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Café Renoir, Montmartre Museum Gardens

There’s no denying it: Montmartre is always pretty crowded with tourists and tour groups – and that’s just on weekdays! But it still never fails to amaze me that when you head towards the back of the hill (the “butte”) and follow signs to the Montmartre Museum, you’ll discover a surprisingly much quieter haven in Rue Cortot. Now opened to the public, for just 4 euros entry into the Museum’s Renoir gardens, enjoy the welcome tranquility and relax with a drink or snack in the timeless Café Renoir.

Rue Cortot Montmartre Paris

This week I did just that, avoiding the summer crowds around Sacré Coeur and Place du Tertre during a swelteringly hot afternoon. Thanks to the Montmartre Museum, I was invited for a spot of light lunch at the Café Renoir, which has recently been refurbished.

Café Renoir, Montmartre Museum

café renoir montmartre museum

The sun room has been given a make-over with antiques from La Petite Brocante de Montmartre and touches of dried flowers and plants.  Apparently it was here that Auguste Renoir was inspired to paint Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette in 1876 when he lived here.

café renoir montmartre museum Paris

I could have sat indoors to imagine Renoir painting, but a pretty table in the shade was beckoning with a most beautiful view of the gardens dedicated to the painter, with a view on the famous swing …

cafe renoir montmartre museum garden

By 1pm, I’d already missed the quinoa salad, which was obviously popular in such a heat but when a Moroccan-style chilled carrot salad arrived to accompany a vegetarian quiche (made by Rachel’s Cakes), then that made up for it (part of the €16 menu).

If you know me well, I love good wines and so couldn’t resist a taste of their chilled white (also choice of rosé and red) – I’m looking out for this again and thoroughly recommend their organic Apremont from Savoie by l’Envin – not too dry, bags of fruit and full on the palate.

Café Renoir montmartre museum

All their drinks are supplied by quality brands, with fruit juices by renowned Alain Milliat or Sassy Cidre but as slices of lemon & poppy-seed cake arrived (made by Ryotaro Sato), their own house iced tea with mint was the perfect accompaniment on ice to help bring down the 36°C!

Renoir’s Swing in Montmartre, Rue Cortot

The view from the quiet Café Renoir looks on to my favourite part of the garden: the famous swing, La Balançoire, painted by Renoir in 1876 while he lived here for a year.

Renoir Gardens swing

The painting was presented at the Impressionists’ exhibition in 1877 but hard to believe that it was badly received by the art critics.  The work was purchased by Gustave Caillebotte, Renoir’s artist friend and patron – jolly good chap! Incidentally, I need to visit his home near Orly, outside Paris and take a boat ride à la Caillebotte.

The gardens are so inviting to linger and enjoy the familiar views that would have been seen by Suzanne Valadon and her son, Maurice Utrillo from their painting atelier, which has recently been restored to resemble what it was back in 1912.

Suzanne Valadon artist studio Montmartre Museum

The Oldest House in Montmartre

Number 12 Rue Cortot is the oldest house in Montmartre, constructed in the middle of the 17th century.  It was home to a number of artists such as Auguste Renoir, Emile Bernard, Suzanne Valadon and her son, Maurice Utrillo.

It wasn’t until 1959 that it was restored to house the Montmartre Museum, which houses a unique collection of paintings, posters (notably by Toulouse-Lautrec) and drawings that recount the history of Montmartre, including its infamously animated cabarets.

oldest house in Montmartre Paris

Making your way to the back of the museum, you’ll appreciate the views.

Cafe Renoir Gardens

Montmartre’s Vineyard

I’ve already visited the museum many times and one of my favourite exhibits are the slide shows showing how life was through photography and film at the time of these various painters.  They also show a memorable photo of the area where the vines were replanted in 1933 for the Clos de Montmatre vineyard.

Around 50,000 visitors celebrate the Fête de Vendanges or Montmartre Wine Festival each year in October. Here’s the unique view up close to the vineyard from the Renoir Gardens of the Museum.

café renoir vineyard montmartre

This year, the museum has also organised gardening workshops. Learn how to plant, seed and take cuttings for your Parisian balcony; or how to cultivate your own vegetables; and how to add edible flowers to your savoury and sweet dishes.

