grow, forage, cook :: a basket of plums

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In my last post, I introduced a brand new collaborative blog series: grow, forage cook, which I’m starting with my friend Sabrina.  I’m going to begin my #growforagecook adventures with the large basket of plums which was has been gracing my kitchen table…

At our local PYO farm, there is a row of slightly neglected Victoria plum trees, straggling down the edge of the field between the rhubarb and the strawberries. We picked (and jammed) more than our fair share of strawberries at the start of the summer. Now that late summer is upon us with its warm, languorous abundance, plums are our fruit of choice, and a far cheaper option than the last of the berries. The trees are laden down with them, a sticky purple covering of windfalls on the ground below. Branches are low-hanging so that the boys are perfectly placed for picking, and the fruit is so ripe that it comes away easily in their hands. We ended up with almost 3kg of fruit, enough for a trio of my favourite plum recipes.

Jam is always my first thought, when blessed with a large basket of fruit. My last attempt at plum jam had been a disaster – it had to be re-boiled and eventually was usable only as a compote. That was a couple of years ago, and my jamming skills have improved, so I felt brave enough to have a second try. I used the recipe from my bible of jam – the River Cottage Preserves book. Plums are rich in pectin, so it’s a simple recipe with only plums, sugar and a little water (this Country Life recipe is similar). This time, using a combination of the jam thermometer and the saucer test, I caught it at exactly the right time, and the resultant jam was richly flavoured with an amazingly deep purple colour to it. My only regret was that I made half the recipe quantity, so ended up with only three jars of the stuff.

The next day, we had friends to visit for a roast, which proved the perfect opportunity to make another of my favourite plum recipes: a clafoutis. I use the recipe from the My Daddy Cooks book (you can see it made on video here), and every time I make it, I am once again surprised by just how quick and easy it is, given that it makes for such a delicious (if inelegant) pud. A traditional French clafoutis is made with cherries (and I fully intend to make one, if I can track down some cherries), but it works equally well with the humble plum.

Finally, and inevitably, I had to bake a plum cake of some description. This plum tray bake with a cream cheese ripple is one that I’ve adapted slightly from a long-lost supermarket recipe card. Making two batters sounds more complicated than it is, and the resultant cake combines fruity caramel flavours with light and creamy layers. It’s really rather scrumptious eaten sitting at the kitchen table in the late afternoon sunlight with a hot cup of tea.

Plum Tray Bake with cream cheese ripple

200g cream cheese

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp caster sugar

4 medium eggs

175g butter, softened

175g light brown soft sugar

200g self-raising flour

400g ripe plums, stoned and quartered (if small) or roughly chopped (if large

 

Preheat the oven to 180c, gas mark 4. Line a 23cm x 18cm shallow baking tin with baking parchment.

In a bowl, whisk together the cream cheese, vanilla extract, one egg and the caster sugar, until smooth.

In a separate bowl, or a freestanding mixer, combine the remaining eggs, butter, flour and sugar. Beat until pale and creamy.

Spread half the cake mixture over the base of the tray. Dollop over half the cream cheese mixture, mixing with an uneven swirl. Scatter with half of the plums. Spoon over the remaining cake mixture, dot with the rest of the cream cheese mixture. Scatter over the remaining plums.

Bake for about 45 minutes until risen, and just firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack.

 

So there you have it, three ways with plums for #growforagecook. I think it’s time for me to go and refill that basket. In the meantime, don’t forget that you can share your own pictures or blog posts (about plums or any other seasonal loveliness) using the #growforagecook hashtag on Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest, or in the comments  of this post. We’d love to see what’s been happening in your kitchen…

 

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