Friday, 18 September 2009

Marché du Président Wilson

I first discovered this market last December with my parents (who were visiting from Australia) as we walked from the Eiffel Tower to the Champs Élysées. This was a case of being in the right place at the right time, since the market is only there on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The Frenchman and I went there on Wednesday to sample the delights of fresh food (something we sadly had missed living - and being surrounded by supermarkets selling less-than-fresh produce - in London) and to get ourselves something yummy for lunch.

A little known fact about France is that they make a damn good roast chicken (or Poulet Rôti). Every market has at least one Chicken Man, as I like to call them, and there are often debates going on as to which Chicken Man or market has the best roast chickens. They usually come with roasted potatoes which have been sitting at the bottom of the rôtisserie soaking up all the chicken juices. We took a couple of chicken pieces (since a whole one would have been too much and we have less than stellar cooking facilities at the moment), a scoopful of potatoes and a couple of pork sausages that looked really good. We also grabbed a demi-baguette (half a baguette) on the way home, which is compulsory when you're having any meal in France. And why wouldn't you? The bread here is super super good.

The market is quite long, although not the longest in Paris by far (we found out today that the longest in Paris is over a kilometer long!) but it has everything you need to make yourself something good. Smile at the man behind the vegetable stand and he might even throw in a free bunch of parsley - score!

Marché Président Wilson
Avenue du Président Wilson
75007 Paris
Wednesdays and Saturdays only
Metro: Iéna or Alma-Marceau

Thursday, 17 September 2009

We have arrived in Paris

 Yes, we did it again...we have moved... again!

This time we have settled in Paris for the foreseeable future. The Frenchman has been transfered here with work and my mission is to learn frogspeak (aka: French). I am known to throw myself in the deep end (on several occasions) and this is no different. I've applied for a course in "Cuisine Traditionelle" (totally taught in French, might I add) and hope to get a place since I've already missed out on the Pâtisserie class because they were already full by the time I applied. That seems to be my M.O. - lets discover things at the last minute and apply for them! Yay! This time I wasn't so lucky with the Patisserie class but fingers crossed for the other one.

So... we arrived on Monday night, tired, exhausted, and it was raining. We had made a pact that we would eat breakfast properly on our first official day living in Paris and so we set off for Gérard Mulot who had been given a pretty good review on The Puff List. What we didn't realise until after we arrived was that they only served their €9.50 breakfast special on the weekends, and since it was Tuesday, no super breakfast feast for us :-(

We could have taken a pastry and a coffee separately to have at a little table in the corner, but it seemed a bit like a consolation prize that I wasn't so happy to have. 

Instead, we came across a cute little bistrot/café on the way back to the Métro station that had a good looking breakfast to offer. Café Le Moderne on the rue Saint Antoine had a breakfast menu for €6.70 that included a hot drink (we had hot chocolate, of course), a tartine (basically, baguette halves with spread - in this case, strawberry jam and butter), a croissant, and freshly pressed orange juice. The hot chocolate came strong and concentrated and you could add as much or as little milk as you pleased. Unfortunately ours were lukewarm, but the taste was there and was a much more pleasant hot chocolate experience than what some other cafés have served. The croissant was flaky and the baguette tartine came pre-buttered (pity for those who don't like butter with their jam) with a little dish of strawberry jam on the side. 

The highlight, I must say, was the freshly squeezed orange juice served in little wine glasses. It made the whole deal much more classy! It wasn't altogether the greatest breakfast I've ever had, but it certainly hit the spot after our unsuccessful trip to Gérard Mulot. We'll try again on a weekend sometime.

Café Le Moderne
10 rue Saint-Antoine
75004 Paris
Métro: Bastille

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Mother Mash

The Frenchman and I are spending our last few days exploring the touristy side of London before we move to back to Paris. One his last day of work, the Frenchman and a colleague from work went to lunch at Mother Mash which is just off Regent Street. The next day, after visiting the Queen* we went to have lunch at Mother Mash since the Frenchman said it was quite good and we were in the neighbourhood anyway.

