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The Rekindled Friendship of A Dreamer in Paris {And Blanquette de Poulet à l’Ancienne}

Foreword, from La La Land

My aunt used to live in Paris
 
I remember, she used to come home and tell us these stories about being abroad

And I remember she told us that she jumped into the river once, barefoot

She smiled
Leapt, without looking
And tumbled into the Seine

The water was freezing
She spent a month sneezing

But said she would do it again
Here’s to the ones who dream

Foolish as they may seem
A bit of madness is key
To give us new colors to see

Prologue, A Visit 13-Years in the Making 

Sometime in 2016…

“We’ve had twelve years of foreplay; it’s about time we see each other, don’t you think?”

Months later …

“Happy new year to you too. I wish you a happier 2017 than 2016. I also wish you the opportunity to travel to Paris!”

Some days later …

“Are you free on the weekend of …. ?”

“I am no longer free because you are coming?” (Isn’t that just the most perfect line for a story?…)

Day One, Uneaten Croissants in the 16th 

“It’s good to have you finally here.” And somewhere in his greeting, I believe he mentions the twelve years of foreplay again.

I look at him, and a smile runs away from my face. His audacity has always humoured me. We’ve been nothing more than just friends, but he’s invariably poking in a bit of picaresque when he can, which is so typically French. He was learning back on his futon, looking at me through mischievous eyes. His gaze was intense, provocative, sexy, and slightly languid, like Paris itself one could say.

I’ve never been in this apartment before but somehow it seems familiar… I think I’ve actually dreamt about being here. And I have divined where the expansive, bright window to the street is. I recall tip-toeing to peak out and take a glimpse of the marvelous city outside.

I walk over to the window now, open it, and look out. The air is brisk and pleasant. It’s early Saturday morning and the street is still quiet. I have just landed a couple of hours before, more or less at the same time that the terrorist attack took place at the other airport, I learn from my friend.

As if daring me not to stare straight at it, beaming right at me is one of those ornate 19th century, quintessentially Parisian buildings, the kind one sees in postcards and illustrations, which My Little Paris is known for. The pretty rooftop seems to be calling out to come crawl up onto it with a bottle of red wine in one hand and a good book or a fashion magazine in the other. I imagine myself sitting up there and wasting the day away, wistfully enjoying the grey skies and watching Parisians pass by down below, being part of the city yet being detached from it as well. I cannot help myself and I gawk at the façade, trying to get a glimpse into each and every window within my view, guessing how people are coming back to life today, what dreams they may have, what adventurous plans they will engage in, or simply what their daily routine might look like today … things that maybe in Paris may seem a little less mundane … and that on this day they might share with me, the unobtrusive observer.

I reluctantly pull myself away from the scene and tip-toe, stretching to see what lies ahead to the right. I know what’s there – my friend has sent me pictures. But even so, oh my! To have this as one’s daily view is quite impressive. I wonder if I could ever be blasé about it…. la Tour Eiffel feels close enough to touch with my fingertips. She beckons me; and if it weren’t because it’s hard to stand there leaning out of the window, I could just dillydally here all day with the fresh breeze in my face and Paris below my feet, looking at her, conjuring up enough day dreams to fill a book.

“My neighbors and I respect one another.” My thoughts are abruptly interrupted and come to a screeching halt. Opps..he must have noticed my lingering observation of the building across the street.

Slightly embarrassed, but not wanting to show it, I enquire, “And what does that mean?”

“Oh, you know, like in New York. One doesn’t look into someone else’s windows.” The French don’t beat around the bush, do they? By the way, if you’re interested, there’s an intriguing book, titled Ventanas de Manhattan, by Antonio Muñoz Molina, which is precisely about the all the different lives “hiding” behind the windows of New York. 

As my friend keeps talking, my mind wanders to East 81st Street. A lot of things have happened since we shared the same address. I got married and divorced. Both my parents have passed away. I’ve moved from the US to Europe, back to the US, and then back to Europe. I am not the same person who moved to NYC to become independent.

I look at him. He now has longer hair. It suits his eccentric personality and somehow brings out his blue eyes… Back in that other cosmopolitan city, we both had lived on the same floor. I try to remember how we met. My first thought is that it must have been in the elevator…but that would be too cliché for us… no, I correct myself, it was one day as he was taking clothes to the dry cleaners across the street and I was arriving home. Now I can recall his face, his flirty smile, and how he stopped me to chat with him and made me laugh as he kept the door open for me. That chance encounter lead to a friendship; and I remember being entranced by our philosophical conversations. And now, here I was sitting in his Paris apartment, half a world across the globe, almost thirteen years later.

He’s a teacher now. We were both in finance back then. The role befits him like a smooth, pliable glove. His deep voice – something I did not remember – is sensual. No wonder his female students all have crushes on him. There’s a only a trace of an accent, but one would never say it’s French. His English is impeccable, as it should be for an English teacher. Yet, he cannot be more Parisian. His family has lived here for generations. His great-grandfather made the lamps of the Pont Alexandre III. You can see them when facing the Grand Palais from the Quai d’Orsay. I won’t share which side, but they are there. Or so he tells me.

In my little studio on the Upper East Side, he would pop over unannounced all the time. We had a common friend, another neighbour, who took his cue and also came over unexpectedly often. Kimmie and her little black dog, Lulu, were also our companions.

At first, it flustered me a bit; but I later grew used to it and enjoyed having both or just one of them over. I’ve always wanted those types of friends à la-Briget-Jones-Diary or like those depicted in Love Actually that say what they think, do things impulsively – like coming over on a whim, making themselves right at home – and with whom we build bonds that are unbreakable even if we disagree, especially if we disagree.

Back then, he and I would sit on my futon for hours, talking. He was going through a crisis that eventually lead him back home, to Paris, and to his dream job. We used to also go out on the town, although less frequently. One of my last memories of us was at a bar with a French couple, friends of his who were visiting the city, and my Taiwanese friend from my MBA program, who had been visiting me. I had had on a bright, chartreuse green sweater and tight, bell-bottom jeans. I remember the bar we were in, some tucked-away gaunt on the Upper East Side; it was dark with red walls and we were the only people there, but we had philosophised the night away, trying to fix the world I’m sure…

“So, I’m thinking we don’t eat breakfast at this point and wait it out for lunch, which by French standards is not too long from now.”

I’m brought back from my reverie from another world, another life. “Sure, sounds great.”

The croissants and pastries that he had purchased for us remain on the glass coffee table untouched. By now, I’m sipping a warm cup of coffee with milk to keep me alert – he has had to rush down and cross the street to the corner shop to purchase the milk for me. I’m famished, but I’d rather wait for a hearty lunch than make do with a typical flaky and unsatisfying, French breakfast, about which I’m not keen at all and would cause my blood sugar to go up unnecessarily.

We continue to chat, a little uneasy at first after all these years, although we’ve never really lost touch. As the conversation progresses, it starts to get fluid and comfortable; yet, there’s an underlying current of excitement as we get to know each other all over again. Or maybe I’m confusing it with the fact that I’m back in Paris in a real Parisian apartment.

He calls the restaurant, the little bistro that he’s been patronising since he was a toddler with his family he tells me, and makes a reservation for half past twelve.

“What plans do you have, what would you like to see or do?” he asks.

“I don’t care, I just want to walk the streets of Paris, eat good food, and be a local. Plus, I’m here to see you.”

“Good then. Let’s go.”

Le Scheffer is perfectly charming, with a bunch of tiny, square tables with red-and-white checkered tablecloths. There’s almost no room between table and table, but everyone seems to somehow manage to get in and sit down without knocking anything over or bumping into one another. On the walls, there are art-deco posters with scenes of Paris life or famous artsy Parisians.

We’re a little early for the French lunch crowd. But slowly it starts to fill up with couples, older ladies, and elegant gentlemen. They know him well here; so we are warmly greeted, and it feels cozy. I decide I could eat here every day.

Before looking at the menu, we order a bottle of red wine; neither of us are connoisseurs but it turns out to be a great combination of body and flavour, with no acidic after taste, and perfect for our meal selections. The waitress cannot figure out if she should give me the menu in English or French, as I keep confusing her by addressing her in some French and talking to my friend in English. She finally settles on the French version, while I preorder some escargots as an entrée. I’ve been longing for them since the last time I was in France a couple of years ago. On every single trip to or through France, it’s my must-have dish, whether they are in season or not. I chose a duck confit as my plat principal; and my friend orders a salade de fromage and les côtes d’agneau (the dish of the day).

“You know, in New York, there’s a bar dedicated to Josephine?” I say, as I look up to the poster of Josephine Baker hanging on the wall to the left behind him.

He looks back and remarks, “Ah, yes, that Josephine.” (What other Josephine could I be talking about? … Like there’s another one in French- pop – history, right?)

“I used to go to it all the time. It is on 42nd Street. It’s owned by Jean-Claude Baker, ‘the thirteenth of her adopted Baker’s dozen’,” I try to enlighten him, but our conversation quickly changes subject as we are trying to catch up on all the things we’ve missed these past thirteen years.

We bring each other up to date from our chance meeting in 2004 to to-day; we cover my parents’ untimely deaths, my complicated life with my ex-husband, the existential crisis he was going through when we met, and his now content life as an almost-forty-year-old bachelor in Paris. I begin to feel like not a day has gone by since we last saw each other and like I’ve always been part of the scene at this little neighbourhood bistro.

“What’s the name of the coffee with milk that the French order after lunch?” I know it’s not a café au lait. That’s a mayor faux-pas in France.

We each order a noisette to finish off our meal, while we linger at our table a little longer. The restaurant is now packed with couples and groups of three or four, all involved in lively conversations. I’m falling in love. With Paris. And with life. There’s not quite another place in the world where I could feel like this, this content to be alive. At least, not today.

“You know, I wanted to go to the Sorbonne when I was young,” I say. “An old friend of my parents’, who had lived through World War II had studied there. He would tell me magical stories of Paris and his university life. And he used to fuel my dreams of living here.”

(Roger and I had been on a first-name basis, although over 60 years separated us. I have always loved talking with the elderly, as their stories – of bygone eras that are brought to life and become palpable through their memories – are fascinating to me. Roger was a tiny, old man with white hair when he came into my life. His wife, Maria, a friend of my mother’s, was a lawyer with an aristocratic background, much younger but just as erudite as her husband. Her tales, however, were nowhere as captivating as his. I remember him fondly, wrapped up in cloud of sweet smoke coming off his pipe, and telling me stories on our back patio at home in Chipiona. Paris back then seemed a million miles away, but as he talked about the second Great War, most of which he had spent in France, of sipping coffee on the sidewalk of a Parisian cafe, of listening to Marlene Dietrich sing Lily Marleen, of walking amongst the artists in Montmartre, of Manet, Picasso, of the Louvre…and of the Sorbonne, I had been transported to the grand avenues, I had envisioned myself elegantly dressed, spending hours at a little cafe, sipping coffee whilst sitting on a wickered, bistro chair, I had dreamt of walking the hallways of the university with my paint brushes in my case….)

“What happened, why didn’t you come?”

“I think I was too young and too scared to move away from home back then.”

“You’re still in time to do this. And most importantly, you’re free to do so.” He continued, “Why not live your dream? Why not study at the Sorbonne and live here?”

“I don’t know. I don’t want to study art now. I want to pursue other goals I think…”

Well maybe we can convince you to move here, I believe he said. Or maybe I imagined he voiced that. If the weekend continues like this, Paris, I think to myself, doesn’t have to work too hard to persuade me.

“Are you ready to go?” I nodded. “L’addition s’il vous plaît,” he told our waitress.

“Bien sûr, monsieur.”

He gallantly paid for our lunch and he said his goodbyes to the staff. We walked outside to a cool afternoon under a cloudy, melancholic sky. It was starting to drizzle and neither of us had an umbrella.

“Do you mind walking in the rain?”

“No, not at all.” Maybe I would even end up dancing like Gene Kelly. What a glorious feeling that would be, in Paris.

“What do you say if we just walk around and I show you my neighborhood, where I’ve grown up, gone to school, and still live?” It wasn’t really a question.

We walked up Rue Scheffer and turned left on Rue Cortambert, as he pointed out the pretty facades and shared that a friend had lived here, and another had lived over there, and he used to play in the apartment on the top floor of that building at his friend’s house…

What is it about a place that envelopes you and creeps into your being? Some people love New York City; I have a few friends, including my host in fact, who are fixated on it. But for me, I think I’ve always been a Parisian at heart.

I saw the open door to what seemed like a quaint church and wanted immediately to enter and explore. But I felt that I would be imposing on my friend’s tour if I seemed too pushy to go in. So, we started walking away, when some meters down the street, I stopped.

“Do you mind if we go in?” My tourist alter-ego trying to inch its way into this affair and getting the best of me, of course, no matter how much I was determined to repress it.

