Plums, like the cherry, are of Genus Prunus and there are around 20 species used in several different ways, the species used in Britain is P domestica which is actually a hybrid of two other species. P domestica has been bred into several varieties including my favourite, the greengage.
Stone 8 ounces of morello or amarelle cherries, plums or damsons. You can use canned cherries if you want, just make sure they are in water, not syrup. This is what I used. Put the fruit in a saucepan along with ¼ pint each of red wine and port, a tablespoon of sugar, 2 cloves and an inch-long piece of cinnamon. Bring to a boil and simmer for around 10 minutes until the fruit is nice and tender. If you want, you can sieve the damsons or plums if using, but I think it’s better to leave whole. Now add 2 good tablespoons of redcurrant jelly and the juice of 3 oranges and a lemon. Season with black pepper and, off the heat, stir in an ounce of butter. Taste and add more sugar if needed.
It was Butters’ birthday the other week, so naturally I did a bit cooking. He requested lamb as that is his favourite meat. This one is an interesting one – a leg of lamb pot roasted with wine and plums. Butters was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t a roast, you just can’t please some people, can you? I wanted to do this one because it used plums and they are in season and are nice and cheap to boot. I’m quite a fan of the English habit of eating rich meat with fruit; we have gotten out of this habit recently though. Another important thing: it’s also nice and easy.
Start off by browning a leg of lamb all over in butter. If it is very fatty, it would be a good idea to trim any excess off – it’ll prevent the dish becoming too greasy. Place the joint in a large ovenproof casserole and add two glasses of red wine, ten plums (leave them whole), a medium chopped onion, a chopped clove of garlic and a quarter teaspoon each of ground cinnamon and allspice (or nutmeg). Cover with the lid and place in an oven preheat to 200⁰C for around two hours. Remove the lamb, and keep it warm. Skim any fat from the juices in the casserole and pass it through a sieve to make a smooth sauce. Reheat it and add sugar – one or two teaspoons should do, you don’t want it too sweet, plus some extra spices if you like. Pour some sauce over the lamb, and serve the remainder in a jug or gravy boat. Griggers is strict with the accompaniments: “Potatoes are the only vegetable to serve with lamb cooked in this way.” That’s us told.
#191 Lamb with Plums. This was a really delicious, simple recipe. The lamb turned out to be very succulent and the tart, spicy plum sauce was really delicious. I’m not about just having spuds with it though, I like a bit of green with my tea. 8/10.
I made this dessert to go after the duck with mint and sauce paloise as it was all very rich, the idea being that it would cleanse the palate and all that. Plus it’s a chance to use lots of the dark summer fruits now that they’re on the wane a bit. (That said, they are just coming through in the wild – when Butter and I went to Chatsworth House for a walk in the woods, we found wild raspberries, blackberries and strawberries.) I had mentioned making this fruit salad a few times, but people always opted for something else. This time, I just made it and didn’t tell anyone what they were having; a strategy I may use again. What seems to put folk off is the addition of the tea, of course, and think it’s just some weird post-war thing (I must admit, I thought that too), but Griggers says that it is delicious and that you would never guess the delicious sweet liquid is mainly Earl Grey.
You can any fruit you like and in any quantity, though it is best to stick to dark and red soft fruits. I stuck to what Jane suggests: 1 lb purple plums, stoned and chopped; 1 lb black cherries, stoned; ½ lb black grapes, halved; ½ lb strawberries, halved (or sliced if they are large) and 4 ounces of raspberries. Arrange the fruit in a glass bowl in layers, using sliced strawberries to line the bowl, and sprinkling sugar as you go. Cover and leave overnight. Next day, make a double strength brew of Earl Grey or orange pekoe tea and leave to cool. Pour it onto the bowl so that it almost comes to the top. Taste the tea and add more sugar if necessary. Decorate with mint leaves. There is no need to serve it with anything at all.
