Asking myself the question whether to cook French for the French, had me a little nervous.
I opted for a combination of Asian and Moroccan flavours instead, with a hint of French culture.
Last night I began the preparation for tonights dinner to take the pressure off me for today.
Cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen, without all the tools I am accustomed to at home and knowing that being on my feet for a good part of the day would have the broken toe aching, I think I made the right decision.
All that was required today was a spot of last minute shopping for fresh salad leaves, cheese, wine and cakes for dessert from the local patisserie.
Although The French Historian is a Parisian who is unusually not a fan of cheese, I doubt Julien can survive without cheese being part of his dinner menu.
It is not uncommon to hear Julien remark when I have dined with him on many occasions that he needs cheese and note, I said needs not wants!
After my sublime experience of trying Mont d’or cheese at a recent dinner for the first time, this had to be on the menu and as luck would have it, the tiny local cheese shop had some ready to eat.
The pumpkin soup flavoured with cumin, coriander and ginger was already cooked and only required some coconut milk and fresh coriander before re-heating and serving.
The celeriac and potato puree with Crème fraîche was also ready to go. Therefore when Julien arrived in the afternoon for a bit of blogging advice, I was relaxed.
Come at 7pm I texted the French Historian. That is a little early for a French dinner he replies, I will see you between 8 and 8.30pm.
How the French begin a four course meal that late in the night and still have time to digest before going to bed still bewilders me.
As it turned out, I needed this extra time by the time Julien left and I hobbled as fast as my foot would allow, the last minute shopping took longer than I envisaged. Everything seems to take a lot longer with the broken toe.
I still needed the mouse of lamb, better known as lamb shanks to cook for at least three hours, not including preparation time and a slight air of panic rippled through my body.
Running through the timing in my head as I quickly prepared the lamb shanks, I wondered at what time we would eat the main course. Well, I resigned, the French like to eat late and they may well be eating later than they hoped!
Last night I had prepared a playlist on my computer so we had some nice music to listen to, sprinkled with a few French songs for good measure. I popped it on and Julien arrived with his big warm smile and a kiss for both cheeks. Having an ultra extra sense of smell, he sniffs the air as he peels off his jacket and scarf, it smells good he says. Phew! That is a good start.
I set the table with my new napkins that I had recently purchased at Marie et Benoit the charming store in Passage du Grand Cerf and placed a bowl full of tiny brightly coloured radishes with French salt for dipping. I had stolen this idea from the charming restaurant, Le Temps des Cerises when I dined their last year.
Julien, en route had texted to check if there was anything else I needed and offered to bring some olives and nuts to add to our nibbles. He is an angel. Noticing that I was slightly flustered, he lit the tea lights for me and added his nibbles to the coffee table.
And then we were three.
Silence followed my toast as we sat to the table. Thank you for being such wonderful friends and helping me with my broken toe. I wouldn’t have coped without your help.
Maybe I was being a bit too sentimental but it was true, they are both wonderful friends.
Julien asked for the salt after his first sip of pumpkin soup and my heart sank but he was right, somehow I had managed to forget to season it and added some myself.
Please note I tell them. There are no bread and butter plates and no butter on the table.
I also had the salad on the table incase they wanted to start with it first, which is often the case and partly because there was no room to put it elsewhere in the kitchen. We chuckled at my attempt to add a touch of French culture to my Aussie table in Paris.
The lamb shanks went down ‘ok’. I saw a t-shirt the other day, plastered on the front it said, in French; I don’t like anything, I am a Parisian.
Ok was good enough for me, after Julien’s second helping, I was more than pleased.
Salad and cheese followed but only a mouthful of each of the cakes I had purchased from the patisserie.
Trying to mimic the Parisian gesture, I shrugged while cocking my head to the side, pouting my lips and raising my eyebrows, I added; they are ok.
Earlier in the day when I tried to ask the lady behind the counter that I would like to choose some cakes displayed in the window, she understood that I wanted a quiche. Is that all she asks, no I tell her, meaning I didn’t want a quiche I want cakes. Understandably she was busy, the line up for evening baguettes was long and snaked out the door and she lost her patience with me when I couldn’t find the word gateaux. I try again; I want something from over there. I thought she was going to throw the quiche that she was now holding in her outstretched hand with tongs at me.
I don’t want quiche, phew I got that out.
Finally she understands, smiles and wishes me a good evening.
There was a moment when embarrassed by her treatment in front of the long queue, I was tempted to walk out and take my business to the neighbouring patisserie, in hindsight, I should have.
But none of this mattered now, we had a lovely night, the three of us.