Plum Compote with Earl Grey Tea

What to do with all those fine blue plums, and yes, they really do have a bluey hue to them:


Well, when in Rome …

The Germans love their compotes so, building up stocks for my pop-up shop at the autumn artisan market, compote it shall be, but with an English touch of course:

Plum Compote with Earl Grey Tea


1 kg purple plums, halved and stoned

2-3 Tbsp. sugar

Tea leaves of your choice, in a tea bag, e.g. Earl Grey, or Green Tea with Orange, or Black Tea with Winter Spices

  1. Place your plums in a large saucepan, sprinkle with the sugar, place the lid on and leave to sit for several hours, ideally overnight but for at least 3 hours. The sugar draws the fruit’s own liquid out of it, eliminating the need to add any water for cooking, resulting in a far more intense flavour.
  1. Stir over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Place the tea bag in amongst the plums and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes until the fruit is soft and falling apart but not completely mushy. Remove the tea bag, taking care not to puncture it otherwise your compote will be full of tea leaves.
  1. Place in sterilised jars, seal and store in a cool, dark place where the compote will keep for several months.

The tea harmonizes exceptionally well with the flavour of purple plums and you can use the compote in a multitude of ways from breakfast through to dinner.






Earth Mother in the Winter Kitchen

I admit it, preserves and preserving bring out the Earth Mother in me and I have been known to disappear into the cellar on occasion just to sneak a peak at my rows of jars glistening in gorgous colours…


But I am not a hoarder and so I do use them up. With snowmen and winter pruning being all that is going on in the orchard at present, all that mellow fruitfulness preserved during the preserving season is keeping us supplied with ready-made (almost) meals through the winter:

Full-Bodied, Fruity Red Cabbage


Spicy Plum Chutney

 Plum Sauce with copyright

+ red cabbage 

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= a winner in our house from the autumn through to the spring.

The chutney has all the flavours you need for a a really fruity, flavourful dish of red cabbage (whether for a festive table or  for weekday suppers to accompany some full-bodied sausages):

  1. Thinly slice your red cabbage, chuck it in a saucepan together with a jar of Spicy Plum Chutney, give it all a good mix and simmer slowly over a low heat (not too hot otherwise the chutney will catch and burn on the bottom of the pan) – the liquid from the cabbage, together with the chutney, provides enough cooking liquid – do not add water as it simply makes the end result insipid.
  2. Simmer, covered, for about an hour, then remove then lid and increase the heat a little to then boil the liquid down (you’ll be surprised how much water there is in red cabbage!) About another half an hour of cooking and you will have a pan of glistening, fruity  red cabbage.

This recipe also works well with

Quince Chutney

which also makes a fine

Fruity Winter Beetroot Salad:


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+ beetroot (steamed or roasted)

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is all you need.

Spicy Plum Chutney and/or Quince Chutney dressing

(dilute with a dash of olive oil and/or red wine, fruity vinegar or similar according to taste)

on a winter salad of leaves, nuts and citrus


Comprising almost 50% onion and garlic,

my Quince Chutney also makes a great addition to meatballs and vegetable fritters

and I have used it in sauces and risottos  as a replacement for sautéed onions.

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And last but not least, spreading either

Spicy Plum or Quince Chutney over a flammkuchen base

before adding the rest of the toppings is a really good idea – believe me!

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Twelfth Night in the Orchard

The Twelfth Day of Christmas, or Twelfth Night, depending on which strand of this ancient European tradition, marks the end of the “Mittwinterfest”, or Yule – celebrating the rebirth of the sun as we (slowly) turn the corner towards the light half of the year again…


It is an ancient festival featuring countless legends, rituals and symbols, not to mention the many omens – each of the twelve days of Yule are said to predict the weather in the corresponding twelve months to come, for instance. In the Germanic and northern European tradition, the twelve days of Yule therefore had to be a time of peace, as well, and a time of no work so that there would be less work to be done in the new year. Spinning and weaving, in particular, were forbidden and all the flax had to be spun before the start of Yule. Only the Goddess Frig (Frigg, Freyja), the Germanic goddess of love, was allowed to weave together the threads of destiny for the coming year… No work involving a circular motion was permitted at this time either, because the wheel of time was at a standstill during Yule and so every other wheel had to remain motionless too…


The English tradition of wassailing in the orchard on Twelfth Night has its parallels in other European traditions as well when the remains of the Yule festivities (bread and cake) were laid at the foot of the fruit trees as offerings in return for a good harvest. The English tradition sees the fruit trees showered with cider while bread and cake are hung from the branches. The tree trunks were sometimes beaten with sticks in a symbolic act intended to encourage the sap to flow, while the villagers would sup on mulled cider and serenade the trees with the Wassail song:

Old Apple Tree, we wassail thee

And hoping thou wilt bear

Hatfuls, capfuls, three bushel bagfuls

And a little heap under the stairs

Hip! Hip! Hooray!