This is also great for children, accompanied by an adult.  For more information, consult the Renoir Garden Workshop information site.

Renoir Cafe Gardens Beehives Montmartre Museum

The Café Renoir, Musée Montmartre
12 rue Cortot
75018 Paris

Open every day, 12pm-6pm (May-October) & from Wednesday to Sunday (October-April)

Snack lunch menu: €16

Night opening, 7pm-10pm every Thursday in July & August, and last Thursday of every month (€15 entrance fee, glass of wine included).

Metros: Lamarck-Caulaincourt (line 12); Anvers (line 2)

More on Montmartre …

For my self-guided tour of Montmartre’s quieter spots and a taste of the best chocolate and patisserie in Paris’ favourite hilltop village, see my article here.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye: Paris Day Trips

Next time you’re in Paris and want to avoid the typical tourist route, take a day trip to Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The town is only 20 kilometres west of Paris and 15 km from Versailles.

It couldn’t be easier to travel from the City, as it takes only 20 minutes on the RER A line from Paris direct to the terminus of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. As we live five minutes away from this Royal Burgh town, I’m proud to present it to start off my new series on interesting day trips out of Paris.

St Germain chateau and park

Saint-Germain-en-Laye & its Scottish Connection

Not to be confused with the quarter of Saint Germain-des-Prés in Paris, the town of Saint-Germain-en-Laye is perched on the edge of a forest of 3500 hectares and today has a population of about 43,000. It’s home to the Paris Saint Germain football (soccer) team but before it was a Royal town, home to the Kings of France.

With my Scottish roots, I can’t help feeling particularly patriotic passing the church, where King James VII of Scotland (II of England) lies. Across the road from his tomb is the château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, where the Stuart family lived while in exile.

The town even has its own tartan, such is the Franco-Scottish Auld Alliance with the Scots – and Saint-Germain-en-Laye is twinned with the town of Ayr in Scotland.

Chateau and church of Saint Germain-en-Laye

This French Royal Burgh has been a market town since King François I, who decided as of 1526 that there should be two market days.  Today there are THREE legendary MARKET DAYS: on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday mornings (check out my Instagram feed, as you’ll see me regularly shop here!)

I joined Victoria’s weekly guided weekend walk, organised by the Tourist Office, tracing the influence of King François I on the town.  He stayed in Saint-Germain-en-Laye for over a thousand days – the longest for a monarch choosing between a wealthy choice of fairytale French castles. He left the town with its layout, a pentagon-shaped castle and a centre for trade.

Bread Street (Rue au Pain)

Update 2018: The tour (in French and English) meets up at the Tourist Office – now renovated and situated in the Jardins des Arts. Before its location was on the ground floor of the Claude Debussy Museum, birthplace of the composer in 1826 (the museum is free of charge).

Rue au Pain, the town’s oldest Medieval street, supplied bread to the castle. Today it’s still home to a bakery, chocolate shop, Pâtisserie and fromagerie. As we’re taken along pedestrian-only cobbled streets, passing boutiques and mansion houses from the 17th and 18th centuries, we learn fascinating facts from taxes to the gradual increase in population. The King had put Saint-Germain-en-Laye on the map.

chateau saint Germain

Today the castle is home to the National Archeological Museum and is currently undergoing renovations. Certain parts now look so pristine, it could have been build last year!  The castle dates from Louis IX in 1235, with the oldest part of the castle that’s left, the Royal Chapel, inspired the Saint Chapelle in Paris. Look up and spot numerous reminders of François I’s (F) symbol and the invincible salamander; N for the Napoleon III empire; and R symbol of the third Republic.

The chimney-packed castle roof is open to the public for visits too, on demand, from May-September.  See my article here all about visits to the Château rooftop, with views over to Paris.

Birthplace of Louis XIV

Saint Germain-en-Laye Pavilon Henri IV

The Pavillion Henri IV Hotel houses the small red-brick pavilion where Louis XIV was born and baptised in 1638. It’s all that’s left of the new castle (Château Neuf) which was demolished in 1776 at the request of Louis XIV’s brother, the Count of Artois. Rather than restore the castle that had run into disrepair while Louis had moved to the new royal residence at Versailles, the Count told the King he much preferred the castle in Maisons-Laffitte. So the people of Saint-Germain-en-Laye re-cycled the “new” bricks for their mansion houses.

