Growing up, the first weekend in December was when we put up the Christmas tree. This weekend still feels like the start of the festive season for me; our decorations are up, and the Christmas baking has begun.
This weekend, I made chocolate balls using my grandmother’s recipe. She has been making these for Christmas for as long as I can remember, and now that I’m so far away it’s comforting to have a little bit of my family Christmas traditions in our celebrations.
We also visited Lyon’s Christmas market at Perrache over the weekend. We wandered around, sampled the chocolate-covered marshmallows, admired the twinkling lights, and generally soaked up the festive atmosphere.
Chocolate covered marshmallows at the Christmas market
Christmas market in Lyon
I’m often surprised at what you can successfully cook in the microwave. My first discovery was pappadums, followed by the prawn crackers you get at Chinese restaurants. Both of these are usually deep fried, but they puff up just as well when microwaved for a minute, without any oil at all.
Toasted pumpkin seeds
This week, I added pumpkin seeds to the list. Pumpkins have started appearing in our market, and I picked up a slice this week. By coincidence, I found this post about toasting pumpkin seeds in my RSS reader around the same time.
Since the oven feature on our combination microwave doesn’t work particularly well on its own, I looked around to see if I could use some combination of microwaving and grilling the seeds instead. And it turns out, just microwaving them is enough.
I washed the seeds, and tossed them with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and smoked paprika then put them on a plate in the microwave for 2 minutes. After 30 seconds, the microwave had filled entirely with smoke, and I wondered whether this was a good idea. I opened the door, and the smoke (which was more likely steam) dissipated quickly. Nothing seemed to be burning, so I carried on.
I microwaved the seeds for about 4 minutes in total. They continued to produce huge amounts of steam for the first 3 minutes; I checked on them every 30 seconds or so, to reassure myself they weren’t about to catch fire. In the last minute the steam stopped completely, and the seeds made a crackling sound. When I pulled them out they were golden, crunchy, and delicious.
Our little garden has finally grown enough to be able to harvest. Every few days I snip off some lettuce or parsley leaves for one of our meals.
Our first radish
Today we got our first proper-sized radish; crunchy, spicy, and bright pink. We took out a couple of our other radish plants recently to give the lettuce some space. They didn’t have bulbs, but the stir-fried leaves were tasty.
Our first radish joined my first batch of homegrown alfalfa in our lunch today.
Living in the gastronomic capital of France ensures we are surrounded by amazing food, and a seemingly endless collection of new things to try. Still, there are things I miss that are hard to come by in France. So, our trip to Australia became something of a gastronomic event. This was not fine dining gastronomy, it was simple pleasures, mostly enjoyed outdoors.
Meat on the bbq
To start our visit, my parents organised a barbeque. Sausages, steak, chicken wings, and a collection of salads contributed by various family members were all enjoyed in the backyard. The beer, wine, and conversation flowed freely. And it was finished off with my Mum’s signature pavlova.
Homemade bread and butter
Our local market was abundant with new produce this week. Amongst the seasonal offerings, there was an array of fruit and vegetables that I have never seen before.
One of these new discoveries is kaki. The shiny orange-apricot coloured globes caught my eye as we passed one of our regular stalls. When I asked the vendor if it was a fruit, he picked one up and sliced a piece off for me to try. The instantly sweet, complex flavour compelled me to buy some. It was only as we walked away with the bag of kaki in hand that the sweetness was replaced with a peculiar, dry sensation.
Happily, after a couple of days sitting on our kitchen table, they seem to have lost their dry aftertaste, and the flavour is a mix between melon, apple, and some tropical fruit I can’t pinpoint.