Home again, home again

Back from Paris, still unpacking and doing laundry. Yesterday it was disconcerting that everyone in the grocery store spoke English and today I keep patting at my pockets, missing the familiar shape of our passports. By tomorrow most of the “re-entry syndrome” will have worn off. Until then, I have pictures.

We lived out our week at #40 Rue Jean Pierre Timbaud. It’s a nice, normal neighborhood with lots of motor scooters and old men arguing on the corner. Our block had a pharmacy, a “tabac”, a bar with good food, a five-star restaurant, a take-out place, a smarmy pizza joint, and a motorcycle dealership. Yeah, we could have lived there. No problem.

Lunch in our tres tiny apartment: quiche a la legumes, “jambon” sandwich, apricot tart and the ubiquitous bottle of vin ordinaire.


Looking out the window eastward on an overcast morning. The awnings on the “v” belong to Les P’tites Indecises, a wonderful little restaurant where we translated a menu item as “crunchy chicken tandoori”. I had to try it – turned out to be chicken tandoori as a fried spring roll. It was incredible.

view to the east

Looking toward the west. . .Curious about how many apartments in that building? Count up the chimney flues.


Next post – dinner at Astier, just underneath this window.

Carrot cake

Last night I made our family’s favorite carrot cake recipe and shared it with the neighbors. It was a big hit with folks who aren’t used to pistachios and cardamon mixing it up with staid New England carrots from the root cellar, so I’m posting the recipe by their request. I dust the top with confectioners sugar in lieu of cream cheese frosting, which I don’t care for because I don’t make it very well. I’m sure it will be wonderful if you have the knack.

The original recipe was in Madhur Jaffrey’s book, “World of the East Vegetarian Cooking”, but it has undergone a few changes since.

Oil and flour a 9″ square pan and preheat the oven to 350.

Whisk two eggs, 1 C sugar, 1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground cardamon, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 C softened ghee (or butter) in a large bowl. Add 1 C flour, 1 tsp baking soda and mix just until incorporated. Add 1/4 C chopped pistachios, 1/4 C currants and 1 1/2 C grated carrots firmly packed, and mix well.

Spread the mixture in the pan and bake 35 – 40 minutes, until the cake springs back in the center. Dust the top with confectioners sugar when cool.


I stopped at Pectic Seafood (OMG don’t click on this link if you’re allergic to Flash!) on my way home last night and picked up a pound and a half of absolutely gorgeous haddock, which is not a euphemism. While I was there I had to check out the donuts (handmade each morning) and cruise the coolers full of duck sausage and local goat cheese. There was a new display – four shelves – of bacon, so I bought a pound of Broadbent’s Country Bacon and went on my way. Donuts, bacon and fish to fry – nothing wrong with that.

We had the fish last night, dredged in matzo meal and pan fried in a little olive oil. I went all out and made tartar sauce and it was wonderful. Tonight we tried the bacon.

Oh my heavens. I’ve been eating the stuff from the grocery store and forgotten all about real bacon. Lentil stew with sweet potatoes and bacon, cheddar buttermilk biscuits, and a tossed salad – just the right menu for a Winter Storm Warning night in January.

Lenny’s Lentil Stew

Lenny was a housemate of mine long ago. This dish was his only contribution to our weekly communal dinners and to his credit no one ever complained. Double, triple or multiply this recipe by exponents – you really can’t go wrong. I’ve written like I learned it, folks – Lenny was a plain food type of guy.

For two people: get out two saucepans and fill one halfway up with water. While the water heats, peel a sweet potato and cut it into 1/2″ cubes and dump them into the now boiling water to cook until soft. In the other pan, dump in a can of lentils, 1 C tomato sauce, 2 Tbs tomato paste, 1 tsp marjoram, 2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, or Szechuan peppercorns if you have them. Heat to a simmer. Stir occasionally. Check the sweet potatoes – when done, drain and dump them into the stew. You can add little pieces of cooked bacon if you think you can slip it by the vegetarians. Serve with biscuits even if you have to buy them, but you could try to talk Amy into making a batch even if it isn’t her night to cook.

Stuffed naan

Flatbread dough filled with a soft herb/cheese/onion mixture – this is  an easy recipe if  a little messy ( as all the best ones are). When I make this dish for company I finish the breads ahead of time and warm them, wrapped in foil, in the oven. This is a vegetarian version, but ground lamb is a popular addition. Actually you can use any combination of ingredients for the filling as long as the result is fairly soft and smooth – hard bits will force their way through the soft dough and spoil the surface.

