I can scarcely believe my eyes. A Bank Holiday is upon us, and…clear blue skies? What’s happening? Where’s the drizzle gone?
As I sit writing, it’s a gorgeous day outside. I’m hoping to get out into the garden myself at some point.
Well, I hope you all had a lovely time on Monday. Perhaps some of you took the opportunity to do a little fruit picking.
Those of us with plum trees will know that it’s that time of year; the annual glut of beautiful, juicy plums.
When we had the restaurant, our kitchen garden farm had at least half a dozen trees, and they would go crazy with the cropping – we had so many plums we genuinely didn’t know what to do with them all.
We were inundated! Off they went into sauces, sorbets, ice-creams and compotes. Even now, at the café, people plead with us to relieve them of their bumper plum harvests. We try our best!
A good tree will, in its most productive years, yield kilo upon kilo annually, so it’s always nice to have plenty of recipes on hand, ready to weather the onslaught.
Fortunately, plums are extremely versatile. Traditional jams, jellies and curds are a good place to start.
Keep a bag of stoned plums in the freezer for adding a sharp, fruity touch to pork or game stews or pies.
Try blending them with Chinese five-spice, vinegar and sizzled shallots to make a tangy barbecue sauce for shellfish, meat and poultry.
Plums make excellent chutneys and pickles, too – making a few batches now ensures you’ll have a sharp, fruity pickle to accompany cold roast meats, terrines and pâtés through the colder months.
But while they’re at their freshest and ripest, it would seem silly not to just enjoy a few recipes using them at their simple best.
Open tarts, sugar-crusted pies or croustades (my Examiner recipe here can be easily modified) are perfect, as is the basic crumble, but for this week’s recipe we serve up a French classic, the clafoutis.
Hailing from the Limousin region, famed for its fruit-growing, a clafoutis is a simple baked fruit dish, where a thick, sometimes boozy, batter is poured around soft fruit (usually cherries) and baked until risen and crusty. It’s served with chilled whipped cream or ice-cream and is one of the best ways of showing off the fruit in a simple but truly effective manner.
The juices burst forth into the light, fluffy batter, and the cold cream clashes with the hot pudding delightfully.
As you can see, I had plenty of plums at my disposal – reddish Victorias, sweet
yellow mirabelles and tart greengages – my favourites – so I blended them together.
Go with what you have and enjoy these delightful fruits at their very best. For those of a sensitive disposition, the almonds can be left out and replaced with one extra egg yolk to shore things up.
For the clafoutis
500g assorted plums (Victoria, mirabelle, greengage, etc.)
The juice of 1 lemon (grate and reserve the zest)
100g golden caster sugar
The seeds of 1 vanilla pod
2 free-range eggs
2 free-range egg yolks
50g ground almonds
250ml double cream
2 tbsps plain flour
A splash of brandy/vodka/eau-de-vie (optional)
For the cream:
450g fresh clotted cream
1 x 200g tub of diced glacé ginger
The zest of 1 lemon
A suitable baking dish that will fit the fruit in 1 layer
A knob of butter
First, make up the ginger cream. Scoop the clotted cream into a bowl, and fold in the ginger and the lemon zest. Level the top, cover with clingfilm and chill until required.
Now for the clafoutis. Heat the oven to 190ºC / Gas 5. Sift the flour into a large bowl, and add the sugar and ground almonds.
Add the eggs and yolks, plus the vanilla seeds, and whisk until smooth.
Pour in the cream (and alcohol, if using) and whisk the whole mixture until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least half an hour.
Just as for the making of Yorkshire Puddings, this allows the starch molecules to ‘inflate’ which makes for a lighter, fluffier batter.
As the batter relaxes, halve and stone the plums and toss in the lemon juice in a non-reactive bowl.
Grease your baking dish with a little butter. When you’re ready to cook, arrange the plums in a single layer in the baking dish and carefully pour in enough batter to almost cover the fruit. Bake for 25-30mins, until the clafoutis is risen and golden, but still ever-so-slightly wobbly at the centre. Remove from the oven, cool a little (the fruit will be unbelievably hot) and serve with scoops of the cold gingery cream.