It’s been another scorcher all over the wide brown land this week. My garden is wilting, the dogs (an Irish Wolfhound and a Border Collie – neither really suited to this weather) are languidly panting piles of slightly funky fur and the fruit in the bowl is looking very dodgy. One of my lovely readers dropped me an email last week with some of her thoughts on what to do with produce that is heat affected. She’s inspired a very quick post on using up the bounty of the season. It is easy to let food go to waste in the heat, but it is also pretty simple to come up with a few quick ideas to use it up – so a big thank you to Kathy Inverarity. Those of you in the northern hemisphere will just have to file it away for future reference, but for the rest of us this is very pertinent as the mercury continues to climb – and we haven’t even hit the peak period for summer heat yet!
Kathy had bought herself a bag of nectarines which she expected to be too soft and had plans to cook them up to have with yoghurt – an nice idea for any over-ripe stone fruit. Just into the pot with a little water, a split vanilla pod and/or some star anise or a cinnamon stick and a little sugar to taste and you have beautiful fruit compote. Too-soft fruit can also make a delicious dessert. Thaw out a sheet of puff pastry, cut into a circle (or not- depends how lazy you feel) and cook until just golden. Push the centre of the cooked pastry down and pile with sliced nectarines, peaches, apricots, plums – whatever – sprinkle with some cinnamon and sugar and pop under a hot grill for a few moments. Voila – beautifully burnished rustic fruit tart!
As it turned out, Kathy’s nectarines were rock hard and still firmly wedded to their stones so she decided to poach them whole. In her own words –
“I prepared them by washing and slitting them quarter-ways but leaving them whole and not attempting to remove stones.
Poached them very gently for 45 mins in a generous amount of sugar syrup – 1/2 cup sugar to 2 cups water- and added crushed cardamom pods and – oops! – a healthy pinch of sichuan peppercorns. (That was a mistake when I reached for the wrong spice – must put a label on all of my spice jars!) A delicious result for very little effort.”
Don’t we all love those happy accidents!
Kathy and her husband grow a lot of their own vegetables, including potatoes. I’d never given this any thought, but of course potatoes in the ground are going to end up almost cooked in their skins during extended periods of intense heat. Even those in the quiet darkness of the potato bin suffer and end up a little softer than we’d like after a heat wave. Kathy suggested combining them with sweet potato and some fish to make fish cakes. The addition of a tablespoon of threaded or flaked coconut gives a delicious Indian touch that is complemented by some mango chutney, or alternatively add some Vietnamese basil and serve with a Vietnamese dressing of lime juice, fish sauce, castor sugar & water – 1 tbspn of each, and a chopped red chilli. I’m a potato girl from way back and never met one I didn’t like – I’d be pretty happy with them however they come.
We waste about 3 million tonnes of food each year here in Australia, yet all it requires is a little thought to reduce that in each of our homes. I’m off to use up some windfall plums and bake a cake – how do you use up fresh food that has seen better days?