The French. Is there anything the can’t do?

Is it any wonder that the rest of the world is in love with the French?

They own the term champagne. If you put ‘French’ in front of a product description, you can charge 700% for it (French butter? TAKE MY MONEY). Their accent is the stuff of dreams/fantasies. They don’t diet or need face-lifts (apparently), their children simultaneously eat everything and nothing (how else do you stay skinny?!), and if you believe the internet, French women basically invented style. Look, I may have to conceded that last point, I do own at least six Breton striped tops. That’s normal, right?

If none of that impresses you, the French are also responsible for the framework of modern cooking, so, you know, there’s that. I’m not going to lie to you, traditional French cooking isn’t something I know a hell of a lot about. It’s never been my scene, though I respectfully acknowledge its contribution to food.

However, when you live with someone who is all about all things Paris and it is their birthday (Happy birthday Lou!), you shut up and pull out Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Soupe à l’Oignon is a pretty excellent entry into French cooking. The recipe for French Onion soup is relatively effortless, but is still chic enough to serve at a dinner party. Impressionnant, non?

My advice to you, is this: as always with recipes with so few ingredients, the strength of your dish depends on the quality of those ingredients. Buy the best you can afford. and you can’t go wrong.
I also advise you to get your hands on a mandolin, because it will take you forever to thinly slice all those onions without one, unless you’re a pro with impeccable knife skills. They’re a pretty¬†cheap bit of kit, and worth having in the cupboard for times like these. Make sure you buy one with a safety guard!

Also, even with a mandolin, I cried the whole time. Stupid onions.

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Soupe à l’Oignon (French Onion Soup)

From Smitten Kitchen

680 grams thinly sliced yellow onions (I sliced up 6 large onions)
42 grams unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons plain flour
8 cups or 2 litres beef stock
1/2 cup (118 ml) dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons cognac or brandy (optional)

To finish (Optional)
1 to 2 cups grated cheese (I used Gruyere)
Thick rounds French bread, toasted until hard (2/3 toasts per person)

 

In a large, heavy based saucepan, melt the oil and butter together over low heat. Add the sliced onions and gently stir until coated in oil. Put the lid on the pot, and allow to gently cook for 15 minutes.

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Once this is done, ditch the lid, stir in the sugar and salt and raise the temperature ever so slightly. For the next 40 minutes, stir the onions frequently until they are a deep golden brown. This caramelisation process builds the soup’s flavour, so make sure you take care!

Once the onions are golden, add the flour and continue to stir for 3 minutes. Add the wine to the pot and scrape any delicious brown bits from the bottom. Add the first litre for stock, a little bit at a time, continuing to stir. Then add the second, and season with salt and pepper. If you’re adding the cheese later, go easy on the salt – it’s easier to add more at the end, but you can’t make it less salty if you add too much now! Add in the brandy or cognac and stir.

To finish, cover the toasted French rounds with Gruyere, and grill until golden and bubbly. Stir any leftover cheese into the soup, taste and season accordingly. Divide soup between bowls, and serve with toasts.

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A day in the life…

Once upon a time, there was a girl.

Now, there are a few things you must know about this girl. She’s accident prone, for one. Has a short attention span for another. Those two things are directly linked. This day, in its¬†entirety, did actually happen recently. I wrote it down to cheer up a friend, and reading it back amuses me, only because otherwise that’s the only choice I have.

Also, I swear I did Real Work, but that’s nowhere near as interesting.

