This is a recipe from the Christmas section of Allegra’s Colour Cookbook, but I like it so much I make it all year round. I have a particular affinity for dried fruit compotes, although I suspect that’s not the coolest thing to admit. This one has whisky in, if it helps.
The book is divided into 4 main sections, each with their own colour theme: roughly speaking, winter is dark green, spring is light green, summer is red and autumn is orange. Christmas is a bonus section on the end. What I particularly like about Allegra McEvedy, aside from the fact that she writes knock-out recipes, is that she writes about the health benefits of food in an enthusiastic and inspiring way, without making nutrition sound joyless or crackpot. I think there’s a sense of generosity and care about her food. When I flick through this book, I’m happily reminded of how much of it I’ve made and enjoyed, and feel briefly satisfied; then I remember how much I want to make it all again and all the other things I haven’t made yet, and feel pangs of regret. It’s a good book, that’s what I’m saying.
As she rightly points out here, winter is a bit low on the fresh, seasonal fruit front, and dried fruit can be a useful staple to add some nutrients to your diet (figs, prunes, apricots and sultanas are a good source of iron, as well as vitamins and fibre). This works as a pudding, snack, or (sans booze and praline) a breakfast. I especially like it on porridge.
Lapsang poached fruit with praline Serves 3
I tend to half the recipe as I live in a dried fruit lover household of one. Also, you probably want slightly smaller servings for breakfast. You can safely double everything if you prefer.
Feel free to change the choice of fruit to whatever you like best or happen to have in the cupboards.
For the poaching liquor:
1.5cm chunk of ginger, sliced lengthways
45g brown sugar
1/2 vanilla pod
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 lapsang souchong teabag
2 cardamom pods
1/2 – 1 star anise (I use 1/2 if I find a broken one, don’t break one on purpose)
1 bay leaf
1/2 mace blade (optional – I never have mace)
For the praline:
75g caster sugar
60g flaked almonds
2 tbsp water
For the fruit:
6 dried apricots
3 dried figs
35g dried cranberries or cherries
35ml whisky, or booze of your choice
thick yoghurt or whipped cream
Put all the ingredients for the poaching liquor in a saucepan with 350ml water. Bring to a gentle simmer, then turn down to the lowest heat and leave for 20 minutes.
Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, oiled, or even better, a silicone baking sheet. Put the sugar for the praline in a small saucepan, heavy-based if possible, and sprinkle over the water. Stir briefly so that all the sugar is wet. Set over a low to medium heat and wait for it to turn an amber, golden colour – this might take a while, but don’t forget about it or it’ll have gone too far behind your back. You can tilt the pan, but don’t stir the liquid. It helps if you have a light-coloured pan so that you can see the caramel changing colour, but in my experience most pans are black, unhelpfully. When it’s at the right colour and thickness, quickly stir in the flaked almonds, stir to coat, and tip them out onto the greaseproof paper. Leave to set.
Strain the poaching liquor into a large saucepan and reheat. Cut the apples and pears into quarters and core. I don’t bother to peel them.
Put the dried fruit into the poaching liquor – making sure any stones have been removed. Stew gently for about 10 minutes, then add the apples and pears and simmer for a further 10 minutes or until soft but still intact.
If you still have a lot of liquid left, take out the fruit with a holey spoon and leave the liquid to simmer down to a thicker consistency. Peel the almond praline off the greaseproof paper and break it into chunks.
Serve a portion of the fruit with some of the liquid poured over, and stir in the whisky. Top with yoghurt or whipped cream and praline pieces.
Adapted from Allegra McEvedy’s ‘Colour Cookbook’.