First Taste of Live TV with a Macaron Demonstration

As you can imagine, this past week has been filled with love heart macarons.  They are so easy to do; except, perhaps, when nerves take over and a sudden uncontrollable wobbly hand pipes out a mess on live TV.

macaron hearts pot

I was so excited to be given the opportunity to share my macaron world with Presenters, Michelle McManus and Steven Jardine on STV’s “The Hour” on Valentine’s Day.  They are such wonderful, down-to-earth and chatty hosts that they instantly made me feel at home back in Scotland. Michelle jumped in with a spontanious, encouraging you-can-do-it hug before countdown.  En plus Steven had lived in Paris for a couple of years and so it was fun to blether about macarons and Patisserie shops.

rose macarons on STV The Hour

With Michelle McManus & Steven Jardine on STV’s The Hour

Live TV is not as easy as the pros make it look.  For a start, you need to have confidence and above all, be re-laaa-xed
They could tell I was nervous.  Perhaps it started when one of the members of the production team came to meet my Dad and I before even going into the studio.  (I was so glad Dad drove me since I had 3 large bags including everything but the kitchen sink.)  But without batting an eyelid, Dad stepped in and introduced himself with a confident, “Hello. Nice to meet you. I’m Jill’s Mum….‘ Hm.  After that remark I started worrying about my mascara running after the incontrollable giggles.

Jill Colonna on TV macaron demonstration live

Yes.  They knew I was nervous. Perhaps it was after our quick run-through in front of the cameras and realising that we ran at least 3 minutes over time since I blethered too much.  I said everything I wanted to in the rehearsal:  aged egg whites, they’re gluten free, not many calories etc.  When it came to the real thing in my mind I had already said it!  So the conclusion was that talking had to be constant and there was no time to just stand and chat.  I quickly discovered that demonstrating macarons and answering questions at the same time is a real challenge in around 6 minutes.  Luckily I had prepared a few macarons in advance, including some shells – especially macaron hearts.

lemon ginger macaron hearts

Speaking of hearts, just check out the video clip.  You will see just how Michelle tackled the most amazingly confident giant heart macaron.  Silly Jilly stepped in to show the 2-stroke heart with the piping bag:  See?  Easy: bit more at the top going down one side, then same again on the other.   I invite you to do far better, my friends!

Making Rose Macarons on The Hour, STV, Video Clip

One thing is for sure:  I had so much fun doing the show and was thrilled to meet such a dynamic and friendly team.  I can’t believe I missed James Blunt, though.  He’s on the show later this week.  To think he could have tried a macaron…

Valentine’s Day may be over but it doesn’t stop us from having macarons and dates with the ones we love.  Bonne semaine!

Parisian macarons on a date

A couple of Parisian Macarons on a Date

My First Guest Blog Post!

I invite you to join my lovely friend, Kate, who kindly asked me to be a guest on her blog, Diethood.com.  Check out my quick and easy dessert recipe for St Valentine’s Day.

rose & white chocolate panna cotta with cherry & cardamom sauceGuest Post at Diethood.com

Flaming Pigeon for another Romantic Meal

We just couldn’t wait.  Antoine and I have already had our Valentine’s dinner.  This weekend we’re both travelling but not together: he’s leaving for work and I’m going back to family in Scotland during the children’s school holidays.  On St Valentine’s Day I’ll be doing my first macaron demonstration on TV (The Hour on Scottish Television, STV).  I’m rather nervous since it will be a challenge to show how to make these Parisian delicacies in the space of 6 minutes in a hot studio!

St Germain en Laye Market

Where was I?  Yes, our romantic dinner.  I always thought the French were such romantics – until Valentine’s Day.  They don’t do the hearts and cards as much as back home.  But as Antoine puts it: “We celebrate St Valentine’s Day every day, chérie”.  Oh-là-là.  What can I say to that?  Always a way with words.  It’s true we do the candles often and have quality time over good food and wine so yes, it was just “another dinner” together. 😉 His greatest pleasure is finding a wine that matches the meal and often teases me with blind tastings.  Mine is relishing in the whole foodie experience, starting at the market.

