Monday, March 30, 2009

The (last) baking session : omelette norvégienne

In baking, there is nothing I like more than getting adventurous so for our last sweet saturday, I tried a dessert I never made before and which my French friend Laurent calls a little nightmare. The omelette norvégienne is basically a "génoise" imbibed with a syrup flavored with Grand Marnier or Cointreau, covered with vanilla ice cream then a layer of meringue. It's very easy to make but it must be served at last minute as the cake has to be put into hot oven to become slightly golden and then you serve it flambé with Grand Marnier in front of your guests.
we nibbled little things while waiting for everybody to be there

I made white menus to introduce the lonely star of the evening
and here it comes....But I could already tell there was a little problem...
I asked Laurent to "flamber" the omelette is "flambing" but underneath the vanilla ice cream was completely melt...Eh oui, my mistake was to have spread the ice cream on the "génoise" instead of just unmolding it. It would have stayed frozen at its heart.
still....the mixture of flavors was nice and instead of saying mas helado por favor, more ice cream please, we just said mas salsa de vainilla, more vanilla sauce
We spent a pleasant evening talking mainly about food while finishing the fluid omelette. Laurent (above, sitting next to his wife Pascale) who is French kept talking very passionately about foie gras and the inimitable flavor of potatoes sautées in duck's fat to Pilar who's a vegetarian except when it comes to jamon serrano. Alejandra (last on right, above) is an Italian chef who's also very passionate when she talks about her cooking. I was wrecked last saturday but now I know how to prepare a good Rossini or Bellini cocktail, just in case....
Monchéri suggested we should carry on the sweet saturdays...We'll see !

Wish you a good start of the week !

Friday, March 27, 2009

Mamma mia......!

I'm still in an Italian mood and look what I found browsing on the Internet : photos from the new Vatican calendar. When I first saw these belli ragazzi, I thought, this can't be, surely it's some kind of post-mortem joke by Fellini. Ma no! Since 2005, Venetian photographer Piero Pazzi happily contributes to the fame of the Vatican and photographs some...hum...very handsome and sexy priests and seminarists indeed. The calendar is sold for the humble sum of 10€ guessed mainly bought by women and gay men, which is quite funny considering the Pope's declarations about homosexuality.

this is Mister (or should I say Padre) April

Mister May

Mister june

Mister november

and Mister December who in my humble opinion makes you really
wish for December to come soon !

I'm protestant so don't go to confession but honestly,
I wouldn't mind confessing my little sins to one of them !

Have a happy exciting week end !!

pics found here

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

an adorable Italian movie : "Le déjeuner du 15 août" by Gianni di Gregorio

One of the many blogs I read regularly and truly enjoy is the blog of Eve Mongin, a French lawyer based in Perugia (Italy). She writes about aspects of Italian society, and political and cultural issues.
When I read her posts, I often find similarities between Italian and Spanish society. Last week, she mentioned a new Italian movie called Le déjeuner du 15 août (the lunch on august 15th). Directed by Gianni di Gregorio, the movie tells about a 50 year old man, Gianni who lives with his old mother and looks after her. He does the shopping, cleans the apartment, does the cooking and never loses the opportunity to drink a glass of white wine. They both live in a big apartment in the center of Rome but for lack of money, Gianni haven't paid the charges for many years. The managing agent of the building, Alfonso proposes a deal to Gianni : if he takes care of his mother during the week end of august 15th, then he will erase his debt. Gianni accepts but when the day came, Alfonso not only brings his mother but also his aunt. Gianni who doesn’t feel too well, sends for the doctor who also asks him a similar favor in exchange of the consultation fees. So, in the end Gianni has to look after four little old women who fight for the TV programs, are reluctant to follow their strict diet and require Gianni’s constant attention.

The movie was shot in the director's own apartment in the Trastevere district in Rome and is actually inspired from his own life. Gianni di Gregorio had to look after his aged mother and lived with her for some time. In 2000, during the summer, the managing agent of the building who knew Gianni had debts and couldn’t pay the charges proposed him to look after his own mother in exchange of paying the charges. But the director declined the offer and with time passing by, decided to make a movie out of it.
The four charming old ladies are non professional actresses and you can tell they really enjoyed their experience. Gregorio said that he'd been looking in vain for the right actor to act as the protagonist. As he was explaining to the team that he was looking for a mature man, more or less alcoholic and having lived with his mother for many years, everybody’s eyes were on him.

the director and main actor of the movie, Gianni di Gregorio

I only saw a few excerpts of the movie and I hope with a bit of luck the movie will be distributed in Spain.

