My favourite place to walk is on the Dorset coast, from the ruined village of Tyneham, through woods carpeted with wild garlic in the spring, down to the pebbly beach. The abandoned cottages, empty since the government commandeered them in 1943, are still standing, but only just.
Walking there yesterday with the sun shining and the sea a piercing blue, it felt like the height of summer. But then I passed bushes clustered with huge, ripe, purple sloes, the fruit of autumn. It’s the time of year when summer seeps away almost imperceptibly. Plums may still be ripening in the sun, but the nourishing recipes of autumn are starting to entice.
The plum tree I planted last year and which produced precisely eight plums, has been showing off like a precocious ballerina this year. But as all show-offs discover, they get their come-uppance in the end. Several of the wildly overladen branches have snapped beneath the weight of the fruit, leaving behind a tree trunk and not much else.
Inspired by the beautiful purple sloes by the sea, I cooked my summer plums in the autumnal sloe gin that I made last year. It’s two seasons on a plate at once.
Plums Baked in Sloe Gin
800g plums, stones removed
100g vanilla sugar
100ml sloe gin — if you can’t find wild sloes in the hedgerow to make your own gin, it’s possible to buy sloe gin online
Combine the fruit, sugar and sloe gin in an ovenproof dish. Cover with foil and bake at 180 degrees C for about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
I ate baked plums for breakfast with natural yoghurt and more for lunch on their own. I’ll probably eat them for supper too.