Macarons Going Green and a Sham that Rocks

This past week we’ve seen many green posts in the bloggosphere for St Patrick’s Day.  As last week we went yellow with mimosa, then why not green this week to celebrate St Patrick’s Day and the continuation of Spring?  After all, the buds are now on the trees so greens are gradually popping out just as the locals are coming out of winter hibernation like les Champignons de Paris.

St Patrick is to Ireland what St Andrew is to Scotland.  Yet the St P green is so much more popular: St Andrews is better known as a golf course (there are greens there, too.) 😉 So here’s a piped round-up of the greener macarons:

From a pistachio macaron classic to pistachio and dark chocolate macarons

pistachio chocolate macarons

Pistachio-chocolate macarons, brushed with melted dark chocolate

…to a pistachio macaron with a surprisingly different twist: pistachio, white chocolate and wasabi.  This is my daughter, Julie’s favourite and I have to admit, I also find this one rather addictive with a pot of green tea.

pistachio wasabi macarons

Pistachio, white chocolate & wasabi macarons

In a couple of editorial reviews, ParisPatisseries commented, …”Thai Green Curry Macaron, anyone? There are some so adventurous that even Pierre Hermé’s wilder creations would seem tame by comparison.”  On the other hand, Elizabeth Luard from Scotsman Living.com loved the others but mentioned, “Thai green curry might be a bit too Blumenthal for me.”  It’s like music: totally subjective but I personally LOVE it.  The spicier the better!

The Thai Green Curry Macaron is rather adventurous and definitely something different with a Gin & Tonic for an apéritif.  Sorry, I should say Guinness here to keep on the Irish theme, but it honestly wouldn’t go as well as with a G&T or a glass of chilled Gewürtzraminer.  Try an Irish lager, though. 😉

macaron shamrock

Macaron shamrock? More like a sham but it rocks! Green thai curry macarons are HOT…

All the above are included in the book.  If you’re getting sick of seeing green, then don’t forget that there’s an Irish Coffee macaron, too. 😉

But here’s another of my latest experiments with flavours. We had some fun with this one on Facebook yesterday! Don’t scream, please don’t run away.

This is actually delicious.  It works.  I got the idea from a recent trip to South Africa, where I discovered Rooibos Tea.  I now drink this so much since it’s not just tasty but caffeine free, a great antioxidant and you can even add a dash of milk to it like the normal stuff.  Talking about it to a lovely South African lady,  she explained that her mother used to give her a popular infusion of rooibos with rosemary anytime she was down and needed a lift.  Now THAT needed investigation.  With an enormous rosemary bush in my herb garden, I set about preparing rosemary macaron shells…

rosemary macaron shells

Rosemary macaron shells

Hmm.  Don’t ask me why I added the chocolate, but I just felt like it.  Perhaps it was one of these moments when my system was shouting, “Gimme magnesium!  Gimme chocolate and LOTS of it.  RIGHT NOW!” So I infused the rooibos tea into the ganache cream to add a wonderfully slightly earthy, smoky taste of the tea to the dark chocolate.  The rosemary was also infused into the cream: just a sprig but enough to give a hint of it without being overpowering.  Now I understand that bit about this concoction being a pick-me-up!  So, here are Rosemary, Rooibos and Dark Chocolate Macarons

rosemary, rooibos chocolate

Rosemary, rooibos & chocolate macarons

Before you go, just a quick reminder about the Booksigning Event this weekend.  If anyone is in Paris on Saturday 19 March, please do pop in to say bonjour at Brentano’s American Bookstore between 15h-17h (address details are on the Event page).  It would be great to see you!

STAY TUNED for Sunday 20th March, when I’ll be posting something special for the Fête du Macaron!

Japan macaron flag

Our thoughts are with Japan…

This past week it has been devastating to watch all that has been going on in Japan.  It almost seemed silly to write a blog post this week, but it was ready to roll for St Patrick’s Day today so please excuse my normal weekly banter.