Stuffed Naan

naan step 13 3/4 C unbleached white flour (I make some of this up with chapati (chick pea) flour and whole wheat to add flavor, but all white flour makes a dependable texture), 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, about 1 1/4 C plain yogurt, unsalted butter for brushing the finished breads.

Put all the ingredients except the butter in the bowl of your food processor and process until the dough follows the blade around in a ball. You may need to add more flour, or yogurt. This dough isn’t fragile and some extra whapping around won’t hurt it.  Dump the dough out on to a floured board. It will be soft and sticky, but try to gather it up into a ball (you may have to push it around some with a little extra flour), and put it in an oiled bowl in a warm place to rise for about an hour. This is not a yeast dough – the time will temper the gluten in the flour but it won’t appear to rise.

Meanwhile, make the filling. In a medium bowl mix: 1 8 oz farmer cheese (or paneer, ricotta, small curd cottage cheese), 2 Tbs fresh parsley, cilantro to taste, 1/4 C sauteed onion and 1 C cooked potato. I generally make naan in conjuction with a curry, so I cook the potato and onion for that as well. Leftovers work fine, too. Mash everything together thoroughly – you should have a dry, sticky mix that won’t ooze out of the bread, or stick up through the dough.

Heat an 8 – 10″ frying pan or cast iron skillet over medium low heat – add a little vegetable oil if it’s not seasoned. Keep in mind that the pan will need to go under the broiler in a minute, so no non-stick surfaces or wooden handles allowed. Dump the dough out on to a floured board and divide into five or six balls. Some people make lots of small breads, but it takes a lot longer that way. I like to make a size that just fits in my frying pan. naan step 2

Roll a ball out to about 6″ in diameter, and drop a healthy amount of filling on the center – about 1/4 cup. Keep the rest of the dough covered so it doesn’t dry out. Gather the edges up in pleats to the center and twist slightly to make a spiraled top to your dough ball of filling. Which is a great name for a band. Flatten the ball, flip it over and roll it out to the size of your pan. Now you see why you want a soft filling.

naan step 3Turn on your broiler to low. Pick up the bread and place it in the hot pan, shaking slightly so it doesn’t stick. Cook until the underside is nicely browned. Now put the pan and all under the broiler and turn off the burner. Make another naan.  In a minute (or few), the top will puff up and develop brown spots.naan step 5 Pull the pan out and slide the bread onto a cutting board. Race back to the stove and turn the burner on, slide the next piece into the pan. Now go back to the first naan and rub the top with a stick of unsalted butter. Cut into wedges and serve to the first lucky participant with a bowl of spinach curry and sides of yogurt and mango chutney.

Next week I’m going to try this recipe with a banana chocolate filling and powdered sugar on top. I promise to take pictures.

New food – Rasgullas

rasgullasIt was Tibetan dinner night up at the West Eden Village Improvement Society Hall, so the Boy and I made rasgullas. They’re delicious. They are also something of a pain to make, or at least to write down how to make, so this post will be more of a description than a recipe. As always, Wikipedia is your friend:

“The rasagolla is a very popular cheese based, syrupy sweet dish that originated in Orissa. It is supposed to have been a traditional Oriya dish for centuries. Arguably, the best rasagollas in Orissa are made by the Kar brothers, the descendants of a local confectioner, Bikalananda Kar, in the town of Salepur, near Cuttack. Another variant of this dish that is made in the town of Pahala, located between the cities of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, is also very popular locally. One theory pinpoints the origin of the rasagolla to the town of Puri in coastal Orissa, where it is a traditional offering to the Hindu goddess, Lakshmi, the consort of the Puri temple’s main deity, Jagganath.  In fact, it is an age-old custom inside the temple to offer rasagollas to Lakshmi in order to appease her wrath for ignoring her, after the commencement of the annual chariot festiva Rath Yatra.”

Rasgulla are made of chhenna – a light cheese made of whole milk cultured with lemon juice and allowed to drain.  You can use farmer cheese or ricotta if you don’t want to go through the several steps and waiting time to make a batch, but you didn’t hear that from me, okay? Knead the chhenna (or whatever) with a little semonlina, form into balls and cook in light sugar syrup (2 to 1) flavored with rose water and 5 – 10 whole cardamon seeds. When the balls have puffed up and the outside surface is smooth, ladle them out into a heavy syrup (1 to 1), again flavored with rose water and cardamon and serve. I generally tint the final syrup pink and serve in a large white porcelain bowl to set off the color.

Thrifty Yankee that I was raised to be, I save the cooking syrup and use it to cook apples down into applesauce – incredibly good. Remove the cardamon pods first.