For their brief season in late May, loquats are high on my shopping list. They are not widely available, and are easily damaged in transit. When ripe, the skin changes from unblemished, smooth, bloomy and apricot in colour, and develops brown patches. This puts off many buyers, and the fruit, particularly on street barrows and market stalls, is often sold very cheaply. Lovely in a simple compote or fool, loquats also make good sorbets, ice cream and jam. They can be substituted for apricots in many recipes, and make exotic chutneys and pickles, and a particularly rich and unusual curd.
Rinse the loquats, removing any damaged parts, and halve them to remove seeds. Cook gently until soft, using as little water as possible – steaming is best. Rub through a sieve into a large bowl set over simmering water. Stir in the caster sugar, and then the eggs and butter. Stir frequently until the mixture thickens. It always takes much longer than I expect it to, and just starts to happen the instant before I decide to give up. Even then, I always wonder if it will thicken when cool. Of course, it will. Consider the amount of butter, which will cause it to set. This is a marvellous tea-time treat with fresh scones and clotted cream.
For a very simple dessert, cut rounds of brioche or challah, fry them in butter or simply toast. Spoon on the curd, and top with a little cream or crème fraiche. Keep the rest refrigerated, and use within 3 to 4 weeks.
© 2000 Frances Bissell. All rights reserved.