Life is a bowl of cherries (and I feel a clafoutis coming on)

Our local cherry trees are loaded with fruit and the cows currently on maternity leave in the nextdoor field are sheltering gratefully beneath their leafy branches (probably pinching a few cherries too). Time for clafoutis, a gorgeous baked cherry pancake. Dust it with icing sugar and serve it warm. A little vanilla ice cream doesn’t go amiss.

(Recipe adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

Serves 4-6
350g black cherries, stoned/pitted
1-2 tablespoons kirsch + 2 tablespoons sugar
300ml milk
50g sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
75g flour, sifted

  • Put the stoned/pitted cherries in a bowl and stir in the kirsch and sugar
  • Leave cherries to macerate for an hour or two
  • Heat oven to 180 C
  • Mix together (in blender or with a wire whisk) the milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt till completely smooth
  • Add flour and blend/mix again to a smooth batter – if necessary, scrape down sides of blender and re-blend
  • Butter an ovenproof baking dish (metal is best of all, so you can start cooking the clafoutis over direct heat)
  • Pour in about 1 cm of batter and set dish over gentle heat [only if metal; don't try this with pottery or glass], just long enough so the layer of batter in the bottom is lightly set
  • Remove from heat, dot the cherries all over the batter, pour on the rest and bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour – the clafoutis should be nicely risen and browned, and a skewer stuck in the middle should emerge clean
  • Sprinkle clafoutis with icing sugar and serve warm, straight from the dish

PS: A note on cherry-stoning (from my book A Taste of Switzerland, published by Bergli Books): if you’re planning to do a lot of cherry-stoning, you can invest in a nifty Swiss-made device, which is fixed to the kitchen table by the turn of a screw. You drop the de-stalked cherries into the jaws of the device, and they’re funnelled inexorably down a slippery slope into a sort of trap. By means of a short karate chop to the lever, the stone is blasted out one way, the fruit the other. There’s also a liberal spattering of juice, so equip yourself with a capacious apron (or do this operation in a bathing suit, preferably a cherry-coloured one, out on the terrace/in the garden). The economical Swiss even find a use for the stones: after they are cleaned and dried, the stones are pressed into service as a weight for blind-baking pastry cases. They’re also used to fill rough little hessian bags marked Chirsisteine, which are full of rattling cherry stones – before the advent of central heating (or even hot water bottles), the bag would be placed last thing at night in the residual heat of the wood-burning stove, and later into the bed to warm it up.

PPS: in the Limousin, the cherry-blessed French region whence clafoutis comes, the cherries are left with stones intact. The theory is that they bring loads of flavour. It’s certainly a lot less work (and mess) – just warn your guests. Plus you then have the fun of playing Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor…

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