Le Bonheur est Simple

I have often said that mountain food comprises four or five ingredients served in any number of variations. Often I am very dismissive of this type of food, Boring says I But sometimes, just sometimes, it beats any Invention test !

Today we wandered down to the local supermarché, not my favourite place in the world, but for someone who actually likes grocery shopping, it is purgatory, however, it is not Pooperama, of Mexico City fame!  It is a small supermarket, which actually sells almost everything, motor oil, electric small appliances, underwear, kids clothes , it is quiet amazing ! However the main objective, the food, to my mind needs HELP! Strawberries, or raspberries which go Off in a day, or Rocket likewise and on a Sunday morning they are out of bread ( actually we are lucky that they are even open on a Sunday morning!)

So today, as it was seriously wet here in the Haute Savoie, all the world and his wife were shopping ( well what else to do on a wet day in the mountains). We had our list and little Sam had his cart and helped, no melt down in the sunglasses section today ( thank goodness). However himself and I could not decided on what to have for dinner. We almost forsook my rule of ‘ I have food in the freezer, we need to use that ! We looked at the fish,  tired looking specimens, and now they have a rope around, a barrier, just in case you get too close and smell that which  has seen better days! Last year eldest daughter noticed that there is a section of Marked Downs, umm she said do they really think anyone will buy that ? Rather green looking Salmon that had very much better days,but hey it was – 25% , still not give away though !

So the neighbourhood kids played all day and the lovely Carolyn, fed them all, except young Sam who decided that Pasta was not his thing ( for today at least), so it was just himself and me, what to have. Well the obvious was of course, open a bottle! The most recent report is that wine staves off dementia ! So more wine please !!

The invention test is ” Open the refrigerator and make dinner with some of the contents” so our dinner was a Brie that was so ripe, it was about to run out of the door, assorted Saucissons bought at the market in Chamonix last Saturday, French bread left over from Breakfast, potatoes, steamed in the microwave and some Parma ham. And so it was, the Brie was put into a dish and put into the oven, along with the bread to crisp, the potatoes put into the microwave, the saucisson sliced and hey viola dinner was served !

On another note, I always find it very interesting what I find in supermarkets. Last year it was butter with chocolate chips in, and today, it was pocket size condensed milk ( just in case you need a sugar rush whilst out and about.)

The kids got into a Mess! Eton Mess part two

Here in the French Alps, it is like a time warp. The neighbourhood, at least in summer come out into the streets, and chat ( where do we do that in London? In the elevator maybe) but more than that the kids of all ages come out to play, wandering from one house to another, as their fancy takes them. And when I say kids they currently range in age from 2 1/2 to 13!  A big age gap but it does not seem to matter. French, Swiss, French/Irish, and my ex Mexicans! It doesn’t matter that they might not have seen each other for 6 , 9 or 12 months, they continue where they left off, a little older, a few more social skills but really just the same.

So, we are here with three of them ( the ex Mexicans), yesterday, there were 8 kids here and what do kids do, have a water fight of course! The girls said they won, and that is because they recruited young Sam to be on their team, and he is pretty mean with a water gun! Don’t get in his way, you will get wet !

The next adventure was making Slush Puppies, or Snow cones. A very American thing but oh so much fun and just think of those E numbers!! I bought a slush puppy machine, basically and electrified ice shaver, a bunch of paper cones and special flat ended straws ( easier to slurp up the ice) and three different syrups to flavour, Pink Bubblegum, ( sounds disgusting) , Red Strawberry and Blue Raspberry. Slush puppies made and Slurped to everyone’s enjoyment!

And so, onto today, today was the turn of the Eton Mess. As written about in the last blog, simple as can be. Sophia, the eldest child had made Meringues with her dad in the trade way, but was she surprised by this method, so much so, that she zoomed across the street and promptly made some more, which her grandad in particular really liked. Her Dad on the other hand sent me a text in the middle of the night about the sticky fingers everywhere! What else does he expect !

The only difference to my last comment on Eton Mess, is we used more icing sugar, and I assume that this was because I used larger eggs! Just remember the mixture must be stiff enough to roll into balls about the size of table tennis balls! Sophia commented that one of her subsequent meringues was on the large side( she admitted to making her balls on the large side!)

So get cooking with the kids, from 2- 15 they will love the instantaneous of this recipe! Don’t worry about the sugar, more veggies tomorrow !

What a Mess! Eton Mess that is !

