Thursday, 30 July 2009

Plum season

Plums are in season now and this year's combination of a very cold winter and warm spring means bumper crops. Pershore, in Worcestershire, celebrates with a month-long festival featuring plum sausages and other recipes from the festival's Plum Cook Book (

Rosie Lovell of Brixton's retro-feel deli has a recipe for Plum Clafoutis in her new book Spooning With Rosie (£18.99, Fourth Estate).

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Stone and chop 450g of Victoria plums into 2.5cm pieces. Butter a baking dish and scatter the fruit into this. Beat two medium free-range eggs in a bowl and add 50g plain flour so that it forms a smooth paste. Gradually add 75ml double cream and 150ml milk and 50g caster sugar so that it becomes a creamy batter. Add 1 tbsp Calvados before pouring the mix over the fruit. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes. Serves 4.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

New: pink gooseberries and long-stem broccoli

Gooseberries are not everyone’s favourite fruit. But a new, less tart variety Pink Gooseberry, grown, by Charles Gaskaine, at his farm in Faversham, Kent, has gone on sale recently in Marks & Spencer stores.

It is naturally much sweeter than the green cooking variety and has fewer spines so it can be eaten raw straight from the punnet or added to fruit salads, cereals and fruit compotes.

Sweet, long-stemmed broccoli is another twist on standard seasonal fare marketed with a view to capturing consumers’ palates and imaginations.

Grown in Lincolnshire, where its young shoots are hand-picked after just ten days of growth, bellaverde broccoli resembles the Italian cime de rapa.

TV chef Gino D’Acampo suggests eating it in a spaghetti dish with grated courgettes, crushed walnuts, lemon zest and chilli flakes or served warm with fresh mint, goat’s cheese and toasted pine nuts dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Both dishes go well with a 2008 Pinot Grigio delle Venezie, Cavit, Italy (Co-op £4.99) - a lively white with a citrus finish.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Raving about raspberries

Although there are many varieties of raspberries, from amber red to yellow and white, they all have the same delicate tart-sweet flavour. Raspberries have a long season, from now until November, and some of the tastiest fruits come from Scotland, where they have cooler summers.

Naturally raspberries are delicious on their own, eaten just when they’ve softened and leave a stain on your fingertips. They make an instantly delicious topping for desserts from lemon meringue pie to cheesecake or embedded in an almond tart or at the heart of a summer pudding or jelly. Match fruity puds with a lightly sparkling Gancia Astia, Piedmonte, Italy (£5.79, Waitrose).

Try fresh raspberries with duck, grilled and sliced in a warm salad, dressed with olive oil and raspberry vinegar. The latter (vinaigre de framboise) is a French favourite served with foie gras and other fatty meats, while in Britain it was used as a cure for sore throats from the 17th century until World War Two.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Starwberry yields forever

Ripe strawberries, like sunny days at Wimbledon, never fail to induce summery vibes. The warm spring means it should be a bumper crop and the Prime Minister’s wife, Sarah Brown, shared her excitement last week on Twitter about tiny strawberries in her garden.

Strawberry plants have short lives and rarely remain productive for more than a few years so new varieties are introduced often. They have names to match such beautiful fruit: Symphony, Florence and Eve’s Delight, for example.

Long-cropping Elsanta is the most common British strawberry variety; Ava is a premium Scottish strawberry first grown in 2005, the same year that Sonata, a large, firm variety was launched. English Rose is another newcomer noted for its zesty flavour and Marie de Bois is similar to a wild strawberry.

To enhance the flavour of strawberries allow them to bask a while in the sunshine and go soft. Wash and hull some strawberries then mush them up with sugar, double cream, a nip of Cointreau, if you like, and orange zest. Dig in. Match with a fruity-sweet Sauternes Chateau Sudiraut 2005 (£9.95, Waitrose).