Tuesday, 4 January 2011
Feasts by Silvena Rowe
My father-in-law is one of those people who knows exactly when his local supermarket reduces everything to around 10p, and makes a daily trip for bargains. Whilst he does occasionally come away with some gems, this practice generally drives us a bit nuts. My mother-in-law suffers as she can never find any space in her freezer, packed as it is with stinky fish none of us want to eat (due to a combination of ethics and self preservation). Father-in-law prides himself on his cast iron stomach and how he can eat food days, if not weeks, out of date. This, of course, is fine if done sensibly. I myself have used eggs 3 months past their bbe date because they were still fresh enough to use in baking, and I generally take no notice of dates on anything other than dairy and meat. However, father-in-law's tastebuds and sense of smell are such that he doesn't realise when cream has turned, or when a cake tastes musty. This used to particularly infuriate my OH when I was pregnant, and was being encouraged to eat all kinds of nasties which were "only out of date by a week!"
Lately it has all been about fruit and he's been coming round with carrier bags filled with the stuff. Sometimes he's got some brilliant bargains, such as lots of organic citrus. However, usually we are presented with dozens of non fairtrade bananas (I feel guilty about using them, but even guiltier for wasting them, what to do?) and imported orchard fruits. A couple of days the haul included some peaches (most had frozen at some point and had gone grey and soggy) and some South African plums, the size and texture of a snooker ball.
In her Fruit Book, Jane Grigson says late winter plums from South Africa are "of a beauty that holds your eye" with "a subtle charming flavour which has managed to survive the exigencies of transportation." Alas mine are of the earlier sort which "are sweet and acid and little more." On this occasion, apart from the reminder to extract the kernel from the stone for extra flavour, Jane Grigson isn't much help. My absolute favourite thing to do with plums is to make Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's plumpote and by product of plum dipping sauce from The River Cottage Year. However, I save the best plums for that. At the moment, I don't feel like pie, or pudding or yeasty cakes. Instead, I settle for simple poached plums and hit on a recipe from Silvena Rowe's Feasts. Normally I would use spices such as cinnamon, ginger or star anise, this time I am following her Bulgarian inspired recipe to the letter. The halved and stoned plums are simmered in a sugar syrup to which cloves and lemon juice have been added. When the plums are soft, add rose water to taste. Silvena Rowe serves this with rose water sorbet, which I may try in the summer. For now, it is lovely with a warm vanilla custard or some thick Greek-style yoghurt.