My gorgeous nephew is coming to stay for a few days. We have a busy itinerary - a football match, a comedy show (Tom, we’re expecting big laughs. No pressure.), restaurants of course, and a day strolling around some of Oxford’s beautiful colleges. Naturally, there will be food, lots of it, given that this is the 4,000 calorie a day boy. Angus loves chocolate, so I’m planning on revisiting a pudding we made together in France. It’s decadent, delicious and easy. If you’re not on a 4,000 calorie a day diet, then my tip is not to eat the whole thing at once.
Chocolate and cherry clafoutis
I’ve tweaked this recipe from one I discovered in a heavenly book I bought on our trip to France, Le B.A-ba du Chocolat by France’s own Nigella, Julie Andrieu. I overcooked it slightly as I was waiting for the slivered almonds to brown a little. When I make it again, I’ll either leave them out altogether or toast them a bit before sprinkling them over the top.
80g of plain chocolate, about 70%
200ml single cream or crème fraîche
50g caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
30g plain flour
100g ground almonds
1tbsp Amaretto, kirsch or crème de cacao (optional)
20g slivered almonds, very lightly toasted (optional)
A little butter, softened, for greasing
A good pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas mark 2. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.
Beat together the cream and sugar in a bowl, then stir in the eggs and liqueur if using. Fold in the flour, salt and ground almonds, then the melted chocolate. Butter four ramequins or one baking dish and distribute the cherries evenly in the dish/es. Do not stone them, unless you are serving them to children or the very absent minded - the cherries are much more juicy and flavoursome cooked whole. You could even leave the stalks in, as they look quite marvellous sticking out of the batter, though I’d only do this if I weren’t adding the slivered almonds. Pour over the chocolate batter, sprinkle on the lightly toasted almonds if using, and cook for 18-20 minutes, until just set but still a bit wobbly. Allow to cool slightly before serving.
And now for the secrets. Two of my favourite bloggers, Catherine at The Unconfidential Cook , and Lady P at Madly Creative recently passed onto me these two lovely awards, the Kreativ Blogger Award and the Honest Scrap Award. I’m supposed to share seven things about myself and then pass on the award to seven bloggers I admire.
Cookie Pie, because her blog is a warm, friendly place to land on a frantic day.
Gratinée, because she writes exquisitely and her deep understanding of and love for food shines from every paragraph.
Nora the Kitchen ‘Splorer, because I love her recipes and am near addicted to her Wednesday Round Up of Deliciousness.
Real Food Lover, because she makes you think, she makes you cook, what could be better?
Syrian Foodie in London, because I want to make every single one of his recipes.
Through My Kitchen Window, because Mariana is just wonderful, even though every trip to her blog gives me a severe case of lifestyle envy.
Writing Junkie, because Avril writes so inspirationally, so clearly, so beautifully about the writing life.
As I received two awards at around about the same time which require me to do the same thing, please take your pick of the one you would like to receive. If you don’t participate in awards, then do accept this as a very small thank you for the pleasure your blogs have given me over the past few months. If you would like to participate, then post the award, link back to me and send it on to seven more people. Finally, and most interestingly, list seven curious, crazy, interesting things about yourself…
Here are mine…
1. In 1990 and 1991, I lived in Moscow. I watched tanks roll down the street, heard Pavarotti sing in a sports hall, bribed policemen with cartons of red Marlborough and learned that -20C in dry-aired Moscow feels less cold than -1C in damp old London town. I went to tea parties at embassies and met jittery young anarchists in Gorky Park. I watched Soviet statues being pulled down and Tesco supermarkets going up. And this is where I really, really learned how to cook.
2. My secret vice is vice. If I hadn’t followed the ink-splattered path into journalism, I would have loved to be a detective. Instead, I’m addicted to cop shows, crime shows, and have an unsavoury weakness for anything billed ‘based on a true story’. If I go to bed before my husband, it’s testament to his courage that he’ll curl up beside me as I fall asleep watching Snapped: Women Who Kill.
3. I have a difficult relationship with change. Hot, angry tears pricked at my eyes when the balsa-headed philistines at Hackney Council replaced the lovely old lampposts in our high street with hideous modern ones. I realise this attitude has its drawbacks. If all humankind were like me, we’d still be living in caves. But what wonderfully appointed and well catered caves they would be.
4. Sean and I met and married so quickly, when I went to apply for our marriage licence, I had no idea what his middle name was.
5. After a lifetime of owning cats, two years ago we got a dog. When he snuggled onto my lap, I found myself questioning whether he was happy or not. Subconsciously I was waiting for him to purrrrrr.
6. I’m a pretty easy-going person but I feel primal, violent, seething rage when I see people dropping litter. Come the Licked Spoon Revolution, they’ll all be buried in a pit of their own filth.
7. As a young graduate working in the slave-wage environment of book publishing, my idea of wealth was being able to afford black taxis, good cheese, cut flowers and hardback books whenever I wanted them. Twenty years on, this is still my definition of luxury. I pinch myself every time I jump into a cab with a slab of Colston Bassett, a bunch of billowy roses and some artfully jacketed tome tucked into my market basket.