Reader Melody wants to know what a compote is and that’s a darn good question. “Compote” is a term you find used in many of your finer food and cooking magazines, usually without any explanation. Basically a compote is a sort of chunky fruit sauce. The fruits that are in it — for indeed you can have more than one in a compote — have been cooked for at least a short period of time in a light sugar syrup. A fruit cocktail, if it’s been cooked, is a compote.
How does that make it difference from a sauce? Er…well it’s not that different from a sauce when you stop to think about it, other than the fact that it’s usually quite chunky and you can eat it by itself.
What’s the difference between a compote and a jam? Primarily that it isn’t as sugary or as thick. Speaking in general terms, the intention of a compote is to lightly sweeten and gently soften your fruit without making the mixture homogenous. The fruits should be distinct as fruit when you’re done.
How about a coulis then? That’s another term you hear bandied about quite a bit. Any similarities there? Indeed a compote is not dissimilar from a coulis save for the fact the a coulis is usually cooked a little longer until the fruits is very soft, at which point the whole mess is pushed through a strainer for a more homogenous texture.
But doesn’t that just make it a sauce?
OK, wise guy, no more questions.