Fresh Fruit Paletas

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!!!

Black Grape, Lemon and Fennel Paletas
Black Grape, Lemon and Fennel Paletas

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.

Watermelon, Lemon and Basil Paletas
Watermelon, Lemon and Basil Paletas

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:

Ingredients

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

Method

  1. 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.
  2. Strain the fruit mixture and pour into ice lolly moulds or into an ice tray.
  3. 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.

Tender Coconut Pudding

Tender Coconut Pudding
Tender Coconut Pudding

Remember my dessert disaster from the first Cookbook potluck I’d organized a few weeks ago? I was so upset with the aftertaste on the pudding, that I knew I wanted to make it again the right way. And so I did.

Here’s what went wrong the first time around, and what I did differently when I tried the recipe again.

  1. The recipe calls for dissolving the gelatin in warm milk. The first time around, I thought the gelatin could do with a little more dissolving/melting, but I didn’t want to add more milk to the mixture, lest I lessen the flavour of the tender coconut. So, I added coconut water to the milk + gelatin mixture and microwaved that for about 30 seconds. That’s what ruined it. I suspect the coconut water began to ferment and lent a weird aftertaste to the finished pudding.
  2. The second time around, I didn’t fret about the gelatin not dissolving all the way in the milk. I strained it and used it in the condensed milk + coconut water + tender coconut bits mixture as is. What I ended up with was the creamiest, yummiest, tender-coconut-iest pudding ever! You know how too much gelatin can end up making the finished product a little shiny and jiggly? That’s not how this was. All of the creaminess was still intact, and that just made me utterly happy.
  3. It’s worth playing around with the quantities of coconut water and condensed milk because the latter can make the final result too sweet for some. I think my second attempt was perfect and my diabetic grandmum-in-law ate a whole serving by herself. But my grandmum (who isn’t diabetic, but has a sweet tooth) complained that it was too sweet for her liking. I think I need to change my target audience.
Tender Coconut Pudding

 

 

Chocolate Truffles

Super easy and a super success with family and colleagues, alike!

Ingredients:
Cooking chocolate (I use 45% cocoa or 72% cocoa and I’ve once done a mix of both!)
A third the amount of cream as the chocolate you’re using
Cocoa powder, for rolling

Other (optional) ingredients:
Slivered almonds, for rolling
Caramel, for filling
Assorted nuts, for filling
Candied orange peel, for filling
Raisins (or rum soaked raisins!) for filling
Chilli flakes/powder, for rolling
Coffee powder, for rolling
Coloured sprinkles, for rolling

Method:
Making the ganache:
1. Melt the chocolate using a double boiler, or like I do – bring some water to boil in a pan. Take it off the heat. Place another smaller bowl with the chocolate inside the hot water and stir continuously until the chocolate melts.
2. For every cup of chocolate, add about 4 tablespoons of cream (or a fourth of a cup). This step might take some experimenting with. I don’t use a fixed recipe for the truffles I make. But a good way to do this would be to start by adding a fourth of the amount of cream. The mixture should be the consistency of a nice, thick batter.
3. Put this in the refrigerator for about an hour. When you take a look at it then and are able to easily scoop it out with your fingers or a spoon and it feels like sticky dough, you know you’re good.
4. If it’s too solid, you might need to go through the process of melting the mixture again and adding some more cream to it, another couple of tablespoons perhaps. However, if the mixture is too fluid, you know you added too much cream, and you might need to add a little more chocolate. I know that somewhere between a fourth and a third of cream works for me.

Making the truffles:
1. When the ganache is the right consistency, grease your palms with butter and set some cocoa powder out in a dish.
2. Scoop out a small amount of the ganache and dip it a little in the cocoa powder and roll it into a ball in your palms.
3. That’s plain truffles for you, right there! You can eat them right away or put them away to eat later. These stay good up to a few days, so you can make them a day ahead of a party, if you like.