6:30 РAlarm goes off. Without opening my eyes, or lifting my head, I smack the snooze button dead on, first time, go back to sleep. 
7:05 – Actually get out of bed. Curse myself for running late, promise myself I won’t do this tomorrow. I say this every day.¬†
7:20 – Out of shower. Attempt make up, still half asleep and shivering, with… Interesting results.¬†
7:40 – Peek out the window, it’s rained overnight. This cheers me up, as I really enjoy puddle jumping. Curse my housemate for not letting me buy wellies.¬†
7:50 –¬†Definitely¬†late now. Arrrrgh.¬†
8:16 – Try to sneak into the office. Bash my hand on the elevator door. Curse loudly, and literally run into my boss, who is now second guessing the decision to move the woman who used to sit next to me, as she was the team’s first aid officer. Apparently, I’m the best form of training anyone could ever hope for.
8:30 –¬†Burn myself with boiling water making my first¬†coffee for the morning. I work for the government (kind of), it takes me 5 minutes to convince the OH&S officer that I don’t need to file a safety incident report, and that I’m just clumsy. She now thinks I’m an idiot.
8:40 РScore a hazelnut latte from a buddy, as our barista made two by mistake. The vast amount of sugar in my system is starting to numb the throbbing in my hand. 
9:00 – Finish latte, and the coffee I just made. Not sure how smart that was. Seemed like a good idea at the time though.
9:25 РHeart palpitations and hand shakes are normal in a young person, right?
9:38 – I think I’m dying. Maybe salt would counter the sugar/caffeine. I’m going to pretend chips are a breakfast food. Owwwww…
9:50 – Google sonic screwdrivers while I wait for the chest pains to subside. Wonder if you can order phone boxes on the interwebz. Wonder where in my house I could fit it. Decide that I don’t care, I’ll make it fit if it means I have to cut a hole in the roof. Landlord be damned!
10:23 – The sharp¬†caffeine¬†come-down is making me cranky, and I growl at one of my minions for asking a¬†really¬†stupid question. He now won’t look me in the eye, and I get the feeling he’s afraid of me. As all minions should be. I consider this to be good work.
10:30 – Begin the daily ‘what’s for lunch’ debate. This goes on for some time.
10:52 – Get caught by my division manager doing my t-rex impression. I want to put a bell on this man, where did he come from? This is going to take some explaining…Bollocks.
11:00 – Google ideas for dinner. I’m really¬†really¬†hungry.
11:27 – Rock out at my desk with one of the girls to the Foo Fighters. Whip myself in the eye with my hair though, which really hurts.
12:30 – Return from lunch with various snacks. Proceed to get myself covered in crumbs, and when my boss wanders over to ask me a question, I discover I have cheese on my face. Quietly die of shame.
1:30 – So full, trying not to fall asleep at my desk. Can’t actually fit more coffee in my stomach. Resort to poking myself with a pin to stay awake. Stupid carb coma. Debate the validity of bulimia as a lifestyle choice when you eat as much as I do. Decide it has merits, but I’m too lazy.
2:15 – Get sent on an errand for my boss. Stacked it in the middle of an intersection. In front of many, many people. I think someone clapped.¬†2:30 – Discover one of the girls¬†I work with doesn’t know who Michael Bolton is. This results in much facepalming, googling lyrics and youtubing ‘How can we be lovers‘ and ‘I said I loved you but I lied‘. Also involves some passionate, overwrought sing alongs, complete with power ballad fist pumping.
3:15 – Try to retain a sense of decorum¬†while I try to explain to a friend that it’s probably a bad day for her to start her new diet, considering we are going out for Italian for dinner tomorrow night. Which was her idea in the first place. Give up.

After an exhausting day, there are few things quite like coming home to an easy, comforting dinner.

This is, without question, one of my all time favourite things to eat. Who would have thought a ham and cheese sammich could be made so fantastic? Uh, the French. They take everything and inject it with awesome.

So, when all else fails (and I fail at life regularly), keep this recipe in mind. It makes everything better.

Croque Monsieur

From Esquire

1 tbsp butter, plus softened butter for bread
1 tbsp plain flour
3/4 cup milk
Pinch of grated nutmeg
Coarse salt and ground black pepper
2 tbsp Parmesan, grated
85g Gruyère cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup).
4 thick slices good bread
Dijon mustard
170g thinly sliced ham,

1. Preheat oven to 180*c.

2. To make béchamel sauce: Melt butter until foamy in a small saucepan on low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes until smooth. Stirring continuously, slowly add milk, and cook for 2 minutes or until it thickens. Add the nutmeg and season with nutmeg and salt and pepper. Stir in Parmesan and 2 tbsp grated Gruyère, remove from heat and set aside.

3. Lightly butter the bread slices on both sides and toast in a pan until they turn just golden brown.

4. Spread the¬†Dijon¬†on one side of each slice of bread. Place the ham and ¬Ĺ cup Gruy√®re cheese on two of the slices of bread. Top with the other slice of bread, mustard side down.

5. Spread a layer of béchamel sauce across the top and sides of the bread, sprinkling with remaining Gruyère cheese. Place on a tray covered in baking paper and bake for 5 minutes, then place under a grill for 3 minutes, until the cheese bubbles and turns golden layer  brown.

