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talmouses au fromage (tricorner cheese pastries)

6 Jul

talmouses au fromage

From an old notebook of mine:

“How NOT to take a nap: Do not fall asleep on sofa with no trousers, oversleep and wake up at 11.30pm.”

“Call my restaurant PUDDING.”

“Playing the matchbox game – Chef grumbles.”

Sometimes I am grateful to my past self. (As for preparing nutritious meals and freezing half for later.) Sometimes my past self is wiser than I am. Sometimes I totally disagree.

In this case, my present self still fails at taking relaxing naps, does not want a restaurant AT ALL never mind one with a silly name; and only barely remembers the “matchbox game”. I believe it comes from a Monty Python sketch and subsequent dinner-table conversations with my parents, wherein they laughingly try to outdo each other for the most miserable childhood.

“…We grew up in a shoebox…. You were lucky, we only had a matchbox AND we had to eat gravel for dinner…. Dinner? Lucky! We….” etc

One note says: “Talmouses: favourite dish of Louis XI, 1461-1483: tricornes of puff pastry, brie, fromage blanc and egg.”

What? Where did that come from? What a silly name. Tall Mouses. Mice. Mices. Shaped like pirate hats?

Is it worth trying?

(Googles.)

We have puff pastry in the fridge! And cheese and eggs. Perfect. Lunch it is.

