Monday, June 17, 2013

Delicious Graham Cake

for our Farewell Party last weekend, i decided to make a Graham Cake. in the Philippines, we usually refer to this as Crema de Fruta. i prefer to call it Graham Cake.

i have checked several web sites and videos on the internet and took a little bit of something on some of them to make my very own recipe.

what is challenging here in France, when trying to cook something, is finding out first the french name of the ingredients that you need.

full cream

i wouldn't have known before that lait concentré sucré is what we know in the English-speaking world as condensed milk. now i do...

condensed milk in a tiny pack

and that you wouldn't find them in the milk and dairy section of the grocery. they go with the confiserie section, together with all the other baking ingredients that you need. they sometimes come in a tube or a small pack like this one in the above pic, not just in the usual can.

draining the fruit cocktail of its syrup

for the fruit cocktail and gelatine, it's quite easy. the Graham crackers, i got from a friend who was recently in London. they apparently have a wider selection of Filipino foodstuff there. although, you can use other types of cracker. here in France, you have Speculoos (the Greek biscuits). you can use it if you want. but i don't like it so much because it has cinnamon.

gelatine strips

for the first time in my very-recent cooking life, i'll be using this electric hand mixer that was given to me by my mother-in-law. it's really nice. you can even use it with batteries.

electric hand mixer given to me by my mother-in-law

i was a bit afraid at first that i bought the wrong cream. it should be the full cream type. the one that gets thick with whipping.

mixing the full cream

but i was right. it thickened in just a few minutes.

all whipped up
et voila! :)

as for the procedures: you just need to mix the condensed milk with the whipped cream according to the sweetness that you prefer. and then, layer all the ingredients in the following order: graham crackers, cream+condensed milk, fruit cocktail. do this twice. and then set aside in the fridge while you prepare the gelatine.

Graham Cake first layer

don't forget to drain the fruits of the syrup. as a personal touch, i kept the syrup and used it for the gelatine mixture. but first, you have to immerse the gelatine strips (i used three of them) in ice-cold water for 10 minutes. and then you heat up the cocktail syrup and put the softened gelatine strips in them. let cool, and then pour onto your graham cake.

my very own Graham Cake! :)

i let my graham cake in the fridge overnight before serving it. i find that it is more solid and nicer this way.

enjoy! :)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Air France Business Class Experience

it was my first time to take a Business Class flight last weekend on the way to Singapore. the flight cost + hotel + cab fares were covered by hubby's generous employer.

from Toulouse, we were on board a small plane on the way to Paris. there are no big planes from Toulouse going to Paris, so we only had the usual economy type seats, but with extra leg room since they gave us the seat at the very front of the plane.

in Paris, i wasn't very impressed with the Business Class lounge. there was not a lot of food to choose from and the WIFI wasn't working. good thing i have internet on my phone.

WIFI doesn't work at the Air France Lounge at CDG Airport in Paris

we took the A380 from Paris going to Singapore. it's the only plane that has seats on the second deck all the way to the end of the Airplane. since we were on Business Class, we were seated on the second deck. everything looked so new and so bright and shiny to me.

side compartment, right next to my seat. so convenient! :)

stowage for shoes

lots of legroom

the seat even has a massage feature... i tried it and it was quite nice.

i was impressed with all the extra stuff that you get on a business class flight. well, all the extra stuff should be extra nice because of the huge extra money that you have to shell out for this cabin class.

they give this pochette with toiletries, etc.

these are the contents of the pouch -- toothpaste, toothbrush, wet wipes, face cream, socks, ear phones cover, dust bag

i really like that they give you a dust bag. i'm collecting dust bags now since we will be packing our stuff soon and moving out of France.

according to hubby, Air France may not be the best airline there is, but they have the reputation for serving the best food.

the menu

options for the main dish

starters -- very good! that's champagne in the glass. they serve that upon sitting. you can have more at dinner time and during the whole flight, actually.

