The French have long been wise to the pleasures of prunes but in Britain we seem to overlook them. Growing up, my mother would work wonders with Agen prunes, gently poaching them for various glorious concoctions. Cut to a French exchange in Paris when I had a prunes and armagnac ice-cream alongside a scoop of dark chocolate, from a shop on Île Saint-Louis. The flavours are still etched in my memory, and inspired this delectable pudding.
Prune and armagnac fool with chocolate rosemary bark
The poached prunes are also delicious with Greek yoghurt for a healthy start to the day.
Prep 20 min
Cook 15 min
Chill 3 hr +
For the rosemary chocolate bark
200g dark chocolate
Zest 1 unwaxed orange
1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
A big pinch of sea salt
50g coconut flakes
For the prunes
300g soft prunes (Agen are the best)
Juice and zest of 1 orange
1 tsp vanilla essence
3-4 tbsp armagnac
180ml earl grey tea (from one teabag)
For the whipped cream
300ml double cream
1 tbsp icing sugar, sifted (I like golden)
½ tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tbsp brandy
Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. You will need six pretty glasses for the puddings. For the bark, break the chocolate up into pieces, place in a heatproof bowl and either melt it in the microwave in short bursts, stirring in between, or with a bain-marie quarter-filled with gently simmering water. Heat the chocolate until almost all melted, then remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the orange zest, rosemary and salt until all the chocolate melts.
Pour out onto the lined tray and use a spatula to spread it out as evenly as possible. Sprinkle over the coconut flakes, pushing them gently into the chocolate, then leave to set at room temperature (if you set in the fridge the chocolate will bloom). Once the chocolate has set, break it into shards, and store in an airtight biscuit tin in between layers of greaseproof paper.
To make the fool, put the prunes, orange juice and all but a pinch of the zest, vanilla, armagnac and tea into a medium saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer, covered, for six to eight minutes until the prunes are totally soft. Once cool to the touch, stone the prunes and transfer to a food processor with a few tablespoons of the poaching juices. Blend and pour in the rest of the juices as you do so, until you have a smooth, rich puree. Cover and refrigerate for three to four hours.
To assemble the puddings, whip the cream and icing sugar together into soft, velvety peaks, then fold in the vanilla and brandy. If you over whip the cream and it becomes too stiff, just fold in more cold cream until it becomes softly whipped again. Layer the base of six small glasses with the prune and armagnac puree, followed by the cream. Top with the chocolate bark and a little sprinkle of orange zest, and serve.
The simple flex
Use a vegan cream to make the cream layer, or a vanilla-scented cashew nut cream made with soaked and blitzed cashews.