Wednesday 25 July 2007


Many years ago, I catered a drinks party at the Royal Academy - a private preview to the Summer Exhibition, I think. Several hundred people for Canapes and Pimms and Fizzy Wine. It was long before the Madjeski rooms had been opened for regular viewing, and I recall being somewhat in awe when I was given the Reynolds Room, in all its patinated gilt splendour, as our slops room, filled with towering crates of glasses, and strips of drugget, and dustbins filled with ice and bottles of Cremant d'Alsace.

As a decorative motif in the reception rooms, I had huge glass bowls on all of the side tables, lined with vine-leaves and then full of mountains of fresh cherries and bunches of grapes - all of which I'd got in industrial quantities from the bum-end of Covent Garden market at about four o'clock on the morning of the event. All went well, but I was left with pretty much the same industrial quantities at the end of the evening as I'd had at the start, and my scottish ancestry refused to allow me simply to ditch them. Even after all of the waiting staff had been given copious amounts to take away, as had the security people from the RA, I was still left with much more of the stuff than I had any idea what to do with. And so...... research was necessary, and the solution included the following recipe. Completely new to me at the time, I adopted it as a staple thereafter.

Ingredients: 1 kg fresh Cherries; 1 litre White Wine vinegar; 500g soft brown Sugar (light, not dark); 6 cloves; 6 Juniper Berries; zested rind of a Lemon; 1 tablespoon ground Cinnamon.


1. Discard any bruised fruit, and remove the stems from the rest. Rinse the fruit and dry it, before putting it into one or two kilner jars (depending on the size of the jars you have - the jar can be pretty well filled at this stage).

2. Combine all other ingredients in a large saucepan, bring to the boil, and then simmer for ten minutes.

3. After ten minutes, turn off the heat, and leave the mixture, covered, overnight, for the flavours to mingle. In the morning, strain the liquid and pour it over the fruit in the jar(s).

4. Leave in a dark place for a month.Then - over time - serve the fruit with aperitifs, as you might otherwise serve olives.

I guarantee none of your guests will know them of old, and they'll rave!

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