A deliciously zingy, creamy topping for crepes or pancakes this February.
You can tell that chocolate has been quite prominent in our diets these last couple of weeks. How could I talk about the 20th Salon du Chocolat in Paris without having some kind of a chocolate treat for you? I also need to write up about the Paris Gourmet Chocolate Museum from the mid-term school holidays but right now, work on the new book is hotting up and I need to focus. I’m off to pick up, Eleanor, the Editor at the airport and we have a busy few days ahead of us…
Blustery showers, soggy leaves and chilly fingers calls for warming chocolate, doesn’t it? Let’s face it, dark chocolate is good for you, a mood enhancer and cooked together with egg yolks filled with iron, we need a good dose to stay healthy during the winter months.
And, with the simplest presentation in little cups, it’s the easiest of desserts to whip up at the last minute for the holiday season with friends and family. It’s also perfect served with macarons. Either made earlier and still in the fridge or from your freezer bank!
Chocolate and Chestnut Pudding
Recipe of Budino di Cioccolato adapted from Nigella Express Cookbook by Nigella Lawson.
350ml full-fat milk
50g caster sugar
1 tbsp cornflour/cornstarch
35g cocoa powder
2 tbsps boiling water
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g candied chestnut purée (Clément Faugier)
60g dark chocolate (min 70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
1. Put the kettle on, and warm the milk/cream together in a saucepan or in a bowl in the microwave.
2. Put the sugar and cornflour into another saucepan and sieve in the cocoa powder. Add the 2 tbsps of boiling water and whisk to a paste.
3. Whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time, followed by the warmed milk and cream, then the vanilla extract.
4. Scrape down the sides of the pan and put it on lowish heat, cooking and whisking for about 3-4 minutes until the mixture thickens to a mayonnaise-like consistency.
5. Take off the heat and whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and candied chestnut purée, before pouring into 4 small cups or glasses, each with a capacity of about 150ml.
6. Cover the tops of the cups or glasses with cling film, letting the cling-film rest on the chocolate surface, to stop a skin forming, and refrigerate once they are cooler.
Serve at room temperature, adding a blob of cream or top. I topped it with a marron glacé, a sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg and cinnamon and served with chocolate macarons.
Don’t forget there are many more egg yolk recipes on le blog for all you macaron-making lovers.
Store your egg whites in a jam jar with a closed lid and keep in the fridge for 4-5 days – then you’re ready to make Parisian macarons!
It was a sign: a Scottish saltire traced onto such dazzling blue Parisian skies this week by the routine planes rumbling over us, to and from Charles de Gaulle Airport.
It was another reminder of this month’s historic Scottish referendum that has created such a powerful and passionate impact on a country that was already once independent.
I’ve never been into politics much but, hearing many lively debates and enthusiasm about the subject, it became increasingly frustrating that I couldn’t vote as a Scot living in France. I could hear the same calls from my fellow Scots living in England, Wales or Ireland. A familiar remark from friends and family, who were either for or against an independent Scotland was, “Well, my heart wanted to vote Yes to Scotland being an independent country; but my head told me it was better to stay together with the UK”. With such a close winning vote of 55% to stay in the UK, the Scots have perhaps been divided on the results but as we could think that the Yes voters are upset – or ‘gutted’ as I heard on BBC radio the day of the results – the debate continues.
“We’re not crying into our porridge yet.”declared my Uncle David, a proud Scot from the Shetland Islands. “We’re just delayed a bit”, he said, as thousands of Scottish flags were being waved in Glasgow and Edinburgh this weekend, showing their excitement at how quickly they’ve received so much enthusiastic support.
Another Scottish sign came via Jamie Schler’s recent whisky recipes on her blog, Life’s A Feast: with a beautifully glazed Honey Whiskey Bundt Cake, and her celebratory Whisky Soufflé. It occurred to me how little I cook or bake with Scottish Whisky. Admittedly, the last time I added it was to coffee macarons (the recipe for Café MacWhisky is in the book, by the way). These macarons make an excellent accompaniment to this whisky toffee frozen crème brûlée dessert, a recipe I’d ripped out from Mum’s pile of Sunday Times mazagines this summer when in Edinburgh, as it’s an ideal egg yolk recipe for all of you macaron lovers.
