Tag Archives: valentine

Oh, mon amour! Macarons à la framboise

You remember I said that I wanted to something a little bit different for Valentine’s Day? Well, I did it with the beetroot risotto, so now let’s balance that by going all traditional. I whipped up a batch of very fruity raspberry macarons, which as you can see were very pink and rather romantic.

Previously, when making macarons, I have tended to make nutty, spiced or chocolate variants, usually filled with ganache. Why? My issue has been around the filling – I find meringue-based buttercream a bit of a faff, and I am not a massive fan of the result in all cases. The alternative – using jam as the filling – didn’t strike me as too satisfying either. So I played around, and came up with a winning combination. A simple buttercream, with fresh raspberry puree folded in. The result is creamy, sweet and fruity all in one go, and they have the freshness that jam just does not bring. I realise that purists will shudder at the butter-plus-icing sugar filling (too grainy! not smooth! too easy!) but it worked here and tasted good, so that’s a success for me!

This was also a chance for me to try out some all-natural food colouring that I bought in [Mmmmh!] in Brussels last year. This one is a deep pinkish-red, and is a beetroot extract – and looks like dried beet juice, ground to a very fine powder. I like the natural food colouring. The shades are a little more muted, but actually quite pretty, and it does make you ask what actually goes into something that is blood red, royal blue or shocking purple?

While this powder was perfect for adding a delicate pink hue, I am afraid that I did over-reach myself. Inspired by raspberry and peppercorn macarons from Cannelle & Vanille, I used some of my beetroot powder as she used raspberry powder. I imagine that powdered raspberry is fruity and sharp, welcome on the tongue as a foil to the sweetness of the macaron shell and the smoothness of the filling. As I could not have guessed, mine had a vague taste of root vegetable to them. The ten macaron shells I tried this on went straight into the bin, poor things.

But look closer…you can see I have hidden something from you. In the spirit of surprises for St Valentine, I included a chunk of fresh raspberry in the middle of each macaron, for a sort of “maximum fruit” experience. And it worked well! So it would seem that I have overcome my mini-phobia of macarons with real fruit flavours. Bravo!

For raspberry macarons (makes around 25-30):

• 150g ground almonds
• 150g icing sugar
• 110g egg whites (4 egg whites – but weigh them to be sure)
• red food colouring (I used a natural beetroot-based colour)
• 165g white sugar (granulated or caster)
• 35ml water

Combine the icing sugar and ground almond, and sieve well. Set aside.

Put 55g of egg whites in a bowl. Add the food colouring (if using) and whisk very lightly – they will become a little frothy, but should remain liquid.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the other 55g of egg whites until it reaches the firm peak stage.

Put the white sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat gently until it reaches the “soft ball” stage (118°C, or when you drop a little of the sugar into cold water, it forms a soft ball). I find this happens once all the sugar dissolves and the mixture boils. Once ready, pour in a thin stream into the whipped egg whites, beating continuously. This is best done using a Kitchen Aid or beater. Allow to cool to just above room temperature.

Pour the coloured liquid egg whites onto the almond mixture.

Add one-third of the meringue mixture to the almond mixture and combine. Add another third, combine, then add the remainder of the meringue. With a light hand, mix well until you have a smooth, glossy batter. It should flow slowly (think lava, not a mudslide).

Pipe the batter onto a sheet of greaseproof paper on a baking sheet, so that you have a sheet with lots of little rounds, around 3-4cm across. Leave to sit in the open for 20-30 minutes, then bake at 150°C for 15 minutes. Half-way through cooking, turn the baking sheet around.

Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet. Assemble the macarons with the filling of your choice.

For the raspberry buttercream:

• 50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 150g icing sugar
• 1 tablespoon cream
• 2-3 drops vanilla extract
• 50g raspberries, crushed

Combine the butter, icing sugar, cream and vanilla in a bowl. Begin with a spoon, then start to whisk with a beater until light and fluffy. Fold in the raspberries. If the mixture splits or seems too wet, add more icing sugar until you have a smooth, soft mass. Use in a piping bag to fill the macarons – pipe on one side, place 1/2 raspberry on top, then add a dot of filling to the top macaron shell, and press together very lightly.

