Archive for March, 2010

Back from London! (Day 4)

March 20, 2010

I was really sad to leave London. I missed the company and the fun that London has to offer. I’m sure there are more nooks and crannies to explore!

Yes. Impressions do count. I was wowed by King’s Cross St Pancras Station. They had a big Marks and Spencers Supermarket with an amazing array of sandwiches, salads, fruits, sweets and drinks! I had a hard time choosing! Btw, did I mention that London is big on organic food. I was glad to see every ingredient labeled with ‘Pasteurized eggs, pasteurized cheese, free range eggs, organic bread’ etc. After our grocery shopping in M&S, we took our breakfast in LePainQuotidien cafe and had a really nice scrambled eggs on toast! A nice end to our short London trip!

A big THANK YOU again to J and G. You had been wonderful hosts and we loved your company! We look forward to making your stay wonderful too if you do decide to drop by France!

Back from London! (Day 3)

March 20, 2010

Another Big Breakfast but a BIG disppointment this time. 202 located along Nottinghill, was overpriced and the food was bad. My bacon and sausage were burnt and it was worst than the humble Carluccio’s that we went yesterday. W’s bagels and smoked salmon was so-so. It looked promising with ‘Timeout London’ writings, a crowded cafe and cool interiors. But I guess this is like our PS Cafe in Singapore where the food cannot justify its cost! Sigh.

Tom’s Deli (should have tried this instead!). Read reviews here and more pics here. Apparently Tom is Terence Conran’s son.

Portobello Street Market was packed with people on a Saturday morning! It was selling lots of antiques and vintage items. Dotted along the street were cafes to rest your feet. We chanced upon Hummingbird Bakery and was wondering what the fuss was about. CUPCAKES in creamy turquoise, pink, baby blues, pale yellow and chocolate sprinkled with colorful hearts and stars! So pretty! I got the ‘Red Velvet’ and it was lovely!

We met up with our friends at Paddington and made our way to Pearl Liang. Dim sum for lunch! I had been craving for dim sum and was delighted to find authentic food and soft egg tarts! Thank you guys for bringing us there!!!

After lunch, it was back to Oxford Street for W and me. It was crazy. Oxford Street was packed with people on a Saturday Weekend! After a nice chat over tea with QT and XH at Marks and Spencer’s Cafe, we parted. W and I made our way to St Martins in the Fields to meet J & G to catch Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. By the time the wonderful performance had ended at about 9pm, our tummies were growling and we ended up near our apartment for some award winning Lebanese Food at Alwaha Restaurant. We were fortunate to catch the last order for dinner. I was hungry and the food was so good that I forgot about taking pictures!

Back from London! (Day 2)

March 20, 2010

London is big on breakfasts! I love it! Both me and W walked towards Nottinghill area and settled on this breakfast place, Carluccio’s. Concept Stores seem to be popular in London where they have a retail/lifestyle shop in front and the cafe at the back. Our breakfasts were good. I loved the mushrooms and bacon. Wonder how they cooked it. Hmm.

After a hearty breakfast, we walked along Westbourne Grove in Nottinghill. Burberry Kids, Paul Smith, Oxfam, Aesop and several upmarket boutiques line the street in a predominantly residential area. This is pretty unique. Well then again, if a townhouse costs $4m pounds, it may be sustainable for these expensive brands to be located here and away from main shopping streets.

Borough Market is awesome! So much to see and taste! Award winning sausages, cheeses, chorizo sandwiches and baked goodies. The list goes on!

Lots of Food and Drinks!

W bought me a slice of brownies from Cinnamon Tree Bakery (owls and gingerbread man pics). Thank you W! One of the best I’ve tasted so far!

Other sweet treats! Argh I should have bought the Burnt Sugar.

I finally got to try the fish and chips in London and Fish! is recommended (avoid the restaurant). I was surprised when they sprinkled vinegar over the fish and chips. I stopped the guy but he went ‘trust me, it’s good’. It really is! It is the adult version of eating chips with ketchup.

