Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Link Love: Some Inspiring Things Around the Web #1

A few things that have made me smile this month.
Hot Cross Bun Easter Inspirations from Around the Web: With Easter right around the corner, this mini master-post of delicious Hot Cross Bun Recipes will surely come in handy.
9 Beautifully Quirky Foreign Words That We're Jealous We Can't Say In English: I always love coming across foreign words and phrases which have no English equivalent. I can relate to the above especially...

The Art of Authenticity: A Conversation with PostSecret's Frank Warren: Over the years, I've frequented the PostSecret website on and off, and I am always amazed by the project. It's heartwarming to know that there is still an appreciation and recognised need for the art of hand written letters and snail mail.
The Postcards that Picasso Illustrated and Sent to Jean Cocteau, Apollinaire and Gertrude Stein: Speaking of snail mail, you can't help but wish you could receive postcards from Picasso if he were still alive.
Artist Ren Ri Collaborates with Bees to Create Sculptural Honeycomb Maps: As with most of my artistic discoveries, I found out about Ren Ri via tumblr and have been fascinated with his most recent work, titled "Yuansu Projects" since.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Recipe: Mushroom Tart

Mushroom tart, quick and easy recipe,
Technically, this is a part recipe, part Tiny Tales from Paris post. There's no denying that the French do their tarts well and value the importance of a good pâte. That is, it needs to be perfectly crisp and buttery. I had my fair share of outstanding tarts while in France, both savoury and sweet, so as a souvenir, it was a no brainer that I decided to pick up a cookbook full of tart recipes, found in a  meticulously curated design bookshop called 'Artazart' in Canal St. Martin. 

Translating the recipe for a Mushroom Tart from French proved a potential health and safety hazard; I have had a good deal of kitchen disasters in the past as it is! To my surprise though, the recipe was easy to follow and the tart even easier to put together. The only time consuming aspect is the pastry, and you can just use store bought if you prefer (I highly recommend making it yourself though. You really notice the difference in quality!). All in all, the process of making this tart was a lot of fun, and the result is the ultimate in comfort food, especially if you're a mushroom fiend like me. 

Recipe adapted from espèces de tartes! by Seymourina Cruse and Carole Chaix
Pastry ingredients (to fit a tart pan 28 cm in diameter):
150g grams plain flour
A pinch of salt
75g butter, room temperature and cut into little cubes
1/2 cup water
1. Mix the flour, salt and the butter together, pressing and rubbing the mixture with the palms of your hands.
2. Add the water. (I didn't end up using the full 1/2 cup, just add enough to form a ball of dough). Knead the pastry and then assemble it into a ball.
3. On a floured surface, knead the dough with the palms of your hands 2 or three times so that the dough becomes smooth and homogeneous. 
4. Assemble the pastry into a ball and place it in the fridge for up to 2 hours before using.
5. Once ready to use, roll out the dough and place into a tart pan. Blind bake with baking beans for 15-20 minutes in a 180 degrees oven, or until the pastry is golden. Remove from oven and put aside until you are ready to add the filling.

200g mushrooms, sliced
Assortment of herbs (I used thyme)
Juice half a lemon
30g butter
30g flour
1 egg
100g cheese (cheddar is fine)
1 cup milk
1. Place the mushrooms into a frying pan and season to your taste with oil, herbs and lemon juice.
2. Once cooked, reserve the cooking juices.
3. Melt the butter with the flour, and season with salt and pepper
4. Add the cooking juices to the butter and flour mixture along with the milk
5. Cook until the mixture thickens, stirring occasionally.
6. Take the mixture off the heat. Add the egg, cheese and mushrooms. Make sure to stir in between each addition
7. Pour the filling into the pastry shell and cook in a 180 degrees oven for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the tart comes out clean.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tiny tales from Paris #3: Montmartre

<<Être parisien ce n’est pas être né à Paris, c’est y renaître>>

"Being Parisien doesn't mean being born in Paris, it's being reborn there." Sacha Guitry

Catching up with friends over the past few weeks, I have been met with the same question numerous times: "How was your trip?". I always struggle to accurately describe my experiences in Paris. I usually resort to simply saying how enriching it was and that I am already planning my next trip. If I wasn't so fearful of sounding terribly pretentious though, I would probably respond to the question with the above quote. I really do feel like a part of me was reborn during my visit. I see the world with more inspired eyes. 