Post-prandial verdict: they were super delicious. Cute triangles of crisp pastry and melted cheese, what’s not to like? With a hint of spice and chili. Flatmate agrees, Louis XI had good taste.

~~~

Talmouses au fromage

Adapted from Elle – I basically just upped the cheese content. Excellent for using up the leftovers of that smelly cheese that is perfuming your fridge.

Makes 40-ish mini-pastries: enough for hors d’oeuvres for 6-8 or a light lunch with salad for 4

300ml milk

50 g butter

50 g flour

2 egg yolks

salt and pepper

pinch nutmeg or cinnamon

pinch chili flakes

180g cheeses, preferably some strong (mature camembert) and some melty (gruyere, emmental), grated or chopped

2 packets (550g total) all-butter, ready rolled, puff pastry

Heat oven to 200C. In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. Tip out into a mug or jar. Add the butter and flour to the same saucepan. Make a roux: keep stirring over a medium heat, scraping the bottom of the pan, until the paste is golden, smells a little nutty. Off the heat, add the hot milk a little at a time, whisking in between. Heat gently again, still whisking. (This makes a weirdly thick bechamel sauce, so I just heated it for a minute or two and then it clumped together.) Off the heat, add the egg yolks, cheese and salt/pepper/nutmeg/chili. Taste. It shouldn’t need much salt because of the cheese.

Cut out 7-8cm circles from the puff pastry. (You should get 30 or so the first time around.) Brush with a little water around the edges. Dollop a generous teaspoon of cheese mix in the middle of each and pinch the edges to make three corners. Firmly pinch the sides together up to the middle, leaving a 2cm gap open in the centre.

Roll out the scraps of pastry and stamp more circles. (You should be able to make 10 more.) Repeat.

If making ahead of time, brush pastry with a bit of egg yolk so it doesn’t dry out, clingfilm and refrigerate. They are nicest served straight from the oven.

Bake talmouses for 15-20 minutes at 200C. When the pastry is lightly brown and the cheese bubbling, they are done. Serve immediately.

Works as a snack with drinks, or for lunch with boiled eggs and a bitter salad (endive or rocket, cucumber, mache and a sharp dressing).

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fanny zanotti’s earl grey tea loaf, with grapefruit confit

29 Jun

earl grey weekend loaf

A Sunday morning free is a precious thing for a pastry chef. At 11am normally my day’s work would be half-done, my eyelids at half-mast. This weekend though, I was on the sofa by the window, watching the grey sky.

I feel like today is a cooking day.

Isn’t every day a cooking day for you? replied my friend at the other end of the sofa, her legs crossed over mine.

No, but, cooking for fun. Like jam, or something. 

There was a recipe book already on the windowsill, under the pile of FT cuttings my mother likes to send me. The Paris Pastry Club is full of dreamy photos and snippets of poetry, as well as very precise recipes. I’ve been following Fanny Zanotti’s blogs through their various iterations for longer than I remember. I discovered the matcha brioche thanks to her. I took notes for my first month in Paris, visiting Pierre Hermé and Angelina. Eventually realising I would like to be a pâtissière too.

earl grey, twinings

The spicy nougatine was tempting, as well as the roast garlic bread. And the shameless crème brûlée for one. But the Earl Grey Weekend Loaf ticked all the right boxes: a simple loaf cake, flavoured with my favourite tea. For which I had nearly all the ingredients. That last grapefruit would be an admirable substitute for the clementine confit, to all intents and purposes a speedy marmalade.

It turned out a sweet, fluffy cake, elegantly speckled with fragments of tea. Delicately perfumed, it was good on its own, even better with a spoonful of bittersweet candied grapefruit peel. Next time I would make an effort to use real leaf tea (as advised) for a stronger flavour, but we had run out. And it was a Sunday and I had already left the house once to buy bacon. A slice of cake and a sliver of sky and I was happy to stay in the corner of the sofa for the rest of the day.

grapefruit confit

Fanny Zanotti’s Earl Grey Tea Weekend Loaf, with grapefruit confit

from the book Paris Pastry Club

In the spirit of the weekend, I adapted the recipe to what I had lying around the house. It is supposed to be with crème fraîche and clementines, among other things. Which I imagine only makes it more delightful. The book has more precise instructions too, including tips for the neatest cracks on top of the loaf, the lightest madeleines. Zanotti’s original ingredients in brackets.

2-3 Earl Grey tea bags (or 1 tbs leaf tea)

250g caster sugar

4 eggs

200g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

zest from one orange (or bergamot orange)

150g plain yoghurt (or crème fraîche)

50g butter, melted

For grapefruit confit:

1 large grapefruit, 450g (or thin-skinned clementines)

160g caster sugar

100g water

15g cornflour mixed with 30g cold water

Heat oven to 180C. Grease or line a large loaf tin.

Put butter in a large heatproof bowl and place in oven to melt. Blend tea leaves and 50g caster sugar. (Skip this step if using teabags, as the tea is normally fine enough.) Whisk eggs, sugar and tea until thick and fluffy – a few minutes with an electric beater. Mix flour, baking powder and zest into egg. By now the butter should have melted – add the yoghurt to it. Add a little cake mix to the butter and yoghurt and whisk well to combine. Fold this into the cake batter. Pour into tin.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, turning the oven down to 170C after five minutes then 160C after 15. (My oven is so small and basic that it only does increments of 25 degrees, so my cake baked at 175C for the duration.) When the cake is nice and brown, has come away from the sides of the tin and a skewer comes out clean then it is done! Allow to cool for 10 minutes then remove from tin, place on cooling rack.

For the grapefruit confit:

Bring water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan, enough to cover the grapefruit. Add whole grapefruit and let it simmer for 5-7 minutes. Drain, put grapefruit in a bowl of cold water. Repeat with fresh water. (Using a kettle to boil the water makes this step faster.) Slice grapefruit in half, then into very thin half-moons. Heat slices with the sugar and water and let simmer for 30 minutes the liquid is gone and the fruit is almost candied. Add the cornflour mixed with remaining cold water and give the confit a good stir. Boil for a couple of minutes. Tip into a jar.

Serve cake with confit and a dollop of yoghurt or crème fraîche.

Wrap cake in clingfilm and keep in the fridge. Or cut into individual slices, film each one and freeze for future packed lunches.

cherry and mint compote

25 Jun

DSCF1222

Buy two kilos of cherries at the local market, so cheap! Remember that you are only one person and cannot eat all the cherries.

Stone a kilo of cherries. Wish you had asked for a discount because of all the stones. Put cherries in large saucepan. Admire scarlet-stained hands, briefly pretend to be Lady Macbeth, or a character from Scandal. Re-evaluate recent culture consumption.

Add a handful of sugar (do not measure, it’s Sunday) and a handful of torn mint leaves. Squeeze in the half a lime left in the fridge. Since it already resembles several of your favourite cocktails, add a generous tablespoonful of vanilla-infused rum. And slice a nub of ginger, about the size of your first thumb joint. (Don’t slice your thumb though.)

Teach flatmate the word “macerate.” Go running with her in the sunshine. Discover free sparkling water fountain near your house. Rejoice.

Come back from run, find a jar of ginger juice in the freezer. Drink it, grateful to your past self, while heating cherries. Let the mixture bubble gently for five or ten minutes until cherries are the desired degree of done: soft but not totally collapsed.

Serve warm with mascarpone and meringues for an afternoon snack. Serve cold over yoghurt for breakfast. Especially good with soft, mild goat’s cheese.

Use the syrupy cherry juice leftover to make jelly: for every 100g juice, soak 3g leaf gelatine in cold water. When the the gelatine is soft, stir into the warm (but not hot) cherry juice to dissolve. Pour into little cups or pots. Leave to set in the fridge.

Or just use the juice for cherry-mint cocktails, add vodka or gin, more mint leaves and free sparkling water.

Let the summer begin!

espresso banana smoothie

23 Mar

espresso banana smoothie - illustrated recipe

Once I asked a Japanese colleague, in a mixture of French and English and mime, why she had begun her career as a pastry chef. She thought about it and said,

“Butter…sugar…flour…” (points at each) “….MAGIC! (stretches arms out wide)

I felt the same – and still do, luckily – about patisserie. And this smoothie inspires the same emotions. Such simple ingredients, disproportionately delicious together. Espresso, banana, almond and coconut milks. Cinnamon optional. How have I never thought to put coffee in a smoothie before?

A friend served it at an elegant brunch the other day – with pancakes and four kinds of maple syrup. But it also works on its own, before you rush out the door to work.

It helps me pretend I am succeeding at adulthood. A nutritious, caffeinated breakfast I can make in two minutes. (I get the same smug feeling when I remember my past self has hidden lunch for me in the freezer: chicken mole or the Wednesday Chef’s Chinese celery and beef were recent, happy discoveries.)

Plus it saves on expensive-chain-store-coffee-drinks. And it’s vegan! Everyone is happy. Except the chain-store-coffee people. Win-win-win.

