Showing posts with label fruits. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fruits. Show all posts

Thursday, 20 February 2014

how to eat sweet tamarind from pods

A box of sweet tamarind from Thailand.

A few months ago, a friend offered me a box of sweet tamarind from Thailand. This was actually given to him as a gift, but he found them a little strange and daunting. I've used tamarind as an ingredient before, but these were whole tamarind pods which are sufficiently ripe and sweet that you can enjoy as a snack just by themselves, which was actually quite novel to me, too. So how does one eat sweet tamarind? Let me show you the way.

The tamarind pods look like this. Not the prettiest things...

The whole sweet tamarind pods.

I cracked the outer shell open. I did this by applying pressure to the pod with hands until the shell broke. Visually, it doesn't really get much better.

A half-peeled sweet tamarind pod.

Then I scrapped off the shell until I was left with just the sticky fruit. Now, here it is, with the shell completely removed.

Sweet tamarind pod with the shell completely removed.

I peeled off the tough, stringy fibers that still clung on to the outside of the flesh. To proceed from here, take a bite of the fruit, one section at a time, chew and spit out the seed.

What does sweet tamarind taste like? To me, it tasted like a tangy dried date. Simon concurred, describing it as having the texture of a date, and a mild cranberry flavour.

A chunk of the sweet tamarind flesh, and one of the sweet tamarind seeds.

In conclusion, these sweet tamarind pods may look quite challenging, but they're really not difficult to eat. All you require is a sense of adventure, and you'll be rewarded with a nice snack!

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Sunday, 30 December 2012

pimm's lemon jasmine banana smoothie-cocktail
(vegan, alcoholic, and stupendously delicious)

I made this, one experimental morning, and fell in love instantly. Like a fruity, floral breath of fresh air, it scintillated my senses and seduced my soul.

A spiked smoothie to leave me invigorated and glowing with health and happiness... in the short time since the idea was born, I've made this many times over, and it shall, if all goes according to plan, accompany me as I say goodbye to 2012, and ring in 2013.

pimm's lemon jasmine banana cocktail-smoothie.

So at this moment, your mind is either running through all sorts of gleeful alcoholic smoothie possibilities or you're thinking, "This lady be crazy."

And before you start to worry... no, I'm not becoming an alcoholic. In fact, one of the reasons this breakfast cocktail came about was because I still had nearly a full bottle of the Pimm's No. 1 that I purchased for last year's New Year's celebrations. Yeah, I wasn't kidding in that post when I said I was bad at drinking.

Honestly, though, if you want to start your celebrations early, like, oh, I don't know - first thing in the morning - I can think of nothing better than this smoothie, a thrillingly clean, joyful cocktail of lemon, banana and jasmine green tea, with splashes of liqueur. (But please, don't drink and drive. Or do anything potentially precarious, for that matter.)

I used Pimm's No.1 here, which is nice and subtle, but I imagine this will also go well with a coconut liqueur, a lychee liqueur, or a ginger liqueur, for example, depending on the flavour profile that delights you. I opted for just 30ml (1 fl.oz) of alcohol, which is barely discernible, but you can probably bump that up a little, depending on the type of liqueur you use, how intensely boozy you prefer it to be, and what you plan to be doing for the rest of the day...

(By the way, if you're trying to behave and abstain, I've even made a mocktail version without any alcohol whatsoever, and it tasted just as glorious, let that be known.)

A little prep in advance is required for this cocktail-smoothie recipe, but it's all tremendously easy. The banana needs to be peeled, the flesh broken into chunks and frozen. The jasmine green tea, too, is brewed with warm (but not boiling hot) water, then left to steep and cool. This is all preferably done overnight; however, I've also made this with only a few hours' notice, with the encouragement of friends, and the help of a few ice cubes. It was so well-received that I couldn't make enough: it was love at first taste for them, too.

Now, without further ado, here's the recipe. Be warned: it is dangerously easy to drink.

a healthy cocktail with lemon juice, jasmine tea, frozen banana, and pimm's no.1.

lemon jasmine banana smoothie-cocktail
(recipe makes 1, multiply to spread the happiness)

120ml brewed jasmine green tea (4 fl.oz / 1/2 cup), chilled
1 small ripe banana of about 12cm/5", flesh chopped and frozen
30ml lemon juice (1 fl.oz / 2 tablespoons / half a lemon's worth)
30ml Pimm's No. 1, or some other suitably complementary liqueur (1 fl.oz / 2 tablespoons)
grated lemon zest and/or nutmeg, to garnish (optional)

Blend jasmine green tea, frozen banana chunks, lemon juice and Pimm's No.1 (or other liqueur of your choice) together until smooth. Pour into glasses, and garnish with a little lemon zest or nutmeg, if you like. Serve immediately while it's deliciously cold.

