Category Archives: frenchy

French New Year holiday 2017-2018

In between our stay at my husband’s mother’s place in the south of the Netherlands, the three of us took a short trip to Paris for our New Year’s holiday to visit our friends & relatives. We took Thalys, the express train service that runs through Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. Two and a half hours after we left Aachen, a small German city bordering the Dutch city where my mother-in-law lives, we safely arrived at busy Gare de Nord.

This time we took a nice Airbnb in an area called Wagram, not too far from Champs-Élysées. It was our first time staying at an Airbnb, and in spite of some reservations we had about the apartment, it was a good choice with great location and ample space for the three of us.

On the New Year’s eve, my best friend and her partner invited us to their lovely home for a special dinner. As is always the case in Paris, we started a pre-celebration at 7:00PM and opened a champagne, munching on foie gras and smoked salmon, which seems to be THE things to eat on the New Year’s eve in France.


Foie gras and smoked salmon, the must haves on the New Year’s eve

For dinner, Chef F made this delicious chicken filet with foie gras sauce. And the mashed potato… mmm I can still taste this creamy, sweet mash only a French person can make…  I’m pretty sure he used generous amount of butter, but maybe it’s better not to find out exactly how much… The sautéed mushroom was nutty and hearty, which was a perfect combination with the chicken and mash. Chef F served the same dish sans the foie gras sauce for their son and our daughter, on a small red kids table. Our daughter absolutely loved it, especially the mash. At the age of five she already knows the divinity of the French cooking.


Chicken filet with foie gras sauce, with amazingly creamy tasty mashed potato & fried (morel?) mushrooms

By the time we finished the dinner, the four of us finished two bottles of champagne and a magnum red bottle. Embarrassingly enough, I fell asleep before the countdown began. I managed to wake up when they started counting 10, but could hardly open my eyes and collapsed on their cozy sofa hugging their cute little doggy (she was so soft and warm). At 1:00AM we decided to call the night, and we took an Uber home.

On the New Year’s Day, without fail, our daughter jumped on to our bed at 8 o’clock. Dragging ourselves out of bed, we took a hot shower, got dressed and went out. We found out that Centre Pompidou would be open so headed that way. As soon as we got out of the nearest Metro station to the museum, it started pouring, and of course our daughter jumped in to a large puddle. Lucky us… As such we went to a crêperie close by, most likely one of the worst tourist traps you could find in the centre of Paris… We had the crêpe as our early lunch, as we were still quite full from the evening before. Later that evening, Chef F cleverly cooked us some simple pasta to give our stomach some rest.


Crêpe avec Nutella

On our last evening in Paris, to return the favour to our host, I cooked some Japanese meal with local ingredients. I loved shopping in a local supermarket and get inspired by all the unfamiliar ingredients. I could easily live in Paris and create locally adopted Japanese dishes… well, in my dreams. For the meal this time though, I stuck with the basics and made ginger pork and hamburg steak with Tokyo rice (that’s how my daughter calls the Japanese sticky rice). I realised, if I have soy sauce at hand, I can improvise many Japanese dishes even without (the very important) dashi broth. Of course it wouldn’t be perfect, but close enough. I used white wine where I needed to use Japanese sake, and honey and/or sugar for mirin. The result? Empty plates at the end of the meal.


Grocery shopping at a local supermarket. Nice trolly for little kids.

Ginger pork, Hamburg steak with my mum's special sauce, Boiled green Moroccan beans, Fried Aubergine, Iceberg Salad, Tokyo Rice

Ginger pork, Hamburg steak with my mum’s special sauce, Boiled green Moroccan beans, Fried Aubergine, Iceberg Salad, Tokyo Rice

Cooking at their kitchen made me feel at ease. All of a sudden Paris became less overpowering, as if something has planted a seed somewhere deep in my mind that one day we could possibly start our life here.

Well, that would certainly be added to my bucket list.

Kindergarten bento – Sandwich a la Maman (15/Nov/17)

When I lived in the Italian city of Milan 13 years ago, I shared an apartment with two amazing, beautiful ladies, one from France, and the other one from Sweden. We all attended the same master’s course in a graduate school in Milan, studying fashion & design management. Despite our shortcomings and different backgrounds, we got along very well, and after a while we became almost inseparable.

One day, the three of us took a short trip to Paris to visit the French flatmate V’s family. Three young & crazy women traveling together with a limited budget… Any of you who’s taken a European low cost carrier would understand that their airport terminals are always located in a secluded area outside the city, which requires a long bus ride and a lot of walking/running before/after catching your flight. It was no exception for our Paris trip, and it felt as if we were always on the move in some type of transportation whether it’s a bus or airport shuttle or tram or whatever, but after what felt like a 10 hour journey, we finally managed to arrive V’s home-sweet-home in the Left Bank of beautiful Paris.

