Plums al cartoccio .…and the great vegetable debt

I’m out of veget­able debt at last. For the first time in my life I’ve grown enough of some­thing to give it away. It may sound like noth­ing to those of you who only have to wink at a seed pack­et for veget­ables to hop out and do their thing. But I’m not one of those people. Remem­ber my miser­able straw­berry har­vest? And my total cour­gette out­put is still stuck at one and a half. But finally, finally I have toma­toes.

The first thing I did was give the toma­toes to my neigh­bours who’ve been more than gen­er­ous with radishes, red spring onions, rhu­barb and cob­nuts this year. Ima­gine how stunned they were to finally get some­thing back from me when they dropped off a bag of apples this morn­ing.

Flushed with suc­cess at finally being veget­able solvent, I also donated two plums from my total crop of eight.

The tree was giv­en to me by friends and quite hon­estly I’m relieved to have coaxed any­thing out of it at all. I cooked the six fruit I had left in a suit­ably grand man­ner, as befits their very rare, vir­tu­ally myth­ic status. Plums in a design­er hand-bag.

Plums Al Cartoccio

Enough for 6

For the Hazel­nut Bis­cuit Base:

50g toasted chopped hazel­nuts

200g plain flour

1 table­spoon cocoa powder

I egg yolk

130 g slightly salted but­ter, cut into pieces

60g caster sug­ar

For the Plums:

9 sweet plums, halved and pit­ted

1 tea­spoon caster sug­ar — use 2 if you like your pud­dings on the sweet side

Half tea­spoon five spice powder

100ml sweet pud­ding wine

1 vanilla pod, halved and split

Vanilla ice-cream

Al cartoc­cio’ means ‘in a bag’ but sounds so much bet­ter. Cook­ing plums this way retains their shape and makes the juice extra deli­cious.

Com­bine all the ingredi­ents for the hazel­nut bis­cuits in an elec­tric mix­er. Once they make a dry­ish dough, form the mix­ture into a dumpy roll about 6 cm across, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for half an hour.

Put the plums in a double lay­er of sil­ver foil, and bend the edges up all around to make a water-tight boat. Mix the sug­ar, sweet wine and five spice powder togeth­er and pour all over the plums. Add the vanilla pods to the par­cel and pinch the edges togeth­er to make a leak-proof bag. Bake in the oven at 175 C for around ten minutes. Open up the bag and put back in the oven for anoth­er 5 or 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the plums to sit in the foil, with the liquid. Leave the oven on.

Slice the cold bis­cuit dough into 6 rounds. Don’t worry if it falls to pieces a little. Just press the bis­cuits back into shape with your fin­gers. Place the rounds on bak­ing parch­ment in a tin. Cook in the oven for ten minutes so that they’re still soft to the touch. Remove the bis­cuits from the oven and once cool, place on indi­vidu­al plates with 3 plums each, a sloosh of the juice all around and a spoon­ful of vanilla ice cream on top. In the spir­it of the design­er hand­bag, I decided to be a little bit pre­cious and plonk a piece of vanilla pod on top of the whole edi­fice. ‘Neither use nor orna­ment’ my Great Aunt would have said, very briskly. But I like the way it looks, so I’m pre­pared to take the flak.

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5 thoughts on “Plums al cartoccio .…and the great vegetable debt

  1. Eight deli­cious-look­ing Vic­tor­ia (?) plums from such a young tree isn’t too bad. Appeal­ing plum pics too. Bis­cuit sounds nice and would go very well with plums.

  2. I don’t think I’d man­age to get to the bis­cuit mak­ing part. I’d just serve them in their foil par­cels hot with a splodge of cream.

  3. Gor­geous plums — what a fant­ast­ic del­ic­ate col­our! Hope the tree provides you with many more. And my cour­gette pro­duc­tion this year also stands at two — but OH what impress­ive spe­ci­mens they were!

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