Pumpkin, Sage and Parmesan Financiers

Today the sun is shining again on the city we love so much.  While France is in shock and mourning, some Parisian shops opened this weekend, not giving in to being terrorised.

Paris view from Montmartre by Jill Colonna

Yesterday the skies were grey and all around was so desperately quiet. We stayed indoors, stunned, numbed by such violence, trying to digest what happened in Paris on Friday night. Our thoughts and sincere sympathies are with all those who have lost their precious loved ones.

We can’t even begin to imagine how it must feel. Paris needs our solidarity and support. As we get on with our lives in hope of peace, let’s not give in to fear by continuing to enjoy its beauty, its history, and its culture.

Pumpkin financiers, French savoury cakes

We lost our appetite but somehow steaming hot pumpkin and leek soup were comforting hugs in a bowl. With a bit of pumpkin left roasting in the pan, I rustled up some light, savoury cakes to accompany it.

A Bit of Parisian History – Financiers

I’ve called them Financiers but the only resemblance to the sweet, traditional almond teacake is the oblong moulds used, which are also used by Ladurée in Paris for their financiers. These were the original shape of the teacake before Monsieur Lasne, a rather enterprising pastry chef in the Stock Exchange (la Bourse) area, had the gem of an idea by changing them to gold bar shapes in 1890 for his financial clientele. Recipes for financiers, including a chocolate-hazelnut one, are in Teatime in Paris!

Silicone moulds are my favourite, as there’s no need to grease them before baking and the cakes just fall out on to the cooling rack. They’re best in these financier moulds but you can use any little cake moulds that you have. The pumpkin parmesan financiers are a delicious change to holiday apéritif pre-dinner drinks and, even if they’re quick to make, they also freeze well so ideal for planning ahead.

pumpkin parmesan financiers recipe

Pumpkin Parmesan Financiers

Makes approx. 20 cakes

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 20+15 minutes

150g pumpkin, roughly chopped into small chunks
1 tbsp sage, finely chopped
100g olive oil
200g plain (all-purpose) flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
100g semi-skimmed milk
50g block parmesan, freshly grated
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
20g chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/360°F (gas 4). Put the pumpkin in a roasting tin with half of the sage and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.  Roast for 20 minutes then remove from oven to cool.

2. Mix the flour and baking powder in a bowl then, using a balloon whisk, beat in the eggs, olive oil and milk until you have a smooth paste. Add the parmesan, nutmeg, the rest of the sage then gradually whisk in the pumpkin (it will break up with the whisk which is just perfect as it won’t be a purée but tiny bits) and walnuts, if using.

3. Pour into financier silicone moulds (here I used traditional oblong shapes but you can use rectangular financier moulds – or madeleine moulds too) and bake for about 20 minutes until the cakes are golden brown.

Best served on the day but can also be frozen for up to a month to help you plan ahead for your holiday baking. Or prepare the batter the day before and bake when needed.

pumpkin parmesan financiers

To all my American friends – wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving from Paris!

 

Sweetcorn and Red Pepper Velouté Soup

Autumn may officially be upon us but I’m still hanging on by a corn thread to the last fruits and vegetables of the French summer.  Somehow corn on the cob has been rare this year outside Paris and while I could find them prepackaged and wilting under cellophane in the supermarket, when I saw a pile of fresh corn at our local farmers’ market last week, I pounced on them like there was no tomorrow.

Sweetcorn and red pepper cream soup recipe

I first tasted the most creamy sweetcorn soup on our last visit to South Africa in the French colonial wine town of Franschhoek, near Cape Town. Antoine and I had splashed out to celebrate our wedding anniversary at Grande Provence, where the chef had bowled us over with his soup (quick pause here for a pun groan). It was simply but elegantly poured at the table from a white porcelain milk jug into an oversized rimmed porcelain bowl, serving as a moat around a heap of turnip purée and crowned with a gigantic tempura prawn, along with a few other fancy green garnishes.

I was in awe. Antoine knows that these kind of special eating-out moments are always a good investment, as I’ll probably try to copy the experience at home.  Well, in this case, without the fancy frills part. Over the last couple of years, this creamy, velvety velouté soup has turned into a much simpler but delicious starter for dinner guests.  To cut the sweetness, I added red pepper and a hint of smoked paprika. Smaller helpings of this is better, as it is pretty rich. If you can’t find fresh corn on the cob (which really is best), then use frozen kernels and 3/4 litre vegetable stock.

Sweetcorn and red pepper creamy veloute French soup recipe

Sweetcorn and Red Pepper Creamy Soup Recipe

Serves 6

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes

3 fresh corns on the cob
20g butter
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 sprigs flat parsley leaves
100g single cream

method how to make sweetcorn and red pepper soup

1. Rip off the outer leaves and threads and snap off the bases with a twist of the wrist. Cut the kernels from the cobs and throw them into a large heavy-based pan, including the bare cobs (this will help make your natural stock).  Pour over just enough water to cover the lot (about 1.25 litres) and bring to the boil then boil for another 5 minutes.

