Learning how to cook like a Parisian – an amazing experience at La Cuisine, Paris

When I was in Paris last year, I desperately wanted to do a cooking class, but as we were travelling for a long time on a tight budget, unfortunately, it just didn’t happen. However, I was very lucky to be going back to the city of love for a short visit this year, so there was no doubt in my mind that I would be doing a Parisian cooking class this time! I chose to do the class with La Cuisine as they had excellent reviews, and boy, am I glad I went with them! They really were fantastic. We chose to do the Market Class, where the group met at a local farmers market to choose the menu and buy the ingredients for the lunch. We then took a short stroll to the kitchen, in the hot Parisian summer sun, via the Notre Dame.
Fish
Fruit
Cheese
La Cuisine gave our group freedom to choose what we wanted to eat – there was no set menu. We chose sea bream for the main, and some ripe peaches and apricots for dessert, along with some beautiful cheeses, vegetables and baguettes.What I loved about the market was that our wonderful chef, Emilie, explained everything to us. She showed us what to look for when choosing fish, how to tell if fruit and vegetables are ripe, and gave us a thorough run down on different types of French cheeses and breads. One of the cheeses we had was a special cheddar type, where, in the process of making this cheese, little cheese mites (yes, little bugs!) huddle around the outside of the wheel, protecting the cheese from bacteria. Some people thought this was pretty disgusting, but I thought it was kind of cool that little bugs could help produce a delicious cheese! And delicious it was! (FYI – the mite cheese is the orangey one at the bottom).
Cheese2
When it was time to cook, everybody helped out and did their bit – it was certainly a team effort. Emilie showed us how to fillet a fish, which I did for the first time – it was a pretty horrible effort though, I pretty much hacked the poor thing to bits! Lucky I wasn’t the only filleting virgin. To go with the sea bream, we made a cauliflower puree, mini roasted carrots, onions and radishes and a buerre blanc sauce. This sauce was easily my favourite part of the whole lunch, and I could have drank a whole bowl of it. It was delicious – but let’s face it, anything with a truckload of butter, white wine and onions is bound to taste pretty damn good.
Main
For dessert, we made an almond and hazelnut financier, with roasted peaches and apricots and chantilly cream. This was a really delicious dessert. The peaches and apricots were sliced up, brushed with butter, and roasted with brown sugar and rosemary, an unexpectedly delicious addition. The financier was dense and buttery, and with the chantilly cream, it was really great. I am definitely looking forward to making this again.
Dessert
If you are going to Paris in the near future, and love food, I really recommend you check out ‘La Cuisine’. They have lots of other classes to do with pastry, bread, chicken and more. If I had the time, I would have loved to do a pastry or macaron class! Oh well, next time! Thanks to La Cuisine and Emilie, for an unforgettable day 🙂
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Paris: my foodie heaven

I have recently floated off cloud 9 which consisted of a week in pastry paradise. It was hands down, one of the best weeks of my life so far. For a very long time, I have been almost obsessed with Paris, for reasons fairly obvious, even having never been there. So, to actually be there and see the sights right in front of my eyes was pretty amazing for me. I had a little bit of a heart attack the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower!
Eiffel tower
Now, to the food. We were really lucky to have snatched up a great little studio apartment in the bustling neighbourhood of Bastille (for Melbourne people, this would probably be the equivalent of Fitzroy/Brunswick), which was just to the east of the city. We could not believe our luck when we realised the Bastille Market – one of the biggest foodie markets in Paris, was literally at the end of our street. Winner! We headed down on a sunny Sunday morning to find delights such as crêpes, baguettes, cheeses, fresh fruit and veg, fresh seafood, curries and souvenirs.
Bastille market
The great thing about Bastille is that it is out of the main toursity area of Paris. This means great local restaurants, bakeries/patisseries on nearly every corner, and super-friendly French people – something we were not expecting. We had been told by so many people that the French did not like tourists at all and were quite unwelcoming. These people obviously stayed in super touristy areas in the city that are overcrowded and full of horrible, overpriced restaurants. Out of every country we have visited so far (6), we found the French to be the friendliest, which was fantastic. Our local bakery, Maison Laudemaine Voltaire, was our go to each day. It had the best baguettes we had ever tasted, and some pretty amazing desserts and pastries, too.
4 cakes
Baguettes
Two places I just had to try in Paris were, of course, Pierre Herme and Laduree. If you are not familar, they are both extremely well known around the world for their macarons and pastries (Pierre Herme also has amazing chocolates). I can safely say that I had the best macarons in Paris, which really is not a surprise at all. For me, Pierre Herme won by a mile. We bought a box of 7 macarons (we couldn’t afford any more!), and we were both in heaven. The flavours we chose included Salted Butter Caramel, Chocolate Passionfruit, Citron Praline, Rose, Violet Yoghurt and Giandjua Chocolate. My favourite flavour was Violet Yoghurt, and I think it was because I was not expecting it – it was such an interesting flavour, but so delicious. I will definitely try to create this flavour when I get home!
Pierre Herme
Pierre Herme shop
In comparison to Pierre Herme, Laduree’s macarons were unfortunately a bit disappointing. The flavours were pretty standard, but the fillings were quite runny – they just didn’t have the same finesse (sounds wanky I know, lol) as Pierre Herme. The pastries on the other hand, were amazing. We got a Saint-Honore Pomme Facon Tatin – which was a bit of take on an apple tarte tatin. It had this amazing caramelised puff pastry with tiny choux filled with salted caramel, caramelised apples and caramel chatilly whipped cream. Wow! I also had something I had been wanting to try for a long time – Ispahan. Ispahan is a big macaron filled with rose cream, lychees and raspberries. It was delicious.
Laduree collage
Finally, I also had my first French onion soup experience. It was definitely as magical as I imagined it to be!! It was so yummy, and was complete with gruyere croutons. Another one to try when I come home!
Onion soup
So, that ends our foodie adventures in Paris. There is still so much I want to see and do, and so much more food I want to try. Lucky I’m going back next year 😀 Follow me on Instagram for more travel photos – GemmaAsh

