Avocado Walnut and Bacon salad and ‘Ile Fanac’

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Back on home ground in France last weekend, I spent a lazy afternoon on the sleepy ‘Ile Fanac’ close to where I live.


Wandering around this little verdant gem nestling in the river Marne at Joinville le Pont in the east of Paris, is like stepping into a bygone age. Free from traffic and hustle and bustle, you’re likely to be accompanied on your stroll by one of the resident cats, to the gentle whir of insect wings and the methodical lapping of oars hitting the water as rowers skim past hidden from sight by a curtain of Weeping willows. Puts me in mind of a poem by W.B. Yeats
“…I know the leafy paths that witches take.
Who come with their crowns of pearl and their spindles of wool,
and their secret smile out of the depths of the lake;
I know where the dim moon drifts, where the Danaan kind
Wind and unwind dancing when the light grows cool
On the island lawns, their feet where the pale foam gleams
No boughs have withered because of the wintry wind:
The boughs have withered because I have told them my dreams…”

If any of you have seen the film ‘A good year’ staring Russell Crowe, this magical place recreates that atmosphere perfectly (even down to the tennis court) all that is missing is the man himself!

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As I do not have a garden, this is where I take a book and sit on a bench at the tip of the island overlooking the boats moored on the bank opposite.

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All this greenery made me crave a crisp green salad, and as avocados  are abundant at the moment they seemed the perfect ingredient to compliment the island – green, gently, calming and a little exotic.


Avocados are hailed as being a superfood, having beneficial effects on the cardio vascular and digestive systems, reducing incidence of diabetes and cancer, improving liver function, and calming acne and arthritis.

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I just tossed some mixed leaves in a dressing of olive oil with a little splash of chili infused olive oil and some sweet apple vinegar.
Then added some steamed new potatoes, chopped walnuts, finely sliced spring onions (green and white), a teaspoon of capers and some crispy bacon lardons (leave out for veggie option).
Top this with half a sliced avocado per person tossed in lemon juice to preserve the colour and served in small salad bowls – a taste of spring in a dish……..

Now for a little more exploring this magical place – I wonder where those steps, that door and that gate lead to……follow me

 

How Old?

If you enjoyed this post, why not read more and be inspired by following The Bible in a Year.

 

The Bible in a Year

‘You’re married?!’

‘Yes.’

‘How old are you?’

’26.’

‘How long have you been married for?’

‘Two years.’

‘You are too young to be married.’

I am wondering how many more years of this conversation I must endure before I become a socially acceptable age to be married….

According to internet research (cough google) the average age to get married isbetween 25 and 29….but individually woman at 28 and men at 30. Congratulations to my husband he is the correct age but I fall short of societies expectations.

I should really have a stock answer. A sarcastic one. A lie perhaps? Tell them I am 16…tell them I am 56. Or perhaps that they should mind their own business? Can I please add that these comments have always been from people I hardly know, and then never spend time getting to know them any further if I am honest.

So when…

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Liverpool Central Library and Cod and Coconut Curry

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Taking advantage of my extended stay in the UK, I have been taking in the museums and art galleries, along with visits to the theatre and wonderful parks that the city has to offer.

 

Situated on William Brown Street in the cultural district of Liverpool, flanked by the Walker Art Gallery and The City Museum (now known as ‘World Museum Liverpool’), the recently renovated Liverpool Central Library (formally ‘The William Brown Library’) is one of the largest and most beautiful libraries in the UK and is certainly worth a visit. Sir James Picton (2nd Dec 1805 – 15th July 1889) was a Liverpool born architect and antiquarian who played a large part in the public life of the city in the 19th century, taking particular interest in the establishing of public libraries, and in 1852, he obtained through campaigning, an act of parliament to raise a 1 penny rate for the creation of a public library and museum in the city. Wealthy local merchant William Brown paid for the building on the proviso that the city council furnished the interior. To acknowledge his generosity the street on which the library stands was renamed after him.


A competition was held for the design of the new Library and Museum and was won by Thomas Allom. However, his winning design proved to be too costly and it was a revised version, designed by the City surveyor, John Weightman, which was actually built and opened in 1860 and in 1879 ‘The Picton Reading Room’, designed by Cornelius Sherlock was added to the William Brown Library.

