Paris In Your Living Room (The City, Not The Person)

A certain shoe-loving Carrie Bradshaw once said that "one of the most amazing things about living in New York is that any night of the week, you can go to Paris". Well, I think that one of the most amazing things about living in England is that any weekend you fancy, you can actually go to Paris!

Andre and I did just that a few weeks ago - a long weekend in Paris, what could be better:

Well hello, Notre Dame!

We spent a few blissful days wandering around the Marais from pâtisserie to café to bistro to restaurant to bar and back again - including lunch at my favourite cafe:

It's called Le Café, and it's in the 2eme arrondisement on the Rue Tiquetonne - it's one of those blink-and-you-miss-it places, but it's every lunch time it fills up with locals enjoying the delicious salads and plat du jours, and of course the obligatory verre de vin. Got to love a culture where everyone leaves the office at lunchtime to partake of a sit-down meal with wine. We need some more of that in the UK!

The decor is quirky, you are squashed in with your neighbours (I had a Pekinese belonging to my neighbouring diner practically sitting on my lap - the French are somewhat more tolerant of the dogs-in-restaurants thing than, well, pretty much every other country I've ever visited), and the atmosphere is casual, convivial, and effortlessly chic.

Le Cafe serve these huge plates of salade du jour - this one is made with smoked salmon, toasted poilâne, sauteed potatoes, and poached egg:

And it was delicious, so last night I decided to re-create my own version for dinner. Here are the ingredients:

Parmesan, spinach (or other salad leaves), potatoes

Smoked salmon, free range eggs, olive oil

The meal preparation time is as long as it takes you to peel, slice, boil and fry the potatoes. I use Global knives, which are super-sharp:

While the potatoes are boiling, get the spinach ready. I used two types of spinach - baby leaf as a salad, and the larger variety, which needs to be steamed. If you use the larger variety, wash it and throw it into a pan. I use Anolon pans - they can't go in the dishwasher, but they can go in the oven, and absolutely nothing ever sticks to them. You can also grate some parmesan at this stage. I have discovered recently that you can use a potato peeler to create those restaurant-style shavings:

Next up, saute the potatoes - I always use olive oil. Put a couple of pans of water to boil for the poached eggs. I like to do two eggs in one pan. When the potatoes are nearly ready, steam the spinach very gently in a pan with the lid on for a couple of minutes. I don't add any extra water, as the water that stays on the leaves after being washed is enough.

By this stage the water for the poached eggs will be boiling. Turn the heat down to the lowest point, and stir the water in a clock-wise direction to create a mini whirlpool. Drop the eggs into the centre of the whirlpool, and leave to simmer for a couple of minutes. Don't stir the water once you've dropped the eggs into it, or the whites will go all weird and messy.

While the eggs are cooking, assemble the salad in layers. Start with cooked spinach, then parmesan, salad leaves, potatoes, more parmesan, poached eggs, smoked salmon, and finally some black pepper:

C'était délicieuse! If it weren't for the close proximity of a hopeful Jack Russell as opposed to a Pekinese, I could almost believe we were in Paris:

This weekend I'm planning to visit the Northern Contemporary Craft Fair in Manchester - I can't wait. Have a wonderful weekend everyone!