Forgotten Legumes, Old Crosnes & a Beetroot Macaron

It has been yet another chilly, damp week outside Paris. A trip to the local market at St Germain-en-Laye quickly brightened up the spirits, though, fuelling the kitchen with inspirational seasonal produce. My favourite vegetable stall is run by someone who not only knows his radishes but he could possibly be moonlighting as The Barber of Seville.

Forgotten vegetables

Remembering our roots at the local French market

The French call many of these root vegetables, les légumes oubliés. Forgotten perhaps since they skipped a generation as grandmothers were glad to no longer serve up what they lived on during the war? One thing is for sure: parsnips (panais), Jerusalem artichokes (topinambours) and rutabagas are back “in” on the dining table. I love standing in the market’s queues, discussing how to cook the various produce. One kind woman gave me the following wee tip.

Crosnes or Chinese Artichokes

No, this is not Hallowe’en. These may look creepy at first glance but they are crosnes or Chinese artichokes (in Italy they’re called Queen’s potatoes). As the name suggests their sweet taste is not unlike an artichoke and a light version of a potato. Armed with a scrubbing brush under running water, I tackled the hardest part of cleaning them energetically to remove the outer skin, then snipped off the ends.

Cooked Crosnes

One of the best ways to prepare Crosnes is to simply toss them in butter over a high heat with a couple of chopped shallots for a few minutes. Then add just enough chicken stock to cover, simmer for 15 minutes until the stock has reduced but there’s still enough sauce to cover them. Season to taste et voilà. They are delicious served as a side dish for fish, chicken, meat or game.

Horseradish

This odd looking fellow is horseradish. Before coming to France, I thought horseradish was a sauce you found in jars 😉 but this fresh raifort certainly packs a punch! So what better way to use it than in a macaron! Here’s one I made earlier: a beetroot (or beet) and horseradish mini macaron that can be served with an apéritif or if you’re feeling on the wild side, serve it with the starter…

Beetroot & Horseradish macaron

Beetroot & Horseradish Macaron

I was left with just enough beetroot to make a chocolate-beet macaron or one of my favourite cakes: a dark chocolate and beetroot cake. That was a tough decision to make until I discovered that I was low on stock on aged egg whites. So the compromise?

Chocolate praline macarons with chocolate-beet fondants

Chocolate praline macarons (using the egg white reference chart at the end of the book when you come up short) with a praline ganache, using the full quantities. That way, there’s tons of extra ganache for that extra gooey praline sensation…

Orange Blossom & Cinnamon Pannacotta

Moroccan-style panna cotta


A quick, light and easy dessert that can either be served at parties in little shot glasses or for dinner parties by using non-stick silicone moulds.  When ready to serve, sprinkle with ground pistachios and serve with sliced oranges, toasted pinenuts and sprigs of mint for a Moroccan-style version. Needless to say, serve with orange blossom macarons (see page 77).

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Chilling Time: 2 hours

3 gelatine leaves (2g each)
400 ml organic single cream
100 ml orange flower water
4 tbsps caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick

  1. Soak the gelatine in cold water for 5-6 minutes.
  2. Heat together the cream and orange flower water in a pan with the cinnamon stick and the sugar.
  3. Remove the cinnamon stick.  Squeeze in the gelatine and stir to dissolve into the warm cream.
  4. Pour into shot glasses or into silicone moulds (here I’m using briochette moulds).
  5. Leave to cool in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
  6. When ready to serve, run the underside of the moulds briefly in warm water then carefully place them directly on the serving plates.

To Orange Blossom & Paris Lovers

It has been chilly in Paris this week. On a damp, drizzly Monday morning a brisk walk through the Tuileries Gardens was therapy to banish the winter blues instead of taking an extra metro stop. It was spookily desserted except for wrapped-up, serious joggers on the run. I say serious: have you ever seen a happy jogger?  Perhaps everyone was inside the Orangerie Museum, marvelling at Monet’s Water Lilies. The cold clinging humidity certainly didn’t stop these two from having a good neck in the corner, though.

Orangery Museum Paris Tuileries Gardens

The Orangerie at the Palace of the Louvre was quite the trend in the 17th & 18th Centuries. Royal and aristocratic residences all needed an orangery with citrus trees in tubs or under glass in winter to impress.

I just wanted to impress hubby with something different for dessert. So, realising there were no egg whites ageing (wonder what for?), orange blossom ice cream seemed fitting after a couscous – and more importantly, since they use 8 yolks. How to make it? I simply replaced 100ml of the cream from the ice cream recipe in the book with orange flower water and added a touch of orange colouring to the cream. Simple and pure heaven.

Orange Flower Water Ice-cream

 

I adore the heavy perfume of orange blossom and I know I’m not alone. I use it in the form of room scents, shower gels and body lotions but when it comes to food, it adds a whole new dimension.

