Thursday, December 24, 2009

Chocolate Ganache and Caramel topped Scottish Shortbread - A Guest Blog

Before heading off on all our separate adventures, the assistants of Limoges had a Holiday party and all of us brought a little something to share. Callum (our Scottish assistant) made some amazing shortbread (that I am eager to bake myself) and he kindly agreed to do a guestblog for me. Read and drool.

Whatup yo'? Keen to share a bit of my Scottish culture, I made my version of caramel shortcake for our Christmas party. Caramel shortcake is a very very rich dessert, popular in Scotland. It's a layered cake, made of shortbread biscuit on the bottom, a thick layer of gooey caramel in the middle and then a layer of melted chocolate. It's incredibly rich - so much so it's also known as "millionaires shortcake". Seeing as it's Christmas, I made it even more rich, by substituting the chocolate for a chocolate ganache, made of dark chocolate, butter and cream. Cut up into little squares as in the picture makes an excellent party canapé.

For the base:

4oz Butter, 2oz Castor Sugar and 6oz Self Raising Flour

For the Caramel:

One tin of Condensed Milk (normally by Nestlé), 4oz Butter, 4oz Castor Sugar and 2 tablespoons of Golden Syrup (this isn't vital, but makes the caramel even sweeter)

For the Ganache Topping

6oz Dark Chocolate, 3oz Butter and about 200ml of double cream.


All these measures can be doubled or halved or whatever. None of them have to be exact either...

1. Heat your oven to 180˙C/350˙F. Grease your baking tin, I made mine in a large tart pan and it worked just fine.

2. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy and sieve in flour. Fold this into the mixture.

3. Press this shortcake mixture into the bottom of the tin as evenly as possible and bake it for about 15/20 mins until golden brown.

4. For the caramel, add all the ingredients to a pan. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves and then boil for about 5-10 mins. You MUST stir it constantly or it WILL burn, and the caramel will be full of bitter black bits.

5. Once the caramel is golden, spread it across the base evenly and chill in the fridge to set.

6. For the ganache, the easiest thing yo do is to place it all in a bowl, and blast in the microwave for a bit until melted. Stir it and perhaps heat again until its a smooth, thick, dark and glossy consistency.

7. As soon as the caramel is cooled and set, spread the ganache over the top - it should be thick enough for you to make a kind of rippled effect on the top with a palette knife. While it's still wet you can score the chocolate into portions - a small square is plenty for a portion because its so bloody rich.

8. Place it back in the fridge until set, probably about an hour... To serve, dust with a little icing sugar (I believe you Yankee doodles call that powdered sugar)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Creepy Poupees and Churro

Every second Sunday of the month there is a huge flea market in town here. Despite the freezing cold I decided to go out because...well what else is there to do on a Sunday? I noticed last time I went that there were an awful lot of creepy dolls being sold so this time I decided to snap a few portraits to share. Didn't get many - my hands were too cold!

They love dolls here! They even have a little doll hospital!

The one thing I saw here that I would have bought if I lived here was this giant seed container. I would have used it as a jewelry box and learned all the different veggies in French at the same time! The guy tried to convince me that it's possible to ship stuff to the US. Yeah I know...the presents I sent home cost more in shipping than it did to buy the stuff! No fanks!

Of course I wasn't too cold to take off my mittens for some Churro!

Didn't get any stranger pics this week...failure. Had planned on doing that at the flea market but I was too cold. Seriously, I couldn't feel my feet or fingers.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Window Shopping

I've been doing a lot of window shopping lately - scouting out presents and pretty much just drooling. There are words in French that if you translate them literally are quite amusing. For example - window shopping in French is lèche-vitrine - translated literally...window licking. Quite appropriate when you're chocolate shopping :)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Naughty and Nice

So this week with my little kids I did a lesson on Christmas vocab. Basically we drew together and then labeled the parts. I drew on the board and they drew on paper. Here is what my little drawings looked like:

I tell them up front that Im not a good drawer and invite them to improve on my modest attempts in their own drawings. They laugh as I start to draw Santa first. Santa is a difficult concept for a lot of them. They have been taught to say Father Christmas (they say Pere Noel) and they kept asking me to translate the word Santa for them. Is Santa the same as Father? Its just what we call him kids! I dont know everything!Apparently in the UK both Santa and Father Christmas is used although Callum assures me that only the posh kids would say Father Christmas.

