Saucy Plums

There is a season, turn, turn, turn, and right now it’s time to pick bucket loads of plums and deal with them. Most fruits have alternate years of bountifulness, with plum gluts appearing every second year. This year’s pear and apple crops look rather dismal in contrast. There are far too many plums to preserve. Some will be halved and de-stoned, then frozen. Others poached and popped into the freezer, ready for winter puddings such as crumbles, cobblers and charlottes. The first crops matured a few weeks before Christmas. Now the Japanese varieties are at their peak. We planted three different varieties 5 years ago- Formosa, Mariposa and Satsuma; all are sweet, dark-skinned and red fleshed, and all have been carefully netted and kept at picking height. My daughter also handed over most of her crop –¬†7 kilo to be precise. To date, I have made plum sauce, plum and port topping for a Pavlova, plum Clafoutis, and plum muffins, as well as¬†Baked Plums with¬†Labne, my favourite breakfast dish.

The next lot to ripen, Satsuma.
The next lot to ripen, Satsuma.

To kick off the Sagre delle Prugne, my plum festival, is this simple Chinese style plum sauce. Wonderful with Har Gow dumplings, or smeared on a big fat sausage, used in a Chinese stir fry, or as a substitute for everyday tomato sauce or ketchup. It went quite nicely with this morning’s potato and spring onion cakes.

Bar boiled baby potatoes, grated, lots of spring onions, including the greens, salt, pepper, two eggs, fried in a smear of love oil. With plum sauce.
Breakfast Special. Par boiled baby potatoes, grated, lots of spring onions, including the greens, salt, pepper, two eggs, fried in a smear of olive oil. Served with plum sauce.

Multiply this recipe if you are doing a large batch. My last lot of sauce, based on 5 kilo of plums, required a huge preserving pan, a worthwhile investment.

Chinese plum sauce.

Ingredients

  • ¬†1 kg plums, stoned and halved
  • ¬†1 red onion, finely chopped
  • ¬†1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated
  • ¬†1 cup brown sugar
  • ¬†1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¬†1/2 cup water
  • ¬†1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¬†1 teaspoon salt
  • ¬†1 teaspoon Chinese five spice
  • ¬†1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes

    Plum sauce, batch 1
    Plum sauce, batch 1
  1. Place all ingredients in a large saucepan over high heat. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring, for 30 minutes or until plums collapse.
  2. Use a stick blender to blend until smooth, or put through a moulis, pressing well to extract as much as you can from the last skins. I prefer the texture of the latter method. If you think the sauce needs further thickening and reducing, return to the large saucepan and continue to cook down until slightly thicker.
  3. Pour hot sauce into sterilised bottles. Seal, label and date.
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As you can see from these pics, the sauce drops when it settles so fill to the top of the neck. I have used small sterilised passata jars ( 500 gr)  and am on the lookout for more. A great size for summer preserving.

Past plum recipes on Almost Italian include:

Rustic plum cake,

Lorenza de’Medici’s Fruit Charlotte¬†

Baked plums with Labne

White Polenta, Fave Beans and Salmon

After my broad bean shelling festival last week, some readers inquired about my culinary intentions for the little shelled gems. A few Spring broadbean treats have emerged from my kitchen of late, though some of the photos leave a lot to be desired. Today’s recipe is based on a dish I had in a restaurant in Oamaru, New Zealand, where they served creamy white polenta with a buttery sauce of local clams and crunchy fried capers. Ever since, I have been very partial to white polenta. I’m not a purist when it comes to polenta instantanea versus 20-40 minutes of aching arm action. Sometimes you have to cheat. Instant polenta is convenient and a versatile neutral tasting base on which to layer intense flavours. This recipe is meant to be¬†flexible:¬†you can use any fish or seafood that comes your way, or, leave it out entirely. Once the beans are shelled, and slipped out of their rubbery casings, the hard work is done.

bags of prepared fave beans, ready for the freezer.
Bags of prepared fave beans, ready for the freezer. The hard work is done.

Polenta Bianca con Fave e Salmone. White Polenta with fresh Broadbeans and Salmon. Ingredients listed for two people.

  • 1 cup instant white polenta
  • stock or water to cook the polenta as per packet directions
  • butter and grated parmigiano to enrich the polenta, to taste
  • 200 gr Atlantic salmon
  • I cup of double shelled broadbeans. ( if you are buying fresh broadbeans, you will need around 1 kilo)
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed and finely chopped
  • butter
  • black pepper
  • fresh marjoram leaves, a few stalks.