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Tuesday, 3 April 2012

a lime & fig compote... an existential crisis

I was having a bit of an existential crisis the other day.

You know, the sort where you know you're not getting any younger, and you feel like you haven't accomplished much.

The sort where you look back at the dreams you had, and how you fell short.

Despondent, I asked Simon what he thought made a successful life. "Enjoying it," he said simply.

Therein lies our differences. I have an ego, a hunger for approval, a slightly competitive streak, and yet I've never been able to stay passionate long enough to be exceptional at anything, invariably resulting in a self-flagellating sense of failure. He, on the other hand, is unburdened by the weight of covetous aspirations, and finds it almost bewildering.

Sometimes I feel so influenced by the world external to me that I no longer know what it is that I really want. What it is that will really make me happy. I wish, wistfully, for grand accomplishments, but I'm beginning to realise what I really need is to be at peace with myself.

sweet and sour... lime and fig compote.

So that brings us to this lime and fig compote. Basic techniques. Uncomplicated flavours. Stack it on some freshly toasted bread, and eat it while it's still blissfully warm. Not really a huge achievement, making this. And yet, in that quiet, fleeting moment, I found it unassumingly sublime. The rest didn't matter.

lime & fig compote

300g ripe figs (approximately 6 - 7 medium-sized figs, or 2/3 lb)
3 tablespoons raw sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest (optional)

Trim off the hard stems of the figs and discard. Slice the figs into eighths. I do this by vertically slicing them into quarters, then horizontally halving the quarters.
Simmer the chopped figs with the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan for 15 - 20 minutes until the figs are soft and the juices are reduced. I like to turn up the heat towards the last few minutes, partly to hasten the process, and partly to introduce a lovely thick hint of caramelisation.

If you're going for a compote that goes with some bread, as I was, aim for a final result that is moist and plump, but free from excess liquids. You want a compote that is dry enough to sit pretty on toast, yet still succulent enough so that the fleshy, almost jelly-like fig pieces burst with juices as you bite into them.

So serve this while it's still comfortingly warm, on slices of freshly toasted bread, and congratulate yourself on this little triumph: one of the many you can celebrate amidst the ups and downs of life.

lime and fig compote on toasted pane di casa.

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Wednesday, 7 March 2012

mango salad smoothie

mango salad smoothie.

Hello, everyone. I'm back! I had a wonderfully relaxing time in Byron Bay and Sydney... but it's all over now. Sniffle. I'm slowly adjusting to the daily grind and routine of work, errands, and other obligatory things I feel like I should do as A Responsible Adult.

I'm also still going through my photos and writing up my post about the trip, but in the meantime, with the mango season coming to an end in Australia, here's a quick smoothie idea while you can still find these succulent orange beauties in the markets.

This mango smoothie is creamy, fruity... and green. Yes, you will find not only dairy and fruit in this lush beverage, but also a sneaky handful of salad leaves. The appearance gives it away, but the taste is almost imperceptible, depending on how generous you are with that handful.

Easily whipped up in a matter of minutes, this smoothie makes a delightfully nutrient-rich breakfast. Protein? Check. Vitamins? Check. Minerals? Check. Deliciousness? Check!

mango salad smoothie, aka green mango smoothie

1 small ripe mango (approx. 300g / 2/3 lb), cold from the fridge - peeled, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 handful mixed salad leaves (1 loose cup)
1/4 cup plain natural yoghurt
1/4 cup cold milk
a few ice cubes, and sugar or honey to taste (optional - only if you want it colder and/or sweeter)

Blend all ingredients together and serve immediately. Enjoy while daydreaming about your next holiday.

a cool green mango smoothie. yes.

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Saturday, 25 February 2012

salted watermelon salad with mint, rose, and peach vinegar

salted mint & rose watermelon salad with peach vinegar.

I'm in holiday mode. I'm in holiday mood. Tomorrow I'm jumping on a plane, off to spend a few days in Byron Bay, and then a few days in Sydney.

You know what else makes me feel like I'm on vacation? Watermelon on a sunny day. Watermelon in bed. Watermelon with friends. Watermelon anytime, really. It's almost impossible to feel agitated while chomping on a sweet, icy piece of watermelon. It's relaxation therapy via fruity hydration.

A good watermelon is so gratifying on its own, but I've recently taken to making a simple salad out of it. Watermelon cubes, strewn with shredded mint leaves. Drizzled with peach vinegar, sprinkled with salt, and kissed with rose water. It's surreal. But nice. (Thanks, Notting Hill.)

salted watermelon salad with mint, rose, and peach vinegar

approx. 2 cups cold, roughly cubed watermelon (2.5 cm / 1 inch pieces should do fine)
10 mint leaves, shredded
2 teaspoons peach vinegar (see here for my peach vinegar recipe) or 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon rose water
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Serve cold.

