I swear, I was born for French breakfasts.
Here's how our morning in Marseille went today:
Mum, Dad & Sister: talking and in the midst of a conversation'
Me: Spreading butter and cheese on my baguette, slathering nutella on my crepe, piling fresh jam on my brioche, sinking my teeth into sweet bread...
"Ohhhhh" as my eyes close and I drop back into my chair...
Mum: Should we just leave you here for the rest of the day?
(To dad): I don't think she's getting up from here.
The breeze hugs me, the sun kisses me, the boats wave hello and I sit in morning bliss.
The bread is so soft and fresh that it tastes divine just with butter...
The cheese melts in my mouth and spreads to every corner...
The crepe wraps around the nutella like a warm blanket...
The chunks of strawberry and cherry in the jam burst with sweet fruitiness, with the brioche as a pillow catching them like falling stars...
20 minutes of sleep last night.
10 hours on 2 flights.
Reach the hotel, the room isn't ready.
Eyes burning, head spinning, body boiling.
But set foot in Marseille, the coastal town with the bottle-green sea, the harbour of white sailboats, the seaside shops and bars, the myriad inside cobblestoned streets lined with boutiques, cafés, markets, the skin-embracing sun and the hair-teasing breeze...
and everything's suddenly alright.
I watched 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' movie on the flight and this quote seems to fit perfectly:
"In the end, everything always turns out alright. If it's not alright, it's not the end yet."
So I guess I've reached the end.
I literally gasped and stopped my dad when we passed a café wit one whole wall open, with signs saying Brasserie, Crêperie and Glacier.
I couldn't resist.
When in France, you can't afford to worry about calories and fat content. You go for the ice cream, the pain au chocolat, the crêpe... whatever your heart desires. So I went in for 'un cornet de yaourt aux fruits rouges', while my family enjoyed cappuccinos, pain au chocolat and un cornet de straticella (vanilla ice cream ribboned with chocolate chips). The ice cream was delicious. I know what you're saying... you can get the same flavour at Inox in Mumbai. Well, it's not the same... even my mum said that this was just divine.
We sat outside, talked and completely unwound.
In fact, one thing I noticed and love here, is that almost nobody is skinny. Every person has their little tummy that shows that they spend their time loving and embracing the cuisine & their city and not toiling away on a treadmill. People here are natural, confident, happy.
It rubs off on you... you just feel so, so free and at ease. The sky is perfect, the people are relaxed and the whole place radiates summer.
Later we bought baguette sandwiches from a boulangerie run by a boy and his mum and we ate them on the steps leading up to the fort. We could see the boy's mum baking fresh bread.. it was delicious.
In the afternoon we were walking towards a cathedral and we stopped to buy some fruit.
I had the best nectarine I've ever tried and the peach was so soft, sweet and juicy.
My pink apple was crisp and cool and perfect as we walked up through the streets in the sunshine.
Last night our kitchen was pretty low on ingredients because tonight we're going for 2 weeks to Mormoiron and Sorede in the south of France!
Coincidentally, Stone Soup's latest blog post was about using up pantry ingredients and cooking when you have little to work with, such as when you return from a holiday.
I knew for a fact that we had a tub of homemade pesto that would be spoiled by the time we got back, so that needed to be used.
We always have peas in the freezer, we had a bit of rosemary and we always have some pasta and garlic.
Perfect. All the ingredients needed for a Rosemary-garlic pasta and a Pea & Pesto soup, which were both conveniently published in Stone Soup's newsletter.
These 2 recipes cannot be easier and they're really satisfying. They are meant to be separate, but we discovered that they taste amazing together too! So even if your pantry isn't empty, enjoy a warm and simple meal tonight.
As for Chocolate Tulip, my trip to France is only going to bring even cooler posts. We're staying in 'gites' (country houses) so I'll have a kitchen (:D) and the rest of the posts will feature the beautiful markets, cheeses, olive oils, breads, restaurants and cuisine of southern France.
