Clafoutis, ripe cherries cooked in a sweet batter, is a speciality of Limousin. Made with other soft fruits, it is called flaugnarde -a rose by any other name. Cooked badly, clafoutis can taste eggy and scrambled, often putting people off this lovely dish. The secret, I've been told, is in the beating of the eggs and sugar, for a souffle-like result with a custardy flavour.
Inspired by a Dan Lepard clafoutis recipe
, where under ripe figs are wine-poached to become a sweet sticky sensation; I thought about ways a softer fruit might bear a similar treatment (in a home kitchen), without turning into compote.
A coating of glossy sweetness for each of the gooseberries was what I had in mind. Not to candy or glace, but a sugary carapace thin enough to yield soft fragrant fruit with each bite.
1 cup Caster Sugar
11/2 cups Water
Grated Zest of 1 Unwaxed Lemon
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, mix the sugar and the water; allow to dissolve and then add the lemon zest and boil. If you have a sugar thermometer, take the syrup to 115-120oC. Do not let the syrup colour, the aim is to reach the soft ball stage: if you drop a teaspoon of syrup into a glass of cold water, it should turn into a ball that is soft and pliable when taken out. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.
Pour over the gooseberries (this punnet was 300g but ideally 500g should be used) and coat evenly. Leave to cool further, stirring and coating every once in a while. I left mine over night, although I'm not sure this is strictly necessary.
Once cool, and after a final stir, arrange the glossy berries in your baking dish, ready for the clafoutis/flaugnarde batter.
There is many a batter recipe available and, I'm sure each person will vouch for theirs being the most authentic and true. I tend to use a recipe
by Diana Henry (sorry Dan), but use whichever works for you.
Modified slightly from the original, I have left out the alcohol and flaked almonds on this occasion.
150ml Whole Milk
150ml Double Cream
125g Caster Sugar
3 Large Eggs
25g Plain Flour
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
Pre-heat the oven to 180o
C. Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until light, frothy and pale yellow, having doubled, almost tripled in volume. This takes longer than you might think. Carefully fold in the flour and vanilla extract, using a large metal spoon, trying not to knock out too much of the air in the process. In a jug, mix together the milk and cream, slowly pour into the batter mix and fold gently.
Pour the batter over the gooseberries and place immediately into the centre of the oven, and cook for 30 minutes. Allow to cool before serving, worry not, it will sink a little.
Pernod and Tarragon Cream
Pernod to me has a very medicinal taste to it. As a result it is something that I rarely drink, with a dusty, sticky capped bottle languishing on a shelf somewhere. Add it to food however, it can transform a dish from so-so, to sublime.
2 tbsp. Icing Sugar
1 tbsp. Pernod
125ml Crème Fraiche
Tarragon Leaves -a generous pinch, chopped
Mix the icing sugar and Pernod together until smooth. Add the crème fraiche, followed by the tarragon and mix thoroughly. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or until ready to use.
Caramelised and sweet on the outside; tart, fragrant and soft gooseberry flesh on the inside, this syrup had quite the desired effect. Embedded in light, springy batter, the tarragon and Pernod cream enhanced the flavours even more with that touch of anise. A lovely, simple and summery pudding -perfect if you fancy a little more than berries and cream.