Tag Archives: Pomiane

Pomiane’s Cherry Tart

This is based on a recipe by Pomiane, which he in turn based on a recipe given to him in his youth; allegedly how they cooked cherry tarts in the Île de France in 1860. For such a simple recipe, it’s marvellously tasty – thin chewy pastry and lots of runny juice. I’ve taken a few liberties with it.

To begin with, don’t make this with the best cherries. Those aren’t in season yet, and should simply be washed and devoured on the spot. Also, it’s quite runny, so not very portable. Assuming a six inch flan ring, you will need:

  • 300g bread dough, risen once and knocked back
  • 450g cherries, washed and stoned
  • 30g caster sugar
  • some butter to grease things

Bread dough?! Yeah. Pomiane suggests one ought to be able to order it at one’s local bakery, and apparently you can still do this in rural France. Otherwise, make a batch, and any you don’t use can be kept in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Anyway, start by stoning the cherries. There is no shame in owning a cherry stoner, unless you use it for olives, in which case I will slap you if ever I hear about it. There is no shame in donning an apron, as this is messy. There is also no shame sampling a few cherries as you go, this will tell you how sweet they are.

This is the point where I’d consider getting the oven going at 220°C for a fan forced. Elsewhere, roll out the piece of dough until it’s about ten inches in diameter, and quite thin, as though you were making a pizza base. But no holes. Ever.

Generously butter the baking sheet and the flan ring, and lay the dough on top, gently pushing it into the corners.

Use a knife or pressure of your palm against the flan ring to separate the excess dough.

Sprinkle half the sugar in, and then pack in the cherries, as tightly as they will go. If there are any spaces left, tear some cherries in half and squish the halves in. Sprinkle the rest of the sugar evenly over the top. (You may have some leftover cherries: due to a massive miscalculation I had 400g of stoned cherries left, which are now sitting in a clean jar with a generous splash of cheap vodka.)

Put the whole lot in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove, sprinkle with a few teaspoons more sugar, and leave to cool. It will have shrunk a little so it shouldn’t be too hard to ease off the flan ring.

Serve when almost cold. Mascarpone if you’re feeling fancy, but plenty of vanilla ice cream is better.


Pomiane suggests working 50g of butter into the pastry. Don’t think this is necessary. Also, his tooth is sweeter, and he recommends 50g of sugar. Not sure he’s dealing with the same sweet cherries that I get from the supermarket.

I wonder what would happen if you poured clafoutis mix into the tart before baking?


Tomates à la Crème

This is worth repeating. The recipe is by Pomiane, but the source used by most people is Elizabeth David, with other versions being from Simon Hopkinson, Julian Barnes, and Ginette Mathiot. (There is a tomates à la Polonaise in Cooking in Ten Minutes, but that involves cooking finely minced onions on a high heat for five minutes, so I’m a little suspicious of the translation.)

Here’s what I do.

Gather as many medium tomatoes as you fancy. (Really small or really huge toms won’t work.) They can be cryogenic, artillery grade supermarket tomatoes as well, because this process really brings out the flavour.

Slice them in half and grind a little salt and plenty of pepper over the cut faces. If the tomatoes are really depressing, and completely pale and rock-like on the inside, sprinkle a small amount of brown sugar on the cut faces as well. Place them face down in a hot pan in which you’ve melted some butter. The pan should be hot enough for everything to be politely sizzling, but not so hot the butter starts going brown.

Fry for five minutes. (Or, longer on a low heat if you have time.) As they fry, pierce the skins of each a few times with a sharp knife.

Turn them over and fry face up for another five minutes. The faces should have coloured a bit, with a bit of brown, but no black. There may also be some sticky goo clinging to the bottom of the pan. Good.

Turn them cut face down again. They will probably hiss and exude juice, and they certainly will if you accidentally on purpose turn up the heat. Tip in some double cream. Once the cream is bubbling, stir and scrape to mix it with the butter and tomato juice, and incorporate any sticky stuff on the bottom of the pan.

Serve immediately, with plenty of bread or pasta to soak up the juices.

Quantities

I’ve been a bit vague. Assuming six tomatoes somewhere in size between a squash ball and a tennis ball, I reckon you’ll need 20g of butter and 40mL of cream.

Variations

Hopkinson mentions adding some torn up mint leaves with the cream. A small amount of basil won’t hurt, either.

In the unlikely event you have leftovers, fry some prawns in garlic and chilli, and then add the leftovers, and some pasta.

