Archives for category: Fruits and vegetables

For the past 48 hours I have been seduced by the fruit that caused all the trouble in the first place. Or was it the serpent that was the evil one?

The quince, it seems, way pre-dates the apple. Not only is it thought that it was a quince, and not an apple, that was growing so temptingly in the Garden of Eden, but it was also a quince that started the Trojan War.

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A much loved fruit from mythical times through mediaeval times, Cydonia oblonga appears in De Re Coquinaria (On the Subject of Cooking), a collection of Roman recipes  thought to have been compiled in the late fourth or early fifth century and attributed to Caelius Apicius.

PATINA DE CYDONIIS 

A DISH OF QUINCES IS MADE AS FOLLOWS: QUINCES ARE COOKED WITH LEEKS, HONEY AND BROTH, USING HOT OIL, OR THEY ARE STEWED IN HONEY.

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I was delighted to see that lovage features large in what must surely be the original cook book. I was charmed by the rose wine and the violet wine. The puréed parsnips sounded divine. I was intrigued by the In Ovis Hapalis – poached eggs served with pepper, lovage, nuts and honey. I’ll skip the stuffed dormouse, sow’s udder and the rose petal and calf’s brain dish.

But I digress. The quince is, in some quarters, out of favour and is certainly not appreciated by those with no intimate knowledge of  its charms. But it is a truly rewarding  fruit if you are prepared to spend an hour or 48 in its company in the kitchen.

The quince, along with the prickly pear, was one of the fruits that was held in high regard by my mother. It was one of the fruits that for me was a symbol of her idyllic childhood spent swimming in farm dams and rivers. In my childhood, venison as well as ‘ mock venison’  was always served with quince jelly.

I spent quite a few hours in Google’s company when I came home from the shops with six velvety chartreuse quinces. By the time I had scoured Google  – and all my recipe books too – I found myself running back down to the greengrocer to buy an additional box of quinces. And then I settled in for a weekend in thrall to the quince.

The first thing I made was membrillo. Well, to be honest I actually made a version of  River Cottage Quince Cheese.   I followed their instructions exactly except I used less sugar – 75% of the  weight of the quince pulp. And mine took a little longer than theirs, possibly because I cooked it on top of our anthracite burning Godin stove. I was rather pleased that I didn’t have to use any additional energy to cook the membrillo.

While the membrillo was cooking I made supper – shoulder of lamb seasoned with salt and pepper cooked on a bed of leeks, quince halves, and thyme. Cook it at a low temperature of 150C for about four hours, tightly covered, and you’ll end up with silky leeks, soft quinces with a haunting depth of flavour and lamb that falls off the bone.

Thank you to Apicius for the idea of cooking quinces with leeks.  Now I need to get back to  De Re Coquinaria to see how to cook that flamingo I have tethered in the back yard.

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More quince recipes:

Quince Tarte Tatin from David Lebovitz

Quince Curd – The British Food Larder

Quince Pancakes – Saveur,  adpated from The Breakfast Book  by Marion Cunningham

And then of course Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has a few other quince recipes worth trying as does  Nigel Slater.

 

There is a plant in our garden that I love even more than the abundant Passiflora edulis and that is the more gloriously abundant Cyphomandra betacea, more commonly known as the tree tomato or tamarillo.

I have wanted to grow tree tomatoes for many years – ever since my sister-in-law gave me a small jar of tree tomato jam. I thought it so delicious that I have been looking out for a plant at every nursery that I go to. So when I saw three plants at our local nursery I snapped them all up and planted all three in a cluster in what was supposed to be a strictly indigenous part of the garden. Well, I have now modified the rules for this part of the garden and it is allowed to include plants that are not indigenous as long as they can be used in cooking and don’t need any cosseting.

I adore this wonderful plant that has been producing fruit unabatedly for about two years now. Even in the depths of the harsh Highveld winter we have regularly harvested fruits and sliced them into salads.

Tree tomatoes are native to the Andes and although not wildly common in South Africa they seem to be very popular in Australia and New Zealand. There is even a New Zealand Tamarillo Growers Association and judging by the success we’ve had in our relatively haphazard suburban Johannesburg garden I think it might be a good idea to start a South African Tamarillo Growers Association.

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I love the fruits peeled and sliced into a green salad with feta and a lemony honey and mustard dressing. They are good as a garnish on a Moroccan flavoured couscous and chickpea salad. But best of all I think is how, preserved or slow roasted, they work with all types of cheese from fried haloumi to soft creamy chevin, from brie to blue cheese and from sharp cheddar to gruyere.

The trees are laden at the moment so in the coming weeks I think I’ll be working out a good jam recipe and will also be trying:

Tree tomato Tamarillo

Tree tomato preserves

Pour boiling water over the tree tomatoes. Leave for a couple of minutes and then peel.. Keep the oval fruits whole.

Weigh them and stir in 750 grams of sugar to every kg of fruit. Leave overnight so that the sugar dissolves and ruby red juices collect.

The next morning add a handful of fresh bay leaves, a stick or two of cinnamon, 12 or so black pepper corns and 4 or 5 whole star anise per kg of fruit.