While the recipe below calls for American Bourbon whiskey, I’ve opted for Scottish Whisky. Both are slightly different in flavour and they have different spellings: in Scotland and the rest of the world it’s always referred to as Whisky but in America and Ireland it can be Whisky or Whiskey, depending on the producer’s chosen spelling.
On another note, there was yet another sign this week: I need to hide any macarons that are lying out for photos. I quickly took this one with just three chocolate macarons that were left, salvaged before they were also pounced on from the pastry box in the fridge. But when I went back to continue the photo with the crème brûlée, there were only two. It’s a mystery that one. The girls say it wasn’t them. Perhaps it was a Scottish ghost?
The recipe asks for a ‘shot of bourbon’. Being a bit lazy, I poured out a small enough shot glass of Ballentine’s Whisky (a blended Scotch, ideal for cooking/baking) and threw it into the pan. It didn’t take long to realise visibly that my toffee caramel became rather liquid, so I added more sugar and boiled it up to thicken. No harm was done, as I ended up with more toffee so dribbled even more on top of the ice cream before freezing. But for the record, a shot is 25ml.
As I left them in the freezer overnight, caramelising the sugar with the blowtorch hardly melted the ice cream. That way it was easy to return them to the freezer before serving later. To enjoy them at their best, remove from the freezer 5-10 minutes before serving.
Whisky Toffee Brûlée Frozen Custard
Recipe adapted from the UK’s Sunday Times Magazine. I substituted 1 shot of Maker’s Mark Bourbon whiskey stipulated in the magazine with Balletine’s Scottish Whisky, but you can use your own favourite American bourbon. The recipe says it serves 4 but I filled 8 ramekins with it.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
FOR THE CREME FROZEN CUSTARD
2 vanilla pods (or 4 tsp of vanilla extract)
300ml whole milk
300ml double cream
100g caster sugar
6 egg yolks
FOR THE SALTED WHISKY TOFFEE
80ml double cream
1 shot of whisky (25ml)
Pinch sea salt
20g caster sugar
A mini blowtorch
1. Deseed the vanilla pods. Pour milk and cream into a pan, add the pods and vanilla seeds. Heat until it almost boils. Turn off the heat and allow the vanilla cream to infuse for 30 mins.
2. Boil the toffee ingredients in another pan, then gently simmer. Stir for 3 minutes, then chill in the fridge.
3. Hand-whisk the caster sugar into the egg yolks. Add to the pan with the vanilla cream. Place on a low heat; stir for 7 minutes until it becomes a light custard. Cool, then chill for an hour.
4. Take the custard out of the fridge. Remove the vanilla pods from the vanilla cream. Pour the custard and cream into an ice-cream maker until it has the consistency of soft ice cream. Turn off the machine and ripple in the toffee, using a spoon. Scrape the frozen custard into serving glasses. Freeze for 2.5 hours.
5. Sprinkle caster sugar over the top of the desserts with a teaspoon. Heat the sugar with a mini-blowtorch until it forms a caramel. Serve immediately or refreeze until ready to serve.
Unlike a classic crème brûlée, where you crack into the caramel directly into the cream, this frozen version makes the hardened caramel even more exciting. Try it: it’s like skating your spoon and cracking into the ice.
For plenty more egg yolk recipes, check out the bonus recipe page that accompanies the book.
As the Commonwealth Games kick off in Scotland, I’m taking you on a whirlwind trip there, just like I did last week. Back to my roots and wonderful family.
Back to loaves of raisin bread, toasted with melted butter in the mornings. Back to oak smoked salmon and mackerel and a great choice of New World wines. There comes a time when French is great but we all need a change now and again, don’t we?
I always see changes when I return to Edinburgh. This time the weather was hot and sunny – the opposite to Paris (although we’re now making up for it!). Even the changing rooms hidden behind wardrobe doors had changed again at White Stuff in George Street – I opted for the Irn Bru rather than the toilette scene, thank you. The trams were finally running in the City and so that was definitely worth the trip: with free Wi-Fi, I don’t think anyone looked outside the windows, though!
Huge change was at the River Forth: the pillars were well set in for the building of the new Forth Bridge connecting Queesferry to the Kingdom of Fife.
