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Sunday, 13 July 2008

Plum crumble with hibiscus flower preserve (Γλυκό με βανίλιες και άνθος ιβίσκος )

We used to have an endless supply of plums (called 'vaniles' or 'tzanera' in Greek) from our tree in the garden of our house, but it started to show signs of drying up and unfortunately we had to cut it down in the end (making more way for zucchini). They are an interesting fruit; their deep colour makes you think they are ripe, but when you pick them off the tree and eat them, you may find that they are a little too firm, not sweet enough, and too orangey-yellow inside rather than a deep plum red. We're not great fans of them; they're not the kind of fruit you can eat loads of (like watermelon) without feeling a little sick afterwards.

I was given a bag full of plums recently (the owner of the tree probably felt likewise about the fruit). I would eat more of them fresh if there wasn't any luscious juicy watermelon to dive into. Plum crumble is just as popular in my house as the fruit. Who am I making this for? I ask myself. Me, of course, because I love crumble desserts, in the same way that I like rain in the summer, large bookstores, well-stocked libraries, Chinese stir-fries, bitter chocolate, moist carrot cake, and so many other things that seem so foreign to the people closest to me.

plums

Plum crumble (or any type of crumble) is probably unknown in the Cretan kitchen. Basically, we don't eat cooked fruit. With the influx of Northern Europeans buying property in Crete, you'd think it might become more popular as a light dessert on the island. I'm hoping that an 'authentic' British restaurant will open its doors on the island some day, and I'm sure this recipe will be on its menu (along with curries, stir-fries and all manner of foreign food that the British have adopted into their cuisine); no doubt it will be very popular too. I like to use muesli in the crumble mixture for an extra crunchy taste, another non-traditional food in Crete.

plum crumble

I'm visiting a food historian today who knows just what to do with plum crumble. She bought out some vanilla ice-cream and a jar containing a special something: hibiscus flower preserve. Hibiscus flower is known for its vitamin C content. Although hibiscus does grow in Greece, the flower (in its dried form) is imported into the country and turned into a syrupy spoon sweet, a refreshing dessert Greece is quite famous for: figs, bitter orange peel, pergamon, even cucumber and aubergine (all of which must be at the pre-mature stage) can be turned into the most tempting sweet dessert, usually served on their own with a glass of cold water. (Lulu recently made some with figs.) The hibiscus flower sweet, while lacking aroma, was a superb accompaniment, served as an ice-cream topping for this simple but very tasty pudding, after which we all enjoyed a lemoncello so tangy and refreshing that I had two glasses.

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I've made plum crumble before, and if you want the original recipe, you can find it at the Waitrose site. A dusting of cinnamon (my variation) reminds me of autumn and cooler weather, as does the deep red colour the plums take on once cooked, the kind of colour I'd want a velvet dress to be made of, which alas has no call for here in Hania now that central heating and air conditioners have become somewhat the norm, making the temperature uniform right throughout the year. The plums can also be replaced with apples and the wild blackberries that grow on thorny bushes in Hania, although hardly anybody picks them here. Any soft stone fruit in season would also work well instead of the plums for this dessert. And don't forget the ice-cream.

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Simona from Briciole.

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