hubby says all the products are really good. like this butter comes from the region of Isigny, which is famous for butter

my main dish -- scallops with polenta and some greens

for dessert, i took the strawberry sorbet and hubby took the tray with a selection of sweets

i agree. :)

i totally loved the business class experience. it's a lot, lot, lot more comfortable especially on long-haul flights. and i didn't feel as tired as i usually do after a 13-hour flight. i liked everything, except for this article in their magazine which misspelled certain names and places in the Philippines.

in the french version, they spelled Luzon as Luçon, quite forgivable since they usually alter the spelling and pronunciation of names to their liking

but this one is already in English and they still got the spelling wrong!!! Luzan??? come on!

i'm really trying very hard to suppress the obsessive-compulsive urge to write to them about their spelling mistakes. :D

anyways, on the way back to France, i find the Sky Lounge at Changi Airport a lot, lot nicer than the lounge in CDG, Paris. but the plane we were taking was a Boeing 777 this time. the seats were narrower and shorter, and there were no side compartments.

Business Class seat of Boeing 777, slightly more cramped compared to the A380

but i would have to say, i prefer their seats over the A380's. i find that it's more comfortable for me to sleep on despite being narrower and shorter.

the food was superb as always.

breakfast -- omelette, sausage, hash brown, croissant, fruits, yoghurt and some tea with milk

upon landing in Paris, we found that a lot of Air France flights were cancelled due to the employees strike.

most Air France flights were cancelled due to the air traffic employees' strike

luckily, ours was just delayed.

at the lounge, the whole place was packed and littered with red bags from the Ferrari team transiting in Paris from an F1 event somewhere.

at the Air France Lounge in Paris, waiting for our much-delayed flight back to Toulouse

we were quite surprised to find that we will be boarding a Boeing 747 on our way back to Toulouse. this is quite unusual because they usually don't have big planes like this going to and from Toulouse.

and since they have business class seats, we negotiated to get one and they agreed, unwillingly, since they were not prepared for it. we only had the seat and didn't have all the other extra stuff. but we were still glad to have them, especially when we found out that our take-off will be delayed for another three hours.

watching Hitchcock's North by Northwest on board the Boeing 747, while waiting for our much-delayed take-off

it was quite OK since we were able to watch a movie and sit back and put our feet up in our seats while waiting for the take-off. they also served some tea/coffee and some croissants while on the wait.

i absolutely enjoyed my first time to fly business class. and it's something bound to be repeated in three weeks, on Singapore Airlines this time. i'll tell you more about it soon! :)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Madrid and Toledo

i wanted to visit Madrid first of all, to see a friend from Singapore who was having a grand European tour. it was so nice to see her again after a long time. we had such fun catching up, soaking in the sights and sampling the gastronomic Castillian delights.

my teeny tiny but clean and lovely hotel room, a few meters off Gran Via
first night we saw each other, we met at the oldest Tapas Bar in Madrid called, Stop Madrid. it was recommended by my french guidebook. the place was just a few steps away from Gran Via metro station, along Calle Hortaleza. i didn't expect to find a lot of people there as it was a weeknight, but it was quite packed. and it seemed like they were mostly locals, which is a good sign.

selection of tapas and some bread and manchego cheese

we were not eating for two, in case you were wondering about the quantity of food on the table. you should be able to tell since there is a third wine glass sitting on the table, as seen in one of the pics above. ;)

the next day, i joined my friend and her buddies on a day tour of Toledo. it's an ancient fortified city 20 minutes by train from Madrid Atocha RENFE station.

arriving at the Toledo train station, i could not help but marvel at the interesting architecture. the train station was lovely outside and inside.

the Toledo train station

inside the Toledo train station

from the train station, you could either take the bus that will get you to the town proper in less than 10 minutes, or you can take in more of the scenery on the way there by walking, which was what we preferred.

