Food blog events – bless ‘em! Pick a weird acronym and I can almost guarantee it has already been used in the wonderful world of food blogs – IMBB, SHF, WTSIM, EOMEOTE, WHB, HHDD, DMBLGIT, WBW… need I continue?? And they’re all designed to make you cook out of your comfort zone: make puff pastry! Stuff some vegetables! Drink Turkish wine! I feel performance anxiety coming on…
So isn’t it lovely when a blog event comes along requiring:
a) something you have made before and are quite good at making; and
b) something that you in fact made at the end of last summer but, erm, never blogged at the time?! Mea culpa.
I have always been a believer in a high impact-to-effort ratio in recipes. Of course I can spend four hours slaving over the components of a complex dish and the end product will look and taste as if it took four hours to make. But how much better it is when something takes 20 minutes to make but impresses people as much as something that took four hours to prepare. And no, I am not venturing into the Delia territory of using frozen discs of mashed potato intead of the tremendously onerous (not!) task of boiling and mashing an Actual Raw Potato…
Nope, I’m talking about that Holy Grail of dishes – the minimal effort, maximal WOW-factor recipe. Slow roast lamb is one of them; home-made soup is another; and almost all fruit crumbles qualify. When you bring these dishes to the table, there will always be appreciative oohs and aahs, but you will just smile your secret smile because you will know that you spent most of the afternoon on the sofa with a good book, rather than sweating over a hot stove in a steamy kitchen. Honesty is NOT always the best policy when it comes to catering
A dessert that I’ve written about before and that, in my book, definitely passes the low-effort, high-impact test is clafoutis. It’s a classic country dessert from the South-west of France that consists of a baked custard in which pieces fruit (traditionally, cherries) are suspended. When well-made, it can puff up as impressively as a low-maintenance souffle, but in terms of how easy it is, you would be surprised. The hardest work is cutting up the fruit! The batter actually prefers an hour to rest before baking, so you can make the batter, then get on with the rest of lunch, and pop the clafoutis in the oven when you sit down to your main meal. What could be easier?
Another thing that will astonish you with this recipe is how easy it is to infuse cream. I have never made clafoutis with infused cream before, but after falling in love with the flavour of cardamom in fruit desserts with my pear & cardamom tarte tatin, I decided that it might be a good match for the peaches too. And it was – not overpowering, but it defintely lent the whole dessert a grown-up and slightly exotic flavour that everybody loved.
Well done to my lovely friend Bron for choosing clafoutis as the theme for this round of Hay, Hay, It’s Donna Day! This is my entry, but you still have until Monday to get your recipes in, so get a move on!
PEACH & CARDAMOM CLAFOUTIS (serves 8)
4 green cardamom pods
240g castor sugar
1/2 tsp of vanilla essence
140g cake flour, sifted
50g softened butter
about 4 peaches, stone removed and cut into thin wedges
100ml Amaretto (or brandy)
100g flaked almonds
vanilla ice cream/creme fraiche to serve
Break open the cardamom pods, remove the seeds and crush lightly to release the flavour. In a small saucepan, heat the cream and crushed cardamom seeds until the liquid is almost boiling, then remove from the heat and allow to steep for at least 30 minutes. Strain, pressing down on the seeds in the sieve to extract maximum flavour. Allow the cream to cool to room temperature or lower.
Beat the eggs, cream, sugar and vanilla essence together in a bowl. Add flour and beat with a wooden spoon for about 1 minute. If time allows, set aside to rest for 1 hour at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 220C and butter a 2 litre ovenproof dish. Spread the peach wedges evenly over the base of the buttered dish and drizzle with the Amaretto. Pour the batter over the peaches (they will float – don’t worry – this is normal!) and bake on the top shelf of the oven for about 25 minutes.
Sprinkle with the almonds and cook for a further 15-20 minutes or until golden, puffy and set. Dust with icing sugar and serve immediately with vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche.