Strawberry and Rhubarb Gratin

I’m just back from the market in St Germain-en-Laye. It’s a luxury to pop up there on a Friday morning, as today was treated as a pont. Yesterday was an official French holiday for Ascension, so Lucie’s school had the day off today to make le pont – or bridge – over the weekend. It was a lovely idea, but not all of us managed to dance on that bridge, as my eldest still had school and with hubby at work, I grabbed the opportunity to have extra helping hands and stock up on the latest culinary stars on the catwalk.

As the Cannes Film festival is underway in the South, strawberries are currently given the red carpet treatment at the market here up North. Entering the producers’ labyrinth, the gariguettes were paraded, as the mara des bois had already been cleaned out. This stand had it sussed: with their lids firmly in place, it sent a message to all French shoppers not to touch and sniff these gariguettes. Instead we stood in the queue and gaped at the prize-winning beauties behind them. What variety were they?  They didn’t have any. They were just strawberries, I was told. Quoi? Because they’re Portuguese.

Tasting one, it reminded me of picking strawberries as a child in Scotland (although the ones in Scotland were better!) It took 3 bites to finish it. Hm. ‘They’re not that sweet,’ I told the vendeur. Immediately, he knocked a couple of euros off the price, just as I was thinking how perfect they would be for a gratin.

With punnets of fraises Charlotte, gariguettes, ciflorettes (another conical sweet variety), and a tray of these oh-so-plainly-enormous strawberries, we could just about cope with balancing some rhubarb under the arm. As I have many more ideas for macarons in store for you, I need to use up some egg yolks. Don’t you love excuses like this? I love this simple dessert since it’s a quick, creamy fruity number that can be whisked together in half an hour.

Strawberry and Rhubarb Gratin Recipe

Serves 6

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 18 minutes

400g strawberries,
300g rhubarb (or 2-3 large sticks)
75g sugar
3 egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 tbsp crème fraîche, or thick cream

1. Peel the rhubarb using a sharp knife, taking off all the stringy fibres. Wash well then cut into chunks.

2. In a pan, cook the rhubarb chunks and 40g sugar with 150ml water. Cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

3. Leave to cool.

4. Wash and hull the strawberries. Cut the bottoms off so they can stand neatly in a dish. If the strawberries are particularly big, cut them in half. Place the strawberries around the outside of 6 gratin dishes, and pile the rhubarb in the centre.

Now for the French makeover – time to be get saucy then be grilled

5. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with the rest of the sugar until the mixture is pale and creamy. Whisk in the crème fraîche (or thick cream) and vanilla essence.

6. Pour over the fruit then place under a hot grill for 2-3 minutes.

Rhubarb Gratin dessert - with poppy and rhubarb macarons

Enjoy with some poppy macarons (update: the recipe for Poppy and Rhubarb macarons is in my new book, Teatime in Paris!) on the side and you have a gluten-free, stress-free dessert. Voilà. Simplicity where oh-so-sweet strawberry meets acidic-but-comforting rhubarb. All it needs is some bubbly and we’re really talking red carpet treatment, n’est-ce pas?

Update!

Is your rhubarb too green like this? Why not replace steps 1-3 with my rhubarb compote recipe using hibiscus fruit tea.

Passionfruit Milk Chocolate Crème Brûlée: Walking on Mars?

Have you ever imagined what it could be like to walk on Mars? That’s what I found myself thinking as I cracked into this Passionfruit milk chocolate crème brulée. It’s incredible to think that one of the latest finds on the planet is a type of soil that’s used on Earth to grow asparagus. I wonder if I could bring some accompanying hollandaise sauce on an eventual space shuttle birthday adventure?

Could this be like walking on Mars, the red planet?

When I discovered that my astrology planet Mars – named after the Roman God of War – had something to do with a fiery temper and passionate, impulsive behaviour, what could I say? It’s not me, darlings; it’s that red planet again.