Certain things had not changed that much: like South Queensferry. I love this little village where the original film of the 59 Steps was filmed. With stunning views of the Forth Railway Bridge next to the Victorian postbox and quaint crow-step gabled houses, the Seal’s Craig restaurant from my childhood was still there. No it wasn’t! The sign remained but it had turned into a pizzeria. Gosh, all those happy memories of Claude, the waiter, and the chatting Minor bird at the bottom of the stairs.
But new happy memories were made, as Mum steered me towards the Boat House Restaurant. I have found a new, wonderful address! Precious moments, indeed. With stunning views directly opposite the Forth Railway Bridge, the other gastronomic views were on my entrée-starter-appetiser of Cullen Skink (that’s smoked haddock and potato soup) followed by a main dish of red mullet – exquisite and great value for money, including the wines (with good options by the glass).
My one upset was that I didn’t manage dessert! On my way out, the lovely waitresses handed me a magazine featuring their Chef, Paul Steward. And in it is his recipe for this lemon and thyme tart. He adds caramelised pears to the recipe but, as it’s not yet pear season in France, I’m serving it plain with summer berries.
Lemon and Thyme Tart Recipe
Recipe from Chef Paul Steward, The Boat House Restaurant and Bistro, South Queensferry, Edinburgh
For the short crust pastry:
400g plain flour
200g salted butter, cubed
1 vanilla pod
75ml cold water
For the curd:
4 unwaxed lemons (zest & juice) – I used the zest of only 2 lemons
200g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter
3 large eggs
2 egg yolks
4 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves stripped off
Put the flour in a large bowl and add the cold cubes of butter. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until you have a mixture that resembles coarse breadcrumbs with no large lumps of butter remaining. Combine the vanilla, egg, milk and water. Add just enough of the mixture to the flour and butter to bind the dough together. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for 20 minutes.
Roll out the dough until it’s just thinner than a pound coin, then place in a buttered tart case and blind bake using grease proof paper and baking beans for 18 minutes at 180°C. Remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 5 minutes or until the pastry is finished cooking.
Lemon and thyme curd
Place the juice and zest (my lemons were strong so I only used the zest of 2 lemons which was more than enough) of the lemons in a large bowl over a pot of simmering water. Add the butter and sugar. When the butter has melted, add the eggs and gently stir until the curd is thick and coats the back of a spoon (this took me over 10 minutes). Add the fresh thyme and pour into the pastry case.
I’m serving this well chilled tonight, as the weather in Paris is around 33°C! Refreshing indeed, with a glass of something chilled.
What would you have with it?
THE BOAT HOUSE RESTAURANT
22 High Street
Edinburgh EH30 9PP
Tel: 0131-331 5429
Do you really think a sweet tooth determines our family holiday destinations? Well, perhaps it does. It has been 30 years since I last visited Germany and the same, ridiculous amount of time since I practised my rusty high school German. Mein Deutsch ist nicht gut! It was high time to visit.
We headed to the medieval town of Staufen, south of the Black Forest, a jewel nestled in between lush mountaineous forests, vines, cafés and bakeries.
What amazed us most about the region, is how clean and tidy the towns are. Everything is immaculate, even down to the neat stacks of wood piled outside geranium window-boxed freshly painted houses. It’s also the first time I’ve seen kids paddling about in the gutters! (Well, one of them was mine – was ist das?) The Germans seem particularly eco-friendly: bikes are the norm, an impressive amount of houses have flashy solar panels and their signposting is nothing short of perfection.
We stayed at the Gasthaus Krone (meaning ‘crown’), which is an excellent address in Staufen – including their Michelin ‘Bib Gourmand’ restaurant. Luckily the friendly owner spoke some French, since my painful phrases embarrassingly resembled a mix of German vocabulary, French grammar and stuttering English fillers-in. I am determined to return after doing some homework next time, but at least communication through food is easier!
Meandering down the main cobbled street, serenaded by a solo oboist trying to compete with the local brass quintet oompa-ing around the fountain, the castle ruins and vineyards majestically tower over the local wineries. The city crest is a shield with 3 wine glasses so when in Staufen, it would be rude not to taste; their welcoming barrels proudly strut their tasting offerings.
