I have always loved the persimmon tree in our garden. It is such a pretty shaped tree and through the autumn the fruit hang like a profusion of deep orange lanterns.
Old-fashioned persimmons have an intense astringency that induces a fierce mouth pucker, and hold their fruit right through after the leaves have dropped. When I lived in Brazil we would buy these old-fashioned fruit by the boxful, waiting until they reached jelly-like over ripeness, at which point all astringency vanishes and you are left with pure sweetness. Then we’d put them into the fridge, and all through the hot days of April and May we would eat them like iceblocks, bathing in the pleasure of their icy cold, sweet jelly – just the best.
The tree in my Auckland garden is a modern persimmon tree, sweet and non-tannic, and the fruit are quickly devoured by the birds as they ripen. They are pretty and fresh in a fruit salad or tossed through a green salad in the same way you might use an orange or pear.
Over the years I have tried various recipes for persimmon puddings and persimmon sauces, but without enthusiasm, as in essence persimmons are sweet and bland and lack that acid element that makes most fruit so appealing. Last weekend, however, in an effort to use them up before I hopped on a plane to my London book launch, I made the most fantastic dairy-free sorbet. It’s quick, easy and seriously good! After making this so successfully, I chopped up a big bag of persimmons and put them in the freezer so I can make my persimmon sorbet anytime!
Creamy Perisimmon Sorbet
Cut 2 large persimmons (500g) into thickish wedges, cutting out the crown and removing any seeds (if you prefer you can peel the fruit, which gives a smoother texture). Place persimmon pieces in a bag and freeze for at least 3 hours until firm. Place the fruit in a blender or food processor with ½ cup castor sugar and puree to a fine crumb. Add 3 tbsp lemon juice and 1 egg white and blend again until the mixture is creamy, fluffy and smooth. Transfer to a freezing container and freeze for about 2 hours before serving. The sorbet will keep for weeks in a covered container, but does harden after 24 hours. Simply blitz again in the food processor to fluff and soften, then serve at once or refreeze for up to 4 hours (it tastes best when it is still quite creamy). Makes about a litre.
- To make Ginger Persimmon Sorbet, add 2 tbsp minced fresh ginger.
- To make Persimmon Smoothies, prepare frozen persimmon as for Creamy Persimmon Sorbet, leaving out the egg white and blending in about ½ cup apple juice (or more if necessary to get the desired consistency).
I’ve also been experimenting with a spicy persimmon sauce based on an easy mango sauce I often make to serve with prawns and chicken. It works really well with persimmons, and once you’ve got a jar in the fridge or freezer you’ll find it can be used in a multitude of ways.
Spicy Persimmon Jalapeno Sauce
4 persimmons, skins, crowns and seeds removed, flesh roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
3cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
finely grated zest of 1 lime
2 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
2-3 chillies, stems removed and flesh roughly chopped
1 tbsp fish sauce
4 tbsp rice vinegar
¼ cup orange juice or water
Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Transfer to a pot and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring so mixture does not catch. Transfer to a jar and refrigerate if not using at once. The sauce will keep for 4-5 days and can also be frozen.
Some simple serving ideas:
- For a lovely light Spicy Persimmon Jalapeno Vegetarian Curry, mix half a cup of Spicy Persimmon Jalapeno Sauce with a heaped teaspoon of Thai green curry paste or laksa paste, add 3 cups chopped root vegetables and 2 cups water and season with salt and pepper. Simmer until vegetables are half cooked, then add florets of cauliflower or broccoli and cook another 5 minutes. Finish with a sprinkle of garam masala and chopped coriander.
- For a Prawn or Chicken Curry, follow the method above, using prawns or sliced chicken instead of the vegetables and 1 cup fish or chicken stock and 1 cup coconut cream instead of the water.
- For a quick Spicy Chicken Bake, mix ½ cup Spicy Persimmon Jalapeno Sauce with 1 cup chicken stock and pour the mixture over 4 chicken pieces and 1 chopped red capsicum in an oven dish. Bake for 40 minutes until golden and cooked through.
- For a simple Dipping Sauce for fritters, mix ½ cup Spicy Persimmon Jalapeno Sauce with 2 tbsp chopped coriander.
So after all these years I am now a total persimmon convert. Next year those pesky birds will need to race me to the harvest!