Recipe by Julia Zouev. Photography and styling by Tanya Zouev.
Even though it is still summer here in Sydney, autumn, as always, takes it’s first breath in early February. Making itself known for the first time since the year prior, the mornings become a little crisper, and the days start becoming noticeably shorter. And whilst there is still plenty of warm weather about, I take it as a reminder that summer too, will come to an end in a few short weeks, and to appreciate and bask in what is left of the season.
For as long as I can remember, in the summer time, my mother has always made “kompot”, a traditional Russian drink made of simmered fruit. Always drunk cold (in my family at least), I vividly recall my mother bringing home large bags of ripe seasonal fruit from Melbourne’s Queen Victoria markets to make endless pitchers of kompot that we would enjoy on a hot summer’s day. My mother believed back then, and now so too, in the therapeutic quality of kompot, insisting that it is health-giving, not to mention a much better alternative than fruit juice or soft drinks. A few years ago after my son’s birth, mum would bring it to me daily, along with her healing chicken soup, and to this day she’s certain those two things aided my recovery.
At this time of the year I make kompot weekly, mostly with fruit that has been marked down to sell quickly. In fact very ripe fruit is perfect for this recipe as the sweetness lends itself to the kompot beautifully and also means you need to use less sweetener. Though traditionally made with refined cane sugar, I make kompot with dates, and very occasionally add a little honey. For my tastes, both these ingredients provide plenty of sweetness. Cane sugar in my opinion, is unnecessary.
Kompot has an ever slight viscous nature that makes it a little more of syrup than a juice, and with the inclusion of red berries, develops the most beautiful colour. In addition to this, the smell in your kitchen of simmering fruit and spices will have you swooning. Very easy to make, and easy to drink, I’ll confess I sometimes slip a wee nip of gin or vodka into a glass of kompot, making a simple yet delicious summer cocktail. Whilst this certainly isn’t traditional, and perhaps something even some Russians would not approve of, it really doesn’t matter. I won’t be telling anybody if you won’t.
Makes approximately 2 litres. Prep time 10 mins, cooking time 70 mins.
1-1.5 kilos (about 3 pounds) mixed fruit (I typically use 3 apples, 3 pears, several plums and apricots, 1 small whole mandarin, 1 cup raspberries, try to use organic where possible)
2-3 dates depending on how sweet you enjoy your drinks
1 small cinnamon quill
2 bruised cardamom pods
1 vanilla pod
Filtered water to cover fruit
1. Scrub the fruit under a running tap, do not peel. Chop any large fruit up roughly and place in a medium sized heavy-based deep pan, add the spices, cover with water.
2. Bring to the boil, then lower heat to lowest setting, simmer for one hour.
3. Allow kompot to cool completely, then strain through fine mesh into a clean sterilised container. Will keep for about a week in the fridge.
Photography and styling notes:
A rustic setting and late afternoon light was all this beautiful drink needed to give it a sense of late summer. I’ve used recycled timber fence palings as a surface and a Mason jam jar as the only prop other than the fruit and spices. The only light used is window light. Camera used was a Canon 5D Mark 3 with a 100mm macro lens.