Eye Prefer Paris Postcards

Last week photographer Richard Nahem launched his Eye Prefer Paris Postcards Service.  After spending 10 years in the City of Light, savvy ex-New Yorker Richard jumped at the opportunity to produce this delivery service in response to the growing number of requests he received for his iconic Paris photography via his blog, Eye Prefer Paris.

Eiffel Tower Paris

Photo courtesy of Richard Nahem, Eye Prefer Paris

Each month, subscribers to the Eye Prefer Paris Postcard service will receive three unique postcards selected based on a specific Paris theme ranging from architectural street scenes to romantic outdoor cafes to beautiful gardens. Mailings will include two postcards in color and one in black & white or sepia, all carefully packaged in a special French Blue postcard holder.

Paris rooftops

Photo courtesy of Richard Nahem, Eye Prefer Paris

“Although postcards can be seen as old fashioned, they are a fantastic medium for capturing and sharing memories. We wanted to create a product that made iconic Paris photos accessible, sharable, and collectible.”

Eye Prefer Paris postcards

Photo courtesy of Richard Nahem, Eye Prefer Paris

Six month or annual subscriptions are now available for ordering Eye Prefer Paris Postcards at the Eye Prefer Paris Etsy shop.

Special Offer! Order a 12-month subscription before October 11 and receive an extra month free.

For more information, check out Richard’s blog at Eye Prefer Paris.

Sweetcorn and Red Pepper Soup

The freshest corn on the cob has been rare this year outside Paris. Call me a food snob but there was no way I was going for prepackaged corn, wilting under cellophane in the supermarket. So when I saw a magnificent pile of fresh corn at our local farmers’ market last week, I pounced on them like there was no tomorrow. Autumn may officially be upon us but I’m still hanging on by a corn thread to the last best fruits and vegetables of French summer.

Sweetcorn and red pepper cream soup recipe

I first tasted the most creamy sweetcorn soup on our last visit to South Africa in the French colonial wine town of Franschhoek, near Cape Town. Antoine and I had splashed out to celebrate our wedding anniversary at Grande Provence, where the chef had bowled us over with his soup (quick pause here for a pun groan). It was simply but elegantly poured at the table from a white porcelain milk jug into an oversized rimmed porcelain bowl, serving as a moat around a heap of turnip purée and crowned with a gigantic tempura prawn, along with a few other fancy green garnishes.

I was in awe. Antoine knows that these kind of special eating-out moments are always a good investment, as I’ll probably try to copy the experience at home.  Well, in this case, without the fancy frills part. Over the last couple of years, this creamy, velvety velouté soup has turned into a much simpler but delicious starter for dinner guests.  To cut the sweetness, I added red pepper and a hint of smoked paprika. Smaller helpings of this is better, as it is pretty rich. If you can’t find fresh corn on the cob (which really is best), then use frozen kernels and 3/4 litre vegetable stock.

Sweetcorn and red pepper creamy veloute French soup recipe

Sweetcorn and Red Pepper Soup Recipe

Serves 6

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes

3 fresh corns on the cob
20g butter
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 sprigs flat parsley leaves
100g single cream

method how to make sweetcorn and red pepper soup

1. Rip off the outer leaves and threads and snap off the bases with a twist of the wrist. Cut the kernels from the cobs and throw them into a large heavy-based pan, including the bare cobs (this will help make your natural stock).  Pour over just enough water to cover the lot (about 1.25 litres) and bring to the boil then boil for another 5 minutes.

2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and soften the onion and pepper gently over low to medium heat for about 10 minutes until translucent then add the smoked paprika.  Meanwhile, using a strainer, remove and discard the cobs. Strain off the corn and add to the onion and peppers. Continue to gently soften for another 5 minutes and continue to reduce the corn stock during this time.

3. Add the sweetcorn stock and cream to the vegetables and simmer for another 5 minutes.  Add the parsley and season to taste then liquidise either in a blender or using a stick blender.  If the soup is too thick, I add a dash of semi-skimmed milk.

sweetcorn and red pepper veloute cream soup

Serve with fresh bread and salted butter or why not a savoury macaron if you prefer gluten-free?
(Savoury macaron recipes are in my first book, Mad About Macarons!*).
Totally toe-curling with a glass of chilled Chenin Blanc wine.


(*N.B. None of my Amazon links are affiliate links).

