With the memories of summer pleasures fading fast and the woes of winter lying in wait, now is the time to make the most of the fruitfulness of autumn - feijoas, figs, nashi, passionfruit and persimmon are but a few delicious examples.
Feijoas have a unique fragrant flavour that is equally enjoyable whether the fruit is raw or cooked. The skin is not normally eaten. However, when making jam or relishes there is no need to peel the fruit. Just top and tail and chop the fruit to the required size. Excellent served with blue cheese, prosciutto, mascarpone, in smoothies, crumbles and fruit salads.
Figs range in colour from purple-black to almost white and in shape from round to oval. Use as soon after picking as possible with prosciutto or strong cheeses, or drizzled with balsamic or pomegranate glaze and served with whipped cream.
The Japanese pear or nashi has the texture and shape of an apple and the flavour of a pear. Nashi are excellent eaten raw but you can also poach or bake them. Use raw nashi in sweet or savoury salads, on a cheeseboard or in smoothies, pan-fry with pork cutlets or stuff with dates and bake for dessert, or grate into muffins or cakes.
Smooth-skinned passionfruit should be kept at room temperature until they start to wrinkle - when they are at their sweetest - then stored in the fridge. Keep the fruit as dry as possible. Passionfruit adds a touch of the exotic to other fruits and is a must on pavlovas or cheesecakes and in icing or fillings for sponge cakes or eclairs.
There are two types of persimmon - astringent and non-astringent. The latter are sweet and are best eaten when firm to the touch, as with a peach, and should be an even orange-red colour. Serve raw in slices on a cheese board or with cold meats or in savoury salads. Or bake in cakes and pies. The astringent variety should be enjoyed when jelly-like. Great on icecream, in yoghurt, fruit fools and in mousses.
PASSIONFRUIT-ROASTED NASHI WITH FEIJOA FOOL
4 small nashi
8 tsp each: butter, brown sugar, passionfruit pulp
1/2 cup cream
2 tbsp icing sugar
2-3 feijoas, diced or mashed
Ground cinnamon to garnish
Preheat the oven to 180C. Lightly butter a small baking pan.
Halve the nashi crosswise. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the cores. Divide the butter, brown sugar and passionfruit pulp evenly into the centres of the nashi.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until tender.
Meanwhile, whip the cream and icing sugar until thick. Fold in the feijoas.
Serve the nashi warm accompanied by the feijoa fool sprinkled with a little cinnamon.
PRESERVED PASSIONFRUIT PULP
Passionfruit pulp can be preserved by freezing in ice cube trays - add three tablespoons of sugar to each cup of pulp.
Alternatively, combine one cup of passionfruit pulp with one cup of sugar and stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Pour into a sterilised jar and seal.
FIG & PROSCIUTTO SANDWICHES
8 slices fresh wholemeal sandwich bread
50g light cream cheese or soft goat's cheese for spreading
75g thinly sliced prosciutto
2-3 fresh figs
1 tsp each: balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup rocket leaves
Lightly spread the bread with the cream cheese or goat's cheese. Fold prosciutto and arrange over four of the slices.
Peel the figs if the skin is tough. Thinly slice. Arrange on top of the prosciutto.
Whisk together the balsamic vinegar and oil. Season. Drizzle over the figs.
Scatter with the rocket leaves and top with the remaining bread slices. Slice off the crusts and cut each sandwich into three to four fingers.
Makes 12-16 sandwiches.
1kg feijoas, unpeeled but trimmed and chopped
500g onions, diced
2 cups white sugar
3 cups cider vinegar
1 tbsp each: curry powder, ground ginger
1 tsp each: chilli powder, whole cloves
Combine the feijoas and onions in a large saucepan. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir well while bringing to the boil. Simmer on low heat until thickened - about one hour.
Spoon into hot sterilised jars. Seal when cold. Makes about 5 cups.
PERSIMMON & CUCUMBER SALAD
1 large non-astringent persimmon
1/2 medium cucumber
2 tbsp each: chopped chives, parsley
Freshly ground salt and pepper to taste
Dressing: 4 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
Peel persimmon and slice thinly. Peel cucumber if the skin is tough.
Thinly slice the flesh. Combine with persimmon in a bowl with the herbs and seasonings. Pile on a serving platter.
Cover and chill until required. Stir the lemon juice and sugar until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the sesame oil and sprinkle over the salad ingredients.