Tuesday, December 16, 2008

WinterFruit Compote

This compote seems like a wonderfully wintery bowl full to me. Dried fuits, which I am often more inclined to eat than fresh particularly in winter, are spiced, scented and soaked in fresh juice to be served up after a suitable time marinating with a sharpish dairy accompaniment - yoghurt at breakfast is my preferred treat or with creme fraiche for a sublime dessert. The fresh juice replenishes any vitamin C that has been lost in the drying process while the fruit retains the more concentrated levels of iron and other minerals.

Compotes are apparently a speciality of Russia and Eastern Europe, a region where good desserts may be rare, distinguished by being almost invariably wholesome and palatable. This version is much better than that, coming as it does from Alice Waters at Chez Panisse. Bottled in sterilised jars it would make a lovely gift to someone you love at Christmas. It has the added bonus of being very quick to make and very beautiful to look at when it's done.

Winter Fruit Compote

65g golden raisins
30g currants
30g dried cherries
90g dried apricots, diced
90g dried apples, diced
400ml fresh orange juice
3 strips orange zest
40g brown sugar
2.5cm piece of vanilla pod
1 star anise

In a medium-size saucepan, combine the fruit, orange juice, zest and sugar. Split the vanilla pod in half lengthwise. Use the tip of a sharp knife to scrape the black seeds from the inside of the pod directly into the saucepan; then add the pod, along with the star anise.

Cook over medium heat until the dried fruits have plumped and the juice has slightly thickened (about three to five minutes).

Let cool slightly, then discard the vanilla pod, orange zest and star anise.

The only thing with the star anise is to use a whole one. Not thinking, I added a few little bits of broken ones into my pan and then, once that luscious dark pool was done, couldn't remember how many bits I was trying to fish out...

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