I saw the first cherries of the season the other day and didn’t hesitate to buy a punnet. Cherries are high on my list of desert island foods. For the next couple of months I’ll eat half a pound a day, maybe more, until peaches and melons come in or until I’m sated until next year’s season, whichever comes first. Who am I kidding? I want it all, all the time. I wish it was May for ten months every year. Some years I stone and preserve a kilo in a jar with sugar and brandy, meaning to bring sunshine to the bleak days of winter. In truth, I rarely use them. The taste, even saturated with alcohol, belongs in the summer, even this cool, damp summer. The preserved fruit just seems to mock me, wearing a sweater, not having a tan.
Back home the cherries weren’t as dark and plumptious as they are at their best. They tasted tarter than the ripe, round sweetness I yearned for. There was only one thing to do. I made a clafoutis. I spent a happy fifteen minutes stoning the fruit while listening to the cast recording of the production of Gypsy I saw last week. It is brilliant and Imelda Staunton is brilliant in it and you should go if you get the chance. I wrote about it here and hope that convinces you. I whisked a couple of eggs, added sugar, ground almonds, double cream and vanilla paste, which is a wondrous ingredient, iyam. You can’t buy cream easily in France, so they would use milk, I think, to make the batter, but double cream works better here. I added some mahlab, the ground kernels of sour cherries. It’s a powder I only know of from the Honey and Co book which, deservedly, won the Fortnum and Mason prize for cookbook of the year the other night. Itamar Shrulevitch and Sarit Packer’s new book on baking comes out very soon. They are some sort of genius bakers and, even though I don’t bake very often, I’m looking forward to it.
I sprinkled some desiccated coconut over the top and put it in a 175° oven for twenty-five minutes or so. You will able to smell when it’s done. I’ve been making clafoutis for a couple of weeks recently with early raspberries and using desiccated coconut instead of ground almonds. Both give you quite a cake-y texture rather than a set custard. I prefer the coconut version, sprinkled with flaked almonds, but both get eaten. Desiccated coconut may be another desert island food. I always eat clafoutis cold, sometimes with some more cream, just to make certain no one confuses me with a slim Frenchman. I made one a couple of weeks ago with tiny baby figs. I called it a clafigtis. It’s time for me to go, I’d say.