Macarons at the Club House with Speciality Teas

It has been over three years since I hit a golf ball. Blame it on back problems but now I’ve no excuse. As a Scot it should be in my blood but truth be told, I couldn’t even remember how to hold a club! So, this month I went looking for Eric, my patient golf teacher extraordinaire at the Ile Fleury Club. It’s a wonderfully friendly place that boasts a 9-hole course with the prettiest views on the Ile des Impressionists in Chatou on the River Seine.

I must have driven Eric insane; ‘in-Seine’, more like. As the course is on an island, I’ve whacked so many balls in the River Seine that I’m sure its level rises when I’m around. Dangerous practise, indeed.

Indeed Mr. Bond. Pierce Brosnan was here recently filming his upcoming romantic movie, Love is All You Need. My good friend, Emmanuelle, confirmed what a gentleman he is – even if he did refuse to drink her coke. My friends at the club also had their photo taken with him.  I’m trying not to sound jealous but humph! ‘Pierce is all I need’ to discuss golf tactics, movies and macarons, peut-être.

Mamma Mia! Golf is starting to play in my mind. Are the colour of these lemon meringue macarons from the book fluorescent enough? My golf balls need to be bright in Autumn since I can never find them hidden under the leaves!

Why do my pink golf balls hide in the rough?

What about hitting goûter time or Quatre Heures at the 10th hole club house with some macarons? Ideally with speciality ‘tees’; of course.

macarons and different tees

And if you haven’t got the macaron book yet, you’ll be glad to know that speciality teas are suggested with each macaron flavour. Oo-long shot for a 7 iron! Get it?

Macarons and tea, Meester Bond?

Come back to the golf course, Pierce. You forgot your macarons at the club house! And there’s no need to do the course on macarons – it’s all mentioned clearly in the book.

Are you ready to hit goûter time with tea and macarons?

A Fruity Weekend at the King’s Vegetable Garden in Versailles

I lost the plot this weekend. Blame it on the persisting torrents of rain. So when the skies suddenly cleared on Sunday, my daughter and I escaped to the King’s Vegetable Garden (Potager du Roi) in Versailles.

Their gates have been open to the public since 1991 but this October weekend was a special Saveurs du Potager, an annual culinary festival to showcase the diversity of the 300-or-so varieties of fruits and vegetables that are grown here.

Classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, 30 tons of fruit and 20 tons of vegetables are produced each year at the Potager du Roi, thanks to the horticultural school’s students next door. While Le Notre was responsible for the gardens at Versailles, Jean-Baptiste La Quintinie was responsible for building the potager-fruitier over five years (1678-1683) and ensuring the best quality fruit and vegetables on the royal table. La Quintinie’s statue surveys the daily pickings plus the continuation of experiments and new gardening techniques.

Louis XIV was so proud of this garden that he loved to bring visitors such as the Doge of Venice on a tour here, passing the exotic Orangerie en route. The King could show off his own pruning techniques and explain how his talented gardener managed to ensure that asparagus or strawberries could arrive 3 weeks before season by using different manures.

potager du roi Versailles

My eye was drawn to the aromatic part of the garden since I love decorating dishes with edible flowers.  Bourrache or borage is popular here but I can tell you – I made a mistake the other day, decorating a chocolate mousse with one of these flowers.  Tasting one of these flowers was like eating a light fishy cucumber.  Not quite the best chocolate partner. I would suggest adding borage flowers to savoury fish dishes!

Nasturtiums were growing in all their glory.  Claude Monet adored eating them in peppery salads from his garden at Giverny. Personally on a cool, October day I was craving these beautiful parsnip plants for a comforting parsnip, round carrot and coriander soup. With a mini curry mad mac… Speaking of spice, ginger plants were also proudly on show in the gardens.

edible flowers King's Vegetable garden Versailles

Nasturtiums, parsnips and a parsnip and Parisian carrot soup & mac

As Lucie and I were completely lost just trying to find the stand to buy produce from the garden, we literally stumbled into the most amazing man-made grotto. Lucie being the adventurer, ran up some crooked, mossy steps and discovered a secret passage below a rickety bridge linking up to a round outlook tower.  As we gingerly descended into the creepy darkness below, this enormous grotto was waiting to surprise us. Just as well we didn’t come in the other way: that middle photo is a whopping great hole that we luckily missed on the roof!

caves in the king's vegetable garden Versailles France

Inside the long-corridored building, various gardening clubs were showing visitors how to create compost, how to create a shelter for ladybirds, make your own apple juice using a press plus how to construct a ‘hotel’ for insects.

