Friday, 25 May 2012

à la française: Home-cooked French Cuisine - Week 1

In the past two weeks, I've thrown myself headfirst into a new hobby - cooking! :D I've never actually done much cooking at all for the most part of growing up but now that I'm really getting on in my mid-20s (gahhhhhh), I figured it's high time I start learning to relish being in the kitchen learning to wield some dangerous tools. 

As you probably know from my previous post, after visiting Paris for a really short period of 6 days recently on my way back from Montreal, I've gotten into a little obsession heightened interest regarding the French culture; specifically what it's like to be a French woman. It's really fascinating to read about their approach to food and their eating habits. One thing I've learnt is that they don't have the habit of snacking - ever. No such thing as idly munching on chips/crackers when bored or in need of some form of stimulation as so many of us often do. Because processed foods/junk foods are merely empty calories. If the quality of the food isn't good, might as well not eat it at all. Instead, if you're hungry, it's better to snack on something simple and healthy (fruits/nuts/fresh bread etc) to tide the hunger temporarily while still keeping a good appetite for the next meal. It's something I've found incredibly helpful in approaching my meals in the day too. When I feel hungry before meals, instead of racing for the nearest edible thing I can find, I try to remind myself that the good, substantial meal will come soon and when I do eventually sit down for the meal, I try to eat a little slower than I did before, allowing for better digestion and appreciation of the food. It's worked most of the time this week, except for dinner just now when I was too hungry and scarfed down a whole bunch of pizza. =X Not a great feeling after. 

But this is a new approach to food I'm learning, so it's always going to take awhile at the beginning. After that rather long preamble, I'm finally going to say what I've been meaning to say, which is -- I've started a little project for myself! A little culinary endeavor - 1 French dish a week, starting with recipes from the incredible British chef, Rachel Khoo's , gorgeous cookbook, The Little Paris Kitchen. I happened to randomly find it in Kinokuniya the other day and it's the most BEAUTIFUL cookbook I've ever had (not that I've had many) or laid my eyes on. The creative direction, the photography, the bits of illustration done by Khoo herself...everything about this cookbook is sheer perfection.


So every Saturday, I'm going to be trying out a recipe (at least one!) from this cookbook and while I'm not sure how long exactly this little project is going to last, I sure hope I would have tried at least 15 recipes by the end of the next few months. God knows school is only going to get busier but since the crazy part isn't for a month or two, I'll see how far I can get. 

For Week 1, I managed to cook two dishes! :D Just because I happened to have some time last week and wayyy excited about embarking on it. They are
1. Ratatouille
2. Poulet aux champignons avec une sauce au vin blanc 

(Which really just means Chicken and Mushrooms in a white wine sauce. :D Sounds way cooler in French, non?)

I suppose I chose to attempt Ratatouille because it's a veggie dish and I'm a huge fan of veggies. Plus, it looks pretty simple, mainly just a huge mixture of all sorts of veggies stewed together. AND, it was also featured in movie of the same name starring the cutest Rat ever, Remi. :) 

I LOVE the riot of colors of fresh vegetables. Capsicums (tri-colored) are probably my favorite veggies to see and handle. 


Left: One of my favorite smells? Garlic and Onion frying in olive oil. MMMMMM. 

Right: LOTS of tomatoes were required for this dish. 

It basically involved tossing all the cut up veggies into a large roasting tin to bake in the oven for about an hour. 

Photobucket Et voilà! :D Really a good dish to start off with for beginners, I feel. The only thing was that it really came out kind of soft and boggy, probably because of all the juices from the tomatoes (mainly) and the other veggies mixed together. I wonder if I should try to take out some of the tomato pulp/seeds next time to reduce the water content before it goes into the oven? It's nice when there's a bit of sogginess to it but for my first attempt it was a little too soggy for my liking. What happened to the crunchiness of the capsicums and zucchini?

Photobucket This basically is enough to feed around 5 people as a main course veg or starter veg for lunch. 

The next dish was the Chicken and Mushroom in White Wine Sauce. :D I actually REALLY liked how this one turned out! I'm usually not a fan of cream-based sauces but this one was pretty good. Plus, since I'm the chef, I'll be able to tweak the recipe to my liking the next round and add in a little less cooking cream. The reason it's so tasty is probably because of all that butter that went into the sauce. MMM. Only problem with this dish was that my sauce turned out a more PASTY and less SAUCE-like than expected. Probably because I was distracted and let the sauce bubble up too much. Am started to figure out the whole, "if you want it to thicken up, let it boil more, and if you want it to be more liquid, add more chicken stock" thing. :)

So Week 1's dishes were pretty successful. I ended up eating the Ratatouille for pretty much the entire week though. O_o But it's good, because at least I get to bring home cooked food for lunch every day at the hospital. I learnt from a student in Montreal who told me that every Sunday night she cooks a huge load of pasta and keeps it in the fridge to reheat at lunch the entire week. It's such a money-saving idea too! :) It IS a little more troublesome to have to keep heading to the pantry to use the microwave while everyone else is already off buying lunch... but I think it's a worthwhile habit to continue. Here's a little video clip of Rachel Khoo's cooking show! :D I'm in love with it. If you love food, colors, beauty, French cuisine, Paris... you're going to love this show. It's got so many elements of perfection. Let me know if you watch/have tried her recipes/have any tips! :D



  1. Wow, good luck with your cooking challenge! I need to find my place in the kitchen, because you know, women belong in the kitchen.... *cough* xD I don't think I've ever had any French cuisine so it'd be awesome to see your results and maybe cook it for myself :)

    1. Thanks! :D I'll be posting more photos of more stuff that I've cooked. Haha sighh as a kid I never really ventured into the kitchen to cook stuff so am sort of making up for lost time here. Looking forward to seeing some of your stuff too!

  2. love it darling! Wanna follow each others blog?:X