Food Education | Italian Reteats | Food & Wine Tours Italy

Like a rolling stone (fruit)…and a pear recipe thrown in

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This week I cooked lots of fruit. Being the end of summer I ended up with piles of peaches and tiny tart pears from my organic delivery scheme and mountains of plums from various sources: Avalons from the same organic box, a bag of damsons I bought locally and some slightly unripe Belles my neighbour brought round.  I ate juicy flat peaches, the last of the strawberries (some from my garden, what joy!) blueberries and blackberries, but then I quickly realised I had to find a way to use up all the remaining fruit.

It reminded me of what my mother went through when my dad would turn up from the countryside with the car boot stacked with wicker baskets full of plums, peaches, grapes and figs. Instead of being thankful for the gift of fresh fruit, she rolled her eyes in desperation and started working out what to do with all the bounty.

So, like she did back then, I set up in the kitchen and started cooking.

I made plum compote with chilli and star anise, peaches with amaretto, pears in red and white wine, a plum mustard relish, a plum smoothie, a damsons cake in a wok, and roast plums with Courvoisier. I don’t generally like desserts that much and only tend to have fruit in the morning, so inevitably much of these creations have been distributed to friends and work colleagues.

Here are the recipes.

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  1. Plum compote with chilli and star anise

This is my favourite dish. My mum makes it with no honey by simply simmering some tiny super sweet plums she finds in markets. I added the honey as Avalons are slightly sharper.

Makes a 300g jar

450 grams quartered slightly unripe Belle plums or similar
3 tbsp honey
a pinch of salt
1 2 cm thumb ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 whole star anise
4 allspice berries, crushed
1 chilli, halved

Cook all ingredients apart from the chilli a small pan for about 10 minutes until soft.
Add the chilli and simmer gently for another 2-3 minutes. Discard the chilli and pour in a sterilised jar.

Health score: 9

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2. Peaches with amaretto

This is a traditional Piedmontese dish, a dessert often made at home and eaten over the course of a few days.

Makes 12 pieces (dessert for 6 people)

6 round yellow peaches, halved
2 egg yolks
30g sugar
2tbsp raw cocoa, sifted
200g amaretti biscuits, reserve two for sprinkling on top
1 knob unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 180º.
Halve the peaches, discard the stone and some of the flesh around it ad set aside.
In a food processor, beat the eggs and sugar, then add the cocoa and amaretti.
Fill the peach centres with this mix, butter a oven tray where they can fit snugly and place them in. Crush two more amaretti biscuits in a mortar and sprinkle on top together with a shaving of butter.
cook in the oven for 30 mins and serve with vanilla ice cream or a dollop of custard cream.

Decadent and lush, love the raw cocoa. Health score: 7

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3. Pears in red and white wine

An Italian classic quick dessert, I find this is particularly suited to small pears that soak in all the wine flavours even better than big ones. But you can use any pears, the long Kaiser variety is also particularly suited.

Serves 6 (or as many pears as you end up using)

600g whole pears, peeled if large, scored if small
185 ml white wine
185-200 ml red wine
30g sugar
1 tbsp honey (I used linden because of its sweet aroma)
2 star anise (or one stick cinnamon)
1/2 vanilla pod, opened, scraped and chucked in
1 small thumb ginger, peeled and sliced

200g tub mascarpone
200g creme fraiche
1 or 2 tbsp honey, to taste
orange or lime zest

Peel the pears and place them in a small saucepan together with all the other ingredients. Bring to boil and cook covered on medium heat for 15 minutes or until the pears are soft and soaked through. Remove the fruit and place on a serving dish and cook the juice until caramelised. In the meantime mix the mascarpone, creme fraiche, honey and zest in a food processor and when ready set aside. When the juice has thickened, pour it on the pears and serve with the mascarpone mix.

Health score: 7, if you manage only one pear…

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4. Plum ‘mostarda’

This is an adaptation on a recipe found on Guardian Cook last week. I added shallots because this way it better reminds me of sauces used with meats back home.

Makes a 300g jar

500g Avalon plums, halved and stoned
30g caster sugar
1tbsp oil
2 small shallots finely chopped
1 2 cm thumb ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp mustard powder
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp yellow mustard seeds

Preheat the oven to 200º.
Place the plums cut side up in a oven tray and cover their top in a fine dusting of sugar. Roast for 20 minutes then leave to cool.
In a small saucepan, heat the oil and fry shallots and ginger until soft.
Transfer the fruit and juice to the sauce pan, break the plums gently with your spoon and add the mustard powder and vinegar. Cook on medium low heat for 10 minutes, stirring.
Taste and add vinegar if needed, then the mustard seeds.
Spoon the mustard into a sterilised jar.

Health score: 8

cooked plums fruit

5. Roast plums with Courvoisier

You can make these while you roast the plums for the mostarda sauce. They are a quick and satisfying dessert or a decadent breakfast if you have them with a dollop of thick creamy yogurt as I did.

Serves 6

500g Avalon plums, halved and stoned
50g caster sugar
1 tbsp aromatic honey (linden or similar)
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
20ml Courvoisier liquor

Preheat the oven to 200º.
Place the plums in a oven tray and cover with sugar and honey. Grate the nutmeg on top then sprinkle the liquor. Roast the plums in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes then transfer together with the juices onto a serving dish. Save for dessert (it would work with anything from vanilla ice-cream or the creme fraiche and mascarpone mix) or breakfast.

Health score: 6

 

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6. Damson cake in a wok.

I made this after dinner, desperate to come up with the quickest cake idea possible.

300g dark ripe damsons
10ml water
50g coconut sugar
2 tbsp honey

200g ’00’ white flour, the same you would use for pasta
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 pinch himalayan salt

50g unsalted butter
40g coconut sugar
2 medium eggs
200ml single cream

Preheat the oven to 180º.
Cook the damsons on low heat with 10g of the sugar and all of the honey, all the time crushing them with a wooden spoon. When the mixture has thickened slightly and the damsons looked compote-ready, pick the stones out with a teaspoon and let cool.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a bowl
In a food processor with a dough blade, mix the butter and the remaining 40g of coconut sugar together. When thoroughly blended, beat in the eggs and start adding he flour mixture in batches, alternating with the single cream. the resulting dough should be smooth and sticky, and form a uniform batter in the processor. If lumpy, add more cream, if liquid (although this shouldn’t happen) more flour.
Butter and lightly flour the wok. Pour in the batter mixture then top with the damson compote. Cook for about 30 minutes until dough on the side has risen and browned. Check with a toothpick it is cooked throughly before taking out and transferring on a serving plate.

Health score: 7

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7. Plum smoothie

I made this out of curiosity with a couple of the plums for after seeing the recipe on the Martha Stewart’s website and adapting it to my taste (substituting sugar with honey and adding chia seeds). I love the vanilla in it but next time I want to try it with almond milk or yogurt (or a blend of both), as I found the buttermilk too heavy.

Serves 2:

4 roasted plum halves
1/2 vanilla pod, scraped and opened
2 tbsp honey (again, aromatic varieties such as linden are particularly suited)
200ml buttermilk
2 tbsp chia seeds
6 ice cubes

Take a couple of the roast plums from the mustard recipe and cook them on low heat for about 10 minutes with a vanilla pod and honey. Set aside and let cool. Blend in a food processor together with buttermilk, chia seeds and ice cubes. Pour into two 300ml glasses and enjoy.

Health score: 8, or 9 if made with alternative to buttermilk

 

 

 

 

Carolina Stupino

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