Note: For strict vegans, make sure the vinegar you use for creating the peach vinegar is of vegan persuasion. Otherwise, go for apple cider vinegar, which as far as I know is invariably vegan.

salted watermelon salad with mint, rose, and peach vinegar.

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Wednesday, 1 February 2012

achacha, a tasty tropical fruit

Have you ever met a stranger who reminded you of a loved one?

It may be the way they look, the way they move, the way they smile. It could be the sound of their voice, the scent of their cologne... and, inexplicably... the way they make you feel.

I experienced this sense of déjà vu recently, with a fruit that was entirely new to me.

The achacha.

Achachairu fruits, also known as achacha in Australia.

At first glance, the achacha - or achachairu - is like nothing else I know. Pry it open, however, and its creamy white flesh immediately reminds me of the fruit I adore and miss, one that is abundant in my home country: mangosteen, the queen of fruits.

Pop it into my mouth, and it confirms this impression - achachas are, indeed, remarkably similar to my beloved mangosteens... that same soft texture, that same beguiling taste that defies description. And no wonder, for achacha is a cousin of the mangosteen, as I found out later. Yet there are some crucial little differences. It's a little less sweet, a little more acidic. But that's not all; it even teases me with barely-there hints of duku langsat - another tropical fruit I recall with much fondness.

I like it. I like it so very much.

A popped-open achacha.

After purchasing and sampling my achachas, I hopped online to find out more about them. As usual, the Internet is a saviour. I am educated on the native home of the fruit (the Amazon Basin of Bolivia), and how it has been successfully cultivated in North Queensland - hence why it is now available in Australia. I also observed an alternative way to access the flesh (pierce with a fingernail, then squeeze to crack the fruit open - I had been using a knife to make a slight incision before prying them open, which works fine too). I discover that achachas are best stored at a moderate room temperature, though they may be chilled before eating if you like them cool, which I do. I learn that "achacha" is in fact an Australianised condensation of the original name "achachairu", which means "honey kiss" in the indigenous Guaraní language.

If this post has piqued your curiosity, here's what looks to be the official website for Australian grown achachas with lots of information, including where to buy. Good luck!

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Wednesday, 28 December 2011

pimm's raspberry cucumber cocktail slushy

I am not very good at drinking... alcohol, that is. A wild night, for me, is about two drinks.

Three, if I'm really living life on the edge.

Because there is such a fine and sudden line between a pleasant tipsiness and regrettable discomfort, the drunken state so sought after by many is not really something I pursue. I don't drink to get wasted. I drink for the sexy, intriguing flavours that dance on my tongue. I drink to bring that little bit of warmth to the body and soul. And then I stop drinking, and hope for the best.

This elegant little cocktail I made recently fits the bill. I brought her with me to a party last week. I think she upstaged me... she was cool, graceful, sensuous, flirtatious. A contrast to yours truly - clumsy, awkward, spaced-out, introverted...

Nevertheless. She made me look good. Because I was her Maker.

So make this for your friends, and bask in the praise they heap upon you.

Pimm's raspberry cucumber cocktail slushy with a hint of herbs. It's like Slurpee for adults... only better.

Recipe notes:

If you don't have pre-frozen cucumber and raspberries in the freezer, don't despair. This tastes just as pretty without the icy slushy factor. In fact, you can even make this drink ahead of time and just chill it in the fridge in an airtight flask until required - I did this and I swear the flavours developed further and turned out even tastier. Simply proceed with fresh cucumber and raspberries. Blend as per instructions. Just before serving, shake the mixture vigorously with a handful of ice cubes until cold, then strain out the ice cubes and serve.

If you don't have Pimm's No.1 at hand, feel free to substitute with gin, vodka or any other spirit or liqueur that goes well with fruity drinks - preferably one that is not too overpowering, to allow all the subtle flavours of the cocktail come through. Or make it a mocktail by omitting alcohol altogether.

pimm's raspberry cucumber cocktail slushy with a hint of herbs
(serves 2)

1 lebanese cucumber - approx. 100g, peeled, roughly sliced and frozen (1 cup)
60g raspberries, frozen (1/2 cup)
60ml rosemary, mint & ginger syrup (1/4 cup) - see accompanying recipe
45ml Pimm's No. 1 (1 shot)

Whiz all ingredients together in a blender until it reaches a smooth slushy consistency. Pour into glasses and serve.

rosemary syrup with a hint of mint and ginger

2 cups water
2/3 cup raw sugar
6 sprigs rosemary
2 sprigs mint
2.5 cm / 1 inch ginger, thinly sliced

Bring all ingredients to boil, then turn down the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow it to cool for another 10 minutes. Strain and store in a sterilised bottle. I sterilise my bottles by washing them thoroughly and then letting them sit in boiling water for a couple of minutes.

