Today, I tied my hair into a ponytail. And slipped my bare feet into furry boots.
Up there I could barely see. I guess London has been called the smoke for a reason.
But down here – yes – down here it was windy, you know that kind of wind that turn your cheeks into cherry lollipops and make the glorious autumn trees sound like summer waves breaking onto pebble beaches.
I sat on my favourite bench, the one under the smallest platane.
Tonight, I turned on the heater. Just for ten minutes; just enough for the smell of an old garage to blend with that burning mulled wine candle in the most perfect way.
I’d like to say I had a chimerical dinner, one made of butternut squash, brown butter and sage. But nope. Two slices of pizza, a little salad, a lot of cider vinegar. Oh and a persimmon!
Tonight, but later – at dawn, perhaps – when fog will be everything we see, I’ll write.
About peaches baked in mead. About iced yoghurts pretending to be nougats glacés. About kisses and how they felt. About vanilla sponges with goat cheese curd. The working title goes along the lines of bonfire stories. And really, it could not be more right.
Some may wonder what the point is really, to say hello when it’s almost time for goodbyes.
Well, let me tell you a story. Or more accurately the end of it. At times, beginnings don’t matter.
We’ll start with the very last kiss that made our lips burn and the cab-meter go well past a fiver. It was cold and well into the morning, but for us, it was still the day before. Somehow, in between the glitters that once were on my eyes and the Hendricks gin we called supper, we got stuck sometime between two and three am. For hours.
The cab door opened. We kissed. I saw things spin around us, it was not the booze and certainly not a merry-go-round either. And I rushed in, hoping to find comfort in the shape of a cheap electric heater, when I’d have rather been frozen to the bone with his lips on mine.
His flight was a few hours away, mine would never come. The dreams we had would stay as such, dreams. And just like this, I very well knew I’d never see him again.
One kiss, hello and goodbye.
I cried. But one thing that kiss didn’t allow was what-ifs and their flock of hazy feelings that things could have been different.
It was what it was. Wonderful, not unlike magic in many ways. Only I could have told him I liked him when we still had time. But these are things we learn with time.
And this is why no matter how close the farewell is, you should always say hello. Even if you think it’s too late, even when you know it’s too late.
I might be eighteen days behind, but BONJOUR OCTOBRE.
The not-so official October happy-list.
1. And for it I must warn you: broken-record alert! I’m only one chapter away to finishing my dream-book. So looking forward to the photoshoot and design now. 2. Plating beautiful desserts at John Salt, one week to go. I just can’t wait. 3. Walks by the Thames. Misty and all. 4. Two birthdays that make me wish I was in France this week: Bon anniversaire Aïda et maman! Je vous aime fort fort. 5. I fell in love witha tale of two. And this is coming in my kitchen very very soon. 6. Baking at home soon. One day! It’s just that doing not one – but two – restaurant openings is fairly time consuming. Of the 7am-till-1am time consuming. 7. But bubble teas make it all ok. 8. Coming up with a ribambelle of petits fours for John Salt. Brace yourself! 9.Blue-sky days with icy winds. 10.Pumpkin lattes – not of the Starbucks kind (I ordered one, had one sip, turned my back on it; fact). That’s it.
PS. No iPhone pictures this month, because I sort of broke the camera on my phone. Well it broke itself in my bag. I guess I have to thank its Mary Poppins factor. Yeah, right.
It’s the light, a cold blue grey. It’s the window, adorned with pearls. It’s the wind, carrying the scent of moss and ocean.
And just like you don’t even have to think to know you’ve fallen deep-hard in love, I didn’t have to look through the open window to know we’d been surrounded by cotton overnight.
Yes, that morning – or perhaps more accurately, early afternoon – I could feel autumn. And tea was brewed. And porridge got made, with freshly cracked black pepper and a pinch of fleur de sel. Don’t ask, it’s a favourite.
I got the ice-cream machine started too.
You see, the night before, I had chopped parsnips and cooked them in burnt honey and loads of vanilla, until shiny. I had then added milk and blitzed the whole thing.
