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  1. We are going on holiday to Naples next week with three small children who, like their parents, can't get enough Mozzarella (or fior di latte or scamorza for that matter...) We're thinking of visiting a Mozzarella farm, ideally near Salerno since we'll combine it with a trip to the ruins of Paestum. Has anyone done anything similar and have any recommendations? Know of any Mozzarella farms operating as agriturismos (agriturismi?) Does anyone have any favourite Mozzarella producers we should look out for in the shops? Any other suggestions of things we should be looking out for at this time of year? Grazie!
  2. Thanks so much for the sound advice and kind encouragement everyone. Apologies for not reporting back sooner - have been in the 'trenches' juggling tax returns, deadlines, and daughters, including a baby who won't sleep before midnight. So. Last weekend I remembered that far from being in a sourdough desert, our local market has a really great bread stall selling delicious pain au levain. The lady who runs it looks a bit like a witch - complete with warty nose and arms as big as thighs. I faffed around a bit before finally getting to the point - she looked at me askance throughout, as if to say why on earth would a customer try making their own bread, which would so obviously be inferior to hers - and her answer was a resolute 'non,' although she did offer to ask her baker if he had any advice to impart… I will see her again today. In the meantime: we finally have lift off. Miraculously, considering how neglectful I've been. If there were social services for sourdough, mine would be taken away from me. I had abandoned my starter (2nd attempt) at the point of my first post, but had been too depressed to throw it away. It had been sitting above the radiator for a few days smelling strongly of acetone. Then my boyfriend, who has been completely unaware of my internal crisis, had a moment of curiosity and told me my starter smelled yeasty. So I chucked most of it away and divided the rest into two starters, one fed with white flour, the other with whole grain rye. I also followed Norm Matthews's suggestion and put the tiniest smidgen of fresh cultured yeast in the rye starter. I've been feeding both with milk, mainly because I keep forgetting to buy bottled water, and if I leave it out to stand overnight my boyfriend has a tendency to pour it away. Still, it's very hit or miss when I get round to feeding it. Certainly not twice a day, more like once every 24 hours. And there were a few days of total neglect. Despite this, the last two days there has been energetic bubbling, and yesterday finally, after a morning feed, it more than doubled it's growth by early evening. They still smell a bit of acetone though. Is this a bad thing? Will it affect the taste of the bread? Would you add grapefruit juice to a starter that's already doubling, as a way of getting rid of the acetone smell? (But the smell is from the yeast, no? Not the 'bad' bacteria?…)
  3. Thanks for the replies everyone. I agree there's perhaps too much mystique around the starter, and it was in that spirit that I set to with my first attempt, in the spirit of George and Cecilia Scurfield in their - otherwise - very reliable little book 'homebaked'. Their advice is simply to mix a few tbs flour with warm milk and let it sit for a few days... I have tried to resist getting obsessively drawn into all those sourdough forums but I do feel a little sad whenever I glance at my second attempt jug of pasty stuff sitting on the shelf above the radiator (temperature is 20 celcius so surely not too hot?) I was feeding it twice daily and It did start to bubble excitingly and expand (though not quite double) a few days ago but then I fed it and it never bubbled again, and now gives off whiffs of acetone or at best cider, which I fear is not a good sign. I shall now go forth and try and find someone else's levain to multiply. The next problem is finding a baker who does sourdough near me, and finding time to get there, so it may be a while before I can give an update on my adventures. I live in Pantin, just across the Périférique from the 19th, which is not a sourdough hotspot. There is a rather nice bakery on the rue de Crimée, near the Buttes Chaumont, which has wood fired ovens and which I'm sure does pain au levain. The only thing is the woman who runs the shop is quite rude and rather annoying...
  4. Not sure if it's just the weather, or my German roots coming out, or the fact I have three small children who love baking and 'scientific' experiments, but I've got this urge/curiosity to start making sourdough bread, specifically rye bread, which I just love. After two, admittedly not very scientific, failed attempts to make a starter, I'm now reluctantly considering the idea of giving up on doing it all on my own and trying to get a levain from somewhere. Has anyone here ever tried persuading a French bakery to sell them some of their own levain? I can imagine they might feel that's a bit like giving away trade secrets, and so I feel a bit nervous about what seems a rather cheeky request...
