A breath of French air

I only just survived the traumas of a quick trip to France which was complicated by the tail end of the Covid tests.

We went fully equipped with £270 of test equipment as required by the Government and sold by the travel company.  Diligently, I had sticks pushed down my throat and stuck up my nose, scans taken and uploads repeatedly attempted.  Absolutely no luck as the recipient website refused to accept all data as did the official at the ferry terminal a day later.

It was late at night and we had no choice but to find an emergency hotel: rooms so small that they were called cabins and I could touch multiple walls without moving so no chance of getting lost.  But we were hugely thankful to get a bed for the night, an immensely helpful French pharmacist who resolved the tests in a trice (and at less than a quarter of the price) and were gleefully admitted to the hallowed ground of the ferry queue.

Even better, the daytime sailing allowed a little recreational shopping before all the facilities on board, including the café, closed.  Even better luck in Portsmouth: I was concerned that we might have exceeded our wine allocation and so was ready, receipts and purse in hand, to satisfy the duty Customs officers.  But nary one in sight – we were simply pushed through the Exit.

The roads home were less propitious: dark, heavy rain, multiple flashing police lights and a diversion through the nether regions of Paulsgrove and Portchester.

The utter delight of one’s own bed, safe and sound for a long sleep.

This recipe was inspired by another beekeeper who has plied us with his enormous harvest of delicious grapes.  Between this, litres of juice, attempted drying and an experimental  chutney, I hope we have done justice to his crop.

Grape and frangipane tart.

1 sheet bought or home-made puff pastry.

3 eggs, beaten.

150g honey.

150g butter.

1 teaspoon almond extract.

150g ground almonds.

500g grapes, picked and washed.

Cover the base and sides of a loose-bottomed tart tin with the pastry, prick with a fork and tightly cover bottom and sides with a sheet of foil.

Cook in a preheated oven 180C, Gas 4 for about 14-15 minutes.

Remove the foil and brush the base and sides with some of the beaten egg.

Return to the oven for a further 3-5 minutes.

Rebrush the base with a little more egg while still hot.

Leave to cool.

Beat the honey, butter and almond extract together until light and fluffy.

Add the remaining beaten eggs a little at a time with some of the ground almonds, beating until fluffy.

Fold in the remaining ground almonds.

Place a layer of grapes on the base of the tart.

Cover with the frangipane filling.

Press any remaining grapes into the frangipane.

Cook for 30 minutes then cover with a piece of foil for a further 10 minutes.


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