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Category Archives: dinner

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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Coconut Dal

This is a very simple recipe for a very tasty, filling and warming dish.

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Coconut Dal:

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 cup split lentils

1 1/2 cup water

1 cup coconut milk

sprinkle of chili flakes

1tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cumin

1tsp coriander

fresh coriander

1 lime

salt

  1. Start by melting coconut oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds, chili flakes, coriander, turmeric, cumin and fry for 2 minutes until fragrant.
  2. Add lentils, water and coconut milk and cook on a low heat for 30 -40 minutes. Add more water if necessary.
  3. When lentils get soft and dish thickens, add salt, juice of 1 lemon and fresh chopped coriander. Serve with homemade chapatis.

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To pair it with I can only suggest something as simple and tasty as ‘A Simple Plan’.

It’s a thriller about three people in Minnesota who one day find a plane full of money and form a plan, a very simple one, to keep the money and make sure no one finds out. As you can expect the simple plan is not going to work, not to mention our protagonists are intellectually challenged.

For some reason films like ‘A Simple Plan’ plus Fargo (film and TV series) make me want to go to Minnesota very badly, even though they are not the best way of advertising the region.

But film is worth to watch and dal is worth to try, so enjoy.

 

 

 

Butternut squash ravioli

It seems only appropriate to write about ravioli and a film directed by Nicolas Roeg. It would be a perfect circle connecting my previous post and post I mentioned in it.

So, let me start with the ravioli.

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Butternut squash ravioli:

freshly made pasta (see post Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli)

For the filling;

small butternut squash

2 tbsp grated parmesan

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

1/2 nutmeg

1 tsp olive oil

knob butter

fresh sage

  1. Start by making pasta, wrapping it in a cling film and leaving it for 30 minutes in a fridge to relax.
  2. In the meantime peel and cut butternut squash into cubes, steam or roast until soft.
  3. Toast pine nuts. Add nuts, butternut squash and parmesan into a food processor and mix together. Add nutmeg.
  4. Start rolling out pasta, fill it with butternut squash mixture. Cook in salted water.
  5. Heat olive oil with butter in a frying pan, add sage, fry for 3-4 minutes. Add ravioli and coat gently. Serve.

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Now, the film…

I absolutely loved Roeg’s ‘Don’t Look Now’. I was lucky enough to be allowed watching films I shouldn’t have watched as a child. During communism people working in cinemas were relaxed about who’s coming in, as long as you payed and behaved.

So, as a very young girl I watched films which blew my mind and formed me as who I am now, like ‘Don’t look back’ or ‘Possession’ by Zulawski.

I also watched at some point ‘The Man Who Fell On Earth’. Main reason I wanted to watch it, was David Bowie, but I also had a lot of respect for Roeg.

The film is about the man who fell on Earth. An alien who’s trying to find the way to ship water from Earth to his planet, which suffers from severe drought. But it is not just that, it says a lot about alienation of any human being, of our culture. It is also a very dark and surreal, beautifully shot film. There is no doubt no one nowadays would make a movie like that. There is no studio which would give money to this kind of project.

Luckily it was done in the 70s. Roeg made a perfect casting choice picking David Bowie, who at the time looked very alien with his high cheekbones, and porcelaine skin. He gave a really good performance, and a very memorable one.

So have some pasta and remember a beautiful, brilliant man by watching a cult film with him.

 

 

Veggie Paella

I mentioned here before my anger issues. Unexpected anger outbursts recurring frequently…yeah.

There were a few things which got me angry in the last two weeks. One of them was Golden Globes cancellation, which apparently now it’s back on. But I can’t to seem to find it back on on Sky Premier, as it originally supposed to be broadcasted on.

The second one got me enraged. I found out that ‘Hateful Eight’ was released to selected cinemas, so now to see it I have to travel miles. What a freaking liberty….

And another thing is, I haven’t seen the sun for ages. The thing is, I don’t have a fancy camera. For years I have been using old point and shoot one, but it started playing up a bit, so all my recent pictures have been taken by my phone. I don’t know if you know how difficult it is to take a picture in the darkness. Or close to darkness. Almost impossible. And I cook to eat, not to take photographs, so I have 5 minutes to take a picture after my food is done before it gets cold, I can’t hang around for hours to take a better picture. Also I am working, and in winter by the time I am back home, it’s dark. So pardon me for the appalling quality of the pictures in the last few months.

Now, don’t you like from time to time a nice starchy meal?

veggie paella

Veggie Paella

2 shallots

2 cloves garlic

1 red, green and yellow pepper

asparagus

1 cup green peas

1 1/2 paella rice (or short grain brown rice)

small chilli

1 1/2 l vegetable stock

1 cup white wine

pinch saffron

salt

pepper

paprika

olive oil

  1. Heat olive oil in a heavy pan. Add chopped shallots. Fry until translucent. Add chopped garlic and chili. Fry until soft.
  2. Add chopped peppers. Fry for about 10 minutes until they soften. Add rice and cook for 5-7 minutes until coated with oil. Add wine and vegetable stock, saffron. Cover and cook on a low heat.
  3. Ten minutes before rice is cooked add peas and chopped asparagus. Cover again and cook. You might need to add more liquid. Season with salt, pepper and paprika.

veggie paella

veggie paella

 

 

Pasta with roasted squash and sage

pasta with roasted squash and sage

Still busy? Yeah, I though so…

Quickly then to dinner:

