Saturday, April 24, 2010


This is an English word that has come to mean a lot of different things in French. It's mostly used as an adjective, as in "je suis speed, moi." It can mean rushed, fast, quick, stressed, bothered, excited or in a hurry (and the list keeps on expanding). I blame the movie Speed for this particular addition to the language. Are you speed?

This just in:  it's a verb, too! I just heard "j'ai speedé" yesterday. One word, many uses.

la cata!

The catalogue? The cataclysm? The catalyst? The catapult?  Nope, it's a catastrophe! C'est la cata! A useful expression for anything that's gone wrong, even the smallest of disasters.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

dark chocolate cake with coffee icing

This chocolate cake recipe is one of my favourites; the cake is rich but not too sweet and the coffee icing is the perfect accompaniment. The recipe comes from Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts - an excellent book that I highly recommend - and it is a winner every time. I usually like to make this as a layer cake, with two layers and icing in between, but this time I made it in a bundt pan.
cake ingredients
1 1/2 cups boiling water
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup butter at room temperature
1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

coffee icing ingredients
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
3 1/2 cups icing sugar
4 Tbsp strong coffee

In a mixing bowl, add a bit of the boiling water to the cocoa, making a paste, and then whisk in the rest of the water. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter and flour the cake pan(s).

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In another bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar. Add the eggs one a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture alternately with the cooled cocoa mixture, beating after each addition.

If using two cake pans, divide batter evenly (or just pour into the bundt pan). Bake for 25-30 minutes for two cakes (40-45 minutes for bundt), until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes and then turn them out onto racks to cool completely.

For the icing, cream the butter and icing sugar. Gradually add the coffee until the icing is a good consistency for spreading. You may need more/less sugar or coffee and you can just keep on adding until it's right. If you want, you can grate a little dark chocolate over the cake. Enjoy!

time at the farmhouse

Many of you may know that I co-own a farmhouse in the French countryside with a friend and colleague from Vancouver. We've hosted workshops there in the past and are now concentrating on renting it out as a holiday home. I went there last week for an initial clean-up and gardening session. Every time I go to that part of France I fall in love with it all over again. The scenery is so beautiful and the friends we have made there are so incredibly lovely, it makes it difficult to live anywhere else. I was on my own this time because Jean-Marc was unable to get time off, but I managed to get quite a bit done, including varnishing a floor, weeding a garden and planting wild flowers, and hanging up some pictures around the house. In addition to all the house-related activities I also managed to catch up with friends over a number of meals and I went to musical that was put on by teenagers in a local château (they had spent the week at the château in a theatre camp, memorizing and working on the show). The sense of community that I feel there is something that is somewhat lacking where I'm currently living, although I'm starting to see slight rays of hope in that department. Jean-Marc and I will return to the farmhouse in June for round two of operation clean-up and I'm already looking forward to it.