Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Bulls eye...

There are some flavours, that when combined are just spot on. No argument. Nail on the head, bulls eye and so on.
Red plums and star anise are one of those combinations. They wrap around each other like the very best of friends.
Star Anise is a fabulous little spice, beautiful to look, highly aromatic and with a rich and exotic flavour. Like with a lot of the best things, restraint will reward you. If you use too much of it, you will very quickly end up with something that tastes of a cheap scented candle and smells of a particularly nasty pot pouri. One of these star shaped beauties is all that is needed here. Putting a second one in will not make it better, in fact it will just make the dish smell and taste of the aforementioned noxious items.
I have always been amazed, at how plums that are rock hard and almost inedible when purchasing, are transformed into something delicious after poaching in a syrup.
Up to this point, I have always poached plums in a syrup but last night I decided to bake them, hence no need to use any water. This is good, very good. The flavour is considerably more intense and the syrupy juices richer in colour and consistency. I ate them whilst still warm with cold softly whipped cream and a splash of grappa and this morning I had them icy cold with yoghurt for breakfast .
The fun is just beginning with these boys and I am going to make another batch this weekend. I feel a plum fool or an ice cream coming on. More of that later.

This recipe will serve 6 people generously.

The plums will keep perfectly in the fridge for several days.

Preheat oven to 190c / 375f / gas 5

900g plums
225g sugar
1 lemon
1 star anise

Place the plums in a baking dish that they fit into snugly . Add the sugar. With a swivel peeler, peel long thin strips off the lemon rind, being careful to avoid the bitter white pith. Add to the dish with the juice of the lemon. Bury the star anise in the sugar. Cover the dish as tightly as you can with tin foil. The dish should be completely sealed so that no steam escapes while the plums are cooking. Place in the oven and cook for 50 minutes. Test to see that the plums are tender and if so remove from the oven. They should be starting to collapse and sitting in a pool of richly coloured syrup. Pop them back in the oven for a few more minutes if they are still hard.
Serve warm or chilled with plenty of the plum syrup.

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