Showing posts with label au pairs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label au pairs. Show all posts

Monday, 12 March 2012

The Little Paris Kitchen - book and TV series

My favourite piece from yesterday’s Sunday Times was an interview with new cookery sensation Rachel Khoo in Style magazine.

Rachel is the hotly-tipped young chef whose gorgeous-looking cookery book, The Little Paris Kitchen, hits the bookshops this week. Not only that, from March 19 we’ll be able to see her in a six-part BBC2 series of the same name.

But the reason the feature caught my eye in the first place was that Khoo’s career took off after she moved to Paris from Croydon six years ago to work as an au pair. When the art and design graduate arrived in Paris she couldn’t speak a word of French and didn’t have any culinary expertise. Now look at her. She used her earnings from her au pair job to pay for her cordon bleu training and at 31 is an established food stylist, writer and cook. From her tiny Parisian kitchen she whisks up delicious delicacies like potato and pear gallette with Roquefort and cassoulet soup with duck and Toulouse sausage dumplings.

It can’t have been easy starting a career from scratch in an unfamiliar city, and she admits that it was “difficult and lonely” for the first two years. I can well imagine. I was an au pair in Paris for a few months when I was 18 and even though the family I worked for was lovely, it was tough. I remember wandering around Ile de la Cité and Notre Dame on my day off, not knowing a soul and having to fend off leery old men who said they wanted to paint my picture. Hmmm. A likely story.

Now I’m worrying about my daughter, who’s studying French at university and will be off to live in Paris soon. But if I got by with my hopeless French and Rachel Khoo made such a stunning success of her move, then I’m sure she’ll have an amazing time. And return with impeccable French too…

Monday, 28 November 2011

Christmas turkey, stuffing and life as the world's most useless au pair

With less than a month to go, I’m worrying about the Christmas turkey. I know I should have cracked it by now but the truth is that I’m useless at whizzing up traditional lunches. I love cooking but can’t do gravy or stuffing. As for bread sauce, well it just sounds horrible to me.

In fact most of the recipes I cook are the ones my mum taught me when I moved to Paris (above) at the age of 18 to become the world’s worst au pair.

I was so clueless about cooking that the night before I left I hastily copied down her staple recipes for soups, flans, risottos, pasta and stuffed peppers. Actually, copied is the wrong word. My mum recited them from memory off the top of her head.

When I got to France, the recipes went down a storm with the four little girls I looked after. They were aged between one and nine years old, and apart from the cooking and making up bedtime stories, I was hopelessly out of my depth. The little girls’ mother was a nurse and she was stunned to discover I’d never changed a nappy, couldn’t drive, couldn’t speak fluent French and couldn’t make beds with hospital corners. Worse still, I didn’t even know what hospital corners were!

My own mum was a brilliant, instinctive cook who never measured ingredients (a habit I’ve copied). When anyone asked her for a recipe, which they did all the time, she’d wave her hands vaguely and tell them to add a heap of this and a few spoonfuls of that. She wasn’t into fancy kitchen gadgets either. A friend who came to stay for the weekend was so shocked by her temperamental cooker and solitary blunt knife that he promptly went out and bought her a Baby Belling and a set of sleek, razor-sharp knives.

My mum was touched, but utterly mystified. She proceeded to carry on as before, perfectly happy with the dodgy stove and duff knife.
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