Produce report: November 27
New season agrias for the roasting tray and waxy nadines and Perlas for salads are in store along with Oamaru’s jersey bennes. New potatoes, unlike those fully grown, keep their shape better when cooked and cut. They are also sweeter, because their sugar hasn’t yet converted to starch. Natural dirt and dust on potatoes can help keep them fresher so don’t wash them until you are ready to use them. Keep in a dark, cool, well-ventilated place to prevent greening.
Summer’s yellow-fleshed peaches are trickling into stores, joining the first of the nectarines which will be much more freely available from January. Store stonefruit at room temperature if it needs to ripen a little. If you are impatient, try the paper bag trick to speed the process up a bit. Place nectarines and peaches in the bag (to trap the ripening ethylene gas) and keep at room temperature, out of direct sunlight. They will smell fragrant when ripe and will be soft, but still firm to the touch. Then transfer them to the vegetable crisper in the fridge, where they will live happily for up to a week. Do be careful, though, to keep stonefruit away from strong-smelling foods as it is liable to take on other odours. Wash just before eating.
Strawberries continue their sweet run and are becoming cheaper by the week. Other berries are in good (albeit expensive) supply.
Asparagus, capsicums, cucumbers and avocados are good buying. Avocados like to ripen on the bench as well but when the flesh yields to a gentle pressure, place them in the fridge — in the vegetable crisper for 5-7 days.
Eggplant prices are lowering as the weather warms. Eggplant bruises easily so be careful with it. Look for glossy fruits without blemishes. Dark brown spots on the skin indicate decay. Eggplants should be heavy for their size. They are very popular in Southern European cuisines and star in Asian stir-fries, curries and side dishes as well (look out for the more exotic-looking baby white and green types in Asian markets).
Jan Bilton takes one of our more-usual purple types and serves it with an Indonesian-style sauce that is a barbecue winner. This is how to make it as a side dish for 4:
Briefly saute 2 cloves crushed garlic, 1 diced shallot and ¼ tsp chilli flakes in 2 tsp sesame oil in a small saucepan. Grind ½ cup roasted peanuts in a blender until almost powdered. Add to the garlic mixture and cook for 30 seconds. Add 1 Tbsp kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) and 1 Tbsp lemon juice and 1 cup water or a mix of ½ cup water and ½ cup coconut milk. Simmer until slightly thickened. Cut 1 large eggplant into 2cm slices and brush with 2-3 Tbsp canola oil. Season with salt and pepper. Barbecue, grill or pan-fry until cooked, about 7 minutes. Place on a serving plate and drizzle with the sauce.
Lamb loves eggplant. Take a look at Kathy Paterson’s moussaka recipe. It uses eggplant with leftover cooked meat and would be perfect to share with a crowd. The lamb chops with aubergine salad (below) can all be cooked on the barbie, perfect for easy entertaining.