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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Brioche Parisienne

June 6, 2014

Brioche Parisienne
I’ve been fascinated by brioche even before I really knew what it was. I think it was the unusual shape of a brioche à tête that charmed me at first. It wasn’t until I moved to France more than 2 years ago that I got a taste of the real brioche Parisienne.

My first brioche was from Boulangerie Au 140 on Rue de Belleville. It was soft, smelled faintly sweet and milky. Quite like a baby. Every other evening, I’d walk downhill to the boulangerie and wait in line for my loaf. If the wait was too long, I’d use it as an excuse to pop into Fromagerie Beillevaire next door for two tiny wheels of Rocamadour. If I was monstrously hungry, I’d ask the vendors at the boulangerie to slice the loaf of brioche  (which I’d otherwise take as a whole to keep fresh longer) because I knew I’d quite easily finish half the loaf in no time. My favourite way to eat the brioche was to make peanut butter and raspberry jam sandwiches. I then moved on to smearing it with mountain honey from G. Detou.

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Lavender Milk Cake

May 31, 2014

lavender-milk-cake
I bring to you this cake as a good reminder of how lovely and versatile the milk cake can be. It’s soft as a pillow and moist and buttery. When it’s baking, the house is filled with the fragrance of summery lavender that’s just coming into bloom. To make the lavender milk cake, I rubbed the lavender buds into the sugar and went on with the recipe as usual (skipping the bay leaves). Slice up, and serve with a dribble of honey.

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Breakfast Scones

May 22, 2014

Scones
I like Thursday mornings because that’s the day I get to have breakfast with Arjun after a week  of rushing out of the house at 7AM. I take the time to make a lovely little breakfast for us as we sit at the table and slather whatever we’re eating with butter and watch the boats on the river go by.

This time, I made scones because they’re just so easy to put together- rub the cold butter into the flour. Add a spoonful of sugar and baking powder and then bring it all together with an egg and some milk until it’s a wee bit sticky, cut into pieces and bake. Fresh, hot scones from the oven ready in 20 minutes. We ate the scones  with clotted cream and a lovely apricot jam that our friend’s aunt in Orléans, France makes over summer and shares with friends and family. It is delightful – jam that tastes like fruit, not a jar of sugar.

I like the scones plain, but you can play around with flavours – some vanilla, lavender or lemon zest. Maybe even some nuts (always toasted) and dried fruits chopped up and stirred into the flour.

Breakfast Scones

Ingredients

  • 220g plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 80g cold butter
  • 1 egg
  • 50-60ml milk (I approximated this, until I got a dough that came together and was a wee bit sticky)

Method

  1. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Rub in the butter until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Work quickly with your fingertips, you don't want the butter to melt.
  3. Next, add the eggs and milk and work the dough until it comes together. It's okay if it isn't a very cohesive - just as long as it holds together.
  4. Roll out to a thickness of 2.5-3 cms. Using a pastry cutter, cut into rounds. Or if you'd like you can even cut it as though you're cutting a pizza.
  5. Brush with egg wash (1 egg beaten with a dash of milk)
  6. Bake in a preheated oven at 175C until golden brown.
  7. Serve with clotted cream and jam.
http://purplefoodie.com/scones-recipe/

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Macaron Recipe

I met my culinary hero. Live, in the flesh. I took a photo with him and he signed my book!

I do look up to loads of chefs, and even stalk some of them (which may or may not have to do with their good looks), but when it comes to Pierre Hermé, it’s undying reverence. And when I learned that he was going to be at Salon du Chocolat in Paris last November, I had to buy a ticket for the day he was demonstrating a recipe.

I sat through a few demonstrations before his, so by the time he was up, I had perched myself in the perfect spot. Just as he was about to come on, I kept turning to Arjun and telling him in a staccato-toned voice, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to be seeing Pierre Hermé. L-I-V-E. Pierre. Hermé!”

With his demonstration, everything was a class apart. No frantic scribbling of recipes – printed copies were handed out. And when it was time for tasting, perfectly plated baba au rhums were distributed to the entire audience, not itsy-bisy pieces of a big baba au rhum. Shortly after, everyone rushed to line up to get their books signed. Most were getting his new book, Ispahan, signed, but I’d lugged my copy of Macarons along for him to sign.

Shaheen Peerbhai with Pierre Hermé

While I haven’t made his baba au rhum today, I’m sharing another iconic Pierre Hermé creation – the macaron.  [read more…]

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Recent Favourites

April 17, 2014

baguettes

Read
10 Commandments of Pierre Herme (French)

Cooking Family-Style With Chef Greg Marchand

The 15 Year Old Chef

How Iñaki Aizpitarte Does Lunch at Home - his restaurant, Le Chateaubriand, is where I’ve had one of my most memorable meals in Paris. I remember when I walked out of the restaurant, and thanked him for the meal, he came across as someone so friendly, so unassuming quite unlike his badass rockstar looks. “Merci, à bientôt!” he said. I’ll definitely be back soon.

Dinner with Iñaki  Aizpitarte and Delphine Zampetti – yes, I’m an Iñaki stalker.

Photo essay of a Tuscan butcher breaking down a pig.

Tartine Book N°3 (USA | UK | India) Given the success I’ve had with the first Tartine Bread book, I can’t wait to start baking from this one.

French Regional Cooking – This book is out of print, but I was lucky enough to find it online for a mere £0.01! My chef at Cordon Bleu recommended I buy this book when he read about my disdain for the bouillabaisse we made at school. He promised I’d change my opinion on the much spoken about seafood soup from the South of France.

Currently on my Kindle: The Belly of Paris (USA | UK | India), A Pretty Good Number One (USA | UK | India).

Watch
Margot Henderson on women in commanding positions in the kitchen.

The prettiest choux video ever.

Christophe Adam (swoon) make Baba au Rhum (thanks, Poppy!)

Iñyaki on video. Last one about him, I promise.

Buy

I’d been contemplating getting a few new tools for my knife kit. I just ordered  9 Pallarès Solsona carbon steel knives and am pondering over buying this oroshigane.

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