Tag Archives: strawberry

Knife Skills – The Fruits

14 Jan

Cutting Fruits

Fruits is part of our everyday meals. Some are easy to handle, bananas and apples for example. Other are trickier : mango, pineapple, papaya….

Here are a few tips to make your life easier.

First of all, learn to choose your fruits. If you want to use them the same days, they have to be just ripe. Neither too hard nor too soft. Especially in the summer or when the weather is stormy. They can collapse within an hour! If you buy them for later during the week, buy them greener and harder but neither too green or too hard, they might never mature if they have been picked way too early.

Also, try as much as you can to buy your fruits when they are seasonal. No red fruits during the winter obviously….

And last but not least, buy them in shops well-known for the quality of their fruits and veg selection.

Kiwi

Kiwi

The kiwi is a very tasty fruits but it has to be just ripe otherwise it is sour as lemon juice and when it is too ripe, the flesh gets a green dark color and is almost melting.

Your kiwi is ripe when you feel only a little resistance of the flesh when you slightly press the skin with your fingers.

Usually, you just need to cut the kiwi into 2 and scoop the inside with a spoon.

If you cut the kiwi for a desert decoration or a fruit salad, cut both ends and using a peeler or a sharp knife, cut stripes of skin 2-3 cm wide. Once the kiwi is peeled, either slice it or cut it into squares.

Suggestions: Sliced kiwi looks really great on fruit tarts but they also match with litchi, orange or strawberries in a fruit salad.

Mango

Mango

For a long time, I thought the only way to prepare mango was the Chinese restaurant way. Cut into 2, skin on, cut inside the skin and inner side pulled out to make it look like a porcupine. The problem is that you still have to get rid of the skin if you want to use the mango for something else!

Here is an alternative: peel the mango carefully then cut it lengthways into two large pieces. To do that, cut it along the stone of the mango, then cut the small part that remains around the stone if it is not too mushy.

Cut the mango parts into 1 cm wide stripes then into cubes. Reserve them in a bowl.

Suggestions: for breakfast once again with the papaya and other exotic fruits or in Asian salad with a lime and chilli dressing. Cut into large stripes and quickly caramelized, the mango is amazing with pancakes and ice-cream or vanilla cheesecake.

Orange

Orange-1

Orange-2

Like bananas and apples, oranges are one of these fruits that we all had as a healthy snack or desert when we were kids. We have all been getting our hands dirty while peeling them and we’ve also been fighting with the white membrane of the segments.

Later, we’ve also been served orange salad with orange slices that were not really appealing as the membrane was too thick to be pleasant.

Finally, we were lucky to enjoy once in a good place a truly pleasant orange salad with no membrane to be found anywhere….

First of all, you need to choose your fruits carefully. Ask for tasty, juicy oranges without pips. You can also use a mix of citrus such as grapefruit and blood orange, the result will be all the more appealing.

Start by cutting the ends off the orange just far enough to expose the flesh. Then place the orange cut end down. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut away as little of the peel as possible by following the line of the orange’s flesh. Cut away what remains of the peel.

If your orange is very juicy, do the next step on top of a bowl. With your sharp knife, cut along the inside of the membranes that separate the orange segments. Slice only down to the center of the orange. Continue around the entire orange cutting out each section, leaving the membrane.

Suggestions: for a fruit salad with mint leaves and a hint of orange blossom water, to decorate the top of orange pie (based on the technique of the lemon pie), for mixed salad, with beetroot, almonds and mixed leaves and also great with duck breasts. The famous “Canard à l’orange”.

Papaya

Papaye

Papaya is used green for Asian salad and is really good but as a fruit, it’s better to use ripped ones. The skin is very thin and the flesh quickly goes from hard to mushy when it gets ripe. Which means you have to catch the right time to use it!

Simply peel the whole fruit and cut it lengthways. Using a spoon, scoop the seeds out of the center and cut each halves into stripes then into sticks then into cubes.

Suggestions: when traveling abroad, papaya is served on its own or with mango, pineapple and other exotic fruits for breakfast. You can also add lime juice and cane sugar on top if you want.

