Lovely colours at the market
With all of the outdoor markets in Paris (and the indoor one downstairs), and the free time we have on our hands, I’ve become a market wanderer. Between the different markets on different days of the week, perusing the markets remains a pleasure, but the past-time has also sneakily become one of my biggest headaches. It’s like all of a sudden, my fridge is the market, and I could cook anything and everything imaginable. I’ve become terribly indecisive and obscenely obsessive about our meals.
We cook at home primarily to save money. We go to the markets with a daily budget in mind, and I have a rough idea of what I want. Then I get totally distracted by the bountiful displays. The crowds at the Bastille Market overwhelm me. Most stressful of all, buying from the produce vendors is a pop-quiz on my French conversation skills every time.
The vendors here pick out and bag your fruits and vegetables for you, and you just dictate what you want when it comes to your turn in line. At this point, you may not even be close to some of the things you want to buy, because the lines are long and the stalls can be pretty big (a small city block, in Bastille Market). So pointing to what you want is out of the question, thank you very much. What’s more charming (and anxiety-inducing), is that often people engage in conversations with the vendors, too, to find out the best apples for baking, taste the difference between the little quetsche plums and their bigger counterparts (name forgotten because they weren’t as good), and pick the best pears for eating right now.
I’ve been caught stammering in front of vegetable stands many a time because of this activity. Last weekend at the Bastille Market was the worst, as I had decided to stock up on veggies that day. The only mishap was when I got three endives instead of three onions, but still, after my ten minutes in line I was ready to collapse.
Also, I’ve decided that French people don’t switch to speaking English with me when I talk to them, not because my French is that amazing, but because I look like an Asian tourist who probably can’t handle English either. I should wear a sign. Or little flag pins for the languages I speak. I digress.
Anyway, so we try to eat fresh and exciting things everyday, while staying to a budget, and our fridge is usually pretty empty because of this. The size of the fridge may also have something to do with this decision. Well, I say our fridge is empty, but I do have one weakness – I’m getting all my dairy intake to prevent osteoporosis here!
Currently I’m hoarding my favourite salted butter (full of flecks of sea salt), and sweet butter for pastries. I’ll be adding beurre de baratte to my repetoire soon, or some variation of a raw milk butter. We also keep a little pot of crème fraîche in the fridge – it is so cheap here, it is going to be the thing I miss the most when we don’t live here anymore. Then we have milk for our morning coffees. Annnnd the cheeses from the fromagerie. I love the brie here; it’s not the mild creamy stuff we get in Canada. The little wedges of brie are so much more flavourful – and pungent, even though I don’t like that description. Then, I instantly fell in love with the Comté, the aged and fruity kind, so we have some of that kicking around, too. Currently, after a little picnic, we are guilty of also keeping a chunk of St-Nectaire – a mild, semi-soft cheese that’s rather mouldy on the outside, but lovely on the inside – and plain soft chèvre. Then there’s the obligatory fresh wedge of parmesan for pastas. Yep, five cheeses. Alex doesn’t even bother asking me anymore what’s in those little paper wrappers crowding the fridge.
I’ve made some pretty imaginative meals, along with some staples, while we’ve been here. It’s fun to whip these things up, but now you know the effort that’s gone along to procure some of these things. (On the plus side, asking for une botte de bette – bunch of chard – was pretty amusing.)
Salmon with flash-fried super-crispy green onions and garlic, warmed bruschetta,
tomato tart on puff pastry, stuffed pepper with boiled potatoes
Today I planned and improvised my own version of a mulligatawny soup. Ever since I read about it in first year English Lit in university, I’ve loved the way the word mulligatawny rolls of my tongue, and the exotic spicy taste it inspires. My mom’s bakery actually serves a mulligatawny soup weekly, and I think what we recreated here in Paris tastes similar. Our version in Paris also uses a lot less complicated ingredients, because I only had curry powder on hand. It worked out surprisingly well that I don’t think much else is needed!
Mango’s Own Mulligatawny Soup
- 1 medium-sized onion
- 3 carrots
- 2 celery stalks
- 1 apple, peeled
- 1 large potato
- 2 roma tomatoes or 1 large tomato
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced or smashed
- 1 tbsp + 1 tbsp curry powder
- optional: cayenne or other spicy stuff
- 1L carton of chicken or vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup uncooked rice
- 1 – 2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded by hand
- Dice up the tomatoes and potato.
- Bring to boil in a large pot 1L of stock, 1L of water, 1 tbsp of curry powder, cinnamon, potatoes, and tomatoes. When it reaches a boil, turn down the heat and let simmer.
- Dice the onion and celery. Dice the carrots, but bigger chunks (because I like to taste them more). Shred the apple on a cheese grater or just chop finely. Mince the garlic. You can keep all of these veggies together.
- In a skillet, warm up 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add in the chopped veggies and 1 tbsp of curry powder. Cook over medium-low heat and let the vegetables “sweat”, until onions look transparent and start to soften, about 10-15 minutes.
- Add the veggies from the skillet to the soup pot, and bring to a boil again. Reduce heat and let it simmer/soft boil continuously for about 20 minutes.
- At this point, correct seasoning with cayenne or any other pepper you’re thinking of adding, and salt to taste.
- Add in the uncooked rice. Bring back to boil, and let it simmer/soft boil continuously for about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure rice isn’t sinking to the bottom and burning.
- When rice is almost done, add in the shredded and cooked chicken. Bring a boil, then remove from heat and let sit for a few minutes. Garnish with cilantro if desired. Just before serving, you can add in a dollop of cream, or crème fraîche, or sour cream to thicken up the soup a bit more too.
It’s super simple, and probably one of many, many versions of an almost-folklore-ish soup. My version worked well for me because it only uses curry powder, which saves us from the hassle of having to stockpile our cupboards with a bunch of exotic spices.
Of course, Paris has decided to give us an Indian summer this week (ironic much?) and Alex and I were both perspiring like mad after this lovely supper. I’ll definitely be revisiting this recipe when it gets chilly – but if your part of the world is already feeling the effects of fall, you must try this soup!
Tastes better than it looks