Recipes for deliciously easy sauces, condiments or preserves. Also includes edible decorations for plating.

Beet-Horseradish Macarons with Apple and Salmon

Are you all enjoying the festive season? Still merry? Dead beet? In just a few days it will be out with the old and in with the new. Out with the Scottish piping bag! By that I’m referring to the Scottish bagpipes since we’re just back from a wonderfully cosy, family Christmas in Scotland and so now feeling rather patriotic. I wonder if my French neighbours would mind if I took up the bagpipes in 2012?

 While the Scots celebrate ‘Hogmany’, on New Year’s Eve on 31 December, the French have a more formal dinner affair. It normally lasts all evening; in fact, there have been occasions when we’ve been so carried away at the table that midnight has struck as we’re tucking into the cheese board and just about missed it! And that’s long before dessert is even served. Last year, I just about fell asleep in the pudding from fatigue and the liquid refreshments, willing myself to continue into the early hours. Och, it’s not the age it’s the mileage, eh?

Feeling patriotic, Scottish smoked salmon is definitely on my menu for starters (or hors d’oeuvres.) My favourite is Salar Hot Smoked Salmon from the Outer Hebrides in North-West Scotland, but you can use any good quality wild smoked salmon – or in the photo, I used Smoked Salmon with 5 peppers from our local supermarket’s gourmet section (OK, it’s from Monoprix, but I’m just telling you where I shop since nobody ever approaches me for advertising, I never have freebies to post and so this is just simple old me. Voilà.)

 

We filled the suitcase with the Salar smoked precious stuff, hoping that Ryanair Staff wouldn’t take a liking to it and confiscate it at airport security. I was too worried about being blown back with the wind rather than anything else. Edinburgh was incredibly windy and I’m not just talking about the after-effects of the Christmas sprouts here. Don’t get me started on as-much-as-you-dare-with-Ryanair. ‘Haste ye back’ to the recipe!

 

One of the recipes that’s given on the back of the Salar smoked salmon pack is a simple apple and horseradish sauce to accompany it. The apple makes this sauce so deliciously light.  At first guests think it’s pure cream looking at the colour, but on tasting they dollop on more when they realise it’s mainly apple with half fat crème fraîche tossed in as an afterthought!  Serve a little on serving plates and provide extra sauce on the table.

For that extra special touch, this goes famously with a beetroot and horseradish macaron (see mini macs savoury macarons on p.103 of Mad About Macarons.)

Another party? I’m dead beet…

Horseradish and Apple Sauce for Hot Smoked Salmon

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 30 minutes

1 tart apple (e.g. braeburn, granny smith)
1-2 tbsp cream of horseradish (according to taste)
juice of 1 lemon
handful of fresh dill, finely chopped
1 small 12cl carton low fat crème fraîche (15% fat)

1.  Grate the apple then quickly add the lemon juice so that it won’t turn brown.

2.  Mix in the other ingredients and season to taste.

 

Fiddling around in Picasa, I noticed I could make a collage!  Isn’t that pretty?  Not pretty, not awful just pretty awful. OK, I’m still learning. Great fun!  Coming on Friday – a simple, light but fancy French dessert to serve with your macarons for a New Year dinner menu.

Sticky Toffee Pudding Sauce

sticky toffee pudding dessert

Dribbling with sticky toffee sauce

Why don’t the French do sticky toffee pudding? OK, it’s PUD. It’s sometimes pud that can arrive with a thud. Serve too much of it at the end of a meal and my slender French lady friends would secretly panic: you could be made silently responsible for damaging their elegant silhouettes (known as taille de guêpe – literally translated as having a corset waistline like a wasp.)

These beautiful French girlfriends have made me learn so much over the years – simply because I wanted to be just like them. Now if the puddings were poshly presented as individual minis on large, look-at-me plates and surrounded by zigzags of sticky toffee sauce, then it’s definitely accepted: we’re in chic-land.

My French parents-in-law returned from the UK recently and ever since, even they are hooked on “steecky tofffeee puddeeng”, like some of our French friends. In the UK we all fond of our sticky toffee pudding.  So much, that mention the initials, STP, and most people know what you’re talking about.  With Granny and Grandpa, we soon realised that my kids had already sussed our ‘secret code’. “Are they allowed some STP, Mummy?” Before even answering, my kids would promptly jump up and down, chanting: STP, STP, STP, pleeeeease! So much for me being the French Police (yes, that’s my nickname back in Scotland, would you believe it?)

Sticky Toffee Pudding is so popular that it tends to be on most British restaurant dessert menus. As the book was originally aimed at British readers, I couldn’t resist making sticky toffee pudding macarons (see p.86), plus I added a sticky toffee giant macaron dessert (p.118) which is just as wicked as the original puddings but as they’re macarons, they are much lighter in calories and completely GLUTEN FREE.

