Saturday, 29 December 2007

In a pigs ear...

(or what I ate for dinner tonight)

I am in Valencia, enjoying an all-too-brief holiday in the warmth of the Spanish sun. It isn't exactly steaming hot but 15 degrees (that's umm... about 60 degrees F) is a definite improvement on Geneva's -2! Valencia is truly beautiful with ancient buildings and long green parks. Having been to Madrid and Barcelona, I think Valencia beats them both hands down.

One of the many joys of being here is the food. Visiting the markets today was wonderful. It is a feast for all the senses: the scent of fresh fruit, vegies and fish in the air, the sounds of the bargaining the feel of a smooth skinned capsicum and the rough texture of a cabbage followed by the tastes of a breakfast of fresh pastry and a thick luscious hot chocolate... what a sublime experience! The market in Valencia is one of the largest covered markets in Europe, with 959 stalls below its vaulted stained-glass-edged ceiling. As you can see, it is a very pretty building:

Lunch was a veritable market feast of manchego cheese, paper thin serrano ham and tasty bites of cheese-stuffed fruits and vegetables... pimento, apricot, fig, plum as well as some teeny fresh cheeses. I forgot to take a pic till we were half way through, so I can only share a view of some of the meal:

In the afternoon I wandered around the fine arts museum while my friend (who is suffering from a strep throat) slept. When I got back to the hotel, we went for a wander to find ourselves dinner, and ended up in a local bar/restaurant. There we indulged in a large jug of sangria and tapas (as ya do):
  • Patatas Bravas - oh so fluffy on the inside, these potato wedges are generously sprinkled with cayenne pepper and served with a big dollop of garlicky aoli. Last time I ate them they actually had a pepper sauce, but these were equally good, in a different way.
  • Calamares a la Romana - fantastically tender in a thin crunchy shell of batter.
  • Verduras Rehogadas - we had no idea what this dish was when we ordered it, but guessed by the "Verduras" bit that there might be something green. It turned out to be a tasty mixture of broad beans, asparagus, mushrooms and artichokes.
  • Oreja de Cerdo. Again we ordered having no idea whatsoever we were going to get. Once it arrived we identified that it was pork. The texture was confusing... a crispy edge, a layer of wickedly melt-in-the-mouth fat and a hard cartilegenous middle. We debated about what bit of pork it was... artery perhaps? It couldn't be... Then it struck me. Pigs ears! Once back at the hotel a spanish translation program confirmed it. Folks, I can tell you that if you are in Valencia, be brave and try Oreja de Cerdo - it's divine. There is no way a photo can do justice to this dish.
Tomorrow we MUST eat Paella.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Christmas gifts for friends and family

One of the goodie bags ready to be tied up. So what is inside?

As you can see I still have some recipes to share with you....

Christmas dinner...

Fighting over the christmas cracker! (photo by Ed)

Christmas dinner was a feast I prepared for various friends, some brand new. The menu was:
  • Foie gras and red cabbage tartlets topped with fennel chutney
  • Tom Kha Gai (Thai chicken coconut soup, made by Drakey who is visiting at the moment)
  • Pan seared duck breast with fig and Ginja sauce (Ginja being a sort of port type drink from Portugal)
  • Roasted hasselback potatoes
  • Mashed potatoes with summer truffles
  • Roasted pumpkin, sweet potato, onions and garlic
  • Red cabbage cooked in red wine
  • B52's
  • Christmas Pudding Truffles
And each guest got a pretty bag of goodies to take home:

A bag of biscuits and other goodies
More details to come...

Friday, 21 December 2007

Grown-up chocolate crackles

This is a new twist on a classic recipe, an idea that has been bubbling away in my mind for a while. Being away from my home country inspires me to cook classic Australian dishes, to introduce others to the little things that make up the Aussie psyche. One of those foods for me is chocolate crackles. The idea that has been fermenting in my brain is how to adjust chocolate crackles to make a version for 'grown ups'. Tonight the idea came to fruitition with the invention of Baileys chocolate crackles!

Give these luscious sweets a try - you don't have to limit yourself to Baileys Irish Cream - creme de menthe for example would be a spectacular addition to this recipe, producing a sort of after-dinner-mint-crackle.