“No, not at all. This is my neighbourhood church, where I used to go since I was a little child. But I’m no longer religious.” …. sometimes it is very rewarding to be as annoyingly curious as I am.

Religion, spirituality, and existentialism became a recurring theme throughout our weekend. Ah.. philosophical dialogue, tu m’a manqué. Since my father died, except with my best friend who lives in another timezone making our daily rapport less immediate, I’ve not had profound discussions with anyone on a regular basis. So this was a welcome breath of fresh air.

We walked into the foyer of la Chapelle de la Communauté des Soeurs du Saint Sacrement and went up the stairs on the left. It’s not an elaborate church. But the interior is full of light making it seem very modern and welcoming. The floor is rustic, covered with red and beige tiles depicting scenes of birds and flowers. And the nave is populated with golden-coloured, wooden benches. We each walked a few steps inside, but turned around quickly to not disturb the few churchgoers that were there after lunch. Normally I would’ve been taking pictures at different angles, not caring about anyone else. But here, I just looked around and enjoyed the peaceful silence.

“The nuns still live here,” he informed me, as we were leaving after our brief peak inside. I nodded and smiled in acknowledgment. Maybe it was the lack of sleep, the red wine, and the intoxicating feeling of being back in Paris, or all three-in-one, that I was becoming shrouded by this neighborhood, my friend’s life here, his memories. It created an intriguing sense of belonging in a part of Paris I had not been acquainted with before.

“It’s so beautiful,” I kept saying about almost every building, every street, and every corner on our walk.

I have never previously strolled around the Seizième Arrondisement. It’s above all, elegant and sophisticated. With its embellished, 19th-century buildings, sprinkled with some art-deco here and there, its large avenues and tree-lined streets with names of writers, poets, and influential people, statues of important historical figures, and the Bois de Boulogne, it’s the quintessential, upper-middle class Parisian neighbourhood, the homologue of the Upper East Side, where he and I had met. Yet Paris is Paris, and honestly one cannot compare the City of Lights (and Enlightenment I would add) to any other place.

The afternoon culminated with a creamy chocolat à l’ancienne for me and a beer for him at a corner cafe on a tiny plaza. We sat outside on the sidewalk, at a little round table with two faux-bamboo, wickered chairs, and watched people go by, like a true Parisian. (Roger would be proud of me.)

The drizzle had stopped long before, but a chilly wind was starting to pick up, so we headed back to his apartment to warm up and take a break. After another warm beverage at home, I took off on my own, leaving my friend to grade some papers.

My first stop was Trocadéro on my own to properly greet the grand lady.

It had been about five years since the last time I set foot in Paris and saw the Eiffel Tower. What does one think standing there admiring the symbol of France, surrounded by a crowd of people, yet being alone, feeling strangely lost, and at the same time unbelievably at home somehow?

My mind wandered to the past three, toughest years of my life. The first times I had been to Paris had all been with my parents. On the last occasion together, I was old enough to remember. And now, the memories were fresh again.

My parents and I had been in transit from the US to Spain and were stranded in Paris because of a bad connection. Tired and all, as my father stayed in our hotel to sleep from the red-eye flight, my mother and I had braved the cold morning and walked to the Champ de Mars. That’s just on the opposite side of where I now stood. We had gone up the tower, admired the view whilst shivering in our summery clothes that were appropriate for Seville, but definitely not for Paris in May. She and I were so much alike. My beautiful mom. We loved travelling, seeing new places, fueling our curiosity, reading, eating new things, trying out new recipes, cooking together, and talking for hours about everything. On that serendipitous layover, we saw Les Invalides, we visited the Louvre, and I vividly remember going inside Notre-Dame and being awed by the stained glass windows. She loved art – as I do – and was a collector.

“No, she only bought from local artists. Some are now well known in Spain. But nothing on the world market.” I shared with my friend, one day during my stay.

He had asked me as we walked around his neighbourhood and discussed his father’s art collection, which includes a Pissarro that is locked up somewhere.

“What use is it to have a Pissarro and not see it every day?” I asked, hoping to stimulate a thoughtful discourse.

“I don’t know. But you know, it’s an investment, maybe to keep it safe,” he responded.

Coincidentally, a few days ago, I heard an art critic on the radio say that art doesn’t exist if it cannot be seen and admired. 

On my friend’s advice, I ended up visiting the Musée de Marmottan Monet. This used to be a private collection, and it’s now open to the public as a museum. There was a special exhibit of Pissarro and there is an extensive permanent collection of Manet and Monet amongst other Impressionist artists.

But I digress … as I stood there facing the Eiffel Tower, part of me couldn’t believe I was there in the flesh. I tried to capture the entirety of what stood in front of me, to store it into my memory and not lose any little detail of what I was seeing, experiencing. But another part of me felt like it was living a daydream, like all this was unreal.

I thought back to when my friend first invited me to visit him and Paris. I always knew deep inside I would make this trip happen.

Now, I was really here, on a cool, early evening in March, surrounded by tourists taking selfies or posing for pictures and a bunch of street vendors trying to sell their tricks and their wares. The humming of the city and the music being played by the street artists didn’t bother me; they kind of lulled me away to a fantasy, as I stood there in my little space with what I imagined could be the spotlight shining just on me…

It’s hard to believe that this tourist attraction, and such an iconic architectural wonder, was once viewed with aesthetic skepticism. It was even given the moniker of the ‘metal asparagus’! Yet, today it couldn’t be a more iconic symbol of one nation and people.

It was getting late and chillier though, so I finally began to retreat and walked back towards la Place du Trocadéro. I felt like I was in a film – all I needed was a song playing in the background – as every few steps, I turned around to catch another glimpse. I wanted to never to stop this moment, to never leave, to be able to see her just a little bit longer. To be a true local.

Reluctantly, I left and walked round a bit to eventually go back up the hill, where I again crossed paths with a majestic Benjamin Franklin and headed home.

“Everything in Paris is near,” my friend said later on that evening as we discussed the plans for the next day.

I’m not sure I would agree, especially when one sees the city from Montmartre.

Day Two, A Fugacious Bike Ride 

“I’m going to give you the grand tour of Paris on my bike!” And with that, the night before, I went to bed naively thinking it would just be another day in the city.

There are days in life we wake up thinking we know who we are, but somewhere during those 24 hours, we realise we aren’t exactly who we thought we were …

In my case, a fugacious bike ride on an early Sunday morning on the sleepy streets of Paris could be named as the culprit.

We had gotten up early as planned, showered, got dressed, and went downstairs, helmets in hand, in the tiny glass elevator barely wide enough for one, much less two. The bike was waiting for us, unlocked, just down the street.

“You keep it unlocked? Here in Paris?” I ask with incredulity. It wouldn’t stand a chance in Spain.

“Yes. I’ve never had it stolen in all these years since I’ve been back. And besides, if I put a chain on it, the dogs pee on it, and it’s not nice smelling that when I bend down to take it off.” Sensible of course.

“You’re wearing the perfect shoes.”

“Of course. What do you think?!” In my anticipated elation, I wasn’t trying too hard to not sound priggish, I’ll admit.

I had had enough foresight to pack my black, short boots, the kind that in Spain the moteros wear. The bike ride had been part of the grand scheme of things all along. So, now I was perfectly outfitted for the adventure, although I really had no clue of what I would feel.

He got on the bike, whilst I adjusted my helmet and then hopped on the back. We took off slowly driving up Rue Vineuse and quickly passed good ole’ Mr. Franklin – we were becoming regulars he and I. A group of what we tried to guess were Spanish or French senior citizens, with their tour guide holding up a thin pole with a little flag on top indicating the path to follow, slowly made their way across the crosswalk in front of us, as I was adjusting to being on the bike. The light turned green and off we went.

Oh! How can one describe the fresh, crisp breeze in one’s face, the early morning silence, the almost empty, sleepy streets, and the elegant scenes we were passing by without sounding utterly sappy?

I was so immersed in the daydream that I didn’t realise I kept sliding into my friend and was risking falling off. At a stop at one of the lights, I finally readjusted my position, squeezed my thighs as if I were on a horse, and regained some sort of backseat composure. I packed my hands into my friend’s jacket pockets and started to sway with the movements and enjoy the view on both sides. The air was brisk, but not cold; yet I was glad to be sheltered from the wind by my friend’s body. Every few seconds, it seemed, I kept switching my head from side to side, trying not to miss anything we are driving by.

After some turns here and there, we were in Montmartre.

The streets were just barely coming to life and the cafes were not even open yet, creating the sensation that Paris belonged only to us. As we passed la Place du Tertre, a couple of artists were starting to trickle in to set up their stands. The scene couldn’t have been more picturesque, right out of a movie.

Everything was peaceful and invigorating. And on the bike, I was exhilarated. We rounded our way to the Sacré Coeur, first from behind, and later from the front. The doors were firmly closed, but we had had no intention of going in. We stopped to admire the city from the cliff. From up here, Paris is immense, a little overwhelming. I almost could not comprehend the view, as there was so much humanity spread out in front of us. Too many lives waking up. Too many stories being unfolded. Too many old souls from times past wandering through the maze of streets below us…

After what seemed like a very long moment, my friend turned the bike around. I continued to hang on with my hands inside my friend’s jacket pockets, now with my gloves on, and silenced a few squeals of delight as we sped through some streets with hardly a human in sight, making our way back down the cliff.

“No, I’m not scared. Au contraire, I love it!” I kept having to reassure my friend. I was thoroughly enjoying myself, every bit of the ride, from learning how to keep myself balanced, leaning into my friend without hitting my chin on his shoulders, to breathing in the fresh, unadulterated morning air, to losing myself in the speed and the city passing by. I had not remembered how much fun riding a bike is. And riding a bike in Paris… well, I guess you’ll have to try it…

We stopped on the corner of Rue des Saules, and behind us to the right was the Au Lapin Agile, the famous, historical cabaret. And to the left was another gem, the Clos de Montmartre, a winery in the middle of Paris! Both of these sights I had never seen. So a few obligatory pictures ensued and even a couple of selfies since there was no one in the vicinity to ask to take a picture at such an early hour. After our brief interlude, we made our way down Rue Caulaincourt to head back downtown and drive by L’Arc de Triomphe.

“I’ve been up the Arc,” I yelled out, as the wind threatened to swallow my words and my bangs kept getting into my eyes underneath the protection of my helmet.

“I have too, surprisingly.” There was an emphasis on the last word because as he’s explained to me already, he’s never been up the Eiffel Tower.

We made our way through Avenue George V to the river and drove by le Pont Alexandre III (just behind, one can see le Grand Palais and le Petit Palais), le Musée d’Orsay (I was supposed to see this later in the day – but decided against it in favour of a quiet afternoon at home watching a movie), la Place de la Concorde… les Jardins de Luxembourg…my friend’s high school is on the side street of les Jardins… so many grand buildings, so many Parisian icons, and so much history, all in one sweep. I was feeling drunken and I wanted to do it all over again, although we were not yet done!

We cruised a bit longer and drove behind the Musée d’Orsay, where we parked the bike. As I stood on solid ground again, I felt a little wobbly, just like when one gets off a horse after a long ride. With our helmets on our arms, we walked into the corner cafe, Les Deux Musées, to find only a few early-bird tourists and a couple of Parisians starting off their day. My friend ordered a tartine; and I didn’t know what to order. In my opinion, I know I repeat myself, but the French do not know how to do breakfast. I realise I may be a bit exaggerated with my breakfast meal selections, which invariably include a lot of vegetables, eggs, and no bread. But one must understand that a croissant just doesn’t cut it for me. Nevertheless, I succumbed to the circumstances and ordered a pain au chocolat. When both our plates arrived, I couldn’t believe I had not ordered the tartine, which at least came with a good serving of healthy French butter. I tried to get the waiters attention to order my own, but generously, my friend traded with me. However, he barely ate.

After warming up inside and out, we hopped back on the bike, eventually making our way back home. The day was still young and I took off on my own again. As I walked on Avenue Paul Doumer towards le Jardin du Ranelagh, I stopped a few times to check out real estate listings. Just like I like to buy dictionaries on my trips, I enjoy learning how properties are valued locally and getting a glimpse of real people’s dwellings. At one of the windows, a nice old gentlemen asked me if I was looking to buy. I stifled a giggle and responded in fairly good French that I was only looking. After an exchange of pleasantries, I found myself being invited to tea! Ah, Parisians! I politely declined and continued on my merry way with a huge smile on my face.

Le Jardin du Ranelagh was filled with families and children playing, with people walking their dogs, and with the rhythmic chanting of Gabonais protesting something in front of the Embassy of Gabon. Behind le Jardin du Ranelagh are a number of elegant grand houses, one of them is now the Musée de Marmottan Monet, which I mentioned before having visited. As I had been there the day before as well, I took a bench and sat in silence observing the relaxing scenes. I later strolled past the museum on Rue Louis Boilly to encounter the Embassy of Monaco, the Square des Ecrivains Combatants Morts, and the Bois de Boulogne. The chilly air was refreshing; and I almost went into the bois for a walk, but I was getting hungry for some lunch. So, I headed back to meet my friend. On my way back, I stopped at Pierre Hermé to pick up some macarons, discovering a flavour new to me: a fois-gras-chocolate combination, whose name I don’t remember, but whose delicate taste, a perfect balance of savoury, sweet, and umami, I’ll never forget. (Or could it be that a macaron tastes more sublime when enjoyed in Paris?)

