Plums can be a bit bland and mushy, but this recipe really gives them some zing. Use smallish red plums. I used these to make little plum tarts: blind bake some tartlet cases of pâte sablée until crisp and golden, then tuck two or three roasted plums into each, drizzle over a very little syrup, and top with a blob of crème fraîche flavoured with finely chopped crystallised ginger and a little black pepper. You can cook the pastry in advance, but don’t assemble the tarts till the last minute.
The plums are fine on their own too, with cream, ice cream, or Greek yoghurt, and keep well in the fridge for up to a week. Or you can freeze them.
100 ml water
100 ml balsamic vinegar
6 tablespoons demerara or golden caster sugar
10 black peppercorns
1 vanilla bean, split
500-600 g small whole plums
a few sprigs of rosemary
Preheat oven to 200°C. Whisk together the water, vinegar, 4 tablespoons of sugar, and the peppercorns to dissolve the sugar. Split the vanilla pod and scrap the seeds into the mixture, then throw the bean in too. Put the plums into a gratin dish into which they will fit snugly in (more or less) a single layer. Pour over the liquid, then sprinkle over the rest of the sugar. Tuck in a couple of sprigs of rosemary.
Bake for 20-30 minutes; the skins will start to split, but the plums shouldn’t disintegrate. Use a slotted spoon to remove the plums carefully to a serving dish. Pour the liquid into a non-reactive pan, discarding the rosemary sprigs and vanilla pod. Boil vigorously to reduce to a syrupy consistency (you probably need to reduce it by about half). Taste it; if it seems too vinegary, add some more sugar. Pour over the plums and garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs. Serve hot, warm, or cold.
Update: we finished off the last of these from the freezer 6 months later. The flavour improved with keeping, the vanilla really coming through. Gorgeous with a big dollop of crème fraîche!