Because that’s what we do. We chop and cook and bake and blitz and pass and chill and whisk and scrape and fold.
That morning, I also got some really exciting news. Yes, the ones I told you about. And rather literally, it’s gonna be one hell of a rainbow.
Not unlike porn for pastry chefs. Not unlike closing your eyes / making a wish / opening your eyes / making it happen.
I can’t wait to tell you more about it.
Burnt honey, vanilla, and parsnip ice-cream
This ice-cream is inspired by a Christmas lunch I had years ago, where parsnips got roasted with honey and vanilla until the edges were crunchy, and the flesh sweet and fluffy.
That day, we ate them with the biggest turkey I had even seen, stuffed with chestnuts and apples.
The process couldn’t be easier. The honey and vanilla get cooked until foamy, then the parsnips are tossed around. And really, I can’t insist enough: use young, small parsnips. They’re sweeter and firmer.
The ice-cream tastes sweet and earthy, just like the parsnips I had years ago. You should try it with a slice of brownies or a rich chocolate cake. Please do.
Burnt honey, vanilla, and parsnip ice-cream
makes 1L-ish of ice-cream
50 g chestnut honey
500 g peeled and diced parsnips
one vanilla pod
100 g caster sugar
350 g whole milk
400 g double cream
Place the honey, vanilla seeds and pod in a large pan set over high heat and cook until foamy and fragrant. Add the parsnip dices and stir well to coat.
Deglaze with the milk and bring to the boil. Simmer with a lid on for 15-20 minutes, or until the parsnip is cooked through.
Handblend for 6 minutes or until smooth. Add the cream and blend a bit more. Pass through a fine sieve. Clingfilm to the touch and chill for at least 4 hours or better, overnight.
Churn according to your ice-cream machine instructions, and keep in the freezer for an hour or so before serving. It’s pretty delicious with anything chocolate.
The sound of wind through the trees. And of leaves under our boots too.
The hidden world behind puddles.
Knowing that Christmas is just around. Because, really, the best thing about Christmas is the perfect mix of anticipation and excitement.
The rain. And when it stops pouring, the one that comes from trees.
Lingering in gold, every cloud is ours.
Walks through empty alleys in museums. And the too-hot-to-drink coffees we have there too.
The endless road-trips; where windscreen-wipers beat faster than our hearts. Pumpkins and pine cones and apples and chestnuts.
The figs we eat from the branches. And the oysters we gather from rocks made of mud. The blackberry bushes we spike our fingers with.
The smell of earth on foggy mornings.
Wearing leg-warmers and wool leggings and earmuffs.
I’ve been falling asleep to bigger-than-life fairy-lights; of the skyscraper kind. I’ve been talking too loud. And I’ve French-kissed, at times with a reason, most of the time without. I’ve been waiting for autumn, and wool leggings, and earmuffs; and somehow, I’m sort of day-dreaming about the past few months and how the sun would feel on my skin and how the beer made my tongue tingle and how pieds-nus [barefeet] was the only way to go, just by reading Nikole’s words. I’ve been waiting for something else too, someone else really. I’m still waiting, but shhh… that’s a secret.
I’ve been working days and nights. Or perhaps, it is nights and days. I’ve forgotten how to count weeks. Hours. Minutes. And seconds too.
I’ve felt the wind from the top of that bridge, late at night. Or very early in the morning, your call. I’ve tied my hair into a ponytail and walked through the meat-market. I’ve made plans to visit the fish market after that, but really, the comfort of my bed was all we needed.
I didn’t take no for an answer. And for the first time this year, I’ve said no out-loud. Many times. It might be a back-to-school illusion, but I’ve sort of grown up. And yet, I’ve been eating ice-cream straight from the tub, bath or not. I’ve employed magical thinking when making bread. I’ve made wishes at every shooting star I saw. I’ve dreamt. And really, no matter how old I ever get, I never want to stop dreaming.
Right now, I dream of things you’ll know about soon enough. The obvious and the less obvious.
The not-so-official September dream/happy-list.
