jen’s magic mushrooms

17 Dec

jens mushrooms

In Lisbon, we learned the art of sharing – the scant prices always tricked us into ordering too much. One main course was largely sufficient for two, especially as we had already eaten the olives, brown bread and queijo fresco brought as a cover charge.

In Madrid, we learned about small bites at the Mercado San Miguel – a cone of jamon iberico from one stall, two stuffed olives from another, a few croquetas, a pinxto with salt cod and caviar and one with octopus.

At home, I have been trying to learn that less is more. Instead of worrying about three courses when friends come over, now I offer soup and baguette and cheese. For dessert, a bowl of tangerines, maybe some sesame shortbread and yoghurt. A few flavours at a time, and really good ingredients.

Last night, we had a vernissage at home. (Which means varnishing day, literally, the day before the exhibition when the artist adds the finishing touches to the hanging pictures and their friends come over to chat and criticise and drink champagne.) I wanted a few snacks, inspired by the Iberian peninsula. There was a simple potato tortilla with coarse salt on top. Three red peppers, roasted whole, peeled and marinated in olive oil. Bread and liver paté. And after eating some incredible cepes at Botin, the ‘oldest restaurant in the world’, these stuffed mushrooms.

This is the perfect party dish for the holidays, since the effect outweighs the effort ten times over. It could have a myriad of additions, herbs, truffle salt, pistachios… but in the spirit of simplicity, the mushrooms are perfect as they are. Since you only need two ingredients, you can buy them on the way to a party and make them on arrival. Good for vegetarians too! I can’t take any of the credit though: they come from Jen, founding member of the Grape Leaf Club and Thanksgiving host extraordinaire.

Jen’s Magic Mushrooms

makes a plateful

500g white mushrooms (champignons de Paris)

150g Boursin cheese with garlic and herbs

black pepper

Snap all the stems out of the mushrooms, keep them for something else. Brush any dirt off the mushroom caps then fill the holes with Boursin. Grind black pepper generously over the top.

Bake for 10 minutes at 200C. Serve warm.

leftovers (08.12.2014)

8 Dec

octopus lisbon

Recent leftovers include:

Too many roast potatoes turned into soup with a whole roasted bulb of garlic and lots of coriander.

Tartines of onion jam, goat’s cheese and caramelised fennel at 5 o’clock in the morning. Perfect midnight feast food.

Thumbprint cookies made of scraps of buttery tart pastry from the salted caramel pecan tart, rolled into balls and covered in coconut. Pressed each ball firmly with a thumb, indent filled with raspberry-tangerine jam. Baked until golden.

Recently reading/writing:

Since Paris seems to be enjoying a second wave of japonisme I am  re-reading the first few chapters of The Hare with the Amber Eyes.

Both David Lebovitz and Tim Hayward in the FT magazine (free registration necessary to read) have been talking about travelling and the fine balance between wanting to find the “undiscovered” away from any other tourists, and of course, needing a guide. Which I thought about when I went to Lisbon last month with a friend: some places live up to the hype, are worth repeating, worth the queue. (The pasteis de Belem really were fantastic, although now I know the Paris version comes a pretty close second.) Some, selfishly, I did not want to spoil by sharing, like the fantastic octopus at Jeronimo.

This weekend I am off to Madrid. I will be packing an Everyman/Cartoville guide: my favouite guidebooks (apart from my own of course!) since they are simple and condensed with fold out maps for each area. This article about Hemingway’s Madrid. And a new sketchbook – I have been playing with watercolour, trying to do more rough sketches to capture the feel of a city, like the lovely Sketchbook from Southern France.

And totally un-related to food, for a diversion from work on a Friday afternoon, I look forward to Ann Friedman’s newsletter in my inbox. Full of links for recent funny, thought-provoking words around the web.

Bonne semaine!

raspberry tangerine jam

5 Dec

raspberry tangerine jam

In Perugia, I lived in an apartment with big windows and cold floors. My flatmates would force slippers onto me when I walked around barefoot in the morning. Then they would make me coffee, and in the evening, spaghetti. Sometimes pasta twice a day. Around this time of year, November December, we might just have roast chestnuts and vino novello for supper.

