photo courtesy of The Kitchn

La socca, as it’s known in the southern French city of Nice, is nothing more than chickpea flatbread. Cheap and popular street food, it can be enjoyed as an appetizer with a glass of wine or on its own as a snack or even for breakfast. It’s great to serve to guests. Super-easy to make (I’m about to make some right now), it only calls for three ingredients: water, olive oil and chickpea flour (available in health and organic food stores).

I don’t own a cast-iron skillet, so I pour the batter into an ordinary round cake tin (greased with olive oil.) As for the optional ingredient to sprinkle on top – za’tar – this is a Middle Eastern spice mixture (not easy to find). You could replace it with thyme or rosemary. Thanks to two Lebanese colleagues of mine at work, they bring me some fresh from Beirut (it really is delicious on pizza, rubbed into chicken, on feta cheese, etc.) You could make your own; here are the ingredients of za’tar  –

4 tsp sesame seeds 
4 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano 
4 tsp dried marjoram 
4 tsp ground sumac 
1 tsp sea salt 
4 tsp ground cumin

As for the socca, here’s what The Kitchn says – (link and recipe below)

How to Serve Socca

Out of the oven you can slice the socca into bite-sized snacking pieces or into more substantial wedges for lunch or dinner. Socca is pretty delicious all on its own, but you can serve it warm from the oven with cheese and olives. 

Socca could easily stand in as a gluten-free pizza crust or as a replacement for the toast on your morning breakfast plate. I’ve easily passed plain, honey-drenched socca off as dessert for my children. We recently ate it topped with fried eggs and a dusting of Parmesan cheese for a late lunch; the runny egg yolk soaking into the creamy, crispy bits was just the thing to make me stop and marvel at the simple pleasure of life-affirming recipes like this one.

bon appétit !


rue de la Sourdière

Tucked discreetly behind the Place du Marché Saint-Honoré in Paris’s 1st arrondissement is an unassuming narrow street where you’ll find one of the city’s best sushi restaurants and a leather goods shop.

Here’s what people are saying about JIN, located at number six rue de la Sourdière.

Without a doubt Jin, along with Okuda, is one of the great Japanese tables in Paris, and an experience in and of itself. it costs between €55 and €125 a head, but save up and will be worth it from the very first sip of sparkling sake. The sushi-bar feel has a sober decor of imported Japanese wood, with nothing to distract the diner from her dinner. There are only twelve seats, set around the chef’s workstation, and it’s here you eat and watch the work of chef Takuya Watanabe (Taku) – aloof and imposing, he already heads up four other restaurants in Sapporo.

To be clear, you don’t come to Jin for a boozy catch-up with your mates – all attention here is focused on the food. Taku and his chef’s ritualised preparation is mesmeric, as they repeat their cutting and slicing motions with the precision of a couple of metronomes, working on fresh fish pulled from Japanese cypress-wood boxes or modelling sashimi by hand with translucent rice. Service is thoughtful and discreet. It’s an almost pointillist meal, all the dishes served separately – a piece of raw lobster with a spinach leaf here, a lightly acidic monkfish liver there, or perhaps sea urchin sushi. Everything is done with extreme finesse, the flavours strong and distinct, the light-handed seasoning measured out by the millimetre, like freshly-grated wasabi root without a hint of sweetness. (TIME OUT magazine)

A new showcase for Japanese cuisine, right in the heart of Paris, Jin is first and foremost about the know-how of Takuya Watanabe, the chef, who comes from Sapporo. Before your eyes, he creates delicious sushi and sashimi, using fish sourced from Brittany, Oléron and Spain. The whole menu is a treat. (MICHELIN GUIDE)

As for the leather goods shop located at number eleven, laContrie is an independent family-owned boutique and workshop. Handbags, belts and accessories are entirely hand-crafted.

Another recommended restaurant located at 24 Place du Marché Saint-Honoré is L’Absinthe.

Gabrielle Deydier: what it’s like to be fat in France

This article appeared in last Sunday’s Observer, sister newspaper to The Guardian (link below.)

I just wanted to say that when I went to my favorite clothing store the other day, Massimo Dutti, in search of a dress I had seen on their website, the store – all of the French stores, in fact – did not carry it in my size.

On the British website the dress is available in size 14 (my size). But not on the French website. When I went into the shop on the Champs-Elysées and found the dress, it only came in two sizes: Small and Medium.

“Do you have Large?” I asked the salesperson.

“No,” she replied frostily, sizing my body up and down.

“Why not?” I said.

“Because we just don’t.”

This attitude is in sharp contrast to the response I used to get in the 1990s when I was a slim, svelte size 8. Back then saleswomen fell over themselves wanting to sell me clothes.

upcoming literary events at Shakespeare and Co. bookshop

When I looked at the website and saw that Alan Hollinghurst is coming to town, I gave a little shriek of delight. I love Hollinghurst’s work. On October 17 I’ll be able to sit in the same room with him and listen to him read from his new book, The Sparsholt Affair. And then I’ll buy the book and have him sign it. Yes, I’m an author groupie … et alors?

