Thursday, July 24, 2014

Easy Chicken Soup Recipe

When time is at an all-time low, I rely very heavily on soup to stay nourished, fed and happy. It's convenient and quick to warm up for lunch or dinner. If I'm out at an event or working late away from my home office, it's easy for my husband to warm up soup for his dinner. In short, it's a lifesaver for busy cooks. When I find that time is abundant, I tend to make soup in batches and store in the refrigerator for the following week or freeze it in single or double portions for lunches and dinners. It's often how I spend a Sunday afternoon… I put the soup on to boil and get busy with my regular household chores. 

I never loved soup until I started making it myself. Freshly made soup tastes better and you feel better for eating it because you know exactly what's in it and sitting down with a bowl of your latest creation is like celebrating an accomplishment. I originally began making soups to get veggies into my diet. I'm not the best vegetable eater and I worry about my nutrition because of it, so I found soup to be a great way of hiding the things I don't like. Now I eat soup because I crave it. It's the very definition of comfort food.

Though many people aren't the biggest fans, I usually have a soup in the fridge or boiling on the stove and I find that with the addition of a little cheese board and a sliced baguette or crackers, my guests always love it, even the soup nay-sayers. It's great to have on hand for when people stop by unannounced… They'll leave full, grateful and happy.

I do occasionally make my own stock and I also have a soup recipe I love that involves first making the stock with a whole chicken and then turning it into soup, but that's rather time consuming and laborious work. I love it - being in the kitchen pottering away never seems like hard or torturous work to me, but sometimes there just isn't a moment to spare for such indulgences and a worth alternative is necessary. I was offered the opportunity to try the Kallo Very Low Salt Organic Chicken Stock (℅ Kallo) and that's what I've used in this recipe. As far as stocks go, this is one of my all-time favorites and now a staple in my larder. The low salt content means that not only is it potentially healthier than other stocks, but it also allows the cook to control the level of salt in the recipe and ultimately, the flavor as well. 

I use a food processor to make this a bit faster, but it's not entirely necessary. It does cut down the time required, but you could just as easily chop the chicken and vegetables.


6 boneless chicken thigh fillets
100 grams conchigliette shells (or other small soup pasta)
2 celery sticks, cut in half
8 baby carrots (or chef's carrots)
1,500 ml water (or 6 cups)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
Plain olive oil (not extra-virgin)
Fresh tarragon leaves (optional garnish)
Freshly ground pepper

1. Prepare the stock by dissolving 3 Kallo Very Low Salt Organic Chicken Stock Cubes in 1,500ml (6 cups) of recently boiled water. To speed up the process, mix well using a whisk.

2. Pour the stock into a large stock pot with a lid, add the chicken thigh fillets and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and clamp the lid on the pot. Leave to simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.

3. After simmering, skim the fat if any off the top of the stock & chicken and discard it. I rarely have any fat to skim from this recipe.

4. Remove the chicken thighs from the stock and set aside in a bowl. It's okay if they're really wet - you'll want the extra stock & juices later.
5. Add the Cayenne pepper, salt, a good few grinds of pepper and a light drizzle of regular olive oil to the water. Increase the heat to high and bring to the boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and clamp on the lid.

6. Meanwhile, add the chicken and any remaining stock or juices in the bowl to the food processor along with the celery, carrots and garlic. Whizz it until you reach the desired consistency. If the mixture seems too dry, you can add a bit of water or chicken stock to the food processor. (If you don't have a food processor, just chop the vegetables and chicken to the desired sizes.)

7. Add the chicken and vegetables mixture to the soup and continue cooking until pasta is soft and vegetables reach the desired consistency. If you find the soup is getting too thick for your liking, add water or stock to the mixture as needed.

8. Finish with salt & pepper to taste if necessary and garnish with fresh tarragon leaves. If you don't have tarragon, fresh thyme is also a lovely accompaniment to this soup, but neither are required and it's just as tasty without them.

If you have leftovers, this soup usually keeps for me for at least a week in the fridge. It also freezes nicely. Before warming it up, I add about 1/4 cup of water for every bowl full I re-heat and a bit more salt. It seems to get even better as the week goes on!

As always, it is important for your safety to ensure that all chicken is properly cooked before serving.

