Apparently my daughter’s favourite food in the whole wide world is sushi. Usually we go to our local Japanese restaurant but I have made sushi in the past and decided that since she wanted to eat it she could ‘help’ me make it. Sushi is actually super easy to make and is a fun activity to do. We used 5 ingredients to fill our sushi and mixed and matched them. The ingredients we used were; cucumber, smoked mackrel, salmon, avocado and toasted sesame seeds.
This weekend we went all out and even made our own vegetable tempura with a batter mix bought from our local supermarket. It was also very easy to make. Probably not the healthiest way to cook your veges but they sure were delicious!
As my eldest goes to a German kindergarten, he and his friends will be celebrating Karnival today — going to kindergarten dressed up in their favourite fancy-dress (I think we can expect a fair few pirates, policeman and princesses!).
I love how our family combines the traditions from both our cultures — I think it is providing us with a very rich life and so I cannot let the day slip without what Shrove Tuesday always meant for me growing up …. pancakes!
Quite a few of my German friends, who will join us for pancakes, had never heard of our tradition before so I thought I better check out why it is we eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday? Although our traditions seem quite different they stem from the same idea. During Lent you would abstain from parties and celebrations and certain foods. From what I can work out, in continental Europe the week before lent starts is all about extravagant celebration (hence the dressing up) knowing that there will be no more celebrations for 40 days. Whilst here in the UK we focus on eating up all the foods in the house that will not be allowed during lent, typically fats, dairy and eggs — hence pancakes were made as they used up these ingredients. (more…)
If you live in Melbourne or are planning a visit, a fabulous (and totally cute) website to check out is Little Eats. Little Eats is the brainchild of Jemma Reynolds — a self confessed foodie, critique and ’super-mum’ to 2 pre-schoolers. Let’s face it — dining out with kids in tow can be fraught… fraught with fear, trepidation, anxiety and a host of other raging emotions. I have certainly had my fair share of cringe-worthy cafe moments. But it needn’t be so! Jemma profiles restaurants and cafes in and around Melbourne and rates them in relation to their ‘kid-friendliness’. Pram access? High chairs? Distraction apparatus like books or paper and crayons? Welcoming smiles? With her expert eye (and with the help of her 2 adorable pint-sized side-kicks) Jemma susses out the facilities, children’s menu, table and customer service. Of course she is also obligated to road-test the menu (all in the name of ‘field research’ she assures me.) Afterall we all know that pram access, high chairs, drawing supplies, babyccinos, choc-topped gingerbread men, great food and the perfect latte are important… in equal measure.
I love eating out and, of course, I love kids… but sometimes the two don’t mix. I do still get annoyed, even after having my own kids, when there are children in a restaurant creating havoc. For me, eating out is a moment to relax, talk and enjoy good food, and a screaming kid can completely spoil the mood. In France, most children are taught from the moment they are conceived to behave well in a restaurant. But even here, occasionally, you wonder why people don’t just pick up their child and take him outside until he calms down, to let the other guests have their meal in piece.
I just read a piece in the Guardian about an owner of a restaurant who has decreed that “Screaming children will not be tolerated”. I think that is the best restaurant rule I have ever heard of! I am obviously not talking about kid-friendly cafés which are basically interior playgrounds, but I do think that screaming kids in a grown-up cafe or restaurant should not have to be tolerated, whilst well behaved kids who are happily eating their food are a pleasure to see in any restaurant. What are your thoughts?
