Like some other French dishes of note (including pomme de terre à la boulangère), the creation of tarte Tatin owes more to pure chance and necessity than creative intent.
Picture the scene. We are in rural Loir-et-Cher, Centre-Val de Loire, in the 1880s. The location is the family-run Hotel Tatin in the small village of Lamotte-Beuvron where, one lunchtime, Stéphanie Tatin, who runs the hotel with her sister Caroline, is cooking lunch for her guests.
Momentarily distracted, Stéphanie loses sight of the burning apples in sugar and butter that she is cooking for a pie. Instead of panicking, the quick-thinking cook rescues the situation by placing her prepared pastry base over the top of the pan and placing the whole thing directly into the oven.
Upon removing the pie and flipping it onto a serving dish, she discovers the oozy, caramelised fruit to be truly delicious and it soon becomes a staple on the hotel menu (and it still is – you can eat it all day long; see www.hotel-tatin.fr).
What happened next in the dish’s evolution is open to debate. The Tatin sisters did not formally publish the recipe or write a cookbook, nor did they even name the dish after themselves – this is said to have been done later, by food writer and epicure Maurice Edmond Sailland, aka Curnonsky.
Some food historians believe they were simply serving a version of a local Sologne dish called tarte solognote. They would have used locally grown apple varieties Reine des Reinettes (Queen of the Pippins) and Calville, but today Granny Smiths or Golden delicious will do the job. The key is that they are firm enough to retain solidity during cooking.
An alternative to the traditional tarte Tatin can be enjoyed by replacing the apple with pineapple, apple or peach.
Among the fiddly jobs come apéro time is slicing up the saucisson you bought at market. Thankfully, in the land where the guillotine was invented (by Joseph-Ignace Guillotin), so too can the saucisson now be ceremonially cut in front of an audience!
Made in France by So Apéro, the fast slicing guillotine costs €49.50 and is crafted in untreated, non-stained solid wood. Also available for left-handers!
As menu planning thoughts turn to warming dishes for autumn evenings, fibre and protein-rich chick peas and split peas represent healthy, tasty alternatives to the usual potatoes, rice or pasta.
Vivien Paille’s chickpeas come from Occitanie, and split peas from the Centre-Aquitaine areas, and are on sale in major supermarkets now. Their cultivation method requires neither nitrogen fertilisers nor irrigation. www.vivienpaille.fr