Paris and salad
Urgh, a hem……it has been a rather long time since I’ve done a post but I have plenty of good excuses! I’ve been to the States to see my father, went to Paris for a week, did masses of styling and food writing for BBC mags, and edited my new book with Murdoch to name a few. But I reckon its better to provide something decent when I have time and hopefully you will agree.
Paris is always an inspiration for me. I never fail to fall hopelessly in love with it on every visit. Walking aimlessly through the streets, drinking red wine at lunch and ducking in and out of shops is my idea of heaven. Beauty and style surround you where ever you look. My family and I house-swapped for a week, which I highly recommend as a cheap way to travel. My rubbish French improved slightly, I gleaned loads of new ideas and walked non-stop. There is always something new to discover around every corner.
Big bistro salads was my epiphany on this trip. Paris is well known for its rich food. But if you look closely you will notice that the Parisians are always eating vegetables and HUGE salads as well. That’s why they’re so annoyingly skinny. You can go to any restaurant and choose from ten platter-sized salads. One of my favorites is the combination of soft-boiled eggs, greens and tart vinaigrette. The chalkiness of the yolks balances the acidity of the vinegar and makes the perfect sauce to mop your bread up in. So I thought in honor of my lovely week in Paris, I would use a French inspired recipe from ‘Meals in Heels’. Fresh baby lettuces are topped with chopped egg, green beans, crisp bacon, walnuts and a dressing made with walnut oil. Its a meal on its own or an elegant little starter for a French main dish.
Red oak leaf salad with chopped egg and red wine walnut oil dressing
15 minutes preparation 10 minutes cooking
half head red oak leaf or 6 large handfuls of baby lettuces
150g fine green beans
12 cherry tomatoes halved
50g walnuts, toasted and chopped
100g streaky pancetta or sugar cured smoked bacon
4 tablespoons walnut oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 shallot finely chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Place the eggs in boiling water for 8 minutes for soft boiled. Cool in cold water, peel and roughly chop. Pan fry the pancetta until crisp, drain on paper towelling and set aside. Pour the walnut oil, vinegar, mustard, sugar, shallot, and some salt and pepper into a small jar with a screw top lid. Shake well and set aside. Remove the core and outer leaves from the head of lettuce and break into smaller pieces. Place all of the lettuces in a large salad bowl or individual plates. Blanch the beans in salted water for 2 minutes, drain and place in very cold water. Dry on tea towel. Top the salad with beans, walnuts, pancetta/bacon and egg. Shake the dressing before serving and pour over.
So here are a few of my favorite haunts in Paris that are worth a visit!
Marche’ aux Puces St. Ouen Port de Clignancourt
This is the largest flea market in Paris, open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You can buy a £20,000 coffee table or scour for plates and cutlery that’s sold in some of the 3000 stalls. Bargains are not abound but its fun to walk and pick up little bits. I bought some battered old silver spoons for prop styling.
If you like clothes, interiors and books, this ‘concept’ store is not to be missed. Merci give a portion of their profits to a Madagascar Woman’s charity so you can feel good about dropping your cash here. Ce tres tres chic with clothes by Isabel Marant (my fav) APC and other sumptuous labels. The home wares are totally unique with items you won’t see anywhere else. Their two cafes make wonderful salads and coffee so its possible to dally away the hours here. Located in the Marais, a stone’s throw from Place de Vosges, you can make a day of the shops and great restaurants in the area.
Astier de Villatte
Its always a good idea to stroll down Rue Honore, visit Colette (another great concept store) and soak up the posh atmosphere (we can all dream). Astier sells exquisitely made pottery that’s wafer thin and very eccentric in its design (think Alice in Wonderland). Its eye-watering expensive but you can always pick up one of their glass paperweights as a token Paris souvenir.
Not far from the Louvre, I accidently discovered this treasure trove of a kitchen shop. They specialise in professional kitchenware, with virtually every size imaginable of moulds, pans or tools. Selling everything from flan rings to madeleine tins, its a bakers dream and very reasonably priced.
An homage to chassures danse, this shoe shop is girly heaven. Repetto makes proper ballet slippers but also produces a cornucopia of colours and styles for the rest of us non-ballerinas. If you have wide feet and can’t find comfortable shoes, then you should have a look. Located near Rue de la Paix, its just around the corner from the Opera. With its pink sofas and crystal chandeliers its fair to say most men wouldn’t be interested.
Izrael Epicerie du Monde
If you want to pick up piment d’Espelette or a quintessential old French biscuit tin, then pop into this crazy spice shop. Situated in St. Paul, near the Marais, its a cook’s paradise of chilis, olives, peppers and cool containers.
Check out my Eat Well all Week recipes in BBC Good Food’s June issue. Its five delicious everyday healthy recipes.
Also have a look at Tesco’s Real Food magazine. Its free in-store and this issue has two features of mine. Spring weekend entertaining and Season’s best.
The new schedule for summer is out at Divertimenti, where I teach. Next week I’m demonstrating a picnic class which still has some places open. Menu is roasted spicy pepper dip, stuffed pan baguette, chopped chicken, pea and tarragon salad and crab, saffron and watercress tart and peppermint brownies!