Lavender & Lovage New Cookery School, SW France

I lose my head at this time of year. This particular new school rentrée has taken nearly three weeks to cajole the family into a constructive routine, plus the blog went on sudden strike unless I carried out some pretty major urgent computer cleaning. Luckily my much needed verve to do all this was given just the right jump-start, thanks to a whirlwind culinary escapade.

I don’t normally ditch the family and jump on a train to Bordeaux at the weekend – but with a 3.5 hour train ride from Paris, it has given me food (and a wine-taster) for thought to return soon! I met Bordeaux with a stiflingly humid 40°C canicule heatwave that even a taste of the traditional canelé cakes couldn’t cure (more on that another time). The best refresher was meeting up with the effervescent Christina Conte, aka Christina’s Cucina, who had just jumped off a plane from Geneva during an epic culinary tour of Europe.

Letting off steam with Christina's Cucina in Bordeaux miroir d'eau

Letting off steam at the Miroir d’eau with Christina Conte in Bordeaux

Although we’ve known each other since fairly recently online, meeting in person can’t be replaced.  Within minutes our Scottish connections had us in stitches and I had the impression that we were buddies from way back. Why Bordeaux, you may ask? Our ultimate destination was at Karen Burns-Booth’s home, where we generously invited for a taste of her new cookery school in the SW French region of Poitou-Charente. It’s also the impressive engine room behind Lavender and Lovage.

LAVENDER AND LOVAGE COOKERY SCHOOL

With just an hour’s train ride from Bordeaux to Pons or Saintes (trains are regular on line 17), you’re already in the heart of the Charente-Maritime district. It’s hazardous travelling while blethering so much, as we just about missed our stop with the most cheery welcome by Karen and her husband Malcolm on Pons sleepy station platform.

Before we knew it, we hit the local Super U hypermarket in Gemozac where baguettes were used for fencing in the aisles and excuses were found for a bubbly St Germain apéritif later. We put it down to Brits Behaving Badly.

Choosing wine in France

Karen showed us the local specialities, such as the Broyé du Poitou, a round biscuit-like-cake which is not cut to eat but traditionally smashed into pieces with the fist (broyé means smashed). Prices were also smashing; much cheaper than we have around Paris – so excuse enough to stock up on the likes of chestnut flour, ideal for Autumn recipes such as breakfast banana and chestnut cake.

Next was a visit to Karen’s favourite producer of Pineau and Cognac at the Domaine de Château Guynot. With the vineyard situated in one of the four vintage Cognac areas, we were taken through a tasting of both the Pineau whites (a mix of Ugni Blanc and Colombard grapes) and rosés (Merlot and Cabernet with added Cognac), from Ambience, a young Pineau mainly served as an apéritif, to a more ample Tradition.

Chateau Guynot Pineau Charentes

Karen conjured all sorts of food pairings with the white (foie gras, morbier cheese) and rosé (red fruit crumble and chocolate desserts). After the final Grande Tradition with an older Pineau and ideas of roquefort cheese, fried foie gras and red fruit desserts. She had our thoughts well on to the cooking!

Malcolm drove us on to their Chambre d’hôte (French for B&B), Auberge de la Fontaine, in the pretty village of Montpellier-de-Medillan. Karen will explain the house’s quirky history, where the house was originally split into two: one for the Monsieur and Madame, and the other for Monsieur and Mistress. Oh-là-là!

herb garden at Lavender and Lovage

Just look at that sage!

 

This is just part of the Lavender and Lovage herb garden, where Karen picks just what’s needed to finish off many of her tantalising dishes.

The Chambre d’hôte can sleep up to 10 and each themed room (ours was the Versailles room) is homely, decorated with French antiques. As we settled in, Karen instantly made us feel right at home as she poured a mean mug of good old English Yorkshire tea. Complete with tea-cosy, this was one of the British home comfort reminders that Karen and Malcolm also split their time between this haven and home in North Yorkshire.

best cup of tea in SW France

Then it was aprons on and straight on to the cooking programme!

Karen takes a maximum of 6 people for her cookery courses, so the ambience is relaxed and comfortable in her open-plan kitchen, complete with a cookery book corner and 2 large range ovens.

Fresh eggs

Could we get high with these fresh eggs from the hens in the garden?

Typical courses at Lavender and Lovage include:

– CHEAT’S DINNER PARTY

This course features Karen’s deliciously easy recipes that involves no cooking whatsoever. While Christina was busy putting together the Braesola, rocket and parmesan rolls …

Braesola parmesan rocket rolls

I had the intriguing job of crushing up some mixed peppercorns, zesting some orange, cutting up some stem ginger and garlic, picking Greek basil from the garden then topping it on sliced fresh goat’s cheese and dribbling over olive oil.