It wasn’t just the King that was born here; the hotel is also famous for inventing the Sauce Béarnaise and Pommes de Terre Soufflées (puffed potatoes) after it opened in 1836.

saint-germain-en-laye-park-perspectives

The Park

The Grand Terrace, designed by Louis XIV’s favourite gardener, André Le Nôtre, is over 2km long. He worked on this before Vaux-le-Vicomte and Versailles.

For lovers of architecture, there are plenty of explanatory signs in English to learn more about the history and designs of the gardens.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Vineyards

Replanted in 1999, nearly 2000 Pinot Noir vines grow just under the Terrace to make the Vin des Grottes, although this isn’t commercialised. Instead it’s traditionally served at the harvest festival in September.

vines of Saint Germain-en-laye

Just look at this perspective, lined with lime blossom trees. Ready for a walk? Imagine in Louis XIV’s time this wasn’t paved or pathed, there was no grass and no railings with a drop of 13 metres. It was simply sanded so walkers may have felt slightly daunted…

Saint Germain-en-Laye Terrace

From the terrace, the cherry on the cake is this magnificent view of the west of Paris including La Defense: on clear days like this you can spot Sacré Coeur and the Eiffel Tower. Can you see them plus other Parisian landmarks?

view of Paris from Saint Germain-en-Laye

It’s a favourite spot for weekend walks, which leads eventually to the well-guided paths in the forest just outside the gates.

Forest of Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Let’s finish with a partial view of the park in Autumn.

Don’t forget Saint-Germain-en-Laye next time you visit Paris – add this ‘mini Paris’ to your bucket list! There’s so much to see just outside the City that’s within easy access; there’s not just the Palace of Versailles.

Just to whet your appetite, I have also compiled your very own DIY chocolate-pastry tour of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, just to give you a taste of the wealth of award-winning chocolate and pastry boutiques the town has to offer.

saint-germain-en-laye park in autumn or fall

 

François I Tours: 3pm Saturdays (1.5 hrs) 9 April- 15 October
October-April: Various conferences, exhibitions & bigger group tours
For more information, tour reservations & visits, contact:

Tourist Office
Jardin des Arts
3 rue Henri IV
78100 Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Tel: 01-30 87 20 63
(Updated 2018, following relocation)

Macarons vs Macaroons

macaron macaroon difference

It happened again.  I recently caught myself wincing at a teatime menu’s English version. This time it was in one of Paris’s most elegant and prominent tea salons in Place Vendôme, where the famously stylish Parisian “macaron” was translated as “macaroon”.

I know, it’s not one of the world’s first problems but please, get it right.

While Macarons and macaroons perhaps sound alike, they are both totally different.

Macarons vs Macaroons

This confusion with an extra “o” is nothing new; it happens frequently, whether it’s on a top tearoom menu in Paris or on high-end supermarket packaging around the world. Even a UK bookshop snootily turned down stocking my first book, Mad About Macarons, simply because the title read “Macarons” and not “Macaroons”. It’s a subject that has been raised often, but the same mistake continues like a couple of crêpes on deaf ears.

I’m perhaps mad about macarons, but if you’re just as infatuated with Paris’s Ambassador of Pastry, with its smooth delicate meringue-like shells sandwiched together with chocolate ganache, jam, curd or buttercream, its name needs to be defended. I’m not being posh or trying to show off I can speak some French after 24 years of living here – it’s just that the term, macaron is the right word to use to describe these little filled rainbow-coloured Parisian confections.

Over the last four years of guiding pastry tours in Paris, I’m still surprised by the recurring question: “So what’s the difference between macarons and macaroons?”

bitten macarons by Jill Colonna

Food lovers are evidently still puzzled. How on earth can two deliciously dainty confections create such mystery?

The only similarity between the two is their gluten-free mutual ingredients of egg whites and sugar; a macaron includes ground almonds (almond flour), whilst a macaroon is made with coconut.