The library, as well as having a wealth of books, houses the Liverpool archives, family history and records office and a huge I.T suite with 150 computers for the public use, plus a nice little Tea shop, where my friend Sue and I enjoyed a game of ‘Name that book’ selecting passages from paperback classics on stand nearby and reading them to each other with the cover hidden.

The stars of the show however, have to be the impressive central atrium with a spectacular spiral staircase ascending to the magnificent glass dome and roof terrace with commanding views over the Liverpool skyline and St George’s Hall, where my marriage was held last year (and most of the filming for ‘Fantastic Beasts and where to find them’ took place!)

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And of course, no article would be complete without mentioning ‘The Picton Reading room’ This is where classical truly meets modern and you feel as if you have been transported back in time and into a magical world of books. Due to my utter awe and respect for those using this place as a serious source of knowledge, I was loath to intrude and take photos, but I did manage a couple of very rushed shots (hence the poor quality), but would love to return when it is empty to snap away.

Now for less lofty pursuits and the recipe. The delicate flavours and divine aroma and sheer visual beauty of this fragrant curry are guaranteed to excite the senses – one of my all-time favourite ‘transition’ dishes ideal for spring when we are moving away from the strong flavours of autumn and winter, but not quite ready to embrace summer salads……..

Ingredients (serves 2)
2 Cod loin steaks cut into bite size portions
2 large or 4 medium scallops cut into 4 or 2
1 medium sweet potato cut into bite sized cubes
1 medium shallot finely chopped*
1 green chili finely chopped*
2 cm fresh ginger finely chopped*
2 cloves garlic crushed*
1 tablespoon of desiccated coconut*
1 tablespoon of rouille or concentrated fish sauce*
1 teaspoon of turmeric*
1 teaspoon of mild curry powder*
6 cardamom pods (split and husk discarded)*
The juice of one small lime*
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
1 can of coconut milk
Method
Blitz oil the * ingredients in a food processor and sauté gently in a little of the coconut oil for 1-2 minute
Add the sweet potatoes and cook for a further 3 – 4 minutes
Add the coconut milk and simmer gently for 20 minutes or until potatoes soft
Add the fish and scallops and cook for a further 5 – 6 minutes until fish cooked through

Serve with naan bread and a green salad

Out of interest Other interesting buildings in the city include the Piston tower in Wavertree, erected in 1884 as a memorial to Picton’s wife. Now standing on a traffic roundabout, this unusual building has a clock face on each of its four sides, four lamp posts at it’s base, and is topped by a lead cupola with a spire, and ‘The Lock up’ also in Wavertree, a two steory octagonal stone structure which was built to house short term prisoners in 1796, but Picton added a slate roof and a weathervane

QUIRCA d’ORCA AND FRESH PESTO PASTA WITH GREEN BEANS AND POTATO

As a homage to the wonderful recent post by cookingwithoutlimits on 10 great countires for food. I am reposting this Italian recipe. The wild boar pasta is a coupl of posts before if you scroll down, hope you enjoy it

A Taste of two Cities

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To bring my little Italian detour sadly to an end. I hesitate before revealing the name of this veritable little ‘Brigadoon’ of a village…..the added bonus being the journey to get there took us through some of the most stunning countryside in Tuscany

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My daughter, Kate, bought us a book about the loveliest ‘secret’ villages in Tuscany for Christmas last year and it is in this book that I stumbled across ‘Quirca d’Orca’ I must add that I am not too worried that I am going to introduce it mass tourism, as it took us three attempts to actually find it and that was with the GPS. It obviously evaded others also, as we spent about four hours in this lovely little hamlet, and only saw two other non residents’  (an American couple)

imgp3645 The almost hidden entrance to the village

Sleepy little back streets, a plethora of medieval buildings (many…

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Chicken and Mushroom pie and Woolton Picture House