I even discovered that Alkekenge is the real name for physalis cages d’amour (love cages – trust the French to be so romantic) that are taking over our garden. Hm. Shall we just stick with love cages? Grrrrr. Much that I love the name, ‘Reine des Reinettes’, they’re not my favourite apples since they’re far too sweet. Floury apples don’t do it for me. Call me boring, but comfort me with Pink Lady or Braeburns any day.  Beurré Hardy, on the other hand, is one of my favourite pear varieties.  So good you just eat them on their own but if you want to make a gluten free dessert, then why not try some chocolate macarons with poached coffee-vanilla pears?

apple harvest King's Vegetable Garden Versailles

The theme of culinary demonstrations for the afternoon was Italian cooking. Lucie and I watched Venetian cookbook author, Adriana Cardin, in admiration as she managed to show us how to make pasta in front of such a fidgety, noisy audience. OK, so she said to make pasta by hand and forget your pasta machine. What more do you want? She gave us all tastings of homemade (albeit thicker than I’m used to) pasta triangles with her cavroman sauce. Did you know that poor man’s tortellini has no filling? I also didn’t realise that the famous Italian ’00’ flour, difficult to find in Paris, is simply “Farine Type 55”. When I think I carted flour in my suitcase back from our last Italian holiday. Duh.

cookery demonstrations King's Vegetable Garden October Festival Versailles

The last room for us to visit was les épluchures or peelings. Can you see these peeling-inspired chapeaux hats taking off?

Instead the red onion peelings inspired me to make a caramelised red onion tarte tatin, accompanied with a perfectly mineral Sauvignon blanc wine from the Loire Valley to bring out the honey flavours – a simple yet delicious feast to finish off the royal weekend.

Potager du Roi (King’s Vegetable Garden)
10 Rue du Maréchal Joffre
78000 Versailles

January – March: Tues & Thurs 10am-6pm
April-October: Tues-Sun 10am-6pm
du mardi au dimanche de 10h à 18h
November-December: Tues & Thurs 10am-6pm; Sat 10am-1pm

Glace Plombières: No-Churn Candied Fruit Ice Cream

I’d promised the children a taste of the best ice creams in Paris during the summer holidays.

Straight after our UK Roman trip, however, the unusually dismal July temperatures meant replacing ice cream with homemade vanilla macarons. But as soon as that ball o’ fire returned, it was destination Berthillon on Ile Saint-Louis.

Plombieres French Glazed Fruit no churn ice cream

Berthillon is a Parisian institution. So much so that, come August – finally in the wonderful heat of the City of Light – their doors were… closed; shut; fermé; on holidays; en vacances, like most of Paris. Luckily, their ice creams and sorbets were being served by their more commercial neighbours. One of the tempting ice creams on Berthillon’s list was Plombières ice cream, packed with candied fruits.

Berthillon Ile-Saint-Louis Paris best ice creams

As my lucky French parents-in-law live in the Luberon near Apt, the world capital of candied fruits, I’ve an excuse to use Mother-in-Law’s generous bulk supply from the local Candied Fruit factory: candied orange peel strips, lemon peel cubes, glacé cherries and – my favourite – their candied ginger.

So instead of hanging around Ile Saint-Louis for Berthillon to reopen, it was easier to make Plombières ice cream at home. Reaching for my favourite French coffee-table cookbook, France: the Beautiful Cookbook by Gilles Pudlowski with recipes from the Scotto sisters, that was it. Perfect.

  • Ten egg yolks? Fabulous: whites for macarons.
  • Serve with apricot jam? Ideal: I’d just made a batch of apricot and lavender jam.
  • En plus, the recipe didn’t even require an ice cream maker – it’s no churn!

So I ‘ad-Apt-ed’ it, making individual portions for dessert rather than one giant ice cream. This will make a light, fruity, stress-free dessert – and even a handy dessert recipe to have on your Christmas menu.

Plombieres French Glazed Fruit no churn ice cream

Plombières Ice Cream Recipe

In 1858 Napoleon III met Count Cavour (Prime Minister of Sardinia) at Plombières-les-Bains in the Vosges department in Lorraine in northeastern France. As they were secretly negotiating the Treaty of Plombières, the local chef came up this dessert and has been a local speciality ever since.

Cooking Time: 25 minutes
Soaking Time: 2 hours
Freezing Time: At least 2 hours

200g (7 oz) mix of candied fruits, roughly chopped
55ml (2 oz) Kirsch
1.5 l (48 fl oz) whipping cream
250ml (8 fl oz) whole milk
10 egg yolks
200g (7 oz) sugar
1 tsp almond extract
250g (8 oz) apricot jam 

  1. Soak the candied fruits in the Kirsch for a couple of hours. Place a bowl in the fridge in preparation for whipping the cream.
  2. Whisk together the egg yolks with the sugar in a large saucepan until pale and creamy. Gradually whisk in 1 litre of the cream and the milk over a moderate heat. Whisk constantly until the custard coats the spoon.
  3. Remove from the heat, add the almond extract and candied fruits with the Kirsch. Leave to cool, stirring from time to time.
  4. When the custard is completely cooled, whip the remaining 500ml of cream in the chilled bowl until it forms soft peaks.
  5. Fold into the custard then pour into silicone moulds. (Here, I used 12 briochette moulds.) Freeze until firm.
  6. When ready to serve, gently heat the jam in a small saucepan. I If you prefer it smooth, strain the bits.Turn out the ice creams directly on to dessert plates. The beauty of silicone moulds is that you don’t have to run it under warm water first. See? An easy, handy dessert to have up your sleeve.

Glazed fruit no-churn ice cream, Plombieres Lorraine Speciality

And don’t forget you can freeze your macarons too – just defrost before serving and voilà!

P.S. It’s also apt for gluten free diets.