Thursday, July 10, 2014

Thursdays Taste of Paris

Ann Mah is the author of 'Mastering the Art of French Eating'. This was my choice of book review for this week because it's a foody book. I have to admit now that I haven't finished this book - but what I've read so far I've really enjoyed. If you read my Tuesday post, you'll know that I am easily transported to other places.... this book has been transporting  me to different places around France - many of them I've already been to, some I need to visit in the future.
When I selected this one to read for Paris in July, I did a quick scan of other reviewers. Some of them were critical, and I can see why. Ann ended up writing this book when she, and her beloved husband, were sent to Paris for his work. Not long after their posting to Paris, he was sent to Baghdad. She was left alone in Paris for a year. She was lost, lonely and directionless. She does spend some time reflecting on the confusion of her loss and her love of Paris. It could be a little draining. But for me, I have appreciated Ann's experience of loneliness and separation. My thing is that I work away from my home and partner... This book made me stop and think about how I make the most of my journey. 

Alongside her personal struggles, Ann decides to travel to different parts of the country to investigate the history, the recipes, the people, and the places of the regional cuisines. I've been quite impressed by the history she collects on each of the subjects. Some of her chapters include
  • Paris and le Steak Frites
  • Troyes and Andouillette
  • Lyon and Salade Lyonnaise
  • Toulouse and le Cassoulet
Here's a few things I've learned so far into this book;
Steaks true magic, Bernet explained, happens before the meat ever hits the heat - it's found in the aging process. He hangs whole cuts of well-marbled beef in a dry, chilled space for weeks, sometimes months, a process that concentrates the meat's flavor and breaks down its connective tissues, resulting in richly beefy, butter-tender fillets. In French, dry-aged meat is called rassis, a term that can also refer to stale bread or a stick in the mud!
What's the signature meal of Paris? The sandwich, he said without hesitation. He called it le casse-croute, an old fashioned term for 'snack' or 'fast lunch'. My mother use to make piles of these for the cafe. .... Madame Odette would slice an armload of baguettes lengthwise and fill them with butter and ham...
Andouillette has a pedigreed history. Louis II, known as the 'stammener', served it at his 878 coronation banquet, held in Troyes. Centuries later Louis XIV also declared himself an admirer, stopping at Troyes after a battle in neighbouring Burgundy to stock up for the victory feast.
Ann reported that 'every andouillete enthusiast I met in Troyes - and I met many - wanted to be the person who convinced me that andouillete was delicious. [I don't think she was convinced?]
Louise was born in 1934, which doesn't seem that long ago, and yet she can easily recall a time when crepes were made on a wood-burning stove. .. Many Breton homes have a special stove for making crepes, which was usually found outside the house in a small shed.... When Louise was a little girl living on her grandparents farm, Fridays were known as le jour de crepe..... and preparing crepes took the better part of a day!
 Like I said earlier, I haven't finished the book, but I will. I'm enjoying the trip. At the end of the chapters, Ann shares a recipe she's gathered by one of the people she's interviewed on the subject. So I think there's something for most people in this book - recipes, travel stories, the adventure of a woman discovering herself in her husbands absence. The only think I think this book is really missing is the photos.

What is your favourite regional dish of France?  Mine - Salade de Chevre. I think it's from Provence?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tuesday Travels

I adore travelling. When I was the only child of 'gypsie' parents, I was inducted into a lifestyle of adventure. One where learning about different cultures, discovering different histories, and connecting with people was an integral part of those adventures. When my sisters arrived, I guess it got a little more difficult for my parents, no longer could they put us to bed in suitcases, and so we returned to Australia. Those early years of travel have formed me into who I am today. I love to connect with other people.

When I cant be travelling, I find other ways to connect... blogging is an excellent source of virtual adventure. The Internet transports us, virtually, to amazing places. Music, Plays, Theatre... all takes on great journeys. Books too, transport us to alternate era's and epochs. Here's a trip I did recently.... transported to another place through words and photos.
This exhilarating diary of a day in the City of Light combines 17 journal entries with over 140 color photos that bring the city, its people, and apparently its former kings to life.

