August Foodie Catch Up …

August has been a busy month food wise. Spending two wonderful weeks on holiday in France gave us ample opportunity to savour some delicious meals.
First of all however I’m going to focus on my parents-in-law’s Golden wedding anniversary which was last week. We went out for a lovely meal (starter and main course) and then returned home for their special cake:

The cake itself was a straightforward Victoria Sponge Cake but the icing was Champagne Buttercream. This was icing unlike any I have ever made before. It was made with egg yolks, a hot sugar syrup and soft butter. To this combination, Champagne was added. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t realise that adding the alcohol would cause the icing to curdle completely! Before panicking and throwing it all away, I turned to google. It quickly became apparent that this is very common and that with a further 5 minutes or so of beating, the icing should return to its proper consistency. Good old google, it really saved the day!
The icing itself was much lighter than traditional buttercream and the Champagne really gave it a boost.
Alongside the sponge cake, I made some cupcakes which I filled with raspberry jam before topping with some of the Champagne icing.
The cakes all went down very well – the leftovers still taste good several days later!

And so to France. It wouldn’t have been a proper French holiday without a galette or two:

We tried both sweet and savoury and thoroughly enjoyed them all!

Tonight, I made us some galettes of our own, I stuck to the very reliable combination of ham and cheese and served them with a potato salad and some steamed broccoli:

My husband’s favourite dessert whilst we were away was ‘Ile Flottant’ or ‘Floating island’. He was amazed at how tasty it was and so I decided to have a go myself. I added a few fresh raspberries to the custard and we had 2 islands each. When poaching the meringue islands, they grew an incredible amount, as soon as I removed them they seemed to deflate, much to my frustration. My husband assured me that they tasted just as good as those he had eaten in France, praise indeed!

Other delicious French food included a shellfish and seafood creation with puff pastry:

an ‘Atlantic Plate’ of salmon, scallops and shrimps:

and desserts that my children chose one evening, one had a Normandy yogurt with caramelised apples and a salted caramel sauce, the other had a panna cotta topped with popcorn:

All in all it’s been a fab foodie month, holiday food always tastes great! What are your favourite holiday foodie treats?

Francophile Fabric …

I decided against the baking route today – there will be more of that this weekend – and instead focussed on sewing. I found some lovely ‘francophile’ fabric yesterday and have used a small amount to make a ‘wall hanging desk tidy’ – as you do !! I’ll nip in to work tomorrow to make sure it works but it should end up with various pens, rulers, pencils, glue sticks, stickers, post-it notes etc inside:

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The backing material is lovely linen and I really like the quirky style of the French inspired fabric.

Some of the stitching wouldn’t pass close inspection and the pockets are not all completely level however, I am really pleased with the end result and my desk should be a lot tidier for it.

Madelaines …

We’ve just returned from a wonderful holiday in France, to make that holiday feeling last just a little bit longer I made some madelaines – any excuse !
The recipe was from Rachel Khoo’s ‘Little Paris Kitchen’ and included the addition of a raspberry into each madelaine plus some home made lemon curd once the cakes had been removed from the oven:

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It took several attempts to get the quantity of batter right – I kept putting way too much in and the cakes overflowed their moulds – I got it just about right in the end though.

These tasted lovely and light, still warm from the oven.
I wonder what I can cook tomorrow to extend that holiday feeling !

Place des Vosges, Paris …

This square is one of my favourite places in Paris. When I was a student, spending a year living in Paris, I used to come here to read on a bench or to simply watch the world go by. It is a real oasis of calm within this beautiful capital city. The fine art shops that line this square make window shopping a real joy.

So far as my painting today is concerned, I was not totally convinced that I liked it. I’m not great at perspective and I think I tried too hard to make it look like my photograph (see below) whilst trying to make it abstract at the same time. I thought there was a definite confusion here. I decided therefore to have a quick go over the right hand side of my painting, with pastels. I’m now happier with the result. There may be some further pastel additions tomorrow but for now I’m quite content:

 

Here’s my original photo:

 

Springtime in Paris …

There really is no where like it.

I’ve been wanting to paint something incorporating the shape of the Eiffel Tower but wasn’t at all sure how to go about it. Yesterday I drew what can only be described as a squiggle and from that literally grew the painting that I did this afternoon.

Here it is:

I’ve been reliably informed by my critics here at home, that I should not add a colour wash as a background. I think they are probably right, any additional colour may take away from the very delicate pink of the cherry blossom.

I’m really pleased with my efforts today – I never knew that I could ‘do’ delicate!!

 

Here is the ‘squiggle’ that I drew yesterday:

 

Fantastic French Food …

Book reviews are not something I normally do, however, the book I bought this morning warrants me making an exception!

I have been avidly watching ‘The Little Paris Kitchen‘ recently and it is a series of programmes that really do make you salivate. The food that Rachel Khoo creates in her tiny kitchen is so amazing that when I saw her book to accompany the series I couldn’t resist.

The book itself is a joy to look at, the photos are stunning and there are also lots of little foodie watercolours! The recipes are as she presented them on the Tv and she doesn’t use a vast range of ingredients that us mere mortals wouldn’t have in our cupboards. I was therefore able to use 2 of her recipes for our dinner this evening.

For our main course, we had ‘Nids de tartiflette‘ or Cheese and Potato Nests. These were baked in a muffin tray and tasted amazing:

I had a couple of fairly strong cheeses in the fridge (brie and gruyère), which were chopped and grated before being stirred in to a hot onion, garlic, potato, bacon and white wine mixture. This was then portioned in to the buttered muffin tray before being cooked for about 15 minutes in the oven. I then steamed some broccoli to accompany them:

 

For dessert, we had ‘Quatre-quarts aux agrumes‘ or Citrus Fruit Cake. Whilst this was a little more complicated to make than your run of the mill lemon sponge or lemon drizzle cake, it was so incredibly light and ‘melt-in-the-mouth‘ that I think it has become our family’s new favourite lemon cake.

This photo really doesn’t do it justice:

The complexity in the preparation comes from having to prepare the ingredients separately – the butter must be melted then cooled, the egg yolks must be mixed with half the sugar whilst the egg whites are mixed with the other half – nothing really tricky, just a bit more of an effort, definitely well worth it though.

If you want to see some of Rachel’s recipes, they can be found here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/programmes/b01dy7yt