It loses a lot in translation but “Advent, Advent, ein Lichtlein brennt…” heralds the start of the Advent season here in Germany. A special time of winter cosiness, reflection and family traditions, all of which are built into our Advent candle display, this year like every year:
Four candles celebrating each season of the year gone by, family touches, memories and reflections on life’s constants:
It is no luxury eye-level wood-fired oven, the oven we have built in the orchard. It is a repurposed, get down on your knees wood-fired oven. Here’s the story of how we built it, starting in the summer of 2020.
I feel I have lived my entire adult life in these twenty years. And yet there were thirty-five fulfilled years of constant change before that.
These twenty years have been a bonus for they began with an armed hijack at the end of March 2001, two days before I left Cape Town. A survived hijack that catapaulted me into the last twenty years.
A new language, changed perspectives, deeper understandings. Old skills in new fields. New skills in unfamiliar surroundings. Abandoned comfort zones and newfound truths. Blessings and challenges. All constant reminders: the only constant is change.
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
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.
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.
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.
I use the term tiramisu very loosely here as there is no coffee and no Marsala in this recipe, just lots of spring time flavours, quick and easy to transport in jars too:
Double cream 600 ml
Mascarpone 250 g
blossom essence* approx. 2 tsp
Caster sugar 3 tbsp or to taste
Sponge fingers or
stale sponge cake 175 g
Rhubarb 250 g
Honey for roasting
the rhubarb** 2 tbsp or to taste
Rosemary blossoms a handful – picked fresh on the day you are going to serve, otherwise they tend to turn brown overnight
Wash and finely chop your rhubarb. Place in an ovenproof dish, drizzle with honey and slow roast, covered, at about 150°C until soft but not completely mushy. Leave to cool.
Break the sponge fingers/sponge cake into bite-sized pieces and place half the amount in your serving dish(es) as a first layer.
Drizzle about one teaspoon of plum blossom or almond essence over the sponge pieces.
Place the cream, marscapone and sugar in a large bowl and beat together until thoroughly mixed.
Place a layer of the cream mixture over the sponge, then a layer of rhubarb, then the rest of the sponge pieces. Drizzle the next teaspoon of plum blossom or almond essence over the sponge pieces. Finish off with a cream layer, topped with dabs of the remaining rhubarb.
Place the tiramisu in the fridge to chill, ideally overnight.
Sprinkle with fresh rosemary blossoms shortly before serving (they will keep their colour for a good few hours before serving but overnight is too long).
*Wild plum blossom season is now over in these parts so the recipe for wild plum blossom essence will follow next spring, almond essence will suffice in the meantime!
** I used Elderflower-Infused Honey (infused last summer) and can strongly recommend it. Follow the link and do yourself a favour once the elderflower blossom puts in an appearance in a few weeks from now.
pick your blossoms (no leaves) directly into a jar half full of sugar. Try to choose an overcast but warm day to do this otherwise you will have little black bugs wanting to be part of your plum blossom sugar – they do crawl out of the jar again on their own after a while if you do happen on a sunny day but they tend to not be there when it is overcast.
fill your jar – generously – with blossoms, put the lid on and leave for 24 hours – in a warm place ideally.
then spread your fragrant, sugary blossoms out on a flat surface to dry for about 12 hours (not longer otherwise you will start to lose the fragrance).
sieve the sugary blossoms through a sieve or colander fine enough to catch the green receptacles from the blossoms, letting the now dried petals through with the sugar. It is best to use a pestle or similar to crush the sugar lumps as you go along.
store your fragrant cherry plum blossom in an airtight jar and use for fragrant sprinkles (cakes, desserts) and flavourings (milkshakes, smoothies, ice cream, yoghurts)…