Bring slowly to the boil and then lower the heat and cook very gently until the fruit is beautifully red, translucent and the juices thickened.

Bottle in sterilised jars and enjoy with almost any cheese you can imagine or with cold meats.

Tree tomatoes roasted in wine

Peel the tree tomatoes as above and again keep them whole.

Place in a small roasting dish with the same spices as used in the preserved tree tomato recipe – a handful of fresh bay leaves, a stick or two of cinnamon, 12 or so black pepper corns and 4 or 5 whole star anise.

Add a very generous splash or two of either red or white wine – whatever you have open – and sprinkle with brown sugar.

Roast in the oven until the tree tomatoes are very tender and the wine has turned syrupy. Serve warm with slow roast lamb shoulder and any greens or at room temperature with cheese and rocket on crusty brown bread.

There is a war raging in our household and, sadly, I’m not sure if – and when – there will be a winner. The war concerns which fruit curd is best. Most of the household are on the side of  Passiflora edulis, I on the other hand am fence sitting. I have a long-standing and fierce loyalty to  Citrus × limon.

My relationship with that sour and satisfying fruit curd goes way back:

  • To my childhood and the Eureka lemon tree growing valiantly in a barrel on our verandah for thirty odd years – whose fruits provided the lemon curd  for lemon meringue pie (and lemon cordial), year after year after year.
  • To my youthful dinner party years of regularly whipping up a lemon curd brûlée tart as a pièce de résistance. I have long since forgotten where that recipe came from – and I so wish I still had it. I dream of that tart and often wonder if I could recreate it.
  • To memories of sitting on a freezing beach on Islay in the Inner Hebrides in ‘mid-summer’ wearing layers of clothes eating lemon curd spread on oatcakes accompanied by one of the smokiest of whiskies – Laphroaig. Lemon curd on oatcakes with or without Islay whisky (Earl Grey tea is a good accompaniment too) is now a firm favourite in our household.
  • To our family favourite cheesecake recipe  – the lemon curd cheesecake from Donna Hay‘s Flavours.
  • And most recently to my daughter’s lemon curd filled macarons.

However I have been plotting and planing to make a passion fruit (or granadilla as it is known in South Africa) curd for some months now, ever since our self-sown and carelessly transplanted granadilla vine took over our carefully cultivated and nurtured espaliered fig trees and all their trellising wire.  The plant went wild and I realised I needed to start googling passion fruit recipes in a hurry. In the last week I have harvested over a hundred fruits, there are still at least another hundred waiting to be harvested – and daily more and more of the unbelievably intricate and complex flowers bloom waiting to turn into fruits.

We have over the last few weeks had a trickle of fruits every day and have been enjoying stirring the pulp into yoghurt, with or without cubed mango, pecan nuts and/or maple syrup. But you can only eat so many passion fruit in this way so this past weekend I decided it was time to revisit google .

In my search I read a blog post on fruit curds by Neil of British Food: A History and the words ‘Curds don’t just come in lemon yellow of course, you can make one from any fruit that the juice can be easily squeezed from: orange, grapefruit, passion fruit and pineapple…’ which got me thinking about making passion fruit curd. When I went back to the blog post I realised that there wasn’t actually a recipe for passion fruit curd.  I guess I could have modified a lemon curd recipe but there were quite a few recipes online so  I decided to use Sam Linsell’s recipe from Drizzle and Dip as my starting point.  I really liked the fact she had made two versions – one with pips and one without.

In addition to hopefully making a dent in our growing pile of granadillas I was rather pleased to be using a whole lot of the free range eggs we had bought the previous weekend at The Shed on Route 59. We went to The Shed to pick up some seeds for our vegetable garden from the Living Seeds stall and were very keen to buy some things from the other stalls since The Shed seemed to be a nice local community endeavour. We came away quite happy with some ‘onion garlic’, a big wedge of boerenkaas, some dried wors, game biltong and a large tray of eggs.

I decided not to use too many of the pips in my passion fruit curd so I started by extracting the pulp from about 40 passion fruit, heating it gently in a pot and straining the pulp through a coarse sieve while mushing  it around with a spatula.

I am sure the very yellow free range eggs contributed to the deep golden colour of the finished curd.  It was good with vanilla ice cream and fruit, great with Greek yoghurt and best entirely on its own.

In the quest to determine which curd is the winner I’ll be making another batch of passion fruit curd just as soon as I can tear myself away from the computer. Or should I be thinking about a rhubarb or raspberry curd?

Passion fruit curd

  • 450ml strained passion fruit pulp with the unstrained pulp of a couple of fruits
  • 180g butter
  • 1.5 cups of sugar
  • 8 large free range  eggs

Mix the passion fruit pulp, butter and sugar  together in a heavy bottomed pot and heat  slowly until it comes to the boil. Remove from the heat and cool for a couple of minutes while you beat the eggs until light and fluffy. Slowly and continuously whisk the eggs into the hot pulp mixture. Put the pot back on a low heat and continue whisking until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.  Pour into sterilised jars and seal or  into a bowl and refrigerate until chilled for more or less immediate consumption.