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The Thai Tuk-Tuk Adventure to Sapphire Macarons

Why does it happen to me?  Perhaps because “gullible smiling tourist” is pinned to my forehead.

It all started so well. En route to Koh Samui airport – which is more like entering Disneyland’s main boulevard – we savoured the lushness of the island’s greenery: the pineapples, papayas, and these enormous banana flowers.

A couple of hours later in Bangkok, we quickly realised that our lazy island pace needed some acceleration.  Just the thought made us crave an energising plate of noodles.  Where could we get the best Pad Thai noodles and fast?

No big deal: just take the ferry boat across the river and in 10 minutes you’re there, said the Concierge. The Chao Phraya river is awash with bobbing, bustling boats bombing up its main diluted hot chocolate-looking artery; and with its canals going through the city, you can see why it’s called the Venice of the East.

Pad Thai Noodles served in a banana leaf boat

At Mazzaro restaurant (just off New Road between the Shangri-La Hotel), we couldn’t fault they were one of the best pad thai in the city.  What a beautiful presentation, served in a banana flower boat. It was spicy but by now, the children were into the heat.

They were also into,”We don’t want the kids’ menu!” No wonder when you tasted this mango and sticky coconut rice dessert. We parted with Antoine, who had to work but us girls carried on walking around to soak in the atmosphere.

Stalls of fruits and vegetables were jam-packed at the sides of the street and on each corner you could take in the bewildering aromas of seafood, satays, pickles, pastes, and all kinds of Thai dishes being prepared on the spot for passers-by.

Durian fruit were also being prepared at many stalls. Despite its popularity it does have a particular smell. Suddenly we turned the corner and we focused on the tuk-tuks.  They were everywhere, zooming in and out of taxis and buses with their familiar tuk-tuk motor.

Was this driver sleeping or was he just recovering after smelling that durian?

First impressions can be deceiving

After crashing out ourselves, next day it was time to visit some of Bangkok’s sights.  We were ready for an adventure. Luckily the concierge warned us of the riverboat cost, otherwise we would have ended up paying three times the tarif if we didn’t buy the ticket directly on the boat.  Goody.  That one was cracked.

Temple of Dawn

Leaving the high-rise modern buildings behind us, we chugged past the famous Temple of Dawn and Chinatown, aware we shouldn’t miss our stop with all these sights so close.

Get me to the palace!

We were heading for the Grand Palace, dodging sellers touting their wares before the entrance. Then, halt!

A perfectly normal, kind-looking gentleman in a suit came up to warn us that our sleeves or my trousers weren’t long enough. Did you know that only one part of the palace was open to the public this morning since the monks were using the rest? Come back later at 2pm and in the meantime you have to see a remarkable sight.  Today is a special day in Thailand: we give rubies to our wives for good luck. The government is hosting a once-in-a-lifetime event at the actual factory and there are great bargains.  Bargain?  Don’t forget I said I was gullible.

tuk tuk in Thailand

Lucie holding on to her monkey, Coconut, for dear life

And before you could say, “My boss will take you there and wherever you want for 100 baht” we were in that tuk-tuk, knocking knees wondering what on earth had happened. Mum?

This had to be worth shortening our lives by a week, inhaling the exhaust fumes from the bus right in front of us. My youngest had a ball – we’re on a tuk-tuk!  My eldest should have done the talking at the palace, on reflection.

You can tell I was shaking for the next part – I didn’t know what was coming next …

Taken briefly around the tiny room of craftsmen at the Royal Lapidary factory, we were led in to the labyrinth of cases displaying their rubies and sapphires.  It’s surprising how the special government initiative wasn’t known. TaDa!  We were shown this beauty.

Never Thai-tired of sapphires

After feeling in long denial, I opted for a pricey little souvenir of Thailand: a miniscule version of this one. Why not?  Well you try and get out of there without buying anything.  Do you have any tricks on squirming your way out of that one?  I’d love to know your tactics.

Back in the tuk-tuk, we were on to their game.  We wanted dropped off at Siam Centre but somehow he talked about stopping for gasoline.  Aha.  A tailor’s shop.  You buy a suit and I get free gasoline.  OK.  That’s it.  Just take us to Siam square.

Suddenly the tuk-tuk accelerated.  We were in a James Bond movie with Jaws at the wheel. This thing careered down hills, over bridges, screeching past taxis, as we tried to see the sights. While he was wailing, “I didn’t get gasoline”, I was wailing at the kids to keep their fingers and arms inside as they pointed out buildings.  Look Mum!  A palace.

Jaws soon accelerated wailing, “No gasoline..!”

