October 3, 2012
I never get colds and am so under the weather. A couple of trips out in the torrential rain to get Dan have done me in. Auggie thought I had to be kidding, couldn’t we just leave him there? Only Lee was safe playing with his butterfly, eating his book, safe in his mobile hothouse. Unlike the others he loves being under that plastic pram cover. Auggie tries to get in beside him and is given short shift by Lee. Nice try kid, I’d be in there myself if I could….
The upshot is that our oven is now on every afternoon warming the kitchen and cooking dinner.We’ve been too busy drying off to faff around chopping veg for soups so I’ve been roasting up whatever’s around whole or halved. Yesterday it was leeks, butternuts and carrots in olive oil with rosemary. I then browned a handful of pancetta in the soup pot, adding hot stock, and a handful of red lentils then roughly chopped up the roasted veggies and throw them in. You let things simmer for about 15 minutes then blend to the texture you like and season to taste. That was dinner sorted while everyone dried off and had hot chocolate.
Fruit is another thing that’s magic done in the oven and at this time of the year you get a lovely mix of end of summer and start of autumn varieties. At the moment plums don’t have the sugar of the high summer varieties but they work beautifully baked with pears. I also love some dried figs in there too but fresh are obviously wonderful but they can be trickier and pricier to track down.
A few weeks ago there were still peaches and nectarines around and and they work really well in this recipe. You can do this kind of dish in under an hour but like most roasting, it tastes better if you give it plenty of time. An hour and a half plus will give you super-sticky, almost chewy fruit gently spiced that’s aching for a dollop of cream.ice-cream or greek yogurt and maybe a handful of crumbled biscuits. We had some with a cheese cake last night and it was as good as it sounds.
Slow baked spiced fruit
3 large red firm plums (or 5/6 small ones)
6 dried figs
4 medium firm pears
1/2 glass red wine
3 heaped tablespoons light muscovado sugar
1 cinnamon quill
4 pieces mace
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
4 star anise
Small pinch ground cloves
Peel, core and quarter the pears. Halve the plums removing the stones. Place in an ovenproof dish along with figs and cinnamon quill. Mix the rest of the spices with the wine and sugar then pour over the fruit. Cover the dish with tinfoil and bake for 30 minutes at Gas mark 5.Remove the foil and gently turn the fruit over to make sure all sides get coated in wine then return to the oven and bake for a further hour or so until the liquid has reduced to a sticky caramel. Eat warm or at room temperature.
French toast is a big weekend favourite in this house. As well as being super quick and easy, it’s a brilliant way to bridge the sweet and savoury thing on those mornings when you just don’t know what you want. It was invented to use up old bread and it works better this way as dry bread soaks up more egg than fresh. I throw bits that are too far gone for toast into the freezer so I have a stash. The classic approach is maple syrup and maybe a few pieces of streaky bacon but fruit is also a great partner.
Plum season is really hitting its stride at the moment and what you may not know, is they are great cooked. Last year I did a gorgeous crumble with almonds which we ate all summer so it wasn’t too much of a leap to stew and serve them alongside rounds of lightly spiced french toast, a dollop of mascarpone and some toasted almond nibs. Now is that a recipe for a perfect brunch or what?
Spiced French toast with a plum compote, Mascarpone and toasted almonds (for 2)
4-6 decent rounds of old bread or about 12 baguette rounds
3 large eggs
A generous dash of milk
1 heaped teaspoon cinnamon
The plum compote
A generous knob butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
50gr (2 tablepsoons) Mascarpone or Greek yogurt
1 heaped tablespoon flaked almonds or almond nibs lightly toasted on the pan (toasted hazelnuts would also be lovely)
Maple or apple syrup (optional)
Begin with the plums – wash them then cut in half, twist the halves off the stone then quarter each one. Heat the butter on a pan and add the plums. Toss for a minute then throw in the sugar and keep moving for another 2-3 minutes then take off the heat and set aside
Beat the eggs with the milk and cinnamon. Soak the bread in the egg mixture for a few minutes then fry in butter or a very light olive oil til golden on each side. Serve immediately with the plums, a dollop of Mascarpone topped with the almonds. Drizzle with a little syrup. Enjoy.