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Gluten Free Cheese Waffles

Have a healthy start to the day with these breakfast waffles inspired by Brazilian cheese puffs!

Monkfish French Brittany Stew – Lotte à l’armoricaine

A deliciously easy French classic: monkfish stew or Lotte à L’Armoricaine

Paris Tuileries Gardens: Summer Amusements and a New Terrace Café

This week sees the start of Paris’s popular annual amusement park situated on the left side of the Tuileries Gardens. The Fête Foraine des Tuileries is open free to the public between 25 June and 22 August (update: 24 June – 27 August 2017) with a choice of 80 paying attractions.

Paris Tuileries gardens

With excited, bustling holiday crowds and entertaining wafts of candy floss (Barbe à Papa), waffles (gaufres), toffee apples (pommes d’amour), doughnuts (beignets), and marshmallows (guimauves), there’s something for everyone – and for those of you like my daughters who love the high-sensation rides, you won’t be disappointed.  I find it hard enough to even watch them!

Paris Tuileries Gardens

As my teenagers are screaming to their heart’s pulsing content, you’ll find me strolling in the rest of the more civilised Tuileries Gardens. Did you know you can see Sacré Coeur from the raised part of the gardens on the Orangerie side? I can’t believe I missed this before.

Jardins de Tuileries Facts

The Tuileries Gardens were first landscaped under Queen Catherine de Medici (widow of Henri II), who began the building of the Tuileries Palace in 1561 on the right bank of the River Seine. The word Tuileries refers to the tile kilns that previously existed on the site.

Tuileries Gardens Paris

The Palace was the Parisian residence of the French monarchs from Henry IV to Napoleon III. Before then, it was the Louvre Palace, originally built as a fortress in the medieval period then turned into a royal palace under Charles V in the 14th Century until the Louvre became a public museum in 1793.

King Louis XIV transformed the Tuileries Palace residence in 1666, when he commissioned his favourite gardener, André Le Nôtre, to design a vast new park with elevated terraces around a central axis. It was opened to the public in 1667, while King Louis moved to his new Palace at Versailles.

Wooden sailing boats for the basins in the Tuileries Gardens

In 1871 the Tuileries Palace was set on fire and although destroyed in 1883, we continue to enjoy the splendour of the gardens today which is more or less as Le Nôtre designed it with its some 63 acres (25 hectares) and water basins.

Big wheel Concorde Paris from the Tuileries Gardens Paris

Summer is the perfect time of year to stroll under the regimented shady avenues of lime blossoms and fill up on their heady fragrance.

Tuileries-gardens-paris-summer

Heading towards the elevated northwest corner of the gardens towards Place de la Concorde, is the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume, a museum of contemporary art. There are currently 3 photographic exhibitions taking place, including the works of Josef Sudek.

Jeu de Paume Contemporary art gallery Paris Tuileries

There’s also a café inside but their new terrace was beckoning …

Jeu de Paume Museum Terrace

The museum’s new terrace café, La Boîte à Images, has been open since end April and is a quiet haven to sit in the shade in the gardens for lunch or for an afternoon goûter or mid-afternoon snack.

hidden quiet Cafe for lunch near Concorde Paris

This is where the locals are coming for a civilised summery picnic lunch, weekend brunch, after-work plate of charcuterie, or just a glass of wine. I was invited to choose from their selection of popular large salads (including quinoa), fresh baguette sandwiches, tuna Bagnat, or large Croque-Monsieur on oversized pain de campagne with a choice of crisps or side-salad. Iced fresh apple & mint juice was welcome, as was just a taste of the chilled Sauvignon Blanc (well, I wasn’t driving!).

Terrace Image box Museum cafe Paris Tuileries

As my daughter and I sat down, we were enjoying the animated game of pétanque going on next to us.  The café can lend you the boules to play and join in the fun too.

playing boules at the Jeu de Paume Museum Tuileries Gardens Paris

And I would thoroughly recommend a sweet stop here, with a dark chocolate or raspberry tartlet and Earl Grey tea (with Angelina teabags). I also saw the most tempting ice creams and sorbets too without the well-known queues in rue de Rivoli!

Tuileries gardens Paris Concorde Side

So, what kind of flâneur or stroller in Paris are you?  Would you find a chair or two and opt for an afternoon nap, tease the wool with a regal view over the octagonal basin to the Orangerie museum, or would you be on one of those crazy summer amusement rides?