A cocktail packed with fruits, with a hint of herbs... sinful or healthy, you decide!

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Monday, 28 November 2011

mint & pineapple milkshake-smoothie

When is a milkshake not a milkshake? And when is a smoothie not a smoothie? These are the important worldly questions I ponder as I bask in the afterglow of a recent creation, which blurs the lines and cheekily winks at me in the gray area between the two commonly accepted definitions.

I hesitate to call it a milkshake. It's full of healthy ingredients and you could totally work it for breakfast. Plus, it doesn't even contain milk or ice cream. Then again... it does involve cream. A lush, pure cream, whipped till thick and tantalising.

I hesitate to call it a smoothie. It doesn't contain yoghurt or soy milk. That luscious cream makes it just that little bit more sinful. You could totally work it for dessert. Then again... it does involve fruit, lots of it. And it just seems so GOOD for me.

You can understand my dilemma.

So I've decided to call it a milkshake-smoothie. Problem solved.

A minty pineapple milkshake-smoothie... or smoothie-milkshake. Creamy fruit frappe, cream smoothie, cream shake?

This recipe actually came about because I was whipping cream in the blender and there was too much of it stuck in there. I couldn't let it go to waste. Oh no. I also happened to have bought a whole pineapple recently, which I couldn't finish, so I cut it up into chunks and froze them for the right opportunity - this turned out to be that opportunity. They truly rock it here.

So, healthy milkshake or naughty smoothie? Your call. 

mint and pineapple milkshake-smoothie
(serves 1)

8 mint leaves
125g frozen pineapple chunks (2/3 - 1 cup depending on chunk size)
60ml whipped cream (1/4 cup)*
80ml water (1/3 cup)
sugar, to taste (optional)

Whiz all ingredients together in a blender. Depending on how thick you like your shakes/smoothies, you might want to add the water gradually so that you can adjust the amount to your liking. Taste, and, if it's not quite sweet enough for your liking, add sugar, then process again briefly. Ta-da, you now have your very own milkshake-smoothie!

*Home-whipped cream is the best! You may use cream as a substitute for whipped cream - but use a little less - say 2 - 3 tablespoons, so that it doesn't taste too heavy.

A relatively healthy indulgence: pineapple and mint and a bit of cream... a beautiful threesome.

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Tuesday, 8 November 2011

fresh almonds... & green almond pickles!

green almond pickles.

You know what it's like. You're minding your own business, getting your groceries... and suddenly, out of the corner of the eye, you spy something. Something attractive. Something different. Something interesting. Something you'd never tried before. Something you'd like to try. Something that has so much potential... and you know, you just know that you could have something special together, if you'd only muster up the courage to give it a go.

fresh almonds, aka green almonds.

Ah, yes... I'm talking about fresh almonds, also known as spring almonds, or green almonds: the young, fleshy fruit of the almond tree that can be eaten whole.

Fresh almonds mature fast, so keep that in mind if you buy them. If you'd like to eat the entire fruit, do that while they're young - the outer skin turns hard and bitter as they ripen. Of course, all is not lost - you can then eat the nut inside. (Though technically, the part of almond we usually eat is not a nut, but the seed of the almond fruit!)

Anyway, I brought these little beauties home and immediately sliced them in half to investigate. Then I tasted them. The outer skin is tart, the astringent quality reminiscent of an under-ripe fruit, with hints of guava. The translucent inner kernel resembles a mild and refreshing jelly, with an almost lychee-like texture, and a subtle hint of sweetness.

cross-section of a fresh green almond cut into halves.

After sampling my fresh green almonds, I thought they would make fantastic pickles - similar to the ones my mum makes with green mangoes, which I love. And so it was that I made green almond pickles with my fresh almonds... and they turned out just as I hoped - sweet, tangy, with a hint of spice and salt.

We had some really good times, my pickled almonds and I. I'm glad I initiated* our sassy little romance... and I'm sure we'll meet again for round two.

*The almonds insisted they were actually the ones who initiated by looking at me, then looking away, then looking at me again, and that I totally fell for it hook, line and sinker.

