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Around the world in…stone fruits

It’s late February and if your face isn’t sticky with peach or plum juice, have you really had a summer?

Stone fruits like peaches, plums, mangoes, apricots, lychees, nectarines and cherries have been dribbling down faces around the world, since forever. They provide the sweetest relief from bleeding-hot days – perfect alone, though perhaps even better in a recipe.

Stone fruits are also known as drupes. The ‘stone’ in the center is actually the protective case for the fruit seed, which is surrounded by a fleshy middle layer (the bit we like to find drizzling down our faces) and thin skin.

Fellow drupes are edibles we generally think of as ‘nuts’, like cashews, almonds, walnuts, coconuts and pistachios. The word drupe comes from the Italian word drupe, or “overripe olive”. And yes, olives and dates are both drupes and fruits too, which makes us happy because we get to add them to our list.

The main thing to know about stone fruits is that they are really only nice when they’re perfectly ripe. The best way to tell if stone fruit is ripe is to gently press the flesh. It should ‘give’ a little bit – if you can push into the fruit slightly, it’s ready to eat.

Let’s take a world tour guided by the fragrance of ripe stone fruits, turned into prized recipes made across generations.

Peachy in Australia

Adam Liaw is a good place to kick off our adventure, given that he’s a master at revving up a traditional recipe by taking it for a spin. In this case, Dame Nellie Melba’s namesake dessert is given the maximum chill in granita form.

Celebrate in Uruguay

This exquisite peach and meringue celebration cake takes its name from a native Uruguayan bird – el dessert chaja. We’re talking a real show-stopper here, with layers of sponge, peach and caramel topped off with meringue.

icy lychee

This delicate Japanese dessert combines cool plum wine ice, jelly, lychee sauce and fresh apples to create layers of indulgence.

jelly lychee

The light, fresh taste of lychees means they often turn up in some kind of jelly form. Here they’re settled nicely with rose petals and pistachio to put plant them squarely, though somewhat wobbly, in the Middle East.

Rock the Moroccan

Apricots and Middle Eastern food have such an affinity that you can hardly have one without the other. This Moroccan chicken and apricot pilaf showcase how easy it is to impart big flavor with a few carefully chosen ingredients. And also how versatile stone fruits are – it’s not all about the juicy finish, dried is good too.

hot mango

You’ll soon be dolloping this mango hot sauce from Mexico onto everything. Mango makes everything taste better.

green mango

In Thailand, they prefer their mangoes green for acidity and not too much sweetness. The taste is fresher than a brighter summer morning.

turkish apricots

When two drupes are joined in pastry matrimony, it’s a guaranteed long and happy future.

Nectarine rumba

The nectarine is so often relegated as the poor cousin of the peach, but that’s just nonsense. It’s a standalone gem of a stone fruit, which simple recipes like this one from Spain demonstrate so well. Nectarines are so sweet they embrace savory finishes like they’ve been asked to dance the rumba.

Cheers to nectarines

If you want to experience the difference between a peach and a nectarine, make a fine Bellini.

Italian stuffed olives

Stuffed olives are an Italian delicacy and there is truly nothing like a fresh olive treated this way. The flavor reward needs to be high because let’s face it, it’s not easy to stuff an olive.

All-Greek

A Greek salad without olives is… just a salad with feta. Olives add the necessary salty, briny oomph that makes this salad so outta-this-world. Especially one that’s ‘loaded’ like this version.

french cherry

Clafoutis and stone fruits are the best-ever buds. That’s exactly how all the fine French cookbooks phrase it. The traditional cherry clafoutis cannot be beat, through this apricot version might have something to say about that.

dutch raving flan

Cherries grow with abundance in the Netherlands and a version of cherry flan is found in every province. This doughier type is from the Limburg area and almost resembles a cherry pizza.

lebanese date

The most delicious filling for pastries and biscuits comes courtesy of the date. It’s a humble hard worker that adds texture and a sweet bite to everything it touches. Try these date cookies and you’ll see exactly what we mean.

Sticky Brits

The Brits nailed this one: is there a single better use of dates than in a sticky date pudding?

plum dressed

Stone fruit is used in all kinds of Chinese dishes and here a sweet plum dressing lifts a tossed salad made with shredded chicken and julienned vegetables. A perfectly ripe plum still adds just the right amount of tang to offset its own sweetness.

Dam fine plums

The small, purple damson plum grows across Bavaria and is celebrated in zwetschgenkuchen – a traditional plum cake made in various forms throughout Germany. Fruit and yeast bakes abound in Germany, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one tastier than zwetschgenkuchen (or more fun to pronounce!).

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