One of them – I can’t remember which one – used to leave the skin of tangerines, peeled in one long strip, on top of the radiator. So that the house would smell like citrus. Which reminded me of the passage below, from M.F.K. Fisher.

(I have a recipe for raspberry tangerine jam, which is a delightful combination. Perfect with toast or porridge, or in buttery cookies. You should make it on a December afternoon to warm up the house.)

But Fisher tells such a good story, I will leave her the last word. Enjoy. From Serve it Forth:

I discovered little dried sections of tangerine. My pleasure in them is subtle and voluptuous and quite inexplicable. I can only write how they are prepared.

In the morning, in the soft sultry chamber, sit in the window peeling tangerines, three or four. Peel them gently; do not bruise them, as you watch soldiers pour past and past the corner and over the canal towards the watched Rhine. Separate each plump little pregnant crescent. If you find the Kiss, the secret section, save it for Al.

Listen to the chambermaid thumping up the pillows, and murmur encouragement to her thick Alsatian tales ofl’intérieure. That is Paris, the interior, Paris or anywhere west of Strasbourg or maybe the Vosges. While she mutters of seduction and French bicyclists who ride more than wheels, tear delicately from the soft pile of sections each velvet string. You know those white pulpy strings that hold tangerines into their skins? Tear them off. Be careful.

Take yesterday’s paper (when we were in Strasbourg L’Ami du Peuple was best, because when it got hot the ink stayed on it) and spread it on top of the radiator. The maid has gone, of course – it might be hard to ignore her belligerent Alsatian glare of astonishment.

After you have put the pieces of tangerine on the paper on the hot radiator, it is best to forget about them. Al comes home, you go to a long noon dinner in the brown dining-room, afterwards maybe you have a little nip of quetsch from the bottle on the armoire. Finally he goes. You are sorry, but -

On the radiator the sections of tangerines have grown even plumper, hot and full. You carry them to the window, pull it open, and leave them for a few minutes on the packed snow of the sill. They are ready.

All afternoon you can sit, then, looking down on the corner. Afternoon papers are delivered to the kiosk. Children come home from school just as three lovely whores mince smartly into the pension’s chic tearoom. A basketful of Dutch tulips stations itself by the tram-stop, ready to tempt tired clerks at six o’clock. Finally the soldiers stump back from the Rhine. It is dark.

The sections of the tangerine are gone, and I cannot tell you why they are so magical. Perhaps it is that little shell, thin as one layer of enamel on a Chinese bowl, that crackles so tinily, so ultimately under your teeth. Or the rush of cold pulp just after it. Or the perfume. I cannot tell.

- M.F.K. Fisher

Raspberry Tangerine Jam

We often used frozen raspberries in the bakery, especially when they are going to be cooked down to make puree. They still have a lot of flavour. The first time I made this I used the whole peel but because of all the pectin in it, the results were quite stiff. Just use half, put the other half on the radiator.

makes 1 large or 2 small jars

400g frozen raspberries

1 tangerine,  preferably seedless

250g jam sugar

Sterilise your jars. (Since I don’t have a dishwasher, I fill them with boiling water.) Put some spoons in the freezer for testing.

It is a small quantity of jam, so it can be made either on the stove or in a microwave. If you try the latter, keep an eye on it as it sets quickly. Heat the raspberries gently to defrost. Blend half the tangerine peel and all of the pulp (remove seeds first) with a spoonful of the sugar to make a puree.

When the raspberries have softened and started to liquefy, add the tangerine puree and the rest of the sugar. Bring to the boil and let it bubble for about 5 minutes. The bubbles should sound a tone deeper, the mixture more syrupy than before. When you drag the wooden spoon across the bottom, it should take a second for the liquid red sea to come back together. If in doubt, test the consistency on a frozen spoon: when the jam is at room temperature it should hold its shape instead of sliding quickly over the spoon, it should form a slight skin that will wrinkle slightly when you push it. You will see the jam sticking around the edges of the pan and on the wooden spoon too.* Carefully pour into jars, to the brim, close and turn upside down to cool.