300g green almonds (approximately 30 almonds, or 2/3lb)
2 medium-sized hot red chillies
1 cup water
1 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup Chinese white rice vinegar
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Wash fresh almonds. Slice each almond vertically into halves. For a neater appearance, trim their twiggy ends. If you like, you may also take out the kernels and eat them - the best part for pickling is the outer shell.
Slice chillies horizontally into thin rings.
Transfer the fresh almonds and fresh chillies into sterilised jars. (I sterilise my jars by washing them thoroughly and then letting them sit in boiling water for a couple of minutes.)
In a saucepan, stir water, sugar, vinegar, salt and nutmeg over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, then remove from heat and pour over fresh almonds and chillies. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool slightly.
Seal the jars and place in the fridge for a minimum of one week to allow the flavours to fully develop. Give the jars a good shake once or twice a day for the first three days.
After that, the pickles should keep for at least a month in the fridge, probably longer.

*Note: For those in Melbourne who may be interested, I found my fresh green almonds at Cato Fruits & Vegetables. No. 10-12, Cato Street, Prahran, Victoria 3181. Otherwise, other specialty or ethnic food stores might stock them from time to time. I hear they have short, sporadic seasons though, so it's a matter of luck and timing.)

pickled green almonds.

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Thursday, 8 September 2011

strawberry paste... strawberry candy.

soft and chewy strawberry jelly candy.

Don't you just love it when you try to make something and you mess it up - only to gain a fabulous final product anyway?

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon when I made this. I had visions of a silky strawberry butter - similar to strawberry jam, but with a texture so soft and smooth and velvety that you'd want to drown in it. Death by strawberry butter. Yes.

cooking them strawberries with sugar.

Well! That didn't happen. I cooked it too much, for too long, so instead of a dreamy strawberry butter, I got strawberry paste instead. A strawberry paste so firmly set, you might call it strawberry cheese.

But guess what? I like it. Look, I can slice it up and serve it with brie and crackers! I can cut it into pieces, roll it in sugar and transform it into soft, chewy strawberry jelly candy!

And guess what. All you need is three ingredients. Strawberries. Sugar. Lime juice. That's it. No pectin, no gelatine. How good is that?

life is good with strawberries, brie and crackers...

strawberry paste / strawberry pâtes de fruits (strawberry candies)
(makes one small block of strawberry paste or two dozen strawberry candies)

1 punnet strawberries (250g / 1/2 lb)
1/2 cup raw sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Hull and halve strawberries.
Cook over a medium low heat with sugar for 10 minutes until soft and juices released. Blend till completely smooth.
Return to saucepan and continue cooking for 20 - 30 minutes or until very thick and goopy. Check on it often, stirring so that it doesn't burn at the bottom.
Add lime juice and bring to a boil for a 10 seconds, stirring, then turn down the heat and simmer for another 10 - 15 minutes.
Times may vary, but the mixture should be a deep red colour, the texture dense and sticky. It should start moving in towards the centre of the pan, cling to a spoon (sliding off slowly and reluctantly) and form a clean, distinct line at the bottom of the pan when you scrape across with the spoon. Bring the mixture to boil for a few seconds occasionally to speed up the process.
Pour or scoop into a small tray, mould or other suitable container. Keep it in the refrigerator until set.

When the strawberry paste has set, and you would like to serve it, turn it out.
Cut into thin slices to serve with cheese and crackers. It'll go well with a mature brie, parmesan or cheddar.

Alternatively, cut into pieces and roll in sugar to create strawberry pâtes de fruits - i.e., strawberry jelly candies. I used raw sugar, which gave it a rough appearance and a crunchy texture. Use a finer sugar to achieve a more delicate quality.

I didn't actually get around to retrieving this from the fridge and trying it out until two weeks later. I was pretty excited by then.

So I had it with brie and cracked pepper crackers for lunch...

a dab of strawberry paste, a dab of brie and a cracked black pepper cracker.

And finished off with a dessert of strawberry pâtes de fruits.

strawberry pâtes de fruits, or strawberry jubes.

Life is sweet. Strawberry sweet.

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Tuesday, 16 August 2011

passionfruit and honey ice cubes

honey and passionfruit ice cube.

Just a quick one today... passionfruit and honey ice cubes!

Spoon some passionfruit pulp into ice cube trays, let it freeze until semi-firm, then top up with a generously sweet water-and-honey solution.

Easy to make, pretty to look at, and with its refreshing blend of sweet and tart, I even have them just on their own as an icy snack!

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Wednesday, 3 August 2011

lemonade fruit

a lemonade fruit.

I like a good old-fashioned lemonade. You know, the one you make at home with freshly squeezed lemon juice, sugar, water, ice and lots of love - it's definitely one of life's simple pleasures. So when I spied lemonade fruits - apparently a cross between a lemon and a mandarin - at Ripe Organics in Prahran Market last Friday, I was quite intrigued.

"Are they sour like lemon?" I asked the store assistant.
"No, they taste like lemonade! You can eat them just like that." He says cheerily.


