September 8, 2020

A QUICK PLUM PIE and la saison du brame.

We have had several barbecues since we got to France six weeks ago, just because we can and because the opportunities for it are so rare in the UK - especially in September. 

When we were kids we only ate outdoors if it was a family picnic.  Then it would be sandwiches from a biscuit tin lined with greaseproof paper, buns from another, all washed down with flasks of tea or bottles of pop.  No alcohol was involved unless we stopped at the pub on the way home; parents, aunts and uncles sipping respectively pints of beer and Babycham outside at wooden benches while kids and cousins waited in the car, satisfied with more pop and a bag of crisps.  It was the 1950's and 60's and "al fresco" was a term we were yet to hear.

In my twenties I only ate outdoors if there was a barbecue.  Munching crozzled sausages and burgers in buns before they got too cold, scarves and cardigans handy as the air grew chilly.  I was 28 when I got my first British Visitor's Passport from the Post Office in order to go to Paris for a long weekend.  That was the first time I actually ate a proper meal outdoors, served by waiters at a table on the pavement.

The vendage (grape harvest) has come early this year, starting as soon as the last week of August in some vineyards to the north of us.  To our delight so has le brame - the rutting of the deer.  A week ago we were finishing our meal outdoors, thinking of donning our jumpers, listening to the crickets and the foxes in the surrounding fields.  It was a full moon and we heard the first call not long after the sun had gone down and the moon still rising.  It's an unmistakable, deep and mournful mooing noise.

The very first time I heard it was a few years ago, on moving to our house in the middle of a field, the noise woke me up at about two in the morning.  My first thought that there were no cows anywhere near us but soon more deer joined in, the noise coming from all sides, from every bit of forest surrounding us.  It took me a few sleepy minutes to work out what it was.  It went on for hours and we climbed out of the bedroom window in our pyjamas onto the roof of the well house to hear it properly and see the shadowy shape of a stag moving about in the moonlight.  Magical stuff.

For this outdoor meal I rustled up a quick plum pie.  A couple of days before I had baked in the oven some nectarines and a few odd plums of all colours that were left over and past their best, rather than throw them on the compost heap.  I used a pack of ready made, ready rolled shortcrust pastry (pâte brisée) to line a deep Pyrex pie dish, spread the plums into it and topped it with a quick, all-in-one sponge made with 4ozs flour and 2 eggs.  Delicious.

approximately 500g of mixed plums and nectarines
2 tblsp demerara sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 pack of ready made, ready rolled shortcrust pastry
4oz spreadable butter
4oz self raising flour
4 oz caster sugar
2 eggs
Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan.
Halve the plums and quarter the nectarines.  Lay in a single layer in a baking dish and sprinkle with the demerara sugar and ground cinnamon.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until tender.
Line a deep 20cm pie dish or tin with the pastry.  Spread the plums on top of the pastry.
Put the butter, caster sugar, flour and eggs into a bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer until smooth.  Beat in a splash of milk if the mixture seems stiff. 
Spread the sponge mixture over the fruit and level the top.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until the sponge is golden brown and done. 
Serve warm or cold, dusted with icing sugar if liked, with cream, custard or ice cream.
Cuts into 8 slices.


  1. I meant to ask you if the rut had started. I had a note in my calendar to ask you with the idea of coming over to listen to it. Probably not really appropriate this year. Oh well, another time. That pie with a sponge top looks good. Might have to make it.

    1. Susan, I think it would be fine to sit outdoors on a fine evening to listen for the brame. I will be in touch.
      The pie was good and so easy. I reckon it would work with any fruit - apples would be good - a cross between a pie and an Eve's pudding.

  2. There are some very fine plums around at the moment and this is a lovely way to put together a quick dish that makes the most of them. You've made me try to remember where I had my first proper outdoor meal. I'm not really sure but I think it may have been in one of the more disreputable but cosmopolitan parts of central London back in the time of flares and maxi dresses.

  3. It took me several seconds to work out what a British Visitor's Passport might be. Why not just "passport"? Then I remembered. The BVP was a cheapo deal for people who weren't entirely certain that "foreign" was for them. That if foreign proved to be too foreign, well, they'd only be a few quid out. I remember too that the price attracted me but - in the end - despite soul-grinding poverty that had me doing without underpants - I opted for the "stiff blue" which always seemed slightly bigger than any available pocket. And made sitting down uncomfortable

    And thus, aged 18, I found myself staying for a fortnight with the Pollmeier family at 13 Drosselweg, Hattingen-Ruhr, Germany, speaking confident German which I've never been able to duplicate since. Totally seduced by the idea of "going foreign" and, I suppose, a prelude to events that started to roll in late December 1965 when I took off from Prestwick (Glasgow's second airport) in a piston-engine plane which took me, via Reykjavik, to Kennedy Airport, NY, and thence by Continental Trailways bus to Pittsburgh for a six-year stay, working in the USA.

    Many thanks for reminding me of the passport I never bought. Also proving that Proust's madeleines don't need to exist (or even baked), only recalled.

    1. Roderick, I seem to remember that it was lack of time that made me get the BVP. You could get it from the post office I think, instead of having to send off to Liverpool for it. And I had been invited on my very first foreign holiday with a new boyfriend. We camped at the Bois du Boulogne.