Grown up Chocolate Crackles (original recipe by Kiriel, with a nod to my childhood)

4 cups of rice bubbles
2/3 cup icing sugar
2/3 cup desiccated coconut
3 tblspns cocoa
125g copha / coconut oil
125g dark chocolate
3 tblspns Baileys Irish Cream

Melt chocolate and copha in a saucepan on a low heat, stirring occasionally to blend. While it is melting, mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Once the chocolate and copha have gone liquid, remove from the heat and stir in the Baileys Irish Cream. Once well mixed and slightly cooled, pour over the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Spoon into small patty cases and refrigerate to set.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Honey Snaps

I still have that lovely big jar of leatherwood honey, so I thought while I was in the baking mood I should make something using it, as gifts for local friends to share that very distinctive Australian taste. The friends of mine who tried my spiced pavlovas said that leatherwood honey was "Winnie the Pooh honey" and like the ultimate essence of honey in flavour. I can't agree more, and what better way to show it off than to make Honey snaps? Unfortunately my good Aussie cookbooks are back at home in Australia, but thanks to the joy of the internet I found a recipe which worked perfectly for me.

Honey Snaps (recipe found on the blog of Augustus Gloop)

50 g butter
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons leatherwood honey

1/2 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Preheat an oven to 180 degrees. In a small saucepan melt the butter, sugar and honey together stirring regularly until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, and add the dry ingredients.

Place teaspoon fulls of the soft dough on to a lined baking tray, allowing quite a lot of room for spread.

As you can see, the dough looks pretty ordinary when uncooked!
Bake for 10 minutes until they turn deliciously golden (they will spread and puff up - the puff will fall when they come out of the oven). Allow to cool on the tray until solid enough to lift, then transfer to a wire rack. Keep an eye out as they tend to turn quite quickly, and will continue to cook a little bit on the tray.

The final biscuits looking totally delicious, hot from the oven.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Duck with fig and port sauce

Duck with fig and port sauce (original recipe by Kiriel)

1 large duck breast
Olive oil
1/4 tsp thyme
Freshly ground pepper

1/2 tblspn good olive oil
1 cup home made stock
1 tblspn butter
1/2 cup Port
6 dried figs quartered
1 tablespoon fig syrup

Rub the duck breast with thyme and pepper.

Heat butter and oil in large fry pan over a medium heat. Season duck breasts with salt; add to pan skin side down and cook 4 minutes.

Turn and cook about 3 minutes longer - this will be medium-rare. Move the meat on to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Pour off the excess fat from the pan, leaving just a little behind. Add the stock, Port, figs and fig syrup. Increase heat and boil until liquid is reduced to a thick luscious sauce, scraping up any brown bits off the pan as you go.

Thinly slice the duck breast. Arrange and then spoon the sauce over before serving. Serves 2.

This photo of my cooking wsa taken by the lovely and talented Rosa.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Finnish Spice Biscuits

More biscuits for the Christmas season! This time a recipe that is supposedly from Finland - I am not convinced because the ingredients include golden syrup, which I suspect is not a particularly Finnish thing.
Finnish Spice Biscuits

1 cup caster sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons golden syrup
2 teaspoons ground cardamon
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
250 melted butter
3 and a half cups of plain flour

Beat sugar, egg, golden syrup, bicarb and spices. Slowly add the butter, beating until just combined. Sift the flour over it, and stir until the dough comes together. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Wrap in greaseproof paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes until firm.

Heat an oven to 180 degrees. Roll out dough between sheets of baking paper until 5mm thick. Cut out shapes. Bake 10-12 minutes. Allow the biscuits to cool on the tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Chocolate music

On Monday night my choir is singing in a concert, and as usual as well as delighting people with our music we also offer what is known as an 'apero', being a bit of a party, to which each of the choir members bring a dish. What could be better than musical treats.

Chocolate notes

250g butter
300g sugar
2 eggs
4 cups flour
3 tablepoons cocoa powder

Beat the butter sugar and egg in a bowl until light and fluffy. Stir in the flour and cocoa. Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth.

Roll out to 3mm. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Bake in a moderate oven for about 12 minutes until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks and store in an airtight container.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

The gastronomic joys of the Christmas markets

Yesterday I met with some friends and we caught the train up to Montreux to check out the christmas markets. We had a wonderful time of it, despite the weather which was distinctly inclement.

