28 Feb 2015

Orange and Apricot Poppyseed Bundt Cake


It was my mum's birthday earlier this month so I decided to bake her a cake. I asked her what she would like and she said an orange poppyseed cake. 

I am not known for my baking skills. I really did not know what I was doing but I bought a bandt cake tin on the way home from a dance class on the weekend.

I added the flour with 3 whole eggs, the baking powder, baking soda and salt.

 Then I added the sugar



My dad was visiting for my mum's birthday and I had left one nice juicy orange in the fruit bowl especially for making this cake. So naturally, he ate it for that morning's breakfast. And I discovered this at this stage of making the cake. 


 So I added the fresh orange juice that was in the fridge. Add apricot halves and mix them iinto the batter. You will naturally mash them up as you go.
Add poppyseeds.



Add more poppyseeds

 I sprayed non-stick spray onto my non-stick bandt cake tin and then I greased it with butter- just to be sure to be sure.

Fill up tin with mixture.

Stick it in the oven on the top shelf.



Oh dear. Wasn't expecting that. If I wanted bread, I would've put it into a bread tin...


At this point, I was less than impressed. 

I took it out of the oven after 30 minutes at 180 degrees celcius.
Showing some family roots with the four leaf clover teatowel

Then I got the cake rack that I had wrapped in a teatowel and placed on top of the cake tin and flipped it. This is also usually when you pray.



Voila! Somehow it looked alright.



Garnished with a few fresh apricot halves.










 Serve with dollop cream and apricots.





5 Feb 2015

10 Reasons Why Melbourne is Better Than Paris or 10 Raisons Pourquoi Melbourne est Meilleure que Paris

Disclaimer: 

No offence intended to anyone. Many examples are exaggerated versions...of reality haha. This is just my weird sense of humour and a different kind that I have acquired post living in France and a good majority of French people can laugh at themselves in good spirit. This is why Australians and French people are awesome. We can tease each other to shreds for years and still be friends. 

That and you need humour to live in Paris :-D




Got your attention with that title, ey? Mwahaha!

Everybody loves a bit of that sweet, sweet competitive spirit. We are all human after all. And many of you are Aussies- so go get yourself a yummy Lamington (I ate one yesterday) and a schooner while you read this :-)


Let me also take the opportunity (I take every one I can get by the way) to say we do not drink Fosters beer! It. Tastes. Horrible.


Get in mah bellay!


I'm going to do a bit of a bilingual version of this post (no, I won't just be translating it word for word-- I'm weird in both languages) as I have a bit of a varied audience. 
Oh, who's kidding? I'm doing it for myself as I don't think I get to practice my written French as I would like.
It will probably be a once or twice- off as it is a bit more time consuming but this is only ten reasons!

I think that so many Australians dream of Paris and in reality many Parisians are actually dreaming of Melbourne and Australia!






Bonjour a toutes et a tous,


Tout le monde aime un peu de la competition, non? Et en plus si on est Francais! :-P 


Aux armes, citoyens!Formez vos batillons!

Hum, nan je blague, j'adore la France
Je ne sais pas encore si je vais ecrire plus en francais apres cette article ou pas, parce que ca prend plus du temps evidemment, mais ceci est seulement 10 raisons!

Trop des Australiens pensent que Paris est une reve. Oui, je sais. Et pour vous, vous revent d'Australie. Et les kangourous!


Siiinon....


Anyway....




1. Melbourne is the most liveable city in the world.



Well you know, according to The Economist. But we Melburnians have won title that numerous times. So there has to be something in it. 4th year in a row!


Nothing else required to say.




1. Melbourne est la ville la plus habitable du monde.



C'est quelque chose qu'un magazine nous a dit. Nan, c'etait L'Economist pas People.

On avait gagne le titre pour 4 ans consecutive. Victoire!



2. We have the beach.



Go beaches! 


Where I live in Melbourne, I have a route that gets me down to the beach in about 5-7 minutes a pied.
Melbourne is a city that is near the bay. The majority of Australians live around the coasts of the country.