on the way to Ayuntamiento de Toledo (Toledo city proper)

lovely row of apartments

the walls of Toledo

The bucolic surroundings reminded me so much of the French countryside.
the entrance

this Romanesque architecture of one of the churches in Toledo reminded me so much of the Basilica de St Sernin in Toulouse

what is quite unique about Toledo is that you can find traces of Arabic influence in the architecture as it was once occupied by these people.

arabic influence in the arches of doorways

we stopped for a snack before heading to the famous cathedral.

it's not really a breakfast or a lunch menu, there's probably no English word for it

i noticed that there were so many young students on a field trip. and they were mostly from France. it was quite a lovely sunny day in Toledo, the walk around the city and hiking up towards the cathedral was really nice.

that guy behind me is not sleeping on the floor, he's trying to mimic the position of my photographer while taking this pic :)

lovely details of the altar

some guy in a turban painted on one of the ceiling arches

all silver and gold and three times my height... this cathedral is so rich

ancient bible gifted by France to Toledo... how generous!

we spent quite a lot of time inside this cathedral. i guess it was the highlight of the trip. as i have spent a lot of time here in France already, touring around really old churches, i didn't find this cathedral so special anymore. although, i would say it is quite unique for its arabic influence in the architecture. and it also shows how rich the Catholic church is with all the gold and silver artifacts found in one of the vestibules.

for lunch, we went to this place called El Brocal Taberna. this one was recommended by Trip Advisor, researched by moi.

lunching at El Brocal (recommended by Trip Advisor)

i super loved this simple salad with cheese and nuts and balsamic vinegar that has almost no acidity and quite sweet

we were seated next to this lovely window

the Spanish people seem to like being late in everything, including meal times. we had lunch at 4PM. and dinner at 10PM.

back in Madrid, we chose this place to dine in, which claims that it is the OLDEST restaurant in the world as recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records. quite a huge claim. especially when you consider that the word restaurant is french and not spanish.

something that is hanging off the corner and looking very weird, i wonder what it is called

my favorite ham and melons, wintermelon daw to sabi ng mga kasama ko

apparently, they specialize on lechon de leche, which they call cochinillo

i was not able to take a lot of pictures around Madrid, especially since my last day in Madrid was spent inside the museums.

i took this pic because it was on the cover of my french guidebook :) this is what you see when you get off Banco de Espana metro station
i first went to Prado Museum and lost track of time admiring the works of Velasquez, Rembrandt, Goya, et al. i especially adored Las Meninas and Goya's Black Paintings (Pinturas Negras). although, having seen Picasso's version of Las Meninas at the Picasso museum in Barcelona, i would say that i prefer Picasso's version to the original. it was still quite magnificent, though. and i regret to say that i was too lazy to take pictures at this time, so i just borrowed some pics from other web sites.

Prado Museum (image from
 from Prado museum, i hurried towards Reina Sofia museum by foot. i didn't realize how far away it was. when i got there, i only had time to admire Picasso's Guernica and a few of Miro's works. i regret to say that i wasn't able to see the temporary exhibit on Dali's works.

Reina Sofia Museum (image from

but then when i got to the airport, i found out my flight would be delayed for an hour. i took Iberia Airlines, btw. they have this teeny tiny Canadian planes flying from Toulouse to Madrid and vice-versa. it was a bit too small for comfort. my bag didn't fit in the cabin. i had to squeeze it below the seat in front of me. it barely fit in there too.

since i didn't have time to buy pasalubong around Madrid, i stopped by some shop to get some charcuterie and sweets. they were quite expensive.

apparently, pata negra is made from pig that is fed with acorn

the sweets were not so good, but the pata negra was worth every cent.

a view of the icy peaks of the Pyrenees from atop, welcoming me back to Toulouse

i really enjoyed every bit of my trip in Madrid. It has somehow shown me a glimpse of my roots from learning more about Jose Rizal, to finding more and more Filipino words rooted in Spanish, to some old habits that die hard like being late for everything and having a siesta, etc.

even the flight back to Toulouse, despite being an hour delayed was worth it, with the magnificent view of the Pyrenees from atop, welcoming me back to France.