Friday, 31 May 2013

Folksy Summer

Good morning, world! I was just browsing Folksy when I realised that something on the front page looked very familiar - it took me about 5 seconds to realise that my navy blue Amelia bloomers had snuck in an appearance too! Those of you on Pinterest can see it over here too - Folksy Summer.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Bags Of Bagels

I blame Ai for this, I really do. If you follow her blog, you'll have noticed that she has been baking some rather delicious looking bagels over the past couple of months. Her photos of her glossy, nicely-shaped bagels brought on a rather inexplicable bout of industry in my kitchen - I simply had to make some bagels for myself!

There are plenty of recipes out there in Googleworld, so I won't write one down here. My friend Deco Reco  swears by Smitten Kitchen's recipe, which takes two or three days to prepare. I'm much to impatient for that, so I prefer to use this recipe from The Sophisticated Gourmet as a guideline for quantities and times, with the addition of a second proof after shaping the bagels. 

The most fun part, I think, is the shaping. Some people roll the dough into little cylindrical tubes, then join the ends neatly together (like so). I prefer to roll it into a ball, then poke a flour-covered finger through the middle, and twirl it around my finger a few times to enlarge the hole (scroll down to about the middle). More fun than you imagine. 

So far, I've made bagels with rye flour, with 'farmhouse' flour (with added grains and seeds), with plain white bread flour, with cranberries and walnuts, with caraway seeds, sesame seeds, sea salt, and even fancy grey sea salt. Whatever the flavour, they've all tasted wonderful fresh out of the oven, with butter melting through it. I also like them with some mascarpone and honey, for when I'm being all hedonistic. They've all been a lot chewier than the shop-bought versions, and you get the satisfaction of people looking all impressed and stuff when they find out you've made your own bagels. There's a good reason to make your own bagels if ever you needed one. 

Friday, 24 May 2013

Black Poppy - Refashioned Floral Dress

The original dress (plus some wrinkles)

This dress, like so many of my other refashioned items, was found in an op-shop (for the bargain price of £2.99! I love Salvos!), and originally from Marks and Spencers. I loved the print and drapey fabric, and the bodice evoked 1940s dresses with its double-breasted opening. Unfortunately, it was a size 16, and way too long for me - the skirt went down to my ankles. The shoulders were also much too big, and padded as well, for full 1980s effect.
Out came my trusty seam ripper, and off went the sleeves and skirt. There was some elastic along the waist, so I gently unpicked that too, and saved it, just in case. I started by adding some bust and waist darts, and then took in an inch along each side seam, to bring in the bodice and make it a closer fit. The shoulders were still too big, so I cut off an inch at the top (narrowing it down to nothing at the bottom of the armscye). This of course meant the sleeves were a little too big when I tried to set them in, so instead of gathering and easing it in, I added two little pleats to the top of the sleeves. You can see how that turned out in the photo above - I'm quite pleased with it, although of course it means I have to iron them down after every wash.
After that, everything else got done fairly quickly and smoothly. I gathered the skirt and attached it back to the bodice, then reattached the elastic that I had unpicked from the dress earlier. The belt was still much too big though, so I added a couple more holes with the help of my trusty eyelet kit. I found mine in an op-shop, but you can find a similar kit here - trust me, it's more useful than you think it will be. 

The only thing left was to shorten the skirt. I briefly considered leaving it long, as I'm partial to a good mid-length skirt, but this just looked a little too mumsy for my taste. So I ended up taking a good EIGHT inches off, which left it at a nice just-above-the-knee length. Job done, and it's quickly become one of the dresses I reach for whenever I want to feel just a little bit (not too much) dressed up.

Friday, 10 May 2013

La Table de Anges

Last night in Paris, and we were hoping for a great meal with end the trip with a bang. Trouble was, we'd left it until pretty late in the evening, and so decided an amble down Rue des Martyrs might turn up something. First impressions weren't too promising though, as most of the shops were shut. Just as we were about to give up and get a kebab from one of the many kebabs shops on Boulevard Clichy, we spotted a welcoming glow from La Table des Anges. Upon entering, we were greeted with a hearty 'Bonsoir!' and asked if we had a reservation. The place was heaving, and for a moment I thought we might have to resume our search for food. Fotunately, the friendly waiter asked us to wait, and in a couple of minutes, we were ushered to a little table between two large, boisterous groups. 
Complimentary plate of shaved ham
So, you're probably used to getting complimentary baskets of bread from restaurants. Well, this place went one better, and presented us with free ham! I don't even know even words to express how awesome that is, especially when it's freshly shaved, paper-thin, fluffy and just the right amount of salty. I didn't think to ask what kind of jambon it was, but there was a whole hunk of it in the corner of the restaurant, sitting on top of an industrial-looking meat-shaver machine (I don't actually know what those machines are called?). 
White asparagus and salad
We didn't have to wait to long for our starters to arrive. Manbacon's white asparagus was simply steamed, and topped with a fresh salad. The creamy-yellow spears were buttery soft, and a far cry from the limp disappointments you get in those supermarket tins. A great example of 'less is more' when it comes to good, fresh produce. 

My lobster bisque was surprisingly large - that bowl in the picture was as big as my face, and filled to the brim. In some poncy restaurants that would have been a rather pricey main course. Anyway, not a bad thing, since I was starving. The soup itself had a velvety texture, accompanied by a lovely marine taste from the shellfish. Like eating sea velvet. And then, of course, a generous parcel of ravioli at the bottom, plump and covered in a beautifully thin, almost translucent dough. I took my time with the soup so I could savour the taste as long as possible. 
Lobster bisque with crayfish ravioli
Alas, it wasn't a bottomless bowl of soup, so I eventually finished it rather than have it go cold. Because we'd had such a good experience with duck the night before, we both decided to chance it and ordered the duck again.
Magret de canard with potatoes and warm salad
The friendly waiter had asked how we wanted our duck cooked, to which we both replied 'pink'. Because overcooked duck is a culinary sin. If last night's dish was good, this was mindblowing! It came perfectly pink and juicy, with lightly seared skin and a (un)healthy layer of fat inbetween. Perfectly cooked duck like this is the reason I find it impossible for me to go vego. The dish came with a light, warm salad of shredded courgettes, carrots and mushrooms, which reminded me of those shredded salads you get in banh mi and Vietnamese noodle dishes. The only bit I didn't enjoy were the potatoes - just a bit too dry, and nowhere as fantastic as the dauphinoise I enjoyed the night before. 

No dessert, as even my dessert stomach was filled. However, the friendly barman did charm us into having a digestif, and chose a light, apple flavoured liqueur for me to try. Manbacon reckoned it was 'too girly' for his tastebuds (he had cognac instead), but I enjoyed it. Fully sated, we managed to exchange a few words in broken French and English with the lovely staff, and promised we would return the next time we were in Paris. Soon, I hope...

66 Rue des Martyrs
75009, Paris