SUNRISE, SUNSET AND ‘SUNSHINE’ FRUIT

IMG_1391 (2)

Beautiful unfortunately named ‘Kaki’ fruit

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.” William Shakespeare

I have spoken before about the very different varieties of fruit and vegetables available here in France then in the UK (and also of the ones which are readily available in the UK that I cannot find at all – purple tender stalk broccoli for one – and I have only really had easy access to parsnips in the last two years) I have also spoken about the seasonal cycle which fruit and veg follow here also.

I just finished mourning the end of the fig season (see my post ‘I do give a fig’), to await with eager anticipation the arrival of ‘Kaki’ fruit. What! I hear you all declare – I agree, not the most enticing of names, but a truly wonderful discovery.

WP_20151010_003 (2)

Kaki fruit in the local supermarket, but the best are those that you buy from the barrow boys who stand outside the stations

These gorgeous orange/yellow giant rosehips are both pretty on the outside and in, with a lovely sun like pattern on the inside that reminds me of a firework exploding in the sky.

They taste somewhere between a peach and a pear and I use them in fruit salads, zap them, if they are a little over ripe, with crème fraiche to make a delicious mousse, and caramelise with butter.

I would call them ‘sunshine’ fruit as I think that this is a much more attractive name and suits them much better…..but as the man said – ‘what’s in a name’………

Speaking of sunshine, or ‘Sunrise and Sunset’, to form another tenuous link with a title, our apartment is in a lovely 1930’s building sandwiched between the lovely river Marne and the Bois de Vincennes.
Granted there are other, more modern, less attractive apartment buildings masking some of the view of the river at the back, and the very convenient, but not very glamourous station right in front. But when I am sitting on my sofa, or at my dining table then all I can see are trees and sky (or if lying on my bed, just sky!)

IMGP0608

View from my lounge window (when sitting)

It is the sky that is the icing on the cake for me living here (apart from the centre of Paris being 20 minutes away by a direct train from the said station!)
I regularly wake to a bedroom bathed in coral as the sun rises in the east, and each evening I have the ‘best seats in the house’ to watch the ever changing sky as she sets again in the west. I have never seen such a dazzling display of light and colour, especially when there are moody clouds hovering over the treetops.

IMGP2973 (3)

‘Beautiful dawn, light up the sky for me, there is nothing in the world, I’d rather wake up and see’

IMGP2697 (2)

‘Lever du Soleil’ Sun coming up behind the geraniums on my bedroom balcony

It is breath-taking, and I frequently abandon my dinner or a program on the television and click away with my camera capturing image after image – I have literally hundreds of them – but won’t subject you to them all……..

IMGP2932 (2)

These two photos were taken about 90 seconds apart from the same position

IMGP2941 (2)

As I am one of the least technical people in the world, none of these photos have been ‘photoshopped’ and what you get is what I see.

IMGP2714 (2)

Gathering storm

IMGP1000 (2)

IMGP1380 (2)

Silver linings

ALTERNATIVE PARIS

Alternative Paris

IMGP1448 (2)

Boots and shoes hanging across street near rue Moufftard

 

Bonjour tout le Monde.

Not my usual style of post I know (What no food!), but many people have posted some lovely photos of Paris recently (see ‘Life as we see it’ post on the Arc de Triomphe, if you have not already.)

So I thought that I’d put a few of my ‘alternative’ photos of in and around the ‘City of Light’.
And show it in gritty black and white. Not so picturesque as the black and white photos on my ‘Paris by Night’ post, but things that have caught my eye when I was out and about last weekend.

Hope you like it – normal service will be resumed at the weekend.

A Bientot!

Lindy

IMGP1440 (3)

Messing about with Boats

IMGP1439 (2)

IMGP1446 (2)

The ‘Boat’ Lake Jardins de Luxembourg

IMGP1780 (2)

Skater Boys

IMGP1782 (3)

Bored Girls

IMGP1791 (4)

The Night Train

IMGP1422 (3)IMGP1455 (2)

Street Life

IMGP1458 (4)

The Shoe Shine Man

IMGP1442 (2)IMGP1438 (2)

Still the City of Romance

IMGP1433 (3)

Best place to take a ‘Selfie’

LINDY’S LASAGNE, FLORENCE AND SIENNA

IMGP2755 (2)

I could not leave my little Italian detour without mentioning my most and least favourite places on this trip.

