The European stonefruit season is in full swing. The heat of southern Europe will provide the earliest and most abundant harvest, but we will see UK cherries and plums later in the season.
Defined by sweet, sharp flesh around a central stone, and easily edible skin, stonefruit is likely be slightly firm when you buy. This allows them to travel without turning into jam on the way. They will ripen on the stone at room temperature and can be shifted to the fridge when ready.
Eaten raw, they are a great leveller; there is simply no graceful way of eating from stone. Nibbled or gnawed, you’re still going to make a joyful mess. They work wonders in myriad recipes too: here are a few to see you through the summer and beyond.
Something sweet is most people’s port of call. The soft flesh of cherries, plums or apricots is perfect for pastries, crumbles, tarts and cakes and the sharpness is always a great foil to any form of sweetness. This almond and polenta cake is the perfect vehicle for cherries. They collapse into the mix as they cook, creating jammy blobs through the sponge. Almonds and fruit are a classic Mediterranean combo, and you could happily replace the cherries with pieces of apricot, plum or nectarine instead.
If the weather permits, griddling stonefruit adds a caramelised, smoky depth and is a great way to cook slightly unripe fruit. The heat will nudge it over the line, softening and sweeten the flesh as it cooks – if the fruit is too ripe, you’ll have a hard time flipping it before it turns to mush. This technique will work for peaches, apricots, or nectarines. This recipe uses floral orange blossom water, but you could finish with honey and a cautious garnish of thyme or rosemary for a herbaceous feel. If the weather takes a turn, you can bake or grill them instead.
Fruit can work beautifully in savoury dishes if well balanced. It is the contrast of sweet, sharp and salty that is the key. It can lift a summer salad alongside some feta or mozzarella or serve as a side to roasted meats, where the tartness can cut through fat. This peach salsa recipe is a perfect example, with the fruit serving a parallel function with the tomato by adding sweet acidity. Serve it as side or tuck it into a taco.
The yielding flesh of stonefruit is ideal for blends and smoothies. Most blenders will make short work of the skin too; just make sure you remove all the stones to save you the heart-stopping rattle as the blade jams. I like to mix some veg with my fruit I can as the earthiness grounds any excessive sweetness. This recipe adds some cashews and turmeric to the mix – the former adds body and creaminess, especially if soaked first, the later adds fragrance and a colour boost.
Plums can vary enormously in colour depending on the variety, with flesh ranging from dark purple to bright yellow. We see a UK crop later in the summer and they’ll last through to the start of the apple and pear season. This chutney recipe is an ideal way to capture the sharp sour taste so that you can use it later in the year. All stone fruit will cook down into sauces, chutneys, preserves and jams with ease.