One fiery implosion was in my brazen-but-bashful teens, about to burst out of my 80s flying suit like David Banner, via the Incredible Sulk – playing Mars as bass flute in The Planets by Holst with the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland. It was a low moment. I’d finally been selected First Flute (note: the older I get, the better I was) which meant playing the orchestral flute solos in concerts abroad, on BBC radio… Listen to the opening Mars theme while reading this for ambience. Why was I at the bloomin’ bottom of the flute section, trying to prop up this beast that sounded like the last of the bath water draining? Because I simply had the longest, spindly, sprawling hands to get my fingers over the damn keys! Why couldn’t I be short? Mars was playing outside but it was also calling me from within but I played on. After all, music be the food of love (dixit Shakespeare.)

passionfruit milk chocolate crème brûlée recipe

Moods can quickly change, however, when confronted with a dessert – a milk chocolatey dessert, with explosive fruit to kindle the passion in you, and topped with a crackling, caramel crust that can turn your earth upside down. How can you be mad with rage? Hm. There’s that mad word again. I wonder why the publisher chose that?

Crème Brûlée is one of my favourite recipes to use up egg yolks. (You need the whites to make macarons, in case this is your first time popping in.) Like Amélie Poulain, cracking through the carmelised sugar is one of life’s incredible thrills. Living dangerously, eh? As one of my favourite macarons is chocolate and exotic fruits (see page 89 of the book), I’ve been dying to try the sensation in a crème brûlée.

The classic recipe is on page 124 of the book but I’ve adapted it here to cope with the passionfruit juice and chocolate, cutting back on cream. I strained the seeds from the passionfruits but there’s no need if you prefer the extra crunch. Adding milk chocolate did not make it pretty for the photos, but this is from another planet. The red planet. Grrrrr.

passionfruit milk chocolate creme brûlée dessert recipe

Passionfruit Milk Chocolate Crème Brûlée

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour
Chilling Time: 2 hours

8 egg yolks
80g caster sugar
4 passionfruits
400ml (13.5 US fl oz) cream
120g milk chocolate
4 tbsps brown sugar for caramelising

  1. Preheat oven to 110°C.
  2. Remove the pulp from the passionfruits and using the back of big spoon, press the pulp through a sieve to remove the seeds.
  3. Mix yolks and sugar until creamy, then whisk in the passionfruit pulp. Gently heat the cream and milk chocolate in a pan until warm and the chocolate has melted (don’t boil.) Pour over the egg mixture and mix thoroughly.
  4. Pour into individual ramekins and place in a bain-marie (a roasting tray filled halfway up with water will suffice) in the oven for about one hour.  Leave them to cool, then chill for 2 hours in the fridge.
  5. Before serving, dust with the brown sugar then caramelise them quickly with a blowtorch or under a hot grill.

Floating upside down on Mars and attacking the Black Hole

To finish off, I tried another version by omitting the milk chocolate in the passionfruit cream.  Instead, plop in a lump of dark chocolate just before putting each ramekin in the oven. The result? A surprising, oozing, chocolatey black hole for your guests to float into the Milky Way.

Let’s take that one again but back down to Earth’s angle. Who also loves cracking the caramel with the spoon?

Chestnut Vanilla Ice Cream

Baby it’s cold outside. I’ve been humming this song most of the week, although now we’re singing in the rain outside Paris. While singing, this Chestnut Vanilla ice cream has been churning for a light and easy dessert to finish off a big holiday menu.

chestnut vanilla ice cream

My youngest daughter is mad about chestnuts in all forms. If I mention this magic word, Lucie’s smile makes me melt quicker than the contents of this bowl. She’s obsessed about roasted chestnuts: either simply tossed along with pumpkin, bacon, or with green beans, or willing to sacrifice precious pocket money for an expensive poke at the exit of a Paris metro station.

She nibbles at luxury marrons glacés as if she was Charlie with a golden-ticketed chocolate bar, and pleads for marrons glacés macarons. She also craves the sweetened chestnut spread that is so common in France, by way of Clément Faugier. But I won’t ramble since that’s already covered in my blog post: Chestnuts! From Pancakes to Ice Cream to Macarons.