It started out alright with my first class. A little over energetic, wouldnt stop talking, but Im no fan of a silent class anyhow so I let it go. One of the little boys gave me his drawings as a present. Granted that kinda defeats the purpose of having a vocab sheet and doing the lesson if you cant look back on it but whatever- its almost vacations - so I let it go.

The kids were cute and the phrase "il est moche!" (he's so ugly! Moche is a familiar term, the "proper" word would be laid - I'm learning all kinds of improper words from these kids) was thrown around quite a bit as the children tried to draw there little Santa Claus.

And then I had a class of kids who honestly made me want to sit on the floor and cry. They talked the entire time, ignoring me when I yelled in English, blinking for a second and then continuing to talk when I yelled in French. Every time I would turn my back to draw on the board I would hear a noise, turn around and one of them would be on the floor, "J'ai tombe." Oh just "fell" out of your chair. Or I would turn around and the kid would be half way across the room from his/her seat getting her pencil. Oh it just fell?

Finally two of the kids who were acting up the worst I got so fed up with that I took them back. The noise, the sheer noise as I opened the door to the class. The teacher literally started screaming at the two guilty children. I will never get used to the way they handle things here. If you tell the prof that the children have been bad, they want a full report, names, specific acts, and you can bet that they will be publicly reamed for each and every offense. They came to me one at a time and made their apologies then were put in the back of the class while she continued to yell about how they constantly misbehave.

Needless to say the children left after I took the other children back were better behaved afterwards. The little girls were sure to tell me "You are so pretty today, Madame." I always have problems with this particular class - they think they can play the whole time. Nothing I can do. When I tell the prof she says...yup, they're just bad.

One of the boys I took back drew this as his Santa....

Friday, December 4, 2009


My Inconnu for the week. Pretty happy with this one. I was walking down the street anxious to get home and break into a freshly bought pastry when this man stopped me and asked me if I had any extra cash so he could get something to eat. I've seen him around town a lot. I proposed a trade - some cash for a portrait.
He was happy to oblige but said he wasn't sure he photographed well anymore - he's 72. I had him fooled for about a minute before the "You're not French?" question made its appearance. When I told him I was American he said "America shouldn't bother with the was in Afganastan - The Russians have been there trying for as long as I can remember and it hasn't gotten them anywhere."
I just smiled....

On a camera note: I have been reading my manual for the D90 (first time ever for anything) because I wasn't getting the effects (effects? Franny? I can never remember if its a or e) that I wanted. I changed my metering system (matrix to spot) and a whole slew of other things that determine the way colors and contrast are captured and recorded and I think that has helped a lot. Before - with the matrix - the camera was metering off a grid of 13 points and then suggesting the best exposure so that the most things possible would be exposed correctly - and well frankly that's not what I wanted. When I'm taking portraits like this I couldn't give a fig if the background is correctly exposed - its the person I'm concerned with. I find it less distracting and more aesthetically pleasing to have a blown out background like this actually. What do you think? Not for every situation of course - but for busy cities with trashcans and people walking by it seems better to not have all that exposed correctly and detracting from the subject.
Whats sooo nice about the D90 is that all the functions that I changed can be accessed on the body (also in menus of course) so I can easily press a button, spin a dial, and change things back based on the situation. Loving this camera more and more as I get to know it better. Ok enough camera gush - look for more inconnu portraits next week!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


As many of you already know I will be making to trek back to the states for Christmas and this is seriously the best present I could hope for (thanks Dad!) so this is more of a dream list than an actual wishlist. You just see things when you're shopping and tuck it away for another day - that's what this is.

My fellow blogger Angry Chicken has posted about this book more than once and ever since the first time I heard of it my mouth has been watering. Its stuffed with 160 vegetarian soup recipes!
PS Chels - check this lady's blog out - she does lots of tutorials for clothing alteration!

A remote for my camera! This little guy is only 10 bucks. Might just have to get one while I'm home. This would make getting into my photos AND being in focus so much easier!

Miss Emily over at Inside A Black Apple just posted her newest lovelies! I've been a fan of Emily's paintings for a while - but to have them in necklace form! Would go nicely with my cameo collection.

Brown boots. The problem...I can't find ones that I like - or they look cute when they are sitting on the shelf but not cute when I put them on. These are from Urban Outfitters and just looking at them I think they're cute but they could be terrible on.

