Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Street Food Feast

Providing you don't get struck down by Delhi Belly or even salmonella, street food is the only way to savour local food and ingredients in foreign parts.

Sitting on a dusty plastic stool watching a small Thai man ladling steaming stock broth into a deep bowl filled with glass noodles, small slivers of chicken and topping it off with green citrusy herbs and hot fresh chilli, sublime.

Out of the corner of your eye watching green VW beetles whizzing round the Zocalo in downtown Mexico City while the rest of your body is attuned to the tiny old lady sitting in front of you. And in front of her, the accoutrements of her trade: large, round, green crispy tortillas piled high, an array of salsas, advocado, chilli, tomato, maybe some shredded cheese, 'a gusto, a gusto' she urges, keen to serve the hungary businessman waiting patiently behind for his tostada, or taco, or quesadilla, or gordita or picada.....hmmm.

Or how about a banana leaf topped with boiled yucca, sharp cabbage salad and a hunk of crispy pig skin courtesy of a young Nicaraguan girl, sounds unusual but is utterly delicious. The simple cabbage salad served throughout Central America is just fresh shredded cabbage, lime juice and salt - delectable.

Although creating these dishes is nigh-on impossible as each one is imbibed with the exotic emotional overtones felt in that historic moment, yet it is in the trying, and in the eating, that you can sit back and recall that mouth-watering epiphany.

I don't often buy meat here in France as I am unfamiliar with the sources, even less the cuts. But when I occasionally find myself eye-to-eye with a vintage, French chicken farmer bearing his frugal, organic wares in the market I find the birds hard to resist. The inevitable chicken stock made almost always finds itself flaunting that Thai taste.

Simple, filling, nutritious and delicious. Dice onion, garlic and fresh ginger, saute until golden and soft, add steaming hot chicken stock to the pan. Prepare your greens to throw in at the last minute: peas, green beans, bok choi, spinach, lettuce, spring onions, cook the noodles in the steaming broth add the vegetables - you want them crunchy. Serve with a squeeze of lime, some fresh coriander or mint and finely sliced chilli - enjoy.


Monday, April 12, 2010

A sense of tart titillation

To salivate, to titillate, to dictate - to your lunch guests...oh yes! Puddings, desserts, sweets - call it what you wish - but, for me, to serve pudding is the luxurious embrace of social gatherings.

Following a few glasses of wine, some conversation and general togetherness - pudding is the moment when people finally begin to relax, it is produced to bashful smiles and guilty giggles - "oh go on then - just one tiny slice. With a drop of cream? Oh...alright...hmmm".

And so, you secretly envelop them with your sugary squeeze.

Small, perfect and sublime is the perfect embodiment of sweet gorgeousness. Of course making food for friends in miniature is, not only time-consuming, but a total pain in the arse. However, if you are out to impress it is worth the effort.

To make these tiny lemon curd and noisette tarts you must first whip up a batch of lucious lemon curd. To make the noisette tarts beat sugar and butter together, add some crushed hazelnuts and almonds. Gently push this thick paste into a 24 case petit four tin. Bake gently until golden - about ten minutes. Leave to cool.

Meanwhile, using fresh or frozen berries - softly heat in a pan with some sugar add a drop of water to create a syrupy berry nectar. To assemble - fold the lemon curd into some mascarpone, or whipped cream. Place a spoonful on the noisette tarts, drizzle the berries over the top - et viola!


Thursday, April 8, 2010


“NO, NON, NON!! Keep the broom handle high. Try to steer it away from heads…” Possibly, in hindsight, not the most sensible of ideas to play piñata at a birthday party peopled by five year olds, half of which speak a different language to the other half.

The piñata, a home-made paper-mache balloon shape stuffed with sweets and bits of paper, was hit by a stick fashioned from a too long broom handle. The children, a mix of French and English, had no idea what was happening, as some cried with outright fear and others, notably small French girls, whacked the airbourne globe with such gusto that within minutes the spherical beast was broken. Allowing the fittest and bravest to snatch up the sweets, faster than lightening they worked, leaving the slightly slower children spinning in their wake.

In my minds eye the party would be a success of domestic goddess proportions; a beautifully laid table, brimming with moist, light cakes, home-made lemonade and delicate sandwiches. The children a kindly mix of pretty little girls and gentle yet fun boys. The games would be played with pleasure and laughs and the food consumed before they left clutching the perfect party-bag a rosy glow to their faces…

KISS - Keep it simple – stupid; surely a useful piece of advice to follow? Only sometimes it seems quite hard to keep things simple. Having boy/girl twins has always made things slightly leftfield – in the domestic goddess department. Having chosen simple party games to explain to a multi-lingual group: the piñata just hit it and catch the sweets, pass-the-parcel; a no brainer – surely and find the hidden sweets?

Those days of being terrified of adults appear to be long past. Pass the parcel, a game where in 1980 you sat quietly in your peers living room, watching the parcel go around, waiting, hoping, it could be you to win the prize….in 2010 the odds have changed, each wrapper comes with its own sweetie prize, but the actual prize? The children of today cry, whine and sulk openly if they don’t ‘win’.

After the near death experiences of the piñata, wrestling the broom handle from the hands of one very tenacious young visitor, the hopeless sulking attached to the pass-the-parcel, this domestic goddess efficiently sent the guests outside to get some air as she reached for the vin blanc.

Simplicity is certainly a good rule to follow; simple food, simple games and perhaps just one simple language?


Thursday, April 1, 2010

The power of five

Today my twin blossoms are five
They are alive, and vital and, Oh -
so full - of - desire to dream and to fly
those twin perks of mine.

One pink, one blue
both treasured and true -
to me, and to all I do,
and breathe, and feel,

And - Oh - to feel such
spangled suffusion...
sometimes much to much
for one to carry and clutch.

And hold up to the sky and
SHOUT with glee my twinperks and me,
one pink, one blue -
both treasured and true...