Recipes for deliciously easy sauces, condiments or preserves. Also includes edible decorations for plating.

Apricot and Lavender Jam

Imagine my surprise back from holidays and seeing this last crate of blushing apricots just waiting to be pounced on. I thought the apricot season would be over but here they were, pride of place, looking up at me at the market with a sign announcing they were jam apricots. It didn’t take much convincing to make a batch of my all-time favourite apricot jam.

apricots for making jam

Blushing apricots: we’ve been picked for the next jamming session!

Buzzing merrily, bees are currently feasting on our lavender next to the back door. The aromas remind me of the heady lavender fields in Provence at this time of year.  My lucky daughters are seeing them soon enough when they stay with their French grandparents next week – there’s even a lavender distillery nearby.  As you can imagine, the girls are buzzing with excitement at the thought of hot, sticky days ahead of them.

When they return to school in September, they are all too familiar with the smell of lavender due to the occasional bout of nits (les poux!) that hit the primary school: by dabbing a drop of lavender oil behind their ears they smell of Provence but nits hate the ‘heady’ smell and leave my girlies alone.

A heady touch of lavender from the garden

I much prefer to use lavender from the garden to add a special touch to this apricot jam. It’s a real winter treat to open up a jar of golden sunshine and smother it on slices of brioche for breakfast. My girls have this theory that if they write the jam labels, they’re entitled to more of the jar’s contents.

As I prefer to use half the sugar of the classic recipe, the jam doesn’t last as long as the classic. In our house, this is never a problem as it’s is consumed pretty quickly on crêpes, waffles, warmed as a sauce on nougat ice cream, as a glaze or simply eaten by the spoon! The addition of butter is my mother-in-law’s little secret to avoid too much scum floating to the top during the jam-making process.

apricot lavender jam

Apricot and Lavender Jam

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Resting Time: 8-10 hours
Cooking Time: approx. 1 hour

1 kg apricots, washed and cut in 2 (stones removed)
500g granulated sugar with added pectin (jam-making sugar)
juice of a lemon
2 fresh lavender flowers (or 2 tsps dried lavender in a tea infuser)
knob of butter

  1. Mix together the above ingredients (except the butter) in a large bowl and leave to infuse overnight or 8-10 hours.
  2. Remove the full lavender flowers or the tea strainer with the dried lavender.
  3. In a heavy high-sided pot (as I use induction heat, but traditionally – if you can – use a copper pot), bring the ingredients to a slow boil over a moderate heat for at least 45 minutes. Stir occasionally using a wooden spoon and add the knob of butter.
  4. Meanwhile, chill a saucer in the fridge to quicken the setting process.
  5. Turn down the heat and leave to simmer for another 15 minutes until thickened. Test the jam on the chilled saucer. If it wrinkles, it’s set. If not, then continue to boil the jam and try again.
  6. Pour into warmed, sterilised jars. Cover with a disc of waxed paper – or parchment paper – and when cooled, tightly close the lids.

Store in a cool place for up to a year. Once opened, store in the fridge.

apricot lavender jam

Plus it goes without saying (ça va sans dire – love that phrase!) that you could fill orange (or purple) shells to make apricot and lavender macarons. The beauty with macarons is that you can make any flavour of your imagination. Be inspired from the recipes in the book and add your own personal touch.  Here, I used the filling recipe on page 74 for the liquorice macarons, replacing the 30g of liquorice for the jam.

So here’s my gift to you for all your comments and support over the last few months. Merci beaucoup, my macaronivore friends! Help yourselves; they’re now at room temperature so perfect for eating.

Apricot-lavender macarons

How would you use this jam?  Have you tried it warmed and poured over candied fruit ice cream?

Smoked Haddock Fishcakes with Tartare Sauce

Tintin may still make the odd appearance in French shop windows following Spielberg’s film, but I’m frankly fascinated by Captain Haddock’s nose. It reminds me of a one-liner by Steve Martin in the film, Roxanne (based on the French story of Cyrano de Bergérac by Rostand) referring to ze nose:
“Do you have a license for that?”

Photos are all over the supermarkets to promote the film!

My handsome French teacher at school back in the 80s was also embellished with a nose – or nez, or even pif to be familiar – that was so spectacular that a group of us in class wrote a piece entitled, “Why do Frenchmen have big noses?” We could not have been serious. I was eventually punished for that one when I broke my nose 4 years ago, falling with my complete weight on the hooter. Now I’m constantly reminded of my lesson in this freezing weather when my nose lights up à la Rudolf with its license to glow in the cold.

