Now, if you’re sensitive and a bit conservative about things, then please stop reading right now – because this recipe is quite simply naughty and inappropriate.
So let’s you and me just wait a moment while the prudes leave the room.
First of all there’s the simple matter of the zucchini. The British, with their characteristic reserve (no sex please, we’re British), refer to the zucchini as a courgette, as though a soft consonant and a diminutive ‘ette’ suffix will gloss over the fact that the zucchini – with its racy z and two c’s plumped up like bums or breasts – is quite simply the most carnal of vegetables. Linger at the greengrocer’s and exchange meaningful glances with passersby near the zucchini and you’ll see what I mean. They’re, how shall we say, longer than they are wide in a most useful way.* So please don’t call it a courgette. Give yourself up to the pleasure of the zucchini.
It’s not just the less-than-innocent zucchini that makes this recipe inappropriate, though. Zucchini bread, that staple of the Methodist bake sale, is generally a polite, restrained and penitential enough baked good to express proper Protestant virtue. It simply doesn’t taste voluptuous enough or provide enough moisture to lead you down that broad, easy road to hell. Well this one does. This is a zucchini bread that wants to be cake. And it wants you to eat it.
2 1/2 C plain flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp mace (or nutmeg if you have no mace)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 C sugar
1 C vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 T pure vanilla extract (yes, that’s a tablespoon)
2 tsp lemon zest (and there’s that racy z again)
2 C coarsely grated zucchini (about one well-endowed zucchini)
1 C walnuts, crumbled and toasted
Preheat oven to 170C/325F. Butter and flour two 8x4x2 1/2 metal loaf pans.
Whisk flour, cinnamon, allspice, mace, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl to blend and set aside. Whisk sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla extract, and lemon peel in a large bowl to blend. Whisk in the flour mixture. Mix in the zucchini and walnuts. Pour batter into prepared pans.
Bake breads until tester inserted into centre comes out clean, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes. Turn breads out onto a cooling rack and cool completely before slicing.
This stores fairly well, though generally it doesn’t last long. I usually freeze one loaf and eat the other. It might be tempting to add dried fruit such as raisins or apricots, but they will just sink to the bottom.
*12 August 2012: Just as if to prove a point, my neighbour Lucy, who is a transsexual prostitute, dropped in today. When she saw the pile of zucchini I’d brought in from the farmer’s market, she pointed and said, “You know what those are good for, don’t you?” I doubt Lucy has ever actually eaten a zucchini.
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.
For the batter:
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)
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.
Pancakes all began in about the same way on two sides of the Atlantic: thin cakes cooked on a hot stone or griddle that make a pleasing and amusing ‘flap’ sound when turned. How the name ‘flapjack’ came, in the UK, to be applied to the sticky, oaty golden syrup bar cookie that must be pressed messily into a pan to bake is anybody’s guess. It certainly doesn’t live up to the onomatopoeia. There’s really nothing more unflappable than English flapjacks. It is really only the combination of carbohydrates and lots and lots of sugar that may be meaningfully compared between the two. Well, perhaps also that they’re both tasty. This recipe is for the classic American pancake, which should be slathered with salted butter, doused with Maple syrup, and served with crisp, smoky bacon for the flavour counterpoint it provides.
When cooking these pancakes the batter should be poured from the tip of a spoon onto a hot, seasoned griddle – about a 1/4 C of batter will do. If no griddle is available, a skillet (but not non-stick) will do, very lightly greased with butter. The butter in the batter itself is enough to lubricate the cakes in the pan. To test if the griddle is hot enough, a drop of water should dance in the pan. If it spreads and boils, the pan is too cool. When bubbles begin to form on the surface of the pancake, take a peek underneath. If the cake is coppery in tone, then it’s time to flip (flap) it. It will take half the time to cook the other side, and it never cooks as evenly as the first side.
1 1/2 C plain flour
1 tsp salt
3 T sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3 T melted unsalted butter
1 C milk
Mix together the dry ingredients. Beat the eggs and add them with the milk and the melted butter. Stir the batter only until the ingredients are just barely incorporated. Don’t worry about lumps. Test the griddle and bake.
NB: I have recently seen small plastic jugs for sale with dry mix for pancakes in a pitiful layer at the bottom. The wet ingredients are added and the whole is shaken. Please bear in mind that the dry ingredients for pancakes are flour, baking powder, salt and sugar (that’s IT!), and that shipping vast quantities of packaged air across the globe – and then paying the price for it – is quite simply idiotic.