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  1. Not me but...... I once had a welsh flatmate who lusted desperately after a welsh rugbyman, schoolfriend of her brothers. He (finally) invited her out - and asked her if she would like to come to dinner at his mum's house. His parents were away for the weekend and when she rang him mid afternoon he said he was just back from shopping for their meal. Scene set for romantic dinner. She arrives at his house at eight. TV on, rugby replay blasting, boyfriend busy in kitchen. Flatmate sits on sofa, legs arranged just so, sipping a beer from a can that he had cracked open as she crossed the threshold...... Boyfriend (from kitchen) "D'ya like ham?" Flatmate "Yes" Boyfriend (from kitchen) "D'ya like tomatoes?" Flatmate "Yes" Boyfriend "Bread?" Flatmate "Yes" Result - two plates - half a spam on his, half on hers, swimming in neatly halved tin of tomatoes, ditto five slices white bread. She started dating a med student shortly afterwards. Personally, I am now married to a Frenchman who knows how to woo a girl with a dozen shucked oysters and a bottle of cold Graves.
  2. Where is this restaurant in Willesden Green? I have never seen it. ← And here I am in south west France, where I could eat a different cassoulet every day of the week for several months, lusting, lusting after an onion bhaji and a plate of simmering dhal......
  3. Irish Cream - I have eaten in the same restaurant. Mullet so fresh it practically leaps off the plate. Isn't Lesbos/Lesvos wonderful? I would love to try to replicate the octupus I ate there, but it would not be the same without the med sunshine, the ouzo and a smiling greek waiter.....Fresh octopus is readily available here in Bordeaux and I am often tempted. I often cook a similar recipe with turnips and greens - using magret (duck breast) and a drizzle of honey at the end, served without any carbs, bread for the juices and just cheese to follow. A glass of Clairet and bingo - a near perfect spring lunch. Winter I just substitute the Clairet for a claret, and bingo - a near perfect winter lunch! Marlena - what colour is your artichoke soup?
  4. I am hoping at least one of my children is going to keep me in the style to which I wish to become accustomed....
  5. I love your blog, Marlena. I have a growing shopping list of what I am going to buy when I come back to the UK in a few weeks. The French don't eat turnip tops either and I have to ask specially if I want to buy baby turnips with the tops still on. Anything associated with the war and hardship is not eaten - perhaps artichoke stems were used as fodder, along with swedes, parsnips and jerusalem artichokes. Do you get the little bunches of baby artichokes (you eat everything, leaves n all) in the UK, or just the big bulbous ones? I often give the kids artichokes for supper - with big bowls of melted garlic butter and baguettes to mop up all the juices. The little ones don't like the hearts, so I save them, slice them in oil and garlic and sauté them alongside slivers of steaks, then tossed in linguine for dinner the following night. Please say hello to Waitrose for me please....
  6. Thank you all for your replies. Just to clarify a few points: We live in France, in Bordeaux. My daughter is fully bilingual - if anything, her French is better than her English. We are coming to a crossroads as regards her education. I am not going to pull her out of school, but at the end of the year decisions will need to be made as to whether she stays on in mainstream education (highly doubtful, she will not have the grades unless a miracle happens) and she will need to decide on what she wants to do. She is not an organised person. Thinking about her and reading your replies has helped me structure my own thoughts a little. She loves to cook, to eat, to talk about food (very French!) but she really has no idea what it all entails. I cook every night for eight of us and it looks easy. It is very different cooking for 80 paying covers. She needs the culture shock of a real kitchen - hands on experience - combined with the discipline and background of a cookery school. Should I look into downtown brasseries, silver service restos or family run restaurants? And, dumb question here, but should I stick to French or does it not matter where the early experience comes from? I am afraid to say, that I fear that when she finds out what very hard work it actually is, she might rethink her planning a little...... Having said all that, I am a writer and I love it when I get the chance to write about food. Her other love is writing - perhaps a background in food would give her an opening into the world of food writing. Then I would be jealous!! Or we send her to boarding school to push her academically, and then if she still wants to be a chef, take it from there....
  7. Unless you ask for a "whisky glace" which always has two ice cubes....
  8. Marmiton.org has all the basic french recipes - when I eat something and want to reproduce it, this is the first place I look to check if I have the ingredients right. It is very basic, homestyle French food - you tend to need to know the name of the dish if you are looking for something regional as I don't think there are regional sections on the site. I often use the site for the exact name of what I want to cook and then French google it to get a more exciting recipe or to tweak what marmiton has to offer. Did crayfish in champagne last night, using a recipe from the Champagne region. I had eaten this before but had not cooked it. The marmiton recipe was dull and not at all what I was looking for - found what I was looking for on one of the Chateaux sites. Yum.
  9. Thank you Wendy. How encouraging.
  10. Thank you for your reply. There is a chef in South West France called Maïté who has a reputation for good food and no-nonsense. I was thinking of writing to ask her if my daughter could come and do a few weeks "work experience" with her. My daughter is really struggling academically and France has a very rigid schooling system and she is failing hopelessly. I feel that if she wants to cook, if she can and if she can get some inspiration, we might be on the right track. Do you get letters from hopeful parents asking if you will take their little angels on for a few weeks experience in the kitchen, or is it normally down the first job/holiday job route that the youngsters start? What about her dislike of cheese.....
  11. So, if your fifteen year old daughter expressed an interest in becoming a professional chef, would you encourage her or not... And if you were to encourage her, how would you nurture this passion? I have my doubts as she is a very keen cook, but a picky eater. For example, how the hell can you have a chef that doesn't eat cheese? Industry insiders, I eagerly await your opinions. Unfortunately, I have just read "Kitchen Confidential", which, as a consumer, I found very interesting, as a mother, I found
  12. I don't know if this counts but.... I went to a British boarding school where the dire food was reputed to be some of the worst in the country. We thought we were tough (congealing grey globby mince on toast was a particular teatime special , as were "eggs florentine" on a bed of cold cabbage, using the left over fried eggs from breakfast) but even us hardy gals could not stomach the food when everything started to taste of cigars. We complained and were punished for complaining until the dishwasher packed up. The plongeur had been chucking his cheap cigar stubbs into the pot next to the dishwasher and the whole lot had fallen in and slooshed around with the cutlery and crockery, imparting a delightful and lingering "je ne sais quoi", for weeks. As they never cleaned the filter out on the dishwasher, it was only when a second (or third ) fell in that that penny dropped. But on the bright side, I now have the dietary constitution of an ox.
  13. Be too busy gossiping and forget to ask the fishmonger to clean fish. Cook said fish for 6 with guts still in. Put defrosted butter into fridge and put still frozen butter into now near-dead kitchenaid. Flambé bananas in rum under a low ceiling.
  14. My French husband waxes lyrical about Andouillette, and whilst I am not squeamish about offal per se, it is the smell that turns my stomach. He lives in hope that one day I can appreciate this bastion of French cuisine.....It just smells so, erm, pooey. Shudder.
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