That evening, I became just another city dweller, disrobing my tourist exterior; we watched The Shawshank Redemption with Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, cozily lying on the futon at home. Day two came to an end with a few tears and a couple of kleenexes. (Needless to say, I’m a cry-baby with emotional stories.) And with the budding knowledge that Paris, somehow, somewhere in just the right time, was the culmination, the turning point to something.

The Last Day, More Croissants and The Seine

Apparently the croissant-tartine fiasco of the day before had left an impression on my friend, for on my last day visiting, he insisted I should have eggs for breakfast. We walked down to Place du Trocadéro and settled on Carette. The place was bubbling with people. It was just a hair too chilly to be outside, although the little round tables and pretty woven chairs on the sidewalk were mostly full. We thus took a seat inside, with me facing the street and all the action coming in. If Carette is not your typical, fashionable Parisian cafe, I don’t know what is. Even the waitresses are nicely dressed and a little bit aloof. The good thing about being with a Parisian native is that other Parisians are not condescending and actually turn helpful once they discern you’re not a ‘real’ tourist. Through my foggy, pre-coffee haze, as we waited for our meal, I pleasantly engaged in some people watching, observing the string of classically Parisian people parade in. My friend pointed out that as it was Monday, one can tell just how many people lead a leisurely life in this arrondissement.

One in particular comes to mind: a tall, thin blond woman in her late 50s (I guessed), who would’ve turned heads in another less-cosmopolitan city but here she’s a normal sight, came in. Her long legs were dressed in opaque, black tights, ending in rather high heels, maybe a little too high for a Monday morning cafe au lait. A golden, loosely fitting mini dress and a fluffy, fur vest completed her essentially elegant look, albeit in a rather ostentatious way. Hanging from one arm was what for sure was an expensive bag, although I didn’t pay close enough attention to check out the brand, since the rest of her was too alluring. Completing her attire were her permanent pouty lips on top of the rest of her surgically enhanced face.

A few Asians also trickled in, also in quintessentially Asian-Parisian looks, like those depicted by Kaneko, my favourite whimsical, Parisian illustrator. They have a sophisticated way about them, which they know exactly how to couple with a hip, quirkiness that makes them so unique and recognizable anywhere. One can always tell them apart I think, even from behind. It’s something about their slender figures, the well-fitted clothes, the elegant coats, the pretty shoes…

Our breakfast arrived almost all at once, creating a bit of havoc for us as our waitress and we tried to fit everything onto our very tiny, round table. I had to remove the salt and pepper shakers, the little flower in a pot, and a few other items to make room for the many dishes. My friend had ordered the Brunch Carette for me (I had let him take over without qualm) and the ‘regular’ Petit Déjeuner Carette for himself. I honestly didn’t want so much food, or bread for that matter, but there was no other way to get my desired eggs, as the difference between the regular and the brunch is literally just the eggs. These came delicately plated with crunchy croissant sticks, which,  yes, I ate.

After filling up our stomachs and sipping a few strong coffees, we walked around a bit and decided to drive into ‘town’. We took an Autolib electric car to Saint-Germain. One can become a member for a monthly fee and then drive the cars, paying only the minutes used. It’s an innovative and smart way to keep the city a little cleaner and greener. There are parking spots that can be reserved sur la marche around the city. It took us a few times passing by Sonia Rykiel’s before we settled on our free spot to drop off the car, which we found near the river.

We walked along the riverbank on the Port des Saints-Pères for a while, admiring the Seine, the few boats that were docked, and crossing paths with other strolling couples and a runner or two. At the Pont du Carrousel we came back up to street level and crossed over to the grounds of the Louvre. It was windy, and as we fought against the gusts blowing our hair around and opening our coats, we entered through the arch at Place du Corrousel. I had never entered through this side of the Louvre and somehow I had never noticed the mini Arch de Triomphe on the left.

We observed the queue outside the pyramid, and my friend remarked that it was good to see that tourism in Paris is still going strong. I agree; not even all the terrorist attacks are stopping people from coming here to see everything this magical city has to offer. My friend works near the Bataclan, where the last major attack took place over a year ago. I was still in the US back then; and I remember texting him enquiring if he was ok. Thankfully, he was, as it took place at night and he was not anywhere near. But many of his friends had been inside and some had gotten injured and others had seen their friends die right in front of their eyes.

I mentioned the galleries near the Louvre, and although I didn’t really care about seeing them (it was a mere curiosity to know their location), my friend took me there. At the Palais Royal, there are a number of interesting shops, including a few luxurious ones, like Stella McCartney. At one of the windows, we admired some very unique gloves, of which I correctly guessed the pricing (all were over 300 euros). I wasn’t in the mood for shopping, but as my friend said, “On your next trip, you must get a pair, so you can say ‘these gloves are from the shops at the Palais Royal in Paris’.” So, it’s unofficially on my agenda for next time…

As we strolled, I wondered what it would be like to live here and have all this at one’s fingertips, on a whim on any given day… When one is surrounded by so much beauty, so much history, so much culture, and so many intriguing gems to be discovered, it’s like being in a living museum. I’m guessing it would be like living in that dream that Roger had conjured up for me.

“I can tell Spaniards apart from the crowd. And I can spot Americans and Brazilians,” my friend, who dated a Brazilian girl for some time, voiced his thoughts as a group of Spaniards crossed our path on our way to Le Jardin des Tuileries. “The Spanish are always very loud,” he added. Yes, they are, I admitted.

Le Jardin was rather tranquil with a few groups of school children and not too many tourists. I had never been in it before, and it was a surprise to see all the statues strewn throughout the grounds. The park was originally created by Catherine of Medici as the garden of the Tuileries Palace in 1564; and it later was opened to the public in 1667 and became a public park after the French Revolution. I could imagine the elegant ladies and gentlemen that had strolled the park as I did now, preceding me by centuries past; I could envisage them in their grand outfits, their over-sized hats, and twirling their parasols, whilst nodding their heads from side to side, cordially greeting their acquaintances who were also there to see and be seen.

We crossed back over to the Rive Gauche and decided it was time for lunch. We settled on the first restaurant we saw on the corner which seemed nice enough, Le Fregate, just across the Pont Royal.

“It’s always fun having people over to discover places I’ve never eaten at,” he said, adding “Paris is a food-lover’s dream.”

We both enjoyed a typical Parisian dish, one of his favourite’s, a creamy Blanquette de Veau à l’Ancienne with rice. It was delicious. I accompanied mine with a glass of red house-wine, whilst in the background the music of George Bensen created a lovely mood. The waiter told us that the playlist belonged to the previous owners, but that the local crowd enjoyed it so much, they kept it on.

As we strolled back to get the electric car to go home, we stopped at Sennelier on Quai Voltaire for me to pick up some art supplies. We had been talking about art and the Sorbonne since I arrived. And I had shared that I had not picked up a brush since sometime in 2004 or 2005, shortly after he had left NYC; so naturally, I couldn’t leave Paris without stepping inside this famous store.

Sennelier’s on Quai Voltaire is not immensely big, but it does contain quite a lot of supplies displayed on three floors, all of which we explored. The old, worn wooden shelving all seems to be original, possibly dating from the late 1800s, and the staff are welcoming and helpful, although maybe just a little Parisian enough to not bother you as you peruse the goods. That suited me just fine. I ended up buying a little sketch pad, which I’ve not opened up yet…but I will soon. It’s small enough that I can carry it in any purse, and large enough to create something with detail on every page.

We dropped off our electric car near the statue of Benjamin Franklin, back in the 16th. We were headed home sort of with still a few hours to spare before I needed to go to the airport, when my friend said, “How would you like to buy an 800 euro photograph?”

“What do you mean?”

“Come. This guy, who is the younger brother of a friend of mine, has an exhibit at a gallery just up the street. He has over 100,000 followers on Instagram and is selling limited edition prints. Tomorrow is the vernissage. How do you say that?”

“Inauguration. Or Opening night.” I replied.

We walked up Avenue Kléber to the gallery to check out Guillaume Dutreix and his photographs. Months ago, I had dreamt of visiting a photography exhibit with my friend whilst in Paris. In my dream, I know the photographer’s work and we hit it off … so I prepared myself for some serendipity .. but in real life, I had never seen him or heard of his work before. Nonetheless, his photography is impressive. White backgrounds predominate creating an ethereal feel to each image. The angles and the details seem effortless, although I’m sure he’s fastidious about achieving them. My friend chatted a bit with his friend, while I admired the artwork. And then off we went. Time to go home, finish packing, and get ready to abandon Paris.

A couple of hours later, we were standing at Place du Trocadéro, awaiting the bus to take me to Charles de Gaulle. We chatted a little more, as I reflected that the weekend had gone by very fast, although also very intensely. I had lived out the three days as a real local thanks to my friend, who was a wonderful host and who has enabled me to feel Paris in a way that has revived something in me that had been tucked away and forgotten.

As my bus approached, he leaned over to say good-bye, rubbing his soft beard against my cheeks. We exchanged three kisses, looked at each other, and said ‘hasta luego’. I left my bag with the driver, hopped on the bus, and unwillingly turned to my right to look after my friend. He was already starting to cross the street, but also turned to face me, and waved good-bye.

I took a seat a couple of rows back on the left from the driver, buckled up, and aimlessly looked out the window; I was no longer soaking in the city. As we rounded the plaza, on the right, I caught a glimpse now of the opening between the two colossal wings of the Palais du Trocadéro and barely focused on the Tour Eiffel. On the radio a tune started to play.

I instantly thought about these three glorious days spent in this city. Nostalgia started to engulf me, although I hadn’t yet left. At that instant, I promised myself I would return again soon.

Epilogue

City of stars

Are you shining just for me?

City of stars
There’s so much that I can’t see

City of stars
Just one thing everybody wants

I don’t care if I know
Just where I will go

‘Cause all that I need is this crazy feeling
A rat-tat-tat on my heart

Think I want it to stay
City of stars

Are you shining just for me?
City of stars
You never shined so brightly

À bientôt mon ami; à tout à l’heure ma cherie, Paris. J’ai changé … merci pour tout. Quand je reviens, nous nous verrons avec nouvelle yeux …

Blanquette 

There are maybe other dishes more representative of French cuisine, but the Blanquette is Parisian; in fact, the recipe calls for Parisian mushrooms, which are none other than the button variety, but grown just outside the city. It’s a comfort food, for chilly Autumn or Spring days. And it can be made with veal or another meat. I prefer to use chicken, which is easier to cook and comes out less dry than veal.

I have found a local butcher who procures organic, free-range birds that are healthier, tastier, but also just a bit tougher. So depending on what type of chicken you use, you may have to adjust the cooking times.

Blanquette de Poulet à l’Ancienne

Serves: 4
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 40 min

Ingredients

2.5 – 3 liters filtered water
1/4 cup white wine
1 whole chicken, preferably free-range, pasture raised, cut into 10 pieces (ask your butcher to do it for you, if you don’t know how)
3 medium/large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1-2 celery branches, cut into medium pieces
7-8 French onions (baby onions)
2 strands of fresh cilantro
1-2 leeks, peeled and chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into medium pieces
2 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
10-12 Parisian mushrooms (button mushrooms)
50g of butter (I used unsalted Kerrygold)
2-3 tablespoons arrowroot powder
2 tablespoons coconut creme
1 egg yolk
sea salt
ground nutmeg

Method

In a large pot over medium heat, we’ll make a bouillon. Pour the water (start off with 2.5 liters and increase if necessary) and white wine, and add the cilantro, 1 tablespoon sea salt (more to taste later if needed), baby onions, celery, carrots, mushrooms, potatoes, garlic cloves, and chicken pieces. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Once the bouillon is made, take the chicken pieces out of the pot. Heat some butter in a saucepan over medium heat. And add the chicken to caramelize on each side. Set aside.

Now, make a roux with the 50g of butter over medium heat. Cook the butter, stirring constantly, until it reaches a golden brown hue. Add the arrowroot powder and stir well. Cook a few minutes longer. Then add a few tablespoons of the bouillon and a sprinkle of ground nutmeg, to taste. Stir to mix well. Pour everything into the pot and add the caramelized chicken pieces back as well.

In a small bowl, add some tablespoons of the sauce, the egg yolk, and 2-3 tablespoons of coconut creme. Stir to blend well. Pour into the stew pot, and stir. Simmer everything together about 10 minutes.

Serve with some freshly chopped cilantro, if desired, and cauliflower or regular, cooked white rice.