We didn't end up spending much money on baubles and gifts. However, we DID spend money on food...

Gigantic pans of choucroute and other delicious dishes

Chestnuts being baked in clay pots by the edge of the lake

Salmon sides cooking over a slow fire, Finnish style

Huge pots of soup

Check this joint out for a dinner with a difference!

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Random fruit loaf

One of my ways to deal with stress is to bake. I get these urges and I just can't resist the temptation to make biscuits, or bread or whatever I can create from the contents of my pantry. Well, I have been having a rather full-on week this week, so when I got home from work last night it was time to raid the shelves and invent!

I had a big box of mixed dried fruit and chocolate bits that I had put together for a road trip but which had not been finished, so that was to be ingredient number one. I still have too many eggs, so that's ingredient number two. The final dish... obviously, fruit loaf!

There are of course, different types of fruit loaf - you can make a form of bread with yeast, or a light cake batter, or a heavy dense loaf (eg date and walnut loaf). While there was definite appeal to the idea of taking out some of my frustrations on a yeast dough, I decided to go the faster lighter option. The result of my experiment was a light moist cake with continuous taste surprises as you encounter cranberries, apricots, sultanas (aka raisins), currants, slivers of coconut and morsels of chocolate.

Don't you love the jewel-colours in this freshly sliced cake?

Random fruit and nut loaf - original recipe by Kiriel
  • 175g butter
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla paste
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 and 1/2 cups dried fruit & nuts* (You can use any proportion of dried fruits or nuts that you like)

Preheat your oven to 175 degrees C.

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until smooth. Stir in the milk and vanilla.

In large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in all the fruit and nuts. Make a large well in the flour, and pour in the liquid. Fold together gently (rather like muffins, this mix is not to be perfectly combines) and pour into a greased medium sized inch loaf tin (8 cups in volume).

Bake for an hour and a half (check with a skewer at an hour 15). Allow to stand in the tin until the tin is cool enough to be handled, then tip out of the pan. Allow to cool and wrap in a tea-towel to keep fresh. Because the amount of fruit in the recipe, I advise leaving the pieces in place as you slice, so that the previous slice of cake supports the next.

Fresh out of the oven - I wish I could do scratch and sniff photos, as this smells fantastic!

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Pickled eggs with a slight asian twist

I have a bit of a plethora of eggs at the moment and, having already thrust half a dozen on a friend, I still needed to use up some.

So, I went for something obvious.. pickled eggs. A search on the internet produced some interesting recipes, including some including beetroot which looked rather fun. But I didn't have any beetroot, or bay leaves, or pickling spices. But am I the sort of person that would let a little thing like that put me off? Never! So here is the recipe I invented, and I must say that the pickling liquid tastes great... I will let you know how the eggs taste in a day or two.

Pickled eggs with an Asian Twist

6 eggs, boiled and peeled
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup white sugar
2 lime leaves
1 small piece of dried galingale
2 teaspoons dried lemon grass
a pinch of dried birds eye chillis

After boiling and peeling eggs, place in a wide mouthed jar (I had to use a plastic container having no glass jars around!). Put all the other ingredients into a small pot and bring up to a slow boil.

Boil for 5 minutes, then pour over the eggs. Pop the lid on and keep in the refrigerator for at least two days before eating.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Parmesan Lollipops

Parmesan Lollipops

1 cup of good quality parmesan, grated
1 dessertspoon of plain flour.
20 wooden skewers

Preheat an oven to 220c. Line a baking tray with silicone paper.

Toss the grated cheese and flour together in a bowl. Place five or six skewers on the tray, spread out to allow room for the cheese to spread. Put a dessert spoon of grated cheese on alternating ends of the skewers. Bake for about 4 minutes until light golden. Remove and allow to cool. Serve like lollipops standing in a jar.

Spiced pavlovas with leatherwood honey clementines

My original idea was to do pavlovas with figs on top because I had seen lots of figs in the shops and markets, but when it came to time to cook I went to shop after shop and found not a fig!

But clementines were everywhere, so pavlovas with clementines it became and oooh they were goooooood.

