Queensferry Edinburgh and a Lemon Thyme Tart Recipe

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, family and 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 France is great but we all need a change now and again, don’t we?

St Andrew's Square Edinburgh and Changing rooms at White Stuff, George Street

Scottish changes! Hot weather and er, interesting changing rooms…

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!

Forth Road Bridge and Building of New Bridge Queensferry Scotland

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.

Postcard of South Queensferry village near Edinburgh

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.

Forth Railway Bridge view from the Boat House Restaurant

View from the Boat House Restaurant of the Forth Railway Bridge

But new happy memories were made, as Mum steered me towards the Boat House Restaurant, where I’d promised to take her out for her birthday.  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 – see my recipe here) 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 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 thyme tart

Lemon 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
1 egg
25ml milk
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

 Pastry

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.

 

Fireworks in Paris for Bastille Night Celebrations

Enjoy the Commonwealth Games in Scotland!

THE BOAT HOUSE RESTAURANT
22 High Street
South Queensferry
Edinburgh EH30 9PP
Tel: 0131-331 5429

Black Forest Chocolate Cream Desserts – and a Trip to Germany

Do you really think a sweet tooth determines our family holiday destinations? Well, perhaps it does, as it inspired these Black Forest Chocolate Cream Desserts! 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 Schwartzwald German trip provided inspiration for these gluten free Black Forest No Bake Cream Desserts 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 cream desserts

Black Forest Chocolate 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
50g sugar
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!

Black Forest chocolate cream desserts

Guten Appetit!

 

Food Writer Friday, Lemon Ice Cream and the Orgasmic Chef

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.

Creamy Lemon ice cream

Melting fast in this Parisian heat!

Lemon Ice Cream (Egg Yolk Recipe)

Serves: 6
Ingredients
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)

Instructions

  1. Cool a bowl in the fridge until step 5.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat together the milk and cream with the lemon zest and yellow colouring, if using.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, dried milk and yolks until pale and creamy.
  4. 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.
  5. Pour the mixture into the cooled bowl and leave to cool in the fridge for at least a couple of hours.
  6. 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.

Quick! Head on over to read the interview before this ice cream completely melts!

That’s the yolk recipe but the really fun part is my interview with Maureen (The Orgasmic Chef herself!) over at Food Writer Friday.

Lemon Ice Cream
Prep Time
25 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
45 mins
 

A creamy lemon ice cream recipe, using egg yolks (recipe requires an ice cream maker)

Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: British, French
Servings: 10
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
  • 300 ml / 11 fl oz whole milk
  • 200 ml / 7 fl oz whipping cream
  • zest of 2 lemons untreated
  • 100 g / 3.5 oz caster sugar
  • 8 egg yolks organic
  • 1 tbsp dried milk
  • 1 tbsp Limoncello
  • few drops of yellow food colouring optional
Instructions
  1. Cool a bowl in the fridge until step 5.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat together the milk and cream with the lemon zest and yellow colouring, if using.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, dried milk and yolks until pale and creamy.
  4. 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.
  5. Pour the mixture into the cooled bowl and leave to cool in the fridge for at least a couple of hours.
  6. Once chilled, transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and churn until ready. Spoon in to an ice cream carton and freeze for about 2 hours or more.

Recipe Notes

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com


More egg yolk recipes on the Bonus Recipe Index

Strawberry Tart with Pistachio Pastry Cream

Ouf! Over the years, I’ve come to use this word just as the French use so often. It’s more than Oh-là-la; it’s just, well, ‘ouf’! It speaks for itself with an enormously liberating sigh of relief. ‘Cest ouf’ as well: meaning it’s fou (verlan speak which is back to front for ‘fou’, meaning crazy). We are, indeed, nearly there at the end of a crazy, mad term; finishing end-of-year school activities, exams, concerts and – last but not least -parties!

Last weekend we covered ourselves in flour with a make your own pasta early birthday party for Lucie and this weekend my eldest daughter, Julie, enjoyed a sugar candy bonbon rush with her class as they danced the night away. Oh, to be 13 again. They’re no longer referred to as parties, though: instead it’s a boum. Another Ouf! It gave me an excuse to clean out the garage, too. How much stuff can we accumulate over the years?

Meanwhile, as the weather has been less than summery in Paris lately (read: winter has been joining summer this year), at least the strawberries (Mara des Bois, Plougastel, Gariguettes, etc.) have given us some happy colours and cheered us up no end with their sweet, candy-like flavours. We’ve been simply eating them with morning cereal and with tons of ice cream, such as wasabi, pistachio and vanilla ice cream, but recently I can’t stop making berry tarts. It gives me a great excuse to use up egg yolks by making crème pâtissière.

