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Cherry and gooseberry clafoutis

12 July 2018

These were the last of the gooseberries here this year but I had to write down the recipe for next summer — in that magic week or two when gooseberries and cherries have a chance to meet, make this clafoutis!

Last year by happenstance I mixed gooseberries and strawberries — in jam, and in cake (about which I finally wrote last week). What an incredible combination. And now this. Yesterday, by chance again, just because I buy much too much fruit at this time of year and actually had a forgotten bag of cherries and some gooseberries on the verge of shriveling, I made another cake.

I’m starting to believe that goosegogs are the berry equivalent of msg. They make everything more delicious. All at once they enliven and deepen the flavor of each fruit with which they are paired — dessert umami.


Cherry and gooseberry clafoutis

About 500g each of cherries and gooseberries
2 Tbsp flour (one for the batter and one for dusting the fruit)
3 eggs
4 Tbsps light brown sugar plus one for dusting the clafoutis
250 ml (1 cup) milk
2 Tbsps ground almonds
Grated zest from 1 lemon
Pinch salt
1 Tbsp kirsch

Preheat oven to 375°F (200°C).

Wash and pit the cherries. Wash and rub off the fuzz from the gooseberries. Cut them in half if quite large.

Butter an ovenproof that will fit all the fruit snugly in double layers.

Place the fruit in the dish, sprinkle with a tablespoon of sifted flour, and toss gently to dust the fruit.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until frothy. Add the milk, then the flour and ground almonds, lemon zest, salt, and kirsch.

Pour the batter over the fruit and slip into the oven.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the batter is set and the top nicely golden. In the last 5 or 10 minutes of cooking sprinkle a spoonful of sugar over the clafoutis.

Let cool before eating.

Strawberry and gooseberry yogurt cake

5 July 2018

Our season of birthdays has come and gone, and it was marked by a few disconcerting cake wishes. Our tradition is to celebrate birthdays, with presents and cake, at breakfast. This brought about some unsettling cake choices.

Crumbles. An apple crumble seemed like a humble birthday cake wish, but in March, it’s acceptable. In June, it is not. I was quite distressed about having to ask our local grocery shop for apples in June. (They did scoff. Or was I imagining it?) But birthday wishes are not open to veto.

Luckily, my other June birthday child was willing to give in to my gentle nudging — or was it open pleading — that I make him THIS cake. This perfect, easy, quintessentially June cake.

It is based on the classic French yogurt cake — easy as pie — about which I’ve spoken before. Yogurt cakes are the first cakes many French children learn to bake because all the measurements are calculated in volume, using a standard yogurt pot as the unit. [Read more about it here.]

I make it often because it is so easy, and also for the perfect light sponge texture. On popular demand, here is its early summer strawberry and gooseberry incarnation, the recipe translated for a country where 100ml yogurt pots are not ubiquitous.

Strawberry and gooseberry yogurt cake

2 pots (200 ml) of plain unsweetened yogurt
2 pots (100ml) melted butter
3 pots (300 ml) light brown sugar plus 2 Tbsps for the berries
3 pots (300 ml) flour plus one Tbsp for the berries
3 pots (300 ml) almond flour
4 eggs
2 tsps baking powder
Zest from 1 lemons
Strawberries and gooseberries about one cup each
Icing sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

Line a 10-inch (26cm) baking tin with parchment paper and butter generously.

Stir all the ingredients together except the fruit in a large mixing bowl to obtain a smooth batter.

Wash and trim the berries. Cut the strawberries into halves or quarters, depending on their size, and the gooseberries in half. In a medium bowl, toss with 2 Tbsps sugar and one Tbsp sifted flour (this will prevent the fruit from falling to the bottom of the cake while baking).

Gently stir the berries into the batter. Pour into the baking tin, slide into the oven, and bake for 50 min to an hour, until the cake is set and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Remove from the oven. Once completely cool, sprinkle with icing sugar for decoration.

Notes from the kitchen | Salmon with boiled potatoes and a chard and fava bean stew

3 July 2018

Tonight for dinner I’m looking into my freezer. We are nearing the holidays and it’s time to clean house. I see a dozen chicken sausages and have lentils in mind, but in a crate near the fridge some new potatoes have caught my eye. Immediately my thoughts wander towards the frozen salmon, and I imagine those potatoes boiled until soft and tossed with loads of butter and a handful of torn basil. Suddenly I am raiding the fridge — a bouquet of chard; the fava beans which I received as substitution for a kilo of peas last weekend, accepted, and, predictably, haven’t yet known to use. A quick chard and fava stew.