Spiced pavlovas with leatherwood honey and clementines (original recipe by Kiriel)

6 clementines
1tbsp leatherwood honey
2 tbsp sugar

400mls of cream

4 eggwhites
250 g fine sugar
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tsp cornflour
1 tsp cinnamon

Beat eggwhites until it is at soft peak. Little by little, add the sugar, beating well, until mixture is firm and shiny. Gently fold in the rest of the ingredients. Spoon onto silicone paper covered trays in rounds and then pipe a wall of meringue to make sort of nests. Bake for 50 minutes at 120 degrees C and then turn off the oven and allow to cool for 1 hour with the door slightly ajar.

Meringues just about to go in the oven.

To top the pavlova: peel 4 clementines and clean up the pieces so there is no pith. In a small saucepan, heat up 1 tablespoon of leatherwood honey, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 cup of mandarin juice (squeezing the 2 clementines left) and simmer until thick and syrupy. Put in the pieces of clemetine and simmer for 20 minutes until the fruit has absorbed plenty of the flavour of the sauce and softened.

Whip 400mls of cream with a little vanilla until it has soft peaks.

Give each guest their own pavlova, topped with the whipped cream, mandarin pieces and drizzled with syrup. Scatter with crushed honey-roasted macadamias and serve.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Lobster scented potato veloute

I was sent from Australia some lobster flavoured oil, which got my mind buzzing with ideas.
What to do with it? The scent was slightly smokey and flavour delicate. What could I cook that would complement and not overwhelm it?

Potato soup seemed to be the perfect solution.

A tiny tureen of veloute (100ml)

Lobster Scented Potato Veloute

1 medium sized leek
5 large potatoes
1 tablespooon of butter
3 cups mild flavoured vegetable stock
3 teaspoons of lobster flavoured oil

Clean and finely slice the leek, and gently cook in butter with the lobster oil until softened. In the meantime, peel and cube the potatoes. Once the leeks are softened, add the potatoes and the vegetable stock.

Cook at a slow boil until the potatoes are disintegrating (adding water if required). Using a stick blender, blend until velvety smooth. I served this soup hot with a little extra of the lobster oil on top (using an eye dropper), but in fact I think that it would be better served at room temperature.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

ANZAC biscuits - step by step

Let me quickly start by saying to my American readers that ANZAC biscuits are NO relation to the scones that you call biscuits. They are, to you, cookies. I have always wondered what strange twist took place in the universe to have scones renamed biscuits and biscuits renamed cookies in the US. Anyone out there have a clue?

Anyway, I have gotten diverted from my goal, which was to introduce you all to an Australian (and New Zealand) speciality, the ANZAC biscuit. This crisp edged, chewy centred delight has to be experienced to be believed. Unbelievably addictive, I recommend making a double batch of these so that you can give 1 batch away but still have a batch to munch on.

The history of the ANZAC biscuit is sadly not a peaceful one. Named after the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp, these biscuits were made by the wives of soldiers, who sent them to their men. The lack of eggs and milk in the recipe means that these biscuits stay fresh for ages and could be sent through the mail to the men in the trenches.

Whatever the history, I am glad that these exist. Today I will share with you the step by step recipe of how to make them.

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats (regular oatmeal) uncooked
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup (or honey)
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tbsp boiling water

Combine flour, oats, coconut and brown sugar in a bowl.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and golden syrup

Boil some water, and put two tablespoons of water in a cup. Gently stir in the bicarb soda. Once the bicarb is dissolved, pour into the saucepan of melted butter and golden syrup and give it a gentle stir to combine. The mixture will foam up into a froth.

Pour into the dry ingredients:

and stir until well combined:
Put tablespoons of the mixture on to a baking tray (I use silicone paper underneath). Make sure you leave room for the mix to spread. You can roll balls of mix and press down with a spoon for more perfect looking biscuits.

Bake in a moderate oven (180degrees C/350 F) for 15 minutes, until the biscuits start going golden around the edges (if you like your biscuits completely crisp allow to brown lightly all over). Remember that the biscuits will continue to cook after they come out of the oven! Allow to cool for a while on the tray until the biscuits set enough to move, then move to a wire rack to cool.


Sunday, 4 November 2007

Pretty food.

These beautiful marzipan fruits were on sale in the markets in Nice. Pretty and tempting aren't they?

Monday, 29 October 2007

Michelin star salad?

I visited the tiny village of Eze, perched on a little hill on the French Riviera.

