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Monthly Archives: November 2012

Yesterday was a great day at work.  Not only did I find a forgotten fiver in my desk drawer, but I was lucky enough to be invited along to Pierre Hermé for a tasting at their London Boutique.  I had heard of Pierre Hermé a few times before from Parisien friends.  I knew he had a reputation as a superstar pâtissière, but I had no idea of the delights that were to come.

We were greeted by our contact, the impossibly beautiful, impossibly French Matilde.  She told us about Pierre Hermé’s history.  Sometimes known as ‘the Picasso of Pastry’, PH studied under Gaston Lenôtre and previously consulted for Fauchon and Ladurée before setting up his own boutique in Tokyo 16 years ago.  The past 2 years have seen the first 2 British outposts.   I was pretty surprised to hear that his first shop was in Tokyo, but I think something of the very simple branding of the product, and the complex fruit and floral notes of his monthly Jardin D’antan collection probably reflects those Eastern influences.  Below is the picture of PH that we were shown which I found inappropriately hilarious. It looks like the caption might read “Chocolate macaroons?? I dunno, maybe add some foie gras?”

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Anyway, on to the actual tastings.  Firstly, it’s worth noting that the macaroons really are remarkably beautiful.  The shop had a macaroon Christmas Tree decoration, and the beautiful shine and colouring in the macaroons looked incredible when assembled into a structure in that way.  Even under the glass counter they glistened and sparkled, all ranges of colours and contrasts.  Another thing that is instantly noticeable is that they are significantly fuller than most macaroons (I’m looking at you Ladurée)- with a sizeable hunk of ganache between each shell. YUM.

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The salted caramel macaroon was a perfect mix of sweet and savoury, and the almost bitter taste of very dark caramel worked beautifully with the tang of sea-salt.  The signature ‘Mogador’ macaroon (Milk Chocolate and Passion Fruit) was a beautiful yellow flecked (apparently by hand) with dark brown, and tasted of intense passion fruit, whose sharpness was tempered by the smooth milk chocolate.  It was delicious, although admittedly the name is a little too Lord of the Rings to be instantly appealing.   The one macaroon I regretted not trying was the Dark Chocolate and Foie Gras variety.  I really didn’t believe it could work, but after trying his White Truffle macaroon (below) I realise I should have trusted him enough to request one.  My colleague did try this one, and she assured me that it was beautifully rich, and perfectly balanced between sweet and savoury.

The best macaroon I tried was genuinely unlike anything I have ever tasted before.  The White Truffle and Hazelnut macaroon.  My initial reaction to this is that it was probably a bizarre and thoughtless mashing of luxury ingredients.  I was wrong.  This macaroon is (necessarily) seasonal, and it LOOKS festive, shining like snow in white and silver. As soon as you lift it to your mouth the fragrance of the white truffle hits you, and- I admit- I was nervous to see how this would work with the sweet Macaroon.  The answer is: incredibly.  The closest I can come to describing it is to see imagine eating a mouth meltingly sweet piece of garlic. But of course it is so much sweeter, and so much more subtle and complex with the truffle flavouring.  It was genuinely astonishing.  Admittedly, it probably isn’t for everyone, and my colleague had a small retch at her first bite.  For me, it was perfection and I know I will be returning for a box for Christmas day.

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Thanks to the lovely Matilde and Jenny for such a wonderful morning. And to PH I guess, for making the best macaroon I’ve ever tasted.

(Photographs courtesy of the lovely Sarah Blaize-Coar @sassyblaize, image of Pierre Hermé from telegraph online).

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After leaving work surprisingly early on Tuesday, I managed to catch my favourite fishmonger (Ocean Wave on Seven Sisters Road).   I hadn’t planned on buying anything in particular, but a huge white squid caught my fancy.  As Paul (just found out my fishmonger’s name and will of course be using it) lifted the squid I realised it was far bigger than anticipated, but I left with a bag full o’ tentacles and began thinking up a recipe.

Given how disgusting the weather has been this past week, I wanted to make something un-characteristically summery, and a trip to Michael’s (another Sever Sisters Road gem) provided me with these pretty gawjus tomatoes.

This squid is Sicilian only in the sense that it reminds me of some squid I had on a recent break to Sicily, and the tomatoes and mozzarella pulled through the pasta give it a rustic Italian feel.

I also used the remaining pasta the next day (recipe 2), with the addition of tuna and a poached egg, it made a delicious lunch.

Recipe 1 (Serves 2)

Large Squid (Body)

Zest of 1 lemon

Salt & Pepper

2 Cloves of Garlic

Get your fishmonger to prepare the squid because otherwise you have to pull ‘the beak’ out. Don’t even ask. Score the inside of the quid lightly in a criss-cross pattern and cut into smaller pieces. Marinate in the olive oil with the salt, pepper, and finely chopped garlic (see below). Leave for an hour in the fridge.

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During this time prepare the tomatoes and pasta. After this has marinated heat a griddle pan until it is smoking hot. Cook the squid for 1-2 minutes per side.

About 2 handfuls of mixed small tomatoes (cherry, baby vine, yellow…whatever you have)

1 Banana Shallot

1 Red Chilli

2 Cloves of Garlic

Balsamic Vinegar

Olive Oil

Salt &  Pepper

Sugar

1 ball Mozzarella

Handful of Basil Leaves, Roughly Torn

Rigatoni (for 2)

Leave the tomatoes in cold salted water for an hour before using them.  If you don’t have time to do this it is really not the end of the world.  Finely chop the chilli (as much/little as you like), garlic, and shallot. Chop the tomatoes into halves or quarters, and mix these ingredients all together along with the basil, a glug of olive oil and one of balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar on top, and salt and pepper to taste.  Mix thoroughly, and leave to soak while you prepare the pasta. (NOTE this first part is also a great tomato salad recipe on its own.)  Cook and drain the pasta, and add the tomato mixture.  Tear the mozzarella ball into smaller pieces and mix this in too.   Cook the squid at this stage (it’s super quick) and top with the squid pieces, and a squeeze of lemon.

Recipe 2

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Leftover Pasta mix (if you’re like me, there will be no squid left by this point)

1 Tin Tuna

1 Poached egg

Plenty of  Salt & Pepper

Mix the tuna in to the pasta mixture, poach the egg, pop on top, season to taste.