How to make an easy no bake goat cheese recipe

The full recipe is on Karen’s website: Marinated English Goat’s Cheese with Garlic, Stem Ginger and Herbs and I can say this is a winner!  Although we served this as a starter, I prepared this as a cheese course last weekend for French friends. Served individually on slated dishes, it went down a treat since the flavours are such a surprising mix and ideal if you want to keep the dinner light – or have a particularly large dessert to follow!

Marinated goats cheese with ginger and garlic recipe

– CUISINE DE BONNE FEMME, FRENCH COUNTRY COOKING. This course includes dishes ideal for families and relaxed dinners around the table with friends. One of the dishes was this succulent pork fillet with apples.

Pork French easy family dishes

Even the veg are given the Lavender and Lovage herb treatment.  This is the first time I’ve experienced lovage. It’s rather pungent, much like celery, but imparts a most deliciously unusual fragrance for that extra flavour. Karen provides all sorts of great tips.

Cooking runner beans with lovage herbs

– THRIFTY WITHOUT BEING FRUGAL

I loved how this was put together in no time: a cherry tomato clafoutis was the perfect lunch.

cherry tomato clafoutis Lavender and lovage

During each course, Karen also takes you through her photography tips at the famous table, as we know so fondly on her instagram feed. Her expertise is so catching that the queue waiting time was starting to become long …

Photography lesson

– BREAD-MAKING

As part of the bread-making course, we loved testing out this typical provençal fougasse. This was far better than many of the fougasses I’ve tasted in Provence, when we visit the parent’s-in-law in Saignon.

How to make fougasse French bread

While the ambience here is both relaxed and fun, I personally came away with inspirational ideas and a zest to return to the kitchen.  It’s a real home from home address where you instantly become friends with the teacher. It’s also in an area where there is just so much to see I can sense a return trip should be on the cards.  Are you game?

Fougasse bread at Lavender and Lovage

A huge thank you to Karen for inviting us for a taster of her cookery school, for being such a perfect hostess and to Malcolm for being chauffeur extraordinaire and a real hoot! Oh, and Malcolm, I wish I’d learned French from you years ago, as I could have saved myself so much embarrassment with the French! And grazie mille to Christina for such a girlie flying foodie trip.  Come back soon! To read Christina’s account of the trip including all her photographs, pop over to Christina’s Cucina.

Karen is currently on a press trip in Canada but she’s taking bookings for her return back to France in October.  And yes, it’s so new that a page is still to be put on Karen’s website but in the meantime, to sign up for any of these courses, just contact her through the website below.

Lavender & Lovage Cookery School
Auberge de la Fontaine
Montpellier-de-Medillan
Charente-Maritime
France.

Discovering the Best Orangettes, Rue de Miromesnil Paris

“Do you like orangettes?” My friend, Francis was grinning, almost expecting me to react with a shrug and say, “Yes but I’m not their biggest fan, plus Antoine and the kids are not that hot on them either.”

Before I knew it, determined to convince me otherwise, Francis met me in Rue de Miromesnil (in Paris’s 8th Arrondissement) for a taste of Guy Perault’s speciality, Orangettes or candied orange peel covered in dark chocolate.  If you thought you’d tasted Orangettes before, then just try them again here.

Rue de Miromesnil Paris

Growing up in Scotland, chocolate candied orange peel was my Granny’s favourite, my Mum’s favourite and chocolate gingers were always top of Gran’s list at Christmas. As they generously shared them, I would pass since they were a waste on me.  Do you remember Terry’s Chocolate Orange? Well I preferred stretching my pocket money on these popular flavoured chocolate segments with orange oil, wrapped in crinkly orange and silver paper, resembling a real orange; I thought it looked more appealing (or “a-peeling”?) but it was perhaps the packaging that spoke more than the contents. I can’t imagine there was much real chocolate or cocoa solids going on in that orange – or in these other orangettes, either.

Just opening the door of Orangettes & Co. heady wafts of chocolate and orange hit this distant memory.  With chocolate machinery right at the entrance and dark chocolate oozing out of a continuous tempering machine, this signalled a more sophisticated product – far from the industrial kind I had been used to.

guy Perault orangettes Paris

Monsieur Perault welcomed us into his small manufacturing shop, where his orangettes are considered as fresh products, using no preservatives. He dedicates his time to the laborious job of making the candied citrus fruits himself, selecting the best organic oranges from Spain, Sicily, Corsica and South Africa at the market in Rungis.

