I never liked plums much growing up. They seemed like a sad, sour cousin of the much sweeter and more tempting cherries that you would only really eat under duress (or in times of cherry famine). I never particularly liked the marzipan-flavoured denseness of frangipane either, mainly because an almond slice was the last thing I remember eating before my family – excluding my iron-gutted father – came down with food poisoning at Club Med in Morocco when I was eight and was only able to stomach crackers and laughing cow cheese for the rest of the trip.
As a grownup, I’ve started to appreciate that uniquely sharp-sweet, almost fizzy tang that only plums have and have come to my senses about the true glory of a proper slice of fruit tart bubbling over with golden-brown, fluffy frangipane. We’re now coming into peak British plum season so it seemed the perfect time to showcase one of the plum’s more unusual varieties: the redgage.
I’ve found this particular plum variety, which is a smaller, sweeter, pinker version of a traditional red plum, embarrassingly fascinating. Mainly because I made it my mission to track some down to feature for my weekly editor’s pick at work, but also because they’re notoriously difficult to find. Marks & Spencer are the only place you can pick these little ruby beauties up this summer, and only for a limited time.
Redgages are so exclusive to M&S, in fact, that they’ve trademarked their name. Bitchin’. But I won’t go on too much, as I’ve already probably bored the nation silly rambling on about them on Style & Living, but suffice to say, as soon as I tried them all I could think about was putting them into some sort of dessert.
No pudding is quite as good at showing off a ripe soft fruit like a traditional tart and this easy-peasy recipe for shortcrust pastry filled with pillowy mounds of almond and vanilla and studded with juicy redgages is as good as Sunday afternoon tea gets.
for the pastry
185g (plus extra for dusting) plain four
85g cold diced salted butter
35g caster sugar
for the filling
12 redgages (you can use normal plums if you can’t track any down)
1 vanilla pod
85g ground almonds
85g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
85g soft, salted butter
- Start by washing, drying and halving your redgages, carefully removing the stones.
- Make your pastry by rubbing the flour and butter together by hand until the mixture has reached a breadcrumb consistency. Then stir through the sugar and egg to bind the dough.
- When it’s just holding together, tip it onto a lightly floured surface and roll it out until it’s about 2cm thin. Don;t overwork the party or it will become tough. If the butter starts to melt in the heat of the kitchen, wrap it in cling film and pop it into the fridge for 10 mins to cool down again.
- Gently drape the dough over a 12-inch fluted tart tin and prick with a fork all over to stop it rising. The pastry in this tart is so thin that you don’t have to blind bake it first to ensure a crispy base.
- Make the filling for the tart by creaming the butter and the sugar and mixing through the found almonds, eggs and the scrapings from your vanilla pod.
“Sprinkling extra ground almonds on the cooked pastry base before adding fruit helps to absorb extra moisture.” – Mary Berry
- Sprinkle a handful of ground almonds over the base of your tart before smoothing over the frangipane with a pallet knife.
- Push the redgage halves into the frangipane and blob any leftover mix around the fruit.
- Bake in the oven at 180 degrees centigrade for around 30-45 minutes until it’s golden brown and serve with a cup of tea and a blob of cream.
Lazy Sunday heaven.