31 May 2010
We did take the Eurostar to Paris and on our last day, I had a few more things on my list to tick off before going home.
One was to go to the food market on rue Mouffetard. Not that I had anything in mind that I wanted to buy, but I love to wander around in food markets and this one was really lovely. We arrived fairly early in the morning with the intention of getting breakfast there, but my schedule was busy and we decided against sitting down.
The market is not too big, but had a good variety of shops and I'll definitely go back and spend a bit longer there.
We then rushed off to Poilâne on 8 rue du Cherche-Midi. It's well hidden away, but well worth going to. The tiny shop had several shelves full of their famous signature loaf, a few pretty looking pastries and some other bread in the back. At the entrance I saw other worshippers pressing their noses against the window glass.
And so I entered into the temple of bread with Lundulph in tow. It smelt wonderful and I wish I could have bought a sample of everything.
But instead, I asked for one of the breads, a pain au chocolat and a chausson aux pommes and weaseled off to the counter and the little basket of punitions, which I knew were there for the customers to try. They are little butter biscuits and punitions mean punishments, the story is shown in this interview with Dorie Greenspan. The bread is sold by the kilo and my loaf came in at just over 2 kg. I was tempted to buy a bag of punitons as well, but decided to leave that for next time as with so many things on this trip already.
The pain au chocolat was a bit on the greasy side and it didn't help that it got a bit squashed by the massive bread in my bag. Lundulph is partial to apple turnovers and that's what he had - a chausson aux pommes, which again was a bit on the greasy side. The one he had at patisserie Paul outside Forum Les Halles was much better.
We had our breakfast sitting in front of Notre Dame, then walked on past it and on to Il Saint-Louis, which I'd also missed in my previous visit. This is a very nice place, beautiful houses and shops and reminded me very much of Gamla Stan in Stockholm on a sunny Summer's day.
I had some vague hopes that Berthillon would have just opened and not have a massive queue outside. Because I wanted to try some of the famous ice creams. Sadly it was closed, so we completed our round of the island and went back to the hotel to pick up our luggage. Next time, the first place to go will be Berthillon, even if I have to queue up for half an hour or so.
Well home, we opened our suitcase to unpack and everything smelt of bread, as I'd put it in there, it was quite heavy to carry.
I had to have a sit-down after slicing the bread, the best thing would have been to ask them to slice it in the shop, but it would have to last, so I bought it whole. I froze most of it, but we had a few slices in the first few days after coming home and this is indeed a wonderful bread that's definitely worth its reputation.
The crust is thick, sour tasting and crunchy-chewy, while the inner crumb has no sourness to it at all. No extreme holes, but not too dense, it is very good with pretty much anything on it. We've certainly tried it with all the different jams we have, I had it with Leerdamer cheese and chicken liver and wild mushroom paté. Lundulph had it with ham and just plain with butter. It was fantastic and very much worth lugging back home.
And the best thing of all I just found out - there is a Poilâne shop in London, meaning we can get this fabulous bread easier than waiting for our next trip to Paris.
Thus we skipped breakfast on the Monday and had a light lunch at the fabulous Angelina on Rue Rivoli. This has been called the Rolls Royce of Paris tea salons. It was certainly very nice and busy.
I had a gorgeous and bright yellow omelette "Angelina" with ham and mushrooms,
while Lundulph went for the salmon salad and commented that it would beat the Ladurée salad any day of the week.
As we were having our salads, all people around us were getting their desserts, so we just couldn't resist. Lundulph decided to try out a classic mille-feuille,
while I went for the smaller option of a selection of four mini macarons. Lundulph has had mille-feuille before at home and commented that the Angelina one had a denser pastry that wasn't quite to his taste. I thought it looked a bit overcooked, but I think this is done on purpose. The pastry has some bitter tones to it then to offset the sweetness. But the pastry was rather dense and thick and hard to get through, not that there is any graceful way of eating mille-feuille.
