Loquat and rosewater compote

Beautiful apricot-coloured loquats usually arrive in British shops just before the first swallows.  Many cooks pass them by for the simple reason that they donít know what to do them.  They are missing an exquisite spring delicacy, which is as transient as summer gooseberries.


Loquats, sometimes known as Japanese medlars, are about the size of a plum and feel slightly firm to touch.  Their thick, almost velvet-like skin tastes quite astringent, and is often spotted brown. The spots make no difference to the flavour.  Loquats can vary in colour from pale yellow to deep apricot. Their flesh is also be a little astringent, but when ripe it is sweet and juicy with a subtle fragrance.  It encases large smooth dark brown stones.


You can eat loquats au naturel or stoned and peeled (see stage 2 below) and slipped into a spring fruit salad.  I love them poached with rosewater or vanilla. It makes a dreamy breakfast compote. They also make a beautiful sorbet or ice cream.  If you have an abundant supply, they can be baked in a tart or turned into a preserve, spiked with a little lemon to bring out their subtle flavour. 


British grown loquats ripen later, usually in June, depending on the weather. 


Use a good quality Middle Eastern natural rose water for this recipe. 

Serves 4

115g granulated sugar

100ml water

3 strips finely pared lemon zest (optional)

1.25kg loquats

1 teaspoon distilled rosewater


1  Put the sugar, water and lemon zest in a non-corrosive saucepan.  Set over a low heat and stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved.  Simmer for 5 minutes to form a syrup.


2 To prepare the loquats: Cut in half or quarter and remove the large brown stones and surrounding thick white inner skin.  Peel off the outer skin and drop the flesh into the syrup.


3  Simmer over a low heat for 5-10 minutes, until just cooked, then mix in the distilled rose water.  Serve warm, at room temperature or tepid, plain or with a little cream or natural yoghurt.

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