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The Salmon Pink Picnics

We thrive on feeding. To feed is more than to simmer and goes beyond chewing—to feed from the salmon pink kitchen is to host. One pleasure we’ve greatly missed throughout this lockdown, is the one to throw a dinner party. We dearly miss writing menus and their attached shopping lists, running through the supermarket allies together, cooking in a messy kitchen, and setting up the table. We love the chatters, glasses clumsily chucking against one another, the knives sliding before a strident echo at the end of a meal. We miss the prepping and we long for a meal to happen in togetherness, tongues loosening as courses reach the table.

A few weeks ago, we watched and recommended Elizabeth Carroll’s documentary, Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy. We took much away from Kennedy’s kitchen, from sustainable tricks to the movements of the busy Mexican streets, on to how to cook rice. But the advice that stayed with us the most, is Diana Kennedy’s plea against the shopping list: one should explore the market and smell which veggies and fruits are fresh and in season first, and then plan their menu accordingly.

Never have we ever been so tied-in to weather conditions than this past spring and now summer. Lockdown in the UK is loosening but, until last weekend, we were only allowed to meet in parks. We had our first in-person reunion under an astonishing 30 degrees, and our next one under the rain, soggy pastries left in our hands. We’ve learnt to smell and to feel again, as our senses soar, claustrophobic in our silent kitchens, thus taking us all the way to our new favourite seasonal hosting: picnics.

We’re having to adapt the way we cook: dishes must be safely shareable and transportable in boxes. Nothing that melts during warm days, flavours that don’t get corrupted from the wooden, disposable cutleries. We’re learning to pair vegetables together with fruits, to align seasons with acidity, to adapt our vinaigrettes to the feel of herbs. Picnics have become our window to the world: from filling up our basket at our local green grocer, to chopping and peeling vegetables with the radio in the background, on to sharing a meal together, circling around a picnic blanket.

Our latest picnic was in celebration of Irene’s birthday—and of what she is to Margaux, a load of warmth and tenderness.

Irene’s birthday picnic:

Goat’s Cheese and Spinach Tart
Radicchio, Grapefruit, Ricotta Salata & Pistachios
Butter and Edamame Beans, with Parsley and Garlic Vinaigrette
Tabouleh
Pear, Blue Cheese, Basil and Walnuts salad
Fresh black olives
Camembert
Baguettes

Today, we wanted to share an easy recipe for a champêtre goat’s cheese and spinach tart

Ingredients:

1 rolled puff pastry (at room temperature)
450g spinach, frozen or fresh
150g goat cheese
3 eggs
25cl crème fraîche
1 tbsp honey
S&P

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C fan and line the puff pastry in a lightly greased tart dish. 
  2. Defrost or cook the spinach, placing them in a strainer on top of a pan with boiling water. Do not salt the water as the cheese is already salty enough. Dry your spinach thoroughly. 
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and the crème fraîche. 
  4. Set aside 3 or 4 slices of cheese for decoration and add the rest of the cheese to the preparation. Mix well. 
  5. Flavour with a spoon of honey, salt and pepper, adjusting amounts to your taste. Be careful with salt: goat cheese is salty already. Tip: Margaux likes to replace the spoon of honey with one of mustard. 
  6. Finally, stir the drained spinach to the preparation and mix well. Pour the mixture on top of the pastry and add the remaining slices of goat’s cheese on top. 
  7. Bake for approximately 30 minutes. You can lower the heat to 180C for the last 10 minutes if the top appears to golden too fast.

And finally, we ended our picnic feast on a sweet note with a Tarte Amandine aux Fraises, Irene’s salmon pink birthday cake.

Ever the givers, here is what we have learnt from our wins—and from our fails: 

  • You’ll need more glasses than you first thought.
  • Toothpicks are underrated. 
  • It’s worth investing in a bottle cooler. Warm Prosecco is not so good, after all. 
  • Nice napkins will make for a jollier picnic. 
  • Set your picnic blanket near a tree so as soon as it starts pouring down, you can hide. On the down side, it means flowers will fly into your glass. 
  • Portable chargers are a welcome addition to the party—please don’t stop the music!

It’s now been a week since restaurants have reopened so we thought we would share a list of some of our favourite locals to support: 

Ever hungry, ever gastronomically yours, 

Irene & Margaux 

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Pasta Gone Wrong

I moved to London on September 11th 2012, with two suitcases in hand and boxes to follow, a head full of dreams and my father, ever my life companion. 

It took us two days to buy anything I might need for my room in student halls from Argos. I remember flicking through the catalogue. It reminded me of the toy catalogues my brother and I waited for every year around Christmas time. This was the first time practicality entered my life. These weren’t going to be just things, they were going to be my only things. 

The Strand stretched long and full of life, and walking through the gates of King’s College London for the first time felt surreal. Was I really going to study there for three years? Was I going to be in this city for life?

All I knew is that the Somerset House hugged me in its inner courtyard, and that at the back of it you could get some of the most beautiful sights of the London I recognised then, from films and books. 

A blurry shot from my first Autumn in London

As dad and I crossed Waterloo Bridge together before saying our goodbyes, I don’t remember what we were thinking. We must have been excited, although in quite different ways. But I remember hugging this pillar of my life in front of Stamford Street Apartments, the IMAX roundabout controlling the day’s traffic, and a life of opportunities that also meant a divide. 

He didn’t turn back, and I know why. I looked at him as he walked to Waterloo station, one of my empty suitcases in hand, heading home after leaving me in my new one. 

Food was, arguably, one of the things I was most interested in. Not insomuch as the act of cooking itself, or the history of it, but the very act of eating. I was hungry all the time, but lazy. I was used to someone cooking before I ate, to meals being shared, not to think about a shopping list or how to stock the fridge. It’s then that it hit me, this pleasure I loved and couldn’t stop thinking about would now be linked to many lonely moments. 

My friend Vittoria and I had put together a concoction over the summer, which we made every time we cooked dinner for each other or an unusual breakfast in the early hours of the morning, after a night of dancing. Although I haven’t eaten it since then, this pasta was the turning point of my interest in cooking, and the moment I decided London would have to teach me about food. 

This is how I imagined I would cook pasta in student halls

I had nothing food-related with me – except for a small 1980s pasta recipe book and mum’s magazine cuttings for recipes she thought I would find useful. She had spent all summer with watery eyes, recipe cuttings in hand, finding a way to be part of my new life. 

I walked to the Sainsbury’s on Waterloo Road, past the church that would later on give me my first pad thai and back on to Stamford Street, Flat 14, fourth floor, room D. I was going to have six flatmates, that’s what the door count told me. But I was too early and eager: nobody else was there. 

The kitchen smelled of bleach and other chemicals, the table looked like a surgical one. I touched it, looking for the wholeness of the black marble table back home. All it gave me back was coldness. 

I was going to cook my first adult meal and call my parents on Skype while eating it: easy. 

