Le Gratin Dauphinois – Cooking Experiment #4

December 9, 2013 § 2 Comments

One of the common challenge that vegetarians face is eating out. You have to always make sure that there is a vegetarian dish on the menu (an overly priced salad for instance) if you want to spend some good time with your friends. When invited over a dinner you have to tell the hosts in advance that they will have to do some extra cooking for the herbivorous human being they invited to their house. I had a similar problem this weekend when I was invited for a late Thanksgiving Dinner.

The theme was Thanksgiving, definitely there was turkey sitting in the middle of table. But I couldn’t tell the hosts this time because this time the guests cooked some traditional Thanksgiving dishes and bought them to the venue. Now how am I supposed to let the twenty guests know that I don’t eat meat or fish ad they will have to cook something special, and I only know half of them. For sure not a good idea. But I wanted to go to this dinner and see my friends and discover the American tradition of Thanksgiving.

I came up with a slightly better idea. I cooked Gratin Dauphinois but a little more so that I can eat more of it with possibly some salad and sweet potato purée which I knew will be on the menu. And of course, there was no scarcity of desserts. Everything went according to the plan except that when I went to take a second helping of my gratin, it was all gone! I should have been happy as people really liked it and in a way I was. So I ate more desserts to fuel my stomach and thus fulfilled the Thanksgiving tradition of getting food coma the next morning.

Turning to the recipe now, which is quite simple. As for the photos, they are not at all good because I couldn’t serve the dish before taking it to the hosts’ house and there I was too busy catching up with friends to even consider photographing and showing off that I made a delicious gratin.

Cooking Le Gratin Dauphinois for Six Servings

What do we need?

  • 1.5 kgs Potatoes
  • 50 cl Full Cream
  • 5-6 tbsps Full Cream Milk
  • 100 gms grated Cheese (Emmental, Comte or Gruyère)
  • 1 clove Garlic
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Butter

Here’s how to cook the gratin

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into slices of 5 mm thickness(not too fine and not too thick).
  2. Take an oven dish and rub the garlic clove all over. (If you like garlic, you can also boil it with the cream).
  3. Butter up the base of the oven dish well.
  4. Pre-heat the oven at 200-220 degree Celsius.
  5. Start placing the potato slices until you get a layer. Pour the cream and add salt and pepper. Continuing layering and pouring cream until the potato slices finish.
  6. On the top most layer pour the milk. Cover well the dish with aluminium foil.
  7. Put the dish it the oven for at least one and a half hour.
  8. Remove the foil and check whether the potatoes are soft and the cream has cooked up well. If not, then cook for a few minutes more.
  9. Spread the cheese on top and put the uncovered dish again in the oven until the top layer becomes golden brown and crispy.

And voilà, the gratin is ready for serving as a side dish or a main, as you wish to gorge on this yummy dish.

It was hard to not eat it right at that moment.

It was hard to not eat it right at that moment.

Without the cheese layer on top, this is the traditional way of making le gratin dauphinois. A healthier version would be with other vegetables like carrots, courgettes, bell-peppers or whatever your imagination lets you think of.

Bon appétit!

Almost Christmas

December 7, 2013 § 1 Comment

By each year Christmas decorations are put up earlier than ever. And as Missoco said next year they might as well start in summers. So, by those standards my Christmas post is late but for me it is rightly timed. It is always the month of December that ushers in fun-filled Christmas days with Christmas Markets, decorations all over the city and pretty much everything red, green and white.

It seems that everyone is waiting for Christmas to come fast and open gifts with family and friends. Paris during Christmas is a dream come true. It is wonderful because of the happiness daze caused by chocolates and everything which has a bit of sugar. To officially kick off my Christmas month I spent almost ten hours today and the cherry of the cake is not anywhere near the finish.

Having an extra early dance class helped with the waking up part. And next, joined by Missoco, I went to La Cartonnerie (12 rue Degeurry Paris 11) for a Christmas Market where twenty-eight French artists/designers put up lots of creative things on the display. My best picks are the vintage lace jewellery from KDYAK, masculine scented candles from Maison Moustache inspired by different districts of Paris, London and New York and a new way to discover books by Exploratology. And if you want to catch up with your friends around cute cupcakes and tea, there is Marine Is Cooking. But of course I didn’t spend ten hours just  talking with Missoco (well yeah most of it, which also made us miss our metro stop by a few stations). We girls meant business today.

A bit of sugar!

A bit of sugar!

Missoco took me to discover Christmas decoration and gifts shops near Place de la Madeleine. At Sia, I couldn’t stop taking photos of the beautiful and different decorations. Then we went to La Chaise Longue which is a famous French gift-shop chain. I liked all the stuff in the Parisiennes range and I am sure of buying the dinner set.

