I've been having a few friends over. Flowers were brought home and put into vases. And plans for a feast were written out according to what was on hand. Food is obviously central to any gathering at my house, and summer is the perfect time to feature the bounties of the land.
Nothing can top a platter of seasonal vegetables with bowls of Romesco sauce and hummus for dipping; a salad of summer-fresh tomatoes, herbs and lettuce is divine; some local cheese and bread, and a warm quiche to stave off the chill of an August evening round off the meal. Then comes dessert. The finale can be a bit of a bone of contention: do I serve a bowl of fresh fruits, and leave it at that? Or do I bake something that features seasonal fruits?
If we were still in the midst of a heatwave, there would be no contest, dessert would be fresh berries with a side dish of whipped cream. But we are no longer suffering from sweltering temperatures. August is still hot, a daily reminder that summer is not yet over, yet sundown is refreshingly cool, so turning on the oven no longer seems like torture. In fact, it is almost welcome.
Pies are a North-American tradition: if you do the food blog circuit at this time of the year, you will find an abundance of delectable pie recipes. However, I am not handy with pies: they were not in the family repertoire, and they were also missing from culinary school. I have become quite agile with tarts, and can actually churn them out with a little foresight. Yet, for last minute desserts, nothing beats a clafoutis (the final 'S' is silent.) Clafoutis is a traditional cherry flan from the Limousin region of France. There is still time to make this flan with sweet black cherries, but any ripe fruits will make a scrumptious clafoutis. Peaches and apricots are lovely in August, and there are still a few raspberries to had, together they are magic. The following recipe is an adaptation of the one found in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Today, 15 August, would have been Ms. Child's 99th birthday.
Yields one 25cm/10" round or 23cm/9" square flan
750ml/ 3 cups fruits, chopped and pitted
300ml/ 1¼ cup milk
90g/ 1/3 cup icing sugar
90g/ ½ cup almond powder, tightly packed
In a blender, blitz all the ingredients, except for the fruit, for about one minute.
Set the batter aside for at least a half hour.
Butter the baking dish -it should have about a 2L/8 cup capacity- and strew the fruit at the bottom.
Pour the batter over the fruit, and place in a pre-heated 180'C/350'F.
Bake for an hour, or until the batter stops giggling in the pan.
Serve warm, or just barely at room temperature.
Clafoutis are usually made with wheat flour, but I really like the way almonds bring out the nuttiness in stone fruits. If you would rather try the original recipe, substitute the almond powder with 70g/ ½cup of flour, and replace the icing sugar with regular granulated sugar. The batter will be a little thicker, so you might have a prettier flan if you strew the fruit over the custard. Bake as you would the above.
Happy Birthday Julia, wherever you are. Bon appétit!