Ah, Vegemite. Without doubt it is Australia’s favorite sandwich spread. But while it is loved by the locals, it is generally repulsed by our visitors.Visually, I will concede, it is a little unappetizing (hmm…black sticky tar?). And chances are, unless you grew up on it or follow the guidelines below (without digressing I should add) you will probably never acquire the taste for it. For first timers the taste of Vegemite is very unexpected, surprisingly sharp and in order to avoid gagging which so many of the uninitiated do on their first bite, you need to apply the Vegemite sparingly with liberal amounts of butter. But, rich in Vitamin B Aussie kids are brought up on the salty-tasting spread from babyhood (hooray for toasty Vegemite soldiers dipped into soft-boiled eggs!) and it is a school lunch box staple. I personally know many Aussies who won’t travel without a small jar or easy-squeeze tube of Vegemite for fear that they will not find it and then shock horror, what on earth would they have on their toast in the morning? (more…)
On New Years Eve, during a major snowstorm, one of my daughters became violently ill. The timing, of course, could not have been worse and after a call to the doctor we were put at ease, told to stay in, to push fluids and to ride it out. “There’s a stomach bug going around and it will pass” — we were told. But “stomach bug” I knew this was not. This thing, whatever she had, was far more sinister. A day later and two separate trips to the emergency room we wound up in the hospital for seven days of pure agony. Not only were we quarantined in a room that we were not allowed to leave but my potty-trained daughter was back in diapers –- going to the bathroom up to 30 times a day and screaming every time (sorry tmi). The poor thing was finally diagnosed with Salmonella (it takes 3 days to show up in a blood culture), and even rarer, it had spread to her bloodstream. Where she got it – I still don’t know. Salmonella is one of those things that you can get from food, playing with a turtle, anywhere really – nobody knows. And when a kid gets it, especially if it gets into the blood, it is nothing short of terrifying. (more…)
Milan is an expensive city, and when you are visiting on travel it’s probably even more difficult to have dinner without spending a fortune. During the day the ubiquitous bakeries allow you to eat on a budget easily but at night it’s easy to have to shell out a small fortune for a dinner, however nice it may be. If you take into account that children’s menus and small portions are hard to find, then the bill will be even higher for families with small children.
A nice solution might be to make the best of the Milanese aperitivo or “happy hour”. The hour is happy not because you get two drinks for the price of one, but because by paying for a drink you get unlimited access to a free buffet. (more…)
Italians, or possibly just the people from Milan, have come up with their own version of brunch. In the last 10 years many restaurants have specialised in a particular Sunday lunch, that goes by the name of brunch.
It’s not too dissimilar from what the international crowd believes brunch should be, but it has its own peculiarities. First of all it happens at lunch time, not in between breakfast and lunch. The experience normally involves a big buffet table that offers food in a very wide range. You’ll find lasagna, pasta and risotto next to meatballs and sausages. All sorts of grain salads next to grilled vegetables. But also scrambled and hard boiled eggs, brownies, pancakes, fruit, yogurt and cereals. So it’s really hard not to find something everybody likes.
That’s why it has become a favourite family event — informal, quick and with lots of choice for the fussy children.
Today we tried the play-brunch at the San Vittore restaurant, named from the prison it faces (in the center of Milan!). (more…)
Michela and I are often asked about family-friendly restaurants in our respective cities. Try as we might, we are hard pressed to come up with good suggestions. There is a huge North/South divide in Europe regarding the obvious signs of child friendliness in restaurants.
In Northern Europe you will more often than not be offered a highchair when you enter a restaurant with your kids. Often you find changing tables in the bathrooms and kids menus, and many places even have special toys they bring out. In Southern Europe it is rare to find this kind of service, BUT this does not mean that children are not welcome. In fact, they are almost always welcome, but are expected to fit around the adults. (more…)
I had a coffee with the lovely Kirby from Petite Alma this morning in one of my favourite cafés and I suddenly realised that I have never written a post about it! It is called Le Loir dans la Théière on 3 rue des Rosiers in the Marais (Tel : 01 42 72 90 61).
We go there with friends and family for the fabulous brunch on the weekends (get there early, or risk waiting in a huge queue), we also go for lunch and we especially go there to have a big piece of cake in the afternoons. The lemon pie has a meringue crust that is at least 10 centimetres high! I have had friends refuse to leave town before having a slice of this pie! I am also very partial to their Tarte Tatin — it’s really incredible.
The thing I like almost as much as the food is the atmosphere and decor; it hasn’t changed a bit in all the years the café has been around. You will find mismatched, big leather armchairs and old tables. Laptops are not allowed, and even when there is a huge queue snaking out of the café onto the road, every customer is allowed to take as much time as he needs.
There is no special kid-friendly equipment but the staff are really nice and try to accommodate you as much as possible, though it is best to avoid turning up with a big pushchair during the peak hours.
After recently spending a week in the UK my kids were very confused. In France one of the highlights of a child’s day is the “goûter”, a sweet snack at 4 pm. Usually it is a Nutella or jam sandwich with a glass of milk, or a sweet bread called a ‘pain au lait’ with a yogurt or a fuit compote (the French have never taken to the idea of rice cakes). It ties kids over until dinner time which is often given to them after their bath around 6.30 or 7.00pm. The day normally wraps up at 8pm.