Heretical Custard

An adaptation of a recipe from the Heretics’ Heretic, Docteur de Pomiane. This is the simplest and lowest risk custard I know. You will need:

  • 250mL milk (semi skimmed, or full cream if you’re feeling decadent)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 25g caster sugar (you may find you prefer less or more)
  • 1 teaspoon plain flour, i.e. 5mL by volume, 4g by weight if you’ve got digital scales
  • vanilla (in some form, see below)

I normally keep my vanilla pods in a tall jar of caster sugar. The sugar leeches out the volatile oils and becomes vanilla flavoured. Tonight I used both vanilla sugar, and scraped the seeds out of half a vanilla pod, carefully returning the carcass to the sugar jar for later. (You could also be shot of all this faffing, and just use a few drops of Vanilla Extract.)

  1. put the milk and the vanilla into a saucepan on a low heat
  2. separate the eggs and put the yolks, the sugar, and the flour into a bowl and mix vigorously with a whisk – as this happens it will get paler in colour and thicken slightly
  3. don’t forget to keep a watchful eye on the milk, and just as it starts to shudder, but not boil, take it off the heat
  4. wait for about 30 seconds so the milk cools slightly
  5. pour the milk, little by little, into the bowl with the egg/sugar mix, whisking all the time, until combined
  6. pour the mixture back into the saucepan, return to the heat, and stir continuously – you’re not trying to win the National Stirring Championships; just keep it on the move and make sure nothing catches on the bottom of the saucepan
  7. after about a minute or so, the mixture will thicken, so remove it from the heat, keep stirring for half a minute, and decant – caution: if you leave it in the saucepan, and you’ve got a high quality saucepan with a heavy heat retaining base, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise!

The addition of the flour serves two purposes: it contains some starch which helps to thicken the custard, and more importantly, the presence of the starch dramatically raises the temperature at which the custard will curdle. (And the fat in the egg yolk means that the flour can release its starch. See the chapter in Pomiane on sauces for more about the chemistry involved.)

Although delightful, this is not the custard I’d use for crème brûlée. (I’ll save those notes for another occasion.)

Variations

You could obviously infuse other things in the milk: half a cinnamon stick, some lemon peel, etc.

If you use about a tablespoon of flour or cornstarch, you will end up with something quite stiff, called crème patissière, which is used in various fillings.

Choux Pastry

I know English, I learn him from a book.

– Manuel, Fawlty Towers

It’s all very well reading about how to do something, but some things just need to be experienced. Today’s attempt at choux pastry proved that. (My parents used to get terribly stressed about making this stuff, and I was banished from the kitchen, so never got to witness the process. And nobody else’s parents ever made choux pastry, or if they did, they kept very quiet about it.)

Docteur de Pomiane’s recipe sounds charming enough, so I decided to use it, although the measurements were in Imperial and as usual, not entirely clear whether things were by weight or volume. A quick cross reference with the usual sources suggested that all was in order.

It started off encouragingly enough, the butter/water/sugar being brought to the boil. (Chop the butter into chunks, so it melts about the same time as the water boils.)

Removed from heat, flour added, vigorous stirring et cetera. Pomiane does warn that it will look like an unappetising mess at this stage.

As predicted, the pastry detaches from the saucepan and comes together in a ball.

And then, it’s time for the eggs. I crack the first one over the pastry and – whoops! – my faithful heavy bottomed saucepan is still hot enough to instantly cook it. So essentially I have a giant ball of roux mixed with a poached egg. FAIL.

On the next attempt, the glistening ball of paste was deposited into a mixing bowl, and repeatedly tested with the little finger (Pomiane’s favourite cooking implement) until it had reached a bearable temperature. The eggs get incorporated after that. I follow his advice about four eggs possibly being too many, so beat the final egg, and add about half, by which time the pastry has gone from the sticking-on-the-spoon state to the reluctantly-falling-off-the-spoon state, without having turned into liquid.

On the baking tray, they do spread out a little too wide, but puff encouragingly. Perhaps I need to stop at three and a quarter eggs next time.

They’re turned onto the cooling rack and a little hole bored in the bottom of each to let the steam out. Looks like the larger ones didn’t cook and puff as well as the smallers ones, so that’s another lesson for next time.

Quantities

Here are the metric amounts that I translated from Pomiane. I’d approach these amounts with caution, ’til I double check in the cold harsh light of day.

  • 250mL water (3/8 of a pint)
  • 100g butter (3oz)
  • 25g caster sugar (1/2 oz)
  • pinch salt
  • 125g plain flour (4 oz)
  • 4 eggs (Pomiane reckons add the first three whole, and only beat the last one, I think I’d be inclined to beat all of ’em)

Here’s what Delia reckons:

  • 150mL water
  • 60g strong (i.e. bread making) flour (this will have more gluten, so should result in a stickier pastry, I guess)
  • 50g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 level teaspoon sugar

She makes a great deal of “shooting” the flour into the butter/water mix, whereas Pomiane just says add gradually whilst stirring. (Rapid addition of flour also appears in Je sais cuisiner.) She also has the oven at 200 for the first ten minutes and 220 for the next 15. She fails to mention the risk of the eggs cooking upon being added.

