i consider myself fortunate to have at my disposal the loving arms of the Australian Man’s family while i am so far from my own. since moving here in august 2010 they have made every effort to make me feel like one of their own, including me in holiday celebrations, outings, shopping and even trusting me enough to concoct an American Thanksgiving feast.
luckily for me, this inclusion also means free reign to sneak out back and sample what’s in season. you see, the family home is situated on roughly 20 acres in rural Melbourne, much of which is populated by the harvest of their hobby farm. here, rows of olive and hazelnut trees grow alongside stone fruits, berries of many persuasions, corn, kohlrabi, asparagus, zucchini, broad beans, bell peppers and more, depending on the time of year. last winter’s uncommonly bountiful rain made for lush growth in summer, which meant plenty for the picking. on the evening of our most recent visit, i went home with a bag full of fresh, bite-sized plums.
there’s something sentimental about picking and eating directly from the source. it’s a reminder to cook simply, with minimal, high-quality additions that preserve the character of the original ingredient. so, with little more than a bit of simmering, a dash of cinnamon and raw sugar, the plums became compote. a drop of maward, ororange blossom water, added a light but distinct floral perfume to the final product. like the baharat mentioned in my first post, maward can be purchased at any Middle Eastern grocer, and is increasingly being sold at gourmet food stores. if you’re in Melb, you can pick some up at A1 Lebanese Bakery or The Essential Ingredient.
this is an undoubtedly relaxed preparation. it’s seasoned and sweetened entirely to taste. there are no real measurements, no strict formula. just a bit of slicing, mixing, occasional stirring and plenty of taste testing. don’t worry if you lose a bit of flesh in the process of coring the fruit, especially if you’re using a small variety like i did. also, reduce it as much or as little as you like. a slight reduction will make for a syrupy consistency, perfect over vanilla ice cream. a thicker compote works nicely on toast or mixed into greek yogurt.
MIXED PLUM + ORANGE BLOSSOM WATER COMPOTE
note: my small batch started with approx. 500g / ½lb of small plums and yielded one mason jar-full. perfect for a week’s worth of breakfasts.
– 500g / 1lb fresh plums, any variety
– raw sugar
– juice of ½ a lemon
– generous sprinkle of cinnamon
– orange blossom water
wash the plums and let drain in a colander; pat them with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. run your knife along the circumference of each plum, twist apart, and remove the stone. if using a small variety, leave the halves intact. if using larger plums (i.e. black), cut each half in two, to form quarters. add lemon juice and toss to coat.
place the cored fruit in a heavy-bottomed saucepan or dutch oven on medium heat. add the raw sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, to desired sweetness – i used around 1/3 cup in total. add a generous pinch (read: mini palmful) of cinnamon and stir.
once the fruit reaches temperature, allow to simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. have a quick taste for sugar and cinnamon, then let simmer another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. add a liberal capful or 1/2 tablespoon of orange blossom water and stir once more. simmer another moment or two to combine the flavors, or until desired consistency is reached.