Hazelnut Syrup – Hot drinks rejoice, and Paris by night
Approx cost: €3
Approx calories (per serving): n/a
Approx preparation and cooking time: 60 minutes
Winter sure seems to be drawing in here – temperatures have dropped and it’s time to pull out the “heavy” bed coverings, instead of the thin summer one. I’m lucky because my apartment has not just under-floor, but above ceiling heating, so it can get really warm and snug here in the winter. Of course, it can even sometimes get too hot, so then you have to make a choice between whether you want to sweat it out inside, or suffer the icy blast from outside. There’s no half-measures here either – every single “window” in our apartment is actually a floor-to-ceiling door; indeed, one entire wall of our living room is made up of these doors and boy, is cleaning them a pain. Anyway, as a result, there is no “cracking the window open a bit”… it’s all or nothing. Usually it’s best to just wrap up a bit and go and stand on the balcony and hope you cool down. I have been shirking my “duties” recently of taking some adventures, preferring instead to stay at home in the warm. I can however dip into some of my archives from my photography collection and post a few that maybe you’ll find interesting, so to that end – today’s topic? Paris… by night! As always, these photos can be downloaded in full resolution from my Downloads Page, in case you wanted to use them for anything – wallpaper, whatever. Enjoy, and on with the show.
Let’s start our little trip at Place de la Concorde. This giant square at the end of the Champs-Elysées is beautiful by night – especially at the end of the year, when they put a giant ferris wheel there. Some small stands at the base sell snacks and drinks, and the air is filled with the smell of cotton candy, popcorn, coffee and of course crêpes. On a clear day (or night), you can stand on the steps of the “Grande Arche” at La Défense and see the square from there, even though it’s more than 7km away. Walking across the roads can be hazardous (even navigating them by car is bad enough as I found out the other day) so you’ll definitely want to make sure you use crossings! The square itself is steeped in history – being the place of execution of many notable historical figures, including Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette by guillotine – and is very close to many important buildings – embassies, exclusive hotels and the Prime Minister’s residence to name just a few (I just found this out a year ago or so… it explains why they always have about 30 police vans parked just off the square every night!)
Venturing behind the ferris wheel you’ll see the Jardin des Tuileries. Not my favourite park in Paris, but a pleasant place to spend some time nevertheless. Another place with a fascinating history, this park was once the enormous “playground” of Louis XIII after the death of his father in 1610.
[...] he used it for hunting, and he kept a menagerie of animals. On the north side of the gardens, Marie de Medicis established a school of riding, stables, and a covered manege for exercising horses.
Walking all the way through the Tuileries Garden will actually take you right up to the Louvre museum, but in this case we’re going to veer off a little and exit the garden to the south, stopping for a pause on a little bridge across the Seine river, called “Passerelle de Solférino”. From here you can get a lovely view of the famous Musée d’Orsay on the right, the Musée du Louvre on the left and the iconic cathedral, Notre Dame de Paris, immediately ahead.
…But we’re not going there… not just yet. Let’s go back the way we came, walk almost up to the Louvre, swing left just before the big glass pyramids and head out into the Rue de Rivoli. Walking on a bit you’ll find yourself on the Avenue de l’Opéra, right next to the part of Paris where all the Japanese stores and restaurants are. It’s also here that you’ll find the Comédie Française. Founded by a royal decree of Louis XIV in 1680, it’s one of the few state theatres in France and the only state theatre to have its own troupe of actors.
Ok, now we can head back down towards the Notre Dame de Paris. Heading east on the Rue de Rivoli you’ll soon get to the “Ile de la Cité” – the island in the river which has the cathedral on it. Just behind it is the smaller “Ile St Louis” – expensive apartments and awesome ice-cream can be had here, but to conclude the little trip tonight, here’s a collage of three photos. One showing the view from the bridge, “Pont au Change”, crossing over to the Ile de la Cité, looking east. You can see the massively impressive Paris town hall in the background. Another photo shows the east end of the cathedral, and of course, what little photo-tour of Paris would be complete without seeing the Eiffel Tower, so there’s another one I threw in just “because” :).
