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The Best Tonic is with Indian Curry Macarons

As Paris is finally enjoying summer, we’ve been enjoying life in the garden. For the past three weeks, we’ve surpassed our miserable weather of May and June with this glorious French canicule or heat wave. Wouah! I love the heat but as a Scot, the mosquitos and other beasties love my macaron-tasting blood.

I must be the best repellent there is for our house guests in the garden. This time around, this double-biting beastie was a bête grâve. Was it a spider? A mosquito? Heaven knows but nearly 3 weeks later, I’m still on antibiotics and other stuff just to bring down the swelling of a rather unsexy looking club foot.

Never mind the club foot, look at our sexy macaron feet!

Is all this just my excuse why it has been so quiet on le blog? Yes. Well, it did turn purple, couldn’t walk on it, went to Germany’s Black Forest in the meantime, hobbled along trying to join in the fun and WHAM!  I put my back out last weekend, Milord. I did.

As plans were scrapped for London this week and the French insurance paperwork completed, it’s that moment when Bach’s Air on a G String plays in the background (for all Hamlet cigar ad lovers), stick my foot up and drink a chilled glass of G&T  – purely for the quinine, of course – and, instead of a cigar, use a straw to contemplate how to drink the stuff without locking in position and looking totally ridiculous.

Feeling blue? Apero’clock with a Gin and Tonic and mini spicy curry macs.

As I write this, the family are enjoying Spamalot at the Playhouse Theatre in London. I’m certainly no lover of spam (see post of spam macarons without the spam) but we’re Monty Python Fans. To get over my nervousness at piano or flute exams and music competitions in my teens, I pictured the scene of Eric Idle at the piano, completely naked with, “…and now for something completely different”.

That’s what brings me to curry macarons. They are completely different.

Mini Tikka Macsala macarons

For those of you who haven’t yet tried the savoury Mad Macs chapter in Mad About Macarons, I urge you to give them a go. Mini curry macarons are great for something completely different at parties and weddings. The intriguing macaron sweetness (I add a bit curry powder to the shells) and the Indian heat of the curry ensures a delicious giggle or two. Drink suggestions are given in the book but my favourite is with a G&T using Bombay Sapphire and Schweppes tonic.

I need to stop now as I’m turning into Groan-alot and it’s time to heat a frozen Picard version of Butter Chicken (I miss cooking!) I have many recipes to share with you but they’re too long to write for the moment, so will be back soon with holiday fun and perhaps a surprise if I can get there.

Remember; always look on the bright side of life, tadum; tadum-tadum-tadum.

Have you been macaroning-alot? Have you tried the mini curry macs yet?

Joining Together in Mac-rimony plus a Crème Caramel in a Cheesebox?

It’s already one week later and I’m still recovering. Is it the age or the mileage, perhaps? Or both?

This was no ordinary weekend. Not only was it decision time for the French to elect their President, but we also witnessed no ordinary Scottish wedding. It was my brother’s extra special day; I’m a proud sister, bowled over to gain such a precious sister-in-law and a beautiful family. My eldest daughter squeezed me tightly as I placed the lid on this box of mini macs just before leaving the house. “Mum, no wonder these are the cutest macarons you’ve made: you poured so much love into them…” That was the first lump that formed in my throat. I always become emotional at weddings and so that was a last-minute reminder to pack the extra tissues.

The happy couple asked me to make some mini curry macarons for the drinks. With some extra batter, I piped out couples stuck together (Tip: normally you shouldn’t pipe out your batter too close to each other, as they do spread on the baking sheet) and wrote on them using edible food colouring pens.

Joining together in mac-rimony

This time the fragile macs made it through Beauvais airport’s security belt in one go and the box remained upright.  Just as we sailed smilingly through to the other side, Antoine informed me that he couldn’t find a parking place at the airport. He had parked the car ‘somewhere outside’. Trop tard. There wasn’t much we could do. Either we could laugh about it or cry. I didn’t expect to use the tissues so soon, thinking of the Gendarmes clamping the car with a fine as we boarded.

The bellowing bagpipes in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile made us all feel smiles better. With a nippy easterly wind opposite Parliament Square, we gazed at the bagpiper clad in short sleeves and kilt, wondering if he was wearing his tartan the traditional way: feeling the drafty winds from the south, as it were. Braveheart, indeed. Needless to say there is a distinct lack of photographs here. In between hugging and joyful tears, Antoine and I fondly remembered our own wedding across the road nearly 15 years ago. The only differences? The sun was shining and the bagpiper had changed. So had we, but we could have done the wedding thing all over again. I wonder if Antoine would still arrive in an Irn-Bru taxi?

Made from girders… my daughters’ new Scottish tipple

Flying back next day, we were lucky to make it in time for Antoine to vote. Before François Hollande was even elected, some humourists were out and about in Paris. View of the rue de l’ancienne comédie: Impasse de Sarkozy.

A dose of French humour…

Turning the corner into Boulevard St Germain, wacky chocolatier Patrick Roger also showed off his wit in the boutique’s window: a chocolate die picturing Hollande and Sarkozy.