Do you remember Gérard Depardieu’s legendary nose in Cyrano de Bergerac? As Depardieu’s name suggests, he is a dieu on stage. I saw him larger than life in person recently at the première in Paris of his new Telefilm, Rasputin (in French and Russian). Hang on to your seats, folks. This film is spine-tingling. I can’t think of anyone who could play the part of Rasputin as well as Gérard. You can smell it will be a hit.

I wonder if Captain Archibald Haddock could sniff out these Scottish fishcakes from The Black Island? Although it’s more of a weekday family supper, serving mini portions as a Scottish starter has been a surprising hit with French friends at weekends. I love the smokiness of the fish but what really makes it? The simple, homemade tartare sauce. You know what’s coming, don’t you? It’s another handy recipe to use up your egg yolks for making macarons!

églefin fumé or haddock, please?

You can use any smoked fish or a combination of smoked and plain fish but I personally love making it all with smoked haddock. It took me a while to get the tongue around the French word for haddock: églefin; but did you know that églefin fumé can result in funny looks at the poissonerie? I stand corrected as they say that smoked haddock is just known as…

‘Haddock’ (with a French accent, please.)

 

Recipe: Smoked Haddock Fishcakes and Tartare Sauce

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Chilling Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Fishcakes

300g smoked haddock
2 bay leaves
milk
500g potatoes, cooked
zest of an untreated lemon
1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp chopped chives
2 tsp horseradish sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp capers, chopped
1 egg
oat flour (to shape) or plain flour
100g breadcrumbs or panko

Tartare Sauce

2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp Dijon mustard
200ml olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp gherkins, finely chopped
1 tbsp capers, chopped
1 tbsp dill, chopped
1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon

Poach the smoked haddock

1. Poach the fish in milk (just enough to cover up to 1/3 of the fish) with the bay leaves for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool, then strain, skin and flake the fish to ensure there are no bones.

2. Mash the potatoes, mixing in the mustard, horseradish, lemon zest, capers and herbs. Season well then add the flaked fish.

3. Divide the fish mixture into small patty cakes (about 2.5 cm thick for starter/hors d’oeuvres size). Form into a shape then roll into the flour. Beat the egg in a separate bowl, dip the patties into it, then cover in the breadcrumbs or panko.

4. Chill for at least 30 minutes in the fridge until needed – this is when I make the tartare sauce. You could freeze the fishcakes at this point, placing them openly on a baking sheet. When frozen, transfer to containers and freeze for up to 3 months.

5. Fry in batches in hot olive oil for 5 minutes on each side until golden and crispy. Keep them warm until serving with the tartare sauce.

Make the tartare sauce. Ensure your ingredients are at room temperature to make the perfect sauce. This sauce can keep for 3 days in an airtight jar in the fridge, so it’s handy to make this in advance.

  1. Whisk the egg yolks, salt and mustard with a metallic whisk in a glass bowl. Gradually add the olive oil, dribbling it finely and regularly, whisking all the time. Once the mixture starts to thicken, add the white wine vinegar (use a good quality one.)
  2. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix well.

I wonder how on earth the Tartare sauce formed the map of Corsica? It wasn’t the Black Island but the ‘Island of Beauty’, as my Corsican husband calls it.

Who nose?

Beet-Horseradish Macarons with Apple and Salmon

Are you all enjoying the festive season? Still merry? Dead beet? In just a few days it will be out with the old and in with the new. Out with the Scottish piping bag! By that I’m referring to the Scottish bagpipes since we’re just back from a wonderfully cosy, family Christmas in Scotland and so now feeling rather patriotic. I wonder if my French neighbours would mind if I took up the bagpipes in 2012?

 While the Scots celebrate ‘Hogmany’, on New Year’s Eve on 31 December, the French have a more formal dinner affair. It normally lasts all evening; in fact, there have been occasions when we’ve been so carried away at the table that midnight has struck as we’re tucking into the cheese board and just about missed it! And that’s long before dessert is even served. Last year, I just about fell asleep in the pudding from fatigue and the liquid refreshments, willing myself to continue into the early hours. Och, it’s not the age it’s the mileage, eh?

Feeling patriotic, Scottish smoked salmon is definitely on my menu for starters (or hors d’oeuvres.) My favourite is Salar Hot Smoked Salmon from the Outer Hebrides in North-West Scotland, but you can use any good quality wild smoked salmon – or in the photo, I used Smoked Salmon with 5 peppers from our local supermarket’s gourmet section (OK, it’s from Monoprix, but I’m just telling you where I shop since nobody ever approaches me for advertising, I never have freebies to post and so this is just simple old me. Voilà.)