(Source: Orchards, by Claire Masset 2012, Shire Books)

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We refrain from beating our trees from sticks, but the mulling and the cake … and perhaps the serenading … do feature while the winter pruning is going on!

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Forest Fire at Fifty

Black Forest Gateau x 5, candles x 50 = 1 BIG flame!

(Note fire engine bottom right 🙂 )

Such were our festivities in Hermann the German‘s honour yesterday, most appropriately on the eve of the shortest day here in the northern hemisphere:


Gingerbread Rescue & Recovery

Not quite as accomplished as last year’s efforts, perhaps, but there is a whole lot more dramatic effect involved when the gingerbread tree house collapses …

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and the building material is transformed into a Forest Hideaway (“Waldversteck“):

And the village on the hill survived intact…

Same rules every year: it stays standing – no touching and no nibbling – until Christmas Day when it is then free to be plundered…

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Flammkuchen Orchard Style with Pumpkin and Quince

Related to roses, apples and pears, the tantalising quince was almost certainly the “apple” of the Garden of Eden fame say those more expert than I.

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For me, quinces are all about “…the scent of buffet tables laden with bobotie, breyanis and bredies, sambals and salads, frikkadels and Cape Dutch Chicken Pie, melktert, Malva Pudding and koeksisters… in cool, character-filled rooms set in rolling green sunny spaces…

Thousands of miles and many thousands of days… all it takes is a quince.”

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Heralding the start of the quince season here north of the Alps,

Flammkuchen with pumpkin, quince and bacon:

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September Season


Mustard Apple Pickle from Mantua:

22_07_2012 Nürnberger Apfelkuchen

Nuremburg Apple Cake:


Pontack, Ye Olde Englishe Elderberry Sauce:

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Ginger Pears Swedish Style:


Apple Rings:

“Those fine blue plums…”


Those fine blue plums which hang by such millions by the waysides and […] used for those nice large plum tarts or cakes, of half a yard wide, which they bake in tins, with the plums cut in halves and stuck with the split side upwards all over them.”

This was William Howitt’s description of what are known as “Zwetschgen” here in southern Germany, in his book The Rural and Domestic Life of Germany, published in 1842.

Known in Bavaria as “Zwetschgendatschi”, those nice plum tarts half a yard wide are still as ubiquitous today as the fine blue plums (oval-shaped Switzen plums) from which they are made…

… but there is only so much Zwetschgendatschi you can eat in one (late) summer and so these are some of the other options I turn to for all our fine blue plums:

Spicy Plum Chutney

Recipe here

Plum chutney

Buttery Plum Dumplings

known in the vernacular as “Zwetschgenknödel

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Prep. Time: 15 minutes + 15 minutes resting

Cooking time: approx. 30 minutes

Serves: 4

Floury potatoes                                                      400g

Flour                                                                     130g

plus extra for dusting

Egg                                                                       1


Ripe plums                                                             12

Brown sugar                                                           6tsp

Ground cinnamon                                                    3tsp

For the buttery coating:

Butter                                                                    150g

Polenta                                                                  70g

Brown sugar                                                           50g

Whipped cream to serve

1. To make the dumpling dough, wash, peel and boil the potatoes. Mash so that there are no lumps left and leave to cool.

2. Add the flour, egg and a pinch of salt to the cold mashed potato. Knead into a smooth dough and leave to rest for about 15 minutes.

3. Wash the plums, slice them open lengthways, remove the stones and then place them, cut side up, on a plate.

4. Mix the brown sugar and ground cinnamon togetherand place half a teaspoon of the cinnamon sugar in the hollow of each plum.

5. Shape the dough on a floured surface into a roll about 5 cm thick. Cut the roll into 12 slices.

6. Place a plum on each slice of dough and wrap each plum in dough so that it is fully enclosed. You don’t want too thick a lump ofdough, though, otherwise your dumplings well tend towards soggy.

7. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add the dumplings and simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove the cooked dumplings from the water and drain.

8. To make the buttery coating, melt the butter in a large frying pan (the dumplings will need space in the pan to crisp up so do this bit in batches if your frying pan is not large enough).

9. Place the drained dumplings in the frying pan with the butter, sprinkle with the polenta and brown sugar and fry over a medium tohigh heat until brown and crispy on the outside, moist and fruity on the inside. Serve warm with a dusting of cinnamon and generous portions of whipped cream.

And if you do want to have a go at Zwetschgendatschi yourself, you will find a German recipe here:…/bayerischer-zwet…

Bayerischer Zwetschgendatschi

Bayerischer Zwetschgendatschi

or an English version in Elisabeth Luard’s European Peasant Cookery, Grub Street Books (paperback 2007), page 468. (and no, they are not paying me to write this…)


Cherry season is upon us!


This gallery contains 6 photos.

Summer in Europe does not get better than this!                 So here are a few reasons to get picking: Country Tart  Cherry Liqueur  Cherries in Red Wine Black Forest Gateau Cheesecake with Preserved Cherries Crème Fraiche … Continue reading