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Paris


Paris. The tenth arrondissement – foodies beware….The rue Faubourg Saint Denis holds a few off-beat treasures.  From Julhes with their cheeses, exotic mustards, gourmet deli and never ending wine tastings to the coffee bean man just up the street  (Brulerie Lanni) and his giant roasting machine passing by the Passage Brady and the Kurdish sandwiches, you could spend hours here snacking and discovering.

On a recent wander hunting cardamom pods and other random pantry staples, I picked up some lemon grass powder in the Passage Brady.  A key ingredient of Thai, Malay, Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine this pale green grassy  powder has a long history and is potent, lemony, sweet and tart in your nose.

Here’s a basic flour-less chocolate cake with a playful side. Use agave instead of sugar for a more healthful cake and a different kind of sweetness.

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The basil plant on the window-sill is inviting, demanding to be added to everything. I figure a solid chocolate cake can be played with, dark chocolate can always take a little flavouring. I recently had sesame chocolate and Darjeeling tea flavoured chocolate. Amazing. Especially the sesame. To be exploited in an upcoming dessert recipe – tea, dark chocolate and sesame…

Flourless chocolate cake with lemongrass and fresh basil

Ingredients

125 gr good quality dark chocolate
100 gr unsalted butter and some for greasing
half teaspoon salt
150 gr sugar – or 1 cup agave syrup
1 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
3 eggs50gr cocoa powder
1 generous  teaspoon of ground lemon grass powder (available in good spice stores or Asian good stores)

Making

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Pre heat the oven to 180 c. Line and grease a cake tin. (about 8 inches – not too big or you’ll have a rather flat cake!)

Melt the chocolate and the butter over hot water stirring constantly until smooth. Add the salt and set aside.

Beat the diced basil into the sugar and add this to the chocolate mixture.  Add the eggs one at a time mixing constantly.  Then  fold in the cocoa powder slowly mixing until smooth. Stir in the teaspoon of lemon grass powder at the end.

Pour the batter into the tin and bake for about 20 minutes then turn out onto a rack to cool. Serve warm with a sprig of fresh basil.

White pepper in the pepper mills and a prix fixe in the reach of 30 euro….what’s not to like?

PIG FISH BEEF DUCK ….the cut, then the ingredients, then the treatment….break it down. That is how the menu is laid out and so you’re a little taken aback and obliged to be a little open. Resist too much neck straining to see if what your neighbours are having looks tempting. Just go with your gut.IMG_0625

A hot new address that is quietly knocking  the socks off the several reviewers about town (John Talbott, Chowhound, oubouffer, here,  etc. etc.) but has yet to be picked up by the usual ones I think.  Slowly slowly.

Wild boar – chocolate sauce…..a touch of black truffe, very delicate home made ravioli here and there, a veggie crumble, Szechuan pepper, duck breast….many fragrances, deceivingly simple menu…the obligatory foam that nonetheless reveals a substantial starter.

18 rue Eugène Sue, 75018, Paris. 01 42 55 61 64. Go.

Seeking out spices in Paris.

Using spices in cooking can evoke travel, soothe stress and bring back memories. Spices have a long and intricate history so whether you’re grinding fresh nutmeg or measuring a hot curry powder, pause and consider how you’re dealing with a small piece of cultural, economic and culinary history packed tightly into a small jar or a paper bag.

They have been an integral part of cooking for centuries.  Outside of the kitchen, we have been perfuming ourselves for centuries and various plants, seeds and spice extracts find their way into exotic blends assumed to make us more attractive to the opposite sex, more palatable to the general public and more tolerable on public transport.  Smell can make or break a relationship and these days  fruit, flower and vegetable combine with ancient spice blends  to make scents that sound more like a good meal or marinade then a cosmetic aid.

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Unfortunately a good hot curry is still difficult to come by. Although if you head to a small primarily Sri Lankan enclave near Stalingrad in the tenth arrondissement you can find some good cheap meals that while not bringing quite a tear to your eye, will sate the average anglophone curry craving.
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Spice merchandising has been an important part of international commerce since Greco-Roman times via the Silk Road, the incense routes of Asia and China, through Venice from the east not to mention North African and Moorish influence finding their way up into Spain and the rest of Europe.  Some curious culinary legacies have found their way into some of the most traditional Spanish and Italian dishes.  From the Greeks (who probably introduced saffron) to the Omayyad Arabs in the 8th century to the Turkish Ottomans in the twelfth, outside influence in culture and cooking is still apparent  in Spanish and particularly Sicilian and Venetian cuisine today.  However, many crops and foodstuffs are thought to have come from the New World and so the extent to which the Arabs influenced Sicilian cuisine is often under dispute.

Catching the back of your throat, your nose, escaping from your skin the next day, a good spice blend can change everything and often has a role to play in cultural traditions, celebrations or simply from a health point of view.

While the French are generally wary of anything trop épicé, and are not the world’s greatest fans of hot food, you can still find an abundance of blends of herbs and spices from all over the world in several Parisian neighborhoods.

Useful addresses should you find yourself spice shopping in Paris:

  • Izrael - l’épicerie du monde, 30, rue François-Miron in the Marais (good supplies of smokey paprika)
  • L’épicierie de Bruno, 30 Rue Tiquetonne, 75002 Paris
  • G. Detou, 58 rue Tiquetonne, 75002
  • L’épicerie Hératchian Frères on Rue Lamartine, 75009
  • Goumanyat on Rue 3 rue Charles-Francois Dupuis, 75003 (particularly for salt and saffron)
  • Ahga M’ Bark, 21 rue Montorgueil,75001
  • Passage Brady, Rue Faubourg Saint Denis, 75010 – Indian grocery store carrying well-priced general curry spices, grains, rices, teas and other Asian ingredients
  • To sample a contemporary luxury apothecary of constantly surprising blends of all kinds of delicious elements head to Jo Malone.

parc de la villette, Kekele show on a Sunday afternoonGive free Kekele – will dance.

Parc de la Villette, Paris, Summer 2007