 

We filled the suitcase with the Salar smoked precious stuff, hoping that Ryanair Staff wouldn’t take a liking to it and confiscate it at airport security. I was too worried about being blown back with the wind rather than anything else. Edinburgh was incredibly windy and I’m not just talking about the after-effects of the Christmas sprouts here. Don’t get me started on as-much-as-you-dare-with-Ryanair. ‘Haste ye back’ to the recipe!

 

One of the recipes that’s given on the back of the Salar smoked salmon pack is a simple apple and horseradish sauce to accompany it. The apple makes this sauce so deliciously light.  At first guests think it’s pure cream looking at the colour, but on tasting they dollop on more when they realise it’s mainly apple with half fat crème fraîche tossed in as an afterthought!  Serve a little on serving plates and provide extra sauce on the table.

For that extra special touch, this goes famously with a beetroot and horseradish macaron (see mini macs savoury macarons on p.103 of Mad About Macarons.)

Another party? I’m dead beet…

Horseradish and Apple Sauce for Hot Smoked Salmon

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 30 minutes

1 tart apple (e.g. braeburn, granny smith)
1-2 tbsp cream of horseradish (according to taste)
juice of 1 lemon
handful of fresh dill, finely chopped
1 small 12cl carton low fat crème fraîche (15% fat)

1.  Grate the apple then quickly add the lemon juice so that it won’t turn brown.

2.  Mix in the other ingredients and season to taste.

 

Fiddling around in Picasa, I noticed I could make a collage!  Isn’t that pretty?  Not pretty, not awful just pretty awful. OK, I’m still learning. Great fun!  Coming on Friday – a simple, light but fancy French dessert to serve with your macarons for a New Year dinner menu.

Sticky Toffee Pudding Sauce

sticky toffee pudding dessert

Dribbling with sticky toffee sauce

Why don’t the French do sticky toffee pudding? OK, it’s PUD. It’s sometimes pud that can arrive with a thud. Serve too much of it at the end of a meal and my slender French lady friends would secretly panic: you could be made silently responsible for damaging their elegant silhouettes (known as taille de guêpe – literally translated as having a corset waistline like a wasp.)

These beautiful French girlfriends have made me learn so much over the years – simply because I wanted to be just like them. Now if the puddings were poshly presented as individual minis on large, look-at-me plates and surrounded by zigzags of sticky toffee sauce, then it’s definitely accepted: we’re in chic-land.

My French parents-in-law returned from the UK recently and ever since, even they are hooked on “steecky tofffeee puddeeng”, like some of our French friends. In the UK we all fond of our sticky toffee pudding.  So much, that mention the initials, STP, and most people know what you’re talking about.  With Granny and Grandpa, we soon realised that my kids had already sussed our ‘secret code’. “Are they allowed some STP, Mummy?” Before even answering, my kids would promptly jump up and down, chanting: STP, STP, STP, pleeeeease! So much for me being the French Police (yes, that’s my nickname back in Scotland, would you believe it?)

Sticky Toffee Pudding is so popular that it tends to be on most British restaurant dessert menus. As the book was originally aimed at British readers, I couldn’t resist making sticky toffee pudding macarons (see p.86), plus I added a sticky toffee giant macaron dessert (p.118) which is just as wicked as the original puddings but as they’re macarons, they are much lighter in calories and completely GLUTEN FREE.

The French (et al ;-)) adore salted caramel sauce.  This darker toffee sauce is just so quick to make and extra sticky – ideal for dribbling over waffles and pancakes, but also handy for jazzing up desserts such as chocolate fudge cake, brownies, ice-cream (see p.125 of the book) and the giant sticky toffee macaron puddings.

For Christmas, I saw in Delicious Magazine last year that you could make a Cranberry version (their recipe included Brandy, so you could replace the rum with it.) Just add 100g of cranberries to the sauce and hey toffee, you’ve made a festive version to jazz up your puddings.

Update: I also just discovered that my friend, Carolyn of All Day I Dream about Food made special gluten-free, low-carb Sticky Toffee Puddings for a guest post over at Cara’s Cravings. Worth checking out for anyone who is looking for a sugar-free version.

Sticky Toffee Sauce

Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes

150ml double cream
85g dark muscovado sugar
100g unsalted butter
2 tbsp golden syrup (or corn syrup)
2 tbsp dark rum

  1. Put the cream, sugar and butter into a saucepan, stir and bring to the boil.  Cook for 3 minutes, then stir in the syrup and rum.
  2. Cook for a further minute, until the sauce is smooth and thickened.
  3. Set aside until needed and warm before serving.