Thanks to some food blogger friends, such as  Manu from Manu’s Menu and Visda from Eat, Drink and Just Be!, here are some sites where you can donate to the Japan crisis:

International Salvation Army

Médecins sans frontières

Amercian Red Cross

British Red Cross

Stand with Japan.org (Direct Relief International)

March into Spring with Mimosa Macarons

This past week the weather in Paris has given us hope for Spring.  Morning frost has quickly surrendered to Azur skies, sweeter air and rays of sunshine are gradually pulling us out of any winter depressions starting to take hold.  Crocuses and electric yellow bushes of forsythia are suddenly announcing that Paris is marching into Spring.  OK, I can just hear you breaking into song with Ella Fitzgerald’s “I love Paris in the Springtime”…

forsythia bush

Forsythia giving their electric glow for Spring

With Antoine travelling for a while, there was less motivation to cook, however. 🙁 Where’s the violin?   So I cheered myself up with a bright and cheery bunch of mimosa flowers.

Many of us know of a Mimosa as a Champagne cocktail mixed with fresh orange juice (in the UK we call it a Bucks Fizz).  I personally love a Grand Mimosa with a touch of Grand Marnier in there, too (that managed to cheer me up as well ;-)).   There’s even a Grandaddy Mimosa, adding rum and lemon juice… Now that sounds my kind of tipple!   In France, you may have heard of oeufs mimosa: a classic, simple dish served as a starter and great for Easter.  It’s basically hard boiled eggs, halved with the egg yolk scooped out and mixed with mayonnaise, crushed garlic and parsley then stuffed back into the egg cavity.  Sound familiar?  When I was little it wasn’t as posh as the French version.  Two hb egg halves were turned upside down and dolloped with Heinz salad cream and sprinkled with une touche de paprika.  No comment.  Well, perhaps yes.  Sorry, Mum.  I now owe you a box of mimosa macarons…

box mimosa macarons Jill

Anyone for a mimosa macaron?

Back to my bunch of mimosa flowers, though.  Little did I appreciate just how strong the mimosa scent was and the house smelled of its perfume for days, even though its ephemeral blossom had dried out so quickly.  I couldn’t believe how this simple bunch of yellow mini pompoms could also have such a postive mental effect.  There’s even a Mimosa Festival in the South of France which takes place mid to end February with spectacular mimosa floats.  Can you just imagine how that would smell?

Then I remembered that Ladurée had a beautiful mimosa macaron display in their Champs Elysées boutique window last year.  SO why not make some myself?  I’m now on a roll to make new flavours and experiment again!

mimosa macaron pompom Jill

Mimosa macarons: a touch of Paris in the Springtime

Surfing on meilleurduchef.com I was excited to see they even had a mimosa aroma.  So I added a few drops to the macaron shells.

infusing mimosa

infusing mimosa for the buttercream filling

Using the tutti frutti macaron recipe (p.83) as a basis for the filling,  I instead infused some mimosa into the full cream milk for 10 minutes.  It was amazing how the milk turned bright yellow.  I then added a teaspoon of the aroma to the buttercream at the end.  The result?

bitten mimosa macaron

Crispy meringue on the outside, fondant in the middle

They were delicious and surprisingly subtle for such a strong-tasting buttercream.  After 24 hours, they had turned perfectly soft inside with the characteristic crispy meringue on the outside.  Bliss with a pot of Darjeeling tea, so not to overpower the flavour of the macaron.   As a perfectionist, however, I would double the amount of mimosa used to infuse in the cream for next time.  To make a macaron taste of the flavour, the filling does need to be pretty concentrated.

pompom macaron mimosa Jill

Mimosa pompom macaron

Alas it’s the end of the short mimosa season, but there’s still time for you to give it a go!  Next year I must get to the mimosa festival, though.

Opera near Brentanos

Brentano’s bookstore is on the Avenue de l’Opera, Paris (see Events)

Before you go, I’m so excited to annouce my booksigning on Saturday 19th March at Brentano’s American Bookstore in Paris.  The next day is the Fête du macaron but as it’s a Sunday the bookstore will be closed.  So if you’re in Paris, start off the macaron weekend fun between 3-5pm on Saturday. Brentano’s is just next door to Pierre Hermé if you’re needing a macaron fix.  I look forward to seeing you next weekend!

