Have you ever shopped at Impala Fruiterers in Northcliff, Johannesburg? What a banquet for the senses. I've only ever seen more beautiful fresh produce at a market in Italy. You can get anything - anything - at Impala: the crispiest, greenest organic lettuces and leaves, the most pungent herbs, the juiciest seasonal fruit, the ripest tomatoes and avocados, not to mention a huge array of fresh nuts, dried fruit, olive oils, preserves, grains and pulses. And a host of seasonal fruits and veggies that you won't see on the shelves of Pick 'n Pay: fat bulbs of fennel, kohlrabi, celeriac, pomegranates, prickly pears, starfruit, quinces, fresh porcini mushrooms, to mention a few. The produce isn't expensive: in fact, it's so reasonable that Woolies should hang their heads in shame.
I bought a gigantic carton of seasonal goodies today, for a mere R280. Most delicious of all are huge, juicy, ruby-red plums that are the sweetest I've ever tasted, and a big bag of purply catawba grapes. There is something about the taste of a catawba that just sends me into raptures: if you don't know what I'm talking about, try to remember the musky sweetness of the grapes you plucked off a vine growing over someone's stoep (that's a veranda) twenty years ago. In all likelihood, it was a catawba grape. This is the taste of dusty summer days and sun-warmed slasto patios (remember slasto?), a taste so evocative of my farm childhood that biting into one of these grapes actually brought a lump to my throat.
In fact, the produceI bought today was so utterly beautiful that I couldn't resist taking about 1000 photographs.
What my fruit bowl looks like now.
What my other fruit bowl looks like now. The beautiful smoke-fired platter is made by my uncle David Walters, master potter of Franschhoek.
Had enough of gratuitous fruit and vegetable pictures? Okay, here's a recipe. Well, not really a recipe, but what I did with some of the fruit I bought. (If you've read my last post, you'll know that I'm craving red food at the moment). Sorry the picture's a bit blurry: it was getting dark.
Red Fruit Salad
- ripe red plums, pipped and cut into eighths
- seedless red or black grapes
- pomegranate seeds (as IF you have these in your fridge. I've ranted at length about recipes that call for exotic ingredients already. Sorry.)
- frozen cranberries (Ditto. But look, I had them in my freezer. Use strawberries or raspberries, or even tinned black cherries, instead)
- little cubes of watermelon
- 1 T (15 ml) sugar
- juice of half a lemon
- fresh mint or lemon balm leaves
Tenderly combine all the fruit in a bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar and lemon juice, and tuck the lemon balm leaves into the salad. Chill for at least an hour. Serve with cream.
A fruit salad of these gorgeous plums would be delicious with this spicy sugar syrup. I didn't have time to make syrup, but if there are any plums left over tomorrow (hope springs eternal) they will find themselves dressed in this:
Spicy Sugar Syrup
1 cup (250 ml) white sugar
1 cup (250 ml) water
1 star anise
1 stick cinnamon
a long shaving of lemon zest
Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently, swirling the pot occasionally (don't stir it). When the mixture boils, add the remaining ingredients, turn down the heat a little and simmer for fifteen minutes. Set aside and allow to cool completely. Strain the syrup over the plums. Chill well before serving.
There are endless variations on this recipe. You could add any of the following ( in appropriate flavour combinations): grated fresh ginger, a vanilla pod, a few peppercorns, a bay leaf, crushed coriander or cardamom seeds (odd, but it works), orange zest, white wine, rooibos tea, lemon grass, a sprig of thyme or rosemary, rose water or a few whole cloves.