French Flavours

I’ve been in France for just over a month now and there are two words which fairly much sum up my time here: crepes and waffles. I haven’t even been near a croissant or baguette but that’s probably because I was too busy smothering the first two things I mentioned in Nutella to think about anything else.

It’s not like I live off sugar and pastries all the time – I wish I could – but it just so happened that February was my birthday month as well as V-day so it would be rude not to celebrate with chocolate! France is a country with super wonderful food and the photos below show a wee snapshot into my first month here!

Two days in the Alliance Française Academy and there was a ‘goûter de crêpes’ (crepe tasting). I easily found room in my stomach for about 6 or 7 crepes and as it was my birthday that day, I was also treated to an embarrassingly loud chorus of Happy Birthday in the school’s dining room. Worth it!

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I spent one weekend in a nearby town famous for its castles, Carcassonne, and even though it was small it was beautiful. It’s also a great destination for the Zombie Apocolypse FYI!

From our hotel window, you looked right onto the largest castle in the centre of the town. We were also just a short 10 minute walk from all the bars, restaurants and cafes the town had to offer.

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Here’s a peek into what we ate over the weekend. I would go back in the morning to eat it all over again – SO good!

STARTERS

Charcuterie – French style

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Salmon Salad with Avocado

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Pate with Salsa and Toasted Bread

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MAINS

The famous ‘Cassoulet’ – sausages, duck and butter beans, a must-try!

We ate two of these each – it was yum!!

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Chicken Stuffed with Foie Gras – courtesy of ‘Le 37’ in Carcassonne –

FABULOUS!

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Steak with a Potato and Herb Mix

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DESSERTS

Chocolate Fondant

To die for!

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Chocolate Pudding with Whipped Cream

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You can have as many delicious restaurant desserts as you like but nothing will ever beat the taste of banana and Nutella crepes and waffles. Luckily, France has an abundance of the latter! 😀

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To sum up, if you don’t like foie gras, your food options are cut short in most places but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider a gym membership to do some damage control with the sheer quantity of bakeries and pastries here!

Salmon Cakes with Chickpeas and Lentils

Things have been a bit hectic around the place this week hence the delay in this post but it was for a good reason as I was flat out studying, working AND training for the Spartan Race which we did in Barcelona at the weekend. If you have never done one, you have to try it – to sum up, it was AWESOME!!

Moving on to a meal I made a couple of weeks ago and which I loved so much I ate for dinner and lunch for at least two days straight. Salmon cakes.

Fishcakes are typically made with potatoes or so I hear. I have never made them with potatoes and this time was no different. I don’t use them, mainly because the thought of washing, peeling, cooking and mashing them sounds like more work than I am willing to put into a dinner for one. So, I came up with this recipe which is quite quick to make and turns out really delicious if you are willing to get your hands a little messy!

Ingredients

2 salmon fillets (boneless)

250g chickpeas

250g lentils

Handful of spinach leaves

1 clove of garlic

Parsley

1 egg

1 tblsp greek yoghurt (optional)

Handful of grapes (optional)

***

Method

 The first thing I did was cut the skin off of the salmon fillets. I made sure to buy salmon without any bones because it’s safer and much less hassle when it comes to preparation time. If you just have normal salmon, make sure to get all the bones out before you start, or even better, use cold smoked salmon!

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Cut the salmon into small chunks and then season with any herbs or spices you like really. I love the parsley and garlic herb mix I buy here, it gets sprinkled over almost all of my meals. I then put in a couple more garlic cloves becauseI love it too much. Between putting garlic and vinegar on all my food, sometimes I feel bad for the people who have to eat with (or near) me.

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In a separate bowl, pour about 250g of chickpeas and 250g of lentils (about half a jar each) and mush them up with a fork or potato masher. It is easier to do this if you put them in the microwave for a minute or two so they are slightly warm first.

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Roughly chop up some fresh spinach leaves and mix them with the salmon chunks.  I think for the next time I would leave the spinach out of the mixture and instead when serving, place the fishcakes on a bed of spinach. Mostly because it would be easier to handle and I think would look much better in the end.

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Into the salmon and spinach, break an egg…

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…and then incorporate the mixture of chickpeas and lentils and mix together really well with your hands.

Heat up a large frying pan with a little bit of olive oil or butter and leave on a medium-high heat.

Sprinkle a good dusting of flour onto a plate and after forming small patties with your hands from the mixture, dip both sides into the flour and shake off any excess flour before placing them in the frying pan.

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This mixture should make between 6 and 8 cakes depending on how large you make them. I found that they are most delicious with a good helping of Greek yoghurt on the side and some grapes (seedless red grapes in my case).

Let me know in the comments what you usually serve with your fish dishes – I’m always looking for new toppings and sides to go with! 😀

A Foreigners Food Guide to Madrid (Part 1)

Madrid is unlike any other Spanish city, especially when it comes to eating out. There is an abundance of restaurants, cafes and bars on every street meaning you are never stuck for choice, which is also a great way to entertain visitors to the city. The sheer quantity of places to dine means you never have to eat in the same place twice, although having lived here for over a year now, there are of course a few places I have fallen slightly in love with. As my mum and brother have been over visiting me this week, we made the most of the food culture and checked out a few different eateries around the city.

