As an appropriate welcome to the French horn to accompany the string section this week, I introduce the Breton Prune Far. This delicious custardy pudding cake, similar to a clafoutis but with a dense, smooth, flan-like texture is best eaten cold. The recipe is a very quick and easy way to indulge in a refined ‘cake’ incorporating this most delicious of dried fruit. In fact, the French horn is really just an excuse to post about the Far, which I actually made for the musicians several weeks ago – and it is now Mozart, with cake. I really need to change the title….
I know there are many prune dissenters out there, but I will not have a bad word said about my number 1 dried fruit. I eat it as a snack while out fishing or hill walking, add it to my breakfast muesli, or have gently stewed prunes for breakfast or as a treat with home made vanilla ice cream. So many people still recoil in horror at the thought of eating prunes. So bad is this stigma that in California, one of the key areas of production, they are alternatively called dried plums, which of course they are, but this is used to dispel the nursery food associations.
The extent of the animosity and occasional revulsion directed at the poor maligned prune seems surprisingly unjustified. I too have been scarred by the affront to prunes – embedded in lumpy, thick-skinned luminescent school custard. However, it seems a travesty not to savour the prune, resplendent in the savoury richness of aromatic lamb tagines and delicious with slow cooked braised pork belly. Not forgetting the delights of prunes in the darkest of dark chocolate cakes, the fruit first being soaked overnight in amaretto or rum, plump and ready to bring an extra special dimension and indulgence to the cake.
Musical interlude: Mastertapes – Wilko Johnson
I’m writing this while listening to the great Wilko Johnson on Radio 4. The new series of Mastertapes starts with tales from this great Canvey Island guitar hero. Wilko is naturally witty, warm and straight-talking and is discussing the first Dr Feelgood album, 1974’s classic ‘Down by the Jetty’, as well as his terminal illness and current musical projects. It is highly entertaining, although slightly distracting!
This is a great concept for a music series where John Wilson talks to leading performers and songwriters about the album that made them or changed them. It is recorded live and comes in 2 parts, an A-side where the performer is quizzed by interviewer John Wilson then a second programme, the B-side where the audience get to ask questions. I recommend catching up with it online if you miss out on this first episode.
Breton Prune Far
It may be very simple to make, but it is delicious and has a sophisticated, grown-up flavour ‘far’ removed from the nursery or indeed nursing home image the prune conjures up for many and is a patisserie cake in Brittany and Normandy.
I found this particular recipe in Annie Bell’s Baking Bible. It is the last one in the book. I changed the rum in the original recipe for amaretto. The Far was particularly good with a strong high quality espresso, in this case, a single origin Columbian Bucaramanga which is full flavoured and complex.
50g unsalted butter, melted
125g golden caster sugar
2 medium eggs
500ml whole milk
1 tbsp. amaretto
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g plain flour
125g ready soaked prunes
Preheat fan oven to 180C
- Brush a 23cm square cake tin (4cm deep) with butter and dust with caster sugar.
- Blitz all the ingredients except the prunes in a liquidiser.
- Pour the batter into the tin and scatter the prunes evenly over the surface. Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden.
- Let it cool – it will sink slightly. Dust with icing sugar and cut into squares.