Caillebotte, 75009

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On a quiet corner in the 9th arrondissement lies modern French cuisine at its finest, just around the corner from the bustling Rue des Martyrs which happens to be my flatmate’s favourite road in Paris. Headed by the owners of Le Pantruche and named after the renowned French impressionist Gustave Caillebotte, this chic bistro pulls out all the stops, refraining from being flashy and instead being tasteful (quite literally) in every respect. After hours of procrastination in the form of foodie research, I decided on this gem for my birthday dinner after having originally stumbled upon it on one of my many exploratory walks around the city. Caillebotte doesn’t have its own website nor does it need one, with rave reviews from the press and free advertising from its fans on Instagram, me being one of those very people. Caillebotte is by no means a typical traditional bistro found on the corners of every boulevard, instead delivering a modern spin on the nation’s deservedly celebrated cuisine.

Caillebotte’s décor is simple and elegant, fitting with the effortlessly stylish Parisian clientele it attracts. Its green colour scheme begins with the radiant sign outdoors, followed by green bar stools and plush benches inside, all complemented by wooden panelling. The room is well lit with vintage-style light bulbs hanging suspended above the tables while pot plants (my favourite) frame the windows. Either get a taste of the action and sit at the marble-topped bar with an prime view into the glass-panelled kitchen or nab a table in the intimate dining room a few steps below.

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I booked our table for opening time, 19.30, on a Friday night, worrying that it would be fairly quiet – the French often dine towards 20.30 – but it was already filling up and the atmosphere only got better as the night progressed. After our coats were taken and we were shown to our spacious table, we immediately ordered the restaurant’s refreshing Kir Royals, two cassis for my parents and a peach for myself. They were so good, dare I say the best I’ve ever had, that I had to order another before the meal even arrived. With this generation choosing their dishes from the online menus before they’ve even arrived at the restaurant, it was a nice change to be offered a never-before seen à la carte paired with the waiter’s wise recommendations. With the option of a three course meal for the well-priced €36, or the tasting menu featuring four savoury courses and one sweet option at €49, there’s plenty to choose from. It took us a fair bit of time to decide on our three courses, mainly because we wanted everything.

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Starter of mullet with cima di rapa and aioli

The starters were quick to arrive and each one as impeccably presented as the next. My flash-fried mullet with cima di rapa and a rich aioli sauce was sublime – the silky fish juxtaposed with the crisp-like breadcrumbs. The spelt risotto with mussels and stewed broccoli was also top notch, with the clever combination of curry-flavoured foam and the sharpness of wafer thin sliced apple. Neither dish was too heavy for a starter while the crusty bread, three punnets of which arrived at our table throughout the meal, was perfect for soaking up all the remnants. What a change from some English restaurants where you are unknowingly charged for their breadbaskets.

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Main of Challans duck with beetroot gnocchi and black radish mousse

The mains were once again outstanding, with my dad and I opting for meaty options recommended by our waiter. The tender Challans duck in gravy was faultless with hints of honey and cinnamon, served with a few beetroot gnocchi and a black radish mousse. My mum boasted that her fillet of monkfish was the best she’s ever had, soft and tender accompanied by new potatoes, turnips and a cleansing parsley jus.

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Main of monkfish with new potatoes, turnips and a  parsley jus

To finish off a memorable meal, we made room for the imaginative desserts. The deconstructed stewed rhubarb crumble with sage ice cream was undoubtedly la meilleure, each bite bringing new flavours and satisfying the mouth’s sweet and salty palette. Those who don’t have much of a sweet tooth should opt for the cheese plate with smoky rinds. Caillebotte’s impressive cuisine is matched by the kind staff who manage to make your experience a personal one despite the fact they are looking after sixty guests at once. When my dad, the chocolate fiend, ordered the nutty chocolate gateaux to the tune of comme toujours, the waiter remembered at the end of the night and exclaimed comme d’habitude when serving this delectable dessert. Paris might have a reputation for rude staff but this stereotype is far from the truth in this case.

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Dessert of stewed rhubarb with crumble and sage ice crea

Our table was needed back by 21.30 for the next set of lucky diners but our meal didn’t feel at all rushed, with the waiters even offering us a digestif at the end. Caillebotte is closed on weekends but open on Mondays, unlike many Parisian restaurants, so get booking. The perfect sized portions left us pleasantly satisfied and eager to return, knowing that their seasonal changing menu would offer another blend of innovative flavours on our next visit.