Pineapple

Pineapple-1

Pineapple-2

The pineapple is not an easy fruit to handle, it is pretty big and the skin is not easy to get rid of. Anyway, before starting, I just wanted to share a tip I learned from a visit to one of our suppliers in Miami. If your pineapple is not mature and you want to keep it a few days. Keep it upside down as all the sugar gather at the bottom of the fruit. That way, the whole pineapple will have a good balance of sugar as the sugar will be equally distributed by the juice running down to the bottom of the pineapple.

Now, let’s cut the pineapple. First, use a large board and a long serrated knife. You will have a better grip. Remove the stalk and cut the top (at least 2 cm) of the fruit then the bottom (also 2 cm at least).

Stand the pineapple on its side and cut the skin off of the sides in strips. It does not matter if you have a great amount of those dark “eyes” left. You’ll get rid of them at the second round.

Continue cutting strips around the pineapple until you have cut all of the skin off of it then start the second round and cut only what needs to be cut. Doing it into 2 rounds gets you to avoid wasting too much pineapple flesh and also have a nice shape especially if you want to slice the pineapple.

Depending on what you want to use it for, either slice it whole then remove the center with a pastry-cutter or cut it into 4 wedges, cut off the center and slice the wedges into 1 cm bites.

Suggestions: Pineapple is great with a great amount of recipes from all over the world, it is used cooked in curry, fresh with fish, in Asian salad, flambed with rum, caramelized in upside-down cakes, in carpaccio, thinly cut into brunoise and mixed with other raw vegetables and spices to serve with grilled meats…

Pomegranate

desseed

As pomegranate are really juicy, choose a board big enough to prevent the juice from dripping on your kitchen counter.

Cut the pomegranate into 2 and on top of a large bowl, knock the pomegranate skin with a wooden spoon. It will help releasing most of the seeds.

You will collect lots of juice and seeds but still you will have to finish picking the remaining seeds one by one. To make it easier, push gently the top of your half pomegranate toward the bottom to reverse it. You will have a better view of what’s remaining and it will be easier to get rid of the white membrane.

Once you have finish, get rid of the last parcels of white membrane and separate the seeds from the juice as they will get soft if kept in a liquid.

Suggestions: pomegranates decorate salads or meats. They are also great for breakfast, served with yogurt and granola or sprinkled on whipped cream with a slice of dark chocolate cake….

Strawberries

Strawberries

As most of the red fruits, strawberries are very delicate. Many people will tell you that you must not wash strawberries. That’s true but it does not mean you can’t rinse them!

It’s just that if you leave strawberries for a long time in the water, they will loose all their flavor and texture.

Place them in a large colander and rinse them under cold running water to get rid of any dirt.

Gently rub them in a tea towel and serve them whole or cut them to make a nice salad.

Using a very sharp knife, hull the strawberries and depending on the size of the fruit, keep them whole or cut them into 2, 4 or 6 wedges. You can also slice them but your strawberries have to be firm otherwise it will get very mushy.

Suggestions: Strawberries are naturally very sweet and don’t need anything usually but they are often served with caster sugar.

As a salad, you can add lemon juice, thinly sliced mint and icing sugar or a flavor such as orange blossom water or rose water. You can dip them in chocolate sauce as well or drizzle balsamic glaze on top for decoration.

Let’s change and have a Strawberry and Pistachio Mille-Feuilles!

1 Mar

Whenever you go to a Patisserie in France, you can ask for a baguette,  a croissant, a brioche or a pain au chocolat but among all the French specialties you can find in a Patisserie, you can also find the Mille-Feuilles.

That dessert is really a French basic. It is sold as a single portion or a larger desert to share. And when you go to a Patisserie, if you want a Mille-Feuilles this is what you have to look for: 3 layers of puff patry with 2 layers of pastry cream in between and a layer of fondant on top with chocolate fondant stripes to make it easy to identify.

As I learned how to make it, I really was thinking that it was among my least favorite desert. To me, it looks very old-fashioned and most of the time, the vanilla pastry cream is very heavy and the fondant on top makes it definitely too sweet… but it’s only a point of view! Most of my friends still love it as it is today!

Anyway, I came to look at new ways to make the Mille-Feuilles and I gave it another try… and I have to say that I changed my mind.

