At the weekend, our next-door neighbour gave us a big tray of plums. We used the majority of them to make spiced plum ketchup (recipe at the bottom), but had some left over.
I don’t like plums. In fact, I don’t much like fruit generally… though I can eat it happily if it’s baked into something with evil refined sugar. Even better if it’s then served with vanilla ice-cream, gelato or cream (especially clotted cream: West Country caviar). So I was planning to use the plums to make some kind of torta di prugna (plum cake). I found some recipes, worked on them, headed for the kitchen and strapped on my apron – only to find the missus had left the bottom of my spring-form cake-tin at work. Gee, thanks wife.
So instead, I thought I could use some of the fancy muffin cases1 I bought from a kitchenware stall on Testaccio market that’s full of lovely wood, enamel and crockery stuff; all a bit old-fashionedy-vintage-style-hip, but delightful. These cases are very handsome, though they don’t quite sit right in my muffin tray. Hence, some of the muffins turned out a bit wonky. Plus, I would have liked the muffin top to have peeked out of the case a bit more (ahem), but hey, this was – as usual – a fairly experimental recipe I adapted from other recipes, so you learn by doing right?
As for the plums, I much prefer dark purple ones, but our neighbour gave us a yellow variety, possibly a Mirabelle or similar. They were over-ripe, but that’s fine. I wasn’t aiming for chunks, just some flavour in the form of a sweetened, stewed, sloppy semi-puree.
Also, I think some crystallised ginger or preserved ginger would have been nice in this recipe but I didn’t have any. Not even sure I can get it in Roma, though I did tend to have a few jars malingering in the back of the fridge when I lived in the UK.
A dozen-ish good-sized plums
50g golden syrup (use sugar if not available)
100g caster sugar
40g yogurt (none of that low-fat nonsense)
220g self-raising flour2
80g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 t ground ginger (or more, if you really like ginger)
1/2 ground cardamom (again, more to taste if you really like cardamom)
1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
2. Prepare a muffin tray and 12 (ish) cases.
3. Roughly chop and de-stone the plums.
4. Put the plum pieces in a pan with the golden syrup or sugar.
5. Good the plums for 10 minutes or so. It doesn’t matter if they break down.
6. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
7. Cream together the butter and caster sugar. (Using a hand blender, or food mixer, or good old-fashioned spoon.)
8. Add the egg and beat. If all your ingredients are at room temp, it shouldn’t curdle. If it does, don’t worry, just add a little of the flour.
9. Add the yogurt and beat.
10. Add the plums and their syrupy juice.
11. Combine the flour, ground, almonds spices, raising agents. Sieve together. The ground almonds probably won’t all go through the sieve. I wouldn’t worry about this, the sieving is more to loosen up and combine the powders than really aerate it (that’s the raising agents’ job, when you bake).
12. Add the powder mix and combine.
13. It’ll be a pretty wet, light mix (the bicarb starts working subito). Spoon it into the muffin cases, to about three-quarters full.
1 The muffin cases are a brand called House Doctor. They don’t seem to have a clear online presence, but they’re available in the UK from this outlet, based on Brighton, Sussex.
2 If you don’t have self-raising flour, just use plain or all-purpose flour. Add 1 teaspoon of baking powder to every 110g of flour. So instead of 220g self-raising flour here, the recipe would require 220g plain flour with 2 extra teaspoons of baking powder (along with the other 1 teaspoon of baking powder and half teaspoon of baking soda). And if you don’t have baking powder, but do have baking soda and cream of tartar (tartaric acid) you can make your own baking powder too. See this page in the BBC baking glossary.
If you work in cups, there are plenty of conversion tools online, like here and here, though they all seem to vary a little. Instead, I’d urge you – buy some electronic scales! They can be very affordable and make life so much easier.
Spicy plum ketchup
This is a great recipe, especially if you have a plum tree and often find yourself with a glut. It’s from my friend Nadia in New Zealand. Old Man Mountain, the farm where she used to live, had a great big old purple plum tree and we’d make a batch every year. It’s a pretty versatile recipe though – although it’s best with purple plums, you can use any. We had a Mirabelle in our garden in London, and we used Mirabelle again this time round. Plus, as it’s hard to get malt vinegar in Italy, we also used red wine vinegar this year. Seems to have worked okay.
This is for a small batch – enough for a about 1.2 litres. So double or triple or quadruple it if you like it and have more plums!
2 large onions
900g white sugar
30g whole ginger, bruised
570ml malt vinegar
1. Stone the plums.
2. Put all the ingredients in a large saucepan.
3. You can put all the spices in a bag, but I don’t bother – I just add them to the mix.
4. Simmer for three hours.
5. Put through a mouli legume if you’ve got one. Alternatively, push through a sieve. (And discard the bits.)
6. Put in sterilised bottles (we used wine bottles with screw-tops or those bottles with olde worlde style clip/stopper).