Thursday 1 February 2024

In My Kitchen: February 2024

This will have to be a super quick one as the baby naps in the other room! Our son G arrived on December 31 just before 2024 arrived, and his first life event was participating in the maternity ward newborn chorus to the sound of the fireworks on Champs-Elysées!

French hospital meals are not bad! Three courses every meal with usually some nice cheese at lunch.

Here was one of the dinners, supplemented by my dad's Chinese home cooked food on the right. I've been eating a ton of soybeans to boost milk production. 

This new patisserie "The French Bastards" (they are bloody brave to call themselves that in Paris!) opened recently up the road from us, and S went to take a treat from there to celebrate my discharge from hospital. This was a hazelnut/praline treat that was light and delicate!

My dad and my mother-in-law have been spending January with us, here we are celebrating my mother-in-law's birthday with a traditional Chinese celebration of long life noodles topped with pea & prawn. 

A pistachio tart from the French Bastards - they are really giving Cyril Lignac (the other major fancy patisserie in our quartier) a run for their money!

My sourdough son Barney went to sleep for two weeks while I had my human son, and here was his first resurrection

Cooking dinner for the first time outside of hospital, a simple mushroom/tofu stirfry and some beans, a bit of kim chi which I really missed

One evening our son forgot to cry and we got to have a candlelight dinner with leftovers. it was wonderful!

My sister-in-law and her fiancé came to visit from Belgium and they brought us this delicious sticky orange cake

This was from one of our low days when G was crying a lot. One of our favourites from Cyril Lignac! You see how sugar is getting us through the newborn daze... 

This loaf got left in the oven for too long because I was feeding the baby, but it turned out pretty good anyway! I'm grateful to be back baking my own bread 

No surprises here, the curveball this month is our beautiful son, who is now one month old. We have had the toughest but the most beautiful month of our lives. Even when it is incredibly hard (like the day he cried for 7 hours) we are filled with love every time I see him. Becoming a parent is an experience like no other, and to see your partner become a parent is also surprisingly overwhelming. To think that we have come this far, from the depths of the COVID lockdowns when S and I were plotting our move to Canada, is extraordinary. The fact that our parents are here with us is also incredible and they are delighted to have met their first grandchild. 

Sending this to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings, who hosts the monthly In My Kitchen event. Have a good month everyone!

Friday 1 December 2023

In My Kitchen: December 2023

This November was the fastest month ever in my life! I did a month of writing, the third time I've done the National Novel Writing Month challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November. You can see some photos of Paris as I explored some cafés to write in... 

An update on my sourdough son Barney... 

He's coming back to life! Here I made him into an apple cinnamon babka which worked out really well, the dough was light and fluffy, pulled apart nicely... I took it to a brunch with some other expats in my area. 

Here I recreated the pumpkin loaf that I made last year for Canadian Thanksgiving. It is well and truly the pumpkin/courge season in France and they are in every store. I love the slightly orange tint that it gives to the bread. 

Barney is finally coming back to life.. This was an experiment I did with 20% buckwheat and the dough was quite wet so I added generous handfuls of oats to the dough as well. 

 For American Thanksgiving I made this "Thanksgiving turkey" for our musical friend. We got together to play string quartets one evening - the Hoffmeister and the Beethoven Op.95, my favourite string quartet of all time!

Dinners in November... 

I bought an enormous quantity of spinach so I made this deconstructed lasagne with spinach, ricotta and cannelini beans. I think it was one of our best dinners in November. 

Continuing with the pasta theme as the weather gets colder, here we had mushroom risotto with a side of spinach braised with tomatoes. Simple and delicious dinner!

I've always wanted to try stuffing a butternut, and here I've stuffed it with a mix of quinoa, lentils, mushrooms and cranberries. The flavour combination was excellent, though next time I'd add some more liquid so it would be more mushy and stick together better.

It's been so cold this month we have had a lot of soup. Here is a Korean style soybean based soup with tofu, seaweed, Chinese cabbage and radish. 
Three extraordinary, soft and luscious Italian kakis are also in the background. 

Other beautiful things to remember...  

I've never been a huge fan of mug cakes (I think I shouldn't have them because they are too easy and maybe I would eat them all the time?) but for my friend's birthday I had this vegan chocolate mug cake and it was such an amazing treat for a whole 2 minutes work and 3 minutes in the microwave, if only I had some vanilla icecream as well... 

We were in Lyon for a weekend in November visiting S' friends. One of them brought this spectacular cake called Le Président from the famous Bernachon to our dinner party. It was created in 1975 for the then French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.  Each cake comes with its own serial number and explanation card! 

The cake consists of a hazelnut praline chocolate sponge cake filled with candied cherries and topped with those amazing ruffled "leaves" of chocolate - those leaves have to be tasted to be believed, they are like snowflakes melting on the tongue!  

While we were in living in Toronto, two of S' friends had a baby - they were the cellist and second violinist of the group he often played with (in fact they performed several times as part of Des Amis de la Philharmonie de Paris). We had a get together and they brought this incredible Saint Honoré cake, light blobs of choux with an enormous quantity of cream. 

I bought these gorgeous little yellow organic apples one day with the idea to turn them into... 

My first tarte tatin! To be honest I've never eaten a real French tarte tatin (I may have had it once in Australia?), so I was entirely unsure of what I was aiming for. 
First I made a caramel (which I salted for an additional dimension of flavour), cooked the apples in the caramel, then added the pastry on top to bake. I had no idea how it would turn out, but the apples turned into a gorgeous smooth and quivering jelly-like consistency with the caramel darkened and condensed into a syrup. 
We took it to S' friend's place for lunch (attracting some admiring looks on the subway), and I think the ultimate compliment was when his son ate practically half the tart! 