About 12 years ago I visited Florence and fell in love with it; the love affair has not endured. I was shocked and disappointed by the blatant commercialism everywhere, with beautiful historic sites and buildings hidden from view by tacky stalls selling cheap souvenirs. The pavements are almost impassable due to large walking tours of mainly Chinese tourists and they are shoulder to shoulder with the guys selling ‘selfie sticks’!

IMGP2009 (2)

Magnificant Duomo with the crowds cropped out

I myself live in a very popular European city, that sees its fair share of tourists, but nothing on this scale and I perish the thought of the French ever allowing Asian traders to set up their stalls right outside Notre Dame – one guy outside the Duomo actually tried to sell me a print of the Sacre Coeur!!! I, admittedly was a tourist myself, but individuals or couples or even families do not overtake the place as a 50 strong hoard following a plastic sunflower does………

IMGP2042 (2)

Hoards of Tourists invading the Uffizi

This is a real shame, and I feel that if the city Florence does not do something to address this, then it will suffer. Most European and American people visit for the culture and the architecture, it is now nigh on impossible to appreciate either, as the tour parties form enormous queues around places of interest. I for one, will not return, a sentiment that I heard echoed by many fellow travellers, so sadly this great and noble city will be left to the type of tourist who likes cheap tacky stalls, and has no interest in going into a museum or eating in a nice restaurant……

IMGP2066 (2)

Two locals who are just bored wth it all……

Rather than stand in 37 degrees heat amongst the great wall of China, we did opt for a nice restaurant, and had one of the best Lasagnes that I have ever tasted, I asked the waiter what gave the sauce its distinctive taste, and he told me that his grandmother always puta good pinch of cinnamon in her Bolognaise – so I am going to try to emulate it this evening, and if all else fails, we have a bottle of ‘Vino Nobile di Montepulciano’……….

IMGP2060 (2)

Florence – still worth a visit

I have tried to conjure up the essence of the city in a few photos – YES the Duomo is still magnificent, and if you have never been before, and have nothing to compare with, then still go, if for nothing else than to see this impressive structure. Away from the crowds on the banks of the Arno, you can still appreciate the loveliness of the city, and the views from the Piazza Michelangelo are second to none. But the hands down winner of our Tuscan adventure was without a doubt Sienna.

IMGP2344 (3)

Bella Sienna – Piazza del Campo

‘Ah Sienna’…….how would I describe you, cool, classy, understated, sensual, seductive, secretive, evocative, dramatic, and mysterious – I am totally under your spell…..

IMGP2332 (2)

Who could not fall in love with Sienna!

Tourism here was much more low-key and I only bumped into two small organised tour parties, Sienna is a place for couples. The sound of gentle guitars and sultry saxophones drift through the air and everything is unhurried and unintended as you meander through the shady streets that wind their way around the ‘PIazzo Del Campo’ giving tantalising glimpses of this vast, distinctive, half-moon arena that fans out from the ‘Palazzo Publico’.

IMGP2335 (2)

Chilled street musicians in Sienna

I was tempted into dark little shops selling exotic hand printed writing paper and quill pens, and led by my nose into others selling artisan soaps that the shop owner/soap maker carved an inscription on before wrapping it in gorgeous paper, and others selling ‘Dolce Sienna’ a ‘Specialita Artigianali’ a sort of nougaty cake brimming with nuts and smothered in the most wonderful spicy cinnamon, which tasted more like nutmeg, or a cross between the two – it was this that gave the lasagne the distinctive flavour – needless to say I bought some to use in my recipe below.

IMGP2363 (2)

Unexpected flag throwing in Il Campo

The Piazza itself is so vast that there is room and space for everyone, even at the chilled café/restaurants surrounding it. We stopped for an Aperol spritz and were treated to a procession of men and boys in medieval dress waving flags and beating time with drums as they made their way around the periphery.

