I don't think the romance of the first rains of the season will ever fade for me. I simply let my senses take it all in. I see the rain wash away the grime and dust of the Summer months, I hear the sound of the rain drown out everything and then there's that scent of wet earth which is just pure magic. I don't think there is a person out there who is immune to the charm of that fragrance. They say you can buy the fragrance, bottled and sold in the markets of Old Delhi and Mohammed Ali Road in Bombay but it won't have half the magic as when you smell it with the first rains!
The rains, not only signal my willingness to enter the kitchen again but it also heralds the season of stone fruits. You will see the first cherries come during the last days of Summer but somehow, I am in no mood to enjoy them as long as temperatures stay on the wrong side of 40 deg C. Summer is after all, for mangoes and the monsoons for stone fruits, for which I have a soft spot.
Ever since I started writing this blog, I have wanted to make a cherry clafoutis but I have always put it off under the excuse that I don't have a cherry pitter. You would think that at some point, I would be convinced to buy one but procrastination, I'll have to say, is my Achilles' Heel!
So, a cherry clafoutis had to wait till Sunday evening, thanks to a cherry pitter that the sister bought for me. Last evening, I also made a beautiful goats' cheese and tomato tart but unfortunately by the time it got done, all trace of natural light was gone and I couldn't manage any photographs.
Clafoutis is a baked custard which sets rather firmly and that allows it to support a lot of fruit, in this case cherries. Searching around for a recipe, I got the impression that cherry clafoutis is a rustic French dessert with every home having its own recipe. I used Raymond Blanc's recipe that is his mother's and like a good son, he claims it's the best!
Apart from pitting the cherries, there is hardly any work that goes into a clafoutis. Note to self; you are not supposed to dust sugar on the custard as soon as it comes out of the oven. The sugar melts instantly and spoils the lovely golden hue on the custard as you can see from the photographs.
If you can overlook that misstep of mine, this is a wonderful, homey dessert, perfect to round off a hearty dinner at home. The cherries are macerated in some cherry liqueur. You won't taste it but I suspect, it saves the dessert from tasting too eggy. It is not too sweet, filled with fruit and the flavour of baked custard makes it a wonderfully familiar and comforting dessert on a rainy night. Most would tell you that you should have it warm, but I quite liked it cold too. You decide!
Before the deluge, I hoped you managed to take in some of the magic of the rains!!
Recipe source : Raymond Blanc for BBC, minimally adapted
- 100-125 gms ripe cherries, pitted
- 1 tablespoons caster sugar
- 1.5 tablespoons cherry liqueur** (say kirsch, I used a homemade vodka based cherry liqueur)
For the batter
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, extra for greasing
- 1 egg
- 1.5 tablespoons caster sugar, extra for sprinkling
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 heaped tablespoon plain flour
- 50 gms whole milk
- 50 gms double cream
- a pinch of salt
- Gently mix together the cherries, sugar and cherry liqueur and leave to macerate for two hours. (The sugar will slowly permeate the cherries and intensify their flavour).
- Preheat the oven to 180 deg C. Grease a baking dish with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Shake the sugar around the dish so that it is evenly coated, then tip out any excess. (I used a 5-inch ceramic baking dish).
- Gently melt the butter in a small pan and set aside in a warm place.
- In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla until creamy.
- Add the flour, whisk until smooth, then slowly incorporate the milk, cream, salt and butter.
- Mix the macerated cherries and their juice into the batter and pour into the prepared baking dish.
- Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is slightly domed and the blade of a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Let it cool for ten minutes. To finish, sprinkle with caster sugar and serve warm. I even enjoyed it cold.
**To make a non-alcoholic version, skip the cherry liqueur. You could either macerate the cherries with some orange juice or add some orange zest to the batter.