I’ll try and post more “adventures” soon… it’s just been so cold! All this however brings me back to the title of today’s post! Who doesn’t like a nice hot drink when the weather is foul? You want to wrap your hands around a steaming mug of whatever your favourite brew might be and sip your chills away. Sometimes though, you want something a little more exciting than just “coffee, black”. I know, I know – I love coffee, but just occasionally, I like to jazz it up a little. Now there are many ways you can do this – hard liquor, whipped cream, sachets of “instant cappuccino mix” (….. seriously????), or you can save a bit of money and make your own syrups. My local Starbucks sells vanilla and caramel flavoured syrups, but they’re my least favourite syrups – why can’t they sell nice ones – mint, cherry, raspberry, almond etc. In any case – it was this lack of syrups which prompted me to make my own.
The super awesome added bonus of this is that once you’ve made the syrups you end up with a huge pile of syrup covered, smashed-up hazelnuts which you can turn into a damn nice snack, so nothing is wasted. I ended up paying a lot for my hazelnuts because I bought them in small bags from my local store – if you shop smart at a market you can probably get a huge quantity of hazelnuts for the same price, so the price I’ve mentioned above is probably a bit of a high ceiling. As always, you’re dealing with boiling sugar, so watch yourselves. If hazelnuts aren’t your thing, you can apply the same technique to almonds.
Have a great Sunday everyone, and I hope you enjoy your next cup of coffee
- 500g Sugar (Demerara is best, though plain granulated will still work)
- 0.5 litres Water
- 300g Hazelnuts
- Start by turning on the oven to preheat at about 160 degrees Celsius and then mix the water and sugar in a large saucepan. Mix well to ensure you dissolve the sugar as best as possible in the water.
- Take the hazelnuts and place them in a baking tray. Spread them out and place into the pre-heated oven. Roast them for about 20 minutes, shaking the pan every now and again, until they are starting to brown and are smelling nice.
- Once the nuts are ready, place them inside a clean, folded up tea-cloth. Rub them against a table or each other firmly – though not so hard that they break up – to remove the husky peel parts. Pick out the cleaned nuts and place them into another tea-cloth (or a bowl, shake out the current tea-cloth, and then return the nuts to it).
- Beat the nuts to pieces with a meat-hammer or rolling pin. You don’t want the pieces to be too fin, and definitely not a powder. Just – imagine dividing a hazelnut into about 6 pieces… there you go. That’s what you want to aim for. Place the broken up nuts into the sugar/water solution and place on a hot stove. Bring to the boil stirring all the time and boil for about 5 minutes before lowering the heat slightly and simmer until the solution has reduced in volume by about one third. Stir the solution regularly during this time and taste occasionally (don’t burn your tongue!) to ensure the syrup is not burning. The process may take from 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how hard you’re simmering it. Note that if you can try and simmer it for around 45 minutes the hazelnut flavour will be stronger than if it was just simmered for 30 minutes.
- Once you have a good looking syrup, strain it once into a new pan. Place the nuts into a clean baking tray, lined with baking paper, and place into the oven. Turn the oven on to about 80 degrees Celsius and roast for about 2 hours (or more if required) – at the end of this you’ll have a sweet, nutty, crunchy treat!
- Meanwhile, the syrup should have cooled sufficiently. You’ll need a suitable receptacle to store it in. I used a leftover syrup bottle from Starbucks, though you can use any kind of jar, bottle etc. Clean it out and then strain the syrup again, using a finer mesh strainer this time (I used a tea strainer), into a funnel and straight into the bottle. Seal up and allow to cool somewhere before storing away. Enjoy with coffee, hot chocolate, poured on ice-cream, pie… any way you like