lundi 28 septembre 2009

the cure for a broken heart: : vertige from Les Enfants Gaté

Oh it used to be so easy when we at were college. your best friend called to your digs in tears to tell you that she had just broken up with the love of her life who she had spotted for the first time a week before in the Boole library. The answer was simple : a whole packet or two of chocolate hobnobs dipped a mug or two of milky coffee later and what's his name had already been forgotten....

now we are older, wiser and we'd like to think a little bit more sophisticated and its all a lot more complicated or is it? now you get to experience your friend's break up almost in real-time simultaneously via facebook, twitter, email, and sms but this still doesn't give you enough time to get to WH Smiths on rue Rivoli to stock up on the hobnobs.

luckily we are in Paris and thankfully I work in the 17th close to "les enfants gatees" a delightful patisserie where there are so many sweet creations to chose from, that I promise all your woes will be left at the door as you empty your mind of all thoughts except cake!

the perfect cake to cure a broken heart: it was a hard choice to make but in the end I went for a "tarte au chocolat" and a "vertige" not as easy to dunk in milky coffee but the "vertige" fit the bill as the grown up sophisticate's answer to hob nobs. Mouthfuls of chocolate, dark luxurious chocolate (they use Valronha), chocolate mousse and was it creme carame beurre salé all perched on a chocolatey biscuity base...heaven

and while it may take girlfriend sometime to get over her ex, the "vertige" definitely helped and left a smile on her face. but that should be no surprise everyone knows that chocolate is the next best thing to......

dimanche 27 septembre 2009

a meal to phone home about - fairy cakes and boudin normande

This morning, Sunday morning, I woke up feeling home sick. Why does this still happen 16 years after leaving Ireland? I think it's partly down to missing Sunday family lunch. When I am feeling like this, there is only one cure: food, but not any food, food that reminds me of home, of my childhood, of magic moments with brothers and sisters, although at the time I am not sure there was anything magical about pulling each other's hair out!

I decided that I would make some fairy cakes, or cup cakes as they are more fashionably known these days. I tried the recipe in Rachel Allen's book, and took some shortcuts - did she really believe anyone was actually going to beat the eggs for a full ten minutes? Maybe I should have done though because the mixture never did quite thicken up. The result? I have no idea, I was just content to lick the bowl clean afterwards and everyone knows that there is nothing quite as good as cleaning a bowl with a mixture of butter, sugar and eggs. The fairy cakes? They headed out the door in a backpack after lunch for post hike snack, leaving me to clean the kitchen.

My favourite dinner when I was a kid and still is, bacon,cabbage and floury potatoes with lots of butter and white sauce. Richard Corrigan is also a bacon fan and a fan of pig in general. I had been browsing through his book before dozing off during the week and had pig on the brain. French people have this misconception that the Irish eat a cooked breakfast every morning, I have a hard time convincing them it is just a weekend thing, do the skinny women on the metro eat croissants every morning with their cigarettes and coffee, I think not. What is true though is that there is nothing better than a bit of black pudding on a Sunday.

In Ireland my choice of black pudding was limited to Shaws or Clonakilty, in France there are as many types of black pudding as butchers. I headed off to Gilles Verot in the 15th as the owner of the wine shop told me that this was one of the best places in Paris to get 'boudin'. I decided to cook it normande style, that is served with apples cooked in butter.

For two people I cut up four medium sweet eating apples and put them in a pan with some butter and left to cook on a low heat while stiring occasionally.

While the apples were cooking I peeled some potatoes cubed and boiled them. I like my potatoes the Irish way, just lightly mashed with a bit of butter and maybe a drop of milk and some salt. The French half of the couple, likes his, of course, the French way. Puree maison, consists of as much butter and cream as pototoes and means you have to go through the effort of putting it through a "moulin", apparently real French chefs put it through the moulin twice, but I am neither French nor a chef, it went through once!

To cook the pudding I melted some butter in a pan and fried the pudding on each side for a few minutes before adding the apples. I fried the lot for about 5 minutes.

To serve I pilled some mashed potatoes or puree maison on the middle of a large plate sat a piece of pudding on top and spooned over the apple.

