I was never a fan of the sabji mandi back in India, but then, I didn’t have to cook for a fussy family.
That’s changed now that we live in Australia, and my wanderings through aisles of fruit and vegetables have yielded unusual finds such as asparagus, quince, celery, kumquat, persimmon and tamarillo, to name a few.
These were only familiar to me through cookbooks and cooking shows.
But now, I am slowly experimenting with these exotic offerings, and am finding ways to introduce them into our daily cuisine.
It’s a bit off the traditional track, but these easy to cook recipes enhance our daily cuisine.
And the results have been interesting and surprisingly pleasurable.
This makes a great teatime treat or even a dessert, as quince is a more exotic substitute than the trustworthy, humble (and boring) apple.
For the pastry
1 cup wholemeal flour
¼ cup white sugar
70 g butter, softened
For the filling
About 500g quinces
½ cup apple juice
2 tbsp white sugar
¾ cup slivered almonds
2/3 cup cream cheese or mascarpone cheese
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Grate half the lemon and place rind, flour, sugar, 2 tbsp water and the butter in a bowl. Knead to a smooth dough and add more water if needed.
Take a 26cm cake tin and line with pastry, shaping an edge 2.5 cm high. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Next, preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Quarter, peel and core quinces and cut into slices of 1cm thickness.
Peel a few thin strips of rind from the orange. Then, cut it in half and squeeze out the juice.
In a saucepan, bring juice, rind, apple juice and sugar to a boil. Add quince slices and poach over low heat for 15 minutes. Strain, retaining the liquid; allow to cool. Discard rind.
Remove the chilled pastry tin from the fridge and sprinkle the almonds over the pastry base.
Pre-bake the pastry for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 180 degrees C. Place quinces on the pastry base.
Whisk the reserved cooled cooking liquid with the eggs and cream cheese; pour over the fruit. Bake for a further 30 minutes.
Combine honey and cinnamon. Spread over tart. Leave tart in the turned-off oven for 10 minutes.
Gently remove pastry from tin after thoroughly cooled. Serve and enjoy.
Gourmet kumquats chutney circles
This is a great dish with a touch of Indian spices to serve up as an hors d’oeuvre at a party.
Kumquats are the smallest of citrus fruit with a sweet skin and zest, but a tangy and mildly bitter inside.
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 red onion, finely diced
½ tsp dried red chilli flakes
½ tsp black mustard seeds
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp turmeric
4cm cinnamon sticks, snapped in half
500g kumquats, sliced in half lengthways
65g light brown sugar
120g sherry vinegar
1 sheet of puff pastry
Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan on a moderate heat, and add the red onion.
Fry for 2-3 minutes until the onion has softened and becomes lighter.
Add the chillies, mustard seeds, cumin, turmeric and cinnamon to the pan. Continue frying for a further 2 minutes.
Drop in the kumquats and cook for 3-4 minutes, until just beginning to soften.
Add the brown sugar and pour over the vinegar, while still on the heat.
Cover, and simmer for 8-10 minutes, until the kumquats have completely softened and lost their shape.
Remove the lid and continue boiling for a further 6-8 minutes until the juices have cooked down and thickened.
Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool.
Allow the puff pastry sheet to soften slightly, then cut into shapes of circles, squares or stars with cookie cutters.
Place shapes on a baking tray and bake at 200 degrees C for 8-10 minutes until the pastry has risen slightly.
Remove from the oven, place a portion of the kumquat chutney in the centre of each shape.
Return to the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes until the pastry is puffy and cooked through. Remove, cool and serve as a delicious hors d’oeuvre.
Can also be served separately with dipping pita bread or on chappatis.