So let’s get it straight with the simplest answer: the macaron is meringue-based and the macaroon is coconut based.

But there’s more to it than that.

macarons vs macaroons Jill Colonna

Is it a macaron? A rougher looking amaretti cookie and a Parisian Gerbet macaron

What is a Macaron?

Macarons date back to the middle ages but we have a better idea of its history during the Renaissance – first cited by French writer Rabelais – when the Venetian macarone (meaning a fine paste of something crushed) of ground almonds, egg whites and sugar was brought to France by Catherine de Medici and her chefs when she married the future King of France in 1533, Henri II. It was a meringue-like biscuit but a much rougher looking type of confection, predominantly tasting of almonds and looking rather like an amaretti biscuit.

In France, the macaron’s super-model upgrade wasn’t made famous until the 1900s. This is the modern smooth, coloured macaron as we know it today, that’s now creating the confusion, known as the Parisian or Gerbet macaron. Ernest Ladurée’s second cousin, Pierre Desfontaines takes the credit for inventing these sandwiched confections – although this calls for yet more delicious, historical homework. Most importantly, a macaron is not a Parisian macaron unless it has a ruffled, frilly foot underneath that smooth, shiny surface.

French macaron varieties Montmorillon

French Regional Macaron Varieties

But even the macaron can be a confusing term today, as there are also many French regional varieties using the same ingredients as the Parisian macaron but the proportions are completely different. Each resemble more the original Italian macaron introduced by Catherine de Medici and many date back to around the French Revolution. Each region adds its own twist and, as a result, they all look so different (check out just some of the variations here).

For example, in Picardy, the Amiens macaron speciality adds marzipan, fruits and honey.
Other prize-winning French regional macarons continue today in Boulay, Chartres, Cormery, Le Dorat, Joyeuse, Montmorillan (more like an round almond cakes – see above. Here there’s also a Macaron Museum!), Nancy, Saint-Émilion, Saint-Croix, Saint-Jean-de-Luz (created for Louis XIV’s wedding in 1660) and Sault.

macaron vs macaroon coconut or almond version

Macaron on the left (don’t be confused with the coconut on top, I was just being funny); Macaroon on the right. Both recipes in “Teatime in Paris”

What is a Macaroon?

Simpler and quicker to prepare, the coconut macaroon is also known as rocher coco or congolais in French. Sometimes the macaroon confection with shredded or flaked coconut – either star or cone-shaped – is dipped in chocolate.

It’s not clear when macaroons came on the scene but one thing is for sure: it was added to this gluten-free treat around the 1800s when coconut was brought from the East.

Lee's orginal macaroon bar

Just pronouncing macaroon makes us want to roll the “r” like we do in Scotland – and it’s no coincidence that us Scots are proud of the Scottish Macaroon bar: it’s particularly sweet since the fondant inside is primarily sugar and potato (trust the Scots to think of that one!) and coated with a thin layer of chocolate and coconut. I wonder if Catherine de Medici’s successor, Mary Queen of Scots as French queen brought it in her year-long reign as Queen of France?

Scottish macaroon bar homemade snowballs, just like Lee's classic

Last Christmas I adapted the large traditional sugary bar to make these mini Scottish Macaroon bar snowballs. If you want to see the real thing, head over to Christina Conte’s recipe at Christina’s Cucina.

To puzzle us further, there’s yet another exception to the rule of almonds and coconut: there are plenty of macaroon recipes outside of France which use pie crust or pastry as a base and the macaroon reference is a mixture of coconut and/or almond toppings. For example, see this recipe for macaroon jam tarts.

Macaroon Jam tarts

Macaroon jam tarts

Macarons vs Macaroons

So before the confusion spreads any further between such differences between macarons and macaroons, let’s nip it in the bud.  In all their varying forms, the macaroon refers to the coconut confection; the macaron today – unless a regional version is mentioned – refers to the Parisian or Gerbet macaron – the shiny, dainty version. Just don’t forget its frilly foot, otherwise it’s not a Parisian macaron.

Now it’s over to you to spread the word.