Paris has the Paris Plages for 4 weeks every August because the last Mayor was maybe a little bit 'eccentric' and decided "Hey, instead of all the Parisians escaping the city during the Summer holidays to lounge by the Cote d'Azur, why don't we just import a gazillion tonnes of soft, white sand and palm trees by the Seine river and cut off traffic for four weeks? Oh and get some beach chairs and a few of those ice cream trucks, inflatable bouncey water toys and maybe a few pools!"

Ummm... awesome. You can even get massages sur place.

But nothing compares to a real beach. So we win! And you wouldn't want to take a dip in the Seine if your life depended on it. I mean, have you ever looked over into that thing? Like really looked?
OK, got a similar example. Would you swim in the Yarra River in Melbourne? 

Yee Gawds!




2. Les Melbournians ont les plages!



Je ne suppose pas que les Paris Plages sont exactement le meme comme les vraies.

C'est bien comme alternatif mais si vous avez les choix entre les plages a Cannes, les Calanques a Marseille ou les Paris Plages? 


The Paris 'beaches.' There was salsa dancing at the Quai de la Villette



3. We have lots and lots of space! To do...stuff


By this I mean, we live in houses, apartments or units that have gardens. And we don't wake up super early in the morning because the neighbours upstairs are getting ready for work and the ancient wooden floorboards are creaking and then there are multitudes of people running up and down the spiral staircases. Or have neighbours knocking on our doors shouting not to walk all day and night in your high heels, when in reality you were only in socks. And often sound proofing is not effective so you can hear a lot about your darling neighbours.

Paris has beautiful green spaces and parks that we don't compare to though, which I wrote about in a previous post *sigh* and those Haussmannian buildings are magnificent!



3. Melburnians ont beaucoup d'espace!

Oui, j'aDOOOOORE les batiments de style Haussmann. Ils sont trop belles et ont beaucoup d'histoire et si j'habite a Paris, je voudrais les habite parce que tout ca ^^

Mais, au meme-temps, le bruit des voisins au-dessous vous sur leur sol. Quelles egoistes!
Hum... et quand votre voisine agee de sous sol frappait a votre porte a dire, "S'il vous plait! Prier de ne pas marcher toute la journee et toute la nuit dans vos talons!" C'est la PIRE.


A Melbourne, on a la luxe d'avoir beaucoup d'espace. On habite dans les maisons (suivant avec des piscines- c'est normal), les apparts, etc avec des jardins (peut-etre devant et derriere... et meme si, a cote ;-)



4. We pick up our dog's poo (or are supposed to)




"Droppings go in the bag!" Doggie disposible bag dispenser in Caen. Didn't see these in Paris. But I did see lots of dog poo


Ah yes, Paris is si belle, that is until you step in a big pile of dog caca in your gay skipping down the cobblestoned streets. 


You see, Parisians in general do not believe that it is their personal responsibility to  ramasse their dog's business. It is the city of Paris' responsibility foremost. They have street cleaners cleaning the metro and sweeping the street (it is funny to watch though because it is sometimes the most effortless looking activity ever- "Ah yes, I sweep here a bit. Oh and there too. And then maybe have a chat to this guy over here"), so they naturally would be the ones to pick all this doggie doo up. I wish this was always true.



4. A Melbourne, on ramasse les crottes de nos chiens 


Hum... alors, j'ecoutes (non, je vois ^^) que vous Francais n'aiment pas beaucoup de ramasser les crottes des leurs chiens.

A Melbourne et les plupart des villes, c'est obligatoire, et si on fait pas, on recu les amendes. Et on peut pas faire confiance dans nos voisins parce qu'ils aiment dire l'authorite. Parce que, they suck!

Trivia: Et si on traverse la rue pas avec les passages des pietons, on aussi recoit les amendes. Dans la ville. C'etait $68 en 2011 et plus maintenant.




5. We make small talk in shops and offer assistance to strangers who are lost



Yes, we tend to have a bit of a chat or at least ask "Hi, how are you today? Oh look at the nice weather today!" or "How may I help you? Any occasion in particular? Oh your mother's birthday? Well..."