In the UK dinner normally seems to be at 5pm and kids are in bed by 7pm sharp. So of course my daughter was very confused by not getting her customary goûter. I guess kids really are creatures of habit….
I’m interested to know what happens in other countries. Do you have the tradition of an afternoon goûter, or is the goûter just a French thing?
Okay, so I don’t want to sound like I’m having a meltdown but I am in a bit of a major adjustment zone at the moment. (Haha. It’s not going to last until he’s 18 years old, is it???) While I feel more comfortable with my baby being at daycare — he’s slowly settling in – I am still torn about letting go of another ideal I held about being a “good” mother. The first one to slip through my fingers was breastfeeding. Going back to work, it wasn’t practical to continue. And I also realised that I wasn’t producing enough milk to sustain my growing boy. He actually became quite underweight. Now, I’m weighing up the pros and cons of homemade solids versus store-bought ones. While I look at the jam-packed website of Annabel Karmel and wish I had a spare day or two to make “Tasty Salmon Puree” or “Braised Beef with Sweet Potato” I just don’t have the time. And while there is probably more variety in store-bought baby food than ever before, there still doesn’t seem a huge choice. I’ve yet to see any fish on offer in the form of a baby food jar (locally farmed, preferably — yep, I warned you that I have pretty high ideals). I would love to know what choices you’ve made regarding homemade versus store-bought food, especially if you’ve gone back to work.
In Italy teabags always come in individual envelopes, maybe it’s because Italians are not big tea-drinkers so tea is better preserved if it’s wrapped in paper. Whatever the reason may be, when I was growing up, I never questioned the fact — that was just the way teabags were.
When I moved to England I immediately noticed that teabags came in big boxes of at least 50 pieces and most of them didn’t have single envelopes, they were sleeveless… or as I started calling them: naked!
I got so used to them — definitely less waste of paper, quicker in the mornings and, not less important, naked teabags can easily be stored in nice jars. Once I moved back 3 years ago, I kept drinking English tea thanks to frequent visits and a frequent-flyer husband. Recently my regular supply came to an end, so I started looking for naked teabags everywhere but they are not for sale in Italy. After all, individually wrapped teabags do their job greatly, I admit I was being a bit picky.
That’s when I stumbled across British Corner Shop, a web-shop that sells British groceries and delivers worldwide. They carry a huge selections of everything you may miss when away from the UK (yes, come on… it can happen). Cereals, biscuits, marmite, beans, cleaning products and baby food. Prices are good but the delivery is not too cheap; just order loads of stuff to make it worth it (that’s what I did).
So that’s how I got my teabags, but that’s also how we finally had Christmas crackers on our table this year!
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• A nice cuppa!
When Esther lived around the corner from me here in London I called her all the time just to ask her what she was making for dinner that night. Esther is really good at opening up her fridge, looking at what is left in there and then coming up with something tasty! I, on the other hand, am really good at copying other people’s ideas! I’m just not very innovative in the kitchen… But if someone tells me how to make something and gives me the recipe I’m pretty capable of doing it.
I still call Esther from time to time hoping for ideas and inspiration, and I love to read the recipes the other girls post here on Babyccino. It’s so fun to learn all the typical recipes from the different countries. I love Michela’s easy pasta recipes and Emilie’s recipes for French tarts and sweets!
With all of this in mind, we thought it would be fun to set up a forum for our readers to discuss what you’re all making for dinner tonight. Whether you’ve prepared a 3-course meal, pureeing home-cooked baby food or you’re scrambling eggs, we want to hear from you!!! (It also makes us feel better if someone else is ALSO just heating up left-overs, or ordering take-out… )
And, If you’re making up a recipe, we’d love to know about that too (even if it wasn’t very tasteful — it happens to the best of us). We would especially love to hear your all-time favorite recipes… If you’re willing to share!
So please leave your comments. Check back daily to hear what others are saying, and keep the conversation going!
We think this is going to be so much fun!!!
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• London’s Transport Museum has reopened!
