The culinary perfectionist who bakes her cake and eats it too
THERE is a high price to pay for perfectionism, as Mrs Patricia Moussempes well knows. The proprietor of Baker's Dozen has such strong beliefs about food she would rather go hungry than settle for a sub-standard meal. ''I've got to have the real stuff or I'd rather not eat,'' she said. ''No low-calorie substitutes and no artificial flavourings or colours. They drive me crazy.'' Born and raised in Manila, Mrs Moussempes' interest in food, and baking in particular, stems from her childhood. Her mother taught children to cook and was a keen cake baker.
''My mother made wonderful cakes which she used to sell as a family sideline,'' said Mrs Moussempes. ''Fruit cakes were her speciality, but she also made rich chocolate cakes and brownies. She had very good taste.'' This inherited interest led to Mrs Moussempes taking a diploma in hotel and restaurant administration. A desire to travel led her into the airline industry and to a new life in Hongkong. Two years later, she married a Frenchman and the travelling - and exposure to the world's best cuisines - continued apace.
Her passion has also taken her to top French cooking schools and American conventions. After she married, she started a non-commercial business making cakes for friends. But armed with a battery of professional qualifications from such esteemed schools as Roger Verge and Le Notre, she has turned to cake baking and decorating full time.
Being around cakes all day, and rejecting diet foods, Mrs Moussempes pays a price for her high standards. At home, the evening meal is usually a salad.
But there is no question of watching the diet when the Moussempes have friends round for a meal. Sunday lunch is home-made, unpretentious French food.
A favourite Sunday meal starts with individual puff pastry vol-au-vents filled with a mushroom veloute sauce. This is followed by a rich coq au vin served with haricot beans, sauteed baby turnips and dauphinoise potatoes.
In typical French style, a frisee salad with lardons comes next, then a platter of cheeses served with crusty bread. Dessert involves a more difficult decision.
''I always have trouble deciding,'' said Mrs Moussempes. ''But I'll probably settle for an apple tart or a dark chocolate cake served with creme anglaise.'' BLANCQUETTE DE VEAU (serves 6) 1 onion 3 tablespoons butter 1 tablespoon oil 1.6 kg veal (cut in cubes) 3 tablespoons flour 2 carrots, sliced 1 leek, sliced Bouquet garni 2 egg yolks 115 ml fresh cream Juice of 1/2 lemon Salt and pepper Heat the oil and butter in a large pan and add the veal. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle on the flour and cook for three minutes. Pour in enough water or stock to cover the meat and add the carrots, leek and bouquet garni. Simmer gently for one hour or until the veal is tender.
Remove meat and keep warm. Strain the remaining liquid, reserving the vegetables. Return the liquid to the pan and boil for a few minutes until slightly reduced. Beat the egg yolks with the cream and lemon juice. Add to the liquid and warm through. Do not boil.
Return the meat and vegetables, adjusting seasoning if necessary, and serve. Accompany with buttered rice or potatoes. MARQUISE AU CHOCOLATE (serves 6) 280 g dark chocolate 115 g unsalted butter 4 egg whites 2 egg yolks 30 g sugar 115 ml whipped cream Small pieces of chocolate Melt chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Add the butter and stir until melted. Remove from the heat and mix in the egg yolks. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold in, one at a time, the sugar, chocolate and whipped cream. Pour the mousse into a Pyrex dish or dessert ring, adding the pieces of chocolate between the layers. Chill for 24 hours. Serve with cream anglaise.