Succulent spiced fruits in a rich syrup.
Grandma’s fruit compote makes a delicious dessert or a healthy breakfast.
Do you ever prepare a dish whose aroma transports you while it is cooking? The fragrance of this sweet and spicy dried fruit compote is like a culinary time machine – one sniff and I’m a child in my Grandma’s kitchen, standing on a step-stool to peep over the counter.
I was reminded of this luscious compote recently as I got to thinking about Tu B’Shevat – the Jewish new year for trees – and the differences between how we celebrated when I was a child, and my daughter Kipper’s experience of the festival today.
It has long been a tradition to eat 15 different tree-grown fruits as part of the Tu B’Shevat celebrations. These days there is a huge variety of imported fruit to choose from, and selecting a suitable 15 is no challenge at all – a quick trip to the supermarket and Bob’s your uncle! But when I was a child, there was much less in the way of exotic, air-freighted fruit available, and once we’d got our apples, oranges, pears, and maybe a tangerine, the remainder would by necessity be dried fruits and nuts.
Kipper loves dried fruit, and takes some to school as a snack every day – raisins, apple rings, dried mango, we even had some dried mulberries at one point! But she usually eats them raw, and for Tu B’Shevat I wanted to prepare something a bit more special. Grandma’s fruit compote seemed the perfect solution.
A fruity family favourite
Grandma always had a bowl of this wonderful dried fruit compote in her fridge, and offered it at almost every meal. Sweet enough for dessert, healthy enough for breakfast, and delicious despite its humble origins, it was a favourite with the whole family.
Her compote (or “compost” as we used to call it!) typically contained apricots, prunes, apple rings, pears and peaches. The pears were my favourite, although they were always outnumbered by the prunes and apricots. I used a similar selection of fruits to Grandma, but also added some halved dried figs, and some dried sour cherries.
A stick of cinnamon – tree derived! – and some orange zest for flavouring brought my Tu B’Shevat tally up to nine, and some coconut yogurt when serving nudged it to ten. I think we’ll have to enjoy some fresh fruits alongside, and maybe a sprinkling of chopped almonds and pistachios, to get all the way to 15.
Whether you choose to celebrate with fresh fruits or with dried, or with a combination of the two, I wish you a very happy Tu B’Shevat! May the festival be as sweet as Grandma’s compote.
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Grandma's Dried Fruit Compote
- 400 g mixed dried fruit - apples, peaches, apricots, prunes, pears, figs, cherries etc. (approx. 2 cups)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- strip of orange peel
- coconut yogurt to serve (optional)
- Pick over the dried fruit and discard any stalks. Cut figs in half.
- Place the fruit in a large heavy saucepan and just cover with boiling water. Cover the pan with a lid and leave to stand for 30 minutes.
- Add the cinnamon stick and orange peel to the pan. If necessary, top up the water to barely cover the fruits. Return the lid to the pan and heat over a low flame until just simmering.
- Continue to cook on a very low simmer for about 25 minutes until the fruits are soft and plump. Resist the urge to stir the fruits as they will break up. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
- Serve cold or at room temperature, with some coconut yogurt if desired. Store in the fridge.
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