Chocolate Mousse

Being of a Certain Age, I can’t ever think of chocolate mousse without my mind immediately going back to the scene where the Swedish Chef chases a moose ’round the kitchen with a bowl of chocolate sauce and a spoon.

"Här är det mööse! Här är det choklad!"

Here’s the recipe I’ve scribbled down, which is mainly Delia, with a touch of Nigel. I’ve compared it with a more voluptuous procedure described by Pomiane, for which I’m not sure my arteries are prepared.

Remember, cookin’ chocolate has more cocoa butter than eatin’ chocolate, so will behave a bit better when you melt it. You will need:

  • 200g dark cooking chocolate
  • 30g caster sugar, more if you have a sweet tooth or if the chocolate is really bitter
  • 3 large eggs, separated (Pomiane reckons 6!)
  • interesting things: finely grated orange peel, Cognac, etc., Pomiane devotes a number of pages to amusing things you can add
  • 120mL warm water (Pomiane suggests 150mL double cream!)

Break the chocolate into its constituent squares and combine with the water in a glass bowl atop a saucepan of hot water, and allow to melt. Stir, but as little as possible.

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Once it’s melted, and the mixture is smooth, remove from the heat, stir in the egg yolks, and combine thoroughly. The chocolate is likely to be hotter than the curdling point of eggs (both in the mid forties) so you might want to perform the old trick of putting a splash of the chocolate into the yolks and stirring, before returning the combined mess into the chocolate. Alternately, you could just wait for the chocolate to cool. (Pomiane suggests that once combined, the results are returned to the heat, until the egg yolks have thickened, as though you were making a custard. That sounds complex and dangerous.)

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Meanwhile beat the whites to soft peaks. Then, beat in the sugar in three or four consignments. The whites will collapse a bit, and become shiny, yet strangely alluring.

Your next task is to combine everything. There are two irreconcilable objectives: (a) to produce a homogeneous mixture, and (b) not to knock all the air out of the egg whites. The trick is to (a) use a metal spoon and (b) sacrifice all the air in  about a quarter of the egg whites by vigorously mixing them in to loosen up the chocolate.

Gradually fold in the rest. It will start by looking like this…

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…but will eventually, after a few minutes gentle, patient labour, look like this…

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…at which point it should go in the fridge, for at least two hours. Some people would have you putting this into individual ramekins or poncy wine glasses, but I’m having none of that bollocks. If my favourite bistro in Paris can serve it out of a large bowl, then that’s good enough for the likes of you.

Finished product below.

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Börk! Börk! Börk!

Cooking with Pomiane

I think it best Docteur de Pomiane introduce himself by way of a few quotes.

‘There are three kinds of guests: 1. those one is fond of. 2. those with whom one is obliged to mix. 3. those whom one detests. For these three very different occasions one would prepare, respectively, an excellent dinner, a banal meal, or nothing at all, since in the latter case one would buy something ready cooked.’

‘To prepare a dinner for a friend is to put into the cooking pot all one’s affection and good will, all one’s gaiety and zest, so that after three hours’ cooking a waft of happiness escapes from beneath the lid.’

Whimsical appeal aside, what value does a book written in the 1930s, by a Frenchman born in 1875, have for the modern working kitchen? For starters there’s the uncluttered scientific approach where Pomiane (a professional scientist, but an amateur cook) describes exactly what’s taking place at a molecular level. His disdain for tradition, coupled with a scientific desire to eliminate the extraneous, results in brief, lucid recipes, which cover exactly what you need to do and no more. The magisterial section on sauces tells you everything you need to know in five and a half pages: your roux will be perfect and your Hollandaise will never curdle again.

The style is terse, and not without a certain amount of Gallic élan. This is not to say he has no sympathy for the cook. Take the recipe for bouef à la ficelle: ‘at this point you may feel a little depressed.’ I may even dare this recipe myself, although I feel I might offend cultural sensibilities if I ever followed his exact instructions for Poulet Tamara, which requires the presence of Georgian emigrés.

‘For a successful dinner there should never be more than eight at table. One should prepare only one good dish [the emphasis is his]. This should be preceded and followed by some little thing, then cheese and a sweet course if you are in France, or pudding and cheese if you are in England.’

There you go. One good dish, and off to the deli for the rest. How reassuring.