These were some of my favs (and the fanciest!):

La Mucca (de Pez)

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Photo Credit: La Mucca

La Mucca is probably one of the busiest restaurants in Madrid. I have wanted to go for a long time but getting a reservation is difficult unless you plan in advance. Thankfully however, August in Madrid is much quieter as most of the Spanish use that month to go on holiday. The restaurant (cleverly) also offers you the option to book online, which is how I snapped up a table this time.

If you are looking for incredible tasting food, this is the place. You have the option of dining inside or out on the ground terrace but regardless of where you choose, the atmosphere is fantastic and the décor is quite elegant yet somehow cosy. The menu has plenty of choices to suit both tourists and natives and is not too expensive. We shared four plates between us, two starters and two mains (we were four people). It was the perfect amount of food but of course my brother and I still managed to find room for dessert! Here’s what we ate:

For Starters

Mezze (Taboule, Babaganoush and Hummus)

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Quesadillas with guacamole

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For Main Course

Hawaiian Pizza (with added bacon – always add bacon!!)

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Thai Chicken Curry

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…and to save the best for last, Dessert

Apple Pie (La Mucca style)

(I didn’t really share too much of this!)

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(My brother also had the chocolate brownie which was to die for, but he ate it so fast I didn’t get time to get a snap of it!)

How to find La Mucca

Plaza de Carlos Cambronero 4,

28004 Madrid

Telf: +34 91 521 00 00

***

Malaspina

There is, quite naturally, an immense amount of delicious tapas places around Madrid but for me this is the one that stands out and I would eat here every night if I could. Malaspina restaurant is right in the heart of the city which means the atmosphere surrounding it is fantastic regardless of what night you go. The first time I went with friends was during the world cup and we chose this place because there was NO screen. Sorry to disappoint but I am not a football fan…at all. Therefore having no screen was a huge selling point for me. Any football fans out there however might want to go here on a non-match night just in case!

Entrance

Photo Credit: Taberna Malaspina

The tapas menu is undeniably delicious. If you like Spanish food, you will want everything on the menu. That is where the waiters really excel – they are extremely helpful in advising you on how much food is enough for your group and gladly offer up their suggestions and recommendations. That kind of customer service can often be hard to find in Spain but in Malaspina, it’s definitely not lacking.

After a lot of deliberation these are the tapas we chose:

Tapas

‘Pisto’ Manchego with a fried egg on top (very typically Spanish)

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Smoked Salmon on toasted bread with cream cheese and a lemon wedge

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Calamares with lemon wedges (my favourite!!)

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After ordering these plates first, our waiter advised us to eat what we had and then to order more after if we were still hungry. Needless to say, with a sangria in my hand and the two baskets of bread on the table, between the three of us we couldn’t have managed any more, but I wouldn’t complain about going back another night to try a different selection!

How to find Malaspina

Calle Cadiz, 9

28012, Madrid

Telf: +34 915 23 40 24

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Harvest

If you happen to find yourself wandering the Paseo de la Castellana (the main avenue in Madrid) and you get a bit peckish, Harvest is the place you want to go. You can find it at number 40, right in the middle of the avenue (and coincidentally/luckily) right near my work! I have had quite a few lunches in Harvest since working here, during 99% of which, I have ordered the same dish – a Thai chicken salad –  because I just cannot get enough of it. I don’t even like spicy foods but the mixture of flavours and textures in the salad all topped with a beautiful, not-overly spicy, sweet chili sauce gets me every. single. time. When I brought my mum and brother here, they had the brilliant idea of ordering something different and as it turns out, all their plates are just as delicious.

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Photo Credit: Harvest

Due to the location, ordering from the regular menu can be a little pricey but the great thing about this place is that they have a huge variety of other less costly options such as sandwiches, bocadillos (baguettes) and salads for lunch. With a take out menu and a ‘menu del día’ (menu of the day) on offer as well, you will definitely be able to find something delicious to keep you going until you get home!

Here’s what we had:

My mum isn’t a big eater so she chose this option. It was the perfect amount for her!

Toasted bread with cheese and bacon.

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My brother and I on the other hand have hollow legs so he had one of the burger options.

The Harvest burger (with spiced pork, lettuce, tomato, bacon, Gorgonzola cheese and again, in typical Spanish style, a fried egg on top).

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This is the Thai chicken salad I had which tasted every bit as good as it looks.

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How to find Harvest

Paseo de la Castellana, 40

28046, Madrid

Telf: +34 91 576 57 04

If you have already been or get the chance to eat out in any of the places I wrote about, it would be great to know what you think of them too! Or if you have any recommendations of other cool places to eat out in Madrid, I would love to hear about them!