Chestnuts! From pancakes & ice-cream to macarons…

This weekend we took a stroll along the Seine en famille.  It was still pretty chilly but we needed a walk, some quality time together and a wee dose of Paris.  One of the typical scenes in this cold weather is the sellers of roasted chestnuts by the side of the road and at the exits of some popular metro stations.

Roasted Chestnuts Paris

Selling roasted chestnuts in Paris

As the glacial wind threatens to whisk any colour out of your cheeks, the welcoming aromas of roasted chestnuts waft around the metro stairs as you surface to street level.  My girls were just so excited.  “Mummy, pleeeease can we have a poke of roasted chestnuts?  You’re such an angel, the best Mum in the world…“

Yeh, right.  At 5 euros a poke they needed to enjoy them 😉  Am I getting cynical or what?  In any case, it’s true that there’s no other creamy, rich taste than roasted chesnuts.  Full of flavour, they’re ideal for adding to the traditional poultry stuffings we have in the UK and US.

roasted chestnuts

What? 5 euros for a poke?

In France it’s not used as a stuffing as such but either served roasted with vegetables or as a purée alongside poultry.  It’s funny:  we live in Le Pecq, outside Paris, where Alexandre Dumas (Three Musketeers fame) built his extravagant Château de Monte Cristo.  His other passion – or Violon d’Ingres – was cooking and opulent entertaining. In the Château’s museum we see examples from his “Grande Dictionnaire de Cuisine” which mentions puréed chestnuts served with pork sausages.  We often forget, though, that chestnuts are just as good in desserts for that something un peu différent.

Clement Faugier

Here in France, we’re lucky that the chestnut comes in different forms for baking.  Clément Faugier from the Ardèche makes a wicked candied chestnut (marron glacé) and vanilla spread.  Typically, we use it for dolloping on fromage blanc to give it a sticky-toffee-creamy-nutty flavour, which is so handy when we don’t often have time to even THINK of making dessert, especially when hungry children are concerned… and it’s a healthy sweet, full of calcium.

chestnut puree and fromage blanc

Chestnut paste with fromage blanc

I often throw a 100g tin when making a typical 500ml batch of ice-cream (see p.125 of book for recipe).  I’m an ice-cream lover: not just because it’s often handy to have a quick gourmet dessert when needed, but it also uses up many egg yolks.  That way I’m a happy bunny with plenty of whites stocked up for making macarons. 😉

chestnut ice-cream

Homemade chestnut ice-cream

Who could resist a melting scoop of chestnut vanilla ice-cream on warm crêpes or pancakes?  We certainly have plenty of excuses to make them following US pancake week and in anticipation of next week’s Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday.  Who doesn’t like a good pancake now and again?  Here we serve Crêpes.  In Scotland we also have Scotch Pancakes.  As my husband is from Corsica, where chestnut flour is one of the basic elements in baking, I love using some chestnut flour we brought back from his mountain village last summer.

Corsican Chestnut Flour

Corsican Chestnut Flour

Corsican chestnut flour is pretty strong and so a little goes a long way.  As chestnuts are already quite powdery in nature, the flour is uniquely intense. Typically we use it to make a rustic Corsican Chestnut Cake (my mother-in-law serves it at breakfast but being Scottish I do prefer this at goûter time with a pot of tea.  Well, nobody’s perfect :-))  I do, however, love adding a little chestnut flour to  Scotch Pancakes for a New Alliance.  Here’s my recipe for Scotch  Corsican Pancakes.

You can just whip them up in next to no time and serve warm with plenty of honey (Scottish Heather Honey or Corsican honey, so no favouritism!) Or try drizzled with warmed Whisky marmalade: chestnut and bitter orange go so well together.  I’m not going to influence you but the Corsicans also have a wonderful Chestnut liqueur, so I love to add a tablespoon to pancakes, muffins, brownies, cannelés, macarons, or just in a glass on its own… Oh and there’s the Corsican beer, Pietra:  it’s brewed with chestnuts and has a unique smoky taste.

