Fun with fruit and starch – returning to childhood favourites

I had a conversation with a friend of mine about coffee machines of yore. I told her that my favourite thing to get from the coffee machines where I worked between school and uni was fruit soup. Then I explained fruit soup. Then I asked how the apples got through the nozzle and possibly made my friend think I’m an idiot*. Then I decided to go home, look in my Swedish cookbook and make fruit soup. (I have a very exciting lifestyle.)

Dried fruit turned into wonderful, soothing soup.

Dried fruit turned into wonderful, soothing soup.

What is fruit soup?

Fruit soup, at least the stuff I grew up with, is made from mixed dried fruit – apples, apricots, pears and prunes – boiled in water with a little sugar and thickened with potato starch. In the UK, the starch of choice is corn starch. The two are more or less interchangeable except that corn starch is a little more sensitive to acid.  Fruit soup is usually served cold and when I grew up you could buy it in the chiller section in super markets, or as powder sachets.

I had a look through Leith’s Vegetarian Bible and my recent acquisition The Scottish Vegan Cookbook to see if there were similar recipes. Both have recipes for dried fruit compote and I plan to make the Jackie Jones version this weekend as a yogurt topper.

So, I got the ingredients, chopped the fruit roughly and set to. The home made version is lovely and reminded me a lot of what I had as a child but it has a more adult flavour thanks to lemon rind and cinnamon. If I make it again, I’ll use less sugar but on the whole, I loved this. It makes six small servings or four large ones.

Dried fruit soup
Preparation time
Cooking time
Total time
A warming, comforting dessert or snack which probably also packs a fibre punch.
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: European
Serves: 4-6
  • 225 grams mixed dried fruit (for example 75 grams each of apple rings, prunes and apricots)
  • 125 ml water
  • Zest of half a lemon (optional)
  • 1 stick cinnamon (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons corn starch
  1. Chop the fruit into small-ish pieces. I cut the prunes and apricots into six pieces, the apple rings into many more - they swell to about double their size.
  2. Put the lemon rind, cinnamon and fruit in to the water and bring to the boil. Boil until soft, or, if your fruit is soft to begin with, simmer - for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the sugar and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  4. Mix the corn starch with 3 tablespoons water into a smooth liquid.
  5. Slowly pour the starch and water into the soup, whisking all the while.
  6. Bring to the boil, then let simmer another couple of minutes to remove any chalkiness.
  7. Fish out the cinnamon stick and take the soup off the hob.
  8. Serve cool or chilled with crunchy almond biscuits. (And I'm thinking a glass of sherry would go rather well with too.)

Further fun with starch

When I was browsing the starchy desserts section of my cookbook, I was reminded of things I use to eat as a child: packet chocolate ‘pudding’ (pudding in the American sense, a kind of mousse); kräm, a gloopy concoction of fresh fruit boiled with sugar and potato starch. I made them from packets but they’re really easy to make from scratch. I have plans to play with starch some more.

The next time I went to the super market I came across a packet of blancmange and had a look at the ingredients: starch and flavourings. Into the basket it went. I’ve never had blancmange and had assumed it was a gelatin-based sweet, not a starch one.

Look, it's the white rabbit of cashew nut milk and vanilla-flavoured blancmange powder.

Look, it’s the white rabbit of cashew nut milk and vanilla-flavoured blancmange powder. Oh, and it wobbles.

I whipped up a batch with cashew milk. The next morning, I had vanilla blancmange and chilled fruit soup for breakfast. It might not have been the healthiest breakfast I’ve ever had but it was very nice: cool vanilla creaminess and rich, fruity lumpiness. OK, so it sounds terrible but it made me happy. Blancmange reminds me of panna cotta. And I love how it wobbles.

* They don’t. The soup mixture is in the cup in the machine, the only thing added is water. Obviously.

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About Caroline von Schmalensee

Cooking, eating and drinking is fun as well as necessary. I do food for fun and I write for a living. Good food makes the world a more delicious and satisfying place. Good writing, meanwhile, can make the world a less confusing place.

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