Have you been to Paris? If so, I'm absolutely certain this book will  bring back every memory - smells, tastes, sounds and experiences... If you have never been to Paris, this story will confirm your intentions, and transport you there in an instant.

An anonymous traveller arrives in Paris by Metro in the early hours of the morning, and from there on we travel with her on a walking tour of some famous and some not so famous corners of Paris. By Midnight we've been on a personal discovery of all the sensual experiences Paris has to offer. Icecream, secret squares, Cafes, bridges, and markets....

One of my favourite quotes:
The light drips like white paint down the stone facade, reaching the second flood, where a man opens his window to let it in. He peeks out from behind an impressive  gray moustache to assess the weather. He squints down-river, then towards the street below where a petite woman sees him and waves good morning.. Wife? Neighbour?             Definitely mistress.
 About the Authors: this is what they say about themselves....
We tell stories with words and pictures. 
Hi there. We’re Evan and Nichole.
 Evan is a writer and illustrator. Nichole is a writer and photographer. We’ve been collaborating since 2009.

We have a cross-disciplinary approach to our projects, because we enjoy working in different mediums and don’t enjoy rules
I got this as a ebook and read it in a flash, and since then I've revisited different journal entries to see what I missed in the first read. You too, could be transported to Paris for the day..... here. Or if you prefer the hard

Nichole is a co-host in this years Paris in July, so pop in and visit her tomorrow when she's taking us on a virtual tour through the streets of Paris on a summers day - where the pace is slow, and there are splashes of red in very corner - geraniums, sweets and scooters!
Summer in Paris - Photo from Nichole

Monday, July 7, 2014

Paris in July Monday Menu Wk 2

Wow, What an amazing first week we've had in Paris in July. To check out some of last weeks participants and posts look here....  Now we're moving into week 2 and we've got a great new collection of posts from the hosts.

This week;
  • Tuesday 8th July - Tamara's Tuesday Travels, where I'll be posting a review of a fabulous travel story in 'The Paris Journal' 
  • Wednesday 9th July - Nichole will be posting something new and amazing from her Paris collection - imaging strolling through Paris on a summers day, where the pace is slow, and geraniums on every corner! Photo's transport us in an instant.
  • Thursday 10th July - Tamara's Taste of Paris is where I'll post a review of Mastering the art of french eating, by Ann Mah - a foody book
  • Friday 11th July - Karen will be posting her review of the 1950's French Novel "Bonjour Tristeese".
  • Saturday 12th July - Adria & Vicki will transport us to somewhere just divine - Berthillon Icecream - If you've never been here, this post will make your taste buds water. Check out both blogs for their different perspectives.....
  • Sunday 13th July - It's my turn to post the weekly wrap up.

If you are joining in this week, dont forget to link this weeks Paris in July post to this Mr Linky.
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Also - for anyone on Twitter (not me sorry) dont forget to tweet your posts using hashtag #parisinjuly


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Join me in conversation with a real French Chef!


I was so excited when the stars aligned and gave me the chance to meet Didier (although saldy only in the virtual sense) just before Paris in July. Didier is a Paris based French Chef who shares his love of food and his cooking experience and wisdom through his website .

Didier was happy to participate in Paris in July, so I asked my blog followers to let me know if they had any questions to pose to a french chef, and this is what we came up with....

1.        How long does a real French chef train for? 
The great Michelin 3-star French Chef Joël Robuchon once said: “We were not born Chef, we become one!”

This pretty much summarizes the long path one needs to take before reaching the status of a “chef.” The traditional way is to study for two to three years for a regular scholastic cooking diploma and then to attend one of the best cooking schools in France.

