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The last 7 days passed by relatively quietly after the excitement of Christmas, which we celebrated in the French countryside with my in-laws. We returned home on Monday and haven’t strayed more than walking distance from the apartment since, enjoying that special time between Christmas and New Years, where time feels like it moves at a different pace.
The streets are quiet and the weather has been gorgeous so we’ve spent hours outside in the Jardin du Luxembourg, wandering after the children as they toddle about exploring puddles and chasing seagulls. There have been afternoon naps (for both adults and kids), endless cups of tea (strong English breakfast with a dash of milk), lots of cooking (does making celery salt count as cooking?) and the completion of several small projects around the house that I wanted to tick off my list before 2022 arrived (framing things, tidying the admin cupboard, finally ordering a mirror for the powder room after deliberating for 18 months).
I visited our local outdoor market twice this week, enjoying it while it was less crowded, although the line for the boulangerie still snaked out the door, as people patiently waited for some of the best croissants in town at Maison d’Isabelle. A few of the stallholders I usually shop at were on vacation which was a nice opportunity to chat with some producers I had never stopped at before.
On Tuesday I came home with a pile of fresh scallops, still in their shells, which I passed under the grill for just a few minutes, topped with butter, a squeeze of lemon juice, freshly grated ginger and a hint of miso paste. On Thursday I picked up 2 kilos of dirty potatoes, which I transformed into fluffy gnocchi, pan fried in a little duck fat and fresh thyme, and sprinkled with fleur de sel.
We also enjoyed a few rather special bottles of wine this week. One that we brought back from our wine stash at the in-laws, one given to us as a gift from a friend who’s vineyard Château Biac in Bordeaux is one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited in France, and a Sauvignon blanc that I picked up at an Australian food festival in Paris earlier this year, which helped push back a sudden tide of homesickness.
New Year’s Eve was spent dancing under the disco ball hanging in our kitchen. We all dressed up, took 35 photos to get one (relatively) decent shot of the 5 of us, fed the 1 year old and 2 year old an early dinner and put them to bed before enjoying Martini Rosso on ice for apéro hour alongside smoked salmon on blinis and foie gras on spiced toast with fig jam.
I dressed the table quite simply with a vintage tablecloth (and matching napkins) bought at a market in Cannes last year, new plates we received as a Christmas gift, and my mother’s old silver cutlery set.
We popped open a bottle of pink champagne to drink alongside a seafood platter that we ordered in advance from our local fishmonger (they laugh at me there as I’m always the first person to place an order for things like Christmas or New Years Eve, but I like to know it’s done and have something to look forward to), collected at 6pm and stored in the shower until it was time to eat (it comes with ice in the bottom so storing it in the shower or bathtub avoids any potential spills!).
Too full for cheese, we skipped straight to dessert, which was a meringue wreath covered in festive sprinkles. I’d planned to pick up something special at the patisserie but the line was out the door and around the corner so I skipped it and made something at home. Once you put a sparkler in it everything looks fancy enough anyway.
I’ve made a few resolutions this year, the main one being to focus on my health a little more, as I’ve finally accepted that “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. Lots of nourishing soups and stews in our future, as well as long walks and a decision to be more conscious about where I spend my time and attention. Maybe I’ll even manage to read a book or two this year! Any great book recommendations are very welcome.
We closed out the week with a relaxed Sunday lunch of roast chicken, followed by fresh baguette and a selection of cheeses, before enjoying “the best pears I’ve eaten all year” according to my husband. The man loves a good Dad joke.
All in all a slow and comfortable start to the year. Wherever you are in the world I hope that 2022 brings you great things.
Cheese we are eating this week:
Mini-clac - a firm little cheese made from raw goat’s milk.
Comté - a semi-hard cheese made from unpasteurised cow’s milk from the Jura Massif region of France, this one was aged 24 months.
Tomme à la Truffe - a Swiss cheese made with raw cow's milk that is soft and creamy with a ribbon of black truffles running through the centre giving it a warm aroma.
All bought at Fromagerie Sanders, in the Marché couvert Saint-Germain.
To read: I’ve dived back into Let’s Eat France by François-Régis Gaudry which is an absolute treasure.
To listen: How to Fail with Elizabeth Day, a series of uplifting conversations where guests discuss their failures and how they helped them get to where they are now.
To follow: Dream French Properties - I spend a ridiculous amount of time on this account daydreaming about renovating a house in the countryside.
Warm du Puy Lentils with Wholegrain Mustard
After all the rich food we enjoyed over the holidays I made these simple lentils for lunch on New Years Day. Quick, nourishing and full of flavour, they’re the perfect meal on a cold day. I used du Puy lentils as that’s what we had in the cupboard but any green lentils will work.
Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter
200g du Puy lentils (or any green lentils) rinsed
Half an onion, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 stick of celery, diced
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
Salt & pepper
Toss your onion, carrot, celery and lardons into a pot with a splash of olive oil, a pinch of salt & pepper, and cook on medium heat until the onion is translucent and the lardons are starting to brown - this takes longer than you think, give it time. The more you let the vegetables and lardons brown the more flavour you add to the dish. If it starts to catch, pour a little water in to save it.
Add the garlic and gently cook it out, being careful not to let it burn.
Add your rinsed green lentils and follow the cooking instructions on the packet (the ones we use require 3 x their volume (not weight) in water so I usually measure them out into a cup and then use the same cup to measure the water). Bring to the boil and simmer (with a lid) until they’re tender. Remove the lid and allow any excess liquid to evaporate until you are happy with the consistency.
Add more salt and pepper to your taste and mix through a big teaspoon (or more) of wholegrain mustard. Our toddler likes his mustard on the side of the plate so he can eat it by itself, he adores it so much.
Serve with a green salad and fresh bread.
Real Life Paris Photo
I was walking by the river and passed by this collection of bicycles and scooters that have been pulled out. I wonder how many get tossed in each week?