IT really is not a sin to cook cherries – the first time you try, you will be surprised by the depth of flavour cooking lends to cherries.
Most of the cherries you find in Malaysia are sweet cherries – these are good for eating and making desserts.
Sour cherries can be used for savoury dishes, preserves and sauces. You can add acidity to sweet cherries by squeezing in some lemon or orange juice, of course. The rich flavour of a dark red cherry makes a fruity sauce that can pair well with duck meat, for instance.
The best thing about cooking with cherries? The luscious fruit releases its flavour readily, making cooking a quick job.
Pitting the cherries is tedious, but the use of a pitting device easily solves the problem – but watch the squirting juices don’t stain your clothes.
A clafoutis is probably one of easiest desserts to make, and a cherry clafoutis is a classic. This flourless recipe from Christophe Felder makes a rich and less doughy clafoutis – my favourite clafoutis so far. Using sweet, fresh cherries does make a lot of difference. Makes 6-8 servings.
500g sweet red cherries, pitted
grated zest from 1 orange
¼ tsp cinnamon powder
100g caster sugar
50g ground almond
½ tsp natural almond extract
1 tbsp cornflour
3 tbsp cream
1 egg yolk
Mix the cherries with the zest and cinnamon powder and set aside for at least 15 minutes.
In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, ground almond, almond extract, cornflour, cream, eggs and yolk. Stir with a whisk to combine.
To bake: Preheat the oven to 180°C. Tip the cherries into a baking dish and pour the batter in.
Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the top is golden and a skewer inserted in the centre of the clafoutis comes out clean. Remove from the oven.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Dust with icing sugar or cinnamon sugar if desired.
French toast with cherry compote
Something wonderful happens when you add cinnamon – just a pinch – to ripe, red cherries; dark chocolate can also work in the same fashion. Serve this for a wow breakfast or as dessert. Makes 4 servings.
200g dark red cherries, pitted
2½ tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cherry brandy or other brandies (optional)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp ground cinnamon
250ml cold milk
50ml whipping cream
¼ vanilla bean
4 thick slices brioche or sandwich loaf
60ml light cooking oil
For the compote: In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients and bring to a low simmer. Cook until cherries soften slightly, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator until needed.
For the batter: In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and salt with a wire whisk until creamy.
Place the milk and cream in a small saucepan and scrape the vanilla seeds into it. Bring the milk to a boil over low heat.
Pour half the hot milk into the beaten eggs and whisk well. Add remaining milk and whisk again.
To cook: Trim the bread if you like. Soak the bread completely in the batter.
In a frying pan, melt the butter into the oil. When hot, pan-fry the bread until golden, then flip it to cook the other side. Remove from pan and cook the remaining slices of bread.
Serve the toast warm, sprinkled with caster sugar if liked, and with the cherry compote.
Another bite of the cherry