Les vacances

memoriesA story about , , , , Written on le Saturday 21 May 2011.


It seems I’ve been kept busy by the sound of pebbles rolling under the waves. In my records, it’s an all-good kind of thing.

I’ve been reading this (otherwise known as my new favourite food magazine) and that (please do check the amazing feature by my friend Emilie). And also a good old classic made special by the tinted glass of sunglasses and the breeze felt through a bikini.

See you soon. x

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Where the wild things are – Ice-cream mochi au thé matcha

la pâtisserieA story about , , , Written on le Thursday 19 May 2011.

[Matcha ice-cream mochi]

Almost a year ago, a boy-friend – at times with a dash, most of the time, without – gave me two Japanese manuals.
A textbook and a workbook. They were both in one of those Muji clear pockets I love so much. With a pen and a highlighter. Perhaps it was yellow, or it might have been pink.

Almost a year later, the manuals have stayed in their wraps. And I know that one day, I will speak Japanese. When it’s time. When it’s right.

In the meantime, I can learn to cook like one. Or at least, pretend to.

This monster above was the very first of a somewhat successful batch of ice-cream mochi. It was white, but oozing green; reminding me of that slimy ghost of a movie I used to enjoy as a child.

And trust me, it might look easy when you see people – who seem to have more than two hands – wrapping the mochi paste around ice-cream. But when you’re too impatient to wait for it to cool down, then it oozes. A lot.

Luckily the next few mochi turned much better.
And excuse me for the analogy, but it’s a bit like crêpes. The first one always ends up being wasted - or in my case, eaten over the stove – most likely, by someone who is not cooking them; and no, I won’t name anyone here – while the pan gets piping hot again.

Monster-story aside, I’m quite excited with the prospect of home-made mochi. This time, I encased some green tea ice-cream that I had made a few days earlier, but really, you could use anything from chocolate mousse to fresh fruits.
I’m actually looking forward to making – and eating – a mochi version of the choux à la crème I grew up on.

Yes, I foresee soft crème patissiere wrapped in a chewy chocolate mochi dough. Or a matcha mousse around a couple of fresh raspberries.

Ice-cream mochi au thé matcha
Adapted from Clotilde.

For me, making ice-cream mochi was really an excuse to get my fingers used to the process of wrapping something in a sticky dough made of glutinous rice flour, sugar and water.
Ice-cream seemed great because it’s round and hard, and thus, I thought it would make the whole process easier.

I was wrong. I made a mess. And five mochi.

But it tasted divine. Mostly because of the matcha ice-cream that I made adapting my very favourite vanilla egg-less ice-cream recipe.
I wish I could share it, but since I used some atomised glucose and a pinch of super neutrose – and I doubt you have this in your kitchen – I need to work on a stabiliser-free recipe.

Just milk, cream, sugar and no eggs (don’t ask me why, I always find traditional ice-creams way too eggy).

But please, feel free to experiment with store-bought or homemade ice-creams. I’ve found that the easiest technique for me was to flatten the dough when it was still hot. And wait for it to cool down slightly before encasing the very frozen scoop of ice-cream, pinching the dough together to seal, then cut the overlap with scissors.

Perhaps not the most conventional way, but certainly the most effective not to have a thick layer of dough at the bottom of the mochi.

Ice-cream mochi au thé matcha

for 6 mochi
q.s. ice-cream

100g glutinous rice flour (mochiko)
50g caster sugar
180g water

q.s. cornflour
q.s. shredded coconut

Cover a plastic lid with clingfilm and place it in your freezer. Make six scoops of ice-cream and drop them onto the prepared lid. Put back in the freezer to harden.

In a heatproof bowl, combine the rice flour, caster sugar and water. Mix until smooth. Cover with clingfilm and microwave for one minute. Stir and repeat one or two time until thick and slightly translucent.

Fill a baking tray with cornstarch. Transfer the very hot and sticky mixture onto the cornstarch, and dust it with some more. Flatten using the palm of your hands.

Using a scrapper or a knife, cut into six equals pieces.

Flatten each to a 8mm thick disk. Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes or until barely warm.