~~~

Espresso-banana smoothie

adapted from CocoJenalle – I’ve doubled the amount of coffee, because. Use any combination of milks you prefer – soy, normal, rice etc – but the coconut does add a nice richness.

makes 1 large breakfast-size, or 2 small brunch-accompaniment-size

1 banana, frozen*

60ml espresso (2 shots)

125ml almond milk

125ml coconut milk

Optional additions: 

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp maple syrup

1/2 tsp chia seeds

If you are super organised, the night before: peel and chop banana into small chunks. (Your blender will thank you for it.) Freeze. Make your espresso according to your preferred method.

In the morning: blend banana, coffee, milks until smooth. Taste. I like it plain. But add maple syrup if you have a sweet tooth. Cinnamon if you wish. More coffee if you are a caffeine addict. Chia seeds if you are a health nut. Blend again, serve.

*If you forget to freeze the banana, just add a few icecubes when serving.

chickpeas and chocolate (not together)

13 Mar

cheap and cheerful chickpeas crop 1

We really do live on chickpeas and chocolate in our flat. They are permanently on our shopping list, the Bio 70% dark chocolate and those squat tins of chickpeas. (While soaking and cooking them is admirable and more economical, I have never been organised enough to do so.) My flatmate eats them plain with olive oil and salt. I found a new recipe for a spicy chickpea salad in the Avoca cookbook, that I made with barley. It was a perfect prepare-ahead salad, robust and complex. But I thought I had written about them too much – after all, they are in my:

