I have devoured the last plums, the last few Victorias still in the refrigerator, their skin almost translucent, their flesh as tender as a bruise. I turned the end of the greengages into soft, syrupy jam, which I ate with spoons of white, labneh-like, snow-white fudge. And now it’s the turn of the plums, the curtain for the stone fruits of summer, the gloomy, tiny plums, whose short season is over in no time.
Last week I threw myself into the first sighting of plums – my favorite cooked fruit ever, even more precious than the first rhubarb or the gooseberry – and frozen them, ready for pies and cakes or to eat with roast pork instead of the usual apple sauce. This week I baked a portion with a little sugar in a roaster and served it warm by dipping crumbly hazelnut shortcrust pastry in the juice.
This shortbread had more than the usual pinch of salt and was better for teasing out the flavor of the toasted nuts. I also cooked my annual marrow this week – one a year is actually enough – grated and thrown into fluffy cakes with corn and served hot from the pan with a chili tomato sauce.
Muscovado hazelnut cookies
Makes 12 biscuits
golden powdered sugar 75g
light muscovado 75g
shelled hazelnuts 125g, plus 50g
plain flour 175g
Sea salt flakes Â¼ tsp
You will also need a 20 cm square baking pan lined with parchment paper.
Cut the butter into cubes and place in the bowl of a food processor with a mixer attachment. Add both sugars and beat until light and creamy, regularly scraping the mixture off the insides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Preheat the oven to 160 Â° C / gas mark 3. Meanwhile, roast all of the hazelnuts – including the additional 50g – in a dry pan over moderate heat, shaking them regularly so that they brown evenly. You’re done when they’re pale gold. Set aside 50 g of the roasted nuts. Put the rest in a food processor and grind into fine crumbs, about the same consistency as ground almonds. Halve the reserved nuts.
When the butter and sugar are light and frothy, carefully add the ground hazelnuts, flour, and cornstarch. Mix gently until all of the ingredients blend into a soft batter. Place in the cake tin lined with baking paper and smooth the surface slightly. Scatter the halved hazelnuts over the surface and bake for 45 minutes.
When they come out of the oven, score 12 and let them cool in shape before breaking them into pieces and storing them in a biscuit mold until needed.
Another way to cook plums is to add them to a medium pan with sugar and water and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, until the fruits split and the juice turns a full purple. For 4
Plums or plums 500g
Granulated sugar or powdered sugar 3 tbsp
Preheat the oven to 200 Â° C / gas mark 6. Pluck the stems from the plums, rinse the fruits briefly under running water, then pour them into a baking dish. Sprinkle with sugar, pour in water, then bake for 20 minutes without a lid until the fruit has popped and is surrounded by purple juice.
Serve the fruits, warm or chilled, with their syrup and a plate with the hazelnut shortbreads on top.
Marrow and corn donuts
I season these soft, tender cakes made from crushed pulp and corn with togarashi, the Japanese spice mixture made from dried chilli, dried orange peel and sesame. If you prefer something hotter and less aromatic, use Â½ to 1 teaspoon ground chilli. Makes 8, served 4
Sweet corn 2 x 250g heads
plain flour 75g
Togarashi spice 1 teaspoon
Nigella seeds 1 teaspoon
oil to fry
red chilli 1, great
Peel and core the pulp – it should be approx. 600 g of meat – then grate coarsely (I use a food processor with a large âremouladeâ grating disc). Put in a sieve or colander, add salt and drain for 30 minutes.
Use a sharp knife to remove the corn from the ears of corn – you should have about 250 grams. Put the corn in a mixing bowl, add the flour, togarashi seasoning, and nigella seeds. Separate the eggs, beat the yolks lightly and stir into the corn.
Squeeze the pulp firmly with your fist to remove any excess liquid, then use a fork to lift it through the corn mixture. Beat the egg whites with a large whisk until stiff, then fold into the pulp and corn mixture.
Heat a thin layer of oil in a large pan over moderate heat. Add four large tablespoons of the mixture – one for each donut – to the hot oil and cook for 3 or 4 minutes on each side, until golden brown and firm. Raise to a serving platter and keep warm while repeating with the remaining batter.
To make a quick tomato sauce for the donuts, cut 500 g tomatoes in half, place them on a grill pan or baking sheet, cut side up, then sprinkle a finely chopped large red chilli pepper and a spice mix of salt and black pepper over the top. Cook under a hot grill for 12-15 minutes, until tender and starting to brown here and there. Mash with a fork and serve with the marrow cake.
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