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Monday, January 30, 2006
Soothing London - Day TWO - Chinese New Year and cottage pie

Today we woke up very early and decided to have lunch in town. But what we did not realize is that D.'s laptop watch was still set on French time so we had breakfast lunch at 10.30PM!
When it comes to a light lunch I always enjoy a wrap from Caffè Castello, a small place located on a side alley.
The owner is quite funny – he can speak English, French, Italian, Turkish…
I always have either a Haloumi cheese and tomato wrap or a hummus and salad wrap.
Price – 2£70
Caffè Castello
19 castle street

After this early lunch we went to the new Sainsbury's where we bought plenty of things – to bake, to cook, to simmer…

Then we headed off to London to see the Chinese New Year celebrations. China town was packed and I was only able to see the head of the dragon.
There were stands selling food and it must have been quite good because everyone had a something in the hands and eventually I the mouth.

As we were close to Tottenham court road we went to Foyles the greatest book shop in London.
The food section provides nearly as much cookbooks as in Books for Cooks (where I don't want to go anymore because you can't make a single step as it's always full of people).
There I bought a nice ring book simply called cupcakes! and written by Elinor Klivans.
My eyes have immediately been caught by the nice cover.
113-119 charing cross road

Then we went to our favourite place ever in London – Knightsbridge.
It's so cosy.
I wanted to find a professional piping bag with fitted nozzles. So though that Divertimenti would be the great place but decided to have a look at Harrods first.
I love the cook shop in Harrods. There are so many items from Rosle tool range to Le Creuset cookware.
I finally found great piping bags and nozzles: a 14-inches and a 16-inches piping bags and n°1, 3, 5 and 22-star-shaped nozzles.
I think I might have to go to Jane Asher to find a bigger nozzle used for icing cupcakes.

After so much excitement we were happy to be back home and I prepared a comforting dinner – best cottage pie and pecan and milk chocolate chunks cookies.

Cottage pie
Serves 4

I made a small cottage pie for just the two of us and reserved the prepared meat to make some delicious meat fritters tomorrow)
This cottage pie is adapted from Just like my mother used to make by Tom Norrington-Davies.
We didn't have any vegetables at home so I made a very simple preparation for the meat.

1tsp oil
750g minced meat
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 OXO cubes
200ml water from a recently boiled kettle
1tsp tomato purée
750g potatoes boiled and then mashed with 4tbsp milk and 2tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 200°C.
First, heat a wide-bottomed pan with the oil. Fry the mince hard in this – it will seem very dry at first, but the meat will let go plenty of fat and juices, which will be used to cook the onion in a minute. When it has browned well, rain the meat over a large bowl trough a colander, catching all the juices.

Keep the meat to one side, but return the juices to the pan. Bubble them fiercely for about a minute before throwing in the onion. Crumble two OXO cubes over the onion and when it begins to get brown, add 100ml of water. When it has softened (10 minutes), return the beef to the pan with the tomato purée and the remaining 100ml water in which you have dissolved the last OXO cube. Now simmer for 10 minutes or so.
Season to taste.

Transfer to a baking dish and over with the puréed potatoes. Cook for 20 minutes and eat. Make sure you allow the cottage pie to cool a little when out of the oven or you'll burn your tongue.

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Saturday, January 28, 2006
Soothing London - Day ONE - Wagamama experience

London can be quite a stressful city. Lots of people, lots of colors, lots of stimulations…
But on the other hand, you can find whatever you want and have a really good time.

Usually when I go to England, I stay in Kingston, a small –but ravishing- town that lays upon the Thames River.
David has a great apartment from which you can see the actual river, its swans and its rowing men.
The town is just a ten-minute walk far and has all the greatest shop you can imagine.

I'll make a daily report of what I did – so that you can discover new and cherished places in Kingston and London. Any suggestion will be well received!

I arrived on Saturday completely exhausted by the several-hour delays due to the bad weather in Toulouse (it was snowing!!!).