The French (et al ;-)) adore salted caramel sauce.  This darker toffee sauce is just so quick to make and extra sticky – ideal for dribbling over waffles and pancakes, but also handy for jazzing up desserts such as chocolate fudge cake, brownies, ice-cream (see p.125 of the book) and the giant sticky toffee macaron puddings.

For Christmas, I saw in Delicious Magazine last year that you could make a Cranberry version (their recipe included Brandy, so you could replace the rum with it.) Just add 100g of cranberries to the sauce and hey toffee, you’ve made a festive version to jazz up your puddings.

Update: I also just discovered that my friend, Carolyn of All Day I Dream about Food made special gluten-free, low-carb Sticky Toffee Puddings for a guest post over at Cara’s Cravings. Worth checking out for anyone who is looking for a sugar-free version.

Sticky Toffee Sauce

Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes

150ml double cream
85g dark muscovado sugar
100g unsalted butter
2 tbsp golden syrup (or corn syrup)
2 tbsp dark rum

  1. Put the cream, sugar and butter into a saucepan, stir and bring to the boil.  Cook for 3 minutes, then stir in the syrup and rum.
  2. Cook for a further minute, until the sauce is smooth and thickened.
  3. Set aside until needed and warm before serving.

Licking the spoon is acceptable but I strongly urge you to resist temptation of licking the plate (at the table, anyway.) I’m sure you agree that is definitely not in chic-land.

Don’t forget the International Giveaway of Mad About Macarons over at The Three Little Piglets.
Today is the last day for entries so hurry over now!

Basil & Lime Pesto: Quick and Saucy

Could you get me some basil, please? Antoine came back from the market with not just a few leaves but two huge plants of my favourite herb. There was only one thing for it; while it was so fragrant and fresh, I needed something that was quick to make: PESTO and pronto!

 

Only one problem: as I was finishing up stocks in the fridge before going on holiday, I had run out of fresh parmesan (and also the traditional pecorino) cheese.  So, the cheese was simply replaced with more toasted nuts and the juice of a lime.  Hey pesto, this could be adapted to add to all sorts of sauces at the last minute. It’s a great flavour enhancer to add to all kinds of dishes – even Thai rice noodles.  Adapt it to your own taste, using cashews or walnuts instead of pine nuts; add a red or green chili for some heat; use coriander instead of basil…

What’s more, the sauce freezes well.  As it’s oily, it won’t be a complete solid mass when frozen so you can use the amount needed without having to defrost a whole jar.

Hey pesto!

Basil and Lime Pesto

For 2 jam jars

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

2 basil plants, leaves only
2 garlic cloves, peeled and inside core removed
60g toasted pine nuts (or cashew)
1 untreated lime, zest and juice
140ml olive oil
seasoning

Throw all the ingredients in a blender, adding the olive oil gradually while mixing.  Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Creamy Lemon, Prawn and Asparagus Spaghetti

This has to be one of my favourite pronto pasta dishes after home-made pesto.  It’s “fast food”, easy, scrumptious and what’s more – it uses up egg yolks!  I mentioned this recipe briefly in the egg yolk pages in the book’s annex, but here it is in more detail.

prawn lemon and asparagus spaghetti

I played about with a fish recipe for John Dory with Sorrel in my tattered and splattered Crème Fraîche Cookbook (Boutron/Ager) one night, since the photo had fresh noodles and called for egg yolks and lemon.  And since I only had prawns to hand and some fresh asparagus, this just evolved.

Vegetarians can omit the prawns and have a lovely lemony cream sauce with the asparagus.  I’m using asparagus, as it’s the end of its season here, but you can omit this and toss in fresh or frozen peas instead. It’s as simple as that.

My sincere excuses to my Italian friends for this photo.  As you can see, I do love pasta with my parmesan. Parmesan isn’t normally served with seafood pasta dishes, but I personally adore it.  Each time I sprinkle it on, my Corsican Mother-in-Law reminds me: seafood? No parmesan. Well, in that case, we can replace the prawns with roasted chicken!

lemon spaghetti

Creamy lemon spaghetti with asparagus, lemon thyme & chicken

 

Serves 4

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 12 minutes

12 giant prawns (or roasted chicken)
3 egg yolks
2 lemons, untreated
20 cl tub crème fraîche
50g freshly grated parmesan
1 tbsp fresh lemon thyme
bunch of green asparagus (optional)

1. Firstly, get some freshly cooked prawns and shell them, removing the black central vein.

2. Cook dried spaghetti in boiling salted water for about 10 minutes or until al dente (according to packet instructions).

3. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix the yolks, the juice and zest from the lemons, crème fraîche (or cream if you’re feeling decadently creamy), the parmesan and herbs, then season.

Mix lemon zest/juice, yolks, cream and parmesan

4. If using, break the stems off the asparagus (where they break naturally, about quarter up from the bottom) and cook them for about 5 minutes until al dente in boiling salted water.

5. Drain the pasta and in the same pasta pan, add in the sauce and toss the pasta in it.  Add the prawns, asparagus and decorate with extra fresh herbs such as lemon thyme or chives.

Serve pronto with a chilled glass of Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay.

Et voilà. Keep the egg whites for a batch of macarons!

Stinging Nettle Pesto – A Healthy Spring Detox!

Nettles are full of healthy nutrients.  So this Stinging Nettle Pesto is particularly high in iron, packed with other minerals and vitamins, plus it’s a great detox for the liver.

Nettles are best in the Spring.  Ideally, pick nettles that are quite high (you don’t want them “sprayed” by animals) and the younger leaves are best since the older, outer leaves can be quite bitter.  Never pick nettles from the side of the road, as they are in danger of being sprayed by herbicides.  It’s best to get them far into the forest, as nature intended. Check out my previous post about picking nettles in the forest.

Stinging Nettle Pesto

Stinging nettle pesto, with added fresh asparagus

Like classic pesto, this nettle variation is handy to have in the fridge.  It can keep for 3-4 days (just keep topping it up with olive oil after use) and it freezes well, too.  Pesto is SO quick and easy to make, it’s a crying shame if you buy that mass market stuff sold in jars at the supermarket. Although – this nettle version does take a bit longer but it’s worth it.

stinging nettle pesto

 

Stinging Nettle Pesto

Serves 6 (freezes well in a jam jar)

Ingredients

100g stinging nettle leaves, stalks removed
30 pine nuts, (or walnuts) toasted
2 cloves garlic, core removed
40g parmesan, freshly grated (reggiano, although grana padano will do)
1 tsp sea salt
freshly cracked pepper
200ml extra virgin olive oil

1.  Keep your gloves on at this point, as the nettles still have their sting!

Don’t forget the gloves!

2.  Remove all the leaves from the stalks then soak them in cold water for a few minutes.

3.  Still with gloves on, plunge the leaves into salted boiling water for 2 minutes.  The salt keeps the green colour bright.  Blanching the nettle leaves like this removes their sting.

4.  Strain the leaves and cool.  You could reserve the cooking water (for stock, soups etc.)

5.  Once cool, squeeze out any excess water and place in a food processor or blender with the other ingredients. Add the cheese at the end.

Toss the pesto into cooked pasta.  There is no need to heat the sauce.  That way you get all the beautiful flavours oodling their way between the noodles…

stinging nettle pesto

 

Garnish the dish with crispy nettle leaves which have been deep fried for 30 seconds in 150°C and left to drain off excess oil on kitchen paper.  That way you get Le Crunch and not a sting…

Enjoy with a glass of red Bordeaux, such as a Fronsac, a chilled fruity rosé or a white Vermentino.

Santé! To your good health!

Stinging Nettle Pesto
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
2 mins
Total Time
32 mins
 

A healthy spring twist to the Italian classic pesto sauce, using foraged stinging nettles.

Course: Main Course, Starter
Cuisine: French, Italian
Servings: 6
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
  • 100 g / 3.5oz stinging nettle leaves stalks removed
  • 30 pine nuts (or walnuts) toasted
  • 2 cloves garlic core removed
  • 40 g / 1.5oz parmesan freshly grated (reggiano, although grana padano will do)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • freshly cracked pepper
  • 200 ml / 7oz extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Keep your gloves on at this point, as the nettles still have their sting!
  2. Remove all the leaves from the stalks then soak them in cold water for a few minutes.
  3. Still with gloves on, plunge the leaves into salted boiling water for 2 minutes. The salt keeps the green colour bright. Blanching the nettle leaves like this removes their sting.
  4. Strain the leaves and cool. You could reserve the cooking water (for stock, soups etc.)
  5. Once cool, squeeze out any excess water and place in a food processor or blender with the other ingredients. Add the cheese at the end.
Recipe Notes

Toss the pesto into cooked pasta. There is no need to heat the sauce. That way you get all the beautiful flavours oodling their way between the noodles…

Garnish the dish with crispy nettle leaves which have been deep fried for 30 seconds in 150°C and left to drain off excess oil on kitchen paper.  That way you get Le Crunch and not a sting...

Enjoy with a glass of red Bordeaux, such as a Fronsac, a chilled fruity rosé or a white Vermentino.

The sauce also freezes well.

 

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

 


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.