There are several things in this world worth getting in a bit of a tiff about. Any form of bigotry and ignorance? Certainly. Slave labour, or any form of human suffering? Absolutely. People who park in front of you on a junction when you could have been ushered out? Perhaps. Describing a certain pudding as a 'sort of fruit flan'? Hmmmm. And apparently that is what the people of the Limousin region of France did some time back when the Académie Francaise had the audacity to describe their famous Clafoutis as a 'sort of fruit flan'. Brilliant.
I adore France in all of its self assured glory. The food and wine for obvious reasons. But it is the quirky side of France that often gets overlooked or classed as arrogance over here on our small island that makes me love them so much. Whenever I go to France, I immerse myself into their culture, eating, drinking and cooking like no tomorrow. And I have to do that rather conspicuously as my French tongue is terrible and I am easily spotted as a Channel intruder if I open my mouth. Just sitting in a cafe and listening to the constant hum of conversation and debate is what I do, and that makes me happy. And lets face the facts, the French do love a debate.
So what is it about the Clafoutis that the inhabitants of Limoges were getting so irate about? Of course, the Clafoutis is that dessert of simplicity and beauty that most great food is. A simple batter flavoured with a little almond, poured over fruit and baked so that the fruit rises with the batter and bursts its juice throughout. I love the stuff. A classic Clafoutis uses black cherries with the stones left in which adds to the flavour much in the same way an apricot kernel adds flavour. When the Académie Francaise were writing their definitions of all things French, they overlooked this small point and simply described it as a pudding that will take any old fruit. The French being the French, all hell broke loose and war almost took place. Thankfully the Académie Francaise saw sense and quickly re-described it as a 'cake with black cherries'. Phew. World War 3 averted then.
Anybody who needs to bake a simple pudding that will impress all without the need to break your back in the kitchen, this is the pudding for you. And at the risk of receiving death threats from the people of the Limousin region, I often make mine using raspberries, gooseberries, plums or damsons (stones removed to avoid teeth breakage). I also tweak the original recipe to get maximum almond flavour in by adding ground almonds to the batter mixture. Oh, and a vanilla pod. Basically, I experiment and make it my own. And with my new little sous chef, whisker extraordinaire and master fruit arranger in town, my daughter Cerys, we can all kinds of fun in the kitchen messing with a classic. Just don't utter a word to my friends over the Channel....
Cherry and Almond Bake
(or my tweaked Clafoutis)
500g cherries, pitted (if you prefer, raspberries work perfectly too)
50g ground almonds
50g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod (optional), split and seeded
1 – Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C, GM4
2 – Butter a shallow baking dish and place the cherries onto the bottom.
3 – Put the flour, ground almonds and sugar into a large bowl and make a well in the centre.
4 – Put the eggs into a bowl and whisk. Then whisk in the milk and finally the vanilla seeds. Slowly pour the egg and milk mixture into the bowl and whisk thoroughly until you have a smooth batter.
5 – Pour the batter over the cherries. Place onto the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes or until the batter is risen and golden brown.
6 – Cool slightly then serve with cream or crème fraiche.