Bon appetit!

Paleo Takeout {Book Review + Recipe, Plus a Giveaway!}

nother

I’ve been in a no-cooking rut lately … in all fairness life has been topsy turvy for over a year and especially this summer, where I have been travelling in Europe, and unfortunately it wasn’t for leisure.  During this time I have been playing musical kitchens (and musical countries), and at some points have had no kitchen at all … I’m so eager to be reunited with my kitchen appliances, gadgets and having the freedom to experiment again … but in the meantime, and to use the popular vernacular, I’ve fallen off of the Paleo bandwagon so many times, I have lost count…and probably have a few bruises as proof (for example, my hair has seen much healthier days).

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I’ve eaten bread. Because eating a sandwich has never been my thing but convenience got the better of me. Mea Culpa. Over the summer, I’ve eaten wheat-flour-coated fried seafood in Spain. I actually didn’t have a beer in Germany, but ate a breaded schnitzel. (But these are lesser evils as I was travelling. And that’s a valid excuse.) Mea Culpa. Returning to the US though has thrown me overboard: I’ve engaged in the art of rummaging through kitchen drawers seeking the perfect takeout menu. And worst of all, I’ve ordered and eaten the stuff. And not just once. A few times. Yes. And I had a kitchen, so there was no excuse. Except that takeout is so easy. So convenient … I’ve had pizza, filled with gluten and possibly a myriad of other things I generally avoid. I’ve eaten Chinese takeout (it’s better not to even go there). And Sushi takeout. Yes, I confess with remorse. But like I said, it was easy. It was convenient. And I couldn’t resist. Mea Culpa. I could keep ‘fessing up… but the important thing to take from the lesson that I have learned is that my stomach and digestive system can no longer take all the “junk”, no matter how irresistible the food may be or how lazy I am feeling or how convenient it may seem. I will regret for hours the few moments of pleasure these foods (and experiences) bring me.

Therefore, I must renounce the temptation of convenience in the name of trying to fuel my creative juices to encourage my return to a stable Paleo lifestyle and improved health. The problem is the juices are not really flowing and with a small kitchen, no appliances beyond a coffee maker and a toaster, I’ve been totally uninspired until this past week. The culprit source of inspiration is none other than takeout food!

carnitasWhat? How can this be? …

A couple of weeks ago, Russ Crandall offered his new cookbook Paleo Takeout: Restaurant Favorites Without the Junk for review and I jumped on the opportunity. I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into, but I did have a feeling that disappointed I would not be … what I didn’t know was how pleasantly surprised I would be and just what a great inspiration this book truly is! The creative juices are back and with a vengeance!

I have followed Russ, aka The Domestic Man, on Instagram for a couple of years now. I’m not sure how I discovered him, probably through one of the other Paleo/Primal big names, such as Bill and Hayley Staley from Primal Palate or maybe the Paleo Parents or Nom Nom Paleo…the point is that I have always found Russ’ approach to Paleo intriguing – Russ eats white rice; and I believe you will not find a single recipe for a dessert on his blog and definitely there are none in this cookbook! That to me is pretty awesome. (Ironically, I have not been following his blog regularly; something that now I’ve already changed by subscribing to the email list.) Russ is a doyen in his own right and a wealth of information and ideas! He is also what I would call a “common sense eater”.

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I have been Paleo/Primal since the end of 2012; and since then, I’ve learned, altered my template, and have seen a number of changes in the dogma (for example, white potatoes were still vilified when I started and are now widely accepted as a whole food and safe starch). What I love about Russ’ perspective is that it is not pigeonholed in strict theories. It’s an approach personally adapted to fit his health and lifestyle needs and those of his family; and it’s constantly evolving as he’s learning. Russ brings together in his “common sense” approach all of these concepts: Paleo/Primal, The Perfect Health Diet, Weston A. Price Foundation principles, A Whole Foods Approach and JERF – Just Eat Real Foods. As I mentioned, he and his family regularly eat white rice for example and include healthy dairy products. You can learn more about Russ and his philosophy here.

4corners

He goes a step further with a formula he has created called “The Four Corners Plate”. This is described on his website and in Paleo Takeout and is a useful template for those starting off in this healthy and nutritious diet/lifestyle.

Paleo Takeout is Russ’ second cookbook (the first is Ancestral Table) and with which he just made the New York Times Bestseller list! (Congratulations Russ!) Russ’ story is amazing, having suffered a stroke at age 24, and fully recovering and then finding a healing path for his autoimmune condition through the Paleo diet. His blog is full of delicious recipes and health tips, presented in an elegant, no-nonsense fashion with an historical and international approach which makes reading it a pleasure and a learning experience.

And Paleo Takeout: Restaurant Favorites Without the Junk is a cookbook you will want to get now and keep forever! It’s a cookbook every respectable home cook must have. I kid you not. I’m not using a marketing gimmick. I truly and really mean it. It doesn’t matter if you are Paleo or not. This book is amazing. You’re going to want to make every single recipe out of it, and on top of that you’re going to want to experiment with your own ideas (kind of like I did below in the picture).

 pork2

Paleo Takeout is like a condensed and very easy to understand cooking course in Asian dishes and other extras. Included are tutorials on how to wrap Asian rolls, how to bread meats and use different batters for frying (all healthy and Paleo-friendly), how to make crispy fried chicken, and how to make Asian meatballs (beef, chicken, pork and fish too!). Essential techniques such as stir-frying, grilling and thickening sauces with starch slurry are explained and demystified. And there are recipes for pizza dough, flatbread and hamburger buns!

Most of the ingredients are readily available in most larger-metropolis supermarkets; and the harder to find ones (such as possibly the Chinese cooking wine, mirin or rice vinegar) can always be ordered on Amazon or via Thrive Market if you’re a member; or if you have access to a local Asian market, I’m sure you can find them there. Once you stock up on the basics, you will not be able to put this book down. Maybe even before stocking up, you’ll experiment with the things you do have on hand inspired by Russ’ scrumptious recipes, like I did last week when I opened the book to page 59 and saw the picture of Chow Mein. I had completely different vegetables in the fridge, but was so determined to eat Chow Mein that night (just like takeout), that I adapted it as you can see on my Instagram feed.

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All the recipes have easy to follow instructions, many of which are accompanied by suggestions for experimenting with more vegetables and different ingredients, encouraging the home chef to expand his/her knowledge and explore away, taking home cooking of our favourite and traditional takeout staples to another level!

And if you’re thinking you’re going to be stuck in the kitchen for hours prepping and cooking, think again! What makes Paleo Takeout even more amazing and a must-have cookbook is that the majority of the recipes can be made in record time! Forty-one (41) of the recipes can be enjoyed “Fridge to Face” in 30 minutes! Another 30+ recipes take between 30-60 minutes to throw together. The marinated dishes, although recommended to plan ahead for more intense flavours, can actually be enjoyed in less time. And lastly, there are about 40 recipes which you can make in batches, freeze and then quickly reheat for instant and very convenient satisfaction! You can’t beat that. Not even with real takeout! And remember, you’ll be cooking with wholesome ingredients, “giving you all the gratification and none of the regret”!

chinesereci

At the back of the cookbook is the pictorial recipe index, which is captivating and reads like a Asian/American takeout menu that has me salivating for all of the dishes since I opened the book. It is here, in the index, where I am incited to discover the essence of this cookbook and where I find myself …

… transported to Chinatown in NYC about to order a bowl of Singapore Noodles. Or should I first start with a bowl of Hot & Sour Soup? I’m always intrigued by how the flavours are such a contrast between the slightly sour notes and the spiciness. And I rather would like something warm. There’s Egg Drop Soup. Egg Foo Young. General Tso’s Chicken. An American favourite. Moo Goo Gai Pan. Moo Shu Pork …

I flip to the next pages. OMG! Wait. Could it be that I’m back in Hanoi about to eat Pho and bite into a fresh and fragrantly sultry Summer Roll? My eyes are starting to get bigger than my stomach…make that pho, summer rolls and an exotic Green Papaya Salad. Yes, definitely. I’ve even made that one at home after my trip to Vietnam a few years ago. I know that will not disappoint.

Pad Thai. That’s it. I’m having that. I love pad thai. Can you tell I have a penchant for sweet, salty and sour tang?

japarec

My eyes are quick though. I am back in Barnes (my neighbourhood of London) and about to order Chicken Tikka Masala from the little Indian restaurant down the street from my flat.  Or maybe I’ll have the Lamb Vindaloo. There’s Kare Kare too.

No… stop, there’s Pancit and Lumpia! I haven’t had those in ages! I used to eat them regularly when I was growing up in Spain and had what seemed like a gazillion Filipino friends. I remember learning how to wrap the rolls and selling the lumpia for our senior year fundraisers.

Alas! The takeout menu pages continue. Aren’t all takeout menus like being presented with a bunch of snippets of your favourite novels? There are more mouth-watering dishes. I can’t decide if I want to be American tonight. A bunch of crispy and juicy Fried Chicken in a Basket would be so delicious right now. Or maybe I could go for a pizza with extra garlic and a bunch of cool toppings like we get in Mystic… with this pizza I know I wouldn’t have a stomach ache afterward. Maybe I’ll have a Burger Party for two instead. And indulge in some Tzatziki Sauce to go with my burgers.

amreci

No that’s for another occasion. I’m doing Mexican tonight. The succulent cilantro-topped Pork Carnitas with a flatbread that looks just like soft corn tortilla shells look divine. Ummm…but I think I saw something a couple of pages back that was more irresistible.

I flip backwards because that’s what I always do with a menu, especially a takeout one. I read through it once and then I go back through it again. I must make sure that I get the best meal. There’s so much from which to choose… and I’m not sure what tickles my fancy today, right now, because takeout is like that: I can have whatever I want. And tomorrow I can pick and choose something new, exotic and different. And I’m losing patience with myself as I’m getting hungry. And everything is enticing.

Paleo Takeout is like no other takeout though. What makes it unique is that you know the ingredients of this takeout are not going to upset your tummy. You won’t have heartburn. You can eat gluten-, chemical- and guilt-free. And your health will thank you for it….

I’ve never been to Japan or Korea. Sure, I eat sushi all the time. I’ve made kimchi. But there are more intriguing dishes on this menu in this cookbook. The Haemul Pajeon or Korean Seafood Scallion Pancake looks beautiful. The ingredients sound fascinating together. There’s Dashi too. Ramen and Miso. Gyudon and something called Okonomiyaki! Yes, let’s grab the chopsticks Russ the publishing house so graciously included and take a bite … but I have to go back to the first page again. There was something there that is calling me …

shrimplobsta

I just landed on Gerrard Street and the neighbouring blocks. London’s Chinatown is boisterous and crowded, yet elegant and much cleaner than its NYC counterpart. Here one can find a range of very authentic Chinese, Korean and Thai food. I see myself walking toward the red arches and then my eyes stop at some crispy Spring Rolls. I love spring rolls. And there’s the Chow Mein that inspired my dinner last week. And there’s Vegetables in White Sauce. Honey Sesame Chicken. Szechuan Beef and Bam Bam Shrimp. Love that name. Oh my! There’s more…

Shrimp with Lobster Sauce. Now that I have never tried. “They say” it’s a Chinese-American dish and a takeout favourite. Lobster sauce. Are there lobster pieces in that? Or maybe some sort of lobster seasoning? Chinese soups and sauces are mysterious to me. How can there possibly be such sophisticated combinations of flavours in those sauces that are almost translucent yet so precisely thickened? … I’m having that. I could never replicate that at home, right? That makes it more tantalising.

But wait! I’m not on Gerrard Street. And I’m actually privy to the secret behind the sauce enigma. Shhh… you can be too… and you can make it tonight instead of having takeout! And you can’t beat the timing on this one. Twenty minutes from fridge to fork (and no lobster required)!

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Russ is letting me share with you a taste of what you can find in this amazing cookbook. Below you can find the recipe for Shrimp with Lobster sauce, which we’ve enjoyed now a couple of times and I’m sure you will too.

But wait, it gets better. You can be the proud owner of your own Paleo Takeout: Restaurant Favorites Without the Junk by entering my very first giveaway. However as there will only be one lucky winner, I would urge you to buy this cookbook as it will become a reference in your kitchen and you will never, ever want to rummage through your drawers again in search for a takeout menu, much less order from one!

Shrimp with Lobster Sauce

“To be honest, I had never heard of this dish until my family moved to the East Coast in 2008. I first ordered it out of curiosity; what the heck is lobster sauce, and why are they selling it for so cheap? … Turns out that lobster is a Cantonese-inspired dish made with broth and eggs, similar to other sauces that are poured over lobster dishes (there’s the connection!).”

~ Russ Crandall, The Domestic Man

Ingredients, for 4. Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 10 minutes.