Happy eating!!

No-Bake Peanut Butter Cheesecake

When I was younger I used to think that cheesecake was the worst thing ever to be served on a plate. This probably came from the fact that I had only ever tried the mousse-type cheesecakes sold in the supermarkets which had a questionable version of “jam” on the bottom. That was however, until I tried New York cheesecake on holiday a few years ago. The cheesecake I tasted had the most perfect crumbly base and an incredibly smooth yet rich, melt-in-your-mouth filling on top. Since then, cheesecake (a close third to red velvet and apple pie) has been on my must-have desserts list. Inspired by my mum’s famous (in our family) no-bake mint Aero cheesecake, I wanted to re-create the textures and flavours of both cheesecakes without all the hassle of oven cooking but also with a slight twist.

I added peanut butter.

This no-bake peanut butter cheesecake requires no time in the oven; you only need a big enough space in your fridge to keep it for a few hours. I love it because it is super easy to put together if you are a first-time cheesecake maker. I also happen to think it is the perfect dessert to bring to a party or dinner with friends. The Greek yoghurt and the icing sugar give it a deliciously smooth texture; the peanut butter supplies the richness; and finally the low fat cream cheese is my way of reasoning with myself that it is okay to eat half of it for breakfast!

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Ingredients:

Base

15 digestive biscuits (use 20 if you want a slightly thicker base)

2 tblsp unsalted butter

Filling

1 ½ tubs (375g) low fat/light cream cheese

1 tub (125g) natural Greek yoghurt

¼ cup (30g) icing sugar

2 heaped tblsp peanut butter

Topping

½ bar (aprox. 14 squares) of dark chocolate

Handful of Peanuts

***

Method:

The first thing you should do is make the base. To do this, you will need 15 digestive biscuits and about 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Crush the biscuits up into fine crumbs. I find the fastest (and most fun) way to do this is by placing them in a plastic bag and hitting them with a rolling pin.

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Melt the butter in the microwave for a couple of seconds and then pour it onto the biscuits and mix with a wooden spoon until the crumbs become wet enough so they stick together when pressed. If you think they are not sticking well enough, add another tablespoon of melted butter and mix again.

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When you are happy with the mixture, pour it into a 9inch round baking tin and press down with a tablespoon until the mixture is flat, evenly spread out and well pressed together. Place it in the fridge and leave to set for 1-2 hours.

Note: Allowing the cheesecake to set as long as possible is essential because if you don’t it will crumble and fall apart when you cut it (like the first time I made it).

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About 10 minutes before you want to take the biscuit base out of the fridge, you can start to make the filling. The first step is to put the 1 ½ tubs of cream cheese in a large mixing bowl. Along with the cheese, scoop in 125 g of natural Greek yoghurt and finally, using a sieve to make sure there are no lumps, sprinkle in 30 g of icing sugar.

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Beat with an electric mixer until everything has been combined well. Add in two heaped tablespoons of peanut butter and beat with the mixer one final time. Taste with a teaspoon and add in more peanut butter or icing sugar as per your taste.

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Take the biscuit base out of the fridge and pour the cream filling on top. Smooth with a spatula and return to the fridge. Leave to set for about 2 hours or until the filling has set enough for you to be able to pour and smooth out the chocolate on top.

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Melt the chocolate squares in the microwave and pour over the top of the set cheesecake filling. Roughly chop up a handful of peanuts and sprinkle them on top. Finally, place the cheesecake back in the fridge and leave to set overnight (if you are making it the same day you plan to eat it, just leave it in the fridge for as long as you have time for – the longer the better).

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This was the final result!

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 Note:

– If dark chocolate doesn’t tickle your fancy, milk chocolate would work perfectly as well. Also, if you wanted to leave the chocolate topping out all together, you could just chop up the peanuts and mix them in with the filling (best to do this part with a spatula by hand).

– Feel free to experiment with the base as well by mixing crushed up Oreo cookies with the digestive biscuits for an extra chocolatey taste.

Food makes me happy

They say that if you are going to write, you should write about what you love. I happen to love food. Especially the chocolate kind. And the bacon kind. And come to think of it, the cake and pizza kind as well. That being said, I am a very firm believer in surrounding yourself with what you love and what makes you happy so that’s why I wanted to start this blog.

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To be perfectly honest, I am most definitely not a domestic goddess (hence the title) and my presentation skills on a plate are indeed sometimes problematic. As are my photography skills actually. Both of which have been pointed out to me on numerous occasions. This doesn’t particularly bother me though because eating is what I actually love the most. I hope however that by creating this blog, it will help me to become more motivated to improve in the kitchen and experiment more with food!

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As a very amateur cook, most of what you’ll find here, as well as some mentions of my favourite places to grab a bite, are simple, minimum-effort recipes. Most will be clean-eating inspired, but some will be as far from that as possible. I may have a few obscure and questionable recipe ideas and combinations, but hopefully you will come across some new things to try out!

More posts and recipes on the way!