Friends, it’s plum season here in Berlin. We got a giant bucket of the stuff at the yoga cafe the other day, from the house manager or somebody who has a farm nearby… A couple of days later, my flatmate arrived home with the above-pictured laundry-basket full of freshly picked goodness (10 kg worth?). I made strudel and chili chutney at the cafe, and some plum tarts at home, and thought I’d share the recipes with you in case you also want to jump on this delicious, purple train. If you find yourself with such prodigious quantities of fruit, you can, of course, do what my flatmate did and make jam. Many, many jars of it.
As a slight aside, this abundance of fresh, regional produce at my disposal reminded me of the introduction to Plenty, Yotam Ottolenghi’s first vegetarian cook book. The gist of it, and the reason why he chose the title, is about the age of plenty that most of us enjoy today: relatively easy access to an astounding array of fruits and vegetables, grains, seeds, legumes… and how cooking without meat and fish is not a limitation but an opportunity to explore this wonderful diversity. It’s pretty much how I feel about cooking without animal products. People often inquire about what I eat as a vegan, implying I am somehow deprived, but I reply that I actually have way too many ingredients and ideas to work with and impose yet more boundaries that make sense: seasonal, regional, organic, etc.
Plum dessert (or breakfast!), two ways
The simple plum filling can be used in a couple of different quick and easy desserts: strudel and a tart with a gluten-free crust variation. Everyone loves strudel, so this is the easiest choice if entertaining picky eaters or a conservative crowd. The spelt crust tart is inspired by Sarah B.’s free-form galette which I love. The gluten-free version is crumblier and works better when pressed into a form. To make oat/buckwheat flour or almond meal from whole grains or flakes, pulse them in a blender or food processor.
Makes around 6 servings
500g plums, pitted and sliced into ~0.5cm thick slices
50g pear/agave/maple syrup
15g flour/10g starch of choice (corn starch, arrowroot powder, etc)
1 tsp cinnamon
0.5 tsp vanilla powder
freshly crushed black pepper
50g tahini or almond butter, optional (for a creamier, more complex flavour)
a few fresh basil leaves, slivered, or fresh thyme leaves, for topping after baking
1 pack (approx. 400g) vegan puff pastry dough, cold
30ml soy milk/cream
A small handful of slivered almonds, poppy seeds for a topping
150g whole-grain spelt flour (gluten-free: substitute with 120g oat flour + 50g almond meal + 20g chia seeds)
80g buckwheat flour
20g poppy seeds
75g coconut oil/vegan margarine, cold, cut into cubes
50g pear/agave/maple syrup or molasses
pinch of salt
A drizzle of cold water, if necessary
To make the filling, just combine all the ingredients except the fresh herbs in a bowl and toss to combine.
To make the strudel, preheat the oven to 210 degrees Celcius. If your puff pastry is not already rectangle-shaped, roll it out to approximately 40cm by 20 cm and lay it on a baking parchment sheet with the long side facing you. Spoon the filling into the top third then roll away from you as tightly as possible. Run a wet finger or brush along the bottom to help seal the seam and press together the ends to close. You should now have a ~40cm log. Lift the parchment paper gently and transfer to a baking sheet. For a shinier finish, brush the top with soy milk or cream and then sprinkle slivered almonds and poppy seeds on top. Bake for ~15-20 minutes until golden brown. Let cool on a cooling rack before slicing the log into thick slices.
To make the tart crust, combine the spelt flour (or oat flour + almond meal + chia seeds), buckwheat flour, poppy seeds and salt into a bowl. Add the syrup and the cube of margarine and working quickly with your fingers, rub together to break down the fat until just combined and a crumbly dough forms. If the dough is too dry, drizzle in some cold water, a tablespoon at a time until you can pinch it together easily. Press it into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius. For the spelt free-form tart, roll the dough out on a piece of parchment paper into a circle of about 25-30cm in diameter. Spoon the filling in the middle, then fold the edges in — don’t fuss, it should be lovely and rustic. Transfer to a baking sheet and pop in the oven. For the gluten-free version, oil a ~25cm springform pan, then press the dough on the bottom and a centimetre or two up the sides. Spread the filling on top. Bake either version for 20-30 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the fruit and getting soft and juicy. Let cool before sprinkling with fresh basil/thyme and slicing.