And I think we have so many similarities with the Brits (culture, similar sense of humour) for obvious reasons.


In Paris, it goes something more like:


"What do you want?"

"This one or that one?"

"We have a $20 euro minimum"

"Of course your dog can sit here with you during lunch." (Also seen in department stores at times).

"You didn't bring your own environmentally-friendly shopping bag? 3 cents!"

"No touching!"

"Are you going to steal something?"




I did once get asked "Hello Madame, how are you today?" at the check out last October.

Honestly, I was so surprised at this that I didn't know what to say... "Erm...ah bien, merci, err."
My friend Louise, fellow Aussie friend had been in front of me and about two seconds earlier had slid over and whispered into my right ear "he's so not French" and I had been like "what?" because I had not idea what she was talking about.
Then he asked me something else like "Are you having a nice day?"

Well, then we knew something was up for sure. So Louise or I asked him, "Vous etes originaire d'ou?" "Where are you originally from?"

So turns out he was from London :-P



My friend Sophie from Paris said she was in shock when she was in St Kilda lost with her boyfriend after moving to Australia for a year and someone came up to them to offer them assistance. As if you are a real Parisian in Paris and you see a bunch of tourists with the biggest map you have ever seen in your life looking as confused as ever, you don't stop. You are super busy going somewhere, it would be impractical and frankly you wouldn't think of it in the first place. Ah! Les tourists! Tsk tsk


I don't think this is stereotypical outside of Paris. Lots of things are tres differents outside of Paris. Paris is special :-)



5. Quand on est dans une boutique ou magasin, etc les serveurs souvent nous parlent et demandent si nous ayons une bonne journee.


Les Australiens en generale aiment beaucoup de faire des petites conversations avec leurs clients. 

"Qu'est-ce que vous faites aujourd'hui? Vous profitez bien avec le bon meteo?"
"Est-ce que vous etes perdu? Ah, je peux vous accompagner pendant dix minutes pour vous aider"




6. We can wear thongs (yes, yes- flip flops- not g-strings, you dirty people) down the street and not be harshly judged.



I was told by one of my teachers at the Alliance Francaise that there was no way that you would see a Parisian walking down the Champs Elysees wearing thongs. She said it would be absurd. And if you did see someone- they would not be French, they would be a tourist! 
It is true that they typically wear sandals. I get a bit self-conscious with my beloved Havianas.
I did see a lady in the Marais though one time wearing thongs but she looked like one of those ladies of leisure as she had toe separators on and was exiting a beauty salon, stilll managing an elegant waddle home.




6. On peut porter des flip-flops n'importe ou


Alors, peut-etre pas partout. Mais c'est normal. On peut porter une belle robe... et des flip-flops.




7. We have the best coffee culture ever! And we are the Lords of Brunch!



I was so disappointed when I have been living in Paris and travelling around Europe when it came to coffee. I thought that it would be clearly superior to the coffee found in Melbourne. Not so! Don't be fooled. Appreciate what you already have!

And I do't really appreciate being charged 5 euros for an awful cafe au lait. Let's just say that if my mum was going to order her usual weak long black with hot milk on the side, she would probably receive a bewildered look and a regular black coffee and a *growl*- please see my post on Learning French in France, where I describe the very French "noises French people make for random stuff they do"

And I love my brunches. A French brunch is juice, a croissant, jam, maybe toast, cereale. If you want an Anglo brunch, you will be disappointed. You will have to do a search for a place that does a cooked brekkie.

In France, different dietary requirements lead to massive confusion. This also extends to vegetarianism. "Vegetarian, ey? So, that means you eat... chicken?" This is a true example from my friend, Stella from Sydney.

Don't get me started on gluten intolerance! "What? But that does not exist! I don't unnnnnderstand you"



The first 3 photos are in Melbourne. OMG marshmallows in my hot chocolate, how I adore you! And truffle proscuitto eggs
The last two photos are from in Paris. Fruit salad and a pancake. Cafe de Flore is over-rated, my friends!