Who doesn’t like Eton Mess?, A carefully constructed then deconstructed mess.
According to Wikipedia, it is a traditional English dessert, made with Merinques, Strawberries and whipped cream. It was first mentioned in print in 1893 and is believed to have originated at Eton College, Berkshire, although Lancing College in West Sussex also serve something similar ( surprisingly called Lancing Mess ) and is made with bananas.
It is a surprisingly simple to make and even those of you who think that maybe making meringues, requires a great deal of expertise, time and patience, will be suprised at how easy it is.
Making meringues in the Microwave oven is the way forward, it take just 90seconds to make three of them ! Yes, just 90 seconds., The end result is something that many chefs can only dream of. They are light and fluffy, very breakable, so absolutely suitable for an Eton Mess.
To make these meringues, all you need is 150 grams icing sugar( powdered sugar) and one lightly beaten egg white.
Add the icing sugar to the egg white and mix ( easiest with you hands) until you have a thick stiff mixture. Then take a small amount and roll it until it resembles a ball the size of a golf ball. Place it on a plate, either one which is covered with Rice Paper ( this is edible, but no idea where to buy it these days) or place on a silicone mat. Bake three at a time , in a microwave oven, on high for 90 seconds, and be amazed at your end result.

So all you need to do now, is to whip some cream ( there is a German product from Dr. Oetker called Klop Fix not sure what it contains, but it makes cream stay very stiff once whipped, so useful here) , crush the meringues, add some traditionally strawberries, (but weirdly my French supermarket did not have strawberries, even though it is summer) or raspberries and there you go, an instant dessert!

Alternatively of course the meringues can be sandwiched together with raspberry jam and cream, makes for messy eating of course but who cares! Another instant , well almost instant dessert/ confiture is Microwave Lemon curd. Never made Jam or Lemon curd, then try this. It does not keep for long but makes about three jars, must be kept in the refrigerator until used, but also freezes well!

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup granulated sugar
  2. 3 eggs (yolks and whites)
  3. 1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4-5 lemons)
  4. zest of 3 lemons
  5. 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

In a large microwave-safe bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until smooth and thoroughly combined. Whisk in lemon juice, lemon zest and melted butter.

Cook in the microwave on full power for one minute intervals, stirring after each minute. This process will take about 3-5 minutes depending on the strength of your microwave. You will know the lemon curd is done cooking when it coats the back of a wooden spoon.

Remove from the microwave, beat and pour into a sterile jar.

Once the curd has cooled to room temperature, cover it with a lid and store it in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks. The curd will thicken as it cools.

This great for toppings on yoghurt, vanilla ice cream becomes something much more and of course more or less an instant lemon tart when poured into a ready made pastry and topped with some slices of lemon and popped under the grill! Or uses to sandwich two meringues together.

All of this is easy peasy, I think I will get Miss Tess to try it next week when my  now ex Mexicans come to stay!

Off to Nottingham

Recently I had a birthday and so himself decided we should go somewhere really nice and extra special. And so it was that we found ourselves on the M 1, heading to Nottingham. Actually I have to admit, that I know noting about Nottingham. I know it has several national sporting centres, one for Watersports, one for Ice events, a national cricket venue, plus two football teams one of which is one of the oldest in the country. Of course it is famous for Robin Hood, his merry band of robbers, Nasty King John and the evil Sheriff and of course Sherwood Forest. Also home to Lord Byron and D.H. Lawrence.

But it is for none of those reasons that we headed up the overcrowded M1 motorway. We have been there once before, when himself decided I needed some more food influence in my life and he gave me ( all by myself) a morning in the kitchen with the chefs, at a 2 Michelin Star restaurant, which happens to be in Nottingham.

The restaurant in question is called Sat Bains, after the chef/owner Satwant Bains, who was born in Derby to Sikh parents, he once worked as a young chef for Raymond Blanc, worked in France, won several wards, became head Chef at Hotel des Clos, which he relaunched as RSB, Restaurant Sat Bains, a restaurant with rooms.

There are only 8 rooms, the restaurant appears to be an old farmhouse in a very unpreposing  location, underneath pylons and cables, on the edge of a light industrial estate, obviously the farm house was there before the estate.

All of the rooms are very different, and there are 7 of them, although they are numbered 1-8 ! And it would appear that they are very popular, as himself went to book several weeks in advance only to find that room 8 was the only one available. I have to add here, that they are only available on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Depending on your choice of room, there are different packages available, some with wine included, others not and a choice of a 7 course dinner or a ten course dinner. Room 8 came with a ten course! And breakfast is included!!

The 10 course tasting menu, came with an optional 11th. This I believe, was some sort of special poached /sous -vide egg, which listening in on a neighbours conversation, is the dish that launched Sat into the national psych!! However, not living in the UK at that time, we were more than happy to settle for the 10 courses.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 menu

As you can see from the phtograph of the menu, the courses are more or less divided between, Salt, Sweet Sour, Bitter and Umami.

