Thursday, 27 August 2009

Engage with greengages

There are plums and then there are greengages. Bright green and round with greenish-yellow or golden flesh, they have a beautiful sweet scent when ripe and can be used instead of plums for desserts and preserves.

The blogger Pim Techamuanvivit ( has a recipe for greengage and vanilla jam made with 2lb (about 1kg) greengages, 1lb (about 500g) sugar, 2 vanilla pods and the juice of 1 lemon. When cooked down into compote or jam, the fragrant flavour of the greengages intensifies. There’s also a enough acidity to balance the sweetness and plenty of natural pectin in the skin so there’s no need to add extra.

Another blogger, Princess and the Recipe (, has adapted Pim’s recipe to make greengage sorbet, substituting lime for lemon and leaving out the vanilla beans. She cools the stewed greengages before they reach a jammy setting point, pushes them through a sieve to get rid of the skins, pops the sieved liquid in the fridge, then churns it in an ice-cream maker.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Sweet as... sweetcorn

The season is short but sweet for sweetcorn, running from now through most of September. A golden buttered corn on the cob is a seasonal delight. It has been cultivated in the south for years but with warmer summers has begun to appear further north, too.

When buying, choose creamy yellow kernels because they will be the sweetest. Eat fresh, as once the cob is cut the sugar starts to turn to starch and loses its sweetness.

Try putting whole cobs in their pale green husks in a roasting tin and roast in the oven preheated to 180C (Gas 4), or on the rack over a hot barbecue for about 30 minutes, turning once. Pull back the husks, add a knob of butter and freshly ground black pepper.

Also in season, baby corn is a specialised vegetable harvested before the kernels develop. The sweet, nutty cobs no bigger than a finger can be cooked whole or cut in chunks and are great in stir fries cooked with sesame oil and soy sauce.

Food for free - blackberries

Blackberries are such a good free source of antioxidants and vitamin C that during World War One children were encouraged to collect them for the production of juice that was sent to soldiers on the frontline.

Ready for gathering now, blackberries can be eaten fresh, used for puddings and pies, or preserved into jelly or “pippy” jam.

They team up particularly well with the first of the cooking apples, are a good match for rich or gamey meat such as venison, lamb or pheasant, and add a seasonal flourish muddled into a cold martini for a late summer cocktail.

For a simple blackberry and oat sundae (serves 2), whisk 150g Greek yoghurt, 3 tbsp crème fraîche and a few drops of vanilla extract together until thoroughly mixed.

Alternately layer lightly crushed blackberries with the yoghurt mixture and handfuls of granola to fill two sundae dishes. For best results chill for an hour.