The trip was a blast, and we got to spend some quality, heartwarming time with V’s parents. Her mum, Maman, was a great cook, although she never admitted she was, and always told us she was cooking nothing special. Maman always gave us a shy, humble smile at our compliments and excused herself back to her small kitchen.

After spending a few wonderful days in Paris, it was time for us to go back to Milan. Of course, we had to take the same route back, involving a metro ride to the bus stop and a long bus ride to the distant airport. As is always the case when traveling with V, we were running late to catch our bus and hence our airplane, too.

Knowing her daughter very well, V’s sweet Maman prepared sandwiches for the three of us to eat in the bus, because she knew we wouldn’t have time to stop for a proper meal. She made one sandwich with freshly baked baguette from a bakery near by with the leftover pot-au-feu meat from the evening before. The other one was this simple sandwich made with a Pan Viennoise (long soft milk bread) with butter and boiled pink ham. Both of them were so simple but exceptionally tasty. It was the first time for me to eat Pan Viennoise as sandwich, and I can still remember the perfect combination of the milky butter and the salty tasty ham… Mmm, it was absolutely divine.

Now fast-forward to the present time in Tokyo in 2017, I randomly spotted Pan Viennoise sold on the shelf at a nice French bakery in our neighborhood. The next morning I made a sandwich using the Pan Viennoise I bought, of course with boiled ham & butter, just like what Maman made for us 13 years ago, for my little girl’s kindergarten bento. I prepared the sandwich, thinking of V’s dear Maman with a sweet smile as well as my precious memories of my time in Europe.

Menu: Pan Viennoise sandwich (boiled ham & butter/cheese & appelstroop/peanut butter & apricot jam/strawberry jam & butter), Plain omelet, Boiled green beans, Cherry tomato

Banana for dessert

Kindergarten bento – Dinner leftover (23/Sep/16)

Menu: Fresh corns cooked with rice (with ‘ao-nori‘ seaweed powder on top), Cabbage millefeuille, La salade a la maman (mama’s tomato salad), Green bean omelet

Japanese ‘kyoho‘ grapes for dessert

Last night we had our good friends over for (early) dinner. Our daughter was so thrilled to have her friends over that she had a hard time focusing on eating at the dinner table. Inevitably her leftover has ended up in her bento box today. 

The dishes I cooked this time somehow had a touch of French cuisine but with Japanese seasonings. I think our European friends liked this combination very much 🙂

– Fresh corns cooked with rice, in a Japanese “dó-nabe” earthware pot – I used this recipe from the website called Cookpad (sorry all in Japanese). I doubled the portion.

– Cabbage millefeuille – here is the recipe, also from Cookpad. 

– La salade a la maman is a recipe passed on to me by my best friend’s mum who unfortunately passed away seven years ago. I’ve recreated her tasty salad numerous times since she taught me this wonderful recipe. It is one of the simplest, yet the most delicious salads I’ve ever tasted to this day. She told me she almost felt embarrassed to tell me the recipe because it was nothing special. But she always made delicious but effortless dishes. Everything she cooked for us, including this plain sandwich with ham (Jambon Beurre á Paris), was purely divine. 

dinner with friends – chicken marbella, la salade ala maman, la tarte au citron

on last saturday, we had a dinner party with 4 friends + 1 baby.

our friends’ baby girl is 11-month old, and just started walking recently, quite firmly most of the time, but clumsily from time to time. it looked as if her cute little bum covered in nappies was working as a weight so that she would not hit her head first. it was the first time for us to host a 11-month old, and we realised how dangerous our apartment could be for small babies. there are sharp corners everywhere, such as our display shelves with lots of small objects with hard surfaces, movable tv board with untreated edges, small yet tall sculpture on a heavy concrete block… while covering all the sharp corners with plastic tape (a strict order from myself), my husband agreed that going forward he would take baby friendly architecture into consideration in his future designs.

anyway back to the party. the menu of the day was as follows:

appetizer: la salade ala maman
salad: romain lettuce, endive, carrot, walnuts with balsamic dressing
main course: chicken marbella with jasmine rice
dessert: tarte au citron + yummy cakes (contribution from our friends)

and today, i would like to share the recipe for “la salade ala maman.” (you can follow the link below for the chicken marbella & la tarte au citron)

this recipe is inspired by the tomato salad which my best friend’s mother once cooked for me. my best friend is french, and whenever i went visit her & her family in paris, her mother always greeted me with her superb cooking. unfortunately she passed away 2 years ago and i never had a chance to ask her the exact recipe. after a number of trials and errors, however, i finally made it very close to hers, and i proudly admit that our guests tonight were very, very happy with it.