 Then I realised that I hadn’t yet posted this recipe for chestnut vanilla ice cream. Mon Dieu!

When you’re as mad about macarons as I am (and I know I’m not alone on this one – come on, own up), you need to use up plenty of egg yolks while you’re ageing your whites for making them. Ice cream is one of my favourite egg yolk recipes, as it uses up 8 yolks in this easy, classic recipe. Ideally, it’s best to have an ice cream machine. I don’t have one, but use the ice cream attachment for my Kitchen Aid that still does the job well.  If you don’t have a machine, then just take the cream out of the freezer every 30 minutes (about 5 times) and mix up the partially frozen mixture well.

Chestnut vanilla ice cream with macarons

 

Chestnut Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe

Makes 1 litre

8 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
400ml whole milk
200ml whipping cream
1 vanilla pod
pinch of caramel powdered colouring (optional)
2 small 100g tins of sweetened chestnut purée
a handful of broken marrons glacés (or whole ones if you’re feeling posh)

1. Cream together the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

2. Heat the milk and cream in a heavy-based pan with the vanilla pod, cut in two lengthways. Bring to the boil, and turn off the heat for the vanilla to infuse in the creamy milk for 5-10 minutes. Scrape out the seeds from the pod and add to the cream.

3. Pour the creamy milk onto the egg mixture whisking continuously. Return the mixture to the pan on a medium heat, whisking constantly until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove the vanilla pod and set the mixture aside to cool.

4. Once cool, place in the fridge for 1-2 hours before pouring into an ice cream maker to churn.

Serve with marrons glacés and macarons, but of course.

Which leads me to apologise to many friends for appearing as cold as ice cream when it comes to saying hello just now. Truth be told, I’m struggling to keep up with the normal Mum duties, plus a couple of extra projects. Do you find you can do nearly everything on your daily list, except there’s always at least one biggie that constantly nags at you? It’s feeling hard to please everyone. But hey, just trying to stay cool – and eat ice cream.

There are also a few upgrades currently underway on the website, since wouldn’t it be useful if you could actually do a search on the blog plus recipes and find stuff?  New pages are also coming. Bigger pics. Ouff! Lots to look forward to.

Until my next blether, macaronivores.

Bonne semaine!

chestnut vanilla ice cream recipe

Sticky Baked Amaretti Peaches

As a newcomer on the block to la vie en France in 1993, it was impressive to see how French women are just, well, so slim. How could they be so slender yet enjoy their food so much?

There is something strikingly similar to my friend, Kelly’s wonderful view of enjoying food, though. Readers of her blog, Eat Yourself Skinny, don’t need any introduction to her tasty and healthy recipes. So what on earth could I prepare for her skinny-conscious readers as a guest post? Sticky Baked Amaretti Peaches!

buzzing at the sight of lavender

Luckily at this time of year, there is no shortage of inspiration for fruity desserts. In the garden, the French lavender is out in full bloom, bulging raspberries are poking out to say bonjour behind the leaves, and juicy peaches are abundant at the local market.  Who could ask for more?

Well, perhaps my youngest daughter would. When it comes to eating fruit, she’s funny; ask her to eat a peach and it takes a painstaking 30 minutes to finish it all up.  Give her a donut peach and mentally, the process is slightly quicker. Don’t even try her on raspberries.

They’re hairy, she says.

Until one day I won the fruit jackpot in Mummyland. Ever since I made this gluten free peach dessert stuffed with raspberries, there has been no turning back.  She gobbles this one up in record time and asks for more. How can you explain that one?  It’s now over to you to try it.

Sticky Baked Amaretti Peaches

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time:
25 minutes
Chilling Time:
30 minutes

4 large ripe yellow-fleshed peaches
2 tbsp honey
100g amaretti biscuits
handful of raspberries
1 egg yolk
10g brown sugar
1 tsp lavender flowers
knob of butter

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Wash, halve and stone the peaches.
  2. Scoop out a bit of pulp to make slightly bigger cavities to stuff.

