Tuesday, 24 April 2012

a recipe for roasted grape preserve

roasted grape preserve
o often says that i eat raisins like people eat popcorn at the cinema. on weeknights when o and i settle down for some commercial free television (thank you sky+ for this facility) and i haven’t had time to make something sweet i’ll pull out a bag of flame dried raisins or sultanas. my love for raisins is an extension of my love for grapes. and i have loved both since i was a little girl. i remember baba bringing home bunches of grapes for me. there were the large bulbous ones with thick black-purple skins. i liked these ones despite their slightly rubbery skin and thick seeds. but the ones i loved were the slim elongated oval sunder khani grapes native to afghanistan. after a summer season intense with the sweetness of mango and the cooling seed ridden flesh of watermelon, i would look forward to these delicate grapes whose syrupy sweetness was like a floral honey. the fruit wallah would display the grapes on inverted crates lined with newspaper. their distinct honeyed aroma would invite a swarm of honeybees. i was always reluctant to pick a bunch myself for fear of being stung and waited patiently for the fruit wallah to pick one. baba would hold it up to check the denser parts for fermented grapes making sure that there was as little spoilage as possible. of course some of the grapes would puncture with heat and ripeness and the juices that spilt would leave sticky stains on the skin. sunder khani grapes had pale green translucent skins and if you held them up to the light you could see the flesh of the grape. i haven’t had these since i moved from pakistan in two thousand and one. mama and baba tell me that the sunder khani of my childhood no longer exists as a most of the fruit in pakistan now comes from china and is quite tasteless. however, the memory of them does not leave me and often when i sit down to a bunch of grapes in london, i am nostalgic for the sunder khani of my childhood.

most of the green grapes that i find in london are quite tasteless and so i mostly buy the reddish-purple ones. the south african crimson’s are the tastiest with a sugary sweetness, especially when they are cold. this wasn’t true of the sunder khani though, as they were intensely sweet especially when warm. i know this because i would often steal them from the bag after we had shopped for them despite mama’s consternation on eating unwashed fruit.

sometimes, when i get a bunch of grapes that are tasteless i treat them to a little heat with some honey to coax their slight flavours. it was one such experiment that led to roasted grape preserve. roasting them in the oven transformed them into a syrupy preserve that tastes good folded into greek yoghurt whipped with a little bit of crème fraiche to give it some lightness. more recently i used them in a tartine paired with a ripe brie sprinked with broken walnut halves or firm ricotta lightly fried in olive oil with a sprinkle of maldon salt and sumac. i also discovered the second time round that it was unnecessary to use honey as the natural sugars in grapes (even tasteless ones) concentrate with the heat. if you end up using them for dessert and find that you require sweetness, then you can always sweeten the yoghurt or crème fraiche. i think that they would be a treat folded into a lightly sweetened mascarpone or ricotta. it is for this reason that i called them roasted grape preserve for although they have a texture a kin to compote they are not cooked in sugar syrup.

roasted grape preserve 
a five hundred gram punnet of grapes
one tablespoon olive oil
a roasting tin large enough to hold the grapes comfortably in a single layer

preheat the oven to a one hundred and seventy celsius. 

place the tablespoon of oil in the roasting tin and let it warm in the oven while you wash and halve the grapes. 

once the oil is warm place the grapes in the pan and shake it gently. 
do make sure that the grapes are fully coated with the olive oil otherwise their sugary juices will burn in the oven. return to the oven and let them roast for half an hour to forty minutes, stirring them half way through. 

i like to retain some of the juices as they give the bread in a tartine a bit of moisture. if you prefer less juice then roast for a little longer making sure to check on them frequently so that the sugars do not burn.


  1. this post sings to my heart! i am a huge lover of the sundar khani as well, my maternal grandfather used to get them for us from the fruit wallah and if i recall correctly, also bring some back from his official trips to Peshawar. the whole home used to smell of these wonderful grapes. i have been wanting to write something about the fruit of my childhood in pakistan, so this post really went straight to my heart! you are a girl after my own heart. love the prose about the grapes, and this recipe sounds so delicious. can i have some, please? x s

  2. s. i am so glad to find someone who remembers and loves the foods that i do. it's a pleasure shared. i am looking forward to your memories of these remarkable grapes. these along with apricots and cherries from hunza and plums from swat make me miss my childhood. these stone fruits abroad may be lustrous and bright but they never have the smell or taste of the one's i grew up eating. maybe some day we can take a trip down memory lane in fatherland...