Let’s say that it takes about 10 years after your first year of experience in a kitchen to become a chef and run the kitchen on your own!

 2.        What are some of the most reputable cooking schools in France? any schools in Paris for the Novice who might come to Paris for a holiday? 
The “institut Paul Bocuse”  is without a doubt the best cooking school in France. All kitchen doors will open to you after graduating from this school! And if you’re talented, a great career will be ahead of you...

In Paris, the well-known Ecole LeCordon Bleu  and Ferrandi  are the two places to consider if you are serious about becoming a chef one day…

For a holiday, I would go with the Atelier des Sens .They provide cooking classes in English and their workshops are simply beautiful. Their chefs are talented and their classes are a lot of fun too!     I usually rent their workshops when I give group cooking classes… The atmosphere is great!

3.        At what point in your training do you start to specialise? do you finish certain basic, general training first?
After two or three years working in a kitchen, you can start choosing a specialty. Unless you directly studied to become a pastry chef. In that case, you will be working as a pastry chef right away. But if you went through the general cooking training, it takes between 2 to 5 years before becoming a specialist in one of the cooking domains… Also depending on your skills and talent! In any case, you need a full general training background beforehand.

4.        What would you cook on Bastille Day? what does the average family cook on Bastille Day?
How about a barbecue? Inspired by the U.S., my second country (by adoption), firing up the grill and getting together with friends and family for all kinds of grilled meat, fish and veggies is the way to go! If the weather cooperates on that day, French people love being outside: summer drinks, fresh salads and vegetables, gorgeous summer fruit for dessert (cherries, apricot, peaches, strawberries…) and a few scoops of ice cream topped with loads of freshly made vanilla whipped cream!

5.        Do you have any favourite recipe books? And any you would recommend to the novice cook interested in French cooking? 
I prefer the “classics” in general… Ducasse, Robuchon, Bocuse, Loiseau, Blanc, Troisgros, etc. As well as the Roux family that is still a reference in perfect French cooking (Albert, Michel and Michel Roux Jr.). If I were to offer a French cookbook as a gift, I’d choose “Leçons de cuisine : Ecole Ritz-Escoffier:” I love this one!
6.        Do you prefer to eat sweets or savouries? Does this influence what you like to cook?
Definitely savouries! There is more freedom to vary ingredients in savoury recipes. And yes, it influences what I like to cook since I tend to like creating and developing ideas… But don’t get me wrong: It’s out of the question to finish a good meal without dessert!

7.        One of my followers has asked me to find out how French chefs manage to get such intense flavours? Do you think it’s possible to recreate true French flavours anywhere in the world
This is a very interesting question! When I moved to the US, this was one of the main challenges I faced when trying to cook traditional French cuisine… Products were different, flavors were different: It was a constant struggle to balance everything and make sure that a “coq au vin” would taste like one when doing the recipe with a regular chicken instead of a rooster!
It takes time and a good palate, but it’s doable for sure. And nowadays, tons of products and spices are imported and exported all over the world so it makes it much easier than 20 years ago. 

8.        Do you have any favourite vegetarian dishes? And any hints on how to cook vegetables?
I do and they are all connected to Italian cuisine! There are so many vegetarian recipes I love from Sicily and the Naples area that it would be almost impossible for me to pick one… I’d say a good Sicilian “Capunata” has my vote! Served at room temperature with a couple of slices of toasted Italian country bread (bruschetta style): The sweet and sour nature of a caponata (eggplant, celery, garlic, onion, capers, olives, tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, sugar & basil) always brings me back with each bite to my trips to Sicily…

I could also go for vegetarian Indian cuisine: I love all the different spices used in those recipes.

