Vanilla black and blue smoothie

Smoothie epic part four.

Why? Because, if you’ve come straight to this post, Cuisinart are giving away two weekend tickets to Food Blogger Connect in August.

FBC was started pretty informally in 2009 and is growing each year. Well established bloggers, food writers and broadcasters are invited to speak about and their experience and know-how to newer food bloggers. This year there’s a photography workshop with Béatrice Peltre of La Tartine Gourmande, and a video cookery demonstration with Anjum Anand, who’s become a successful Indian TV chef. And who’s providing her equipment? Cuisinart! Who are also being incredibly generous in giving two people the chance to go, even if they’re going already. And an opportunity to take part in the video demonstration.

To qualify for the draw you have to come up with a smoothie, make one of Cuisinart‘s or one from Anjum Anand‘s books. Hence my marathon.
And then post it on your blog, plus tweet it and put it up on the FBC Facebook page, and go to the post that announced it and leave a comment.

Smoothies are somewhat addictive, and when you start looking there are so many combinations. I wanted to do one around vanilla, and then thought, why not blackcurrants. I can nibble away on summerfruits right off the stalk.

They remind me of summer on the farm I lived on up to the age of 10 when moved to a Big House. My mother lived quite The Good Life, raising chickens and ducks, and had a goat called Daisy that only she could milk. Anyone else who tried would find out that Daisy was a pretty good boxer! Mum also had a vegetable patch where peas and beans climbed up sticks, and we would sit among the leaves and eat the sweet juicy peas, right out of the pod. In another corner of the patch she grew raspberries and red- and blackcurrants (groseilles and cassis).

One of the things me and my  sister loved as kids was a blackcurrant ice cream mum made. A dense flavour that coated your mouth with lusciousness. So imagine our surprise when we asked her for the recipe as adults and she admitted it was some packet mix!

So how surprised and pleased was I that this smoothie turned out to be the closest in taste to that pud I think I’ve come across since then.

I also tossed in some blueberries (myrtilles), and even some blackberries (mûres) I’d found at the market. I wasn’t sure about the seasonality of them, but they are from France and they brought back another childhood memory from the same era of us stuffing ourselves with blackberries picked down on the old railway track of our little South Somerset village. Now not so little.

Vanilla black and blue smoothie

– 1 pot of vanilla yoghurt
– 125g punnet of blackberries
– 125g punnet of blackcurrants
– 50g blueberries
– 1 tbspn vanilla extract

Blitz the berries in a blender.
Add the yoghurt and blitz a bit more.
Mix in the vanilla extract.

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Rose, white grape and litchi smoothie

They do say things come in threes…

How much time have you spent smelling roses this spring? They don’t all smell the same, but some have so much waft, like the Ispahan, it’s heaven. But then they fade and frazzle in the summer heat.

I have a bit of an obsession with them at the moment, if they’re in syrup and preserve form at least. I seem to want everything to be rose-flavoured, let alone rose-tinted.

The first encounter I had with a sublime rose preserve was on a spoon in Lebanon at the beginning of May. Talk about heavenly mmmmmmness. And for once, rather than leave it as an ornament in the cupboard as I tend to do with precious ingredients, I’ve put my jar of pale pink petals encased in syrupy jelly to work pretty quick. It’s even featured in the first post.

So I couldn’t not use it in a smoothie for the Cuisinart Food Blogger Connect 2011 ticket giveaway. Cuisinart has been generous enough to provide not one but two people with the chance to have a ticket to the 2011 event this August, even if they’re already registered.

FBC is in its third year and will be welcoming food bloggers not just from the UK and Europe, but worldwide. Including me. I went blogless last year but went home with loads of tips, advice and ideas that have taken more than a year to shape into something.

Cuisinart is teaming up with celebrity chef Anjum Anand by providing the blenders and grill she’ll be using to give a video cookery demonstration, with an opportunity for someone to take part too. Plus another lucky person at the conference will take away a Cuisinart Elite 3.8l food processor.

