Plum pud: Baked fruit in red wine

This combination of soft fruit, warm syrup and ice-cream is unbeatable

Vanessa Greenwood’s baked plums. Photograph: Harry Weir

Vanessa Greenwood’s baked plums. Photograph: Harry Weir

 

When buying fruit, I prefer a greengrocer to the supermarket. Hilary in my local fruit and vegetable shop always has a great selection of produce and I can hand pick the best. When fruit is only sold in plastic punnets (as in many supermarkets), it is hard to judge ripeness by lightly pressing the flesh.

Mining traditional cooking methods is my coping system for sour fruit that refuse to honour their “ripen at home” labels. With baking, less than fully ripe stone fruit such as peaches, nectarines and plums can be turned into delicious puddings, pies and conserves. With a little sugar and some homely aromatics such as cinnamon and ginger, many fruits can become the star of the show.

These baked plums make a gloriously rich dessert. The combination of soft fruit, warm syrup and ice-cream is unbeatable. I often buy plums solely for making this recipe. If the plums ripen successfully. . . hallelujah! - the dessert will never be made. Not mushy like stewed fruit, the beauty of this recipe is that you can serve baked plums in pretty ways. If you have a bay tree, the fresh leaves make a great garnish. The amount of time they need in the oven will depend on the size and ripeness of the fruit. Since the stones remain inside the baked fruit, set a fork and spoon for dessert to avoid chasing the plums around the plate. If this seems too rustic, halve and stone the plums before baking, then serve them in a bowl layered with ice cream, warm custard (or a lighter crème anglaise).  Add a crunchy topping with biscuits or toasted nuts. For an extra rich sauce, port could be used, but after so many years of austerity, this seems decadent unless you have some to use up. If red wine going into a dessert shocks you as much as it does my eight year old, unsweetened cranberry juice could also be used. 

Baked plums in red wine

 

Vanessa Greenwood’s baked plums. Photograph: Harry Weir
Vanessa Greenwood’s baked plums. Photograph: Harry Weir

 

Ingredients
Serves 4
6-8 large ripe, firm plums
300ml red wine
50g brown sugar
1tbsp redcurrant jelly
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick

To serve:
Amaretti or ginger nut biscuits
Vanilla ice cream.

Method

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Preheat the oven to 190 degrees fan.

Remove stems and place the whole plums in a small ovenproof dish (the plums should fit snugly together).

Place red wine, sugar, redcurrant jelly, bay leaf and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil, then simmer over a medium high heat for 10 minutes to reduce the liquid by a third.

Once reduced, pour the sauce over the plums and transfer the dish to the preheated oven (reserve the saucepan as you will need it again to reduce the sauce a second time).

Bake the plums in the preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes or until just soft (the perfect tenderness is when the flesh begins to release from the stone), before the plums collapse and lose their shape. 

Set the dish of plums aside in a warm place while you return the sauce to the saucepan (discard the bay leaf and cinnamon stick at this stage unless you want to keep them for garnish). Over a high heat, reduce the sauce once again until it just starts to turn into a light syrupy consistency (not slick and jam like).

To serve, divide plums between plates, pour hot syrup over the plums, and accompany with a quenelle of ice-cream and crumbled biscuits. 

Variation

Other exotic aromatics such as cardamom or star anise can be used to infuse alternative flavours into the syrup.

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