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Continuing in the vein of ‘leftovers’ this is a little chicken and mushroom pie that was born out of some puff pastry left over from some mince pies, which in turn were knocked together with some leftover mincemeat, padded out with various other bits and pieces (to feature in a future post). Added to that some mushrooms left over from a boeuf Bourgignon and some chicken from a raclette along with a handful of frozen peas and half a can of condensed soup (don’t worry, the other half went into a chicken and tarragon bake !) and I have worked out that I have made 11 meals for a total of £12 over the last week. So, healthy, and economical and fun……….my good friend Jacqui commented that I should be teaching ‘home economics’ classes in schools, but sadly they don’t exist anymore – maybe we should start a campaign on here to bring them back…………seems we’re all living in La la land……

No apologies for the tenuous link (I have been known to do worse….) but to work my little cultural sojourn into the post I have chosen a recent trip to the cinema. No I am not going to review ‘La la land’ but tell you a little about the wonderful, historic ‘Woolton Picture House’ in Liverpool.

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‘Woolton Picture House’ is the oldest, and only remaining ‘single screen’ cinema in the city of Liverpool. Dating back to 1927 it still retains its 1920’s charm with plush armchairs, more than ample leg room, and dramatic red drapes that sweep aside to reveal the majestic wide screen.

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Being privately owned it charges much less than the cinema complexes in the city (£6.50 for an adult ticket as opposed to £11.50 in town) and the old cinema tradition of ‘The Interval’ is still upheld, with ‘usherettes selling ice-cream from little trays, and the small bar in the foyer selling mini bottles of wine and beer and even cups of tea!

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It’s just feels so much more of an ‘experience’ with the unique atmosphere of a bygone, more glamorous era enhanced by the soothing ‘strings’ of Mantovani playing before the film and during the interval – sheer nostalgia…………..

So let’s ‘Make a feature’ out of the recipe……

Ingredients

Strips of chicken left over from a raclette

Baby sweetcorn also left over from a raclette

Mushrooms left over from my Beef and Bacon hotpot / Boeuf Bourgignon (see previous post for hotpot and A Taste of Two Cities archives for Boeuf Bourgignon)

A handful of frozen peas

1/2 a tin of condensed chicken soup left over from my Chicken Tarragon bake (see my recipe on A Taste of Two Cities)

Ready made puff pastry left over from my final batch of mince pies (recipe not published)

Method

Sauté the chicken, corn and mushroom in a little oil until just about to brown

Add the frozen peas and continue to gently cook until defrosted

Add the 1/2 tin of condensed soup plus 1/2 a tin of water

Season to taste with salt and white pepper

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Pour into an oven proof dish

Roll our the puff pastry to fit the top and bake at 200 degrees / gas mark 6 for 30 -40 minutes until pasty is cooked and golden

I served this with some steamed new potatoes

Bon appetit!

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Beef and Bacon Hotpot and Street Statues of Liverpool

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As many of you know, I am temporarily back in the UK until summer 2017.
Whilst here I have been fascinated by the amount of television airtime given over to cookery programmes (not that I am complaining as I love anything to do with cooking and food – especially when it is linked to travel as many of them are)
A lot of them have taken up the stance of promoting home cooking (again something which I am all for) and particularly using ‘leftovers’. Now this, as many of you also know, is a subject very close to my heart and I am often ‘making something out of nothing’, but now every celebrity chef is banging on about it as if he / she has invented the wheel…….
So my next four posts are going to involve leftover ingredients that I had in my fridge over the weekend.
I usually tie in a little cultural feature, so, taking advantage of what my lovely ‘birth city’ has to offer, here is a little look around some of the statues, celebrating Liverpool life………

These two iconic figures, the sadly recently passed away ‘Cilla Black’ (born Pricilla White), Liverpool’s favourite daughter, who began working as a cloakroom attendant in the famous ‘Cavern Club’ on Mathew street, where she was discovered by the Beatles and shot to stardom with her powerful voice belting out such songs as ‘Anyone who had a heart’ and ‘You’re my World’ amongst many, many others; and the tragically taken from us too soon ‘John Lennon’ Liverpool’s favourite son, who has the city’s international airport named after him.
Another interesting feature of Mathew street is the Cavern’s ‘Wall of Fame’, where the names of all the acts who have performed there over the years are represented by a brick.