Although the menu implied that I could choose the flavours, this wasn't the case, I just got these
Yes, the red and green one arrived pre-cracked and so it was the first one I ate. And here was the interesting bit - the macarons were cool, not room temperature and seemed to be filled with fresh cream, rather than the more tolerant stuff they use at Ladurée. I can't remember what it tasted like, nor the orange one, which I hoped would have some hints of violet, due to the purple bits stuck to its underside. I then went for the white one, which was pronounced marzipan flavour and finally the brown which was very chocolatey. As it turned out, I'd managed to eat them in reverse order of freshness, as the red and green one was quite soft, whereas the chocolate one was crunchy on the outside, gooey and creamy in the middle, as it's supposed to be. So when it comes to macarons, Ladurée wins.
A lot of other guests were being served with what looked like a ball of yarn. Which apparently is the thing to have at Angelina - a Mont Blanc, which is a ball of cream and meringue covered with spaghetti made of chestnut purée and dusted with icing sugar. Maybe next time.
Drink-wise, Angelina is famous for their hot chocolate, again something to put on our list for our next visit.
I was wondering about the colour of the omelette and it struck me that given the amount of macarons they make, they must have a massive surplus of egg yolk, so I wonder if they don't make their omelettes with only yolks, which would account for the colour. It was extremely tasty.
As our days in Paris progressed, so the temperature rose - starting at 26 when we arrived and hitting 29 on the Monday. A veriable heat wave.
We dressed up to go to our second beautiful restaurant and were quite sweaty by the time we reached the Metro station and it didn't get better underground.
The second restaurant was Mollard Tradition opposite Gare Saint-Lazare. This restaurant specialises in sea food (something I'd missed in my research and a good thing too) and even had a stand outside where they sold all sorts of sea creatures.
We wandered in and were wonderfully surprised - the setting was fabulous. Lots of large mirrors and inbetween beautiful intricate mosaics and little lights. We were shown to a table and asked for our voucher. No irritation, no rushing off or anything and again English speaking staff. What did strike us was the heat - there was no air conditioning there and it was even hotter than outside. Curious for a place that does sea food.
We were served ice cold Campari and some puff pastry nibbles, while we were choosing from our special menu. Lundulph went for the scallop paté,
while I had to pick the only non-fishy thing on the list - onion soup with Emmental cheese. I wasn't looking forward to this, having got stuck to my seat from the heat already. But it was very nice and very big too. I wisely didn't eat it all. Lundulph quite liked his starter, but said it did have a strong fishy flavour. Actually I'm sure there is variety between the different edible sea creatures, but since I don't eat them, the word "fishy" generally describes them well for me.
Our main course arrived swiftly too; Lundulph had looked up what confit de canard is and had decided to try it out.
Looking at what he got, it seemed to have been deep fried, rather than gently poached. The potatoes were supposed to be sautéed with mild garlic, but they were definitely deep fried and no garlic had been near them. So on the whole, Lundulph said he basically had chicken and chips.
I opted for the fresh grilled salmon.
It was well cooked, perhaps a teeny bit too long, but tasted OK. It was placed on a bed of stewed butternut squash and this was a bad mistake - these two should not mix, not in my book. So I had to pick out all the squash. Under that was regular curry sauce, like the stuff you get up North on your chips, nothing special. It worked OK with the salmon though. One more potato would have been nice. But what were they thinking with the butternut?
Then it was time for dessert and coffee and I was quite looking forward to this - we both went for Ile Flottante Crème Anglaise. This has been on my list of things to try for ages.
And it was delicious and I wish I had space for a second one at the time. Or should have skipped the other dishes and just replaced them with ils flottantes.
The coffee also arrived on time, along with our desserts. This restaurant was bigger than the previous one, but had a lot more waiters too, so no one was forgotten and no one had to wait for ages.
For our next visit, we'll skip the pre-booking, but just wander in and get the greater choice from their regular menus, I think the totals would work out around the same as what we paid.
What most impressed me was that food was served a lot quicker than in English restaurants and no one came up to us to ask if everything was OK. Lundulph thought there was too short time between starter and main course, then the waiting palaver for our coffee didn't really add to our enjoyment.
There are a few more beautiful restaurants to visit and it'll be easier now that we sort of have worked out the ropes, we'll manage easier.
I've taken home a few culinary pointers that I'll try out as soon as possible.
Our adventure continues in Paris Day 4.