This is what holidays are made of: sitting back, people-watching, contemplating family postcards, nibbling on a salted bretzel and sipping at the local traditional grape varieties – including the oldest, Gutedel. Personally, I preferred the dry Muscat for white wines but their red wines shone high above the rest with some stunning Pinot Noirs, bursting with jam-like cherry fruits.
Staufen Castle, although now a ruin (built in 850), can be visited to admire the breathtaking vista of the Black Forest and Rhine Valley. Looking out the arched window, we’re reminded by such an enormous tree that we’re in black cherry country.
After such a climb during the heatwave, it was time to follow the tempting signs dotted around the town to the nearest cake shop. It didn’t take us long to discover the Café Decker, undoubtedly the best cake shop and tea salon in Staufen. It was so decadently, deliciously decked in cakes that we admittedly returned three times.
Black Forest Cakes, küchen, more chocolate cakes, redcurrant meringue pies and macarons were just some of the treats that would make anyone go off their sweet trolley. I think I put on three kilos during the week! So, switching to ice cream seemed a lighter idea: wouah! Teasingly steeped in Kirsch liqueur, it made an ideal excuse for an afternoon nap by the snoring river.
Back home, the Black Forest provided inspiration for a gluten free dessert back home: ideal for using up egg yolks and for serving with your chocolate macarons. What’s more, it’s holiday style: quick, easy, tasty and no bake!
Black Forest Chocolate Cherry Cream Desserts
Serves 8 (mini pots) or 4 (in wine glasses)
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 2 hours
1 gelatine sheet (@2 g)
200ml whole milk
300ml single cream
3 egg yolks
150g dark cooking chocolate, broken into small chunks
1 tbsp Kirsch liqueur (optional)
16 fresh cherries (or Griottine cherries, soaked in Kirsch)
1. Soak the gelatine in cold water. Meanwhile break up the chocolate into pieces in a large bowl. In a saucepan, boil the milk and cream.
2. In another bowl, whisk together the yolks and sugar until light and creamy. Pour over the hot milky cream, mix and transfer back to the saucepan.
3. Whisk vigorously over a medium heat until the cream thickens. Take off the heat then pour over half of this hot cream on to the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate melts, add Kirsch (if using), the gelatine (squeezed of any excess water) and then whisk in the rest of the hot cream.
4. Transfer to 8 mini serving dishes (or 4 if you’re greedy like us), cool and chill for at least an hour. Decorate with fresh dark cherries and/or Griottine cherries soaked in Kirsch and a scoosh of Chantilly cream*. (Or why not roast cherries with a splash of Kirsch as Jamie Schler does at Life’s a Feast?)
* If you have a siphon, fill it up half way with chilled cream (no less than 30% fat) and splash in a couple of tablespoons of Kirsch or cherry syrup, fit with the gas canister, shake and chill for a few minutes. Instant, homemade lighter-than-light cream!
This time last year I had a wonderful surprise on my return from holiday. Maureen, aka The Orgasmic Chef, was cheering and doing the macaron dance with her chocolate macarons. She’d perfected making them from the book. It was one of these proud, Auntie Mac Jill moments to hear that she’d made picture perfect macarons and they were delicious to boot (or should I say, foot?)
Today, she came up trumps and surprised me again with her other dynamic project as a natural interviewer for Food Writer Friday and I’ve made a creamy lemon ice cream for her.
Lemon Ice Cream (Egg Yolk Recipe)
300ml whole milk
200ml whipping cream
zest of 2 lemons (untreated)
100g caster sugar
8 egg yolks (organic)
1 tbsp dried milk
1 tbsp Limoncello
few drops of yellow food colouring (optional)
- Cool a bowl in the fridge until step 5.
- In a medium saucepan, heat together the milk and cream with the lemon zest and yellow colouring, if using.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, dried milk and yolks until pale and creamy.
- Pour the warmed cream over the mix and return to the pan over a medium heat, whisking constantly until the cream thickens. It’s ready when it can coat a spoon.
- Pour the mixture into the cooled bowl and leave to cool in the fridge for at least a couple of hours.
- Once chilled, transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and churn until ready. Spoon in to an ice cream carton and freeze for at least a couple of hours.
That’s the yolk recipe but the really fun part is my interview with Maureen (The Orgasmic Chef herself!) over at Food Writer Friday.