I’m up to my ears in plums this week. I came across a few 19p punnets in the Co-op near my house and I couldn’t resist. We had a plum tree in our back garden when I was little, but back then I wouldn’t touch the things. Now, I can’t get enough.
We’ve had porridge with stewed plums, plum and apple crumble, and a plum jam is in the works. But I realised I was missing out on something fresher, something that really let the almost-ripe plums stand on their own. I was missing this recipe.
This was inspired, as are most of my best ideas, by Catriona White, who also (co-incidentally) taught me everything I know about salads. Once a personal chef and now a cheesemonger, Catriona’s grasp of flavours taught me how to cook in an entirely new way – and most definitely gave rise to this recipe.
While I’ve put pearl barley in this recipe as a way to plump it up a bit and make it into more of a full meal, you really don’t have to; you can use more plums and no barley at all if you wish. However, don’t miss out on the vinaigrette. It’s a doozy.
(Feeds 2 as a light lunch or dinner)
1 cup of cooked pearl barley, cooled
3 large, ripe plums
1 large handful of rocket (arugula)
1/3 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
For the vinaigrette:
1 small handful of mint
1 small handful of basil (equal amounts)
1 cup of fresh orange juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 small piece fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
a little orange zest
In a blender or food processor, place all the ingredients for the vinaigrette and blend together
Put the vinaigrette into the fridge while you prep the rest of the salad
Cut your plums into quarters and remove the stone, leaving the peel on. Slice quite thick
Depending on what you have in your kitchen, you can either cook the plums on a grill or in a griddle pan. I have a cast iron griddle pan, so I used that. I heated a little olive oil in the pan until it was almost smoking, arranged the slices in the pan so that they would char nicely, and cooked for a few minutes on each side until they had decent marks on them. If you’re using a grill, aim to get these same marks on your plum slices. Don’t overcook them.
In a large bowl, place the pearl barley, rocket, walnuts and chargrilled plum slices. Dress with the vinaigrette, using only as much as you need
Season to taste, and serve immediately
This is a super summery dish, the sort of thing I only get around to making in May or June, mainly because winter seems to last until late April in Scotland. It’s also the sort of thing that will impress your friends, especially when served with Pimms.
Oh god, is it Pimms season yet?