I'll post whenever I can get my hands on wifi, so keep checking or sign up for the email feed!
Au revoir, xx
Another conversion challenge...
I don't like tofu.
I just don't.
Unless it's fried or drenched in peanut sauce, get that wobbly, bland block away from me.
I think I was meant to be non-vegetarian, I just have a problem with the way animals nowadays are raised and slaughtered. If I find a free-range farm I like one day, who knows? I may become non-vegetarian.
But for now I'm not and tofu is something rather unavoidable.
Remember the task I set myself to make a cauliflower dish that my mum likes? Well this was like that. I wanted to cook something with tofu (not deep-fried or peanut- bathed) that was enjoyable.
This recipe looked simple and Madhur Jaffrey said it is her favourite tofu dish. It was really easy and, I'll be very honest, I liked it.
There were a lot of flavours in the sauce and for once, I didn't swallow down my tofu as quickly as possible. I actually savoured it!
So even for you tofu-haters (I totally get you), I suggest you try this. It's well worth it and really easy.
I can eat it out of the jar.
I live on it.
Make my life easier and smush them into a loaf of peanut buttery goodness?
I made mine small because I ran out of peanut butter (and in the process messed up the sugar quantity, making the batter kind of bitter from the baking soda- hence the peanuts and sugar topping to balance the flavour) but it's technically a sandwich bread.
So make the full loaf, slice it like regular bread and make an amazing sandwich.
Try putting jam for peanut butter and jelly, or banana for a peanut butter and banana sandwich!
Even if you don't mess up the sugar quantity, I recommend adding the topping of some sugar and a few peanuts. It adds little pockets of solid peanut taste and a bit of a sweet crunch.
Trust me, it's delicious.
Pass The Plate
This weekend I made chocolate chip cookies for my Pass the Plate project.
Quick, simple and universally loved. I turned to a recipe that just had to be easy- no fancy ingredients, no sitting in the fridge. I used my old Betty Crocker Kids Cookbook and I remember that the last time I made those cookies was with my cousin when they visited Chicago and we burned them... we were in a house of 8 people but only us two were left to eat the cookies.
This time, the recipe didn't disappoint. It's like the pound cake of cookie recipes. The quantities are so easy to remember and even easier to adjust.
These cookies were perfect. Perfect.
I like chewy chocolate chip cookies and these were heavenly soft. They were as golden as brown sugar and the generous cup of Cadbury's Dairy Milk Silk chocolate didn't hurt.
My sister got a little cookie that was made out of the last drop of batter and she nearly fainted (I'm know for using hyperboles). There was one lone cookie left after my Pass The Plate excursion, so we split that... ahh...
We've been making pizza in our family since... well, forever!
For as long as I can remember I've been grating cheese, chopping vegetables, rolling the dough, spreading the sauce and eating slice after slice.
I used to grate extra cheese because my sister and I would eat so much of it (secretly... or so we thought).
My dad had a special way of clapping his hands to remove the flour and I remember finding it so amusing and practicing for ages to get it right.
He would sing the tune of 21st Century Fox (We only realised that that was what it was many years later) as we pulled the pizza out of the oven.
Our family pizza is kind of famous. Friends- kids and adults alike- all over the world have tasted this pizza at various dinners, birthday parties and playdates and it became a favourite.
Our pizza is definitely the best... ;) I know that's totally subjective because each and every pizza chef takes pride in their creation.
My sister and her friend even decided that they would have a 'Dad Pizza Cook-off' to see which dad could make the best pizza.
But the most amazing thing, which I realised yesterday after my dad said he was making pizza that night, was that I still feel that same overwhelming excitement about it as I must have done when I was a toddler.
I was bursting to chop, I had an urge to knead the dough, I wanted to lick the bowl of sauce clean just like my sister and I did when I was 11, I wanted to sprinkle the toppings, watch the pizza bubble in the oven, and sink my teeth into a fresh, gooey, crisp, warm slice.