Having climbed up the narrow streets, I discovered (no doubt like many visitors before me) that the only places to get a really lovely view of the sea and countryside were either the "exotic garden" (5 euros to see a lot of cactii? i don't think so!) or if you eat in the Chateau Eza Hotel restaurant. I took a quick glance at the menu outside and winced at the price, but then when I saw that the restaurant has a michelin star, decided that as a birthday present to myself, I would buy myself lunch.

At first the slightly supercilious waiter placed me a low cushiony seat, where the sun poured straight into my eyes and then gave me only the drinks menu. I explained that I wanted to eat, and got the menu, and later moved myself to an actual table. Sadly the menu I was given wasn't nearly as interesting looking as the menu shown outside; I guess it was after lunch and before dinner so the kitchens weren't fully open. Anyway I ordered the salad of serrano ham with melon, served with a minted creme fraiche at a mere 17 euros. For my international readership, that'd be $26.50 aud, 28.50chf, or 24.50usd. Not a cheap eat eh?

So I had high expections for this salad. Maybe that was the problem because, frankly, the reality was disappointing.

What was the problem with it? The ham was ok; not exactly a work of art in plating, but otherwise fine (not much you can do to make a pile of ham look sexy I guess).

The bread was dry, and was really only rendered properly edible by dipping it in the juice from the melon.

The sliced melon was bruised but ok.

With the glass of melon balls, it was clear that they had not been freshly cut - when you first cut melon balls, they are quite smooth, and it is only with sitting for a while that the surface texture kind of 'furs' up so they are no longer smooth. Neither were they all balls. Ok, so you can call me fussy, but we are talking michelin star here and we are talking a darned expensive melon ball, so I do actually expect that they will be at least mostly round! You can see at the bottom of the glass a sort of scraggy bit of melon at the bottom. It was at least a very nice sweet and tasty melon.

And finally... its surprising that this sad little blob of creme fraiche actually managed to make it onto the menu's description of this dish.
To be truthful I think that this would be the level of presentation I would expect from a pretty new apprentice chef, and the head chef of a high quality restaurant would have made whoever plated this do it over again. I guess it would be a perfectly acceptable dish from an average restaurant.

The service was not particularly good or bad... but the view was good.
Would I go there again? I guess I might give them a second chance if I were having a romantic weekend away, but frankly foodwise even a cheap restaurant in a village in Italy would outstrip this place and since Italy is only about 40 minutes away....

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Student life re-lived

So what does an impoverished Australian in the French Riviera live on, on a day to day basis? Surely it isn't possible to afford to buy lunch or dinner every day?

Indeed it isn't possible. While I have found a few asian 'restaurants' that have dishes for around 5 euro, I can't quite manage to stretch my finances that far on a daily basis. So my plat du jour is home made ham and pineapple pizzas!

So here is the breakdown

  • 2 packets of mini pita breads (that will make 12 meals): 2 euro 80
  • 1 tin of pineapple chunks 1 euro 10
  • 1 brie 98centimes
  • 1 small packet of grated cheese 1 euro 30
  • 1 packet lardons fume (bacon bits by any other name) 2 euro 30
  • 1 tiny tin of tomato paste 30 centimes

et voila, two weeks worth of simple hot lunches for 73 centimes a day.

In case you are a complete cooking newbie and really need to know how to make them, here are instructions for construction:

  • Open the tin of tomato paste, and put into a small dish with about twice as much warm water (eg. for 20g paste, add 40 ml water) to make a thinnish paste. If you have some dried herbs, perhaps oregano, soak them in the warm water before mixing the tomato paste in.
  • Spread on to pita bread
  • Open the tin of pineapple chunks, drain off the liquid (mix it into whatever fruit juice you have in the fridge to add a bit of sparkle to it) and scatter on over the pita (slice them in half if you are feeling poor, or use whole chunks if you are feeling a bit more lavish).
  • Thinly slice some brie and place on top
  • Scatter a little of the grated cheese to fill in any corners not covered by the brie. You can just use brie, or just use the grated cheese if you like, but I rather like the different flavours from the different cheeses
  • Scatter lardons on top
  • Cook in an oven prewarmed to 200 degrees for about 10 minutes, until the cheese goes a lovely golden colour.
  • Rest for 4 minutes to allow the cheese to set a little before slicing in half
  • EAT! Of course you can add whatever other ingredients you prefer; sliced mushrooms for example.