For the Slurry:

  • 3 tablespoons arrowroot starch (tapioca starch can also work)
  • 2 tablespoons cold water

For the Sauce:

  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup Chinese cooking wine
  • 2 teaspoons tamari
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 pounds (c. 1 kilo) raw shrimp, peeled and cut in half
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, rinsed in cool water and drained
  • 3 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, thinly sliced
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 green onions, sliced

Method

Stir together the arrowroot starch and cold water to create a slurry, then set aside.

In a stockpot, combine the sauce ingredients and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once the sauce is simmering, add half of the arrowroot starch slurry and stir until thickened, about 1 minute, adding more slurry if needed. Add the shrimp, carrots, peas and mushrooms, return to a simmer, and simmer until the shrimp are just pink, about 1 minute.

Slowly pour the eggs though a fork into the sauce. Whisk gently with a fork to prevent the eggs from clumping, then allow to cook through, about 30 seconds. Stir in the green onions and serve.

Note: Dried shiitake mushrooms can be used in this dish; just soak them in warm water for 30 minutes before slicing.

Note from The Saffron Girl: I don’t like peas and I didn’t have shiitake mushrooms available. Instead, I used some leftover fresh cabbage that I had, slicing it julienne style and thinly sliced some brown button mushrooms. Because the cabbage is a bit tougher than the peas, I first allowed it to cook in the sauce’s liquid ingredients until almost tender (about 7 minutes). I then added the slurry and continued with Russ’ instructions. Also, I didn’t have Chinese cooking wine, and instead used half the amount stated in the recipe of regular (light) red cooking wine; hence the slightly darker colour. To compensate for the change of flavours, I added a bit more tamari than Russ calls for. 

This dish is really tasty and versatile. I used the leftovers as a sauce over some pork chops, as you can see in one of the pictures above. Delicious!

*****

G I V E A W A Y

To win your copy of Paleo Takeout: Restaurant Favorites Without the Junk, please follow these instructions:

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A Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: No purchase is necessary to win. This giveaway is open to everyone worldwide. However, it is void where prohibited by law. There are 3 mandatory entries and 4 optional/bonus entry opportunities. The giveaway will be open from Thursday, 3 September 12:00am until Saturday, 19 September 12:00am. 

A winner will be chosen randomly through Rafflecopter. I will announce the lucky winner on Monday, 21 September. The winner will have 48 hours to contact me with his/her full name, complete postal address and phone number (please include the country code). Please make sure to check your spam folder in case the email should go there. The email will be coming from thesaffrongirl [at] gmail.com. Should the winner not respond within this timeframe, a new winner will be chosen at random. The winner’s contact information will be forwarded to Victory Belt Publishing to send out the prize. The Saffron Girl is not responsible for lost, stolen or misplaced prize.

Good luck!

Sweet Potato Savoury Tart

Sweet potatoes are something I’ve grown to like more since I started with the Paleo lifestyle. I used to equate them with one of my grandmother’s sweet treats. She was a Type II diabetic developing the disease sometime in her late 40s, and attributed acquiring the disease from all the raw honey and sweets she consumed when she lived in Portugal.

She was rail thin, ate like food was going out of style (my father thinks the same of my appetite), and was relatively quite healthy otherwise. She died at the young age of 90. Bless her soul, she was the funniest person I’ve known and had a huge influence on my life… but that’s a story for another day.

Back then, between school and friends and going out, I didn’t pay attention to learning more about how diet affected her illness. I thought it was incurable, one more malady that called for medical treatment. She wasn’t overly strict and only required one small pill of insulin a day to maintain her status quo. But I do recall that she avoided refined sugar, some fruits were off limits such as bananas and the plump, juicy oranges from our orchard, white potatoes were an infrequent side dish for her, and she also limited her intake of bread, picos and regañada (all three which she loved – picos are round breadsticks and regañada is a form of flat bread used to accompany tapas and meals in Spain).

Fortunately for my grandmother, my mother was an excellent home cook, who made sure we ate a traditional Mediterranean diet, which for the most part is very healthy. If my grandmother were alive today, I would be advocating the Paleo lifestyle to her, of course.

I was really into baking as a teenager growing up in Spain, so I used to make desserts without sugar for her. And as she would say, her eyes would go after all the delicious foods she wasn’t supposed to eat. One of her favourite treats was baked sweet potatoes, boniatos, with a drizzle of raw honey and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon. I wasn’t particularly fond of this dessert as I found it too rich. Too everything really (my youngest niece seems to share this predilection – she hates sweet potatoes).

Fast forward many years… and they are a staple in my kitchen. Funny how that happens with a lot of foodstuff, no? Nonetheless, I don’t use them that often as I still find them too sweet. But I do see the benefits of consuming them every once in a while.  The other day, I saw a recipe for a sweet potato and apple pie and loved the concept of the dough being made with this vegetable (and no refined sugar), especially since I had three sweet potatoes kind of just hanging around waiting to be used. And we’re clearing out the kitchen since we have to move soon.

So, I created a savoury tart instead with which to better appease my palate. I hope you enjoy! Que aproveches!

Sweet Potato Savoury Tart 

Ingredients, for a large 9×11 tart

1 3/4 cups cooked and mashed sweet potato (about 2 medium)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup almond flour
1 tablespoon thyme
1 teaspoon fine sea salt (optional)
1 large onion, chopped
2 small leeks, sliced
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup extra virgen olive oil
prosciutto
tomato slices
freshly ground pepper

Method

Heat oven to 375F (190C). Pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork and place on a sheet of parchment. Bake for about one hour or until done. (Check with a fork for tenderness.)

Place another sheet of parchment inside the ovenproof 9×11 tart pan/baking dish.

While the sweet potatoes are baking: In a medium skillet, over medium heat, melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the onions and leeks and poach until they are translucent. Set aside.

Once the sweet potatoes are baked, scoop out the pulp and mash. Spoon into a food processor. Add the eggs, almond flour, thyme and sea salt. Blend well. The mixture will be thick. Spoon onto the parchment inside the tart pan and spread evenly.

Top the sweet potato base with the onions and leeks. Then add some prosciutto and tomato slices. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and an additional generous pinch of thyme. Bake at 375F (190C) for approximately an hour or until done. (Check with a toothpick; if it comes out clean, it’s ready.)

Makes a delicious side dish for lamb, veal or poultry. We ate ours with lamb steaks.

Coconut Milk or Basic Flan Recipe

There are times that one forgets how the simple things in life are the best. Flan is one of the easiest desserts to make and always tastes good and looks impressive on a plate.

We were invited to lunch by my parent’s friends the other day and my father accustomed to my mother’s cooking and social habits, suggested that I make a flan. A custard as our English friend told us. In the US, whenever we had parties or social gatherings, my mother was known for her delicious flan, paella and other traditional Spanish dishes. My sister-in-law’s is also renown for her culinary talents amongst our friends. And oftentimes, flan is her star dish.

So, I acquiesced and indulged my father with a flan, albeit dairy-free, which didn’t make him too happy. (He much prefers regular milk flan.) Our friends enjoyed it too and because I was feeling guilty, I made it again yesterday, this time with cow’s milk just for him.

Whenever a recipe calls for just a few ingredients, you know that what is important is the quality of such ingredients. Pasture-raised, organic eggs and the best quality milk and honey make this dessert a special treat that is not only delicious, but also very healthy.

I personally love the flavour of coconut flan, but for a more neutral flan, I would suggest using cow’s milk. I’ve tried using almond milk in the past, and find the texture too granular, granted it was homemade. Also, you can be creative and add some fruit or other flavourings and come up with your own special recipe! Like I did here.

This is the basic recipe for flan; and it can be made with any type of milk you prefer, although remember it should always be full-fat for better results and taste.

Coconut Milk Flan

Ingredients

6 large eggs
750ml coconut milk (preferably canned)
1/2 cup raw honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup raw honey
1 tablespoon water

Method

You’ll need a large ovenproof dish in which you can place another ovenproof dish or bowl or individual molds for baking the flan au bain marie.

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).

On the stovetop, in a medium pan, bring to a boil over medium-high heat the 1/3 cup raw honey and 1 tablespoon water. Cook, stirring constantly until caramelised but still liquid, about 4 minutes. The mixture will bubble up quite a bit and also turn brown as you cook. Do not over cook, however, or you’ll end up with hard caramel in the pan. Pour into the flan mold/s and coat the bottom. Set aside. Place the pot immediately in the sink and fill with warm water. I do this to make it easier to clean later.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and raw honey. Once they are well blended, add the coconut milk and vanilla extract and mix well. Pour into the mold/s. Place the mold inside the ovenproof dish, large enough to hold the flan mold and be filled with water. Fill the outside glass dish to about 1/2 of the side of the flan mold. Do not over-fill, or the water can boil over inside the egg mixture and ruin the flan.

For a large mold (one flan), bake for 55 minutes or until an inserted sharp knife comes out clean. For individual molds adjust the baking time (less).

Remove from the oven and allow to cool at room temperature until the mold/s are cool enough to place in the fridge. Cool completely in the fridge before serving. When ready to serve, with a sharp knife cut away the edges of the flan from the mold. Place the serving plate on top and quickly turn over, giving it a jiggle if necessary. The flan should come out easily and look pretty on the plate.

Top with fruit, mint or edible flowers if desired.

 *****

Flan de Leche de Coco

Ingredientes

6 huevos grandes
750ml leche de coco (preferiblemente de lata)
125 ml miel cruda
1 cucharadita de las de te de extracto de vanilla
80ml miel cruda
1 cucharada grande (de las de sopa) de agua

Metódo

Nos hará falta un recipiente para el horno lo suficientemente grande para poder poner otro dentro o varios moldes/flaneras dentro al baño maria.

Precalentamos el horno a 180 grados.

Sobre la hornilla a fuego medio-alto, calentamos en una cazuela medianita 80ml de miel cruda y la cucharada de agua para hacer el caramelo líquido. Removiendo continuamente tarderemos unos 4 minutos en conseguir la textura y color deseados. Vertimos el caramelo dentro del molde/flaneras que vayamos a usar. Ponemos la cazuela dentro del fregadero y la llenamos de agua tibia para que luego nos sea mas fácil de limpiar.

En un bol, batimos los huevos y la miel. Cuando estén bien incorporados, agregamos la leche y batimos otra vez. Vertimos todo dentro del molde/flanera. Echamos agua dentro del recipiente grande, siempre teniendo en cuenta que queremos que sobre unos dedos sin agua para que cuando este en el horno no rebose al molde o la flanera estropeando el flan. Para un flan grande, horneamos unos 55 minutos o hasta que este hecho. Yo lo compruebo con un cuchillo afilado en el centro del flan.

Sacamos del  horno y del baño maria y dejamos que el flan se enfrie a temperatura ambiente hasta que podamos ponerlo en la nevera para enfriar del todo. Para servir, utilizamos un cuchillo afilado para desprender los filos del flan del molde. Le ponemos un plato por encima y le damos rapidamente la vuelta.

Se puede servir con fruta fresca, menta o incluso flores comestibles si deseamos.

Cream of Pumpkin Soup aux Herbes de Provence

The butternut squash had been laying on the counter for a couple of weeks and I kept moving it closer to the preparation area near the sink as a reminder to myself to do something with it. I love pumpkin almost anything, but I really wanted to avoid making another soup.

As I’ve not been too inspired lately or have been blogging frequently enough, I wanted to create something special… but I ended up surprising myself with soup. Sometimes the quick and easy wins over; and as it was so tasty, I decided it’s worthy of sharing.

Hope you enjoy!

CREAM OF PUMPKIN SOUP AUX HERBES DE PROVENCE

Ingredients, for 4:

1/2 large butternut squash (the whole squash was about 750g), roasted
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
3 medium tomatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 medium onion, julienned
1/4 cup butter (I used Kerrygold)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups filtered water
1 tablespoons herbes de Provence
sea salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste if desired

Method:

I roasted the pumpkin split in half, shell side facing up, for almost 50 minutes at 180C (350F). You can do this in advance to have ready for the soup or other recipes. With the shell facing upwards, you avoid browning the flesh and have better tasting pumpkin meat.

Place the butter and olive oil in a large pot and melt over low heat. Add the garlic, onion, and celery and poach for about 8-10 minutes until tender. Add the tomatoes and cook an additional 3 minutes so the flavours blend. Add the meat of 1/2 pumpkin and give it a good stir to blend well.

Add the coconut milk and stir well. Remove from heat and with an immersion blender, puree all the ingredients. You can do this directly in the pot. Return the pot to the stove and add the filtered water.  Add the herbes de Provence and sea salt and pepper to taste. Stir well and allow to warm through on low heat.

If desired you can serve with pieces of hard-boiled egg, sautéed shrimp or other seafood.

