Hola! Before I start today, anyone who fancies their food à la mode - click away now! This week I’m bringing prune recipes! Now, the poor prune is uncool for a couple of reasons. One is their impact on the digestive system and two, is the fact that their usage is kind of dated. As the star ingredient in devils on horseback, they’ve long been filed under seventies swinger party food, along with fondue, in my mind. But last week, a friend made that Yotam Ottolenghi recipe in which parsnip dumplings float in prune and vegetable broth. After he’d chucked the right amount of prunes in the stock, he handed the leftovers around and we at them, surprised and delighted by their deliciousness, until they were sadly gone. Then someone said, ‘prunes are nice!’, which was followed by us all loving the prune and parsnip soup to bits. I never knew prunes could do what they did in that broth; it tasted a bit meaty and it blew my tiny mind.
But prunes can do other amazing things as well(I’m not talking about digestive systems!). I love them for their sticky texture and because unlike some other dried fruits, they’re not too sweet. If you add them to stews, they give the same flavour boost they gave to the stock. They also love a good soak in booze, which makes them an even happier match for chocolate. There’s no end to their uses and I found, over the course of the week, the more I learnt about prunes, the more I liked them. I’m now a bona fide fan. So here it is, my tribute to the prune!
Devils on horseback
Alright, I did say I associate these with swingers parties in my mind but there was no bowl full of keys at my place when we ate these, I swear. I made two types; one with plain prunes and the other with a hazelnut stuffed prune, both magical but if pressed I’d opt for the nut free one, if only because it’s less hassle and it means you can eat them more quickly. You’ll need at least one toothpick for each devil.
5 pieces of streaky bacon, (I bought whole rashers, cut the eye off and put it aside for sandwiches and just used the streaky bit)
1. Preheat the oven to 200 C.
2. Soak the toothpicks in water for 15 minutes.
3. Cut the bacon width ways into 4 pieces. Wrap each prune in a piece, then secure with a toothpick. Place in a baking dish, fitted with a rack and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the bacon is crisp and browned. Eat hot.
I’m a huge fan of a good pie, which is exactly this is. Originally, I planned to post a version of the French classic pork and prunes but when I saw how thick the sauce had become and how tender the pork, I thought it would make a terrific pie. The prunes melted down into a thick, sweet, dark gravy, which I balanced out by adding a couple of tablespoons of dijon mustard. I also made my own puff pastry for this, which sounds impressive but if you see this post on Stovetop Revolution, you’ll learn this is an easy and incredibly tasty thing to do! I highly recommend you take a look and give it a go.
12 pitted prunes
1 1/2 cups of dry white wine
1kg stewing pork, cut into pieces (I used pork neck)
4 shallots, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons of seasoned flour
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
2 cups of chicken stock
1 tablespoon of redcurrant or lingon berry jelly
2 tablespoons of dijon mustard
1 sheet of puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
Poppy seeds, for sprinkling
1. Place the prunes and wine in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Set aside.
2. Rinse and dry the pork.
3. Take a heavy bottomed casserole dish and melt the butter and half the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and let them cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re soft. Scrape into a bowl and set aside. Wipe out the pan.
3. Add the rest of the olive oil to the same pan and turn the heat to medium high. Dredge the pork pieces in seasoned flour and brown in batches in the hot oil. Remove from the pan and set aside.
4. Tip out all but one tablespoon of fat from the pan. Add the wine to the pan, then the stock and let it bubble up, while scraping up the bits on the bottom with a wooden spoon. Let it reduce by a third. Turn the heat down to low.
5. Return the meat and shallots to the pan, along with the prunes, jelly and mustard. Let it cook for 2-3 hours or until the pork pieces are really tender and you have a nice thick sauce. The sauce gets pretty sticky as it cooks, so you’ll need to stir it often to stop it catching on the bottom. Add a bit of water if it gets too thick.
6. Of course, you don’t have to pie this stew. If you want to, pour it into a pie dish and top with puff pastry. Brush with a beaten egg, then sprinkle with poppy seeds. Otherwise just serve it with some greens and potatoes. Either way, the mixture gets tastier after a day resting.
Sometimes you want your childhood favourite straight up and sometimes you want it with prunes and booze! Adapted from a Stephanie Alexander recipe.
enough whisky or hot black tea to cover the prunes (about 1/2 a cup)
125g plain flour
small pinch of salt
1/4 cup of caster sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 a cup of milk
40 g unsalted butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
few drops of vanilla extract
180g brown sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
Soaking liquid from the prunes + enough water to bring the total liquid up to 1 cup
1. Soak the prunes in tea or booze overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and butter a 1.25 litre pie dish. Remove the prunes from their liquid and roughly chop. Set the liquid aside.
3. Sift the flour, salt, caster sugar, baking powder and cocoa together in a large bowl. Stir the milk, butter, egg and vanilla together in a separate bowl. Mix both together and pour into prepared dish.
4. Mix the brown sugar and cocoa together and sprinkle on top of the pudding. In a saucepan, bring the soaking liquid and extra water to the boil. Pour this over the pudding and place in the oven.
5. Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until puffed in the centre. Serve hot with cream or ice cream.