2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and soften the onion and pepper gently over low to medium heat for about 10 minutes until translucent then add the smoked paprika.  Meanwhile, using a strainer, remove and discard the cobs. Strain off the corn and add to the onion and peppers. Continue to gently soften for another 5 minutes and continue to reduce the corn stock during this time.

3. Add the sweetcorn stock and cream to the vegetables and simmer for another 5 minutes.  Add the parsley and season to taste then liquidise either in a blender or using a stick blender.  If the soup is too thick, I add a dash of semi-skimmed milk.

sweetcorn and red pepper veloute cream soup

Serve with fresh bread and salted butter or why not a savoury macaron if you prefer gluten-free? (Savoury macaron recipes are in my first book, Mad About Macarons!). Toe-curling with a glass of chilled Chenin Blanc wine.

A Taste of Provence with Chickpea Spread

This view is from my parents-in-law’s house in the Luberon, the heart of Provence. It has always been special, whatever time of year; as in this picture, even if the pretty lavender from the fields has been harvested in August, watching the smoke rise from the distillery’s chimney down below conjures up all sorts of ideas as to what uses we have with lavender oil. (Which reminds me, I must share a lovely lavender cream recipe with you next.)

But today we’re going savoury for a change and thinking of the French’s favourite time before dinner: the apéritif. And as we’re heading to Provence this weekend to see good friends, I’m “spreading” the holiday mood with you and opening the rosé wine.

View from Saignon in Provence

This winding road takes us from Saignon to Apt, a popular Provençal market town. On summer Saturdays it transforms from sleepy town into a giant beehive of swarming tourists amongst the locals in every street and hidden nook and cranny, as we dodge past the buskers and look for the best olives, tapenade, honey, vegetables, cheeses and garlic, to name a few.

When we shop at the market, my Corsican mother-in-law and I have very different items in our shopping baskets. One of them is she doesn’t use much garlic and heaven forbid if I add any raw garlic if she is to join us. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles at her place.

garlic at the Provencal market of Apt

Ail, ail, ail!

I also love stocking up on good olive oil. Here is one of the popular olive market stalls.  Just be aware of scams. There are stands that exist that don’t sell the genuine article so ensure that you look for the quality label, AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée) on decanted 3-5 litre plastic containers.

Olive stand at the market in Apt Provence

On the other hand, our good friends adore garlic and the local specialities. So when they invited us for lunch “up the road”- passing the villages of Rousillon and Bonnieux – we knew it would be a Provençal treat. Valérie is the most wonderful cook. Her recipes are not only eleven out of ten on the tasty scale but they are above all simple, using the freshest of good quality local ingredients. This means there’s just enough time to have a dip in the pool.

Provence swimming pool with olive trees

As the chilled rosé is opened before the meal, Valérie produces something different each time. Last time she brought out Poichichade (pron: pwah-sheesh-ad).  It’s rather like Lebanese-style Hummous or Humus.  In Provence it’s served as an apéritif accompanied by fresh toasted thin slices of baguette and fresh crudités or vegetable sticks. Not only was it rather addictive, but it also contained a good punch of garlic, using both cooked garlic and just one fresh clove at the end to give it that touch of Provence!

Julie and Lucie were itching to make it so much as soon as our return last time, I didn’t even have time to run out and get dried chick peas!  Dare I even say it?  We used handy tinned/canned chick peas (pois chiches).  I took a quick photo of it and although it was good (and er, yellower), it wasn’t a patch on Valérie’s.  I added some parsley to make up for the different texture, even if the garlic packed a punch.  What was wrong?  We should have taken the time to soak dried chick peas.  It’s far creamier and smooth.

Apologies for this photo.  I did it quickly, as the heat was so intense last night that I didn’t manage to do a photo staging: instead just helped myself to a glass of chilled rosé and had a taste before anyone came home!

Chickpea spread or French poichichade

La Poichichade – Provençal Chickpea Spread

Thanks to Valérie for the recipe. Please do use dried chickpeas and not the ones in tins: believe me, the taste is completely different.  The hardest part is just remembering to soak them in advance!

Pre-soaking time: 12 hours (or overnight)
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Cooling/Chilling time:  30 minutes

250g dried chickpeas (soaked overnight in water)
1 tsp sodium bicarbonate
3 + 1 cloves garlic, peeled
bay leaf
Juice of a lemon
1 tsp tahini paste (optional)
3 tbsps olive oil
salt & pepper

1.  Leave the dried chickpeas to soak overnight in water.  Next day, rinse well and transfer to a heavy based pan.  Add enough water just to cover the chickpeas and add a teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate (this makes them easy to digest).  Add 3 large cloves of garlic and the bay leaf.  Cover and cook over a low-medium heat for 45 minutes.