Caillebotte, 8 Rue Hippolyte Lebas, 75009 Paris

Peonies – Cafés et fleurs

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As the name suggests, this coffee spot is decked out in blossoming bouquets and delicate daisies, brightening up your day before you’ve even sat down to enjoy their  tremendous menu. While pot plants have become commonplace in brunch destinations, largely thanks to their aesthetically pleasing Instagram snaps, Peonies isn’t just another coffee shop trying to exploit this popular trend. It is primarily a florist, with bouquets on sale in the corner of the cosy room and a gorgeous rose pink watering can to match. It even had an air of that memorable scene in The Great Gatsby where Gatsby fills Nick’s house with an abundance of flowers to impress Daisy.

You can’t go to Peonies and not write about its dainty décor. A fusion of pastel colours and art-deco furnishings, Peonies is an interior designer’s dream come true. Emerald green tiled floors suitably contrast the speckled pastel pink tables while you’ll feel as if  you’re outside with white garden-furniture style chairs. Even their brass cutlery is picture perfect.

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Peonies plays on its floral roots, topping its Tartine d’Avocat with edible daisies – while they taste a tad bitter, they make it the most picturesque avocado toast I’ve had the pleasure of indulging in. Priced at €8.50, it’s a generous portion of perfectly seasoned chunky avocado and the superfood topping of cacao nibs on seeded rye bread. The staff are incredibly friendly, refraining from judging us for what I can only imagine resembled an avocado photo shoot. Our waitress even thanked us for complementing the Tartine’s appearance.

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Peering across at our neighbours, we were also envious of their choice: homemade granola and fresh fruit. It’s not just breakfast food at Peonies as they offer salads and wraps of the day while you can revel in the chef’s baked eggs with Scandinavian bread on Saturdays – all veggie-friendly. Even the drinks have natural twists, with mint-flavoured water on every table and elderberry lemonade featuring on the menu.

Peonies is a world away from its busy surroundings on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis in the lively 10th arrondissement. While the wifi was down the day we visited, it is usually up and running and Peonies is a fittingly peaceful spot for a bit of work, with laptops allowed on weekdays.

Peonies has managed to combine nature and nurture through their hybrid florist coffee shop. You only have to look at their Formule Peonies, offering an espresso and a small bouquet for €19, to understand their ethos.

Peonies, 81 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, 75010

Festive Christmas Biscuits

Christmas being my favourite time of the year, I thought it would be the perfect occasion for some recipe testing. Our Christmas feast this year was the best it’s ever been. Once again we had the usual turkey, ham, salmon en croute for my pesky mum and all the necessary trimmings. But Christmas Eve chez the spill the beans family is a totally different matter, with a spread of Mexican cuisine: mum’s famous quesadillas paired with her chunky salsa-esque guacamole. Viewed by my family as the queen of organised fun and often referred to as the ‘monica’ of the friendship group (even in buzzfeed quizzes), I take over a little bit during the month of December. And my most important duty is the yearly quiz which takes place every christmas eve after our quirky dinner. Normally, we’ll dig into the Hotel Chocolat Winter Puddings box during the quiz but, this year, I decided to create a festive accompaniment to these posh chocs.

Taking inspiration from my dear nana who made the best christmas biscuits, packed with a punch of spices, I played around with a few different ingredients hoping to recreate a fraction of her delicious Lebkuchen style biscuits. And here’s the result! They have a crisp top but a cake-like spongey texture when you bite into the centre. Who doesn’t like a hybrid of cake and biscuit? They received rave reviews from the quiz participants…let’s hope they weren’t just sucking up to the quizmaster.


Ingredients for 16 biscuits

150g demerara sugar (brown sugar works better for these biscuits)

200g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

60g margarine (I tend to use stork)

1 medium egg

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon gif lemon juice

A generous sprinkling of orange zest


  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius fan and heat up a baking tray big enough for 16 biscuits (or two baking trays)
  • Cream the margarine and sugar together until light and fluffy using a wooden spoon
  • Add the flour and baking powder until it’s all mixed in. It will have a crumbly texture at this point
  • Throw the egg, lemon juice and honey into the mix and whisk together. If it’s still looking a bit crumbly, add some water until it reaches a wetter consistency
  • Finally grate the zest of the orange over the mixture and once again, whizz it all together

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Note: The mixture is super sticky and gooey so not the best for cookie cutters

  • Use a tablespoon for each cookie, spreading them out evenly on a piece of greaseproof paper on a heated baking tray. They’re not going to be evenly shaped but that’s the fun of it!

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  • Bake in the oven for 12-15 mins (depends on whether you want them a bit spongey and cake-like or totally crispy)
  • Cool on a wire rack (and share one while you’re waiting for them to cool!

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  • Dust with icing sugar and there you are!

