This week I was super excited to see my favorite berries of the season on sale in Matache – redcurrants or “coacaze rosii”. Memories flooded back of last year's “mouli marathon” where I made seedless redcurrant jam using David Lebovitz’ recipe as a guide. I briefly cooked the fruit and made a puree by passing them through a hand food mill. I was left with an iridescent red gloop to be made into jam and a large pile of pips and pulp.
Having read up on the power of fruit acids to cleanse and renew skin, I resourcefully decided to use the seedy leftovers as a bath time scrub. As with many things in life, sometimes the idea and the execution are very different things. For those of you who want to try this at home, I can say that the exfoliating sensation and the kind of fruity fresh smell were good. Not so good, however, was dying my skin bright red.
Still the main event, the jam, was sensational. Tired from fruit pureeing travails, I left the sugar to macerate in the redcurrant gloop overnight. Come morning, I witnessed a piece of kitchen alchemy – the super pectin charged berries had jelly-fied overnight merely by macerating in the sugar. It was tempting to just jar it as “fresh jam” and maybe I will do that this weekend, but at time I decided to press on, be a purist and not embellish what is after all the queen of jams. Essentially boil 1 quantity by weight redcurrant puree with 1 quantity sugar or slightly less. The quantities I use are 1kg fruit pulp to 800g sugar. Boil until setting point is reached (jam stiffens and wrinkles on a frozen plate). My jam reached setting point in approximately 10 minutes. Pot while hot into sterilized hot jars.
For the full recipe and lots of French bucolic charm photos that make you want to cook forever in a French village check out this site.
This year I am straying from the pure redcurrant path and making redcurrant and strawberry. The flavors work well together and the redcurrants help their pectin deficient cousins along . I spike it with lime zest just before potting to add a bit of zing and interest.
One of my favorite frangipane tarts is made with redcurrants. Make the tart as in the cherry and pecan frangipane tart recipe (use almonds and almond essence for the classic frangipane tart) and drop the berries onto the frangipane mix. A truly gorgeous combination of sharp against sweet. And its worth mentioning that redcurrants are massively high in vitamin C with a fairly high fiber content too, so munch on!
For a simple dessert that is always wonderful, a crumble is hard to beat. Serve with custard or thick yoghurt and you have three taste and texture sensations all together : soft pulpy fruit, crunchy crunchy crumble and smooth gloopy smooth – YUM. In recent years the humble crumble has become fashionable. “Le Crumble” has definitely “arrivée,” so here is a recipe for a posh crumble that would hold its own in any smart Parisian patisserie window. I like to have a lot of fruit and a thin crumble layer so the quantities reflect this.
The recipe is for an oven proof dish (a pie dish, a metal roasting deep tin or even a quiche dish) that holds approx 2 liters of liquid. For dinner parties and general showing off, individual crumbles in ramekins are almost too cute to eat (I said almost).
Le Posh Crumble Mix
100g 82% butter (cold)
100g brown sugar (white works fine, just less taste)
50g blitzed almonds (take care not to over blitz and make pecan butter!)
50g oats (“fulgi de ovaz”)
750g strawberries, halved.
750g redcurrants with the stalks taken off (use a fork)
Zest of one lemon or lime
A dash of red wine or port
75g sugar or 50g fructose
1. To make the crumble rub together the cold butter, sugar, flour and almonds until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. No time? Blitz in a food processor or mix with a “K” beater in a food mixer and let the machine take the strain.
2. Stir in the oat flakes taking care not to blitz the oats but keep them whole.
3. Place the fruit in the dish. Sprinkle over the sugar or fructose and the zest of your choice and a bit of alcohol (kirsch or framboise would also work).
4. Bake in an oven preheated to 180°C until the crumble is nicely browned – approx 30-40 minutes depending on your oven and dish size.
5. Serve warm with “smantana” or yoghurt.
by Rachel Sargent, Guest Writer
Rachel Sargent is the chef and owner of the London Street Bakery, which offers healthy seasonal food. More about it here.