IMGP2356

Aperol Spritz and people watching – perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon

If Florence is the sequined Ball Gown, then Sienna is ‘The Little Black Dress’

Here’s what I did

Ingredients
Serves 2 very generously (with left-overs)

For the Bolognaise sauce

IMGP2749 (2)

8 oz/200g mince beef (steak Hache) if you have a mincer, then it is best to buy rump steak and mince it yourself.

1 medium shallot (echalot) finely chopped

1 large clove garlic (gousse d’ail) crushed

1 tin of good quality chopped tomatoes (chair de tomates)

1 tablespoon (2 cuillers a soupe) of tomato puree (double concentre de tomates)

1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar

1 level teaspoon of cinnamon

1 good teaspoon of dried oregano

Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to taste

For the Béchamel sauce

IMGP2753 (2)

30g butter

1 tablespoon (2 cuillers a soupe) of cornflour Farine a mais)

½ pint/250ml milk

A ‘pinch’ of salt and white pepper (black pepper will discolour the sauce)

Enough sheets of fresh lasagne to form two layers in your lasagne dish

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Method

I ‘dry fry’ the mince very slowly releasing its own fat and cook it until enough fat has been released to add the shallot and cook for 3-4 minutes until clear, then the garlic, oregano, tomato puree and red wine vinegar and cook gently for a further 1-2 minutes.

Then add the chopped tomatoes and the cinnamon (you can rinse out the can with a little water and add this also) and simmer gently for around 20-30 minutes.

Add freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to taste, remove from heat and leave to cool a little while making the sauce……..

Melt the butter on a very gently heat in saucepan and stir in the corn flour.

Remove from heat and the milk a little at a time, stirring first with a wooden spoon, then as the sauce becomes more liquid return to the heat and continue with a hand whisk, keeping the sauce moving all the time to prevent lumps forming (if this happens – don’t panic, just remove from the heat, add a little more liquid and whisk like crazy)

Once all the milk is incorporated into the sauce, let it simmer while stirring gently with the wooden spoon again for 1-2 minutes to remove the floury taste.

Season with a little salt and white pepper.

Put a layer of the Bolognaise sauce in a lasagne dish and top with a little of the Béchamel sauce.

Cover with a layer of lasagne (for me this took one and a third sheets)

Add the remaining Bolognaise sauce and again a little Béchamel sauce

Cover with another layer of lasagne and cover completely with the remaining Béchamel sauce

Sprinkle with a generous coating of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, cover with a loose sheet of baking foil and bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees/gas mark 4 for 30-40 minutes.

Remove the baking foil and increase the heat to 200 degrees and let the top bubble and brown (about 5-10 minutes)

Serve with a slice of garlic bread and a nice fresh green salad.

Buon appetite!

IMGP2395 (2)

Sophisticated little restaurant tucked away in a shady street in seductive Siena

LINDY’S MAMA MIA PIZZA, CORTONA AND MONTEPULCIANO

 IMGP2736 (2)

 

To continue with my slightly ‘off piste’ foray into the flavours of Italy following my recent trip to Tuscany. I am going to try to justify this by saying that since living in France ‘The Continent’ has become more accessible. It is no longer necessary to take a plane or boat or a 35 minute very expensive car journey under the ‘Chunnel’ to reach destinations in Europe.

We have travelled to Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Italy twice by car, stopping ‘en route’ to explore regions of the French countryside that we would not normally visit.

During our stay in Tuscany, we visited the small hilltop town of Cortona. Cortona is the town which features in the ‘Frances Mayes’ book and Film of the same name ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ and sadly has fallen victim to the success of the this and subsequent books.

IMGP2446 (2)

Church where the young couple are married in the film ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’

Almost every other shop (slight exaggeration, but you know what I mean) had giant posters from the film in their window, cashing in on the plentiful interest of American tourists who had come to pay homage and see the locations from the film and try to capture a little of the magic conjured up in the book.

IMGP2423 (2)

Cortona

As a result of this I counted three ‘Burger Bars’ in the relatively small village, presumably to cater for the American tastes………….Admittedly they were not typical Burger Bars, rather cafes/restaurants serving gourmet burgers with salad and chips that looked very tempting. But I asked myself, would the Americans not have been just as happy (or even more so!) to eat Italian food as they did everywhere else (after saying that, these establishments were full!)