    Comfort food. Polenta, fave and salmon.
    Comfort food. Polenta, fave and salmon.
  1. Cut the skinless salmon fillets into chunks of around 6 cm. Season and lightly oil the pieces and heat a solid frying pan.
  2. Make the polenta according to packet instructions. This will come together within two or so minutes. Stir vigorously, then add butter and parmesan cheese. Stir until very smooth, then keep warm on a heat diffuser.
  3. Cook the salmon chunks to your liking. I like mine well coloured on the outside and just cooked through.
  4. Meanwhile, heat a small saucepan and add some butter. Add the garlic, stir for a few seconds, then add the shelled broadbeans. Stir till hot, then add the marjoram leaves and black pepper.
  5. Assemble the dishes in wide low bowls. First lay a bed of the hot polenta, then add the salmon chunks,  then the broadbeans. Add a lemon wedge and a drizzle of your best oil.
    Poelnta Bianca, Fave fresche e Salmone. Buonissimo.
    Polenta Bianca, Fave fresche e Salmone. Buonissimo.

    This is a gluten-free meal that is easy to prepare, though does involve three simultaneous maneuvers. To make the dish vegetarian, leave out the fish, add more butter to the broadbean sauce, and add some shaved parmesan at the end. To veganise the dish, leave out the fish and butter and use very good olive oil and more herbs for flavour.

Older posts on broadbeans can be found in these links below. https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2013/11/20/tagliatelle-with-broad-beans-and-smoked-salmon/  and  https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/italian-product-trial-farro-rice-and-barley-pilaf/

Lemon, Lime and Poppy Seed Cake with Books

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Cooking has taken a serious nosedive around this casa of late. It’s always the same after returning from a trip. The reality of cleaning, cooking, planting garlic, raking Autumn leaves, making compost, pruning, just to name a few tasks on the never ending list, makes me want to run away. Combine this cooking reluctance with Melbourne’s cold weather, a house full of bronchitis, a dodgy shoulder, and a very inviting wood fire and a stack of novels, and there you have it: ‘let them eat cake’, she said.

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This little cake was fast to make, didn’t involve too much mess for someone else to clean up, and goes very well with cups of tea, books and lethargy.

Ingredients

  • 125 g butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 tsp lime zest
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 250 g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 200 g self-raising flour
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of poppy seeds
  • 100 ml plain yoghurt

the syrup

  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons caster sugar

the method

Preheat the oven to 180¬įC. Butter and line a 30 cm loaf tin with baking paper, then butter again.

Place the butter and zest in  a mixing bowl of a stand mixer and beat until light and creamy. Add the sugar gradually and beat well after each addition. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well. Fold in the flour, poppy seeds and yoghurt, alternating between wet and dry. Spoon into the prepared tin. Bake in a preheated oven for 30-35 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Leave for 5 minutes then turn onto a wire rack.

To make the syrup, place the juices and sugar in a pan, simmer gently and stir continually until the sugar dissolves. Make holes in the cake with a skewer and pour the hot syrup over the hot cake, aiming at the holes and centre.

The cake will last for three days, but ours didn’t.

Adapted from The New Cranks Recipe Book, Nadine Abensur 1996.

A larger lime syrup cake recipe can be found here:  https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2014/07/29/easy-lime-syrup-cake/

Novels read with cake:

  • A Thousand Spendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini, 2007.¬†Kindle edition.¬†Thanks Rachael P for the recommendation.
  • Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas, 2013. Allen and Unwin. ¬†A must read before the TV series is released.

 

Apricot and Almond Summer Crumble

Blink and you’ll miss it:¬†that’s how fast the apricot season comes and goes. ¬†This crumble is simple and elegant and can be thrown together in 5 minutes. It is also a lot lighter than the oat topped crumble one usually associates with winter. As I always have a big kilo bag of almond meal on hand, my mind tends to wander towards fruit and almond creations. I can’t wait to make this with blood plums later in the season.

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The crumble shown is in a smaller gratin dish for two. The recipe below makes a larger family sized dessert.

Recipe

  • 30 ripe apricots
  • 100g sugar, plus extra to sprinkle
  • 125 g plain flour
  • 100g almond meal
  • 175 g unsalted butter
  • 60 g flaked almonds
  • cream and ice cream to serve.

Preheat oven to 200c/180c Fan Forced.¬†Cut apricots in half and remove the stones. Arrange them in a ceramic or enamel baking dish to fit. Sprinkle with sugar. Mix the flour and almond meal together and rub in the butter. Spread over the fruit and sprinkle with almond flakes. Sprinkle lightly with a little more sugar. Bake for 30 minutes. Be careful not to burn the almond flakes by covering with foil or reducing the temperature. Serve warm with cream or ice cream OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This makes an excellent breakfast with thick yoghurt. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARecipe originally from Maggie’s Farm, Maggie Beer. Reprinted in Let’s Do Lunch, Delicious . ABC 2003.