I have seen these in so many shop windows here! Mini cocottes made by Le Creuset. They have a lovely turquoise colored one here but Im too lazy to find a picture with the right color. You get the idea. Can't you imagine making casseroles and everyone having their own little cocotte?

That's pretty much it - the things I see and think - one day when I have a "grown up" job :) Oh also some knee high socks! My toes are cold. This I will have to buy while Im home.

Mashed White Bean Sammy and Bulgar Mixed Veg Salad-Vegan

Sounds like a lot of healthy stuff right? Yeah it is, but trust me it's so good!

White beans seem to find there way onto my plate more frequently here than at home so I decided to just embrace it. This method of mashing the white beans creates a hummus-like but slightly bumpier kind of spread that frankly I now prefer to hummus.

Mashed White Bean Sammy (for 2)

1 can white beans (drained and rinsed)
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 avocado
handful of spiniach
handful of sprouts (can't find them here but that's how I wanted to eat it)
4 slices of your favorite bread

1. Put your white beans in a bowl and add the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Using a fork mash the beans against the side of the bowl until you have a lumpy spread.
2. Spread onto your bread, top with avocado, spinach, and sprouts.
3. Eat!

Also it would be good with cucumber, roasted red pepper, or shriratcha!

The Bulgar Salad is a bit more complicated but it keeps well. I made it yesterday and I made enough to eat cold for the rest of the week as a side.

Bulgar Mixed Veg Salad

1 cup bulgur wheat
1 eggplant, thinly sliced then sliced into 4ths
1 pound mushrooms, sliced in half
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
1 cup basil leaves, torn

1. Cook the bulgar according to the package (usually 2 cups cold water and 1 cup bulgar, bring the boil, cover and simmer for 12-15 min)
2. Sautee the mushrooms and eggplant in 3 tbsp oil until tender (5 min)
3. Put your bulgar in a large bowl and fluff with a fork. Add remaining oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper and mix well.
4. Add your eggplant and mushrooms and mix well. Gently fold in the tomatoes and basil.

This will make enough for 4-6 people or it will last one to two people several days. Serve warm or cold.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving in Limoges

This Saturday 20 some of us assistants and friends gathered for a Thanksgiving feast. Alex, Callum and Ansleigh really pulled out all the stops and we ended up having way more food than we could even eat and it was all amazing.

They started cooking the day before - making pumpkin pies from scratch (whole pumpkins I tell you!) and getting up early to go to the market downtown.

Some of the stuff they made like these little guys were so cute. I didnt try one because of the mallow on top but I think they were clementines that were hollowed out and then filled with sweet potatoes and topped with cinnamon and marshmallows? In any case they were super cute!

This was a goat cheese app covered in tomatoes and capers. Really nice.

The cranberry sauce was amazing. Im going to beg Alex for the recipe and hopefully she wont mind if I share it with you all too!

That plate of brown stuff behind the green beans was Guillaume's home-made seitan! It was so nice to have him there - he cooked some great little veggie dishes for us to split and we talked about vegetarianism/veganism. He sure knows his stuff - he even switched to English for a bit because the vocab was out of my league in French and I was super impressed with his English vocb. Obviously very passionate about being vegan.

They made 4 little chickens which I heard turned out quite well.

I'm pretty sure Callum was on "cut things up" duty all day long.

Our cooks!

What's cool about this place (Ansleigh, Anais and Jon live here) is that its an old hospital - or the old infirmary for the school that's across the street I think. So there are all these examination rooms that are just not being used! Kinda creepy but also kinda cool - I want to buy a wide-angle lens and go to town on that place. Would love to shoot a video there.

There is still all kinds of stuff like this laying around in the rooms they don't use.

Old waiting room type furniture.

Also I got a few portraits real quick when I could get someone to sit still long enough.

Jon from England.

This is my inconnu for the week. Didn't know her before so it counts!

Anais (pronounced Anne-I-eese)

Alex was gracious enough to pause in her frantic cooking for this one :)

Turned out to be a smash success I would say. We started at 2pm and we all hung out until almost 9pm. Then we headed over to Adam's place for a house-warming party that went well into the next morning. So nice to have friends! Plenty to be thankful for here!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Curry Tofu and Mushrooms over Rice

Sometimes a girl craves curry tofu.

