April Fooled by a chocolate bacon macaron?

Have you ever felt out of place at a fancy dress party? Last weekend Antoine and I arrived at the door unsuspectingly wearing pyjamas and cuddly bears to meet a sea of hand painted Venetian masks and hired gowns from the Carnaval of Venice to Captain outfits.

In our defense we were dressed as characters from a French children’s show, Bonne nuit les petits. It felt, however, as if we were the April Fools of the year. In France, they call it Poisson d’avril and its victims go around the rest of the day with a paper fish pinned to their back. But it was too early. No, this was no joke. No turning back. We were in that door and we had to carry it off amongst an array of anonymous forbidding masks and, apart from our neighbours, complete strangers. At least we were comfy dancing in our slippers.

April Fool! Poisson d’avril !

A good friend, Belinda, provided consolation with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:
Be true to your own act and congratulate yourself, if you have done something strange and extravagant to break the monotony of a decorous age.” It so happened that Belinda was visiting from the US last week and so she was in the firing line to taste another macaron experiment to break away from the monotony of classic flavours…

This is too funny: you mean it’s not just chocolate? Wait a minute, I get it!

I took her photo seconds before she cracked up laughing.

The flavour? Dark chocolate and bacon. It’s not so mad, is it? We’ve seen bars of bitter chocolate with fleur de sel and seen chocolate chip and bacon cookies – so why not in a macaron?
The secret is not too much bacon, just enough to give a hint of saltiness and intrigue.

chocolate ganache with bacon rashers

Firstly, add a touch of fleur de sel to the chocolate shells, fry 5 streaky bacon rashers then infuse 2 bacon rashers in the cream for the ganache.

Infuse bacon rashers in the cream

Then discard the bacon from the cream and continue normally with a chocolate ganache. I did cut back slightly on the normal quantity of butter used, due to the presence of bacon fat. Julia Child did say that fat gives flavour, n’est-ce pas? (Note: I tried a batch before these ones, using allumettes (mini bacon bits) but they kept getting stuck in the piping nozzle and the end result was like eating tiny bullets in the ganache. So learn from my mistake. This next batch with infused bacon and rashers added to the ganache later was by far better.)

Place a cooked bacon rasher bit on top of the ganache

Cut up the rest of the bacon rashers with scissors and place on top of the ganache for each shell.
One wee tip: when putting any kind of “solid” in the ganache, always top it up slightly with a dash more ganache on top. That way the ganache can infuse perfectly into both shells over the next 24 or even 36 hours (if you can wait that long) for chocolate toe-curling bliss.

Add more ganache on top of the bacon before assembling

Et voilà, mes amis. Nothing fancy. Nothing complicated. Just more macaron fun!
Et maintenant

Giveaway Winners to Celebrate the Fête du Macaron

As promised, it’s time to announce the 5 lucky winners of a copy of “Mad About Macarons!” from Waverley Books. A huge thank you to all of you who participated and for so many lovely comments. I honestly wish we could have given a copy to everybody!

Congratulations to:

  • Jenna Parrington
  • Mary Jane
  • Mary Rosch
  • Spinneys Cauldron
  • Sylvie

Please send me an email ([email protected](dot)com) with your full name and address so that we can mail out your copy. For the rest of you, don’t worry. The macaron madness continues…. and who knows, we’re surely going to have another giveaway soon. 🙂 Stay tuned. vip-popki.net/prostitutka-lvov

Just remember: don’t be caught out tomorrow on April Fool’s Day. Poisson d’avril !!!

Don’t be caught out tomorrow. POISSON d’AVRIL !

Saltimbocca: Veal and Parma Ham Spirals

saltimbocca veal roll easy recipe

Spam Saltimbocca without the spam, please

A few years back, Antoine gave me a clever Christmas present: a course in Italian cooking in Paris. It was a great idea for ALL of us in the end, wasn’t it? One of the class dishes prepared was saltimbocca, but instead of using the traditional veal they used thin chicken breasts and stuffed them with sun-dried tomatoes and basil leaves.

I’d made Saltimbocca before but I learned a neat trick: instead of serving them as one long sausage type roll, simply cut them up into dainty slices and you see the beautiful spirals: it’s a no brainer. 🙂 Saltimbocca (literally “jumps in the mouth”) is a real classic but so easy to rustle up at the last minute for unexpected guests.