#179 Fruit Salad with Tea. Really, really good! A complete surprise and a taste sensation. The tea was light, sweet and delicious, and Jonty and Butters didn’t guess that there was tea in there. The fruit had gone soft and juicy, looking like little jewels. I didn’t think a fruit salad could be so good! I shall never make a fruit salad any other way again. 8/10
FYI: The Earl Grey referred to in Earl Grey tea is the second Earl Grey, who was a Prime Minister in the 1830s. He was sent some tea flavoured with bergamot oil as a gift from China, and so it was forever named after him
Real vanilla ice-cream, a port-spiked plum sauce and a crunchy caramel oat biscuit; this is a dessert to impress. You could, of course, make any of the things separately as they are all good. In fact, you make much more of the sauce than you need, so freeze what is left for the next time you make ice cream. Make sure you have to the whole day to make it, or start it the previous day, which is what I did. The whole reason I made this was that I saw some lovely plums in the grocers window and remembered seeing this recipe, thinking I’d never get round to it, since plums in this country are usually a bit insipid. If you see some nice ones, make this dessert, people.
You can make any of the three elements in any order.
The vanilla ice-cream
Boil half a pint of milk or single cream (however, see review bit, below) along with a split vanilla pod with the seeds scraped out. Pour gradually onto 2 egg yolks, a whole egg and 2 tablespoons of soft brown sugar, whisking all the way. Then pour the whole lot back into the saucepan and heat gently until it thickens slightly. Don’t be tempted to turn the heat too high as you’ll get scrambled eggs. Pour the whole lot through a sieve and back into the bowl. You don’t have to sieve it, but it will remove any scrambled egg bits, should there be any. Fish out the vanilla pod; you can wash and dry it and use it again later (I keep mine in a jar of sugar, in case a recipe asks for vanilla sugar). Cover with cling-film and allow to cool.
When cold, pour the mixture into an ice cream maker, and when about half frozen, add half a pint of whipped double cram. Keep churning in the mixer until stiff enough to scoop into a tub and freeze. Make sure that you bring the ice cream out of the freezer at least half an hour before you want to serve it.
The lace biscuits
These are quite tricky customers. You can make them big or small, but the bigger they are, the more difficult they are to handle. I did big ones which looked great, but were a total nightmare. There was a small amount of swearing involved, so I recommend not to make them with children present.
Before you start making them, grease two baking sheets and a rolling pin, and set your oven to 180°C. Next, gently melt 2 ½ ounces of butter and take it off the heat. Mix in2 ½ ounces of rolled porridge oats, 4 ounces of caster sugar and a teaspoon each of flour and baking powder, then beat in the egg. Using a dessert spoon, drop blobs of the mixture at least 2 inches apart from each other as they do spread out rather a lot. The more generous you are with your spoons the bigger the biscuits will be. Bake one sheet at a time for 8-12 minutes, depending on size, until golden brown.
This is the tricky bit: Using a palette knife, remove the still-soft biscuits from the baking tray and drape over the rolling pin. Wait about 30 seconds for it to solidify a little and transfer to a wire rack to cool properly. Hey presto, a posh curly biscuit! Repeat with all the biscuits. If they start getting to hard again, just put them back in the oven to soften up.
The plum sauce
De-stone and slice 1 ½ pounds of ripe plums and gently heat with a few tablespoons of water in a saucepan. Make sure the fruit doesn’t stick. Meanwhile make a caramel. I’d never done this before, but it was a piece of piss, so don’t be scared. Stir 8 ounces of sugar in 5 tablespoons of water very gently over a low heat. When dissolved, stop stirring and bring it to the boil. Keep doing this for about 10 minutes until it’s a lovely dark caramel colour. Whilst it’s boiling, liquidise and sieve the stewed plums. When the caramel is ready, take off the heat and very gradually add 6 tablespoons of cold water by stirring. Be very careful here – if you add too much, it will spit on you. I cannot be responsible for any injuries! When fully incorporated, return to the heat to dissolve any lumps and stir in the plums. When cool, add a slosh of port; I’ll leave the amounts to you, as it depends on taste, though I put in around 4 tablespoons.
To present: Place one or two scoops of ice cream onto a biscuit and pour over the sauce.
#74 Vanilla Ice with Plum Sauce and Lace Biscuits – 9/10. A brilliant dessert! Everything works together perfectly. One of the best things about this dish is the real restaurant-quality feel you get about it. All the other desserts, even the ones that are a bit posh, are no way near as impressive as this. I made the ice cream with milk instead of cream, and it didn’t have the silky texture it had when I made the ginger ice cream (it’s exactly the same recipe, except for the flavourings). If I’d one it with cream, I think it would’ve been a 10!