branches down there
in the mist, of luscious
– transparent with frost.
From ‘Persimmons: Campagnatico’, David Malouf
Before we moved up to Brisbane we lived in Brunswick, Melbourne. One of the great things about that part of the world is the network of bluestone alleyways that wend their way through the suburb. They are fantastic for shortcuts, for getting lost; like secret pathways, they indulged the childhood part of me that loved stories of labyrinths and hidden world. Best of all, they are fantastic for a spot of clandestine fruit picking.
Walk through the alleyways at the right time of the season, and hanging over the fences are ripe apples, pears, persimmons. As uni students, we would often help ourselves; we figured that if it was hanging over the fence, it was ripe for the picking (!). Having a boyfriend who was 2m tall definitely helped. And it wasn’t just uni students who helped themselves to the low hanging fruit. One day riding by the train line I saw a elderly gentleman and his wife collecting prickly pears; he had a long stick for knocking the fruits down, she had a bucket for collecting.
My favourite fruit picking season was always early autumn, when the persimmons were ready. More than once I would get home with a backpack full of persimmons, and the overripe ones at the bottom of my bag would have turned to jam, all over my uni books and notes. It didn’t put me off though.
I’ll be honest, I’ve been gorging on persimmons these past few weeks. There is nothing not to love – bright orange, uniquely flavoured, not too sweet, a nice crunch. They started appearing at the markets and in our co-op box a few weeks ago. Most every afternoon this last week I’ve been slicing up a ripe persimmon and savouring it piece by piece after W goes down for her afternoon nap.
I’ve also been loving fruit in my salad lately, and really wanted to create a salad focused on the persimmon while they were so abundant and delicious. This salad is deliberately simple so as not to crowd out the subtle flavour of the persimmon. Grilling the persimmons draws out the taste, which is complimented by the nutty wild rice and toasted hazelnuts. This salad has a hint of sweetness, and made a perfect Saturday afternoon lunch in the lazy autumn sunshine.
Grilled Persimmon & Wild Rice Salad
½ cup wild rice
⅓ cup hazelnuts
1 generous handful rocket
2 persimmon (grilled, 3 mins each side)
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp honey (or liquid sweetener of your choice)
1 tsp cinnamon
Salt & pepper, to taste
Heat oven to 180°c/350°f. Lay hazelnuts out in a single layer and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the skins are crackly and the nuts are aromatic. Once the nuts have cooled, remove the skins by rubbing them between your fingers. Chop roughly and set aside.
To cook your wild rice, boil 1½ cups of water in a pot, add a pinch of salt and the wild rice. Cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the rice is tender but not mushy, and the kernels have popped open, about 45 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
While the rice is cooking, prepare your dressing by whisking together the oil, apple cider vinegar, sesame oil, cinnamon, and honey (or liquid sweetener of your choice).
Prepare the persimmons and slice them into wedges, cooking on a hot grill, for about or three minutes each side, until the edges are just starting to crackle.
To assemble the salad, combine the rice, grilled persimmon, rocket, and hazelnuts (reserving a few to serve). Stir through the dressing, and top with the reserved hazelnuts to serve.