Once I got home, I sliced up my lemonade like an orange and tasted it. And it does taste like lemonade. Yes, that familiar hint of lemony acidity is there, but it's gentle on the tastebuds, and comes with a little wave of sweetness that goes down easily. I can just imagine how refreshing they would be juiced and served icy-cold.

Lemonades have a short season in Australia - so if you're interested, keep an eye out for them, get in quick, and share your experiences with me...

sliced lemonade... sweet, sour, juicy.

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Sunday, 5 June 2011

fresh from the market... feijoas

feijoas, lime and ginger, ready to be blended together for a fresh breakfast juice.

I don't come into contact with feijoas very often, so recently, when a pack of 5 organic feijoas beckoned to me at South Melbourne Market for the relatively affordable price of $3, I wasn't about to turn them down.

Feijoas, also known as pineapple guavas or guavasteens, are a fairly new addition to my life as an Australian resident. A few trips to New Zealand further cemented the presence of this rather unique fruit in my mind - fresh feijoas are ubiquitous there, and the New Zealanders use them keenly in a variety of applications - jam, candy, and even vodka.

However, this is the first time I've ever bought feijoas for myself. The very first thing that seduced me was their intriguing fragrance, which, to me, is a sweet whirlwind of strawberry, guava and mint - intoxicating, addictive and almost reminiscent of a scented candle. I had to wait a few days for my feijoas to fully ripen at room temperature in their brown paper bag, and during this time I would often gather them close to breathe in that pretty scent.

feijoas, sliced in half vertically. sweet, fragrant and ready to be eaten with a spoon.

When the feijoas finally yielded gently to my touch, signalling that they ready to be eaten, I sliced some of them in half, and simply scooped out the flesh with a spoon. I found the texture of ripe feijoas to be quite soft and creamy, but at the same time, it also had a hint of grittiness. The taste was, again, complex and fascinating. It was like the Fruit Gods got together one day to decide what a feijoa should taste like, and the following conversation ensued:

"They're related to guava, so I reckon they should taste like guava."

"You know what, I love the fresh taste of mint. Can we incorporate that somehow?"

"My dear compatriots, let's not forget about acidity. Something like pineapple and strawberry would be nice, yeah?"

"Oh, oh, how about soursop?"

The Fruit Gods are a quirky bunch indeed.

You can also peel feijoas if you like - I did this to the remaining feijoas, which I then popped into the blender along with some fresh ginger and lime for a quick and exotic breakfast juice. It was all gone in no time. I'm definitely going to purchase feijoas more often from now on, and experiment with them further to create some feijoa recipes.

What are your thoughts on feijoas?

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Wednesday, 27 April 2011

going green: lettuce pear salad smoothie

lettuce pear salad smoothie: green, but not too green.

Green smoothies. The concept just doesn't sit completely comfortably with me. It conjures up the traumatic days of my childhood, the days when my parents were in the fervent throes of the wheatgrass fad. They grew their own wheatgrass with diligence, harvested them with enthusiasm and every so often I will have a cup of freshly blended wheatgrass juice cheerily slotted into my hands. Bless them, my parents want only the best for my health. But that thin swampy-looking liquid that smelt and tasted like freshly mowed lawn... well, it just had zero appeal for me.

But I had an idea the other day, where I thought perhaps - just perhaps - I could introduce a little bit of green in my smoothies. Not dark green. Not even medium green. But just a little pale green - we are, after all, talking baby steps here - in the form of lettuce. I thought that could be alright. And I'm glad to report that it was... better than alright, actually. So it's not super green, but I've added vegetables to my smoothie - and enjoyed it! A small but worthy achievement, that.

pear salad smoothie for one

1 very ripe and soft large pear, chopped
2 cos lettuce leaves, torn in pieces
1/4 cup unsweetened natural or greek yoghurt
4 almonds, dry toasted in a pan
4 mint leaves
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 tablespoon honey
4 ice cubes

Blend all ingredients until smooth.

So imagine a light and healthy salad with fresh pears and lettuce, strewn through with mint leaves and toasted almonds, then drizzled with an orange, yoghurt and honey dressing. Then slightly shift your paradigm, and imagine that again, but in smoothie form. Are you feelin' it? Oh yeah, I'm feelin' it.

light and refreshing, fruity and nutty and just a little bit lettucey.

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Saturday, 26 February 2011

pear and ginger rice pudding

Time flies... where does it go? As we flit through the last few days of February, I attempted to slow the pace of life with a rustic vegan rice pudding that does double duty as breakfast and dessert. In this gentle dish, the amorous ginger leans in, and with its seductive heat, wins the heart of the pale, creamy and voluptuous pear.

