Summer sunshine brings the sweet juiciness of nature’s own love food, the luscious litchi.
Nothing says “hello summer” like the pop of their pinky-red skin, the burst of fragrant flavour and their succulent sweet pulp.
Naturally fat-free and packed with essential Vitamin C, these fruits have an extended growing season so your taste buds can do the litchi cha-cha from late October right through to March.
But if you think six months of litchi love is a long time, imagine the lucky Chinese who were the first to discover the joys of the litchi fruit as a natural aphrodisiac and a symbol of romance and joy more than 4 000 years ago.
In fact, history has it that in the first century, these heart-shaped fruits were so favoured by Emperor Li Longji’s favourite concubine, Yang Yuhuan, that fast horses were required to courier them across the 1 000km journey from the rainforests in Guangdong to the Imperial Palace to satisfy her desire.
It’s no wonder that the name litchi or lychee is translated from Chinese as a “gift for a joyful life” because beneath that rosy coat is a flavourful offering.
Litchis on their own are enough to get into the swing of summer, but they also add a special something to a vast range of sweet and savoury dishes from soups and salads to curries and cakes.
CHARGRILLED SALMON WITH LITCHI AND CUCUMBER SALAD
4 x 150g salmon fillets
20 peeled, pitted litchis
6 radishes, sliced
4 small Israeli cucumbers, sliced
4 spring onions, sliced
4 sprigs coriander
Lemon or lime wedges
Grill the salmon until done to your liking.
To make the salad combine all the ingredients and arrange on plates, top with grilled salmon.
Serve with lemon wedges.
LITCHI AND GAMMON WOK FRY WITH ASIAN GREENS
400g gammon steaks cut into strips
15ml sesame oil
30ml soya sauce
1 red chilli, chopped
15ml sesame seeds
Sprinkle of coriander
To serve – Asian greens or stir-fried vegetables
Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan and flash fry the gammon strips with the soya sauce, chilli and sesame seeds.
Add litchis to the meat and toss well to coat in the sauce.
Serve immediately with Asian greens or stir-fried veggies.
LITCHI ETON MESS
24 peeled, pitted litchis
1 cup crème fraiche
1 cup Greek yoghurt
8 mini meringues
2 granadillas to garnish
Whisk crème fraiche and yoghurt together. Arrange litchis in bottom of ramekins, top with the yoghurt mixture and sprinkle with crushed meringue and passion fruit pulp.
Serve well chilled with extra meringues.
LITCHI, VANILLA BEAN AND YOGHURT ICE POPS
500ml vanilla yoghurt
125ml litchi juice
1tsp vanilla bean paste
Whiz all the ingredients in a liquidiser until smooth.
Pour into moulds and freeze for six hours. Serve immediately.
LITCHI, BALSAMIC REDUCTION AND GORGONZOLA CHEESE PLATTER
12 peeled, pitted litchis
125g gorgonzola cheese
24 crackers (assorted)
Arrange litchis, cheese and crackers on a platter or individual plates.
Drizzle the litchis with the balsamic reduction and serve.