One of the many similarities between Spanish and Italian society is the importance of the family bonds. It is not rare at all, at least in Andalusia, for a family to live with the grand parents. Even if cohabitation might prove difficult at times, family ties are very strong. When I settled in southern Spain, I found it very touching that young children are often looked after by their grandparents, when parents are at work or busy.

Gianni di Gregorio admits having been shaken by his own experience but he also adds: "I discovered and loved the richness, vitality and strength of the old people universe. But I've also witnessed their solitude and vulnerability in a world which goes too fast without knowing where it’s heading to, forgets about its history and loses the sense of continuity of time, which fears old age and death and doesn’t understand that the value of things is related to the quality of our feelings".

You can see excerpts of Le déjeuner du 15 août here, in the original version. Enjoy !

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ay....Carlotta !

When I left you last saturday, I wasn't serene and in total control of the situation. I knew something would go wrong. I had been too busy the day before, much too much in a hurry to prepare Monchéri's strawberry charlotte.
Obviously I wasn't the only one worrying, my French friend Pascale called me on saturday morning to make sure the mold she lent me was ok (i don't have a proper charlotte mold). When the little sweet gang came, the charlotte was still resting in the fridge and I asked Pascale to help me unmolding it. Et...castatrophe...instead of a well erected charlotte, we were sadly looking at a soft slightly wobbly mound of strawberry mousse vaguely encircled by boudoirs. I couldn't face it. You see, I thought I had mastered the art of la charlotte since a long time ago.
tout va bien ? inquired Laurent (Pascale's husband) while we were quickly arranging the pink mess to look like a more or less decent failed charlotte


oh....mais qu'est-ce qui s'est passé? (oh...but what happened) sais pas (dunno)

Monchéri laughed and after the first spoonful baptized it the best flat charlotte he'd ever had. And it was good...actually....See the empty plates below ?

After we finished it all, Laurent who's also French and a charlotte lover was determined to find out what went wrong and asked to see the recipe which is by Pierre Hermé.

After reading it carefully, Laurent said :

mais bien sûr.....pues claro...(but of course)

que tipo de crema usaste ? (what type of cream did you use ?)

bueno....pues...justamente no sabia si usar crema liquida o crème fraîche ( fact I didn't know whether to use liquid cream or crème fraîche)

eso es....tenias que usar crème fraîche en vez de crema liquida (that's should have used crème fraîche instead of liquid cream)

Ouf...I felt relieved and we started to talk about next saturday sweet session.....

In the meantime, because we talked mainly about food and also because yesterday my friend Ellie prepared us a wonderful Thaï dinner I leave you with this delightful scene from the movie Big Night which I stumbled upon while visiting the charming Merisi in Vienna.

Mamma mia....this is too good to watch and nearly orgasmitic ! Enjoy it !!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Happy sweet week end......

Today, we're celebrating Monchéri's birthday with a few gourmand and francophile friends. Monchéri's favorite pastry is waiting in the fridge to make its appearance at 5h30. It's very easy to prepare but its unmolding always make me nervous. It was created by French pastry maker Antonin Carême in the XIXth century with biscuits he himself invented. It starts with a C..
Can you guess what it is ? I'm sure you do....
Have a merry and sweet week end !!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Madagascar : easy come easy go......

3 months …that’s what it took Andry Rajoelina to take over and become Madagascar's new interim president. No longer supported by the army, former president Marc Ravalomanana had no choice but to resign after having proposed a referendum a bit too late.
As you can easily guess, I chatted a lot with my parents over the last few weeks. They feared the army would just take over and jeopardize democracy.
And now what ? Rajoelina who proclaimed himself the new leader of the country, with the approval of the Haute Cour constitutionnelle (constitutional court) already appointed his new interim government. He intends to be in charge during 2 years; after this period, elections will take place, but according to the constitution, Rajoelina who is only 34 will be too young to run for presidency (legal age being 40).