Pears and ginger... a sensual match.

pear and ginger rice pudding (serves 4 - 6)

1/2 cup uncooked rice, rinsed and drained
2.5 cups soy milk (preferably organic)
1.5 cups water
1 piece (5cm / 2 inches) ginger, sliced
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup raw sugar (more if you like it sweet)
soft ripe pears, sliced or cut into chunks, for topping

- Place rice, soy milk, water, sliced ginger and salt in a saucepan and bring to boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring.
- Cook for about 40 minutes, partially covered, checking and stirring at intervals until liquid is reduced and rice is thickened and tender. If it gets too dry, add in a little more water or soy milk.
- Add the sugar, and if you like, at this point you may also add in some pear. Bring mixture to boil again for 2 minutes, stirring, then remove from heat and let cool. Discard sliced ginger.
- You may serve this warm or cold. If you opt for the latter, like I did, cover and chill in the refrigerator for a few hours.
- When ready to serve, spoon into bowls and top liberally with fresh pear. I thought a sprinkling of nuts such as almonds would also go well with this, but unfortunately I didn't have any!

an easy vegan pear and ginger rice pudding.

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Sunday, 23 January 2011

longans... and longan rum

A few weeks ago, I spied, to my delight, some longans in the supermarket. I get excited about longans even in Malaysia, my home country, where they are plentiful, but even more so now that I live in Australia, where they are scarce.

Longan is actually a transliteration of "dragon's eye" as it is known in many Asian languages. Looking at the fruit itself, you can see how the longan got its name!

fresh longans, aka dragon's eye fruit.

The typical longan has pearly, translucent flesh that gives way with just a little wobble and crunch as you bite down upon it. It then fills your mouth with sweet juices suggestive of earthy notes and just a slight floral hint.

I devoured most of the longans, but I saved a few so I could make some longan-infused rum. My recipe below makes a pitiful two shots (60ml), so I would definitely recommend you multiply that by several times. Seriously, what was I thinking? Oh right, I wasn't. I was too busy gobbling down those fresh and delicious longans...

4 longans
1/4 cup rum
a pinch of Chinese yellow rock sugar

Peel the longans and discard the seeds. Place the longans and sugar in a clean glass jar, and pour rum over them. Close the jar tightly with its lid and store in a cool, dark place for a month or so.

After about four weeks, I opened it up for a taste, and voilà, it was longan rum! The longans still looked so sweet and innocent, but I tasted one and it was like pure alcohol, so into the bin they went. (Sorry, my little beauties.) I am pleased to say that the rum itself was beautifully infused with longan flavours, and with its edge taken off by the Chinese yellow rock sugar, this resulted in a fruity, mellow liqueur. I really do wish I'd made more.

So now I need your help, my dear readers. Since I have precious little supply of this, I need to use it wisely. I thought about just having it on the rocks, perhaps with a dash of honey. Simon isn't a fan of rum on the rocks, and prefers it mixed with something like Coke, but I'm concerned that such a combination would hinder rather than highlight the longan flavours. What do you think would go well? Do you have any suggestions? Bring them on!

 fruity, tasty longan-infused rum.

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Sunday, 21 November 2010

preserved mandarin sorbet

preserved mandarin sorbet

If you are familiar with Chinese sweets, you may know about preserved mandarin/tangerine peel. It's similar to what some call crack seed snacks. This sweet and salty preserved fruit candy is a childhood favourite of mine. For November's salt-themed International Incident Party hosted by Jeroxie, I decided to go with this preserved mandarin peel idea. I thought about just making the sweet itself, but midway through, changed my mind, skipped the drying process and made a sorbet instead!

The brand of preserved mandarin peel I grew up with is Jiabao, so I had a look at their list of ingredients first to check what I would need to reproduce a similar flavour. I then came up with the following recipe(s)...

mandarin peels in salt solution. this was before the addition of sugar and licorice root powder.

Note: If mandarins aren't in season, oranges should be a serviceable substitute.

preserved mandarin peel

- thin pieces of peel from one big mandarin/tangerine
- 1/2 tablespoon coarse salt (I used coarse sea salt with no additives)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 to 4 tablespoons mandarin juice
- 1 teaspoon licorice root powder

Pack mandarin peel in a small jar. (take care to use jars that won't corrode with acid and salt. I used a glass jar with a plastic lid.)

Add salt to the peels, then mandarin juice. The peels should be all submerged in the liquid. Shake to dissolve some of the salt.

Leave in a cool dark place at room temperature and shake the jar a couple times a day (or more often if you like!).

After a few days, retrieve peel from jar, still leaving the salt solution in the jar.

Bring to boil then simmer the peel in 1/2 cup water, 1 teaspoon licorice root powder and 1 tablespoon sugar until the liquid is reduced to approximately a quarter, i.e. 1/8 cup or 2 tablespoons of thick syrup.