Cute Figurines At Sia

Cute Figurines At Sia

Parisiennes Dinner Set at La Chaise Longue

Parisiennes Dinner Set at La Chaise Longue

On our way around the Madeleine Square we quickly managed to peak at the irresistible chocolate Christmas tree in Patrick Roger‘s Chocolate shop display.

Chocolate Eclair is always a good idea.

Chocolate Eclair is always a good idea.

To finish of our day in Christmas style, Missoco treated me with the éclairs at Fauchon. It was delicious and perfect way to relish the end of a wonderful day. Now I am ready to sip on some hot chocolate and go to bed to prepare for my very first Thanksgiving (it is never late to say thanks) Dinner tomorrow for which I am going to cook a French dish. The next post will be a cooking experiment.

Before I make any 2014 resolutions, I have made things to do before Christmas list which includes ice-skating at Hotel de Ville, visit Louvre (yes I haven’t done that until now) and start running. Long shot but worth every try.

“How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flown. How did it get so late so soon?”Dr. Seuss

(I am so glad not to have missed my deadline of writing a weekly post just by forty-five minutes.)

Rice Cutlets with Mint Sauce and Chickpeas Curry – Cooking Experiment #3

November 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

When stressed, I start organizing stuff ranging from my files on the computer, to closet, kitchen cabinet, etc. Organization is great to calm down but it takes a lot of time and is never finished for a person like me. What’s the next best stress buster? Cooking, and cooking along with some music. I take a lot of time and pleasure even with simple recipes. The result is that I eat good food and I relax enough to get back to work.

This weekend I decided not to go out except for my dance class. I invited a few friends to share their November travel stories over dinner. On the menu we had Rice Cutlets, Mint Sauce and Chickpeas Curry.

Rice Cutlets and Chickpeas Curry

Rice Cutlets and Chickpeas Curry

Cooking Rice Cutlets with Mint Sauce and Chickpeas Curry for Four People

For Rice Cutlets we need

  • 250 gms boiled Rice
  • 100 gms diced Vegetables (Bell-Peppers, Onions, Green Beans,…)
  • 100 gms Tofu Cubes
  • 2 tbsps Corn flour
  • Oil to shallow fry
  • Salt
  • Pepper

For Mint Sauce we need

  • 100 gms Mint leaves
  • 100 gms Coriander leaves
  • 1 – 2 Onions
  • 3-4 cloves Garlic
  • 1/2 inch Ginger
  • 1 Lemon
  • Green Chilli
  • Salt
  • Water

For Chickpeas Curry we need

  • 300 gms boiled Chickpeas
  • 250 gms fresh Tomato Purée
  • 3-4 Onions
  • 1 Green Chilli
  • 1/2 inch Ginger
  • 2 tbsps Cumin seeds
  • ½ tbsp Turmeric Powder
  • 2 tbsps Coriander Powder
  • Red Chilli Powder
  • Salt
  • 2-3 tbsps Oil

The long list of ingredients is over. Here’s how we cook the meal.

We start with Mint Sauce to warm up

  1. Chop onions, garlic cloves, ginger and green chilly into small chunks. To these add mint and coriander leaves. Use a mixer to make a paste of the above ingredients, be careful with water such that the consistency of paste is not lost.
  2. Add salt and lemon juice.

This sauce can be stored in refrigerator for a week. Mint gives a bitter taste and to counter it we need some sour flavours. Instead of lemon we can use sour tomatoes or yoghurt (for non vegan version) to add the sour taste.

Let’s start some real cooking with Rice Cutlets

  1. Take boiled rice, finely chopped vegetables, salt and pepper and mix them well in a large bowl. Once mixed add corn flour and put the bowl in refrigerator for 15 minutes. This will simplify the process of shaping cutlets.
  2. Meanwhile heat some oil for shallow frying in a pan.
  3. Take out the bowl with rice. Make a patty with handful of rice and put a cube of tofu in the centre. Shape the cutlet as you wish.
  4. Fry the cutlets (2-4 at a time) at medium heat until both sides turn golden brown.

Tofu can be replaced with Mozzarella or Ricotta cheese. This has been easy until now and I haven’t forgotten any ingredients.

How to cook the Chickpeas Curry? It’s easy!

  1. Heat oil in a pan and add cumin seeds when hot. Put it to medium flame.
  2. Cut onions and green chilli into thin rings. Cut ginger into small pieces. Add all these to the pan and fry them until onions turn golden.
  3. Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder and salt. Let the spices cook for 2-3 minutes and do not let them burn.
  4. Add tomato purée and chickpeas. Mix well and cover the pan with a lid. Let it cook for 10-15 minutes or until you can’t resist the delicious odour.
My happy meal!