 

Terrasse La Boite à Images
Open same hours as the Jeu de Paume Museum:

11am-7pm Wednesday-Sunday
11am-9pm Tuesday

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 red pepper soup - a French creamy velouté

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

sweetcorn red pepper soup - method

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 red pepper 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).

An Avignon Summer Festival Taste plus an Aubergine Tart

I love Avignon at any time of year. Come windy mistral weather to the cigales singing in the plane trees to announce the intensity of summer heat, the atmosphere is always lively.  But come July, when Avignon is in full festival swing (usually the second and third weeks in July), it takes on an even more upbeat ambience.

Avignon festival summer streets

It’s just buzzing. Even the shops go theatrical and arty.

Resident-poet-Avignon-summer-festival

I was too shy to stop and ask this poet what he thought about it all.  What would you have asked him?  I mean, how do you start a conversation with a public poet or Poete Public? I was never great at poetry at school.  Were the bikes behind him a quick escape route for people like me?

Avignon theatre festival France

This lovely lady must have felt rather hot in her fancy dress.  She was approaching as many possible theatre-goers as she could, showing off her bubbly character.  At the Avignon Festival, plays are constantly being performed and so be prepared to have leaflets thrust in your hand and explanations of the plays taking place. You could easily spend a week here just trying to fit them all in!

Avignon summer festival

As I was gazing up at the old buildings, my friend Sandrine just couldn’t resist these colourful head bands. Not are there theatre touts but the back-streets are full of temporary stalls of fashion accessories, musical instruments, books and silky or cotton Provençal looking tops and dresses.

Head band stall shops in Avignon festival

Just when you least expect it, a human advert for a show appears – here in the guise of a tandem and two rather well-dressed gentlemen hooting an old-fashioned horn.

Avignon summer festival theatre

Did I tell you that the posters for each show are plastered absolutely everywhere?

Avignon summer festival

Hamlet in 30 minutes? I wonder if Shakespeare would have approved of his play being fitted in to accommodate the others in a day.

Hamlet theatre in 30 minutes

Just around the corner, a judge and a couple of reporters were touting for another show, causing havoc in the middle of a restaurant as confused and amused lunch clients were treated to a quick show in rue des Tenturiers.

stage play trailer in restaurant Avignon

Perhaps this was the culprit disguised, running back to Paris? He was so fast when I took this shot that I didn’t manage to catch his training shoes at the bottom.  I thought it was hilarious – obviously the locals were getting used the scene: not an eyelash blinked.

Festival spirt in the streets of Avignon

Lunchtime? Time for us girls to head back to the ranch and see what the men were up to.  Barbecue lit ready for the Auvergne sausages? Check.  Rosé chilled? Check – even with ice cubes during a heatwave.

rose wine with ice cubes in Provence

During the apéritif, Valérie rustled up something quick and deliciously provençal in her kitchen with this light aubergine and tomato tart using filo pastry.

Aubergine tomato and filo pastry tart Provence

Aubergine Tart

Recipe adapted with more instruction by myself from the new “Happi Food” French Magazine (special edition of Happinez N°1).

Serves 6

3 small aubergines or one large
3 large sheets filo pastry
100g butter, melted
100g small Roma tomatoes, cut in 2
2 eggs
500g crème fraîche
150 feta cheese
150g Greek yoghurt
1/2 tsp rosemary
Pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas mark 6). Cut the aubergines into slices of about 2cm thickness.  Sprinkle them with salt in a colander and leave them to give out their liquid for about 15 minutes. Rince them and sponge them with kitchen paper.

2. Brush the aubergine slices with olive oil and place them directly on a baking sheet.  Bake for about 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, brush 3 large filo pastry sheets (about 40 x 40 cm) with melted butter (or olive oil) and place them one on top of the other in a round tart tin of 22-24cm diameter.   Take out the aubergines and leave them to cool.  Turn down the oven temperature to 180°C (360°F/Gas mark 4).

4. Cover the filo sheets with the aubergine slices and slices of tomato.  Whisk the eggs, crème fraîche, feta and Greek yoghurt. Add the rosemary and a few turns of the pepper mill.   Cover the vegetables with this mixture and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

Serve hot with a green salad.

