ALSO IN SEASON
Apricots, bananas, berries, cherries, lemons, lychees, mangoes, pineapples, rockmelons, Valencia oranges, watermelons.
Asparagus, avocados, capsicum, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce, onions, peas, squash, sweetcorn, tomatoes, zucchini, zucchini flowers.
Atlantic salmon, blue swimmer crabs, Sydney rock oysters.
I grew up with a rambling passionfruit vine on the back fence, so in summer there were endless supplies of this delightful and exotic fruit which we mainly squeezed directly into our mouths, or occasionally scooped over vanilla ice-cream.
I love the unique flavour of passionfruit, juicy and a little piquant. The juice makes a terrific curd (mixed with a little orange juice) and I do have a soft spot for old-fashioned passionfruit pavlova.
A vigorous evergreen vine originally from the Americas, it is native to subtropical and tropical regions but has established itself well in Australia. In hot climates, passionfruit vines produce fruit all year round, peaking in summer and again in winter, but in cooler climates fruit ripen in mid to late summer only.
A ripe passionfruit turns from green to dark purple then starts to wrinkle. Very wrinkly fruit that feels light may be overripe and empty of juice. Choose fruit that is dark, heavy and beginning to wrinkle. I like to make passionfruit curd to swirl through organic cream or a great yoghurt and serve with cake, or to fill a classic sponge along with some whipped cream.
Cranking up the oven on a hot Christmas day isn’t really all that appealing, yet the tradition of roasting turkey come Christmas has endured here in Australia. For me, it’s about sourcing the very best turkey, cooking it gently and slowly and wholeheartedly celebrating this great, albeit ridiculous, tradition.
I recently spoke with a turkey farmer out in Dadswells Bridge in western Victoria who rears beautiful free-range turkeys of excellent quality. Daryl Deutscher has been breeding turkeys for 35 years now and is passionate about his birds, especially his rare-breed varieties, which have been a hobby since childhood. His turkeys always receive high praise from the specialty shops that sell his produce, and Daryl attributes this to the high-quality diet, the breed, plenty of sunshine and access to pasture.
I am pleased that the quality and range of turkeys available nowadays have vastly improved. A good, free-range bird reared well makes all the difference. Quality butchers and specialist poultry suppliers offer fresh (as opposed to frozen) and free-range birds of various size. Buying from a quality supplier is definitely worth the effort and it pays to order well in advance.
I prefer to cook a large turkey because an older bird will have a more pronounced flavour than a younger one, and because everyone loves the leftovers. An older bird also has a little more fat than a young one, and cooked on the bone it will be succulent.
Regardless of the size of your turkey, the best way to cook a bird is gently. The most common turkey ruination comes from overcooking your bird at too high a temperature – turkey is actually quite a delicate meat and requires a delicate hand. Relatively slow roasting with plenty of basting will give you a moist and tender bird.
I remember as a child my mother bringing home punnets of her very first Australian redcurrants. She was beside herself with excitement – berries from her home country. Back in Bavaria they grew on a bush in her family’s backyard and she had grown up eating redcurrants every summer, usually picked in the countryside. I remember that every summer after that, mum would bake flans with a sponge/biscuit kind of base filled with custard and topped with redcurrants, and also delicious cheesecakes made with quark and topped with redcurrants and a beautiful red jelly.
Redcurrants are a little sour, which is why they go so well with cream and custard but also why they need a little sweet jelly or sugar for balance. Of course redcurrant jelly makes a divine accompaniment to baked ham or turkey and is equally delicious on buttered toast.
My uncle Wilfried grows redcurrants on his farm in Gippsland, Victoria, and each year he steeps the currants in brandy to produce a very fine liqueur from them. To make your own, fill a sterilised bottle with 30 per cent redcurrants and 30 per cent caster sugar, then fill the remaining 40 per cent with a good brandy or vodka. Leave it in a cool, dark pantry for a couple of months, turning occasionally.
It’s been great to see the humble radish coming into fashion lately as it appears on restaurant menus about town – I have noticed the long French variety used in a beautiful salad at Andrew McConell’s restaurant Cumulus Inc in Melbourne. I have also bought some lovely small, elongated radishes from the farmers’ markets, a variety you do not normally see in the conventional markets.
This crisp, pungent root vegetable makes a great accompaniment to rich terrines when sprinkled with a little salt, or it can be served with poached chicken with boiled waxy potatoes and a crème fraîche and dill sauce. It is also delicious eaten simply with bread, butter and salt.
I love radishes in a salad, my favourite version being a Sicilian salad of tomato, cucumber, boiled potato, radish and mint. I also enjoy them in a Greek-style salad of cos, cucumber, oregano, feta and olives.
The radish is part of the mustard (or brassicaceae) family, which also includes horseradish, turnips and cress. It has a sharp, peppery flavour which varies in heat depending on variety and time of year.
Andrew Wood has an organic farm in Central Victoria where he grows the French Breakfast variety, an elongated small red radish with a white foot. He says that although radishes can be grown throughout the year, summer is a particularly good time to be eating them as they are in peak condition: “Radishes like the heat and they like to grow fast. In summer you sow the seeds and in pretty much six weeks you are harvesting. So you end up with these really solid, crisp radishes that have plenty of pepper to them.” Radishes that stay in the soil for too long tend to be rubbery and tough.
At Melbourne’s Collingwood farmers’ market, one stallholder sells the Black Spanish radish, a large radish which has a slightly dimpled surface, a very purple black exterior and a sharp, peppery taste.
I have only ever used radishes raw in salads, but Wood says they can also be peeled and poached in chicken stock. They taste quite similar to turnips, a little sweet, and they make a lovely addition to braised rabbit or chicken. The leaves can be prepared like silverbeet or spinach, sautéed in a little olive oil and garlic and finished with a squeeze of lemon.