 

A version of this article was originally published for BonjourParis.com

A Fragrant Rice Tea Pudding Recipe with Little Bear from Theodor Paris

The first Autumn chill hit the Paris air last week. Suddenly the kitchen now feels a cosy haven again for the family to wander in and see what’s cooking as they gravitate towards the warming oven or stove, happy to see their favourite comfort food recipes return.

Curling up on the sofa this weekend with a special pot of fragranced green tea, my mind drifted to one of our most comforting classics: warm rice pudding. Normally, I either make my rice pudding using egg yolks for a rich treat or simply bake it as my Mum and Granny did – but I discovered this simple yet intriguing twist on the traditional recipe from Theodor Paris.

For a start it uses a lot more milk than I would normally use and the process is simply stirring it now and again over a warm stove. The magic ingredient, however, is the finest quality fragranced tea. As the rice gradually thickens and the milk reduces, the tea’s scent beautifully permeates the pudding with all its delicate flavours shining through.

The tea I used is called PETITE OURSE, or Little Bear, a special edition recently released by Theodor and created by its talented founder, Guillaume Leleu (aka The Insolent Parisian), for the annual Paris Revelations Fair. It’s a Chinese green tea very delicately perfumed with notes of mandarin, a subtle warm hint of ginger and finished off with mallow flowers and both sunflower and safflower petals.

Petite Ourse fragranced green tea from Theodor Paris with macaron

Little Bear green tea with a chocolate and orange blossom macaron from “Teatime in Paris”.

Petite Ourse is one of three new special edition blends beautifully named “Some amongst us are contemplating the stars”. As I discovered in this previous macaron tea tasting, I can’t believe how tea like this can evoke so many smiles through a few sips. It moves away from the ordinary, our normal tea comfort zone.

Just tasting the other two teas tickles the palate with their surprising finishes: PERSEUS black tea has notes of comforting bergamot, yuzu and plum plus tickles us further with bits of orange and carrot (yes, carrot!); but just tasting the complex but brilliant PHŒNIX, with its exotic blend of Brazilian maté, chocolate, marzipan, liquorice root and pink peppercorns has you head for the stars with its final delicate kick of chilli – I bet that would make an adventurous rice pudding!

Theodor Tea Totem design created for revelations fair of 2015 Paris

Guillaume Leleu presenting the Totem and 3 new teas looking at the stars at the Grand Palais Paris

But it wasn’t just the three new teas as stars of the show;  two designers hailing from the Camondo School were inspired to design this “Totem” structure for Guillaume Leleu, representing the artistic element of tea for the Revelations Fair.

Inspired by witnessing the creative behind-the-scenes artistic precision at Theodor’s laboratory on the Seine, both Nicolas Jandrot and Florence Tajan (also pictured above) used 3 materials –  wood, metal and glass – to create a metaphor for the successive states of the finest tea, from tree to teacup.

Totem tea design structure of Theodor Paris

The Totem structure will be taking off around the world to be shown in destinations such as Mexico, Japan and Korea – all where Theodor are represented. With its three antennae looking to the north, I have this fascination for “Petite Ourse”, or Ursa minor, whose brightest star stamps the North Pole and whose cove points the way to the light.

Theodor says,

Petite Ourse is an occasion to dive in to the delicacies of a green tea perfumed with major notes of mandarine and ginger, whose North Star points the way to the light. A blend that immerses us back into childhood and our dear Teddy Bears, so reassuring and protective, to whom we dearly hold on for comfort.

Slowly stirring the senses as the delicate mandarin rice pudding thickened on the stove, I realised I had come out of some kind of childhood comfort zone just by trying something a bit more adventurous yet still enveloped in a comforting world with the most fragrant rice pudding I’ve known.

tea-fragranced warm rice pudding the perfect Autumn teatime treat

Rice Tea Pudding Recipe

Recipe courtesy of Theodor Paris.  While they use their Rooibos tea from the “Weeds” collection named “Une autre idée?“, I replaced the tea with 18g Petite Ourse, a Chinese green tea predominately fragranced with mandarine and ginger. I find the amount of stirring is needed more at the beginning but as the rice starts to thicken towards the end and the milk gradually evaporates with a more concentrated tea flavour, less is needed so you can go about making the rest of dinner!