Worth trying? These macarons are super-pretty and very romantic, so perfect if you are looking to impress on Valentine’s Day. The trick with the fresh fruit in the filling is, in my view, the best way to provide a flavourful raspberry macaron. And they provide just a little glimmer of the summer that is hopefully not too far away now.

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Filed under Recipe, Sweet Things

Oh, mon amour! Risotto aux betteraves rouges

Ah, ’tis nearly Valentine’s day! Blink, and you might miss it. Seem like only yesterday that all the Christmas decorations were up(*) but the local stores are already awash with chocolate Easter eggs. I am constantly amused how you can check the time of the year by the range of sweets and goodies on offer at the till.

Now, I could have made some form of heart-shaped biscuits or chocolates, or a red cupcake, but that would be (1) predictable, and (2) against the spirit of blogging more savoury dishes. Not to miss out on the luuuurve that is in the air at this time of year, I’ve produced something that is perfect for a romantic dinner with that special someone, and also keeps the red theme going. Just be sure that the relevant special someone likes beetroot.

This really is just a simple risotto, but chopped beetroot goes in with the first ladle of stock to make sure the colour is a vibrant dark magenta, and a few tweaks at the end of the cooking process to play on the flavour and colour of the beetroot.

The key thing is to use fresh beetroot, rather than the stuff that comes preserved in vinegar. I feel that it’s almost too obvious to point out, but something that has been sitting in acid for weeks and weeks is not going to be your best friend in a risotto. I appreciate that I am not speaking from experience here, and by all means give it a bash if you think that it would work, but it strikes me as a flavour combination I could happily miss. And really – who serves their beloved a plate of vinegar? But…that being said…a slight sharpness does work with beetroot, so I actually add a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar at the end, just to add the tiniest hint of sharpness. Just a touch though!

But let’s face it, the reason for making this is just the fantastic colour. It looks utterly stunning, and quite amazing to think this is completely natural. When I add the beetroot, I chop into a combination of larger and smaller pieces, so that you can still see the darker beetroot (which ends up looking like the dish is studded with garnets) next to the vibrant red rice. If you prefer, grate the beetroot – you’ll get more colour, but you’ll also have pink juice everywhere. Up to you…

To top this, I add a light sprinkling of Parmesan cheese (not too much, don’t hid the colour), plus some toasted pumpkin seeds and a little chopped chives. Their green colours contrast with the redness, and the flavours play well with the beetroot. However, toasted pine nuts and/or a light sprinkling of fresh dill would also work well.

(*) In fact, a certain house down our street seems to be stuck on 24 December, with the plastic tree still in the window…I’ve checked, and there are people alive in there, so not to worry.


To serve 4 (or 2, with lots left over):

• 25g butter
• 2 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
• 250g arborio rice
• 1 glass dry white wine
• 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
• 1 litre vegetable stock
• 300g beetroot, boiled, peeled and finely chopped or grated
• 50g Parmesan cheese
• 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
• 2 tablespoons cream

Warm the butter and olive oil in a pan. Add the onion and fry gently over a low heat until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Add the rice and fry for 2 minutes, stirring all the time. Add the wine, and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and the rice seems “oily”. Tip in the beetroot and black pepper, and add the stock, one ladle at a time, stirring well after each addition. Add more when the previous addition has almost evaporated. The rice will start as light pink, but will change to a deep reddish-pink towards the end.

Once all the stock has been added, cook the risotto to the desired consistency (some like it runny, some like it thick). Add the Parmesan cheese, stir well, and remove from the heat. Stir in the cream and balsamic vinegar and allow to sit for two minutes with the pot covered.

Serve with a generous sprinkling of grated Parmesan and a scattering of toasted pine nuts or pumpkin seeds, and a scattering of chopped chives or dill.

Worth making? I love risotto anyway, but this one looks stunning on the plate and has a fabulous flavour. The beetroot and dill make it a little more unusual, but I think this is a great combination.

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Filed under Recipe, Savoury