Posted by Wednesday, April 25, 2012on
While the TV show might be wrapping up, the book promotion seems to be getting into full swing. Last week I was invited to Amsterdam to launch the Dutch version of ‘The Little Paris Kitchen’, know over there as ‘Chez Rachel’. I hopped on the train directly from Paris, to be greeted by the friendly Kosmos gang, who also publish Jamie Oliver’s books over there. Clearly, their marketing efforts were paying off as when I went out for dinner that night I was recognised by a self-confessed ‘fan’ at the restaurant Marius, where I was eating with friends. Apparently there are large scale posters promoting the book on bus stops dotted across town; it’s crazy.
After dining on lobster worst*, we headed back to our elegant digs The College Hotel, a former secondary school housed in a 19th century building in the south of Amsterdam. The next day I found a spot for myself in their lounge area, where we conducted interviews back-to-back with all the major Dutch magazines and newspapers. My voice was struggling by the end (don’t think I have ever talked so much in my life!) and I had to request a constant stream of hot water and lemon from the hospitality students who make up the team of young staff at the hotel.
Friday I headed to the west of the city, to the Cultuurpark Westergasfabriek, a former gasworks set in stunning parkland which has been beautifully restored to house some creative spaces. Frankie had been setting up the kitchen that morning for the workshop and demonstration I was doing for a selection of journalists.
On the menu for the workshop was a classic shortcrust pastry, which was the building block for the Quiche Lorraine and the Tartelettes aux Pâte d’Amande. I kicked off with a quick pastry demonstration, before each guest started work on their own pastry bases; after the first round it was clear that we weren’t dealing with amateurs here. One lovely lady from the Dutch Jamie Magazine was such a pâtisserie enthusiast, she was actually constructing a multi-tiered wedding cake for a fortunate bride-to-be the next week.
Pastry chilled and we were onto the pâte d’amande, a sumblimely versatile and simple paste of ground almonds, sugar and butter, useful for pairing with fruits in simple sweet tartlettes (see my recipe in the book for Raspberry and Almond Paste Tartelettes). So after piping our almond pastes into the lined pastry bases, we topped our tartelettes with some slivers of apple, leaving the second one plain to decorate later. Off they dissappeared into the oven.
Frankie had prepared some blind-baked pastry cases for the our miniature Quiches so we got cracking on the savoury tart counterpart. For the filling we we mixed together creme fraiche and eggs and seasoned well, then each journalist individually picked from the spread of savoury toppings, among them crispy lardons, steamed asparagus, cherry tomatoes and one of my favourite food finds of the trip, Gouda flecked with nettles. Most people got creative with their pairings, although some favoured the classic approach to a Lorraine, with a good base of salty lardons with the creamy filling poured on top. Something has to be said for this classic combination.
While the quiches and tartes were cooking, we sat down to enjoy a vintage tea party put together with finds from some of the best crockery stores around town. Many cups of Earl Grey and a spread of tartes we had made earlier were consumed while we nattered about food, The Little Paris Kitchen, the lovely Amsterdam…
We wrapped up by, quite literally, wrapping up the tartes. Each guest left with 4 little tartes in a box to share with friends and family or just munch all by themselves – no judgement here!
* more on that in my Amsterdam guide to follow shortly.