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Parisian birthday or ‘following the footsteps of Barefoot Contessa’

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Recently I couldn’t be bothered to write any posts. The uncertainty of what is going to happen next after Brexit, attacks and abuse of Brits who ‘wanted to take their country back’ was not only making me feel scared but depressed.

But I am not going to dwell on it here, I never believed in nationalism, I think it only caused wars and violence. And I’d rather be Cosmopolitan than proud to be of one nation.

Anyway, before it all happened, Boyfriend had had his birthday. Very nice.

As a very good girlfriend (but only on special occasions, on every day I am a raging bitch), I’ve decided to take him out for dinner. In Paris.

Before you are mistaken by the nature of this gesture, let me assure you, I had an ulterior motive.

You see, whenever I travel with my sister, we always spend days in museums. Like a whole day. We get up early to avoid queues, get there, and stay until they kick us out. So last time I had been to Paris, I’ve been eating in museums’ restaurants. Not that I am complaining, the one in Musee D’Orsay has a beautiful decor and setting, not to mention a terrace from which you have a panoramic view of Paris. Or the one in Versailles – nice, elegant, great soups. But if you know me, you know I am a huuuuge fan of Ina Garten aka Barefoot Contessa. And I sort of always wanted to follow her footsteps and recommendations while in Paris. So although it was nice to surprise Boyfriend with the Paris trip, it was also nice to have a foodie city break.

So to start with we stayed in St Germaine. As soon as we arrived, we went for breakfast to a Parisian institution – Cafe de Flore.

I have heard horror stories from many Brits about French people being rude (especially waiters). Let me tell you, I have never experienced it, I more often encounter rude Brits than Frenchies. Maybe it is also in your attitude – if you treat other people like they are inferior to you because they aren’t the best nation in the world (and you are), and you think every other country should be colonised, also that it’s a disgrace if natives don’t speak English, maybe you deserve to be treated rudely. Just saying.

Back to Cafe de Flore – the service was implacable, friendly and polite, we even exchanged a few random jokes with our waiter. It can be quite pricey but it is totally worth it – their omelettes are fluffy and cooked to perfection. I always loved the fact that in France and Italy you always get nice bread and water with your meal without asking. 20160607_104010

 

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Cafe de Flore

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Cafe de Flore

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Cafe de Flore

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Birthday Boy

We stopped at a few cafes and had obligatory crepes as you do when in Paris. In the evening we went for diner to a restaurant Ina Garten was raving about called Marco Polo on Rue Saint Sulpice. And oh my, was it worth it….

Our dinner was delicious, Boyfriend opted for spaghetti alle vongole, I went for pasta with grilled courgettes and tomato sauce. We also had tiramisu. I felt like I died and went to heaven. You might be surprised why we went to an Italian restaurant in Paris, but firstly as you remember I was on the Ina Garten wagon and secondly, it is quite difficult to find a veggie dish when you are dinning at the Parisian bistro.

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Marco Polo, Paris

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Boyfriend’s spaghetti alle vongole

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Marco Polo, Rue Saint-Sulpice

Next day we had decided to try something totally different. We went to an American diner. In Paris. Yes, guilty as charged. The place was called Breakfast in America and it looked like a typical diner.

breakf in america

Portions were truly American as well. I had blueberry pancakes and I could only master half of it, Boyfriend opted for banana pancakes, but unwisely he had a milkshake while waiting, and that was like a meal in itself, so he only had 1/3 of his stack. The owner ( a true Yank) thought that something was not right with our food and was really concerned, we had to assure him that our appetite got used to ‘French portions’.

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Breakfast in America, Paris

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Breakfast in America, Paris

What I loved the most about the diner was the ‘bottomless mug o’ joe’ – just like in American diners, nice mug of coffee, filled up constantly by a lovely waitress as soon as you  get to the bottom.

I absolutely couldn’t leave Paris without eating Hank’s Vegan Burger.

And let me tell you, I could eat there every day. Boyfriend who is not vegan and tried different burgers in his life decided that Hank’s was the best burger he had tried. The other advantage is the price. You can have a burger of your choice, a drink and either chips or coleslaw for 12 Euros, if you throw in 2 more Euros, you will get dessert as well.

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Hank’s Vegan Burger, Paris

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Hank’s Vegan Burger

We also had to visit Poilane, a bakery in Saint-Germaine-des-Pres, Ina Garten owns an apartment nearby and is a frequent visitor.

You can read the whole article I based our trip on here.

