Litchi & crab salad, with cucumber ribbons, and a sweet chilli dressing.
Litchi & crab salad, with cucumber ribbons, and a sweet chilli dressing.

With a number of different cultivars produced here, namely Third Month Red, Mauritius, Fay Zee Siu, Wai Chee and McLean’s Red, the SA litchi season spans most of summer, from late October right through to early March, peaking between November and January.

Nothing quite says summer like litchis, with their rosy red skins and delicately fragranced flesh that oozes juicy sweetness.

A fuss-free ingredient for both sweet and savoury dishes, litchis are great in starters like cool lettuce and litchi soup, and mains like litchi and crab salad with a sweet chilli sauce and duck with litchi in a red Thai curry.

Of course dessert is where litchis really shine, adding a subtle sweetness and perfume to parfaits, ice-creams, cheesecake, sorbets and tarts. That’s not to mention refreshing drinks like litchi and ginger ice tea or litchi and mint cooler – all perfect poolside accompaniments.

They’re also ideal for the whole family.

Anyone watching their waistlines will be happy to know litchis are the ultimate guilt-free indulgence as they’re naturally fat-free.

Plus 100g of raw, peeled litchis are a source of vitamin C making them a nutritious treat for young and old.

Here are some great summer recipes using litchis.

Litchi and rosewater ice

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

l 15ml rosewater

l 150ml water

l 100g sugar

l 100g litchis, peeled and stoned

l mint leaf, for garnish

l litchis for garnish

Method:

l Make sugar syrup by boiling the water and sugar until the sugar is dissolved, remove and allow to cool.

l Put the litchis in a blender or food processor together with the rosewater and syrup. Process to a fine puree.

l Pour the mixture into a 23cm square baking tin and put into the freezer for 3 hours.

l Break the iced mixture into chunks and process again until slushy. Return to the baking tin and freeze once more until solid.

l To serve – Allow the mixture to soften slightly (about 5 minutes) and scoop into 4 champagne glasses or dessert bowls.

l Garnish with mint leaves and litchis.

Litchi and mint iced tea

Ingredients:

l 3 peppermint tea bags

l 500ml boiling water

l 2 cups litchi juice or water (may need to add sugar if using water)

l 10 peeled litchis for garnish

l 1 bunch fresh mint, washed

Method:

l Brew tea in boiling water; allow to draw for 10 minutes.

l Pour brewed tea into a serving jug.

l Add the litchi juice and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

l To serve garnish with mint and peeled litchi’s

Chilled litchi & lettuce soup

Serves 4

Make one day in advance

Ingredients:

l 1 tablespoon olive oil

l 6 large spring onions, washed and sliced

l 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

l 500ml vegetable stock

l 675g litchis, peeled and stoned

l 2 lettuces, washed and chopped ( preferably Cos or Iceberg)

l large handful of freshly chopped mint

l salt and freshly ground pepper

l 250ml cream

To serve:

l 4 tablespoons thick cream

l fresh mint sprigs

Method:

l Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the spring onions, garlic, and gently cook for 5-7 minutes or until the spring onions are soft but not brown.

l Pour in the stock and bring to the boil.

l Add the litchis, bring back to the boil and reduce to simmering point.

l Stir in the lettuce and mint.

l Continue to cook for 2-3 minutes or until the litchis are just tender.

l Allow the soup to cool and then blend in a food processor or with a hand blender until smooth.

l Season to taste with salt and pepper.

l Pour into a large bowl, add cream, cover and chill for four hours or overnight.

l To serve, spoon the soup into chilled soup bowls.

l Spoon a tablespoon of cream into the soup and top with a sprig of mint before serving.

Litchi & crab salad, with cucumber ribbons, and a sweet chilli dressing

Serves 2- 4

Method:

l 12 litchis, peeled and stoned

l 200g cooked crab meat

l ¼ red cabbage sliced

l ½ red onion, finely sliced

l 1 cucumber, sliced into ribbons

l 2 limes, quartered

l 1 chilli to garnish

Dressing:

l 2 tablespoons brown sugar

l 50ml lime juice

l 100ml sweet chilli sauce

l 2 lime leaves

l 30g mint leaves

Method:

l Arrange the salad on a platter.

l Combine the dressing ingredients in a food processor and combine.

l Pour dressing over salad and serve immediately

Duck & litchi red Thai curry

Serves 4

l 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

l 4 duck breasts or 600g chicken thigh fillets, trimmed of excess fat

l 114g can Thai red curry paste

l 250ml chicken stock

l 450g mixed stir-fry veggies (cabbage, carrots, bamboo shoots, spring onions etc.)

l 300g peeled and stoned litchis

l 15ml fish sauce

l 15ml brown sugar

l 140ml can coconut milk

l 1/3 cup basil leaves

l steamed jasmine rice, to serve

Method:

l Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.

l Cook the duck or chicken, in batches, for 1 to 2 minutes each side or until golden – set aside.

l With the remaining oil fry the veggies briefly and set aside with the duck.

l Reduce the heat to low, and add curry paste and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes or until aromatic. Add stock and stir until curry paste has dissolved.

l Add the litchis, vegetables and duck and stir gently to combine.

l Combine the fish sauce, sugar and coconut milk in a jug and stir into curry. Cook for 5 minutes and stir in basil.

l Spoon curry over rice and serve. - The Mercury