I have a strange relationship with stereotypes. On the one hand I despise them and try to escape from them. Every time somebody tells me that my English accent doesn’t betray me as an Italian, I secretly (or not so secretly, depending on who I’m talking to) rejoice. Equally, whenever I find myself gesticulating in the middle of a heated discussion and somebody comments on how Italian I look, I feel my cheeks burn up and try to keep my arms down. A couple of times I was even told that because I’m Italian I “must follow football and support a team”! On the other hand, I do think stereotypes are necessary to help us identify our boundaries and strengthen our sense of belonging (which makes it somewhat difficult when you’re not really sure where you belong in the first place). Stereotypes are the inheritance of our history and must be understood in light of this. They also make for some serious fun when you see the artwork created by Yanko Tsvetkov, aka Alphadesigner: he maps the world according to the stereotypes that each country has for the others and is both revealing and hilarious to look at.

A lot more could be said for stereotypes about food. Just think of how the British call the French, or the Germans! And what about the terrible reputation that British food still has around the world? My uncle once said that he didn’t like French cuisine because it was too refined and, whilst it was good for a ‘dining experience’, the best everyday food was Italian. Now, I love Italian food, I think it’s brilliant and, on reflection, it’s probably the Italian thing I love the most. But I love good food a lot more and if clafoutis is anything to go by, I’m all for French cuisine. Whether they eat frogs or not (just so that you know, Italians eat frogs too! But not snails), the French undoubtedly know a thing or two about food and I’m very glad to be able to try it at home, in restaurants and, every now and then, in its homeland (raclette in Bordeaux, anyone?).

Berries and lime clafoutis

Berries, previosuly: Blackcurrant ripple frozen yoghurt and gooseberries and elderflower compote for your scones! Adapted from Raymond Blanc’s Cherry Clafoutis. Serves six.

Ingredients for the fruit
500 gr berries (I used 100 gr each of gooseberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, raspberries and blackberries)
45 gr caster sugar
2 tbsp port wine
Ingredients for the batter
70 gr butter
3 eggs + 1 egg yolk
90 gr caster sugar
seeds from a vanilla pod
zest from 2 limes
100 gr plain flour
170 gr milk
150 gr single cream

Mix all the ingredients for the fruit in a glass or ceramic bowl and leave to rest for at least two hours. Preheat the oven to 180°C and prepare the baking dish by greasing it with butter and dusting it with caster sugar. In a small saucepan, melt the butter until it becomes golden in colour. Leave to cool. In a bowl, mix eggs and egg yolk, caster sugar, vanilla seeds and lime zest well with a whick and then slowly incorporate the flour in the mixture. Now whisk in the milk and the cream, followed by the cooled melted butter. Pour the marinated berries into the batter and then pour everything in the baking dish, making sure you don’t fill it up to more than 3/4 of its capacity, or else it will overflow in the oven. Bake for 35 minutes and test that it’s done with a knife: the blade should come out of the clafoutis clean. Best served barely warm or at room temperature.