Although you can’t tell the difference in the taste of their origin once they’re transformed into candied fruit, the only telling factor is texture as a result of the thickness of skin.

how to candy orange peel

He took us into his tiny kitchen where the candied fruit are centre stage in a giant pot.  The jackpot is to replace as much water in the peel with sugar in order to concentrate the flavour and conserve it.  It can take Guy up to 10 days to make this happen.  It’s a real art: he checks the right proportion of sugar to orange using a simple weighing method called le pesage – Rolling Stones style!

We tasted the orange at the point when it’s just ready to be coated with chocolate. Mon Dieu! The orange wasn’t overly sweet, just concentrated in flavour and so soft that it melted on the tongue.

candied orange peel

At this point he coats the peel with 73% good dark chocolate, which he gets from the Chocolaterie de l’Opéra (Avignon).  After trying different percentages of cocoa solids, he arrived at this one, which he feels compliments the orange beautifully.

Orangettes have a much thinner coating than you normally see for orangettes elsewhere.  He takes a bit of a risk with such a thin coating, as it’s more prone to pearls of sugar arising from the fruit. Guy Perault’s theory is that the chocolate should take second stage, as it should be the fruit that shines through. It’s true: elsewhere I’ve seen orangettes with a thick coating of chocolate: this makes it easier for the manufacturer to sell his product since it has a longer shelf life.

Best chocolate orangettes in Paris

Guy doesn’t just make candy oranges: he uses the same procedure for his lemon peel (citronnettes), grapefruit, mandarine, bergamot, cédrat (Corsican over-sized, thick-peeled citrus fruits), ginger and also produces chocolate coated figs.  For lovers of After Eight chocolates, you’re in for a treat with the real thing here.  His mint leaves are not with a fondant centre but are fresh mint leaves taken from the middle of the plant, covered in egg white and coated with chocolate.  So thin, so dainty, so chocolatey minty and healthy with it.

 

Guy Perault's office orangette drawers

We tasted a mandarinette here.  I’m not the biggest fans of mandarines since there are so many pips but the flavour was so prominent – and concentrated like this, I’d rather eat them this way from now on!

I’m sure Gran was watching me test the chocolate gingers from above. Crikey! This is how I like my ginger with a real kick!  For ginger amateurs, he uses organic ginger from either China or South America, such as Peru or Chile and I can second that they have more concentration of flavour!  As it’s pretty strong, only one or two are just enough to have the flavour lingering…

Chocolate drawers

I love the drawers in his chocolate office. Now this is my kind of filing!

You can’t help but be impressed with the filing system here.  What about this for a shoe or handbag drawer? Sorry Antoine, but this is my kind of football.

Chocolate-maker Guy Perault in Paris

I couldn’t resist getting as much as possible for the family to try. Antoine’s first reaction was, “Why did you buy so many? You know I’m not that keen on chocolate orange peel ….”
Then he tasted them. It just goes to show that you can’t say you don’t like something until you try!

Although Guy recommended that we eat them all within 3 weeks, we were still nibbling on them 2 months later.  Not a sugar pearl in sight and I can tell you, I now love orangettes – particularly the citronettes, chocolate gingers and the wafer thin mint leaves.

So, if you like Orangettes, you must taste them; if you love Orangettes, this is a must stop in Paris!  And if you fancy taking part in a 2-hour workshop on Saturdays (up to 8 people max.), who you gonna call?  Monsieur Perault!

Orangettes & Co
110 rue de Miromesnil

75008 Paris

Tel: 01 – 42 65 53 05

Metro: Villiers

Banana, Chestnut and Coffee Cake – or Muffins

That’s the first full-on week back at school conquered. Hearing the groans to early clockwork mornings is waning so I guess that means we’re gradually adjusting to routine.

I put it down to bananas.

Brought up calling bananas “brain food”, I stocked up on them last weekend for a quick, healthy energy boost to slice on our favourite breakfast maple granola. Except Julie refused the bananas. Lucie explained that Julie loves this banana cake so much for breakfast that she deliberately leaves them to ripen so there’s an urgent excuse to make this!