1. Three rolls of film. To be developed. To be continued really. 2. Closing my eyes at every street corner and wishing to see his face. 3. Taping that last full stop in the manuscript I’ve been meaning to finish for months. Yes, I’m still not over. 4. Watercolour and brushes. Illustrations for that book of mine that still feels too pinch-me-I’m-dreaming good to be true. 5. That secret thing I will know more about tomorrow. Cross your fingers for me. And your toes too! 6. Sitting by the Thames. And looking at the clouds go by. 7. The coffee missions my friend Francesca has been enrolling me in, not unlike a treasure hunt. So far, it’s been amazing. 8. Hearing the sound of raindrops against my window. Such a classic cliché, such a broken record; and yet, I’ll never ever ever get tired of it. Figs too, by the way. 9. Sleeping with no other alarm than the sun shining through the curtains. 10. The giant fabric baobab I see very early in the morning. The one that makes me feel like I’m in Le Petit Prince. 11. Yes, eleventh, just because it feels right: the most gorgeous dinner I’m ever going to eat. Yes, it’s on the way. And more.
I’d like to talk more. But you see, there is a consommé with halibut and some fennel – of the baby, caramelised kind – being cooked in my house, and there is white wine in tall mismatched glasses, and it rained tonight! And most importantly, escargots would go in the wild. Adorable and all.
Some days are ok. Others are grand. I remember that day when we felt like we owned the world. Kissing at every street corner and not even noticing the happy dance snowflakes made around us.
Yes, that was an august day. And a august-er night, in the winter.
And some days are not so grand. But that’s part of the game. A game we don’t choose to play. And yet we’re here, one step forward, at times two, and three steps backward.
Pulled up and down.
Not unlike a roller coaster.
Not unlike surfing on the waves I thought we’d be in by now.
Yes, today was not the best day. But I put on my favourite red lips. And that dress that floats when I spin. And I spinned, and cried a little too, in the tube. And I made a gif. And had gnocchi, pan-fried with butter until crisp with gold on the out-kind-of-side and yet, soft as a pillow on the in-side. With a side of ketchup, for only excuse that it felt right.
And slowly, like a merry-go-round that never ends, the cacophony turned into music. And really, there was no better place to be than safely nested against that wooden horse. In fact, there is a better place to be, but of this, I will tell you later.
Guys, it’s eight pm. And I’m sitting in my bed. Looking at the sun playing hide-and-seek through the City. Perhaps, I took a picture with my phone. And one with my minolta instant pro too. And perhaps, even with my forgotten love who goes by the name of sx70.
It’s been great around here these days.
Even if I’m the only person in London to have a cold. Even if I haven’t had a days off in ages. Even if it’s so hot in the kitchen, I’ve had to give up tempering chocolate.
Because you see, I have my desserts on a menu. Printed in a pretty font. With fancy words.
There is something with strawberries and a rhubarb sorbet. And olive oil too, because that’s how I roll. There is a milk chocolate and salted butter caramel tart, sort of. There is a summer pudding, the French way; with the same brioche my grand-mother always makes: tons of butter and a touch more, and an elderflower berry compote-ish. There is a caramelised pineapple with bits of coconut dacquois, and the pinkiest hibiscus and lemongrass sorbet. There is a chocolate and honey lava cake with roasted apricots. And honeycomb too. Because it’s crunchy and I kinda love it.
Because you see, the berries are pretty amazing this year and my freezer has now turned into a trendy pink ombré.
Because you see, my friend Rachel thinks this little blog is khool.
Because you see, I make crazy experiments. The lastest was a basil pâte de fruit(s). It went with fresh strawberries, and a Pimm’s and lemonade sorbet. I will tell you about it soon.
And just so you get ready, James and I are planning on making a Pimms’s and lemonade pâte de fruits roly-poly. It should be grand. So brace yourself!
And I know I missed the farewell to July and the bonjour to August, but really, does it matter when you have basil pâte de fruits instead?
There is this nice place a few footsteps away from Knightsbridge. It has a counter made of salads – more beautiful one than the other – and cakes – most likely blueberry with some kind of oaty crumbles. It also has the cutest waiters. And they make coffee, the Greek way.