*****

SOPA DE CALABAZA A LAS HIERBAS DE LA PROVENZA

Ingredientes, para 4:

1/2 calabaza (tipo butternut squash de unos 750g entera), horneada
3 dientes de ajo, cortados
3 pencas de apio, cortadas finamente
3 tomates medianos, pelados y cortados a cuartos
1 cebolla mediana, cortada en juliana
1/4 de la taza de mantequilla (como unos 30g, yo use de la marca Kerrygold)
2 cucharadas soperas, o un poquito mas, de aceite de oliva
250ml de leche de coco
500ml de agua
sal y pimienta a gusto

Como hacer la sopa:

Hornea la calabaza a 180C unos 50 minutos. Yo la puse en la fuente con el lado de la piel hacia arriba, así se hornea sin quemar la pulpa y tiene mejor sabor.

En un olla onda, ponemos la mantequilla y el aceite de oliva a derretir sobre fuego lento. Agregamos los ajos, el apio y la cebolla y pochamos unos 8-10 minutos hasta que esten tiernos. Añadimos los tomatoes y pochamos unos 3 minutos mas para que se mezclen los sabores.

A continuación, echamos la pulpa o carne de la media calabaza dentro de la olla. Le damos una vuelta con una cuchara de madera para mezclar bien. Añadimos la leche de coco y volvemos a mover bien.

Retiramos del fuego y con una mini-pimer hacemos un puré. Esto se puede hacer dentro de la misma olla. Volvemos a poner sobre fuego lento y agregamos el agua, la hierbas de la Provenza, y salpimentamos a gusto. Dejamos que se caliente bien para servir.

Podemos acompañar la sopa con algo de guarnición, como un huevo duro picado, unas gambas salteadas o algún otro marisco.

Paleo Dutch Pannenkoeken

If you have ever tried a Dutch pannenkoek, you know how much fun they are to make and eat. Dutch pancakes are a watered-down version of the American pancake, with both sweet and savoury toppings. The Dutch eat them for lunch and dinner, instead of breakfast.

In fact, my Dutch husband won’t eat a pannenkoek or any pancake before lunchtime…he keeps telling me he’s Dutch, not American, remember? I have to smile of course because he loves sweet pastries after his savoury first meal of the day.. but not the pannenkoek. 😉

We used to buy the flour mix from Koopmans every time we visited the Netherlands; but since going Paleo, I haven’t made any pannenkoek and much less from a box. This past weekend, however, I was simply in a mood for one and decided it was time to tackle the project.

I made these regular, basic almond-flour pancakes the other day and they served as the basis for the pancake dough. I simply literally watered them down and added my favourite toppings, apples and ham. I swirled some maple syrup and sprinkled some ground cinnamon over top and had a hearty first meal of the day, in a very un-Dutchable way.

You can top your pannenkoek with all sorts of things, from Gouda cheese (very typical), bacon pieces, fresh fruit, to even nuts and maybe thinly sliced vegetables, such as mushrooms (although personally, I’ve never tried it with veggies…it is a thought).

PALEO DUTCH PANNENKOEKEN

Ingredients, makes 2 large pannenkoeken:

4 eggs
1 cup ground almonds (almond flour)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup filtered water
butter, coconut oil or fat of choice for frying
toppings: anything you like, but I used 1 apple, peeled and cored and sliced, and pieces of ham
maple syrup and ground cinnamon, if desired

Method:

Heat a skillet over low heat. Lightly beat the eggs with a hand whisk or fork.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Add the butter to the skillet and melt. Pour half the pancake mixture onto the skillet, making sure you cover the entire bottom of the pan (keep it as a thin layer though; you do not want a thick American pancake). Place your toppings on top of the mixture, and allow it to start bubbling before flipping over.

To flip over, I found it easy to do it like I do a Spanish tortilla: place a plate over the skillet, flip the skillet onto the plate, and then slide the pancake (cooked side on top) back into the skillet. Cook on the other side until done, a few minutes. You can also use a large spatula to flip, if you are handier than I am.

To serve, flip again, so you have the toppings on top. Drizzle with maple syrup and sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.

*****

TORTAS “PANNENKOEKEN” HOLANDESAS

Ingredientes, para como 2 pannenkoeken:

4 huevos
1 taza (250ml) almendras molidas (muy finamente molidas, lo que se llama harina de almendras)
2 cucharaditas de zumo de limón
1/2 cuchardita de bicarbonato de soda
una pizca de sal marina
1/4 taza (60ml) de agua
toppings: se le puede poner lo que a uno le guste, pero yo utilicé algo muy típico y que me gusta mucho: una manzana, pelada y cortada, y algo de jamón cocido
mantequilla, aceite de coco o la grasa que prefieras, para hacer las tortitas

Como hacer los pannenkoeken holandeses:

Calienta una sartén sobre fuego lento.  Bate un poco los huevos con un tenedor o una batidora de mano. Añade los demás ingredientes y mezcla todo bien. Pon un poco de mantequilla o aceite de coco sobre la sartén hasta que se derrita. Echa la mitad de la masa en la sartén, cubriendo bien el fondo. Agrega los toppings, a gusto.

Cuando empiece la masa a formar burbujitas, ya se le puede dar la vuelta. Yo lo hice como una tortilla española, poniendo un plato encima de la sartén y dandole la vuelta. Se vuelve a incorporar el pannenkoek con la parte hecha hacia arriba en la sartén. Se cuece unos minutos mas hasta que el otro lado también este hecho.

Para servir, se le vuelve a dar la vuelta para que queden los toppings hacia arriba. Se puede servir con sirope de arce y un poco de canela molida, si se desea.

San Nicolas and Chestnut & Drunken Raisins Muffins

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire

…are synonymous with wintery days and nights and the Yuletide season that’s upon us. For me, roasting chestnuts also brings back memories of growing up in Chipiona and my Spanish grandmother, whom we all called Tita Paca. She was one of the biggest influences in my life and someone that continues to be very important.

Today, which is the holiday of San Nicolás (Saint Nicholas), I remember her even more than other days. For Tita Paca, San Nicolás was very special. We used to do the traditional 3-Monday journey many times during the year, and on December 6th especially, we’d always try to go to church to visit him.

I’m not a very religious person, and in many ways, neither was my grandmother. Yet, she truly believed in Saint Nicholas and how he had helped many people during his lifetime, and as a saint, also helped our family steer away from harm…

Leovigildo used to travel the country roads on his horse-carriage from town to town in the provinces of Sevilla and Huelva, taking with him important items, money and foodstuff during the late 1800s. During those times, there were a lot of bandoleros – robbers – on horseback on the country roads. They were always waiting for the right moment to attack travellers and steal what they could. 

Leovigildo grew up in the town of Castilleja del Campo, in a humble home, where his mother used to have the portrait of an old man, with a white beard and a bishop’s hat on the wall. Leovigildo would ask his mother who that old man was, and she would always say, “just a saint… carry on”. And Leovigildo did, carry on. He wasn’t a religious man, in fact more of a republican and non-believer, but always an honourable and good person, never doing harm to anyone and always being just and kind. He was the father of one of my grandmother’s best friends, Carmelita. 

After Leovigildo married and already had a few children, he continued with his business. His wife used to always tell him to not travel at night and be careful, since the bandoleros were always a menace and he was always in danger of being assaulted. But Leovigildo had little choice if he wanted to keep his family afloat.

One night, whilst travelling the country roads, in darkness and all alone, he heard voices and noises… and then he saw a bright light ahead of him on the road. He thought of turning back, but couldn’t because the carriage couldn’t turn around. He used to boast that he was not scared of anything…but on this particular night, he feared for his life. He knew the bandoleros were many and very prepared, with lights and all… so he braced himself and carried on. 

Not being a religious man, he didn’t pray or ask God to help him. 

As he entered the bright lights, he saw an old man with a white beard sitting on the side of the road…and just then, Leovigildo turned to the man and said, “I know you! You’re the man in the painting that my mother has always had.” Just as he pronounced those words, the old man with a beard disappeared and so did the bright lights. 

He made his way home on that evening and many others, never, ever being assaulted or harmed…and never once telling anyone about this incident. Years later, when he was very old and agonising for days – the doctors kept saying that each day was to be his last – he found the strength to tell his granddaughter, Violeta, and my mother, who was also like a granddaughter to him, about the story. He still couldn’t really understand why that old man, Saint Nicholas, had chosen to appear to him on that dark night so long ago.. but he thought he owed him being safe all those years and wanted someone to know. 

Leovigildo died a few days later… on December 6th, the day of Saint Nicholas. 

This is a true story. One that my grandmother would tell me and my mother has told me over and over. And one that gives me goosebumps every time I remember it. San Nicolás also “gave signs” to my grandmother…and she believed that he answered all her questions that she would pose during the 3-Monday walks to see him at the Santuario de Regla, in Chipiona.

I have to admit I believe in him too, although maybe not quite the same way my grandmother did…and what I truly believe in, is his message of goodness and protection of those in need.

Today, on the day of Saint Nicholas, we should all – kids from one to ninety-two – be believers… believers in dreams and doing good to others.

I love this time of year that is approaching with the festive atmosphere, the lights, the decorations, the gathering of our family and friends, and yes, the roasting of chestnuts… the ones you find on street corners from London to Sevilla.

My grandmother is no longer with us, but her soul lingers and I remember her especially today and know that San Nicolás is somehow protecting all of us.

I remember her child-like excitement whilst opening packages on Christmas, her enthusiasm for everything in life, even the smallest things like roasting chestnuts in our fireplace.

I didn’t roast the chestnuts for this recipe, but rather cooked them on the stovetop to make them moist and supple. The muffins are a delicious combination of the seasonal flavours. I hope you enjoy and dream a little today…

CHESTNUT & DRUNKEN RAISINS MUFFINS

Ingredients, makes 9 large muffins:

350g chestnuts (about 50 chestnuts, plus some extra; I put in about 5 more)*
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup moscatel or brandy**
4 yolks
4 egg whites + 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup raw honey
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 cup almond flour

Method:

Cook the chestnuts in a large pot of boiling water, about 50 minutes. Make sure you add more water, if necessary, so the chestnuts do not burn. In the meantime, place the raisins in a bowl and cover with the moscatel.

Before the next steps, preheat oven to 180C (350F).  Prepare a large muffin tin with paper holders.

When the chestnuts are done, allow to cool before handling. Peel and purée in a food processor. Drain the raisins, reserving 2 tablespoons of moscatel. Set the raisins aside.

Add the 2 tablespoons of moscatel to the chestnuts and continue puréeing. Add the egg yolks, butter, and coconut milk and blend until smooth. Add the raw honey, orange zest, baking soda and sea salt. Pulse again until well blended.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Fold the chestnut mixture, almond flour and raisins into the egg whites until just blended.

Pour by spoonfuls into the muffin holders, about 2 spoonfuls per muffin. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and muffins are golden brown. Allow to cool before serving.

*Tip: Since you are cooking the chestnuts without peeling, add a few extra in case they are rotten or not nice on the inside. I used about 5 extra and I ended up discarding about 6 chestnuts after peeling because they were not right inside.

**If you prefer to make the recipe without alcohol, simply soak the raisins in water, orange juice or orange blossom water to make them soft.

 *****

 MUFFINS DE CASTAÑAS Y UVAS PASAS BORRACHAS

Ingredientes, para 9 muffins grandes:

350g castañas (son como unas 50, aparte yo puse unas 5 de demás)*
1/2 vaso uvas pasas
1/2 vaso moscatel o brandy**
4 yemas
4 claras + 1/2 cucharadita crema de tartar
1/3 vaso mantequilla
1/2 vaso leche de coco
1/2 cucharadita de bicarbonato de soda
1/8 cucharadita de sal fina, como una pizca
1/4 vaso de miel cruda
1 cucharada sopera de ralladura de naranja
1 vaso de harina de almendras/almendras molidas muy finas

Como hacer los muffins:

Cuece las castañas en una olla grande de agua hirviendo, como unos 50 minutos. Si hiciera falta, añade mas agua.  Entretanto, pon las uvas pasas en un bol y tapa las con el moscatel.

Antes de empezar con los siguientes pasos, precalienta el horno a 180C. Y prepara un molde de muffins grandes con su correspondientes fundas de papel.

Cuando las castañas esten listas, deja que se enfríen antes de pelar las. Pela las y haz un puré con el robot de cocina. Escure las uvas pasas, reservando 2 cucharadas de moscatel. Añade el moscatel al puré de castañas. Agrega las yemas, la mantequilla, la leche de coco y pulsa hasta que obtengas una masa suave.

Ahora incorpora la miel, la ralladura de naranja, el bicarbonato y la sal. Vuelve a pulsar hasta que este todo bien mezclado.

En un bol aparte, bate las claras de huevo con la crema tartar hasta punto de nieve. Con una espátula, pasa la crema de castañas al bol de las claras montadas. Añade la harina de almendras (almendras molidas) y las uvas pasas. Mezcla todo bien con las espátula, pero sin batir la masa. Queremos que quede con aire, pero que no se vean las claras montadas.

