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Fiadone (Corsican Cheesecake)

Fiadone with fresh cherries doused in eau de vie.

A small, inset picture in an article in Waitrose’s magazine – but unaccompanied with instructions – inspired me to look for this recipe. The texture is grainier than a cheesecake made with cream cheese, but it is also more juicy and succulent. Lemon zest gives it fragrance and lift. This is a very quick and simple recipe. In Corsica it is made with Brocciu cheese, a fresh sheep cheese, but Ricotta can be substituted. If anyone tries it with soft sheep or goat cheese, please let me know how it turns out (unless I beat you to it). Also the lemon zest may be replaced with orange zest or orange flower water.

To make a lighter Fiadone, it is possible to separate the whites from the yolks of the eggs and beat them until stiff separately before adding them back into the mix.

 

Ingredients:

500g fresh Brocciu cheese (or Ricotta)

5 eggs

200g sugar

zest of half an unwaxed lemon

one shot of eau de vie (I used kirschwasser)

a knob of butter (‘une noix de beurre’)

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180C

In a bowl, whip the eggs with the sugar and lemon zest until foamy, then add the cheese bit by bit, continue to whip briskly as you go. When the cheese is thoroughly worked into the mixture, beat in a shot of eau de vie.

Pour the batter into a buttered pie dish or springform pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Despite the eggs, this cake will rise only very slightly and collapse again after being removed from the oven. Serve cool.

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Apple Clafoutis

How to describe a clafoutis? It is somewhere between a custard, a tart, and a flan, being composed of an eggy batter that is poured into a hot dish. The centre takes on the character of a baked custard, while the top and base acquire a slight crispiness. This is not a traditional clafoutis, which is a Limousin tart made with black cherries or other stone fruits, but an American evolution via the pages of Saveur magazine which I have doctored up slightly, as the original is a bit too sweet and heavy for my tastes – both my sweet tooth and my taste for cream are waning with age.

This dessert is marvelously simple, but the result is so elegant and delicious that it could crown the most princely and elaborate of meals. This should be popped in the oven just as you’re serving dinner so that it has a chance to cool just slightly before serving. The aroma of apples, custard and cinnamon will keep appetites soldiering on until the last. This should be made in an earthenware pie plate, or you can do as I do and make it in an iron skillet. Mine was my grandmother’s and its surface is like silk from well nigh on a hundred years of seasoning.

 

Ingredients:

For the batter:

3 eggs

1 C milk (or cream if you wish)

6 T unsalted butter, melted

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2/3 plain flour

1/2 C sugar

1/2 tsp salt

 

For the apples:

4 T unsalted butter

4 tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced

a splash of Calvados (or brandy)

ground cinnamon

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200C

Prepare the batter: Put milk, eggs, melted butter, vanilla, flour, sugar, and salt into a blender. Whiz it around until smooth and set aside. Grease a large, deep pie plate with butter, then set in the oven to heat.

Prepare the apples: Saute apples in butter over medium heat. Add brandy and cook until apples are slightly soft but not disintegrating – about 5 mins.

Then prepare the clafoutis: Remove the pie plate from the oven and pour half of the batter into the hot dish. Arrange the apples over the batter, then pour in the remaining batter. Sprinkle a bit of sugar and a generous amount of cinnamon over the top and bake until the clafoutis is set, about 25-30 mins.

The last time I made this I drizzled it with homemade quince honey – a bit like a thick quince syrup. Apple syrup or even Maple syrup could also be used.

Zabaione (Sabayon, Zabaglione)

Garnished with flowers …

This dish is a rarity. I can’t readily think of another dish that is based upon whipped egg yolks, but it’s such a wonderful comfort food, that one wonders why there aren’t more. Maybe it’s because it’s hard to imagine an improvement on this recipe.

Zabaione (or Sabayon in France) is often served alone as a light custard, or with fruit. It is apparently an American practice to serve this in a wine glass with fruit such as berries or peaches, but the pleasure of this combination need not be limited to the New World.

I have raspberries, blackberries and yellow raspberries for this tonight, and I’ll serve them in separate piles atop the custard. The Romanian flag is blue, yellow and red, so I will pretend that I am serving Satou – which would be much like this, but made with sweet Muscatel.

Ingredients:

4 egg yolks

1/4 C sugar

1/4 C Marsala wine

Method:

Place a round-bottomed mixing bowl atop a saucepan with 2-3cm of water in the bottom and place the whole on low heat. Place the egg yolks in the bowl and, as the water heats, beat with a balloon whisk until the yolks are foamy and pale. Gradually add the sugar, and then the wine. Continuously beat the custard until it is thick and foamy. Serve immediately while warm.

If the heat is too high the custard will be grainy.

Boeuf Bourguignon

As the cold, clear weather continues the lust for soups and stews rages on insatiably. Tonight it’s another canonical dish, Boeuf Bourguignon. This is loosely based on Julia Child’s time-honoured recipe, but is simplified for ease and clarity. It still turns out awfully good. We’ll be having it with some of the last of the season’s Brussels sprouts and a Patrick Lesec Costières-de Nîmes Vieilles Vignes 2007. This recipe serves six, and is usually better the second day if you have leftovers. I usually make a large batch and freeze it for lunches.

 

Preheat the oven to 140C

 

Ingredients:

1.5-2 kilos stew beef, cut in 2 inch cubes

175-200g bacon lardons

Mirepoix: 4 carrots, 1 large onion, 3 stalks of celery, all coarsely diced.

500g dark-gilled mushrooms

1 bottle burgundy or other full-flavoured red wine

450ml beef stock

50g beurre manié (25g flour, 25g unsalted butter)

1 small bunch parsley, finely chopped

1 sprig thyme leaves

2 cloves garlic, crushed

18 small white onions or very small shallots

salt and pepper

 

Method:

Sauté chunks of bacon in a glug of olive oil at moderate heat for two or three minutes. Remove the bacon to a large mixing bowl.

Sauté beef, a little bit at a time, in the bacon fat until browned. Remove the beef to the bowl with the bacon.

Add the mirepoix to the pan and sauté two or three minutes. Add salt and pepper.

While the mirepoix is cooking, quickly make the beurre manie and coat the beef and bacon with it. Then add the meat back to the pan.

Pour in the wine and stock to cover the ingredients. Add small onions or shallots, garlic, parsley, and thyme. Bring to a boil.

Cover and bake for three hours at 140C

At the last, sauté the mushrooms in butter and stir into the stew.

Serve with boiled new potatoes.