In the village the cauldrons are out and the village wives are canning tomatoes and boiling tomatoes and leaving large brimming platters of tomato paste out in the sun to dry and intensify in the long hot afternoons. When they aren’t tending their cauldrons they are stringing peppers into vibrant garlands and drying black and green grapes into sultanas on any flat surface around the village.
The grape harvest is starting, albeit a little slowly this morning as everyone recovers from the uproarious wedding that took place in the square last night and had the old stone houses thrumming to a bass beat until 3am. The fig harvest is nearly done and we have a surfeit of dusty blue black plums to manage.
The Turkish word for plum is erik and they are picked from spring through until the end of summer. In spring they are sour little green things, bullet hard and saliva jerking, and they are allegedly best eaten with a sprinkle of salt but I’ve never seen anyone actually enjoy one. All I have ever seen is people pick them from the tree, take a bite, say “Not ready yet” and then chuck them over a hedge. But Eriks are traditional and so everyone claims to like them!
Now the eriks have darkened into purple plums, glossy of skin and dense of flesh, but they are still sour and hard and are best used in cooking. Sahin gifted me with a few kilos of them yesterday and so today is mainly about plums and things to do with them. Here are two favourite recipes for fresh plums.
Plum and Almond Loaf1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp baking powder
Some fresh grated nutmeg
250g plums chopped
125g almonds, chopped
Whisk the egg, honey, milk, sugar and vanilla together until pale and frothy. Gradually add the flour and baking powder, grate some nutmeg into the mix and then fold in the chopped plums and almonds.
Pour into a buttered loaf tin and bake for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean. There is a lot of sugar in this so you may need to cover with foil to stop it burning, just keep an eye on it! Serve warm with butter and a nice cheese.
Quick Plum and Fig Chutney450g plums halved and stoned
Five or six ripe figs quartered
120ml apple vinegar
1 cinnamon stick
3 star anise
Put everything in a heavy based saucepan and bring to the boil, keep stirring until the sugar dissolves, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for around 20 minutes or until thick and syrupy.
Pour into warm sterilised jars, allow to cool completely then seal with waxed circles and store in a cool place. Great with cheeses, particularly goats cheese, and also really nice with cold meats.
If you don’t feel like cooking plums make a great addition to a salad, chopped with toasted walnuts and mixed through a salad of fresh leaves and herbs and dressed with a simple olive oil, Dijon mustard and vinegar vinaigrette they are lovely, you can add some strong blue cheese and croutons to make it more substantial.