Easy French recipes to accompany the book, Mad About Macarons. Includes a database of egg yolk recipes and many more gluten-free dishes or cakes and treats.

Forgotten Apple Chutney, Curry Macarons and a Mole

As the house improvement project continues – oh, so steadily – it has been a relief, finally, to access one finished area: the pantry, or garde-manger. It was the easiest part, since it’s basically a petit rectangular cupboard that’s shelved floor to ceiling with Ikea garage storage racks. With each expectant shelf topped with cut-to-size drawer liners, I first stacked up the empty, hungry rows with jams, including last year’s bumper batch of apricot, lavender and vanilla jam.

It has been embarrassing what has turned up as totally undomestic Goddess-like surprises from the discarded, cobweb-hugged boxes: from out-of-date pâtés to the snail and nettle spreads, bought a bit too eagerly from les marchés de producteurs, in the belief that I couldn’t cook without it. Then this forgotten 2011 vintage of apple, mango and apricot chutney suddenly surfaced.

Why was this such a surprise? It was a hidden matured treasure. As my children wolfed this down once too often with their favourite cheesy toasty comfort food, my precious stock dwindled – after mango season! So, being the ‘perfect’ Mum, I hid it from them.

My girls are convinced I was a squirrel at some point on this planet (or perhaps I came from the planet Mars, with this crème brûlée?). Or perhaps it’s more of a mole-style reaction? Time for a mole story.

I am a Mole and I live in a hole …

One fascinating mole reaction came from a sweet, unknown neighbour over the festive season, in the form of a letter.  It was addressed to ‘The owner of the cute mole” and “The happy host of a magnificent mole”. La taupe, I was reminded, is feminine. You see, happy mole is in our garden.  She sits under the tree and looks at children going back and forward to school.  Nothing fascinating.  Until this letter arrived, signed Loulou, a local mole admirer.

Letter from a mole fan

Devoured by sadness and frustration, Loulou simply asked that we turn the mole around again to watch the street. What? Sure enough, when I took a look at moley, she was facing the tree and had a rather few birdie splodgies on it.  Abandoned, like forgotten chutney.

A happy mole story – meet Loulou with a bell collar

Most bloggers have dogs. I have a garden mole and I’ve christened her ‘Loulou’.

Back to my hole in the pantry, you’ll usually find stocks of dried, non-soak apricots in it since my giant wee bears love to throw them on their porridge in the morning.  The apricots were a last-minute throw addition to this chutney recipe, which adapts well to all kinds of seasonal fruits.

It’s delicious served with my favourite comfort food: melted brie or camembert on pain poilâne, or melting any other cheeseboard leftovers from a dinner party, with a few tossed walnuts on top.

Thyme for some me-time with a dollop of precious, vintage chutney

When the Mad About Macarons book first came out, I was interviewed by Fred MaCauley on BBC Radio Scotland. Naturally, the radio team wanted to taste some macarons on air and so I brought along one of my Frenchy cooler pastry bags. Being a huge chutney fan as he is, I offered him his first macaron – although it was a curry one.  Bit unusual for a first-timer, wouldn’t you say?  But he liked it. Ouf!

Throw everything in the pot

Spicy Apple, Mango and Apricot Chutney Recipe

1 tbsp whole coriander seeds
500g onions
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
300g tart apple, chopped
300g under ripe mango, chopped
500g soft light brown sugar (or Demerara)
250g dried (non-soak) apricots
½ litre cider vinegar
2 tsp 4-spice powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp freshly grated ginger

1.  Heat the coriander seeds in a small pan, then crush them in a mortar and pestle.

2. Throw all the ingredients in a large pan and bring to the boil.

3.  Simmer gently for about 45 minutes, uncovered, until reduced by half. Once cool the chutney will thicken.

Transfer to clean, sterilised jars. The chutney can be eaten straight away but it’s best to mature it.

On the other hand, this would be decadent served with a Tikka MacSala mini curry macaron. Holy moly, I can’t help it.  That’s what macaronivores do.  Have you got the symptoms yet?  I see some signs on our Facebook page so, if you haven’t done it already, come and join in the fun.

