FOOD & DRINK / A-Z of Treats: Clafoutis

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C is for Clafoutis, the eggy French batter from Limousin in the south of France.

Unlike Yorkshire pudding which is designed to mop up meat juices, this French batter is a fruit pudding, and usually made in early summer when the first fat, black cherries ripen. But it can be made with a jar of black cherries, or a can. It is usual to add a measure of cognac, rum or marc to offset the sweetness.

There is a similar pudding in the Auvergne called a gargouillau, in which the cherries are replaced by pears and blackcurrants, and the batter is made with single cream. In Savoy they make a Clafoutis with fresh figs. In Paris restaurants Clafoutis is often made with halved pears, first poached in syrup.

The most elegant version I know is that of Pierre Koffmann, who runs the London restaurant La Tante Claire. He makes his with fresh halved peaches poached in syrup, and a batter with four eggs, half a pint of double cream and a shot of framboise, the raspberry-flavoured liqueur. You can experiment, but this is a country version.

CLAFOUTIS

Serves 4-6

1lb black cherries

3 eggs

2oz caster sugar

2oz plain flour

pinch of salt

4fl oz double cream

1/2 pint milk

generous shot of kirsch, eau de vie,

cognac or rum

1 oz unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 375F/190C/

Gas 5. Butter a large earthenware oven dish (about 10in by 7in). Put it in the oven to heat through while you make the batter mixture (but make sure you don't burn the butter).

Remove the stalks of the cherries but not the stones, wash and mop dry. In a bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar until frothy. Beat in the flour and salt, then the cream and the kirsch. Gradually stir in the milk to make a smooth batter. You can do all this swiftly in a blender.

Sprinkle cherries in several layers into the oven dish and pour the batter on top. Bake for 30-40 minutes, raising heat after about 15 minutes to accelerate browning. It's done when the mixture is set.

Serve while still warm, dusted with sifted icing sugar.

Note: it is a refinement to use vanilla-flavoured caster sugar. Buy a vanilla pod from a delicatessen, and bury it in a jar of caster sugar. The pod can be used to flavour milk custards or ice-cream, wiped dry and returned to the jar.

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