A few days ago, it was baking hot outside – 30° here in London – but as we all knew, it was not going to last. We had hot days and warm evenings, but the mornings were crisp and cool. We knew we would be shivering under coats and scarves in a couple of weeks, and the seasonal produce has been providing a pretty clear steer as to what is coming.
And now it is indeed autumn! Leaves are turning and people are turning to cosy pubs with log fires. At this time of year, there are also plums everywhere, so time to enjoy them before they are gone.
I had a lovely bag of purple-blue Marjory plums sitting in the kitchen, but I’ve been so busy in the last week with work and travel that they were not being eaten. Slightly past their best to enjoy as they are, I decided to make a compote with them. It’s the perfect way to use fruit – very easy to make and still allows the flavour of the fruit to shine through. And making compote is just as magical as making jam – the golden flesh and dark skins of the plums were transformed into a deep ruby compote. Try it with Victoria plums and it turns a vibrant red. Mirabelles will turn into deep amber. Just like the colour of the leaves!
In a nod to the long-expected-and-now-here autumn weather, I made this recipe even more seasonal by using a good dash of my famous German Lebkuchen spice mix to add touches of cinnamon, cloves, aniseed and ginger.
Compote is simplicity itself. Fruit, sprinkling of sugar, a little water and leave to cook for simmer for thirty minutes. Job done. In my version, I just de-stoned and sliced it into quarters. I like the strips of skin which curl up and seem to become candied in the compote, but if you like a smoother compote with fewer “bits” you can of course chop the fruit into smaller pieces.
Finally, I planned to keep the compote for a few days to eat on yoghurt for breakfast, so I added one of the pits from a plum stone to the compote to give a hint of almond flavour. They are small but strong, so be warned – just the one will do it!
Compote on yoghurt is delicious and a classic pairing, but of course do not limit something so delicious to breakfast. It is great on pancakes or ice cream, but it makes a truly excellent addition to chocolate – try a cake with a decent side of spicy plum compote and tell me that does not serve as the perfect antidote to cool days and chilly evenings. This also makes a lovely quick and easy jam for the impatient to spoon onto warm scones. No messing around with pectin, setting points or sterile jars. It doesn’t last as long as proper jam, but chances are that it is not going to last long enough for that to ever be an issue!
To make plum compote:
• large plums (Victoria, Greengage, Marjorie)*
• sugar (10g per plum)
• water (10ml per plum)
• ground spice, to taste
Rinse the plums and remove the stones. Cut into pieces (small or large, according to preference). Add the sugar, water, spice and kernel from one plum stone. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes, or until the fruit has collapsed.
Mash the fruit slightly with a fork, then either serve as a sauce or store in a jam jar in the fridge for 2-3 days.
(*) For damsons, use 10g sugar per 3-4 plums, and for mirabelles, use 10g of sugar per 5-6 plums. Err on the side of caution, you can always add a little more sugar. And beware – do not use sloes for this recipe!
Worth making? This is the flavour of autumn! It is full of flavour, tangy yet sweet, and rounded off by the heady, rich aromas of spices that provide the hint of warmth when it’s chilly outside.