Madame Saisons: Shady Servings – Colourful Nightshades Hit The Plates
by Sarah Ugazio
Crossing over spring’s peak towards summer, the leprechaun-green shoots of new growth herald a rainbow of new colours for the plate. Pears depart while pops of red and blue appear in November’s fruit basket with the season’s first ripened blueberries, raspberries and strawberries.
The warming soil brings ‘Nightshade’ vegetables to the table including purple eggplant, red and green capsicums, chillies, and, oddly in this colourful array, potatoes. Nightshades should not to be confused and tainted by association with the infamously poisonous berries of Deadly Nightshade – same plant family but (importantly) different genus. The name Nightshade is quite apt, being that night is the only shade given for the majority of these vegetables to thrive. For word nerds out there, the official name of this plant family is solanaceae, interestingly derived from Latin words sol (sunshine) and solari (solace).
December stone fruits only increase the harvest rainbow, bringing orange nectarines, blushing peaches, quinces for jamming and beloved green avocados for a ripe ‘ol smashing for many morning toasts. The first month of summer also begets bright yellow corn and extra berries to the bounty, including crimson boysenberries, blackberries, tayberries (a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry), blackcurrants, gooseberries and cherries – ensuring a very berry Christmas later in the month. Quick to perish, leftover berries can be easily cooked down in sugar syrup to make coulis and used to top desserts such as ice cream and pavlova.
Ingredients (makes 200ml)
- 250g Mixed berries (can top up with frozen if you don’t have enough fresh berries)
- 100g Caster sugar
- 100ml Water
Place all the ingredients in a pot and bring to the boil then turn off heat and set aside to slightly cool. Be careful as mixture will be EXTREMELY hot. Pour mixture in to a fine sieve and reserve liquid in a bowl. Push fruit through in sieve with a metal spoon into a separate bowl, or alternatively blend in a food processor. Adjust consistency of mashed berries with reserved liquid. Note that the mixture will thicken as it cools. Preserve in a sealed sterilised jar for up to 3 months or an airtight container for a week in the fridge.
Dried fruits should have already been soaking up a festive splash of brandy, marinating in preparation for Christmas baked treats such as mince pies and fruit cake. Sticklers for tradition should note the Sunday before Advent Sunday, this year falling on 25th November, is historically called ‘Stir-up Sunday’ marking the day to prep Christmas Puddings. For those looking for lighter summer fare, local crayfish is always an impressive feature on the festive table, thankfully at its seasonal peak December through March.
Follow Sarah on Instagram at @madamesaisons