Stacking Up with Macarons for Christmas

I’m hopping mad today.  Just as I was casually showing off last week to my French parents-in-law during their stay that my back was great – ‘never felt better; I’m as fit as a fiddle, look at me while scraping up the leaves’ – my back strings pinged yesterday. Thank goodness for painkillers but let’s hope that clever osteopath (with the fancy carpeted staircase and classical music in the waiting room overlooking the Arc de Triomphe) can sort me out this afternoon otherwise I’ll, I’ll, I’ll …
… cry also at the painful bill.

Could this be Mad About Macarons’ book spine?

Perhaps my spine has simply turned into a stack of macarons since the book came out? A sweet stack of five chocolate and exotic fruit macarons, please, for our 4 o’ clock goûter. Turn to page 89 for the recipe but speaking of stacks, we hit 3333 new macaron ‘likers’ on Facebook. That’s a delicious stack of macaronivores, don’t you think?

A few weeks ago, when we hit 2222 likes, I couldn’t resist playing with the lego macs to represent it in macaron stack form too and to see our newly painted kitchen. Well, I just did one wall.

It’s turning into a habit. Hm. 2235? We even had some chocolate-caramel macarons left to do it, although we were far too greedy to wait for that stack of five to stay put. This is the kids not me… I’m way too busy to be playing around, ahem. You see, I keep promising that manuscript for book two but without a strict deadline, I keep adding more sweet macarons and pastries and joking around. I’m needing a teacher to say STOP!

I wonder when we’ll hit 4444 likers (my speller here prefers lickers)?  If it’s what I hear that things will be changing with Facebook, it may be a long time. So if you wish to continue following the mad macaron antics on Facebook, apparently you just need to click on the right tab on the page (next to the Like tab) ‘Add to interest list‘ and that’s you set. Don’t forget you can opt out at any moment.

Don’t forget also that you can freeze your macarons! Make them now in advance, stock up your macaron ‘freezer bank’ and they’ll be great in time for Christmas.  What flavours of macarons do you fancy making?

Happy St Andrews Day to all our Scottish friends. Check out Jacqueline’s How to be a Gourmand Scottish round-up to celebrate. At least I have a great excuse for the other single malty kind of painkiller this weekend!

Mad About Macarons has gone Dutch!

Maak de echte Franse macarons. It has a wonderful ring to it, doesn’t it?

Great news! The Dutch version of ‘Mad About Macarons: Make Macarons Like the French’ has been released in Amsterdam from Good Cook Publishing.

Something Dutch was already in the air this April around Paris. With 60,000 tulip bulbs planted by the good people at the Rotary Club in aid of Cancer Research, our local Park Corbière was splashed with welcome colour to announce Spring’s arrival. At first glance, the vivid lines and dabs of colour merged like squiggly waves from a Van Gogh painting. Lucie was so excited about picking her first tulips with her sister, Julie, that even crutches and a sprained ankle didn’t deter her from joining in for the cause.

Both sisters knew she could replenish her energy quickly, as there were some macarons waiting to be pounced on at home. One of their favourite macaron flavours is lemon meringue (that’s citroenmeringue) or lemon-cinnamon-vanilla-poppy seed; that’s Vanille-citroen-maanzaad-kaneelmacarons. Who would think we could attempt to learn Dutch the sweet way?

One fascinating translation is the giant pistachio macaron with strawberry cream: Pistachemacaron met aardbeien en slagroom. Or it’s the Pruimedant, armagnac-sinaasappelmacarons. Are you listening carefully? So what is that translated back to English, please?  Turn to page 79 for the answer and you’ll also have some macaron decorating tips using a paintbrush.

Good Cook Publishing has included a handy list of baking supply addresses in both Holland and Belgium in the annex. Plus they remind us that all macarons are gluten-vrij!

Here’s to the Dutch version, making macarons in Holland and to Waverley Books and Good Cook Publishing for producing it in time for Christmas for our sweet Dutch friends.

Cheers! Now what’s that in Dutch, please?

Lemon Sauce for Roast Chicken and Stuffed Mini Pumpkins

This week the Autumnal chill has hit abruptly, just as much as returning to school routines after the mid-term holiday. Fumbling for lost gloves, struggling with a new swift boot walk as feet are in straight-jacketed shock with thick chaussettes, plus attempting to look like the chic French women with their scarves nonchalantly thrown over shoulders, I found myself gravitating towards the magical sizzling chicken rôtisseries dotted along the street on the way to the market.

That was it; roast chicken for a perfectly quick, comforting dinner. Mention chicken in St Germain-en-Laye and there’s only one place to make for at the market: in the central aisle, you’ll find Monsieur Dee. He’s not difficult to find since he pulls the crowds not just for his graceful service but his produce is in another league – such as the enormous duck filets, paupiettes parcels and saucisses de volaille (poultry sausages.)

By the time I arrive, most of the roasted chickens have disappeared. Before I know it, in pops a few extra chicken filets and a customary ‘bouquet du jardin’ of parsley on the house, as he tells me persil is for les dames, pas les hommes. Adoraaable Monsieur Dee!

Jack Be Little Pumpkins

Just across from Monsieur Dee’s sizzling poulet rôtis is la maison Huet, who always put on such a parade of forgotten vegetables that the conversation in the queue is guaranteed to provide an exchange of interesting recipes. Below left are the round Parisian carrots I talked about in this vegetable soup recipe post, but this time I was determined to do something other than use these mini pumpkins as decoration. They’re called Jack Be Little.