  5. When I was growing up in Northern England, my parents used to take us puffball hunting, and we've got great pictures of each of us kids holding one of the giant things. That was quite magical and now I think about it, hard to believe. How on earth did my parents know where to find them? We lived at the bottom of a heathy hill and in the late summer there were always bilberries (a bit like blueberries, but much smaller) to pick. They grew amongst the heather and those of us in the village who were bilberry pickers were quite competitive and never failed to boast about our high-yield spots (whose locations were closely guarded secrets.) My mum always used to make elderflower champagne, but the bottles had a habit of exploding in the cellar, so then she switched to elderflower cordial. It's become an essential ritual for me now every May to make several batches. My partner thinks it's an eccentric obsession. My three-year old thinks it's the most delicious thing, so the tradition will no doubt continue!
  6. Reading this thread, I can't help thinking of the story of the search for a vaccine for polio, and how researchers couldn't figure out why kids growing up in, literally, dirt poor neighborhoods were less vulnerable than middle class kids from homes that benefitted from modern sanitation; the rich kids had not had a chance to build up their immune systems in the same way. A couple of years ago I came across this article in the New York Times which I have to say has reinforced my instinctive view on germs, although the idea of my kids running around with worms is not something that excites me! Anyway, I think this is a great piece to add to the discussions on this thread, if anyone has the time to read it. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/27/health/27brod.html?scp=1&sq=germs%20food%20worms&st=cse It's probably a coincidence but my three-year old, who never got a chance to eat dirt because I was 100% vigilant, is the asthmatic one who gets every bug going in the neighborhood, while my 15-month old, who eats dirt all the time because now with two hyperactive kids I'm only 20% vigilant - a recent 'highpoint' in her diet was discovering her eating dried out vomit in a playground, and apparently enjoying it judging from her grin - is the picture of health who's never caught a bug, never thrown up or had the shits. It never even occurred to me to be worried about germs in my kitchen sink. It always gets washed out with warm soapy water. Admittedly we don't eat meat so that reduces some factors for worry. And if I have to clean dog turd off my kids' shoes I'll use bleach on the sink afterwards, and I have a special scrubbing brush that's hidden away out of reach for such chores. Frankly I'm much more concerned about pesticides, artificial fertilizers and other chemicals and their potential for harm. One of the many reasons why I have reluctantly joined my partner in his vegetarian ways is the thought of all the crap they feed and inject industrially farmed animals with - quite apart from the sadistic way in which they are also treated.
  7. Thanks for the replies everyone. Sounds like it's something of a tradition with certain 'ethnic' cuisines and not much of a trend outside of New York. I suppose it would also be tricky to define - I agree that perhaps a 'noodle' restaurant wouldn't count - otherwise by the same token you would also call a pizza joint a 'single ingredient' restaurant. I guess I'm thinking of a place where the chef is passionate about a particular thing, e.g. truffles, and includes that on everything on his/her menu.
  8. I was curious to read a recent article in the NYT about single ingredient restaurants experiencing a trend in New York. It seems that they are mostly quick lunch/comfort food type places. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/29/nyregion/29onefood.html I've also read somewhere that the single ingredient restaurant has been singled out (ha ha) as a key culinary trend for 2011. It sounds like a fun concept and I once had an incredible meal in Tokyo in 2005 in a restaurant that specialised in Tofu dishes - all the more extraordinary since I had heard about, but never tried, the myriad varieties of tofu and the delicious things that can be done with it. There's also a restaurant in Paris that specialises in apples, which I believe is party financed by a French apple growing association... Anyway I was wondering whether the single ingredient thing is primarily an American thing, whether it really is a trend, and whether anyone has come across any other restaurants dedicated to a single ingredient elsewhere in the world, whether they dined there, what they thought of the concept and whether it worked?
