IN SEPTEMBER, I will be driving through France and visiting some old friends en route. You will not be surprised to know that some will be at their restaurants, some will be in their vineyards, but the first port of call will be in Normandy, at a little distillery just south of Honfleur.

Here my friend, Pascal, makes a very fine Calvados, the drink most associated with Normandy.

This is where the 'trou normand' is taken, a shot of young Calvados, served in the middle of a lengthy lunch, to aid digestion.

The département of Calvados - one of five in Normandy - owes its name to a Spanish galleon, El

Calvador, which sank off the coast at the time of the Spanish Armada.

The best examples of Calvados rival some of the oldest Cognacs and Armagnacs, which are made from the tart grapes of their respective regions.

Calvados, however, is made from the fermented juice of Normandy apples, or cider. The best is aged in wood, losing its raw appley taste, but retaining a tang of the fruit and a complex roundness from the cask.

The more basic, younger and somewhat fiery, are best suited to cooking. Pascal cooks a splendid tarte normande using this, the recipe for which he gave me many years ago. This is my version of it.

Pascal's tarte normande

Serves 6-8


* 200g sweet pastry

* 100g Demerara sugar

* 25g unsalted butter

* 750g cooking apples, peeled cored and cut into wedges

* 50ml Calvados

* 4 egg yolks

* 200ml double cream

Method 1) Line a flan ring or tin with the sweet pastry and bake it blind, using foil and baking beans.

2) Melt the butter in a large pan, adding the sugar.

3) When bubbling, toss the apples, a few at a time, until they are well coated.

4) Return them all to the pan, and add the Calvados, and flambé them for a couple of minutes.

5) Cover briefly with a large lid to extinguish. (You may miss out the flambé bit if you are nervous!)

6) Tip the apples evenly into the baked flan case, together with any juices.

7) Beat the cream and yolks together and pour over the fruit.

8) Bake in a hot oven, 220ºC/gas mark 7, for about 35 minutes.

9) Allow to cook slightly, then remove the flan ring and dust with icing sugar.