Bakes & More + [recipe]

peach tarte tartin

We've been at my parents' house in France for the last five days or so. After a fairly frantic day at work and then a fraught journey here involving delayed flights, a lost suitcase and several wrong turns in the dark, we finally got here a little after 1am last Wednesday.

It took a day or two to recover our equilibrium but now the traditional torpor has overtaken us. We made it into town this morning for the weekly market but that seems like quite enough of an effort for today thank you very much.
A couple of years ago, when my boyfriend first started coming here, we would try to cook excessively elaborate meals in the evening despite the limited kitchen facilities and the fact that we'd much rather be sitting outside with a glass of wine. We'd sit down to eat much later than planned, hot and flustered from the effort and not really very hungry. Every meal felt like an anti-climax.

The beauty of the food here is that the basic ingredients are so good, albeit hideously expensive. That is not to say, of course, that you couldn't live off a diet of frozen pizzas and ready meals (and from the looks of people's trolleys in the supermarket, an increasing number do) but you can buy, as we did today in the market, potatoes that the stallholder had dug up that morning from her garden, still covered in dirt with the price scrawled on the back of a receipt and pinned to the box. We went to the garden centre the other day and there were chickens roaming around; next to the till was a basket filled with the day's eggs. At one stall in the market last week, my father asked if the sausages being sold were gluten free and was greeted with a look of astonishment. Why would there be anything other than meat in a sausage?
The recipes that work best here are simple - the kind that are not even really worthy of being called recipes. Last night, for example, we had a couple of pork chops with a tangle of sweet peppers, onions and basil; an idea that I'd pulled out of a magazine a couple of weeks ago on the basis of its ease and simplicity. It took no more than 15 minutes of effort - most of which was spent trying to work out how not to burn the onions on our new cooker.

It's the kind of food that we like to eat not just when we are here, where we are, even by our standards, particularly unmotivated to do much of anything but when we're at home as well. I have become deeply suspicious of any recipe that has more than four or five main ingredients.
We ate this tarte tatin one night, a week or so before we came away. There was a knob of butter that needing using up and some peaches that were just about to turn. There is nothing particularly complicated about a tarte tatin and the effort required is minimal - a little time spent at the stove making sure that the caramel doesn't catch but really, you just tuck the fruit up in its pastry blanket and let the oven do the rest. It's my kind of food.
~Peach tarte tatinServes 4 - 6
There are millions of tarte tartin recipes out there. Most involve apples, as is traditional, but the technique works just as well with any kind of stone fruit - we have some apricots sitting on the kitchen table which I plan to use in a tarte tatin tonight. I don't like to over-complicate my tarte tartin too much - the combination of the sweet and sticky fruit topping with the buttery pastry doesn't need any adornment in my opinion.

  • 2 peaches
  • 45g (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 45g (1 1/2 tablespoons) sugar
  • Optional - vanilla bean, ginger, cinnamon (probably not all three...)
  • About 250g puff pastry - homemade or shop bought, whatever you fancy. There's no judgement here.

Start by slicing the peaches evenly into 8 or 12 pieces, depending on the size of your peaches. Cook the butter and sugar in a small ovenproof frying pan (mine is about 20 cm across) over a low heat. Gently toss the pan to distribute the butter and sugar evenly but try not to stir too much. Heat until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is bubbling and golden brown. If you want to add any flavourings like vanilla or ginger, add them now although I don't usually bother. Carefully add the peaches, toss again to coat and cook for a minute or two.
Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F (fan). When the caramel mixture is cool enough to touch without getting burnt, spread the peaches out evenly, covering the whole base of the pan. You can, of course, arrange your fruit in a pretty pattern before covering with pastry but this always seems to me to be somewhat of a waste of time. Sticky, caramelised fruit always looks good. Place a circle of pastry, a little bigger than your pan, over the top. Tuck the edges under the fruit and sugar mixture as far as possible.
Bake in the oven for about 25 - 30 minutes until the pastry is puffed up and golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before carefully turning on to a plate. Serve immediately.