They turn up at almost every dinner party I have, especially if impromptu, in the guise of a quick hummus or as a roasted, salty snack. So they were my obvious choice for the 1 ingredient – 3 ways competition on They Draw And Cook. A site I have been meaning to submit to for years now. It is not so easy, making a comprehensible recipe into graphic form. This is my first attempt. Individual chickpeas are very satisfying to draw! But I need to work on my illustration and I will certainly be trying another recipe sometime soon. Check out their other artists for dinner inspiration – or try They Draw And Travel for a new way to explore the world.

cheap and cheerful chickpeas crop 2

gontran cherrier’s pain au cidre

11 Feb

gontran pain au cidre

By all rights, I did not deserve to get such a perfect loaf. I forgot it three times between rising and baking. I used plain flour – I think – from an unlabelled canister, and beer instead of cider. Which I forgot to measure, just tipped it most of it in. The yeast had been in the cupboard since I don’t know when.

But I was home after a while away and in the way of a territorial cat, I wanted to take back my kitchen. Most of the ingredients were there, flour and honey and beer, so that I could start kneading in my pyjamas. Once I had rescued the sloppy dough (my fault) with extra flour, and had to punch down the bread twice and reknead because it had been spreading, steathily, while I went back to bed with a book, once I remembered that it was in the oven only because the beep awoke me from a Saturday morning stupor… after that, my expectations were low.

It was a nice round loaf, full and plump. The crust was browned properly, while the crumb was surprisingly soft, white and fluffy. There was a slight tang from the beer that gave an edge like good sourdough but with a lighter texture. With butter and last summer’s apricot jam it was heaven.

The next time I made it with cider it was even better. It may become my go-to bread recipe, that I can tweak and change, add a quarter wholemeal flour or seeds, nuts, dried fruit, depending on my mood. I can confirm that a double quantity suits  this insane recipe forgarlic party bread from Smitten Kitchen extremely well. Full disclosure: I was lucky enough to work for Gontran Cherrier for a couple of months at the beginning of my apprenticeship, and his breads are just incredible. Seedy baguettes, squid ink buns, fig loaves. The most original in Paris, certainly. This recipe is from his book, Gontran fait son pain. I am looking forward to making the cider version into cheese and apple sandwiches, or even homemade cinnamon toast, if I can resist eating it all fresh, on the first day.

Which reminds me: toast is the new cupcakes, accordingly to a heartwarming article that surprised me by switching subjects halfway. No sarcasm, do read it.

(If you have leftover cider, consider making spiced mulled cider and adding icecream, optional. If you have no patience, try a quick-bread recipe with much the same ingredients: my beer and honey bread. It has a cakey crumb more like soft soda bread, or a scone, but it is still delicious, and instant.)

gontran pain au cidre 2

Gontran’s Pain au Cidre

makes one small loaf

250g strong white flour

180ml cider

7g instant dried yeast (normally one packet)

1 tbs runny honey

1/2 tsp salt

Mix the yeast with 30ml or 2tbs tepid water, at body temperature. Leave for five minutes. Stir all the ingredients together including the yeast and knead until it comes together into a smooth dough, another five minutes. (Obviously this is possible and faster with an electric mixer and a dough hook.) Lightly oil the bowl and place the ball of dough in it. Sprinkle with a little flour, cover with a teatowel and leave to rise, 45 minutes to an hour. (On a cold day, I like to heat a bowl of water in the microwave for 2 minutes, then put the dough for a warm, humid environment.) It should have roughly doubled in size, be nice and puffy.

Knock some of the air out of the dough, knead once or twice and shape into a ball. Place on a piece of baking paper and cover again. Leave for an hour. Preheat the oven to 200C with two baking trays already inside it, one flat, one with sides. Boil the kettle. With a sharp knife, slash the ball of dough a couple of times, parallel lines about 1cm deep. Slide the dough onto the preheated, flat baking sheet. Pour some of the hot water into the other tray and have it on a lower rack. The steam will help the bread rise and form a nice crust.