And here are some random but lovely pictures from the city of lights and love…

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Hazelnut vegan chocolate tart

20160321_161539Most people think Easter is for eating chocolate and looking for eggs. I think it’s for watching ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ for a zillionth time and obviously drinking wine. Chocolate is good as well.

I normally hate watching musicals with a passion. There are three exceptions, one being ‘Superstar’. It is soo good. My sister’s and mine Easter tradition was to cook and bake while listening to the soundtrack.

So while you do that, make yourself a nice vegan tart. Who doesn’t like a tart in their life, specially the one which will make your skin glow.

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hazelnut vegan chocolate tart

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hazelnut vegan chocolate tart

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hazelnut vegan chocolate tart

Hazelnut Vegan Chocolate Tart:

For the tart:

200 grams hazelnut

1 cup buckwheat flour

6 tbsp coconut oil

2 tbsp cold water

1/3 cup maple or agave syrup

pinch of salt

For the filling:

2 avocados

1 banana

4-5 tbsp cocoa

1 tbsp coconut oil

150 grams vegan chocolate (optional)

1/3 cup maple or agave syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp almond butter

berries to decorate

  1. Start by toasting hazelnuts in the oven or on a dry pan. Let them cool. Blitz them in a food processor until they turn into flour, add rest of the ingredients and mix together.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180 C.
  3. Transfer the dough into an oiled tart dish and and press it into the bottom and edges. Bake until light brown and fragrant (about 20 -30 minutes)
  4. Let the tart base cool.
  5. Put avocados, banana, cocoa, almond butter, agave syrup, vanilla extract in a food processor and mix together. Melt coconut oil and chocolate if using, add to your filling, mix well. Spread it into your tart shell, scatter berries on top and voila! Kiss me kiss me Jesus…

 

 

Vegan Spelt Brownie

When I was ill and feeling sorry for myself I experimented with different type of chocolaty food. I made shakes, muffins and brownies.

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chocolate spelt muffins

I don’t remember what exactly I put into muffins but I wasn’t impressed with the result.

So I moved onto brownies and I loved them. I made a batch with chopped pecans and a batch with raspberries. They were both fantastic.

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vegan spelt brownie

Here’s the recipe:

Vegan Spelt Brownies:

dry ingredients:

1 cup spelt wholemeal flour

1/3 cup cocoa

1 tsp arrowroot starch

1 tsp baking powder

wet ingredients:

1 tsp chia seeds

4 tsp water

1/2 cup almond milk

1/4 cup chopped vegan chocolate (if you can’t find it in a shop you can get it online)

2 tbsp coconut oil

1/2 cup date or maple syrup

nuts, chocolate chips or raspberries to add

  1. Start by preheating the oven to 180C. Mix chia seeds with water and leave for 15 minutes to form a gel.
  2. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Put almond milk, chocolate and coconut oil in a pot and slowly heat up to melt it, stirring constantly.
  4. Add date syrup and chia seeds into melted chocolate. Pour into the dry ingredients. Mix gently, pour onto the brownie form oiled and lined up with parching paper. Bake for 20 minutes.

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Another bad thing happening on my birthday was finding out one of my idols, favourite writer and director had died.

I am talking about Andrzej Zulawski. Actually I mentioned his film, ‘Possession’, in my post few weeks ago.

I don’t know who I admired more – Zulawski the writer or Zulawski the director. As a writer he had a completely unique style of writing, different melody and structure of the sentences. I could just dive into his written world, and I always started talking the way he wrote after reading his book.

He came from a family of writers, and very fine ones too. In his work, both literature and film, he was always very honest, gutsy, bold, brave, gutty in a sense of a vigorous challenging quality. His films had a cult following, but he could never be wildly popular or appreciated as he was shaking you to the core, moving and touching something in you, bringing up subjects you didn’t want to think about, getting to your animal side by being very intellectual.

My favourite film will always be ‘Possession’ from 1981.

As I mentioned before, I don’t know why I was allowed to watch it,but I did, and it totally transformed me. The film is twisted and raw. In one of his books he wrote about the whole process of making the film, and how much of his own divorce and his first wife’s betrayal got into it.

Zulawski was an independent and unique artist. I used to see him at some of the film festivals I went to. I never really wanted to approach him him, as I am well aware that you should never meet your idols. But one day someone said to me; ‘Just talk to him, you could never have that opportunity again’. So I did. And maybe in some cases it’s better to stay away from your idols,but in Zulawski’s case, it will always be my greatest memory. I knew he would be in real life exactly like I imagined and more. He was courteous, intelligent and gracious. Somehow he redirected the conversation from his work to me, getting me to talk about myself. He knew my hometown (he wrote about it in one of his books), so we talked about my sleepy town, and the fact I studied philosophy like him, and many silly, not important things. I suppose writers have got that quality of getting you to talk and being in charge of any conversation. And being interested in people.