On the evening we went to Wagamama noodle bar in Kingston. I remembered not having a good experience the first time I went there – but I guessed it was because of my choice: I don't like ramens (kind of soup with noodles). But anyway I decided I could give it another go.
Wagamama is a food chain who offers quality dishes of noodles and great drinks.
Sadly I forgot my camera – so there won't be any picture of what D. and I had.
D. took a fruit juice made with orange, passion fruit and apple and a chicken katsu curry – chicken fillet deep-fried in crispy breadcrumbs, served with a light curry sauce and Japanese-style rice garnished with a combination of mixed leaves and red pickles.
I took an apple and lime juice; which was excellent and then a yaki udon – tepan-fried udon noodles with shiitake mushrooms, egg, leeks, prawns, chicken, red pepper, beansprouts and Japanese fishcake in curry oil; garnished with spicy ground fish powder, fried shallots and red ginger.
And we also shared a ebi gyoza – five deep-fried dumplings filled with finely chopped king prawns, water chestnut and spinach and served with a chilli, garlic and soy sauce.
We were both really happy with our choices.
Price – 25 £


16-18 high street
Kingston upon thames
tel: + 44 (0) 208 546 1117

Opening hours
mon-sat 12/11PM
sun 12/10PM

I also made my favourite cookies recipe using Lurpac butter and now we have plenty of leftover cookie dough to be able to bake some cookies whenever we want.

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Friday, January 27, 2006
Sunshine Pasta - IMBB # 22

From COOK 1.0 by Heidi Swanson (p. 83)

As you can see from the last few posts I'm focusing on good healthy food. Actually I think that lots of people are getting aware of what is filling their plate.
By saying that I don't mean that I don't like a bite of junky food sometimes (come here Mr Krispy Kreme(s!!!)), but that it's worth considering that healthy food can be good in taste as well as good for your body.
However this movement is not new. But I have some reasons to make me think that healthy food is back in our plates and that it can be delicious.

For me, the goddess of yummy healthy food is Heidi from 101cookbooks.
Not only she's a vegetarian – which I tend to be as well from times to times (actually I haven't eaten meat since Christmas), but she claim herself as a food lover and what she cooks demonstrate it.
What's more to say?
Though I'm not a 100% vegetarian I agree with her when she writes: "For me, being vegetarian is just part of an overall awareness of where my food comes from and how its production affects the world around me".
And actually she is right. We want to know the origin of our food. Truth to be told, I don't understand all the people that can eat meat without knowing its provenance. I couldn't and indeed the last time I had veal for lunch it was at my grand mother's house because I trust her and know she would never buy meat from a supermarket.
Furthermore, I think it's interesting to discover new flavours such as grains, pastas, fruits, beans and spices – which flavours we don't think about when cooking a roast.

So my challenge for this month's IMBB hosted by Amy was to make something unexpected with noodles.
As I know that COOK 1.0 is a stock of yummy and original recipes, I decided to go for Heidi's Whole wheat penne with wilted spinach; but leaving out the spinach (when I was food shopping I totally forgot the spinach factor) and replacing the penne by broken whole wheat spaghettis.
So see it couldn't be called anymore like that so I decided it would be Heidi's sunshine pasta.

Sunshine Pasta
serves 4

This pasta dish is simply delicious. The flavours really work together. It's sweet, it's warm, and it's salty. Very, very, very comforting.
Anyway I can
only advise you to buy Heidi's book. I love the pictures (check out her blog and you'll see I'm not lying), the recipes and the great layout.

Prep and set aside:
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
½ cup plump died apricots (try to find Californian ones if you can – read here why)
½ cup toasted pine nuts
1 cup shredded parmesan
¾ crumbled feta

Boil 1 lb. whole wheat penne (or broken whole wheat spaghettis as I did) in a large pot of salted water according to the package instructions or until just tender.
Drain and immediately return the pasta to the pot over medium heat.

