Friday, 17 June 2011

Sweet, Sweet Cherry Clafoutis

It’s getting hot. It’s getting damn hot. The sort of hot that has you scratching the little tickle of sweat, trickling down between your shoulder blades and begging for the smallest of breezes. We don’t have air conditioning on our boat. My galley has a little fan in it placed above the cooker. It wasn’t the best place to put it. When I’m cooking the heat rises (science that) and the fan conveniently proceeds to blow hot air at me. I tend to melt unattractively in a slow but increasing fashion as lunch or dinner approach. When I give the Mariquita ‘Whoop-Whoop’, for meal times, the crew rush down below for food as quickly as I rush up on deck for some cool air. How glamorous I must look as I gasp for air, red faced and flapping my tee-shirt in the vain attempt to cool down; usually between two huge plastic motor yachts draped with beautifully reclining, bikinied, women glowing ever-so-delicately.

I suppose it would be sensible enough to insist upon a cold salad lunch regime but that would be dull and limiting and I can definitely cope with melting before I can cope with serving raw food, bread and cheese for every meal.

And besides, I promised them more baking. Well, actually I didn’t exactly promise. I simply hinted; and to you too. For it is cherry season in France; and I had the desire to make cherry clafoutis for desert (pronounced clafootee). I really can’t remember the last time I made a clafoutis and suspect it was probably when I was at cookery school. Cherry clafoutis is said to hail from the Limousine region in France and, as there is with most dishes of distinction, there’s a bit of foot stamping from other regions who also claim it as their own.

Whatever, it definitely hailed from my galley oven last night. My Force-Ten oven is surprisingly capable of turning out one mean cherry clafoutis. Who knew?

Consisting of cherries laid in a dish and covered in a simple, vanilla-spiked batter, it really is a must-go-for-it desert. There are some variations which involve kirsch, the cherry liquor but I decided to go for the simple recipe and experiment later on. You can pit the cherries if you can be bothered but conveniently enough, if you leave the pips in, the flavour of the cherries is much improved and exudes the hint of almond important to the dish. Just got to warn your guests about them. I read many times that clafoutis should be served straight from the oven with a small dollop of crème fraiche or yoghurt. So I unashamedly served my clafoutis with a delicious tub of vanilla ice cream. Well, why not, the evening was so hot by the time I pulled it out the oven and I think it was the perfect combo. A soft and fluffy batter surrounding the hot little, sweet, tangy bursts of cherry merging with a melting of cold vanilla ice cream… yeah, me too.

If you’re making this for guests then you could do them as individual puddings which would look lovely. Its signature garnish is a good dousing of icing sugar and I reckon the odd little refined curl of lemon zest and a wee sprig of fresh mint would help draw the attention. I made one big one for the crew and this is how I did it;

You will need;

About 300-350g cherries, stalks removed but left with the stones in
300 ml milk
60g castor sugar
3 eggs
60g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways down the middle, the little black seeds removed
Or ½ tsp vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
Icing sugar to serve
and a really good vanilla ice cream or crème fraiche to play by the rules


  • First heat your oven to about gas mark 4 or 180C (if your oven is like mine then turn it to full blast and hope for the best)

  • Butter a nice serving dish or dishes if you’re doing the individual ones and lay the cherries in a single layer so that there is plenty in there but not too crammed.

  • Beat the eggs and sugar in a bowl with an electric hand whisk until light in colour and smooth, about 3-4 minutes. Then pour in the milk and the vanilla seeds or extract and whizz again just to mix.

  • Sieve into the mixing bowl the flour, baking powder and salt and beat until you have a nice smooth batter. Now pour this over your cherries but so you can still see the cheeky little things just about poking out and pop into the pre-heated oven. See, simple as.

  • Bake for about 30-40 minutes till lightly golden, risen and set. You can leave it to rest a little as the cherries will be pretty hot! Then sprinkle with icing sugar and serve with your chosen dollop of naughty-ness.

I really hope you make this if you haven’t before. It was so quick and easy but very pretty and tastes so good. And I guess you could happily use other seasonal fruits all year round. Actually I’m wondering if a light almond ice cream would have been better…   Mmmm.

Vanilla, Almond, no matter! I’ll just keep thinking about ice cream if that’s Okay by you? I can’t possibly eat too much of it but I can definitely keep dreaming about it in this heat. But like I’ve said before, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the galley. Does sticking you’re head in the freezer count as getting out of the galley?  Nah!

Salad for lunch tomorrow then…
Just kidding.

Thanks for reading and if I haven’t completely melted by then, see you soon.

'Glowing' in a hot galley