My shopping bag contained:

One pack of penne – first non-Italian pasta I ever had until that point (I know, tragic!)
Philadelphia
1 bottle of passata
Tuna can – I couldn’t find any in olive oil (another cultural shock), so I bought a can of tuna in brine, not knowing what that meant
Salt (pepper didn’t exist in my cooking at the time)
Olive oil

I set to cook. The water was on the hob ready to boil. The olive oil and the passata were in the pan warming up. All I had to do was to add tuna and Philadelphia. I didn’t use black pepper then and I didn’t know how to cook with herbs, it didn’t occur to me they could add magic even to this dish. Seasoning was an art to be learned.  

My utensils smelled like sanitized plastic – where was the comfort of the wooden spoons? Where was the dark tablecloth with the flowery patterns for winter days, and the daisy-tablecloth with green borders for the heat of summer? I laugh now looking back at this while sitting in my ever-indulging small kitchen in West London, where two shelves are covered in spices and herbs, the backbone of everything I cook. Back then my heart ached, and all I wanted was to prove myself that I could survive. 

I proudly called dad’s Skype account. They all answered: dad, mum and my brother, smiling from the marble table laid out with the magic of mum, and the warmth of their being together. My new kitchen retained an aura of cold, even with the smoke coming up from the pan. Nothing smelled inviting. 

As we started chatting, I opened the tuna can – spoiler alert – every can has an easy lid to raise back in Italy, so I had never once used a can-opener, we simply didn’t own one. So that already took some exercising patience and, when done, I noticed the tuna looked odd and smelled weird. 

Still, I stirred it in the sauce, drained the pasta and added it to the sauce with the Philadelphia. Then I sat, as if it were any other day, my family on the other side of the screen, a mixture of pixels and colour combinations looking back at me, expectantly. I took a forkful of penne and brought it to my mouth. I was disappointed. That recipe represented all I had left behind, and as a result of this newly acquired loneliness, it tasted at odds with my memory. Even without a dictionary, I finally realised what brine meant: way too salty. The kind of salty that you can’t keep eating. Rule number one: always taste your food. Have fun with it, add herbs, play with the seasoning, build layers of flavour, and rejoice in knowing you’re building them for yourself when eating solo, and that you will rebuild them for your dear ones next time you see them. Although I knew I had a lot to learn about cooking, and that I would be stubborn enough to teach myself, that pasta still led me to tears. That pasta was supposed to represent my maturità which, on a superficial level, is simply the Italian equivalent of A Levels, but which actually means the maturity you acquire through those exams, your ticket to adulthood. If I failed at feeding myself, then I failed at being an adult. 

What I didn’t know then, is that tuna in brine rescued me. It made me interested and curious about how food was made to taste and feed and excite. I realised that eating meant sharing the meal, the cooking, the dishwashing – the experience of eating.

From then on, I haven’t stopped tasting, trying, asking, wondering, experimenting at home and at the restaurant. I have myself as a loyal food companion, as well as some of my closest friends, who also perceive food as an encounter with others and the self. I took and take comfort in the words of MFK Fisher who, I like to think, was as hungry as I am and laid it all out on the table, as I hope I’ll always be doing. 

And never since then have I let myself say, or even think, ‘Oh, anything,’ about a meal, even if I had to eat it alone, with death in the house or in my heart.

M.F.K. Fisher, The Gastronomical Me

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crème fraîche, peach and apricot tart

This crème fraîche, peach and apricot tart has become an instant springtime favourite, from creation to degustation. Making a pastry shell is one of Margaux’s favourite baking dos, so when we noticed peaches are back and beautiful at our local fruit & veg shop, we had to experiment with them! Most traditional peach tart recipes use ricotta, but we indulged our amour for crème fraîche. We use little sugar in our baking so the final result is on the sour side, which suits our taste buds. Feel free to add extra sugar for sweetness if your sweet tooth is begging you to do so.

Ingredients

For the pastry:
250 g all purpose flour
100 g icing sugar
150 g butter
1 egg

For the filling:
3 peaches
6 apricots
3 tbsp honey
Rosemary sprinkles 
200 g crème fraîche  
1 lemon – zest and juice
50 g brown sugar
1 egg
2 egg whites

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan. 
  2. Prepare the pastry first. We make ours by hand but if you own a food processor, you can of course use it and spare your hands this labour. Pour the flour and icing sugar in a bowl, then slowly incorporate the butter with your hands until the mixture looks like thin breadcrumbs. Add the egg to bring the pastry together, until it makes for a smooth and consistent paste (you do not want any lumps of butter left). Roll into a log, cover with cling film, and chill in the fridge for half an hour. 
  3. While the pastry is chilling, slice the peaches and apricots in half and remove the stones. Place them cut side up on a baking tray. Drizzle with honey; sprinkle with rosemary. Roast for half an hour or until your kitchen smells like spring. Leave the fruits to cool at room temperature. 
  4. Once your pastry feels firm, roll it into a round disc and place your pastry into a tart tin. Roll up the sides and seal any joins. You can use a spare bit of pastry to push it throughout the tin – this will prevent the pastry from cracking. Be gentle! Prick the pastry and return to the fridge until firm. It should take another half hour. Meanwhile, turn the oven up to 200C. 
  5. You now need to blind bake your pastry shell. Cover the pastry with parchment paper – we like to make two layers to be safe. Pour rice or pulses into your pastry shell – they should reach the top edge of the pastry – and bake for 20 minutes. Watch it closely so it does not burn. Take out the pulses and parchment paper and return your pastry shell for another 10 minutes, or until golden. If the sides burn too fast, you can cover them with foil. 
  6. Lower the oven to 160C fan. While the pastry shell cools down, prepare the filling. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, zest and lemon juice. In a separate, bigger bowl, whisk together the crème fraîche and one egg. Incorporate the sweet mixture slowly to the larger bowl, while continuing to whisk. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until they reach a soft peak. Incorporate to your filling and whisk some more – this will give your filling some thickness. 
  7. Once the pastry shell is cool enough to handle, pour in the filling. Spread the fruits throughout. Bake for 20 minutes or just under, until the filling is set. Careful not to over-bake it as it will continue to cook outside of the oven. Remove the tart from the oven and let it cool down.

This is a basic recipe for a thin pastry shell and crème fraîche filling so fear not and interchange the fruits, depending on taste and season. Send us pictures!

Irene & Margaux

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Our Virtual Reality

The Salmon Pink Bookclub Chronicles

The salmon pink book club is run by a tight double act, from two dedicated minds we like to see as complimentary. Irene the saucier and Margaux the baker; Irene’s murder mysteries and Margaux’s identity quests; Irene’s pasta and Margaux’s pulses; Italian Irene and French Margaux.

