Le Chateaubriand, Paris

October 6, 2014

Tocino de Cielo by Inaki Aizpitarte

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I am an Iñaki Aizpitarte fangirl.

I love everything he does. He makes me want to be a better cook, to play with flavours, to be more creative, to think beyond geographic boundaries.

Earlier this year Arjun took me to his much lauded restaurant, Le Chateaubriand in Paris and we were in for a treat. After a series of tasting and exploring new flavours and textures ranging from veal head fritters dusted with freeze-dried raspberries to sweetbreads served with pomelo, I came home happy and inspired.

While the menu at Le Chateaubriand changes frequently, the dessert, Tocino de Cielo, is a constant fixture. Tocino de Cielo literally means piece of heaven. This video shows how Iñaki makes his version of the Andalusian custard pudding made of egg yolks, sugar and water. He explores the region, trying out the classic dessert, while having different people try his. It’s also really interesting how he takes children along in his research to reinterpret this (seemingly) childhood favourite dessert of his.

If you’re planning on visiting Le Chateaubriand, you’ll need to book a few weeks ahead of time, or just show up at 9PM for the 9:30PM seating that needs no reservations.

Le Chateubriand
129 Avenue Parmentier, 75011 Paris
+33 1 43 57 45 95

PS: Here’s a little to peek into his home and restaurant.

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plaisir sucre pierre herme

This is quite simply the best chocolate dessert I have ever had.

Pierre Hermé calls it Plaisir Sucré. Maison Landemaine calls it Jivara. Le Cordon Bleu calls it Douceur Chocolat. There might be many more versions of it around Paris, but at its core it’s the most delicate chocolate and hazelnut cake  built over several layers of sublime textures.

This one is a slightly simplified version of it. The only technique that you really need to know for this is chocolate tempering.  Simply put, the chocolate you buy is already in temper. But if you want to melt it to coat truffles, or in this cake, make chocolate discs, it needs to be in temper first. This means that you have to raise the temperature of milk chocolate to 40-50C, bring it down to 25C and then gently bring it back up to 30C, which is the working temperature for milk chocolate. By doing this the fat crystals realign themselves and the resulting set chocolate will have a lovely shine and crisp snap as opposed to being streaky and pliable.

What makes this cake so special for me is the layer that’s spread on the dacquoise – it’s a mix of milk chocolate, butter, hazelnut paste, toasted hazelnuts, praline and feuilletine. While you can make your own hazelnut paste and praline (tutorial coming up soon), feuilletine is the wildcard. It’s crushed up Gavotte Crepes that are incredibly addictive and the ones coated in milk chocolate always find their way into my basket at Monoprix. If you find yourself in Paris, you can buy a bag of feuilletine at G. Detou for about €5 [read more…]

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Financiers

September 16, 2014

Financier

While at a vide-grenier, the French equivalent of a car boot sale/garage sale, I stumbled upon a set of shiny new financier moulds. They were still in their original packaging and had a faded price tag from when Francs were still in use and Le Bon Marché was called Au Bon Marché.

On my return, the first thing I baked were these tiny little petits fours. I used a recipe for perfect financiers (almond cakes)  from Nathalie Benezet, author of Le Petit Paris (USA | UK | India). I followed the recipe pretty much exactly as given. The only variation was that I added a quarter teaspoon of pistachio paste into half the batter for the pistachio flavoured financiers.

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Pistachio and Pecorino Pesto

September 8, 2014

Pistachio and Pecorino Pesto

I’d forgotten just how much I love this roughly chopped up “pesto” made with fresh parsley, pungent garlic, toasted pistachios and a good, salty pecorino. All of this is brought together by a grassy extra virgin oil. It’s perfect to keep bottled up in a jar for tossing with some pasta for a weeknight dinner or as a flavourful sandwich spread.

Recipe for home-made pistachio and pecorino pesto.

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Purplefoodie in ELLE Magazine

September 8, 2014

A little while ago, ELLE India got in touch with me saying that they  wanted to do “a roundup of fun, young Indians in Paris who’re doing interesting work.” I was (/am!) super thrilled to be a part of this. The lovely feature is out in September’s edition of the magazine. We were all dressed in Dior while Errikos Andreou played with light and shadows. The results are pretty spectacular.