He literally dropped us in Siam square, the shopping mall paradise where the girls and I celebrated our new souvenir investment and tuk-tuk experience with the sweetest, synthetic ice creams.  Back at the hotel I needed something a little stronger since I couldn’t stop kicking myself.  That was it: a long island ice tea.  That can surely pack a punch.  You must be kidding.  My forehead stamp must not have rubbed off yet.  Amongst the ice was some ice tea without the punchy long island bit.

I learned my lesson: I should have been dressed like our friend here, with LONG sleeves and trousers that cover the ankles.  I need to return to Bangkok and feast on the delights of the temples.  After all, with around 450 Buddhist temples, it surely can’t be that difficult to visit one. The next time, I won’t have “easy target” stamped on me and I’ll pretend to speak Norwegian.

blueberry macarons like sapphires

Sapphire Blueberry macarons

Believe me. I shall never look at sapphires in the same light again. And next time I bite into a blueberry sapphire macaron, I’ll consider it an adventure.  Tuk-tuk!

See recipe for Crispy Papaya with Prawns.


Note: This was not a sponsored trip. It was our private family holiday but I just wanted to share this touristic experience, so you can be wiser to the situation!

 

A Royal Macaron Procession

Et voilà. The fairytale Royal Wedding has perhaps been and gone, but the fun isn’t completely over yet.  A promise is a promise, so let’s continue the celebrations with a procession of some Royal-inspired Macarons.

Preparing some royal macarons for the party

It may have been street party galore in Britain on Friday but in Croissy-sur-Seine, just outside Paris, there was another celebration to the Happy Couple amongst a thriving British community.  Sandra Chol – hairdresser extraordinaire of A Cut Above – invited us to view the wedding, complete with hats, British sandwiches and rather good French bubbly; plus it gave me a good excuse to make these macarons for the occasion.

Sandra passing around the egg & cress sandwiches

I hadn’t had egg and cress sandwiches in years!  Funny, since Brandie had just done a post for Egg and watercress sandwiches from The Country Cook.

lots of fun at a royal wedding party in Croissy

As the bells were ringing from Westminster Abbey the radiant couple emerged as the Duke and  Duchess of Cambridge.  Now it’s time to pass around the macarons!

Sapphire Blueberry macarons

I couldn’t resist making an oval sapphire-themed macaron: inspired by the special Ceylon sapphire and diamond engagement ring that Prince William gave to Kate Middleton.  It was the ring that Princess Diana chose for her engagement to Prince Charles in 1981.  I was personally obsessed with Diana and even tried to copy her hairdo as a teenager!

If you didn’t already see my last guest post, check out Erin’s recipe for Blueberry Curd.  This was an ideal filling for Blueberry macarons to give that royal sapphire look.

Eleanor’s Saltire macarons to celebrate the Scottish connection

Meanwhile in Scotland, Eleanor Abraham – Editor at Waverley Books – was inspired by the Scottish Saltire for her royal macarons.  The romance all happened in Scotland, when Prince William and Kate Middleton met at St Andrew’s University (I can’t help feeling sentimental on that one, since I also met my husband at University in Scotland: Scottish Universities have a lot to answer for ;-)).  Did the royal newly-weds head off for a long honeymoon weekend in Scotland, after all?

Macaron Crown by Alan Quelleron

Also in Scotland, Alan Quelleron is another macaron lover.  He works at The New Club in Edinburgh and is always striving for perfection with his macarons and other pastries.  Here is Alan’s Royal-inspired Champagne, Strawberry and Peanut Butter Macaron. The odd Champagne bubble will still tingle in the mouth when you eat this rich yet light macaron. Did you know that Pol Roger Champagne was served at the wedding?  Pol Roger was Sir Winston Churchill’s favourite bubbly.

Alan’s Champagne, Raspberry and Peanut Butter Macaron

Meanwhile in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Raja Suzana was passing around her sweet macarons.

Rose & white chocolate macarons from Raja Suzana

Raja, en ex-flight attendant, is not only a keen baker and macaronivore but sounds like a Bond Girl: she has climbed Mount Kinabalu twice (at 4095m, the highest mountain in South East Asia) and is into scuba diving and underwater photography.  Suzana was inspired with rose and white chocolate macarons.

From Raja Suzana, Malaysia

It’s funny how we both chose the same kind of colour scheme.  I’ve done a macaron version of the British classic dessert, Bakewell Tart: except these are gluten-free without the pastry.  I basically took the recipe for almond macarons (see p.38), added a dash of lemon zest and a touch of raspberry jam on top, before assembling the macaron shells.