My happy meal!

Cooking on medium heat, as my mother says, is very important. High heat often burns the food and always breaks down the food nutrients. Cooking must always be done with patience (except when you are a student and pasta with tomato sauce is your meal at least two times a day).

The background music for this cooking experiment was OneRepublic Spotify Playlist and I loved their Good Life song.

Have a great weekend!

Music and Birthday Cake

November 5, 2013 § 3 Comments

Paris and extended weekends are not the best mix for an unemployed person who can not afford to travel. With most of my friends travelling or visiting their families I didn’t have a lot of things to do. I decided to stay inside my cosy blanket and stay warm. But Paris never lets you do that!

While reading online about Paris I found an interesting acoustic music festival happening on Saturday and Sunday evenings. Without wasting a minute I messaged a friend who agreed to go with me. This festival called Melodica was born in Australia in 2007 with the idea to promote and foster a community of local musicians. Since then it has been to various cities worldwide like Melbourne, Hamburg, Reykjavík, Berlin, New York and more.

This year they came for the first time to Paris and I was there. The venue was La Bellevilloise, a hundred and thirty-six year old factory turned into a café and concert place in 2005. Located in the twentieth district, it’s a big hall with a decor fit for concerts, tables and chairs spread in front of the stage and different dining areas.

La Bellevilloise

La Bellevilloise, 19-21 rue Boyer

The musicians who played were amazing; I heard a lot of interesting songs with equally interesting stories behind them.

Owls of the Swamp

Owls of the Swamp

My favourite song of the evening was While the World Burns by Svavar Knutur.

It was a friend’s birthday on Sunday and there was a surprise planned for the evening. Among my friends I am lucky to have an amateur chef who makes delicious French desserts and keeps treating his friends with sumptuous meals from time to time. This friend made not one but two cakes called Baba au Rhum and this time I took a photo before attacking the cake.

Baba au Rhum

Baba au Rhum

No my friend is not 16, the local supermarket did not have the number two as candle. But 16 in hexadecimal is equal to 22. Of course it was an engineer’s birthday and he could do a little maths before blowing off the candles and savouring his cake.

Since my employment search began I have gone through a life I never could have imagined. But these things are happening to make me strong and teach me important valuable lessons. I can’t stay content with Paris for long without working for what I have worked very hard as a student. Each night I sleep thinking that tomorrow will be a better day, that day hasn’t come yet but I hope it does soon.

“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Goodbye Autumn!

October 30, 2013 § 1 Comment

As Parisians get ready to say goodbye to good weather last week, I tried to take in all the things good weather can offer. The result has been that I haven’t been able to go out and brave the cold wave.

Missoco and I started the weekend early on Thursday evening with some yoghurt cocktails at Le Paradis du fruit(The Paradise of Fruit) at Boulevard des Italiens. My YoYo fruit with Mango was as good as the great fruit of Mango (oh my Mango love! I even made a mango grape jam, recipe soon). The restaurant had contemporary design with a lot of pink to give the paradise feel. I had made up my mind to revisit but one waiter’s rude behaviour put me off. He didn’t like that we stayed for over an hour only for drinks, and gave us change in form of five cent coins. Of course he lost his tip and a future client. Too bad for the restaurant!

The original plan was to dine at my favourite Indian restaurant in Paris, Saravanaa Bhavan. This restaurant is the most authentic when it comes to Indian food. They have a simple service and I don’t mind that fact because I go there to eat delicious food which is spicy and not loaded with cheese unlike so many other places in Paris. Missoco and I ate well and then walked a good thirty minutes to find Gare de l’Est, which happens a lot because I tend to get lost around this station. No one complained as the weather was good to walk around.

It started raining on Friday, so I stay put at home to cook some Risotto with Red Wine. I was preparing myself for the weekend I had planned two weeks in advance. Saturday evening I went to free yoga class at Wanderlust Club. The class had an advanced level for lazy me who hasn’t been exercising enough . There is one more free class this Saturday, 2nd November for those who aren’t travelling during the extended weekend.

Before I could recover from all the stretching I did during yoga, I had trial dance classes for Barre au Sol and Body Ballet at a chic dance studio called Elephante Paname. I extended every possible muscle during the two hours and as a result I have been sore since then. After the two intense days of workout I felt very peaceful. Therefore, there will be more dancing and yoga.

If you haven’t realized until yet that there are no photos on this post, I will mark it out for you. I didn’t take a single photo this time; I just wasn’t in a mood. Sometimes it’s best to keep good memories alive in brain than storing them on disk (fine enough reason for my laziness).

That was all, my pretty and last autumn weekend.

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