The rich, dark toned plums are what usually come to mind when you think of this fruit, but there are many other varieties in sweet and tart flavours and in colours ranging from the traditional jewel toned purple and red varieties through to yellows and pale greens.
Like cherries, apricots, sloes and nectarines, the plum belongs to the same botanical family as roses. Strictly greengages and damsons are varieties of plum.
A plum is ready to be picked when it is smooth, plump and full coloured. When ripe it will give under gentle pressure and will be deliciously scented. When picking plums to buy, firmer fruits will soften as they ripen, but they are better for cooking when still a little firm.
You can leave the skin on or remove it for extra sweetness. Treat a plum as you would a tomato for skinning, by dipping them for ten seconds in boiling water. Plums respond well to stewing, poaching and roasting as well as being baked in cakes.
There’s so much you can do with this fruit. Venerable food writer Elizabeth David isn’t a huge fan of plums, finding them rather dull, so prove her wrong by going for a more exotic and interesting recipe!
Peppery plums with almond ice cream
- 300ml whole milk
- 50g ground almonds
- 50g caster sugar
- 397g tin condensed milk
- Almond extract
- 9 ripe plums, halved and stoned
- Large teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
- 2 teaspoons demerara sugar
- 5 tablespoons maple syrup
- Tablespoon toasted, flaked almonds
Bring the milk to the boil in a saucepan with the caster sugar and ground almonds, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for two-three minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, then pour the mixture through a fine sieve, pushing the almonds with a wooden spoon to extract every last bit of flavour. Whisk the almond milk and condensed milk together with a couple of drops of almond extract, then put the mixture into an ice cream machine and churn for 15-20 minutes before freezing. You can make the almond ice cream up to ten days in advance.
Lay the plums, cut side up, on a baking tray and sprinkle with the demerara sugar and crushed peppercorns, then drizzle over the maple syrup. Pre-heat the grill and put the plums under for 6-10 minutes until they are tender.
Serve the plums hot, topped with the syrup from the baking tray, a scoop or two of almond ice cream and a garnish of flaked, toasted almonds.