt, thyme, rosemary, espelette pepper and poked with a few stalks of cubeb/Java pepper)
3 cups of pasta
2 shallots
3 cloves of garlic
1 courgette
500g passata
2 tablespoons of light cream

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Method

Season the sausage(s) well with the herbs and spices. We bought one long sausage instead of a multipack but really wouldn’t make any difference which you get. Cook according to package instructions – should take about 20m – and in the oven if possible. You can use the same oven dish for the pasta bake, as the juices from the meat will add great flavour.

Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside. Heat a pan with oil, add the chopped shallots, garlic and courgette. Stir often and keep on a medium heat until the courgette can be easily poked with a knife. Add the passata and cream, incorporate well. Good idea to add the same herbs etc to the passata too, you don’t want the sauce to end up being bland.

Slice the sausage into coin-sized pieces and add to the sauce (make sure to remove the pieces of cubeb! You do not want to eat a whole chunk of that). In the same roasting dish as used for the sausages, add the pasta and then the sauce. Mix very well so all the pasta is coated in the tomato sauce. Put in the oven for 15-20m at 200C. Serve with bread and copious amounts of cheeeeese!!!

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Saucisse!

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Cake salé (Greek olives, sun-dried tomatoes and goat’s cheese, amongst other delights)

Season greetings little ones!

I’m having major problems with my laptop, hence the once-a-month posts. It has been on its last legs for the past 4 years (I can’t believe this laptop has lasted me since my first year of uni in 2008!), but now it is literally crumbling to pieces. Like the hinges are coming off and everything. This has made me abit scared of putting it on in case it might be the last time, so after this post I’m doing a major back-up to be on the safe side. I hope to buy a new one in the January sales!

Anyway, what’s new? Well, same old work/life routine basically, but work has been getting a little more interesting these past few weeks. Any job has its dull days, but being a PA seems to have more than its share sometimes. In the run up to the end of the year though, our schedule has been getting major crazy which has kept me on my toes more than usual so I’m not complaining (for the moment!)

The recipe I want to share with you all is for a savoury cake (in French, the word gateau means sweet cake, whereas ‘cake salé’ literally means salty cake). I find this such an easy concoction to make when you’re pressed for time or have some random ingredients lying around that you don’t want to throw away. A few slices with a cup of tea and you’re kept full for a while, pair it with a salad for a lighter meal or cut it into tiny squares to serve as apéro with a glass of bubbly. Plus the ingredients can change according to your tastes – if for some weird reason you have no affinity for sun-dried tomatoes, olives or goat’s cheese (just so you know we can’t be friends, apart from you Hannah), swap them for things you do like. See, simples!

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Ingredients

150g rice flour (half whole wheat)
50 g plain flour
10g baking powder
3 eggs
55g butter, melted
60g each of pitted Greek black dates (if they’re too salty give them a rinse under cold water), sun-dried tomatoes and semi-soft goat’s cheese, all chopped
3 rashers of pre-cooked quality ham, chopped
Sprinkle of chopped hazelnuts and Parmesan cheese on top before it goes in the oven

Method

Weigh the flours and baking powder in a bowl. Melt the butter on a low heat on the stove (it shouldn’t be boiling hot because this will ruin the eggs once mixed together).

Add the butter to the eggs and whisk. Pour into the flour and mix well. Now add the rest of the ingredients and mix until everything is evenly folded in. Line a rectangular baking tin with parchment paper and pour in the mixture.

Put in the oven at 200C for 35m or until a fork comes out clean. Serve!

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I made this a few weeks ago and it was a public holiday in France so Louis and I went for a walk in the park with coffee and the camera. Here are a few snaps of the chateau of Saint Germain en Laye on a grey day in November

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Roasted pumpkin spiced cupcakes with festive frosting

How much orange have you guys been getting in this October? Yknow what I mean – pictures of golden and fiery-hued leaves scattered on the ground, the formidable latte, pumpkin-carving, Halloween costume prep…the list goes on!

