It may be a little passé now in the days of anthropology, media studies and performing arts but when I was at school, we were taught to cook. While the boys were plunged into the manly arts of woodwork and metalwork, we girls learnt how to make stew, quiche and Victoria sponge (we also had to do sewing, but the less said about gingham aprons and felt pin-cushions the better). Every week after cookery class we would proudly carry home our dishes and bask in the appreciation of our families, especially our mums, who could have the night off.
Most of the dishes were fairly basic, but one, the jalousie, seemed to me wildly sophisticated. It had a French name, involved puff pastry, and what’s more my brother now thought I was a bona-fide pastry chef.
In fact, I was well on my way to becoming a proud member of the kitchen cheats’ club: Our cookery class jalousies were made with ready-made, bought puff pastry from the supermarket. We filled them with strawberry jam but you could use any type of jam or any of the soft fruits in the market at the moment: peaches, apricots, plums, apples (I suppose you could try mangoes but I’m not sure if I approve of baking with mangoes).
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In my Indian kitchen the jalousie is now a leading contender for the title of “Perfect Summer Dessert”, that is, one which involves very little time in the kitchen. If you make it with jam, the whole process will take about 5 minutes, with fresh fruit only a little longer. Half an hour later you have a glorious dessert, perky sweet fruit peeking through crisp flaky pastry.
I’ve added some almond flavouring (a cherry liqueur would be an alternative) to my grown-up jalousie because it’s a natural partner for cherries, but only go down this route if you have some natural extract. The synthetic varieties will take you down a very undesirable path more reminiscent of chemistry class. And schoolgirl me definitely wouldn’t approve of that.
What I didn’t know when I was 13 is that jalousie is the French word for an Austrian window blind—the type that has slats—which the top of the tart resembles.
Cherry and Almond Jalousie
350g readymade puff pastry
500g sweet cherries, pitted
3 tbsp vanilla sugar
1 tsp almond extract (if the natural, pure variety isn’t available, leave it out)
1 tbsp cornflour
A little extra flour for dusting
A little beaten egg (or milk)
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. You will need a baking tray, 20x30cm.
Put on an apron—cherry juice goes everywhere. Carefully take out all the stones from the cherries—you don’t want any nasty surprises lurking in the gentle flakes and fruit. This is easiest with a cherry stoner, an inexpensive little gadget but indispensable if you want to make the most of the wonderful Indian cherry season.
Tip the cherries into a thick-bottomed pan, add sugar, almond extract, if using, and cornflour. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, 1 or 2 minutes. Don’t let the cherries disintegrate though—the fruit should still be whole once the jalousie is cooked.
Cut your block of pastry in half and on a floured board, roll each half out until it measures 30x17cm and about 2 or 3mm thick. Trim the edges to make two perfectly even rectangles.
Place one rectangle of pastry on a baking sheet. Take the second rectangle and gently, without pressing, fold it in half lengthways. Starting at one of the narrow ends cut a slit 3cm from the end and 3cm from the top edge. Cut slits all the way along, 2cm apart, leaving 3cm at the other end. Carefully unfold the slashed pastry.
Tip the cherry mixture on to the pastry on the baking sheet and spread it evenly, leaving a 2cm rim all the way round. Brush some beaten egg/milk around the rim.
Lift the slatted top and place it over the cherries. With the tines of a fork, press the edges of the pastry together to make a neat pattern. Brush egg all over the pastry top to give it a good shiny brown finish when baked.
Bake for about 25 minutes until the pastry is well risen and browned on top. Sprinkle with caster sugar and eat warm with cream or ice cream.
Pamela Timms is a Delhi-based journalist and food writer. She blogs at http://eatanddust. wordpress.com
Write to Pamela at firstname.lastname@example.org