Adding a touch of orange blossom water (or orange flower water) can take desserts or pastries to another level. In France l’eau de fleur d’oranger is normally added to madeleine cakes and marshallows (guimauve). But it’s almost like a secret ingredient that you want to keep for yourself so that nobody can make quite the same brioches, crêpes, gaufres (waffles), cookies, rice puddings or fig tarts (these are coming on le blog.)

Adding it to a simple orange salad or couscous can whisk you on a magic carpet for a few moments to Marrakesh. I sometimes even put a dash of it in pumpkin soup for that touch of je ne sais quoi. I’ve added my recipe take on a creamy panna cotta: a cinnamon, orange blossom & pistachio panna cotta.

Moroccan-style panna cotta

And it goes without saying (ça va sans dire) that orange blossom macarons are one of our favourites. This time I infused an Earl Grey teabag into the cream to add an extra powerful fragrant punch to accompany a pot of Lady Grey tea at goûter time. I can’t believe we polished off 40 of them already…

Orange Blossom & Earl Grey Tea Macarons

Orange Blossom & Earl Grey Tea Parisian Macarons

This post was published long before even Mum knew I had a blog. If you would like to leave a comment now, it’s not too late. You’ll make my day! Jill xo

Who’s King? (Or Queen?)

I love living in France. Just when the festivities are over and we grudgingly dismantle the Christmas decorations, there’s something else to celebrate: Epiphany. We do this by eating the Galette des Rois (or King Cake) which takes its name from the biblical 3 Kings. I was going to take down our traditional crêche (nativity scene) with the other decorations, but I was quite rightly told by my daughters to keep it since they hadn’t yet added the Kings and of course, Mum – we haven’t yet eaten the galette! I took a hint.

Kings at Epiphany

In French supermarkets, you begin to see them as early as Christmas time. Officially my agenda informed me that Epiphany was on Sunday 2nd January so we’ve already had quite a few before the traditional 6 January. No doubt we’ll also have quite a few more… This week the Pâtisseries around Paris have been going mad displaying them in their vitrines.

galettes des rois in Paris Pâtisseries

Normally filled with frangipane or almond cream, the galette includes a fève or trinket hidden inside. The youngest person in the group sits under the table and calls each person’s name in turn as the galette is cut without them seeing and then served out. That way there is no favouritism if the person cutting the galette sees the trinket. The person who gets the piece with the trinket inside gets to be crowned king (or queen) for the day.

cutting the galette des rois french tradition

Who’s snooping around under the table?

The Galette des Rois is so easy to make at home yourself (see my French king cake recipe here), especially as in France they sell ready-made frangipane mixes in the supermarkets and all you need to add is some water to the mix (although I add milk and a touch more almond extract.) Well, there are times when we’re allowed to cheat when the kids go back to school.

galette des rois frangipane recipe

It’s amazing just how many galettes we have consumed recently as here is just a selection of my children’s trinket collection. Don’t you just love the mini macarons? Merci, Emma 🙂

fève trinkets for galettes des rois

Hm. You guessed it. It was inspiration for some of my own macarons in the style of a galette des rois. Like all macarons, this is gluten-free.

macarons in the style of galette des rois Jill Colonna

galette style macarons with a feve inside

I simply adapted my recipe for Almond Macarons on P.38 of the book, adding 70g ground almonds, 1 tsp bitter almond extract and a good tablespoon of Kirsch (or you could use dark rum) to the macaron filling. Don’t forget to add a trinket inside. OK, the one above is a bit too visible but I was scared that folk may break their teeth 😉 I bought a couple of lovely fève collections this week from Saint Germain-en-Laye: clocks and Venetian masks to get us in the Carnaval Spirit.

Oh, and to finish off with a song, you’ll need to sing this with your crown on:

J’aime la galette savez vous comment ?

Quand elle est bien faite avec du beurre dedans, tra-la-la… !

Crab, Ginger & Coriander Gluten-free Quiches

 

This is such an easy starter. You’re basically replacing the pastry with cornflour, so they are gluten free. Prepare the mix earlier in the day and chill until needed. Pour into 6 briochette silicone moulds just before your guests arrive and bake during the aperitif. Serve with a herb salad with lemon olive oil or with Thai Green Curry Macarons (see p.105) for something different.

They are also ideal served as minis for party finger-food or as an apéritif: just use smaller moulds and bake for only 10 minutes. It’s amazing how my French guests love these in particular – especially the slim French ladies; I think it’s because they’re so light and there’s no pastry. 😉

Serves 6 as a starter

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time:
40 minutes

3 large eggs
400g crab
300ml crème fraîche
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp fresh coriander
2cm grated ginger
1 red chili, finely sliced
50g freshly grated parmesan
seasoning

1 Preheat the oven to 180°C

2 Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and pour mixture into silicone briochette moulds.

3 Bake for 20 minutes.

Ideal partners: chilled South African chenin blanc or pinot blanc from Alsace. My own preference is my Frenchman with the wine too.