*Plagiarising self from last post about jam.

salted caramel pecan tart

1 Dec

autumn leaves, salted caramel pecan tart

That week was a hard week. I fell asleep at odd hours, subsisted mainly on grapefruits and Nutella. Cocooned under the duvet, I was peacefully numb, purposefully avoiding decision, movement.

It was comfortable.

Then, then there was a breeze and an art exhibition and a proper conversation, as we perched on some church steps.

Vulnerability is the origin of all joy, and all pain. To really feel, you have to be stripped raw and open to the elements. Exposed to fear and shame and disgust but also, hopefully, to discovery and light.

Then I bought two chocolates: a liquid caramel and a milk chocolate praline. The flavours were strident, bitter caramel and sweet gianduja (upmarket Nutella).

Then there was a concert. Still a little dazed, I heard the harsh Belgian rock as a lullaby. Only when the next band came on and the African violin started to play did I wake up, properly. It was so alive – an electric guitar and Gambian folk songs, a steady beat.

A determined granny started a simple dance by the stage. Everyone else in the staid theatre got to their feet. Electricity crackled. It was so good it hurt. That violin made tears fall involuntarily, as if I was cutting onions.

When you are asleep, you don’t feel the bad stuff. But you don’t get the good stuff either. You don’t get to really taste, to listen in to music.

Sometimes you have to get out of bed (or take off your hedgehog spikes, whatever your protection might be) and make something happen. Then you win back your five senses.

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, a high note or a bite of chocolate will bring you back to yourself.

But you have to be awake and open. It hurts. This is how you know you are a person.

~~~

(I found this piece in a forgotten notebook the other day. Maybe it reads a little raw, too emotional? It comes from exactly three years ago. A lot has changed since then. I am a lot happier, though I still make the same mistakes, I still hiberate when faced with hard decisions. I recommend watching Brene Brown for a more scientific and yet funnier look at vulnerability.)

autumn leaves, salted caramel pecan tart 2

So. Salted butter caramel. Something I have made on and off over the years. It has that pushy flavour that brings you down to earth, bitter and sweet and rich. Can be used to fill macarons or plain shortbread cookies. Drizzled on yoghurt, meringues or spread in a thin layer on cake. (If you want to make it into a buttercream, beat cooled caramel with 180g softened butter.) It is hard to resist eating it with a spoon. The recipe does require a sugar thermometer. If you are making it as a macaron filling you will need one anyway for the Italian meringue. (An electronic thermometer/timer can be found at IKEA for only a few euros.)

Once you have mastered the caramel, the tart itself is very easy and incredibly delicious. Inspired by Jacques Genin, Clamato and my local bakery, it is buttery and crumbly, a fancy French take on the pecan pie. The caramel just sticks the toasted pecans to the shortbread base, which has extra butter and a touch of coconut. It is the kind of tart that demands an extra sliver, and another and… I had to make it twice in a week to have it tested and approved by several Frenchies. They were more than satisfied, asking wide-eyed: mais c’est toi qui l’as fait? Mmmm. Silly question!

P.S. I just remembered the other pecan tart recipe on this tart: with a molasses custard base, it is totally different! At least somewhat different. Try them both! I made the molasses version sans pecans the other day, it was glossy and smooth and bitter, just how I like it.

~~~

Salted caramel pecan tart

makes one large tart (28-30cm)

Shortbread pastry:

200g butter, softened

115g caster sugar

1 egg + 1 egg yolk

25g coconut, unsweetened

270g plain flour

generous pinch of salt

Caramel:

200g sugar

80g water

220g cream (single, whipping or creme fleurette)

40g salted butter

To assemble:

250g pecans

Pastry: Cream softened butter and sugar. Add egg and yolk and mix well. (If it separates a little, add a handful of flour.) Add flour, coconut and salt and stir to combine. Wrap in clingfilm, patting dough into a flat disc, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. (Freeze for 10 minutes if in a rush.)