Makes 4 little bear bowls of fragranced rice pudding

Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Resting Time:
10 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

1 Litre of milk
100 grams of round grain rice
72 grams of powdered sugar
15 to 20 grams of perfumed green tea (Theodor’s recipe uses rooïbos)

1. Pour the litre of milk in a saucepan. Add the 72 grams of powdered sugar and bring the whole to a boil. Remove from the heat and brew the tea (Petite Ourse) for 10 minutes in the sweet milk. Once the brewing time is up, it will be time to filter your milk. The nice smell of the brew will already be perfuming your kitchen.

2. Put the milk to a boil a second time, then lower the heat to a minimum and rain in the 100 grams of round grain rice. Let the whole cook for 55 minutes at a very low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent the formation of a too thick film on the surface. If a film forms itself anyhow, do not worry, a good stirring may very well make it disappear. You can also remove it directly off of the saucepan. With a little more patience, let the rice cool down in order to dispatch it in your cups.

You can place your rice pudding in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours…but we prefer to taste it just finished, accompanied with an aromatic and elegant chai based on an Indian black tea called ” Travel to india ” or what about a tea that reminds us of mulled wine and spices with Theodor’s “OH-LA-LA!”.

Creamy warm rice pudding recipe using green tea

So let me introduce you to Little Bear’s warm rice pudding, a real tea-infused treat that will simply have you heading for the stars. If you follow the GPS, it should be 90°N/10°S.

You’ll be bowled over!


This post is not sponsored. I was invited for a tasting of the new teas by Theodor in Paris and experimented in baking with it.

Tarte Tatin – An Easy French Classic

There’s something a bit mysterious about a Tarte Tatin, isn’t there? This French classic dessert looks so decadent with all its caramel glistening over tightly-packed apples – would you believe it’s so much easier than it looks?

How the Tarte Tatin Was Invented

According to my old 1984 edition of Larousse Gastronomique (given as a wedding present as a young Scot about to embark in a French kitchen), the Tarte Tatin dessert was first served in Paris at Maxim’s giving a bow to its creators, the famous Tatin sisters.

Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin came up with this irresistible dessert quite by accident at the end of the 19th century while running their hotel/restaurant in the French Sologne region, south of Paris.  The story goes (I have two conflicting ones from different cookbooks) that, as the apples were caramelising in sugar and butter in the oven for their tarte solognote, they either realised they’d forgotten the pastry or that they’d burned the apples, so they simply plopped the pastry on top, baked then flipped the tart upside down, and Mon Dieu, look what turned up? From then on, it was served as their speciality until they retired in 1906, although they never called it a Tarte Tatin.

Tarte Tatin a French classic dessert recipe

What Kind of Apples are Best for a Tarte Tatin?

Newly married, I was totally intimidated by my French Mother-in-Law’s Tarte Tatin. Her dessert looked so sumptuous and grand with its glistening slices of warm caramelised apples sitting on top of a crispy pastry, just oozing with the sticky juices. How did she do it?

Pressing her short and simple recipe in my hand, I was assured it was easy and inrattable; “You can’t go wrong”, she said.
Well I did get it wrong.

For a start, I used apples that didn’t survive the cooking process (Pink Lady) and when I quickly turned the pan upside down for the grand finale de-moulding moment, some of the apples stuck to the bottom and the rest sat there miserably as light, uncaramelised mush. I thought of inventing a new Apple Sauce Tart but somehow it didn’t have quite the same “accident appeal” as that of the elderly Tatin Sisters.

So, lesson learned: use good quality tart apples such as Granny Smith or French Golden Delicious. As a result of a few other little helpful tweaks to add to mother-in-law’s instructions, you can also now be rest assured that what flips out at the end will be much more of a pleasure!

Tarte Tatin French recipe for caramelised apple tart

CLASSIC TARTE TATIN RECIPE

Serves 4-6

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: About 1 hour

2 tbsp water
120g granulated sugar (plus 2 tbsp)
50g unsalted butter (plus 15g extra)
splash of Calvados (optional)

pinch salt (optional)
5-6 apples (Golden Delicious or Granny Smith)
200g puff pastry (ideally ready-rolled/thawed, if frozen)

For best results, butter a round 25cm deep baking tin, or use a good solid-based ovenproof frying pan

tarte tatin recipe method

1. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, stir the water and sugar together and then, over a medium heat, leave it to bubble and simmer until a light golden brown caramel forms (no need to stir – I advise leaving it alone until the caramel turns colour). Stir in the butter (and salt if using) and splash of Calvados until the caramel is smooth and immediately pour into the baking tin.

2. Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/375°F (gas 5).  Peel the apples, cut them in half, remove the cores with a sharp knife (or use an apple corer) and cut them again horizontally.

3. Arrange the apples upright in a circle and pack them as tight as you can (they’ll shrink while cooking), filling as much space as possible in the middle.  Cut up any leftover apple and stuff them into the spaces.  Dot with the extra butter (or brush with melted butter) and lightly sprinkle over the 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.

4. Remove the apples from the oven to cool slightly as you prepare the pastry.

5. Ideally your puff is ready rolled so there’s no need to do anything. (If the puff pastry is in a block, roll it out to about 2mm thickness and cut out a circle very slightly larger (2-3cm) than the size of the pan you’re using). Place the puff pastry circle on top of the apples, tucking in the sides as far down the edges as you can, as it will neatly hold the apples when turned over at the end. Pierce a few small holes in the pastry to allow any steam to escape – this will prevent the puff pastry from puffing up too much while baking.

6. Bake in the oven for a further 15-20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and the apple juices leak around the edges.

7. Leave to cool. Run a sharp knife along the edges just to help release the sticky beauty. To turn out the tart, cover the pan with a large deep plate (to catch the juices) and hold the pan and plate together and flip upside down quickly, pastry side down.

Serve slightly warm either on its own, with a dollop of crème fraîche, or why not some Drambuie ice cream for a Scottish-French Auld Alliance dessert?

Tarte tatin a classic French dessert with apples

CLASSIC TARTE TATIN RECIPE
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
12 mins
Total Time
32 mins
 

Tarte Tatin, the classic French dessert of caramelised apples served upside down on a crispy base of buttery puff pastry. Created by accident by the Tatin sisters in France's Sologne at the end of the 19th century.

Course: Dessert, teatime
Cuisine: French
Keyword: caramelised apple tart, caramelized apples, tarte tatin
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 419 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 120 g granulated sugar plus 2 tbsp
  • 50 g unsalted butter plus 15g extra
  • splash of Calvados optional
  • pinch salt optional
  • 5-6 apples Golden Delicious or Granny Smith
  • 200 g puff pastry ideally ready-rolled/thawed, if frozen
Instructions
  1. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, stir the water and sugar together and then, over a medium heat, leave to bubble and simmer until a light golden brown caramel forms (no need to stir at all until the caramel turns colour). Stir in the butter (and salt if using) and splash of Calvados until the caramel is smooth and immediately pour into the baking tin.

  2. Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/375°F (gas 5). Peel the apples, cut them in half, remove the cores with a sharp knife (or use an apple corer) and cut them again horizontally.
  3. Arrange the apples upright in a circle and pack them as tight as you can (they’ll shrink while cooking), filling as much space as possible in the middle. Cut up any leftover apple and stuff them into the spaces. Dot with the extra butter (or brush with melted butter) and lightly sprinkle over the 2 tablespoons of sugar. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
  4. Remove the apples from the oven to cool slightly as you prepare the pastry.
  5. Ideally your puff is ready rolled so there’s no need to do anything. (If the puff pastry is in a block, roll it out to about 2mm thickness and cut out a circle very slightly larger (2-3cm) than the size of the pan you’re using). Place the puff pastry circle on top of the apples, tucking in the sides as far down the edges as you can, as it will neatly hold the apples when turned over at the end. Pierce a few small holes in the pastry to allow any steam to escape – this will prevent the puff pastry from puffing up too much while baking.
  6. Bake in the oven for a further 15-20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and the apple juices leak around the edges.
  7. Leave to cool. Run a sharp knife along the edges just to help release the sticky beauty. To turn out the tart, cover the pan with a large deep plate (to catch the juices) and hold the pan and plate together and flip upside down quickly, pastry side down.
Recipe Notes

Serve slightly warm either on its own, with a dollop of crème fraîche, or why not some Drambuie ice cream for a Scottish-French Auld Alliance dessert?