And all you have to do is come up with as many smoothies as you want and post each one separately (yay!), or even make one of Cuisinart‘s or one of Anjum Anand‘s from one of her books. Plus Facebook it on FBC’s Facebook page, tweet it to @bloggerconnect #Cuisinart #Anjumanand #FBC11, and post the link in the comments of the giveaway post. Hope I haven’t forgotten anything…

Rose-tinted Smoothie

I’d use fresh litchies (or monkey balls as my nephew likes to call them) if they were in season, but it’s summer not Christmas so only tinned are available.
The grapes would be better peeled, but although I do actually have a grape peeler in my gadget collection, it is yet to be used.
And the result is a very pale green, with a hint of pink from the rose preserves, and incredibly refreshing.

– About 16 fresh litchies (peeled and stones removed) or 1 tin of litchies (to be frozen)
– About 40 white seedless grapes
– 2 tbspns Rose syrup
– 1 tbspn Rose preserve, for a bit of decoration
– A small glass of water

Freeze the litchies and for at least 4 hours before you want to use them.
Blitz the litchies and grapes in a blender, starting on the ice crush level.
Stir in a good 2 tbspns of rose syrup, and the glass of water.
Drape with a spoon of rose preserve.

Apricot, melon, lime and basil smoothie

So, with the opportunity of multiple entries to the Cuisinart ticket giveaway to FBC 2011, one won’t do.

As you may be aware, Cuisinart are giving away two tickets to the Food Blogger Connect conference from 12-14 August in London. And if you’re not, let me fill you in.

Apart from being incredibly generous in allowing two people to go to FBC, Cuisinart is providing the small electrical appliances – blenders and grill – for TV chef Anjum Anand‘s video demonstration workshop at FBC 2011. Apparently the giveway gives the opportunity to take part in Anjum’s filmed cooking demonstration in the workshop too.

It’s the third FBC and the only European food blogging conference on blogging rather than cooking that I’m aware of and, with Anjum Anand‘s video workshop amongst others, it keeps getting bigger and better.

I should know, as I went last year, feeling naked as blogless.
The idea for this smoothie comes from an ad that’s been running on French TV recently for something that smells of Apricots and Basil (girl riding bike, falls off approaching a guy…her apricots fall out of her basket and mix with his basil…eyes meet…) and the fact that Pierre bought 8 Charentaise melons at the market the other day. Yes, 8. Pierre likes buying lots of fruit, especially if he gets a good deal (reasoning: “but it’s only two euros for three melons”. Yes but Pierre, there are only two of us!). Unbelievably he will eat at least two melons in a day, and then some.

Add a spritz of lime juice for some zing, and you’ve got a new super slick smoothie.

Sunshine smoothie

– 6 apricots
– Half a Charentaise melon, or other round melon, chopped into chunks and frozen in advance, or bought frozen
– 6 basil leaves (or frozen basil) plus some leaves for decoration
– Juice of one lime

Chop the melon into chunks, put it in a freezer bag and pop it in the freezer at least 4 hours before you want to make the smoothie.
Half the apricots and take the stones out.
When the melon is frozen, put it in a blender with the apricot halves and basil leaves and lime juice and whiz.
Add the lime juice, and half a glass of water if you like it more soupy.

Watermelon, blueberry and raspberry smoothie

A bit more than a year ago, I went to my first food blogger conference. Without a blog. That was Food Blogger Connect #2 in London full of interesting tips and like-minded people. All with blogs. Sarah from Maison Cupcake captioned a photo afterwards “…and Zoë the Bloggless, but not for long”. Err…

Shortly after everyone said their goodbyes and I lugged luggage across London to the Eurostar – including a bike that Pierre wanted from England – and got on it (the Eurostar, not the bike) about 11 minutes before it left (the London tube, help! The Paris metro is like…riding a bike!), an email came through from Beth from Dirty Kitchen Secrets, who is also she who we give thanks to for Food Blogger Connect.

Competition! Win a 1-day pass to next year’s FBC! You had to request and use a cocoa, berries and flaxseed mix in a recipe, which I did. Two in fact. At, I think, 2 o’clock (don’t ask why, it’s like that) in the morning I was mixing, baking, and snapping photos, got something written a emailed it all off.