Umami is the fifth taste and is savoury.It is one of the five basic tastes (along with sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and saltiness). according to   The Umami Information Center the following foods are rich in naturally occuring glutamate ( think Chinese where it is added).

All shell fish, Scallops, Clams, Oysters, Lobster etc.

Beef, think Beef Jerky, think Hamburger, especially one with added cheese or bacon

All cheese, but especially Parmesan.

Pork but especially Bacon.

Chicken soup, as the bones are full of Umani.

Carrots, Tomatoes, Tomato paste, Lasagne, French Fries, Potato Chips, Soy, Soy Sauce, Mushrooms, the list goes on. And don’t forget, Green tea, why not go for Haagen Dazs Green Tea Ice Cream ???

 

 

I am in Love ( with Smushed Avocados that is !)

Ever since going to Mexico City about five years ago to visit number one daughter ( The svelte Blond) and her family ) I have become addicted to Avocados and poached eggs. And so it would appear that the rest of the world has also fallen in love with Avocados, at least.

According The  Telegraph a couple of months ago, the world demand for Avocados ( a Mexican staple) has caused Strikes in Mexico and a crime wave in New Zealand!

£128 million was spent in the U.K. On Avocados, which was more than what was spent on oranges, last year. The UK demand has risen by 1/3 year on year. Coupled with poor seasons in New Zealand and California Avocados have reached world high prices. The Mexican farmers obviously want their share of profits as well, hence the strike. The UK gets most of its Avocados from Chile, Israel, Peru and South Africa, but in the meantime there has been a drought in South Africa and China has put in a demand for 10,000 tons of the green fruit annually!

Theft from Avocado farms in New Zealand has become common place and in Australia some are equating Avocados with Cash! Hence the amusing picture from the Telegraph, taken outside an Australian supermarket! 

Many restaurants, both large and small now in London at least, have started serving this my current favourite breakfast.

I feel I am on a mission to find the perfect Avocado breakfast ( apart from me cooking it myself that is) ! Lardo in Condesa Mexico City is pretty much perfect, but sadly that is a tad too far to go for a regular “Fix”. The newish chain of “Bills” does a fairly satisfying version and there is one such restaurant just around the corner from my home. The Famous Ivy restaurant and now all of the “Baby” Ivy cafes also serve Avocado with poached eggs. This version I am less keen on as they serve it on toasted granary bread! Ugh! It goes soggy just looking at the smushed Avocado and when it is served with the poached eggs and a delicious sesame sauce, might just as well have the toast on the side as it ends up being a bit like a soggy bath time sponge!

My current favourite cafe in which to to eat my current favourite breakfast is Baker and Spice on Elizabeth Street, a smart street, halfway between Victoria and Sloane Square. Full of small independent shops and cafes, Baker and Spice is a cafe come bakery, come deli. A few tables inside and half a dozen or so outside which come supplied with blankets to snuggle under if the weather is chilly. Too lazy to smush your own Avocados? But want to eat at home, then head to Selfridges food hall and there one can find a Baker and Spice stand, selling much of what is available in their Elizabeth street store.


Last week however, for a birthday breakfast, we tried a new venue, not new in so much as, being physically new, and not New as a restaurant for us, but newish for us for breakfast. This is, a sister restaurant to The Wolseley. Fischer in Marylebone is much more low key than some of its other sister restaurants ( The Delaunay, Colbert, The Wolseley) it is based on an Austrian theme, more like a smart hunting lodge. And they now have Avocado breakfast! This time it was served on Sourdough with poached egg and a tomato salsa! Yummy, so now I have three go to places, Bills, being almost next door, Baker and Spice, ( the preferred one, but further to go) and Fischers ( walkable).

Above are some pictures taken in London recently and below two examples of Avocados on Sourdough toast.

Of course super simple to make at home but sometimes it is nice to be treated and eat out, especially when it is with the lovely willowy brunette.

Back to Sake No Hana

Back to Sake No Hana

cherry blossomSake No Hana has fast become my favourite Japanese restaurant and as such the willowy brunette and I ventured forth for a Sake Master class, which was held there a couple of weeks ago.

Willowy brunette declared that she had never even tasted sake previously but was ready for anything. We arrived at 10.15 at Sake No Hana , which is on St. James in London.  We were introduced to our two teachers, Christine Parkinson who is the head of wine for the Hakkasan group ( Sake no Hana is part of this group) and Anthony Rose, a former solicitor turned wine correspondent for the Telegraph. Both of them have been exploring all things Sake for the last ten years or so and have been judges at the Sake tastings in Japan.