You’ll see: they go like ‘hot’cakes!

What’s your favourite warming comfort food when nobody’s looking?  Do you hide your food, too?

I’m off to make a 2014 vintage while it’s still mango season.  Wonder if by 2017 I’ll be completely Loulou?


Cheers to 2014 with a Kir Royal from Normandy

Happy, bubbly New Year to you! It’s good to be back.

Do you have resolutions for 2014? I don’t, but this morning I realised the need to resolve the online photo chaos before I move up to the new attic office when it’s ready.  Making a start – trying to cut out the distracting but fun cacophony of sawing, whistling and drilling interspersed with some singing hilarity of French-Romanian renditions of Amazing Grace upstairs- I discovered a number of photos I’d completely forgotten about, taken on a long weekend in Normandy last August.

As the sawdust flies around my nest, this is a welcome impression of fresh air on a desktop – although I can imagine with the ferocious winds this week that it’s not quite the same serene scene along the French coasts!

This shot reminds me of a typical Normandy beach scene by Eugène Boudin, where the sky dominates the canvas. Eugène Boudin was one of the first French landscape painters to paint outdoors – Claude Monet was his biggest fan. I picked that up at the Boudin exhibition in Paris last May at the Jacquemart André museum, before devouring a magnificent fraisier in the museum café, which inspired my strawberry and pistachio tart. But I digress.

Taken from his hidden grotto, this was Victor Hugo’s last view of the sea in 1884, according to a tourist information sign nearby.

This grotto was made towards the end of his life, as he often visited his friend, Paul Meurice, to work and contemplate the sea at his house, just metres away in Veules-les-Roses. I bet they supped plenty of watercress soup together, as this is also where the watercress beds are plentiful at the source of France’s smallest river.

Mid-morning, the row of beach huts in Veules-les-Roses nestled into the cliff’s terrace like a drowsy audience before the sea show. By midday, the ambience flipped to bubbling.

Their weekend occupants had opened the shutters, brushed down the canvas chairs inside and laid out platters of local oysters on picnic tables while sipping on a Kir Normand apéritif: a cocktail drink of local Normandy brut cider mixed with crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur). In some restaurants they also add a touch of Calvados liqueur. While I tried the Kir Normand, I prefer Normandy cidre on its own, to let the flavour of the apples shine through. However, what about just the cider and Calvados?

The hedgerows of wild blackberries (or brambles) that line the coastal path in Veules-les-Roses best echo my kir sentiments; my favourite is a kir à la mûre (made with blackberry liqueur), which has something warming and festive about it at this time of year, whatever extreme, crazy weather we’re having.

(Psst: most people call them blackberries, I know, but we call them brambles in Scotland – that way there’s no confusion with the other Blackberry, or hubby’s ‘ex-mistress’ – I always had this strong desire to accidentally drop his Blackberry in the swimming pool as he answered emails on holiday!)

When I first arrived in Paris – as lost as French francs were to finding my purse – I was amazed at the rows of enticing-looking cheap bottles of wine at our local Leader Price supermarket. The wines, however, were just as dry and acidic as the smile-less faces at the cash desk.

As I’d discovered the fabulous classic French kir apéritif made with Bourgogne Aligoté and crème de cassis, it was the happiest solution to disguise the rather sour-tasting white wines. Then, as I started to work, I was introduced to the cassis’ fruity cousins in Paris bars and restaurants: I could mix Aligoté or Chablis wine with framboise (raspberry), pêche (peach) or mûre (bramble).

The best ratio of crème de mûre (or cassis, pêche or framboise) to white wine in a kir is about 1:5, as it’s just enough to give a hint of fruit without overpowering the flavour of the wine.  Let’s face it: you don’t want something overly sweet for an apéritif before a meal. In Burgundy, I was surprised to be served at least double the dose by our friends from Dijon – so it’s just a matter of personal taste.