Nicknamed TGV (French high-speed train) Rajoelina is known for his very dynamic character. Actually, only today I learnt TGV is also the acronym for the political movement he created Tanora malaGasy Vonona (the young motivated Malagasy people). He is a former DJ who then successfully turned to advertising and communication.

He declared to the press today that his first actions will be to reduce the price of food, rice in particular which is the basic ingredient of Malagasy food and sell the plane recently purchased by former president Ravalomanana in order to build a hospital with the proceeds.

Hopefully this obscene and totally unacceptable lease contract with Corean firm Daewoo, planning to lease nearly half of the land in the country, free of charge and during a period of 99 years, in order to grow corn solely for exportation and with no compensation for Malagasy people, will be abandoned.

While talking to my parents today, I had the feeling they were not particularly over-enthusiastic by the news. Finally, my father said, Rajoelina's words were so similar to the ones pronounced by former president Ravalomanana when he was elected, I will reduce poverty, I will do this and that and in the end…he became a shrewd businessman and a millionaire (and like his predecessor Rajoelina is also a very successful businessman)…and Madagascar is still lagging behind…but what is there to do ? We need men with a vision….like Patrice Lumumba for instance and not guys who are like puppets on a string…

Naturally Madagascar depends a lot on international organizations aid programs and I just hope this political change will not suspend the assisting policy.

I really don’t want to finish this post on a pessimistic note. You know me, I always need to see a ray of light, no matter what.

Recently, an amazing shop opened in Paris called Merci on which several blogs reported. Merci is an enormous concept store created by former owners of the very chic Bonpoint stores, Marie-France and Bernard Cohen.
And what’s the connexion with Madagascar, you'll ask me...Well, we're coming to it. After having sold Bonpoint, the couple didn't feel like staying idle and wanted to do something helpful. They decided to open a concept store, - which includes a florist and a second hand bookshop, apart from clothing, design, home objects and furniture - and give all profit, once salaries, suppliers and taxes are paid, to charity associations in Madagascar. Until very recently, this wasn't possible for a French enterprise as a company can only give 5 per thousand of its turnover to charity. Thanks to a recent French law act, the Cohen can operate their company like an endowment fund and when I read about this I was completely blown away and thought wow....that's really grand !
Just for the little anecdote, I had the pleasure to meet Marie-France Cohen some years ago when I was working as a full time designer. Her team spotted my work which I presented at Scènes d'Intérieur at Maison & Objet trade show. At that time, I didn't know, she went regularly to Madagascar for the Bonpoint clothing designs, especially embroidery and developed strong and friendly relationships with artisans.

the little mini car in the patio sets the tone of the store, bohemian chic
the florist shop

Not so well known but dear to my heart is a friend of my mother who opened a shop in Orléans (in France too) Au comptoir malgache. I can't show you pictures of his shop because I didn't take any when I visited last year. This friend is also Malagasy and sells products of Malagasy artisans. He commissions artisans and helps them develop their activity. He organizes ecotouristic trips to the island every year which include visits to embroidery and silk weaving workshops, planting trees along with visiting incredible places. Needless to say, my kind of ideal trip!

vanilla tree in Madagascar

also I wanted to thank my sweet blogging friends for their kind
thoughts for the people of Madagascar and my family !
In Malagasy, to say merci we say misoatra....

Monday, March 16, 2009

A sweet monday treat : profiteroles with vanilla ice cream and red berries sauce....

My French friend Pascale is now an avid follower of the week end tea parties celebrating Monchéri's birthday during the whole month of march. She knew profiteroles were on schedule last saturday and came in advance to help me for the final preparations. She also brought some flowers from the field which made me think I should pick up flowers more often in the countryside. Aren't they lovely ?I thought you might want to try this very easy and delicious version of profiteroles. These are all the ingredients you need

to make about 30 petits choux like these
you then need some vanilla ice cream to fill them in and some ready made or homemade red berry or raspberry only sauce
et voilà....your profiteroles are ready ! of course they're also delicious with hot chocolate sauce but this is a more spring/summer version....

Enjoy !!