What I love about pastry cream is that you can alter the flavours to alter classic French desserts. After visiting the Eugène Boudin exhibition at the Jacquemart André Museum, we couldn’t resist a sweet French fancy treat at 4 o’clock in their chic café: mine was a Fraisier à la pistache. Bingo with such blissful inspiration! Pistachios and strawberries are heaven together, so why not in a tart?

Berry good indeed.

Classic Sweet Pastry

Makes enough for 2 large tarts. I use half and either freeze the rest or save it up to 4 days in the fridge and make tarlets with the rest.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Baking Time: 20 minutes

120g butter, softened
90g sugar
1 large egg
250g plain flour, sifted
good pinch of salt

1      Using a stand mixer, mix the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Gradually add the other ingredients until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.

2      Knead into a ball, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

3      Remove from the fridge and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes for ease of use. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

4      Roll out the pastry on a well-floured surface to a 28cm/11 inch circle with 5mm thickness and transfer to a 24cm (9 inch) non-stick tart pan.

5      Press into the mould. Prick the pastry with a fork and top with baking paper (cut to size – I use the same one several baking sessions for convenience) and fill with washed coins, rice or dried beans to blind bake the pastry.

6      Bake for 20 minutes then remove the baking beans.

7      Leave to cool, remove from the mould and set aside.

Pistachio Pastry Cream (egg yolk recipe)

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Cooling Time: 30 minutes 

500ml whole milk
1 vanilla pod (or bean)
4 egg yolks
80g sugar
1 tbsp pistachio paste*
50g cornflour
20g single cream
3 drops of almond extract

(* if you don’t have pistachio paste, whizz 100g unsalted pistachios in a grinder. Mix together with 25g ground almonds, 50g sugar, 2 drops of almond essence and a tbsp water)

fresh strawberries, cut in half

1. Boil the milk with the vanilla pod and pistachio paste in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for about 10 minutes. Remove the pod, scrape out the seeds and add to the milk.

2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the yolks with the sugar and gradually add the cornflour. Whisk until light and creamy. Pour on the hot milk and transfer back to the saucepan, whisking continuously over a medium heat until thickened.

3. Set aside and leave to cool. Place some cling film directly on to the pastry cream, to avoid a film forming on top (you don’t want to whisk this in later, otherwise you’ll end up with a lumpy bumpy cream!) After about 10 minutes, whisk in the almond essence and the cold cream. Cover with the film again and chill in the fridge.

4. Cut the strawberries in half. Fill the pastry base with the pastry cream then place the strawberries on top.

Don’t forget that there are plenty more recipes to use up your egg yolks
on the bonus recipe index.

Bon appétit!

Rose, Raspberry and Lychee Eclairs

Did I ever tell you how much I actually enjoy visiting my dentist?

It’s not just that he’s in the oh-so-chic 16th arrondissement with shops for the ladies, but I can’t help feeling cool knowing that I share the same dentist’s chair as the French TV celebrity chef, Cyril Lignac.

In the waiting room, there was this cloth stapled to the other part of the room. Own up: would you dare to peek and see what was behind it? Is it Cyril’s own private waiting room? Or perhaps it’s a storeroom for the extra giant drills…

Leaving the surgery, tongue sliding over shiny, polished teeth, thoughts of gleaming porcelaine teacups come to mind with sweet accompanying French treats for goûter at quatre heures. This sweet temptress is tapping at my head, ‘Go on, a bit of sugar won’t do any harm after the spring clean, will it?’

Passing this tea salon, Thé Cool (thanks to my girls who noticed this play on words for ‘Tu es cool’), L’Eclair de Génie has just opened its doors in the Passy Plaza. The genius of Christophe Adam’s Eclairs is set out neatly in flashy, colourful rows. Each small éclair is as pretty as the next. He even transfers Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam to his white chocolate topping; also highly appropriate, since the word éclair means ‘a flash’ in French.

Genius, too, at €5.50 each. I promise my girls that we’ll come back after our shopping for friends’ birthday presents but somehow, we run out of time and speed off to the party. ‘Mum, les éclairs?’

A promise is a promise but no turning back. They have to be homemade. So, en route to the party, I feel a flash of Adam’s inspiration as I’m driving back to the suburbs. Suddenly, another flash of Pierre Hermé’s Ispahan macaron (rose, raspberry and lychee) comes to mind and there we have it: a rose éclair, Ispahan style! They’re not quite as fancy as the ones we saw in Paris but I can tell you, they disappeared in an oh-là-la flash and we enjoyed them last weekend for French Mother’s Day. You could say they’re cheaper by the dozen!

Rose, Raspberry & Lychee Eclairs Recipe (Ispahan-style)

Makes 12

CHOUX DOUGH

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 minutes

Follow the recipe for choux buns then using a piping bag with a serrated tip (about 10mm), pipe out long éclairs on baking trays covered in greaseproof/baking paper (or Silpat mat) Leave a good space between each mound, as they will spread out during baking. No need to glaze. Bake in the oven at 180°C for 25 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack then cut the tops off horizontally.