Working quickly, wrap a piece of dough around the very frozen and hard ball of ice-cream, pinching the extremities of the dough together to seal the ice-cream inside. Cut the overlapping bit and roll in cornstarch or in shredded coconut.

Repeat with the remaining dough, making sure you place the finished mochi back into the freezer as you do so.

Allow the mochi to sit outside for 15 minutes before eating.

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Bonjour mai

memoriesA story about , , , , , , , Written on le Sunday 08 May 2011.

[Hello May]

So apparently, May started a week ago. I would love to say that I remember how beautiful the golden hour of the very fist day of the month; but the truth is I don’t.

What I know, though, is how amazing the days to come are going to be. A flight to France – the first in a long time, mornings at home and afternoons at the beach. Cooking for my family, and for friends. Drinking pastis on the small square of my favourite village – the one that holds my childhood memories and now my very best friend, Anna-Sarah. Milking goats on the smallest organic farm of the mountains. Hugging my sister, and parents.

Oh yes, the month of May is going to be a good one. Even though it will really start for me in a week, somewhere in between London and Nice. Up in the air.

And because, these upcoming seven days are going to go in a flash, you should know I have many things on the way. Ice-cream mochis, a dinner at Northroad and Ducasse, a cheesecake, some tiramisu pancakes, and too many other things.

What are your plans for this month?

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Au menu, aujourd’hui – Le thé matcha

la pâtisserieA story about , , , , Written on le Friday 29 April 2011.

[On the menu today - Matcha green tea]

On a summer day of two-thousand and five, I remember driving on those small roads in between Biot and Valbonne. With something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue*.

I remember the tiny black metal box. Mariage Frère.

I remember the even smaller packet of green powder.

On a spring day of two-thousand and eleven, I have matcha ice-cream in my freezer. Of the homemade kind. With lots of full-fat milk and cream, just so.

So what should I make? And perhaps, most importantly, what is your favourite green tea recipe?

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* Old, the seemingly supportive boyfriend; new, being a blogger; borrowed, a Leica camera; and blue, a top.

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to eatA story about , , , , , Written on le Wednesday 27 April 2011.
21 warwick street, W1B 5NE

The perfect day needs no more than a person I love as much as he finds me annoying, and enough drinks and food to keep us going – let’s be honest, mostly drinks.

It might get even perfect-er with the addition of bright-green grass to lay on, and a sun just warm enough for our skin to feel the heat.

But this is – obviously – optional. From my records, the perfect day can also be spent in bed or at the pub, drawing on each other with felt-tip pens until the sun goes down.

The perfect day will lead to the perfect night. But because the perfect day feels like it lasts for years – or at least, that’s how you want it to feel – let’s not rush things.

What happens in between the perfect day and the perfect night is up to you, really. On our side of the world, we got lost somewhere. Past Mayfair, and before Chinatown.

We stumbled upon NOPI, the new-ish restaurant by Yotam Ottolenghi – a place I had been wanting to try for quite some time now. And even though it was really just a few minutes away from our starting point we made sure to take as many detours as humanly possible, wearing flip-flops and making fun at each other.

There we shared a few plates of good food. A few glasses of the cheapest white wine on the menu. A plate – each – of something sweet for an ending. Of the perfect day, that is.

I made sure to photograph everything that was standing in front of our eyes – a delicious confit artichokes served with goat cheese and a sprinkle of broad beans; some perfectly chargrilled octopus that was as octopus should be – all the time – ; and twice-cooked baby chicken that had a lovely smokiness from the chilli oil.

Scared my memory would fail me after being drunk on happiness all day.

Turns out it didn’t. And it’s probably for the best since the pictures came out as grey as grey can be.

Not even close to reality. Or perhaps a reality I do not want to see.

In all measures, I advise to end your day at NOPI. Sit downstairs on the communal table overlooking the kitchen, visit the bathroom to recreate the mirror room of your childhood visits to the park. Just don’t bring a camera along, or do – but don’t forget the batteries. And just because I plate desserts all day – almost every day – do try the pineapple galette. Even if just for the pandan.