For festive occasions, the kir’s decadent big, bubbly sister is the Kir Royal made with Champagne, but traditionally and best served with a Crémant de Bourgogne, dry sparkling wine from Burgundy. When I followed Georges Lepré’s wine conferences in Le Vésinet last year, he told us that while he was chef sommelier at the Ritz until 1993, he was asked by Joan Collins for a Kir Royal with Roederer Champagne. Say no more. Don’t ruin fabulously expensive Champagne; enjoy it with a good dry brut without too much character – unless your character is stronger than the wine.

Laughter is sunshine that drives winter from the human face”

- Victor Hugo, Les Misérables.

On that note, let’s raise a glass and say


laughter, health and sunshine in 2014!

(er, on the sunshine part, not too much, not too little, just right, please…)

Festive Starter Recipes for Savoury Macarons

Who can believe that 2013 is just about wrapped up already?  Before it ties up with a silver bow on Hogmany, let me share some starter ideas to serve with your savoury macarons.

Not all of us, perhaps, are into savoury macarons such as chocolate and fois gras as an apéritif but have you tried any of the savoury macaron recipes from the book’s ‘Mad Macs’ chapter yet?  Many of them are hot and spicy, which makes an interesting tasting sensation: the sweetness of the macaron helps put out the fire after the first couple of seconds!

Gourmet meals can be given that extra touch of chic with a horseradish and beetroot macaron (recipe on page 103). Here I’ve served it with Salar Scottish smoked salmon with an apple and horseradish sauce.  Our previous family visit to Corsica included a surprising gourmet treat consisting of a Terre et Mer simple yet sophisticated starter: it may look and sound unusual but, believe me, the mix of smoked salmon with smoky charcuterie dried hams is amazing!  The chiogga beetroot and spicy macaron adds that je ne sais quoi.

Mini tikka curry macarons are also a spicy surprise on the side to warming soups, like this leek, pumpkin and ginger velouté.

Or why not try them with a mini amuse-bouche of parsnip, round carrot and coriander soup? Round carrots, or Parisian carrots are round, short and dumpy and have an even sweeter flavour than normal carrots.

Curry fans can add another touch of chilli spice under the mistletoe with the mini Thai curry macarons. Make them red or green, depending on your mood with a hint of coconut.

Thai red christmas curry macarons by Jill

Thai green curry macarons can be a surprising addition to a starter of sweet potato, crab and thai herb croquettes, served with a thai-style mayonnaise to use up your egg yolks.

Or what about serving a mini mac with these light, gluten-free ginger, crab and coriander quiches?

Inspiration for this warming watercress soup came after a wee trip to the watercress beds in Normandy this summer. Serve with garden herb macarons (recipe on page 97 of the book).

Or surprise your guests with mini herb macarons as a side to this cherry tomato, wild strawberry and rocket salad, peut-être? For those lucky sun-kissed macaronivores in the Southern Hemisphere.

 Or serve with a Bloody Mary macaron for a surprise with a slightly bigger punch?

It’s time to wrap up presents but just a few festive starter recipe ideas to accompany the savoury macaron chapter in the book.

I’m a green and red curry macaron ‘read-thai’ to party!

Are your macarons ready to party?

Check out the full index of bonus recipes to accompany the book, including many egg yolk recipes and desserts to serve with your sweet, gluten-free macaron treats.

Thank you for all your support, your lovely, motivating comments over the year here on le blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and for spreading the word about Mad About Macarons!

Happy holidays
and wishing you a
Healthy, Happy and a Macaron-ivorous 2014!


Chocolate Hazelnut Rocher Truffles

As I got the ball rolling with chocolate hazelnut macarons for holiday gifts this weekend, Julie and Lucie had other ideas on the side. Shopping for macaron ingredients at our local supermarket, they were instead eyeing the shiny, festive towers of  Ferrero Rocher’s golden foil-wrapped little crunchy milk chocolate hazelnuts.

Lucie remembered seeing a recipe for Rochers at home, in a tiny little book that came with a cute bear mould (which they have never used, alas) in her stocking last Christmas. With the advance thought of her dental brace being put in today, it was essential in her book to cram in as many sweet – and especially crunchy treats – as possible before she had to em-brace (sorry!) the orthodontist’s less than sweet, strict toothy diet restrictions.

