Another produce item constantly on the menu at the moment is the plum. We have a lot of plum trees - two Hawea, two Luisa, and an Omega. We also used to have a Black Doris, but it fell over in the rain one day and never recovered.
The Luisa are ridiculously large plums (see photo), and super juicy. Being yellow flesh plums they are lovely eaten fresh, but don't have great flavour for cooking. The Omega are a very deep red, almost purple, and are face-twistingly sour until they are absolutely ripe. You almost have to wait for them to fall off the tree to be sure they are properly ripe. They make a fantastic savoury plum sauce. My favourite, for both cooking and eating, is the Hawea plum. It is a bright red skinned, red flesh plum that makes a beautiful red jam, and is also delicious sliced fresh on muesli. All three plum varieties are free-stone, so very easy to work with if using for cooking.
When the Haweas come ripe (early to mid February) i always make this Fresh Plum Cake from The New Zealand Treasury of Baking to celebrate. The Spicy Plum sauce is delicious, and the quantities provided make quite a lot, so i freeze it in several batches (other than that used with the cake) - very nice with ice-cream and rice pudding in mid-winter! Our plum season is drawing to a close, but we are still eating the last of the plums on our muesli each morning, so i thought i'd slip you this cake recipe now.
FRESH PLUM CAKE with SPICY PLUM SAUCE
from 'A Treasury of New Zealand Baking'
1 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup milk
zest of 2 lemons
2.5 cups self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
Spicy plum sauce
500 ml water
2 cups caster sugar
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup cassis (blackcurrant liqueur)
1 vanilla bean, split
1 stick cinnamon
2 whole cloves
1kg plums, halved and stoned
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease a 26cm springform round tin.
To make the cake, stone the plums and slice thickly. Toss them in half the sugar and set aside.
Cream the butter and the remaining half cup of sugar. Add the eggs, beating after each addition. Gently stir in the milk and lemon zest. Fold in the flour and finally the baking powder. Pour the batter into the prepared tin. Top with the plums.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Leave the cake for 20 minutes before removing from the tin.
To make the spicy plum sauce, put all the ingredients except the plums in a large saucepan. Combine and bring to the boil for 20 minutes. Add the plums to the syrup and cook for 15 minutes, or until the plums have become mushy and lost their shape. Press the plum mixture through a sieve.
The sauce can be used warm or cold, poured over wedges of cake. Alternatively you can refrigerate it and reheat it when needed (It's fabulous over ice-cream).
Like many batter cakes, the cake is best eaten the day it is cooked. It is delicious served slightly warm.