Summer might be over, but the new season’s plums, in all their glorious autumnal hues, will keep mealtimes vibrant. Try this seasonal variation on a summer salad, and this gin-spiked sorbet S
ummer wanes and autumn shows its face. This year, I am less ready for the change of season than ever before, but the show of plums has softened the blow a little. Buff yellow and inky purple victorias; tight, black-purple, dusty damsons; and fluffily verdant greengages – plums are coming out in all their varieties and hues.
As I piled damsons into a bag this week, the greengrocer asked if I was making gin. “Very popular this year,” apparently. Some will undoubtedly be made in our house: the damsons will spend a few hours in the freezer to split their skins, then they will half-fill kilner jars, with a few tablespoons of sugar spooned on top, then the jars will be topped up with gin and left until near to Christmas to steep.
But, this week, I had the urge to use plums in something savoury, a salad – as you might use peaches or watermelon in sunnier months – the sweet acidity a tantalising foil to some peppery leaves and the buttery crunch of peanuts. And then pudding, too: this easy sorbet, extending them beyond their short, early-autumn window. Spiked with last year’s sloe or damson gin and some citrus, it is made in a flash in a food processor with fruit stoned and frozen the night before.
Plum, lime and peanut salad
Any type of plums work here – I have used greengages, victoria and yellow varieties, but the deep purple red look amazing. This recipe is based on a perennial favourite from my friend Heidi Swanson of 101cookbooks. com
4 banana shallots, peeled, thinly sliced 3 medium garlic cloves, very thinly sliced A small thumb of ginger, peeled and finely minced
Juice of 2 limes
2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
2 tsp runny honey
8 ripe plums, pitted and sliced
4 handfuls peppery leaves (rocket, mizuna, etc)
100g unsalted roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
A small handful each of fresh basil, mint and coriander, chopped
1 Heat a little oil in a large frying pan and cook the shallots over a medium heat, stirring regularly, for around 8 minutes, or until they turn golden brown and crisp. Then add the garlic cloves, cook for another minute, or until the edges begin to brown, then stir in the ginger for the final minute. Tip the contents of the pan on to a sheet of kitchen paper to cool.
2 Mix the lime juice, soy sauce and honey in a small bowl. Taste and adjust, adding a little more of each as needed to balance the flavours.
3 Put the plums and peppery leaves into a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with half the dressing, and toss very gently. Add the shallot mixture, most of the peanuts, and most of the herbs. Toss gently to distribute everything evenly. Taste, decide if you want to add more dressing, and serve sprinkled with the remaining peanuts and herbs.
Quick damson and sloe gin sorbet
You’ll need to begin this recipe a day ahead. Use a food processor here – mine is a standard Magimix with a regular blade and it works perfectly. How much sugar you will need depends on three factors: whether you use plums or damsons (damsons will be tarter), what kind of sloe gin you’re using (homemade and shop-bought versions vary greatly) and, finally, how ripe the fruit is. I think if you’re using plums you can potentially get away with no sugar. Also, damsons will take longer to stone. 1kg damsons or red plums, stoned Zest of 1 orange
150ml sloe or damson gin 5 tbsp golden caster sugar, or to taste
1 Stone the damsons. Discard the stones. Put the flesh into a freezer bag, then put this into the freezer – keeping the fruit in a single, flat layer – for at least 24 hours to allow the skin to split. 2 Take the damsons out of the freezer, allowing them to defrost for 15 minutes or so. Tip the partially defrosted damsons into a food processor, then blitz until the fruit has been really finely chopped.
3 Add the orange zest, sloe gin and sugar, then blitz again until it looks like a smooth sorbet. Have a taste and add a little more sugar, if you like. You can eat it immediately or tip the mixture into a container and store in the freezer for up to 3 weeks – you will need to leave it out of the freezer for about 5 minutes before scooping.
The sweet acidity is a tantalising foil to some peppery leaves and the buttery crunch of peanuts