Food and Drink

   

In Season: Cherries

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For so many of us, cherries are synonymous with Christmas. There’s always a large bowl on the table at our place, picked ourselves from one of the ‘U-pick’ orchards around the Yarra Valley. But just as fresh are the 2kg boxes in shops at the moment.

It’s important that your cherries still have their stems on as any damage to their skins will cause them spoil quickly. You want them shiny with a rich, dark colour. Signs of over-maturity include wrinkles, dried stems and a dull appearance. Keep them in the fridge, dry and loosely packed in a covered container.

A very simple dish is the classic ‘clafoutis’ (kla-foo-TEE), a baked dessert from the Limousin region of France. It involves baking black cherries covered with a thin batter in a hot oven until the batter has set to a golden brown with slightly puffed edges. Traditionally a dessert, it is also a great breakfast or a decadent brunch.

Other fruits can be used, but then you call it a ‘Flognarde’, not a Clafoutis. Apple Flognarde is very popular in Limousin and any soft fruit is delicious. Large fruit will need to be diced or thinly sliced. If you are lucky enough to get hold of some mulberries, which are particularly good this year, they make an especially nice version.

When everyone’s had their fill of the annual box of cherries try preserving them before they deteriorate. Freezing cherries is simple — remove the stems (now is safe to), lay them on a flat tray in the freezer until they are solid, then tip them into a sealable plastic bag. We also do this with our excess raspberries and blackberries.

Clafoutis, or Flognarde, is very simple to make. Here’s the recipe. You’ll need a shallow, ceramic baking dish. You can remove the stones before baking but they are traditionally left in. Your clafoutis will have a better flavour if you leave them whole.

Ingredients (enough for 6)
500g cherries, stems removed
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp kirsch (optional)
2 eggs
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup plain flour
250 ml cream
Butter, to grease the bowl
Icing sugar

Method
Switch your oven to 200C.
Lay your cherries in a shallow baking dish, scatter the caster sugar over and splash them with the kirsch. Bake for 5 minutes to slightly cook the cherries. Tip out the cooking juices to one bowl and the cherries to another.

Whisk the eggs and caster sugar until light and frothy. Using a spoon, fold in the flour, then add about a tablespoon of the cooking juice and the cream.

Butter shallow baking dish then pour in half the custard. Scatter the cooked cherries onto the custard and cover with the remaining custard. Bake for around 25 minutes until the top is golden and the batter appears set. The cherries should poke through the set custard. Serve luke-warm, and dust with icing sugar to finish.


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