Big thanks to everyone at ELLE India.

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View the entire feature.

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Photos from our summer days spent eating cherries, plums and mirabelles bought from the Marché Place de Zurich (every Wednesday).


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Strasbourg, France

August 19, 2014

What to do and where to eat in Strasbourg – A city guide

If you’re thinking of a trip to France, and have already visited Paris, go to Strasbourg.

Arjun & I just returned from a little summer holiday in Strasbourg. Like every destination we’ve picked before, this trip was planned for the sole purpose of eating, exploring markets, then eating an ice cream until we reached the next patisserie. And just when we began to feel like we’re eating way too much, we walked up 332 stairs of the cathedral for a panoramic view of the city of Strasbourg and beyond. It was quite amazing.

Strasbourg is the capital city of Alsace, the smallest region of France, which shares borders with Germany and Switzerland to the east. You can especially notice the German food influence in the meat consumption (think of myriad sausages) and hearty portions (nobody’s complaining), not to mention staples such as, kugelhopf, pretzels and beer.

We stayed in a little commune of Alsace, right outside of Strasbourg, called Schiltigheim. We were very lucky to have native friends who took us out to dinner at a local restaurant, which turned out to be the highlight of our trip.

EAT IN STRASBOURG

Aux Quatre Vents 15 Rue de la Mairie, 67300 Schiltigheim, France Phone: +33 3 88 33 16 00
This was the venue for our first meal and for our last meal. Twice, in a three day trip. As adventurous as we are with our eating, we were worried nothing might live up to this experience, and we had to leave Alsace with memories of Aux Quatre Vents. Everything we ate here was perfect. From the foie gras with fig bread and to the girolles (mushrooms) and escargot (snails). But the dish that’s etched in my memory is the Cerises Poêlée (pan fried cherries) that I can’t wait to replicate at home.  Caramelised cherries with a bit of strawberry jam, this was summer’s best in my plate. It was served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. The restaurant is located in the commune of Schiltigheim, and if you didn’t know of it, you’d walk right past it. When you go in, you’ll feel like you’re let in on a local secret. It’s a family run restaurant  with the mom cooking in the kitchen and the daughter and grandma (perhaps) serving the restaurant. Also, I learned here, that in Alsace the word “salade” is used as a euphemism only to make you feel better about eating large portion sizes. For even though we ordered a foie gras “salade”, there was no room for a main course. That’s also because they’ll bring along 3-4 creamy, vegetable based side dishes to the table for everyone to share in addition to what you’ve ordered. And when the mum in the kitchen makes too much of something, that finds its way to the table as well – complimentary. Aux Quatre Vents is cosy, kitsch and above all a place for exemplary, affordable food.

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apricot-rosemary-crumble

I have found my dessert fix for the summer – an apricot and rosemary crumble that is dolloped with heaping spoonfuls of maple cream.

I first made it a last week when we had friends over for dinner. Ever since, I’ve made it twice more, and am on my way to make it again right after I publish this post.

I don’t care much for snacking on raw apricots, but with a little butter, sugar and heat the apricots are transformed. And ever since I learned what an outstanding combination apricot and rosemary make last summer at Cordon Bleu, I’m a convert. I’ve roasted them and I’ve pan fried them, and I think I prefer the pan frying method because it gives me more control. First, heat up a cast iron pan until blistering hot, add a knob of butter, followed by rosemary and a sprinkling of light brown sugar. Then, place the apricot halves, searing their flesh. Finally, turn down the heat and let it cook slowly for 12-15 minutes, flipping it over halfway.

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Moules en Papillote

July 11, 2014

Moules en papillote

Many months ago, I was a stagiaire at a fantastic little restaurant in Paris. The food was classical,  and the kitchen packed with copper ware. I helped on the line with the appetizers and desserts  for lunch. Before service , I did the mise-en-place  which entailed cleaning squids, battling live scallops and chopping things into perfectly tiny bruinoise among many other things. I also ended up doing everyone’s least favourite task: plucking the beard off the mussels. But that also meant, I got to make lots and lots of moules en papillote. On some days after service, when the kitchen staff took off for their break, I’d hang in the kitchen with the chef making kouign amann with Bordier butter. Good times.

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