Plum Pie With Coffee Ice Cream


Prune plum

Autumn means many things to people. Windswept streets, leaves turning vibrant copper and red hues, falling rain. It also means for many, myself included, warm pies using the last of the summer fruit before segueing into pumpkin pies – a very North American tradition that we’ve just enjoyed with the Thanksgiving weekend (I also often turn to frozen fruit once the summer is over, it works well too).

There seemed to be an abundance of prune plums around in the late summer and I got the chance to not only draw one (see above) but also to make a couple of pies with them. For one pie I added in a couple of late season nectarines that couldn’t be eaten raw – they’d become very mealy.


Plum pie, with a couple of nectarines thrown in

I also made coffee ice cream from a great recipe by Nigella Lawson, no ice cream maker needed. Unfortunately I made a tactical error by adding in not espresso powder, but espresso coffee I’d ground myself. A rookie mistake, the ice cream had the oddest granular texture. It tasted good though.


Pie and grainy coffee ice cream

The only problem with making ice cream in Canada is the difficulty in finding fatty enough cream. I had tried to make a lemon & saffron ice cream recipe from a favourite food/living in France blog I follow called Manger. I couldn’t get the cream to thicken. Perplexed I emailed the author, Mimi Thorisson, for her advice. She very kindly wrote  back and suggested the lack of fat might be the issue. Hmm, what to do? And then I had a brainwave. In a recipe using 300ml of cream, I used 200ml of the thickest cream I could find here (whipping cream at a mere 33% fat) and added the final 100ml using imported English Double Devon Cream which can be found in quite a few stores (I found mine at Wholefoods). It’s so whoppingly high in fat, 48%, that it more than made up the balance. Not very scientific but it worked.

I used this pastry recipe, omitting the salt since I used salted butter. I cut the plums roughly into quarters and placed in the pie dish, removing the stones of course; added a little orange juice for moisture and about a tablespoon of sugar to the fruit then covered with the remaining pastry. I cooked the pie in a preheated oven at 350f for about 45mins or until the fruit seemed to be bubbling and the pastry was golden. Our oven runs hot so I may not have cooked it as long as some might need to.

Oh, and I remade the coffee ice cream with powdered coffee the next time! It was delicious. And, yes, smoother.


Successful coffee ice cream


The weather has made it so enticing to be outside at any opportunity that I realize I’ve neglected drawing, in fact to such a degree that I feel I’ve forgotten how to draw at all. So once again it was back to the beginning. Attempting to create a three-dimensional tulip was so disappointing (and frankly terrible) that I scrapped it and reverted to Ann Swann’s Botanical Portraits to try to figure out how to create shading on a more delicate flower, in this case an iris. I’d tried to shade with a graphite pencil, which wasn’t working for flower petals……but use a few Faber Castell warm greys and a better tone comes through the colours layered on top…..ever onward!





Leafy Greens

Once again I reverted to the inimitable Ann Swan and her lovely book Botanical Portraits, this time to work on drawing and shading an ivy leaf that she describes in fair detail from beginning to end. It’s just an excuse to bust out the greens in the coloured pencil range, but long term it is to hopefully improve my drawing and to one day produce something that approximates the choice of subject, whether it be flowers, trees, fruit etc. and that exhibits my own style, whatever that may be.


Starting out……



Adding in a little more colour and shading…..



Finished picture



Back To The Drawing Board…..

Practice, well, doesn’t make perfect. But it’s time to get back to drawing as summer starts to wind down (how is that possible, the eternal refrain of every year, although this year it does seem to be a endless summer as the dry spell shows no sign of abating and forest fires continue to rage).

Once again, learning the use of colour as I copy from Botanical Portraits by Ann Swan.


And on a quiet week-end an attempt to draw a pepper. I sketched in the highlighted areas and unfortunately the pencil marks showed through, but that in itself is a great learning experience.




Colour Blindness

Rather than copy illustrations from a book, albeit a great way to learn some basic techniques, I’m going to commit to drawing from life, except for when going back to revise and learn some fundamentals. It’s challenging and frustrating, a picture of a tomato went in the garbage, couldn’t stand to look at the fiendish thing anymore. A drawing of a shallot is safe, for now. It’s more an approximation, the colours are insanely annoying to figure out. I have so many pencils now and yet they don’t seem to be the right ones, or I’m not using them and layering them correctly. Anyhoo, here it is for better or worse:

Cherry Trio

A quick post of the finished cherries I was working on from Ann Swan’s Botanical Portraits…….

Just briefly cleaned up the background but didn’t get rid of the smudge marks! Using Faber Castell Polychromos pencils and Prismacolors, all beautiful pencils that layer on with a deep richness. 


When Is A Lemon A Lemon?

I think I drew a lemon. What I mean is, it’s a ‘lemon’ in the flawed sense of the word. This is the first drawing from life, as opposed to copying from another illustration. Having to guess the colours used (not all yellows are created equal!) and then take the plunge. The citron I used has a very smooth rind, not like, for instance Amalfi lemons. So perhaps next time……meanwhile I have some learning to do, and practice.

 It’s certainly nothing like this lemon in a garden in France!

A Creative Life

I think it would be fair to say, without being too presumptuous, that many of us would like to express our creative voice. It’s different for everyone and finding the time let alone the particular avenue for that voice can be incredibly challenging. I used to love drawing, finding it almost meditative and totally absorbing (although deeply frustrating too, I like to work fast and sometimes the intricacies of a drawing will cause me to be a bit slapdash in my execution, it’s a learning curve to be patient) and have clumsily stumbled back to pencil and paper – with a slight difference. I’ve discovered the satisfaction of coloured pencils, specifically around botanical drawings. The impact of the colour is so immediately satisfying that it seems worth the time it takes to lay down layers of tones. At the moment it’s a matter of copying illustrations to get the feel of the pencil again, and to learn a bit about colour (you can never have enough pencils for that!) but eventually I’ll have to be adventurous enough to draw from life objects. 

starting to draw again, from a card I like.

Drawing crab apples from Botanical Drawing in Color by Wendy Hollender

Starting to draw a strawberry from Botanical Portraits with Colored Pencils by Ann Swan.