It’s still the same recipe but you can make it more glamorous by adding fruits, color and flavor and also make it look different in term of presentation…

Here it is…. the Strawberry and Pistachio Mille-Feuilles! And it is even quicker to prepare as you don’t have to spread fondant on top of the Mille-Feuilles!

Ingredients for the puff pastry layers:

  • one puff pastry sheets
  • icing sugar
  • 2 baking trays

Method for the puff pastry layers:

Roll out your puff pastry on a baking tray covered with a silicon mat or a piece or parchment paper. If you are using a block of puff pastry, roll it into a rectangle about 25 cm x 35 cm and about 5 mm high. Keep it about 1/2h in the fridge.

Preheat your oven to 170° and once the pastry is firm and cold, cover it with another tray or a rack about the same size as the pastry. The pastry needs to be covered otherwise it will rise too much.

Bake it for about 20 min until the pastry gets a nice golden color. Let it cool down on the baking tray.

Increase the temperature of your oven to 250° or on the grill. Using a sieve, cover the puff pastry with a thin layer of icing sugar and put it back in the oven for 2-3 minutes until the surface is caramelized. Depending on your oven, you will have to stay close to your oven and maybe turn the tray after 1 minute if only one part of the pastry get caramelized.You can also finish it with a blow torch.

While the puff pastry is still hot and the caramelized sugar still soft, cut it with a serrated knife into 3 stripes of the same size (10 cm x 20 cm). As the edges may not be perfectly straight, cut the edges to be sure to have three layers matching perfectly.

Here is the result…

Ingredients for the pastry cream:

  • 25 cl of whole milk
  • 2 cl of vanilla extract or a vanilla pod cut lengthwise and seeds scrapped with a sharp knife
  • 2 yolks
  • 45 g of sugar
  • 1 tsp of pistachio paste
  • 25g of butter diced
  • 25 g of corn flour or flour or 1/2 and 1/2
  • 2 gelatin leaves soaked in cold water
  • 1 tbsp of Mascarpone
  • Fresh strawberries cleaned and cut into quarters or whole raspberries.

Method for the pastry cream:

In a pan, bring to a boil the milk and the vanilla extract (even better if you have a vanilla pod!).

In a bowl, whisk together the sugar and the yolks till creamy white. Whisk in the flour or corn flour then pour in the milk and the pistachio paste. Whisk it and pour it back into the pan.

Gently bring the pastry cream to a boil and constantly whisk it. The liquid will very quickly get thick and stick to the pan. If you have been using flour, keep on whisking as it is boiling (at least one minute) to get rid of the flour taste.

When the pastry cream is cooked, turn the heat off and incorporate the diced butter and the soaked gelatin leaves.

Whisk again then pour it into a bowl, cover with cling film and let it cool down. If you want your pastry cream very smooth and creamy, you can mix it with a hand held food processor then cover it with cling film.

Method for assembling the Mille-Feuilles:

Get the pastry cream out of the fridge and give it a good whisk. You can even incorporate a tbsp of Mascarpone at that stage to get it smoother.

Pour it in a piping bag with a nozzle about 8-10 mm.

On a flat surface or a rack, place the first layer of puff pastry.

If your layers are not all nicely caramelized or if one of them as a hole or any imperfection, keep it for the middle layer and keep the nicest one for the top…

Pipe the pastry cream on the puff pastry, about 3-4 generous heaps next to each others or nice lines a few millimeters from the borders of the pastry as it will expend a little with the pressure.

Now place the strawberries in between the pastry cream heaps and press gently on top of each one to make sure they will stick to the cream.

Cover them with another layer of puff pastry and keep going on with the same process until you have placed the last layer of puff pastry.

To finish, you can simply sprinkle icing sugar on top of the Mille-Feuilles.

I like to let a nice stripe of caramelized puff pastry apparent. I just place a piece of folded paper on top of the Mille-Feuilles and sprinkle the icing sugar on the puff pastry still uncovered.

Here you are…. Your Mille-Feuilles is ready to serve!

When it comes to cutting the Mille-Feuilles, use a long serrated knife such as bread knife and start to cut in the middle of the cake and on the edges. It will be easier and the slices will look very professional.