Bake for 30 minutes until brown. Turn the loaf over and knock it, it should make a hollow thump. Allow to sit for 15 minutes before cutting.

blue cheese and pecan scrolls

29 Jan

pecan snail scones

Scones that come ready rolled up with extra butter, melting cheese and crunchy, toasty pecans. All in one bite. Genius. Like a savoury snail bun. When there is no bread in the house, when there is a boring soup or an overly virtuous salad that needs livening up, these scrolls can be made in 20 minutes flat. Use any odds and ends of cheese in the fridge: blue cheese, a mustardy cheddar, gruyere. Add chopped herbs, thyme or basil, swap the pecans for walnuts or almonds. Called scrolls after the oversized Australian buns these are manageable, moreish, marvellous… We had them with Swedish Pea Soup as per our Christmas Eve tradition (in our totally un-Swedish family), spicy soup and miniature cheese scones.

~~~

Blue cheese pecan scrolls

Makes 9 regular or 18 mini – recipe adapted from Belinda Jefferey

300g self-raising flour

½ tsp salt

1 tsp caster sugar

70g butter, cold

180g milk

Filling:

70g butter, softened

100g blue cheese or other strong cheese

100g pecans, roughly chopped

1 egg for eggwash

Preheat oven to 170C. Cube the cold butter and rub into the flour, salt and sugar, to the consistency of breadcrumbs, with lumps no larger than peas. Add the milk and stir together to form a dough. (Add an extra tablespoon of milk if necessary.) Knead once or twice to bring together. Roll out onto a floury surface to about 20x40cm. Whiz the soft butter and cheese in a food processor. Spread over the cheese mixture and sprinkle pecans, leaving a couple of centimetres bare on long side; brush the bare strip with a little water. Roll up the dough from the other long side and press gently to seal. Slice into 9 or 18 depending on size wanted. Brush them with a little egg and bake for 12-15 minutes until nice and golden brown. Serve warm.

(Can be frozen, sliced, before baking – just bake them for an extra couple of minutes.)

lemon and lime melting moments

10 Dec

Image

At a birthday party for a little cousin, there was a pink number 4 cake. It was neat and simple, decorated with marshmallow flowers and hundreds and thousands. (Just cut the marshmallows into thin rounds and press into sprinkles or coloured sugar; arrange petals into a flower and place a smartie in the middle.) It brought back childhood memories of poring over this one birthday cake book, months before the day itself, to pick that year’s special cake. It had all the numbers, and the patterns needed to cut them out of a square or round without wasting cake, it had fairy castles and cowboy shootouts. It has a shark with long eyelashes cut out of liquorice. It had the ultimate in kitsch, a swimming pool cake decorated with blue jelly, tiny figurines splashing up and down. Any Australian child will recognise it: the Women’s Weekly birthday cake book. My brother and I grew up with it; my mother had brought it over to England. We looked and looked, still often chose the old favourite: a train cake with multiple sponge cake carriages, rainbow colours and an enormous amount of sweets.

I remembered that their biscuit book too was always on the recipe book stand, never filed away on the shelf. The Big Book of Beautiful Biscuits. The pages fell open at Anzac biscuits (crisp, golden rounds made with oats and coconut) and Weekenders (biscuits with raisins, covered in crushed cornflakes) which sound weird but are very moreish. Inspired to look through it again years later, I found an old extravagance: Melting Moments. They are very rich, buttery shortbreads, akin to Viennese Whirls, sandwiched with lemon cream. Though they look a little like macarons, they are simpler to make and better to eat. The shortbread crumbles, gives way beneath your teeth. The citrus just barely cuts the richness; they are pure indulgence. It is impossible not to chase the crumbs left on the plate with a forefinger, to enjoy every last scrap.

There are other recipes – Dan Lepard’s version with passion-fruit and whipped cream looks delicious – and at one point I was tempted by the basil plant on the balcony to modernise the biscuits, give them the macaron treatment, but I’m glad I tried the original version first. The Beautiful Biscuits book is clear and simple, sparse with instructions but heavy on pictures. Actually, I lie, I used lime juice instead of lemon because there was a half in the fridge. Still, they taste like my memories, pretty damn good.

