The final week of our stay in Ubud, I took a fruit decoration and fruit carving class while my children took different classes at the same place. I found the workshop was fun and considered it break from routines of dancing, painting, and playing gamelan instruments or dining at our favourite restaurants or watching dance performances at night.
I also was curious how to create such a pretty flower on a watermelon, like those made in Thai hotels or restaurants. This carved and decorated fruits and vegetables apparently has become a tradition in Balinese people when there is a birthday celebration.
First time for me to do this. And believe me, it is not as hard as it looks. All you need is a set of sharpened thin knives and an imagination.
I make a flower from a watermelon which was provided by the teacher. After it was peeled, half-way to the top, the teacher began giving me instructions how to start and make petal by petal. He showed me the different use of knives and how to apply them on carving. I was given assistance every now and then after he trusted the whole round to me. Well, I am not going to muck around with knives, am I?
It took me an hour and a half to actually finish it and carried it back to the hotel with receptions of eye-goggling from anybody who saw it. So, anytime you go to Ubud, Bali, make sure you pack yourself with new artistic skills to take them back home. No such rewards but great satisfaction will be.
Back home in New Zealand, Autumn fruits are welcoming us. There are still some apples, nashi pears, passionfruits, and late grapes.
This year, we also have been enjoying feijoas (pineapple guava--feijoa sellowiana), the exotic fruit originated from South America, and now have become favourite Autumn fruits which are grown in many backyards and orchards in New Zealand. We have cultivated more or less 15-20 trees altogether on at least two varieties which are functioned as the orchard hedge in order to blocking the wind when they are growing up. I remember that we have planted Apollo-is the long oval one, and Kakapo-is the round one only last year, so the trees are still young, although they are already bearing fruits. These varieties are considered mid-season fruiting, and so we are enjoying them now. I like picking them up from the ground, sitting down and enjoying them scooped, fresh.
It is told that feijoas are rich of vitamin C and antioxidants, minerals and fibre. You don't have to feel guilty when eating them because they are low in calories.
Some people say repeatedly that feijoas taste like a combination of pineapple, strawberry, banana, and guava. To me, feijoas taste like the juicy sirsak (Custard apple tree-annona muricata) with its combination flavour of sweetness and slightly tangy flavour.
Our trees drop a small basket a day, so I am planning to make chutney, salsa, curd, or jam later in the season. Today, I bake feijoa shortcake for a start. It's simple and easy.
Gluten-Free Feijoa Shortcake
by Arfi Binsted
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg yolk + 1 whole egg
1 cup gluten-free flour
3/4 cup almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
a little icing sugar, to dust
10 small Kakapo feijoas (4-5 for big Apollos), peeled and quartered
lemon zest of 1 lemon
a pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 180C. Prepare a sponge roll tin, lined with baking paper. Set aside.
Make filling by cooking quartered feijoas, with just a little water, until the fruits are just tender. Drained and set aside.
Beat butter, sugar, and vanilla extract until the mixture is pale. Beat in the eggs. Fold in sifted flour, almond meal, and baking powder, mix well. The mixture should be sticky. Spoon the mixture out on the prepared tin, spread and leveled. Arrange cooked feijoas on the base. Spread the rest of the mixture on top of the fruits. No need to be perfect on covering the whole fruit (after all, this is the art of baking, don't you think?). Bake about 20-35 minutes or until golden brown. Removed from the oven and served warm or cold, dusted with icing sugar. Makes 12 slices.