Stir in the butter and apricots. Cook over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes.
Stir in the pine nuts, parmesan and a couple pinches of salt.
Gently stir in the feta and serve immediately.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Le colis magique

[The magical package]
As far as I can remember I've always been into food shopping. I went with my mother to the supermarket, farmers market… and always loved to go to the 'boulanger' to buy one or two 'baguettes pas trop cuites'. And while I was waiting in the queue at the bakery, I remember myself looking at the beautiful 'religieuses, éclairs' and other pastries. This was heaven for me, really!

Now I'm still up for some food shopping: from Toulouse farmers market to my local supermarket, from Harrods food hall to Waitrose, from Toronto's St Lawrence market to Jeffrey's (English deli in Antibes)… and so on.
I love to discover new products, new places… Basically I'm always looking for the freshest, yummiest products available, but sometimes a bit of junk makes me feel good: Crunchies, Cadbury's bars, cake mixes, vinegar crisps…
When go to English supermarket I'm always astonished with all the goodies on the shelf, things we can't find (at a normal price) here in France. But this seems to be applicable in the other way: I once found a tube of Nestle concentrated milk at 5£ in Harvey Nichols' fifth floor (while it costs around 1€ in French delis).
Anyway, when I go to England I always come back with a suitcase full of muffin cases, crunchies, cranberries, streaky bacon, oat, barley, dried fruits… and full of cookbooks (but this may not be the right place to discuss such a thing).

So you'll understand my reaction when I received two food 'colis' [packages] from my grand parents. Actually my dad had to go to Fouras (the city where my grand parents live) and when he went back home he stopped in Toulouse to say hello and to drop these two gorgeous packages packed with food goodies!

- 2 homemade compotes
- apricot jam
- 3 chicories salads
- 2 apples
- 'miel de forêt' [forest honey]
- coffee
- galette de Pont-Aven [butter biscuits from Britany]
- whole wheat bread
- fine milk chocolate
- organic canned peas
- kidney beans
- organic green beans
- canned sweet corn
- tuna
- beautiful small red potatoes
- a lemon
- shallots, onion and garlic
- tomato sauce
- pasta
- rice
- fast potato puree mix
- instant soups
- breakfast bread
- 2 soles
- homemade choucroute
- milk and water

I'm now feeling completely satisfied with my full cupboards and feel like I've received a great present. You may think "it's just food", yes I agree with you but I'd say "it is food packed with love and affection" (which has two meanings: the more evident one and the subtle one – if I'm passionate about food it's because of all the hours I spent in the kitchen looking at my grand mother cooking. When she cooks she put all her love in the food she cooks and I hope that one day I'll be able to do the same).
Je vous aime Grand-Père et Grand-Mère…

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Sunday, January 22, 2006
Honey Semifreddo - SHF # 15

Though I love to bake, I also like to cook from the most fresh and unprocessed produces with a preference for organic.
But are these two notions incompatible? I mean is it possible to make a delicious mouth watering dessert using only organic unprocessed and homemade produces?
This is the challenge for this month's Sugar High (Low) Friday hosted by Sam from Becks and Posh.

Nowadays, it's very difficult to come across good organic produces. It's accurate that now most of the supermarket stock them but I prefer to get my produces from local farmers and this is a hard task.
First you've got to find the farm – which is not easy.
Then you've got to immerse into the farm's world – not easy either (see here – my immersion into a goat cheese making farm).
But once you've achieved that you can access to a new world – the world of true taste!

Have you ever tasted homemade butter? Or homemade cream? Can you taste the difference? I definitely can.
Homemade organic produces may cost a little more than regular products, but by buying them you know:
- the origin of what you get
- that it's going to be good
- that the animals are happy (and this is very important for me – could you stand buying eggs when you know the hens are like sardines in a tin? I can't. I want my chicken to be bred outside and I want him to eat good cereals… You may think it's a 'cliché' but that's the way I feel.)