  9. I should also add we'll be about 20, and since I also have a fifteen month daughter who needs entertaining, I'm especially attracted to simple, hearty, not overly complicated stuff!
  10. We're heading off next week to a big gathering of friends in a house in the South of Le Marche, on the edge of the Sibillini mountains. I've volunteered to be one of the cooks. Is anyone familiar with the region at this time of year? Would absolutely love any tips on exciting seasonal treats that we should be making a beeline for in the markets, or favourite recipes involving local ingredients. I'm feeling hungry already...
  11. Am looking for a single flame wok burner available in Europe and wondering which the best manufacturers are? We're looking for something to sit next to an induction hob. Miele and De Dietrich both do dominos rated at 6,000 watts. Am wondering if there are other manufacturers we should also be looking at? Are there any decent brands which aren't as expensive as Miele? Are 6,000 watts even enough for proper Chinese blast furnace cooking? Any thoughts would be most appreciated!
  12. Just wondering what brands people have had good experiences with? Have just received an insurance payout of €800 euros so that's approximately our budget. We had a De Dietrich but it was a bit iffy with the electrics. Are there any brands people swear by? I heard somewhere that most induction cookers are made by two or three companies, and then packaged and sold under different brand names... Is this true? Any thoughts would be most gratefully received.
  13. Thank you for all the feedback everyone. Not sure what I think now... Maybe our De Dietrich wasn't installed properly... and our Bartscher is just a crappy brand... and maybe have just had a lot of bad luck... still feeling not entirely convinced though!
  14. I have a dilemma and was curious to know whether other egulleters have had similar experiences. Having always refused to live anywhere where you couldn't cook with gas, we moved into a flat without a cooker about a year ago and bought a Bartscher portable one ring induction cooker to tide us over until we'd decided on/ordered our real hob. It was the first time we'd used induction and it was a revelation which turned is into complete converts. When we had guests our favourite party trick was 'guess how long the water takes to boil' and we'd stand around and marvel like it was the 1960s and we were discussing the moon landings. The only disadvantage seemed to be the price... Anyway we decided to save up for a De Dietrich cooktop which was amazing until the electrics cut out. We returned it to our supplier who had it repaired and then the same thing happened again. This time our French delivery service managed to completely destroy it (another story) so we're back to square one trying to figure out what to get. Meanwhile, our Bartscher cooker died about a year after we bought it (again, it just didn't switch on) we took it back to our supplier who replaced it, but the new one, which theoretically has a lowest wattage of 400 watts (which apparently should give a heat of about 60 degrees celcius), seemed to only want to do furnace style cooking. (It was the same model as our previous one which had been OK.) We took it back, got it replaced, and the new one is just the same. You can forget trying to cook anything that needs to be on a gentle heat, like rice (incinerates it if you leave it on for more than five minutes) but even not so 'sensitive' stuff seems to only get the blast boil treatment. Maybe both of these brands just aren't all that reliable (although I thought Bartscher was German, which normally is a 'guarantee' of reliability) or maybe we've just had a run of bad luck. My boyfriend is still convinced induction is the way forward, but I'm starting to get cold feet. I'd be very interested to know if other forum users have encountered similar problems.
  15. It's my mum's 70th and we're hoping to organise a suprise birthday party, ideally somewhere simple and unpretentious but good. There'll be a crowd of 20 - 30 converging from across Europe. We have been thinking about the River Café in Bridport which has been a bit of a family special occasion place for years and years, but my mum is very aware of 'how expensive' it's become, and she'll just end up worrying about what it will cost us instead of enjoying herself. Maybe we'll go for that anyway but I thought it's worth investigating potential alternatives. For example The Broad Street Restaurant in Lyme Regis sounds promising - has anyone been there recently? My parents live in Ilminster so the other consideration is somewhere not too far away. I've been living in France for the last four years so am very out of touch; any thoughts and ideas would be tremendously appreciated.
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