Flirting with Flavour


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Pickin’ up pawpaws, put ’em in your pocket…

A couple of weeks ago, while at the annual Anniversary Weekend of the mosque where I went to pre-school, I tried pawpaw fruit for the first time.  The mosque has a farm where they grow a number of different fruits and vegetables.  And as I wandering around, I stopped to admire (hungrily, I might add) the apples that had been brought in from the farm.  In a small wicker basket on the edge of the table with the apples, were a fruit that I thought might be some kind of mango or papaya.  Unsure, I asked what they were.  “Pawpaws”, came the reply.

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Pickin up pawpaws, put ‘em in your pocket… A familiar, yet unfamiliar, tune made its way into my head.  Please tell me you also remember this nursery rhyme from your childhood?!

Upon asking a few more questions (and a couple google searches), I found out that pawpaw trees are native to the north east of the United States and are absolutely not related to papaya, which occasionally are given the nickname pawpaw.  They do, however, taste very tropical, a bit like a banana crossed with a mango and a hint of something that would make it the perfect accompaniment to a Piña Colada, and have the texture of papaya.  Their seeds are shaped like the stretched out pennies you can get as a souvenir at the zoo and there are lots of them, which make them a bit messy to eat.

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I had my first few bites of pawpaw and we threw ideas back and forth about what could be done with them, aside from eating them fresh – smoothies, curry, chilli, tea loaf, muffins, cookies, custard, were a few of the ones we came up with.  I did really like them fresh, but always one to leap at the chance to try new ingredients and recipes, I accepted the challenge to take 6 medium sized pawpaws and make something, anything, with them.  With my roadtrip to Maine coming up, I opted to make muffins, figuring they’d make a good snack for during the long ride.  The recipe I came up with, which is included below, is inspired by the pawpaw’s similarities to banana and the fall weather.  In order to get the puree, I washed, peeled, and de-seeded the pawpaws and then put the meat through a food processor for just 1-2 minutes, until I had a mashed-banana-like consistency.  The resulting muffin is really the perfect representation of autumnal spices.  For that reason, it would be a good accompaniment to a Thanksgiving brunch.  I’ve never tasted anything quite like it, but then again, until a few weeks ago neither had I ever tasted fresh pawpaw!  And, of course, these could be made using banana, mashed sweet potato, squash, or pumpkin, or anything you feel goes well with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger!

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Pawpaw Muffins
Yield: 22 muffins

Ingredients
Dry

2 ¾ cup flour (I used a mixture of spelt & white rye)
1 7/8 tsp cream of tartar
¾ tsp salt
1 1/8 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon (I use a Vietnamese cinnamon that I got through the King Arthur Flour website – I have never had such a fragrant cinnamon, even when I grate it myself)
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp each of allspice and ground ginger
Zest of 1 lemon

1/2 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
1/3 cup mixed chocolate & cinnamon chips

Walnuts, roughly chopped (to sprinkle on top)

Wet

¼ cup vegetable oil
6 medium ripe pawpaws, pureed
5/8 cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
Juice from ½ lemon
3 eggs

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375F (190C or 350F convection).  Line muffin cups.
  2. In a medium bowl mix together flour, cream of tartar, salt, baking soda, spices, and lemon zest
  3. In the bowl of a mixer (or use a hand mixer), whisk oil, pawpaw puree, and sugar on medium speed until well mixed and fluffy. Add lemon juice and the eggs one at a time. Combine.
  4. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix until just combined, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Remove bowl form mixer and fold in coconut and chocolate/cinnamon chips.
  5. Divide batter evenly into muffin cups. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes. (Mine cooked in 23 minutes in a convection oven at 350F.)