Licking the spoon is acceptable but I strongly urge you to resist temptation of licking the plate (at the table, anyway.) I’m sure you agree that is definitely not in chic-land.

Don’t forget the International Giveaway of Mad About Macarons over at The Three Little Piglets.
Today is the last day for entries so hurry over now!

Basil & Lime Pesto: Quick and Saucy

Could you get me some basil, please? Antoine came back from the market with not just a few leaves but two huge plants of my favourite herb. There was only one thing for it; while it was so fragrant and fresh, I needed something that was quick to make: PESTO and pronto!

 

Only one problem: as I was finishing up stocks in the fridge before going on holiday, I had run out of fresh parmesan (and also the traditional pecorino) cheese.  So, the cheese was simply replaced with more toasted nuts and the juice of a lime.  Hey pesto, this could be adapted to add to all sorts of sauces at the last minute. It’s a great flavour enhancer to add to all kinds of dishes – even Thai rice noodles.  Adapt it to your own taste, using cashews or walnuts instead of pine nuts; add a red or green chili for some heat; use coriander instead of basil…

What’s more, the sauce freezes well.  As it’s oily, it won’t be a complete solid mass when frozen so you can use the amount needed without having to defrost a whole jar.

Hey pesto!

Basil and Lime Pesto

For 2 jam jars

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

2 basil plants, leaves only
2 garlic cloves, peeled and inside core removed
60g toasted pine nuts (or cashew)
1 untreated lime, zest and juice
140ml olive oil
seasoning

Throw all the ingredients in a blender, adding the olive oil gradually while mixing.  Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Creamy Lemon, Prawn and Asparagus Spaghetti

This has to be one of my favourite pronto pasta dishes after home-made pesto.  It’s “fast food”, easy, scrumptious and what’s more – it uses up egg yolks!  I mentioned this recipe briefly in the egg yolk pages in the book’s annex, but here it is in more detail.

I played about with a fish recipe for John Dory with Sorrel in my tattered and splattered Crème Fraîche Cookbook (Boutron/Ager) one night, since the photo had fresh noodles and called for egg yolks and lemon.  And since I only had prawns to hand and some fresh asparagus, this just evolved.

Vegetarians can omit the prawns and have a lovely lemony cream sauce with the asparagus.  I’m using asparagus, as it’s the end of its season here, but you can omit this and toss in fresh or frozen peas instead. It’s as simple as that.

My sincere excuses to my Italian friends for this photo.  As you can see, I do love pasta with my parmesan. Parmesan isn’t normally served with seafood pasta dishes, but I personally adore it.  Each time I sprinkle it on, my Corsican Mother-in-Law reminds me. Constantly; with that disapproving half-eye cringe. But I still love it, even if my feet shuffle under the table.

prawn lemon and asparagus spaghetti

Serves 4

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 12 minutes

12 giant prawns
3 egg yolks
2 lemons, untreated
20 cl tub crème fraîche
50g freshly grated parmesan
1 tbsp fresh lemon thyme
bunch of green asparagus (optional)

1. Firstly, get some freshly cooked prawns and shell them.

2. Cook dried spaghetti in boiling salted water for about 10 minutes or until al dente.

3. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix the yolks, the juice and zest from the lemons, crème fraîche (or cream if you’re feeling decadently creamy), the parmesan and herbs, then season.

Mix lemon zest/juice, yolks, cream and parmesan

4. If using, break the stems off the asparagus (where they break naturally, about quarter up from the bottom) and cook them for about 5 minutes until al dente in boiling salted water.

5. Drain the pasta and in the same pasta pan, add in the sauce and toss the pasta in it.  Add the prawns, asparagus and decorate with extra fresh herbs such as lemon thyme or chives.

Serve pronto with a chilled glass of Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay.

Here I omitted the prawns and tossed in some roasted chicken leftovers…

Creamy lemon spaghetti with asparagus, lemon thyme & chicken

Et voilà. Keep the egg whites for a batch of macarons!

A huge thank you to my friend, Manu, from Manu’s Menu: she has been very generous in passing on a Versatile Blogger Award, plus others.  It means so much coming from Manu, as I’m always in awe of her fabulous Italian recipes:  her detailed step-by-step guides make it possible for us all to recreate her perfect dishes in our own kitchens.  Merci, Manu!  Congratulations to you, on winning the May Recipe Challenge at Food Frenzy with your Macarons with White Chocolate and Mint Ganache!  They are amazing. 🙂