Oh what a wonderful thing Christmas is. Not because of what is under the tree but for what it does for people. Children travel kilometres to be with parents and siblings.  Partners struggle to find a way to see both sides of their families while not spending the day apart. People put grievances behind them and come together and make it a special day. Nothing has the power on an annual basis to bring people together Like Christmas. I am one of the lucky ones who had all my immediate family sitting around the table with me as well as both my parents and my children’s partners.  This is reason to celebrate by preparing a special meal.

This year I served Cured Ocean Trout with Salad as an entree followed by Turkey and Ham, Roast Potatoes and Beans then for dessert Cherry Tart and Almond Ice-cream. My mother was kind enough to help me by bringing in a Terrine and a Mango Cheesecake. I was also lucky enough to have a friend bring me a whole cooked and basted Ham. Christmas catering is so much easier when you have magic helpers.

It was a wonderful meal and we all enjoyed ourselves.

Cherry Clafoutis Tartlets with candied almond ice-cream


70 gm (2/3 cup) almond meal
100 gm caster sugar
10 gm plain flour
250 ml (1 cup) pouring cream
120 gm eggs (about 2)
60 gm egg yolks (about 3)
300 gm cherries, pitted
2 tbsp kirsch (optional)
Candied almond ice-cream
200 gm flaked almonds
1 litre (4 cups) milk
250 ml (1 cup) pouring cream
200 gm egg yolks (about 11)
330 gm (1½ cups) caster sugar
200 gm blanched almonds
For greasing: oil
Sweet pastry
180 gm softened butter
75 gm icing sugar, sieved
2 egg yolks
250 gm (1 2/3 cups) plain flour

For candied almond ice-cream, preheat oven to 180C. Scatter flaked almonds over an oven tray and roast, shaking occasionally, until golden (4-5 minutes). Meanwhile, bring milk to the boil in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add flaked almonds, remove from heat, set aside to infuse (1 hour), then blend in a blender until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve lined with muslin, squeezing to extract as much liquid as possible and yield 750ml (discard solids). Add cream to yield 1 litre, adding more if necessary. Whisk yolks and 180gm sugar in a bowl until pale. Bring almond milk to the simmer then pour onto yolks, whisking continuously to combine, transfer to a clean saucepan and stir over low-medium heat until mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon thickly (6-8 minutes). Cool in a large bowl placed over ice then freeze in an ice-cream machine. Freeze until firm. Meanwhile, scatter blanched almonds on an oven tray and roast, shaking occasionally, until golden (5-6 minutes). Keep warm. Combine remaining sugar and 100ml water in a small saucepan over medium heat, stir to dissolve sugar then simmer until mixture reaches 121C on a sugar thermometer. Stir through warm almonds until sugar crystallises (3-4 minutes), pour onto a lightly oiled oven tray and cool, then break into coarse pieces. Process in a food processor until coarsely ground, stir through ice-cream (reserve 2 tbsp for serving). Freeze until firm.
For sweet pastry, beat butter in an electric mixer until smooth, add sugar, beat to combine. Beat in yolks one at a time, then beat in 25ml iced water. Sift flour onto a work surface, make a well in the centre. Add butter mixture, rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Bring pastry together with the heel of your hand, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate to rest (3 hours). Roll out on a lightly floured surface to 3mm thick, line six 7cm-diameter tart tins, trim edges and refrigerate to rest for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180C. Scatter almond meal on an oven tray and roast, shaking occasionally, until golden (2-3 minutes), set aside to cool. Combine sugar, flour and almond meal in a bowl. Whisk cream, eggs and yolks until smooth in a separate bowl, add sugar mixture, stir to combine. Set aside to rest (30 minutes).
Combine cherries in a bowl with kirsch, gently fold though batter, pour into tart cases and bake until golden and just set (20-25 minutes). Cool slightly, remove from tins and serve with candied almond ice-cream, scattered with reserved candied almond.
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