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.

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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

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