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Archive for the ‘2000 Recettes de la Cuisine Française’ Category

My oven and I are becoming one. It is a beautiful experience. One soul. One mind. One stomach.

My oven and I did not get off to a great start. My cakes sank. Things were burnt. Things were still cooking at 11 o’clock at night. I hated that I had to let my jaw hang open like a drooling dog whenever I changed the position of the rack otherwise my teeth would grind horribly at the noise. I had to Google oven symbols because they are different in France, who knew?

But, now, Oven and I are firm friends. When everyone leaves Bonneville, when it’s cold and rainy outside and when I have already watched every episode of Glee I possibly can, I know Oven will always be there. Strong and dependable. Maybe ovens are a bit like maps, you just have to learn how to read them. (A vague idea of where you are headed helps too.)

Last night, Oven, you truly out did yourself.

Determined not to spend this week alone with only a kitchen appliance for conversation, I decided that every day I must venture out into Bonneville and partake in actual human interaction. So, yesterday I dusted off 2000 Recettes de la Cuisine Française and chose a simple recipe for a turkey fillet roasted with potatoes, onions and apples.

I think I may have found true balance in my life: shopping at the organic food store for tofu and almonds, swinging by the boulangerie for a pain aux céréales and then directly to the Maison de Fromage for a rather sizeable chunk of the best creamy goat’s cheese I have ever tasted and a turkey fillet. The one thing that will not be in balance soon will be my bank account…

With the simplest of seasonings, olive oil, salt and pepper, I roasted my turkey fillet in a bed of cubed potatoes and onions, later adding slices of apple. The turkey came out cooked to perfection: lightly crispy on top, tender and succulent inside.

escalope de dinde aux pommes

I had a minor faux pas with the bottle of Beaujolais I had bought… After a week or so where luxuries like wine and cheese were very much out of reach, I had forgotten that I was currently not in possession of a bottle opener. Reminiscing of picnics in the park and being 16 all over again, the only thing to do when faced with a challenge of this sort is to push the cork into bottle… Next thing I know my kitchen walls are dripping a delicate shade of red.

Don't worry, not this much wine was wasted!

And much later, after having thoroughly enjoyed my dinner, cleaned my kitchen walls and had a private wine tasting in front of a Glee re-run, I realised that I had spent all evening looking like this:

The joys of living alone, no-one to tell you have dried red wine on your forehead!

Thankfully, Oven doesn’t judge…

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Today was not a particularly good day. I was super exhausted after my weekend, I lost something precious, my wound was causing me a bit of grief and I experienced extreme frustration at a child.

I left my house in a hurry this morning, nearly running late for my morning briefing, due to a nasty run-in between the alcoholic sanitiser and open hand wound. I closed the door, flew down the first few steps and then heard a light ting ting as I realised a charm from my bracelet was hurtling down two flights of steps into the school corridors, i.e. the land of lost things. Never to be seen again. As I walked to work passing many of my students, each one cheerfully crying “Hello!”, I put on my “hospo” smile and tried to sound vaguely enthusiastic.

My next battle was unfortunately during one of my favourite classes, except for one especially revolting child. I’m no stranger to this particular child’s antics but today I reached my limit. I had found a colouring page of the map of New Zealand that included various symbols for regions in NZ. For Christchurch, the image was the Cathedral and no bigger than a 50c piece at that. This child took offence at the religious symbol and began to twink it out declaring “Ce n’est pas bon pour les Musulmans.” If this is his attitude at 8, I dread to think of him at 28. NZ, like France, is a secular country and I was by no means trying to push my own agenda; me of very little faith… It was a colouring activity to kill time and that is all!

I left the class angrier than I had been in a while. Not even my blissful Monday afternoon trip to the supermarket could lighten my mood. I knew that the only way to recover from such a day would be to bake something outrageously delicious, preferably complicated and time consuming and with warm, comforting flavours that would return me to my general calm positive nature. This was the perfect opportunity to create one of the riz au lait recipes from my 2000 Recettes Française book…

Alors, Gâteau de Riz d’Amélie was born into my life-and I am never looking back!

I started off by making a vanilla rice pudding. Off the element, I stirred in a beaten egg. I then filled my kitchen with the undeniably comforting, soul-warming scent of apples cooking in butter with a pinch of cinnamon. To my compote I added a handful of raisins and a sprinkle of sugar. I dissolved a few tablespoons of sugar in some water and vinegar for the bottom of my oven dish. (This is where my translation skills got a bit cloudy: I think I was meant to make a caramel toffee here but it was really more like sugar syrup…) I topped the rice pudding with the apple compote and baked until bubbling and golden. Hello, dinner.

Sometimes, in one’s life, it is necessary to eat rice pudding with delicious spicy apples for dinner on a Monday night. Maybe not start the week as you mean to go on, but rather ease yourself into it. It’s only reheated soup, porridge and rice crackers from here on in.

I won’t mention that my “entrée” tonight was a couple of spoonfuls of Nutella washed down with the last few slugs of milk straight from the bottle…

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I like to ease myself into my hectic 12 hour working week. After an exhausting 3 and a bit hours on Monday nothing says relaxation like a trip to the supermarket for my weekly shop. I’m sure one day the novelty of doing my own grocery shopping will wear off, but for now, I can cruise the aisles at leisure, enjoying feeling so domestic.

Monday lunchtime I make my shopping list but now that I have this wonderful new book, narrowing a list down to what one person can feasibly eat in one week is immensely more difficult. I flicked open the book and let my fingers do the walking… to le canard. I have never cooked with duck before and vary rarely eaten it in New Zealand-only when dinner is a choice of cold smoked duck slivers or soggy honey comb cones with whipped goats cheese and sprinkled with caramelised hazelnuts. (Sorry, inside joke.)

Le canard section of my 2000 Recettes de la Cuisine Française is very comprehensive but recipes where I didn’t need to buy a whole bottle of rum or armagnac or chanterelle mushrooms were few and far between. I settled on magrets de canard sauce orange with a very short ingredient list of duck breast, oranges, butter, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper. I went to the Maison de Fromage for my magret de canard, discovered it cost half my weekly grocery bill, bought it anyway and still managed to get distracted by the wine section. I met two teachers on the way back into my building who wanted to discuss timetable changes as I stood their clutching a duck breast wrapped in clear plastic and a bottle of wine. Hopefully, they thought I was having a Monday night soirée and not just rushing up to cook my duck and drink my Pinot toute seule…

drinking in moderation this time!

I started off by blanching orange peel, something I have never done before, and then cooked my duck in lots of butter! President Demi-Sel; life is better when this is in my fridge. It smelled strangely like a cake baking which threw me for a second until I saw this:

Once the duck was cooked I used the same pot with all the delicious duck butter juices to make an orange sauce-the mustard really is the clincher here. Otherwise it probably would have tasted like I’d just poured hot, pulpy orange juice on my beautiful duck! Served on a bed of Uncle Ben’s® “toujours parfait”, it was delicious. Though I think the ingredients in my sauce needed more time to become better acquainted.

I had to make my rather expensive piece of duck last for more than one meal so guess what I had for lunch today? It’s gotta beat a sandwich…

Another less positive and much less exciting consequence of my kitchen exploits is this…

It's character building stuff...

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