Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Princess of Fruits

Sometimes I find myself hesitating whether to blog about my triumphant returns with mise en place from Barrio Chino (China town) because my readers may go there on my recommendation and come back empty handed.

It seems shopping there requires vulture-like focus and determination, not to mention swift decision making abilities. Procrastination often means the product is gone and no one knows when it would be in stock again, if ever.

Since winter 2005, I have returned to Casa China many times to enquire about their dried rose buds, only to be directed to rosa mosqueta (rosehip) - apples and oranges clearly. I recently bought lavanda (lavender flowers) from them and guess what? The entire stock has been purchased when I popped in a week later.

It is a mixed blessing that the better supermarkets in Barrio Chino serve as wholesalers to a new breed of fashionable restaurants and some truly creative culinary professionals. As a result, we, the retail customers, benefit from a wide range of products from all over the world at competitive prices; however, it also means that the entire stock of something could be wiped off the shelf by one single chef doing his/her shopping. It is a dog eat dog world out on the aisles.

Over all, I have no complaints. I popped into Asia Oriental just the other evening, before Diana treated us to a wonderful dinner at Nueva Chinatown, to find a selection of purée de fruits from Les Vergers Boiron – a French fruit specialist. This was a new find! In stock were puree of cassis (blackcurrant/ sauco), lychee and coconut; prices ranged from A$56 to A$73 per kilo. I assume they would be snapped up by trade customers.

It is said that the pungent durian is the king of fruits and the almost impossible to transport mangosteen is the queen, then lychee has got to be the princess for its fragile prettiness alone. I don't think we can get fresh lychees in Argentina although the northern climate may be suitable for cultivation (some parts of Australia has been successfully producing lychees for domestic consumption as well as export for a decade now), so meanwhile we can either cough up A$73 for a kilo of puree from France or we can get tinned whole lychees from China, actually where this fruit is grown, for a fraction of the former.

I love fresh lychees and I wouldn't do anything to them except popping the transulent and fragrant globes in my mouth. On the other hand, if I have to work with a frozen puree or tinned fruits, I think the best medium to showcase its unique scent is a sorbet or an ice cream.

Lychee Ice Cream:
1½ cups canned seedless lychee, drained & pureed
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
¾ cup sugar
2 egg yolks, beaten
¼ cup fresh lemon juice/ juice from the tinned fruits

Combine the cream, milk and sugar in a saucepan or double boiler; heat until warm and the sugar is completely dissolved. Add 1 cup of the cream mixture to the yolks while whisking lightly. Gradually pour the egg mixture back into the cream mixture while continuing to whisk lightly.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the back of your spoon is thinly coated, about 8 minutes. Do not allow it to boil or the ice cream custard mixture will curdle.

Add the lychee puree and lemon juice and let it cool in the refrigerator overnight.

Freeze in an electric ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. If you don't have an ice cream maker, you can put the ice cream custard in a bowl and put it in your freezer for a couple of hours, take it out and whisk until ice particles are broken down. Repeat the process a few times.

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