The last time we visited Fermes de Gally we picked up about 4 little sugar pumpkins and one huge butternut squash. I’ve slowly been using up the pumpkins for soups mainly but all this week I’ve had my eye on the last one to make pumpkin cupcakes. These turned out so much better than I thought – I wasn’t expecting the flavour of the pumpkin to come out that well but it had a rich, warming taste alongside the spices.

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Too effing irresistible

Ingredients

1 sugar pumpkin – weighed in at just under 500g
Powdered cinnamon or 4 spices – between 4-5 tablespoons
220g plain flour
5g baking powder
100g powdered brown cane sugar (the frosting will be quite sweet to compensate)
2 eggs
120ml olive oil (I put abit too much in, so added 2 tablespoons of honey to mask the taste)

Method

Peel and dice the pumpkin. Place in a roasting dish with a drizzle of oil, and about a tablespoon each of brown sugar and cinnamon on top. Roast in the oven for 20m or until soft on 200C.

Beat the eggs, sugar and oil. Add to the flour, cinnamon/4 spices and baking powder. When the pumpkin is ready, mash well and add to the mixture.

Divide the batter into cupcake cakes and bake for about 15m on 200C. Allow them to cool completely before piping the frosting, otherwise it will just melt into a big mess.

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Winter light is not my friend…

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Frosting

200g of cream cheese
50g of unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
300g powdered sugar
Red and yellow food colouring

Method

Beat all the ingredients together using an electric whisk. Divide the mixture in two, adding the food colouring to one half. This will produce a lovely orange tone leaving the other natural. Leave both bowls in the fridge for at least 30m to firm up before piping.

When ready, scoop the mixtures into separate piping bags with a nozzle of your choice, and get to it! I Youtubed a bunch of videos to get an idea of what I wanted and am really pleased with the patterns!

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Home improvements

Coucou tout le monde!

I don’t know about you guys, but I know that trying to get creative in the kitchen with limited space and resources is a bitch. We constantly bemoan the fact that ours is so ill-equipped: it lacks adequate counter space, there’s no freaking oven, and we don’t have enough cupboards to store our food. Well, we didn’t.

We made the decision last week to order a kitchen unit of 8 cupboard units AND an oven!!! We used this French website where you can literally buy everything -from an Xbox to washing machines – for a lot cheaper than the going retail price. In a way it was kind of risky because we obviously weren’t able to look at the material and quality of the kitchen in the flesh, but having bought stuff before from the site we knew we could trust it. And guess what, it paid off.

Louis, the goddamn angel, mounted all the units himself over 2 days. He cleared out our old worktop table, scrubbed from top to bottom and got pretty handy with an electric drill. I guess men are useful for some things eh! The result as you can see is amazing – there were colours ranging from bright red to aubergine but this wooden tone with a charcoal surface top was the best looking.

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All we had on the right-hand side before was a table, microwave-oven and a shelf!

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Mwah!

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Seeing as we’re both big foodies, cooking never feels like a chore. The thing I’m most excited to do when I get home from work is cook a tasty (and usually healthy) meal. An apology to the feminists out there, but I’m so excited to spend even more time in the kitchen.

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See the oven in the centre?! Hallelujah!

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The teapot and steam-bubble stickers add a playful touch – plus we can write on them with chalk!

We also did a bigggg general clean and sort out of the entire flat – we’ve ended up throwing out so much junk, clothes and useless furniture that it feels like you can breathe again. Life admin – done. High-five for teamwork!

Big kids, big city – brunch and other grown-up activities

TGIM…said no person, ever. Though I’m pretty stoked it’s Monday night, because that means we’re that much closer to the weekend! Speaking of, I just passed one of the best weekends in a long time. Me and my love went brunching, walking, photographing, thrifting, yoga-ing (well it was only me who yoga-ed) and baking.

This weekend was ‘my weekend’, meaning that Louis would do whatever I had in mind, so we spent our time doing our favourite activity – eating! On Saturday we went into Paris (something I haven’t done on the weekends for a loooong time ever since I started working in the city) and found the cutest spot to grab brunch, a cafe/restaurant called Twinkie.