Oh man, I want a meat pie right now. It is funny what you crave after a long time without. By the way, you can find sausage rolls in Marks and Spencer in Centre Beaugrenelle in the 15eme. You can get almost everything there (with inflated prices... even thought it's only been imported 2 hours away by train, seriously! And most likely, air- that would be faster. You just don't have any excuse!!)


8. Actual ovens, beds and washing machines are a given!



Oh, don't they say it's the small things that count? Well, I count these as basic requirements where I come from.


With my first apartment in Paris, I did not have any of these three things. Can you belieeeeeeeeeeve it?! Yes, 7 or 8 months I was living in my boite des chaussures (little shoebox) without these. 

I was used to being home in my massive bed, being able to wash my clothes at home or maybe more accurately maman to wash my clothes (damn those stupid Gen-Ys!) but at that time, laundry really was not my thing at 23. Note: I had been taught a couple of times, but I think I was probably paying more attention to my chien fou running around or something of that nature.
I would cart my clothes down to the local laverie libre in my huge environmentally friendly Monoprix bags to wash them- there were three of them in my street, so I guess that was a positive.

And no oven? Aucun four?! Was this some kind of alternate universe? Thankfully, I had a microwave... and two ringed electric hot plates over my bar fridge. But evidently according to this blog, I do enjoy to cook. My kitchen was also in the hallway. My bed with foam mattress was on a mezzanine, whose corner had to be padded in case I accidentally knocked myself out one day hitting it. Oh, but I had a really, really big bathroom for some reason. Hmmm...


Yeah, sure I had a balcony that I could sit on every night with a glass of Bordeaux watching the lit up Eiffel Tower in front of me sparkle for 5 minutes on the hour every hour until 1am. But STILL! That is not the point.



My said nightly and daily view. Ugh pal mal I suppose






8. En Australie, c'est le minimum d'avoir un vrai lit, un four et un machine a laver


Hum hum hum. Oui, c'est ca.




9. Our Strikes are not anything like French Strikes 



Did you know that Australia has one of the longest TV ads in the world? No? 18 minutes per hour on average but this can get higher! France is 6-8. And there are strict regulations about when they come on and not during movies and between certain times.

See why we Australians are different? If we were French, we would strike over this. It simply would not happen because the French would not stand for it. It is part in parcel with the French spirit.... Spirit of the Strike ;-P No, seriously the French are so passionate about whatever they believe in at that particular point in time that they will go to any lengths to show it. 

Examples, for a few days I could not physically get to my school because of French strikes. I once could not cross the road to go to the metro station from school because there was a protest march going down the street. 

I picked my mum up from the airport but then we could not get back into Paris because the trains decided to strike. It was a matter of a couple of hours, people! So we got a bus. HALF WAY. Because the other HALF WANTED TO STRIKE TOO. So that was ineffective. And ended up with in a taxi with a taxi driver "Ah yessss, zeee strikes! We French like strikes!"

You could be on your way to work then there's a metro strike, so then you finally get there probably at 5:00pm ready to leave again, you just say "greve" to your chef d'etablissement and it is fine.



9. Les Greves Francaise.


Hey, I had to look up whether "greve" was masculine or feminine. Why is a strike feminine?!


Encore, c'est tout. Les greves en Australie sont pas si souvent ou pour le meme raisons. Notre age pour le retraite est 67 ans. Et aussi notre government ne fiche pas comme en France. Je pense que c'est plus a cause de tout ca.



10. French Bureaucracy is A LOT more complicated


Hmm... yes, what a subject.

So to get an apartment in Paris, you need to have a French bank account but to get a French bank account, you need a copy of your lease agreement. See how this may be a bit frustrating when you are coming not only from Melbourne or Australia but any other country in the world!
Oh.. and tax. They pay you your wage up front- but then they will ask you to pay back your taxes at the end of every financial year! Yes, that makes so much sense. So during the year, you need to be taking note of each paycheck so you can estimate how much money you will be owing them later.
For public health cover as a non-EU foreigner, you need a medical check-up (yes, girlies that means a topless examination). But if you have (dual) EU citizenship like me you do not require this. Hey, I could have tuberculosis too, ok! Not to mention that this test is performed often at least three months after you have arrived in France and are working.