On the Sunday we took the metro to Pigalle in order to do the short walk around Montmartre. This bit I'd missed in my previous visit, so it was rather exciting. Aware of what the area around Place Pigalle is like, I was a bit worried, but we started our walk as per the guide book and as worked our way up the hill, the fancier the surroundings became, it's obviously quite a posh area these days. It was lovely, practically no cars at all, mainly due to the fact that a lot of the streets consisted of steps. We passed several bigger streets with street markets on them. We did stick to our route and towards the end we came out to a small open area with a windmill on top of it. This is the famous Moulin de la Galette. Again we were sweaty, dusty and tired, so we decided to finish our walk, then return for a lunch there, it just looked so nice. And it was. Again, the waiters were friendly and spoke English and again I was too hungry to photograph our meal. Lundulph had a small piece of pan fried hake with some sort of saffrony puree and baby vegetables, which he says was the tastiest of all the meals we had in Paris. I had a veal fillet steak with mushroom sauce, which was a bit bigger and very nice tasting. They'd only failed on the green peas - they were dry and crunchy and not nice tasting at all.
For dessert however, we both opted for the pear tart and this was an almost religious experience.
This was like several desserts combined into one - a pear tart, where the pears had been poached in something red, covered with what can only be described as creme brulée. Then a few fresh fruits, to add a bit of sourness to offset the sugariness of the tart and a small scoop of passion fruit ice cream. The only thing that wasn't good was the tart base - it was too thick and hadn't baked properly.
Another interesting thing was that this was a good example of mise en place, where the fancy looking plate layout had been prepared well in advance. The fruits had been carefully glued to the plate with caramel and the tart itself was stuck on with glucose.
With the food we had a carafe of cold white wine. This corresponded to about two thirds of a regular bottle and a perfect amount for lunch.
We went back to our hotel to have a bit of a rest before our dinner at Bouillon Racine. This is located in the Latin Quarter of the city, very near Musée de Cluny and the Sorbonne. There are actually two restaurants next to each other, possibly used to be one in the past. We walked into the first one, as it had Bouillon Racine written across its windows and doorway. But no, this wasn't the place, we were directed to go next door, where it said Bouillon Chartier. Had I paid attention to the photos from my research, I'd have realised that.
We presented our voucher to the head waiter, who seemed to get very irritated and rushed off. We got ticked off on his list and he showed us a table in what became the English speaking area. He also presented us with a special menu from which we were to choose our dishes, slightly different to the regular menu.
The restaurant was beautiful, but looked a bit faded and worn out. Maybe I'd set my hopes too high. On this evening however, Lundulph and I were possibly at the height of our synchroneity as we chose exactly the same things for all three courses.
Our amuse bouche was white whine kir and olives, which was followed by the rather large starter of game terrine with hazelnuts and onion marmalade.
This was quite tasty, but fatty and too big for me, so Lundulph ate half of it.
The main course followed on fairly quickly. Too quickly for Lundulph's liking, but very much to mine. Pork shanks in beer sauce and sauerkraut. Yummy! Slow cooked to perfection, collapsing at the lightest touch of the fork.
The croutons on top were badly misguided as they were actually made of gingerbread, like the one used for making houses for Christmas. So we picked them off. The rest was so good, both Lundulph and I couldn't stop eating, even though we had both reached our stomach capacity.
At this point the restaurant had filled up quite nicely, the head waiter had disappeared and there was only one waiter for the 30 odd tables on the ground floor. In fact he forgot one of the starters for the people sitting next to us.
For dessert, it was crème brûlée and I believe the best one I've ever had.
It was served at room temperature and was wonderfully smooth and creamy, so I'm wondering if the serving temperature is the reason for this. Definitely something to try out.
We were well stuffed at this point, but we did want some coffee and ended up waiting for it for what felt like an eternity, I'm guessing some 40 - 45 minutes. The lonely waiter was very hard to get hold of, he had so many tables to wait on.
We had planned to go to the glass pyramid at the Louvre to see it lit up, but after this massive meal, the only thing we wanted was to get home and sleep, in the hopes that our stomachs wouldn't burst on the way.
Our adventure continues in Paris Day 3.
Lundulph had never been to Paris before and last time I went was 11 years ago, so we pretty much repeated my sightseeing escapades from then. Lundulph did most of the photographing, averaging about 250 photos a day. Being two is much better than one, though and we also did a few restaurants and I did the snapping of our food and that's what I'll write about.
