I recently read that online shopping — or just online window-shopping — was a widespread form of procrastination. I cannot remember where I read this, but that’s probably because reading random stuff on the Internet is another way in which I squander vast amounts of my time.
In any case, the online shopping observation certainly struck a chord, and an indisputable proof of my guilt arrived in the mail on Saturday morning: the telltale package sported pretty stamps from Mayotte and contained twenty plump pods of Bourbon vanilla grown on the archipelago*.
I blame it all on Pascale the Temptress, who recently wrote about a small company that does the world** a great service by selling pods of vanilla at the most competitive prices I’ve ever seen: if you buy twenty pods, each of them will cost you just one euro, and that’s shipping included, ladies and gentlemen***. Admittedly, twenty pods is a lot of vanilla — more than I’ve ever owned in my entire life — but I have countless plans for them, including bartering them for favors from friends and family.
[Update: Sadly, la Vanille de Mayotte is no longer in operation; I now buy Tahiti vanilla.]
This compote is the first thing I made with my Mayotte vanilla. I had originally bought the apples to bake a cake and the Hokkaido squash to make a soup, but somewhere along the line I decided to pair the two in a chunky-smooth, autumnal compote: as its French name indicates, potimarron has a flavor that hints on chestnut, and I figured this would make it a good friend to the apples.
The resulting compote is subtly sweet and richly flavored, with accents of citrus I hadn’t foreseen and warm, aromatic notes brought on by the vanilla. It can either be served for breakfast or dessert with butter or spice cookies to dip in, or as a side to boudin blanc, roasted poultry, or game — don’t you have holiday meals to plan?
* I will note in passing that I am very glad to have gotten the chance, for the second time in three years of C&Z, to use the word “archipelago”.
** La Vanille de Mayotte ships to more than thirty countries in the world. The website is in French, but they will reply to email enquiries in English.
*** As a matter of comparison, two exceptionally scrawny pods will cost you 4.37€ here.
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- One medium Hokkaido squash (potimarron), cubed
- 1 kg (2 pounds) baking apples (I used a variety called Reinettes du Canada), peeled, cored, and cubed
- 50 grams (1/4 cup) unrefined cane sugar (you can omit the sugar if you plan on serving the compote with a savory dish)
- 1 pod vanilla
- Combine the squash, apples, and sugar, if using, in a medium heavy-bottomed pot. Add 60 mL (1/4 cup) water, and set over medium heat. Split the vanilla pod lengthwise with a sharp knife, scrape the seeds with the dull side of the blade, and add the pod and seeds to the pot.
- Cover and cook for 30 minutes or until tender, stirring regularly to prevent scorching. Remove the pod and use an immersion blender or a potato ricer to purée the compote to the desired consistency.
- Transfer to an airtight container, put the pod back in (it will continue to infuse the compote with flavor) and refrigerate. Serve slightly warm or chilled.