Cooking with (Californian) Prunes:
Guest Feature by Lucy Daltroff
When I heard the description of Californian prunes as “stored up sunshine” I could see why the famous chef Rosemary Shrager was keen to include then in a cooking day. I was at her school in the attractive town of Tunbridge Wells, Kent with a group of writers and bloggers. The school opened a couple of years ago in the former Corn Exchange, a beautiful three storey Regency Building in the heart of the famous Pantiles.
The day began with information on the advantages of eating prunes, as Rosemary has recently become the ambassador to “Prunes from California”. She explained how she is enjoying creating new recipes to use the fruit of the American orchards, that cover over 46,000 acres in the San Joachim valley, and where they have the advantage of the fruit actually ripening on the branch.
Prunes have had a bad press in the past and Rosemary is keen to convert their image from a medicine cabinet laxative to a luxury food, recognized for their weight loss, bone strength and digestive health properties.
Our first task was to read and take on board some basic safety rules and then to watch Rosemary making recipe number one – California Prune and Wheaten Bread. She demonstrated it in her unique engaging way, which made me understand her starring roles in the TV programmes “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” and “Ladette to Lady”. – combining cajoling with charm .
Afterwards we went off, in pairs, to various work stations to make the bread ourselves and I soon realized just how fabulous it is to have a helper clear up after me at every stage, in a gleaming well organized kitchen.
California Prune and Wheaten Bread.
360g wholemeal, stone-ground, medium or coarse flour
16 California Prunes
120g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 heaped teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon bran
1 tablespoon wheat or oat germ
329ml – 448ml butter milk
- Place the wholemeal flour in a mixing bowl. Sieve in the plain flour, salt and baking soda.
- Stir in the California Prunes, bran, germ and sugar and mix thoroughly. Now cut the butter into small pieces and rub into the mixture.
- Make a well in the centre and pour in the butter milk. Mix together very quickly and gently to form a loose dough (a consistency rather like thick porridge).
- Lightly grease two loaf tins (480g).
- Now divide the dough evenly, leaving the surface rough, sprinkle with wholemeal flour or bran to give a malty surface. Press down around edges with wet (plenty of water) fingers.
- Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes on 220°C and then lower the heat to 200°C for a further 30-35 minutes.
- The bread should be firm to touch, brown and well risen. Insert a skewer into the centre of the bread and if it comes out clean it is cooked.
It was easy and I have to say absolutely delicious. My next course was Prune Stuffed Salmon which we ate with Camargue Red Rice
Prune Stuffed Salmon
2 cloves of garlic
10 prunes chopped
Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar to taste
100g of Spinach
- Place the shallots and garlic into a pan and soften. Add the prunes and a splash of water
- Cook for 2 minutes. Add the vinegar. Place to one side and allow to cool
- Place the salmon onto cling film with the stuffing mix in the middle
- Roll and wrap
- To cook, place in a steamer for ten minutes
- Seal on all sides, making sure the pan doesn’t get too hot and burn the salmon
- Add a little butter and baste.
We actually ran out of time and although we didn’t make the dessert we enjoyed eating it and were pleased to take away the recipe
California Prune and White Chocolate Panna Cotta
5 California prunes cut into 8 pieces each/ finely chopped
330ml double cream
100ml full fat milk
100g good white chocolate, broken into pieces
6g gelatin leaves, soaked for 5-10 minutes in warm water, squeezed dry
For the garnish
12 whole California prunes soaked in brandy and syrup
For the syrup
150g golden caster sugar
100ml brandy optional
- First put the California prunes into a small processor and puree, with a few bits left in.
- Heat the cream and milk in a pan over a medium heat until the mixture is almost simmering.
- Reduce the heat to low and stir in the white chocolate and sugar until the ingredients have melted and the mixture is well combined.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the soaked gelatin leaves. Stir until the gelatin leaves have melted then set the mixture aside until it has completely cooled.
- Now add the processed California prunes and allow the mixture to start to set so that the prunes are suspended.
- Pour the Panna Cotta mixture into ramekins, and then chill in the fridge for 4 hours, or until set firm.
- To make the syrup put the water and sugar into a small saucepan, simmer until it starts to thicken and then add the California prunes. Cook for a further minute before adding the brandy. Leave for as long as possible.
- To serve, dip the ramekin bases and sides in warm water to loosen the Panna Cotta from the moulds, being careful not to leave in the water too long otherwise it will start running.
- Turn out one Panna Cotta into the centre of each plate, then surround with three soaked California prunes.
If you want to be in with a chance of learning to cook with Rosemary Schrager, there’s a great competition. All you need to be in with a chance is to enter your best recipe for prunes here. You’ve got to the end of February!