On our first day we lunched at Ladurée, the Champs Elysées branch. Both of us were sweaty, dusty and tired and generally scruffy looking, so it was rather odd to wander in to the elegance of the restaurant. But we were seated in the cooler outdoor(ish) section and were presented with their thick menu book. It was a nice relief that the waiters spoke English and were quite friendly. Both Lundulph and I went for a big salad and sadly we were too hungry to take time and photograph them. Also sadly the Ladurée web site is a year out of date, so the menu there doesn't have the salads we ate. Still, Lundulph ordered one with wild rocket salad and cured meat with mustard vinaigrette. When it arrived it turned out to have stealth cheese. Lundulph doesn't eat cheese and was rather upset about that, after all the menu had bothered to mention the type of mustard, yet had omitted to mention the cheese. He also thought the rocket was a bit overpowering, though was happy with the balance of flavours otherwise. I went for a salad with a soft boiled egg. Didn't pay attention to the green bits, but I think it might have been Summer purslane. I'd never come across it before. Though searching on the web, indicated that it might not have been, the leaves were a different shape. I think it was perhaps some sort of water plant. It had a fairly neutral taste, but lovely texture and crunch and looked very pretty. The egg was cooked perfectly and when I punctured it, I ended up with a great creamy salad dressing.
After further loads of walking in the heat, I thought we could refresh ourselves a bit at a tea salon. We'd just reached the Bastille and I thought why not pop in to Lenôtre? And so we did, it was wondefully cool and also there was no tea salon, but just a patisserie to buy loads of fab looking little things. As much as I would have loved to, there was no way I'd buy anything from there only to carry it around Paris for the rest of the day, so we quickly made a U-turn and walked out. I don't think the ladies in the shop even noticed that we'd been there. What to do now? Well, there seemed to be a tiny café next door, so we went in.
It was called Le Paradis du Fruit and turned out to be a smoothie parlour, a very colourful one. We were seated and given a menu and once again faced the agony of choosing. Agony, because there were a lot more things that we could possibly consume in one go. Lundulph decided on a raspberry-strawberry-yoghurt mixture, whereas I went for the Josephine Baker, which had passion fruit, mango and coconut. I also instantly regretted going for the regular size, where the big one would have been better.
While we enjoyed our smoothies, the children at the next table were served massive coupes of ice cream and fruits and I so hoped that we'd stumble across another of these parlours over the next few days, but sadly we didn't.
In the evening we went to look at the Eiffel Tower and had dinner at one of the brasseries nearby. That was nasty, I found two hairs in my dish and my fork was dirty (though I swapped it with the one on the next table). Our steaks were a bit on the gristly side too, but the chips were OK. The beers were ridiculously expensive. The whole thing was a mistake. But Saturday was over and we were knackered after a whole day's walking around.
Luckily for the next two evenings I'd booked tables for dinner from the Idéal Gourmet. Not sure how I stumbled across this web site, but I did and it had a list of beautiful restaurants and the possibility of booking online with a three course menu, all inclusive for a decent price.
Our adventure continues in Paris Day 2
12 May 2010
Waitrose's Avocado Pesto Linguine from January 2007.
As has happened before, in case the recipe disappears from their web site, I'm posting it here too, with my alterations (the cheese had to go).
2 large minute steaks
4 tbsp Japanese soy sauce
3 tbsp Cajun sauce
130 g spaghetti
1.5 large ripe avocados
2 cloves of garlic
1 red Thai chilli
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 handful fresh parsley
2 handfuls fresh basil
5 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 handful pine nuts
2 tbsp grapeseed oil
- Trim the minute steaks and cut into thin strips, about 1 cm wide. Then place in a bowl and pour the soy and Cajun sauces over the strips and stir well to get them coated. Cover and put in the fridge for about an hour.
- Cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on the packet.
- In the mean time, cut the avocado in half, remove the stone and peel, then cut in chunks.
- Peel the garlic, deseed the chilli and cut both in smaller pieces.
- Put the avocado, garlic, chilli, lemon juice, parsley, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl and blend until smooth. Or use a food processor.
- Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan and set aside. In a separate pan, heat up the grapeseed oil, then add the strips of beef and stir fry for a few minutes.
- Drain the spaghetti, then stir in about two thirds of the avocado pesto and the pine nuts.
- Serve the spaghetti in a bowl with a few strips of beef on top.
I was a bit shy on the salt and completely omitted the pepper, so the avocado pesto was a bit on the bland side, once it was stirred in with the pasta. On its own it was lovely.
The recipe card recommended that the pesto be done last minute so it doesn't discolour, I agree, though I think giving it some time allows more flavours to develop. Maybe do it in advance and cover well with cling film, not allowing any air bubbles on the surface might be the way to go. Otherwise it's a very quick dish to do. The minute steaks were something I had in the freezer and wanted to use up. The butcher had hammered the life out of them when I bought them, so they were nice and thin and picked up the flavours rather nicely when cut into thin strips, this is a trick I learned from a Chinese friend of mine. The original recipe recommends bacon, but I think the beef was a healthier option.
As for the Cajun sauce, this is one I've picked up at one of the many garden centres I visit. It's called Very Hot Cajun Sauce and is yellowy-orange in colour, so tricks you into thinking it's not too hot, but actually it could be used as rocket fuel. Thus use a spoon when you stir the beef strips, or you might end up with serious burns on your hands.
8 May 2010
Again, some thins, some middles and some fats. But unlike last week, I had done some advance planning and had purchased a number of fresh herbs and some eggs in an attempt at replicating the "sauce" I had with white asparagus when I was studying in Munich.
In Germany, they seem to prefer the white asparaguses, i e the ones that aren't allowed to see daylight. They also need peeling and I'm not too keen on them. Don't taste as nice and seem to be a lot more effort.
But they make a nice sauce thing to go with them - it has a mixture of fresh herbs, hard boiled eggs, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I think. Impossible to actually dip in, but oh so tasty.
So here's my attempt at recreating this stuff.
2 tsp finely cut tarragon
2 tsp finely cut basil
2 tsp finely cut mint
2 tsp finely cut dill
2 tsp finely cut lemon thyme
2 tsp finely cut oregano
0.5 tsp salt
0.5 tsp pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 dl toasted and ground pine nuts
2 hard boiled eggs
Cut the herbs finely with scissors, add salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar and stir to mix. Toast the pine nuts, then grind in a mortar and pestle. Chop the eggs and stir in as well and let stand for an hour. If it looks too dry, add more vinegar and oil. Serve with the steamed asparagus.
This is the first time I've used tarragon, I'd no idea what it smelt and tasted like. Anise, quite pleasant. I didn't measure the amounts precisely either. And I let it stand for 5 h, I should have refrigerated, but it was fine anyway. I didn't want it cold, as it would chill the asparagus too quickly and I like it when it's warm.
It was also not really dippable, both Lundulph and I had to use a spoon to balance a few pieces onto the asparagus and it was tricky at best. So Lundulph suggested I blitz it for the next lot of asparagus, to make it more creamy. Otherwise the flavour was really good, the tarragon dominated a bit and gave it a sweet tinge. Would probably work with other things, even on a piece of toast. We ate the lot, it was barely enough for all the asparagus I steamed (about 500 g).
As dessert, we had semla. From the 10 buns I froze back in February, along with the marzipan filling. I just bought some whipping cream. I allowed the buns to thaw at room temperature in the morning and this turned out not to be a good idea, as they were fairly dry by the evening when we had them. I'll try defrosting in the microwave just before they're needed next time. Also, I'd whipped the cream the day before to hard peaks. And it had collapsed and gone quite runny, very disappointing indeed. I've left whipped cream overnight before and it has been fine, but then I've used double cream and even extra thick double cream, both of which have higher fat content, which perhaps makes it possible to keep its fluffiness. A thing to keep in mind in the future. But other than that, the freezing worked rather well. I suspect the marzipan filling won't last through all the buns though. I'll have to improvise.
Update on the blitzed sauce, 9th May 2010:
Well, I made some changes to the amounts of the herbs. Blitzing made a difference too, the asparagus could be dipped, so a definite improvement, however the balsamic vinegar made it go beige, so perhaps not appetising to look at.