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Paris Brunchin – Café Oberkampf

 

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The Paris brunch scene is far from disappointing, with most restaurants and cafés offering weekend menus all over the picturesque city. As you’ve already guessed, while I’m spending far too much money on food, I’m not willing to give up on this heavenly lazy sunday morning ritual…okay maybe it ends up being the afternoon. I’ll be posting about more top brunch destinations as my time in Paris goes on but here’s the first of the bunch, and possibly one of the best.

Café Oberkampf lies in the trendy 11th arrondissement on Rue Neuve Popincourt, attracting us expats and Parisians alike. The road itself is quiet and understated, distinguishable only by the crowd of brunchgoers who stand patiently by the entrance of the popular coffee shop after putting their name down on the waiting list. Be warned that the wait for a table can last about an hour but time flies as you sit on the benches outside with a latte in hand (did I mention they use Coutume coffee?). Luckily (and strangely enough), the weekends always seem to be good weather in Paris so the wait is a rather nice one, and you never know you might just get a sun kissed tan in the process.

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Once your name is called (what a glorious moment this is), you can take your seat in the cosy all-day café, met by an anglo-inspired brunch menu with something for everybody. Even though it’s everywhere, I’m a bit of a sucker for avo on toast. But I feel a little less guilty ordering it at Café Oberkampf, where the tartine is jazzed up with ricotta and ginger and accompanied by a help-yourself bowl of chilli salt. Their dishes are impeccably presented on oak boards, complementing the rustic wooden tables and interior design, fitting for the Instagram photo that we are all, lets face it, partial to.

Their homemade banana bread is absolutely gorgeous, with just the right amount of salted butter (coconut oil is on offer as an alternative), and grilled to perfection. It’s a good chunky slice as well so undoubtedly worth the €4. If you’re more of a savoury bruncher, opt for their Shakshuka style eggs or Green Eggs with Feta, which are both served in individual frying pans. These are fitting for either a snack, with 1 egg, or a verging on hangry customer, with 3 eggs.

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Seeing as I’ve been here twice within the space of a few weeks, Café Oberkampf is quickly becoming one of my favourite brunch spots. With friendly staff and a variety of excellent brekky dishes to choose from, this is sure to become my new ‘local’.

Paris en août

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Wow, it’s been a long time since I last posted on here but it’s been a truly busy year. The highlight of which was the news that I will be spending a year abroad in Paris, a city that I have dreamed of living in for a long time now. After the kerfuffle of setting up accommodation etc (I won’t bore you with all of it), I spent a chunk of my summer in the French capital, hoping to become a Parisian in no time at all. An unrealistic target, yes, but whoever said you can’t think big? I started to move over in early August, a period of congé estival when Parisians set off on their holidays and restaurants take a much deserved break. Bad timing you might say but Paris in August is surprisingly fitting for a bit of exploring. Largely empty, life on the metro and in tourist hot spots becomes a walk in the park. And of course, with temperatures rising to 30 degrees, the jaw-droppingly beautiful jardins are a perfect backdrop for a spot of sunbathing and picnic-ing.

I’m usually one for planning my city-trips, itinerary and all (yes I’m the overly organised one). But this trip was a refreshing break from schedules and reservations. As many of the places I wanted to visit didn’t say online whether they were open in August or not, I decided on a new approach. Each day, I headed to a new area and spent my time wandering around the arrondissements, coming across hidden gems that are well worth visiting.

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One of those sunny mornings, I set off for the Marais (I’m positive I share love for this place with many others). Craving a sun kissed and fairly quiet spot, I stumbled upon the jardin à l’heure d’été, a pop-up venue organised by the Institut Suédois (Swedish Institute).  At the risk of sounding cliché, this jardin was an oasis in the heart of the 3ème arrondissement. The square had an international book stall on one side of the beautifully kept lawn, where you could borrow a novel during your séjour, and al-fresco dining tables on the other, perfect for those wanting to stay shaded from the sun while enjoying a takeaway from the jardin’s very own Café Hej.

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As a sun baby, I lounged in one of the many hammocks in the centre of the square but only once I had grabbed one of their popular swedish salmon and cream cheese bagels. The bagel wasn’t the usual new york ones that I’m partial to back home but a sesame topped brioche-style version which was a nice surprise (and perfect for a sweet tooth!)

 

 

 

Unfortunately I missed the Swedish Institute’s events, such as open-air cinema screenings, but I’m hoping they will be back next summer to put on an equally great pop up. There will be more to come from my travels in Paris this year so stay tuned!

