As the colours of Autumn start to creep into the trees that cover our mountains and the backdrop to our village prepares to change from lush summer greens to the copper tones of yellow, auburn and rusty reds, I am reminded once again that with the change of season, I must prepare to farewell certain produce we have enjoyed in abundance these past weeks. Mirabelle and Reine Claude plums have been a real treat for us. I’ve never seen these varieties in Australia and together with figs, we enjoyed a tub of these each week from the markets for as little as 1 or 2 euros for a large punnet. The 23rd September is officially the first day of Autumn in France. And so, as a send off, I wanted to cook a dessert that allowed the Mirabelles to be the hero of the dish, whilst pairing it with a few spices that always remind me of Autumn. My recipe is below. You could easily replace the fruit for any stone fruit varieties that are available to you.
We have just recently farewelled some Australian friends who visited our little corner of the world, and so we will once again slip into the gentle rhythm of village life following ten days of playing tourist guide, an activity we have grown to love. I have done a few days lately in bustling Toulouse, my ville en rose, and have noticed certain fashion trends coming through loud and clear. October is what the French call a “transitional season” and the number one essential in any chic wardrobe is the camel trench. Whilst our little village is very much protected from the expectation of fashion trends that seem to effect the bigger cities, I admire how practical the French can be in terms of selecting several jackets to get them through to the cooler months of December and January when there is no other option but a feather down coat. The most obvious trend colour to grace mannequin-clad shopfronts is chartreuse (which is, ironically, named after a yellow/green French liqueur) and I wonder if this trend is the same in Australia despite the different season, or if I am seeing in advance what will be popular at home in six months time?
Chartreuse is the colour of the Mirabelle plums although I do love the variety of colours they boast and many have a blush of deep pink that comes through their skins. Fruit is cheaper than flowers and I find myself filling my vintage plates with these gorgeous plums to simply decorate the house. Although as the days roll on, I notice the pile of glorious coloured stone fruit slowly dwindle as husband and children pass by and pick one or two, unable to resist the convenience of a sweet snack at their fingertips.
This glorious sweet tart is the epitome of Autumn in France and my guess is that it won’t last long on my kitchen table either … a bientot!
Mirabelle Plum Tart
500gms of Mirabelle and Reine Claude plums
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp unsalted butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 store-bought puff pastry tart shell or make your own*
1 tsp orange blossom water
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and when at temperature, place the pastry in a fluted dish, prick several times with a fork and blind bake for 20 mins or until golden brown. Ensure you fill it first with pie weights or rice to stop it from rising too much. Set aside to cool. Halve the plums and remove the seeds. Melt a teaspoon of unsalted butter in a heavy-based pan on medium-high heat. Add the plums and sprinkle the brown sugar on top. Cook gently for 5-10 minutes. If you overcook the plums, they will lose their shape and their skins. You should be left with a caramel-like sauce on the bottom of the pan. Drain the plums and set aside to cool to room temperature. Reserve the caramel. When you are ready to serve the tart, mix the orange blossom water with the mascarpone and with a small spatula, spread evenly over the base of the tart. Top with the plums and then drizzle a little of the caramel over the top – not too much if you don’t like a very sweet tart. Reserve some of the caramel sauce for serving. Serve with a muscat or dessert wine for maximum indulgence.
*A note about pastry: I have used puff pastry because I like it lighter, but you could also use a shortcrust pastry. In France, you can buy good quality, organic, ready-to-roll pastry very inexpensively. You could make your own if you prefer.