“That’s great, Do you think you could have a recipe posted on your blog by Monday?…”. Mmm….no.

Fast forward almost exactly one year…to last week.

Competition! Well, not actually. Giveaway!

Cuisinart are sponsoring Anjum Anand‘s video cooking demonstration slot at FBC 2011 from August 12 to 14 and are giving away two tickets for the full weekend conference. I’ve already got mine, but even we have a chance to go courtesy of Cuisinart, and maybe get to take part in the cooking demonstration with Anjum Anand. All you have to do is make a smoothie from your own recipe, one of Cuisinart‘s, or one from one of Anjum Anand‘s books. And make as many as you want, each one counts as an entry. Then post them on your blog (check), notify on FBC’s Facebook page (check, Facebook now set up), and tweet too… (check, and first tweet to manage), and write blurb about FBC:

Apart from Anjum Anand‘s presence, this year’s FBC will feature speakers on many aspects of blogging. like Steamy Kitchen’s Jaden Hair (who skyped her slot last year), Béatrice Peltre from La Tartine Gourmande, broadcasters or food writers Alex Mead, Fiona Beckett and Tim Hayward, and numerous others.

So smoothies. What could be more simple, whiz a choice of fruit, ice cubes and optionally yogurt, milk, protein…together, in any combination you want.

And hey presto, Pierre brings home half a watermelon from the market, I’ve got frozen blueberries in the freezer, and a punnet of raspberries in the fridge. I first made it last year, possibly minus the raspberries, and it was so good that I downed the almost whole litre in an afternoon. Plus it’s packed with antioxidants, blueberries having hit the headlines as a superfruit.

So, smoothie number one…


Purple smoothie
Purple antioxidant smoothie

200g blueberries (frozen at least 4 hours in advance, or bought frozen)
1/2 watermelon (chopped into cubes without the skin)
125g raspberries (a small punnet)

Makes about a litre.

Put the frozen blueberries in a blender and blitz a bit.
Add the watermelon and raspberries and blitz some more.
Serve, decorated with fresh blueberries.

French 75 and Franglaise 40 cocktails

A girl walked into a world-famous bar in Paris and sat down alone at the expanse of zinc. “Je vous sers?” (What’ll it be?), said the barman.
She said, “I’m 40 tomorrow. Something that will see out the last hours of my thirties with a bang.”

Today is the longest day of the year, and the streets of Paris are filled with music. but I’m here rewinding back to the night before my 40th birthday on 11.02.2011 (a palindrome in British). The night I was planning to start writing this…

All week I’d been sat at work thinking about what it will be like to be 40, still not grasping how had I’d got to be 40. The countdown started way back. 40 weeks became 40 days, then 4… It felt like I was stuck fast forward and had lost the remote. Altough in my head it feels like someone hit the stop button at 28. Now would I found out what a grown up feels like?

But as I was repeating what had become a mantra for the umpteenth time – “OMG, I’m going to be 40 on Friday, OMG, I’m going to be 40 on Friday”, it hit me that the night before was to be my last as a thirty something. Panic set in. Oh merde (and some), How was I going to get through that? How about an enterrement de vie de trentenaire (burial of my thirty-something life)?

So after having been pampered with a massage and chocolate (what else) facial to try and relax and got my nails polished for the big day at the bizarrely named no appointment necessary “Hype and Hairy” salon on rue Taitbout, I pushed though the saloon doors of Harry’s New York Bar, on Sank Roo Doe Noo just down the road from the Opera Garnier, to toast the enterrement with a cocktail. Or two.

It fit the occasion because:
– I’d spent my 30th birthday in New York (but decided I would never get home if I had a Manhattan cocktail).
– It’s Estb. 1911 so it’s also celebrating a big birthday this year, at Thanksgiving in November.
– Harry’s is kind of how the French pronounce my last name (minus the H).
– It was a haunt of the likes of writers Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald and Ian Fleming, my grandmother’s grandfather’s grandson, so maybe some of what they had might rub of on me in getting into this.