In fact, I need to bring my camera next time I go. Most likely tomorrow. Not for the waiters, although I’m sure you wouldn’t mind some serious hotness, but today, it’s more about coldness.
Ice-cubes and coffee. And milk, with a touch of cream too.
Because we can never have enough coffee in our lives, here is the recipe for the creamiest cup you could ever have.
In a one-litre jar, mix 3 tablespoons of instant coffee with 3 tablespoons of cold water and 2 tablespoons of caster sugar. Close the lid and shake away, until light and foamy. Add ice-cubes half-way to the top of the jar. And top with milk. Add dash of cream. And serve in glasses. Or as we do in the kitchen: in mismatched small jars.
Hope you’re having a lovely summer. Mine has been super-busy so far. News and updates to come soon soon.
And PS. thanks to everyone who signed in for the newsletter. The first edition should be on the way very shortly (well, knowing me, that’s more likely to be another month).
The sound of his voice in my head. And his hands tickling the back of my neck.
The lullaby of raindrops crashing on the ground.
The purr of a washing machine. Or even better, a never-ending passing train.
The kind of silence only snowy streets can offer.
The heartbeat of Lukie against mine.
The one tune that cab driver sang, just when I needed to hear it.
It’s raining. And somehow, we’re once again having winter in July. It seems to be a standard these days. And really, I could just write a letter to July. Not unlike the one I would write to that boy I’m in like with, that I’ve been in like with since I first saw him, in fact.
A letter to July, sort of
I thought that – as you once feared so much – I had forgotten about you. About those nights of magic rush. About the cold we found only one way to fight against. About those words you told me, and how they felt like music to me. About your lips and how delicious they tasted.
Yes, I thought I had forgotten.
But then, just like the firecrackers that shatter the summer sky in million pieces or the ones you made me feel, I remembered.
As the waves pushed me on the shore. As tiny pebbles rolled on my skin. As I could hear bubbles pop when my head was underwater. And just as I started to let go of myself, I held onto you a little more with every somersault. I miss you. And I wish you were here. And really, I wish I’d never let you go.
There would be Pim’s, and lemonade too. Blackberries – of the wild, tiny, kind – picked from bundles of green leaves. And mostly, there would be the sun.
I shouldn’t complain though; the past month was pretty much amazing.
Not unlike spending days at a café terrace or in the potager. Not unlike sleeping on a péniche [canal boat] and eating tellines cooked à la plancha, just so. Literally and figuratively too.
Summer happened and it was great. Nights with that boy I’m very much in like with happened and it was more than great.
But I guess, July will be a month of new beginnings. A new flat (by the Thames, and really, all caps could be appropriate here; perhaps even exclamation marks). A new job at my old-school love: the Capital, alongside two of my favourite chefs, Richard and James, who are making beautiful things on the plate and in my mouth (I’m always spoon-ready, just in case…). I might add Jake, the apprentice to that list too. He’s the most amazing little chef ever and really I wish he was on pastry full-time.
And it feels so good to be in a kitchen again after so much time spent in flip-flops and bikini. One day last week, we got delivered a little (ahem, of the 2kg kind) too many blackberries, which I turned into a very dark du jour dessert.
There was a blackberry coulis topped with clotted cream mousse and crystallised white chocolate. Blackberries pan fried in a little sugar until just juicy; and some fresh ones, halved, too. A blackberry foam, barely set. And a big fat quenelle of clotted cream ice-cream. Oh, and I almost forgot the most important: a crumbly yet melt-in-your mouth vanilla sablé.
That night, I also made a pré-dessert of red-currant sorbet with peach granita and a touch of yoghurt foam, with a see-through tuile.
Yes, it might not feel like summer around here these days, but one thing is for sure: good things WILL happen. Under the rain. Drenched to the bone. Smile on my face.
The unofficial July happy-list.
