Archive for the 'Paris' Category

The perfect creme brulee

For a very long time now I’ve been on a mission to make the perfect creme brulee. Keren and I shared a serving of this iconic treat at a Salon de Thea on one of our edible adventures. It was (as I told Tony later) like eating pleasure itself. I made an inward resolution to master the art of Creme Brulee. With such a short and humble list of ingredients (eggs, cream, sugar, vanilla), how hard could it be?

Research uncovered a minefield of issues; cream, double cream, milk, anywhere between 30 and 90 minutes in the oven, some calling for a water bath and others not. Still more omit the baking step completely, thickening the custard on the stove. Nigella says it best; “If it starts to split, plunge the saucepan in a sink of cold water and whisk like crazy”. Sans blowtorch, a minute or two under a hot grill is the proffered suggestion for burning the sugar, though some have you make a separate caramel and pour it on.

My creme brulee in Paris had a texture somewhere between yoghurt and Nutella; a thick, delectable smoothness. In pursuit of this I’ve made recipes by Julia Childs, Delia Smith, various food bloggers and Clotilde herself. All have been delicious but never produced the texture I coveted.

But this time I succeeded. I made the perfect creme brulee. I abandoned the recipes and followed my heart. I took the bold step of withholding the cream from the custard and adding it (whipped) at the end. Tony’s new Hot Devil blowtorch added the final touch. What resulted was a marriage of texture and taste that brought on a lengthy period of self-congratulation. Fortunately, Angie and Steve did not seem to mind.

Perfect Creme Brulee

5 egg yolks
80g sugar
200ml milk
1 vanilla pod, split and scraped
400ml cream (I used pure cream by Barambah Organics, the most incredible cream ever tasted)
Demerara sugar

Warm the milk in a saucepan with the vanilla seeds and pod. Remove from the heat before it boils and allow to cool a little. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick and pale, or as Julia says “until it forms the ribbon”. Remove the pod and slowly whisk in the warm milk. Pour the custard into a saucepan and place over a low heat, stirring constantly. Once thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, set aside to cool completely and then chill in the fridge. Beat the cream until it’s soft enough to dollop, but not stiff. When the custard is chilled, fold in the cream. The trick is to get a perfect ratio of custard to cream, largely a matter of personal taste though I have given you roughly 50/50. Spoon the mixture into your ramekins and chill until ready to serve. The blow torching should be done well in advance so the caramel has time to harden. However, it becomes a little crowd pleaser to do it with friends. We made Angie and Steve do theirs when they arrived, more fun that way.


A Summer Holiday

When one arrives for an internet-booked holiday, there’s an element of the unknown. What did they mean by “sleeps six”? Were the pictures reliable? At the most, one expects the host to provide a front door key and give instructions for the dishwasher. Christine and Christophe did immeasurably more than this. On our arrival, they ushered us into a storybook stone house,  purchased along with our neighbouring abode as dilapidated sheds, and slowly but surely restored to glory. Burgundy is stunningly beautiful; fields dotted with wild poppies spread around a patchwork of tiny villages made entirely of stone. It was as if modern life had simply been superimposed over a medieval backdrop. According to Christophe, the farmers in the village spend the winter co-habiting with their livestock in sheds adjoining the houses. Boggles the mind a little… Our gite looked much like my favourite shop, The Shed. Christine’s paintings adorned every wall and bunches of fresh flowers were arranged on each shelf. A pair of Liberty curtains hung in one of the bedrooms. I could tell we were destined to be friends.

Over the course of the week, our two hosts peppered us with gestures of welcome. Christophe conducted visits to local winemakers, drew maps, poured aperitifs and illuminated French life generally. Christine’s kindnesses seemed boundless. Some gestures were small (lending me her daughter’s French magazines, picking bunches of lavender and thyme to dry), most were much bigger (leaving a delectable meal on our return from Paris, leading an expedition to local markets, buying a Burgundy cook book as an “early birthday present”, conducting cooking lessons in her beautiful kitchen and serving the results as leisurely five course meals). Christine is without doubt my favourite thing about France.

