Wild Irish macarons
Who needs expensive matcha green tea powder when we have our own Irish version? Janine Kennedy writes.

It's not for everyone - maybe it's an acquired taste - but I love the flavour of matcha green tea. Combined with some vanilla, milk and honey, it makes the most delicious hot drink - it has a natural, grassy flavour that can taste bitter on its own. Adding a bit of sweetness tones down the bitter notes and lets its natural, mild flavour shine.

In Japan and other parts of East Asia, subtle flavours are often the goal for desserts. Mochi (chewy sweets made from glutonous rice flour) are usually flavoured with sweet beans or - yes - matcha. Japan's famous jiggly, light cheesecakes are sometimes plain or made with matcha or other mild flavours. Nothing is too bold or over-the-top.

Getting your hands on matcha powder in Ireland can be expensive. It's obviously imported and the quality is quite high, even in the less expensive varieties. I love matcha, but when I recently interviewed Thalli Foods for a cover feature, they mentioned they have been making an Irish alternative - from nettles!

These macarons were made with Thalli Foods green nettle powder instead of matcha green tea powder.

\Janine Kennedy

I was very intrigued, so I ordered some nettle powder soon after. The flavour is very subtle, grassy and - similar to matcha - when combined with a few sweet ingredients, makes really delicious treats. It's also considered a healthy add-in for smoothies and porridge. I just love its look and flavour.

These macarons are not perfect - I am not a pastry chef - but they are delicious, filled with a nettle cream cheese buttercream. Even my kids ate them - and they are always wary of green food.

Wild Irish Macarons

Perfectly imperfect Wild Irish macarons.

\Janine Kennedy

Makes 8-16 macarons (depending on size)

Ingredients:

2 egg whites, room temperature (no bits of yolk!)

100g granulated sugar

50g ground almond

80g powdered sugar

1 Tbsp Thalli Foods nettle powder

For the buttercream:

500g icing sugar

100g cream cheese

2 tsp nettle powder

1 tsp vanilla

1 Tbsp butter, softened

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 150°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
  • Place a piping bag in a pint glass (or similar) and set aside.
  • In a clean glass bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Gradually add the granulated sugar until stiff peaks are formed.
  • Sift the ground almond and icing sugar over the whipped egg whites. Add the nettle powder and gently fold everything together until well combined.
  • Using a spatula, transfer the macaron batter into the piping bag. Pipe the batter onto the lined baking sheet. The macarons can be any size, but each should be as equally-sized as possible, since they'll be sandwiched together.
  • Tap the baking tray on the counter several times to remove any big air bubbles (one of the reasons macarons crack while cooking - the other could be hot spots in your oven - that's my problem!). Let the macarons rest for about 30 minutes, until you can run your finger over the top without getting sticky (there should be a bit of a skin formed on top).
  • Bake for around 15 minutes. They should have a little ridge around the bottom. Even if they crack, they will still be delicious!
  • Let them cool completely in the pan.
  • Make the buttercream: combine all of the ingredients together and whisk until smooth. Transfer to a piping bag and pipe a small amount in the centre of one of the macarons, then sandwich together with another.
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    Taking cues from nature