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Quite a few famous names dotted about in there, many would have been before they were actually famous

The Cavern club links in nicely with my ‘Taste of Two Cities’ theme as the idea for the club, and indeed it’s very name, came directly from the founder, Alan Sytner, visiting ‘Le Caveau de la Huchette’ a jazz club in the cellar of a former fruit warehouse in’my home town for the last nine years’, Paris, and he opened the Liverpool equivalent as a jazz club in 1957.
I am too young to have been part of the Cavern scene, but the site was turned into ‘The Revolution’ in the mid seventies, then became ‘Eric’s’ in the late seventies / early eighties, which gave rise to the ‘punk rock’ era in the city, a scene that I was very much part of, but that’s another story………

Mathew street is still a hub of activity in the city and I was amused to see tourists and natives queueing in an orderly manner to have their photos taken with ‘Out Cilla’

No mention of Liverpool’s street statues would be complete without a mention of the ‘Fab Four’ gracing the Pier Head’ waterfront, but I couldn’t manage to get a photo without a tourist making up a fab fifth member…………

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A little lesser known one though is that of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ from the song of the same name, tucked away on a bench on Stanley street………‘All the lonely people, where do they all come from. All the lonely people, where do they all belong’ has a sad resonance today walking around the city and seeing the amount of homeless people sleeping rough on the streets and another sad similarity with Paris.

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Another interesting fact that I discovered yesterday, is that this statue is actually singer / performer and made by the Tommy Steel for the princely fee of 3p – plenty of ‘pub quiz’ trivia to keep you going in this post and I hope it has inspired some of you to come and see these statues for yourselves…..

Now, back to the recipe………

Ingredients

½ a packet of leftover bacon Lardons from a previous ‘Beouf Bourgignon’

Some ‘scraps’ of fillet steak that were too small to put on the raclette

½ a leftover Red Onion, finely chopped

½ 1 left over Red pepper, finely cubed

1 small Carrot (I always have a good supply of carrots on ‘stand-by’ to make soup or ‘carrot rapé’ or just throw in a casserole or veggie curry), finely cubed

½ a left over Celery stick, finely sliced

1 clove Garlic, crushed

A little left over fresh Chilli, finely chopped

4 or 5 left over Chestnut mushrooms, quartered

Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper

A splash of Red wine vinegar

½ pint of Beef stock

A good pinch of Mustard seeds

4 small left over potatoes, finely sliced

Method

Sauté the lardons in their own fat until beginning to brown

Add the red onion, carrot, celery and pepper a little at a time so not to create steam and continue to sauté Add the garlic, chilli, steak and mushrooms and sauté until beef and mushrooms begin to brown Add the mustard seeds, salt and pepper

Add the red wine vinegar and beef stock

Pour into a casserole dish and top with the finely sliced potatoes and bake at 200 degrees / gas mark 6 for 45 minutes until the potatoes are cooked and crisp

I served with some (left over) steamed Kale, but I think some warm crusty bread would go very well with this dish, if you were of a carb eating nature

So get into your kitchens and get creative with your leftovers……..

 

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Another City Statue, ‘Case History’ on ‘Hope street, by John King, with the names on the labels belonging to many of the streets illustrious names and organisations

 

 

 

PUMPKIN CURRY AND THE CATACOMBS

In response to a request, here is my popular post on The Catacombs of Paris – plus a nice little curry for these cold winter days…..

A Taste of two Cities

Chick pea curry Perfect Halloween supper!

Halloween is approaching and soon we are going to be flooded with recipes for pumpkin soup and pumpkin pie, so I thought that I would get in early with a pumpkin curry – well actually it is ‘Butternut squash and chickpea curry’, but a pumpkin would do just as well.

Halloween conjures up images of witches and ghouls, (though in France ‘Toussaint’s’ is a little different and I will talk about this closer to the time) so what better place to go ghost hunting than in the Paris Catacombs………….

The Catacombs, or to give them their official name ‘The Municipal Ossuary’ date back to the end of the 18th century, when the ‘Cemetery of the Innocents’ near the present day ‘Les Halles’, became overcrowded (not surprising as it had been in existence for around 1,000 years!) and a health hazard.
All burials…

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