Compote of Winter Fruits

I serve these seasonal fruits poached in a spicy red wine syrup with a slice of Sauternes and Olive Oil Cake to give a textured contrast Make this compote at least a day ahead of serving, it will keep for a week or more in the fridge.

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon
  • 500ml/16fl oz red wine
  • 450g/1lb caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 piece of dried tangerine peel (optional - available from Oriental stores)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 12 peppercorns
  • 8 star anise (optional)
  • 1 Lapsang tea-bag
  • 2 heaped tbsp sugar
  • 12 prunes
  • 8 dried apricots
  • 4 small pears (firm but not rock-hard, but not ripe enough to eat uncooked)

Utensils

  • potato peeler
  • large non-reactive saucepan
  • large heatproof bowl

Method

Mise en Place

Make the compote the day before: use a potato peeler to scrape off the zest from the lemon.

Cooking

Put the wine, caster sugar, vanilla, bay, tangerine peel and spices into a large non-reactive saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring. Skim off the froth that comes to the surface.

Simmer for 30 minutes to infuse the spices. Add the lemon zest to the syrup and set aside to cool and mature.

At the same time, make a weak tea by adding 575ml/1 pt of boiling water to the tea-bag in the heatproof bowl. Then stir in the sugar (you use this to rehydrate the prunes and apricots and the tea needs to be very sweet to allow the natural sugar in the fruit to remain there and not leach into the soaking liquid: this would happen if you used unsweetened tea).

Add the prunes and apricots to the tea and put over a very low heat for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave the fruit to plump up.

Peel the pears, holding them by the stalks, and rub with the cut face of the lemon to prevent discoloration. Bring the red wine syrup back to the boil, turn down to a gentle simmer and add the pears. You need to keep the fruit beneath the surface of the liquid and the easiest way to achieve this is to use a lid from a smaller pan to hold them down. Simmer for 30 minutes, and remove from heat Drain the prunes and apricots and discard the tea, remove the lid from the syrup (it will be very sticky) and add them to the pears. Replace the lid and allow to cool completely before refrigerating overnight.

The compote is now ready to serve. I prefer to leave the spices in, but if you do so warn your guests that they are there for decorative effect Not everybody likes to crunch on a peppercorn while eating pudding.

Serving

Serve with Olive Oil and Sauternes cake, or with some crème fraîche or Vanilla Ice-cream.

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