Yum! It is the season of the plum. And our local trees are laden with tempting red fruits. However, I’ll have to wait a little longer for my favourite greengage plums.
There is much controversy regarding the origin of the plum. Some botanists claim it is native to China then became popular in Japan. But the plum from which our most common varieties originated is European.
Peaches had something of a cult following in China — its original habitat — where for poets, sculptors and painters it was a symbol of immortality. This despite the fact that it grows on a short-lived tree.
The peach is often associated with icecream because when the great Australian opera singer Dame Nellie Melba gave a party at the London Savoy, Chef Escoffier created the famous Peˆ che Melba in her honour — a swan carved of ice set in the centre of poached peaches on a base of vanilla icecream.
The apricot also originated in China but became established in Iran and Iraq where it is often served with lamb. But there’s nothing better than a ripe apricot straight from the tree.
Unfortunately, most stone fruit offered by fruiterers and supermarkets are picked slightly green to prevent bruising while travelling. Ripen them at room temperature, then refrigerate.
STIR-FRIED PEACHES, NECTARINES, ASPARAGUS & BABY LEEKS
Excellent served with grills. Spring onions could replace the leeks but add them with the fruit.
■ 4 baby leeks
■ 8 stalks asparagus
■ 2 peaches, halved, stoned and peeled
■ 2 nectarines, halved and stoned
■ 1 Tbsp canola oil
■ 2 tsp grated root ginger
■ 3 Tbs[ maple syrup
■ 1-2 tsp chilli sauce and sesame oil or to taste
Trim the baby leeks leaving about 3cm of the green leaves. Trim the asparagus then cut the stalks into 2-3cm lengths. Blanch until crisptender. Drain, refresh in icy water, drain again and pat dry. This can be done ahead, if preferred.
Slice the fruit into quarters. Heat the oil in a wok. Stir-fry the leeks for 1 minute. Add the asparagus and ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the fruit and stir-fry until beginning to soften. Stir in the maple syrup, chilli sauce and sesame oil. Serves 4.
CHICKEN WITH SUMMER FRUITS
Serve with a green salad and crusty bread.
■ 2 small skinned and boned chicken breasts
■ 50g camembert
■ 2 sprigs fresh thyme
■ 1 each: nectarine, apricot, halved, stoned and thinly sliced
■ 3⁄4 cup ginger wine
■ 1 Tbsp honey
■ 3 Tbsp good onion marmalade
Preheat the oven to 150C.
With the point of a sharp knife, slit the side of each chicken breast and make a pocket. Insert a slice of camembert and a sprig of thyme into each cavity.
Seal the chicken by cooking for 1 minute on each side in a hot frying pan. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until cooked.
Meanwhile, place the nectarine, apricot, ginger wine and honey in a saucepan and simmer on medium heat, until the fruit is tender, about 3 minutes. Add the onion marmalade and heat through. Serve over the chicken. Serves 2.
GLUTEN-FREE APRICOT CRUMBLE CAKE
A tangy delight.
■ Crumble: 1⁄4 cup gluten-free flour
■ 1 tsp ground cinnamon
■ 3 Tbsp caster sugar
■ 25g cold butter, cubed
■ Cake: 1 cup gluten-free flour
■ 1 tsp baking powder
■ 1⁄4 cup sugar
■ 1 tsp ground cinnamon
■ 2 eggs
■ 3 Tbsp milk
■ 1 tsp vanilla essence
■ 75g butter, melted
■ 5-7 ripe apricots
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Grease and line the base and sides of a 20cm round springform cake pan.
Place the dry crumble ingredients in a large bowl. Rub the butter in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Place aside.
To make the cake, place the flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon and sugar in a large bowl. Mix well.
Whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla and melted butter in a small mixing bowl. Gently stir into the dry ingredients until just moistened. Spoon into the prepared cake pan.
Halve and stone the apricots. Arrange on top of the cake mixture cut-side up. Sprinkle evenly with the crumble.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the crumble is lightly golden and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with cream or yoghurt.
PLUM & PRESERVED LEMON CHUTNEY
You only eat the skin of preserved lemons.
■ 350g red onions, diced
■ 350ml red wine vinegar
■ 1 cup sugar
■ 1kg red plums
■ 70g preserved lemons (skin only), diced
■ 1 Tbsp each: ground mixed spice, grated root ginger
Place the onions, vinegar and sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the onions are soft.
Meanwhile, halve, stone and chop the plums. Add to the saucepan with the diced lemon skins, mixed spice and ginger. Simmer on low heat for about 40 minutes, until thick.
Pour into hot sterilised jars right to the top. Seal while hot. Makes about 5 cups.