Saturday, July 25, 2015


Maybe you’ve never heard of this classic French dessert, or maybe you think it’s complicated. It’s not. It’s basically fresh whole cherries baked in a simple custard and I made it this afternoon for a garden party.

Clafoutis is the French spelling but of course it’s pronounced without the final “s” sound. That’s the only complicated thing about it. It’s easy and it features the gorgeous cherries that we’ve been enjoying for the past month or two.

The traditional clafoutis recipe is made with unpitted whole cherries, which are said to give it more flavour—but it didn’t feel that elegant to leave the pits in for a garden party dessert. So I headed out to buy a cherry pitter.  Now you may remember that I have a tiny kitchen and less than two years ago I was deleting all those specialized kitchen tools in the interests of fitting my stuff into one small drawer. So I was happy to find one that won’t take up too much space. This is what it looks like. 

And it can be used for pitting olives as well so it seemed worthwhile.  It was incredibly quick and easy to take the pits out of a big bag of cherries, resulting in a bowl of pitted fruit.

I did a little research online and found that even such a simple recipe has many variations. Some use sour cherries, some use sweet. Some add a little almond extract to compensate for the flavour from the cherry pits. Some suggest macerating the cherries slightly and steeping them in Kirsch, Amaretto or brandy. Some recipes call for white sugar, some brown, some icing sugar for the top. In some the custard is more like a sponge cake, in others it’s meant to be more wobbly, like a flan.

Here’s the recipe I finally came up with, mostly taken from Elise’s Simply Recipes blog ( and from Isabel’s Crumblog (

I doubled the recipe and used a big baking dish. This is the one I chose because it’s low and wide and will hold a lot. But you could do it in a frying pan, or a square baking dish, a pie dish or any type of casserole dish that’s not too deep. If you’re using a smaller dish, cut the recipe in half.

Clafoutis a la Joanna

4 cups of fresh sweet cherries, pitted
6 eggs
1  cup sugar  (plus 1 TBS for bottom of pan)
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 (to 1.5) tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract.
4 TBS melted butter

Preheat oven to 350. Butter your baking dish and sprinkle bottom with  2 TBS granulated sugar. Scatter the cherries over the bottom of the dish.

Whisk eggs and sugars together with milk, melted butter and extracts. Make sure all lumps are out. Use a blender if necessary. Pour into baking dish over cherries. 

Bake for 40 minutes or more until a knife tested in centre comes out clean. Tent with foil if it’s browning too fast. (Mine actually took closer to 50 minutes but that's because I doubled the recipe I think.)

When done, place on wire rack to cool. It will be puffed up but will deflate while cooling. When cool sprinkle with powdered sugar.
When it came out of the oven it looked like the photo at the top of this post, but then it did collapse (as predicted) and I dusted it with the icing sugar.

Here’s the final result. I hope it tastes good. I’ll let you know how it tasted once we’ve returned from the garden party.

PS: It was delicious. The custard had the texture a little bit like Yorkshire pudding and the almond flavouring was really good. We served it with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and it was a big hit.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Moments at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival

Music festivals are the epitome of summer for us and this year's experience was at the Vancouver folk festival. It's been a while since we attended as recently we've headed up-island, but this year the timing favoured a trip to Vancouver. We visited our friend Kath and spent two days at Jericho Beach. Here are some moments from the weekend.

Friday evening at Spanish banks, the sunset was amazing. This is a favourite Vancouver spot for evening games and strolls.

We spent Saturday at the festival along with lots of others. My camera focused on parents and children, here picking blackberries--ripe this year about three weeks early. It isn't usually until mid-August. 

 Jericho beach has fields and a marsh and some shady areas too. It's a beautiful venue for the festival. Here are some musicians setting up with the harbour and the mountain backdrop.

Some snaps of dancers, kids, babies (with headphones) and appreciative audiences....

These two little girls were having a fabulous time dancing to some music.  

Saturday night was amazingly warm. We headed down to Granville Island for dinner and wandered around.  This is a view towards the Burrard Bridge.

We kept looking for the new moon to rise and finally we saw it peeking above some buildings.

Sunday was even warmer at the festival but we discovered some wonderful new artists. This is my favourite part--finding groups that you've never heard of before.

First up was a duo from Newfoundland that call themselves Fortunate Ones. I think we were the fortunate ones to hear their lovely melodies.

Next up was a workshop where we were introduced to a young New Zealand man by the name of Marlon Williams. What an amazing voice he has. He can sing anything and it brings shivers. We saw him do Unchained Melody and Cocaine, plus some of his own (somewhat dark) songs.

Check it out yourself here.

Another discovery was a young woman named Lindi Ortega, with an Irish-Mexican background. Doesn't she look darling with her red cowboy boots and her fascinator hat? She sings really well too, plus she has a fabulous guitarist accompanying her. Sadly I didn't get his name though.

This final image is a tradition from music festivals at Jericho Beach. In the heat of the afternoon everyone converges on Stage two, which is blessedly cool underneath a canopy of leafy trees.  What bliss to lie on your back and look up into to the leaves while listening to gorgeous music!

