How to pair fruit and vegetables.
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Cooking is largely about rules. Modern cuisine is often about breaking them. While the home cook seldom mixes vegetables with fruit, the unusual pairing is increasingly common in some high-end restaurants.
Set to be one of this summer’s hottest trends, leading the charge is Parisian chef Alain Passard, king of plant cuisine who abandoned meat at his 3-star Michelin restaurant 16 years ago. Passard champions blurring the line between what hangs off a branch and what grows in the ground. “J’adore peach and red pepper,” he told an American journalist a couple of years back. “It’s grandiose. I love cucumber and strawberry; zucchini and fig. And my favourite is tomato and pear in early September.”
So, this week let’s look at 10 great ways (and one other odd one) where you can mix and match fruit and vegetables successfully at home. Hopefully you’ll ‘adore’ at least one of these combos.
Roast wedges of Granny Smith apple alongside pumpkin for your pumpkin soup. Blend together with hot chicken stock. The apple will add brightness and lightness to the wintery soup making it perfect to eat in warmer weather.
Apple is so versatile. Try tossing batons in lemon juice to add to an iceberg salad with roasted grapes, cucumber and feta. Or give sweetness to curry sauces like that other French wunderkind, Alain Ducasse, with his cookpot of beetroot, carrot, celeriac and pumpkin. These are baked on a fennel curry sauce sweetened with a fine dice of apples and pears. And Brae’s Dan Hunter has proved in the most delicious way that parsnip and apple belong together in a dessert.
ACID IS YOUR FRIEND
Another secret for bringing fruit into the savoury world is to accentuate its acidity. Try making a salad of tomatoes with chunks of ripe plum. You’ll be amazed how vinaigrette can unite these two unlikely bedfellows. Watermelon works almost as well as plums. Or try the ’80s classic of marrying thin slices of strawberry and cucumber under a similar dressing, perhaps hit with sour cream for a richer texture.
SALT IS YOUR FRIEND TOO
It’s no different using grilled peaches or slices of pear in a rocket or spinach salad with something salty like goat’s cheese, prosciutto or parmesan to drag the fruit into the savoury realm.
ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK
Orange is one of the easiest fruits to partner with vegetables, whether in a salad with beetroot or radicchio, or roasted with carrots and ginger. Add a sticky mix of carrot and orange to warm couscous with crushed coriander seeds and mint to eat with lamb or pork chops.
24- CARROT GOLD
Carrots’ sweetness makes them capable of starring in everything from a carrot cake to a fudgy Indian carrot halwa. Make a hot carrot and roast peach puree to serve with pork or roast duck, or shred carrots and apple, then combine with a curried yoghurt dressing to serve as a slaw with burgers or chicken schnitzel.
WHEN IS VEG NOT VEG?
Botanists do make this quite tricky. Are tomatoes, cucumber, avocados and coconuts fruits or vegetables? The first three are classed as types of berry, but given their predominant use as savoury ingredients it’s easier for us to see them as vegetables. A coconut is classed as a fruit, or more accurately, it is a drupe, like stone fruit. Coconut partners with cauliflower well in a puree to serve alongside seafood or poached chicken, and is equally delicious toasted in a frypan with ribbons of cabbage.
Bitter, leafy greens can really benefit from the acidity fruit brings to the party. Add grapefruit segments to a kale salad, or turn your favourite green juice into a salad by tossing kale, spinach leaves, cucumber, celery, apple and grapes with lime juice, olive oil and salt flakes.
THE BEST SURPRISES
Sometimes the best combinations are the most surprising. Phoebe Wood, delicious. food director, swears by fresh figs and asparagus with breadcrumbs, a tangy cheese and a drizzle of vino cotto.
DO IT IN DESSERT
Try using fragrant vegetables in desserts. The aniseed flavour of roasted or candied fennel goes well with strawberries, while celery, destringed and thinly sliced, works with pears or fresh blackberries, bringing briary notes to the berries.
PARSNIP BANANAS, SERIOUSLY?
In war-torn Britain, people roasted parsnips with rum and beet sugar as a substitute for the unavailable bananas. Using this as inspiration and bake some parsnips, then add peeled, halved bananas to the tray near the end of cooking. Toss in a dressing made from butter, maple syrup and mustard seeds. Throw over crushed, salted cashews and serve with Sunday’s roast chicken.