Our last stop was Monmouth Cafe. It apparently serves the best coffee in London. Nice interiors too with a large communal table for sharing bread and jam (you pay of course!). Despite the long queue and crowds, we managed to score a seat by the window.

After the market, we continued on to the Big Ben and took a stroll along the River Thames. We saw the London Eye and rested at the SouthBank Centre where there were free performances (we caught the rehearsals). We went on to Trafalgar square where the National Gallery and St Martin in the Fields were located, toured the place and enjoyed the rehearsals (Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik) due for a performance that night. It was ethereal hearing the orchestra music fill the chapel. The baby tickled me! Hence, we decided to purchase the tickets for tomorrow’s performance – Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Haha.

Feeling hungry. We took a train to Oxford Street and walked to Marylebone Street to sample the Crepes at Cafe Creperie. (Golden Hind, a famous Fish and Chips Cafe is just next door. Also, if you access Marylebone Street via James Street, you would chance upon Atari-Ya sushi which I heard, is fantastic). We ordered the Pesto Crepe (savoury) and Banana Walnut with Maple Syrup Crepe (sweet). It was crispy and delicious!

Back from London! (Day 1)

March 19, 2010

It was an awesome trip. I had been to London twice but this is the best experience ever! I loved every minute of it. Despite my growing tummy and shifting centre of gravity (backaches!), I was bouncing with energy. Helps too that the weather was great. We had 2 sunny days and another day with just occasional intermittent showers. YEAH!

I woke up feeling like an excited kid looking forward to my 1st school excursion. Not sure if its the hormones! I made ourselves sandwiches, roasted some nuts and we’re off to catch the 8.30am bus! I was real glad to have prepared the sandwiches. It was yummier and cost just a fraction of the ones sold in the Eurostar!

We arrived at Gare de Lyon and took another train to Gare du Nord where Eurostar is located. The customs process to board the Eurostar was quick and efficient. I was ecstatic to hear the English language! No more ‘Bonjour’ or ‘Merci’! It makes a huge difference when you could understand what the world was talking about!

There was no itinerary and we were bunking in with our friends in Central London. (Thank you so much J and G! You are so kind to put us up!) Our sole objectives were to relax and meet up with friends. After a comfortable 2.5hr ride to London’s Kings Cross St Pancras Station (Central London). We arrived at 12.30pm (London Time). Since we are meeting our friends at 7.30pm, we decided to grab some lunch before catching the musical ‘Hairspray’ at Holborn.

We were glad to find these cool sandwich shops in Britain. EAT. It was the ‘pies with mash and gravy’ advertisement that drew us in. But I preferred the Chicken and Leek soup. Heh.

Hairspray was my first musical and I was bowled over. Coordinated dance moves and beautiful stage sets. Not to mention the powerful singing and marvelous acting. The entire crowd was standing, clapping and shaking their booties at the end of the show! If I could dance, I would have loved to join! Apart from the boisterous fun, there were sweet moments in the show too. I was touched when a white girl and a black man were apprehensive about their relationship due to racial segregation, the black man’s enlightened mother reminded that ‘Love is a gift from above, but people forget that’. Yes indeed. The opportunity to meet someone you can live with for the rest of your life is a gift from above. Beautiful.

We finally met up with our friends at dinnertime and they brought us to an amazing cafe, Bonda Cafe, that serves Malaysian food. We had Fried Rice and Char Kway Teow and the dishes indeed have ‘wok hei’ (fire from the wok)! We would have ordered more food if not for the long wait.

french toasts

March 9, 2010

As mentioned in the previous post, the French Toast recipe adapted from Chubby Hubby’s Blog. However, I found the proportion of cream and sugar too much for my liking hence I adjusted the ingredients to my own tastes! The ‘pain de mie‘ I had was smaller and sweeter as well so I reduced the proportion. Feel free to experiment. I’m sure it’ll taste good anyhow!