As far as cooking vegetables, a few things I follow:
  • Buy all your veggies organic
  • Wash them well (do not peel them unless the skin is not edible)
  • Never overcook them! Your veggies will always taste better crunchy with a dash of olive oil, a bit of fleur de sel, lemon/orange zests, etc.
  • Don’t be afraid to mix them up! When it comes to vegetables, the more the merrier!
 9.        Do you have a special, and perhaps easy, French recipe you can share with us?
I could do even better: 3 recipes! One vegetarian, one from Provence and let’s not forget dessert! (And for more, don’t forget to sign up for my Food Me newsletter or like my page on Facebook. I update the website as often as I can between my personal chef assignments.)

Ratatouille & Meatballs
Quick3-Chocolate Mousse (without eggs!)
Please join me in thanking Didier for his participation in Paris in July! You might do this by liking him on facebook or one of these other options.  I'd love to hear from anyone who tries one of these recipes... let me know how it goes..

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

‘Paris is always a good idea’

Bienvenue mes amis!!  
The title of my  post comes from one of my all time favourite movies “Sabrina”, the American chauffeurs’ daughter who is sent to Paris to make her start in life and learn her trade. In the older version, Audrey Hepburn plays Sabrina, and she’s sent to Paris to learn to cook. In the new version, Julia Ormond plays Sabrina, and she goes to Paris to work in the fashion industry. On her return, she believes she will win the heart of the handsome younger son of a wealthy family, but she ends up spending more time with the older business type brother (played by Harison Ford). She eventually convinces him that ‘Paris is always a good idea’. 

 After 5 years of hosting Paris in July, I thought I would expose a little piece of the real me....


It seems, since I was quite small, I have always agreed with Sabrina. France is a good idea. (If you couldn't hear my response - I told  my dad that I would like to back to France!). So here we go.....

Here at Thyme-for-tea, I am going to be posting two original posts each week – Tuesday’s Travel posts and Thursdays Taste of Paris. Also, each Monday, I’ll post the Monday menu – an outline of what’s happening across the Paris in July Hosting Blogs.  
I have lined up an interview with a French chef, I’ll be reviewing travel idea’s like visiting Parisian Markets, wandering through a day in the life of a lover of Paris, walking tours of my special places in France. I’ve also set myself the challenge of reading a couple of food related travel books – Mastering the art of French eating, by Ann Mah, and Lunch in Paris, by Elizabeth Band.

I love this blogging event, and one of the things I enjoy most is getting around to visiting everyone else’s posts. I will try to pop in each week and see what’s happening. Between Karen and myself, we try to do a wrap up post each Sunday that outlines the activity that has been occurring across the variety of bloggers who have signed up.  For this reason, we encourage you to comment on the Monday Menu Mr Linky.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Paris in July Monday Menu

Tomorrow is the first day of July, and the begining of our month long blogging event "Paris in July". It's now 2014, and Karen and I are celebrating 5 years of co-hosting this event - unbelievable! It's been a very exciting blogging event to share with you all over the years, and I believe this year is going to be just amazing! Join us... this week at Paris in July, you will find
  • Tuesday 1st July - all the co hosts will be posting a launch - Karen, Adria & Vicki, Bellezza and Nicole
  • Wednesday 2nd July - Karen is reviewing Adria's novel "Paris, Rue Des Martyrs"
  • Thursday 3rd July - I will post my first Taste of Paris post - an interview with a French Chef!
  • Friday 4th July - Karen will review a current release "A Good Place to Hide" by Peter Grose
  • Saturday 5th July - Bellezza will be posting a review of "Paris was Ours: thirty two writers reflect on the City of Light"
  • Sunday 6th July - Karen will be doing a weekly wrap up of highlights from all of the participant blogs - and may be even a random prize or two!!
  • I'll be back on Monday with a new Menu!
 So let us know you're intentions here at our Mr Linky spot this week.  And as they say in France "On Y Va!"
Dont foget to show one of our Paris in July Buttons on you blog....

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Count Down!

Which Botton do you love?  Are you going to use the same one in your posts, or alternate? 

Dont forget to pop in tomorrow to see the Monday Menu for this weeks Paris in July activities!