About a month ago we were watching an episode of Food Unwrapped where they investigated the benefit of prunes in keeping you… ahem, ‘regular’.
The presenters did a little compare & contrast experiment where, each day, one of them drank a glass of prune juice, another ate a couple of plums and the third ate a few prunes. The last proved to be by far the most effective way of upping your fibre intake.
The programme took a trip to Agen in France which apparently produces the best prunes in the world. That was it, I was straight online to order myself a bag of Agen prunes.
They didn’t lie, Agen prunes put all other prunes in the shade when it comes to taste and size. I’ve begun eating 3 prunes each morning and I can attest that the workings of my alimentary canal are markedly smoother than previously!
I searched through all my cookery books looking for a tempting recipe to try so as to mix my prune intake up a little. Eventually, I came across a prune and almond tart with Armagnac in Rick Stein’s French Odyssey. I don’t think I’ve not previously posted any of his recipes despite the fact that we love a lot of the food he makes.
We’re not big brandy drinkers and I couldn’t find anywhere that sold miniatures, but decided to invest in a bottle of Armagnac for this and future recipes – it’s often called for in both sweet and savoury dishes.
Stein’s instruction is to soak the prunes for an hour prior to using them. However, I think a more extensive soak (overnight / 8 hours or so) would improve matters.
Not that the tart wasn’t incredibly good anyway – believe me, it was! Pairing it with a dollop of crème fraîche really works too.
- 225g/8oz plain flour, sifted
- ½tsp salt
- 130g/4½oz butter, chilled & diced
- 1½-2tbs cold water
- 300g/10½oz mi-cuit (semi-dried) Agen prunes, stoned
- 4tbs Armagnac
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 35g/1¼oz ground almonds
- 55g/2oz caster sugar
- 200ml/7fl oz crème fraîche
- icing sugar (for dusting)
- additional crème fraîche (for serving)
- Put the prunes into a bowl with the Armagnac and leave to soak for at least an hour, turning them occasionally to help them absorb the alcohol
- Put the flour and salt in a food processor or mixing bowl. Add the butter and work together to the fine breadcrumb stage
- Stir in the water with a round-bladed knife until it comes together into a ball
- Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and kneed briefly until smooth
- Rest the pastry in a fridge for about 30 minutes before using
- Roll out the pastry and use it to line a greased, loose-bottomed flan tin (2½ cm deep, 24cm diameter)
- Prick the base all over and chill for 20 minutes
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C/400ºF/Gas mark 6
- Blind bake the pastry case for 15 minutes then remove the blind baking gubbins and bake the case for a further 5 minutes
- Set the case aside and reduce the oven temperature to 190°C/ºF/Gas mark 5
- Drain the prunes over a bowl to reserve the remaining Armagnac
- Add the ground almonds, egg, sugar and crème fraîche to the Armagnac then beat together until smooth
- Distribute the prunes over the base of the pastry case and pour over the almond mixture
- Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer comes away clean
- Allow the tart to cool before dusting with a little icing sugar
- Serve with additional crème fraîche
I’ve been looking at a tin of apricots in our store cupboard for about 2 years. Every time I opened the door it said, “use me, use me”, but I always reached for something else. But not this week – it was finally the apricots’ time!
I decided on a recipe from Michel Roux’s Desserts: A Lifelong Passion and made an apricot dartois.
Dartois is traditionally two layers of puff pastry with a sandwiched layer of frangipane or jam. It can occasionally contain a savoury filling.
It’s quite a simple recipe – especially if you’re using ready-made puff pastry – and the pastry cutting is very straightforward too. Don’t be put off by the precision! The amount of frangipane made in the given recipe is HUGE! I halved the recipe (what’s half of 5 eggs? I just used 3 medium-sized ones) it still made half a kilo of the stuff. I set aside the 150 grams needed for the recipe then portioned up the rest into small lidded tubs and froze it all for use at a later date.
The resulting dartois is very attractive and very delicious. I don’t think it would look out of place in a French patisserie’s shop window!
I used tinned apricots, but peaches, pears, plums or figs also work really well. If you’ve got fresh fruit, you can easily poach it beforehand in syrup.
Serve warm or cold with a fruit coulis, cream or ice cream.
We were given half a dozen sweet, ripe plums last week. We ate a couple and used the others in a plum flaugnarde.
A flaugnarde on the other hand may contain all manner of fruit including pears, apples, figs, dried fruit, nuts…
The addition of a tittle buerre noisette gives the custard a lovely, nutty flavour. Make sure you only cook it until it goes a nice, golden brown. If the butter’s even just a little bit burnt it will ruin the dish.
A tablespoonful of almonds isn’t essential, but it adds texture, bite more nuttiness… and looks beautiful too!
It puffs up beautifully while it’s cooking, but don’t worry when it deflates as it cools once out of the oven – it will do this. Serve it straight away with a little double cream or clotted cream.
- 125ml/4½fl oz milk
- 4 tsp loose Earl Grey tea (or 4 tea bags)
- 115g/4oz butter, softened
- 225g/8oz caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 125g/4½oz self-raising flour
- 125g/4½oz plain flour
- ½ lemon, juice & zest
- 200g/7oz icing sugar
- Place the milk in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and immerse the Earl Grey tea in the hot milk. Cover the pan and set aside for 40 minutes to allow the tea to steep
- Strain the liquid from the leaves (or squeeze the liquid out of the teabags) and set the liquid aside to cool some more
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/355ºF/Gas mark 4. Grease and line a 500g/1lb loaf tin with baking parchment
- Cream together the butter and sugar using an electric whisk or free standing mixer with a paddle attachment. It takes a while - about 10 minutes and you'll need to scrape down the sides of the bowl from time to time
- Once the mixture is light & fluffy, add the eggs one by one and mix well. Add half the flour and half of the tea-infused milk and mix until combined. Add the rest of the flour and milk and mix until there are no traces of flour in the bowl
- Pour the cake batter into the prepared loaf tin
- Bake for 50-60 minutes until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes away clean
- Allow to cool in its tin on a wire rack
- Mix the lemon juice, zest and icing sugar together into a smooth paste. It should be quite gloopy so it doesn't dribble too much down the sides (though a little dribble is okay)
- Pour over the loaf and leave the icing to set for about 30 minutes