'I recently went back to Paris for a few days before TGVing to Les Sables d'Olonne in Vendée to see my Mum, sister and older son who recently settled down nearby and got married to his long term German and lovely girlfriend. I stayed where my children stayed during their Uni exchange programs in 2013 in between Gare de l'Est and the trendy Canal Saint Martin. So by public request, I thought I would elaborate a bit more than the few Instagram photos you may have seen already. And just after the long journey from Sydney, what would you but sit at the nearby brasserie and enjoy your first café along (long black in Oz...). If you don't specify then you will end up with an expresso, and if late is your caffeine injection of choice, too bad, you will have to settle for a grand crème.
Although it is near impossible to get accomodation there without a solid connection, you can still enjoy the café downstairs, called Café A, a nice gathering place of "branchés" youngish French people attracted by the lovely courtyard and the good food at reasonable prices and limited, but good wine list including the traditional carafe, and on the first night, I didn't have the energy nor the appetite to look any further and settled down to a great steak tartare with a carafe of bio wine from Chateau de Saurs, from Gaillac AOC.
During the day on my way back from lunch with a long time friend who I had not seen for 30 years, I strolled along the Canal enjoying the warm weather and the gentle crowd feeding on the atmosphere. And was lucking to see a boat going through the lock.
The now famous - for all the wrong reasons - Place de la République is only a 15 mns walk from Gare de lest, whether you go straight via the Boulevard Magenta - but what would be the point of that when you can go along the canal and then via some more picturesque little streets?
They might well make the best croissants in Paris, but their Parisian arrogance is certainly second to none as well... For starters they are NOT open during weekends - yes, you have read properly... And then when asked if they make coffee they refer you to the Monop' across the road whose coffee machine happens to be "en panne' but point you to a bar tabac at the corner of the street on the canal, where they will happily serve you coffee and eat your viennoiseries in peace - no corkage here thank you very much!
There are also a number of trendy restaurants around, one owned by Aussies, called Holybelly - opening at 10.00am! a bit late when you only have 5 days in Paris, and one that I took my nephew and his partner to, called Aux Enfants Perdue rue des Récollets which turned out to be much better than my expectations, some here is a mini review of this unassuming place.
They also run a very nice delicatessen and bottle shop just across the road, worth checking if you want to cook at home.
I hope you have enjoyed my little glimpse of the Canal Saint Martin area of Paris and that it will entice you to go and wander the area at your own pace!
Another place where I have lunched and dined for decades...
However, I have not been back since moving to Australia almost 20 years ago. So, over my recent trip to Paris, I was keen to reacquaint myself with the decor, the personnel and the food bien sûr. And I was not disappointed!
Au Petit Riche has been in continuous operation since 1854! And I have lunched and dined in this beautiful establishment for decades...
However, I have not been back since moving to Australia almost 20 years ago. So, over my recent trip to Paris, I was keen to reacquaint myself with the decor, the personnel and the food bien sur. And I was not disappointed!
For 18 years, it has been a monthly gathering of fabulous producers, dedicated food enthusiasts and celebrity Chefs showing their skills in well orchestrated demos. It has been a great help in my food blogger journey as it has given me casual access to the crème de la crème of famous Chefs from around Australia and sometime from further afield. Some of them have become good friends in the process. Also true of dozen of suppliers whose products I have bought, revised and promote (for free...) because they were outstanding and made with love and dedication.
Jill Duplex and Terry Durak, just landed from Melbourne at the time, started this venture in 1998, as they could not find in Sydney the equivalent of the Melbourne markets (and still can't, as there are no city based permanent daily markets in Sydney...) For many years, Joanna Savill relentlessly organised it, cajoling Chefs into spending their Saturday mornings entertaining and educating a smallish group of dedicated followers. I personally started reporting on these events in 2010. More recently, Joanna was replaced by the flamboyant Myffy Rigby, with the occasional help of the elegant Ardyn Bernoth. I was not going to miss out the last edition yesterday. Here is a series of photos and videos taken before and during the panel which was assembled to discuss the future of the food markets in Sydney. It was an interesting discussion curated by Myffy and Ardyn who gently grilled (!) the panelists: Josephine Perry (missy French) and dad Neil Perry (Rockpool), Jill Duplex (SMH), Ronni Kahn of OzHarvest fame and Somer Sivrioglu of Efendy Balmain and now at Barangaroo.
There were some interesting points raised and some proposals made as well as a quick appearance from Pepe Saya aka Pierre Issa.
The best story , I think, was when Somer recounted a conversation with his Dad about visiting the Growers Market, and his Dad asking "are they any other types of markets?. Precious!
I grew up in a culture and at a time where daily markets were the rule, and Mum was shopping almost daily for fresh food. We would then go to the butcher or the fishmonger, and the boulanger, bien sûr...
There is a petition running to open a permanent market somewhere in the City - Haymarket, Surry Hills and Barangaroo were mentioned. There were some "out of place " comments, I thought about the lockout laws and the cost of labour, but overall, it was all very civilised.
