National Macaron Day

A colorful selection of macarons from Bottega Louie

Did you know that it’s National Macaron Day today? In honor of this celebration of such a critical food group I will be eating macarons but most definitely not baking them. Because I can’t don’t bake.

With rather excellent timing, I came home last week to find a large box marked “perishable” on the front porch. Opening it up, I found a most thoughtful thank-you gift from a friend – yes, a pink box of perfectly wrapped macarons.
Beautifully wrapped box of macarons by Bottega Louie

Please understand that I ate ALL the macarons with a pure intention of becoming a macaron expert for this blog post. Well, except for the pistachio macaron because I’m deadly allergic to pistachios. I will admit, for a second, I did wonder if my friend was secretly trying to kill me but I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and just fed the pistachio macaron to the dogs. They seemed to like it. Favorite flavors were violet cassis, rose and coconut.

Macarons are delicious little two-bite light, airy yet slightly chewy meringues sandwiched together with a flavored cream. They can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days but you’d want to let them come to room-temperature (about 10 minutes) before enjoying with a cup of tea or a glass of champagne.

Earl Grey Macaron from Bottega Louie

Anyway, if you’d like to try to make your own macarons, I’ve rounded up some rather good-looking macaron recipes:
Martha Stewart’s Macaron Recipe
Super detailed macaron recipe with lots of pictures and helpful info from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Food 52’s how to make French Macarons

And if you’d prefer to just order them (you’re a smart cookie!), here are the best places to order macarons online:

Bottega Louie – based in Los Angeles, LA, I can personally vouch for the deliciousness of these macarons. Your box of macarons will be carefully wrapped in a reusable cooler bag with dry ice. A box of 15 macarons (spring flavors or create your own selection) is $37.50 plus shipping. The packaging is especially beautiful and this feels like a very special gift.
Lette Macarons – a box of 12 macarons (you can choose your own flavors) will set you back $23 plus shipping
Francois Payard – this classic NYC bakery offers a box of 12 macarons (2 each vanilla, pistachio, coffee, dark chocolate, passion fruit, raspberry lychee) for $30 plus shipping.
I also found a Maine-based mail order macaron option – Morsels by Anne Taylor

Happy Macaron Day!


A Full English Breakfast

Merry Christmas if it’s a day you celebrate! It’s a balmy day of 60 degrees here in Maine, no ice on the lake, the sun peeking through the pine trees, it feels more like September!

“The full English” as it’s affectionately known is not the most healthy of breakfasts but it’s pretty darn tasty. You also have to be somewhat nifty with your timings of everything to get it all served up hot on the plate. It’s the perfect breakfast when you have a long and busy day of gift giving, meat roasting and tv watching ahead of you!

When I was at school I briefly worked in a greasy-spoon all-day-breakfast kind of place and it put me off black pudding (or blood sausage) for life so you won’t see it here! You might also want to cut tomatoes in half, add salt, pepper and some dried herbs (oregano or thyme come to mind) and grill. They look pretty but no one eats them in our house so I’m skipping them 😉001 Mainely Eating - breakfast full english17– Cook sausages (we like the country sage breakfast sausages from Whole Foods)
– Cook bacon until it’s your desired level of crispy. Ordering “back bacon” from a old school butcher like RJ Balson & Son will add to the authenticity.
– Warm Heinz baked beans
– Keep sausages, bacon, beans warm in the oven
– Cook eggs. We like poached but scrambled or fried are probably easier.
– Make toast (the English muffin loaf from Big Sky Bakery in Maine is so good and rivals a loaf of Warburton’s toasty!)
– Serve with HP brown sauce (or ketchup if you must) and a mug of hot tea

The above English breakfast essentials take you to affiliate links on Amazon 🙂

Potato Leek Soup. Or Leek and Potato Soup.

Bowl of leek and potato soup with napkin and breadWhen I was planning my move from the UK to the UK, one of the things I barely gave any thought to was the language, after all we all speak English, right? It was only after I moved here I came to appreciate some of the small but significant differences in pronunciation and even names for things.

It’s particularly obvious in food. I quickly adapted to oREGano vs oreGANO, dropping the “h” in herbs to say urbs still feels kind of weird and I learned to ask for cilantro rather than coriander in the supermarket. Don’t get me started on the different classifications of sugar – powdered vs. icing, superfine vs. caster…maybe that’s why I don’t bake.

Only recently did I start to wonder about why leek and potato soup (as it’s commonly known in the UK) is usually named Potato Leek soup in the US. I suspect it’s because potatoes are more popular than the humble leek and usually recipes call for almost equal quantities of the two key ingredients.

Whether you know it as potato leek or leek and potato, heck, chill it down and call it Vichyssoise, it’s the perfect lunch on a cold winter day. It’s also super easy:

In a large pan, cook chopped, washed leeks and potato with a little butter for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add a good pinch of salt. Add liquid (water or broth) to just cover leeks and potato. Simmer for ~30 minutes until leeks are tender and potato is cooked through. Blend. Stir in cream. Season.

Maybe it’s due to the years I spent in Wales where the leek is a national symbol but I like to have the leeks as the star ingredient with the potato in more of a supporting role. It’s tough to specify quantities unless you plan to weigh out your vegetables. Depending on the time of year and where you’re getting your leeks from they could be little spindly baby leeks or whopping great tree-trunk leeks. I like to aim for 70-80% leek and 20% potato in the pot.

The most recent batch I made used FIVE of this rather massive leeks and four small/medium potatoes for six steaming hot bowls of leek and potato deliciousness.

Leeks are dirty little things, as you’d expect when they spend much of their life in the soil. To thoroughly wash them and remove all dirt you can slice them in half lengthwise (discard the very tough green tops) and then slice. That gives you half moon slices instead of rounds so you can clean better in between the layers.

Cooking the leeks and potato with a little knob of butter, salt and pepper brings out the flavor. Then add your choice of liquid, water works fine or you might choose chicken stock or vegetable broth for the extra flavor. You want to just cover the leeks and potato as they’ll cook down quite a bit, you can always add a little more liquid once you’ve blended if you think your soup is too thick. Pop a lid on and cook on a low/medium heat until the leeks are tender and the potato is easily pierced with the tip of a knife.

If you plan to liquidize the soup in a blender you’ll have to wait for it to cool to avoid any hot soup explosions so I prefer my handheld blender. Give the soup a good blitz until there are no chunks left. Next comes the good stuff – stir in a cup of heavy cream. Season to taste, my preference is for heavy pepper and just enough salt to bring out the flavor of the leeks.

We enjoyed our soup with a crusty Fougasse bread roll from the amazing Standard Baking Company on the side. You can also drizzle in a little extra cream over the back of a teaspoon to dress up your soup if you feel the urge!
A hot bowl of creamy potato leek soup - perfect for a winter day