2.  When cooked, drain the chickpeas and garlic, discard the bay leaf, and leave to cool for 15 minutes.

3.  Mix the chickpeas using a hand blender or mixer with the rest of the ingredients (adding the extra clove of garlic – or even more to your taste but beware – could be potent!), dribbling in the olive oil gradually until you have a good dipping consistency.  Chill for about 15 minutes.

Serve topped with a sprinkling of more olive oil and why not a touch of paprika or fresh parsley?  Serve with slices of good baguette, radishes, cucumber and carrots. Oh and chilled rosé, but of course …

Chickpea Spread or French poichichade - Hummous from Provence

Well I’m off to pack. I wonder what Provençal recipes I can return with this time?  Let me leave you with a view of last year’s fireworks display for Bastille Day celebrations on 14th July.

Wishing you all a wonderful long Bastille weekend from a hot and sunny Paris. Cheers!  See you in the South on Instagram.

Fireworks-Paris-Bastille-Day

Beetroot & Horseradish Risotto with Macarons

I’m often amazed how some recipes, like this Beetroot Horseradish Risotto, have been created around a macaron!

The other day I was walking on the sweet side in Paris with a lovely group of Americans.  It’s a chocolate and pastry tour and, as you can imagine, I tend to become particularly passionate when somebody asks about macarons.

One question has remained with me this week: “Do you like savoury macarons – and when would you eat them?” Well, I love them – especially if they have a wee kick to them.

Beet and horseradish or wasabi macaron

By adding some heated spice to the filling, the intriguing sweetness of the macaron shell puts out the fire.  Have you tried these beetroot (or beet) and horseradish macarons? (The recipe  is in the book). They’re great with bubbles or red wine as an apéritif but they also go so well with one of my favourite risotto recipes, ideal as a starter.  It’s also a wonderful talking point at the table: once friends thought I was serving a steak tartare – as an ex-vegetarian, I was just as surprised as they were!

Normally you’d expect the beetroot to give the risotto or macarons an earthy taste but the result is instead ever so delicately sweet.  Try these beetroot and chocolate fondants – it’s not unlike the carrot cake idea or chocolate and zucchini/courgette cakes, where the vegetable just acts as a fun and extra squidgy ingredient.  But here, in a gluten-free macaron, it’s a colourful change!

beetroot horseradish risotto with savoury beet macaron

This light risotto blushes with the beetroot, taking on the most vibrant natural red colour.  The added touch of creamy horseradish just gives it that je ne sais quoi. It’s healthy, cheap to make, and ideal to serve at any time of year – and great fun for the holiday season.

Beetroot & Horseradish Risotto

Serves 4 as a starter (or 2 as a main course)

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes (+ 45 minutes if using raw beetroots)

400g pre-cooked beetroot / beet (or 2 small raw beetroots)
1 tbsp olive oil
knob of unsalted butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
250g risotto rice (carnaroli)
150g ( or glass) white wine
800g vegetable or chicken stock
60g freshly grated parmesan
salt & pepper to taste
2 tbsps crème fraîche
2 tsps horseradish sauce

1.  Wearing rubber gloves to avoid staining your hands, peel and grate the beetroot. (If using raw beetroot, rub on coarse sea salt and wrap them up in aluminium foil and bake at 180°C for 45 minutes and leave to cool.)

2.  Fry the onion in the olive oil and butter over a medium heat until softened (do not brown) for about 5 minutes.  Add the chopped garlic and stir until softened for another couple of minutes.  Add the rice and stir until the grains are all coated and shiny.

3.  Add the wine until it has disappeared into the rice.  Gradually add the hot stock, a ladle at a time and stir continuously until each time the stock has soaked in.  Cook for 15-17 minutes.  After about 10 minutes, stir in the grated beetroot.

4.  When the rice is cooked, stir in the crème fraîche, parmesan and horseradish and take off the heat.  Add salt (fleur de sel) and pepper to taste.

Serve in small pasta bowls, decorate with fresh herbs and more parmesan shavings and a mini beetroot and horseradish macaron (recipe on page 103 of Mad About Macarons!)

Beetroot horseradish risotto with red wine and a savoury macaron

Pair with a fruity red wine with a hint of spice such as a Médoc, Pinot Noir from Alsace, Côte-du-Rhône – or a chilled rosé from Provence.

Santé – to your good health!

 

Savoury Macarons: Festive Starter Ideas

Who can believe that the year has just about made a wrap?  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 are into savoury macarons such as chocolate and fois gras as an apéritif (me included!) 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!

beet horseradish macaron with smoked salmon

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.

terre et mer beetroot macaron

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

festive savory macaron ideas

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?

christmas macaron ideas

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 New Year!

 

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 and Goat Cheese Chèvre Tarte Tatin

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!