The jokes were flying around on Facebook and on TV. Antoine was particularly in hysterics with a picture of a round, empty box of Président camembert cheese filled with a ‘Flamby’ (a commercial crème caramel.) Hollande’s endearing nickname of Flamby is due to his wobbly ideas, apparently. My personal preference was “vote Hollande if you want a Pays Bas” (Pays Bas to non-French speakers is another word for the country, Holland.) Ah, the French and their politics.  I’ve never taken to politics but when you live in France, you have to have some sort of clue what’s going on: it’s a passionate topic that always finds itself around a French table with friends or family.

Time will tell with President Hollande. From this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health…until 2017? I wonder if I should make some caramel Flamby macarons in his honour – or does that sound a bit cheesy?

 

Mad About Macarons Christmas Party Special

It’s Christmas countdown! Is the excitement crescendoing in your family? I don’t know about you but up until now, I’ve been avoiding any tunes or decorations – especially since our local authorities mounted the festive decorations as early as mid October! Motivation, however, soon jump-started last week on a shopping spree in Paris. Check out these macaron baubles for the tree.

More baubles were hanging up with the gingerbread men at my favourite pastry shop in St. Germain-en-Laye, Le Petit Gateau. This is where I first learned how to make macarons all those years ago, since they have workshops for adults and children. Looking in the window, everyone becomes a child. Isn’t it magical?

Their gingerbread men are a huge hit with customers but the pastry chefs are freaked out by them. The popular smiling treats are hanging on their strings when it’s lights out at night; first thing in the morning they’ve dropped off them, lying motionless in the window. Did they come alive during the night like in Toy Story? I wonder if they played with the dwarves (oh dear, makes me think of a terrible joke but I should keep this website respectable) or did they storm the gingerbread house, claiming their territory?

Chocolate-cointreau-gingerbread macarons

Speaking of gingerbread, there has been a huge trend towards gingerbread macarons on the blogosphere recently. It has been exciting to see so many macaron lovers preparing their Christmas mac treats. You must visit Laura of Craftstorming and check out her incredible Gingerbread macaron men. Also Jamie of MacTweets aka Life’s a Feast. Jamie added Cognac to her macs (she had an excuse to use the good stuff after visiting the place en direct, lucky girl!) I didn’t have any left (what’s going on in our liqueur cabinet?) so resorted to Cointreau – a lovely orangey alternative, which goes well with the ganache and spices. I loved Jamie’s addition of the sweet chestnut purée: you don’t taste it with the chocolate as much as on its own but adds a beautiful Christmas gloss to the ganache.

And in the window at Patrick Roger’s chocolaterie

Back to Christmas tree baubles. Just take a peek at Patrick Roger’s vitrine of his St Germain-en-Laye boutique. How would your family react if you came home with a chocolate tree like this with real orange baubles? This year, kids, we’re respecting the environment. We’re fed up of untangling the Christmas lights, so let’s just decorate it with oranges and spiced orange blossom macarons. What do you think?

Spicy Christmas Orange Blossom Macarons by Jill

spicy orange blossom macarons

 

This time last year it was snowing. It was so dizzily exciting at first but it soon made way to alarmingly heavy snowfalls, that my first TV debut for making macarons was postponed. Instead we consoled ourselves my munching through these spicy orange blossom macarons that I’d prepared for the program. All was not lost; we just sat and gorged on them in front of the fire with slippers on, watching the snow outside plus the snow reports on the TV.

For orange blossom spiced macarons: just follow the recipe for orange blossom macarons (on p.77 of the book), infusing 2 cinnamon sticks, 3 star anises and 2 cloves in the cream.

Are you Christmas partying? These mini Thai green/red curry mac’sala macarons are a real hit at parties (spot Auntie Shirley’s knitted Christmas mac warmer!) Same goes for the beetroot and horseradish macarons or tikka mac’sala curry ones: serve them with drinks or better still, with hors-d’oeuvres/starter, as a surprising gluten-free alternative to bread with Round Carrot, Parsnip and Coriander soup.

This weekend, my eldest had her first boum – disco party – which is quite a milestone for 11/12 year-olds. I’m still recovering myself after that disco! What happened to the next day? I felt more like a Black-Eyed Pea Poopper! I’ve had some serious catching up to do in the groovy world after Mamma Mia: Funky Mum needs to know LMFAO, Zac Harry, Katy Perry, Pitbull, David Guetta. Guetta-load-of-that! It was great to see over 25 kids really enjoy themselves. They’ve worked so hard this tough term as the new kids on the block in first year at Collège. They also proved they’d worked hard at these dance moves. They know how to shake their stuff!

When I brought out the boxes of macarons, one boy asked Antoine if they were actually allowed to eat them. Can you imagine? Are macs just seen as treats for the adults? Really. Makes me want to make them all the more.  Then all the boys pounced on the chocolate ones and the girls were discussing what was the cube in the middle of the strawberry ones. Fascinating.

