When I'm tired and don't feel like cooking, one of my favourite things to cook is a dish of plain pasta, tossed with whatever fresh herbs I can grab - I always start with some olive oil and garlic, then I'll add whatever we've got growing and takes my fancy, whether it's chilli, oregano, rosemary, thyme... Topped with a little grated parmesan, it's fresh and exciting and downright delicious. And it's So. Freaking. Easy.
What I really love about our current apartment is the fact that we can grow all these wonderful fresh herbs. We've been very busy planting over the last few weeks - we've repotted the couple of plants that survived the terrace renovation, and we've planted seeds and established plants we ordered from aromatiques.fr, my favourite online herb shop. I love waiting for the little seedlings to poke their heads out of the ground, and watching the plants settle into their new home, slowly but surely stretching their roots out.
In terms of herbs, I have all my essentials, as well as a few interesting and unusual ones... We've got sage, rosemary, oregano (greek & wild), thyme, savoury, chives, coriander, parsley, hyssop, mint, heartleaf and lots of basil (including sweet, thai, bush, lemon, purple ruffles & pistou).
And because Sylvain loves colour as well as practicality, we've also planted quite a few flowers - we replaced the geraniums we had last year and had to throw out when the terrace was being redone, and we planted brightly coloured petunias and ornamental verbena. He also convinced me that we absolutely needed a Callistemon, which does actually look gorgeous on the terrace.
We decided not to grow any vegetables (like the crazy amazing tomatillos we grew last year) since we are going to be away throughout August and they would likely suffer in our absence, but I hope to find myself a healthy chilli plant somewhere soon and I'd like to find a space to plant some lamb's lettuce and a little cut-and-come-again lettuce.
There is something just so wonderful about being able to grab the scissors and snip fresh herbs for dinner. I am so thankful. And Symphony loves it too...
By Katia - 31 May 2012 - 3
When I started this blog, I intended to write extensively about the things we make in the kitchen, but also about the things growing in our little terrace garden. Especially since most of the things growing out there have a culinary use (or at least the plants that I'm interested in, at least).
But then the winter months set in, and all the property owners in our residence decided that there were some drainage issues that needed to be tackled, and that the best way to deal with them was to rip up the existing configuration of the terraces and start afresh. We were very excited, as the plan was to effectively double the size of our outside space... but in order for this to be done, we would have to remove everything from the terrace whilst the work was going on. With 3-4 months of work planned, this meant we had to throw away almost all our poor plants, store all the pots and equipment and the last remaining plants inside, and wait... and wait... and wait...
But apparently good things do come to those who wait, and over the last few months, we've seen a series of changes.
Over the last week, we've spent every available sunkissed moment outside. Things are still a little crazy in our room upstairs where we've been storing everything and they've got one our two more things to do to finish it all off, but we are so happy. We've been gardening, reading, drinking, eating and watching the bees get excited about our new Callistemon. It's a space big enough for both Symphony and I to lie on the ground and stretch out, and I can't wait to have friends over for a drink or three in the sun!
We won't be here in this place forever, but for now, for right now, for us, it's perfect.
By Katia - 20 May 2012 -
Langoustines. Dublin Bay Prawns. Scampi. They're known by many different names, but they're all one and the same. The first time I encountered this tiny critter was with Sylvain's parents, when my mother-in-law placed a giant platter of quick-boiled langoustines on the table, along with bowls of freshly made mayonnaise. Everyone started reaching across the table to grab one, two, three langoustines, and the conversation got louder over the crack, crack, crack of the shells being opened and the occasional slurp as the soft flesh was sucked out of the claws. I reached over for my own and quietly set to work. One langoustine and a couple of cuts on my poor fingers later, I dipped the tail into my own dollop of mayonnaise and bit it in half. And I reached for another one before I'd even finished the first.
Eating langoustines like this is work. They're spikier than prawns, and the shell is a lot harder, but they taste much more delicate, and it's well worth the extra effort. Especially for the little bit of sweet flesh in each of the claws. Sylvain and his father are particularly good langoustine-eaters, and there is a point in every meal when I glance over and am amazed at their overflowing plates of shells against my pathetic two or three carcasses. Sylvain reassured me at the beginning that I would get better, but over ten years later and I'm still not as fast as them - I think it's one of those skills you master when you're really young! Or very hungry!
We don't buy langoustines that often because they do tend to be pricey, but like anything, the occasional craving needs to be satisfied. We always buy them uncooked. If we're just serving them as described above, nature with mayonnaise, it's easy to boil them quickly ourselves and let them cool on the windowsill. My in-laws only ever serve them this way, and whilst it was a challenge to get Sylvain to even consider eating them any other way, once he started there was no going back... There are so many things that can be done with langoustines - sautéed in the pan until just pink enough, threaded onto skewers and grilled quickly with a delicate marinade, or baked for a few minutes in the oven, drizzled with olive oil and garlic.
Anything you can do with prawns can be done with langoustines, just don't drown them in complicated sauces or with complex flavours. With Spring upon us, I'm all about asparagus, so I couldn't help but toss some fresh, crispy spears with the langoustines and a little garlic, chilli and olive oil. It made a perfectly fresh, delicious and quick Sunday lunch.
By Katia - 19 May 2012 - 1