I often rethink at the great weekend I spent in Nantes few weeks ago under a summery sun and in great company. Aside from exploring the objective beauty of a city, I find that getting in touch with its soul is a much more rewarding feat. People watching is great fun especially when you can sport an anthropological motive for your nosiness.
Being a tourist for me means being a citizen of leisure, living the city as close as its citizens would normally do but without the hanging pain of daily chores. I love to stroll among the frenchies, discovering their cities and their daily secret pleasures.
Having a camera on your shoulder though does single you out as an inquisitive foreigner ready to invade people's privacy for the mere pleasure of recording.
I still feel quite guilty about photographing small groups of people in public contests; the fear of intruding, of breaking the veil of magic among them is too imposing. Moments of vibrant joy and happiness are easier to record, the energy in the air helps me cross the threshold and press the shutter.
Bottom line, you will see more tattered architectures and old vestiges in my pictures than human beings.
The first glaring sun of the season infused everybody with an exuberant energy that made the city vibrate at the sound of laughs and chatters. The castle lists were taming with people soaking in the warmness. The rest of the city grounds weren't any different; invaded by cafe terraces they were a forest of chairs and bodies chirping a hail to the good season.
In a city with so many nooks and crannies, there were still few quiet corners were to enjoy a crepe and a friend's company.
Having one of your best friends in the city you are visiting can only make worth etching those days in your memory album.
I am very lucky to have my dear friend Jamie living in Nantes and during those days it was actually like we lived together. Between dentist appointments, trips to the dry-cleaner and article deadlines, she always found the time to show me around, enjoy a meal together and even organise a whole day of cooking in tandem at her house.
With a rolling pin on her hands and an inquisitive gaze she puts us to work at her chocolate charlotte and coq au vin. Naturally being a profi baker as she is, Jamie had to whip up fresh ladyfingers to line the charlotte mold.
I was instead put at the stove to take care of the chocolate-mousse and the coq au vin. The resulting meal was very relaxing and enjoyable and once I was ready to head back to my couchsurfing hosts the sun was setting on the buzzing city.
The night was still young and another long day of walking and exploring awaited me.
It took me a litle more than 5 hours to cross the city he next day. The path was set by the many churches that punctuate Nantes, some more known than others.
Dedicated to official and modern buildings, the Island of Nantes has an urban structure that really set it aside the historic look of the main city.
The leisure time in Nantes was unfortunately over; it was time to head to Paris for more friendly happinesses, a cooking class and more photo walks; but that's another story...
I really couldn't write this post without including a chocolaty dessert recipe to dedicate my sweet friend Jamie and by struck of luck, the last night I was caught by the craves for chocolate pudding. Not any pudding, mind you, but a quinoa pudding as a play on rice pudding.
I followed a friend suggestion to toast the quinoa grains before cooking them. This held an accentuated nuttiness to the final pudding that made it a stand alone dessert even without the addition of the dark chocolate.
I left some bite in my cooked quinoa, I think it makes the dessert more playful and adds a textural contrast to the richness of dark chocolate.
To accentuate the nuttiness of the toasted quinoa, I chose to cook it using also some evaporated milk instead of cream or pure milk; this also added a little saltiness to the final dessert needed to balance its sweetness and the chocolate bitterness.
Thinking at Jamie's vibrant personality, I couldn't help myself from adding a nice splash of rum to the final pudding. I am sure you will enjoy it.
Chocolate rum quinoa pudding
Ingredients (serve 2):
- 1/3cup/60g quinoa
- 2 teaspoons butter
- 2/3cup/160ml evaporated milk (10% fat)
- 2/3cup/160ml whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon 3% water solution of Stevia or other sweetener to taste
- 30g dark chocolate or to taste, chopped
- 2 teaspoons rum
Toast the quinoa with the butter in a casserole over medium fire for 5 minutes or until it starts to change color and smell nutty. Stir it regularly to prevent it from burning.
Pour the milks into the casserole, followed by the vanilla extract. Cook the quinoa over medium fire stirring regularly, until the pudding will be nice and thick or the quinoa will be cooked to your liking (add extra milk if need be).
Take the quinoa pudding out of the fire and sweeten it to your liking using sugar, Stevia or any other sweetener of your choice.
Add the chopped chocolate and the rum to the warm quinoa and stir until well combined.
Enjoy the pudding warm or at room temperature!