ROSE PASTRY CREAM (Crème Pâtissière)

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Chilling Time: 1 hour

500ml full milk
20 ml rosewater*
4 egg yolks
50g cornflour
80g sugar
pinch of pink powdered colouring (optional)

Fresh raspberries
1/2 tin lychees, drained

200g fondant (ready made)
1 tsp rosewater 
Pink colouring 

* you could use rose syrup but reduce the sugar to 60g

1. Heat the milk with the rosewater in a saucepan.

2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the yolks with the sugar then whisk in the cornflour until light and creamy. Gradually add the warmed rose milk and pink colouring, whisking continuously until thickened.

3. Leave to cool. Place cling film directly on top of the pastry cream to stop a thick layer forming (if you whisk that in, you’ll get lumps!) and chill in the fridge for an hour.

4. Meanwhile, whizz the drained lychees in a blender (even better if you have fresh lychees) and using a spoon (I used a grapefruit spoon, so that it’s easier to aim) fill the raspberries with the lychee purée.

5. Gently melt the fondant in the microwave (or over a pan of boiling water) with the colouring, a teaspoon of water and rosewater. Mix well before it cools and dip the éclair tops into the rose fondant.

6. Pipe the cream into the éclairs adding the lychee-filled raspberries and place on the éclair tops.

For more egg yolk recipes, don’t forget to check out the bonus recipe index!

 

Lemon Cream Meringue Nests (Gluten Free)

It was time to return to France before I put on weight. We certainly had our fill of our Scottish favourites while visiting family with Lucas’ ice cream, Tunnocks Teacakes, baked potatoes, cheese scones, Stornoway black pudding and tons of hot smoked salmon.

Back home, as Spring has sprung later this year, we luckily hadn’t missed our traditional French muguet, or Lily-of-the-valley, which is traditionally given to family and friends as a good luck symbol. It was a week late in our garden. Brilliant!

A belated wish of good luck to you with hugs from France!

Not so brilliant was that I (called ‘the French Police’ by my Mum) had returned to the kitchen. I’d forgotten that it wasn’t just a public holiday on our arrival on Wednesday, but also yesterday too. Shops? Fermé. Shut. But I somehow get a kick out of using up leftovers in the fridge, since Antoine (French hubby) had left most of the fruit he was supposed to eat while we were away. To my surprise, they were still ok but not exactly bursting with flavour.

There were 3 lemons, 5 strawberries, 2 kiwis and a tired pineapple just looking for a tasty makeover. So I defrosted a jam jar of egg whites from the freezer while thinking up this lemon cream meringue nest dessert, filled with a zingy lemon cream and topped with the fruits.  The slightly tired strawberries were resurrected by tossing them in some good quality strawberry syrup. Et voilà! You thought I was going to make macarons, didn’t you?

Lemon cream meringue nests

Lemon Cream Meringue Nests (Gluten Free)

Serves 4

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour + 15 minutes
Chilling Time: 1 hour

Meringues

2 egg whites (about 75g)
230g sugar
few drops vanilla essence 

1. Whisk the egg whites at high speed using a hand or stand mixer. Gradually rain in the sugar while continuing to whisk, adding the essence last, until the mixture is firm and glossy. It should form a peak (or bird’s beak, bec de l’oiseau) on the whisk.

2. Spoon out 4 large heaps of the meringue on to a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Press them down and scoop out a cavity that you can fill later.

3. Bake for 1 hour at 110°C. Meanwhile, make the lemon cream.

Crème au citron (Lemon Cream)

3 egg yolks
90g sugar
15g cornflour
3 lemons (untreated)
100ml water
knob of butter (unsalted)

4. Whisk together the yolks and sugar in a saucepan. Add the cornflour, zest and lemon juice then the water. Mix together well.

5. Over a medium heat, whisk until the cream thickens then take off the heat and mix in the butter. Set aside to cool.

6. When the meringues are ready, leave to cool then spoon in the lemon cream into each meringue nest and chill in the fridge for an hour.

Just before serving, top with a mixture of fruits. Just look what my daughters put together for the decoration. Lucie loves pineapple – you can tell by this double decker!  I love leftovers. Now, I best get to the shops before mint meringues pops on the menu for our main course!

At least this means I’ve got more egg whites on the go for making macarons soon.

Lemon cream meringue nests

Happy sunny May time!

P.S. As with all my recipes, I use grams. Please don’t be mad, ounces lovers. However, if you’re mad about macarons, you’ll need digital kitchen scales – much more reliable to bake in weight rather than volume. Most digital scales have the option of switching from ounces to grams so this will make your life much easier.