Saturday, 19 September 2009

STOP THE ROT! Why I love British Plums.


Britain has had an abundant plum harvest this year, but many supermarkets are still importing cheaper foreign plums for higher profit margins. Foreign plums can be imported for around 35p a punnet, which supermarkets sell on for £1, making a 65p profit. British plums will cost them around 70p a punnet, which they still sell on for £1, making less than half the profit that they do from imported varieties. Some supermarkets are, at least, offering their customers a choice, but still not all, meaning orders for UK plum growers are at an all-time low.

Now, I don't know about you, but I'd rather pay £1.35 to stop our own gorgeous, ripe and sweet British plums being left to rot. Aside from supporting the British economy, food seasonality and saving food miles, surely it's our duty as food lovers not to allow ourselves to lose out on what has been described as a truly glorious "vintage" crop of UK plums this year. So, next time you're food shopping and perusing the fruit aisles, why not pick up a punnet of plums, but please remember to check the label: buy BRITISH and buy BIG.

As some inspiration, here's a recipe for a delicious plum cake I made last night. It's lovely with a cup of tea or served warm with custard for pudding. Enjoy!

Plum Cake

Preheat the oven to 180C (160C Fan Assisted). Grease and line a loaf tin or a deep, loose bottomed 7" round tin.

Ingredients

A punnet of British plums (I used Victoria plums)
Vanilla extract or essence (but definitely not "flavouring")
A knob of butter
6oz (150g) light muscovado sugar
2oz (50g) caster sugar
5oz (125g) self raising flour
3oz (75g) ground almonds
8oz (200g) unsalted butter
4 large eggs
The zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
A generous grating of fresh nutmeg (or about 3/4 tsp of ready ground)
A pinch of salt.

Method
  • Wash, halve and stone the British plums.

  • In a deep frying pan or skillet, put 2 tbsp light muscovado sugar, 1 tbsp water and a generous splash of vanilla extract. Stir on a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves, then turn up the heat slightly until the syrup becomes a soft caramel. Melt in a knob of butter and place the plums flesh-side down. Turn the heat back down and leave to simmer until the fruit softens, the caramel will turn a gorgeous pinky red. Turn the plums over, so they are coated in the syrup and quite soft. Using a slotted spoon, remove the plums from the syrup and place them on a cold dish to cool.

  • Once cooled, chop the plums into chunky pieces (I just cut them in half again). Retain the syrup for later.

  • Whisk together all of the ingredients (minus the plums and plum syrup) until you have a light, fluffy batter, you can add a bit of milk if the consistency is a bit too stiff, but you don't want it to be too loose, or all your plums will sink to the bottom. Once it's thoroughly mixed, add the plums and fold in with a metal spoon. Pour the mixture into your prepared tin and bake on the middle shelf for about 1 hour, but check after 50 minutes, as ovens vary so much. If the top is starting to brown too quickly, rest a sheet of greaseproof paper or foil over the top of the cake for the second half of the cooking time. You can check the cake is done by inserting a metal skewer that should come out clean.

  • Once baked, stab the cake all over with a skewer and pour over the plum syrup reserved from earlier (you can warm it over a gentle heat if it has started to solidify).

  • Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack before turning out.

Tip!

If you are using a loose-bottomed tin, a great tip to get the cake out is to upturn a small bowl or mug, place the tin on top and simply pull the tin down, you can then slide the cake off the tin base straight on to a serving plate.





2 comments:

  1. It's in the oven as I write - I've used a loaf tin as it's all I had - I hope it won't make too much difference. Also I think I pretty much stewed the plums, which were pretty ripe to start with...
    Still, it smells great!
    thanks!
    Matt x

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  2. I used a loaf tin last time I made this cake too, Matt (as you can see from the pic). I just like to give a couple of options in case anyone gets put off giving the recipe a go because they haven't got the right sized tin. It would be fine as muffins too, you'd just have to chop the plums a little smaller.

    I hope you enjoyed the results! x

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