Blessed with a productive plum tree it seems a little churlish to complain but it sometimes stretches my culinary creativity. Plum wine is brewing, the crumbles are coming thick and fast but I thought I'd share a few recent creations for any of you drowning in a deluge of plums.
Venison with plums and three-root mash
Venison is a healthy and ethical choice for a meaty meal. It is low in fat, high in protein and a great source of vitamins B12 and B3 as well as omega 3. Additionally, due to the richness of the flavour, a smaller portion can provide real satisfaction. The rich gaminess of the venison is offset wonderfully by the fruity sharpness and the creamy sweetness of the mash completes the trinity of flavours. A posh treat for early autumn.
4 venison steaks
1tsp juniper berries
1/2 tsp salt
1 clove of garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
Splash of red wine
4 ripe plums, stoned and halved
Sprig of fresh thyme
30ml of port or red wine
250g floury potatoes, peeled and diced
250g parsnips, peeled and diced
250g swede or turnip, peeled and diced
50ml double cream
1/4tsp freshly grated nutmeg
In a pestle and mortar crush the garlic to a paste with the salt. Add the juniper berries and lightly crush. Add the olive oil and red wine, mix thoroughly and rub into the venison steaks. Pour over the remaining marinade and leave for 2 hours or overnight if possible. Make sure you remove the steaks from the fridge at least an hour before you want to cook them.
Place the plums in a frying pan over a medium heat. Pour over the port and add the sprig of thyme. Keep the plums moving in the pan and with a spoon repeatedly pour the liquid on top of the plums. You want the plums to retain their shape but be releasing their juices. Be careful not to overcook them now as you will want to reheat them when you are ready to serve.
Remove the plums from the liquid and turn up the heat. The liquid needs to boil gently. Depending on how much juice was released from the plums you may need to add a splash more port.
To make the mash, first boil the parsnips and swede in a big pan of salted water. Once they are soft lift them from the water and add the potatoes. You can start mashing the parsnips and swede whilst the potatoes are cooking. When the potatoes are cooked add them to the mix. Mash, add the butter and double cream and then the nutmeg. I love nutmeg so I add around 1/2 teaspoon but you may want less. Season well.
When you are ready to serve, return the plums to the sauce and put on a very low heat. Return the mash to the heat, again very low. Now you need to cook the venison. Wipe any garlic and juniper berries off the meat before the it goes in the pan.
To pan fry the venison, heat around 1tbsp of olive oil in a wide frying pan. When the oil is very hot, add the steaks. Sear the meat for 1 minute, turn over and sear the other side for 1 minute. Then turn down the heat to a low temperature and continue to cook for around 3 minutes on each side. This should cook the steaks to medium rare. You may want to cook them for longer.
Remove the steaks from the pan and allow them to rest. Add the remaining marinade to the pan and gentle cook until the garlic is soft. Now add the mix to the plums and give the sauce a good stir.
Serve the venison on top of the mash and the plums to the side, drizzling the sauce over the meat. Bon appétit.
I spend too much money on posh squash and decided that a glut of plums could remedy this. A veritable success! It's delicious, refreshing and a beautiful colour. This cordial will not last as long as a store-bought one but freezes very well in a plastic bottle.
500g plums (stoned & halved)
2tsp vanilla essence
100g caster sugar
Place the plums, vanilla and honey in a heavy based saucepan with 250ml of water. Boil the plums until the mixture is a soft pulp (this normally takes 15 minutes depending on how ripe your fruit is).
Allow the pulp to cool slightly and then push through a sieve with the back of a spoon. Rinse out the saucepan and return the strained liquid. Put on a medium heat, add the sugar, bring to the boil and simmer for at least 10 minutes.
To store, it's a good idea to sterilise the container. To do this put the required amount of glass bottles in the oven on a low heat (50ºC is sufficient and won't break the bottles) for 15 minutes. When the cordial is ready, pour into the bottles whilst still hot and seal. If you are putting the cordial into plastic bottles to freeze, allow the cordial to cool before bottling and remember that when defrosted the cordial will not last as long as in the sterilised bottles.
Serve the cordial with soda, a slice of lime and a few mint leaves. Perfect refresher for a hardworking gardener!
Variation - Christmas plum cordial
This spicy concoction is in the freezer waiting for December. Not only is it a delicious festive non-alcoholic option but it is also great for instant mulled wine, providing the sweet fruity spicy addition to a bottle of wine. Make as above and strain away the spices. You may want to return the cinnamon stick and star anise to the cordial when bottling.
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2tbsp maple syrup
100g brown sugar
Over the years I've collected some choice recipes which fortunately are available online too.
A jar (or ten) of Delia Smith's Spiced Damson Chutney is always in the cupboard. Of all the chutney and jam recipes I've experimented with, I always come back to this Delia classic. A mature cheddar, freshly baked granary bread and spiced damson chutney - the ultimate sandwich!
I'm a sucker for ice cream and Good Food's Plum & Amaretti Semifreddo is a fantastic dessert. I make it in a loaf tin and put a good additional layer of crushed amaretti on the base and turn it out to serve at the table with a few fresh plums around the plate.
Finally this English Plum Salad from Rosie Reynolds introduces the gorgeous pairing of plums and Lancashire cheese. The white, slightly sour crumbly cheese is perfect with the spicy fruity plum. A lovely salad for September.