When it comes to French cooking, there are two schools. There’s the Escoffier 20-step/3-day frightfully involved kinda cooking. Totally fabulous – as long as you can afford to pay someone else to do it. And then there’s the kind that every French maman practices – stonkingly good food whipped up in hardly any time, using very few ingredients of the very best quality. It’s the latter sort of cooking that I get truly exited about.
Tarte tatin is a shining example of the extraordinary elegance of simplicity. It’s pretty much the easiest pudding you can make, requiring as few as three ingredients. Apparently created accidentally (everybody has a bad day in the kitchen) by two French sisters in the 1880s, the original tarte tatin is essentially an upside-down apple tart. The apple version is still hands-down my favourite, invariably making an appearance on my Sunday lunch table all winter long.
But the combination of buttery puff pastry and caramel lends itself well to summery fruits too, fruits like plump and juicy height-of-summer apricots. I add a sprig of rosemary to my apricot tarte tatin, because herbs really aren’t just meant for savoury dishes. This apricot tarte tatin is caramel-sweet with an ever so slight tart edge. The smell and taste reminds me so much of the apricot jam mum used to make in her giant brass cauldrons on her farm kitchen Aga many, many moons ago.
Leave the rosemary out if you prefer, but do serve this tarte tatin warm out the oven. I really wouldn’t give you thank you for it cold. A generous dollop of double thick cream (stir in a tot of brandy if you like) is also non-negotiable.
I love popping the cork on bubbles with anything remotely French. We have a glut of excellent MCCs in SA and one of my long-time favourites is Twee Jonge Gezellen’s Krone Borealis. They sent over a bottle of the 2018 for me to taste and what a joy it was. Read on for my notes on this wine lower down.
All you need is…
½ cup sugar
2 Tbs cold butter, cubed
1 sprig rosemary (optional)
500g punnet apricots, halved
one sheet of all-butter puff pastry (Woolworths stocks it)
double cream or crème fraîche, to serve
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Place the sugar in a thick-based 20cm frying pan that can go in the oven. Place the pan over medium heat, add the sugar and heat until melted. Do NOT stir it! You can swirl the pan once or twice if really necessary. Once the sugar is melted, remove pan from the heat and stir in the butter. Keep on stirring until the butter combines with the sugar.
Place a sprig of rosemary in the middle of the pan. Cover completely with apricots, putting the cut side down in the caramel. If necessary, roll out the puff pastry to ensure it is 2cm wider than the pan. Place pastry over apricots, tuck edges in and make a slit or two in the pastry to allow steam to escape. Bake until puffed up and golden brown – about 25 minutes. Allow tarte tatin to stand for a minute, then place a serving plate over the pan, ensuring that you hold it down securely. In a quick movement, flip the pan over so the tarte tatin slips out onto the plate. (NB: if you do not do this while it is still hot, the pie will not slip out! Naturally you need to use oven gloves or a dish cloth here as it will be fiery to the touch.) Serve warm and graciously accept the compliments.
ABOUT THE KRONE BOREALIS BRUT 2018
Two of the three traditional Champagne varieties, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (no Pinot Meunier), are used in this vintage-only Méthode Cap Classique. The 2018 harvest was a small but healthy one, resulting in pure fruit expression on the base wine. As with all MCCs, the Borealis is bottle-fermented in true Champagne-style and then aged on the lees in their underground cellar.
Iridescent gold and elegant with a fine-beaded mousse, you’ll find bursts of elderflower, apple blossom and orange peel on the nose. It’s taut and fresh on the palate with lovely naartjie notes developing into salted caramel. That ‘biscuityness’ that I love so much on an MCC is still quite subtle, but promises to evolve as this wine ages.