*Queen was not actually present at the time, but we got to see Buckingham Palace anyway

At first, it was a little hard to find since we were working off the Frenchman's memory and not an actual map or address, so we ended up walking around the Carnaby Street area and eventually found it just off one of the side streets. It is a small but deep restaurant and is not much to look at from the outside. I probably wouldn't have noticed it if we hadn't been deliberately going there for lunch. Once inside, we sat at a booth that was a bit higher than usual and I had trouble staying on the bench without sliding off it. My feet didn't touch the ground and it wasn't until I had slid off the seat a few times that I noticed a foot rest under the table which made things a lot easier.

The premise of Mother Mash is that you order from their 3 Step menu: Choose your Mash, Choose your Sausage or Pie, and then Choose your Gravy. There is plenty of choice and almost everyone would be able to find something they would enjoy (unless they hate mash and sausages - but then why would they come to a Mash-house anyway?). 

The waitress mumbled her way through the Specials-of-the-Day, so I don't really know what other choices we had but I was happy with what I could choose from the menu. I took the Colcannon Mash / Aberdeen Angus Steak Pie / Farmer's Gravy. The Frenchman had the: Cheesy Mustard Mash / Cumberland Sausages / Onion Gravy. For me, the Onion Gravy was quite sweet and not bold enough for my tastes. The Cumberland's weren't the best I've ever tasted, but they were good none-the-less. My pie had tender chunks of beef and the pastry was nice and crisp. I was very happy to taste a strong gravy, which was bold and very red wine-y. Being German, I have to have plenty of sauce with my potato and there was.

Our order came pretty quickly and after whipping out my camera and taking photos, I wondered how they formed the mash into such a cool and appetizing shape. I wanted to charm my way into the kitchen to ask but hunger stopped me.

All-in-All, I would be happy to go back if I came back to London and was in the area. Service-wise, it was ok and the waitress was pleasant enough but hard to understand because she mumbled quietly with a heavy accent.

There are heaps of restaurants around this area but they range from super-classy-expensive or dingy-back-alley type places. This one is in the middle and is well worth the price. I would give it an 8/10.

Mother Mash
26 Ganton Street
Ph: 020 7494 9644

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Vanilla cupcakes

Yes, cupcakes again - but I am happy to report that I have perfected my buttercream icing. It tastes just like it should and not too sickly sweet. 


Saturday, 28 March 2009

A trip to Jamie Oliver's Recipease

Excuse the slightly out of focus photos - taken quickly with an iPhone.

Last Saturday, the Frenchman and I took a trip to Clapham Junction to visit the new store of Jamie Oliver, which had opened a couple of weeks earlier.

The pink building was noticeable right away, and once inside, it was tempting to buy everything and join in one of the interactive cooking sessions on offer. I think we will enrol the Frenchman in some of those later on ; )

Friday, 27 March 2009

Black Forest cupcakes

Chocolate cherry cake base with fresh Kirsch cream and sour cherries. Yum yum!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Lemon Meringue cupcakes

A quick post to share my lemon meringue cupcakes - un-taste-able unfortunately, in the virtual world, but live close to me and you may just become one of my lucky guinea pigs who gets to test out my latest creations as I tweak the recipes.

The Frenchman, the big sister, and the work colleagues all get to try them this week, even after my manager banned sweets for at least a month after the last few weeks of overindulging in party food that random people brought into the office (farewell parties, general snacking, friday afternoon teas, etc) - a ban on junk and a "fresh fruit only for the next couple of weeks" demand was put down.
Well, technically speaking, these do have fresh lemon juice and zest - that totally counts as fresh fruit! ; )

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Lemon Icing cake

This is the frenchman's favourite cake - not so much for the cake part but for the lemon icing that is drizzled over it. If it were up to him, I would just give him a bowl full of just the icing and a spoon!

