When I first arrived in Malta, vineyards were mostly unkempt affairs with grapevines growing as wiry bushes hunched over in the fields. These were the days before the burgeoning of local wineries and the snatching up of small pockets of ideal grape-growing ‘terroir’. Now across Malta, even in among the urban spread, you find immaculate vineyards with sought-after varieties trained in manicured rows and sporting a notice saying which winery they produce for. A bonus of these vineyards is that they keep Malta green in the intense heat of summer when fields are craggy ruts of baked earth. The raggle-taggle vineyards are fewer now, but their role is still important. They grow, in vast amounts, what we call table grapes; these rarely have a variety name attached and never come seedless! I’ve tried various colours and sizes and all seem to have copious amounts of pips which make them less ideal as part of the school lunchbox fodder (choking hazard, or spit the pips around the class anyone?) or one of our five-a-day fruit/veg items!
Yet, grapes are very useful pocket-sized, self-contained packet of goodness. Enough of the easy option – juicing – and on to something that can act as a vehicle for their flavour without masking it but make grapes interesting. I remember that a classic Clafoutis – egg custard or a pancake-type mix to you and me – is perfect for cherries, so probably can support grapes just as well. I prefer some structure though and decide on regular shortcrust tart case to bake it in. It will slice and transport for lunchboxes then.
Clafoutis tart? I’d rather call it a Galette – a rough-hewn tart, usually free form. Mine is certainly a bit rough at the edges and standing proud of the flan dish; they usually shrink back so a bit of height stops the custardy part from leaking out. I do have that de-pipping still, tarte, galette, clafoutis or whatever it’s called! We ate some warm from the oven and the rest for breakfast the day after. It didn’t make the lunchbox after all.
Recipe below photos.
Recipe: Grape harvest galette
Large flan tin 24 cm serves 10-12. Reduce amounts by one third for smaller size. For colour, choose two grape varieties. Nice served warm, but I think even tastier chilled.
250 ml whole milk
4 large eggs
125g caster sugar
approx. 25 large grapes (or more as desired), split and de-pipped
Method: mix all ingredients except grapes till well blended. Pour in pastry case carefully, ensuring it does not overflow; place grapes cut side down in filling. Bake at 180°C for around 40 minutes or until top is golden and risen. Don’t worry if it deflates a bit on cooling. Best to bake in a metal tin and on a metal baking tray so pastry cooks well. If you don’t have a favourite shortcrust pastry recipe, see below.
300g plain flour
150g butter, chilled & cubed
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk mixed with tablespoon of lemon juice
2 tbsp cold water (you may not need all the liquid)
Rub cubed butter into flour til the mix is like fine breadcrumbs. Slowly add the egg-lemon juice, working the liquid in with a palette knife at first, and then with lightly floured finger tips so you can gauge the consistency. Add one or two tablespoons of chilled water if required. Once the mix forms a ball, not sticky nor too dry, knead lightly til smooth on a floured surface. Wrap in baking paper and chill in fridge for an hour, if possible. Roll out to around 3-4mm and line flan tin. I don’t usually pre-bake the case before adding the filling, but you can if you like and I’d recommend you do if you use a pottery flan dish.
All images © Liz Ayling 2012