IMGP2424 (2)

Not a burger in sight!

We, however, went to a small pizzeria tucked away in a little alley just off the main thoroughfare, with tiny tables with two chairs balancing on the steps that led down to the outskirts of the village.

IMGP2429 (2)

Anti pasta and a nice glass of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Having seen the size of the portions, we ordered an artichoke and caper pizza and a delicious green salad with shavings of tangy fresh Parmesan cheese and shared them both (antipasta and lovely little chocolate and almond cookies were offered free, as was a basket of delicious bread, we found this a lot in Italy, you almost didn’t need to order food as the ’nibbles’ that they served up with the ‘apero’ were plentiful and varied).

IMGP2431

Wonderful Artichoke and Caper Pizza

IMGP2430 (2)

Fabulous green salad with Parmesan

This inspired me to make my own pizza dough and tomato sauce and create my own pizza, with true ‘Taste of Two Cities’ style, just using what I had at hand…….the results were pretty good and Monsieur le Frog commented on how crisp and light the base was (normally he would frown on pizza as ‘food for the teenagers’)

For the record, anyone visiting the area and planning to visit a hilltop village, then Montepulciano is, in my opinion, by far prettier than Cortona, with lots of little ‘artisan’ workshops with people working leather and copper and making mosaics from Moreno glass. (not all of them with an eye to the tourists, but actual small business, as the forge halfway up the hill) This charming small town also features in the ‘Flag throwing’ scene in the film………

IMGP2132

The square in Montepulciano where the ‘Flag Throwing’ scene takes place

IMGP2116 (2)

Lovely Montepulciano

IMGP2142 (2)

View of the Tuscan countryside fromMontepulcino

IMGP2090 (2)

Montepulciano

And now – how I created my masterpiece………..

Pizza dough (pate a pizza)
Ingredients

8oz/200g strong white (bread) flour, or a mix of 4oz/100g of plain flour and 4oz/100g of wholemeal flour if you prefer a more rustic base (100% wholemeal is too heavy) – see table at end of post explaining different flour grades for UK, US, France and Italy.

1 dessertspoon (1 cuiller a soupe) of olive oil

1 teaspoon (1 cuiller a café) of dried yeast (levure chimique)

1 teaspoon of castor sugar (1 cuiller a café de sucre en poudre)

1 teaspoon (1 cuiller a café) of salt

About 1/3 of a pint (un peu pres 200ml) of warm water (d’eau tiede)

Method

Dissolve the sugar in the water then sprinkle on the yeast and leave in a warm place for 10 minutes

Add the salt to the flour then add the yeast mixture and the olive oil until a soft dough forms

‘Knead’(petrir) the dough for about 5 minutes than place in a floured bowl and cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes until doubled in size

Knead once more until smooth and elastic and stretch out onto an oiled pizza stone (or baking tray lined with oiled baking parchment)

Cover with tomato sauce and your topping of choice, sprinkle with olive oil and bake in a moderately hot oven for around 20 minutes

IMGP2723 (2)

N.B. This makes a delicious flatbread (pizza bianco) if simply topped with a generous drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle with roughly chopped garlic, oregano and coarsely ground sea salt

 

Lindy’s Tomato sauce (totally me own creation, unless anyone else has had the same ideas!)
Ingredients

2-3 large ripe tomatoes (I prefer plum tomatoes (olivettes) as they are more fleshy (charnu))

1 clove garlic (1 gousse d’ail)

1 tablespoon (2 cuillers a soupe) of olive oil

1 tablespoon (2 cuiller a soupe) of tomato puree

1 tablespoon (2 cuillers a soupe) of red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon (1 cuiller a café) of salt

1 teaspoon (1 cuiller a café) of fennel seeds (grains de fenouil)

½ a teaspoon (.5 cuiller a café) sugar

½ a teaspoon (.5 cuiller a café) oregano

½ a teaspoon (.5 cuiller a café basil)

Freshly ground black pepper to season

Method

Heat the oil in a saucepan

Crush (ecraser) the garlic and roughly chop the tomatoes and sauté in the oil until soft

