With English plums at their absolute best this month, there are some happy faces in the house. My daughter wants to eat them like sweets, and it is actually harder keeping her mitts away from them than it is the dreaded plum loving wasp.
Plums are so versatile. Get them a little unripe, you can roast them in a savoury dish or stew them for a lovely crumble. Get them ripe, you can still do the same and also have one of the best fruit around to simply gourge on at will. I love plums, and quite stubbornly I'm convinced that our British plums are the best in the world.
The reason I say that is because we do of course have stubbornly accurate seasons in the U.K. When it is winter, it is cold. When it is summer, it is hot (well, we might want to give 2007 the exception). Therefore, that 2-3 month window of the British plum makes for a far superior fruit than the often watery imported plums. Another lovely little fact about the plum is that they have stones like human fingerprints - each is unique to the variety of plum. Apparently, experts were able to identify over one hundred individual plum stones found on the flagship of Henry VIII’s Mary Rose, which sank in 1545 and was raised in the 1980s. Amazing!
I've been working through a few punnets of superb Victoria plums this week. Some went into a tagine, lots went into Cerys' gob, and the others went into a lovely fuss free plum and vanilla fool which I served with my attempt at a macaroon. Since I could not get any amaretti biscuits the other day, I made some of my own. They were flatter and a little softer in texture, like a mini meringue with a chewy centre. After doing a bit of research on them, I realised that the original English macaroon derives from the amaretti, basically an egg white, sugar and almond biscuit. Tremendous! And with a plum packed fool to scoop up with them, they certainly were.
Plum and Vanilla Fool with Macaroons
1 vanilla pod, split and seeded
300ml double cream, whipped to soft peaks
For the macaroons
3 egg whites, whisked to soft peaks
100g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
A drop of vanilla extract
1 - Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C, GM4.
2 - After whisking the egg whites, beat in the sugar until glossy. Gently fold in the ground almonds and vanilla extract. Drop tablespoons onto buttered baking paper on a baking tray and place onto the middle shelf of the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes then cool on a wire rack. You will need to do this in batches.
3 - Place the whole plums, sugar and vanilla pod into a pan with a little water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes until soft. Leave to cool.
4 - When cool, drain some of the plum syrup and keep separate then take out the stones. Blitz in a food processor.
5 - In a large bowl, fold in the plums and yoghurt into the whipped cream. Place in the fridge for at least one hour.
6 - Serve with the macaroons and a little plum syrup drizzled around.