Zingy, sweet and sour, this cake is light and tasty and a new addition to my regular baking list. The cake is versatile enough to cover any sort of icing or fruit you desire, just alter the amount of lemon zest you put into the batter.

Lemon Icing Butter Cake
125 gr Butter
185 gr Sugar
2 Eggs
250 gr Self-Raising Flour
125 mls Milk
Lemon zest from one lemon
2 tbsp Vanilla extract

Zest of one fresh lemon
Juice from your zested lemon
Icing/powdered sugar*

*Depending on how much juice your lemon squeezes out, you will need to adjust the amount of icing sugar to ensure the consistency of the icing is just right.

Whip together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and make sure you mix them in good. Grate in your fresh zest and add the vanilla extract to add some much needed flavour and zing! Fold in the sifted flour and milk alternatively with a spatula until just combined - don't go nuts at this stage and mix the crap out of it otherwise your cake may be tough and lifeless. Pour into a buttered and sugared tin. I used cinnamon sugar to give the crust a hint of spice.

Bake at 180 degrees (celsius) for about 40 minutes or until you poke a skewer into the thickest part and it comes out clean. Also, make sure the top of the cake is golden and not pastey-white, even if the cake is "done". Nothing is worse than an underbaked top that is slightly soggy tasting and looks horribly pale underneath the translucent icing. Trust me - no pastey tops! ; )

Let the cake cool completely before drizzling with the icing otherwise the icing will just slide right off onto your plate. Remember the rule: Cool cake = icing on cake not plate.

Squeeze out the juice of your lemon and add in the grated zest. Warm the juice in the microwave for a few seconds (say, 10 seconds) and whisk in enough icing sugar to make a runny paste (think wood glue consistency). If it is lumpy, just heat it in the microwave until it is just hot (maybe another 10 seconds) and whisk again. Drizzle it over the cake and let harden before serving.

This cake keeps for about 3 days covered and can be made in almost any tin, but I find it works best in a round bunt or even a loaf tin as it ensures maximum icing to cake ratio!

We're Moving!

Yes yes, I know - long time no see but I have valid excuses, I swear! 

It's finally time for us to move into our new apartment and not a minute too soon. I'm up early writing this at 7am, courtesy of my lovely neighbour who has decided to move boxes in her kitchen at the crack of dawn and talk like an idiot to her dog. Do these people never sleep in (or even better, do these people not have any common courtesy?!?)

Any way, back to the topic - we are moving. Be it just a few blocks away, but it's going to be the start of late morning sleep ins and clean fresh air (as opposed to the constant stench of weed drifting up through our floor boards from the flat downstairs). 

Down the hall - the view from the bedroom to the living room (kitchen and bathroom on the left).

My new (tiny) kitchen! The oven seems decent but the thing that I am most bummed about is the electric hob stove - no gas! Argh! But as this will most likely be short term, I can deal with it  ; )

We have a courtyard garden! Wooohooo! Bring on the barbecues!

Monday, 2 February 2009

Snow Day - London shuts down

I woke up at 6 this morning to a scene straight out of a christmas film. Turning on the news, I hear that most of London has shut down - including airports, the entire London bus network, the trains, etc etc. Apparently it was the heaviest prolonged snow fall since 1991. Nineteen years of mild winters left London unprepared and the city basically ground to a halt as they struggled to get their trucks out to grit the roads.

The roads in our borough hadn't been salted at all so it was tough going for the cars and the few people braving the outdoors. My main tube line that I take to work had been suspended completely, so my only other alternative was to take another line from the other side of Wimbledon. I was stalling for time (since my office has a flex-time policy and is quite lenient when it comes to lateness - as long as you make it up another time) and was not looking forward to getting wet from the snow, as it was just below knee height and I didn't have the proper gear for venturing out across the city in the elements. 

Lucky for me, my manager texted us all and told us that if it wasn't safe for us to get to/from work then we shouldn't make the journey. It turns out that most of the office wasn't going in, so neither did I! 


