Monday, March 03, 2008

Challenge Book #2 - Plums in Marsala

This recipe is to die for. Literally!!!! I don't think I have ever come so close to disaster in a kitchen.

It all went something like this.

Day 1

Scene 1 - KJ puts some plums into a baking tray with some marsala, some sugar, a few cinnamon sticks and a vanilla bean. The tray goes into a 180C oven.

Scene 2 - KJ is pottering around in the lounge room when she hears a sort of a roaring sound followed by a banging noise coming from the kitchen. She blithely assumes that something has toppled over inside a disorganised cupboard...... or something. She wanders into the kitchen and carefully opens every cupboard, the fridge and then the freezer expecting to be showered in an avalanche of tupperware or frozen peas or something. Nothing. KJ opens all the cupboards and the fridge again. Absolutely nothing.

Scene 3 - KJ stands just inside the kitchen door pondering in puzzlement. When......the door of the oven flies open......a kinda white flash of light kinda bursts forth.......the oven door slams itself shut again. Peace and harmony reign. Birds sing. It's as if it never happened.

Scene 4 - KJ stands completely paralysed with shock. She then flings herself at the oven, turns off the gauge and throws open the door. She then retreats to a corner to tremble, huddle, whimper and do all those kinds of things. The spectre of the whole house going up in flames hangs heavy in the air. KJ decides that she will no longer be hanging her tea towels on the oven door. It's suddently clear that this has never been a particularly bright idea.

Scene 5 - KJ pulls herself together and assumes that the alcohol must have ignited. She decides that she can burn off any remaining alcohol with a match and all will be well.

Scene 6 - KJ gives up on finding any matches, vows never to spring clean again and throws the plums in the fridge to be tomorrow's problem. KJ goes to lie down for a while.

Day 2

Scene 1 - KJ digs up the matches from a dark forgotten recess. She strains the sauce into a saucepan, warms it up and holds out a long handled match at absolute maximum arms length. We're talking fingertips here. Nothing. Rinse, repeat. Nada.

Scene 2 - Comforted somewhat, KJ returns plums and sauce to the tray and gingerly puts it back in the oven. She stands by with an eagle eye and a battalion of fire fighting equipment.

Scene 3 - Thirty minutes later KJ pulls the most absolutely freaking delicious plums out of the oven. No kidding!!!

Believe it or not, the recipe was from an impeccable source - Delia Smith the cooking Rock of Gibraltar. And I followed it to the letter. Talk about living and learning!! Next time I will be burning off the alcohol before it gets anywhere near an oven. This is how I have constructed the recipe I've included below.

There was actually a bit more to the plums than I have let on. I used sweet sierra plums which are firm and crisp. But oh so sweet and delicious. The tray I used was too big so the plums roasted rather than poached and so stayed a bit too firm. I think you want them sitting quite snugly in the liquid.

Once the plums are out of the oven the liquid must be reduced. So I simply popped the plums in as I did this. I wanted them nice and soft but still firm enough to hold their shape and texture.

The sauce is thickened with a little arrowroot and there you have it.

The sauce is a wonderfully complex mix of plum, marsala, cinnamon and vanilla. You can serve them hot or cold, but I think they are best when they are just warm, slightly above room temperature. Add a dollop of thick double cream and it doesn't get much better.

So this the second recipe in what I am officially calling - The KJ Wants a Kitchen Aid Challenge. It's from Delia's How to Cook Book One. Ironically, this is probably my most used cook book. I think I've already made around half the recipes.

Plums in Marsala
(adapted from Delia's How to Cook Book One)

1.35 kilos of firm plums
75gm of golden castor sugar
570ml of marsala
1 vanilla pod
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tspn arrowroot

Place plums, cinnamon sticks and the vanilla pod in a deep baking dish.

Heat the marsala and burn off the alcohol. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Pour over the plums. Place in an oven preheated to 180C. Bake for 40 minutes, turning plums over about half way through.

Remove the plums and set aside. Strain the liquid into a saucepan and discard the vanilla and cinnamon sticks. Bring the liquid to a simmer and let it reduce for a few minutes.

Mix the arrowroot with a little water to form a paste. Whisk into the liquid and continue simmering until it is slightly thickened and glossy.

Pour back over the plums. Serve just warm with thick double cream. Delia also suggests serving it with rice pudding, which could be nice (can't stand rice pudding myself).


At 2:00 am, Blogger Patricia Scarpin said...

The plums look so juicy and delicious... Too bad you had to be so afraid of disaster while making it.

I haven't made many of Delia's recipes (a roasted tomato salad I made was to die for), but I know they 're good.

At 2:20 am, Blogger Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

It sounds like something from Poltergeist !!!!!! The plums do sound delcious though:D

At 2:48 am, Blogger Veron said...

okay...before I attempt this recipe...why is it again the alcohol ignited the first time but not the second time?

(asks veronica who is the most likely person this would happen to too)

At 3:13 am, Blogger Deborah said...

I'm glad you made it out alive!!

At 4:02 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just love recipes with explosions in them; it adds so much to the excitement of cooking! That being said, I'm glad you and your kitchen are both okay and the plums look divine. I'm bookmarking this one for the advent of plum season around these parts!

At 12:41 am, Blogger Kelly-Jane said...

Oh my I didn't ever think of alcohol igniting in the oven! (new worry!!).

Your plums look fab - really amazing colour too. I have that Delia book, but can't remember this recipe, will go an look.

I used to do plums in spiced red wine, but marsala sounds even beter!

At 8:28 pm, Blogger KJ said...

Hi Patricia, I love Delia for baking basics and traditional english cooking. She has the best pudding recipes.

Hi Val, it was spooky!!

Hi Veron, I'm not sure exactly how it all came about. I assume the alcohol was all burnt off in the oven. So there was nothing left to ignite with a match.

Hi Deborah, me too!!

Hi Charcuterista, let me know how it goes if you end up making them.

Hi Kelly-Jane, I had never thought of it either. I love the colour too, so lovely and rich.

At 1:41 pm, Blogger Kate said...

Although I am sure that it was not the least bit amusing when it happened, I have to admit I laughed quite loudly while reading this post! This sounds like something that would happen to me - only I pray it wont when I try this recipe!
The plums look delicious! I'm thinking I might attempt them for Easter - although I will make sure my little nephew is kept well out of the kitchen :)


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