We are now in March and the daffodils are already growing in our garden. It is my favourite time of year as there is a promise of spring around the corner!
The lady who delivers our fresh eggs each week tells me she is also busy with the lambing season and the birds are beginning to build their nests in the garden - much to the annoyance of our Jack Russell dog who barks at every bird who flies in and out of the garden. He actually sits under the bushes waiting for them - but of course the birds have the last laugh as they fly up to the safety of the higher branches.
Yet when it comes to food I still feel the need to cook something substantial as it remains chilly and the evenings are still quite cold.
It is chilly in most of France too especially in the evenings yet there is plenty to do and much to see. So if you choose to travel to France in March it is a very good time of year and it is the last time for the cheaper fares and accommodation until next autumn as they will soon begin to rise as the warmer weather creeps in.
One of the foods popular in France and also very nutritious are prunes. In France prunes or pruneaux as they are known are often used in much of their cooking both in savoury recipes as well as in sweet desserts. They are often overlooked at home in the United Kingdom, perhaps because of childhood memories of school dinners where one had prunes in custard or when you were told to eat them up as they are good for your bowels. I'm sure that put many people off the fruit completely.
I used to be a nurse before retirement and I can remember years ago prunes were on the menu on a regular basis - meaning the patients were regular too!
Not anymore. They very rarely see a prune these days - much easier to prescribe the usual aperients instead. What stupidity, but that's the way it has gone unfortunately.
Whilst it is of course entirely true that prunes have good effects on our constitutions, we don't want to be reminded of such things but would rather be reminded of their other qualities such as being rich in powerful antioxidants - and they are, in abundance.
In France prunes are so much more respected and they are indeed the most delicious and tastiest of foods.
Of course prunes are in fact plums and the process of drying them means that they will keep for a long time. It is very easy to reconstitute them by soaking them in rum or brandy before using in your favourite recipes.
The most famous of all prunes in France are the Agen prunes. Argen is a town on the Gar and if you have ever travelled between Toulouse and Bordeaux you may have passed this area and may have tasted some of their wonderful fare. It is also an important canal town and you can experience this part of France on a barge holiday especially if you enjoy a slower more relaxed method of travel.
One of my favourite French dishes is Rabbit with Prunes. This is such a warming and tasty dish of rabbit cooked in red wine with juicy fat plums. It makes a great winter dish.
However, especially when on holiday, if you would like to make a quick but classic prune recipe then a prune pudding is a really excellent choice and is very easy to make.
So for this month's recipe I have chosen a Breton Prune Pudding or Far as it is called and if you buy the very best prunes you can afford it should taste equally as good as the French recipes!
It is also a very good recipe for a religious holiday such as Easter, (next month April 8th) so you can make it for your Easter weekend too!
Far Breton (Brittany Prune Pudding)
This pudding is very much like the famous Clafoutis but contains fat juicy prunes instead of cherries
- 250g/9oz prunes
- 4 tablespoons rum (or brandy)
- 5 tablespoons plain flour
- A good pinch of salt
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 3 fresh eggs
- 500mls/17floz of warm milk
- Prepare the prunes by removing the stones and then placing the prunes in a bowl with rum or brandy drizzled over them. Let them stand for at least
- 3 hours, stirring them at intervals.
- Preheat the oven to 160C/ 325F/Gas3
- Butter a baking dish 2ins deep (or a flan tin).
- Prepare the batter by placing the flour, salt, sugar and eggs into a bowl and mix together, then gradually mix in the milk using an electric whisk until the batter is smooth.
- Once you have made the batter, stir in the prunes and the juices.
- Pour this mixture into your buttered dish and place the dish on a baking tray and place in the preheated oven.
- Bake for about an hour or until the pudding is firm to the touch and golden brown.
It is best left for a short time once it has been taken from the oven and served warm rather than hot. Usually it is served with a local thick cream but any cream you like will be just as good.