I was so eager to go out to the supermarket and get ingredients and I couldn't stop thinking about it until the tray was put on the dining table.
I've even made my own pizza, you'd think I'd have gotten over it, but the whole adventure still makes my day.
This recipe is from a book by Madhur Jaffrey. It's nothing fancy, it isn't full of glossy pages or professional food photography.
It's one fat, simple book in black text, but it is absolutely loaded with recipes spanning an unbelievable knowledge of cuisines and food.
On the cover, you see Madhur Jaffrey: she looks like a mother, very traditional, very simple, maybe even conservative.
That's what my first impression was of her.
In reality, she's anything but plain and simple.
She was not brought up in the conservative, traditional woman's role. The first time she cooked was when she moved to London to study drama at the age of 19.
Madhur Jaffrey was in fact a famous actress who won awards and acclaim for her work. She's married to a violinist in the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and she's well known on the New York theater scene.
Now she has written dozens of books, lectured and even had a few TV shows. She became known as 'The Actress Who Could Cook".
My first impression of this dish was that it, too was plain and simple. It had a short list of ingredients and a quick recipe.
Again, I was wrong. Yes, this dish is simple. But it has so much freshness, so much versatility.
It's different from any Indian dish I've tasted in that it doesn't taste Indian.
While it works in complete harmony with any Indian accompaniment, it at the same time merges flawlessly into all other cuisines, from Western to Japanese.
It looks dull. It looks like one colour. It looks like it lacks flavour.
But what one actually eats is a dish much like Madhur Jaffrey herself. It is able to branch out in multiple directions, try new things and surprise skeptics. Yet it can still come home to its roots and feel comfortable among its origins.
Don't judge a book by its cover. No matter what cuisine you're making, give this dish a try... you'll be surprised.
That's exactly what this dish is. I wanted to kind of... come up with a recipe.
So I thought of sautéed vegetables, some protein, potatoes...
In the end I came up with a layered baked dish:
Soya nuggets in a tomato sauce
But feel free to do the same with lentils, cottage cheese or any meat (real or faux) of your choice ;)
Followed by a layer of potatoes
Baby aubergine and mushrooms marinaded in yoghurt & spices and then beautifully cooked with coriander
Topped with some potatoes to flatten the top & stop the next layer from seeping through
2 cracked eggs to bake on top
This is a little messy to serve... It kind of, well, topples. But in my opinion that makes it all the more fun to eat.
This was total improvisation: all based on what was in the fridge and what I felt like adding to the different layers. It's e.a.s.y.
So make it: change the vegetables, prepare the potatoes how you like them, change the bottom layer... get inspired and improvise!
Yum, yum, triple yum...
Having spent most of my childhood in Amsterdam, I've grown up eating speculaas and pepernoten all the time.
But let me take a step back and explain:
You may know speculaas as 'windmill cookies', or maybe you've never heard of them. They're delicious spiced cookies, traditionally made around Christmas, but now people have them all year round. They come with almonds, in gooey cake form (gevulde speculaas) and in little bite-sized cookies (pepernoten).
I stumbled upon the blog from which I got the recipe while I was looking at Lottie & Doof's list of blogs they follow. I was immediately intrigued by the name: "Everybody likes Sandwiches", because sandwiches are one of my favourites.
I almost gasped when I saw a recipe for speculaas muffins-- what could be a better combination?
I miss speculaas cookies and something about putting their flavour into muffins seemed so fun and beautiful.
These muffins came out warm, crumbly and speculaas-y...
The cookies are obviously different, but I'm planning to make them one of these days anyway. They have such a unique flavour-- different to the same old muffins and so pleasing.
Everyone in my family enjoyed one: I grabbed one fresh out of the oven at lunch, my mum nibbled hers with her tea, my dad sunk his teeth into one after a horrendously long day- before dashing off again, and my sister munched hers for dessert.