For this month's Sugar High Friday I decided to make a honey semifreddo.
I already know what you're thinking: 'Ice-cream? Full of fat!'. OK I'm not going to lie to you, this recipe calls for double cream; but actually I feel far less guilty when eating homemade organic cream than when eating industrial cream. And I suspect I am not the only one…
This recipe is from –guess who?- Nigella Lawson.
Indeed as soon as I saw SHF theme I remembered the nice honey semifreddo Nigella made for one of her TV series. I mean this has no bad ingredients – cream (see above), honey, eggs and pinenuts.
A semifreddo is an Italian dessert between a mousse and an ice-cream. I think Neil Perry describes it very well in The food i love: "Semifreddo is a flavoured mousse that sets in the freezer. It has a texture that is icier than ice cream or sorbet, but is at the same time very light."
The peculiar thing about semifreddo is 'la panna che lo rende spumoso e soffice' [the cream that makes it moussy and soft].

Semifreddo al miele [Honey Semifreddo]
serves 6

Note: all the produces I used to make this semifreddo were organic. The eggs were from a small farm 'de Fouras' (where my grand parents live), the honey is from Les ruchers du Freussin in Beurlay (a small town of Charentes Maritimes) –it is not your usual runny honey but more a golden paste with a charming smell- and the cream and the pinenuts are organic.

1 egg
4 egg yolks
100g best quality honey + few tbsp to drizzle
300ml double cream
½ cup pinenuts

Line a 1 litre loaf tin (fanny: I used 6 cooking rings) with clingfilm.
Beat the egg and egg yolks with the honey in a bowl, over a saucepan of gently simmering water, until the mixture is pale and thick. I use a wire balloon whisk for this, but if you feel like a bit of culinarily aided whirring, it will certainly be quicker with a hand-held electric whisk (fanny: and indeed it was).
Whip the double cream until thick, and then gently fold in the egg and honey mixture.
Pour into the prepared loaf tin, and cover carefully with cling film before putting it in the freezer for about 2-3 hours.
When it is ready to serve, turn out the semifreddo onto a suitably sized plate and drizzle this manilla-coloured log with honey, and sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts, before slicing.
It thaws quickly as it stands, but that is part of its heavenly-textured charm.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006
The crafty weekend of a foodie

Do know that kind of people that prefer doing some silly non-necessary things instead of doing the urgent things? I am one of those.
See, my exams are coming faster and faster and what do I find myself doing? Making some fake doughnuts and wonderful wine charms!

Fake donuts
I have been lurking at these fantastic fabric donuts for months now and wanted to make some as soon as I saw them. So last week when I went to a nice bead shop and found the perfect 'sprinkles' beads, I just couldn't resist anymore. I had to make doughnuts but knew it wasn't going to be easy.
As a scientific I started making plans and maquettes, my doughnuts were going to be perfect.
Yesterday afternoon I went in the city centre in the aim to find a present for a friend's birthday but stopped at a fabric shop and bought all the needed fabrics to make the perfect donut. I chose some cream cotton and baby pink wool baize for the creamy icing.

I also bought some ribbon to stamp out my soon to be brand as I consider starting a very small business among my friends.
I am very proud of how my first ever doughnut turned out and I have thousands of ideas for my next creations. I can't wait to buy some more fabric to give them birth.
Actually I have never made true doughnuts and now I can make the fake ones nothing is going to stop me from achieving the perfect chewy 'krispy-kreme-like' doughnuts.

Wine charms
I remember the first time I discovered what wine charms were. I thought it was a clever idea and that they looked so pretty on wine glasses. A kind of bijou de verre [glass jewellery].
Ever since, I have been desperate to find the most wonderful wine charms – sadly with no success.
But when I saw Clotilde's post about making wine charms I told myself – you can make them too.

So I rushed to la Droguerie, another bead shop (and eventually my paradise on earth) to buy the appropriate beads, rings and headpins. I did buy the same bid beads as Clotilde as I already spotted them when making my mother a bracelet a year ago. And because they were the only chic ones I could find in six different colours – though I would have preferred twelve.
These were not cheap to make but would do a nice present for a birthday or any other event.
Sadly I don't have wine glasses over here in Toulouse so the picture is alcohol-free !