Add the tomato puree, then red wine vinegar

Add the sugar, salt, fennel seeds, oregano and basil and black pepper to taste

Cover and gently simmer for around 20 minutes

Leave to cool slightly before spreading over the pizza base

IMGP2730 (2)

Finish off with toppings of your choice – I personally never buy ingredients to make pizza, pasta, risotto, gazpacho or soup – I just use what I have left over from other meals, so each time it is different! This time I used some left over red pepper, orange pepper, courgette, red onion, pancetta and a handful of red jalapenos and black olives plus some grated parmesan cheese (I use mozzarella if I have it, but on this occasion it had all been eaten in a tomato salad!)

IMGP2731 (2)

Some international flour grades Flour comes in literally hundreds of varieties and it can be very confusing when reading recipes written in other countries, so hopefully this little table will help

UK – Wholemeal.     US – Wholewheat.     Fr – 150           Italy – Integrale
UK – Brown               US – 1st Clear           Fr – 110            Italy – 2
UK – Light Brown     US – High Gluten       Fr – 80             Italy – 1
UK – Strong White*  US – All purpose        Fr – 55             Italy – 0
UK – Plain White      US – Pastry Flour      Fr – 45             Italy – 00 (Pasta)
UK – Corn flour        US – Corn starch       Fr – Mais*        Italy – ??
UK – Self Raising     US – ??                       Fr – Gateaux    Italy – ??
* Strong White is Bread flour, Mais = ‘farine de Mais

If anyone from the US begs to differ, please excuse me and your comments will be most welcome – likewise if anyone can fill in the?? then I will be very grateful

Get tossing those pizzas – happy baking

Lindy

IMGP2736 (2)

LIMONCINO TIRAMISU AND CETONA TUSCANY

IMGP2668 (2)

What do you do with some uneaten Yogurt cake (see my post for ‘Gateau au Yaourt’) that has gone a bit dry? Make a Limoncino Tirimisu of course!

As many of you know, we have just returned from two glorious weeks in the Alps (where I learnt to make the said gateau!) And Tuscany, where we bought a couple of bottles of ‘Liquore di Limone di Sorrento’ Both for culinary purposes and to serve as an apero.

IMGP1963 (2)

Lovely unspoilt Cetona

The garden in the charming apartment where we were staying just outside the centre of the very picturesque and very authentic village of Cetona was brimming with all manner of lovely organic produce, of which guests were invited to take full advantage.

IMGP2289 (2)

The gorgeous Tuscan countryside viewed from the town

Amongst other delights we sampled the home-made red, white and rose wine, the home pressed extra virgin olive oil (made from the olives from one of the 400 or so olive trees) which to be honest, I could have drunk in equal measure to the wine it was SO good. There were also eggs still warm from the hen, peppers, chillis, tomatoes in abundance (to make the home-made passata), cucumber, melons, pears, plums and peaches.

IMGP1929

Olive tree to welcome you

The ‘Franglais’ twist to this recipe is that I mixed together ‘crème Anglais’ which is too rich for my French family, and crème fraiche, which is perhaps not rich enough for English tastes, who are used to custard and full cream.

IMGP1918 (2)

The Woodstock for chilly Tuscan evenings

Sadly this dessert is not made with peaches from the garden, but from our local Sunday market.

Being in the Tuscan countryside made me realise just what an artificial existence we have, albeit that here in France, I follow the seasons and cook much more with natural ingredients than I did in the UK (see my post on ‘Roasted Red Peppers and Paris Markets) And I would dearly love on day to have my own garden where I can live more ‘off the land’

IMGP1913 (2)

Home grown peppers waiting to be picked

For now I will just have to feast my eyes on the photographs that I took in the garden and dream…….

IMGP1915 (2)

Grapes from the garden to eat or make wine

 

Ingredients
Serves two generously

Some over dry yogurt cake (or trifle sponges if you have not – but I like the ‘waste not want not’ approach)

Two peaches peeled and finely sliced

1 tablespoon of Limoncino liquore (2 cuillers a café

2 tablespoons of crème Anglais

2 tablespoons of crème fraiche

A good handful of flaked almonds (une poignee d’amands effilés)

Method

Soak the cake in the limoncino for a couple of hours

Add the sliced peaches

Mix the crème Anglais and crème fraiche together (you can add a teaspoon of Limoncino to this mixture also……….)