Throwback to Christmas

You can’t beat Christmas when it comes to food. Every year, my mum and dad create a mouthwatering feast which seems to grow each year in size. For 2015, the festive table hosted an array of different dishes:

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Oven roasted cod and salmon for my pesky mum (pescatarian that is). A show-stopping turkey filled with homemade pork stuffing and coated in streaky smoked bacon rashers. Two kinds of roasted gammon – my absolute favourite christmas dish. Golden roast potatoes – the crispiest of which are always fought over. Honey and mustard glazed parsnips along with the annual brussels sprouts and steamed carrots. There was even a little roast rack of lamb with a vegetarian stuffing crust for my sister who isn’t a fan of the traditional meats. All of this accompanied by my dad’s unbeatable homemade gravy and obligatory champers.

My oh my I don’t think I’ve ever been so full. But then there’s always space for Christmas Trifle. I mean we all know that there’s a different compartment for dessert…

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One of the best things about Christmas Lunch, however, is that all of the above can be eaten on Boxing Day. And if you overdid it a bit and made just as much as my family did for Christmas, the food lasts the following few days too!

You can have the leftovers just as they are, hot or cold. I’m partial to stealing a roast potato from the fridge at all hours. Or you can mix it up a bit and try a new recipe. Check out my Boxing Day Potato Hash for inspiration!

Boxing Day Potato Hash

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Christmas just keeps on giving. In our house, leftovers make up the meals for the next few days which is a nice break from all that cooking that went on during the morning of the 25th but also a treat for us foodies who want to continue looking forward to the yumminess that is Christmas Lunch.

If you’re getting a bit bored of having the same meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner, try out this take on a Potato Hash which uses the scrumptious veggie leftovers from the day before. It’s probably one of the simplest recipes I’ve done because you just throw everything into one pan!


 

Ingredients for a side dish for six (remember this is just what we had leftover, you can throw in however many roasties and veggies that you have and add the garlic, salt, pepper and paprika to taste)

8 Roast Potatoes

A small bowl of brussels sprouts

A handful of chopped steamed carrots

A couple of honey and mustard glazed parsnips

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

A dash of paprika

1 tablespoon of olive oil

Salt and Pepper


  • Thinly slice the roast potatoes along with the brussels sprouts and parsnips. Mix together with the carrots.
  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan and throw all the ingredients in
  • Fry the leftovers, making sure you mix them every few minutes, for about ten minutes or until the dish is looking nice and crispy
  • Serve with the rest of your Christmas leftovers (we had it with ham, turkey and all sorts)

 

Posh Beans on Toast

Mighty bean dish. Maybe not the most original name but this recipe is simple and really variable, perfect for all you foodies out there. Me and my mum make this all the time because it’s quick and easy, not to mention super yummy and warms you up on a cold winter evening.

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Posh Beans on Toast


 

Ingredients – serves 4

400g can of chopped tomatoes

400g can of black-eyed beans

400g can of chickpeas

150g tenderstem broccoli

4 cloves of garlic (good frozen)

2 teaspoons of hot paprika

1 tsp paprika

4 tsp mixed herbs

1 onion (diced)

A few sun-dried tomatoes (optional)

Seedy bread and rocket leaves to serve

So like I said earlier on, this bean dish is really variable. I’ve often added an assortment of veggies to the pan, such as mushrooms, marrow, courgette and aubergine. It becomes a kind of ratatouille but with more of a punch to it! Feel free to add any veggies that you see fit for the pan and let me know which ones worked.


 

  • Heat some oil in a pan and fry the beans and chickpeas for a couple of minutes. Crush the cloves of garlic and add to the pan, along with the diced onion. Fry for 2 minutes.

Top tip: You can buy frozen chopped garlic at most supermarkets and it works a charm and saves time (and washing up!)

  • Meanwhile boil the broccoli for 5-6 minutes.
  • Add the canned tomatoes along with the spices, herbs and chopped sun-dried tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes
  • Finally, add the broccoli for a couple of minutes and season to taste

This dish can pretty much be served with anything. I usually have it with rice but I recently paired it with sweet potato mash, which was absolutely delicious.

It’s also a perfect topping for toast the next day – just heat the leftovers in the microwave for 3-4 minutes, toast a couple of slices of seedy bread and spoon a generous serving of the dish onto the buttered slices. Top with some rocket and there you have it: posh beans on toast!

 

 

The Great Island of Dogs

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Gran Canaria landscape

Las Islas Canarias, Spanish islands off the tip of Morocco, are a dream destination for us food-lovers and sun worshippers. Gran Canaria, the third largest of the islands, not only has a wonderful ring to its name but is also named after man’s best friend – the Dog. No wonder I love the place, though I do wish that my puppy had joined me to walk  the cliff-top promenade during my stay.