Echa como dos cucharadas soperas de la masa en cada molde de muffin. Hornea durante unos 35-40 minutos hasta que esten los muffins dorados y hechos. Se puede comprobar con un palillo de dientes. Deja que se enfríen antes de servir.

*Nota: Al utilizar castañas frescas sin pelar, siempre es bueno incluir unas cuantas demás por si nos sale alguna mala por dentro. Yo puse unas 5 demás, y tire como 6 después de cocer las.

**Si no quieres utilizar alcohol, en vez de moscatel, usa agua, zumo de naranja o agua de azahar para poner las pasas en remojo.

Basic Paleo Almond Flour Pancakes With Plums and a Quick Euro Trip

Last week Tuesday, I was wandering around the streets of Frankfurt, our former home, while my husband was at work nearby. That evening we drove to Austria for a workshop of his. I tagged along for this trip, as I do on others, especially when he travels by car.

I simply love a road trip particularly anywhere in Europe, where it’s easy to see a few countries within a week. Plus, it’s a great way for us to spend some quality time together and talk. Our road trips may sound a little crazy, as we pack in a lot of events, essentially work for my husband and meetings in different cities, and sometimes countries, and we also try to include some fun time. For me the journeys always mean some sightseeing on my own and lots of local food!

On this trip, we drove from London, crossing the Channel via train, and sleeping the first night in Gent, Belgium. Over the weekend, we were in the Netherlands visiting family and friends, and I even had the opportunity to write a post and share a recipe. I usually don’t take my laptop with me, but I knew I would have some free time and wanted to make sure I would get the recipe to you before returning home. I also picked up the Allerhande form “Apie Heijn” from which I plan to make a few dishes. The supermarket, really named Albert Heijn, is probably my favourite in Europe, and has the prettiest produce, meats and dairy products. They also have a lot of bio (organic) products; and it’s always a delight to shop at them in the Netherlands.

On Monday, we were near Groningen, where my husband had a dentist appointment and we later drove to Frankfurt that evening. It feels like coming home in many ways when we are in Germany, at least it does for me. And this time of year is even more special, as the Christmas markets are starting to pop up everywhere. So while my husband worked, I wandered around the city, visiting my favourite shops, enjoyed a delicious Paleo breakfast at the Hauptwache Cafe and later a Thai lunch at Coa in the Zeil Shopping Center. If you’ve been to Frankfurt, you know this building is incredibly cool. The façade is made of glass plaques, as is the ceiling and parts of the interior.

The architecture in the center of Frankfurt is an interesting mixture of renovated old buildings and very modern structures, such as this one, and the Jumeirah Hotel behind it. The city is known as “Mainhattan” as it’s probably the closest thing to Manhattan in Europe, being a financial business center with many skyscrapers. (Main is for the River Main.) By the way, when we lived here and visited the city museum, we learned that over 60% of Frankfurt was bombed and destroyed during World War II. So many of those old buildings that look like they were built in centuries past are actually rather new.

From the center of Germany, we drove to Seewalchen, in Austria, where my husband had a meeting the following day. We had been to the Salzkammergut area before, visiting Gmunden on the Traunsee, so I knew that we were headed to beautiful scenery and landscapes. And I wasn’t disappointed. Seewalchen is right on the northern tip of Attersee, a beautiful lake surrounded by the Austrian Alpes. The water is crystal clear and drinkable!

So, on Wednesday, I enjoyed a day to myself and explored the neighbouring villages and a visit to the Gustav Klimt Center in Schörfling am Attersee.

Klimt is one of my favourite artists. When I worked in NYC at a private bank, my team and I processed the loan for the famous Adele Bloch-Bauer painting, which now hangs at the Neue Gallerie in NYC. Since seeing that painting in person, I was hooked on anything Klimt. Yet visiting the Center on Attersee helped me learn a lot more about the artist himself and his lifestyle. He was a very interesting and bohemian person, designing women’s clothing and even wearing many of the gowns himself (oftentimes without undergarments!). Many of these gowns, designed by Klimt and created by Emilie Flöge, his lifetime partner of sorts,  “show up” in his illustrations and portraits of women.

Gustav Klimt, along with number of Austrian artists such as Egon Schiele, was one of the most important spokespersons and artists of the Jugendstil art movement in Austria. He spent many summers at Attersee, where he mostly painted landscapes, including the Schloss Kammer.

Walking in Klimt’s footsteps in the towns of Attersee am Attersee, Schörfling and Weyregg and bringing to life many of his paintings was an incredible experience for me. Unfortunately the Center doesn’t have any original works on display; due to conservations reasons, the illustrations are all lithographs. To see the fascinating originals and especially the works of his “golden phase”, one must visit museums or be lucky enough to see a special exhibit or have the money to purchase pieces of his oeuvre…

The day after my excursion through the summers of Klimt, we drove off early in the morning to squeeze in a little bit of skiing at Obertauern in the Austrian Alps. There was fresh snow with some ice patches and chilling temperatures of -12C, but we managed to go down the slopes a few times. Well, my husband did. I went up and down once, as it was a bit too cold for me and the “bunny slope”, where I like to start off only offered a T-bar lift, which I hate.

We spent the evening and night in Nürnberg, where we walked around the Christmas market, had some Nürnberger sausages, a glass of Glühwein, and dinner at the Barfüßer Bräuhaus. We ate a very typical German fare of Schweinehaxe (pork knuckle) and suckling pig accompanied by Kloß (called Knödel in other parts of Germany) and red cabbage. Needless to say, we were satiated after dinner. 😉

Friday morning we took off early in the morning again, so that my husband and a colleague could be in time for a meeting near Mannheim. And I strolled around along the Planken, the main shopping street, and the Christmas market. It had been around 20 years since I was last in Mannheim, back then for work with Elizabeth Arden. I didn’t recognise a thing…

On Saturday, we once again were in the Netherlands, where we visited family in Arnhem and ate the best and most fresh, raw herrings at Gamba, a beautiful fishmonger, which is quickly becoming our favourite and a ritual. I indulged in two harings, one right after the other, whilst my husband also enjoyed some kibbling, deep fried cod. Dinner was very traditional Dutch for this time of year: some hutspot (boiled potatoes, carrots and onions with bacon bits of course) and boerenkool met worst (boiled potatoes and kale with Dutch sausage), which my husband’s cousin made for us. It was delicious. We used to make it often at home, and both are the first Dutch dishes that I learned to make after meeting my husband. They are hearty and perfect for a cold winter evening. I promise to make them at home soon and share the recipes with you.

We returned to the island on Sunday, with a short detour on our way to London via the Cliffs of Dover. When we were relocated to the UK in January of 2012, our first trip over with our car was onboard a ferry from Calais to Dover. I was very apprehensive of the Chunnel back then and figured that a boat crossing would be much safer than going inside a train that’s inside a tunnel that is below the earth that is below the water…since then, we’ve used only the Chunnel for making the road trip back to Continental Europe, and I must say that I love it. Well, love may be too strong of a description… more like I tolerate it with more pleasure than originally thought since it’s a very quick journey of about 35 minutes in that train that is inside a tunnel under the earth that’s under the water… (it’s best not to think about all that).

The Chunnel takes off from Folkestone; so, we had not been back to Dover since our first crossing. And after this excursion, we have promised ourselves to return as there is so much more to see than we thought. I hope to make a weekend out of it and see the surrounding area as well.

On our detour, we had time to walk on top of the cliffs, where there are a number of paths through beautiful fields filled with rabbit holes, some sheep in the distance, and the gorgeous and grey North Sea just below the White Cliffs. The scenery is magnificent; and although one walks almost on the edge of the cliffs at times, it’s actually not even scary, but rather peaceful and energising. If you do go, remember to wear proper footwear, as it can be muddy. I was wearing clogs (not the right footwear) and slipped on our way back to the parking lot and ended up with muddy pants, shoes and hands. 😉

Coincidently, we ate lunch at the same hotel where we spent the first night in the UK, the Dover Marina. They were serving a Sunday roast carvery lunch and were all primped up for Christmas… just the perfect ending to a perfect trip just before the holidays.

On Monday, it was back to reality of an almost empty fridge and longing for someone else to prepare my breakfast. Fortunately, we still had eggs left (I checked them in water before using them) and plenty of almond flour. So, I invented these pancakes on the spot. I guess you could call them a basic recipe, since you can add more ingredients to them and experiment with different toppings.

Hope you enjoy!

BASIC PALEO ALMOND FLOUR PANCAKES, WITH PLUMS

Ingredients, makes 8 medium-sized pancakes:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup ground almonds (almond flour)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 4 plums, peeled and cut into slices or chunks (optional)
  • butter, coconut oil or fat of choice for frying

Method:

Heat a skillet over low heat. Lightly beat the eggs with a hand whisk or fork.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Add the butter to the skillet and melt. Pour the pancake mixture by spoonfuls onto the skillet. Cook until the pancakes start to bubble, then flip over and cook all the way through, about a few minutes on each side. Serve with maple syrup, if desired.

*****

TORTITAS AMERICANAS, TIPO PALEO CON ALMENDRAS MOLIDAS Y CIRUELAS FRESCAS

Ingredientes, para como 8 tortitas americanas:

  • 4 huevos
  • 1 taza (250ml) almendras molidas (muy finamente molidas, lo que se llama harina de almendras)
  • 2 cucharaditas de zumo de limón
  • 1/2 cuchardita de bicarbonato de soda
  • una pizca de sal marina
  • 4 ciruelas, peladas y cortadas a lascas o pedacitos (opcional)
  • mantequilla, aceite de coco o la grasa que prefieras, para hacer las tortitas

Como hacer las tortitas americanas:

Calienta una sartén sobre fuego lento.  Bate un poco los huevos con un tenedor o una batidora de mano. Añade los demás ingredientes y mezcla todo bien. Pon un poco de mantequilla o aceite de coco sobre la sartén hasta que se derrita. Pon una cucharada y media (de las grandes) de masa por cada tortita. Deja que la masa empiece a hacer burbujas y entonces dale la vuelta. Se fríe o cuece unos minutos por cada lado. Se sirve con sirope de arce, si se desea.

Sweet Potato & Zucchini Soup with Quatre-Epices

Since moving back to Europe, we make a point of doing an annual road trip to Sevilla, Spain usually in the summer or autumn. We have three important reasons for driving so many kilometers each year: one, we get to enjoy a lot of quality time together and see many beautiful things along the way, both in France and in Spain; and two, we have the opportunity of seeing family and friends, whom we wouldn’t see otherwise because of where they live, Bayonne and Vitoria; and three, we stock up on Spanish goodies, such as various 5-liter olive oil bottles, whole legs of jamon serrano, and other things we miss, that we couldn’t possibly pack into a suitcase. On the last trip, we even brought back some delicious salted cod!

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Now that we live in London, we are in France more often than when we lived in Germany. Now, we must cross the north of France every time we visit the Benelux and Germany. Consequently, we have gotten to know Calais and the surrounding region quite well. During the summer months when we arrive around lunchtime, our first stop in France is always for moules frites in Gravelines at Le 116. Gravelines is a rather sleepy little town on the River Aa; but it does have a beautiful beach, and the historical, hexagonal-shaped bastion, Grand Fort Philippe, is worth visiting. The area can be confusing for the first-time visitor as the culture, the landscape and even the names of towns are a mixture of French and Dutch. The area was part of Flanders and still has many similarities with Belgium and The Netherlands. (By the way, another very interesting and beautiful hexagonal fort town is Bourtange, near Groningen in The Netherlands.)

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Eating in France can be a hit or miss experience, we’ve discovered. Arguably one could say that can happen in every country; but when eating in France, we’ve come to expect top quality and cuisine, and it’s not always the case. Aside from our moules frites passion, we have stopped for every meal during one trip or another, and have had varying degrees of satisfaction. And some of the best meals have been when and where we least expected them.

We once had a delightful breakfast in Neufchâtel. We arrived in town just as the farmers’ market was opening; in fact, it was still slightly dark out and the morning air was quite brisk, adding a very pleasant atmosphere with which to start our day. At the market, we purchased some pungent local cheeses (Neufchâtel, of course!) from a very helpful cheesemonger and a large baguette at the nearby boulangerie (France and Spain are the only two countries in which I make an exception to eat bread, and only occasionally), which we consumed with a cafe au lait, before continuing our journey. I love visiting farmers’ markets, and I’ve found the best ones in France, The Netherlands and Germany. The only downside of travelling and visiting markets is not being able to purchase all the fresh seafood, meats and produce!

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Another memorable meal was our stop in Conty for dinner. The area is famous for le Tour de France going through it and the little restaurant at which we ate had a number of cycling memorabilia. But the best part of dinner was the cookery book, Cuisine d’Hiver, laying on a shelf behind me. I took a gazillion pictures of the recipes with my iPhone and later saved them on my computer to never look at them again. I do this a lot. In fact, I take pictures of menus with the intention of using the ideas for inspiration and later always forget to revisit them.