Pasta with Roasted Squash and Sage:

butternut squash

olive oil

pasta

fresh sage

2 cloves garlic

salt and pepper

veggie parmesan

toasted pine nuts

  1. Start by pre-heating the oven to 180C. Peel the squash, cut into cubes, spread on the roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and julienned sage. Bake until golden and soft.
  2. In the meantime cook pasta and toast pine nuts.
  3. When the squash is ready, drain pasta, mix with squash, serve with pine nuts and parmesan.

pasta with roasted squash and sage

Christmas can be quite depressing, especially if you are away from your family. Don’t get me wrong, all my childhood’s Christmases were a nightmare. But since it’s only me, my sister and apple of my eye, it’s been brilliant. So it is really hard to handle being away from them. There are 2 options – get drunk to numb the pain or avoid everyone.

Also you can cheer yourself up by watching Christmas not related films.

Like ‘Les Vacances de M.Hulot’. I mentioned here before that when I was 12 or 13 there was quite amazing film festival taking place in my humble hometown, where I had a chance to see many, many wonderful films. My sister and I would spend mornings, afternoons and evenings going to the showings, with few breaks in between to nourish the body as well as the soul. People thought that it was stupid to spend the whole day in the dark cinema instead of going to the beach (it was a middle of summer), but I never regretted it.

The festival was the place where  I have first seen Jacques Tati’s film. And both, my sister and I loved it.

The film takes place in a resort by the beach (har har). It is almost silent – there are sounds but not dialogues. M.Hulot is almost like a mime, and a very expressive one. There is plenty of visual gags and comical situations, and in a way Tati sums up the core of French society. But it’s the atmosphere, the way of filming and delivering gags which makes the film so memorable. It’s more graceful and intelligent than a traditional slapstick. It’s quite absurd and whimsical. There are a few reasons I am so fond of it. First one – i was brought up on Sempe and Goscinny ‘Le petit Nicolas’ books, and this kind of humour, quite similar to Jacques Tati’s films, resonates with me, makes me feel quite nostalgic. If every child was exposed to this kind of humour, we would have more intelligent people around.

The second reason is that M Hulot in his clumsiness and unfortunate adventures reminds me of my best male friend, whose friendship I really treasure, and whom, since living in Britain, I don’t see very often. Which is bad for my soul, as he is the kind of friend who makes you laugh so hard you cry and almost pee yourself….

So if you feel down after Christmas and your friends are far far away (even though not in another Galactic), treat yourself to M Hulot’s Holday. You won’t regret it.

Spelt Pasta With Broccoli and Sun Dried Tomatoes

It’s just before Christmas. Everyone’s busy, rushing, shops are crowded, queues everywhere.

When I have to make a quick dinner, I always turn to pasta.

spelt basta with broccoli and sun dried tomatoes

Spelt Pasta with Broccoli and Sun Dried Tomatoes:

wholemeal spelt spaghetti

3 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic

1/4 chili flakes

broccoli

1/2 cup chopped roughly sun dried tomatoes

1 tsp lemon zest

1/2 cup pine nuts

sea salt

pepper

veggie parmesan

  1. Boil lightly salted water for pasta.
  2. Heat olive oil in a heavy pan. Add chopped garlic and chili flakes. When the garlic softens add broccoli florets. Cover and cook for 10 min on a low heat. Add sun dried tomatoes and lemon zest, salt and pepper.
  3. Drain pasta, add to the broccoli. Serve with parmesan and toasted pine nuts.

You can serve it with any Christmas themed film of your choice. I watched traditionally ‘Home Alone’, ‘Home Alone2’, ‘Bad Santa’ and ‘Elf’.

Merry Christmas

spelt pasta with broccoli and sun dried tomatoes

Pasta with Cavolo Nero

pasta with cavolo nero

Getting a pasta machine is quite similar to discovering sex, once you get the hang of it, you pretty much can’t stop.

So apologies for many coming posts featuring my lovely pasta creations, but hey, it’s my party and I can do what I want to!

Here is something simple but lovely and elegant (also happen to be quite healthy):

Pasta with Cavolo Nero:

pasta (if you can’t make it buy a really good quality one)

3 cups chopped cavolo nero (or regular kale)

2 cloves of garlic

1 tsp unwaxed lemon zest

3 tbsp olive oil

sprinkle f chilli flakes

pinch of sea salt

pepper

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

veggie parmesan (optional)

  1. Start by warming up olive oil in a heavy pan. Add chopped garlic and gently fry until soft. Add chopped cavolo nero. Cover and cook for about 10 min.
  2. In the meantime boil salted water for pasta.
  3.  Add lemon zest, chili flakes salt and pepper to cavolo nero. Cook pasta, drain and add to the dish. Mix, serve with toasted pine nuts and parmesan.

pasta with cavolo nero

pasta with cavolo nero

It’s good to have a such a quick, simple dish in your repertoire just before Christmas, when there is so much to watch. I mean, honestly, I don’t have time to sleep!….Only joking, still have time to have my 10 hrs beauty seep, you have to have your priorities straight.

Anyway, there is something festive to watch on Netflix – ‘A Very Murray Christmas’. It’s a homage to classic variety shows, but it’s directed by Sofia Coppola so it’s not your usual show. And it’s packed with well known names, not to mention the main star – Bill Murray. It also has got really quirky sense of humour and it will put you in the festive mood. So watch it! You are going to love it.