To make them extra crunchy and nutty, we toasted the hazelnuts in the oven first and coated them in dark chocolate, although the recipe calls for milk chocolate, if you prefer.

Chocolate Hazelnut Rochers

Adapted from  L’atelier Oursons & Guimauves by Aline Caron

Makes 30 mini bites

Preparation Time: 50 minutes
Resting Time: 2½ hours

Chocolate ganache:
200g milk chocolate, broken into bits
12g (a tablespoon) single cream
30 whole hazelnuts

100g dark chocolate
50g wafer biscuits (optional)
100g hazelnuts, crushed

Prepare the Ganache:

1. Heat the oven to 180°C and roast all the hazelnuts in the oven for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. If you prefer, you could wipe off the skins using a tea towel.

2. Heat the tiny bit of cream in a saucepan (yes, it does look so little but trust me, this is correct!) and add the broken bits of milk chocolate. Using a whisk, once the chocolate has melted, take off the heat and, using a balloon whisk, mix quickly until you have a mixture that resembles a gorgeous, chocolatey putty.

3. Using a teaspoon and your fingers, break off a walnut size of milk chocolate ‘putty’, roll it in the palm of your hands into a ball. Push a toasted hazelnut into the centre and roll again, ensuring that the hazelnut is completely covered. Complete the process until you have 30 balls then chill in the fridge for about 40 minutes.

Prepare the coating:

4. Melt the milk chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water (bain-marie). As soon as the chocolate has melted, take off the heat and leave to cool slightly. Meanwhile, crush the hazelnuts (and wafers, if using) in a food processor (or place them in a bag and bash them using a rolling pin) then place them in a round bowl.

5. Dip the cooled rocher balls into the chocolate and immediately roll them in the crushed hazelnuts.

6. Place the rocher chocolate nutty truffles on a baking sheet covered with baking paper and leave to set at room temperature for 1½ hours.

These little rocher bites can keep for up to 5 days, kept in a cool place.

For the best presentation, place each rocher in mini bright foil cases for festive effect. In our case, they were pounced on so fast, it wasn’t even necessary.

With some leftover crushed hazelnuts, it’s an ideal decoration for chocolate hazelnut macarons (recipe in the book): just brush on some chocolate ganache and spinkle the nuts on top.

OK, now it’s on to the end-of-term macaron-making marathon using the recipes in the book. These macarons are going to party this week! Next ones will be festive and shiny.

What colour and/or flavour of macarons would you like to see at a party or decorated on your Christmas tree?

Red Onion Chevre Tatin for Ann Mah’s Tuesday Dinner

I’m thrilled to be a guest over at Ann Mah’s Tuesday Dinner series. If you remember, Ann inspired me to pack my bags and jump on the train to France’s gastronomic capital, Lyon. Reading her book, Mastering the Art of French Eating, you may just find yourself doing the same! When I met Ann in Paris we munched on macarons with chocolat chaud but today it’s virtual and savoury.

red onion French tarte tatin easy recipe

In short, this is one of my favourite savoury dishes that’s handy to make with basic ingredients I like to keep in the fridge and pantry. It’s also so easy that it’s not much of a recipe. By following a classic tarte tatin recipe (see Mango and Orange Tarte Tatin for example), you can make up your own creations using different fruit and vegetables.

This is a baked version of a French salade de chèvre chaud (packed with onions en plus) since it can be made easily in advance and popped in the oven while picking up the kids. It’s also great for all seasons and, depending on who’s sitting at the table, it can be dressed either up or down for something simple but oh-là-là effective.

Here’s the recipe but pop over to Ann’s website for the chatty part, which is far more interesting! It’s always a delight to see when someone has made the recipe.

Red Onion and Chèvre Tarte Tatin

Serves 4 as a light dinner

Special equipment: a frying pan that can transfer to the oven

2 large onions
2 red onions
large knob of butter (30g)
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp herbes de Provence
3 crottins de chavignol (fresh goat’s cheese)
1 ready-rolled puff pastry round (all butter is best)
Handful of walnuts

1.  Peel and cut the onions into thin slices. Meanwhile, over a medium-low flame, melt the butter with a dash of olive oil in a sauté pan that can be transferred to the oven. Add the onions to the pan and leave to soften and cook for 20 minutes, turning only once or twice to coat the onions in the butter and oil.

