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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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 (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…
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.
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.
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.
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…
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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… !