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So, when my duck fat arrived in the mail the other day, for some reason I thought of France. And no, I still haven’t used any of the recipes from the cookery book in Conty, although I’ve placed them all in a folder to have them printed. That’s a step in the right direction, I think. In the meantime, I came up with this French-inspired soup recipe to use up the sweet potatoes I had on hand.

I went to grab some quatre-épices and found out I was out of the spice mix. This is another food item I tend to purchase when travelling through France, that and herbes de Provence. The spice mix usually includes pepper (white, black or both), ginger, nutmeg and cloves. For the soup, I created my own combination by using equal parts of black pepper, nutmeg and cloves and adding some freshly grated ginger.

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To add some kick, which my husband tends to appreciate, I included some chili powder, as well. And I added turmeric for the health benefits and for a more intense colour.

As the duck fat was not enough fat for my interpretation of a healthy meal, I garnished the soup with some chopped, hard-boiled eggs and pieces of jamon serrano, along with some chopped chives for additional flavour. You can omit these, but if you want a more well-balanced dish, I wouldn’t. (Of course, bacon or ham can be substituted for the jamon serrano.)

The sweet potato and zucchini soup is my homage to our trips through France… if I can’t be in France on a daily basis, I can bring a little bit of France to me by way of the very healthy and delicious duck fat and quatre-épices. I hope you will also enjoy!

Bon Appétit!

Sweet Potato & Zucchini Soup with Quatre-Epices
Author: The Saffron Girl
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Makes about 10 servings.
Ingredients
  • 900g (just shy of 2lbs) sweet potato, peeled and roughly cubed
  • 2 medium zucchini, partially peeled and roughly cubed
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 medium leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 cup duck fat
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 7-8 cups filtered water, or if you have chicken or duck broth, much better
  • 3 teaspoons coarse sea salt (adjust salt if you use broth and/or to taste, of course)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, optional
  • For garnish, if desired:
  • hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • jamon serrano or bacon pieces
  • chopped chives
Instructions
  1. Place the duck fat, onion and leek in a large pot. Poach over low heat, about 8 minutes until the onion is almost translucent.
  2. Add the garlic, zucchini pieces, and the spices and stir well.
  3. Cook about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the sweet potatoes and 4 cups of filtered water or stock.
  5. Cook over medium heat for 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.
  6. Remove from heat and allow to slightly cool, enough to handle safely.
  7. With an immersion blender, puree until smooth.
  8. Add 3-4 cups of additional filtered water.
  9. Add sea salt, adjusting to taste.
  10. Add chili powder, if desired.
  11. Stir well.
  12. Heat through over low heat to warm enough to serve, about 5-7 minutes.
  13. Garnish with hard-boiled egg, jamon serrano and chives, if desired.
  14. (The soup freezes well for later use.)

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Paleo Pumpkin Pancakes

I woke up this morning with a mission in mind: to finally recreate the pumpkin fudge brownie recipe I have promised my readers. So, the first thing I did was cut up one of my gorgeous and rather large butternut squash and bake it, while I organised things a bit. I used to be one of those people who had to immediately eat breakfast after getting up, especially when I was working in NYC. But since going Paleo, I actually prefer to wait about an hour or more before eating anything. Most days, I first prepare and drink my warm water with freshly squeesed lemon juice, and then after that’s settled, I start thinking about what to make for breakfast.

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As I’m working from home now (I am a freelance graphic designer), I tend to catch up on news during this time and settle in to tackle work after I’ve eaten.

Today, since I knew I would have too much pumpkin meat leftover after making the fudge brownies, a thought came to mind: why not have pumpkin pancakes or waffles for breakfast too?! I’m not really crazy about sweet things for breakfast, much preferring savoury dishes with lots of healthy fats to keep me going for hours on end.

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But as it’s Sunday, I made an exception. I was planning to use one of my own recipes as guidance, but my computer decided it needed a software update today and I couldn’t access the internet until that update was installed. Frustration was about to set in, when I decided to simply invent a new recipe…

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I’m embarrassed to “toot my own horn”, but these are quite good, fluffly, light and delicious. Plus the flavours make it a perfect treat for an Autumn morning. And if you eat them as I did, with some melt-in-your-mouth Kerrygold butter and maple syrup, all the better. 😉

Paleo Pumpkin Pancakes
Author: The Saffron Girl
Serves: 10
Makes about 10 pancakes, 2 1/2-in diameter
Ingredients
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cooked pumpkin meat
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 tablespoon coconut flour
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, blend until smooth the egg, pumpkin meat, spices, sea salt and baking soda.
  2. Add the almond flour and pulse to mix well.
  3. Add the coconut flour and pulse again to mix well.
  4. Add the maple syrup, if desired and blend well.
  5. Heat a frying pan over low heat and grease with some coconut oil.
  6. Pour the pancake batter by spoonfuls onto the pan. I poured 2 spoonfuls per pancake.
  7. Allow to cook through until the batter starts to bubble. Immediately turn over and cook on other side.
  8. Serve with butter and maple syrup, if desired.

 

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Limoncello Pumpkin Soup

I love it when the lack of ingredients provokes a stroke of creativity. This happened to me when making this soup. I was looking for my white wine, of which I didn’t have any left, and saw the limoncello. And it just seemed like a cool flavour to add to this soup. Some friends of ours, who used to live in Italy, brought over a couple of bottles of limoncello when they visited us in Germany. We obviously are not drinkers (since that was over two years ago), and much less of liquors, so both bottles are almost intact.

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We keep the pretty bottles in the fridge, as it’s supposed to be served chilled. I sort of see them every day, and they are almost like a decoration inside my fridge. The limoncello is made from lemons and has a beautiful, sunny yellow colour that seems unreal. When opened, the aroma that permeates from the liqour is both refreshing and delicate; but don’t be fooled, it has quite a punch when you drink it straight.

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However, in the soup is was undetectable, although I think it may have enhanced the overall flavour, since it turned out delicious. Of course, you can substitute with a white wine, which was my original idea.

It’s very easy to make, especially if you’re in a hurry. Just make sure you either roast the pumpkin first; or I guess canned pumpkin could also work. I garnished it with some finely sliced spring onions and crumbled Stilton cheese; however a little bit of lemon zest would probably bring out the limoncello flavours and be a nice contrast to the pumpkin.

Limoncello Pumpkin Soup
Author: The Saffron Girl
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 3-4
Serves 3-4.
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted pumpkin meat
  • 2 small red onions, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely sliced
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil, butter or fat of preference
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup limoncello, or white wine
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • spring onions, finely sliced, for garnishing
  • Stilton cheese, crumbled, for garnishing and extra flavour (optional, but very tasty)
Instructions
  1. Roast your pumpkin in the oven for about 45 minutes at 180C (350F). I split mine in half and place them in an ovenproof dish. Facing up or down really doesn’t matter much.
  2. In a pot over low heat, poach the onions, garlic and celery with the olive oil or fat of choice, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the limoncello or white wine and reduce, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the pumpkin meat, giving it a good stir.
  5. Pour in the filtered water, and cook about 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat, and with an immersion blender, very roughly blend to puree a bit, but leaving chunks of the celery and other vegetables.
  7. (Alternatively you could puree the pumpkin with the water first and leave the rest of the vegetables whole.)
  8. Return to the stove and heat until warm to eat.
  9. Season with sea salt and pepper, to taste.
  10. To serve, garnish with spring onions, Stitlon cheese or whatever you desire. The cheese, if you do dairy, adds a delicious flavour, as does the spring onion.

 

Chicken Liver Adobo – Guest Post by Adobo Down Under

I grew up in the south of Spain and had the privilege of attending a DOD school, on the Rota Naval Base. I say privilege because although my father was not military, my brother and I were allowed to go to school on the Base, and most importantly we had the opportunity to experience many things American that we wouldn’t have otherwise, since we both grew up in Spain. (Plus thanks to this, I have a perfect American accent when speaking English! ;))

One of the most important aspects of going to a Department of Defense school, aside from the quality education, is the diversity amongst the students and teachers. There are literally children from everywhere in the world, with mixed backgrounds, mixed races, different religions, and different languages and cultures. So, it’s a beautiful way to grow up without preconceived prejudices. I had friends of all nationalities…and some of my best friends still to this day are Filipino or half-Filipino.

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I remember learning how to make lumpia, eating pancit, longaniza and many other traditional Filipino dishes that I still enjoy today, although less frequently since going Paleo. For me these dishes are part of my teenage years and bring back very fond memories. I even learned some Tagalog, which I have mostly forgotten now, except for some “loanwords” that come from the Spanish language, such as “mesa”.

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Spain has a long history with the Philippines and probably not always a good one, although the Spanish culture seems to have permeated into a number of aspects of the Filipino culture, language and life and vice versa. In Spain, our famous “manton de Manila”, which we claim to be traditional Spanish is something the Spanish conquistadores brought back from the Philippines, just like our “abanico” was brought back possibly from another part of Asia. My great-grandfather fought in the Spanish-American War, and I remember my grandmother telling me stories about his “adventures”.

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So, when I discovered Anna, from Adobo Down Under, in the Sweet Adventures Blog Hop, I was delighted to see that she’s from the Philippines and her blog’s main focus is traditional Filipino food. And although Adobo’s blog is not Paleo, many of her savoury recipes are, and her other recipes can be easily Paleolised. I love to get inspiration from other cuisines around the world and I thought sharing Filipino food from a true Filipino would be inspiring to all of us to try something new, if you are not already familiar with this cuisine.

I’ve mentioned Adobo before on my blog, and how we follow each other on social media. We’ve become blogger buddies and I truly enjoy being witness to and learning from her life musings through what she shares on Instagram and Facebook. It’s always interesting to see how the seasons change in Australia, where Anna and her family live, and how beautiful it must be over there. I have many countries on my wish list, but I’m definitely partial now to visiting Australia and The Philippines… I hope one day I will be that lucky.

In the meantime, I will continue to follow and learn from Anna… and I hope you will too. She has a lovely blog, with beautiful stories, “musings” as she calls them, delicious recipes (which can be easily made into Paleo), and pretty photography.

But I’m sure you’re eager to see an example of her dishes, so without further ado, I leave you with her recipe for today’s post, which is the first guest post on my blog! (We had been planning this for months actually, but Anna has been studying a culinary course, so we had to wait until she was finished and could dedicate time to a post. It’s a true honour to finally be able to feature one of Adobo’s recipes by Anna herself, aside from this one I shared the other day and Paleolised.)

Ah, one last thing…please don’t forget to check her out and follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

*********

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First of all, let me say G’day mate and Mabuhay!

I am Anna – writer, cook, baker and photographer behind the blog Adobo Down Under.  My blog contains musings on parenting, on learning to be Australian and basically engaging my readers into my world –  Filipino raising a family in Sydney Australia.

I’d like to thank The Saffron Girl for the invitation to guest post.  I have never done anything like this, and it has made me excited so much that I could not decide on what Filipino dish to share, considering Debra’s dishes are mostly Paleo.    It had to be something “adobo” as it is a classic in Filipino homes, and I think chicken liver adobo will be perfect.

If you are familiar with the Filipino cuisine, you would know our meals are always served, if not, made with rice.  From breakfast to dinner, from morning tea and snacks to desserts.  This particular dish is usually served with rice.   When I made this and took a photo of the cooked chicken liver adobo, no matter how many garnish, it still looked very unappealing. So I thought reinventing the dish into a simple pate would be the best option.  I hope you like it.

*Note from The Saffron Girl: you can use gluten-free soy sauce in this recipe, of course.

Chicken Liver Adobo – Guest Post by Adobo Down Under
Author: The Saffron Girl
Ingredients
  • 500g chicken liver, washed and trimmed of sinews
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ cup vinegar
  • ½ cup soy sauce (light or dark does not matter, but it will affect the colour of the dish)
  • 2-3 dried bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a skillet or pan, heat the oil and cook the garlic until soft. Do not brown or burn as it will make the dish bitter.
  2. Add the chicken livers. Stir and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the vinegar, soy sauce and bay leaves and bring to a boil.
  4. Season with salt and pepper. Turn down heat. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  5. You can already eat this chicken liver adobo with some rice; or butter some crusty bread slices and serve with some chopped parsley.
  6. To make a simple pate, cool the cooked chicken livers at room temperature.
  7. Process until smooth in a food processor.
  8. Spoon into small bowls or containers and drizzle with olive oil.
  9. Spread the pate on bread slices and serve with chopped parsley.
  10. Best eaten on the day, but can keep in the fridge for 2 days. Just add more olive oil to cover, then wrapped with cling film.
  11. ***
  12. Tips regarding chicken livers:
  13. When buying chicken livers, make sure you buy them fresh. They will be moist with a shiny flesh.
  14. When cleaning chicken livers, make sure to remove white sinews. Remove patches that appear greenish as they will make the dish bitter
  15. Gently rinse in a colander using cold running water
  16. Pat dry with a kitchen towel

 

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