Drunken cranberry and egg nog macarons

Meanwhile, these macarons were preparing themselves for another party debut: drunken cranberry egg nog macarons. Using my favourite Appleton Estate Rum, I only wished I’d upped the dose by not just macerating the dried cranberries in it but also adding more rum to the vanilla cream, too. It just confirms that I should do what I say myself and don’t be afraid to concentrate the flavours as much as possible.

Cranberry Egg Nog Macarons: Simply follow the basic recipe for vanilla macarons (p. 35 of the book), using 120ml whole milk and 40ml rum, and add freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon and 100g of drunken cranberries to the filling.

This week, it’s time to say “merci, maîtresse” (thank you teacher) with little macaron bags at the end of term.

Bags of macarons for the teachers

The question is, do I give dark chocolate and mint macs to the French or the British school teachers? I love making these every Christmas – and each time Antoine still tries to explain that the French just don’t like mint with chocolate. Well I’m sorry but we love it in Britain: we were brought up to serve After Eights after dinner. It’s posh. So I’m still doing it whether you like it or not, Monsieur Antoine.

After Eight macarons

Wanting to decorate them with something festive, Mum had given me these Edible Green Trees by Rainbow Dust last year. Great idea and thanks, Mum – but they were so small and fiddly to use and kept curling. Now Lora, aka The Mad Hausfrau had a great arty crafty technique of painting on snowflakes with white food colouring directly on the macaron shell, then glittering them with disco dust for a Christmas macaron disco fever!

Don’t forget to put out some macarons for Santa with these macarons aux marrons glacés. Bulging stockings are guaranteed…

Well, the macarons are made and there’s even more partying: this is going to be a mad week! Enjoy your Christmas macaron-ing. Now it’s time to hang up the decorations!

spot the edible ones 🙂

Don’t forget to enter the international Christmas Giveaway of Mad About Macarons!
You could be one of the FIVE lucky readers to receive a copy, courtesy of Waverley Books.

Parsnip, Round Carrot & Coriander Soup

bowl them over with soup and macarons for starters

The French call the parsnip (le panais) one of the “forgotten” vegetables.  Sure enough, as I was picking out parsnips at the market recently, I was bowled over when an elderly French lady actually asked little old me what I do with them.

Amazed is an understatement really – it’s the equivalent of someone French coming up to you and asking where to find a certain street.  An instant warm glow heats up inside and suddenly you feel part of it all. Although, perhaps the poor soul had just lost her memory. In any case, nothing gives me the greatest pleasure to share this healthy, velvety soup.

 Another ‘forgotten’ vegetable is the round carrot. It was popular in Paris in the 19th Century and a delight to growers, as they don’t need great soil due to their small roots. In French, they’re referred to as Parisian Carrots – is that not so chic? These dumpy veggies are now ‘reminding’ us at the market that they’re so much sweeter than normal carrots – and one of my favourite ways to serve them is simply throw them in a roasting tin with a dash of sugar, butter, oil and thyme and roast them for 45 minutes.

As the parsnips are naturally creamy, they thicken this soup perfectly. When serving this to guests in autumn or winter, it’s always a delight to see their faces light up as you tell them there’s not a drop of cream in it (although adding a touch of sherry is cheeky.)

Parsnip carrot and coriander soup - surprise your guests and serve them with gluten free mini curry macarons

Parsnip, Carrot & Coriander Soup (with mini curry macarons)

 Parsnip, Round Carrot & Coriander Soup

Wildly adapted from Spiced Cream Parsnip Soup from Scottish Traditional Recipes by Carol Wilson & Christopher Trotter.

SERVES 4

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 minutes

50g butter
2 onions, chopped
500g parsnips, peeled & chopped
300g round carrots, peeled & chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp dry sherry
1 litre chicken stock
bunch of fresh coriander, chopped

  1. Melt the butter in a pressure cooker, add the onions, carrots and parsnips and sweat them gently for about 10 minutes without allowing them to colour.  Add the spices.
  2. Pour in the sherry and place the lid on, cooking on a medium heat for 10 minutes until the parsnips and carrots have softened.
  3. Add the stock and season to taste.  Bring to the boil then simmer on the pressure setting for about 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat then blitz using a hand blender.

Serve with freshly chopped coriander.

Needing an extra wow factor? Serve a mini soup and a mini Tikka Mac’Sala curry macaron (recipe on p.100 of the book) on the side will guarantee the oh-là-là effect to kick off a special meal. What’s more, it’s gluten free – so replace the bread and butter with mini savoury macarons!

 

For more on forgotten vegetables, please take take a look at one of my first posts before it was a blog:

Forgotten Legumes, Old Crosnes and a Beetroot Macaron.

Mini mad macs

And it doesn’t stop there.  After the classics and becoming more creative you can amaze your guests with savoury “mini mad macs”.  They are the lightest, sugar-reduced macarons that can be served as an apéritif or with a starter.  Try Jill’s hot and spicy Tikka “Mac’Sala” or Beetroot and horseradish macarons.