British plums are best. There, I’ve said it and nothing will persuade me otherwise.
Picking plums from trees that are buckled over by the weight of ripe fruit is incredibly nostalgic – especially as it was bucketing down with rain – I was flooded with childhood memories of late summer fruit-gathering in wet and soggy English gardens.
This time I was a guest at an English country house and so armed with a huge basket, I went to the bottom of a very long garden to pick as many plums as possible. Most of the purple variety were still hard as bullets but the golden plums were so ripe, they were almost translucent. Some plucked straight from the tree had become positively alcoholic but those were eaten there and then as they would have been too soft to cut – but not so alcoholic that I couldn’t tackle the task at hand.
So, faced with about 30lbs weight of ripe fruit and having prepped and frozen most of them, I had to find a way to cook them (besides stewing and puréeing), in order to produce a delicious supper for my friends and hosts.
This old standby fit the bill perfectly so here it is; great British pork with spiced plums – impressive enough for a dinner party, absolutely delicious and quite simple to make.
Note: if you prepare the plums and sauce the day before, this dish can be on the table in 40 minutes.
ROASTED PORK LOIN with SPICED PLUMS
6-8 large, ripe but still firm plums (I used a combination of purple and golden plums) quartered and stoned
2 cups (480ml) of medium dry white wine
1 cup (240ml) of dry red wine
2 whole star anise
A stick of cinnamon
1/4 cup (60ml) of sugar plus a separate 1.25 teaspoons
2 cups (480ml) of low sodium chicken broth
5 fresh thyme sprigs, plus 3 separate teaspoons of finely chopped thyme
2 tablespoons of finely chopped shallot
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Two 1.25 pound (just over half a kilo each) of pork tenderloins
3 tablespoons of olive oil
A few chopped fresh chives to finish
Combine the first 5 ingredients and 1/4 cup (60ml) of the sugar in a heavy saucepan and bring it to the boil stirring gently until the sugar dissolves, then reduce the heat and simmer until the plums are tender (15-20 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the plums to a shallow dish then strain the liquid and return it to the saucepan.
Add the chicken broth, 5 thyme sprigs and chopped shallot to the plum cooking liquid and bring it to a boil, cooking until it’s reduced to about 1 cup (240ml). Strain the sauce again and stir in 1.25 teaspoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of the chopped thyme. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set it aside.
You can make it up to one day ahead to here – just cover the sauce and plums separately and put them in the fridge. Bring both back to room temp when you’re ready to proceed. It will take approximately 40 minutes to finish the dish from this point.
When you’re ready to cook the tenderloin, preheat the oven to 400°F/200C.
Pat the pork dry then brush all over with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then sprinkle all over with the remaining 2 tablespoons of thyme and minced garlic. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in large ovenproof skillet large enough to contain both tenderloins, over a medium to high heat. Brown the pork on all sides, turning often for about 4-5 minutes.
Transfer the skillet to the preheated oven, and roast the pork for 20 minutes. Remove it from the oven, tent it with foil and let the pork rest for 10 minutes while you gently reheat the sauce and plums.
To serve, carve the tenderloins crosswise into ½”/1.25cm thick slices and serve the sliced pork on a warmed platter with the poached plums and sauce poured over.
Sprinkle with chopped chives and offer some mashed potatoes and a green vegetable on the side.