I've been looking out the window all day, seeing adults and children (most schools are also shut) frolicking in the snow, building snow men, and taking photos. I felt like an 8 year old, making snow balls and playing with the snow on my balcony. I do need to venture out of the house later to run errands, but luckily it's not far and I can come home straight away to get back into my pajamas! ; )

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Ben's Cookies = squishy yumminess

I stumbled across Ben's Cookies during a lunch break at their Covent Garden store while I was on my way to my favourite Jacket Potato guy at 'Dinner Jackets' - more on him and his spuds in another post. Looking for something sweet to finish with, I decided to give Ben and his cookies a whirl, as I happen to be a huge cookie fan and needed a bit of sugar to help me through the rest of the afternoon at work. 

The shop is tiny, just big enough to allow the cookie making/shaping/baking guy and the sales assistant room enough to move without banging into the oven. The cookie making/shaping/baking guy was scooping up tennis balls of cookie dough and dropped them onto sheets ready for baking. They spread a little while baking but still retain some of their bulk, allowing the baked cookie to keep some of the moistness and gooeyness on the inside. 

So, instead of getting just one of their massive cookie blobs, I got a 6 pack of Plain Chocolate Chunk, Double Chocolate Chunk, and Peanut Butter. Soft and gooey in the middle with a slightly crisp outside, these cookies are more like flat personal-sized cakes than conventional cookies. Suitable for under-baked cookie fans only, they sometimes verge on the point of raw cookie dough in the middle. Even though I am not usually a fan of undercooked foods, these weren't bad, and I actually enjoyed them a lot. 

One cookie is plenty for each person and they keep well (up to 4 days according to their website). I ate one at work and cut up the rest to share at home. Suffice it to say, we couldn't finish them and saved the rest for the next day, which were still moist and as fresh tasting as ever.

My personal favourite was the Plain Chocolate Chunk which was not too gooey in the middle and choc-a-block (pardon the pun) full of creamy dark chocolate chunks, just as the name implies. The flavours were nicely balanced and not too vanilla-y or chocolate-y. A nice choice if you want something to finish off a meal.

The cookies come nicely packaged in a little red box, each layer separated with wax paper meaning they won't stick together or damage each other before you get home. 

They might not be much to look at, but they sure do make up for it in taste and size. Plus, the guy serving me was friendly (a very rare thing in London!), so I will be back.

Where to find them:

Ben's Cookies
13a The Piazza, Covent Garden
London WC2E 8HH

Closest Tube stations: 
Covent Garden or Leicester Square

Friday, 23 January 2009


Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi) - Rome, Italy

The Frenchman and I are married (!) and back from our mini-moon in Rome!

A highlight on our last day where we stumbled across a tiny cafe where we got our first  REAL cappuccino (real = creamy foam sans sprinkles and ultra strong) and tiny nutella-filled cannoli. Simple but oh-so delicious! We we actually looking for a featured cafe in the Frenchman's city guide but we look one look at it and turned around (bare and uninviting). A few paces away was this little cafe and what a great accidental find it was (sorry no name or photos, my bad).

With me being obsessed with Bruschetta (of the tomato or 'Pomodoro' kind), we tried to track down any restaurants featuring it (which come to think of it, automatically steers us towards the "tourist" food restaurants as it must be a summer dish because tomatoes are generally ripest during summer time? Maybe?). Even so, most were absolutely delicious and since the frenchman doesn't dig tomatoes, he opted for the melone e procsciutto (honey dew melon with cured ham) and that was great too, even with the staggering 10 euro price tag. But hey - how often do you go to Italy or even honeymoon in Italy? Hence, a little splurging is ok... and for good food, I think it's worth it.

Now, I can't have gone to Italy without trying a little bit of pizza. I know I wasn't in real Pizza land, a.k.a. Naples, but when in Rome... and so on... you just have to find some. Around the corner from the Trevi fountain was an unsuspecting little take-away pizzeria where all the locals seemed to be lining up for (our definition of locals = the majority of people speaking very fast in a language that was not english, french, or german*) and which looked pretty authentic.

