#ThatTranslatorCanCook week 1: Grandmother's Cherry Clafoutis
Updated: Sep 7, 2019
I’ve been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm for this challenge, and I’m happy to let you know that there is now a grand total of 12 of us – and counting – who will be taking part in #ThatTranslatorCanCook (find out more about the challenge). I’m also proud to be part of #Write52 since I’ll be publishing a blog post a week (thanks Ed for letting me be a part of this movement as well!)
Throughout this challenge, my self-assigned brief is to create localised versions of recipes for the average British cook, not requiring them to scour several supermarkets or to regularly traipse the hallowed halls of Wholefoods. This means that substitutions, adaptations, and localisation will be necessary.
For my first instalment, I wanted to make use of some fresh summery produce, and settled on Clafoutis grand-mère aux cerises, or Grandmother's Cherry Clafoutis. So, what is it? Well, it’s a fresh cherry-based vanilla custard… tart, or pie, or flan… In fact, the differences between these terms, along with quiche, seems to be up for debate, but for the moment, let’s call it a flan, as it has no biscuit or pastry base. I also learnt a new French expression while investigating the differences, ‘c’est du flan’ - which is used to refer to something which isn’t serious or isn’t true – similar to ‘porkies’ or ‘pork pie’ in English.
As the recipe is subject to copyright, I can’t currently share my translation with you. But I can share some interesting insights and observations gained during the translation and cooking process.
A few elements, mostly ingredients, proved challenging to translate, and had to be adapted. I also made other changes to adapt this to a British audience, such as changing from centilitres to millilitres.
Beurre semi-sel* (slightly salted butter)
Here in the UK, the main butter options from your average supermarket include salted and unsalted. Some brands also offer slightly salted.
Meanwhile, in France, butter is an important – dare I say, revered, ingredient or condiment – and in your average supermarket, there are many more choices. Last Christmas, during a holiday in Brittany, where butter is considered ‘the ultimate Breton product,’ I was particularly impressed with the selection: from butter with chunks of salt, to beurre fin, beurre extra-fin, or beurre fouetté, as well as unpasteurised, and organic options. Find out about French butter options (in French).
I believe slightly salted is the equivalent of semi-sel, and it is certainly the closest readily available equivalent in the UK, so this wasn’t really a problem for this recipe. However, with a recipe requiring another variety, it’s likely I would have had to simply identify the closest local equivalent available.
Sucre vanillé (vanilla sugar)
Vanilla sugar is not a common ingredient in the UK, although I’m sure it can be found. British cooks are much more likely to use vanilla extract or vanilla essence. Given this, I chose to add vanilla extract or essence as an alternative option in my translation. But since this alternative is a wet versus a dry ingredient, it had to be added at a different time, so this involved a little adaptation to the recipe. You can also make your own vanilla sugar quite easily.
Interestingly, in most British recipes, the size of eggs would be specified, i.e. medium or large, while no specification was given in this recipe.
Often, in British recipes, two oven temperatures would be given (one for fan-forced ovens, one for non-fan-forced ovens), as well as a ‘gas mark.’ In contrast, in this recipe, just one temperature was given, along with the alternative ‘thermostat 7.’ (In this case, I assumed that it was referring to a non-fan-forced oven, but French natives, or those residing in l'Hexagone, please feel free to correct me.) See the conversions for different oven temperatures.
The recipe itself was fairly simple, so there were no major problems. That said, I didn’t have quite the right dish to cook it in. As the batter was quite runny, using a spring-form pan was not ideal, as I soon found out! Some of the batter leaked from under the pan during cooking. Since this meant less overall batter, the flan cooked faster than normal, and could have benefited from being a little less cooked. That said, it still tasted pretty good, and provided some Instagram-worthy photos.
I also discovered that the cherry stones - and whether to keep them in or remove them - is a matter of much debate. Keeping them is the more traditional method, while the more modern option seems to be to remove them (of course, this is practical if you have kids). The argument for keeping them in goes that the cherries retain their shape and flavour better, whereas removing them would lead to quite a liquid batter. Leaving them in seemed to work well for me.
I’ve enjoyed the first week of the challenge, and am already planning for next week. I’m keen to make something equally summery, but savoury this time, hopefully featuring some homegrown tomatoes. Subscribe to the blog to be emailed about each post, or follow along with #ThatTranslatorCanCook on twitter or instagram.
* Thanks to those who brought to my attention that the standard is actually beurre demi-sel, where as semi-sel seems to be a variation more commonly used in Canada.