Hello, Bonjour and welcome! I’m Jill – a Scot (and French citizen) living near Paris – author, recipe developer, and photographer behind the website.
Normally it’s the other way around: you write a blog, then get published. Well, I was lucky and did it the other way around: I started this blog end 2010 to coincide with the launch of my first recipe book, Mad About Macarons at the BBC Good Food Show in Scotland with my publisher, Waverley Books – hence the blog’s name (even if I stray from macarons most of the time). Since then, the book has been translated into three languages, reprinted 10 times, and Waverley Books braved me again in 2015 to publish Teatime in Paris, a recipe book full of French teatime treats, their history and my favourite Parisian patisseries that make them.
I didn’t plan on moving from Edinburgh to Paris. It just happened in 1992 by following my Frenchman to learn some French while awaiting to take up a wine marketing post in Scotland – and ended up staying in Paris for good. Entertaining was completely new to me and so I had to learn to cook for – and from – my new French family and friends.
Somehow my “banana surprise” (slices of banana hidden underneath a blob of thick custard from a packet mix) just didn’t hack it with my new entourage, and Antoine wasn’t impressed that I couldn’t just whip up a smooth made-from-scratch Bechamel sauce for his Croque Monsieur party (I mean, didn’t they have packet mixes for that?). So I had to learn fast with many bloopers along the way!
Today, you won’t find packet mixes in our home, since 1992 I’ve been converted to a healthy French lifestyle: that means no diets but eating well with simple yet fresh, seasonal ingredients full of flavour. You’ll find us near Saint-Germain-en-Laye just outside Paris with my husband, Antoine (he stuck by me, even after the banana surprises!) and two teenage girls, Julie (18) and Lucie (16). When not in the kitchen or running after the girls, you’ll find me seeking out the freshest, local food at the market, discovering wines and teas in and around Paris and tasting my way around the best French patisseries and, if I’m good, I get a break and enjoy good value-for-money Parisian restaurants or a treat in one of my favourite tea salons.
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ABOUT THE RECIPES: French Inspiration
As with my recipe books, all my recipes are easy to make. They’re mainly inspired by French chefs but tailored for us in our home kitchens with inexpensive quality produce that’s not difficult to find.
Most recipes are French (starting with my very first classic recipe learned, Salade de Chèvre Chaud) but there are some Scottish influences that creep in – Italian too, as my husband is Corsican French – and I love re-creating recipes picked up from my travels. As learned from many French chefs’ golden rule, recipes are REDUCED IN SUGAR as much as possible to let the main ingredients shine through.
If you’re here for the first time, check out the Recipe Index. You’ll find recipes marked as gluten-free and for macaron, meringue and financier lovers who need egg whites, I have a whole database of egg yolk recipes, so nothing goes to waste.
Have any queries about my books? Check out the Frequently Asked Questions page as you’re question may already be answered. I’ve also included a Glossary of Cooking Terms, so that there’s no confusion between our British and American talk. For macaron recipes and troubleshooting, you’ll find this in my books.
The ultimate highlight is to see YOU make the recipes from either both my books and/or here on le blog, so please do share your delicious pics with me on the Facebook page or on Instagram and hashtag it #MadAboutMacarons.
MORE ABOUT JILL
Like all French roads that lead to Paris – and don’t let you avoid the Arc de Triomphe – my roads led me to France and the French life.
From regular family holidays in France as a child; my love of French flute music during a brief spell as professional musician; wine-tasting as a seriously fun hobby (with a wine diploma as an excuse); to a French husband, who whisked me to Paris in 1992 following postgraduate marketing studies in my native Scotland.
All that was left was to learn to speak French, entertain and cook like my new French friends and family …
I was born, grew up and educated in Edinburgh, Scotland. If you’re American, this explains my funny British spelling of words.
From the earliest age I baked with Mum and Granny. Whether it was caramel “stuff”, matrimonial cake or copious amounts of snowballs, everything was recorded in Granny’s Black Book. We were so used to homemade fare that our occasional treats were bought cakes: a sticky vanilla doughnut or a Tunnock’s Teacake with a bottle of Cream Soda is a particularly special memory from Norman the Baker’s milk-chocolate and cream van that hooted outside Granny’s front door.
My Grandpa was a fishmonger, delivering fish around the coastal villages south-east of Edinburgh. I never saw him eat fish; he preferred mince and tatties while we often landed a crate of lemon sole, served simply at home with Dad’s homemade chips.
It was on one of our regular family holidays with Mum, Dad and my brother to France in the late 70s that I discovered my first vanilla “flan” in the back of a sweltering Cortina car with no air-conditioning, washed down with warm lemonade that called itself “Pshitt” on the label. That was the start of a long love affair with this country.
Fast forward to the romantic cliché of being whisked to Paris by my Corsican Frenchman from Business School in 1992, for the next ten years I worked in an International Organisation in a Château … it was there in Paris’s chic 16th arrondissement where I tasted my first Parisian macaron. What was all the fuss? Suddenly I also became obsessed about making them – since it was rather an expensive hobby tasting them around Paris!
Experimenting with initial delicious macaron failures, I came up with a fool-proof recipe that worked in a non-professional kitchen. Somehow our French guests were impressed; by perfecting the macaron, they also accepted I could cook and, before I knew it, they were asking me for recipes! So, Mad About Macarons was born – the book and le blog.
Today I adore the French diet, especially as I can ENJOY ALL THE FULL FAT BUTTER, CREAM and SUGAR – but it’s deliciously in strict moderation and with no snacking.
Learning Through the Kids – No Waste!
With a French husband, family-in-law, and bringing up my kids in a French (and wee bit Scottish) environment, I learned quickly from the French culture that it’s a crime to waste food too. Portions are not huge but we finish everything that’s on our plate. Snacking is frowned upon, except for an official after-school goûter or small snack (hence why I wrote ‘Teatime in Paris’). It sounds strict but it all makes so much sense. Kids who don’t eat proper meals at mealtimes are hungry during the day and snack often – so how can you teach them the value of a properly balanced, healthy meal?
No Packet Mixes
Thanks to the French, you won’t find packet mixes in our house, either. To me, cooking at home means we know what ingredients are used: good, honest food without the preservatives, and seasonal or local as much as possible – and made with love to share, the purpose of this blog.
I’ve been fascinated with Antoine’s French family and friends’ relaxed approach to the plaisir, the real pleasure, of food. Even with two busy teenagers, our evening meals are something we look forward to; sitting at the table, enjoying our meal and catching up with news of the day.
Now, alas – even in France – the giant coffee and sandwich fast-food chains are seriously on the rise, especially at lunchtimes. Thankfully it’s still rare to see French people eating and drinking on-the-go, something I sincerely hope will remain exceptional as part of such a champion gourmet culture.
Although still a full-time Mum, I devote the rest of my time to writing about food, playing flute and am currently working on my 3rd book – this time a complete surprise. I also love an excuse to take part in French gourmet festivals: lately I was most honoured to be invited to take part on the jury for chef Christophe Roussel’s amateur pastry competition (including Mercotte, France’s equivalent of Mary Berry) in La Baule. So, if you need a taster – then count me in! Just remember if I’m on the jury, I’m highly critical of too much sugar that masks the taste of your creations!
Cheers, santé, and thank you for popping by!
Now it’s over to you to enjoy sharing in the recipes here…
I’d love to hear from you if you have any questions about my books or this blog. I am happy to accept quality food-related product or service reviews that I believe will be of interest to my readers. I only post honest but positive feedback (if any negative, I just don’t post). For product reviews, food/travel promotion or events, do feel free to contact me with your product or concept and I’ll get back to you soonest. A bientôt !