Wednesday 26 October 2016

Weekend Bites: Why now is the time to go stone mad for stone fruits

John Mathers

South Africa's diverse landscapes are not only beautiful to admire and explore, but also produce some of the world's most delicious fruit.

The amazing combination of Mediterranean climate, steep hillsides, excellent soils and over 100 years of experience has helped make the South African fruit industry so successful.

For another few weeks, we can still find delicious South African stone fruits in our shops, from juicy peaches and nectarines to sweet, plump plums.


Perfect bedfellows to buttery pastry, these sugar-rich fruits make for indulgent and delicious desserts.

The Plum and Ricotta Filo Pie, featured here, is a typical African dish. It is usually savoury, but here it is made with South African plums to make an impressive dish for a dinner party dessert.

You will need a 20cm spring-form cake tin with the bottom removed, and a flat baking tray.

The Tarte Tatin, a classic upside-down tart, is commonly made with apples but other fruits also work well, including pears, plums, nectarines or peaches.

It's very easy to make, but you need to have the courage to let the nectarines caramelise, so let them cook slowly for enough time so that their juices blend with the butter and sugar.

You will also need a bit of courage to flip the tart over! You will need a 20cm (8 inch) frying pan that has an ovenproof handle.

Recipes courtesy of South African Fruit, www.beautifulcountrybeautifulfruit.co.uk


South African Plum and Ricotta Filo Pie

Serves 6-8


10 South African plums, halved and pitted

100g caster sugar

100g butter

2 star anise

4 sheets of filo pastry

250g ricotta cheese

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp of date syrup/honey

50g pine nuts

20g poppy seeds

Icing sugar, for dusting



1. Preheat the oven to 200°C, fan oven 180°C, gas mark 6.

2. Put the halved plums into a medium saucepan with 4tbsp water, the sugar, 25g of the butter and the star anise. Cook on a medium to low heat until the plums are poached, about 15 minutes. Cool. Melt the remaining butter.

3. Place the spring-form cake tin on the baking tray and brush both with melted butter. Drape the first sheet of filo pastry over and into the cake tin. Brush the surface with melted butter. Do this with the other three sheets, criss-crossing them so inside of the cake tin is covered, but you have enough hanging over the sides to eventually cover the filling.

4. Mix the ricotta with the vanilla, date syrup and pine nuts. Spread over the bottom of the tin. Remove the star anise from the plums, spoon them evenly into the cake tin.

5. Cover the top of the pie with the hanging filo and brush with melted butter. Bake for 15-20 minutes, then remove the spring-form tin and sprinkle the poppy seeds on top. Bake for another 15-20 minutes until the top is golden. Once cooled, remove the pie from the baking tray and place on a plate for serving. Sprinkle the top with a dusting of icing sugar.


Nectarine Tarte Tatin


Serves 6-8


100g unsalted butter

8-10 South African nectarines, halved and pitted

150g caster sugar

1 vanilla pod, split lengthways

320g all-butter ready-rolled puff pastry (thawed if frozen)


1. Smear butter generously on bottom and sides of frying pan. Place the nectarine halves, cut sides up, into the pan, packing them in tightly (they will shrink as they cook). Then sprinkle over the sugar and add the vanilla pod. Place the pan over a medium heat. In 15-20 minutes, the butter, sugar and nectarines will turn golden. When they're done, remove the vanilla pod. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 200°C, fan oven 180°C, gas mark 6. Cut the puff pastry into a circle that covers the circumference of the pan, with a little overlap; this will be the lid (and eventually the bottom) of the tarte tatin.

3. Flop the puff pastry circle over the pan, tucking the overlap down the sides of the it. Put it onto a baking sheet to catch any overflow, then bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the pastry is pale gold and risen.

4. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Hold a plate firmly over the frying pan and quickly flip it over so that the pastry is on the bottom. Remove the frying pan, serve the tarte with a scoop of crème fraiche or double cream.


Ask the Expert: Why we should all demand to see Provenance on our menus

with John Mathers, chef and owner Newforge House

Provenance, on any menu, is a sign that the people cooking the food care about it. It signals that they are passionate about quality and have taken the time and effort to source their ingredients.


John Mathers

At Newforge, locally sourced produce has, and always will be, of key importance. Great food does not have to be fancy, but it requires top-quality ingredients.

Consistent quality can only be guaranteed through building relationships with local suppliers. Arguably, the best beef in the world from Peter Hannan is aged a couple of miles down the road in Moira.

The story behind food and its producer also enriches our guests' food experience. For example, our all-Irish, raw milk artisan cheeseboard, which includes Mike Thomson's Young Buck from Newtonards and Silke Croppe's Corleggy cheeses from Belturbet.

I bring out each cheeseboard and talk guests through the cheeses, how they are made and the people who make them. My wife, Lou, makes the biscuits and chutney, often using fruits and vegetables from our garden.

John and Lou opened Newforge House in 2005 in Armagh with the idea of running a country house that feels like a home-from-home with the highest quality food at its heart, www.newforeghouse.com

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