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 (12 ounce) package extra-firm tofu, drained and cubed
1 tablespoon seasoned salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 small onion, chopped
1 pound mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (10 ounce) can coconut milk
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
as much red pepper as you like

1.Start cooking rice according to the package. Meanwhile heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu cubes, season with seasoned salt and fry until golden on all sides, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. About half way through cooking the tofu add the mushrooms. When cooking is complete remove tofu and mushrooms to paper towels, and set aside.
2.Melt butter or margarine in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook and stir until tender. Stir in coconut milk, curry powder, salt, pepper and cilantro. Return the tofu to the skillet. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour over rice and enjoy!

Simple and vegan. Everyone can enjoy!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Weekend in Beajolais Country

Beaujolais is a light bodied red wine produced in the Beaujolais province. The region is located north of Lyon and is composed of miles and miles (kilometers if you prefer) of rolling hills literally covered in grape vines and tiny little town placed here and there among them.
The first people to sew the seeds of the now famous Beaujolais grapes were the Romans. From the 7th century through the Middle Ages, most of the viticulture and winemaking was done by the Benedictine monks. In the 10th century, the region got its name from the town of Beaujeu (which we drove through I think...or we just saw a lot of signs for it, it's the capital of that region), and Rhône (very close by) and was ruled by the Lords of Beaujeu till the 15th century.
The Beaujolais Nouveau - as Alex so aptly described it - is a simple table wine. There is no body - no real lasting flavor at the back of your tongue. It's just there. And's just gross. But its the only wine that can be released as young as it is - so for whatever reason they DO release it young, even though in my opinion its not ready to be tasted. There you have it though - a yearly tradition complete with wine tasting, marathons, and fireworks.

We got up around 5 am and I and walked up to Place Jordan where Alex and her room-mate Amandine (she's French and she loves "le catch" (WWF wrestling)) picked Therese and I up. Amandine drove us all the way to Lyon (a 5 or so hour drive) and dropped us off at Part Dieu (the train station in the heart of Lyon). From there we rented a car - thank goodness Alex drives stick! - and proceeded to drive up to the Beaujolais region with me as the navigator.

Therese is on the left and Alex is on the right.

We drove up to Villefranche - drove by it the first time thinking nothing was going on but a marathon - but then headed back after our pizza chef in Belleville told us that's where the action was.

There were about 5 different bands playing (think marching band) which I took videos of- but I thought this little girl was so cute!

Really cute little town - filled to the brim for nasty wine :)

We walked around for a bit sipping on our little plastic cups of wine while Alex explained to Therese and I how she describes the taste of wine and how there are so many different personal ways to do it. I like wine - but I never really got into talking about it - so I had little to add to her wealth of information.

Stumbled upon this guy - and everyone was taking pictures with him. Therese and I posed while Alex took our picture but the joke of it all went right over my head. Remi! Who is this guy and why should I think it's funny?

Really pretty church in the center of town. There were signs for a "pasta party" all over the place and when we got to the church there was a stage set up next to it with semi-drunks singing karaoke and the "pasta party" sign was pointed right at the stage. I was ever so disappointed and confused.

Several cheese stands with little chunks for tasting.

These ones you actually buy this way though.

This cheese was covered in grapes from the wine making process.

These guys were dressed as grapes - which I totally didn't get until Alex told me. I was like..what kinda weird monsters are they trying to be - although - there were a lot of people wearing wigs for no reason so I didn't think it was too strange. Grapes make sense though.

We stayed at this really cute place that was pretty much impossible to find. The "town" was called La Grange du Bois..and so was the bed and breakfast. We were told we would "fall upon it" - more on this expression in another post! dont get me started on "fall upon it" - because literally there was nothing in this town but some houses and the B&B.

view from the window

Turned out to be an amazing huge old house with an incredible view. Our hostess walked around in a floor-length poncho looking friendly and was more than willing to point us in the direction of food when we finally found the place, hungry and tired.

Breakfast in the morning was hearty bread with 3 seemingly homemade jams and butter(which Im told is much better here than at home - i dont eat butter much so I wasn't sure), grape juice, and tea.

Turned out to be a great weekend. We got lost. Therese and I got carsick. We're already making plans to go back to Lyon. There is so much more I could say about this weekend but attention spans are only so long right? Enjoy the pictures!