Settling into comfort food
I’m taking a classic French summer dish and turning it into a classic winter dish – all by stealing from my best friend.
Rhubarb clafouti is the new darling dessert of The Zin House, it came about because Lesley Russell, the Orange Regional Cook, was telling me about the photo shoot for her forthcoming cookbook and mentioned the recipe. ‘What a great idea!’, said I before promptly putting it on the weekend’s menu.
Now some cooks might think it a bit cheeky to steal your mate’s recipe before she’s even published the book. But I know that won’t be the case with Lesley because she has this quote hanging in her kitchen.
‘No mean woman can cook well for it calls for a light head, a generous spirit and a large heart.’ Paul Gauguin
We have talked often over the years about how you don’t ‘own’ a recipe, but rather are obliged to share good food, and therefore recipes, as widely as possible. Why would you want someone to cook less well!
The courtesy is to acknowledge the last custodian of an idea, which is why you will find Lesley’s name pop up often when I’m writing about food.
You should also rush out and buy her book when it’s published because unlike me, Lesley measures and that means her recipes will always work!
Rhubarb is gorgeous at this time of year, the colour is vibrant and it seems to respond well to the cold. I’ve planted it and failed many times so don’t give up, when you find the right spot it will flourish with equal quantities of compost and neglect.
Clafouti is traditionally made with cherries by pouring an eggy batter over fruit. This version is a much better contrast of tart and sweet.
- 6 eggs
- 600 ml cream
- 2 extra egg white (optional)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup self-raising flour
- 1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
- Dash of vanilla extract or scraping of a bean
- Several stalks of rhubarb, finely chopped
- For the pan, butter and extra sugar
Whisk all the ingredients 1 -7 together. yep, that’s it!
Now line your oven proof baking dish really generously with butter, so that there are bits of butter visible. Cover the butter with a good sprinkle of sugar and shake it to coat the butter. This step will create a nice caramel effect in the oven, allowing you to flip the clafouti like an upside down cake. That’s why small teflon pans like the ones I’ve used in the photo are good.
For every person use about 1 kitchen spoon of rhubarb and two of batter. (A kitchen spoon is two tablespoons, or four dessertspoons or 8 teaspoons if you want to do it the hard way.)
Scatter the rhubarb over the base of the dish and cover with the batter. This works best with smaller amounts rather than trying to put it all in a small dish – wide and flat is good.
Because we have so many guests with gluten intolerance I always use a gluten free flour and I think it actually improves this dish.
Hazelnuts (Lesley’s suggestion) are regional for us, use any nuts that are fresh or leave them out.
The extra egg whites are used in my kitchen because we always have surplus from the ice-cream. They give an extra lightness and height to the dish but are not necessary.
This amount will feed at least 10 people but before you half the recipe remember you can keep the batter in the fridge for days and have it on demand. And then you could try it with some other sort of fruit, maybe from your neighbours backyard…