Scotch Pancakes

Scotch Pancakes Corsican Style

How could I finish off without even talking about a macaron or two? As you can understand, I’m not allowed to share my macaron recipes with you, as the rights belong to Waverley Books.  C’est normal. You’ll just have to buy the book! 😉  But I can leave you with a few photos now and again…  Here are some Sticky Toffee Pudding macarons (gluten free).

chestnut macarons

Chestnut macarons

Before you go, I’m thrilled to say that Manuela from Manu’s Menu has honoured Le Blog with an award.  Gosh, there are times when it feels you’re posting out to a vast empty void so this Lovely Blog Award makes it feel like I’m doing something ok.  Grazie Mille, Manu!  Thanks also for helping me out with the image (she’s not just clever in the kitchen but a whizz on the internet, too.)  Check out her step-by-step mouthwatering recipes on her blog and you’ll become master in the art of Italian cooking, prestissimo!

Bonne semaine!

Update (January 2012): Recipe now posted for Sweet Chestnut Ice Cream

TV Demonstration: Make Rose Macarons

Say it with rose macarons …

Jill’s Demonstration of Rose Macarons on Scottish Television’s The Hour
(Valentine’s Day Special, 14 Feb 2011)

Video clip 11 minutes.

Jill proving she’s a bit mad about macarons with her TV debut at home in Scotland…

rose macarons on STV The Hour

With Michelle McManus & Steven Jardine on STV’s The Hour

See related post on Le Blog, “First Taste of Live TV with a Macaron Demonstration“.

Fish, Chorizo and Black Pudding

We just came back from Scotland yesterday morning.  I’m suddenly trying to return to grips with an azerty keyboard after 10 days of qwerty!  What a wonderful time, full of precious moments catching up with family around the table.   I also ended up being pretty emotional during a visit to my school, George Watson’s College, after 25 years (gosh, that hurts!) It was wonderful to catch up with old friends and to connect again.  I’m hoping that the budding cooks in Home Economics will now be inspired to make a special burgundy “Ex Corde Caritas” (love from the heart) macaron to match their school uniforms and motto.  I think teaching macarons in schools should be compulsory, don’t you? 🙂

We just made it back in time for Antoine’s birthday.  Poor thing has been living on dinners-for-one from our freezer store, Picard, while we were away.  So with a suitcase stocked with one of his favourite’s, Stornoway Black Pudding (Boudin Noir or Blood Pudding) and having stumbled across this wee street recently, I knew this was “a sign” and so decided to work around this pudding for a quick and easy birthday dinner.

Passage Boudin Paris

My family adore black pudding (Stornoway is the best from Scotland, bien sûr) served traditionally as part of a HUGE Scottish breakfast along with potato scones, bacon and eggs.  The fully monty.  In France, however, we just don’t do that for breakfast.  Instead, we sip from large bowls of coffee or hot chocolate along with croissants or homemade brioche and jam.  If we want to be totally French about serving black pudding, serve it as part of a main dish.

Following a quick jaunt to the market and taking our pick from the seasonal produce on display, it didn’t take long to come up with the menu.  My children and I discovered a new breed of aubergine, lighter and rounder from Italy, the Violette de Florence.

Eggplant Violette de Florence

Aubergine Violette de Florence

Following numerous inspirational blog posts from Chef Dennis, I decided we really need to eat more fish.  It’s amazing how I’ve got out of the habit of eating good old healthy fish.  Can you imagine?  Shame on me, especially since my Grandpa was a fishmonger, too!

One of his favourites was Ling:  it’s meaty with very few bones and not too expensive, either.  The French call it Julienne and at the market it was the first time I’d seen it translated simply as Lingue.

Ling

Lingue or Ling at the market

I already saw the mix of Boudin Noir with Sea Bass in a restaurant last year and so decided to try my hand at making a quick version of this at home. So simple:  I sliced the aubergines, sprinkling them well with salt to get rid of excess water, then rinsed and patted them dry after a few minutes.  A quick flash fry on the griddle pan on each side, then placed them in foil with a clove of garlic and baked them in the oven for 20 minutes while I prepared a Black Pudding Sauce.

To make up the chorizo chips or “scales” of the fish, I simply took extra thin pre-sliced chorizo and dry-fried them in a pan for a few seconds on each side then placed them on kitchen roll to take out the excess fat.  They crisp up once cool:  it’s magic!  Then cooked the fish for a couple of minutes on each side brushed with olive oil in a frying pan.

ling chorizo

So in the space of 30 minutes I had my main prepared:  just needed to place the garlic aubergine on a serving plate, top with the fish then chorizo chips and serve with the black pudding sauce – and extra black pudding since we were feeling greedy!