Caramel: Use a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, preferably stainless steel so you can better see the colour of the caramel. A dark pan will made it more difficult. On a medium heat, cook sugar and water Do not stir. You can rotate the pan if necessary, if caramelising on one side only – but be careful with hot sugar!   Cook the sugar until it is a nice brown, smelling like caramel but not burnt. Tilt the pan a little to see the colour on the thinnest part – it will always look darker when it is thick.

Take the pan off the heat and throw in the  butter. Stand back, it will sizzle a little but will stop the cooking process so the caramel doesn’t burn. Then pour in the cream, carefully, for it will bubble up. Bring back to the heat and cook to 108C. (It may separate initially but will come back together again.) Have a large bowl of cold water ready: dip the bottom of the saucepan into it to cool it quickly. Then tip caramel into a bowl. If you are going to use it later, clingfilm the surface and put in the fridge.

To assemble: Grease a large tart tin – 28 to 30cm. On a floured surface, roll out the pastry a few centimetres wider than the tin. It is quite a soft dough: be gentle and try not to use too much flour. It should be quite thick – 5mm or so. Ease into tin, trim edges and prick base with a fork. Chill fo 30 minutes or freeze for 10. (If there is leftover pastry, cut into shapes, brush with leftover egg white, sprinkle with coconut, or cinnamon sugar, and bake as cookies.)

Preheat oven to 175C. As you do, spread pecans on a tray and toast them in the oven. But don’t forget them! About 10 minutes or until they smell toasted. Then line tart shell with paper and baking beans, and bake tart for 20 minutes. Remove paper and beans and carry on baking until golden-brown: another 15-20 minutes. It won’t be baked again, so it should be nice and crisp. When done, tip pecans into tart shell. Spoon or drizzle the caramel all over. If the caramel is a bit solid, put the tart back in the oven for 2-3 minutes until it melts and evens out. Allow to cool for an hour or two to set.

Keeps for 2-3 days in a tin.

for starters

28 Nov

starter

It doesn’t look like much. A pot of flour and water. But soon it will be alive! (Insert evil laugh.) I’m making my own sourdough starter… watch this space.

Actually, in the meantime, since it takes a while to grow a sourdough baby, have a look at the photos over on The Perfect Loaf.

black sesame shortbread

24 Nov

black sesame shortbread

Japan is all the rage in Paris at the moment: there is an extensive Hokusai exhibit at the Grand Palais, well worth visiting; a detailed look at the hand-drawn layouts for Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli films at the Musée d’Art Ludique; and Le Japon au fil des saisons at the Musée Cernuschi. The oldest department store in Paris, Le Bon Marché, is celebrating Japan too.

For our most recent Grape Leaf Club, we ate chirashi bowls with salmon, mackerel and octopus while watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi. I’d seen the film before but loved it again – 85 year old sushi chef Jiro and his sincere perfectionism, his hard-working sons and apprentices. The jolly restaurant critic who admits to being slightly intimidated to eat there. The apprentice that cries when he finally gets the omelette right.

One of the lines in the Hokusai show echoed Jiro’s determined philosophy – both wanted to keep practising their craft their whole life long, believing there is more to learn even in your eighties.

It all makes me nostalgic for working in the Japanese bakery. I loved the genmaicha tea in the morning, making yuzu Christmas logs, starting with ohayo gozaimasu and finishing with otsukaresama desu! as we left. (“You are honorably tired” is a very satisfying compliment after a long day’s work.)

And so more Japanese flavours have been creeping into my cooking. There is a jar of pickled ginger by the stove, Japanese rice in the cupboard. I have an elegant wooden box that measures exactly enough rice for two people.

I love anything with black sesame – kuro goma -  the earthy, deep flavour a perfect contrast for something rich and creamy. I made the sesame shortbread with matcha-coconut pannacottafor our Jiro evening. It is buttery and crumbly with a slight edge from the bitter seeds.