 

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

 

French Tarte Tatin Recipe

October Wine Festival Montmartre, Paris

While the arrival of Autumn is reminding us of its gradual presence in the early mornings and evenings, Paris has been enjoying a blue-skied Indian summer this past week. It has been a time for us to head outdoors to celebrate it. I have an excuse for you to join in, too, with the October Wine Festival Montmartre (known as la Fête des Vendanges).

Sacré Coeur Paris Montmartre

Each year grapes are harvested from the Montmartre vineyard and made into wine. The locals have celebrated this tradition since 1934 – and so 2015 marks the 82nd edition of the Fête des Vendanges, or the Montmartre Paris Wine Festival which takes place around the second Saturday in October. Last year it attracted 500,000 visitors.

The Montmartre Vineyard

Montmartre was covered in vines in the Middle Ages (first evidence dates back to 944).  Just around the corner from Sacré Coeur (the second most visited site in Paris after the Eiffel Tower), you’ll see the Clos de Montmartre’s vineyard, rue Saint Vincent, on the hill or butte, with an altitude of 130 metres. 2000 vines were planted in 1933 in memory of the vines of times past with Gamay, Pinot noir and Landay grapes.

Today the grapes are cultivated without using any pesticides and about 950 bottles of Clos Montmartre are produced every year, elaborated in the cellar of the town hall of the 18th arrondissement of Paris.  Grape juice is also made for the children taking part in the events.

October Wine Festival Montmartre Paris

Annual Wine Festival, Montmartre

This year, according to Sylviane Leplâtre, wine expert for Paris vines, the climate has been more favourable than previous years and a rosé has been particularly produced to suit public demand. How is it? According to Leplâtre, it’s unique colour is salmon pink, it has floral and sweet spicy notes on the nose and the taste is light and delicate.

The grape harvest celebrations last for 5 days and festivities are full on.  Just looking at the programme reveals all sorts of workshops (art including Manga; a how-to guide for the local beehives; floral displays, etc.), competitions, concerts (including a singing-in-the-wine Bordeaux evening), tours and lectures (many of them need to be booked in advance online), and of course the wine tasting and Parcours de Goût (Tasting Journey of producers of hams, cheeses, oysters, wine, etc from all around France) from Friday to Sunday.

For a feel of the celebrations, check out Carol Gillott’s artistic ParisBreakfast view of last year’s event. She recommends you bring your own glass, save yourself for the truffled omelettes, and perhaps even wear a black jacket and red scarf …

October Wine Festival Montmartre Paris

October Wine Festival Montmartre Paris

Ever since the very first festival took place in 1934 with actor Fernandel as “Godfather” (Parrain) and actress Mistinguett as “Godmother” (Marraine), French celebrities are chosen by the mayors of Montmartre and Paris to lead the festivities. Next week actress/model Melanie Thierry and singer Raphael will take the lead. For example, every day we are adding new temporary phone number to verify your QIWI Wallet Nigeria account, and now we’re removing invalid numbers.

Saturday 10th October marks the main events: the Ban des Vendanges, a gathering of the robe-clad Confrerie brotherhoods of local food and wine; the Clos de Montmartre wine auction, when the produce proceeds go to charity organisations in the district; the Grand Parade (Défilé), when 1500 participants leave the Mairie of the 18th at 3pm and arriving at 5.45pm at Place Saint Pierre; and at night enjoy a 15-minute firework display orchestrated by world firework champion, Joseph Couturier, at the foot of Montmartre.

Montmartre Paris

And while you’re there, don’t forget to check out the chocolate (try the chocolate buttes and kisses!) and macarons from my pastry chef chocolate friend, Christophe Roussel, who is in Rue Tardieu, just opposite the 2,280 steps and entrance to the Finiculaire cable car. Please say bonjour from me!

For more information, check out the latest edition of the Fêtes des Vendanges de Montmartre (in French) or for details in English, head to the site of Sortir à Paris’s Montmartre Wine Festival.

Metros: Abbesses or Anvers.

 

Update: next edition is 10-14 October 2018.