Words is where we reunite – in learning, transforming and twisting. We share the love for words and the value of their making, existing and becoming. The salmon pink kitchen talks a hybrid mixture of both our accents in English, with a side of fritalian for a spicy kick. Lockdown has changed many aspects of our lives but it did not make us quieter. Short, teasing WhatsApp messages on the go; thoughtful, long emails for the evenings; countless hours on Zoom, swinging around our moka pots first and then the bottle openers. The challenge was to invite our book club members to join our virtual reality at a time when we cannot welcome them at the front door of the salmon pink kitchen.

So we did what we do best: we dissected the words that make our world.

As per the Cambridge dictionary: 

Lockdown
noun [ C or U ] mainly US
UK  /ˈlɒk.daʊn/ US  /ˈlɑːk.daʊn/
a situation in which people are not allowed to enter or leave a building or area freely because of an emergency:
The Secret Service is imposing a virtual lockdown on the city.

Google
noun
 [ U ]   trademark
UK  /ˈɡuː.ɡəl/ US  /ˈɡuː.ɡəl/ 
the name of a search engine (= program for finding information on the internet):
Have you tried Google?


That is when we decided to brave the world wide web to thread a safety net for our book club members. As per our diaries – a.k.a the dictionaries of our lives:

Salmon Pink Bookclub
noun
 [ U ]   trademark
UK  /ˈsæm.ən/ /pɪŋk/ /ˈbʊk ˌklʌb/ US  /ˈsæm.ən/ /pɪŋk/ /ˈbʊk ˌklʌb/
a recurring lively feast where body and mind are equally fed as members discuss a book in focus:
Do you follow the Salmon Pink Bookclub on Instagram?


On to pushing forward the pragmatic side of our minds, cushion for our dreams. The salmon pink bookclub is most importantly a space, thus what we had to do was to create a bridge for this space to exist virtually. We knew we were not going to be able to do so among the ambient chatters and smells that normally make for who we are, so we resigned to creating a virtual salmon pink kitchen. There are a few rooms in this new space.

First, you get in front of our house, where you begin to see the salmon pink kitchen through the window of our Instagram account. Next, you come through the front door and find the shared living area, that is our website. Moving forward, and on to the salmon pink kitchen, you will see the hobs on the left, which have become our private Google Drive account (i.e. 15GB on the cloud for us to cook together book club materials, social media contents and write essays – also known as The Brain). What you’ll do next is sitting at the wobbly wooden table in front of the hobs, together with other members, remaking the world and enjoying a glass of wine, from one home to another, via Google Hangouts.

The hardest part of hosting a virtual book club is asking our salmon pink sisters to mute themselves, with the aim to run the conversation smoothly and to speak in turns. For a woman to ask another woman to mute herself is violent and we miss the vivid and excited voices that normally rhythm book club Sundays. The virtual space has also meant that we have been able to bridge borders in inviting new members – a little fuck you corona, if we may – as we now have members logging in from Italy and across the UK.

It hasn’t been free of technical glitches. We have bitten a few nails as we navigated WordPress and Google Hangouts – does anyone know how to see everyone’s screens in one gallery only?! – let alone the times we thought a document had been lost before we recovered it magically from the cloud. There was the day a member joined the hangout with her fiancé’s account and we thought ‘Richard’ had joined the salmon pink bookclub. There was also the day when we found ourselves editing one of our shared documents together at the same time, without warning. Here is a snapshot of the salmon pink brain:

There are aspects we cannot wait to find again once social distancing restrictions lift – writing shopping lists together, working our hands over the hob and oven as our minds rapidly type our notes, dramatically reading book passages to one another – but there are other lessons we have learnt in bringing people together through the love of words during a pandemic, which we want to carry back with us once we can be in the same room. What we know for sure is that the salmon pink kitchen is a space that doesn’t need four walls to exist. It thrives on a solid diet of sharing, caring and listening, and long may they live in our virtual reality.

Looking back at these past 10 weeks, we realise that we have launched streams of salmon pink from our kitchen and beyond, and we love the salmon pink love.

Madonna, Irene says; Wild, Margaux replies.

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A quest for the best tomato sauce

Knights used to go on quests for glory, to save damsels in distress (as if), to rescue their countries for their kings and queens, or even to search for the Holy Grail. 

Rigatoni with our tomato sauce and capers

Here in the Salmon Pink Kitchen, we face quests of a different nature. Ours are made in the honor of flavour, as we taste along with wooden spoons for swords, and find treasures in combining ingredients until our mouths water. 

One recipe we perfected during lockdown is tomato sauce. Sauce tomate? Really? We can see you looking at that bottle of passata in your cupboard, eyes rolling, thinking nothing more can be done to it.

Fear not, that was before salmon pink time. Think of your bottle/carton/jar of passata as your canvas and of yourself as a tomato conqueror.

This tomato sauce lends itself to twists and turns, and suits multiple dishes – pasta, risotto, pizza, bruschette, and as a base for a stew. We tried it with both salmon and octopus. 

Ingredients: 

Octopus and chickpea stew

Passata
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
Anchovies – you could go from 1 to a whole tin, use more miso if keeping it veggie
1 tsp of miso paste
A squeeze of tomato puree
1 pinch of sugar
A splash of balsamic vinegar
Chilli flakes
Black pepper
Evo
Basil – optional 

Method: 

  1. Peel and crush your garlic cloves. Drain the anchovies from their oil and heat up a fairly large saucepan with some olive oil. 
  2.  Add the garlic, chilli flakes, and anchovies, fry for a minute or two and lower the heat to prevent from burning. 
  3.  Squeeze some tomato puree into the mix and let it toast. Add the miso and the balsamic. Let all the flavours come together before adding the passata.
  4.  Add the passata and give it a good mix to merge with all the ingredients. At this point, taste. If it tastes acidic add a pinch of sugar to re-balance your sauce. You are using salty ingredients, so try to avoid salt if possible. Instead you can add a good grind of black pepper and a few basil leaves. 
  5.  Bring your sauce to a boil and then let it simmer until it reduces, taste one more time to make sure it’s balanced and umami. 

As we are cooking our way through this lockdown and miss restaurants, friends and family cooking for us, we like the idea of looking back at simple ingredients and playing with what we have in our cupboards. Remember this is a quest, and it’s never final, it’s ours as much as yours. Play with this recipe and have fun finding the combination that works best for you!

Happy experimenting!!

Irene & Margaux

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Annalisa’s orange chiffon cake

On Friday 22nd May was our friend Annalisa’s birthday. What rushes to our minds when we think about Annalisa is her vivid laugh, love for a jolly meal and her forever stylish pacing through life, popping pink lipstick, elegant party dress and golden heels on. It is for Annalisa, and with the help of the fantastic La Mia Mamma kits, that we decided to host our first virtual dinner party, from the salmon pink kitchen and streaming beyond. In our opinion, there is no other way to end a birthday dinner party than with serving cake – singing, slicing, spooning and moaning at how good it is. For Annalisa, we wanted something decadent and full of life, so we baked an orange chiffon cake, high on Spritz.

