Award-winning food writer Felicity Cloake shares a late-summer salad using ripe, juicy Victoria plums and creamy soft cheese, perfect for enjoying with our intensely perfumed Exhibition Fleurie.
However old you are, it's hard not to feel a certain pang of sadness as the holidays draw to a close. But as far as nature's concerned, September is very much still summertime, with crops such as tomatoes, courgettes and berries at their peak, to be joined as the month progresses by more autumnal bounty like game, wild mushrooms, sloes and crabapples.
If you're a forager, then this recipe would be delicious with wild bullaces or damsons and milky green cob rather than hazelnuts, but don't worry if your hunting and gathering is generally done in the supermarket because it's just as lovely with cultivated fruit and nuts. Add a rich, creamy cheese like Chaorce, from eastern France, or chunks of soft rinded goat cheese and it makes a great match for a dry fruity red like a Beaujolais at an autumnal supper or weekend lunch.
I used large Victorias here, but it would work with most plums; add sugar before baking if you're using tarter varieties like damsons, and increase the number if they're smaller than average.
Felicity Cloake's Late-Summer Salad with Roasted Plums and Hazelnuts
- 6 plums, halved
- 40g shelled hazelnuts or cobnuts
- 200g watercress or baby spinach
- 100g soft, creamy cheese such as Chaorce or a rinded goat cheese, at room temperature
For the dressing
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper
Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan and put the halved plums, flesh-side up in a small, lightly greased dish. Bake for about 25-30 minutes until soft, then set aside to cool.
Roughly chop the nuts (no need to skin them if they're not ready peeled) and toast them in a small, dry pan on a medium-high heat until golden, then set aside to cool.
Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing, and season to taste, tipping in any juices from the plums too. Toss with the watercress until well coated, then divide between bowls.
Cut the plums into wedges, then arrange on top of the leaves, along with chunks of the cheese. Scatter with roasted nuts to finish.