I learned this part not from the class but from my local butcher: to tenderise the veal, hammer the living daylights out of it. The French romantically call this, “une caresse du boucher“.  Imagine the scene chez le boucher in Le Vésinet, a posh suburb just up the road from us.  With a long queue of serious French customers looking on (and listening carefully, of course) I asked for the thinnest possible veal escalopes they could give me, along with a caresse, please. I thought I was being clever but it was a blond moment.  I didn’t go back there for a while since they’d ask me each time for une caresse.  So the best way was just to buy a cheap meat hammer from Ikea and do it yourself!

tenderizing meat with a caress du boucher

giving a tenderising “caresse du boucher”

For 4 people

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes

4 veal escalopes @ 100g
4 slices Parma ham
8 sage leaves
25cl white wine (or Marsala)
4 tbsps crème fraîche

  1. Spread out each veal escalope on a chopping board and thump the living daylights out of it so that it will be beautifully tender.
  2. Place a slice of Parma ham on top of each escalope, add a sage leaf and season.
  3. Roll up each escalope and hold it together with a toothpick.  Chop up the rest of the sage leaves into thin strips.
  4. Fry the escalopes gently in a mixture of butter and olive oil plus the sage on all sides for about 15 minutes.  Glaze the pan with the wine (or Marsala if you want something a bit more fruity and gutsy) and finish off by adding the crème frâiche.
  5. Remove the escalope rolls and with a good sharp knife, slice each escalope into small slices.

Serve immediately with pasta tossed in the sauce and decorate with crispy sage leaves.
Alternatively, serve with sweet potato and sage gnocchi for something slightly different.

saltimbocca veal rolls with sweet potato gnocchi and marsala sauce

Saltimbocca served with sweet potato gnocchi and a marsala sauce

Sweet Potato & Sage Roman Gnocchi

gnocchi romaine

Sweet potato & sage gnocchi (Roman style)

As some of you may know, I’m married to a Frenchman but whether he’s a true Frenchman can be a bit of a debate.  He’s Corsican.  Although the island of Corsica officially belongs to France, their cuisine is more Italian in spirit.  More on that subject later…  In our house, we tend to eat a lot of pasta.  The children LOVE to get covered in flour making homemade tagliatelle: I prefer that the flour coats the pasta. 😉

This has to be another of my favourite Italian-style dishes.  We all know gnocchi as the round little potato dumplings but this version is baked in the oven, Roman-style. I found this recipe for Baked Butternut Squash Gnocchi by Jean-Christophe Novelli in a magazine ages ago and since then I’ve been playing around with it, as it’s so versatile:  in place of the butternut squash I’ve used pumpkin, parsnips and here I’ve used sweet potato.  They all work wonderfully.

In summer I’ve even tried this with roasted red peppers (skins removed.) It completely transforms this dish.  Serve it as bright red gnocchi with fish for a real treat.  Don’t forget you can also chop and change the herbs – with lemon thyme, basil and rosemary, depending on your accompaniment.

Serve this as a starter or a main course, top with some good melting cheese and finish off under the grill.  Serve with a rocket salad tossed in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and toasted pine nuts.  You could use polenta instead of the semolina but I personally find the semolina is lighter.   Use wholemeal semolina, if you’re wanting to be particularly healthy.  I love serving this as a side dish (without the cheese topping) to accompany saltimbocca or roast chicken.

Serves 4 people as a main dish or 8 as a side dish or starter.
Adapted from a recipe by Jean-Christophe Novelli

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes + 40 minutes

2 sweet potatoes (about 550g), peeled & chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
4 sage leaves, finely chopped
100g semolina
50g  Parmesan cheese, grated (or grana padano)
65g butter, softened
3 large organic eggs
125ml carton crème fraîche
Fontina, gorgonzola or taleggio (good melting cheeses)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Throw the sweet potato, garlic and sage in a roasting tin.  Cover with foil and roast for 45 minutes. There’s no need to use oil if you cover with the foil.

    No need for oil since roast covered in foil 

  3. Whiz the potato, garlic and sage in a food processor until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl and add all the other ingredients.  Season to taste.
  4. Spread the mixture in a brownie tin lined with baking paper, cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes (I use the roasting option on the oven).

    Spread the mixture in a brownie tin

  5. Cool in the tin then cut into squares, triangles or circles (circles are pretty but I prefer the squares as there’s no waste.)
  6. If serving as a main vegetarian dish or a starter, put the slices on a baking tray.  Cover with the cheese of your choice and grill until melted.
  7. We ate this at home thinking of Manuela’s event for the 150 years of the Unification of Italy at Manu’s Menu on 17 March but I didn’t get around to writing it up on the site.  Sorry, Manu!  Mieux vaut tard que jamais, as they say here (better late than never) 😉

roman gnocchi side dish

A Mad Macaron Weekend in Paris


mad about macarons poster booksigning

What a weekend. Still recovering, I’m now bunged up with a horrible cold to welcome Spring 🙁 I’m sure some of you heard that it was the Fête du Macaron in Paris. Did YOU get your dose of macarons? To honour the fête, Brentano’s American Bookstore in Paris kindly invited me for a book event. Thank you, Catherine! It was a total honour to be there.

It was great fun meeting new curious macaronivores-to-be. I do hope they will stay in touch via the website to say hello and even share their macarons with us! There were readers from Japan, America, Sweden, Slovenia and even France! I was assured the French liked it in English since it’s good for their English practise and what better way to learn through making macarons? Then the riot police turned up on the Avenue de l’Opéra

riot police paris book event mad about macarons

Riot police and Mad About Macarons!