So, on to baking Annalisa’s orange chiffon cake.

Ingredients

For the cake:
300 g white flour
150 g caster sugar 
1 tbsp baking powder 
1/2 tsp salt
100 ml vegetable oil
7 large egg yolks
3/4 cup freshly pressed oranges
2 tbsps freshly grated orange zest
1 tbsp orange water
9 large egg whites
1 tsp cream of tartar

For the icing:
200 g chilled heavy cream
3 tbsps orange extract
2 tsps freshly grated orange zest
100 g coaster sugar
1 tbsp rose water
Candied raspberries or violets for garnish, if desired
Fresh orange slices for garnish, if desired

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to fan 160C.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, 75 g of the sugar, the baking powder and the salt. 
  3. In a different bowl, whisk together the oil, egg yolks, orange juice, orange zest and the rose water. Incorporate these into the flour mix and continue to whisk vigorously until the batter is smooth. 
  4. In a different bowl and with the help of an electric whisk (beware the kitchen is about to get messy and you will run out of bowls and spoons), beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they are foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until the egg whites hold a stiff peak. Slowly, start to pour the remaining 75 g of sugar as you continue to whisk your egg whites vigorously. We said vigorously. Be patient and continue to whisk, they will soon hold a stiff and glossy peak. 
  5. With a wooden spoon, gently and thoroughly fold the whites into the batter. Your batter now lightens up, and so does your day. 
  6. Spoon the batter into a dry cake tin, with removable bottom. Bake the cake in the middle of the pre-heated oven for one hour. If the top of the cake turns gold too fast, cover it with a sheet of foil paper. 
  7. Now you want to put a bowl to chill in the fridge for when you’ll be ready to make the icing. Done? You now have one hour to do a first round of washing up and serve yourself another Spritz. We thoroughly enjoy baking with the buzz of alcohol but we do recommend doing so with care. And really, you want to be alert for what comes up next, which is the layering! 
  8. As soon as your cake is ready, that is when the skewer comes out clean from picking your cake in 3 different places, invert the cake tin immediately onto a rack and let the cake cool completely, leaving the pan upside down. Wild, eh? 
  9. Be patient. Is your cake cool enough? If so, open the tin and carefully remove the side of the tin first, you can use the help of a sharp knife if it sticks, remove the bottom part next. Tadam! With the help of a bread knife, cut the cake in half horizontally. 
  10. Remember that empty bowl you set aside in the fridge? Time to do your icing. With an electric whisk, beat together the cream, orange extract, orange zest, rose water and sugar. Add a pinch of salt and vividly whisk until the mixture holds a stiff peak. The longer, the stiffer. 
  11. Once you have set the bottom layer of the cake in a serving plate, spread some of the icing on it, leaving extra for the top of the cake. Add the remaining layer and let the artiste in you speak as you spread the leftover icing on the top layer of the cake. We like to make it drip on the sides of the cake. Add orange slices and candies to decorate as you wish. 

We recommend serving with a firing candle and a good-heartedly happy birthday song to your friend. The louder, the better.

Lots of love, happy whisking,

Irene & Margaux

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Le Pain de Margaux

This is not a recipe for sourdough starter nor an ode to having a sourdough starter. This is, however, a circling thought about what bread means to me and how being hand-delivered a sourdough starter changed the pace of my quarantine routine – a quarantine I’m experiencing in a country where I was not born. I did all the paperwork there is to do to stay in the United Kingdom because there is no place I’d rather be at this time in my life, even though it is the land where butter and Bonne Maman jam on baguette will never taste the same. 

I had booked Friday 1st May 2020 off work, a mixture of tradition and need. I missed the white lilies and the sound of the unions. Instead I was surprised with another form of labour. A labour of love born from the thread of my own fingers. As I walked down to the kitchen to brew another pot of coffee, the doorbell rang. I threw myself outside, upbeat by the excitement of today – a surprise delivery. I found a previously unseen sight: a short, bald man holding over 7 kilograms of tenderness, a cushion to my 1st of May and to my global pandemic.

1 x 2 kg baker’s white flour
1 x 2 kg stoneground wholemeal flour
1 x 2 kg self raising flour 
1 x 1 kg stoneground rye flour
1 x 50 g fresh yeast

My best friend had ordered a baker’s kit from Bread Ahead for me. In her words, you’ll knead and create and feed and make doughs rise while raising yourself. I jumped up and down in my kitchen, this huge box before my feet, a playground in the form of dust waiting to be made through kneading and baking. Thoughts streamed fast: I want to make focaccia and grissini for Annalisa, I want to make brioche to taste France, I don’t think I ever owned fresh yeast (it looks like fudge!), what about cinnamon buns, as if I were with Irene sitting on one of the comfy sofas at Söderberg on Berwick Street? It is only then that I noticed the small plastic bag, hidden in a corner of the box. Have you watched Flubber, the movie from 1997? It was a childhood favourite of my brother and me: both laughing out loud at Robin Williams’s facial expressions, being taught how a fun-like experiment can quickly turn into a nightmare. The box also contained 100g of sourdough starter. 

I must not kill this sourdough starter. I was hit by a sudden, renewed sense of responsibility. I read through the Internet about how much and how often to feed my Flubber – this jar bubbling up and down, ever hungry. I studied how it produces natural yeast, I educated myself about the chemistry of bread, I learnt about the lactobacilli. There is a virus outside, sweeping lives away, terrorising our systems of class, politics and everyday sense of order, and I am home cultivating a bacteria of my own. Because I am too scared to walk to the bakery. Because everyone else seems to be doing the same. I sent a picture of my sourdough starter to my mother and she did not reply. I then told her I made cookies and banana bread from the sourdough discards – it produces so much waste every day. She complimented me for that. 

When I go back to France to visit my mother, there is bread waiting for me on the kitchen counter. Maman adores bread. She launches herself into each new day with a piece of bread and she always has, for as long as I can remember. From the age of 8, I grew up with a single mother, with the help of my single grandmother. We traced our wealth in comparison to the price of bread. My grandmother did the school runs and once a week we stopped at the bakery for a special goûter – a.k.a. a chocolate twist. I can distinctly hear the noise of small coins clicketing against my grandmother’s manicured fingers, extracted from her orange, worn-out leather wallet. We stopped at the same boulangerie each week, even though ‘c’est plus ce que c’était avant.’ The bread has become lighter and more expensive over the years. Yet we never made bread ourselves. 