1. Melting a tablespoon of nutella in the microwave then topping it with one scoop of cookie dough ice-cream on a rainy evening. Eating it with a side of Made in Chelsea. And calling it a day. 2. Which one I feel more guilty about: nutella slash ice-cream or Made in Chelsea? Hmmmm really, no need to feel bad, just watch a few episode of Cooking with Dog to reset the tacky-balance. 3. Watching the boats go by at night from my bedroom window. 4.Dreams made of plates and foams. And fruits and ice-creams. This is always the place I get my ideas from. 5. Finishing to write the never-ending book. Yes, I’m almost done and, all of the sudden, feel like I need to change everything. 6. A second strawberry season. Or a lesson in making the most of climate differences between the south of France and London. 7. A happy place made of aprons and plates. And labels and plastic containers. Yes, I belong to the kitchen. 8. Drinking bloody maries, and champagne, and gin and tonic during the same night. 9. The thought of Lukie growing up fast. Soon she won’t be a baby anymore. I miss her so so much already. 10. Day-dreaming about lands that lie behind puddles and on top of clouds.
It was the end of autumn and my days were spent on a farm, milking goats and making cheese. I met her. She had a name from the earth and an Australian accent. And really, she could never stop talking.
Never. She would tell me tales, of the back-home kind. And how the brook by her house was nice to swim in since they were no crocodiles around. Snakes? Perhaps. She insisted that wind was said w-aaai-ned.
She came home with me and stayed there for weeks. We’d hike through streams and mountains, we drove to lost places – not unlike the world end. She taught me how to eat avocado on a toast with cayenne pepper just so; raw almonds and vegan cakes; avocado smoothies and soy chai lattes. She taught me how to wrap a turban around my head and lace my hiking shoes. She taught me how to welcome the sun, one pose at a time. She taught me how to live. It’s as simple as that.
In fact, I’m not sure she realised what a friend she’d become.
A few days later, I drove her to the Pyrénées where she’d be woofing during the winter. I never saw her again. And to this day, I can’t brew a yogi tea without remembering our days together.
I don’t know where in the world she is, but I’m sure she’s happy. She always is.
Of course, she would not aprove of this anything-but vegan cake. But damn it was good. With our favourite tea inside to make it warm and spicy.
Cake de voyage au yogi tea
I made this cake for my maman to take to her yoga class, where it got eaten fast. The base batter is adapted from my favourite lemon week-end cake, with both cream and butter for the moistest loaf you could ever dream of.
You could substitute the tea for any spice you’d like, or as in my original recipe, for the zest of two fat organic lemons.
Whatever you decide to do, you’ll love it. And as per usual, I always bake my loaf cakes the same way: 5 minutes at 180°C, 10 minutes at 170°C, and around 25 minutes at 160°C to finish the baking. Write this down somewhere safe and you’ll always get the most beautiful cakes out from the oven. Golden and plump, with an even crack in the centre.
Oh yes, that crack! I shared this tip here before, but I can’t repeat myself enough on this one.
Simply pipe a straight line of softened butter onto the centre of the cake before baking and wait for the magic to happen!
Cake de voyage au yogi tea
makes one loaf, serving 8-10 people
250 g caster sugar
200 g plain flour
1 tablespoon (or 2 sachets) classic yogi tea
1 teaspoon baking powder
150 g crème fraiche or double cream
50 g butter, melted
softened butter, extra for piping
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter and flour a loaf tin.
Place the eggs and sugar in a bowl, and whisk until light in colour, for around 4 minutes. In an another bowl, mix the flour, yogi tea and baking powder. Fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture. Then pour a little of this onto the cream and melted butter, mix well, and transfer back to the main batter mix, folding in gently using a spatula.
Pour into the prepared tin.
Place the extra softened butter in a piping bag and cut a very small hole, around 4mm-wide.
Pipe a line of butter across the cake; and bake for 5 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 170°C for 10 minutes, and bake for a further 25 minutes at 160°C, or until a knife inserted in the centre cake comes out clean.
Allow to cool down on a wire rack for 10 to 20 minutes, then unmould and set aside. If you’re not planning on eating it right away, wrap tightly in clingfilm. It will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.