Other highlights:

Tour of Chateau de Cormatin, which looked as if its seventeenth century owners might just be about somewhere…

Regaining my schoolgirl French (thankyou Miss Valenti) and a surprising amount of vocab from years of learning ballet (thankyou Miss Danielle)

Eating croissants with Christine’s own jam made with the produce of her cherry tree and blackcurrant bushes

Revisiting Paris, taking in the breathtaking Musee d’Orsay and buying knives from E. Dehillerin.

Going to bed with the sun at 10pm

The incredible produce market at Chalon, where cream was dispensed from watering cans and local farmers mingled freely with their consumers.

Taking leisurely bike rides and stumbling upon ruined castles

Finding no time left for knitting, sewing or reading

Discovering a love of terrines








On the trail of Edible Adventures

I have long been a fan of Chocolate and Zucchini. Its author Clotilde offers something wonderful to the blogging world: impeccable writing. There are countless food blogs, anyone can take nice pictures, but really lovely writing is hard to find in the blogosphere. Clotilde’s enviable French background and Parisian lifestyle give her (in my opinion) something endlessly fascinating to write about, and these she combines with her love of food. Many a dinner guest I have treated to Birthday Chicken. I’ve had great success with her Ratatouille, while Red onion and rhubarb mini tartlets made a splash at my sister’s 21st birthday party. Before leaving for Paris, Keren decided to splurge and buy herself a copy of Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris. After all, we wouldn’t want to overlook a not-to-be-missed Parisian food experience, would we? After a day or so of orientation, The Lonely Planet took a firm backseat to Clotilde’s gastronomic guidebook.  We became pilgrims, following her footsteps and not daring to open our mouths for any unsanctioned Parisian foods. Wherever we were, a course was plotted that would take us to a bakery, cafe, bistro or glace shop of Clotilde’s personal recommendation. The more dazzling her descriptions, the further we would trek. On the one hand, this stole considerable time from sightseeing and general tourist attractions. We could not have made a more noble sacrifice.

Bread and Roses
“Not your run-of-the-mill -loaves”, says Clotilde. “They show a real commitment to quality and taste, partuclarly the Puissance 10 bread (made with a blend of 10 flours). The sunny room also functions as a restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and tea.” (Us in the sunny room).

Martine Lambert
“Until you’ve tasted hers, you haven’t really experienced the smooth intensity of a chocolate sorbet, the aromatic richness of a vanilla ice-cream or the wild zing of a mango sorbet…”

Clotilde’s local haunt in Monmartre, where she makes an “alarming consumption of their Piccola baguette – free form, lightly dusted in flour and astoundingly flavourful”. Agreed.

L’As du Felafel
“Once done, the crisp, moist-hearted felafels snuggle up with their partners (crunchy cabbage, eggplant, sesame humus, and optional hot sauce) between the warm sheets of the pita pocket…”

Le Bar a Soupes:
“Six daily soups are prepared on the premisis every morning using fresh and seasonal produce. The receipe repertoire spans several continents around time proven classics and the owner’s spritely creations.” Like the Bloody Mary soup we tried. And yes, vodka was one of the ingredients.

Boulangerie Toro (now La Flute de Pain):
“I must draw your attention to the chausson aux pommes a l’arcienne, fresh apple turnover dotted with crystals of sugar” (delicious), “and as a bonus to your purchase you get to watch the the ballet of breadmakers at work through the large window at the back of the shop”. We did.

Le Trumilou
“Its affordable cuisine and its location, scratching the back of the Hotel de Ville and waving at Notre-Dame from across the river, make it a dining gem… Grandmotherly desserts follow to tuck you in”.

Thankyou Clotilde, we had a wonderful time.


Au Revoir

I’m leaving for Paris in a matter of minutes. But I thought I’d leave you with a picture of something I created in the early hours of this morning. It was based on this picture I found on a blog site:

I’m calling it “the Paris hat”.

Au Revoir!

About Me

A girl with a camera, a toddler and a sewing machine. Making sense of Germany... and life in general.

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