Food & Travel, Pickles & Conserves

Prunes in Red Wine Syrup

Are you ready for the first post-Australia Australia-post? Well it’s here, so get down with it. Prunes in red wine syrup coming atcha!

I really feel like pulling out some dusty old map and pointing out the many places we visited in our four weeks of Australia time, but I’ll just settle with a recipe to get us started. In our last week of gallivanting, we ended up in Perth on the west coast, where we met up with mum’s friend from back in the day – Margaret. And to those of you who don’t already know it, my mum’s Australian and lived there into her twenties when she moved to Europe and eventually settled in Denmark with my Danish dad.

Anyway, my mum was also in Perth and the four of us (T included) rented a car, a blue thing full of testosterone  although the license plate only said “1DIK”. Seriously. Naturally we milked that one for days. But the car took us everywhere, around Perth, further south through Busselton (Margaret’s native town), the Margaret River wine region and to the south-tip where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Pacific. And somewhere in-between, we found a Saturday market in a sleepy town hall, where the locals had brought stuff like those classic knitted bits people love to make but no one needs (like a hat for boiled eggs or a napkin ring) as well as a few food-related things.

Enter the prunes in red wine syrup.

There was this one stall with a pretty simple setup and a guy in a laid-back chair, who had the best mouthfuls! Not an awful lot, but just the right things. The two I remember best were the runny-centered chocolate “muffins” (very much like the French moelleux) with a single soft prune in the middle and then the whole jars of prunes in Shiraz (Australian Syrrah) syrup. And we couldn’t stop marvelling at the velvety deep flavoured syrup and the prunes, ahh the prunes. Can’t stop saying “the prunes” and I’m not even that pruny myself. Thankfully, he revealed a lot of his cooking secrets to us, which mainly consisted of Shiraz, sugar, prunes and 12 hours of patience.

So now I’m back in Denmark, where the snow is lining the branches like thick toothpaste and we’re all struggling to keep warm in our silly designer wellingtons. Just the right time to pull out a feel-good recipe or rather – an experiment in that direction. Here it goes:

Prunes in Red Wine Syrup (serves at least 8 people)

  • 1 bottle Periquita (happened to be the only red wine at hand, left over from my friend’s bachelorette party, but any not too sweet wine will do I suppose)
  • 180 grams raw cane sugar
  • 180 regular sugar
  • 320 grams prunes
  • 1-2 limes

For serving:

  • Peeled, toasted and chopped almonds
  • Greek yoghurt (2% fat) or Skyr (Icelandic low fat, high-protein dairy product)
  • Cream for whipping
  • Vanilla sugar

Add the wine and sugars to a heavy-bottomed pot and leave to simmer without a lid for about 30 mins (but keep an eye on it now and then). Then add the prunes and let it all simmer for another 20-30 mins, still without a lid, but don’t let it bubble up. If it does anyway, it probably means the syrup has turned too sticky (and it will thicken even further when cooled down). But don’t fret – you can always dilute it with a bit of water. Then take it off the heat and add the juice of at least one lime and add a bit more if the sweetness is still a bit too much. I prefer doing it this way rather than just cutting down on the sugar as the lime adds a nice spice to it. Then leave the prunes for a couple of minutes while you scald a large jar. Finally pour the prunes into the jar and leave to set in the fridge. I like to serve them chilled with peeled, toasted and chopped almonds and a dollop of 3 parts whipped cream to 1 part greek yoghurt with a bit of vanilla sugar. It’s just the right combination of crunchy nuts, slightly sour and fluffy cream and intense prunes.

I’d love to give the chocolate treatment to the prunes at some point too. Let me know if you do and what becomes of it.

NOTE: With this recipe, the prunes stay slightly chewy (the way they are soft and chewy when fresh from the bag), but if you like them softer you could go in the Australian guy’s direction and opt for 12 hours of very slow cooking… I still think his 12 hours are meant for ginormous portions, so maybe try with two hours and see how you go from there.