la salade ala maman

ingredients (serves 6):

6 large tomatos, peeled, then sliced (1cm thick)
1/2 shallot, chopped
1/2 tea spoon of salt (about 3g or so i think)
1 table spoon of red wine vinegar
3 table spoons of salad oil
a sprinkle of sugar


1) place the tomato slices on a large plate
2) in a small bowl, mix all the ingredients except for the tomatoes and mix well
3) pour the dressing over the tomato slices, and let it rest for half an hour before serving

if anyone is interested in the recipe for chicken marbella, you can refer to my earlier posting (which i totally forgot about). this time, i used white wine vinegar instead of red wine vinegar, and mixture of brown & red sugar. not too much difference in the taste, but the density of the sauce came out thicker this time, i believe due to the brown sugar.

the recipe for the tarte au citron can be found on the japanese website called “cookpad.” the one i used is this one (thank you very much shok for sharing your recipe!). i may have mentioned it before that cookpad has a wide range of very useful & easy recipes, so i highly recommend it if you can read japanese.

i know it’s not perfect, but when i took it out from the oven, it looked so good and impressive that i could not help but smile 🙂 it is a great dessert for a home party – it is not that hard to make as long as you have enough time, and i am sure that you can make your guests smile as well.

chicken couscous – a touch of african flavour

in tokyo, there is this lovely petite restaurant called “aila” where they serve “french colonial” style cuisine. their dishes are based on the french food with a bit of north african tastes. there are dishes like tagine, moroccan lamb confit and fish cous cous.

i’m not very sure if the expression “french colonial” is politically correct, but it appears to be socially accepted over here, or perhaps people just don’t question it. since japan is a monocultural society where people are quite innocent and not very sensitive about issues involving diverse cultures, we sometimes get stunned at what we witness in our everyday life here in tokyo, just like this example. if some western people see it (including my husband), they would either roll their eyes or shrug their shoulders and move on, because they know that we mean it well.

well getting back to the food topic – this dish, “chicken couscous,” is my own invention which is inspired by a dish i once had at aila. i can’t remember the exact flavour and spices they used, but i made it close enough to get the north african touch to the dish.

here is the recipe:

chicken couscous stew

12 chicken drumsticks
2 cloves of garlic
2 bunch of celery (with leaves)
1 japanese leek (even better if it is normal leek)
1/2 bunch of cauliflower
3-4 table spoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 table spoon of dried thyme
1/2 cup of white wine (or more if you like)
1/2 cup of water
2 table spoons of colombo powder (or garam masara powder)
salt & pepper to taste

1. season the drumsticks with salt & pepper
2. cut the celery stems into 2cm length. we’ll use leaves too
3. cut the leek into 2cm length
4. roughly dice the garlic
5. in a stew pan (i use le creuset), pour the oil and gently fry the garlic in low heat
6. add the celery and the leek and stir-fry them further in low heat, for another 15 minutes or so
7. in a separate frying pan, pour some more oil (additional) and fry the drumsticks until their surface get golden
8. pour in the white wine into the drumsticks, put the lid on, lower the heat and cook it for 1 minute or so
9. add the drumsticks with all the juice coming out of the chicken in the stew pan (and do not wash the frying pan, because we will use it to cook couscous later on)
10. add the celery leaves, the thyme and the colombo (curry) powder, and half a cup of water into the stew pan, put the lid on and simmer for 10 minutes or so
11. in a separate small pan, bring water to boil and boil cauliflower for 3 minutes or so
12. add the cauliflower to the stew pan, and let it simmer for another 5 – 10 minutes
13. add salt & pepper to taste

for couscous:

1 cup of cous cous
1 cup of water

1. in the frying pan we used earlier, add a cup of water and bring it to boil. when it’s boiled
2. add the couscous and turn off the heat. mix them well, put the lid on and steam it for 1 minute.

on the side, i served diced sweet potatoes (simmer them with a little bit water, a tea spoonful of honey and a tea spoonful of olive oil). somehow the sweet potatoes go along very well with this chicken dish.

salad nicoise (simple version) & chilled fava bean soup

this is a dinner from about a week ago, following a quite a big brunch during the day with friends. we decided to go healthy for dinner, hence the salad & bean soup.

I always make vinaigrette on my own – this time, i used regular salad oil, red wine vinegar, onion and a hint of balsamico. this time i used a can of tuna instead of fresh tuna (didn’t have time to shop).

the soup is made of fresh fava beans, boiled and then simmered with chopped onion in extra virgin olive oil, mixed with cold milk afterwards, salt & pepper to taste. so simple but quite tasty. i didn’t use bouillon at all, but this way, the taste of fava beans seem to have stood out.