    I’ve got a crush on you…

  3. Crush the amaretti biscuits – either in a mortar & pestle or place them in a bag and bash them about with a rolling pin (particularly effective if you’re needing to get some frustration out of the system.)

    Add the egg white to your macaron-making stock of whites

  4. Add the egg yolk, honey, raspberries, lavender and the left-over peach pulp and mix well.
  5. Fill the peaches with the mixture and place in a buttered ovenproof dish.

    Quick stuff, bake in the oven and smell that!

  6. Sprinkle with the sugar and roast for 25 minutes.
  7. Set aside to cool then chill in the fridge until needed.

sticky baked amaretti peaches

The baked peaches are delicious served on their own for a perfect end to a meal. However, if you are feeling rather decadent, then add a petit dollop of vanilla ice cream.  And if you’re like Kelly who enjoys her dessert wines, I would definitely recommend serving this with a chilled glass of her favourite Moscato.

For macaronivores, why not replace the amaretti biscuits with crushed macarons?

sticky baked amaretti peaches

Cheers! Santé !

Guest Recipe: Rum and Toasted Coconut Ice Cream (low carb/gluten free)

How often do you dream about food?  Do you think about lunch at breakfast, dinner at lunch and breakfast at dinner – and then continue dreaming of recipes in between meals?

Let me present you to my friend, Carolyn, who is otherwise known as FoodDreamer.  When I first discovered her blog, All Day I Dream About Food, there were a number of names that kept ringing out. Sugar was replaced with interesting names such as erythritol and stevia, for example.

What baffles me about Carolyn, is that each time I see her beautifully sweet and mouthwatering photos of cakes, cookies, tarts, bread, and candies, you wouldn’t even bat an eyelid.  They all look stunning.  But study each recipe carefully and there’s also something extra special behind each and every one she produces. They are ALL low carb and/or gluten free. You see, Carolyn is diabetic and has been ever since giving birth to her third child. It’s amazing how she has relearned how to cook all of our favourite treats but transformed them into low carb / gluten free masterpieces.

I am so honoured to have her on MadAboutMacarons, to concoct another stunning low carb recipe for us.  Let me hand you over to the sweet – but with no sugar added 😉 – Carolyn Ketchum.

FoodDreamer: All Day I Dream About Food

When Jill asked me to guest post on her blog, I may or may not have let out a squeal of delight.  I am not saying I did, but I am also not saying I didn’t.  See, if you are a regular reader of Mad About Macarons, you already know that Jill is brilliant.  She is an amazing cook, and has taken on the world of French cooking and that now infamous treat, the macaron.  She has written a cookbook devoted to them, and for those of us who are wildly scared of actually attempting to make macarons, she assures us that it’s really not that difficult.  I have promised myself to put her assurances to the test and make some very soon, but I haven’t quite worked up the courage.

So you can see why I was so delighted to be asked to guest post on such a wonderful blog.  But that delight was also tinged with a little fear.  Would I be able to come up with something that was Mad About Macaron-worthy? Jill requested that I develop a recipe that uses egg yolks.  I love that most of her guest posters do this, it makes so much sense.  After all, macarons use the whites, and we can’t let those leftover yolks go to waste.  I’ve made plenty of things that use yolks, and I am not one who fears undercooked or raw eggs, so I figured I was up for the challenge.

But what to make?  Mousse or crème brulee seemed too obvious, too…French.  I love both these desserts, but I thought if I made them, I might look like I was trying too hard to belong on Jill’s blog.  My mind kept circling back to ice cream, but I dismissed the idea several times.  Ice cream was just too unsophisticated, too child-like for Jill’s lovely blog.  But I couldn’t shake the idea.  It’s hot here in New England and ice cream is fun to make. Besides, I really wanted to try making it with some coconut milk, and the idea of coconuts made me think of rum.  And adding rum to ice cream takes it to a whole new level, so maybe it was Mad About Macaron-worthy after all?