Then there’s Gérard Depardieu who’ll be reading from his memoir, Innocent. That seems like an odd title. I would’ve thought Rulebreaker, Ballbreaker or Renegade would be more appropriate. Ah, Gérard … toujours le provocateur. Anyway, that’s on October 5th and I might go to that event too. (It’ll be jam-packed.)

All events are free with limited seating. Starting time is 7 pm.

Swedish Sigrid Rausing, owner of Granta publishing house and one of Britain’s richest women, will be reading from her new book Mayhem: A Memoir. “A searingly powerful memoir about the impact of addiction on a family. In the summer of 2012 a woman named Eva was found dead in the London townhouse she shared with her husband, Hans K. Rausing. The couple had struggled with drug addiction for years, often under the glare of tabloid headlines. Now, writing with singular clarity and restraint the editor and publisher Sigrid Rausing, tries to make sense of what happened to her brother and his wife.” That’s on September 21st.

On October 12, award-winning Guardian journalist Gary Younge will be discussing his new book, Another Day in the Death of America. A powerful, moving and important book on the effect of gun crime on children in the US.

On Saturday 23 November 2013 ten children were shot dead. The youngest was nine; the oldest was nineteen. They fell in suburbs, hamlets and ghettos. None made the national news. It was just another day in the death of America, where on average seven children and teens are killed by guns daily.

Younge picked this day at random, searched for their families and tells their stories. What emerges is a sobering, searing, portrait of youth and guns in contemporary America. This is a book which will lead the news agenda on publication and leave the reader knocked sideways by its emotional power.

So many books! So many human stories!

And so much more. Take a look at the website.


Benedict Cumberbatch and Jennifer Jason Leigh in new Showtime series, Melrose

A few weeks ago I googled “best novels of the decade” and the name Edward St. Aubyn came up. Not knowing the name, I googled around and came across a series of St. Aubyn’s semi-autobiographical books called The Patrick Melrose Novels. Five of these novels, Never MindBad NewsSome HopeMother’s Milk, and At Last were republished in a single volume in 2012. They are based on the author’s own life, growing up in a highly dysfunctional upper-class English family, dealing with the deaths of both parents, alcoholism, heroin addiction and recovery, and marriage and parenthood.

Intrigued, I ordered the books through Amazon U.K. and am reading them now. To say that the stories are about childhood adversity is an understatement.

And then, to my surprise, I learned that Showtime will be airing a five-part television mini-series, called Melrose, based on these books.

Screenwriter David Nicholls says – “I’ve been a huge admirer of Edward St. Aubyn’s novels for years and can’t wait to bring these dark, witty, brilliant books to the screen. Benedict is the perfect Patrick Melrose.”

Blythe Danner will play Nancy, the wealthy Park Avenue sister to Eleanor Melrose (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Here’s the author in his London flat.


Born in London in 1960, St. Aubyn grew up in London and France, where his family had a house. His father, Roger, of half-Scottish descent, was a former soldier and a surgeon. His mother, Lorna, was descended from a wealthy American family based in Cincinnati. St Aubyn has described an unhappy childhood in which he was repeatedly raped by his father from the ages of five to eight with the complicity of his mother.

He attended Westminster School and in 1979 went on to read English at Keble College, Oxford by which time he was a heroin addict. He entered psychotherapy at the age of twenty-five and subsequently became a professional writer.

Here are two very good articles about the author and how writing helped to exorcise his demons –

Toting his father’s ashes around the streets of New York, ‘Patrick realised that it was the first time he had been alone with his father for more than ten minutes without being buggered, hit or insulted.’

Irving Penn at the Grand Palais


If you missed the Irving Penn exhibition in New York, you can catch it at the Grand Palais in Paris from September 21st, 2017 to January 29th, 2018.

In a vast retrospective exploring the dimensions of the great legends of twentieth-century photography, this is the new fall-winter exhibition to be staged at the Grand Palais.


The photo above, entitled Three Moroccan Women, was taken in 1971, but it could be today. And not just in Morocco but – now that Islamic Revivalism is in full swing – in Britain, Canada, the USA, anywhere really, except France where the burqa is banned.

Born a hundred years ago on June 16th, 1917 in Plainfield, New Jersey, the American photographer, with his eye for nuance, grains and the detail of photography, made a name for himself thanks to his collaborations with Vogue US dating back to 1943, a name that rapidly spread through eminent and distinguished productions seducing the biggest magazines and international labels. The Grand Palais thus sheds light on over two hundred images, from the portraits of his muse and wife Lisa Fonssagrives, of Pablo Picasso and Marlene Dietrich, to his vibrant and sensual flowers via his beautiful nudes.

Grand Palais, Galeries nationales, 3 Avenue du Général Eisenhower, 75008 Paris

Buy your tickets in advance on-line here –