The curveball this month... 
is a crib! (that S and I had fun assembling one rainy afternoon)

I'm not sure exactly how long I have been involved with IMK now but it has become a lovely monthly routine for me to review the photos of what I've eaten and cooked in the last month. It's certainly a moment that brings me a lot of joy every month! 

I am very happy to share with all of you that the next 1st of the month (1 Jan 2024) is the due date of our first child. I might miss a few IMKs, but rest assured I'll be back with pictures of purée soon! 

From the bottom of my heart, thank you to the IMK community for having witnessed all the changes in my life over the last few years. I don't know any of you in real life but rest assured I know you all by your food! I'm sending this to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings, who of course hosts the monthly IMK event, thanks Sherry!

Nanowrimo 2023

It was the third time that I did NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). This time I wrote a memoir of what was happening for the real me in Paris. It was an easy subject because everyday something was happening! 

I also took the opportunity to get out and about and write in some different cafés. I would have loved to go everyday to a different café but since it rained for most of November, it became an impossible plan.. instead here I will share some pictorial memories of Paris in November 2023. 

Not a glamorous start on November 1! A 1 euro soft serve (in French, une glace italienne) and a coffee from IKEA  

A black sesame latte and a traditional Hong Kong style egg tart from Bing Sutt 

Matcha with red beans from Au Matcha, a very cosy Japanese matcha café in the 15th 

We visited one of the classic literary cafés...

...Les Deux Magots

A rare moment of sunshine in gloomy November, along the Seine

This is a piece of flan with a twist - black sesame flavour! from Boulangerie Mille & Un which just won an award for its traditional flan. The pastry was excellent and the filling was impossibly smooth and rich in sesame flavour. They deserve the prize for flan, I think!

A random view of the river and a pretty bridge in Lyon 

Who doesn't love a carousel after dark? with S' friends in Lyon 

A matcha at home, from some fancy matcha that came from Japan to Australia to Italy to France. There are 5 sachets in the box and I'm planning to save them for homesick emergencies!

Our local bistro, one evening 

Another rare sunny moment in Place des Vosges

On the way to French school 

A wonderful tree in the Albert Kahn museum, one of the most wonderful places I have been to in Paris

Another literary café outing, this time to Cafe de Flore

Like its neighbour Les Deux Magots, it was absolutely packed with tourists who were willing to cough up for the eyewatering prices. We did see a French man writing cards with a fountain pen though, he must have been going there for ages! 

How I love autumn.. here, leaves at a friend's house

Another wonderful treat from Cyril Lignac

The first Australian coffee I've had since moving to Paris, at O Coffee 

Finishing the month of writing at Mamie Gateaux just up the street from us, a cute tea room with a selection of "anglo" cakes like carrot cake and cheesecake. 

Thursday 2 November 2023

In My Kitchen: November 2023

Welcome to my kitchen this month fellow IMKers! October has been a progressively better month for me, I finally started to climb out of the dark hole that was August - it was a kind of grief in saying goodbye to my old life and starting life again in France. One of the hardest things has been people saying things like "oh it's so exciting that you get to live in France" or "Paris is the most beautiful city in the world". I just didn't know what to say to those people, who were well-intentioned but their comments struck at a time when I was so low and I felt all alone in feeling like I was having a hard time. Anyway, this is IMK and not In My Life so let's get on with the kitchen... 

Things I baked this month... 

I don't remember if I mentioned it previously, but my sourdough son Barney has been (sympathetically?)  depressed since the move to France. Whatever I tried, he was giving awful flat loaves that were making me even more depressed. I finally decided to try and fix him this month... Starting with twice daily feeding and rehoming in the fruit bowl to try and pick up some of the local yeast.. 

Improving... not quite there, but he did make some pretty good bagels 

A loaf definitely on the improve...

A cinnamon cranberry babka I made for music! My friend was visiting from Toronto and we headed off to S' friend's place to play piano quartets - the Brahms in C minor and the Faure. The texture of this babka was still not quite right, but I was just glad and so happy to be baking something to share with others! And of course to be playing music in a big group again. 

A cranberry sourdough loaf with the rest of the cranberries.. on the improve again!

And finally an excellent loaf! I was so glad when Barney came back to life. I haven't been this excited about baking bread for a few years. 

This was a challah symbolising unity that I made last week. 

Followed by sourdough pitas in solidarity with all the people in the zone who are unable to access bakeries due to the war. We ate them with some falafels and a homemade tahini sauce for lunch one day. 

Other things in my kitchen... 

We had a classic Mont Blanc from Angelina when my dad was here visiting, it's a chestnut creme on top of a heart of meringue and cream. Rich and decadent!

With my depression I haven't been cooking much but finally the craving for cabbage rolls got me looking through my Manga Monday cookbook again 

Here is a Pain Aux Raisins from one of my favourite boulangerie-patisseries in Paris

Some walnut flavoured cheese from our excellent local fromagerie

We chanced by this giant pumpkin in a random hall in a tiny village, the farmer said he wasn't sure how much it weighed but was definitely more than 20kg (here you see an apple for comparison!) He sold us what seemed a tiny sliver for 1 euro, which weighed 1.7kg when we got home! 

The curveball this month is from the sea from Villerville, one of the closest beaches to Paris. We woke up one Sunday morning and decided to go to the sea. I felt this kind of calling to be near the water. 
It was like a Mastercard ad: 
Last minute car rental - $An arm and $A leg 
Petrol - 60 euros (it was a giant luxury SUV, all that was left available for rent!) 
Tolls - 20 euros (crazy expensive tollway!) 
Standing by the sea, listening to the waves roll in - Priceless 

I'm sending this to Sherry who hosts the monthly IMK events, thanks for hosting Sherry!