I jump for joy when I see the first plums of summer in the shops, because there are few fruits I love more than ripe, juicy, ruby-red plums, preferably eaten warm and straight from the tree, with juice trickling down one's chin. I don't get a chance to do that now I'm a grown-up and don't live anywhere near a plum tree, but the childhood memory of standing in a sunny orchard feasting on ripe, wasp-stung plums never fails to make my mouth water.
Isn't 'plum' a perfect name for this marvellous fruit? The word, in my mind, evokes both 'plump' and 'luscious', and it's one of my favourite food-words (I'm also a big fan of 'persimmon', 'peach', 'vanilla' and 'pepper': here's a post I wrote a few years back about delightful - and disgusting - food words).
Christmassy Plum and Tamarind Sauce
4 Tbsp (60 ml) sultanas, roughly chopped
16 large, ripe red plums
30 g pressed tamarind (a piece about the size of a matchbox)
1 cup (250 ml) white sugar
a quill of cinnamon the length of your thumb
5 whole allspice berries (or 1 tsp - 5 ml - ground allspice)
2 star anise
a long strip of pared lemon rind
2 Tbsp (30 ml) white wine vinegar
2 cups (500 ml) water
Two hours before you make the sauce, put the chopped sultanas into a small bowl and cover with a little warm water (or port, if you like). Wash the plums and put them whole into a deep saucepan. Drain the sultanas, discard their soaking liquid and add them to the pot, along with all the remaining ingredients. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring occasionally to help the sugar dissolve. Now turn down the heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until the plums have collapsed. Cover and allow to cool completely.
Place a sieve over a large bowl and tipped the cooled mixture into the sieve, in batches if necessary. Using the back of a soup ladle and plenty of elbow power, press the sauce through the sieve. This is a bit laborious, but pour yourself a glass of sherry, put on some music and persist until you have only skins and pips left in the sieve. Tip the sauce into a clean jug and refrigerate.
Makes about 750 ml sauce.
>> Another way to use the plums in season now: my Fresh Plum and Almond Cake