French Toast Recipe (for 1 person)

> 2-3 thick slices of bread (approx 2cm thk)

> 1 egg

> 2 tbsp heap creme fraiche

> 1.5 tsp sugar (or add less and sprinkle on the toasts when done)

> 1 tbsp butter

Mix the egg, cream and sugar (I tried whisking it but it turned watery. I preferred the creamy texture that resulted without whisking). Melt the butter in a pan. Dunk in the bread slices to soak up the creamy goodness. When the butter is heated up. Place the bread slices in the pan. After both sides are browned, serve.

Friday’s Lunch & Dinner

March 8, 2010

Favourite Lunch Option – Paella

Yummy Spanish Paella from the Market. Really good! The French lady sells only Paella and the condiments to make it. She has 2 giant frying pans, each pan the size of a table. This is one of my lunch favourites and least expensive. It is sold packed full of fresh prawns, squid rings, baby squids, mussels and chicken. She tends to give more seafood than rice when I actually preferred the rice because it had soaked up all the savoury goodness from the seafood. Heh. Gets sold out pretty early!

Experimental Dinner – Bacon, Mushrooms, Asparagus and French Toast

Bacons with Asparagus or Mushrooms or French Toast never goes wrong! Found a bunch of asparagus from the Market and coupled with the bacon I got from the stall (mentioned in the previous post), I decided to cook something different. I got hold of some fresh chanterelles (caught W looking at them once), brown button mushrooms and another mushroom (which tastes like shitake). And since I was feeling adventurous, I also bought a tub of freshly made creme fraiche to make french toast for breakfast. However, after going through some blogs, I have decided to make the french toasts for dinner instead! I am so glad I did it. The sweet creamy texture of the french toast goes really well with the salty bacon! All thanks to the amazing creme fraiche! With it, I also made a mushroom sauce with the mushrooms. It was a great dinner and quick to prepare too!

Mushrooms Recipe

> 2 Tbsp Butter (I use lightly salted)

> 5 medium sized brown button mushrooms / 1 Handful of Chanterelles / 5 medium size shitake mushrooms / or any mushrooms

> 1 Tbsp fresh cream

> pinch of salt

> pepper (optional)

Wash the mushrooms. If you are using Chanterelles, give it a quick brush or quick wash (drain with kitchen towels). Melt the butter and skim off the milk solids to leave the golden liquid behind. Toss in the hard mushrooms first and fry for 2mins followed by the soft mushrooms. As the mushrooms begin to shrink and brown, stir in the cream. The mushrooms would release some juice and a sauce is formed. Add salt and pepper to taste. You do not want the mushrooms to overcook and turn mushy. Take mushrooms off the fire once a thin film of sauce is formed at the base of the saucepan. It would continue to cook on its own.

Asparagus Preparation

Break the dry end of the asparagus. It would break naturally at the most tender section. If you are getting large spears, use a vegetable peeler and peel away the ‘skin’ 5cm away from the tip of the spear to the end. Heat up a frying pan. Add olive oil. Fry up the bacon slices (if you have) until brown and move to serving plate. With the remaining oil (flavoured by the bacon), toss in the Asparagus Spears. If the pan dries out, add a little water. The water would make a sauce to aid the cooking of the asparagus. Once the asparagus has turned deep green and soft, move to serving plate.

French Toast Recipe

> see following post

blood sausages or boudin noir. eeks.

March 8, 2010

As mentioned in the previous post, thinking about what to cook can be painful. ESPECIALLY when you are not familiar with the ingredients or rather the ingredients are not what we use in Asian Cooking. Instead of traveling an hour to Paris Chinatown in the cold and carting back ‘choy sum’ and tofu. I MUST ADAPT. Eat what the French eat. Baguette is one of them, cheese of course and THIS too. I am still figuring out the rest!