My Italian brother went backpacking through Ireland as a teenager and I will never forget how disgusted he was when he realised that the youth hostels he was staying in did not have a pasta strainer! Norwegian friends of mine just cannot get their heads around the fact that I do not own a cheese slicer, and my English friends are forever trying to find my potato masher in my cupboard when they stay with us. I do not understand how anyone could survive without a salad spinner, which is completely essential in my opinion!
I guess what we use in the kitchen reflects the way we eat and we are all pretty convinced that our national culinary delights and way of eating are the best in the world. In a time when you see Starbucks appearing on every corner in Paris and every other major city in the world, it is nice to see that we are still fighting for our own cultural identity, even if it is only in the kitchen!
(By the way, I would love to hear about other cooking utensils used in other countries…)
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• Ex-pat moms
Our second daughter is now 6 months old and we have started weaning her, and she is really enjoying a change from plain old milk. The thing is… with our first daughter, weaning was a big deal for us and I would spend hours reading books on concocting the perfect nutritious purée, but this time round I don’t have the same luxury. I often need to give the baby something to chew on while I get a meal in front of the eldest. The good thing is, she loves feeding herself much more than being fed.
I read about baby-led weaning a couple of years ago and recently read an article about it in the Guardian. It is apparently very popular in Holland (as usual the Dutch are a bit more advanced than the rest of Europe). The theory is that you give your baby food they can pick up and then let them go crazy: steamed vegetables and fruit, bananas, and avocado all work. You feed them whatever you can cut up into big chunks and soften so that they cannot choke on it. At the end your table will look like a vegetable battle field, but your baby will have had the best time.
I don’t know how much food actually gets eaten, so I am still feeding my daughter purées, but I do believe she is getting to enjoy food and develop her motor skills whilst having a great time with the rest of the family at the dinner table.
Crostata is a very simple, yet delicious, Italian cake. It has a base of pasta frolla which is similar to shortcrust pastry (but less buttery) and usually a top of jam, but you can also find it filled with apples, fresh fruit, custard cream and even nutella. You could consider it the equivalent of the American pie, and the many versions of it!
It is quite easy to make, not very messy to eat and all children love it – that’s probably why it is quite often the cake of choice at children’s parties. My son is not into cakes at all, but he loves an apricot jam crostata.
You can find hundreds of recipes for crostata, all similar yet all different. They will vary in the amount of sugar and the number of eggs, and maybe also in the flavour you can add to the crust.
Just one warning: it’s a dessert that is nearly impossible to get wrong but is very difficult to get perfect. Like with all things simple.
What follows below is the recipe of my friend, Gianmaria (a man!), who has baked an incredible amount of delicious crostate. (more…)
The Dutch are pretty famous for their cheeses. The ‘normal’ Gouda cheese is well known internationally, and also the plain Edam cheese is pretty much available in better cheese shops all over the world.
A cheese I have never found abroad though is ’komijnekaas’ (‘cumin cheese’) — basically a Gouda or Edam cheese with cumin seeds in it, and a cheese we love in the Netherlands (at least I do)!
The cumin seeds give the cheese a mild, nutty flavour and it is very good on a slice of fresh bread or just as is on a cheese platter.
If in Amsterdam, make sure to step in to one of the many cheese shops (don’t worry — although they are certainly ’cheesy’, they are not at all ‘just for tourists’)! They will gladly let you taste cumin cheese – and any other cheese you would like to try (and there are many)!
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• birth announcement
Although it is now the symbol of Christmas lunch and dinners all over Italy, Panettone is the ultimate Milanese Christmas dessert. Its origin is the subject of many legends, but what is certain is that it dates back to the XV century. It is shaped like a cylinder with a rounded top, it can be high (30cm) or low (15cm), and in its original recipe the dough contains eggs, butter, raisins and candied oranges. These days you can find it without candied fruit or raisins, or with chocolate chips and custard cream. But, as any true panettone lover would say, those may taste good…but they are not the real thing!
Italians normally have it at the end of a special meal (lunch or dinner) together with coffee or a sweet wine. When one feels really indulgent you can have some fresh mascarpone cream on the side.
Panettone should not be heated before serving, but does, especially in the winter, benefit from a few minutes in a warm place, like in front of an open oven or on top of a radiator. Left-over panettone makes for a very delicious breakfast. You can find loads of industrially produced ones, and some of them are quite good but nothing beats the panettone which comes from one of the traditional patisseries in Milan. (more…)