Aubergine and tomato tart recipe

My version isn’t nearly as pretty, but as we’re heading off on holiday tonight, I made a version of this using the leftovers in the fridge and it was simple and so tasty.  I used only one large aubergine, one coeur de boeuf large tomato and sprinkled it with thyme and parsley. Next time, I’m definitely making it with the filo pastry (I used ready-made all butter puff pastry).

Thanks for the most delicious weekend, Valérie and Hervé, and cheers to you, my readers!

Best Pastries in St Rémy de Provence (Part 1)

What? You’ve never been to St Rémy de Provence? Valérie plopped frozen raspberries instead of ice-cubes in her refreshing homemade citronnade. She always has brilliant ideas. Would we just stay by the pool and chat during our long-awaited Bastille holiday weekend visit, or should we venture out in this heatwave and have a bit of culture next morning?

citronnade homemade

I felt embarrassed. How could I have visited the parents-in-law in their Saignon village since 1992 and not even discover one of Provence’s most picturesque villages just south of Avignon?  But, in our defence, when we visit family in the south we don’t do the touristy things. We do what the family does: either sit around the house and chat, watch the Tour de France in the cool indoors, take “kid-naps” or have rustic picnics around the Mont Ventoux.

Provencal village France

So before we knew it, Antoine and I were whisked off to the town where Van Gogh spent the last year of his life in 1889, painting his blockbusters like Irises and Starry Night while at the psychiatric centre at the Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole.

St Remy de Provence

There are no cars in the centre of the town, which makes walking around an extra relaxing pleasure.  Street names are in Provençal, with the town’s coat of arms.

Nostradamus St Remy de Provence

A must stop is at the fountain of Michel Nostradamus, celebrating the famous astrologer, apothecary and seer born here in 1503. His world predictions are best known in his publication, Les Propheties, which has rarely been out of print since the first edition came out in 1555.

Floral wall in Provence

I wonder if he predicted that his home town would be filled with some kind of curiosity shop around many a corner?

Shops in St Remy de Provence

Or ice cream shops too?

St Remy de Provence France

Or restaurants serving typical provençal dishes with a base of tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and served with the local chilled rosé during the summer?

Bicycle in Provence

Valérie predicted that I’d be making for Michel Marshall’s pâtisserie in the heart of town, in Place Joseph Hilaire.

Patisserie st Remy de Provence

Michel Marshall’s exquisite artistic pastries were disappearing fast. No wonder – this talented pastry chef has worked previously with Pierre Hermé at Ladurée and with Philippe Conticini at Le Pétrossian before eventually opening his own boutique, just like the others. Had Van Gogh been around, I wonder if he would have painted them? In any case, I’d say that Michel Marshall is the Van Gogh of Pastry here – and predict more boutiques opening.

Michel Marshall best patisserie in St Remy de Provence

Overheard in the shop was a guide taking around American visitors – just what I do with the chocolate, pastry and macaron walks with Context in Paris, St Germain-des-Prés. Valérie encouraged me on, otherwise I was in danger of pretending I was in the group and tasting like the others – especially as I had my eye on a savoury pastry.  My hand must have been shakily excited too as the photo was terrible so I’m afraid you’ll just have to imagine that the artistic topping was a giant basil leaf.

French pastry shop window

Then I found myself lingering around another pastry shop. This time with over-sized lemon meringue tarts, giant macarons, and violet Réligieuses: one bite-sized choux puff placed on top of a bigger one and filled with fragranced pastry cream.  Recipes for all of them are in Teatime in Paris: A Walk Through Easy French Pâtisserie Recipes.

Patisserie in St Remy de Provence

Stumbling on another boutique, named so prettily, “The Pastry Chef’s Daughters”, it was more of a curiosity shop. Although, don’t show that you’re too curious; the shiny-muscled pastry chef was looking rather suspiciously from the window above as he was tucking into his lunch.

Busker in Provence playing the marimba

Sounds are also pretty different in Provence.  Above the trickling of the fountains, it’s sometimes deafening to hear the cigales or ciganes singing rhythmically screeching in the trees.  I took a video of it and will share it with you next time.  Over them, we listened to a busker playing in the shade of the plane trees.

Provence shop window with cuddly bears

Window boxes are remarkably sweet in the town hall square.  This is when I lost the others while getting carried away taking photos. Does that often happen to you too?

They had already headed towards the chocolate shop.  Let’s catch up with them on Tuesday, so join me then on the rest of our walk in St Rémy de Provence, to discover chocolate!