Aah yea, it’s full on summer here in New Zealand and that means that berries and stone fruits are at their very best. Unlike their North American counterparts, if it’s not in season you won’t likely find it on Kiwi market shelves. This is important because in North America it’s easy to forget how fruit ought to really taste: like a reservoir of warm sunshine waiting to expulse its sweet nectar into an eager mouth. If you think I am over-dramatizing then you have not had fruit that’s been grown naturally, picked at its most ripe and juicy state, then eagerly devoured not long after.
I stopped eating fruit once I moved to Canada because it simply didn't have the sweetness and juiciness of the fruit I grew up on in Europe. My only salvation from a fruit-devoid life in Toronto was the odd trip to a strawberry farm or orchard that ultimately left me disappointed, so I stopped going. This was followed by the more recent advent of farmers markets throughout the city (only in summer) where I could pay an arm and a leg for the privilege of eating decent fruit for a few weeks out of the year. I know I sound a bit pessimistic here but I truly feel ripped off.
No need to feel bitter, I tell myself, I am in New Zealand now and I can sweeten my unpractised pallet with bucketfuls of wonderful sweet fruit for a measly few dollars, if that. Well, yesterday I went for a little drive through Kumeu, an area just outside of Auckland, where I went plum picking in a charming orchard and then went strawberry picking on a farm nearby. I came home with more fruit than I knew what to do with.
So what do you do with so much good fruit? Make jams? Sure can, but how to enjoy them before they begin to go off and before you've gorged on them au naturel and your guts plead arête!
Here are three recipes that make the best use of good berries and plums without distorting their splendid flavours:
A German summer berry dessert that I fell in love with when I lived in Heidelberg;
A much loved basic French yoghurt cake that even kids can make with ease;
A European classic plum-filled potato dumpling much loved throughout Austria, Germany, Hungary, Romania, and even North-eastern Italy
Rote Grütze / Red Grits
(makes 6 servings)
6 cups of berries (a mix of any 2 or more of these: strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, red currents)
½ cup sugar
¼ cup cold water, 2 Tb. corn starch
1 Tb. lemon
- In a food processor pulse the fruit into small bits, 2 cups at a time (don’t liquidize them). Alternatively you can chop the berries for a chunkier texture.
- Pour into a wide pan, add the sugar and bring to a simmer on medium heat. Let simmer for a few minutes stirring occasionally.
- Stir cornstarch in the cold water until dissolved and add to the berries. Reduce heat and continue stirring until thickened, around 3 more minutes.
- Remove from heat, stir in the lemon juice (and some vanilla but it’s optional)
- Pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and leave in refrigerator for 24 hours
This goes best with vanilla sauce but you can also have it with vanilla ice cream, or freshly whipped cream.
2 cups (combination of cream and milk)
½ cup sugar
4 egg yolks
- Bring the milk and cream to a simmer then remove from heat to cool down a bit.
- Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and the sugar then pour them into the warm milk stirring continuously with a wooden spoon.
- Bring back to stove and keep stirring on low heat until sauce begins to thicken, about 12 minutes. Careful not to bring it to a boil as the egg will begin to cook and split
- Remove from heat, stir in vanilla beans or natural vanilla extract.
- Pour into a cup and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Gateau au Yaourt aux Prunes / Yoghurt Cake with Plums
(makes 8-10 servings)
1 cup full fat plain or Greek yoghurt
1 cup sugar
A pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 2/3 cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
400 g halved and pitted plums (optional: stew them on low heat with 2 Tb. sugar and a splash of water for 2 minutes until slightly softened)
- Preheat oven at 180 C. Oil your round cake pan and line with baking paper
- In a bowl, combine yoghurt, sugar, salt, and vanilla, whisking until smooth
- Add oil in a steady stream while whisking
- Add the eggs one by one, whisking
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda
- Add the dry ingredients to the yoghurt mixture and whisk to combine
- Pour the batter into the cake pan
- Top with plum halves
- Bake on centre rack for 45 minutes
- Cool for 20 minutes, dust with icing sugar and serve
Note: This can taste even better the next day but you’ll need to cover it up with tin foil, nothing airtight.
Plum Dumplings/ Galuste cu Prune/ Szilvasgomboc/ Zwetschkenknödel
750g ripe plums (if large cut in half and pit them, if small leave whole)
300 g potatoes
2 Tb. vegetable oil
100 g flour
50 g butter
50 g breadcrumbs
2 Tb. sugar
- Boil the potatoes skin on about 30 minutes with a bit of salt
- Once boiled and let cool down a bit, then peel potatoes
- Grate potatoes into a bowl then incorporate potatoes with the oil
- Incorporate the egg and flour into the potatoes
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil
- To make dumplings take a good tablespoon-full of the potato dough and make a rough disc onto the palm of your hand, place the plum or plum half into the centre and roll wrap the dough around it. Shape it into a nice round ball and set down on a plate.
- To make this process easier and less sticky, flour your hands or dust the dumplings with a bit of flour.
- Once all your plums have been rolled, reduce the heat of the boiling water to a moderate simmer then place each dumpling gently into the boiling water.
- Let them boil for about 12-15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter into a pan at medium heat, once it begins to brown add the breadcrumbs and let them fry for about 3 minutes until golden brown. Stir in about 2 tbsp. sugar.
- Once dumplings are boiled, remove with slotted spoon. Drain and let cool a few minutes.
- Roll each dumpling into the buttery breadcrumbs then top with more sugar (and cinnamon) if you like them sweeter.
- Enjoy warm
Note: if your plums are not sweet enough, sprinkle sugar on them before wrapping them in the dough.
For a change, try this recipe with apricots.