Spread the cream over the peaches, cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least half an hour

Sprinkle with the flaked almonds and serve immediately

Bliss………

IMGP2275 (2)

Cetona Kitty Cat

PARIS BY NIGHT

PARIS ON A BUDGET

(Bonjour. I am Lindy I have lived in the beautiful city of Paris since 2009, and I would like to share with you my personal top 10 things to do in Paris if you are visiting on a shoestring, or just if you want to get away from the madding crowd at the Eiffel tower!)

IMGP1712 (3)

All photographs by Lindy Kelly

6 – Paris by Night

They say that Paris is made for lovers – that may well be so, but I think that it is made for walkers – ‘Les Flaneurs’ – people who amble through the city from park to park, garden to garden, museum to museum, bookshop to bookshop, maybe stopping at the odd café on the way for essential refreshments and a spot of people watching.

The city begs to be walked. It draws you along seductively through narrow winding streets which reveal tantalising glimpses of one majestic building or another that you just have to reach, and lures you on to discover what wonder is lying behind the next corner. Equally the ‘Grands Boulevards’ distort all sense of distance and the miniature Arc de Triomphe which appears to be a mere  30 minute walk away from the Louvre, is in fact enormous and four times the distance that you imagined!

IMGP1684 (2)

Strolling by the banks of the Seine

This is no accident, it was in fact designed this way. I once commented to a Parisian friend of mine while we were on a four hour ‘stroll’ to wherever our feet took us, that we were in fact living in the oldest theme park in the world – she wholeheartedly agreed!

There are only a handful of varieties of trees lining the streets, the vast majority being plain trees that were originally planted throughout France by Napoleon to provide shade for his marching army. The second variety are the Lime trees (tilleuil) from which a popular tea in France is made.
This gives a uniformity to the city that further deceives the walker and tricks him into continuing along long these tree lined boulevards.
It is not only the trees: lamp posts, Morris Towers, fountains, even the chairs and tables on the pavement cafes, all follow a Parisian ‘dress code’ to give a seamless appearance to the city.

IMGP1715 (2)

Lovely little secluded Place Dauphine

Bearing this in mind, it is essential that you bring a comfortable pair of shoes with you when visiting Paris – leave the ‘Manolo Blahniks’ at home unless you are here for Paris fashion week and plan to go everywhere by taxi!

I particularly love walking in the evening in late spring/early summer or late summer/early autumn, when the temperatures are balmy, but the dusk arrives before 10, giving plenty of time to stroll around the city taking in the beautiful floodlit buildings and magical ambiance of the banks of the Seine and her bridges.

IMGP1671 (2)

Even the moon shines brighter in Paris

A favourite evening stroll of mine is from the ‘hill of St Genevieve’ in the 5th ‘arrondisssement’, where the beautiful ‘church of St Genevieve is floodlit’ (actually it is equally beautiful bathed in late evening sunlight). Continue pass the majestic ‘Pantheon’ and time it so that you arrive here on or just after the hour and you will be rewarded by a spectacular view of the ‘Eiffel Towe’r shimmering in all her glory.
Go straight ahead and take the small back street on the right after rue St Jacques and you will arrive at the ‘Sorbonne University’, where you can cut through the delightful café lined square to Boulevard St Michel.
Follow the road down to the imposing fountain and there on your right is ‘Notre Dame’ herself in all her floodlit glory.

IMGP1711 (3)

Romantic Pont Neuf

After this you can meander along the right bank past ‘Pont Neuf’ and the lovely ‘Acadamy Francaise’ and on to the ‘Louvre’ if your legs will carry you!

You can actually walk from the ‘Louvre’ to ‘Place de la Concorde’ and if you are a real ‘Flaneur’ on to the ‘Arc de Triomphe’. But this will be a true test of stamina………………

IMGP1719 (2)

It just wouldn’t be Paris without a sot of the Eiffel Tower!

(All Photographs that appear on this post are originals by Lindy Kelly, any reproduction requires her permission)