Had they perhaps heard about the macaronivores in town? 😉
One fascinating lady who was in town over the weekend and who is definitely no stranger to the macaron is Carol Gillott, an artist who paints Paris dreams. If you don’t know her already you soon will via her website, ParisBreakfasts. Check out her amazing macaron T-shirt for a start.

Paris breakfasts artist Carol Gillott


Hm. It was tough choosing from the pastry menu plus the best hot chocolate in the city chez Jean-Paul Hevin. His pastries are show-cased like in a Swatch store.

Hevin macaron display

Following my pâtisserie tasting with Carol, I couldn’t resist the temptation to make my own version of Jean-Paul Hevin’s chocolate-raspberry macarons back home.

Chocolate-raspberry macarons: I added plenty of pink food colouring into the shells as well as a few drops of natural raspberry essence (I got that at Mora). For the chocolate ganache, I followed the recipe in the book on page 47 but replaced the teaspoon of coffee with a teaspoon of raspberry essence and added 100g of crushed raspberries into the melting chocolate (even better, Picard in France do bags of frozen crushed raspberries when it’s not in season.)

To add even more raspberry flavour, I’ve discovered a brand new line of natural mini square fruit pastels that are to die for called “N.A. (Nature Addicts)“. They’re everywhere in Paris just now at the check-outs and the kids are crazy about them. Just slip one on top of the ganache and add a bit more ganache on top of the square before putting on the top macaron shell. Wait for 36 hours and you’ll see why you need to wait before eating them.

chocolate raspberry mad about macarons

Chocolate-raspberry macarons

For those of you who missed the Fête du Macaron, it’s not too late! There’s still time before Sunday 27th March to enter our Giveaway. To celebrate Waverley Books are giving a copy to FIVE lucky winners, so don’t just sit there: pass on the macaron word…

Now it’s time to nurse that cold. They say that when you have a cold you need to feed it, right? So I’m doing just that and with plenty of garlic. Last night I started with an extra-garlic-infused recipe for sweet potato gnocchi. I’m feeling a bit better already. vip-popki.net/prostitutka-lvov Just as well there are no booksignings this weekend and you’re all far away! 😉

In the window at Brentano's bookstore

In the window at Brentano’s bookstore

Crispy Sage Leaves

Crispy sage leaves with sage flowers

Crispy Sage Leaves are one of my favourite decorations to add that extra je ne sais quoi to the plate.  They are also the easiest things to make in no time.  They are ideal for decorating pastas, risottos, purées, chicken and fish dishes.  Sage also goes beautifully with pumpkin or butternut squash – as well as the traditional apple and pork dishes.  Add them to roasted veg and vegetarian dishes, too.

There’s no need for a deep frier, either. 🙂  The result is not only crispy, but the leaves still taste of beautiful sage.

Preparation Time: 1 minute

Cooking Time: 3 minutes

  1. Clean the fresh sage leaves and dry them out thoroughly using kitchen paper.
  2. Warm some vegetable oil or olive oil in a frying pan and when hot, add the leaves.  Fry them gently for about a minute on each side.
  3. Remove from the pan using tongs and drain them on more kitchen paper.  They will crisp up beautifully as they cool.


Delicious and stunning sage flowers

In spring, make the most of pretty sage flowers; they are edible and taste just as strong as the sage leaves!

Celebrating the Fête du Macaron with a Giveaway.


Stopping for a macaron in Paris…

Happy Fête du Macaron to you all!

How could we let Macaron Day in Paris go by without doing something special?  Well, my friends, Waverley Books are offering a copy of “Mad About Macarons!” to FIVE lucky winners!

Before I mention how to enter, just a wee word.  My passion is macarons and it can be frustrating to hear people say, “Oh no.  Macarons look too difficult: I could never even attempt to make them…“.  But making macarons is not difficult AND it’s fun.  They can even be addictive to make.  We want to pass on this message to as many people who WANT to make macarons but are afraid to do so.  So, if you can find the best way to spread the word about the book amongst your friends or macaronivore friends, then that’s great.  I’ll leave YOU to be creative.

Here’s how to enter:

Sorry, this Giveaway is now closed.

The giveaway will run from Sunday 20th to Sunday 27th March 2011.

I will announce the FIVE winners on my weekly Thursday post on 31st March 2011.

To enter, I’m not saying, “Buy the Book Now!” (after all, you’re entering to get one :-))
Either “Like” Mad About Macarons on Facebook and if you’re already following, suggest the page to friends who you think would be interested.

If you’re not on Facebook I’m going to leave the creativity up to YOU.  Here’s an example: if you have the book (and are happy with it! ;-)), then you could tell your bookshop that you’re happy with it, or post a short review…

Don’t forget to leave me a comment letting me know what you did.  That way I can contact you by email if you are one of the winners.

Bonne chance et Bonne Fête!

Eiffel Tower Parisian Macarons

Happy Macaron Day!