Grape and fig leaf spoon sweets

In late October I spent a week on the island of Andros, back in the same beautiful place I was in in June, charming Melisses. And can I say, late October was, unexpectedly, perhaps even more beautiful than in June? It was warm and sunny, punctuated by a few intensely windy days, but perfectly warm actually to be in summer attire on the beach (the girls thought the water was great too, though it was definitely chillier than it was in June).

We were there for a photoshoot — this time someone else photographing, the sweet, talented Taryn from Quartier Collective, and this time it was my girls getting photographed, dressed up in the cutest Tea Collection threads (of which I will share more once the Spring/Summer 2020 collection is announced!). It was an incredible week together of five families and 11 children sharing, bonding, making memories and lifetime friends and looking utterly adorable while they were at it. We explored the town of Chora, picked olives by the sea, had picnics on deserted beaches and adopted (momentarily) every cat we found.

So I could actually sit back a little, relax a little, and nosy over to the kitchen to see what Allegra, Maxi and Anna were preparing for us that day (although I couldn’t resist one day getting into the kitchen to make some of Georgina Hayden’s tahinopita – sweet tahini bread swirls – with some leftover pizza dough). Every morning, in the beautiful dining room, there was breakfast waiting for us: hard boiled eggs drizzled in olive oil and dusted with pepper, Allegra’s granola, Greek yoghurt so thick a spoon can stand up straight in it, dark tahini, and a collection of about 8 or 10 jars of spoon sweets and jams made by Anna, the housekeeper. I was immediately hooked on Anna’s grape spoon sweets: Whole white grapes cooked in a syrup perfumed with rose.

After a few mime-like “discussions” and me peering over Anna’s shoulder as she made another batch, I felt like I could manage to make it at home: the rose scent comes from a few sprigs of rose geranium leaves picked out of the garden (heavenly!) and Anna doesn’t use too much sugar. The leaves give the syrup a unique floral character, very similar to roses but not quite. I suppose you could use a splash of rose water in its place but I wonder if it would almost be overpowering. As I don’t have any rose geranium at home I thought I could replicate something similar by using fig leaves, which also lend a delicious, floral note to syrup. The result is so good that even once the grapes have been picked out of it, I’m still conserving the perfumed syrup to drizzle over yogurt and fruit.

I read many recipes that said to cover the grapes with sugar overnight and then bring them to a simmer the next day, so I have done it that way, even though Anna cooked them right away.

Grape spoon sweets with fig leaf

  • 1 kilogram of white grapes
  • 600 grams of sugar
  • 2-3 fig leaves
  • 1 lemon

Rinse the grapes and pull off the stems. Place them, still dripping, in a wide saucepan and cover with the sugar. Leave overnight (or for a few hours). Place over low heat, squeeze over the lemon juice and gently bring to a simmer. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the fig leaves (try to bury them under the grapes so they are submersed in liquid) and continue to simmer uncovered the grapes begin to look translucent and the syrup has set, about 1 hour. Keep a little saucer in the freezer to test (as you would a jam) if the syrup is set or not. A blob of hot syrup on the cold saucer should, after a moment, wrinkle a little when you poke it with a finger. You may need to tilt the plate to see it in the right light.

Pour the hot spoon sweets into sterilised jars, pop the lids on and then boil the filled, sealed jars in a pot of water for 10 minutes. Let cool, then store in a cool dry place. Once opened, store in the refrigerator.

This is absolutely delicious with yogurt as a dessert or breakfast. I think even with a plain sponge cake and some whipped mascarpone or ricotta it would be pretty special.

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