Daily Style July 24, 2014 - Monochrome Summer

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Bordeaux Wine Festival

Relaxing in the sun at Fete le Vin

Every two years, Bordeaux plays host to wine lovers from near and far for Fete le Vin, a 4 day celebration of wines throughout the region. Each installation of the festival is co-hosted by another world city, this year being Los Angeles. I didn't travel to Bordeaux specifically for Fete le Vin - it happened that we were there during that time by coincidence, but it's definitely something to consider if you enjoy wine, consider yourself a wine expert or would simply love the opportunity to learn more about French wines.
I was a little intimidated by the idea of a wine festival, simply because I wouldn't ever consider myself to be an expert on the subject, but I must report that Fete le Vin is anything but scary for novices like myself. I have always operated on the idea that one should drink the wines they like and failing that, it's not the worst idea to choose the one you like the look of when none are familiar. It's worked for me in the past and it worked for me at the festival! The people are friendly and enthusiastic about the wines they're representing, many of them being part of the family who produces the wine if not an employee of the winery. I was brave enough to ask my questions, no matter how stupid they might've been and was greeted with warm, smiling faces and clear, helpful answers. It was a great experience and I learned a lot about the Bordeaux wine region. 

Fete le Vin is a great way to spend the day, although you may not opt to spend the whole day there. For €20, you are given a passbook with wine tasting tickets, a wine glass and carrier, a public transport ticket for the day and several discount vouchers. The festival goes on over the course of 4 days so we actually bought 4 passbooks for the two of us to use over the course of the festival… We weren't able to use all of the vouchers, but it did allow us to go back and enjoy the wines we'd loved from the day before. The wine tasting tickets are specific about which wines you can taste, however you're also given a few wild card tickets that allow you to taste another wine in a tent you've tried already or go back and try your favorites again. It's hot in Bordeaux in the summer, so hydration and sunscreen are key if you're attending the festival during the day. I recommend spending a few hours during the day at the festival, finding shade where you can and then heading away from it to one of the many restaurants for a dinner break. You can then head back towards the Palais de Bourse for the light show and fireworks after a good meal. Alternatively, if you're busy during the day, I recommend perhaps visiting after the mid-day sun has softened, say around 3pm and staying for the evening.

Hollywood Walk of Fame Replica

Entertainment is a big part of Fete le Vin with a mini-music festival featuring outdoor concerts on in the evenings at an additional cost. Tickets to the concerts are sold separately. With LA being the co-sponsor this year, there was also a small film festival showing an on-going schedule of classic Hollywood films for free outside. This year's films included The Artist, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Sunset Boulevard and Grease. Also for entertainment is the light show every evening at the Palais de Bourse followed by an incredible fireworks presentation over the river. The light show features music and projections across the Palais de Bourse telling the story of Bordeaux, the wine industry and the relationship between the city and its sister city co-host. At the wine festival during the day there was some live music, barrel rolling, an exhibition, a literary exhibit featuring works about local wines alongside works by local authors and more. Classes and tastings as well as tours to vineyards are available to book at additional cost for festival goers as well. In short, there's plenty to enjoy whether you're a wine enthusiast or not.

Want some cheese with that wine? Why yes, I do!

There's no shortage of food available at Fete le Vin. Vendors come from far and wide to sell their delicious treats such as oysters, charcuterie, cheese, sausages, gelato, foie gras, burgers, steak frites and more! A restaurant was also on the premises, though I didn't try it and it seemed that everywhere you turned there was something delicious and new to try. My favorite culinary treat was a van that sold little paper cones full of cheese slices and Iberico ham slices. Who doesn't love charcuterie and cheese with wine? I found both the method of serving and the quality unbeatable. I also ate gelato or sorbet on both days I visited the wine festival to cool down properly in the heat of the French sun!

Favorite wines!

Of all the wonderful wines we tasted at Fete le Vin, our favorites were Blaissac and Malesan, fondly enough both from the same tent. Blaissac was my absolute favorite because of its subtle smooth flavor and strawberry sweet aromas. I've been trying to get my hands on a bottle since I got back to London, so if anyone has any tips, do let me know.

Sculpture made from wine corks with one image visible up close and a larger picture visible from afar.

The overall atmosphere of Fete le Vin is very welcoming and enjoyable. Not far from where the main action takes place is the Water Mirror, where kids can splash and paddle. The whole festival is rather family-friendly and many people brought their children along. Though the restrooms are sort of far apart from each other, there are plenty to handle the crowd and leave very little in the way of waiting. They're also free. Souvenir shops are available and if you spill wine on your shirt, the t-shirt stand is never too far away. You'll also find plenty of information booths filled with friendly, hospitable people eager to help you enjoy your experience as much as possible. I highly recommend a trip to Bordeaux any time of year, but the Fete le Vin is special. It won't be on again until 2016, so mark your calendars… It's not to be missed!