You will hear in one of the videos a talk about "imperfect vegetables and fruits" but nobody mentioned the good work done in that sphere by Harris Farm Markets. Nobody either acknowledged the great work done by Joanna Savill over the years, and she was visiting the market. I thought it would have been polite to invite her even briefly...
The quality of these videos is not perfect, but consider them as a record of an interesting way of sending off this 18 year old institution.
Neil Perry of Rockpool fame talks about imperfect vegetables.
Ronni Khan, the founder of OzHarvest talks about imperfect vegetables and fruits as well as food waste.
Somer Sivrioglu does a demo of how to open a pomegranate with his bare hands and remove the pearls without losing all the precious juice...
Joke of the day: What is stronger than a Turk? Two Turks... Sorry Somer!
Pepe Saya was invited to talk about all things butter and how this market (and Qantas...) helped him growing his business against European Community subsidised Lurpak. Neil Perry also managed to plug a ranting about lock out laws in Sydney, whether or not it was the right audience is debatable, but I like a man with a cause, and in this case two men!
We will miss this view forever...Good bye the SMH Growers Market
Well, I have never picked grapes in my life, so when Katrina Hill, a good client and a friend of many years asked me if I could come and help as her grapes needed picking a week earlier than planned, I tough it would make a great day out in the country side. A good two-hour drive south of Sydney in Canyonleigh, at 700m of altitude, Far Ago Hill is a boutique vineyard making an excellent Pinot Gris and soon to be released, what should be a great Shiraz. The vines have been progressively planted since 2004, so int is quite established and the Pinot Gris has an excellent reputation amongst the high end of Chefs in the Southern Highlands (Biota Dining) and beyond, as it is now poured at the new Peter Gilmore restaurant Bennelong. It is also served on Qantas First Class. Not a small achievement for what started as a hobby!
Once you leave the small road which leads you to the entrance of the property, you need to drive up hill on a very rough dirt road for two kilometres until...
After a welcome (and welcomed...) cup of coffee, I was offered to taste the juice of the first grapes picked to assess the ripeness. I am not an expert, but they were very tasteful and sweet, and after the approval by better informed people than myself, the grape picking had commenced a good two hours earlier by a hastily assembled crew, as the grapes were ripe earlier than forecasted and the vineyard was pounded by heavy hail the night before, hopefully to little damage thanks in part to the netting...
Après le réconfort, l'effort! Down to the vineyard and start picking grapes after a quick training with the secateur. Fortunately, even though the clouds eventually melted away, it was a cool 20deg in the morning
It took two days to a crew of ten people to harvest the 16 rows of Pinot Gris producing 8 tons of beautiful fruit. The grapes were then transported in two trips to the winer, a two hour drive from Canyonleigh...
After six hours of picking grapes under an increasingly sunny sky takes its toll, but the sense of accomplishment, the camaraderie with people i didn't know earlier in the day and a shared lunch of sausages, boiled potatoes salad and some Pinot Gris 2015 are the biggest rewards of the vendanges!
Not to mention the fact that when we finally drink the 2016 vintage, I will have that particular connection between the land, its bounty and the labor of love which went into producing the finest bottle of wine! Merci Katrina
Most people would be familiar with 'Turbot au beurre blanc', a staple of French seafood cuisine. Some people might know of 'Raie au beurre noir'...
Turns out, I don't like skate, probably the only fish I won't eat, but I like that sauce usually seven with capers. So, as I found a beautiful turbot chez De Costi at the Sydney Fish Market, I decided to treat it like skate...
I prepared a salad of Red Cabbage, Pear, Fennel, Carrot and Persian Feta to put some colour back in the plate, just dressed with balsamic vinegar and EVOO from Alto Olives. So, here is the drill (ready to put your skates on?...)
As previously explained, use a frozen 60grams piece of Pepe Saya butterPrepare the salad first and plate right away, as the beurre noir and the cooking of the fish are very quick and will require all your attention...
You will need two pans, one for the fish that you will just grill int olive oil and some butter to give it more colour, and one to prepare the "beurre noir", literally "black butter", but not too black, that's the secret and the tricky bit!
As previously featured, use a 60 grams frozen piece of Pepe Saya butter (or any quality butter like Isigny, Lescure, Le Conquérant...) and melt it in the pan on top of some olive oil (I use Rosto Mellow evoo for cooking, available at Harris Farm Markets here). Use about 20 grams for the fish and reserve the balance for the beurre noir.
To prepare the beurre noir, melt 40 grams of butter with a small amount of olive oil to prevent the butter to burn to quickly. Then turn the heat up until it foams and almost separate. At that point you can either throw the capers with some of their vinegar in the pan, or, as I did use some raspberry vinegar for a touch more "five star" deliciousness. This will coagulate the butter. Turn the heat down, add the capers and turn the heat off after a few moments - don't burn the capers basically...