A year or so from the day I moved to London, I grew exhausted. I struggled to make friends and to find the people I met funny in a language I was still learning. I found myself uninteresting, not capable of arguing about anything other than the weather. I found the weather grey and missed the rhythm new vegetables and fruits in the grocery shops give to seasons. I was finalising my dissertation for university while driving through the country in an ice cream van for a student job, while also working in ephemeris bars and cafés and other food units. I laughed out loud the day my then British boyfriend told me that I worked in the hospitality industry. It sounds so clinical to me: hospital-ity. The voice of the old men telling me to keep the change of their pint and burger along with a dirty joke, like a sharp knife meeting my skin. The smell of fries, over my hair, my bedsheets, my towels. Everywhere. I kept one day a week free from shifts for my university dos, when I spent the entire day at the British library, in the coolness and quietness of the reading rooms. The signs instructing us to keep quiet for cushion. I adored the sound of the archive books’ pages running against people’s fingers and the fact I did not have to talk for the entire day. I always took the long way home: a short walk towards Euston Square and on to the bus 253. I turned my back to the Eurostar terminal at Saint Pancras station, heading to my new home in Clapton. On the bus there was nothing else for me to do apart from resting my eyes, patiently waiting for my stop – except I did not stop at home. I got off 3 stops early, landing in front of my favourite deli in London. They have a range of fresh breads. I bought a baguette from the ever-friendly woman at the counter. She too has an accent. And I walked towards my flat, snacking on bread. It is then that I smiled: my anxiety caught in the safety net of breadcrumbs. When my mother visited me that summer, we went to buy bread together for her breakfasts. ‘Délicieux leur pain, franchement,’ she said. It tastes even better now. 

It’s now a few years later and I only have one full-time job to worry about, poised by how stable I am, materially speaking, during this pandemic. I’m able to work from home, live in a comfortable house and can afford its rent every month. Mum is back in France, less able to work than I am. And I am baking my first sourdough bread. I have fed my mother starter every 12 hours; I started folding the dough the night before. I followed steps, I did not respect measurements. What has carried me forward is the thought of breaking bread with my flatmates – the reassurance that this bread will still be about sharing a moment, with myself along the way as I bake and then with the ones I love as we eat. I sent a picture of my sourdough to my mother as soon as I took it out of the oven; she replied in a split of a second: ‘ouah !!!’ It is one of the most genuine texts maman ever sent me, as if we were again young mother and daughter, having breakfast together in our flat on top of a tower in the North suburb of Paris. The noise of bread crumbs being crunched only between us.

Pierre Kropoktine published La Conquête du Pain in 1892, arguing in favour of an anarcho-communist society built on mutual aid. I found myself reading parts of it again when I joined my neighbourhood’s ‘covid-19 mutual-aid group’ on WhatsApp. Little pockets of independent, hopeful activism where we run to the pharmacy for strangers, drive school meals to homes, share recipes to feed families we never met. The first organic and autogéré bakery in Paris was named La Conquête du Pain. There is always an old lady holding a baguette when I go to a protest – or at least in my head, I picture one. Pain in English means bread in French. While we go through a global pandemic, seeing numbers I never had to say out loud before turn into death counts, while most of us fear not to be able to afford a baguette anymore, as Corbyn stepped down to leave room for a more centrist – withdrawn – version of himself, while I feel unsafe in the country where I worked so hard to establish my home, I now make my own bread. Or at least, I feed a bacteria that could become bread if I wanted to. Flubber is bubbling some more and it smells both yeasty and sweet and it has given me a safety net. 

I do not know when I will be able to blissfully snack on bread as I walk home again. What I do know is that, in the meantime, I will continue to feed my Flubber: it is alive and there will be more bread to share. When I can cross the border again, I will take a cup of my sourdough starter to maman. We will kill it together and walk to the bakery, moaning about the price of bread while snacking some more, moaning at how good it is.

Margaux, May 2020

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Broccoli and anchovy pasta

Broccoli can be a divisive ingredient: some people can’t stand its smell, others don’t find green appealing, but on top of being a healthy and versatile ingredient, broccoli can also bring instant comfort when paired with the right flavours. 

Last year we flew back to London from Dublin on Easter Sunday. We hugged Annalisa goodbye at the airport as she headed to Italy to visit her family. We sat reading and laughing, waiting for our gate to be announced, with the bittersweet satisfaction of the end of a holiday. Margaux had been surprised by a frustrating cold; Irene felt melancholic. We bought sugar-filled frappuccinos from Starbucks to cheer up. 

We took our seats on the plane, separately, because we find it ridiculous that we have to pay extra for the right to sit next to each other. We knew we were returning to the salmon pink kitchen, and we knew we wanted to make broccoli and anchovy pasta. We walked home with our shared carry-on and a broccoli crown from our local Turkish shop. 

We had made this pasta before, but that night we perfected our recipe and sat eating with wide smiles before watching Brooklyn, ending an Easter of new traditions. 

Ingredients for 2:

1 broccoli crown
1 can of anchovies in olive oil, drained
parmesan – we don’t measure our cheese for pasta!
2 garlic cloves, minced
chilli flakes
S & P
olive oil
spaghetti or penne – about 100g per person

Method:

  1. Start off by bringing a pot of salted water to boil. Wash your broccoli and cut the florets, add them to the pot and boil for about 7 minutes. 
  2. Use this time to peel and chop your garlic, open the anchovies and drain the can oil. You can pat dry them on kitchen rolls if needed. Grate your parmesan in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat up a saucepan with a little olive oil, add the garlic, chilli flakes and anchovies and let them melt. They will smell like they were meant to cook together! Lower the  heat as you don’t want burnt garlic. 
  4. Your broccoli will be ready now, so take each floret out of the water with a ladle and add to the saucepan. You want to keep the broccoli water to cook your pasta in, it will give it much more flavour this way. 
  5. Mix the broccoli with the rest of the ingredients and add one ladle of cooking water, the florets will begin to melt. Add a pinch of salt,generous pepper and about half of the grated cheese. You want your sauce to be thick, not liquid, so only add more cooking water when necessary and keep the heat low. The broccoli will dissolve and become one with the rest of the ingredients. 
  6. Meanwhile, bring the cooking water back to boil, do not salt it again, add your pasta and cook for about 10 minutes. 
  7. Once cooked, drain your pasta and add it to the saucepan. Finish with the rest of the parmesan, mix it in, grate more pepper on top and enjoy it very warm.

We recommend pairing it with the company of those you love, and the most comforting film you can think of! 

Irene & Margaux

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Almond Buns

Dimanche: we really wish we could run to the bakery and savour an almond croissant for breakfast. Quarantine amid, we will knead dough ourselves and talk you through how to make almond buns (with plant based milk) instead. They are more dense than a croissant but they do share a buttery cushion-feel – and salmons, we miss butter.

