So brace yourselves for a raft of cherry recipes coming up - the cherries on our tree are getting riper by the second.
In celebration of our first batch I made an immense cherry clafoutis. When I was a student living in the South West of France many moons ago this dessert appeared on the menu everywhere in cherry season. It apparently originated in the Limousin, an area famous for its cherries, but is now found all over the Languedoc and indeed most of France.
A clafoutis is essentially fresh fruit baked in an egg-y, vanilla-y, creamy custard, thickened slightly with flour. It is traditionally made with cherries, but other fruits such as apricots, plums and pears can also be used very successfully.
The best recipe I've found today is adapted from Paula Wolfert's The Cooking of South West France a book which really is not as well known as it should be.
1 1/2 pounds cherries
3 tbsps plain flour
Large pinch of salt
4 tbsps granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
14 fl. oz whole milk + 2 fl. oz single cream, heated and kept warm
1 1/2 tsps vanilla essence
2 tablespoons of kirsch or some other fruity eau-de-vie or grappa (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 F/180 C/Gas mark 4.
Find a 10 in wide cake pan or shallow earthenware dish or porcelain gratin dish and butter it extravagantly.
Wash your cherries and pit them if desired. The clafoutis is much easier to eat with pitted cherries but purists swear it tastes better if they're left unpitted. And it's much less fiddly to prepare. I think it tastes amazing either way.
Arrange your cherries in a single layer over the bottom of the dish making sure there are no gaps. Cram in as many as you can.
Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl.
In a second bowl whisk the eggs and egg yolks and then add the warmed milk and cream, whisking all the time. Add flavourings.
Stir the egg mixture into the flour.
When well blended pour the custard over the cherries.
Bake in the oven until it is set quite firm and is golden brown on top, about 40 minutes.
Dredge thickly with granulated sugar while still warm and serve either lukewarm or cold from the fridge with pouring cream if you dare.