A month or so ago I found some prunes just lying around doing nothing. Since it was a wet afternoon and I was thinking about sunnier days, I decided to soak them in some armagnac in a Gascogne manner. Actually, this is not really a Gascogne manner - it’s just what I do. There are many variations on prunes in armagnac and maybe my method is not entirely traditional, but it works for me.
You could, of course, use brandy if armagnac is in short supply or a bit too expensive but if you’re approached by anyone looking even slightly like they come from the south of France and asking awkward questions, then please tell them that you’ve never heard of me and that I never said the bit about brandy.
Once the prunes have matured they not only smell fantastic, they’re also extremely useful. They can be used in tarts, clafoutis and many other desserts but they’re also great in sauces and stuffings with pork and poultry or in terrines and casseroles.
Probably the favourite way of eating them in this household, though, is in ice cream and I will reveal more of that very shortly…..
250 g soft, pitted prunes (pruneaux d'Agen, would be nice)
300 ml strong tea (I used 2 Ceylon tea bags)
150 g caster sugar
150 ml water
2 good-sized pieces of lemon peel (only the yellow peel – no white pith)
250 –300 ml armagnac
Place the prunes in a heatproof bowl and pour over the hot tea. Leave to soak for an hour or so. In the meantime, make a simple sugar syrup by putting the caster sugar and water in a saucepan and bringing to the boil, stirring now and then. Boil for about a minute (make sure that the sugar has completely dissolved) and take off the heat. Drop the pieces of lemon peel into the hot sugar syrup.
Strain the prunes and discard the remaining tea. Put the prunes back in the bowl, pour over the sugar syrup, cover the bowl and leave somewhere cool overnight.
The next day, strain the prunes, reserving the syrup but discarding the lemon peel. Put the prunes into a preserving jar (a jar of around 600 – 700 ml should be fine). Mix the reserved syrup with the armagnac, pour over the prunes and seal the jar. Store somewhere cool and dark for around 4 weeks before using.