He will always be to me one of the Gods like David Bowie. Immortal in their art and our memories of them.

 

 

 

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

pumpkin spiced cupcakes with maple frosting

I am on the roll with the pumpkin spice but it’s autumn, the air smells lovely, tree leaves turn into a rainbow, and you can’t help but think, this is the best time of the year.

So why not indulge yourself with:

Pumpkin Cupcakes:

pumpkin spiced cupcakes with maple frosting

First of all – I actually use butternut squash instead of pumpkin as the latter can be stringy and less available.

To start with, you need to peel and chop butternut squash, steam it until soft and puree it in a food processor.

1 cup pumpkin or squash puree

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup oil

2 eggs

1 cup date syrup

2 cups spelt flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp all spice

1 tbsp orange zest

For the frosting:

1 1/2 cup cream cheese

1/3 cup maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line muffin tin with paper cups.
  2. Start by mixing pumpkin (or squash) puree with buttermilk, eggs, oil and date syrup.
  3. Sieve flour, spices and baking powder into the mix. Add lemon zest and gently mix.
  4. Scoop butter into the paper cups. Bake for about 30 min, until the toothpick comes out clean.
  5. Leave the cupcakes to cool.
  6. In the meantime make the icing. Mix all the ingredients, leave it in the fridge to set. Spread or pipe your frosting onto the cupcakes, sprinkle cinnamon on top.

pumpkin spiced cupcakes with maple frosting

To serve with it I am going to suggest not the easiest film to watch, but totally worth it.

Recent events and being an immigrant in a foreign country made me think of ‘La Haine’ (Hate).

I was brought up on British films, programs and books, so it was always kind of a dream for me to live in England, in a house with sash windows. I thought it would never happen, but it did. And I love it, although sometimes it’s difficult. You meet people who would love to close the borders, who make comments about ‘people coming to their country and taking their jobs’, etc. The less intelligent and less educated they are, the more vocal they are about it. I am proud of being Polish, but sometimes when people can’t figure out my accent and on introduction ask me where I am from, I say I’m from Iceland as not many Brits have been there and certainly none of them are going to speak to me in Icelandic to check out if I’m really from there. I don’t do that because I am ashamed of being Polish, I do that because I don’t want to listen to another person telling me how he or she perceives Poles and what they think of so many of us coming to the UK. I don’t want to hear ‘I know Polish’ and then listen to a few incomprehensible words they’ve mastered, usually some obscenity. I don’t mind people asking me questions about my nationality when it comes up in conversation and when people actually made an effort to have a conversation and meet me, without putting me in a box first. What also annoys me is that people, who have more narrow vocabulary than me and don’t understand the expression or word I used, try to correct me, saying ‘is it a Polish word?’ or laughing and trying to make me look like an idiot making out words because they don’t know what ‘melancholy’, ‘solipsism’, ‘narcissism’ means or never heard of the expression: ‘cooking the books’. I never used to treat people with disdain, but living among common folks changed me and now if I get a simple minded comment I talk back from my high horse. I don’t want to be that person, but I am. I can’t stand people anymore who can’t speak any foreign language and are not really that good in their own, acting patronizing towards me because being British makes them somehow superior and better than any other nation. Although I still love the majority of the beautiful nation who produced ‘Monty Python’ and my fiancee.

Back to the film. Many years ago I saw ‘La Haine’ at the film festival. I thought it was the best film of the year, because the images and atmosphere stayed with me for months.

It is a very raw film. It’s black and white, some of the footage was filmed on the street of Paris during riots, so it feels like a documentary.

The film was Mathieu Kassovitz’ debut and it was a very strong, fresh voice. It’s surprisingly well made and acted considering the low budget and young, unknown at the time cast.

My professor at University used to say ‘if people don’t have aesthetics, they won’t have ethic’. Which basically meant that if you put people in ugly, concrete buildings, squeezed like rats, you can’t expect them to develop high ethical approach to life.

In ‘La Haine’ this is the first issue. Three main characters live in suburbs of Paris, in a impoverished housing project, surrounded by immigrant families. They don’t have many opportunities knocking on their door, it’s difficult to get an interview for a job with not a typically French surname, and the police are always suspicious of anyone looking like them.