~~~

Lemon and lime melting moments

Just barely adapted from the Women’s Weekly Big Book of Beautiful Biscuits

Makes 25-30

250g unsalted butter, softened

55g icing sugar

225g plain flour

60g cornflour

1/4 tsp salt

Zest of 1 lemon + 1 lime

Filling:

60g butter, softened

75g icing sugar

1 tbs lime juice (about ½ lime)

Zest of 1 lemon or lime

Heat oven to 160C. Cream butter and sugar until soft and fluffy. Sieve in the flour and cornflour, add salt and zests, and mix well. Dollop a teaspoonful at a time, about the size of a large cherry, onto baking trays lined with paper, well-spaced apart. The mixture should make 50-60 small biscuits. Dip a fork in flour and gently flatten the blobs. Bake for 10-12 minutes until just turning golden brown around the edges, still pale on top. (You may need to rotate the trays halfway so they bake evenly.) Let cool on a wire rack.

Make the filling: beat the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy, then gradually add the lime juice and zest. Match the biscuits into evenly-sized pairs. Turn half upside down and spoon a little filling onto each, then sandwich with the other half. Refrigerate for half an hour to firm up.

Serve with plenty of tea.

poppy seed biscuits with beetroot and goat’s cheese

25 Oct

poppy beetroot biscuits

As a somewhat professional pastry person and therefore disqualified from competing, I have a lot of feelings about the Great British Bake off. Most of which I will spare you! My main grudge is that the contestants do not seem to tidy up after themselves, one cut and the bench is neat and tidy. Who is the kitchen elf that does the washing up? Where can I get one?

On the positive side, many of the challenges I have never attempted (the French are unaware of fondant fancies!) or would never try at home (puff pastry is meant for a pastry break, the great powerful laminating machine). So I learn things by watching. And since they are in competition for most original, the flavours are often unique combinations that are unusual in France.

This week I had an apéritif dinatoire (a drinks party with snacks) to prepare – and the home bakers had savoury canapés. The poppy seed biscuits with beetroot, made by Ruby, stuck in my mind. Though they look bright and elegant with the disc of jelly on top, I made an easier version, one more adapted to a crowd.

A simple poppy and buckwheat dough, rolled out and cut into irregular triangles with a pasta wheel. (Since they tesselate, it saves on scraps.) Then goat’s cheese mixed with mascarpone and a little milk to a smooth creamy paste. This can be piped on with a star tip for a hint of kitsch, or dolloped just so. Top with little cubes of plain cooked beetroot – or cut larger triangles to match the shape of the biscuits.

