Fruits and spice make all things nice

Updated: Jun 12, 2018


Summer is on in full swing and I am thoroughly enjoying the abundance of summer fruits. Of course the grand mango clearly dominates the Indian fruit markets, but then, it would not be the king of fruits if it did not do so. However, there are also the humble plums, peaches, cherries, jamuns and lychees scattered around this season. These succulent stone fruits are bursting with flavours and are truly a chef’s delight.

We all know that fruits are super healthy, full of vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients that are good for us. So I will not get into that. I would rather elaborate on the various ways in which we can eat our fruits. We usually have them throughout the day as a snack or after a meal. We also have them as juices, or blended with yogurt in smoothies. The latest trend is also to combine granola with fruits and nuts as a healthy breakfast.

As for me, I add fruits in my main meals. I cook with them, combine them with salt and spices and chillies and turn them into savoury dishes. Fruits are a chef’s best friend these days and there is no limit to creativity with these gorgeous gifts of nature. 

Traditional Indian cooking has used raw fruits in curries, bhajis, pickles and chutneys. That’s what I remember seeing and eating at home as a child. However, it is the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern kitchens which have greatly inspired me with their style of adding fruit to most of their mezze, salads, meat and fish creations. That burst of citrus, the blend of sweet and tart or just the soft texture of a ripe fruit can elevate a simple dish to another level.

Mangoes are a very versatile fruit and ripe mangoes are a lovely ingredient to add to curries, grills and salads. The sweet flavour blends well with spices and chillies. Add some diced mangoes to a simple barley or quinoa salad along with some fresh greens and a lemon olive oil vinaigrette. Prawns and mangoes are a match made in heaven. Pair a mango salad with some garlic grilled prawns. Add diced mangoes to a Thai or Indian prawn curry and your taste buds will be dancing.




Here’s my recipe for a spicy Mexican mango salsa with prawns which has been a rave at my culinary workshops. You can serve the salsa as a chunky dip with chips or add it to a Mexican taco or even a kathi roll! Substitute prawns with firm tofu for a veggie version.



GRILLED PRAWNS WITH MANGO SALSA


What you need-

  • 500g large prawns, de-shelled with tails on

  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1tsp sweet paprika

  • Extra virgin olive oil

  • 3 mangoes, cut neatly in cubes

  • 1 red chilli, de-seeded and thinly sliced (or dry chilli flakes)

  • ¼ cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped

  • ¼ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Lemon juice to taste (depends on the tartness of the fruit)

Putting it all together-

1. Marinate the prawns with minced garlic, 1 tbsp olive oil, sweet paprika and seasoning. Leave aside for half an hour at least.

2. For the mango salsa, combine the mangoes, chilly, coriander and mint leaves in a bowl. Add 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and season well to taste. It should have a nice balance of sweet, salt, sour and spicy flavours. Chill in the refrigerator.

3. Heat a griddle pan, add a dash of olive oil. Once hot, grill the prawns and toss around till pink on both sides.

4. To plate individual portions, place the mango salsa in the center of the plate and top with 4-5 prawns. Garnish with fresh coriander and mint sprigs on top. Serve with a wedge of lemon on the side.


Citrus is always good. Lemons and limes have been an indispensible part of any cuisine. However, oranges were best enjoyed in a juice or eaten whole while relaxing in the sun. I have been adding orange wedges, juice and the aromatic zest to salads, dressings, raitas, sauces and almost anything else cooking in my kitchen. Asian dishes with salty soy sauce or miso taste delicious with a touch of orange.




ORANGE TERIYAKI FISH/TOFU


What you need-

  • 2 fish fillets (seabass, salmon or any firm fish)

  • 1tsp ginger

  • 4tbsp soy sauce 

  • 2tbsp honey

  • 2tbsp orange juice or more

  • 5-6 fresh orange slices or wedges

  • Salt and pepper

  • Any type of oil for cooking

  • 2tsp sesame seeds

  • Spring onions, sliced for garnish

Putting it together-

1) Combine the soy, orange juice and honey in a bowl.

2) Clean the fish and rub with oil on all sides. Season well with salt and pepper. Rub the ginger over. You may use less if you like.

3) Pour the marinade over and leave to rest for half an hour to one hour.

4) Heat a frying pan and add a bit of oil.

5) Once the pan is very hot, place the fish fillets, skin side down and pour the rest of the marinade over. Cook on one side, then flip over. Add the orange slices around the pan and on the fish.

6) The sauce will gradually reduce and coat the fish. Add a dash of orange juice to deglaze the pan and scrape off the sticky bit from the pan. This is all the tasty bits.

7) If you would like more gravy, add more soy sauce, honey or orange juice to taste.

8) Sprinkle some sesame seeds and garnish with spring onions.



Fig is a classic Mediterranean fruit used in innovative ways around the region. The Greeks pair it with grilled haloumi in their Fig Saganaki, the Italians enjoy it with prosciutto on a pizza and in Morocco and Israel it’s a regular in salads and tagines. Personally, I prefer fresh figs to dried ones and usually roast them in the oven with some honey. I then add them to a simple toast with cream cheese or to a salad with greens, parmesan and toasted nuts.


Here’s a modern Greek appetizer of whole figs baked with feta, honey and balsamic. Really easy and quick to make and goes rather well with wine. You can do the same with peach halves when figs are not in season.


Honey roasted figs with feta

HONEY ROASTED FIGS WITH FETA


What you need-


  • 8 fresh ripe figs

  • 1 cup feta or goat cheese

  • 2tbsp honey

  • ½ cup hazelnuts or other nuts, chopped

  • Thick balsamic vinegar to drizzle on top(optional)


Putting it together-

1) Preheat the oven to 180C

2) Cut off the top ends of the figs and make a slit ¾ of the way down the centre. Do the same in the other direction so you get a ‘X’. Gently open the fig out slightly to make place in the centre, careful not to break it.

3) Place the figs on a baking dish or tray and drizzle with honey.

4) Fill each one with 1tsp of feta, allowing some to remain on top so you can see the white colour.

5) Sprinkle chopped hazelnuts on top.

6) Bake for about 12-15 minutes.

7) Drizzle some thick balsamic vinegar (optional) and serve warm.


PRETTY POMEGRANATE

The humble anar is a part of my family’s daily diet. It is extremely rich in vitamins and antioxidants and has various disease-preventing qualities, and above all, my kids love picking on the little arils and popping them as magical berries. 

In addition to its natural sweetness, pomegranate adds a lovely crunch and texture. Of course, its ruby-like appearance brightens up any simple dish instantly. Add a handful of arils along with some fresh mint to a baingan bharta, raita or a chicken curry and you will love the pop of freshness. One of my signature weekday dishes at home is a whole roasted cauliflower, seasoned with Indian spices, topped with yogurt and fresh pomegranate and mint. Easy to make and so comforting. 

If you are bored of the usual Mexican guacamole, here’s my pomegranate guacamole recipe. It will definitely get your guests talking at your next party.

Pomegranate guacamole

Pomegranate guacamole

What you need-

  • 1 ripe avocado

  • ½ clove crushed garlic

  • Juice of 1 lime

  • Salt and cracked black pepper

  • Chilli flakes to taste (optional)

  • 1tsbp chopped coriander

  • ½ onion, finely chopped

  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds


Putting it together-

1) Mash avocado in a bowl with the back of a fork. Leave it a bit chunky.

2) Add all remaining ingredients and adjust to taste.



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