Category Archives: Culture

All things French

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France, France, France. It seems to have slipped into my subconscious, inception style. French food, French movies, French brands, French blogs. It may have started with Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. It’s just one of those movies…I love it so much, I had to watch it again recently. Perhaps it started when I read about a Mother and daughter’s six week trip to explore Paris in Lucy Knisley’s book, French Milk. Or it could simply be the case that while I have been fortunate to find myself in France recently enough, I didn’t really spend much time there. Driving from Cherbourg to Northwestern Spain meant two days of driving, with an overnight in Saintes as a recharging pitstop. Maybe I feel deprived!

I’ve certainly made up for it though, in the form of baked camembert (Président, of course), flakey croissants and a trip to Ladurée in Dublin’s Brown Thomas over Christmas for a rainbow of macaroons. Ladurée, oddly enough don’t have any stores in Madrid or Barcelona, so I bought a pastry bag and nozzle to attempt to make these salted caramel macaroons. I am that dedicated.

I think I need more than what’s here to satiate my appetite. A little off route Paris visit should sort me out. A l’étroit mais entre amis! (The more, the merrier)

20130305_221713Tuesday’s French skincare purchases

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Warehouse striped dress

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YSL

celineCéline

moet

Moët

etdEiffel Tower Print Dress

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Chloé

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I love everything about Garance, the way she describes French and New York life. I also adore her art prints, they are so beautiful. I will own one, one day!

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French Milk

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This little book, ‘French Milk’ by Lucy Knisley popped up in my featured recommendations on Amazon just before Christmas. After an hour or so of tossing random gifts for family and friends into the little shopping cart, I decided my good work shouldn’t go unnoticed – I wanted a reward! It being Christmas time and all, cash was of the essence. So I allowed myself pick one thing to the value of about €10 and so, I ended up with this very sweet little book. Even though the old adage says, “You shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover”, that’s exactly what I did. How could I not? The text and illustration on the cover would hold anyone’s attention.
I also read a brief summary that describes French Milk as a travel diary on the city of Paris, where Lucy and her Mother decide to live for six weeks, each facing a milestone birthday. I was sold at ‘Paris’, since I have been quite interested in all things Parisian lately – the city, the eiffel tower on anything, macaroons and expensive French skincare products. In many respects I like how Parisian women function.

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Since I purchased it on a whim, I didn’t read enough to know that French Milk is a graphic novel. Whoops. No harm done though, as Lucy is an illustrator and she documents her days in Paris with her amusing drawings and some photography of food, sights, stores and the people she encountered along the way. I finished the book in one afternoon and really enjoyed reading about Lucy and her Mother’s quirky apartment, their impressions of Paris, the abundance of museum, café and flea market trips…as well as Lucy’s penchant for pastries and her love affair with the creamy richness of French Milk (hence the title.)

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Although I was done and dusted with this book weeks before my return to Salamanca, I packed it in my suitcase for it’s value. Lucy’s personal experiences and views on many different cultural landmarks, restaurants, markets and cafés dotted around Paris make French Milk an excellent and alternative guidebook.
The only issue I had with the book was that Lucy can be a little whiny. Although I enjoy her honesty throughout the book, so it’s probably why she has mentioned both the trips ups and downs, she can come off as a little ungrateful, considering her circumstances. She mentions missing her boyfriend a lot and gets a bit moody for no reason, which proved a little irritating at times. I did enjoy her dramatic descriptions for things however, and her appetite (she figures she ate around 60 croissants during her trip.) The book also touches on Lucy’s relationship with her Mother and how it has ‘shifted’ since living together in Paris. I can only assume this shift was a positive one. Their relationship is never really mentioned, not that it was a burning-dying-to-know-tell-me-please question as to what their differences were, but the subject quite vague and what I thought to be an unnecessary inclusion in French Milk.

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A is for American…Pancakes.

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Pancakes are the ultimate breakfast food. Soft, fluffy, filling, versatile. I’ve been known to judge hotel buffets and diners based on their supply (or lack thereof) of the little cakes from a pan.

The most common recipes used throughout Ireland are reserved for Pancake Tuesday. We don’t tend to associate this recipe with breakfast time either, sadly. This aforementioned recipe commonly result in big, thick and soggy crêpes, which was something I could never get accustomed to, so for me, American pancakes win every time.

I blame Colorado for this doting affair. Living in Denver as a child, I remember long leisurely drives up the winding roads of the Rocky Mountains, stopping at a diner in the very quaint town of Silver Plume, a former mining camp. I would order pancakes with maple syrup every single time we stopped by, to the point where the guy at the diner didn’t need to ask anymore. That was dedication.

In order to chase those mountain memories, I tried a few recipes over the years. To my despair, they either flopped or they just plain didn’t taste right. Where’s the need for baking powder? Is buttermilk really a necessity? I longed for the holy grail of pancake recipes. One that I could memorise and feel smug about, one I could whisper into someones ear on my deathbed, as if it was the only pancake recipe worth making.
It wasn’t as easy as it seemed. Those Americans don’t realise how good they have it, I thought.

Sad times they were indeed.

Until last Tuesday!

I tried out the BBC’s take on an American Pancake Recipe, for Pancake Tuesday, naturally.  And it does not disappoint. It’s not just a winner in taste and simplicity, but it takes me right back to all my memories of Denver, sixteen years on.


I’m sure many of you have a great pancake recipe under your belt but if you want to try this easy recipe below, the pancakes will turn out perfectly in terms of texture, size and taste. Perfect for the weekend.

Your regular go-to pancake recipe won’t mind the affair….they’ll understand.

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Makes 6 pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 135g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar (Please ignore my stolen sugar sachets. I knew they’d come in handy one of these days!)
  • 130ml milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp melted butter (cooled slightly) or olive oil, plus extra for cooking

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Sieve flour, baking powder and sugar into a large bowl

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Whisk the milk and egg  together until smooth (or there’s no yolk floating on the top!) Melt the tablespoons of butter for  about 30 seconds in the microwave, allow to cool slightly and whisk it in with the egg and milk mixture.

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Dump the whisked mixture right on top of your dry ingredients and whisk with a fork for about 60-90 seconds until the batter is smooth with no lumps.

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Put a pan on medium heat and use butter/oil. If you use butter, it will stay in the middle but smokes and you’ll have to wash the pan between pancakes. If you use oil, although it has a tendency to swim around the pan, it’s easier to work with. Use half a ladle of mixture each time. It won’t seem like much, but once you blob it on the pan (which can be tricky enough as it’s such a thick, sticky mixture) it’s easy to spread out with a spatula to the desired size and shape.

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When the pancake starts to bubble, flip it over and cook the other side. They take no time at all, so keep watch, or they’ll end up a little too brown. Serve with bacon, maple syrup, honey, yoghurt, fruit, Nutella, peanut butter..whatever you feel like! Don’t forget the coffee. Or mimosas.

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