Recipe for the pâte à choux

8 cl of water
10 cl of milk
4 g (1teaspoon) of salt
4 g (1 teaspoon) of sugar
75g of butter
100g of flour
3 whole eggs

Pour the milk and water in a pan; add the salt, the sugar and the butter. Cook until the mixture is boiling, stirring with a wooden spatula
Add the flour in one go and stir energetically with the spatula until the dough is smooth and homogeneous. When the dough isn't sticky any more, keep on stirring 2 or 3 mn
Transfer the dough in a bowl; Add the eggs one by one, making sure each egg is perfectly incorporated before adding the next one.
Keep on stirring the preparation, until it is smooth and firm enough.

Preheat the oven at 200ºC.
Make the petits choux on the oven tray and bake for 20 mn/30 mn at 200ºC.

For the red berry or raspberry sauce, you need :

1 lemon
750g of mixed red berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrant, red currants, mulberries) or just raspberries
80g of sugar
10 cl of water

Press the lemon to obtain 5 cl of juice.
Reduce the berries with a mixer to obtain 40 cl of juice.
Filter the red berries juice over a colander, pressing them with a wooden spatula
Add the sugar and the lemon juice.
Add some water to dilute the sauce.

(sorry, I know these are European measures)

Friday, March 13, 2009

In a bucolic mood : Biodurcal restaurant in the Lecrin valley

Our beautiful spring makes me feel like converting myself into a little bergère (shepherdess) or a romantic farmer (does this exist?). Nearly everyday now, around 1 o'clock I feel the urge to get out and have a drink, somewhere nice, if possible in the countryside, outside the village. Yesterday, Monchéri suggested to have aperitivo and tapas at Biodurcal, a charming farm restaurant outside the village...alas it was closed but never mind, we spent a lovely time, saluting the rooster and his court.....
the restaurant faces a splendid orchard of apple trees. Next to it, there is a biological vegetable garden which supplies the kitchen. We had lunch here a few times and the food is really delicious and isn't it pleasant at this time of the year to eat outside while looking on blossoming trees ?

although the façade of the restaurant is a little bit austere....usually tables and chairs are set in the sunny side, facing the orchard
at the other end, a little pond has been created
for the friendly ducks and co

well...I guess we'll have to come back this week end.....

Wishing you lightness of heart for this upcoming week end !
And yes....I will be baking again, something very easy this time
(a French dessert which starts with a p... can you guess ?)

pics : me
farm restaurant Biodurcal outside Durcal
Lecrin valley - south of Granada

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dancing in the field or mid-week farniente in el campo andalus

This morning I was vaguely working on a vague project. I hoped Monchéri would inject a flow of inspiration but he was even more vague. In the end, he said "mira, porque no te pones guapa y te hago fotos en el campo ?" (look, why don't you make yourself pretty and I take photos of you in the countryside). So I put on my favorite flowery dress (handmade and off we went in the orchards outside the village

There's a phrase I love which was used in Algeria to describe the idle men whiling the hours away in the sun, buveur de soleil - sun drinker - this is exactly how we felt this morning, as we then sat down at el bar de Miguel for cerveza y tapas. Since I moved to Andalusia, believe me I've become a solid sun drinker, just like Monchéri ! (sorry for the non intentional branding)
and here is another one....the placid, quiet old man like many of them in the villages around here

Wish you a cool wednesday wherever you are !

pics: Monchéri, me
in the orchards near Nigüelas in the Lecrin valley, south of Granada

Monday, March 9, 2009

El bar de Miguel in Nigüelas in el Valle de Lecrin

Sunday morning was warm and sunny and we went to join some friends at Miguel's bar in Nigüelas, a tiny village in the Lecrin valley.

El Bar de Miguel is nothing fancy but it's lovely and quiet, very busy on Sundays especially when the weather is nice. It's so easy just to sit there, talk and watch time goes by
the waiter is muy simpatico
the tapas are muy simpaticas, too, here, quail eggs and jamon serrano
but one of the friends had a very tasty salchichon to share....another friend just picked up some mimosa....I was so thrilled because I've been wanting some since a few days
I love the old traditional tiled houses in Nigüelas
its peaceful olive and almond orchards
there is still some snow on the sierra behind us but spring is here for sure

Wish you a non-stress monday !

pics : me
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