An easy chocolate pudding made with neither dairy nor egg, but don’t let that fool you – it’s rich, chocolatey and delicious. You can prepare it a day or two in advance, making it a perfect dish for entertaining.
- 100 g good quality dark chocolate (dairy-free of course) such as Green and Blacks
- 300 ml coconut cream
- 1.5 tbsp cocoa (or to taste)
- 2 tbsp caster sugar (or to taste)
- 2 heaped tbsp freeze-dried raspberries (optional)
- a handful of fresh summer fruits (optional)
Put a bain-marie (easily made by putting boiling water into a saucepan and placing a smaller saucepan inside it so it’s sitting in the hot water) on the hob on the lowest heat, and melt the chocolate and coconut cream together. Give it a stir every few minutes until all the chocolate is melted. Taste it at this point. If it needs to be more chocolatey, sift in the cocoa, so that it doesn’t make lumps. If the mixture needs sweetening (which it probably will unless your dark chocolate is very sweet) add the sugar. Stir for a few more minutes on the hob. Remove from the heat when you’ve got a smooth mixture that tastes right to you.
The next step of the recipe will ensure the mixture stays smooth as it comes down to room temperature. For this, transfer to a mixing bowl, and whisk vigorously by hand (or equivalent speed in a mixer) for 5 minutes. Cover and leave to cool in the fridge (this speeds up the process), whisking again every 10 minutes or so, as it cools down. This should take about 30–45 minutes.
When the mixture has come down to room temperature, you can add the freeze-dried raspberries, whisk one last time and your work is nearly done. By this point, it should have taken on a slightly lighter colour, and be about the consistency of thick cream. Pour into ramekins, and place in the fridge for a minimum of 20 minutes.
Remove from the fridge just before serving, top with a handful of fresh raspberries and blueberries or other summer fruits, and tuck in!
Strawberries appear in Provence after Easter. And this year, spring having been wet, they are not as fragrant as they might be. Perfect candidates for this tart where the glaze brings out all the latent flavour of the fruit.
The three parts, the pastry, the glaze, and the strawberries may each be prepared beforehand. The glaze (made according to the recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, vol. 1, by Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle, and Julia Child) is arguably the fiddliest bit, but it truly enhances the strawberry flavour, and can be made in quantity, stored in a jar, and re-heated when needed.
The fat for the pastry can be vegetable fat or lard. The latter is no longer so disapproved of by nutritionists.
- unsweetened shortcrust pastry dough (see Olive Oil, Garlic & Parsley – the Book for an easy and reliable method, if you don’t already have your own), using 50–60 g fat for 180 g flour
- fat to grease the tart tin
- 500 g fresh strawberries
- 175 ml apricot jam or red-currant jelly, for the glaze
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6/200°C.
Roll out the pastry, line a greased tart tin (22 cm), and bake the pastry blind (i.e., the pastry base pricked with a fork, and the whole tart mould covered with greaseproof paper weighted down with dried haricot or ceramic beans) for 7 min.
Remove the beans and greaseproof paper, prick the pastry base again, and return it to the oven for a further 7–10 min for a fully baked shell. Set it aside to cool, but keep the oven on.
While the pastry is baking, hull the strawberries, leaving them whole.
To make the glaze, first strain the apricot jam, if used, through a sieve to remove skins (if the jam is very stiff and dense, soften it over a gentle heat first). Then heat the strained jam or the red-currant jelly with the granulated sugar, in a small saucepan, over a medium heat, stirring continuously, with a wooden spoon, for 2–3 min. The glaze is ready when it coats the spoon with a thin film and drips off stickily. Don’t overheat it or it will become brittle on cooling.
Arrange the whole strawberries in circles, stem-end downwards, on the tart base. Pour over the warm glaze and return to the oven for 5 min. Serve warm or cold.
One of the incentives to walking in Provence is the prospect of finding goodies along the way, a handful of rocket leaves to jazz up a salad, say, or white mulberries from the trees whose leaves once provided sustenance to insatiable silk worms, the basis of many people’s livelihoods here in the late nineteenth century. With summer come more substantial pickings, wild pears and figs and, later on, plums.
A recent discovery was a stray damson tree which we re-visited two or three times. Some of the plums we ate as they were, some got popped into jam pots after fast boiling with sugar, and some got baked as follows, according to Elizabeth David’s recommendations in French Provincial Cooking.
The fruit doesn’t need to be ripe: the amount of sugar can be increased if necessary, along with the cooking time.
To have vanilla sugar to hand, simply keep some sugar in a jar with a vanilla pod. The latter will perform for years and provide a much more subtle perfume than vanilla essence.
Kirsch can apparently replace 2–3 tbsp of water quite successfully (any comments on this would be interesting).
• 1 kg plums of any type
• 4½–6 tbsp vanilla sugar or sugar + a vanilla pod
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3/170°C.
Wash the fruit and make an incision in each one along the natural divide.
Arrange in a pyramid in a baking dish, says Elizabeth David, but it works perfectly well with the fruit quite tightly packed in a single layer.
Sprinkle with up to 6 tbsp sugar, depending on the fruit, and up to 5 tbsp water (less if very ripe plums) or water and kirsch.
Bake until fruit is soft but has not lost it shape, 30 min – 1 h, and serve hot or at room temperature, in which case a sorbet goes well.