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On my way back from Brittany, I had a couple of hours in Paris before catching the Eurostar home. It wasn’t really enough time to do anything more than have a quick drink and an even quicker dinner, but I was keen to check out Chez Michel, a Breton bistro near the Gare du Nord. I’ve heard good things about it and since I don’t know that part of Paris at all well, a good recommendation was enough to seal the deal. It looks every inch the part, sitting on the corner of a quiet street, slightly prettier than the neighbourhood around it, and with a deeply exciting blackboard menu in the window. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sometimes, good food comes from the Ready, Steady, Cook approach. I’ve been enmired in one of my busiest work weeks of the year, and came out alive at the other end to discover that Mr Lemur had bought some more-or-less random ingredients for me to cook at the Lovely Local Butcher and the Overpriced Local Greengrocer. Of course, the ingredients weren’t quite random. Faced with a panoply of organic and sustainable meaty wonders in the butcher’s shop, it’s better than even money that he’ll come out with pork belly. And, to be fair, these were some healthy slices of pig. Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve been proselytising my friends about my new tofu press. I get one of two responses when I tell them that my tofu press is the best thing ever. Either they ask why one needs to press tofu at all, or they ask why I don’t just use a pile of books to do it. (I admit that I might have more than usually nerdy friends –  not only do they spend their time pressing tofu but they have all lit upon the piles of books that surround them as the best means to do the job.) The thing is this: pressing tofu gives you a whole new insight into the delicious potential of this much-maligned food and pressing it evenly and thoroughly without the faff of trying not to soak your history of art books is worth a few bucks, people! Read the rest of this entry »

I spent much of last week in France for work: the medieval chateau de la Bretesche above is where I was working. Yeah, I know, it’s a hard knock life, right? It was absolutely gorgeous, and we walked in the morning from the adjoining 5 star relais hotel across the moat and into a beautifully restored set of apartments in the chateau itself. The Hotel de la Bretesche is pretty stunning, with lush rooms, a gorgeous courtyard, and a breakfast buffet that included a crêpe station. I never stay in places like this and it was a weekend of real luxury. To be fair, I did actually end up working incredibly long days and sadly we didn’t have quite as much time as we might have wanted to explore the surrounding area of Loire Atlantique. In a bit of a comedy of errors, we drove in circles around Guérande looking for the rest of our party and never got to stop off in what I hear is a very pretty medieval town. Similarly, weather that can best be described as typical for the Atlantic coast rendered our tour of the salt flats of Guérande a little perfunctory. Read the rest of this entry »

Last week the Lemurs visited Thrifty Gal in South London, and went to a restaurant I’ve had my eye on in a while: Asmara in Brixton. I love East African food and I used to eat at Ethiopian restaurants in New York and – perhaps surprisingly – in Iowa City. African cuisines have been fashionable in certain upscale food circles for a while, what with the success of Marcus Samuelsson and the emergence of South African food, but most people still haven’t embraced local African restaurants in the same way that East or South Asian cuisines have been popularised. It’s a shame, as Ethiopian and Eritrean food is delicious and healthy, with lots of grains, pulses and greens and sophisticated spicing. Of course, Thifty Gal is ever leery of strange ethnic restaurants and it’s really a sign of her friendship and generosity that she comes along with me on these forays. What she wants are white tablecloths and a nice bottle of wine, but what Asmara offers seemed to me like a fair trade: half the menu is vegetarian so she got a level of choice unprecedented in non-vegetarian restaurants. Read the rest of this entry »

On my last trip to my lovely local butcher, they had some exciting looking bits of lamb loin – not the big roasting cut you most often see in the UK, but more like a pork loin; just the very tender central strip of meat. When I asked about it, the butcher told me they were from this season’s spring lambs. Yes, admittedly, these are those super adorable little lambs that go sproing all across the South Downs. So cute and so tasty. I generally prefer meat with a bit more flavour than a loin but at this time of year, it’s really worth making the most of the delicacy and super-soft texture of spring lamb. In the spirit of terroir, I decided to cook the meat with the local Sussex peas that are also coming into the shops at this time of year, and to finish the dish I picked up some sheep’s milk yoghurt. I grant you, there’s something slightly perverse about the combination. It seems a bit like those Asian ‘mother and child’ dishes of eggs stuffed back into the bodies of their roasting mothers, or maybe it’s just that it’s so very treyf. Regardless, I liked the idea of using tangy sheep’s milk yoghurt alongside sweet peas and pan-roasted lamb. Read the rest of this entry »

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