2 tbsp finely cut tarragon
2 tbsp finely cut basil
1 tbsp finely cut mint
1 tbsp finely cut dill
2 tbsp finely cut lemon thyme
2 tbsp finely cut oregano
0.5 tsp salt
0.5 tsp pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 dl toasted and ground pine nuts
2 hard boiled eggs
I also had to increase the olive oil and balsamic vinegar in order to get the blender to blend. The flavour was close to the first version, though I missed the texture a bit.
2 May 2010
During my shopping round last Friday, they had a special offer on sausages and I got a couple of packets. Generally I freeze them, just as I do with Swedish meatballs, as they all make very nice emergency dinners, when I've not had time or inspiration for something new. But I thought with Bank Holiday week-end coming up, I should treat Lundulph to a Toad in the Hole.
I've never made this before, but I know Lundulph has mentioned it on occasion, so I also grabbed a packet of eggs.
This morning I set to investigate recipes, but having had some massive trouble with my new Linux installation and localisation issues that could not be removed (leaving parts of the computer in English, part in Swedish and part in Bulgarian), I didn't have sufficient time to focus on recipes, so I went to DinnerDiary to see if they'd already made this.
Indeed they had, twice even and the second time, Kerri had kindly posted the recipe. I didn't have Madeira for the gravy, so went with Bisto granules, which is reliable and something I always have in the larder. I also had a packet of jumbo Frankfurters for myself, since I don't like regular English sausages.
170 g plain flour
1 tsp salt
300 ml cold semi-skimmed milk
150 ml cold water
3 large eggs
12 sausages of your choice
- Sift together the flour and salt in a large bowl and set aside.
- In another bowl, whisk together the milk, water and eggs, then slowly add to the flour while whisking until a thin and even batter forms.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200° C.Pour a generous amount of oil in a large deep pan and place in the oven to heat up well.
- Heat up a little oil in a frying pan and brown the sausages.
- When the oven pan has heated up well, give the batter a stir, then remove the oven pan, pour the batter into it and add the sausages, spread out as evenly as possible. Then place back into the oven and bake until the batter has expanded and gone golden brown - could be around 30 - 45 minutes.
- In the meantime, prepare the gravy and keep warm.
- When the bake is ready, serve immediately with the gravy.
The batter was surprisingly thin, but this is correct, it will puff up really nicely and crisp up.
As for dinner tonight, well, we'll have the remaining asparagus - the fattest spears that are left.
Once again, Lundulph had started dropping hints about toad in the hole, so I decided to use up a piece of Falukorv I had kicking about in the freezer. Now this was just a small piece, so I decided to make small toads in the holes (is that the plural?) in the muffin tin instead. This only used up half of the batter and as I cut the Falukorv too thickly, I only had 11 pieces for the 12 hole tin.
I also discovered that Lundulph had used up all the beef gravy, so we had to have chicken gravy - this worked just as well. I managed to confuse myself with tsp and tbsp and made way too much gravy, but with the spare batter, I'll be making Yorkshire puddings for lunch, to go with various other leftovers.
The main thing was that Lundulph was well pleased and his eyes sparkled.
1 May 2010
Lundulph and I went, armed with a basket and a knife, and picked thin ones and picked thick ones and picked really fat ones too.
I've never picked asparagus before, it was quite enjoyable, especially since we were the only enthusiastic pickers at the farm and had the choice of two large fields of the stuff. The raspberries are looking pretty good too and the strawberries were full of big dark green leaves, it'll be a good year I think.
Anyway, we took a turn through the farm shop, just to be on the safe side, then went straight home. While the kettle was boiling the water, I trimmed and washed the thinnest of the spears and boiled them for 5 minutes and we gobbled them up with mayonnaise.
Extremely tasty and with a wonderful texture to them.
We then spent the afternoon in front of my computer - I've installed Linux and it's sort of working.
We had the thick asparagus for dinner (6 minutes boiling time, a bit too long and it went yellow at the bottom) along with some unbelievably expensive Scottish smoked venison and salad. The venison tasted like cardboard with some really old spices on it. Yuck! Lundulph thought it was sort of OK, but I beg to differ.
We now have the really fat asparagus spears left, which we'll have tomorrow. So very very tasty, I'll be going back for more and soon.