2.  Preheat the oven to temperature suggested on box of puff pastry.

how to make savoury tart tatin

An upside down tart so the cheese is hidden. Woah!

3. Stir the balsamic vinegar, herbes de Provence and salt and pepper into the onions. Slice the crottins of goat cheese in half horizontally and distribute them on top of the packed caramelised onions. Top with the large disk of puff pastry, tucking it in around the sides of the pan. Prick the pastry with the fork then transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden.

4.  Remove from the oven. Place a plate larger than the pan over the top. Turn the tatin upside down quickly on to the plate.

Serve with a salad tossed in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and extra toasted walnuts.

best onion tarte tatin recipe with goat cheese

Make this tarte tatin with white onions, too, and serve with a chilled Sauvignon Blanc. Ideally, serve a wine from the Loire Valley since it’s The French region for goats cheeses. For a change from Sancerre, why not serve a Quincy?

That now makes two tatins at the table, ready for dinner tonight chez Ann Mah.

Bon Appétit! 

France’s Smallest River, Watercress Beds and Soup

As piles of neatly tied bouquets of watercress were stacked high at our local market last week, they instantly conjured up scenes of the watercress beds, or Cressonnières, in Veules-les-Roses this summer. Come join me on a wee jaunt up the watercress road in the Pays-de-Caux in Upper Normandy.

With our all-time dream African Safari cancelled this summer due to my persisting back problems, we finally consoled ourselves and ventured out of Paris with a long weekend in Veules-les-Roses, a sleepy little town on France’s Normandy coast. Julie and Lucie took it like young adults, as the promise of the Big Five game animals were comically replaced by Normandy cows and curious cats looking for fishy leftovers from the seafood restaurants dotted along the town’s seafront.

Veules-les-Roses has two main attractions: it’s home to the smallest river in France, the Veules. It’s the shortest sea-bound river at 1.194 km (about 3/4 of a mile), along which there are three restored 18th Century watermills.

Also, at the source of les Veules river, lies the watercress beds, or Cressonnières. The clear running water’s current of Veules-les-Roses has favoured the cultivation of watercress since the 14th Century. Harvesting watercress is done here by hand with a knife and ties.

The watercress of Veules is known for its fine leaves, its particularly spicy taste and makes the perfect ingredient for a light and healthy soupe de cresson. Watercress is also useful, as it’s always in season.


The bunches of watercress that are formed during harvesting are called ‘chignons’, when the roots of the stalks come outside the bunch. Luckily these days, harvesting is done wearing rubber boots, rather than sodden feet steeped in 10cm of cold (about 10°C) water wearing clogs with heavy metal leggings!

As Autumn now blows us chilly around Paris, we have a sudden urge for soup. Comforting spoonfuls of healthy watercress help to prepare us for any sniffles or scratchy throats that niggle and nudge as November closes in on us, as it contains iron, calcium and Vitamins A and C.

watercress soup or French soupe de cress on

French Watercress Soup

Soupe au Cresson – Watercress Soup

A large bunch of watercress
20g butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
500ml water
250ml chicken (or vegetable) stock
Salt, pepper
2-3 tbsp cream (optional)

1.  Wash the watercress, drain and set aside.

2.  Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan and sweat the onion until cooked but not browned. Add the watercress with the stalks, roughly chopped potatoes and cover with the water and stock. Season with salt and pepper.  Cover and cook gently for 30 minutes.

3. Blitz the soup with a hand blender or in a food processor until smooth. If you prefer your soup less thick, then you could sieve at this point, although I personally love it with the fibre addition of the stalks.

If serving as an elegant starter dish, swirl in a dash of cream and why not surprise your guests with a mini MadMac herb macaron? The recipe is on page 97 of the book.

More on Veules-les-Roses coming up soon. Join in a festival with a difference…