Triumphs Of Gluttony And A Melody In Major: Plum Creams With Almonds And Amaretti

Scorn­ing the table of drinks, glit­ter­ing with crys­tal and sil­ver on the right, he moved left towards that of the sweet­meats. Huge sor­rel babas, Mont Blancs snowy with whipped cream, cakes speckled with white almonds and green pista­chio nuts, hil­locks of chocolate-covered pastry… a melody in major of crys­tal­lised cher­ries, acid notes of yel­low pine­apple, and green pista­chio paste of those cakes called ‘Tri­umphs of Gluttony’.

The Leo­pard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa.

How could any­one res­ist a cake named ‘tri­umph of glut­tony’ or a heap of cher­ries described as a ‘melody in major’? It was with thoughts of both tri­umph and melody that I whipped up my Plum Cream with Almonds and Amar­etti. I’m still har­vest­ing plums from the broken branches of my cracked and decim­ated plum tree and this tri­umphant melody uses up a whole 600g of them.

Grilling the plums first intens­i­fies their fla­vour as if by magic. The amar­etti bis­cuits add a per­fect bitter-sweetness to the whole con­fec­tion, while being a fit­ting trib­ute to Lampedusa’s Italian her­it­age. Plum Creams deserve a place on Lampedusa’s table, along with the hil­locks of chocol­ate pastry, even if it’s only in the back row.

Plum creams with almonds and amar­etti biscuits

Serves 4–6 depend­ing on your level of gluttony

    • 600g plums
    • 100g vanilla sugar
    • 250g mas­car­pone
    • 100g creme fraiche
    • Hand­ful split almonds, toasted in a dry fry­ing pan until golden
    • 1 amar­etti bis­cuit per serving

Split the plums in half, remov­ing the stones. Place cut side up in a grill pan and sprinkle with the sugar. Toast for five minutes under a mod­er­ate grill until bub­bling. Turn off the heat and leave in the oven for a fur­ther five minutes until slightly golden brown around the edges. Cool a little and then puree in a blender. Drip through a sieve into a bowl to remove any skin. Allow the puree to cool.

Once cool, mix the puree into the mas­car­pone. Use an elec­tric mixer if you’re in a hurry. Stir in the creme fraiche. At this stage you may think it’s not quite sweet enough, but the amar­etti bis­cuits bring more than enough extra sweet­ness to the party. Crumble an amar­etti over each serving, along with a sprink­ling of toasted almonds. Chill in the fridge for an hour or so.

Solidarity Pudding

I took a long walk with a dear friend this morn­ing and he com­men­ted that of all the words to crys­tal­lize the mean­ing of friend­ship, solid­ar­ity is per­haps the best. So this week’s post is an Ode to Solid­ar­ity. As Laurence J. Peter said so wisely, ‘you can always tell a real friend: when you’ve made a fool of your­self he doesn’t feel you’ve done a per­man­ent job.’

I love the sub­stan­tial, com­fort­ing heft of the word solid­ar­ity. The mere sound of it would pro­tect against the cold­est of winter winds and the bleak­est of times, just like the best of friends.

So here is my Solid­ar­ity Pud­ding — a warm­ing apple and almond con­fec­tion — to be served to your closest allies and greatest defenders.

Solid­ar­ity Pudding

Serves 6 Friends

6 eat­ing apples — Royal Gala are good for this

40g soft brown sugar

1 tea­spoon Chinese five spice powder

140g but­ter

120g caster sugar

2 eggs

120g ground almonds

2 table­spoons self-raising flour

Hand­ful of flaked almonds

Pre­heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Peel, core and slice the apples and mix with the soft brown sugar, the five spice powder and 20g of the but­ter, which you’ve melted. Place the fruit in a bak­ing dish around 18 cm in dia­meter or similar.

Cream the but­ter and caster sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat the eggs in a small bowl and add them gradu­ally to the but­ter mix­ture, mix­ing thor­oughly as you go. Stir the almonds and flour together and fold gently into the but­ter, sugar and eggs. Pour the mix­ture over the fruit, scat­ter the flaked almonds on top and bake in the oven for around 50 minutes or until golden brown. The pud­ding should still be a little gooey in the middle and served with cream.

Light the candles and eat your sub­stan­tial, nour­ish­ing Solid­ar­ity Pud­ding while you laugh like drains about old times.

Don’t walk in front of me

I may not follow

Don’t walk behind me

I may not lead

Walk beside me

And just be my friend

Albert Camus