It was the first time I had experienced a complete wall of silence from the other side of the table, he was savouring every mouthful. While I was being nostalgic about "home" with every mouthful of mash and pudding he was reminiscing about his own childhood in Limoges. This was good. This was comfort food at its best.

After dinner I phoned home to tell my mam that the next time she cooks black pudding she should think about frying some apples, she told me what she was making for lunch. I didn't feel homesick anymore.

jeudi 24 septembre 2009

Jadis: a gem of a restaurant in the 15th arondissment of Paris

There are some very good restaurants in the 15th two of my favorites are Le Troquet & Le Casier a Vin (especially for the iberique ham and cheeses) but I am always on the look out for something new, preferably one that I can easily crawl home from.

I had read several excellent reviews of a French restaurant near Bocicaut that I made a mental note to try but when the next occasion came up for eating out, I couldn't remember the name. I had sworn that it was "Jade" but a google search came up with no french restaurant of that name in Paris never mind the 15th.

Fast forward several months and I am apartment hunting in the 15th, and on a second visit to
one apartment, I insisted on quickly checking out the local commerce & eateries and low and behold I come across not Jade, but Jadis on rue Theodore Deck. I wasted no time in getting the number into my phone.

Fortunately I did not have to wait long for an excuse to try it out, I booked a table for 3 the following Tueday, for a girly night out with a friend from the UK.

It was an excellent meal, the company and wine obviously helped but the food was damn good with the all important rapport qualite-prix that in these economic times no one can blame the french for obsessing about. The dinner menu was at €28 for 2 courses or €32 for three.

Normally I am a two course girl (starter/main) but have to say when I saw the riz au lait on the dessert my mind was made up - I was going the whole way. Unfortunately seeing the dessert menu before ordering the starter and main may have swayed my choice of main course, the starter of chilled courgette soup with ricotta and herb quenelle - required no apologies but my healthy choice of main (blanc de seiche grilled to perfection and served with provencal vegetables) would not normally have been my first choice.

The worst moment of the evening for me was when I saw one of my dining companions being served up my first choice of main, if I wasn't worried about gaining weight and planning on ordering the riz au lait for dessert, which was rabbit with a corn cream sauce served with polenta on the side. Honestly a bunny never looked or tasted this good! It took all my will power to stop staring & salivating at Nicole's plate and let me tell you there was not a crumb left on it.

The riz au lait was almost worth forgoing the rabbit for (the riz au lait at L'Ami Jean slightly had the upperhand) and was served with a red berry fruit coulis. The fruit coulis made the dessert almost feel saintly and I felt terribly cheated out of the main course, at least until the bill arrived. At just over €40 each for 3 including the wine it is impossible to leave Jadis feeling any other way than filled with utter contentment.

Those of you looking for good restaurants on your doorstep should consider upping and moving sticks to Boucicaut!

mercredi 16 septembre 2009

chocolate brownies: going once, going twice, gone....and so is all of the ice cream!

while I am writing this I cannot even guarantee that there will be an accompanying photograph of these chocolate brownies, honestly they never seem to even get a chance to cool before they are all gone - because this is possibly the most deliciously chocolately brownie recipe ever!!!

okay, the brownie purists out there among you may not agree with me, it is true that this version is high on chocolate and low on sugar so the top doesn't have that crunchy effect that adding more sugar would achieve, but for the chocolate fans among you this is the business!!


300g of good quality dark chocolate
200g brown sugar
250g butter plus a little bit more to grease the tin
3 medium free range eggs plus an extra yolk
70g good quality cocoa powder
60g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
small roasting tin/brownie tin lined with greaseproof paper
pre heat oven to 180°C

1. break the chocolate into smaller pieces and melt 225g it in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water, reserve the rest of the chocolate
2. while the chocolate is melting cream together the butter & sugar
3 lightly beat eggs plus extra yolk in small bowl
4. add eggs slowly to the butter and sugar mixture(while mixing)
5. sieve together the cocoa powder, baking powder and flour
6. the fold into the mixture
7. pour mixture into prepared tin and put in oven
8. brownies are ready after approx 30 mins - test with a scewer in the centre, brownies are ready when comes out clean
9. leave to cool in tin (if you can keep greedy hands off long enough!)
10. serve with a good vanilla ice cream

If you are lucky enough to have some leftover they last well for a few days in an air tight box and are great heated up for a midweek treat!