Vietnam: A wonderful world of food (Part 2)

We begin again…!

These photos above are from a cooking class I did in Hoi An. We went to the Hoi An fresh food market in the morning, and collected all the ingredients for the dishes we would make. The market was a crazy place, so many people, and so much food. It was great to see all of the Vietnamese exotic fruits, vegies and herbs all together in one place, and to learn about them all and where abouts they come from. The fish market was amazing, there was even a hammerhead shark just lying on the table for sale! You really knew that the seafood was fresh because the whole area didn’t smell fishy at all.

After the market, we went back to the instructor’s home to cook. There were three of us in the class, and we each chose a dish from an extensive list of Vietnamese cuisine. This class was definitely one of the highlights of the trip, and I thoroughly recommend Van from Green Bamboo Cooking School if you’re ever in Hoi An (check it out on Trip Advisor). I chose prawn and pork fried spring rolls, as spring rolls are my absolute weakness, and I wanted to learn how to make them properly. The other dishes that were chosen were a coconut chicken curry and chicken, lemongrass and shallot rissoles. We also cooked some fresh squid, and seared some fresh tuna from the market.

I was really happy with how my spring rolls turned out. They were really crispy, and went perfectly with the dipping sauce we made. The sauce was really simple, just lemon juice, a heap of garlic, and a touch of chilli. However, you can add as much or as little garlic and chilli as you like, and you can also use lime juice, which I actually liked a bit better than the lemon juice. When I make the spring rolls myself though, I think I would actually leave out the pork and the prawn. Whilst they were beautiful, I think the prawns especially got a bit lost in the pork and the vegies. The prawns were amazing, so fresh you could actually see right through them, and as I was peeling them they were still flopping around which really freaked me out!! Unfortunately, I don’t think the spring rolls showcased the prawns enough.

The coconut chicken curry was sooo good! We actually used the coconut water from the market which made the flavour really prominent. Yum! I seared the tuna in the above picture, and it was really, really good. I had never tried fresh tuna before, and safe to say I won’t be going back to the canned variety! We used the salt, pepper and lemon juice mixture that I mentioned earlier, and it went perfectly with the seared tuna. Can’t wait to try that one again!

Last but not least, I have to showcase the best cocktail I had in Vietnam – espresso martini (Vietnamese style). I am by no means a coffee drinker, but this cocktail was to die for! There is something a bit different about Vietnamese coffee, I think it is a bit sweeter, and nowhere near as bitter as some of the coffee you get in Australia. And only $4! Mmm 🙂

 

Vietnam: A wonderful world of food (Part 1)

After nearly a week being home, I have finally managed to start this post. Hopeless! I told you my time management skills were non-existant. For the past three weeks, my boyfriend and I have been travelling around Vietnam. It was a wonderful experience, and it is an amazing country with some wonderful, and not so wonderful food. So, I wanted to showcase some of the wonderful food we experienced. I won’t bore you with detailed descriptions of everything, so just hover over the photo for a quick explanation!

This is Pho Ga. The dish Vietnam is probably most famous for is Pho Bo, the beef version of this noodle soup. However, I definitely preferred the chicken.

 

These photos above were all from a night foodie tour we did with XO Tours (check them out on Trip Advisor if you’re heading to Saigon). This was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. We were taken on the back of a motorbike in a crazy city with next to no road rules, with young Vietnamese women as our tour guides. They took us to three spots across the city, and each had fantastic food – some of the best seafood I have ever had. The bottom photo here is coconut jelly, which was actually set in the coconut itself, then scooped out of the coconut with a layer of fruit at the bottom. Yum!

Something I will be definitely using from my experiences in Vietnam is the simple seasoning of seafood with salt, pepper and lemon juice. So simple, but so, so good. I had it on chicken, too, and you can see it above next to the tiger prawns. In Nha Trang (a beach town on the southern coast of Vietnam) where these photos were taken, most restaurants have a seafood stand out the front, where customers can choose what they would like cooked. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find our favourite, crab, anywhere in Nha Trang. Although, there were ladies across the road from the beach boiling fresh lobster to order. Yumm!

We had some of the most amazing Indian food in Vietnam. I am a sucker for a good butter chicken and garlic naan, and from one end of the country to the other, it was spectacular! You can see below that for 100,000 VND ($5AUD, $6US) we got a full meal with rice and a beer! You can’t get much better than that! I have set a challenge for myself to try and recreate one of these butter chickens, marinating the chicken overnight and making naan as well!

FYI – I am doing this post in 2 parts as it is not letting me put everything into one.