If you happen to follow my blog too, you know that I am a diabetic and most of what I make is low carb and gluten free.  This ice cream is no exception, as I sweetened it with a stevia  blend called Stevia In The Raw.  But you could easily use whatever you like to sweeten it, it’s very versatile.  It’s also incredibly rich, as I used full-fat cream as the base.  But once again, you can change that up and use whole milk or a combination of cream and milk.  Adding the rum is up to you.  I find that a few tablespoons of alcohol in any homemade ice cream gives it a better texture and keeps it from freezing too hard.  And the dark rum in this particular recipe gives it a distinctive edge and flavor that is unmistakeable.

Rum and Toasted Coconut Ice Cream

2 cups cream, whole milk or a combination thereof
½ cup Stevia In The Raw* (or sugar, honey, splenda)
4 large egg yolks
1 cup full-fat coconut milk
½ cup unsweetened coconut, lightly toasted
3 tablespoons dark rum

Set a medium bowl in a large container of ice water.

In large saucepan over medium heat, combine cream and sweetener and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture reaches 170F on a candy or instant-read thermometer.

Meanwhile, beat egg yolks until light yellow and thickened, about 3 minutes.  Very slowly whisk ½ cup of the hot cream into the yolks to temper them, then gradually whisk tempered yolks back into the saucepan.  Continue to cook mixture, stirring continuously, until it reaches 175F to 180F.  Do not let it come to a boil.

Stir in the coconut milk and toasted coconut.  Pour mixture into the bowl set into the ice bath and let cool 10 minutes, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill until cold, at least 3 hours.

Stir in rum and pour into canister of an ice cream maker.  Churn according to manufacturer’s directions until thickened and creamy, about the consistency of soft serve ice cream.  Transfer to an air-tight container and press plastic wrap flush to the surface.  Chill until firm but not rock hard, about 2 more hours.   Serve immediately.

If you will be freezing the leftovers for later use, be sure to let them warm in the fridge or on your counter to make them soft enough to serve.

* Stevia In The Raw is a stevia blend that is meant to be measured cup for cup like sugar.  Pure stevia extract (liquid or powder) is much stronger and a little goes a long way, so sweeten to taste.

Thank you so much, Carolyn, for not only such a deliciously melting-in-the mouth rum and toasted coconut ice cream but you’ve done it again.  It’s not just ice cream but low-carb-with-no -sugar ice cream!  It’s high time I tried out baking without sugar – you have inspired me so much.

Don’t forget that Carolyn is on Facebook via ‘All Day I Dream About Food’ and don’t forget to drop in to her blog, All Day I Dream About Food to check out many more fabulous gluten-free and/or low carb recipes and say bonjour from me!

Guest Recipe: Crème Caramel (Purin)

This has been a LONG week. I’m such a party-pooper since cancelled my trip to Provence this weekend en famille for my mother-in-law’s (belle maman) 70th Birthday Party. Just the thought of the TGV train and car trips back and forward is trop – too much.  The back/sacrum has played up so much that, if I sit longer than 30 minutes a stretch, I turn into a chair – just like that!

Just like that – my good friend, Nami (Namiko), author of her blog, Just One Cookbook, came to the rescue with the most perfect and best crème caramel recipe I’ve ever seen. I should say Purin recipe, as Nami is Japanese and lives with her husband (who is her blog assistant – what a team!) and gorgeous children in San Francisco.

For those of you who know Nami, I’m sure you will agree:  she not only has an amazing blog with perfect Japanese recipes and stunning presentations, but she is also one of the most genuine and sincere people I know. When you receive a comment from Nami, you can’t help feeling the need to leap out the screen and hug her for offering such encouragement.

I’m sure many of you know what I mean.  Blogging is fun but it’s also time-consuming: often when you post something into the great empty void of the w-w-web, there is nothing that can beat an adorable comment to prove that someone has not only read it, but actually liked it!  It’s what keeps the essential motivation going.

