I’m just back from the market in St Germain-en-Laye. It’s a luxury to pop up there on a Friday morning, as today was treated as a pont. Yesterday was an official French holiday for Ascension, so Lucie’s school had the day off today to make le pont – or bridge – over the weekend. It was a lovely idea, but not all of us managed to dance on that bridge, as my eldest still had school and with hubby at work, I grabbed the opportunity to have extra helping hands and stock up on the latest culinary stars on the catwalk.
As the Cannes Film festival is underway in the South, strawberries are currently given the red carpet treatment at the market here up North. Entering the producers’ labyrinth, the gariguettes were paraded, as the mara des bois had already been cleaned out. This stand had it sussed: with their lids firmly in place, it sent a message to all French shoppers not to touch and sniff these gariguettes. Instead we stood in the queue and gaped at the prize-winning beauties behind them. What variety were they? They didn’t have any. They were just strawberries, I was told. Quoi? Because they’re Portuguese.
Tasting one, it reminded me of picking strawberries as a child in Scotland (although the ones in Scotland were better!) It took 3 bites to finish it. Hm. ‘They’re not that sweet,’ I told the vendeur. Immediately, he knocked a couple of euros off the price, just as I was thinking how perfect they would be for a gratin.
With punnets of fraises Charlotte, gariguettes, ciflorettes (another conical sweet variety), and a tray of these oh-so-plainly-enormous strawberries, we could just about cope with balancing some rhubarb under the arm. As I have many more ideas for macarons in store for you, I need to use up some egg yolks. Don’t you love excuses like this? I love this simple dessert since it’s a quick, creamy fruity number that can be whisked together in half an hour.
Strawberry and Rhubarb Gratin Recipe
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 18 minutes
300g rhubarb (or 3 large sticks)
3 egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 tbsp crème fraîche, or thick cream
1. Peel the rhubarb using a sharp knife, taking off all the stringy fibres. Wash well then cut into chunks.
2. In a pan, cook the rhubarb chunks and 40g sugar with 150ml water. Cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
3. Leave to cool.
4. Wash and hull the strawberries. Cut the bottoms off so they can stand neatly in a dish. If the strawberries are particularly big, cut them in half. Place the strawberries around the outside of 6 gratin dishes, and pile the rhubarb in the centre.
5. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with the rest of the sugar until the mixture is pale and creamy. Whisk in the crème fraîche (or thick cream) and vanilla essence.
6. Pour over the fruit then place under a hot grill for 2-3 minutes.
Enjoy with some poppy macarons on the side and you have a gluten-free, stress-free dessert. Voilà. Simplicity where oh-so-sweet strawberry meets acidic-but-comforting rhubarb. All it needs is some bubbly and we’re really talking red carpet treatment, n’est-ce pas?