The summit of Montmartre in particular was a place I felt most at 'home', or where I can imagine living someday. It's a pipe dream, I know, but inevitable to think such things in a place that was once home to some of most distinguished artists such as Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh and Dali. Montmartre has so much character and soul. I visited three times while I was in Paris, all of which were rainy days, but not even the weather tainted its beauty, although it did prove a health hazard what with the steep and slippery cobblestone streets! Never one to be deterred, I was still able to see quite a lot of Montmartre asides from the stunning Sacré Cœur, including the restaurant pictured below, La Maison Rose, the market stall that featured in Amélie and metro station Abessess. If you ever find yourself in the 18th arrondissement, I recommend taking your time. Stroll the narrow streets, have your portrait sketched by a local street artist and delight in the simple pleasure of cracking a crème brûlée in a nearby cafe. C'est une belle vie after all.
Montmartre, restaurent Poulbot

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Magazine of the Moment: Oh Comely

Oh Comely Magazine, magazine of the moment, insightful magazines
Oh Comely Issue 23: The Great Indoors
I don't consider myself to be a frequent magazine reader and I don't subscribe to any publications. However, I do hold a high appreciation of a good magazine when I come across one. Now, what I define as a 'good' magazine is a number of things, but namely, I look out for ones that have a lasting shelf life, unlike gossip magazines that can be flipped through in a matter of seconds. To me, a magazine excels itself if I feel like the content never fails to inspire even on the second, third or fourth reading. I particularly enjoy magazines that focus on the lives of ordinary people, but through their stories, you are able to discover just how extraordinary the 'mundane' really can be. The first publication of this sort that I came across was Frankie magazine, and from there, I found myself craving other intelligent magazines that bring depth and hope in a media landscape largely dominated by stories and images of doom and gloom.  

So, due to my love of finely crafted, well thought out and well put together magazines, I decided to begin what I hope will be a series of posts where I will discuss a magazine that I have recently discovered and enjoyed reading. Hopefully I can provoke some awareness to the inspiring material that is available.

The first installment of Magazine of the Moment is Oh Comely. Oh Comely describes itself as 'a lifestyle magazine with life...a magazine that makes people smile, full of quiet moments and stories'. It is quite a well-known magazine, but despite this, I have had trouble getting my hands on a copy in the past, at least locally. However, I was finally able to get my mitts on an issue during my recent trip overseas. It wasn't until I returned home again that I was able to read it in full, and I discovered that Oh Comely is everything it claims to be.

The theme of my issue, issue twenty-three, was The Great Indoors. Having come home from the aforementioned trip, a whirlwind one at that, I found it hard getting back into the everyday routine of work, study, and university. I still reminisce every single day and wish to be back travelling. But Oh Comely reminded me that so much comfort and excitement can be found just within the home life; the simple things, if you will. Short stories about memories of home are both poignant and nostalgic and touching in their simplicity, in their description of distinct sights, smells, feelings and atmosphere. An article, in the form of a recipe, titled 'a nearly impossible meal' made me remember once more how much fun adventures in the kitchen can be, despite how messy or complicated they can get. Another article about a literary journal, which receives handwritten letters from authors all over the world, was inspiring and served as an important reminder of the power of the written word. Then there are interviews with artists, musicians and actors as well as the everyday person, with each interview taking an interest in the inner life of the interviewee, their passion and their craft. A personal favourite of mine was a story about a grandmother who loves pot plants, and her granddaughter, a photographer, who keeps track of her story. After reading Oh Comely from front to back, I could tell that it is a magazine that I will keep reaching for over the coming weeks, months and years. It is a lighthearted but also insightful read that is best enjoyed when you have time to yourself. Reading it, I was able to refresh, rejuvenate and reevaluate the little things that matter the most.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Recipe: Quick and Easy Chocolate Cheesecake in a Mug