The other motivation is seeing a recipe like this to lure us into the kitchen. So let me hand you over to Nami with her gorgeous Purin recipe.  It uses up 4 lovely egg yolks…

Nami, Just One Cookbook

Hello everyone!  I’m Nami from Just One Cookbook.  I was so thrilled and delighted when Jill asked me to be her guest blogger.  I am a big fan of Jill’s beautiful macarons and love visiting her website to see what new macaron recipe she’s come up with.  Personally I don’t bake or make desserts too often but I definitely have a sweet tooth and I am also a recovering chocoholic.

As part of the “using up your egg yolk” series, I want to share a recipe for Crème Caramel and as you might have guessed it does not require an oven.  In Japan we call it Purin (it came from Pudding) and it’s definitely one of the most popular desserts.  We can buy very good-quality Crème Caramel from neighborhood convenient stores or fancy pastry shops.  My husband really loves Purin and today I’m sharing the recipe my husband said it’s the best ever.

Thank you Jill for having me over.  Cheers!

Crème Caramel (Purin)

Difficulty: Easy

Cooking Time: <45 minutes (excluding chill time)

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

10 g gelatin

4 Tbsp. (1/4 cup)* water

Caramel Sauce

140 g (2/3 cup) granulated sugar

4 Tbsp. (1/4 cup) water

8 Tbsp. (1/2 cup) boiling water

4 egg yolks

80 g (1/3 cup) sugar

400 ml (3/4 cup) milk

8 Tbsp. (1/2 cup) heavy whipping cream

2 tsp. vanilla

* I also added measurement in US measuring cup in parentheses, but I highly recommend using a food scale to follow this recipe precisely.

Directions:

1. In a small bowl, combine gelatin and water and set aside.

2. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water.  Caramelize the mixture on medium heat.  Shake the pan once in a while but you don’t need to stir with spoon.  Patiently wait until it turns into a nice caramelized color.

3. When you see nice (dark) golden caramelized color, immediately pour ½ cup of boiling water because it will quickly get darker and darker (resulting in bitter taste).  Make sure to wear a kitchen mitten so you won’t get burnt from the hot liquid splashing.  Remove from heat.

4. Quickly soak the ramekins under warm water so sugar doesn’t solidify right away.  Pour the caramel sauce in the ramekins.

5. In a large bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar and whisk until it becomes creamy and smooth (That’s my husband mixing it up.  I asked my husband to be my assistant while I took pictures).

6. Meanwhile in a small saucepan, bring half of milk (200 ml) to a boil.  Remove from heat right before it starts to boil.

7. Slowly stir in a few drops of the hot milk at a time into the egg mixture and mix together.  Do not pour milk at once as the hot milk could cook the egg mixture and make it lumpy.  Whisk all together.

8. Pour the mixture back into the small saucepan.  Heat the mixture on low heat and whisk until it’s completely blended.

9. Once it gets warm again, add the gelatin and mix.  Make sure it melts completely. When the gelatin is completely mixed in, remove from the heat.

10. Pour the mixture over the sieve into the clean bowl.

11. Prepare iced water in a larger bowl and place the mixture bowl inside.

12. Add the rest of the milk (200 ml), heavy whipping cream, and vanilla.  Mix all together well.

13. Pour the mixture into the ramekins, and chill in the fridge for more than 1 hour.

14. After chilled, insert knife around the Crème Caramel and flip the ramekin on to the serving plate.  If it doesn’t come down, hold the ramekin like this (below) and shake once vigorously.  You should hear the Crème Caramel drop on the plate.

Enjoy!

My husband and my kids like lighter caramel sauce but I personally like dark and bitter caramel sauce like this…

 

Nami’s Crème Caramel (Purin)

When you caramelize, make sure not to make it really dark, because it will be too bitter.

Don’t you just love it? You can imagine what her savoury dishes are like if she doesn’t make desserts that often, my goodness. Nami is also a self confessed “recovering chocoholic”? Well, after Nami’s beautiful dessert I think I’ll have to admit that I’m not just a macaronivore but also a crème-carameloholic.  Thank you so much for sharing it with us and these beautiful photos.  Don’t forget to pop over to Nami’s blog, Just One Cookbook, and say cheers from me!  This week she has been making the most outstanding Japanese fish recipes.