And for the record, 60£ for two not-so-hungry stomachs and a bottle of wine does feel like the perfect start to your perfect night.

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Neige d’avril et petit-déjeuner au lit – Une brioche en cinq minutes

la pâtisserieA story about , , , , , , Written on le Tuesday 19 April 2011.

[On April snow and breakfast in bed - A five-minute brioche]

When I mentioned the five-minute brioche, I forgot to say it’s more of a five-minute and five-day brioche.

Five days where the blossoms turned into snow. Five days where I got less sleep than what a normal night means to you. Five days where everytime I came home, I opened the fridge to imagine that bubbly dough turn into brioche.

And then on the night before the fifth day, I set my alarm to eight am; two hours later than a day on. Still dizzy from a sleep overdose, I walked to the kitchen. Fleurer le marbre [sprinkle the marble with flour]. Couper la pate [cut the dough]. Bouler [make balls]. Faire pointer [proof]. Et se recoucher [and go back to bed].

This, my friends, is the recipe for happiness. Especially, if I then braid my hair and spend the day with someone I love.

A couple of hours later, we slowly emerged from that broken night – or more accurately, morning nap; a concept that I should put to practice more often.

The loaf went in the oven. And then got sliced, topped with the strawberry jam he made last week – with the somewhat bland berries I was a little too excited with at the market – and then eaten in bed, with the necessary dose of good tunes and the occasional sun peaking through the window.

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It felt like a Sunday. With all the trimmings, bar the messy kitchen. And, no matter how much I love to get my hands dirty by kneading the hell out of a sticky dough until it becomes smooth, it seemed appropriate to take a shortcut this time.

Even more so that this brioche proved the die-hard French that I am wrong.

First came Dan. And his focaccia. Almost no-knead. And almost more delicious than any bread I’ve ever tasted. Then came the no-knead bread that got everyone crazy. And now, Zoë.

So as much as it hurts me to say it, it is possible to make brioche in a matter of seconds. In one bowl. With one wooden spoon.

Brioche en cinq minutes
Adapted from Zoë François and Jeff Hertzberg’s Five minute bread.

I once read somewhere that in order to make a good brioche you need time. I think it was actually mentioned as part of the ingredient list, which I thought was clever as I remembered the hours spent kneading – by hand – a three-kg batch at school.

And while I love the process, I must admit it does feel good to – every now and then – take the easy option. It says five minutes. But it really is less than that.

Butter gets melted. And mixed with water, eggs, honey, and salt. No sugar. Just honey, which being inverted sugar – kind of natural trimoline – helps the brioche to stay moist after baking.

Flour and yeast get incorporated. And the dough is left outside to proof. Only to be, later, chilled; for a day or two. Or in my case, five.

And if there is ever a good moment for confessing such a thing, it shall be now: I leave all of my doughs to proof in a microwave. Basically, place a bowl of water in the microwave and ‘cook/bake’ (which word should I use?) for a minute or two, just to create enough steam. Quickly switch the bowl of water for the bowl of dough. And home Panem prover you have!

This does not decrease the proving time, but creates the perfect conditions for your yeast – and by consequence, you – to be happy.

And for the record, I only made a quarter of a recipe. But only because I didn’t have enough honey in my cupboards. A morally despicable fact that got fixed. As soon as I bit into a slice of warm brioche.

As a side-note, I do think this recipe could take more butter. Possibly twice more. Possibly because I’m French. Possibly something I will try and report. Which will also allow me to show you how to bouler une pâte [shape the dough into a ball], because – let’s be honest – I’m not sure it translate into words.

Brioche en cinq minutes

makes four loaves

350g butter, melted and cooled down
350g water
20g salt
8 eggs
170g clear honey
1kg strong flour
15g instant yeast

one egg, beaten, for the eggwash

In a bowl, combine the melted butter, water, salt, eggs, and honey. Add the flour and yeast. And mix using a wooden spoon until smooth.

Cover the bowl with a cloth and allow to rest at room temperature for a little over 2h (or feel bad-ass and stick it in a turned-off microwave – make sure you read the note above beforehand though).

