Plum compote

On Wednesday I found myself at the side of an industrial building in the Shire, doing a deal. The substance in question was plums; the dealer was a dear old school friend Chappers. Chappers’ trademark is her Landie. You hear it before you see it. It suits her.

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Chappers handing over the goods


When the offer of a bag of free fruit comes along, you NEVER turn it down. These plums were pilfered by Chappers’ from her Mum’s orchard in Castlemorton, which by now will be laden with soft purple fruit. These home-grown plums are a bit different to the ones in the shops, much smaller, very difficult to stone, nectar-scented, and simultaneously sweet as you like whilst acidic enough to induce face-pulling. They would have been great for chutney, but really, who eats that much chutney? So compote it is.

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Coated in sugar

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Simmer down with a vanilla pod

I optimistically attempted to stone these before cooking, but gave up after about 5; it would have taken a whole day to stone the lot. So I just cooked them up and once cold, fished out the stones with my fingers. It came out quite tart so I put in more icing sugar at the end to balance the flavours. One carrier-bag of fruit produced about three pints of compote. It’s gloriously gloopy and unashamedly richly purple.

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Bagged up for freezing

There are endless possibilities for this…use as the base of a Bakewell tart, mix with custard for a fool, eat with yoghurt for breakfast, add cinnamon and five spice for a Chinese sauce, and so on.

I made trifle. Soak sponge with sherry, layer up with the compote, then top with home-made creamy vanilla custard and whipped cream. Any pudding that requires two different types (and cartons) of cream can’t be bad.


On Saturday my folks turned up with a box of tomatoes, about 15 black peppers (more on those another day), a strimmer, and plenty of jibes about general laziness in the allotment. The jibes stopped when they went down there and saw the general epic-ness that is now our veg patch. The cosmos are better than my mother’s! Though I am still looking after my tomatoes incorrectly (they need thinning) and must get rid of the perennial weeds (*cough* fat chance). I should add here my mother is to gardening what Mary Berry is to cherry cake.

Whilst Dad wandered off to talk Worcestershire to unsuspecting Brummies, I wondered what to do with those tomatoes. To me, the tomato glut marks the turn from summer to autumn. It’s time to get preserving. Which means one thing: passata.

Same technique as every year: slice in half around their equators, roast for about an hour, push through a sieve, and that’s it. I freeze mine ready for chillies, bolognese, ragu, stews, and so on.


About half of what I was given. Each of these is the size of a navel orange.


Halved, drizzled with oil, ready for roasting.


An hour and a bit later…


An hour or so later – passata!


This year’s passata is great stuff – rich and thick, not too watery.

Speaking of autumn, last night’s dinner was short beef rib braised in red wine and herbs, served with roasted new potatoes, roasted onions and allotment veg (greens, beans etc). To follow, damson crumble. What could be more autumnal than that?

This evening I dutifully thinned out the Grange Hill tomatoes, did another harvest of beans, Eton tomatoes and lettuce. Pulled out the last of the summer lettuce, now crisp from heat. Had to hack off a sunflower head that had been strangled by the straggling borlotti shoots, as together they were making a wind barrier that was threatening to bring the whole lot down. Then dodging a torrential downpour, started off the autumn lettuce ready for planting out in a few weeks time.