September is one of my favourite times of year to visit France as the weather is still warm and there is plenty to see and do. The crowds are smaller at this time of year as most children are back in school both here in France, the United Kingdom and the USA. As a result, it is an ideal time to have a quieter holiday and you can save yourself some money too as fares and accommodation is also cheaper.
Summer is almost at an end but the foods continue to be wonderful and plentiful in the shops and market places. I especially like to buy food that is in season. It is full of flavour and goodness especially if it is locally produced as here in the French markets. September is the month for delicious home grown apples and France has two that are fantastic both as eating apples or to cook with. These are the French golden delicious and Royal Gala.
Of course, the French have also developed a wonderful alcoholic drink from their apples - cider! Normandy is famous for its cider production and has over four hundred varieties. So if you are travelling through Normandy at this time of year you may well smell that familiar pungent perfume of the crabbed waxy fruits of the Normandy orchards. There will be gallons of cider made from the mashing of these wonderful little beauties and a taste of the brew is a welcome refreshment on your travels. Cider also forms the basis of another famous French drink - calvados which is often seen in many French recipes.
Calvados is a beautiful golden apple brandy which they say is good for colds, influenza and many other ailments - but be careful; drink it with caution as it is very strong! The cider provides the basis for the apple brandy which goes through a distillation process before producing the golden calvados. The Calvados area of Normandy is well worth a visit as there are many things to see and do. It even has a cider route! This tourist route meanders through picturesque landscapes of manor houses, castles, black and white half timbered chaumières, many beautiful farmhouses with their soft pink brickwork and of course, many apple orchards.
This area, famous for cider production is home to the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée des Cidres du Pays d'Auge. The different brews of cider are judged by local tastes and standards. The cider is made from pressed juice of the different varieties of apples and as it matures and becomes alcohol, it becomes sharper in taste. Calvados improves with age and becomes a beautifully golden spirit.
When on a tour of this area you can visit these cider producers and have a look at their cellars together with a taste of the produce! Another drink called Pommeau is a lovely aperitif from Normandy which is a mix of cider and calvados.
Calvados is also a beautiful area of Normandy and has one hundred and twenty kilometres of coastline so there is also a great deal of water sport if you enjoy this. It is very family friendly and has lots to please everyone.
Deauville is a very beautiful seaside town and is the highlight of the Cote Fleurie with smart hotels and chic boutiques. The half timbered houses are so beautiful its well worth relaxing and taking a stroll around this very pretty town. The beach huts are named after Hollywood legends and if you are visiting this area in September you will be there for the American Film Festival, which this year is from 3rd – 12th of September.
Cabourg - is a very family friendly town and has many attractions and in 2007 it was given the 'Family Plus' label by the French minister for tourism. You can enjoy horse riding, windsurfing, sand yachting, golf and it has a skating park.
I particularly love HonFleur with its pretty cafes along the harbour. Honfleur is on the southern bank of the river Seine opposite Le Havre. It has such a pretty harbour and indeed it has been painted by many famous artists, my favourite being Claude Monet. Just sitting at a café along the harbour and watching the local artists at work with their paints is so relaxing. Of course, the area is also well known for the famous D day landings and a visit to these beaches is a must if you are interested in the history of the place.
Normandy has many good foods to offer as the quality of the grass in this rich land gives the livestock excellent nourishment. Just taste their butter and crème fraîche and you will see what I mean! The climate does not allow the growth of such vegetables as found in the south but there will be excellent cabbages, carrots, leeks, peas, beans and wonderful salad crops. Along the coastline shrimpers fish daily bringing crevette grise, and you will find plenty of sole, turbot, whiting, mackerel and herrings. These are all according to season and will be fresh and wonderful. The crab is small and sweet and so are the blue mussels and the pink langoustines. It is a wonderful area of France and especially so in late summer. You will find many holiday homes for your stay at French Connections to suit all budgets and you will find it most welcoming.
My recipe this month has to include apples from Normandy but this one also includes the famous calvados! It is a simple apple pudding or clafoutis but the taste is truly remarkable.
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Clafoutis Normand Flambé au Calvados (Normandy Apple Pudding Flamed with Calvados)
- 3 large eating apples such as French Gala or Golden Delicious
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- Pinch of salt
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons raisins
- 4 fl oz fresh whipping cream (or crème fraîche)
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 2 oz butter plus a little for greasing the dish
- 3 fl oz calvados
- Preheat the oven to 190C (375F, Gas 5).
- Grease a soufflé dish or 9in (23cm) cake tin with butter
- Peel and thinly slice the apples.
- Place the apples in a dish and pour the lemon juice over them. Mix well.
- Mix together the egg, sugar and salt until creamy - use an electric mixer for speed if you have one.
- Add the cream or crème fraîche and the flour.
- Take 3 tablespoons of the mixture and keep this to one side for later.
- Add the apples and raisins to the rest of the mixture and mix well.
- Pour the apple mixture into the greased dish and place in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.
- In the meantime, melt the butter and mix it into the reserved batter mixture. When the pudding has been in the oven for 15 minutes, pour this mixture over the top of the apple pudding.
- Increase the oven temperature to 220C (425F, Gas 7) and put the clafoutis back in the oven for another 15 minutes.
- The clafoutis should be golden brown at this stage, remove and allow to cool a little.
- Turn it out onto a warm serving plate. (To do this, place a plate over the dish and turn upside down. Then take your warm serving dish and place this over the clafoutis and tip upside down again.)
- To flambé your apple pudding, bring the calvados to the boil, pour it over the pudding and ignite.
Your Clafoutis Normand Flambé au Calvados is ready to serve!