Stefano de Pieri used to make a divine dessert at Stefano’s using the best of Mildura’s citrus. He’d arrange slices of pink and yellow grapefruit, oranges and mandarins on a platter, pour over hot caramel and drizzle the lot with Cointreau. The caramel would dissolve, becoming a delicious sauce. This simple, colourful dessert is great with custard or thick natural yoghurt.
The rind and flesh of grapefruit make excellent chutney, and the rind is delicious candied on its own. Pink grapefruit segments with crab, chilli, coriander and avocado, with a coconut and fish sauce dressing, makes a fine salad. While grapefruit grows everywhere from temperate to tropical and even desert climates, the best-tasting fruit comes from very hot areas, such as Arizona, Florida and Israel. The heat helps the ripening process, producing fruit sweeter than that grown in cooler regions.
Back home, grapefruit are grown in Victoria’s Mildura, as well as in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Depending on where they’re from, their season ranges from late summer to the end of winter. Grapefruit don’t ripen once they’re off the tree, so be sure to buy ripe specimens. Red varieties of grapefruit, also known as ruby or pink grapefruit, are becoming more popular and readily available. They’re much sweeter than their yellow-fleshed counterpart, and have fewer seeds.
The experience of eating an oyster that has been properly handled – that is, opened fresh and eaten straight away with its juice intact – is very different from eating one that has been opened in advance, probably under a running tap, and left to sit in the fridge for hours, if not days. The pristine oysters grown off Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and New South Walesdeserve better treatment, but sadly the latter example is still common in Australia.
Just as a winemaker works with nature to produce the most pure expression of a particular grape and its terroir, oysters are a direct expression of their environment, the microclimate and the work of the oyster farmer. With his farms along the estuary of the Clyde River in Batemans Bay on the New South Wales south coast, oysterman Steve Feletti is leading a revolution in oyster culture. “Great oysters are created by their provenance and affinage – the finishing process,” he says. Feletti’s practices are modelled on those of the great oyster farmers of the world, the French, and adapted to his specific microhabitats and our unique Australian conditions.
A range of factors influences the flavour and condition of an oyster: water salinity, temperature and pressure; the presence of mud or silt; levels of sun exposure; and tidal flow all come into play. Even lunar cycles affect the reproductive cycles of an oyster. Then there’s the farmer, who can manipulate the way oysters grow and the condition of their meat just by moving the racks they’re attached to closer to the surface or deeper in the water. Flavour differs from variety to variety. Pacific, Angasi and Sydney rock will taste different from one another and vary significantly in flavour depending upon the season and stage of reproductive cycle.
Oysters generally spawn over the hot summer months, but the quality of an oyster during and after its spawning cycle can be managed by the farmer. Oyster appreciation also comes down to education and personal taste. I especially appreciate oysters during the colder months, when they’re busy feeding and getting plump again. Their rich flavour at this time makes them particularly good eating. So buy a dozen – along with a sturdy shucker – and ask your fishmonger to show you how to shuck them (our tip: don’t rush it). Have them, in all their natural glory, for dinner.
It’s taken a third of my life to get over my school sandwiches: soggy, limp and stained purple by canned beetroot. Ugh. I now love
Apples, cumquats, custard apples, grapefruit, lemons, limes, mandarins, nashi, oranges, papaya, pomelos, rhubarb, tangelos.
Asian greens, avocados, beetroot, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, fennel, garlic, horseradish, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, kohlrabi, leek, okra, olives, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkins, shallots, silverbeet, spinach, swede, sweet potatoes, turnips, witlof.
Blue warehou, dusky flathead, grey mackerel, sand whiting, silver warehou, snapper, tailor.