If you have been following me for a while on Instagram or on this blog, you will know i ADORE Coquilles Saint Jacques and I bought myself this 200-page book featuring about 100 different recipes from the master of the genre: Jean-Pierre Crouzil, a Chef and restaurateur at L'Ecrin de Plancouët, a small village of 2500 souls, 26 kms from Saint-Malo. Originally a bar-tabac-PMU, the restaurant wins a first Michelin star in 1988 and another one in 1996...
So, I decided to cook this recipe for our 29th anniversary and decided to replace the rhubarb by figs that are currently in season and quite inexpensive (A whole tray of 24 figs for A$18...).
For the scallops, we cannot find fresh big ones here, at least not for the man in the street or the home cook. I used to buy frozen ones from Canada (Many a chef here use them...) but I have found a new supplier of Japanese sashimi scallops which have being frozen for transport, but have been thawed on the day. They are extremely costly at A$3.50 each but they are absolutely stunning! I bought nine and sliced them in half to make eighteen.
But first, we need to make the fig jam, the main ingredient of the dish.
Use a dozen figs, cut the top and bottom and then quarter them. I a small pan, add extra virgin olive oil (in my case Robusta from Alto Olives), some Pepe Saya butter (the recipe calls for 60 grams, but I used far less...
You will need cardamon, cinnamon, pepper, mint and my secret ingredient a fig and coriander mustard from Maille.
Once the olive oil and the butter have mixed, then add the figs and all the ingredients but the mint and the Champagne. stir often until the figs are melted to a jam consistency. Then add the mint and half a glass of Champagne. Keep plenty to drink with your meal...
During that time, cut rings of puff pastry with a 12cm metal ring. I would recommend you either make your own or buy some pre made by a reputable company like Maggie Beer here in Australia. I had some more ordinary one in stock, so I used that, but it would help to use a better one...
Then half the scallops and start assembling the dish inside the ring, starting with the scallops at the bottom, then the jam after you left it cool down, so it doesn't cook the scallops, then cover with the pastry... Place into an oven proof dish using a wide blade, then remove the ring once in place. Repeat.
Cook in the oven for 8 minutes and rest for four. Then return on the serving plate (that is the tricky bit....) add fresh figs cut in half and some fresh mint on top et voilà. Pour the Champagne and enjoy!
If I were to make this recipe again, I would change the process slightly.
I would pre cook the pastry, and quickly cook the scallops in a pan with some honey in the pan, to caramelise them on both sides. I would then assemble each plate in a ring directly starting by the pastry at the bottom, then the fig jam, then the scallops and lime, them the fresh figs and the mint. I would be more visually appealing and the scallops would be more interesting. But don't get me wrong, it was scrumptious as it!
I have hinted above that there might be a better way to cook and assemble the various elements of this recipe. I had the opportunity to try this recently, so here it is!
First, use a good quality puff pastry or make your own. I have used Careme, or you could use Maggie Beer if you are in Australia. I am not sure what is available in America or elsewhere. Cut a 12 cm round piece per person and precook it/them on its/their own until golden and puffed. Reserve.
Scallop the scallops as previous instructions, reserve. Prepare the figs or rhubarb compote in the same manner and keep warm in the pot.
Once ready, cook the scallops in a pan with olive oil, butter and some cane sugar powder to help caramelise the scallops. Make sure they are cooked through and golden on both sides. Turn the heat off but keep them in the pan until you are ready to assemble.
8Then get your rings, place the ring in the middle of thriving plate, place the puff pastry at the bottom, add enough compote to cover most of it, and place 9 slices of scallops in circle on top, add mint or coriander to finish. Remove ring. Repeat and serve quickly so it keeps warm. Bon appétit!
We are lucky to have somebody like Pepe Saya (and a few others...) who makes cultured butter, the way it is done in Normandy or Echiré.
I use very little butter these days, but when I do I want the best and 225 grams of butter last me a long time, if I can conserve it that is...
Pierre Issa, the real human behind Pepe Saya, told me I could freeze and keep for longer that way. But then, it is still too big to unfreeze in one go...
So here is my solution: you will need a knife, a ring, a half cup, a spoon and some glad wrap... By the way I am not sponsored by Pepe Saya!
The holiday season is always a good time and a good excuse to gather with friends and family and cook new recipes and explore new wines. This Christmas was no exception and I invite you to click on the button below to read my latest wine adventures on our "WINE" page.
December Food adventures in Strasbourg - a guest post from Janelle & Scott Gould - DistantFrancophile
Maison Kammerzell - Strasbourg - Restaurant review
My virtual friends, Janelle and Scott Gould from Melbourne, who run an interesting blog called DistantFrancophile were visiting Alsace recently and on their own accord went to explore one of the most ancient restaurants in France: Maison Kammerzell in Strasbourg, which has been operating since 1427 with further additions in 1467 and 1589, when three upper floors of timber panelling were added, resulting in the building we know today.
Their "signature dish" was invented 45 years ago by the Chef who is still running the show today, Guy-Pierre Baumann. He almost went to jail for what was looked at as a blasphemy on the traditional meat choucroute! So I won't steal the show and direct you to our Restaurant Review page where I have hosted their article! Bon appétit!
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.
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