It has been a while since I baked anything. Moving house is an all-consuming, full-on, exhausting activity. Especially when, even though we had disposed of an awful lot of our belongings and put at least half of our furniture and other stuff into store, we still have too much to fit comfortably into our new house.
The new house has a brand new kitchen. I managed to stop myself from laughing when the (very) young man who showed us round it said everything was “top of the range”. Brand new it certainly was, top of the range it most definitely wasn’t. Good quality but very basic is the way I would describe it.
Nick absolutely hates the hob and oven. The hob is a very basic induction model, which is, to say the least, taking some getting used to. The oven is a very basic fan oven. So basic that the thermostat has very few temperature markings on it. It goes from 150 – 175 - 200° with nothing in between. So setting the oven temperature is a bit of a guesstimate. Consequently I haven’t felt much inclined to bake a cake, although cooking of sorts has been going on. You can only live on take-aways for so long.
After two weeks and a bit of climbing over cardboard boxes and assembling flat pack furniture we abandoned ship and headed for our little holiday home in France for a break. And also to begin the next phase of our adventure, house-hunting in France.
(In case anyone needs reminding, we have downsized in the UK in order to upsize in France. Phase one is complete.) Within days of being chez nous all the trials and tribulations of moving house and new kitchens had been completely forgotten. This is good. We needed to remind ourselves of exactly why we were doing this.
One of the things I find really touching in our little corner of rural France is how gifts of food are so freely given. Friends will give us armfuls of home grown fruit and veg when we visit. We regularly open the front door to find flowers or veg on the doorstep, left there by our neighbour Mme André.
One day last week we went for dinner with some friends to the hotel in the village and with coffee were served tiny red plums instead of chocolates. A discussion about the plums followed and the manager assured us they were mirabelles, from a tree in the hotel courtyard. I always thought mirabelles were yellow.
Anyhow, we finished our coffee and headed out into the deserted lobby. After a few minutes the back door burst open and the manager and the waitress appeared with big grins on their faces and a huge bag of the little plums. “Surprise – cadeaux !!” they said.
I made a crumble and a clafoutis with some of them and with the remainder I made a three fruit cobbler. I used about 300g plums, two dessert apples and a handful of strawberries that were slightly past their best. I also added about 75g marzipan, cut into small cubes.
It was delicious. My feeling is that the little plums are not quite as sweet as the yellow mirabelles I have had before, more like a cooking plum than a dessert plum. Whatever they are, they’re very good in a crumble, clafoutis or cobbler !!
For the fruit filling
300g small plums, halved and stoned
2 dessert apples, peeled, cored and chopped
a few strawberries, hulled and halved
75g marzipan, cubed
100g granulated sugar
For the topping
80g cold butter, diced
200g self raising flour
100g caster sugar
100ml crème fraîche
a handful of flaked almonds
Put the plums and apples in a medium saucepan with a splash of water and heat gently until softened. Stir in the sugar.
Preheat the oven to 190°C / 170° fan / gas mk 5.
Put the flour and butter into a food processor and process to breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and process briefly to combine. Add the liquids and process to make a soft dough.
Tip the fruit into a suitable greased baking dish or tin. Distribute the strawberries and marzipan amongst the fruit.
Dollop dessert spoonfuls of the topping mixture on top and sprinkle the flaked almonds over.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the topping is browned and firm and the fruit is bubbling.
Serve warm with cream, ice cream, custard or crème fraîche.