cake in a mug, quick and easy baking, chocolate cheesecake

I'll be the first to admit that I probably have an unhealthy addiction to cheesecake, and I attribute this to a) my love of cheese and b) my love of cake. The two paired together, therefore, is the cherry on top. I always associate cheesecake with the summertime, as it is such a comforting dessert that can be taken out of the fridge and consumed on a hot day. However, it's not often that I have a spare cheesecake on hand to cure my cravings, nor the necessary ingredients to quickly whip one up. Thankfully, I discovered the perfect recipe for a mug cheesecake from a cookbook I bought in Paris. It's quick and easy to make, although it does require an hour to refrigerate, but the end result is so worth it! I decided to tamper with the recipe and experiment with melted chocolate, which turned out amazingly and I imagine would go so well with fresh cherries. Some other combinations I would like to try include white chocolate, salted caramel and berry. Below I listed the recipe for the cheesecake pictured above, but you can omit the chocolate and replace it with anything that takes your fancy. For a good 'ol lemon cheesecake, 2 tsps of lemon juice will suffice.

If you give this recipe a go, I would love to see the results. Who knew that 'miniature' baking could be so much fun! And an added bonus is there are less dishes involved at the end. It's a win win situation.

Chocolate Cheesecake in a Mug
Serves 1. Recipe adapted from Mug Cakes by Joséphine and Valérie Piot

Preparation: 5 min
Cooking time: 1 min & 10 s
Fridge: 1 h

You will need:
4 squares of dark chocolate, melted
1 egg white
3 tbsp cream cheese
2 tbsp Crème fraîche (I used Marscapone)
1 granita biscuit (or equivalent 1 spéculoos/graham cracker)
2 tbsp caster sugar

1. Break an egg and separate the white from the yolk, placing the white into a mixing bowl. Add the cream cheese and mix with a beater until combined.
2. Add the crème fraîche (or marscapone), the sugar and the melted chocolate one by one, beating the mixture between each ingredient. 
3. Scoop the cheesecake mixture into a mug of your choice and place in the microwave for 1 minute and 10 seconds on high. The cheesecake should 'wobble' once it has been cooked-and don't fret about the unsightly looking bubbles either, like I initially did.
4. Put the mug into the fridge and leave to set for 1 hour
5. Take the cheesecake mug out of the fridge once it has set and cooled completely. Add some cream, crush a biscuit and sprinkle it on top. Et voilà! The cheesecake is ready to be devoured.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tiny tales from Paris #2: Shakespeare & Co. and The Abbey Bookshop

“I stepped into the bookshop and breathed in that perfume of paper and magic that strangely no one had ever thought of bottling."

The above quote, written by one of my favourite authors Carlos Ruiz Zafron, was the first thing that popped into my mind that memorable day I stepped foot into Shakespeare & Company. Being an English major, I knew that there was no way that I could leave Paris without a visit to the famously romanticized bookshop, and it didn't fail to cast me under its spell. 

Another equally enchanting but lesser known bookshop, The Abbey Bookshop, which was founded and continues to be run by a Canadian expat, pulled at my heart strings in a similar way that Shakespeare and Co. did.  There's something about narrow passageways, walls of books, creaking staircases, dim lighting and piles upon piles of books that comforts me in a way that I can't quite put my finger on. It's an amalgamation of things, I think. The endless possibilities presented through the vast array of reading material, all in one tiny space occupied by other literature enthusiasts and 'tumbleweeds'. The knowledge that in these spaces one can spend hours upon hours, slipping into a dream like state and putting any worries on hold. In a foreign city, bookshops like these made me feel at ease, made me feel at home even, in the sense that the universality of literature brings me comfort and happiness where ever I may be. It struck me in general how many bookshops there are in Paris compared to my city, where an alarming number continue to close. It brought me so much joy to see that they are still highly revered in French culture.  This is just one of the reasons why I have proclaimed Paris as my soul city. I ache to return, but for now, have been cherishing the souvenirs I bought from these two fabulous bookshops; The Secret History by Donna Tartt and Ada or Ador by Vladimir Nabokov now take pride of place on the top of my bookshelf.

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