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Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The Gentle Art of Domesticity

I spend a lot of time in my kitchen, cooking, cleaning up after cooking, drinking tea, chatting, reading recipe books, hiding from the rest of the household and having a few moments to myself. It was the first room I designed when we moved into this ram-shackled ‘money pit’ and it was the last room to get finished. A kitchen is a redemptive place, here you can make up for whatever shortcomings you have elsewhere. A bad day at work can be eased by the making of a lovely creamy cheesy pasta dish, which is greeted with joy by your family. This week has been a frantic round of jam and chutney making, the usual attempt to productively use the harvest of vegetables and fruit from the garden. This year our dear little wizen plum tree has gone crazy producing hundreds of sweet plump plums with purple bluish hue. My first instinct is to make jam, but after a few hours standing over a hot stove, I am fed-up of stirring the bubbling cauldron of sticky dark liquid as it spits and burps and splutters. I decided a plum pie would be an easier way to use up some of the surplus. Below is one of the recipes I ended up using this year. Give it a try.

Plum Pie with Almond Pastry

For this beautiful scrumptious pie you need a shallow pie tin and the patience and will to make your own pastry. Dissolve 4 oz or 100g of soft brown sugar in 10 fl oz or 300ml of water in a pan over a low heat. Once the sugar has dissolved add the zest of half a lemon and boil it for 10 minutes. Get 6 –8 nice fat juicy plums and halve and remove the stones then add them to the syrup and leave them to simmer uncovered until tender. This should take about 15 –20 minutes or even quicker if your plums are very ripe. Now for the hard bit, making the almond pastry. Rub 4oz/100g of butter into 10oz/275g flour with a teaspoon of cinnamon until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Stir in 4oz/100g of ground almonds and 1oz/25g of icing sugar, mix with one small beaten egg to form a dough. Chill for about 20 minutes. Heat the oven for to gas mark 5/190C/375F. Cut the chilled pastry in half and roll out one piece to line a shallow pie tin (about 8 -10 inches or 20–23 cms). Make sure you grease the tin thoroughly first. Spread the plums over the base along with 3 or 4 tablespoons of the syrup. Make the lid by rolling out the other half of the pastry. Place over the top of the plums, seal edges and make a hole in the centre for the steam to escape. Bake for 30 minutes possibly 40, at any rate until the pastry is firm and has a lovely golden colour. Serve with ice-cream or cream or proper home made custard.

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