Cimetiere de la Chartreuse in Photos

While exploring the city of Bordeaux, I happened upon an old cemetery. Naturally I wanted to check it out, especially after having visited Pere Lachaise a few years ago. Cimetiere de la Chartreuse is a beautiful tribute to those who've passed on. While it's big enough to spend some time in, unlike Pere Lachaise, it's not big enough to be overwhelming. The cemetery is quite old and many of the monuments are very impressive. The most notable thing to see is a monument to the famous Spanish painter Francisco Goya. Originally buried in Bordeaux where he spent his final days and died, his body was later moved to Madrid so it's only a monument, but it's a beautiful dedication. Other notable personalities are buried in Cimetiere de la Chartreuse, though none that I recognized, but it's still a lovely place to visit as the monuments are very ornate and some of them are quite eery. I don't think words can do it justice, so here are a few photos from my visit.

Cool Off With Mojito Sorbet

It's hot out there… Why not cool down with something refreshing that's homemade and delicious? For this recipe, you will need an ice cream maker.

Zest & juice of 1 lime
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup water
Handful of mint leaves


1. Pour 1 cup of water into a saucepan and add the sugar. Heat on medium, stirring occasionally. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for about 3 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, take a handful of mint and crush it lightly using a mortar & pestle. If you don't have one, just roughly chop the mint instead and give it a roll around in your hand.

3. Add the mint to the saucepan just before the mixture starts to boil.

4. Strain the mixture into a bowl. Stir in the lime juice and zest, the put into the refrigerator for about 15 minutes or so to cool down a bit. It doesn't need to be cold, but just a bit cooler than when you take it off the heat.

5. Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and follow instructions. For mine, I leave it to churn for about 45 minutes to an hour. After that, it's slightly sludgy, but not frozen through, so I pour the mixture into a lidded plastic container and freeze for at least 3 hours before serving. However, all ice cream makers are different, so it's a try it and see situation I'm afraid.

6. When you're ready to serve, garnish with either a mint leaf, a sprinkle of lime zest or both.

Serve this dish as a simple scoop of sorbet for a cool, refreshing treat. Alternatively, if you're serving adults, try putting 2 scoops into a glass and finishing with a shot of rum poured over for the perfect summertime treat! 

Daily Style July 23, 2014 - Keeping it Light

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fete de la Musique in Bordeaux

Every year on June 21st, the first day of summer, cities around the world hold festivals where amateur and professional musicians alike are encouraged to take to the streets to perform. I was in Bordeaux this year for Fete de la Musique and it was one of the most unique events I've ever experienced. 

For this one day of the year in Bordeaux, people throw caution to the wind, ignore restrictions and let loose for a full day and night of fun, music and all things summer. Revelers hang out their windows with stereo speakers. Musicians of all ages from children to elderly take the streets as their stages performing everything from rock & roll to polka. Those who aren't musically inclined flock from near and far to the streets of Bordeaux and truly enjoy themselves dining alfresco, enjoying warm weather and literally dancing in the streets. There's no real way to put it into words… I've never seen anything like it. It's like a massive flash mob that goes on for hours and hours. It's crowded, amazing and loud… Everywhere you turn there's something different. It's like the music festivals we know here in Britain on a without the main stages and speakers, but let loose all over town with very few rules. 

If you're planning a trip next summer during the solstice, I definitely recommend checking out Fete de la Musique in Bordeaux. There are a few things to remember… It's completely free to get involved, however you'll want to enjoy yourself with food and drinks, so plan for that. Most restaurants in Bordeaux close between lunch and dinner. On June 21st, the city is very crowded, so aim to get to a restaurant around 12:30 when lunch starts and for dinner at 7:30 or 8pm. If you wait too late, you won't get a table for dinner as most places stop seating for food at 9pm or 10pm even though the music goes on all night. The safest bet would be to book a reservation, although you probably don't have to if you plan to get to a restaurant early. Another thing to consider is the noise level. There could be a band playing or a DJ blasting right outside your window until the wee hours, so don't be surprised if it's noisy. Just relax and try to enjoy it - it's only one night and it will be quiet again in the morning.

Click here for more information on Fete de la Musique in Bordeaux.

Daily Style July 22, 2014 - A Touch of Navy