Transfer the cloth-covered bowl to the fridge and chilled for at least 24h or up to five days.

On the day you’re ready to bake, generously butter a loaf tin and cut 450g off your dough. Then using a scraper – or a knife – divide into four bits. Have some flour handy and gently pat each piece into it. Putting the flour side up – and sticky side down – shape it into a ball using the palm of one of your hands.

Place the four balls into the prepared tin and allow to proof for 1h30.

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Brush the top of the dough with the eggwash and bake for 40 to 50min, or until golden brown. Unmould and allow to cool on a wire rack, or not.

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to eatA story about , , , , Written on le Wednesday 13 April 2011.
45 northcote road, SW11 1NJ

Possibly on of the few reasons I love Clapham Junction, this café makes the best breakfast. All day long.

And this is worth more than words can say.
At least, from where I stand, it is.

You know that kind of place that makes your days better. That makes you forget about traffic and grey buildings. Yes, the kind of place that feeds you and gives you warm blankets when you’re cold.

Some would call it comfort food.

I will only say that I could go there everyday. The latte is amazing. The smoothies too. And the food, perfect.

And just for the record, they don’t do cards. So have plenty of banknotes ready. Because you’ll need them, and trust me, you’ll want to need them.

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Au menu aujourd’hui – Les (pas si) classiques de mon enfance

la pâtisserieA story about , , Written on le Thursday 07 April 2011.

[On the menu today - The (not so) classics of my childhood]

Childhood memories are – more often than not – strongly related to food.

The slice of store-bought chocolate marble cakeSavane, for those of you who grew up in France – that would leave in your pocket in the morning only to be eaten as a mid-afternoon snack when reduced to a mess of crumbs.

The brioche your mom would make over and over in an attempt to turn a hard yeasty bread into a soft chewy treat.

The tiramisu you would make on Sundays, which you still remember the recipe you once scribbled on a piece of paper: 500g de marscarpone, cinq oeufs et 100g de sucre. It was certainly not the best, but sure tasted like it twenty years ago. At least to you.

Today, I feel like revisiting those fond bites. But really, what should I make?

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Bonjour avril

memoriesA story about , , , , , , , , , Written on le Friday 01 April 2011.

[Hello April]

Last night, I might not have been there when the flap clock on my wall roared and clicked – just like the train-station departures board of my grand-mother’s village – but I could feel that April was around the corner.

I’m not going to lie. March went down faster than expected. And with barely no time to focus on what makes me feel alive.

So for this month, I have some plans. Mostly fun ones. Because, everything will be fine.

April is for settling into a new routine, walks in the park, baking at home, drinks at the pub, kissing my favourite lips goodbye, saying hello to new faces, slowing down, collecting blossoms to dry them in between two pages of a book, coffee with a friend, and celebrating with cheap wine.

Hopefully, I will find – if not, make – time, to share those ideas I have when most of you are asleep. And yes, it does include the dream-at-night lover who is practising his best sleep moves – right now – next to me.

What are your plans for the upcoming days?

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le marchéA story about , , , , , , Written on le Tuesday 29 March 2011.


No matter how hard I try, I can’t get over the fact it took me twenty-five years to realise that the églantine [rosehip] I use on a daily basis at the restaurant is the gratte-cul [itchy-bum] of my childhood; the one thing my dad used to tease me with when we went to the mountains with the hopes – most of the time, fulfilled – that our baskets would be full of chanterelles, sanguins, trompettes des morts, and other mushrooms by the end of day.

Thank you David!

And for the record, we – French – call it gratte-cul because it supposedly makes your skin very itchy; which I can’t confirm. For the sake of my epidermis.

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On the slurping noises – Sweet chilli seafood ramen

la cuisineA story about , , , , , Written on le Thursday 24 March 2011.

Last Sunday, I finished working at six. Now depending on where your heart belongs, you might think: version one ‘What the heck where you doing at work on a Sunday?’ or version two ‘Lucky monkey*! Sunday was a busy night and I didn’t finish until one am.’