The film follows three guys in 2 days. The mood in France was dark, there were riots on the streets. Kassovitz captured it with a captivating and brutal honesty. Although many things changed (for starters, the guys from the film wouldn’t be friends anymore as there are more animosities between the Muslim and Jewish communities, which could clearly be seen a few months ago in Paris), the one thing remains – the frustration and not being able to belong. It reminded me a bit of Zadie Smith’s ‘White Teeth’.

So watch it, it is worth it.

 

Raw Avocado Key Lime Pie

raw key lime avocado tart

raw key lime avocado tart

raw key lime avocado tart

Do you remember the TV before the 90s? I do. It was frowned upon by decent actors, giving us mostly cheesy films, soap operas and a few good shows although not groundbreaking. Everything changed in the 90s and HBO started it. The first show who like Copernicus change everything and sort of ‘stopped the Sun and moved the Earth’ was ‘Sopranos’. It was the first TV show made like a film – great script, production, amazing actors and filmed the way films were shot. It also expected the audience to have a brain and know how to use it. There were metaphorical scenes, psychological divagations and subconscious dream scenes. Not only were the cinematography and writing exceptional, but the choice of location (mostly filmed in the real locations – existing restaurants, strip club and meat market) and music.

Since then HBO became the network famous for choosing edgy, ambitious, intelligent shows.

Recently they have made short series ‘Show Me A Hero’.

The mini series is based on the book by Lisa Belkin and written by David Simmons and William F.Zorzi. Both worked on ‘The Wire’ and in a way ‘Show Me A Hero’ has got a similar vibe and social exposure.

I have to say, it is a brilliant show and I am so glad the television changed so much that now we can watch long (6hrs) films on TV.

‘Show Me A Hero’, in a capsule, is about local politics, public housing and racial issues. It is again an intelligent show, with real issues and realistically portrayed people. Well acted with, like in Sopranos, well chosen music it is more like an epic film than a TV show. Because it’s based in the 80s, it gives the show another layer of sentimental value – I love to see the clothes, cars and house decor from the 80s again.

Food wise, avocado used to be quite popular in old days filled with a prawn cocktail. Those days are gone. Nowadays modern foodies make chocolate mouse and key lie tarts out of avocado. So here it is;

Raw Key Lime Avocado Tart:

for the base:

1 1/2 cup pecans

1 1/2 chopped, pitted dates

2 tbsp almond butter

1/2 cup coconut flour

1/2 cup shredded coconut

for the filling:

3 avocados

3-4 limes

1/2 dates or agave syrup

2 tbsp coconut oil

1/2 cup toasted and chopped pistachios to sprinkle on top

  1. Start by making the base. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and mix well. Transfer into a tart form and press to the bottom and corners. Leave for 30 minutes in the freezer to set.
  2. In the meantime make the filling. Put the avocados (without the pit and skin of course) into the blender, add melted coconut oil, syrup and zest and juice of your lemons. Blend until really smooth. Taste if it’s sweet and zesty enough, spread onto your base. Sprinkle pistachios on top and leave in a fridge for 1 hour to set.

raw key lime avocado tart

raw key lime avocado tart

 

Vegan Raw Cheesecake

There has been a trend for a while in the foodies’ world. Raw desserts. And making vegan cheesecake. I finally gave in and made one. It is really worth the effort as it is delicious and full of nutrition. You should watch with this not a feature film but a documentary ‘Dior and I’.

The film follows Raf Simmons first steps and the making of his first collection for the house of Dior. But the real stars are atelier people – seamstresses and all the people who sew buttons and zips. There is such a craftsmanship in what they do. Some of them worked for the fashion house for 20 -40 years and even though they are the ones behind the scene, nothing would be done without them.

Fashion seems like such a feeble thing but it is a massive business which is also a kind of art. Not everyone is creative enough to change the way we dress and everyone needs to be dressed in something. As it happens, some people are better dressed then others.

And some people are healthier than others, so have a cheesecake and feed your eyes.

raw vegan cheesecake

raw vegan cheesecake

raw vegan cheesecake

Raw Vegan Cheesecake:

To start with you have to soak cashews overnight and freeze 2 bananas, 1 cup of strawberries and 1 cup of blueberries (or any berries you like)

For the crust:

1 1/2 cup pecans

1 1/2 chopped, pitted dates

2 tbsp almond butter

1/2 cup almond flour

1/2 cup shredded coconut

For the cheesecake:

2 cups of soaked overnight cashews

2 tbsp coconut oil

1 frozen banana

1/2 cup agave syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the topping:

1 cup frozen strawberries

1 cup frozen blueberries

1 frozen banana

1 cup of agar agar

1 cup of water

1/2 cup agave syrup

3 tbsp lucuma powder

  1. Start by making a crust. Put pecans into a food processor, blend them. Add rest of the ingredients and process them until sticky. Line the baking tin and put the crust on the bottom, pressing slightly. Put it into a freezer for 10 minutes to make it set.
  2. Drain cashews and put them into a food processor with rest of the ingredients. Blend until smooth (it might take few minutes). Transfer it onto a crust and put into a freezer to set.
  3. In the meantime prepare the topping. Put water and agar agar into a pot. Simmer until agar dissolves. Put fruit and agar into a food processor and blend until smooth. Spread on top of the cheesecake and freeze for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes you can transfer it into the fridge. Enjoy!

raw vegan cheesecake

Fig and Buckwheat Tart

fig and buckwheat tart

I have finally watched the documentary about Iris Apfel called simply ‘Iris’.

I found it really interesting and inspiring. It reminded me of ‘Diana Vreeland:The Eye Has To Travel’ for two reasons. One – both documentaries are about inspiring, fashionable, bold women. Two – there are similarities in their life and the making of them as a style icon. They were both told when they were young that they were not pretty, so they both figured out that having style and fun by dressing up will make them different and stand out.

Iris is witty and you can see that her mind constantly wonders. She is not your usual 93 year old.

She is so captivating and inspiring with her bold statements, approach to life, love of beauty and uniqueness that you head will be buzzing after watching 90 minutes of ‘Iris’. You might even spend some money on accessories….

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iris1

The film made me feel a bit sad as well, because Iris reminded me of a lady who lived in my hometown. She was also quite bold in accessories and totally making a statement the way she was dressed. The only thing is, she wasn’t living in New York but in a small town in the middle of the woods during communism, so she could never start a decorating company and buy clothes from Dior. During communism era, citizens weren’t allowed to get a passport, only on special permission. Private business was frowned upon, as it wasn’t in line with the social correctness of working in public companies and communal production. It was too independent and seen as dangerous individual thinking.

The mentioned lady called by everyone Lola ( I don’t think it was her name, it just matched her flamboyant approach to fashion) was truly a rare bird. In gloomy, depressing times when everyone was dressing in grey, unimaginative, cheap outfits, and self medicating their depression with vodka, she was cheerful and chirpy as a bird and as exotic as a parrot among crows. Her outfits were madly colourful and creatively put together. People in my small town couldn’t comprehend her style, she was way ahead of the times. A few years ago I met her in one of the charity shops (where once I found Thierry Mugler’s suit). She was wearing a crazy but well put together outfit which included a tutu skirt and was picking some items which showed she had a good eye. She looked exactly the same as 20 years ago. My sister who was with me watched her for a while, then turned to me and said: ‘this is probably the only fashi0nable woman in this town who’s always faithful to her style. And she’s got style…’ and she was right. Shame there were no fashion bloggers like ‘Advance Style’ etc, who could make her recognizable and appreciated for what she was – an independent thinker and individualist who wasn’t afraid to discover her own style – just like Iris Apfel or Diana Vreeland….

And because it’s season for figs, let me introduce you to My New Roots fig tart.

fig and buckwheat tart

fig and buckwheat tart

Fig And Buckwheat Tart:

Crust:

70g sunflower seeds

150g buckwheat flour

60 ml coconut oil, chilled until very cool

pinch of sea salt

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

2 tablespoons iced water

Filling:

350g thick, plain Greek yogurt

1 vanilla bean

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup (or agave syrup), plus extra for drizzling if desired

5 fresh figs, washed and sliced into quarters

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F / 190°C / gas mark 5.

2. Make the crust: In a dry frying pan over medium heat, toast the sunflower seeds until golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the sunflower seeds into a food processor. Let cool for a few minutes, and then blend on high until the seeds resemble sand (do not overprocess, or you’ll end up with sunflower butter!). Add the flour, salt, coconut oil, maple syrup, and iced water, and pulse until everything is well incorporated and the dough holds together.

3. Press the dough down very firmly onto the bottom and up the sides of a 7-inch / 18cm tart tin. Prick the crust all over with a fork, and bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until golden and crisp. Let cool completely.

4. Make the filling: Put the yogurt in a medium bowl. Slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and scrape the seeds onto the yogurt. Add the maple syrup and fold to combine. Sweeten to taste with more maple syrup if desired.

5. Pour the yogurt mixture into the cooled tart shell. Arrange the quartered figs on top, drizzle with extra maple syrup if desired.

fig and buckwheat tart

fig and buckwheat tart

fig and buckwheat tart

fig and buckwheat tart