It’s cold, it’s dark and just a bit miserable. No-one likes January. Every magazine and newspaper I see at the moment shouts about New Year diets, clean eating and losing weight. The media seems to think this is what everyone wants at this time of year, whereas the reality is that when it’s dark and damp, you crave nourishment and comfort from your food, not guilt and denial.
I have written before about how I am uncomfortable with the phrase ‘clean eating’. It implies that some food is clean and some is dirty and is therefore consumption of certain foods should make you feel shameful and guilty. This is just not true; the reality is that lots of foods are very good for us and lots are not. Most sensible people know the difference.
However, if you have overeaten during the festive season you will know it. Your jeans may be tighter, your skin a little pallid and you may feel the need to eat a little less fatty, processed food and a little more fresh and natural produce.
With that in mind, I loaded my bag with even more fruit and vegetables than usual at the market the other day. Unfortunately, I broke one of my cardinal rules and bought some plums, knowing full well that they are not in season. I would never buy soft fruits such as strawberries or raspberries at this time of year, but I was seduced by the plums’ majestic appearance with their cloudy, rich purple skin and they actually smelt vaguely sweet and perfumed. It also helped that they were only £1.50 for 1 kg!
As I should have suspected, they were flavourless, dry and joyless. In fact, verging on inedible. I truly hate to waste anything edible if possible and I know that the only way to extract any kind of flavour from underripe or flavourless fruit is to cook them.
By adding warming spices and subtle sweetness, you can coax out an incredible amount of flavour from the most unpromising of fruit. This recipe works very well with other stone fruit such as nectarines and cherries, but there is something hypnotic about the scent and colour of this compote once it is cooked.
As with any fruit, plums are full of goodness and vitamins. They are a good source of potassium, fibre and vitamins A and C. They are rich in antioxidants and also contain the amino acid tryptophan which is used by the body to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is the hormone that makes you feel good. The combination with the wonderfully fragrant vanilla and the spicy undertones of the cinnamon make it taste like a deeply rich and delicious treat.
This compote is fabulous on its own, but it’s subtly spiced sweetness is beautiful with plain yoghurt, porridge and rice pudding. It is also luscious warmed up and poured lavishly over good vanilla ice cream.
Spiced Plum Compote
1kg plums, stones removed and quartered
75g runny honey-5 tbs
1 vanilla pod, split and seeds removed
3 slices orange
1 cinnamon stick
1) Stone and slice the plums into quarters
2) Put all the other ingredients in a pan and heat gently until the honey dissolves
3) Put the plums into the syrup and simmer gently for 20 minutes, until the syrup has thickened and the plums have given up their juices
4) This will keep for a week in the fridge in an airtight container