For the more visual amongst you, navigating French bureaucracy is like this



10. La bureaucratie Francaise


Vous etes tous incroyable. Bravo!
C'est suffit pour rendre un homme completement fou.




11. Yes, that's right, I have cheated. There is an 11th. A very honourable mention to the fact that if you can actually live in Paris, you can live ANYWHERE!!!! Hats off to you.


Paris is so beautiful, it is a cultural centre of the world, it boasts delicious cuisine, beautiful people, haute couture, every famous musician passes through it, same for exhibitions and events but damn, they like to test you to see if you can live here.


As many a friend who still live in Paris have remarked (they have also literally used the 11th title quote too), it is like this:


"Oh so you want to live in Paris!"
"Are you sure?"
"Really sure?!"
"Are you sure that you are sure that you are sure?! Ok then prove it!"

Then you naturally become some sort of magical French bureaucracy ninja, and HIIII YAAA! You have overcome the most incredible obstacles and we will let you stay :-)



Oue!!!
(By the way, this is after making it down to the Calanques near Marseille and climbing back up ALIVE! And yes it is totally worth it, but I did want to kill something- or someone while in the process of getting there and back)







11. Oups... il y a un 11eme teehee. Quand vous pouvez habiter a Paris, vous peuvent habiter n'importe ou.


Er, c'est tout. 








To come in the probably distant future: 





"Why Paris is Better Than Melbourne"


or

"Pourquoi Paris est la Meilleure Ville que Melbourne"


Marchons, marchons!

Qu'un sang impur... 




Ca suffit? D'accord :-)


Quand meme, je vous demandes d'apporter vos baguettes et chemises en rayures blues et blanches!



[That means I demand the Frenchies to bring along their baguettes and blue and white striped shirts to the next one!]



P.s We also have an Eiffel Tower :-P





Just don't look at it during the day. It doesn't have the same effect

4 Feb 2015

Are You Excited?



I know am to hear about Harper Lee's second novel, "Go Set a Watchman" to be published later in the year at the age of 88.

And even moreso that it will be featuring many of the characters from the original "To Kill a Mockingbird," which won a Pulitzer Prize as it is to be set 20 years earlier.

Book lovers unite!



Also I have finally got readers in Africa. Yay, now all I need is Antarctica :=P

Oh, c'mon!

1 Feb 2015

Update



Yay, new post soon!


My blog will also hopefully be upgraded in the next few days to something a lot prettier and bloggeuse-like ^^

Life is difficult for the less technologically savvy Gen-Ys

I just got Instagram after years of restraint because I was not so sure about all this social media business. And as you can see scrolling down this page, I have no idea how to lay it all out nicely.

I have just added an About Me page up the top, which is just the usual crazy ramblings...





Addit: 3/2/15 I have been asked by a few readers to write something about Australia. So I have added an 'Australia' section. However, for the time being this is just a sampling of some of the photos that I have taken.



I am also so flattered to have so many people actually interested in my blog. At the same time, I am really sorry but I do not accept friend requests on Facebook if I don't know you personally. And Facebook messages aren't ideal either to my personal account. 

BUT I urge you to instead rather leave a comment on my blog or on the FB page and I will get back to you :-)


26 Jan 2015

Lemon and Herb Infused Chicken with Crispy Potatoes and Honey/Red Wine-Glazed Figs


Wow that title is a bit of a mouthful, isn't it?


This recipe is something that I whipped up mid-week after thoughtfully staring into the fridge and pantry.

I added the fig at the last moment (really just because I realised I had some fresh figs lying around).



Yummy yummy yum

Serves 4.

You will need:


4 chicken thighs (I always cut off any additional fat I can see)
10 baby chat potatoes (to be halved)

Mixed herbs
1/3 cup lemon juice
4 figs
1/2 cup of red wine
4 tsp of honey

Seeing as I still had some lemon juice left over from my sorbet adventure, I added about 1/3 of a cup to a mixing bowl along with a sprinkling of mixed herbs. I also added some freshly crushed garlic and mixed it in together.




