Here is an interesting fact about Turin: Turin is the only city in Italy that has a market in every single quartiere (or neighbourhood)! So I’ve been told, at least. I’m inclined to believe it, because there is in fact an astounding number of markets in this city, in all kinds of shapes and sizes, although of course I cannot vouch for the absence of markets in every single quartiere of other Italian cities. I love markets. They smell nice, and it’s nice to hear people shouting out the prices of their wares, something you’d never see in normal shops (or upon which you’d probably frown heavily if you were to see it in a normal shop).
I usually go to the market in Piazza Madama. It’s on the small side, but it’s near my house, and it normally has everything I need. Plus, I’ve made friends with the cheese people now – I need to maintain that contact. However, sometimes you need to branch out, and so last weekend I headed over to Porta Palazzo, the biggest, most famous, most notorious market in Turin. I’d wanted to go for a while, but never went, because it’s so huge and there’s so many different stalls, that I never knew how to decide which stalls to go to. It seems that most people who go to Porta Palazzo for their shopping suffer from this – most of them told me they either pick randomly every week, or that they tried to stick with one stall from day one in order to establish rapport and get discounts. Either way, the market is known for having possibly the widest range of prices and quality in the city, whilst lower prices don’t necessarily mean lower quality, and vice versa. I guess you have to know what you’re doing, and you should probably try and have a sneaky little squeeze of the tomatoes before you actually buy any.
So as I said, the market’s enormous, and because it was roasting hot I couldn’t really be bothered to check out all of it, which meant that I just had a quick browse in one corner of the market and I only shopped around a little bit, getting some fruit at one stall, some tomatoes at another and some other stuff elsewhere, after which I headed back because my backpack was pretty heavy already and I still had to make my way home in the heat and humidity of a pre-rain afternoon in Northern Italy.
Here’s the problem though: it was so hot at the market, and I was so thirsty and sweaty, that I felt this overwhelming urge to eat lots of fruit and nothing else. You know how hot weather suddenly makes you want to eat healthy stuff, and especially juicy, watery healthy stuff that quenches your thirst while you eat? Well, that night it started raining, and the rain continued for a few days, which meant that suddenly, fruit had lost about 50% of its attraction. The flat peaches I’d bought were gone in about a day, because flat peaches are amazing and I’d eat those under any circumstances. The cherries, however, were a slightly different story. Cherries are a load of hassle to eat, what with the stones and all, and if you can’t spit those out carelessly aiming at a tree, body of water or unsuspecting companion, I actually can’t really be bothered with them. Unfortunately I had clearly bought them at a stall where price and quality were in perfect harmony: both on the low side. Binning is of course strictly forbidden, so swift action was called for. We don’t have a cherry stoner, so cherry pie or jam were out of the question. In fact, I only know one dish that doesn’t require stoning the cherries: clafoutis!
Clafoutis is genius because it is easy as fuck and it enables you to get rid of all of your rapidly deteriorating cherries. Leaving the stones in is meant to give the dish an extra cherryish flavour, but mostly it contributes to the general ‘French rustique’ feeling that will impress all of your friends. Somehow, crudely made piles of tasty are often more impressive than refined and intricate works of art. Clafoutis is one of those piles of tasty. You can serve it hot or cold, with or without ice cream, for dessert or with your afternoon tea. Pronounce the name as if you actually speak French (unaspirated t, omit the final s, stress on the last syllable) and God, will people think you are awesome. Trust me, I tried.
For one sizeable oven dish full of delicious clafoutis, use:
- 750 gr of cherries, stones in but sticks removed, washed and sort of dried
- 100 gr of flour
- 1 sachet (or 2 tsp) of baking powder
- 125 gr of icing sugar
- pinch of salt
- one vanilla pod
- 4 eggs
- 30 ml of single cream (or you can use milk, up to you)
- 30 gr melted butter, plus extra for greasing
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease your oven dish or cake tin with enough butter, and chuck in the cherries.
Mix the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, pinch of salt) in a bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, add in the cream. Slice your vanilla pod open lengthways and scrape out the delicious vanilla flavour that’s on the inside. Melt your butter au bain marie and add it to the mixture. Beat until there are no more little clusters of vanilla but all of it has dispersed through the liquid. Now mix the dry and wet ingredients, swiftly beat them together and pour them all over the cherries. Make sure it’s all mixed properly, you have a more or less equal level of cherries and clafoutis batter everywhere, then pop it into the oven. Leave it there for anywhere between 45 minutes and an hour (depending as always on cake tin size and such).
As said before, serve it warm or cold, with or without ice cream, with or without icing sugar on top.