Another Last Soup Before The End Of The Winter

It’s a bit difficult to tell what season we’re in at the moment. Every other day there is a short moment where it feels like April-May, when the sun is out and you can feel that slight heat on your back. The rest of the time looks more like early March, cold, wet and windy, and you just want to curl up on the sofa. So less time spent in the garden (which now officially looks like a jungle), and more time spent in the kitchen or removing lining paper. As a result I’ve cooked a batch of a new soup, a recipe reminiscent of one my mother used to make: Courgette and goat’s cheese soup. My mother used to put portions of Laughing Cow and crème fraiche where I put goat’s cheese. I used to really enjoy hers but when I read a recipe that married courgettes with goat’s cheese, one of my favourites, I had to try it.

For 4 people
Prep: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

500g courgettes
250g potatoes
200g onions
1L vegetable stock
200g soft goat’s cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash the courgettes and slice them
Peel and cut the potatoes in cubes
Chop the onions
Put the vegetable stock and the vegetables in a large pan and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender
Blend until smooth
Add the cheese and let it melt while mixing with a wooden spoon
Season to taste

Bon appétit!


An Eggstraordinary Week-End

Over two weeks have already passed since Easter. Time flies when you’re busy eating chocolate! After looking forward to a long Easter week-end (extra-long actually, as I had also booked Maundy Thursday off), I can’t believe how quickly it’s gone. I picked up my mother from the airport on Thursday, and from then it was rather full-on. The programme was flexible due to the weather but we still managed to fit in a fair amount, including going to the beach, watching the Boat Race, going to museums and visiting the London Wetland Centre.

One of the highlights was definitely going to Covent Garden to see the Grand Eggstravaganza, the last opportunity the 210 unique eggs created for the Big Egg Hunt before they got auctioned. I’ve mentioned the Big Egg Hunt before. Despite living only 30 minutes outside of London I’d managed to completely miss out on the month-long event. So I was glad when my mother agreed it could be a fun opportunity for photos.

Detail of "Around the World Before Bedtime" by Miss Dee

Despite the weather, we headed to Covent Garden. All the eggs were displayed around and in the market. There was a really great variety of designs and we both took dozens of pics! Our favourite egg was the very poetic “Around The World Before Bedtime” by Miss Dee although there were a handful of others that could have taken that top spot. “Where’s Wally/Waldo/Charlie” (depending on where you’re from) was extremely popular with children and one of the most photographed. At the auction which took place on Monday evening, Humpty Dumpty was sold for £51,000! Granted, it is signed by TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall!

The ever popular "Where's Wally?" by Martin Handford

Detail of "For the Widows in Paradise, for the Fatherless in Ypsilanti" by Emma E. Kemp

"Egg Letter Box" by Benjamin Shine

"Remarkable Connections" by The East India Company with Sam Joyce

The Return Of The Easter Bunny

I’ve always found Easter to be one of loveliest moments in the year – daffodils and cherry blossoms are in full bloom, the birds are singing, mostly we’re not wrapped in layers of thermals and earmuffs any longer… you get the picture, it’s Spring! As a child, I remember the egg hunts our mother used to organise in the garden for my brother and I. She also used to decorate the house with little chicks and painted eggs we would have made at school or with her. Fond memories… Of course, and as often with these celebrations, moving to England has been like entering a new dimension, as the Brits’ OTT attitude to festivals shines again:

First of all, it’s a 4-day week-end. In France, we work on Good Friday so the Easter week-end is not bigger than any other bank holiday week-end.

Secondly, a bit like Christmas starts in September here, Easter starts in January. If you think this is an exaggeration, this is a picture I took in our local Sainsbury’s on January 3rd! It definitely made me question whether I had fully recovered from our New Year’s Eve party!

Thirdly, because it’s a four-day week-end, it comes with a host of activities to cram into your free time, as well as a month-long build up for those of a rather impatient nature. Highlights for 2012 include:

The Big Egg Hunt: Over 200 unique two-and-a-half-foot decorated eggs created by leading artists are hidden in central London for the general public to find. It started mid-February and will be closing this week-end, with all the eggs first displayed in Covent Garden (The Grand Eggstravaganza), then auctioned off on Monday at 6pm. Aside from trying to raise about £2 million for charities Elephant Family and Action for Children, the hunt was also an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the most participants in an Easter Egg Hunt. Having missed out on the actual hunt altogether, I am quite tempted to pop in Covent Garden!

The Boat Race: No need to specify which one, it seems there’s only one and this year it takes place on Easter Saturday at 2.15pm, starting at Putney Bridge as has been the case almost every year since 1845. Oxford lead in terms of win and Ladbrokes has them as favourites again this year. They also have “Either crew to sink” at 16/1 although I wouldn’t bank on that as the last boat to sink was Cambridge in 1978. Anyway, I’ve been before and it’s a fun day out. For one, seeing all these (mostly) guys, pint of beer in one hand, team scarf in the other, getting excited watching 18 guys from the two most prestigious British universities paddling away like there is no tomorrow is one of those quintessentially British spectacles you can’t miss (well, it only lasts about 20 minutes so you might miss it if you’re not on time). Might go again this year if the weather is nice as my mother is visiting us for the week-end.

– Your usual key London attractions will also focus on Easter, with the London Eye organising Easter-themed family-friendly craft workshops over the week-end, and Kew Gardens sending you off on a Maya Chocolate Adventure as well as their annual kids’ egg hunt.

– I’ve also found traces of other egg hunts (Sutton House, Ham House, Battersea Park Zoo…), a bizarre Hot Cross Bun Ceremony at the Widow’s Son pub in Bromley-by-Bow in east London, Church services (I wonder how many people know that these days) and the little-known London Harness Horse Parade near Crawley.

Right, now I’m off to buy Easter eggs for Darling-Chéri, my mother and myself. After 6 weeks without the stuff, I might just make myself sick on Saturday – hot chocolate and Nutella for breakfast, ham & chocolate sandwich at lunchtime, a chocolate brownie in the afternoon, steak-frites with chocolate sauce (who needs ketchup?) and a chocolate fondant for dinner. Hmmm, sounds good!