Antoine found the perfect partner and served it with a bottle of  Savigny-les-Beaune from Burgundy.  He’s good: it needed a light fruity red to cope with the strong flavours.  What nectar!

ling fish fillet with chorizo and black pudding (blood sausage)

And for a quick birthday pudding/dessert? I didn’t have time to make his favourite chocolate fondant birthday cake, so we’ll leave that for this weekend since it needs to mature for at least 24 hours.  Instead, I reached for my macaron bank in the freezer.  This is just so handy to have and for a speedy simple dessert took out some giant macaron shells to serve as a base.

Caramel au beurre salé

I topped it with carmelised apples, homemade caramel ice-cream and dribbled over some warmed salted caramel sauce (again, this was a handy stock in the fridge since had made it a couple of weeks’ ago).  You can find the gluten-free recipe, Giant Macaron Tatin Style, on page 113 of the book.

And needless to say, we enjoyed that with a wee glass of chilled Rivesaltes Ambré by Monsieur Cazes for a glorious sticky finish.  Hm.  Not the easiest of mornings to get up today but I’ll just have to make more caramel desserts this weekend, now that the bottle is opened.  As they say here, Quand le vin est tiré, il faut le boire…

First Taste of Live TV with a Macaron Demonstration

As you can imagine, this past week has been filled with love heart macarons.  They are so easy to do; except, perhaps, when nerves take over and a sudden uncontrollable wobbly hand pipes out a mess on live TV.

macaron hearts pot

I was so excited to be given the opportunity to share my macaron world with Presenters, Michelle McManus and Steven Jardine on STV’s “The Hour” on Valentine’s Day.  They are such wonderful, down-to-earth and chatty hosts that they instantly made me feel at home back in Scotland. Michelle jumped in with a spontanious, encouraging you-can-do-it hug before countdown.  En plus Steven had lived in Paris for a couple of years and so it was fun to blether about macarons and Patisserie shops.

rose macarons on STV The Hour

With Michelle McManus & Steven Jardine on STV’s The Hour

Live TV is not as easy as the pros make it look.  For a start, you need to have confidence and above all, be re-laaa-xed
They could tell I was nervous.  Perhaps it started when one of the members of the production team came to meet my Dad and I before even going into the studio.  (I was so glad Dad drove me since I had 3 large bags including everything but the kitchen sink.)  But without batting an eyelid, Dad stepped in and introduced himself with a confident, “Hello. Nice to meet you. I’m Jill’s Mum….‘ Hm.  After that remark I started worrying about my mascara running after the incontrollable giggles.

Jill Colonna on TV macaron demonstration live

Yes.  They knew I was nervous. Perhaps it was after our quick run-through in front of the cameras and realising that we ran at least 3 minutes over time since I blethered too much.  I said everything I wanted to in the rehearsal:  aged egg whites, they’re gluten free, not many calories etc.  When it came to the real thing in my mind I had already said it!  So the conclusion was that talking had to be constant and there was no time to just stand and chat.  I quickly discovered that demonstrating macarons and answering questions at the same time is a real challenge in around 6 minutes.  Luckily I had prepared a few macarons in advance, including some shells – especially macaron hearts.

lemon ginger macaron hearts

Speaking of hearts, just check out the video clip.  You will see just how Michelle tackled the most amazingly confident giant heart macaron.  Silly Jilly stepped in to show the 2-stroke heart with the piping bag:  See?  Easy: bit more at the top going down one side, then same again on the other.   I invite you to do far better, my friends!

Making Rose Macarons on The Hour, STV, Video Clip

One thing is for sure:  I had so much fun doing the show and was thrilled to meet such a dynamic and friendly team.  I can’t believe I missed James Blunt, though.  He’s on the show later this week.  To think he could have tried a macaron…

Valentine’s Day may be over but it doesn’t stop us from having macarons and dates with the ones we love.  Bonne semaine!

Parisian macarons on a date

A couple of Parisian Macarons on a Date