P.S. SUNDAY! This. It’s going to be amazing, and you should be there. Fact.

P.P.S. Come back Friday. I have an announcement. You could win stuff, and winning stuff is AWESOME. Fact.

Afternoon (tea) Delight

Have you ever had that thing where, say, you decide to buy a red car. In the following days/weeks/whatever, all you see are red cars? I’m having the recipe¬†equivalent¬†of that.

Right now, I’m staring at 6 recipes, in¬†varying¬†forms, of tarte tatin. Which is a little¬†weird, because until the onslaught of recipes started creeping into my food magazines… I didn’t know what one was. An upside down tart with apples (traditionally) caramelized in butter and sugar, it turns out.

The internet does many things, sadly transporting the¬†incredible¬†smell one of these baking in the oven is not one of them. I can’t even begin to tell you!

You could use frozen puff pastry here. But don’t. Make this rough puff instead. It hands down beats the frozen stuff, the buttery flavours are heaven with the rich caramel.Trust me on this.You should definitely pair this with a cup of tea, it’s utter perfection.

Apple Tarte Tatin

Ingredients

Rough Puff
250g strong (baker’s) flour
250g unsalted butter, chopped (at room temperature)

Tart
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup water
50g chopped butter
4 green apples, peeled, cored and quartered

To make the puff: In a large mixing bowl, add the flour with a pinch of sea salt. Add the butter, and with our fingers, rub the butter into the flour. Make a well in the center of the flour, add 100ml of cold water in splashes and combine until you have a rough dough.

On a bench covered in flour, roll into to a rectangle. Fold a third of the pastry into the center, then fold the bottom third up over that. Give dough a quarter turn and roll out again. Repeat folding, rolling and turning twice more. Chill the pastry for 30 minutes.

For the tarte: Heat the oven to 190*c.

Heat an oven proof frying pan over low heat. Add the sugar and water, stirring to dissolve.

Up the heat to high and boil the syrup for 7-9 minutes, until a light golden colour, without stirring. Add the butter and stir until combined.

Take the pan from the heat and arrange the apples in the caramel, cut side facing up.

Roll out the pastry til slightly bigger than the pan. Cover the apples with the pastry and tuck in the apples, folding in the edges. Cut 3 small lines in the center of the tart.

Place the pan in the oven, and bake for 35-40 minutes until golden. Loosen the edges with a knife, place a place over the tart and turn out. Serve with cream or ice cream.

Friday night’s alright for eatin’

There is a line for twirled, fried potato on a stick, 15 people deep.
For bratwurst, 8 people deep.
I’ve written off getting near the satay sticks for a little while, with so many people milling around.

Let me get this out of the way right now. I love my job.
The thing is, I get yelled at for a living. It’s a special kind of nuts that can tolerate that kind of environment. Lucky for me, I’m all kinds of crazy, so I can deal. But after a long week at work, it gets to you a little.
Luckily, food is my happy place, and on a Friday night, there’s no happier place on Earth than Disneyland the Perth Hawkers Markets, located in Forrest Chase.
Running until March, every Friday night from 5pm – 8pm, it’s a great event for families, foodies and well, just about anyone.

There is food everywhere. Traditional foods, cooked by traditional methods. Satay sticks being fanned on hot coals, Moroccan tagines, Paella in pans that are bigger than my car.
Next to a stall repping goods from Romania, are rows upon rows of French macarons. Next to that, Turkish gozlemes. There’s little that isn’t represented here.

I’ve been looking forward to this all day. Empanadas from Marcelita’s Empanada¬†stall sells out, so I make sure that’s where I make my first stop. Crispy fried pillows filled with pulled pork, beef or potato are on offer, gluten-free and served with guacamole or chili salsa. Colombia’s finest, right here.


After that, Red Hot Spatula is offering up pork belly soft tacos, vegetable spring rolls noodles and Vietnamese inspired chicken salad. I can’t say no to pork belly in any way, shape or form, so I help myself to a couple of the best tacos I’ve ever had. No, really. SO. GOOD.

To polish it off, Polish donuts filled with jam. My eyes are officially bigger than my belly.

Whoever said multiculturalism doesn’t work, my stomach begs to differ.
I 120% recommend that you come and check it out.