Here are the mixes I do:
1. Coffee powder and slivered almonds – and then I roll the ganache in this mixture, instead of the cocoa powder.
2. I add a pinch of chilli powder to the ganache while I make it and then roll the ganache in cocoa powder and another pinch of chilli powder for chilli-chocolate truffles
3. I’ve used caramel that I’ve had left over from another dessert. I flatten the ganache out a little into a rough patty. Then add a tiny dollop of caramel and close the ganache over it and then proceed to roll it in cocoa powder. Caramel filled truffles are insanely awesome!
4. I’ve soaked raisins in rum one time, for a few hours. And put those inside of a ganache ball and rolled them in cocoa to finish up. These are like mini surprises because you’re all “Oh, truffle! Yum!” and then you bite into some strong rum and raisin and you’re all “Whoa!”
5. I made candied orange peel one time and used those inside the truffles too!

Another thing you could do is melt some chocolate on the side. Stick a toothpick into your ganache ball and dip it into the chocolate. So you end up with truffles that are crunchy on the outside and gooey, soft on the inside.

You could also use any other nuts or dried fruits of your choice either inside the truffle or to coat it.

Oh, I also got myself an Instagram account a few weeks ago. So there are some update there as well now, for those of you who’re interested.

Until more posts, happy eating!

Banoffee Pie

Happy New Year and all of that!

I’ve been very erratic with blog posts this past year and I hope I can change that this year. The one way I *can* do that is by keeping my posts short – especially the ones with recipes. So, here goes:

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Banoffee Pie:
Ingredients:
1 400g tin of condensed milk (I used MilkMaid)
3 ripe bananas
2 cups whipping cream (I used 1 packet of BlueBird Whipping Cream powder and followed instructions on the packet to make it)
1 pie crust (my go-to recipe here)
1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee powder

Method:
1. Let the (unopened) tin of condensed milk boil, on low flame, fully submerged in a vessel filled with water, for 3 – 3.5 hours. When you open the tin, it will be a delicious gooey brown toffee, just the kind you’d find inside a truffle. No kidding!
2. While your condensed milk in magically converting itself into toffee, you can make you pie crust. (or go for a movie or a dinner date!)
3. Let the toffee cool down to room temperature and make some whipped cream, in the meanwhile.
4. Chop some bananas just before you wish to assemble the pie and also make a quick mix with the cocoa powder and the coffee.
5. Layering the banoffee pie is easy – at the bottom of the pie crust goes the toffee. Then you layer it with sliced bananas. You top it off with whipped cream. And finally sprinkle a teaspoon of coffee and cocoa powder, for pretties.

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6. Chill for a couple of hours before serving.

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Notes:
1. I find this method of making toffee/caramel extremely easy, totally fool proof and absolutely amazing. I’ve bombed making caramel from sugar (and condensed milk!) ever so often that it’s such a relief this works so well for me.
2. I’m not particularly a fan of bananas or banoffee pie, I find the latter cloyingly sweet. But everybody who ate this had good things to say.

Among other things, I’m on Instagram. I hope to post mostly food pictures. Though I do I resolve to not stop blogging, for sure!

Candied Orange Peel

As it happened one afternoon, I was craving jujubes. I also had a couple of oranges sitting around at home from mulled wine cravings from a couple of days before that. I’m not a fruit person, really. So chances that I buy fruit and then I have to throw them away are high. It’s not that I don’t *like* fruit. It just never occurs to me to get enough of it/them into my daily routine (and diet).

So, I sat down, peeled a couple oranges and finished them. Because I had too. For the orange peel, if nothing else.

I looked up a recipe online and it seemed simple enough to get started on.

Ingredients:
1 cup orange peels, cut into pieces about an inch long and an eight of an inch wide
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar, for rolling

Method:
1. Bring the water to boil in a saucepan.
2. Add sugar to it and let it dissolve and let this cook on a low flame until it begins to simmer.
3. Let it simmer for another 8-10 minutes.
4. Add the orange peel and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, preferably on low heat, so that the mixture continues to simmer. Stirring a couple of times to make sure the orange peels are coated with the sugar syrup is good. But too much stirring may cause the sugar to crystallize around the peels, which is something you want to avoid.
5. Turn the heat off when the orange peels are translucent. Drain the liquid off and spread the peels out to dry for a few hours or overnight.
6. Roll in sugar and store in an airtight container.

Candied orange peels will stay good in your refrigerator for up to a few weeks, so you can make a batch and use them in dessert as and when you like!

Reference: http://www.brighteyedbaker.com/confessions101/diy-candied-orange-peel/

The featured image for this post is from a stock image on Pixabay.