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Moving/Halloween

Moving.  The process of packing your entire life into boxes, shipping them off into the ether, with fingers crossed that they will make it back to you in the new flat, in the new life.  This past June I fit the past four years into thirteen boxes.  At the time I was equally horrified at how many material goods I had somehow managed to pick up at uni and shocked that four of the most formative years in my life could so easily disappear inside the uniformity of a brown cardboard box.  Then, of course, there’s the wake up call of those thirteen boxes showing up on your doorstep and having to unpack them.  What on earth do I have that could take up thirteen boxes?!  Why couldn’t I have been more effective in culling my belongings??  Do I really need all this stuff?  Maybe I should just ditch it all and live out of a minimalist suitcase for the rest of my life.  This last thought was especially appealing as I saw how easily my flatmate, B, fit her two suitcases of clothes into her closet.  Suffice it to say, I still don’t have enough hangers and in preparation for our house-warming – which successfully encouraged us to complete the unpacking process – I may have shoved all excess belongings underneath my bed.  Oh well!  That’s putting things away, right?

The thing is, some of those thirteen boxes housed my precious kitchen supplies, which I obviously couldn’t get rid of.  And thank goodness I had all my spatulas, whisks, cutlery, knives, baking pans, etc, because our “furnished” flat had a distinctly “unfurnished” kitchen!  After serious struggles even getting a dining table where we could eat/work (I mean, really, how can you call a flat furnished if there’s nowhere to eat?), we had no energy to expend on forcing more concessions in the kitchen.  Natural conclusion?  Thank goodness for those thirteen boxes!

Now that we’re finally settled in and I’ve made my first batch of chai, B and I have started hosting mini-dinner parties.  Wednesday seems to be the night, so last night, since it was Halloween, obviously pumpkin was the star ingredient.

We started with a simple salad of baby greens (rocket, watercress, and spinach) with grape tomatoes and toasted pumpkin seeds.  The main was inspired by a meal I had last November at Enoteca Turi in Putney – pumpkin and scamorza risotto.  I’m not usually a fan of smoked cheese, but the creamy, smoky quality of scamorza paired with the sweet pumpkin, it is an unbeatable combination.  It may even top mushroom as my favourite type of risotto.  Unfortunately I always struggle to find scamorza when I want it, only stumbling upon it accidentally when I don’t need it.  Perhaps I should just start seeing that as a sign from the universe that tonight’s the night to make pumpkin risotto!  Anyway, last night, coming home late from campus, we had to make do with the cheese counter in our local Sainbury’s, which meant choosing a paprika smoked cheddar that actually ended up working very nicely!  Last, but certainly not least, we had pear and apple ginger crisp for dessert.  No pumpkin, but I didn’t want to overdose so early in the season.  The ginger really made all the difference in this dessert.  It played off the sweetness of the baked apples and pears adding a hit of spice to end a night of girly chat perfectly!

Pear and Apple, Ginger Crisp

This was inspired by posts from Pastry Affair and Sweetie’s Home

For the filling:

4 or 5 small apples (probably only need 3 larger ones)
2 or 3 large pears
½ inch grated ginger
zest from half a lemon
¼ c brown sugar, packed
3 Tablespoons butter, cubed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons sugar

For the crumble topping:

¼ cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
½ cup flour
1/3 cup oats
1/3 cup sliced almonds
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt

Method:

Preheat the oven to 375F or 190C.  Grease a 9x9in baking pan and set aside.  I used a 9x13in pan and it worked fine, it was just a bit thinner and there were a few small gaps in the topping.

Wash, core, and chop the apples and pears into large-bite-sized cubes and place them in a large bowl.  Add the grated ginger, lemon zest, both sugars, butter, and vanilla to the fruit.  Mix and set aside.

Place all dry ingredients for the topping (sugar, flour, oats, almonds, spices, and salt) into a second large bowl.  Drizzle the vegetable oil over top the dry ingredients.  Mix with a fork, or your hands, until you reach a crumb-like consistency.

Spread the filling evenly into the baking pan.  Sprinkle the crumble over top of the fruit, ensuring you have no gaps!  (Unless, like me, you use a slightly larger pan, in which case your options are to accept the holes or double the recipe for the topping.)

Bake the crisp at 375F (190C) for 20-30 minutes.  Because mine was thinner it was ready after 20 minutes.  Remember timing can be very oven specific, so may vary.  I recommend checking after about 20 minutes and then readjust according to your oven.

Allow to cool for a few minutes and dig in!  It’s really delicious either hot or cold, but on a cold, rainy night eating it fresh from the oven was a real treat. 🙂