Ingredients (make approx. 6 buns):

For the pastry:
2/3 cups soya milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
50g caster sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsps cardamom seeds, crushed with a mortar
2 tsps active dried yeast
2 cups strong white bread flour
40g unsalted butter at room temperature
10g almonds, roughly cut, size adjustable to taste

For the filling and glazing:
20g ground almonds 
2 tbsps caster sugar
20g unsalted butter, softened
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

Method:

  1. Heat the milk in a saucepan until lukewarm. Keep the heat on the low side (you don’t want your milk to smell thus taste burnt).
  2. Lightly beat the egg with a spoon of warm milk, then pour the beaten egg into the pan and whisk some more. Add the sugar, salt and cardamon. Mix well. Remove from the heat. Pour into a preparation bowl. 
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the yeast and flour together. Slowly incorporate the flour to the liquid mixture, whisking hard. You want as much air as possible to travel through the paste. When the mixture becomes too thick for the whisk to work through, switch for a wooden spoon.
  4. Incorporate the butter with your hands. Make sure no lumps are left. 
  5. Flour a plane surface. Transfer the dough and knead for 5 to 10 minutes or until the dough is no longer sticky. Form into a consistent bowl. You can add more flour if you need. Return the dough to a clean bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for at least 1 hour (until the dough doubles in size). 
  6. Preheat the oven to 200C fan.
     
  7. To make the filling, mix the ground almonds and sugar together. We like to add some of the almonds to the filling already, keeping some aside for the final sprinkle (as well as pistachio or cinnamon, depending on taste, see the note below on filling).
  8. Once your dough is ready, return to the floured surface and work it for a further few minutes.
    With a rolling pin (or a glass bottle), roll it into a rectangle of approximately 15×25 cm.  
  9. For the filling, spread the soft butter over the dough. Spread the almond filling over half of the dough only, and fold the bare pastry back on to the filled half. Press together (make sure to close the sides together so you don’t lose some of the delicious filling. 
  10. With a sharp knife, divide the dough into 6 or so stripes (they should be about 2 cm wide). Grab each end of the stripes and fold back in opposite direction, then roughly bring back one side inside and turn the other one around, like a snail-like shape. Or let your imagination run wild. 
  11. Arrange the buns on a baking sheet. Cover for 10 minutes with a kitchen towel (in a warm place if possible). 
  12. Brush the lightly beaten egg yolk and sprinkle the almonds on top.
  13. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until golden (that would be 13 minutes for the salmon pink oven). 

Note for the salmon pink bakers: you can match the filling with your taste. It works well with pistachio for instance. We want to make them with blueberries next. We use soya milk out of preference but the original recipe is with milk, so do feel free to switch (we only advise to use less quantity if you do). The original recipe also uses almond flakes but we prefer the strong taste of toasted almonds.

These are delicious served warm or cold, either way they pair beautifully with a hot beverage. Bon appétit !

Featured

A Taste of Childhood

Sitting on the shelves of my parents’ house, there is a photo of me standing on my nonna’s balcony. It was shot on the 20th of July 2000, my seventh birthday. It’s warm, my hair is cut short and held back with a headband. It’s straight, a joy for my grandma who hated the curls I was born with and pulled them roughly in the bathtub whenever she washed my hair. I’m wearing a pink attire I remember loving – it’s a vest and shorts ensemble, the top leaves my belly uncovered. In my mind, I am Emma from the Spice Girls. 

I’m trying to smile at the camera, but I can’t do it fully, because I’m caught eating a piece of cheese.

I never liked that photo. I loved to pose for the camera, smiling widely, and the naturalness of my captured face made me feel caught in a forbidden act. “You are always hungry,” an appellative that has followed me since childhood. It’s the first thing my family can say about me. Sometimes it hurts. I find it hard to explain that the hunger I feel is not a physical one, my stomach is not rambling, I’m not dying to eat, I’m longing to taste. It’s my brain and heart that need feeding. I need to try everything, or else I feel like I’m missing out on a key piece of knowledge. I can’t remember a time in which this hunger didn’t fuel me. 

Most of my childhood food memories have been glued together through tales of others. They emerge as I dig for them, but can I call them memories or are they resurfacing only because of a present craving to remember something?

Things others said of me eating as a child – memories of sorts:

“You used to cut the tiniest bit of gorgonzola, and spread it over the tiniest crumb of bread, eat it and lick your fingers.” Zio Massimo

“I used to buy anchovies and olives only for when you came over to eat, my daughters never ate them.” Patrizia, my childhood best friend’s mother

“We would come back from the beach in Albenga to nonna Nerina’s cuttlefish in tomato sauce, and soak the sauce with fresh bread before napping.” Papà

“You didn’t like béchamel in lasagne, so I hid a small amount of it in them and tricked you to eat them.” Zia Maria Luisa

“You would escape to your room whenever I cooked tripe.” Nonna Piergiovanna

“You always wanted something more elaborate.” Mamma 

Things I remember of me eating as a child:

Sitting on la Plage de l’Ilette in Antibes, under the tent dad had just built, I’d carefully peel a big chunk of pissaladière from the greasy paper of the boulangerie. I started my day with onions, anchovies and black olives, they tasted like heaven. 

I insisted we went out to the restaurant at least once, and as the holiday coincided with my birthday, it often happened. I sat, composed, reading through the menu multiple times. I asked if I was allowed to taste certain things. Ever cautious me, always asking for permission, even though in my head curiosity had already decided. I’ll never forget my first snails, the tangy, chewy texture, the garlic and the parsley. I remember tasting frogs, and not being scared. Because children can be so scared of taste, but I just wasn’t. Whenever courage failed me in life, I always found it at the table. 

I remember spending one week every summer at my maternal grandma’s house with my cousins, great grandma, great-aunt and uncle. We would wake up at 6am, Tuesday to Sunday, to work on the market. I sold hats with my grandma in a different town every day. I loved typing my sales on the big cashier and seeing the receipts come out. But the real magic of those days laid in the afternoons. Il panino della merenda was a ritual. Mum jokes about growing up with this huge American fridge, a sign of abundance in a kitchen from the 1970s. She jokes but also criticises the amount of fat she was raised on. That fridge was a mystery to me – it contained jars of a tradition that were my mother’s, but that weren’t in our kitchen. In the days when nonna was at the hairdresser’s or out shopping, I read on the balcony after playing in the garden, and then headed to the kitchen in the semi darkness, blinds down, sheltering the room from the heat of the day. I gazed at it, tall, black and white, double-sided. Fridge on the right, freezer on the left. And my favourite feature: an ice dispenser, a soothing relief for my pints of water. I ceremonially took prosciutto cotto or mortadella out of the butcher’s paper wraps, a piece of pecorino or caciotta, or even parmesan, lettuce leaves, and a big jar of mayo. I proceeded to layer all the ingredients in between two slices of fresh rustic bread, and took it back to the balcony to eat. I’ll never forget the day I found an unlabelled jar, its content, the colour of mayo, to only discover upon tasting that it was strutto, melted pig’s fat used for frying pastries such as frittelle and chiacchiere, the sweet treats of Carnival. I have since stopped adding mayo to my sandwiches. 

