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AUTUMN APPEALS

Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.
Samuel Butler, English author.

So let’s enjoy these seasonal treats: apples, nashi and eggplants plus pumpkin.

Eggplant — commonly thought of as a vegetable — is actually a fruit, or more specifically, a berry. Also known as aubergine it is popular around the world. It originated in India but was introduced to Europe over 1500 years ago where it is now a staple. Eggplant belongs to the nightshade family, and so is related to the potato and tomato.

When choosing an eggplant, look for an even colour, firmness and a smooth, shiny skin. A heavy eggplant is a good indication that it has a large amount of flesh and few seeds.

The Japanese pear or nashi has been increasing in popularity every year due to its versatility. It has the texture and shape of an apple and the flavour of a pear. Nashi are excellent eaten raw but you can also poach or bake them. Use raw in sweet or savoury salads, on a cheeseboard or in smoothies; or pan-fry to serve with pork or chicken; stuff with dates and bake for dessert; or grate into muffins or cakes.

New season’s pumpkin is a particular joy as, during the last few months, it has been in short supply and relatively expensive. Pumpkin soup is comfort food and is even more moreish with a couple of added apples.

EGGPLANT BRUSCHETTA

Make your own balsamic glaze by combining equal amounts of good quality balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Heat until the sugar is dissolved then cool.

1 large eggplant
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 medium tomatoes, sliced
1/2 large avocado, stoned, peeled and diced
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
freshly ground salt and pepper to taste
4 thin rashers prosciutto
sliced basil to garnish
Topping: 1/4-1/2 cup balsamic glaze

Trim the stem end of the eggplant. Cut a sliver from 2 sides so the slices will lie flat. Cut the eggplant lengthwise into 1cm-thick slices.

Combine the olive oil and garlic. Generously brush both sides of the slices. The eggplant will absorb the lot.

Heat a ridged frying pan on medium. Pan-fry the slices for about 2-3 minutes each side, until softened.

Top with the tomatoes, avocado, lemon juice and seasonings. Add twists of prosciutto on top then garnish with basil. Just before serving, drizzle with the balsamic glaze. Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a light meal.

HASSELBACK NASHI

Best enjoyed warm.

3 nashi
1/4 cup each: water, maple syrup
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick, broken
1 teaspoon whole cloves

Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Halve the nashi lengthwise. Using a teaspoon, scoop out the cores. Trim off the stems. Place the nashi — cut-side down — on a board. With a sharp knife, make thin (5mm) parallel cuts almost through to the base.

Place — cut-side down — in a baking dish just large enough to hold the nashi in a single layer.

Combine the remaining ingredients and pour over the nashi.

Bake for about 25 minutes until tender, basting occasionally. Great served with whipped cream. Serves 4-6.

APPLE & MUNG BEAN SLAW

I used a julienne shredder to cut the apples.

Dressing: 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup each: water, fish sauce, rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 teaspoon finely diced chilli
Slaw: 2 large apples, halved and cored
1 cup trimmed mung bean sprouts
1/4 cup chopped coriander or parsley
1/2 cup honey-roasted peanuts

Place lemon juice, water, fish sauce, rice vinegar and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to the boil stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Cool. Add the garlic and chilli. This dressing may be stored in a covered glass jar in the fridge for up to a week.

Finely shred the apples and place in a bowl. Add the sprouts and coriander. Drizzle with a little of the dressing and toss. Garnish with the peanuts. Serves 3-4.



 

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