Gin Martini

The first choice of cocktail was James Bond’s favourite drink, a Vodka Martini. A first, having always wondered what why they seem so popular. (Remember the Martini ad from the 70s and that jingle? An amazing piece of now kitsch marketing).

But as the second cocktail I wanted to try was the French 75, a champagne cocktail with gin, lemon juice and sugar, the barman, in his white lab-like coat (well they do mix potions of sorts) suggested having the original Martini made with gin,  before the longer French 75.

The Martini was…wince-making. Don’t drink Martinis if you don’t want wrinkles. The dry side of cocktails is obviously not my thing. But at least I got to drink out of the sleek, don’t-I-look-cool-and-stylish cocktail glass.

So, to the French 75. The real celebratory drink, as it’s got champagne in it. The barman did his mixology thing:  mixaslugofginwithlemonjuiceandsyruppouritinatallglasstopupwithchampagnefinishoff-withashotofasecretingredientandstickastrawinit. I think I blinked and there it was. I guess with champagne you think delicate flutes, but no, the F75 gets a ugly brute of a glass with a straw. The gin and the secret ingredient seemed to be the real bruisers.

French 75

Surprisingly the French 75 was not named for Paris being in département 75, Ile de France, but because when you had one, you felt like you’d be hammered by a turn-of-the-last-century-but-one 75 mm artillery piece – the modern canon of the time. They got that right, and somewhat more than I’d envisaged, I saw out my thirties with a bang as the F75 hit me… (Ok so I might have forgotten to eat…)

The next day I got on with being 40, shellshocked in more ways than one, with a 12-course tasting lunch at the two-starred Le Bigarrade in the 17th arrondissement, followed by dinner at Kathmandu, a Nepalese restaurant in the 5th with friends and family, with the digestif of the day being a boogie for nostalgia’s sake at the Carwash disco night at the Wagg night club in the 6th. The day went by in a flash, with my mind stuck in slow-mo. But all that’s another story.

Epilogue: Thing is, I only grabbed 3 photos while I was at Harry’s Bar, as the battery on my point-and-shoot ran out on me. So Friday night, I went and did it again (minus the Martini. And with half a baguette in my tummy.)  And this time at the piano bar downstairs.

So just in case you didn’t catch the mixing part it looked something like this:

The recipe is apparently copyrighted, so although the waiter kindly wrote it down for me (then got pulled up by the barman), I won’t be writing it down here for you after all. If you look you’ll find it, but minus the secret ingredient. For that you’ll have to go and get whumped by a French 75  at Harry’s Bar to find out what it is. (Just eat beforehand).

As they say life begins at 40, and so, apparently, do blogs. Although for a first post on a food blog, I’m yet to get to the food… Watch this space.

Zoe h., aged 40 and a third.

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Harry’s New York Bar
5 rue Danou
75001 Paris

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I couldn’t do a first post up without putting up a recipe, so have decided to come up with my own cocktail of my own for the occasion (especially as I didn’t get to the Alcazar after the birthday dinner as planned to have them make one just for me). Where do you start?

It has to be sparkly as it’s for a special occasion, so I decided on Prosecco as the long part, that I’d brought back from a trip to Germany. Where I was visiting my great friend Karin, who was my German exchange in the 80s. I certainly never got very far with speaking German, but she did in English and we  shared a cocktail or two at the time at the “Happy Future” nightclub near her home in the Black Forest… Today she’s a real inspiration in the kitchen, and no doubt made a major contribution to my fascination with food.

Karin also contributed to this cocktail in that she made the rose liqueur that I also decided to use, with the rose petal confit and syrup coming from Lebanon. Plus Karin’s husband Alex, who’s one year and one day older than me, always makes great cocktails when I go to visit so this is as much for him and his repertoire (he made me a proper James Bond martini last time, maybe a tad less dry).

The result is a demure ,slightly blushing sunset-at-the-end-of-a-perfect-day kind of drink without a hint of dryness.

So, here’s to what it is to be 40 and the birth of this blog with:

The Franglaise 40

Pour 20ml (2cl) of rose syrup into a pretty glass
Add 15ml (1.5cl) of rose liqueur
Add a spoonful of confit rose petals
Top up with 200ml of Prosecco