Meet the friendly folk at 'Pizza Con La Mortadella'

Sold by the slice, which is custom cut depending on how hungry you are, it is then weighed and tossed in the roasting hot pizza oven for reheating. Meanwhile, you pay according to weight and it is seriously cheap. They hand you your slice on a sheet of wax paper and it is crisp, slightly chewy and so so good. The pizzas are simple and ultra fresh, using seasonal ingredients and the price is right!

Zucchini and Anchovy pizza slice


* English, French, and German being the languages we know fluently between us.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Crème brulée

I have always been disappointed with restaurant-made crème brulée. Either they have a too thin or too thick layer of caramalised sugar (too thin means no 'crunch' factor - too thick results in burnt tasting sugar rock) or I find that there's no mouthwatering infusion of vanilla (proven by the lack of vanilla bean specks in the custard). Simply put - they are usually quite crap!

I always thought that with a little time and a nice fat juicy vanilla pod, I could make the perfect tasting crème brulée. I decided to put my money where my proverbial mouth is and give it a go.

Unbaked Crème Brulée

315 mls Single cream
315 mls Double or Heavy cream
1 Vanilla pod (or the best vanilla extract you can find)
A small strip of fresh lemon rind (optional)
5 egg yolks
2 or 3 tablespoons of sugar
Extra sugar (preferabley caster sugar) for sprinkling

Start by heating the fresh single and double cream in a saucepan over a medium heat. Split a fresh vanilla pod down the middle and scrape out the seed paste with a small paring knife. Dropping that and the spent pod into the cream, I gently heat it until the flavour of the vanilla is well infused and the mixture is pleasantly dotted with the tiny vanilla specks (which are the only distinct sign that the chef has used a real vanilla pod in the recipe). I also like to add a piece of lemon rind to infuse a slight tangy flavour. Just a personal taste preference really...

Next I separate eggs (saving the whites for another recipe - most likely for a recipe involving meringue) and whip the yolks with a couple of tablespoons of sugar (most recipes call for caster sugar but I find any sugar at this stage is usable). Most of the time I try to use unprocessed raw sugar as I find it more caramely and slightly healthier than processed white sugar - personal preference and by no means am I preaching my sugarist ways. 

Anyway, beat the yolks and the sugar until slightly thick and creamy looking. Pour the infused cream through a strainer and into the egg mixture, gently whisking it so it doesn't scramble. 

In the empty pot, I pour the custard mixture back in and gently heat until it noticeably thickens to a light custard consistency, stirring gently with a wooden spoon (taking a lot of care not to boil it and turn it into sweet scrambled eggs like I almost did the moment I turned my back to wash a spoon).

Take it off the heat and pour into ramekins (or if you want to be true to the french - pour into flat crème brulée dishes) and chill for about 4 hours, until set. I got these ones for christmas from my mother-in-law. Unfortunately she could only get the last five dishes left in the store, but since these are the cutest ones I have come across, it won't matter that the set is incomplete (the OCD part of me likes even numbers for stuff like dishes, cutlery, etc). Traditionally the dishes are made from a glazed terracotta in a flat, round or oval shape. In these modern times you find them prominently in white porcelain or ceramic (for a more 'posh' look I guess).

Sprinkle each with a couple of teaspoons of caster sugar and flame (or grill) until the sugar turns to caramel and is dissolved evenly, taking care not to burn the crap out of it. I found that moving the flame in a circular motion helped to keep the heat even and made sure that no spot was heated longer than the other. Believe me, you can taste the bitter burned sugar straight away if you go overboard with the heat. 

Chill again to reset the custard (but no longer than one hour otherwise the crisp sugar coating will soften). 
Serve immediately with a small spoon and enjoy having your own little 'Amelie' moment. Come to think of it, I totally feel like watching that now! : )