Worse than the administration penpushers, and one rung down on the evolution ladder, are security staff members.

Getting a visa, albeit diplomatic, requires you to pay two visits to the consulate. When I first dropped my application, it was almost 30°C in Paris so I wasn't wearing much. A mini skirt and a tshirt. And I was still sweating like an angora rabbit trying to get a suntan on a St Tropez beach. The security guy made me empty my bag, tried a couple of lame jokes which I ignored politely. He then asked me to walk through the metal detector. I bleeped. Poop (crotte de bique). He asked me if I had anything in my pockets (although there was clearly no space at all in the sodding pockets - their sole purpose is decorative I assume), made me walk through the thingy again, same result. His next suggestion (here, picture the guy with his team of chuckling and drooling simpletons in the background) was that I take the skirt off. I did my tried and tested teacher's I'm-not-impressed-you-moron glare (mes gros yeux de prof), quite successfully and walked off wrapped in poise and dignity. Of course.

Two days later, coming back to pick up the visa, believe it or not, it was the same security team. Because it had been raining, the air was much cooler, so I was wearing trousers, as you do. The security guy looked at me and asked me with a straight face and a raised eyebrow "What, are you cold today?"

How bloody cheeky (quel culot)! Anyway, the ensuing baking vastly compensated for the episode.


Crumbs and grease spots on your passport just assert your status as a travelling gourmet.

The recipe is basically a quatre quart one, that is, one where you mix equal portions of egg, sugar, butter and flour, but with a twist.Easy peasy (les doigts dans le nez).

2 eggs
100g soft butter
100g flour
100g sugar
1tsp baking powder
1 fat tsp or normal tbsp of pistachio paste diluted in a tbsp of cream, or milk
as much vanilla extract as you want/can afford 1 pinch of salt

Cream the butter and the sugar together until it pales, add the egg yolks, then the flour and the baking  powder. You might want to add a glug of milk at that stage to loosen it up. Very little.


Add the whites, which you will have beaten to soft peaks with the pinch of salt, incorporating one third energetically first, and then folding the rest in, gently. The dough looked a bit odd at that stage, but it did not affect the overall texture.

In a separate bowl, combine the pistachio paste and the spoonful of cream.


Add one third of the dough to that mix, and combine delicately.


In a bowl of matching colour, because you are colloquial, but nevertheless stylish.

In the remaining two thirds of the dough, add the vanilla extract (loads for me) and combine.

Then the open secret (le secret de Polichinelle) is disclosed (oh come ooooon, you knew the trick!): the layering. Don't try any fancy schmancy technique of alternating spoonfuls of dough followed by a couple of fork stabs, it's bound to provide unsatisfactory results. You want the real deal, the amazing, ladies and gentlemen,... convexion swirl!

Simply layer the dough (vanilla, then pistachio, then vanilla again) in your cake pan. Yeah, just like that. No fork stabbing. Some people do it with a piping bag, but a spoon works a treat (une cuillère fait l'affaire).


Drop the fork, I said!

For such a small cake, it took me 30 minutes at 180°C (well not all along, I had to lower the temperature inside my crappy oven so that my good friend the marbré didn't char - but that's my broiler for you).


You crazy cat, you do know you'll have to stop going up at some point, don't you?

I believe it was a success. Perhaps it could have cooked a little longer. It looked pretty anyway. The consulate security staff would have been wowed witless.


Not that they have any wits to speak of, anyway.