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I chose this place because they offer FOUR different kinds of brunch (American, English, Scandinavian and Greek, drool). We both chose the Scandinavian menu which firstly came with a basket of mixed breads with jam, marmalade and Nutella. We both got large filter coffees, an OJ for Louis and carrot and orange juice for me. The real deal came shortly – eggs benedict with bacon, dripping in Hollandaise sauce and a fresh salad on the side. This was the best thing in life.

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Actually, maybe the best thing in life was the tiny little milk bottle the waiter brought over for me – see, he’s right there above my fork!!

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Don’t mind my tomato face, I got abit camera shy! Does anyone have a remedy for that by the way, y’know the kinda timid feeling you get when you bust out the huge Nikon camera in a restaurant. Or maybe it’s just me and I need to give less of a shit.

I thought the service here was great – all the waiters were attentive and polite, the food was served very quickly and the food itself was top. I loved the minimalist décor too, the bare walls gave it an unfinished feel and it felt spacious due to the light colours of the wood and walls. Upon leaving, we noticed that pretty much the whole road had interesting restaurants and cafes, like this Kurdish bistro just next door to Twinkie.

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Everyone looks so chilled, this is definitely on the list for ‘my’ next weekend.

Our Sunday was spent in much the same way, except that we drove to a town about 15m away from us called Marly le Roi. Back in the day of Louis XIV, this place used to have its own castle and one of the most beautiful gardens which unfortunately were destroyed during the Revolution. The park has been restored but we didn’t visit it as I had a yoga class scheduled later on, however if the weather still holds up this weekend I think we’ll pay another visit and check it out.

The main reason we went to Marly was because they were holding a vide-grenier, literally meaning ’empty attic’ which is basically a yard sale. This wasn’t like the professional marché aux puces that you find in Paris, more on the side of local families selling items and clothes no longer needed. We did a tour of the stalls and ended up going back to the first one we passed and buying this lovely bowl for a whopping 2 euros

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I envision myself serving tomato and mozzarella salads in this bowl, but seeing as though winter is coming (hehe) I’m probably not going to be eating salad any time soon. Fruit? Or maybe I’ll just stare at it empty because it’s so darn pretty.

After mooching around the yard sale, we decided we were hungry and got to searching for the vieille ville, or the old town, of Marly le Roi. This was the definition of quaint – pastels colours, winding narrow roads, cobbled streets, you get the drift.

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We ended up choosing a creperie for lunch – best choice we’ve ever made to be honest. Louis and I both agreed their crepes were even better than those we had in Brittany…! They were gloriously thin and crispy, not like the doughy, thick ones we’ve been used to, (which up until that point suited us just fine,) and now I don’t think we can ever go back to mediocre crepes. Again we chose the same crepe (I swear we don’t plan this), which was mushrooms, cheese a fried egg and a yummy sausage!

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On the same road there were some more restaurants which were all full and had mouth-watering smells emitting from them. There was Mexican, Creole, Indian, Italian, French, a burger restaurant, and a tea salon, just to name a few. I cannot wait to try them all out!

A weekend well spent makes the working days so much more bearable, all I keep thinking about is the fun time we spent and how we’ll discover new things the next time. And then I’ll be able to say once more, TGIF!

Bulgarian delights – Banitsa

Greetings beautiful people!

I’m so so happy it’s the weekend, finally a lie-in when I needed it the most, as have started to get abit sick these past few days (thank you Louis for passing me your cold).

Hmm, what else will I treat myself to this samedi and dimanche? Firstly copious amounts of home-made chai, YUM! Secondly, copious amounts of red wine, because duh. I’ve just popped open a bottle, after having an exhausting but satisfying day picking fruit and veg at our local coup de coeur, Les Fermes de Gally. Today we got pumpkins (!!!), leeks, rosy apples, onions (Louis has his eye on making French onion soup, always welcome), fresh corn, green bell peppers and the most fragrant carrots I’ve ever smelt. I have to do a full-on post about how incredibly useful, cheap and gratifying it is not only buying your produce locally but also getting your hands dirty in the process!