Add the peel and licorice sugar syrup back to the jar with the salt solution. I let it cool before putting the lid back on and then stored it for several more days in the fridge, letting the flavours seep in.

So that's my very small portion of preserved mandarin peel. You can probably even use the syrup like a cordial and make iced drinks with it. Or, continue on like I did, and make the sorbet!

this refreshing mandarin sorbet will even replenish your electrolytes!

salted mandarin sorbet with preserved mandarin peel

1 + 1/2 cups mandarin juice
1/4 cup caster sugar
the salty-sweet peels and syrup from the recipe above
1 tablespoon triple sec (optional)

In a saucepan combine 1/2 cup mandarin juice and all the sugar and simmer, stirring until all dissolved, and remove from heat. Add to the rest of the mandarin juice.

Blend/process/chop the salty-sweet peels until they are tiny pieces. Add into the sugary mandarin juice.
Add 1 tablespoon triple sec as well, if using.

Slowly add in the salty-sweet preserving syrup, stirring, until the balance of sweet and salty flavours are to your liking - you can use just some of it, or you can use it all.

Freeze the concoction in an ice cream maker, if you have one. I didn't, so went the old-fashion route by beating the mixture up every few hours. I'm yet to perfect the art of making a smooth sorbet without an ice cream maker, as you can see from the pictures. However, I'm still patting myself on the back for this creation. The sorbet does have that preserved mandarin peel flavour to it and it was sweet, salty and refreshing. Mission accomplished!

salted mandarin sorbet with preserved mandarin peel

my fellow salt partiers!

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Friday, 12 November 2010

of loquats and tea

a lone loquat

I do not come by loquats very often, so when I discovered a stall selling them at the market last weekend I immediately pounced. Generally appearing in springtime, fresh loquats are delicate and refreshing, and to me, they are like a cross between plums and pears in both taste and texture. A little tart, a little sweet. The riper they are, the sweeter.

I prefer them peeled, but the skin is edible too, and is actually not bad - similar to the skin of apricots. There isn't a lot of flesh, as they have seeds inside which take up quite a bit of room. I love the sweet ones just as they are, and for the ones that are a little more acidic, I think they work well simply poached in syrup, or stewed into a jam.

a peeled loquat

The weather has started to warm up in the last few weeks of spring here in Australia, so I decided to make a simple loquat tea just to see what it would be like.

iced loquat tea

freshly brewed tea (I used white tea)
honey, to taste

Simply whiz the loquats in a blender and add it along with some honey to freshly brewed tea. You can have it hot, or chill for a few hours and serve cold. I also added a few little chunks of loquat as well for a bit of bite. I made the tea a fairly mild brew so as not to overpower the taste of the loquats, and as an estimate I used the juice/puree of two loquats for approximately every 250ml cup's worth of brewed tea.

iced loquat tea with little chunks of loquat

While it didn't blow me away, I thought this made a pleasant and refreshing drink. The healthy combination of loquats and tea had a surprisingly distinct taste which reminds me of sweet Chinese herbal beverages. It was a warm sunny evening when I had this, and it really cooled me down!

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Wednesday, 27 October 2010

avocado banana pancakes

avocado banana pancake with pretty flecks of green
I don't know about anyone else but I really dig the combination of banana and avocado. Muffins, smoothies... these are a couple of examples of where they work well together. The other morning, I came up with a third one: pancakes.

banana, avocado and orange
3/4 cup self-raising flour
1 medium-sized ripe banana
1 small ripe avocado
1 egg
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon raw sugar
butter or oil, for frying

- Mash up banana and avocado flesh together with the orange juice.
- Mix in milk and egg. Mash further.
- Slowly add in flour and sugar and mix thoroughly.
- Heat a little oil or butter in a frying pan, add some of the batter, and cook on both sides.
- Best served hot!

These pale green pancakes can be tricky little critters, especially as I wasn't using a non-stick frying pan - I had to be quite careful when making them as they burn easily, probably due to the naturally high fruit sugar content present in the batter. As you can see, one of my pancakes was quite dangerously close to being overly charred. Though as you can also see, I still had a good chomp! (and finished the rest of it after taking photos...) They are also very soft and moist, which makes them rather fragile and prone to falling apart. After a few failures I got some decent ones by spreading the batter out quite thin and then tenderly flipping them over as soon as possible. I am thinking perhaps I should still try to come up with a more user-friendly version though - more flour, less liquid - that might help?

Yet, if you do manage to get it right, the resulting banana avocado pancakes will be sweet, juicy and delicious, with delightful bits of avocado and banana in every bite. Yum, yum.

banana avocado pancakes - yes, one is a little charred. oops!

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