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New cookbook: 'Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard' by Nigel Slater

April 2, 2012 | 11:41 am

Ripe1The U.S. edition of Nigel Slater's latest cookbook, "Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard," is pretty irresistible. Starting with the cover -- a photo of juicy baked apricots in a syrup of lemon verbena, star anise and vanilla pods that makes you pine for late-summer stone-fruit season. The book, to be released April 10, is the companion to British food writer Slater's "Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch."

Each chapter is an ode to a fruit from his 40-foot garden: apples, apricots, blackberries, black currants, blueberries, cherries, damsons, elderberries, figs, gooseberries, grapes.... And on. There are 24 chapters in all, including one on medlars and sloes (or blackthorns). 

I'm already staining my copy. On Sunday, I baked blueberry batter pudding, which is a clafoutis. And it's a clafoutis just how I like it: more eggy and custardy than cakey. Straight from the oven, its edges are puffy and browned but its interior is loose and silky; when it's still hot it's almost a dessert version of the Japanese savory custard chawanmushi. The batter has little sugar and flour, lots of blueberries, whole milk and light cream (I used half-and-half) and four eggs. I'm glad I had fresh eggs from Kendor Farm that I picked up at McCall's Meat & Fish. I ate more than half of the batter pudding last night with vanilla ice cream. This morning, I had it cold for breakfast with my coffee (Trystero's Rwandan), and it was just as delicious.

A majority of the recipes are on the sweet side (they're also rustic and, I'm guessing, like the clafoutis, not too sweet): a cake of pears, muscovado and maple syrup; a crumbly, upside-down tart of figs; rose water meringue with black currants and cream. A handful of fools and bettys. But there are also plenty of savory dishes. Like plum tabbouleh; twice-cooked ham with damson gin sauce; a salad of chicken, mint and peaches. From the walnuts chapter, I made "a 'new' Waldorf salad," which gets a tangy bite from folding crème fraîche in with the mayonnaise for the dressing, which also has mint and parsley. 

Some straddle the line between sweet and savory: goat cheese and thyme scones to eat with pears, black grape focaccia or raspberry cranachan. "The magical combination of oats and raspberry is experienced nowhere better than in the classic Scottish cranachan," Slater writes. I like his head notes. 

Next recipes I'm going to try are a Sunday roast of pork, perry (pear cider) and pears and the deeply appley apple crumble. It sounds promising. Still can't wait for apricots. 

See the jump for the recipe for blueberry batter pudding. 

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-- Betty Hallock

Photo: "Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard"; Credit: Ten Speed Press.

Blueberry batter pudding 

Servings: Enough for 4 to 6 

4 eggs

Scant 2/3 cup (75g) all-purpose flour 

Heaping 1/3 cup (80 to 90 g) superfine sugar 

1 cup (250 ml) light cream 

Scant cup (225 ml) whole milk 

10 ounces (300 g), about 2 cups, blueberries  

Powdered sugar and cream, to serve

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter an ovenproof dish about 10 inches in diameter. 

Whiz the eggs, flour, superfine sugar, cream and milk together in a blender or beat them all together with a handheld whisk. Tip the fruit into the dish, pour over the batter, then bake for about 40 minutes, until the batter is lightly rising, golden and just firm to the touch. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with cream.

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