Before cooking

Hot and golden fresh from the oven

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Musee de les arts culinaire

While driving around on the weekend, I stumbled across a sign pointing to the Musee de les arts culinaire in a village called Villeneuve Loubet. Now that was something guaranteed to grab my attention and I just had to return the next day to take a look.

Unfortunately the museum was not all I had hoped - no items older than 200 years, but there were still some interesting odds and ends to be seen. Villeneuve Loubet was the home of Escoffier, and this museum was put together to honour his life and achievements in the culinary arts. Escoffier, by the way, was a superstar chef in the late 19th and early 20th century. Inventor of the Peach Melba, he pretty much transformed cookery in Europe - in fact he is credited with being responsible for food being served in courses, rather than all simultaneously - a pretty big change for the world of food. Escoffier published the book 'Le Guide Culinaire' which is still a bit of a bible for cooks.

Items of interest to me in the museum were a 19th C noodle-machine, some rather spekky skewers, and various of the menus from places like Maxims in Paris.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Eggcentric dish explained

For a while now I have had on the left hand side of my blog, a photo of a dish I made for one of our foodie dinners, but I have never posted up exactly what it is or how I made it. Finally I have done it.

The theme of the dinner was 'hidden secrets', and among other dishes, I decided (inspired by a dish a friend made for a dinner a long time ago) to produce these; yep, they look like half a dozen eggs, but what you cannot see until they were broken open is that they were filled with a white chocolate mousse and then had a yolk in the middle made of an orange marmalade & cognac mixture.

The white chocolate mousse was made like this:
Measure 1 tblspn crème de cassis liqueur into heavy small saucepan; sprinkle unflavoured gelatin over & let stand 5 minutes to soften. Add 3/4 cup cream & stir over low heat till gelatin dissolves. Add white chocolate & stir until melted & smooth. Transfer to medium bowl. Refrigerate until cool but not set, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Whip 1/2 cup whipping cream in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Add remaining 2 tblpns crème de cassis & whip until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream into white chocolate mixture.

Simple food, simply pleasure.. lunch

I may not have had enough money for a crepey-thing, but I did have enough money at the markets to buy myself the ingredients for a simple lunch. Bread, some crisp baby tomatoes, a rather elegant pear and a teeny sliver of cheese. Mind you, by the time I got to the cheese part, I was penniless enough that when the cheeseman asked me how big a 'tranche' I wanted, I had to say "une euro deux centimes" as my reply. I had 'wasted' a few euro buying some mushrooms... more about those in another post.

The bread was just a small loaf; to illustrate its small size, I photographed it with one of the baby tomatoes. The perfect size for a single gal really. Actually the perfect size for about 4 meals for me at my current wheat eating levels.

The loaf was impressively heavy and the crust extremely solid; it took a good amount of sawing to get a slice off it. But topped with a sliced baby tomato and slice of cheese, it made for a solid, perfectly simple, perfectly pleasurable lunch.

Antibes and a cool cooking toy

I am off in the south of France, in Antibes, studying French. The photo above is of the "fort carre" in Antibes, and it was my destination after my visit to the markets on Sunday. The markets were not much different from the average French market (except perhaps for inflated prices compared to the inland ones), but there was an interesting stall there:
This oven on a trailer was making a sort of chickpea crepe. Sadly my finances didn't stretch to buying one. Maybe later on in the week (awaiting the repayment of some medical bills)

But I just loved the oven and rather want one for my super sized camping trips.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

A visit to a medieval kitchen

On the weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Hampton court and getting to meet and chat to the authors of the foodblog "Cooking the Books". The kitchen was in full swing as the people chopped, sliced, diced and baked their lunch; happily taking the time to chat to everyone about what they were doing.

My friend Steve and I chatted with one of the cooks (Robert) and discussed our respective favourite renaissance cooking resources. I didn't get a chance to talk about the crustade with Richard (a recipe that he was working on and that I had some different perspectives on).

I am so jealous that these guys get paid to do what they do... spend their days experimenting and researching renaissance recipes. What colour is green?
We also talked cooking pots and cauldrons, and Robert proved to be very knowledgeable indeed about them. Steve has a serious case of lust after these ones:

So if you see anything like them for sale in a second hand shop, snaffle me one eh?