Empty fridge and all, I was planning on feeding myself with what had been the du jour menu at my house for the past weeks. Pan-fried gnocchi – that my very own private-chef made when we had a slumber party and that were since stashed in the freezer – with an amount of garlic only a French girl** could take.

It’s delicious. And you should try.

But somehow, on my way home, I read Kim’s words on why instant ramen matters. And before I knew it, I was waiting in line at Waitrose for what seemed an eternity, with the added pressure of dropping a bottle of sweet chilli sauce on a floor that is so neat and shiny it would make anyone squint. Not that this happened.

Talk about a fun way to spend an evening off!

But then, I heard sesame oil sizzle. And I smelled garlic and chilli. And I tasted. Without even burning my tongue.

A bowl of soup and lovely skype session – made of slurping noises and hmmmm – later, I knew this soup would become the new garlic gnocchi; which happened to be the new pizza sandwich.

And because I realise an illustration might not be enough to get you to your kitchen, please let’s take a minute to bless my flatmate and his tripod, without which the photographic scene you’re about to see would have been impossible***.

Sweet chilli seafood ramen

When it comes to cooking, I can’t bring myself to weighing ingredients. It might be the fact that of the seventeen hours at the restaurant, at least three of them are spent on front of scales. Or maybe, it’s simply that to me it’s more about the taste-right feeling than the grams.

I hope you feel this way too, because this soup is seriously comforting. And perfect for this time of the year when you’re not sure whether winter is over or not.

Sweet chilli seafood ramen

Makes a very large bowl of soup.

Heat a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil in a large pan. Add a handful of scallops and prawns. While they caramelise, chop a chilli pepper and a couple of spring onions. Throw them along with the seafood. Grate a fat piece of ginger, the zest of one lime and a few garlic cloves over the pan and give it a good shake. Deglaze with half a litre of water and bring to the boil. Add a nice dose of sweet chilli sauce, a dash of soy sauce and a drizzle of fish sauce. Mix in a handful of fresh peas, spinach and rice noodles. Top with torn coriander leaves. Eat from a large bowl. And please, do make slurping noises and hmmmm.

* edited for smooth reading. The original word being less than formal.
** not that I aim to convey the fact that French guys are on the weak side.
*** both literally and figuratively. Beauty to my eyes, and yet not the most appetising picture.

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wordsA story about , , Written on le Saturday 19 March 2011.

Fears paralyse me. And not knowing what to say in reaction to such chaos, I remained silent.

Right now, it feels like the world has been hit by a wave. Forcing us to reconsider our insecurities.

And in this kind of world, I am – everyday – happy to have crocs on my feet, a sleek grey apron around my waist and a blue oven cloth – or as I like to call it, torchon – in my hands. Routine is what keeps us grounded when we need it the most.

An alarm snoozed a couple of time.
A breakfast made of coffee.
A bus trip, because no matter how sunny it is today, it’s still way too cold for bike rides.
A day of mise-en-place and service.
A night of mise-en-place and service.
A field trip to my bed.

And yet, there are still some moments spent thinking about my friends. And Keiko, Tamami and Chika. I wish for the best. The best in the worst, if that can make sense.

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A trip in nothingness, through the pentax

memories, to exploreA story about , , , , , , , , , Written on le Monday 28 February 2011.

on the road

I don’t really know where to start about my – our – recent getaway to Cornwall. I have seen landscapes so beautiful my eyes hurt. I have eaten food so delicious my taste-buds remember. I have driven so much I feel the speed of the motorways at night.

It was like a dream. In nothingness. Le néant, a bit like in the neverending story.

Breathtaking. Figuratively, when the wind would push the ocean against the rocks. Literally, when the fog would only allow us to see a few metres away from the car.

We stayed at the loveliest bed and breakfast. There was a fireplace. Hot chocolate and rocky roads. Thousands of books to read from.
But I will talk about this later.

For the time being, all that matters are the precious moments I spent with Aïda and those to come. And for the record, two girls + six cameras give you a lot of pictures to go through. And many unstoppable laughs over the most random things ever.

