I’m surprised at how I’ve been cooking and generally been interested in all things food for so many years, and the thought of making fresh fruit popsicles never occurred to me all these years.
A couple of weeks ago, I bought some black grapes on the insistence of my fruit vendor. And five days in, I hadn’t so much as touched them. Now, it’s not quite grape season, so these grapes didn’t come cheap and my frugal side suddenly got the better of me. So I popped them all into a blender, in the hope of making some fresh fruit juice. I also threw in a few cubes of ice and blitzed the whole thing up. When I opened the blender, there was a lot of grape skin, the kind that’d keep getting in the way of drinking and a nice sludgy purple mixture. I went ahead and strained the whole thing into a container and realized that that purple looked so good, I wanted to savour it for a little longer. So, I drank half and popped the other half in the freezer.
A few hours later, I went back to the freezer, having forgotten about the grape juice altogether and walked in on some half-set ice lollies. And I thought about the musk melon + coconut milk + honey popsicles I’d seen on a friend’s Instagram profile just the previous week. AND that’s how it all happened. I let the sludge melt down again, thought of pairing the grape with fennel seeds and lime. Because, why not! That gave me another idea! I ran over to my bookshelf and picked out a book I hadn’t opened in months!
Niki Segnit’s The Flavour Thesaurus. I was overjoyed when she’d mentioned that grapes indeed do pair well with fennel. Let’s do this, then!
So, off I went to the neighbourhood department store and picked up some ice lolly moulds.
I also painstakingly sketched out ideas for pictures, because hey, I’m trying to up my photograph game. Do you know of any food styling books or food photography books that will help me get better at this? I’m quite pleased with the results. Taking pictures of ice candies in natural light is painful, in my opinion, because everything melts all too quickly. It just seemed to work better for me late evenings when it was cooler out. Con: I had to use white light and invited the wrath of a few girlfriends because WHO TAKES PICTURES IN WHITE LIGHT!!!
Then, I made some watermelon popsicles last weekend and pushed the idea further. The top of the popsicles was watermelon (so that’s what goes into the moulds first). And the bottom was a green base, basil and lemon, to resemble a watermelon, duh! I left bits of crushed leaves in the mix, so that when I poured it over the half-set watermelon ice, the leaves would float to the top, and the whole setup, turned upside down, would look like a watermelon slice. I also thought about adding chia seeds to the watermelon, to let it look like watermelon seeds on the popsicle, but then figured I’d be pushing it, and decided against it eventually.
Here’s the fun thing about fresh fruit popsicles (Fresh Fruit Paletas has a much nicer ring to it, doesn’t it?) –
- There’s no added sugar, unless you want to add your own. For me, both times, the fruit was sweet enough and didn’t need any additives.
- They’re ridiculously easy to make.
- You can play around endlessly with flavours – we have three combinations that work right here:
- muskmelon + coconut milk + honey
- watermelon + basil + lemon
- black grapes + fennel + lemon
- They’re baby-nephew approved! Well, since they’re all natural and have no artificial colour, they’re a hit with the mommies (and the kids, of course)!
I’m tempted to do one with oranges as the base and some warm spice – cinnamon or cloves, perhaps. But I’m not entirely sure if it’ll work for this weather. We ARE trying to beat the heat with them paletas, non? Or then oranges with peaches or apricots!
I’ve also been thinking little chunks of kiwis and strawberries in coconut water (or perhaps some other variation of flavoured water). Hah, picking up a couple of flavoured vitamin water bottles from a store and adding some chopped fruit to it and freezing that into popsicles doesn’t sound like a bad idea.
Here’s a quick, generic recipes to make fresh fruit paletas:
2 cups of fresh fruit of your choice
2 tbsp of contrasting liquid flavour, optional (e.g.: 2 tbsp lemon juice or 2 tbsp water mixed steeped with cloves/cinnamon etc.)
2-4 tbsp water, as required
- Blitz the fresh fruit and the complementing flavour in a blender. Add a few tablespoons of water, if required, to ensure the resulting mixture is of pourable consistency.
- Strain the fruit mixture and pour into ice lolly moulds or into an ice tray.
- Serve chilled.
Pro Tip: Have fun making cocktails by serving them up with fresh fruit ice cubes. Think Bloody Mary where the ice cubes are made with tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. Added to a glass of vodka and lime juice and garnished with a celery stick.
Margaritas – lots of fruit flavoured crushed ice, topped up with Cointreau and Tequila and with a dash of lime.