The second time I made it for a quick dinner at home. It only needs a bowl and a spoon and a tin. We ate the shortbread with yoghurt and bitter caramel sauce. To turn natural yoghurt into something more worthy of a dessert, leave it to drain in a sieve lined with paper towels for half an hour. It becomes thicker, creamier and more tart. Like homemade Greek yoghurt. Drizzle with honey, maple syrup or caramel. Simple and delicious.

~~~

Black sesame paste and seeds can be found at Japanese or Asian supemarkets. In Paris, the rue St Anne, near metro Pyramides, has the highest concentration of Japanese shops, noodle bars and bakeries.  Or try using tahini.

Miyazaki exhibit, Paris

Black sesame shortbread

adapted from Seasonal Secrets

125g salted butter

50g caster sugar

2 tsp sesame paste

125g plain flour

50g rice flour

2 tsp black sesame seeds

Cream butter and sugar until soft. Add sesame paste and mix to combine well. Add flours and seeds. Keep mixing until the dough starts to form clumps. It can be a bit crumbly, but not powdery. If overworked, it will be too chewy rather than light.

Grease an 18cm round tin. Press the mixture firmly into it. Refrigerate shortbread while preheating oven to 175C. Bake for 15 minutes, until it comes away from the sides and is just golden around the edges.

Cool, slice into thin wedges.

just breakfast

21 Nov

breakfast

One of the first food blogs I followed, Simply Breakfast, was just that. Elegant and interesting breakfast for one, simply photographed. It disappeared a while ago, but some of her photos can be found here.

I love weekend breakfast, I love inviting people over for pancakes or waffles. (Or tebirkes!) I love making several pots of coffee and sitting around in pyjamas and slippers long past noon.

In the week though, I tend to oversleep and run out of the door with fruit and a yoghurt to eat standing up at work. Not so good. I need the motivation to wake up earlier and eat something heartier.

Options:

Porridge: a surfeit of regular, oat porridge got boring a while back. But Holybelly’s black rice porridge with fromage frais and berries is absolutely fantastic, ink-dark and full of flavour. I tried it at home twice, forgot about it twice, burned it twice. Working on it…

Toast: in any French household there is always a bit of baguette lying around from the night before. Our fridge is full of half-full jars too, lemon curd, fig jam, a tangerine-raspberry experiment that is a touch too stiff. Weirdly though, my sweet tooth is fading, the more I work with pastry. Who knew you could eat too many macarons?! For a savoury option, we have enormous avocados from the Indian shop across the road. They are as big as two normal ones, light and delicate. Mashed avocado, olive oil and coarse salt on toast. Perfect.

Eggs: Am too lazy to turn on the stove before work, so a stash of boiled eggs in the fridge makes things easy. This morning I had boiled eggs on buttered bread, plenty of pepper; a leftover matcha pannacotta with honey; and a pomelo. Luxury.

What are your breakfast staples? I would love some new ideas.

tebirkes (poppy and almond danish pastries)

17 Nov

tebirkes

Paris has been rewarded with a glorious autumn, to make up for its washed-out summer. The air is crisp and the sun bright*, so much so that I have been cycling around town instead of hiding in the metro. I took a Velib home from the Persian cultural centre by the Canal St Martin, after their soothing tea with cardamom and dried lemon. I crossed town, cycling along the water, for another meeting of the Grape Leaf Club. This time we made chicken paupiettes and French onion soup, and each of us went home with a jar of stock and chicken thighs in a spicy marinade. I discovered a whole row of posts painted to look like Lego men up at Pantin and another line near Nation in rainbow colours. Some of the best street art is clearly temporary: condemned buildings soon to become flats, allowed to live a last hurrah with a swirl of graffiti.

A few weekends ago, we stayed inside for a Danish movie night. On the menu, Blinkende Lygter (Flickering Lights), rye bread with salami, cheese and mackerel, and meatballs with mashed potatoes to follow. The latter were pretty simple: veal and pork, an egg and some diced onion, all squashed into rounds, browned and finished with a cream and mushroom sauce. With the mashed potatoes, they were the ultimate comfort. It is amazing we stayed awake for the film, although it was actually quite funny – a black, bitter humour – starring a young Mads Mikkelsen.

While browning the meatballs, while the others were laughing in the other room and piling meat and cheese onto bread and teasing the cat, I was also rolling out the tebirkes** for the next day. (The kitchen is one of my favourite places to be during a party: I can hear and enjoy enough of the conversation while my hands are busy.) To continue the theme: Danish pastries for Sunday morning. But not the “Danishes” that people in Britain grew up with, custard and apricot and a thick glaze. I had never tasted anything like it. These tebirkes are a hybrid of a croissant, a brioche and a Germanic seeded roll. They have all the butter and flake of a French pastry (confusingly called “viennoiserie” here, from Vienna) but some of delightfully sour taste of a multi-grain sourdough – from the addition of yoghurt. Plus, they are rolled up with a marzipan filling that caramelises around the edges as they bake, and topped with more poppy seeds.