This particular stall has a never-ending queue. Curious. I decided to check out the food they have there. They sell fresh pork cuts,  home-made sausages, ham, bacons, terrines, pies and many other interesting foods. I picked the safe route and bought the ‘maison’ sausages and bacon instead. W loves blood sausages. So I decided to get one for him. This is called ‘boudin noir au piment’ or black pepper sausage. My french friend swears by it. They also sell sauerkraut which they call ‘choucroute’ here.

Fortunately, I met her that day for Indian cooking class otherwise I would have destroyed the sausage. You boil blood sausages (approx 20mins) instead of frying them in a pan! Verdict. Blood sausages have an interesting texture and taste to it. But I’ll stick to my frankfurters anytime!

Italian Lasagne & ‘something’

March 8, 2010

Now that my appetite has returned and my food aversion to European food has miraculously disappeared, I am beginning to try out new dishes from the open-air market located off Rue Grande. Now that I have to cook everyday, I begin to understand the pain my mum went through during our growing up years. She was always lamenting on the lack of ideas of dishes to cook and the washing up. Well. I have the same problem.  Hence, to avoid the hassle, I have decided to prepare only breakfast and dinner. Heh.

Lunch is a luxury given the high costs of living in France. It is a splurge because eating in Insead’s Restaurant would have been cheaper (approx 3-4euros). Buying food from the market meant double (6-7euros) the cost. But I really dislike the food in Insead except for Thursdays when Kebabs are sold at the barbeque section.

The Beef Lasagne is awesome! Crusty chewy mozzarella cheese on top, a soft cheese bechamel sauce layered within and minced beef with tomatoes and herbs. Delicious! It’s from a stall that specializes in Italian cuisine. They also sell fresh pastas, parma hams, cheeses, sweets and sauces. The Lasagne costs a bomb at 6-8 euros (by weight)!!! I could not remember the name of the pasta roll. It is pasta rolled with ham, mozzarella cheese and spinach. I couldn’t eat the cheese so W gladly wolfed it down for his afternoon tea.

Fortunately, the Market is set up only on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. So I look forward to these days when I could get some tasty lunches and not worry about breaking the bank. The Italian stall has other dishes as well which I would be laying my teeth on soon! Yummieee!

Vegetarian Indian Cooking Class

March 8, 2010

Apart from FLC French Classes (which I stopped due to high fees and minimal content), marketing and hibernating at home, I had been attending a Vegetarian Indian Cooking class taught by a fellow Insead Partner. It’s a nice way to connect with friends, learn cooking and eat at the same time!

I have never tried Indian Vegetarian food. In fact, I was surprised when I found out here, that most friends from India are vegetarians due to their religion. I guess this is due to my limited understanding of the Indian culture. Rather, the majority of our Indian community in Singapore seem to be non-vegetarian. Think Muthu’s Curry and the numerous Indian Hawkers in Singapore selling roti prata, biryani, kambing soup! *drrooool*

I was curious about sustaining on vegetarian food. I am not a meat lover and tend to pick out the vegetables and tofus in meat dishes to eat. But now that I cook alot, I realise that I often use meat to flavour the dish. Otherwise, the food tastes too bland! I wonder how vegetarian food tastes?

The food is yummy and I am beginning to understand more about their cooking. They use lots of spices to flavour the dishes. The ingredients were usually simple. However, when dishes of different taste (sweet dishes & sour dishes) were paired. They go really well together to make an appetising meal!

Spring is here!

March 5, 2010

I think.

Well the weather is getting warm and sunny. A far cry from a month back when Fontainebleau was in shades of whites and greys. For the past months, I had been holed up in my apartment. Yes. I feel like the hibernating bear in winter. Buying food in bulk and stocking up so that I could stay in my ‘cave’ and not go to the market which is a 15 min walk away!

Check this out!

With the weather warming up, my mood is getting better and I am seriously geared up for some travel and photo taking.