Reduced sugar banana coffee cake chestnut

I discovered this recipe from Nigella Lawson’s Nigellissima and loved her ingenious addition of coffee powder to banana bread, to give it an Italian touch.  I don’t normally have sweet cake for breakfast but in Corsica, my mother-in-law often makes a chestnut cake using chestnut flour.  As farine de chataigne is a pretty strong-flavoured flour, we normally mix it with plain flour.  And so this recipe has gradually adapted to our tastes, as we cut down the sugar by half to accommodate the rustic chestnut flavour and give it our Corsican touch.

banana coffee cake with chestnut flour gluten free reduced sugar recipe

Banana, Coffee and Chestnut Cake Recipe

Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Italian Breakfast Banana Bread, from Nigellissima. I have halved the sugar content (replaced caster sugar with soft brown), used chestnut flour and purée, plus reduced the oil to compensate for these ingredients. If you prefer to make this gluten-free, then omit the plain flour and use 170g chestnut flour. To make muffins, pour the mixture into a greased 1×12 muffin tin (or silicone brochette moulds, so no greasing necessary) and bake for 20 minutes at 200°C (gas mark 6).

3 medium bananas, very ripe
100g sweet chestnut & vanilla purée (optional)

130ml neutral-tasting vegetable oil, such as grape seed oil
pinch salt
2 medium eggs
80g soft brown sugar
100g chestnut flour
75g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 tsps instant espresso powder

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (gas mark 3). Lightly oil a 450g/1LB loaf tin or no need to oil if using a silicone loaf mould.

2. Mash the bananas with the vanilla chestnut purée (if using), add the salt and beat in the oil.  Beat in the eggs, one by one, followed by the soft brown sugar.

3. Sift the chestnut flour and gradually beat it into the mixture, adding the plain flour, bicarbonate of soda and coffee powder.

4. Pour the batter into the loaf tin, place on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes, or until slightly coming away at the sides and bunglingly risen. A cake tester should come out clean.

Leave the cake or muffins overnight as they’ll taste even better in the morning.

Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. They also freeze well for up to 3 months; just defrost the night before.

The Teatime in Paris Pastry Walking Tour!

It’s great to be back in Paris and settle into a good old routine! As I’m starting to get organised around a more serious school year’s schedule, this rentrée is different.

Thanks to my lovely colleagues at Context Travel, I’m thrilled to be leading a brand NEW macaron, pastry and chocolate walking tour to coincide with my new book.

Welcome to the Teatime in Paris Pastry Walk!

Macarons chocolates and teacakes in Paris for teatime

If you love Paris, pastries, chocolate, macarons and like to bake at home, then this walking tour is right up your street.

Just as I do in the book, I’ll be walking you around some of the finest pastry and chocolate boutiques, pointing out some of the lesser known spots along the way.

Madeleine area and rue saint honore in Paris

Don’t come after a large lunch: we’ll also be tasting many of the finest and award-winning éclairs, tarts, financiers, canelés, madeleines, macarons, chocolates and pralines, just to name a few.  With Autumn on us, it’s the perfect time to enjoy a taste of decadent hot chocolate too.  As we sample, we’ll talk about their Parisian history and how they’re made – so for budding bakers, your questions are welcome.

Patrick Roger Chocolate Madeleine

The tour will take place on Mondays and Tuesdays until end October – ideal for that long weekend trip – as these days are best for enjoying the boutiques at our own pace during 2.5 hours and avoiding the more hustle and bustle of the 8th arrondissement at peak times. And with no more than 6 people in the group, it’s a personal experience.

To finish off, included in this one-off exceptional tour is your own copy of my new cookbook and armchair sweet travel guide. For an idea what’s inside, see About Teatime in Paris.

Teatime in Paris: A Walk Through Easy French Patisserie Recipes

For those of you not in Paris, don’t worry; it doesn’t stop here. With Teatime in Paris you can make your own Parisian-style hot chocolate, teacakes, macarons and pastries for a special teatime at home.  Thanks to Waverley Books, there’s a special offer until the end of September on Amazon.co.uk.

It’s also competition time in the UK over at Party Pieces. So hurry – you still have until noon on Monday 14th September to enter the Teatime in Paris UK giveaway. You could be one of the 4 lucky winners… good luck!

Teatime in Paris pastry recipe book and guide to patisseries in Paris

Have you tried these Chocolate – Earl Grey Tarlets with Orange-Liqueur Crumble Puffs yet from the Tea Party chapter? I’ll be continuing to make recipes from the book on my FB page or instagram feed.

In the meantime, I hope to see you very soon on the Teatime in Paris Pastry Walk with Context Travel .

Jill x

P.S. I forgot to tell you the most important part: it’s also simply great fun!