A perfect mouthful, the rather severe biscuits with the expansive rich cheese and earthy magenta beetroot.

~~~

Poppy seed biscuits with beetroot and goat’s cheese

original recipe with beetroot jelly on the BBC website

makes 40 small canapes

75g white flour

75g buckwheat flour (or rye, or wholemeal)

pinch of salt

80g butter

50g poppy seeds

2 tbsp water

100g soft goat’s cheese (the kind without a rind)

80g mascarpone

2-3 tbsp milk

pepper

2-3 small cooked beetroots

In a food processor, blend the flours, salt and butter until there are only pea-sized lumps. Add the poppy seeds then drizzle in the water until the dough starts to come together then bring together into a ball with your hands (add an extra tbsp water if needed). Push into a flat disc, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out quite thin and cut into irregular triangles. Bake at 175C for about 15 minutes. They should be crisp and ever so slightly golden around the edges. Let cool.

Mix the goat’s cheese, mascarpone and milk with some pepper to taste. Add more milk if needed, for a smooth pipable consistency. Finely dice the beetroot or cut into larger triangles to match the size of the biscuits. Pipe swirls of goat’s cheese, or or just dollop with a spoon, onto each biscuit and top with beetroot.

time for jam

1 Sep

raspberry jam jars

On holidays, you have time to paint your nails, to carefully stroke on three coats of coloured varnish. You can pick your jewel colours and then change them in three days if the whirlwind of meals-books-pool becomes too dull. At work, you are absolutely not allowed nail varnish for how quickly it would chip and fall into the cake mixture. (At home, that is your own lookout!) The times you forget, you have to wear those horrid latex gloves.

On holidays though you have time for frivolities. Like the time we woke up and decided to learn to make jam. My mother said it was easy, as long as you only make a kilo of fruit’s worth at a time. Then you are not stuck stirring at a hot stove for ages, and the fruit doesn’t boil away all of its flavour. Again, not like at work where we had 13 kilos of fruits rouges and a plastic tub of pectin. At home we had some leftover frozen raspberries from coulis for peach melba and best of all a packet of jam sugar – ‘Confisquew’ as my mother calls it. The pectin is already incorporated, so after only five minutes boiling the jam will set like a dream.

Sterilise your jars in the dishwasher or in boiling water. Put a little saucer in the freezer. In a large heavy-bottomed pan you heat your raspberries with half a cup of water until they turn into soup. When it bubbles you add 700g jam sugar (Confisuc)  and bring to the boil. When bubbling and rising up like a angry sea, a ‘rolling boil,’ you time five minutes. At this point you maybe have time to apply nail varnish to one hand. Give the angrily boiling liquid a stir every now and then, in case it sticks. After five minutes, observe your jam carefully. The bubbles should sound a tone deeper, the mixture more syrupy than before. When you drag the wooden spoon across the bottom, it should take a second for the liquid red sea to come back together. If in doubt, test a drop on the cold saucer. When the jam is at room temperature it should hold its shape instead of sliding quickly over the saucer, it should form a slight skin that will wrinkle slightly when you push it. You will see the jam sticking around the edges of the pan and on the wooden spoon too.

When you are pretty sure the jam has jammed, turn off the heat. You will see the bubbles subside, leaving a slight white-ish froth. You can skim it off “if you want to win prizes at the WI” says mother, or strangely enough you can add 10g butter and watch it dissolve the scum.

Wait for 15 minutes. Finish painting your nails. When they are nearly dry but not quite set, you can run them under cold water. Now pay attention to the jam again. Fill the jars right to the brim with the hot jam, screw the lid on tightly and turn the jars upside down to form a vacuum.  (If you have some extra, pour into a little dish and put in the fridge for a snack later.) Leave to cool.

Our 700g raspberries made one small and two medium jars of the brightest jam. We couldn’t stop marvelling at the colour, at all the seeds suspended. It really did look like jam! Total cooking time – no more than half an hour. So we made plum jam too, fom our mirabelle tree. Mirabelles are small yellow plums not much bigger than cherries. We had a kilo, stoned with the cherry pipper. We left them to turn into soup with a cup of water. (Faster in a pressure cooker.) When the mirabelles break down into soft pulp, repeat the process. Sugar, boil, test, jar. Plums already have pectin in them, so we had a slightly thicker texture, of beautiful deep yellow-ochre, a hue just below apricot. It was sweet and bright and simple.

The kitchen had a crowd of upside-down jars, provisions for autumn. We had to clean a few stubborn pink spots off the cooker, and close the lid for the year. We locked the shutters and swept the floors. The sky was already grey, the wind already turned chill.

Back in Paris now, heralded by drops of rain, the summer jam – on croissants or rice cakes or porridge – bolsters me against the day ahead. And fills me with an immense satisfaction, akin to the patisserie I had abandoned over the summer. I learned something, and I made something, tangible, colourful and delicious.

I have been to my Crimée market twice now, once for apricots and once for figs. I am plotting limpid clear jams replete with over-large chunks of fruit, to line up on my kitchen counter. My nails are dark red and gold.

 

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