Until next year.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Two days at the top of the world

Brown Ridge on Saturna Island isn't really the top of the world, but it sure feels like it when you're looking out over the gulf islands and the ocean far below.

We are lucky enough to have access to a sweet little cabin right on the top of the ridge. 

It's a rustic cabin with no electricity or refrigeration and water is pumped from a cistern below, but it's a lovely place and the biggest bonus is the deck in front. 

We were up there earlier this week with some friends and as usual we spent most of the time drifting along the grassy edge of the cliff or snacking on the deck.

I can't think of a nicer place to hang out with good friends in the sunshine.

We took the dogs and walked along the ridge both to the east and the west of the cabin and no matter where you go the views are spectacular. We have to mind our footing because the dry grass is slippery and the only trails are made by the resident goats.

Here are the two visiting poodles, who just loved romping around in the woods. Geordie came too and behaved very well, allowing the intruders into his cabin without too much protest.

One afternoon we drove down to Winter Cove and walked the trail to Boat Pass. Here you can see the tide emptying out of the big cove.

But before too long we were back at the cabin enjoying some cold white wine on the deck and waiting for the goat parade.
A herd of feral goats makes the ridge their home and nearly every evening we see them wandering along the goat path at the top of the ridge.

This evening we saw them only from a distance though, as they kept their distance because of the dogs.

You can see a mother goat with her small black kid in this photo. As we watched the goats picked their way down the cliffs.  

Here's a last view of the setting sun illuminating the fields below.  

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Snippets from the week that was

It's been a busy time here on Yukon Street. We're getting ready for the water garden tour next weekend, featuring our back yard. This means repainting the side stairs, which sounded fairly simple until Harry found rot in the upper deck. So of course we're down to the wire.

You can see from this photo that it would not be possible to put off this repair.

On the painting front, I'm also painting a donated chair for a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity. 25 chairs were available to interested artists and I took up the task. Here I've gessoed the chair and next week I'll start the process of changing its look. I'm still thinking of how to approach it. I'll keep you in the loop.

The weather here has been incredibly hot and we've enjoyed dining outside with our new drop-leaf table. It can be moved from the guest room/art room/dining room to the outside deck when needed. We had a fabulous dinner of salads and skewered chicken with our neighbours here a couple of days ago. Last night we dined outside with friends in their lovely garden.I'm sure enjoying this warm spell.

Today was strange though because we woke up to a very hazy red sky, as a result of forest fires in our province. I don't ever recall this before. It's quite eerie and I hope that they'll be able to get these wildfires under control. We headed down to Chinatown for coffee with our friends Liz and Ritchie. It was kind of nice to be able to sit outside without being blasted by the sun--but it felt weird. Below is Harry a photo of Harry and Ritchie looking pleased with themselves.

After that we took in Victoria's Pride Parade for the first time in years.  It's fun to see all the outrageous clothes people wear.... But it's also wonderful and heart-warming to see people of all shapes sizes and orientations standing together to be who they are. It actually brings tears to my eyes.

As well as the usual groups and individuals there were participants from local businesses, the RCMP, the City of Victoria, and three political parties: NDP, Liberal and the Green Party (below). Not a single Conservative member showed their face though. No surprise!

Later on we went out to lunch with our son Jamie and his girlfriend Stacie this afternoon at Spinnakers, a lovely spot on the harbour. Tomorrow Jamie turns 27.  How can that be?  I'm just a little past 27 myself, right?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Heat wave in Victoria

May was the driest month on record, and so was June. We've also been breaking heat records here. Usually if we get hot weather it lasts three or four days and then it cools off and rains. But not this year.

The tomato plants are growing like crazy and I'm watering some pots twice a day. Berries are ripening three and four weeks ahead of time.  It feels more like California than B.C.

It's alarming given the global context--but so far we're liking it. We've been eating out on the porch almost every day and we've been able to invite people over knowing that it won't be cold or rainy.

But the heat is starting to get to us. Sleeping is difficult even with a fan going.  Air conditioners aren't really something we've had much need for up to now.

 We've been getting out in the country and going to the lake and the beach.

It's been a little hot for Geordie but we've managed to get him out to the lake for a swim a few times. We walk him in the morning and the evening when it's cooler and the rest of the time he hangs out beside the fan.

We spend time in the back yard, sitting in the sun early in the day and finding shade later on. When it gets really hot we stick our feet in the fountain.

Across the street the six families in the apartment don't fare so well. Their only outdoor space is this little front porch and that's where the kids (and adults) congregate. Either there or in the park when it's not occupied by homeless people.

To cool off today and celebrate Canada Day we enjoyed icy gin and tonics made by Sue. The forecast is for yet more heat and we're trying everything we can to say cool.

I'll leave you with a photo taken last night from the top of a friend's high rise apartment where we went for dinner.  This is a sunset view of Victoria's Parliament Buildings all lighted up.