Sunday, 20 March 2016

Black Plum & Mint Sauce

I really have been neglectful of this blog for some time now, not because of just plain laziness, but well. . other stuff. Two blogs in a day seems a bit over the top in the light of that confession, but plums will be finished soon, so I do have to post this. .
In any case, even though my garden and cooking/recipe development have also been neglected for a while, I simply can't resist the opportunity to cook up some preserves - especially when offered some Black Doris plums from cousin Sue's tree!
They were excess to requirements for her, but I was thinking plum paste: jam: chutney: bottled fruit; and sauce. In the end I only got to the sauce, but I did have a flash of inspiration while I was thinking about it, and am really pleased with the flavour - simple to make, and the mint does add zing.
Black Doris plums make wonderful preserves, but other red-fleshed plums such as Omega and Satsuma are also very good (as well as delicious eaten fresh).


                               Black Plum & Mint Sauce

Black Doris plums are superb in this recipe, but any red-fleshed plum will work; they can be frozen if you don’t have time to make the sauce at the time of picking.  Infused with mint, sumac and chilli, this sauce is one you’ll wish you’d made more of.
There is no need to cut and stone the plums before cooking, just cook whole and squish them as they soften, as the mixture is sieved before bottling.
Commercially prepared ginger and garlic saves a lot of time and makes no discernable difference to the flavour.
Makes 9 -10 x 400g jars

3kg Black Doris plums, or any red fleshed plum
700g onions, peeled and sliced
5 cups malt vinegar
½ cup thick mint sauce*
2 cinnamon quills
4 cups sugar
1 Tbsp sumac
1 Tbsp salt
2 tsp chilli powder
2 Tbsp peeled and minced ginger
2 Tbsp peeled and minced or finely chopped garlic

Place all the ingredients in a jam pan or very large pot, bring to simmer point and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30-40 minutes, until the plums are very soft and breaking up. Squish some with a wooden spoon to distribute the flavor into the flesh during this cooking time.
Pour the mixture through a colander into a large bowl to catch the juice. Then press the solids (discard the cinnamon sticks) in the colander through a sieve and add to the juice. This will have to be done in several lots. Discard the pips and other solids left in the sieve.
Transfer the plum juice and puree into a large pot and simmer slowly for about 15 minutes, or until the sauce is lightly thickened – it will thicken a little more as it cools.
Pour into hot, sterilized jars or bottles and screw on hot, sterilized lids/corks.

*The commercial bottled kind works fine.

Eggplants: Queen of Vegetables (or Fruits if you're a botanist)

 Autumn is one of my most favourite times of year; not just for the settled, balmy weather but for all the autumn produce available. I grieve for my own garden, but I've had someone looking after it while we've been here in Wanaka for the summer, even though it's been largely just keeping the weeds under control. It's been nice to be away from the humidity of the North Island, in any case - here it's hot and dry most of the time, and at least I'll have self-sown herbs and a crop of tomatillos to go back to - maybe some figs too, as they're a late cropping variety.
Eggplants are so good at the moment - plentiful and cheap, and so versatile. In any case, eggplants have been great this summer and are still plentiful - this recipe isn't new, I first published it in a column in 2010, and again in my 'Vegetarian Kitchen" in 2011, but I keep going back to it as a simple but delicious side to a main dish, or even served as an entree. Easy!

                                               - with Yoghurt/Mint dressing                                        

Serve hot or at room temperature.
Serves 4-6. Not suitable to freeze.

500g eggplant (1 large)
1 tsp salt (first measure)
¼ cup flour
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp salt (2nd measure)
freshly ground pepper
oil for frying

Slice the unpeeled eggplant into 1-1.5 cm(1/2 inch) rounds and salt lightly on both sides with the first measure of salt. Place in a colander to drain for 30minutes.
Pat dry with paper towels.
Combine the flour, coriander, turmeric, 2nd measure of salt and the pepper in a small dish.
Dredge the eggplant slices in the flour mixture and shake off any excess.
Heat enough oil to shallow fry the eggplant – you may have to add more during the cooking time. Fry until golden brown and crisp on both sides. Drain on paper towels before transferring to a serving dish (either warm or at room temperature)with the yoghurt/mint dressing.

Yoghurt/Mint Dressing

½ cup plain unsweetened yoghurt
1 tsp caster sugar
2-3 Tbsp finely chopped mint (or coriander) leaves

Combine all ingredients.