There are seasonal dishes and flavours that roam in my head: seafood pasta for Sunday lunch in the summer, anolini in brodo in the winter, zia Maria Luisa’s fish soup soaking garlic croutons at the house in Antibes, dad walking in with fresh croissants and pains au chocolat every morning. I have never in life felt so purely happy as when I sat on that balcony, with a fuming mug of caffè latte, and a still warm pastry, my brother always by my side. We licked our fingers covered with the remains of French butter, while dad and zio Eugenio eyed each other over the newspapers. Same news, different ideologies. Their bickering made us laugh, especially when swearing was involved. The status quo resumed quickly, as one passed the pack of biscotte to the other, and the other looked at the jam jar’s label muttering: “This is good for you.”Mum and our cousins would pack the bags for the beach, while zia Maria Luisa would make sure we all had enough to eat and drink before sitting down with her cup of milk. I can return to those mornings, I can hear the seagulls, smell the neighbours’ lemons, feel the heat on my tanned skin. 

My memories are filled with home-cooking. Restaurants were expensive, and considered unnecessary by my mother, whose inventiveness in the kitchen still amazes me. But among the fresh pasta and whole fish roasted in the oven, the simplest and best possible night was toastie night. We each picked our filling – ham, cheese, maybe some anchovies and tomatoes – before toasting each parcel of goodness. We ate them directly on kitchen rolls, longing for the slightly charred crust, and playing with strings of melted cheese. 

There was one restaurant dish I obsessed over. I still think about it, and remember exactly how it was presented. It was cooked by chef Isa Mazzocchi at La Palta di Bilegno, the family restaurant where my parents hosted their wedding reception in 1991. Before it gained a Michelin star, national and international fame, it was the kitchen of a man and a woman, and later of that woman and their daughters. If there was a special occasion that’s where we’d celebrate it, and that’s where we celebrated my First Communion. I remember it all. The white gown, the wooden cross around my neck, the flower crown, the songs we learned to praise our Lord, the fear of tasting the corpus Christi for the first time, the shame of the first confession. 

I had picked a white dress, tights, and a cardigan for the celebratory lunch, and I had been very specific in requesting my dish of choice as the main. 

Fagottini di funghi porcini. I never had a recipe for these, but they were made of savoury crepes, filled with ground porcini mushrooms, ricotta, herbs, maybe a little truffle. The detail that stayed with me was the way they were closed like small wrapped gifts– tied together at the top with a stalk of chives. They were the most delicate things. There are photos of me roaming around the long sharing table, to each relative, telling them about the dish that was about to come, and that it was my favourite. After the antipasti, maybe out of the growing anxiety of being deemed culpable and responsible for my sins by the priest, or out of a simple childish mood, I started having awful stomach cramps, so bad I couldn’t eat anything at the table. I watched all the guests eat my parcels, and my mouth has been watering ever since. Last year, as my mother tidied old photographs, she stumbled upon hers and dad’s wedding album. In it, she found the original menus of the day, she didn’t remember keeping them. The second primo served were my, our, fagottini di funghi porcini. 

Each of the foods in this childhood retelling is something I can still taste if I close my eyes. Food memories are a powerful tool of social understanding, of family and power dynamics, personality traits, and of being remembered for something. In my case, as the girl in pink, biting a piece of cheese.

Irene, May 2020

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The Aosawa Feast

Since we’re reading Riku Onda’s The Aosawa Murders this week (see our latest Instagram book recommendation here), we have decided to travel to Japan via our kitchens too. You’ll remember from our logo reveal that the day we started plotting our design, we cooked a Japanese feast for two. Well, we’re inviting you to join us this time, with a mushroom and spring onion ramen for main and sweet potato cakes for dessert.

Mushroom and spring onion ramen

Ingredients for 2 (with leftovers):

Dashi powder to make Japanese soup stock – use vegetable stock if you want to keep it veggie
Water
Ginger
2 garlic cloves
4 spring onions
2 packs of ramen noodles
2 tsps of miso paste – we used red miso
Soy sauce to taste
1 pack of shiitake mushrooms 
2 eggs 
Sesame oil

Method:

  1. The essence of good ramen lies in its broth, so dedicate as much time as possible to your stock. Boil the kettle and open your dashi powder, familiarize with the smell and taste. Dashi is usually made from kombu (dried kelp), katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), iriko (anchovies), dried shiitake mushrooms. The one we used was a combination of all, so it gave the stock a great umami flavour. Add the water and powder to a big enough pot to fit the noodles and mushrooms later. Bring to the boil and leave to simmer for as long as you can. 
  2. Boil another pan of water and cook two eggs for 6 minutes. Place in a bowl of ice and cold water to stop them from cooking while you peel them. Add them to a bowl and cover them in soy sauce (or tamari), cover and leave in the fridge to marinate for 1 hour.
  3. This is the moment you take your Asahi out of the fridge and put on an episode of Pure. It’s also when you start tasting your stock. We like to do this with a vintage gravy spoon Irene bought in New York for some still unknown reason. We feel a lot more like Julia Child when doing it this way! If it tastes on the sweet side, start adding your miso, you can melt the past in water first and then add it to the main pot. Throw in a bit of soy sauce for good measure. Taste again. If you’re happy, cover it and leave to simmer. 
  4. Let’s get chopping! Peel your garlic cloves and ginger and chop them finely. Remember to remove the green part inside the garlic cloves, this will help digesting garlic when eaten. Wash you spring onions and mushrooms and chop them too. 
  5. Heat up some olive oil, add the garlic and ginger and let them cook for a few minutes. Add the shiitake and leave it for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add half the spring onions and turn off the heat. 
  6. Take the eggs out of the fridge, cut them in a half. 
  1. Taste your stock again, does it hit all the spots? If so, add your mushrooms mix and stir, bring back to the boil and cook your ramen noodles directly in there, as per pack instructions. 
  2. Fill two bowls generously, garnish with the remaining spring onions and your marinated eggs. Get ready to warm your soul and tastebuds. 

Sweet potato cakes

Ingredients (make 8-10 cakes):

400 g white sweet potato
40 g lightly salted butter
50 g sugar
2 tbsps evaporated milk
30 ml whipping cream + 1 tbsp extra
1 egg yolk

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C fan and line a baking tray with baking paper. 
  2. Bring water to boil in a large saucepan. Cook the sweet potatoes until they are completely tender in the middle. It should take between 20 and 30 minutes. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them. Chop them roughly and place in a bowl with the butter. 
  3. With the help of a stick blender (or a hand masher), mash the potatoes until you obtain a dense paste. Slow down: you don’t want to overmash it – it needs to be consistent. 
  1. Incorporate the sugar, evaporated milk, whipping cream and half of the egg yolk (hold on keenos: you must save the other half for the next step!). Mix until smooth. A wooden spatula or spoon works best here. 
  2. To make the glaze, mix the other egg yolk together with the extra tablespoon of whipping cream. 
  3. Shape the sweet potato mixture into diamond-like shapes (precious!). They should be about 10 cm long so you have 8 or 10 cakes. Place them on the baking tray and brush with the glaze. 
  4. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the sweet potato cakes are golden brown.
This recipe was largely inspired by Maori Murota’s Tokyo Cult Recipes cookbook


Would you like another bottle of Asahi with your meal?