Prep time 30 min —
Take the salmon out of the freezer.
Peel the potatoes, cut into similar sized pieces, and place in a large bowl of cold water until ready to boil.
Trim off the ends and coarsely chop the chard. Wash and spin dry.
Pod the fava beans, then blanch them in an inch of lightly salted boiling water for about 1 minutes. Drain and immediately cover with cold water. It is now easy to remove the  outer skin. Poke a small incision into the side and squeeze out the bean.


Cooking time 35 minutes —
To cook the potatoes, place them in a pot, submerged with cold salted water (as salty as seawater), and bring to a boil. Let them boil for about 20 to 25 minutes until an inserted knife encounters no resistance at the center. Drain the water, throw a large pat of butter over the potatoes, and immediately close the lid over the pot. Prepare the basil leaves to be added just before serving.

Once the potatoes are cooked and steaming in their pot, start cooking the rest.

In a cast-iron skillet, heat a generous drizzle of olive oil, throw in the chard, season with salt and the squeezed juice of one lemon. Toss the chard a few times as it ‘melts’ (it will reduce drammatically!) so the leaves underneath don’t burn. Once the chard is cooked (this takes just a few minutes!), add the peeled fava beans. They need only be warmed through with the residual heat from the skillet. Remove the chard and favas and place in a bowl, covered to stay warm.

Turn the heat up under the skillet, add another generous drizzle of olive oil, and once the pan is very hot, place the salmon fillets skin side down. You will be able to see the salmon cooking from the bottom up: after 3 to 5 minutes, once the heat has reached through to about one third, flip the fillets over, leave for 30 seconds and turn off the heat. The salmon will continue to cook just enough while the rest of the food is plated. It should be rare in the middle.

A very decent weeknight family meal, which we then ate in front of the tv watching England beat Columbia in an historic penalty shootout.

Weekend dispatches from the kitchen

17 June 2018

World Cup fever is burning high in the house and our life has plunged deep down the four-matches-a-day group-stage viewing tunnel. Lunches are grabbed haphazardly at half-time, we must just remember to feed the toddler. Pedestrian activities such as sitting around a table for a meal will have to wait until July.

Unprepared, though I should have been. Distracted, by the sudden abundance ushered in by the season. There is a glut of fruit and vegetables withering in the kitchen.

So let the mind wander between games, drifting casually between the kitchen and the tv, and perchance an idea will materialize. The opportunity to finally make Marcella Hazan’s famous genius tomato sauce for the first time (!) because I have a weird relationship to tomatoes. An outsized deference. I rarely buy them before mid-July, and then usually the heirloom kind, whose only true calling is to be eaten in a salad. But things have changed, thanks to decent early summer tomatoes from the Isle of Wight. And I am overindulging. I have that aforementioned kilo and a half withering in my kitchen. It is the right moment, in my life and before Croatia / Nigeria.

Most will already know this technique, but for anyone who’d like a reminder:

Marcella Hazan’s genius tomato sauce recipe
1 kilo fresh tomatoes (or canned)
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
5 Tbsps butter

‘Blanch’ tomatoes for one minute in boiling water to help with peeling. Once cool enough to handle, peel and chop the tomatoes.

In a saucepan, toss the chopped tomatoes with the onion halves, the butter, and a generous sprinkling of salt. Cook at a low but steady simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until ‘the fat floats free from the tomato.’ Basta. Genius.

Strawberries, the other near victims of a disrupted weekend. But here my gluttonous lack of restraint paid off, because I had gooseberries on hand for my favorite early summer pairing. The recipe is already here.

Disassembled fool

8 June 2018

The best companion for these almond macaroons is rhubarb compote and a spoonful of cream. In winter, apple sauce. But today I have strawberries, and that’s good too.

It is often the case that I don’t plan for dessert. Then, as the day ambles on and friends start to arrive I begin to panic. Clearly ‘live and learn’ doesn’t apply to my chronic lack of dessert preparedness.

Last week’s almond macaroons have solved my problem. With summer berries or a fruit compote, like a sort of unassembled almond Eton mess, in an instant I have a pretty acceptable ‘I completely forgot about dessert’ dessert. No one need know. (Though I always tell.)

Disassembled fool

Almond macaroons — find the recipe here
Depending on the season: rhubarb compote, strawberries, mixed berries, apple sauce …
Good cream or thick yogurt

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