Monsieur Di St Germain

One of my favourite stalls at the market at St Germain-en-Laye is the Volailler (poultry specialist) who also sells game and many other delicacies.  They used to be part of Monsieur Janinet’s impressive rôtisserie which was an institution in the town.  Now you can find them only at the market but their top-notch produce hasn’t changed.  Let me introduce you to Monsieur Di.

Monsieur Di is adorable.  As we discuss how to cook his produce, he throws some extras in the bag when I’m not looking:  fresh parsley and some extra boudins blancs stuffed with cèpes mushrooms.  Like his friendly colleagues, he prepares my pigeons with such care and finishes them off under his flaming blowtorch so that my life is easier in the kitchen.

Flaming Pigeon

My dish was inspired by the VI Nation’s Rugby.  We watched France beat Scotland (ouch!) at the Stade de France on Saturday in a windy stadium. So feeling patriotic, I needed to add a touch of Scotland to the table. I’ve posted the recipe for Pigeon with Whisky, Ginger and Apricots.  The photo is not very pink for St Valentine’s, but I can assure you it was pink in the middle.  I should have taken a photo but forgot!
What was for dessert you ask?  Well, I’m leaving that as a surprise until Monday 😉

I wish you all a Happy Valentine’s Day or a whole year of Valentine’s Days with your flame.  Now I need to get back to the kitchen to prepare macarons for Monday!

macaron hearts

Blushing Beetroot Flirting with Chocolate

Every year I say the same thing:  never again.  But when the January sales come around and friends tell me their great deals, as a Scot, I give in.  I even subjected myself to the hungry crowds twice at the shopping centre at Versailles.  I must be mad.

Inevitably, we spent and bought much more than planned.  Never again. One consolation being stuck in the bouchon en route home was we could actually read the plaque outside Camille Pissarro’s house.  It’s on the main road but you can imagine that the Impressionist painter had a completely different view à l’epoque.  Pissarro is quoted to have said “I began to understand my sensations, to know what I wanted, at around the age of forty – but only vaguely.”  After the sales, I vaguely understand 😉  The best consolation was coming back home to peace, sanity and eating cake.  Cake?  What?  No macarons?  Ecoute: even a macaronivore like myself needs a break now and again…

Which makes me realise I finished off my last entry discussing chocolate-beet cakes and I didn’t give you the recipe!  Perhaps you thought the combination was just a bit too way out?  Well, my macaronivore friends, I have to tell you that even I thought it was a bit weird at first;  until I tasted it.

Chocolate-Beet Fudgy Fondant Cake

We all love a good carrot cake, don’t we? Lovely shiny orange slivers just give that added touch of earthy sweetness and the grated vegetable ensures a moist cake that – dare I say – make us believe we’re having something healthy by eating our veg!  Why not with beetroot?  I had heard of the combination a couple of years ago but the cake recipe was not my favourite.  Too sweet:  way too much sugar/syrup and not enough (good quality) chocolate plus it was even a bit dry.  I adore GUNGY, healthier cakes!

So I took my favourite dark chocolate fondant recipe and added some grated beetroot to the mix.  Et voilà: my recipe for chocolate-beetroot fondants. A whole new experience was born in our family: soft, decadent and fudgy fondants with the deep beetroot colour making the intense chocolate blush.

 

I also went on to vary the flavours by adding a touch of orange zest or some slivers of glacé ginger.  I personally loved these combinations but my children (who are my fiercest critics) prefer them without the “sophisticated” additions.

Then one typical macaron baking day when the egg whites were ready and I was anticipating my next flavour adventure, it suddenly struck me that the fondants could be easliy translated into a macaron.  The laugh is, it ended up being the biggest hit at my younger daughter’s birthday party.  I’m still a bit surprised.

Chocolate-beetroot macarons

What can I say?  For this dreary time of year, the humble beetroot can flirt so well on the sweet as well as the savoury side.  Talking of flirting, we’re gearing up for St. Valentine’s. Don’t forget to put the whites aside and say it with macarons!

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…

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