I took the recipe from this blog here and adapted the method a little to make it more familiar, more like making croissants. Unlike croissants though, tebirkes I am happy to make at home because I know they can’t be found within walking distance from my flat of a Sunday morning. They sound labour intensive but they only need a little work the night before, and a good hour or two to rise the next day. (And they could be frozen for later.) I love the way the dough is speckled with seeds, the poppy seed cap on top. When they come out of the oven, some of the filling will have oozed out onto the tray, forming a toffee-like, brandysnap brittle. Worth making for that alone. Chef’s prerogative. They should be flaky outside and chewy inside, with a satisfying heft. Mine have been approved by one Danish friend, but she admitted that as with croissants, each bakery makes a slightly different version. And from what I understand if you make them longer and thinner they can be twisted into frosnapper. An extended culinary research trip to Denmark is clearly required to check. Perhaps in the spring…

*Technically, I wrote this a couple of weeks ago. It rained all day this Sunday. But we did eat another batch of tebirkes, just to check they were still good.

**Pronounced tay-beer-kes. I think.

tebirke diagram

Tebirkes (poppy and almond danish pastries)

adapted from Honest Cooking

makes 8-10

125g unsalted butter

250 g bread flour

25g seeds (eg linseed + poppy)

20g rolled oats

4 g salt

8g fresh yeast (or 4g instant dried yeast)

125 ml milk

35g greek yoghurt

15g honey

1 egg yolk

Filling:

40g sugar

40g unsalted butter, room temperature

50g marzipan

Topping:

1 egg white (leftover from filling)

10g poppy seeds

Start by flattening out the butter to about 15x10cm: Fold a piece of greaseproof paper to the right size and enclose the butter within, then roll out with a rolling pin.  Refrigerate.

Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl, including yeast (crumble it up if using fresh yeast). Make a well in the centre and weigh milk, yoghurt and honey directly into the well with the egg yolk. Mix with a fork until it comes together into a dough. Lightly flour the work surface, tip the dough out and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and stretchy. Try not to add too much extra flour, keep kneading and scraping the work surface. Once it is stretchy enough to form a thin membrane, shape into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and let sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes.

Lightly flour the work surface and roll the dough out into a long rectangle, about one and a half times as long as the butter, and a couple of centimetres wider on each side. (E.g. about 25x15cm – see diagram above for proportions.) Brush off any excess flour, then place the butter at the top of the rectangle. Fold over the bottom end which should cover about half the butter. Then fold over the top so that the edges meet: basically the dough should have been folded in three, with the butter on the inside. Press the seams gently with the rolling pin to seal the butter in. Turn the parcel of dough so that it looks like a book – the seam on the right hand side, and roll it out lengthways, about 40cm long. Brush off any extra flour. Fold the edges into the centre so they meet halfway, then fold in half. The dough has now been folded in four. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate 30 minutes. (Optional: chill between the first two folds if the dough is too soft.) Finally, roll the dough out one more time (“like a book” again) to about 30cm long, and fold in three. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Cream softened butter and sugar until smooth then grate over the marzipan and mix in well. Roll out the dough to a large rectangle (40x25cm approximately). Spread the marzipan mixture all over, but leave a border along the long side furthest away from you. Roll up the dough lengthways towards the border, press down gently to seal. Brush the log with thhe remaining egg white and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Cut into 8-10 slices. Either let them rise at room temperature for an hour or two, until doubled in size. Or refrigerate until the next morning. In a cold environment, to speed up the rising process I like to heat my oven to 50°C for five minutes, then place the tray of tebirkes inside and turn the oven off.

Once tebirkes have doubled in size, preheat oven to 225C. Get a couple of ice cubes ready. Open the oven, throw in the icecubes and quickly slide in the trays. Close. This will create a nice steamy environment and help them puff up. Drop the temperature to 180°C. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden-brown all over. Serve warm. Best eaten on the first day, or gently warmed through later on.

(If making more than needed, either freeze extra tebirkes unrisen, or already baked.)

leftovers

21 Sep

008

Sunday afternoon, 5pm.

Cold mashed potatoes, salami, roast red peppers. Half a smoked mackerel. Tzatziki. One last Danish meatball with mushroom sauce. Toasted Ethiopian sourdough bread. Various combinations of all the above with a mug of green tea: a mash-up of cultures, perfect Sunday food.

There is a vase of fresh mint on the table, a jar of salt and several abandoned water glasses. I am listening to David Foster Wallace’s “Consider the Lobster” read in his languid, serious tones.