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Thursday, January 12, 2006
Coconut macaroons - reading a good old favourite

From Nigella Lawson's How to be a domestic goddess

I love cookbooks, that's a fact.
I love to read them again and again and sometimes -when i'm feeling like- cook from them. Indeed i don't cook that often from cookbooks as i tend to go off-shore and add a pinch of this, a dash of that...
But one of the cookbooks i cook most from is How to be a Domestic Goddess writen by Nigella Lawson. This book is a compilation of delicious sweet treats and yummy salty things.
I might have made something like 5 recipes from this book and maybe even more.

But this much cherished book of mine was sadly forgotten of the shelf. I got it from my fiance last Christmas. One of my first english cookbooks. And the beginning of an addiction - i can't buy french cookbooks anymore, except Pierre Herme's. A month ago or so, i opened it again and decided it was one of my favourite baking cookbook. The recipes work perfectly, the pictures are great and i like the fact that Nigella clearly gives the source of the recipe. OK you might think she did no job on the book, but god this is Nigella. And the pictures are mouth watering...

I made a list of all the recipes i wanted to give a try. I warn you, it is long.

- Flora's famous courgette cake p.18 (i must check on Clotilde's blog, she might have tried it before)
- butterscotch layer cake p.20
- Boston cream pie p.21
- cherry almond loaf p.28
- banana bread p.33
- fairy cakes p.39

- coconut macaroons p.50
- pistachio macaroons p.53
- sweet and salty peanut biscuits p.55
- ricciarelli p.56
- hot discs p.64

- supper onion pie p.85
- courgette and chickpea filo pie p.93
- cornish pasties p.97
- black and white tart p.112
- blackberry galette p.115

- apple syrup upside down pie p.135
- Calvados syllabub p.139
- Om Ali p.140
- profiteroles, my way p.142
- pistachio souflés p.145
- cheese blintzes p.154
- New York cheese cake p.157
- Joe Dolce's Italian cheesecake p.161

- torta alla ganduia p.172
- chocolate cheesecake p.175
- Chocolate coffee volcano p.181
- goey chocolate stack p.185
- chocolate raspberry tart p.187
- pain au chocolat pudding p.190
- white chocolate and macadamia brownies p.194
- cappucino cupcakes p.199
- banana cherry and white chocolate cupcakes p.200
- florentines p.203

- Snickers and peanut butter muffins p.218
- peanut butter squares p.223
- dreams bars p.227
- cinder toffee p.229
- Roxanne's millionaire's shortbread p.240

- Certosino p.255
- baklava p.273
- cranberry upside down cake p.284
- Christmas creme brulée p.287

- potato bread p.298
- garlic and parsley hearthbreads p.306
- apple kutchen p.319
- almond danish p.328

- passionfruit curd p.344
- spiced apple chutney p.357
- Edith Alif's lime pickles p.361

I hope i will be able to make all these soon.

Coconut macaroons
makes 8

These are what we call in French: rocher à la noix de coco ou congolais [coconut rock or Congolian]. But they seems to be know as macarrons over the Channel.
They are very easy to make and delicious, though a little dry but that may be because i hadn't any cream of tartar.

2 large eggs whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
100g caster sugar
30g ground almonds
1 tsp vanilla extract
250 shreded coconut (i only used 125g)

Preheat the oven to 170°C.
Beat the egg whites until frothy - no more - then add the cream of tartar and carry on beating, Missuss, until soft peaks are formed. Add the sugar a tsp at a time and whisk until the peaks can hold their shapre and are shiny. Fold in the almonds, salt, vanilla and coconut. The mixture will be sticky but should, all the same, hold its shape when clumped together.
Form inyo clementin-sized domes (i made 'quenelles').
Cook for 20 minutes or until they're just beginning to turn golden in parts.

This recipe was featured in 101cookbooks daily links of the 13th of January!

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