In America, prunes suffer an image problem because of their wrinkled appearance and their association with the intestinal woes of the elderly. Europeans, however, use this fruit to enliven stews and as a central feature in some desserts. Prunes also play a starring role in Middle Eastern cooking, particularly in meat dishes. Prunes are simply the dried version of purple plums. Rich in fiber, potassium and vitamin C, prunes are a flavorful addition to a healthy diet. Simmer them gently with mild spices and you'll wonder why you ever looked askance at this little gem of the fruit world.
Soak prunes in 2 cups water for at least one hour and as long as overnight. To speed the softening process, use hot water.
Cook the prunes, the water in which they soaked and orange juice over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and add cinnamon and nutmeg. Simmer the prunes for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they become plump and yield easily when pierced with a fork.
Remove the prunes from the heat and add sugar. Gently turn the mixture with a wooden or plastic spoon to incorporate the sugar.
Place flour in a small jar, add 1/4 cup water and shake to produce a thick liquid. Pour the liquid into the pan and continue gently turning until the juice thickens and returns to a clear state.
Cool to room temperature or chill in the refrigerator. Serve alone in bowls or over waffles or pancakes.
Use 2 cups white wine in place of the water and orange juice for a dessert version. Serve with Chantilly cream.
Add lemon rind before cooking for a slightly tangy undertone.
For a more smooth, subtle flavor, eliminate the orange juice and substitute a medium-sized vanilla bean pod for the cinnamon and nutmeg during cooking. Remove the vanilla bean before adding the sugar.
Cooked prunes are fragile. Handle with care using wooden or plastic spoon. Do not use metal utensils.