Irene & Margaux

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The Murder Mystery

The Salmon Pink Bookclub Chronicles

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again

Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier was one of the most beloved Salmon Pink Book Club reads. It’s the book we chose to celebrate the Book Club’s anniversary on January 25th 2020, and we had a big night in mind for this one. We were going to take our salmon pink sisters to Manderley, recreating a masquerade ball at the legendary mansion, and we were going to kill Maxim De Winter in the process. A Rebecca-based murder mystery is be the ultimate decadent night, if you ask us!

Ever the overachievers, we met outside Finsbury Park station on the Friday before the party, the game yet to be written, the buffet and cake shopping yet to be done, and a hunger for our favourite veggie Indian restaurant on Stroud Green Road, Jai Krishna! One thing was clear in our notes, the evening premise: Maxim has been found dead by C-section.

We rolled our big shopping trolley across the aisles in Tesco, filling it with ingredients for a spinach and goat’s cheese tart, afternoon tea sandwiches, and pink lemonade. When we finally made it back to the salmon pink kitchen, we were ready for what we do best: plotting.

Time was definitely against us but we aren’t ones to give up, so we dived into our aubergine curry and began to think of characters for the game, one for each of our sisters. We wanted to live the plot that had charmed us for weeks, and to fulfill one of our geeky dreams: to have Rebecca and Mrs. De Winter 2.0 meet, in disguise. Picture the scene: Irene sits at the wooden table writing characters’ names, roles, and back stories while shouting them excitedly to Margaux, who is working on our pièce de résistance: Kate Young’s rose and pistachio cake, the birthday cake of our dreams.

We definitely learned a lot from that night, from the joys of spontaneity to the need for an electric mixer, and we ultimately went to bed with wide smiles ready for some arts and crafts in the morning. We prepared a character card for each of the 9 guests where they were given their name, profession, and clues. We created envelopes out of A4 sheets, and added a coloured dot at the back of each, so we would know who got which character. We love being surprised as much as we love thorough planning, so we wanted to trust our chances and have the girls pick a random envelope each on the night.

We prepared for the night as if we were attending the Met Gala. Margaux wore pearls and styled Irene’s hair flapper-style, we wore black and golden masks and looked as creepy as you would want for a whodunnit!

The girls arrived in the most beautiful costumes, bringing the usual warmth and chatter to the house, it was time to introduce our characters and the game:

Welcome to the annual Manderley Masquerade! We are Paulette and Thelma, from the Salmon Pink Catering and we will be at your disposal this evening for any queries. We will be serving tea in the main ballroom from 7pm and you will all receive the late Mrs De Winter’s signature cocktail as a welcome – The portrait of a pink lady. Mr De Winter and the current Mrs De Winter will be joining us shortly.

We stopped being nervous as soon as we saw everyone becoming their characters and going with the game, let us tell you, we really found ourselves in Manderley for a night. The book was at the heart of the whole evening, as we played with tropes, made-up characters and the ever-present duality. Rebecca and Mrs. De Winter 2.0 met. Maxim’s killer was found. Toasts were made and we blew our 1-year candle.

Oh, are you wondering about the killer? We are afraid that’s a secret for another time.

Happy Sunday salmons!

Leaving you with the recipe for Rebecca’s signature cocktail for future masquerades:

Portrait of a Pink Lady

Makes about 12 drinks:
1 liter gin 
3 cups pink lemonade 
150 ml grenadine syrup
1 litre fizzy water
Combine the ingredients, stir the bubbles and add ice-cubes

Taken from Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a literary twist by Tim Federle

Gastronomically yours,

Irene & Margaux

Featured

Johanna’s Lemon and Rosemary cake

It’s Friday again but not any Friday either, it is the Friday of the week we launched our website and the day we’re due to post our first recipe. We’ve pondered upon which recipe to share, very much so. How are we today?, we thought, Irene bringing her finger, heavy with beautiful rings, to her mouth; Margaux widening her eyes, jumping up and down. The answer is that we feel a little shaken by all the energies that fuelled this week – the big, launch week – a little nostalgic not to be able to be reunited in the salmon pink kitchen together, while we also feel like we’re shining with excitement. Well, in this case, let’s beat some eggs, sweeten our blood and squeeze some lemons: let’s bake a lemon and rosemary cake!

Johanna’s Lemon and Rosemary cake was born from the urge to make a special birthday cake for a dear friend, a limited pantry and the need to use those lemons before they bruised. The result was a light, fresh cake – one bite of indulging summer. 

Ingredients:

For the cake:
280g flour
100g brown sugar
250g butter at room temperature 
50g of Greek yoghurt
4 eggs at room temperature
1/2 tbsp turmeric
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp rosemary 
zest and juice of 4 lemons

For the lemony syrup (optional but ‘vivement conseillé’):
1 lemon 
80ml water
50g brown sugar

Methods:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan.
  2. Mix together the flour, turmeric, rosemary, sugar and baking powder.
  3. Incorporate the butter – you might have to use your hands here. Work the mixture until it forms into a crumbly mixture and until there is no dust left in the bowl.
  4. With the help of an electrical whisk, blitz the eggs (one at a time). Beat for another 5 minutes, until you reach a mousse-like texture.
  5. Incorporate the zest, lemon juice and yoghurt. Beat some more. Add more yoghurt if you prefer a heavier texture, although the deliciousness of this cake resides in its lightness. Beat some more, reaching again a mousse-like texture. Feel the air, you are approaching summer.
  6. Pour the mixture into a lightly buttered cake tin and put the cake in the oven to bake. Cook for a first 20 minutes. You want to sit in front of the oven, taping your hands against your knees, feeling the excitement running up your body – sweet, sugar rush is coming! Dreamers gone to sleep, the top of the cake will most likely cook faster so it’s important you check-in after this short period of time. If it’s the case, cover the cake with foil paper and return to the oven for another 20 minutes. Insert a skewer in the middle to check if it is cooked. Note: we do like our cakes on the soft, slightly undercooked side.
  1. While the cake is baking, make the lemony syrup (you are allowed to stop looking at the oven for that period):
    Cut the lemon in slices while you bring 80ml of sweeten water to boil ( with the 50g of brown sugar).
    Insert the lemon slices and simmer until they are transparent. Set aside on a sheet of brown paper.
    Continue to simmer the sugar until it dissolves in order to make a syrup. The longer, the thicker.
  2. Once the cake is cooked, a.k.a once the skewer comes out clean, and while the cake is still warm, place the crystallised lemons on top. Add a few rosemary leaves if you’d like. Pour the warm syrup over the cake. Let the cake cool before serving.

Can you taste it? The kick of summer – delicious, isn’t it?