When I spent the holiday season in Madrid, I kept overhearing ladies exchange recipes for this classic Christmas compote, which combines dried and fresh fruit with red wine infused with vanilla and spices. Dried fruit in Spain—figs, peaches, cherries—is of exceptional quality, so seek out excellent organic dried fruit for the compote. If the prunes are very soft, add them along with the fresh fruit. Adjust the amount of sugar depending on the sweetness of the apple and pear; the liquid shouldn’t be syrupy sweet. The compote is wonderful on its own or with a scoop of honey and cinnamon ice cream and/or pound cake. If you’re serving the compote over ice cream or cake, you might want to strain it. Set aside the fruit, then cook the poaching liquid until it is reduced by half.
- Yield: 6 servings
- 2 medium-size cinnamon sticks
- 6 cloves
- 1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise
- 8 black peppercorns
- 1 long strip fresh orange peel without white pith
- 1/4 cup brandy
- 1/2 cup sugar, or more to taste
- 6 dried Calimyrna figs, cut in half lengthwise
- 8 to 10 prunes, cut in half
- 1 medium-size Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 medium-size, ripe but firm Bosc pear, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1/2 cup seedless dark grapes, cut in half
- 1 handful of pomegranate seeds, for garnish
- 1 bottle red rioja wine (3 1/4 cups)
- 3/4 cup dried apricots, preferably Californian, cut in half
- 1 cup dried cherries or peaches (cut in half), or a combination of the two
- 1/4 cup lightly toasted pine nuts, for garnish
- Place the cinnamon sticks, cloves, vanilla bean, peppercorns, and orange peel on two layers of cheesecloth, and tie the cheesecloth closed.
- Place the wine, brandy, sugar, and the cheesecloth bag in a 3-quart saucepan. Add 1/2 cup water and stir to mix. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the figs, apricots, cherries or peaches, and prunes. Reduce the heat to low, cover the saucepan, and simmer until the fruit begins to soften, 10 minutes.
- Add the apple and pear to the saucepan and stir very gently to distribute the fruit evenly in the liquid. Cover the saucepan again and simmer for another 10 minutes. The apple and pear should be quite soft. Add the grapes and simmer until all the fruits are tender, about 5 minutes. Let cool completely, then serve in glass bowls, garnished with the pomegranate seeds and pine nuts.