On the Plate: French-inspired refreshing dessert

March 17, 2021 BY

Many years ago at a convention for chefs, cooks and all manner of foodie-types, I recall one sagely piece of advice. “Life’s short – eat dessert first.” Never a truer word!

And now as we slide into a new season and realise just how quickly life is speeding by, I thought it timely to revisit some favorite desserts.
So, just where did summer go? My favourite summery-type desserts over the decades have been: banana splits with ice-cream and passionfruit syrup; or simply a soup bowl full of vanilla ice cream with milo sprinkled very generously over the top – pre-teen vintage. I used to plough through bowl after bowl of this ‘specialty’.

More sophisticated desserts for the summer were Eskimo Pies or pineapple fritters dusted with icing sugar and a side of ice-cream.
Skip forward twp or three decades and the super velvety homemade chocolate mousse, or indeed the chocolate iced dessert we made at Clat’s in the late 70s – garnished with crystalised violets – Mt Donna Buang it was called on the menu – and you can see the culinary skills have been slightly elevated. Oh and what about a brandy snap basket filled with summer berries. Oh yeee-es!

Now I’m reaching for the lap rug in the evening cos the chill is settling in and I’m not hankering for any ‘iced’ confections. Rather I’m dreaming of a warm dessert, and one that is easy to make at no notice. Sometimes I just fancy something sweet to finish off the evening meal, and hence a homely clafoutis seems to tick all the boxes. In the same way that we reach for a cardigan to keep out the chills of the evening at this time of year, it’s a warm yet light dessert, to tide us over as we make the transition into the next season!

Clafouti is a rustic, simple French dessert that’s a cross between a thick fruit pancake and a custard. You can use other fruits, but black cherries are traditional. Originally from the Limousin, the dish’s name comes from the verb clafir, meaning “to fill up” (the batter with cherries is the implication). Clafoutis apparently spread throughout France during the 19th century.

So providing you happen to have handy a can of pitted black cherries in the pantry cupboard, you will most likely have all the other ingredients. If you don’t have cherries – fresh strawberries, grapes or even slices of mango or apricot can be used. You’ll need a buttered flan dish, a ceramic one is good, to bake this in the oven. There’s still some delicious stone fruits around, and so fresh peaches, or plums are also great in this recipe. It really doesn’t need it – but it’s luscious with a dollop of double cream. For presentation, the clafoutis can be dusted with icing sugar.

As we’re all still keen to catch up on friends and family at any opportunity, this recipe can easily be doubled to serve six to eight drop-ins at short notice! And when I think of that sage advice of life being short, I think that all of us have now totally re-evaluated what’s truly important; we’ve hit the reset button – and we treasure every special treat as it rightly should be.

Live like there’s no tomorrow!

Cherry Clafoutis

200g plain flour (1 ¼ cup)
300ml cream
6 eggs
300ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon baking powder
170g caster sugar
400g can pitted dark cherries^
1 more tablespoon caster sugar
Icing sugar for dusting
^if substituting cherries with other fresh fruit, you’ll need about 300g – so a punnet of berries, or 2 large peaches, or 4-5 plums – remove the stones, but no need to peel the fruit.

Pre-heat oven to 200C, grease the flan with soft butter and sprinkle 1 tablespoon caster sugar over base of the flan or shallow ceramic dish. Sift the flour and baking powder together. Whisk together the milk and cream – the measurement can be a generous cup of each – and add the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract, mix well. Pour the milk-egg mixture over the flour, mixing to a smooth batter. Arrange the fruit, (having drained the can of cherries), in the dish and pour in the batter. Pop this into the oven until lightly browned and the ‘custard’ is set – approximately 15-20 minutes.

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