I parboiled some baby chat potatoes and shook them in the saucepan with a tablespoon of duck fat (as per this past post). I then added sea salt crystals.

And then add them to the dish to cook in the oven.





I put the dish into the oven preheated at 180 degrees celcius.




Hmm... maybe not such a good idea for both chicken and potatoes to be in the same dish. All the juices mixing with the potatoes preventing the potatoes from becoming crispy.





There we go!


This is what I should have done in the first place!



I would leave them in the oven for at least 45  minutes, remembering to spoon the sauce over the chicken to prevent the thighs from becoming dry. They also need to be turned once.

I took the figs and cut them into quarters before spooning honey onto them along with the red wine. I let them under the grill on the top shelf of the oven to cook. It only takes 5 minutes before they are ready!












23 Jan 2015

Tart Lemon Sorbet



Yum!


I went shopping the other day and I found these super cute retro ice cream containers. So I thought "What a fabulous idea. I can make sorbet!"

In high school and university, I used to make lemon sorbet all the time. I am not really sure how I came up with the method. This time, I had a little trouble trying to remember what I used to do.


Totes cute


So I took 3 massive lemons that I found at a market earlier in the morning.


They were a lot larger than the photo would leave you to believe

Then I squeezed the bezeebers out of them!! I used an old school squeezer that I found as you can see. 


Et voilà!!

These lemons made about 1 1/3 cups of lemon juice (not as juicy as they would have made me believe!) Apparently, these ones were mostly rind!


Lots of rind
Grate about two tablespoons of lemon zest finely. I am a big fan of zest in my sorbet. If you are not, you can leave it out completely.



I boiled about 1 litre of water on the stove. As it was heating up, I added 250 grams of caster sugar and stirred the mixture as it melted.  I let it rise to the boil for just over 5 minutes and then placed it into a plastic container to cool in the fridge. I used this one because it is  rectangular hence easier to get at with a fork whilst freezing.


Lunchbox will suffice



You will need to leave the mixture for at least an hour to cool. 


Meanwhile, the next step is to take two eggs and separate the whites into a bowl. 


Then using a whisk, mix until the egg whites form a stiff appearance. This takes some time if you are using your hand. Otherwise if you have a mixer, it will be much more efficient! After a time, I added about 1/2 cup of caster sugar.


Get ready for some muscular arms!

Then gradually fold in the egg white mixture into the container.


I left the container to freeze for a couple of hours, then I took a fork and 'smooshed' the contents together again. Then I put it back into the freezer.



After another couple of hours, I transfered the sorbet into the retro ice cream container.
And returned to the freezer, where I left it overnight.


Filling up the container


And here is the result the next day!

It has a delicious tart lemon flavour that I would be tempted to indulge myself eating all day long if I could.


I am hoping to try this again with another mix of fresh fruit to try to perfect the method!




I decided to serve the sorbet in these awesome classic champagne glasses. I looooove glasses like these. All the glamourous stars from the 1930s-1940s Hollywood  films drunk from them....  am summoning up visions of Bette Davis

Ah, oh there you go, I couldn't resist...


A young Bette Davis in 'Of Human Bondage' Amazing performance by Bette. There is one scene where she goes completely psycho. So great! Ha! Photo credit: www.thefilmexperience.net
And Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant in Alfred Hitchcock's 'Notorious' Photo credit: www.filmnoirblonde.com


Digressing again... *classic film nerd coming out* but I would recommend those films in a heartbeat.




Note: As I seemed to have not remembered exactly what I used to do, I kind of just went along with whatever I thought would do (ha! typical). The sorbet was not as solid as I wished it to be though I was not trying to go for the creamy type of sorbet either.

-Addit 23/1/15 Scrap that. It is perfect now!




If you end up with sorbet that does not seem to set very well and is more of a liquid, you can serve it as a granita or better yet, serve it as a cocktail! Just add some spirits. And maybe try your sorbet again later!