How to cook a Jack Be Little: I was told to simply prick it a few times, stick it in the microwave for 3 minutes on full blast, cut the top off, scoop out the seeds and fill the remaining hole with a mixture of emmental cheese, bacon and crème fraîche. That’s it; ridiculously easy and delicious to boot. Instead I filled each mini pumpkin with a mixture of bacon, cooked chestnuts, parmesan, crème fraîche and parsley.

For each individual pumpkin, briefly fry 4 cooked chestnuts, 1 chopped smoked bacon rasher, 1 tbsp freshly grated parmesan, finely chopped parsley, a tablespoon of crème fraîche and season to taste. Fill the cavity with it, then place under a hot grill for a couple of minutes. Then serve with a spoon and mix the whole thing up with the pumpkin flesh at the table.

And the kids’ favourite part to go with the roasted chicken?  A creamy, tart lemon sauce. I’m surprised that my girls would like such a simple sauce so much. What I love about it, is that it’s another way to use up yolks so it’s now added to the growing egg yolk recipe collection. It’s also a lovely sauce to accompany any leftover turkey!

lemon sauce recipe for roast chicken or turkey

Jack Be Little and Jill Be Quick with dinner …

Lemon Sauce Recipe for Roasted Chicken or Turkey

Serves 6

Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes

200ml chicken stock
3 egg yolks
juice and zest of 1 lemon (untreated)
100ml cream

1. Bring the chicken stock to the boil.

2. Meanwhile, whisk the yolks with the lemon juice, zest and cream in a bowl and gradually whisk the mixture into the hot stock.

3. Keep whisking until the sauce thickens slightly and bubbles.

Lemon sauce for roast chicken or turkey

Monsieur Dee thought we’d be celebrating Thanksgiving since we speak English. As our American friends are gearing up for next week, we’re instead celebrating la fête du Beaujolais Nouveau tonight in France. Apparently this year it’s another fruity success, with a hint of peaches.

Ah, it reminds us of our student days; 21 years ago, I met my Frenchie over a glass of particularly banana-flavoured Beaujolais Nouveau. Although, if you want my opinion, this lemon roast chicken and the pumpkin would partner well with a Gaillac or a Côte du Rhône white. I mean, look what happens after a glass or two of Beaujolais! I ended up haveeeeing to speak French!

Cheers!

 

Corsica on the Rocks and Savoury Macarons

Wild waves were crashing on the rocks off the west coast of Corsica last week. We were visiting family around Calvi and, as we were impatient for our fun little nephew to awake from his routine siestas, a windy walk along the ragged coast of Punta di Spanu was perfect to idle away the time.

There’s something rather spooky about the Genoese Towers dotted along Corsica’s dramatic coastline: echoing cries whistle in numbed ears from distant tower-keepers as they prepare for invaders to claim the Island of Beauty.

Corsican Maquis

If only I could have bottled the fragrance of the maquis for you. It’s a heady mix of wild rosemary, thyme, myrtle, wild cistus, laburnum, sage, mint and curry plants. Such an intoxicating mixture of salty, smoky, spicy perfumes come together as a herbal gingerbread smell.

Corsican maquis or shrub

It’s hard to imagine that just 15 minutes in the car inland and you’re already driving in the snow-capped mountains. Donkeys and goats grazing on the higher maquis-floored slopes make life seem at a completely different pace to city life as we know it.

San Antonino perched Corsican Village

San Antonino, one of the beautiful villages of France which inspired ‘l’Enquête Corse’

We were in the clouds. I found my hermit-like hideaway although judging by the look of the car fallen by the side of the mountain, there wouldn’t be much of a getaway too soon if I suddenly changed my mind. Tea in Montemaggiore? Pas de problème: there was even a tiny bar that could bring back the life in my cold hands with a hot cup of Lipton while the children had… ice creams. Well, that’s all there was and who would want it any other way?

Mountain scenes of Corsica

I had a confession to make: I had this burning desire to just drop everything and hijack the tea-room opposite the chapel up at the Citadel in Calvi. Who wouldn’t relish the views up there of the sea and the land, making macarons, fiadone (Corsican cheesecake) or éclairs all day and awash yourself with pots of tea? Or perhaps the local tipple, Cap Corse, an addictive bitter-sweet apéritif made with quinine?

Churches Calvi and Corsica

The photo (top right) is all that’s left of the house reputed to have been Christopher Columbus’ birthplace. What do you think?  Was he born in Corsica or Italy? Corsica, of Corse!

Our trip’s grand finale was dinner at the wonderful restaurant, U Fanale. The chef, Philippe Gouret delights visitors with a surprise of terre et mer, where land meets sea. At first I tried the starter of salmon and charcuterie, gingerly tasting the salmon first – but when I tried them both together it was just fantastic! Our friendly server introduced us to a newcomer wine from Calvi, le Clos des Anges. Unfortunately, the Irish winemaker, Richard Spurr wasn’t around during our visit but next time I’m dying to stock up on their white oily nectar.

Inspired by the chef’s ideas, I loaded up on Corsica’s famous charcuteries and as soon as we returned home, found some beautiful Scottish Salmon at the market. Served with slices of Lonzo (my favourite as it’s a filet cut without much fat) and marinaded julienne strips of chiogga beetroot (in olive oil and Xeres vinegar) to garnish, just like the chef had presented his starter dish.

My personal touch?  I added some finely chopped bits of Ariane apple and a beetroot and horseradish macaron (recipe in Mad About Macarons – there’s a whole chapter on savoury macarons.) It’s a Scot mac that meets Corsican land and sea in the middle. Or I should just have Jill and Antoine…

Land-a-hoy – or perhaps that should be Mac-ahoy!