Fruit is healthy, obviously, but you don’t care about your guests’ waistlines. More importantly and superficially, it’s pretty. Next to your sombre piece of duck, a bright cube of persimmon takes all the glory. Add a round red tomato and you are in business. And a skinny sliver of pear makes a boring piece of toast as elegant as a spring hat.
(Am newly addicted to persimmons. Like a winter melon, neon orange and full of juice. Pairs with lots of things: cheese, chicken, prosciutto.)
Duck and persimmon kebabs
As my mother used to sigh during her cooking classes: yes, it will work equally well with chicken. I happened to have a packet of duck wing bits, already deboned, in the freezer.
Marinate the duck overnight: about 200g of duck breast or deboned wings. Lie the meat flat in a shallow bowl and top with equally generous sloshes of soy sauce and rice vinegar. Add a teaspoon of honey and a teaspoon of tamarind paste. Add lots of pepper, chili if you like it and a teaspoon of something sour: mango powder is good.
The next day: quickly fry the duck in a large frying pan with a touch of oil until still slightly pink. Chop into bite-sized pieces and thread onto cocktail sticks with cubes of persimmon and halved cherry tomatoes.
Pear and ricotta croutons
The chutney is the key to a strong and interesting flavour here – pick a good sharp one: tomato-chili or red onion would be good. I used Indian date and ginger, delicious.
Cut some squares of white sliced bread. Melt a little butter in a large flat frying pan and fry the bread to golden and crisp croutons. Alternatively, drizzle melted butter over a tray of bread squares and bake for 10 minutes.
Mix some ricotta with enough salt and pepper to give it a bit of bite. Quarter, core and slice a couple of pears wafer thin, lengthwise to make a nice long point. Leave the slices in a bowl of cold water with a squeeze of lemon so they don’t brown. When you are ready, top each crouton with a teaspoon of ricotta, a slice of pear and a little blob of spicy-sweet-sour chutney.