Sake is basically Rice and water,  the process is probably no more complicated than Whisky or Rye or Vodka. Three quarters of all Sake made is of the FUTSU type, ie. the basic type of Sake. 22 % is of premium quality, 7 % of better premium and only 3% is of the top quality Sake. Hence the best Sake is fairly expensive. The better sake is made from rice that has had a larger % of rice polished. in its making.

An off shoot or rather  an unexpected bonus for sake makers, is because traditionally they mush the fermenting brew around with their hands, the skin on their hands is almost like that of a new-born. Consequently there are now many beauty products on the Japanese markets, using by products from sake .

During our morning lesson we tasted about 8 different sakes, including a sparkling one, which we all tried to classify in our own minds. Tizer was one description and Babycham was another.

Needless to say, there is a whole industry as well as tradition  surrounding everything Sake and below are just a few such items.

Then we were treated ( again) to the very special Sakura Menu, this is the menu created to celebrate Cherry Blossom season in Japan. It was the same menu as I had tasted previously, but this time I chose the Salmon ( the beef was better in my opinion) and the brunette chose the Tempura. We were served several more different Sakes with each course and so by the time lunch and Sake master class were over, I needed to go home for a snooze!!

 

Cafe Kranzler is dead

On our recent visit to Berlin, we went on a nostalgia trip around the city.

Himself was at University here a life time again, when indeed it was two cities, with the wall keep the two Germanys apart. Back then, on every street corner and in particular on the smart shopping streets were Konditoreis, where the black clad war widows ate their daily portion of Cafe Kuchen , ( coffee and cake). The most famous of these was Café Kranzler, we knew exactly where it was, on the Kurfürstendamm, not far from the equally famous Department Store Ka We De. We eventually saw the awning announcing the cafe, but wait a moment, didn’t it open onto the pavement? No! We had to climb 2 flights of stairs through a trendy clothing store to find, a small coffee bar and not Café Kranzler at all, and no cakes !!

Walking around it took us back to the late 60’s, on visiting the DDR one was obliged to exchange Deutsche Marks for DDR Marks, and could not change them back, they had to be spent. Shops were few and very un exciting, but we finally found a cafe, and although the cakes were not a patch on the western ones, at least we could spend our money.

Back to today. The traditional cafes were not to be seen, ( lots of Starbucks !) but not to be out done, we ventured into KA WA DA, which is still there and smarter than ever. Up on the top floor , we found a large cafeteria type restaurant, but very much up market, and what did they have? Cakes!!! And in abundance! Cakes are not something I usually crave, but we were on a mission, and it was hard to choose!!!

Having eaten at the Wonderful Facil, the previous night we went down market  and decided to go to a Beer Hall, more in keeping with München maybe but fun nonetheless. We had stopped for a drink previously and thought that the food looked copious to say the least, even if not refined.

The place was extremely popular with students and older people alike. The speciality seemed to be “Die Beste, Krosse Ganze Hinterhaxe vom Schweineschinken, ein gutes kilo, mit bayrisch Kraut !!! Translated as a whole pork shank, which weighs at least a kilo and comes with Sauerkraut!  It was indeed very popular, so much so, that I wonder if there are any pigs left!! And amazingly, the crackling was superb!

Me on the other hand, had the Weiner Schnitzle, which was great but I chose to forgo the Potato  and gherkin  warm salad and had Pommes Frites instead. Needless to say we did not have a starter nor a dessert. It was very much for old times sake and not something to experience everyday. It would appear that the beer hall very much catered for groups and students.

Berlin is a very nice city today, but although we stayed in Potzdammer Platz, which in the cold war days was very much a no mans land today it is smart and bustling. The hotel where we stayed was the venue of the recent Global female Leaders conference       ( read Ivanka Trump). The Berlin Bear could be seen in many guises. We toured around, though this time not on a bicycle, though the city is flat and bicycles are everywhere.

We saw what is left of the Wall, which is in the EAST side as well as Alexander Platz, which was the centre of the old East Berlin, along with its TV tower. Many of the residences  still date from the times of the DDR, rather austere and propaganda paintings on the walls.

We went to Potsdam, the city once the home of the Prussian Kings but more recently the site where Churchill, Truman and Stalin, met to decide the fate of Germany after WW2.

Today it is only 40 minutes on the train from berlin city centre and seems a little run down, remnants of the old East. However there si a Chateau worth seeing Chateau Sans Souci, which was the summer palace of  Frederick the Great. It was his answer to rival Versailles and is well worth a visit, but a guided tour only.

Bottom line? Berlin is a city with a wealth of history, easy to get around, either by bus, UBahn, S Bahn or of course Taxi.