I also want to share this little recipe with you guys, something I learnt about 5 years ago at university that my amazing Tanya taught me. This is a traditional Bulgarian dish called banitsa, made from feta cheese sprinkled between layers of phyllo pastry and topped off with a sweet egg mixture and put to bake. A dash of sugar helps take the edge off the salty feta which literally melts in your mouth. I made this for Louis to try especially as he’d never had it before, and ended up making it twice in one week after my tastebuds realised how much they’d missed it. Thank you Tanya for teaching me, I have never forgotten it and gladly so because it is a winner.

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This is a perfect, simple option for breakfast or even lunch with a fresh salad on the side. Comment faire? Good job I’m here to tell you how –

Ingredients

8 sheets of phyllo pastry (I say 8 purely based on the pack I bought which sold 8, but I also think it’s a good minimum. If you have a few more just add some more feta)

1 brick of feta cheese (around 250g) crumbled by hand

2 eggs

50ml of milk

Teaspoon of sugar

Method

First, crumble the feta into small pieces, around the size of a thumb-nail but honestly do not feel the need to be pedantic about that. You just want to ensure that there’s enough feta to sprinkle on every layer of pastry (at the same time, don’t be too stingy for fear that you won’t have enough. You will).

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Line your baking tray with a sheet of baking paper or cover the base in some melted butter so the pastry doesn’t stick. Stick one layer down and start sprinkling feta. Lay another sheet down and repeat, continuing until all the sheets are finished. (Mine were too big for my baking tray – no biggie, just cut off the edges that spill out with a pair of scissors).

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In a bowl, crack the eggs and add the milk and sugar. Whisk. Before pouring this over the pastry, which when baked gives a golden colour and creamy taste, you want to cut through your layers of pastry and feta to make squares, as so.

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This ensures the mixture seeps through all the layers evenly. It can be abit tough cutting through raw pastry, again get out the scissors if it makes it easier.

Pour the egg mixture on top and pop into a pre-heated oven for about 15-20m on 180 C. This doesn’t take long to cook at all, it’s just cheese and egg!

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When ready, eat hot because it is at its ultimate best when fresh out of the oven I swear.

Bon appétit!

Head in the clouds: a week in Megève

Hello beautiful people, it’s been a while hasn’t it! I’m not sure where I’ve been actually. I was lacking in inspiration these past few weeks hence my absence but I feel like I’m getting my groove back. With fall just round the corner (God I’m saying fall now, who am I?), I’m looking forward to a change. If I’m really honest I’m so sick of summer. September has always felt like the real ‘new year’ to me because it’s when we all come out of our R&R and get back into mission mode. Despite nature slowly dying all around us, it’s the time when we throw ourselves back into the world. And I for one feel like I need a revolution. What is my new mission? TBD, but for the moment I want to round off the near-end of summer with a recap of my gorgeous week away in the Alps.

Louis and I managed to get away from the capital for a week to the fresh, sunny mountains in a little town called Megève. This is really a winter destination as the skiing on the peaks is meant to be incredible, and looking at those slopes in the clear gaze of summer it is obvious why. Having realised that I’ve never actually visited the mountains before (the French scoff at all our ‘hills’ in the UK), I was so excited to visit this place.

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The peaks of Mont Blanc in the background as we took the cable-car up Mont d’Arbois (and then walked down!)

 

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Beautiful landscape. I heart mountains!

 

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Rolling fields

 

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Louis getting creative using the macro lens on a pretty butterfly.

 

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Coucou!

 

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Tourist attraction! Basically serves as a taxi too

 

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Who would’ve thought this pretty chalet is a casino?!

 

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Some light shopping dear?

 

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Only Parisians dress this smart to go hiking 😛

 

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Spotted

 

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We got lost on the hike and ended up walking down designated ski slopes! I guess we’ll just have to go again in winter for snowy photos 😉

 

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Yes it was the height of summer – but we still had to get charcuterie for a raclette!

 

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En ville

 

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Our chalet! There were two other apartments within the building along with ours

 

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Beautiful herds around every corner

 

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Sunny sunny days

 

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Local goodies

 

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Megeve from above

 

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Off into the wild