From top left: frozen banana ice cream, frozen grapes, strawberry daiquiri, cherry leather, spiced grapes. Photograph: Alicia Canter for the Guardian
Forget smoothies: there’s a better way to get your fruit. Simple ideas that turn frozen bananas into instant ice-cream, peaches into ready-made bellini blocks, cherries into a chewy snack and spice up your grapes
Poor fruit. There it was for years, playing the nutritious role in packed lunches, filling a bowl on the kitchen table. Bland but trustworthy; unsexy but good for you. No one questioned it, because it had always been that way; an apple a day keeps the doctor away.
But then it became famous – really, really famous – as smoothified liquid. Suddenly we could all reach our five a day in five minutes flat. We could blend our fruit into oblivion and gulp the shapeless mush down for breakfast – we’d conquered our healthy-living regimes by 8am. Those were the days when blueberries were the glorified superfruit; smoothies were oft indigo. We were winning.
Then the message changed. “Eat your fruit and juice your veg,” the headlines shouted. This mantra was first voiced by a certain raw-food enthusiast named Dr Norman Walker in the 1930s, but it is arguably having a far greater moment this time round. While kale stepped into the limelight – flanked by broccoli florets and a leafy head of celery – fruit receded, tarnished and shamed by the sugar brush (a glass of juice was on par with a can of full-fat Coke If you were to leave a tooth in a glass of orange juice at night, it would most likely dissolve by the morning). Those who care about such things tranformed their Instagrammed smoothies to green, brown, and occasionally red (thanks to beetroot, the earth’s gift to Renaissance fresco makers and aesthetically aware juicing fanatics alike).
So where are we now? Confused. We are fearful of fruit juice and, by proxy, wary of fruit in its natural shapely state; which is sad, because it’s summertime, and nature’s sweet-smelling bounty is weighing down vines and branches across the land. If we don’t pick and eat it, the birds will. It’s time to start eating your fruit – that’s right, using your teeth. Here are some ridiculously easy ideas to help.
Ripe fruit waits for no one, and the freezer is a far better place for it than the compost bin. Bite-sized fruits work particularly well: whole red berries freeze brilliantly, but can be a tad tart to enjoy alone – serve them with a hot white-chocolate sauce, as London restaurant The Ivy did in the late 2000s. Alternatively, cut strawberries and raspberries into pea-sized nuggets before freezing so they’ll work as instant fruit-filled ice bombs to fold into Eton mess, or scatter over ice creams or drinks. Simplest of all, grapes need nothing more than a stint in the freezer to turn into self-contained mini sorbets. If you want to go to a little more effort (if you can call it that), try some of these recipes:
Frozen banana ice-cream Vegans have been in the know for years – a ripe banana, sliced up and frozen, and then whipped for long enough, all alone, undergoes a transformation whereby its high quantity of fruit pectins turns it into a smooth, creamy dessert. Patience is key. Although the mixture might resemble cottage cheese for a while, it will become whipped soon enough. Dollop the “ice-cream” into bowls and scatter some berry fruit nuggets on top to serve. This is best made in small batches as the ‘ice cream’ doesn’t re-freeze well, so make just enough to eat.
Cocktail blocks Okay, so this isn’t technically eating, but it’s too good to leave out. Turn your overripe peaches into nifty bellini blocks by peeling, blending, then freezing them into ice cubes. Simply top a cube with bubbles to order. For enough strawberry daiquiris to satiate the thirsts of four, blend 400g ripe strawberries with the juice of 2 limes and a half teaspoon of caster sugar then pour into ice-cube trays. To serve, blend the cubes with 25-35ml white rum per person and a splash of water. Pour the frozen daquiri into a glass with a lime slice to garnish the rim.
Our gadget guru Rhik Samadder rates his dehydrator, but you don’t need one to make the sort of snacks for which you’ll pay through the nose in a health-food shop. All you need is an oven, preferably with a fan setting, and a day at home to patiently await the drying out of your snacks. That or another heatwave.
Ginger apple crisps Using a mandolin, slice a peeled apple into very thin slices – the thinner they are, the quicker they will dry out. Use a microplane to grate a piece of ginger and thin the resultant paste with a squeeze of lemon and a little honey. Gently mix the apple slices with the paste and place on a silicone mat or parchment paper. Set your oven to 60C fan (or the lowest setting available). The apples are ready when they are no longer soft.
Cherry leather Combine 400g cherries (stoned weight around 360g), 100ml water, the zest and juice of 1 lemon and 1 tbsp honey in a saucepan, bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. The fruit will have lost its shape and the liquid will have reduced a little. Blend until smooth. Line a baking tray with a silicone mat (or parchment paper), then pour on the mixture and use a spatula or the back of a spoon to spread it evenly across the whole baking sheet – it should be 2-3mm thick. This is a little tricky, but as long as there are no holes, you’re doing fine. Set your oven to 60C fan (or the lowest setting available). Depending on your oven settings, it should take 4-6 hours to dry out. The cherry leather is ready when it’s no longer tacky to the touch.
Crunchy spiced grapes by Pascal Aussignac Crush 10g each of black sesame seeds, fennel seeds, sunflower seeds, pistachio nuts, wasabi peas and 20g Rice Krispies into a fine crumb using a pestle and mortar. Add 50g sugar to a pan and place over a medium heat. Once it has melted, add 200g grapes, followed by the crushed seed-and-nut mixture and quickly stir until the grapes are fully coated.
Remove the grapes from the pan and set aside on some baking parchment to cool, set and crisp up.
Mexican fruit salad with lime, salt and chilli On many streets in South America and Asia, it’s commonplace to find local fruit sliced up to order and doused in salt and spices to contrast with their natural sugars. Simply chop up a selection of fruit – mango and pineapple are traditional, apple, strawberries and grapes will work, too. Squeeze over some lime and throw in a couple of pinches of chilli powder and salt.