Early September is a perfect time to visit the island. The weather is faultless – not too hot, not too chilly and no rain whatsoever. While the islands are known for their windy climate (the island Fuerteventura translates as strong winds), you’ll be thankful for the light breeze along the seafront during the scenic beach-walks; these are perfect for walking off the inevitable food-babies after a stackful of pancakes at breakfast. If you don’t want to risk missing any sunbathing time, the beach and pool are the destinations for you, with just enough clouds to stop you from overheating.

I stayed in Meloneras, famous for its distinctive lighthouse and proximity to Playa Del Inglés. I don’t think I’ve ever visited a place where the people were so friendly. Waiters laughed and joked with you, making you feel right at home. The best restaurants of the bunch are El Senador, which has the best tapas in town, Grand’ Italia, whose pizzas are inventive and hugely satisfying (make sure you’re hungry as they’re great value for the size) and finally MezzaLuna, another Italian which specialises in unique pasta dishes. At the latter, I had an unforgettable dish with flavours that I have never tasted combined before – Pappardelle with prawns in a tomato and ginger sauce with a hint of truffle.

Pappardelle Mezzaluna

Pappardelle Mezzaluna

Canarian cuisine is creative yet straight-forward enough to recreate at home. I always look forward to their papas arrugadas, the Canarian version of patatas bravas (and in my opinion the yummier version). It consists of salt covered baby potatoes, known as wrinkly potatoes, covered in the best sauce ever with the equally awesome name of MOJO. It’s hard to describe the delicious taste of mojo sauce so I’ll let the ingredients do the talking – oil, paprika, garlic, cumin and Spanish red peppers. Green mojo is also featured on menus but is usually associated with fish rather than potatoes.

While I usually get the same tapas every time I visit, I was a bit more adventurous this time and chose some new plates. And I’m happy I did because I found a new favourite- Salmon Carpaccio. This one was marinated in a mixture of finely chopped red and green peppers, onion and garlic and presented with slices of chunky fresh bread and a few basil leaves. It was so refreshing and light that I could have eaten platefuls more. Alas I had to share it con mi familia after ranting and raving about it.

Note to self: keep it secret next time…

Salmon Carpaccio and Papas Arrugadas

Salmon Carpaccio and Papas Arrugadas

Traditional Paella

Traditional Paella

Unsurprisingly, one of us always went for the seafood paella but this one was unusual because it was squid-ink dyed rice. While it isn’t the most attractive dish, it’s tastier than the traditional, so definitely give it a go. The pièce de resistance, though, was the Salt-baked Sea Bass, which after being taken out of the oven is prepared at your table while the rest of the restaurant watches in awe.

Salt-Baked Sea Bass

Salt-Baked Sea Bass

Spanish cuisine is easily one of my favourites and I always try and recreate the flavour by adding paprika to my dishes. You might have already guessed after looking at my recipes that I’m a bit obsessed with that spice.

If you fancy recreating your own paella, check out my Canarian-inspired recipe here.

Paella con bacalao y chorizo – The 6 step Cod and Chorizo Paella

IMG_2418Paella is one of those simple one-pan dishes that looks impressive but is actually pretty easy to make (shhh don’t tell anyone). While you’ll usually see prawns or chicken in a paella, I decided to try something new and added oven-cooked Cod. This would work well with any white fish though so don’t worry if you can’t get Cod at the supermarket.

This recipe is enough to serve 3-4 but it’s easily doubled so would be perfect for a dinner party, paired with a Spanish Cava if you want to splash out.


Ingredients

2 cod fillets

30g diced chorizo

1 finely chopped onion

2 garlic cloves

300g paella rice (allow about 75g dry rice per person)

2 tsp paprika

2 tsp oregano

800ml chicken stock

3 large roasted red peppers from a jar

Oil

Salt and pepper


  1. Fry the chorizo, onion and garlic in a deep oiled pan for 3-5 minutes until the onion has softened.IMG_2423
  2. Add the paella rice to the pan and mix together, adding the paprika and oregano as well.
  3. Make up 800 ml of chicken stock and add it to the pan, leaving the dish to simmer for 15 minutes.
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  4. Meanwhile, season the cod fillets and place them in a lightly oiled ovenproof dish in the oven for 15 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius (fan oven).IMG_2421
  5. After 15 minutes, take the cod out and cover with foil to keep it warm. Add the peppers to the paella and if it’s looking a bit dry, add t some boiled m water. Simmer for another 5 minutes.IMG_2420
  6. Flake pieces of the cod fillets into the paella dish and serve with some chunky white bread

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