Originally written as part of the World Cup 2014 cooking project.
Like French cuisine where do I start with French football? I have so many memories, starting back with the amazing Michel Plaitini in 1982 (Oh, and that Schumacher incident on Battiston), right through to the fantastic team that won the World Cup in 1998, in Paris. But I am going to talk about a bad boy, an enfant terrible that within a year took me from unbounded elation to the point of despair; his name, Eric Cantona. Having been banned in his native France and with a reputation for the unpredictable and sometimes downright dangerous he arrived at my home club Leeds United in November 1991. Immediately he made a positive impact, primarily through intelligent play and deft little flicks, to help Leeds win the old Division One title (which became the Premier League the year after), 17 years after their previous glory. The next season he bedazzled opposition, initially with a hat-trick in the Charity Shield against Liverpool and then in league games. I remember travelling up to Leeds from London, as a poor student at the time, and walking to Leeds’ home ground Elland road (listening to the Spin Doctors) looking forward to seeing Eric in the flesh. He was absolutely sublime, scoring a hat trick and making a mockery of Tottenham, the opposition. We won 5-0 and I couldn’t have been happier. And then, one wintery November evening I returned home from University, put on the radio to catch the sports news (what, no internet?) and heard that Eric had been transferred to our most bitter rivals, Manchester United. To this day I remember being sat there for half an hour, numb and unable to move. That evening my footballing world collapsed. Eric went on to incredible success and by the laws of averages he should be seen as a villain in my eyes. But alas, I still have a soft spot for Eric (now the actor) because the bottom line was he was an entertainer and that is why I watch this beautiful game.
In this World Cup, France has started very strongly with wins against Switzerland and Honduras. There are only a few teams that have the potential to go far, and for me France is one of them. Can a European team win a World Cup in the Americas for the first ever time?
I have to really hold back for France as it’s my area of love. And to try and choose a dish from seemingly infinite possibilities is a good tester of discipline and focus. What is it about French cooking that appeals to me so much? I have a belief that if you can master the techniques of French cooking and the harmony of flavours of Asian cuisine then you have in your armoury the ability to cook anything in the world. And for me it is the magnitude of techniques and the great produce that has enamoured me to this style of cooking.
The classic I have cooked is tarte tatin – one that never fails to illuminate the senses and delight those that participate in its wicked taste of apples in a buttery and caramel finish, topped (or bottomed) with golden pastry. The tarte established the reputation of the Tatin sisters who ran a hotel-restaurant in the Lamotte-Beuvron (about 100km south of Paris) at the beginning of the 20th century. The origination, however, is believed to be an ancient speciality of Sologne where an upside-down tart with apples or pears was eaten. It was first introduced to Paris at Maxim’s – the legendary restaurant on the la rue Royale – where it is still a speciality today.
Short crust pastry or puff pastry? I have heard that puff pastry should be used for a classic tarte tatin, although I cannot find any definitive history that suggests one or the other. However, my preference without a shadow of a doubt is to use a sweet short crust pastry. I find the that melt-away buttery texture goes really well with the caramelised apples. I have added a dash of Calvados to the tarte, and served with a chantilly cream. Bon appetit.
Tarte Tatin with Chantilly Cream - FrancePrint
- For the Sweet Tart Pastry:
- ■ 350g plain flour |
- ■ pinch sea salt |
- ■ 150g unsalted butter | Cubed.
- ■ 100g icing sugar |
- ■ 2 large eggs | Beaten.
- For the Filling:
- ■ 1kg cooking apples | Cored, peeled and quartered. I use Granny Smith apples.
- ■ 75g unsalted butter | Cubed.
- ■ 190g caster sugar |
- ■ a glug calvados |
- For the Crème Chantilly:
- ■ 200ml whipping cream | minimum of 35% milk fat solids.
- ■ 1 tsp. icing sugar |
- ■ ½ tsp. vanilla extract |
For the pastry: Sift the flour on to a clean surface and make a well in the middle. Put the cubed butter in the centre and using a pecking action with your thumbs and fingers work it until it is very soft. Add the sugar and mix in, then add the beaten eggs and mix. Now gradually flick the flour into the middle chopping at it until it is all incorporated, by which time your should have a rough dough. Bring the dough together with your hands and then knead gently for a minute trying not to overwork the dough. Wrap it in cling film and let it rest in a fridge for an hour before using.
For the filling: In a deep 25cm frying pan add the butter and sugar, and over a low to medium heat allow them to melt together. Don’t worry if the butter looks grainy with sugar. Add the apple quarters by tightly packing them around the edge of the inside of the pan, overlapping them. Continue in to the middle and pack them as tight as possible. If you can’t fit any more in you should be able to squeeze in another couple. Cook the apple on a low heat, regularly basting with the caramel in the pan using a pastry brush. After about 20 minutes pour over the Calvados. Cook for a further 15-20 minutes until the apple is soft, the caramel is deep brown and any excess liquid created during cooking has evaporated. Remove from the heat.
Preheat an oven to 190°C (375°F).
Take the pastry out of the fridge and on a floured surface roll it in to a circle a few centimetres wider than the base of your frying pan. Gently place the pastry over the apple and press around the edges to completely enclose the apple. Roughly trim the overlapping pastry and then turn the edge over itself to give a tidy finish. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, remove and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
Now the moment of truth. Turn out the tarte over a wooden board or serving plate. Any apple that sticks to the frying pan can be pushed back in to the tart (what goes on in the kitchen stays in the kitchen).
For the chantilly cream: In a chilled bowl whip the cream, icing sugar and vanilla essence until soft peaks form. Serve with the hot tarte tatin. France at its ultimate best.