~~~

Lately:

I planted herbs on my balcony: rosemary, verbena, oregano. With which I made: A simple chicken liver pate: 100g chicken livers, seared in a little oil, then blitzed with shallots, oregano, salt and pepper until smooth. And lemon verbena religieuses, with a lemon curd glaze, one green leaf on top.

I poached organic chicken breast for my new (spoiled) kitten, Edith. She accepted it with a haughty, disdainful air.

I made fig jam with the Grape Leaf Club, a select few culinary nerds, while baking Toulouse sausages with the extra figs, red onions and tomatoes for our late supper.

I tried the twisted crown of a pesto pinwheel bread from the British Bake Off with radish-leaf and almond pesto.

I marked my Franceversary (four years!) with a cheese-party at my apartment: every guest brought their favourite cheese; I made bread, bought apples, grapes, chutney. And celebrated Ethiopian New Year with generous platters of food at a local restaurant. (Melkam Addis Amet!)

And in between, I have been eating a lot of boiled eggs. I like to draw faces on them with felt-tip pens, so they don’t get mixed up with the raw ones.

~~~

A Pocket Feast Paris

6 Aug

0 - acover (1)

Two summers ago, when a friend came to visit Paris. I was out of town but determined that she eat this, that and the other – that she dare not try an inferior macaron or miss out on the best Vietnamese fod in town. So I spent an afternoon in a coffee shop (Helmut Newcake) drawing all of my instructions into a notebook. Each page had something to eat and something vaguely cultural to do nearby.

I don’t know how many she followed. But the notebook was passed around, people ate things. Probably left a few buttery fingerprints on the pages, a good sign. Someone said, “but most of the cultural things are ALSO food things.” Which may have been a criticism but I took it as a compliment.

08 - helmut newcake

One summer ago I bribed another friend into helping me make the notebook into a real book. She is both computer genius and wise editor. We sat in the garden in the south of France, dinking wine and brainstorming titles.

A Greedy Guide to Paris? Hungry Hippos Eat Paris?

I can’t remember when we thought of “A Pocket Feast” but it seemed appropriate, a nod to Hemingway’s Paris, a literal description of its size.

26 - les musees1

One month ago the books arrived from the printer. Glossy and colourful, still with the hand-made, scribbled drawings from its initial conception. We are pretty proud of it. And of the website that Florence made: foodie recommendations based on the Paris book, but with tips for Berlin and Sydney as well. (More cities coming soon!)

Another friend made us beautiful wooden stands for the books: they are currently on display at Shakespeare and Company and La Cuisine Paris. Someone else is working on a very cute video advert. I am so so grateful for all of the support and help and love that went into A Pocket Feast. It took a whole family to make it real.

37 - gontran cherrier2

If you would like to support us too: you can buy the guidebook A Pocket Feast Paris through our website – we ship worldwide. Buy one for yourself and one for presents – everyone comes to Paris evenutally! And you can like our Facebook page for more news and updates.

Thank-you a million – mille mercis! Et bon appétit!

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