Here are the ones from the pentax me super. And you can even get a glimpse of our FAIL with the diana (and instant back).

aida gurnards head cornwall

diana fplus

bakery st yves

flowers cornwall st yves

fog road cornwall

cows cornwall

pendeen lighthouse

feet cornwall

aida pendeen lighthouse

wind cornwall

baby cows cornwall

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The end has no end

memoriesA story about , , , , Written on le Wednesday 23 February 2011.

Last night, I said goodbye to a kitchen. As I was cleaning, I realised it would be the very last time. And I just couldn’t bring myself to live the space that had almost become my home.

A weird kind of home. Where stripped aprons seem to be trendy. And smiling faces too.

I then proceeded to cry. Only a little.

I turned the lights off. Gazed – for what might have been minutes – at the neat marble that was more than once swallowed by a pile of notebooks, flour, and too many two-litre containers.
Because, let’s be honest, I spent some solid hours treasure-hunting for those damn plastic boxes. So whenever one was found, it would be fought for and kept.

It was mostly a good fourteen-month. Made special by a few amazing chefs I got the chance to share my coffees and kitchen with. Oh yes, let’s take a minute to celebrate caffeine.

And more.

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Almost wordless – Mandarine soup in a crisp dark chocolate tube

la pâtisserieA story about , , , , , Written on le Wednesday 16 February 2011.

A mandarine soup that tastes better than bitting into the real fruit. The crunch of dark chocolate.

I always seem to think I don’t like citrus and chocolate. But I do.

And this experiment would taste delicious with a quenelle of ricotta mousse and a couple of almost-candied kumquats. Perhaps a few cubes of olive oil sponge. And a sprinkle of roasted pinenuts, possibly caramelised.

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Somewhere, outside

memories, to exploreA story about , , , , , , Written on le Friday 28 January 2011.

A couple of days ago when Stephanie thanked me not to be a food snob, I think she didn’t realise how right she was. The proof lies in the bowl of rice I’ve just had. It was meant to be pilaf, the kind of rice you stir with a little oil then cover with water and let to cook until a perfectly golden crust forms at the bottom of the pan.

But then, minutes turned into seconds, and I ended up with a black crust. Tired and more than hungry, I ate my burnt rice. With seaweed and sesame. And also a couple of sliced spring onions.

This doesn’t call for sophistication, it calls for courage, or – perhaps more accurately – a serious dose of hunger, and chopsticks.

You see, today, I’ve been stuck in bed. Too sick to cook, let alone, to eat. It’s the kind of days where I can spend hours looking at pictures of the outdoors.

The occasional blurry squirrel, the beautiful art of Anish Kapoor at Kensington Gardens, the neat paper towels of the Serpentine cafe. More than pictures, they are moments. Spent in the wind. And the cold. And the rain.

And now, from a bed; layered with a thick duvet cover and a warm blanket.

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memoriesA story about , , , Written on le Wednesday 26 January 2011.

At times, we have no choice but remain quiet. Words seem bland. Words that can’t say how we feel.

Right now, I’m looking forward. To plenty of things. But mostly, to see this face. My most favourite. The most beautiful.

I miss her so much; more than it’s possible to say out-loud, unless I scream until I can’t breathe anymore. And she’s coming over here. And we’re going to explore Cornwall, and London restaurants. And we will laugh. And we will hug; with or without a reason, at day and night.

Yes, I’m looking forward to see this face, because I love her. Inside-out.

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On the soft edge – Instant pizza sandwich

la cuisineA story about , , , Written on le Thursday 20 January 2011.

At times – when we’re too tired to eat and too hungry to sleep – only a slice of soggy pizza will do. And the microwave becomes our best friend as we’re heating the fat edge from a store-bought pizza until the mozzarella starts to bubble.

A sprinkle of salt and cayenne pepper, a handful of rocket, and a drizzle of olive oil later, the soft crust gets folded in two and eaten over a plate. Because, the last thing you want is to ruin your pajamas.

It’s an almost instant sandwich for those of you who – like us – seem to choose gooey over crisp, but only in the comfort of our home.

And I do see you coming with blahs and sighs. But most importantly, what’s your very own hidden – not to say, controversial – pleasure?

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