When wandering around art galleries, I have always loved the still life paintings by the old masters and they way they capture the round opulence of fruit. When I present a fruit platter I sometimes feel I am creating my own masterpiece. It seems so decadent and yet so simple. So many vibrant colours and tactile tectures.
I guess we are spoilt here in Australia where summer brings an explosion of glorious stone fruit that smells heavenly and drips down your chin as you bite into it. For the old masters, fruit must have been a rare pleasure in the days before fruit was shipped around the world. I partly base this assumption on my experience living in Scotland where the summer berries were manna from the gods and all other fruits seemed to be shipped in from elsewhere.
The fruits of my childhood always seem so delicious! I grew up picking soft juicy apricots off my grandmother’s tree, eating tart blood plums from trees in the backyard, and eating stewed cherry plums that fell in such abundance from the tree beside the chook shed that it was impossible to eat them all and a lot were mushed underfoot. I rarely eat any of these fruit now. They don’t taste the same after travelling to me in a refrigerated truck.
Ironically one of my favourite fruits in adulthood are nectarines which I wouldn’t eat for much of my childhood. There are downsides to eating fruit fresh off the tree. As a young child I remember sitting on my dad’s shoulders and picking nectarines off someone else’s tree. I was enjoying the round ripe fruit until a couple of earwigs ran out of the middle. After that I couldn’t eat nectarines for years. I am thankful that eventually I realised what I was missing.
So I don’t cook lots of desserts. I prefer my fruit fresh. And too often the main meal is so substantial that it doesn’t leave any desire for much in the way of pudding.
But when I do a feast for New Year’s Eve, it isn’t complete without dessert. Not just any dessert will do. I need something decadently wicked. Which means chocolate! A hot night was forecast so it had to be light and require a minimum of heating. I found a recipe for chocolate sauce with condensed milk in it a few years back and already it feels like an old favourite. So we ate it with a wonderful array of fruit (nectarines, cherries, grapes, pineapple, kiwi fruit, pear, strawberries). Dessert was both indulgent and refreshing. But after making little dint on the sauce or the fruit, I was so full I had to lie on the couch. (Actually the meal was so filling, I have only been able to graze on fruit for breakfast.)
I recommend this sauce as a fine accompaniment to a fruit platter. It makes the fruit seem very fancy. And inevitably pieces of fruit need rescuing from drowning in chocolate (what a way to go) which always make it a fun dessert too.
New Year’s Eve dinner was quite a production so I have split it into a few posts. Stay tuned for the haggis! I am also sending this to Bindiya at In Love with Food – Easy Indian Cooking for her My Favourite Things blog event which in December is all about chocolate. I can’t wait for the roundup.
Condensed Milk Fudge Sauce
1 cup sweetened condensed milk (or 1 x 400g tin)
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp vanilla essence
200g dark chocolate*, roughly chopped
½ cup cream
(*I used dark chocolate with 45% cocoa solids, but the sauce is very sweet so I think 70% cocoa solids would be even better)
Mix all ingredients in medium sized microwave-proof bowl. Microwave til chocolate melted (my advice is to place in microwave on high for 1 minute, then stir, and return to microwave for 20 seconds, then stir. If it is still not quite melted after a good stir return for another 20 seconds.) Serve warm with fresh fruit.
This sauce can be kept in the fridge for days but will thicken as it cools so you are advised to place in microwave to thin it down when you use it (or just stick the spoon in and eat it cold from the bowl if you are feeling very indulgent - and why not at new year!)
On the stereo:
The Sound of White: Missy Higgins