Bakewell Tart Macarons

Others with blueberry curd

Royal Cupcakes? Excuse me, make way for the Royal Macarons…

Anyone for a cup of Darjeeling? Did you know that the fourth largest surge in electricity was recorded in the UK following the end of TV coverage of the wedding?  The nation were dying for their cuppa following the end of the broadcast and the equivalent of a million kettles were boiled at exactly the same time.

Sticky Toffee Pudding Macarons

Apparently Kate adores another classic, British dessert: Sticky Toffee Pudding.  Don’t forget that the recipe for a gluten-free macaron version is on p.86 for all STP lovers.  On the other hand, Prince William loves chocolate.  So here’s a chocolate-caramel macaron (recipe on p.55), given the royal touch by brushing on some bronze metallic food lustre.

Chocolate-caramel macaron

What a wonderful way to end the procession with Le Macaron Royal: Joshua’s Vanilla Bean Macaron with Fresh Berries.  Please pop by Joshua Alan’s blog, “Just Eat!” and say bonjour from me.  He is an aspiring American pastry chef and is currently studying French in Normandy.  I adore how he has used the strawberries and blueberries to create the Union Jack.

Joshua will shortly be sharing one of his recipes for the egg yolk guest recipe series.  In the meantime, have a wonderful week!

Guest Recipe: Blueberry Curd

Blueberries are guarded like the crown jewels by my daughter.  When Julie was a toddler she called them black balls.  Not very poetic, I know, but since they are packed with anti-oxidants and many more healthy benefits eating plenty blueberries is to be encouraged, whatever you call them.

When Erin from BigFatBaker.com came up with a blueberry curd, it was time to rejoice.  She was just in time to add a touch of blue to my first batch of Royal Wedding inspired macarons in honour of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s Big Day.  Stay tuned for Monday’s post with a Royal Macaron procession.

blueberry sapphire macarons

Will Kate say yes today?

 

I am delighted that Erin said yes and has returned to share her fruit curd recipes with us.  They use up your egg yolks, are gluten free and can be used to fill your fruity macarons – that’s if there’s much left after relishing it by the spoonful!  Let me hand you over to Erin now while I find my hat for a Royal Wedding Party.

Erin, BigFatBaker.com

Having a second opportunity to write a guest post for Jill is truly an honor. I am in love with her egg yolk section, and I can only imagine what recipes we will see in the future.

Speaking of recipes, have you checked out my pineapple curd recipe? And what about Manu’s recipe for Genovesi? Doesn’t that sound fabulous? I can’t wait until I have a chance to make that one for myself!

To continue on the egg yolk journey I made a delicious and thick organic blueberry curd. It is sweet, but balanced and I can only imagine how amazing it would taste sandwiched between some of Jill’s vanilla macarons.

Making this blueberry curd recipe is just as simple as any other curd recipe out there.

Blueberry Curd:

6 tbsp unsalted organic butter at room temperature

10-12 oz. organic blueberries

3 large egg yolks

¾ cup white sugar

pinch of salt

¼ cup water

First, defrost the frozen berries, or rinse fresh ones (if you are lucky enough to find them). In a small saucepan combine the water with the berries and cook down until the berries have burst, and there is a slightly syrupy liquid forming in the pan.

Go ahead and remove the pan from the heat, and smash the berries with a spoon. Strain the contents of your pan through a fine mesh strainer. Be sure to press on all the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Dispose of the remains in the strainer.

In the same saucepan whisk together the sugar and butter. Slowly add in the egg yolks and mix until fully combined. Mix in the blueberry juice and salt.

Set the pan over low heat, and gradually increase the temperature of the mixture while stirring frequently. Gradually, over the next 5-7 minutes, increase the heat to medium while constantly stirring. At this point the mixture should be starting to thicken up.

Cook without boiling for 5-7 more minutes, or until the mixture has reached 170ºF. Do not forget to stir constantly!

Remove the pan from the heat and stir for 5 more minutes, and allow the mixture to cool slightly (about 5-10 minutes). Once it has cooled, pour into a pint sized jar for storage.

This curd turns out to be fairly thick compared to a traditional lemon or lime curd. I recommend allowing the curd to sit out at room temperature for about 10 minutes before trying to spread on something soft like bread or macarons.

But, there are many ways to enjoy this delicious curd. One of my new favorites is a peanut butter and blueberry curd sandwich, yum!

The curd will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

A huge thanks to Erin for sharing this with us to further our repertoire of egg yolk recipes.  Don’t forget to pop by BigFatBaker.com and say hello to Erin from me and check out many more wonderful organic recipes.