So before we go any further, what makes a Picota cherry different from any other cherry? Well, mostly the fact that it has been grown in a particular area of Spain - but I'm also reliably informed by the "Eat Spanish" website that :
"Flavor is the main distinguishing characteristic of Jerte cherries, both because of their high sugar content and the balance between sweetness and sharpness. The flesh is juicy and usually crisp. Color depends on the variety - from red juice and red flesh, to colorless juice and yellow or cream flesh. The color of the flesh and juice is usually stable, especially that of the juice. The flesh in the varieties named above is medium firm to very firm".
I have to agree with them. Picota (Jerte) cherries are indeed crisp, sweet and a beautiful colour. They also come without their stalks, which is something of a shame as I quite enjoy hanging a double cherry over my ears and exclaiming about my new earrings. (Yes, well, we all have our juvenile moments).
So. What to do with these lovely cherries, that might do them rather more justice than simply scoffing them until they're all gone and just a particularly lovely memory?
I've been wanting to make a cherry clafoutis for (probably) years now - but it seemed as though everyone was making cherry clafoutis and if you know anything about me, you'll know that I do like to be a little bit different. I gave up dyeing my hair purple when the grey threatened to take over, so I have to make my difference in other ways these days.
On went the thinking cap and I started with the usual question of "what flavours go particularly well with cherries?". Well chocolate was the first one to immediately spring to mind, quickly followed by alcohol (red wine, port and Kirsch, for instance) and cream.
Sounded like the bones of a very acceptable dessert, to me!
Having had a rummage in the alcohol corner - no, we don't have a wine cellar (what are you like?) - it seemed we had both red and white wine and no Kirsch, but we did have some Creme de Cassis which seemed to me to be something of a better prospect. Kirsch can be a bit harsh sometimes, I think, whereas the softness of the blackcurrant Creme de Cassis would complement the flavour of the cherries.
Now, what about the chocolate? Milk or dark? Hmmmn, cherries and dark chocolate always speaks of luxury and decadence, to me. If I was to make a mousse or a kind of ganache with the chocolate and lay that on top of some soused or macerated cherries? Aha! I think we have it!
|Hic! You're my best mate, you are ..|
Next job was to make up the chocolate component, which was so diabolically easy that I am sure I shall be making this again with raspberries or clementines or any other fruit that goes well with chocolate!
Basically, it involves melting some 85% dark chocolate in a bowl over some simmering water but without stirring it more than once. Then, set it to one side to cool slightly whilst you divide the cherries up amongst the dishes - I used glass bowls so that you could see the lushness within - and then stir Greek yoghurt and runny honey into the chocolate. Once it is mixed through, divide up into the bowls, sprinkle with a little more chocolate and chill.
From being a soft, mousse like consistency, the chocolate sets up into more of a firm ganache type of consistency. However, once you get a little onto your tongue it just melts and the flavour of the chocolate, with the flavour of the cherries is just beyond divine.
You get a hint of the almost smokiness of the honey, with the tang of the Greek yoghurt, all smoothed over by the unctuous chocolate, which is then washed away with the cherry juice and smooth, gentle liqueur. Fabulous.
If you're not a person who has alcohol in the house - do not despair! I am sure that if you were to use a cordial - cherry, blackcurrant, or even elderflower would be nice and every bit as good as the liqueur.
In the same way, if you find 85% dark chocolate to be too dark for your taste, then lighten it up a bit by using a lighter grade of chocolate - I am absolutely sure it would work perfectly.
It seems to be something of a discovery, this recipe. Both hubby and son & heir despatched their portions with many approving mumbles and murmers - the point (in hubby's case) of the brain knowing he should have stopped eating a while ago, but the tummy saying "no! Carry on!". It's not the best dessert for a diabetic, it's true - between the sugars of the chocolate, cherries, honey and liqueur, there's just no getting away from them. However, at least with the use of Greek yoghurt it's not as bad as it might have been from a fat point of view. *cough*
As an easy make and one which can be both successfully prepared prior to the event and scaled up numbers-wise, this dessert would be absolutely perfect for a meal with friends, a birthday or any get together where you want to impress. It impressed the heck out of me, and I made it!
CHOCOLATE & CHERRY POTS (serves 3)
Sufficient cherries to cover the base of your three individual-sized serving dishes
2-3 dessertspoonfuls of Creme de Cassis
100g dark chocolate (I used 85%)
250g Greek yoghurt
2 dessertspoonfuls of runny honey
chocolate shavings to decorate.
1. Stone the cherries (I cut them in half, but if you've a cherry stoner, use it!) and place into a bowl. Sprinkle over the Creme de Cassis and thoroughly mix it through, ensuring that every cherry is well coated.
2. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for the next 2 hours.
3. Break the chocolate into a large bowl that will fit over a saucepan of simmering water, without touching the surface of the water. Allow the chocolate to melt, without stirring. Once well melted, stir gently just sufficient to mix it through and then leave to one side, to cool slightly.
4. In the meantime, divide the cherries up between the serving dishes.
5. To the chocolate, add the Greek yoghurt and the honey and stir through using a cutting and folding motion until you've a smooth mousse-like texture.
6. Lastly, simply divide the mousse between the three bowls and top with the chocolate shavings.
7. Refrigerate until time to serve.