Nicola Galloway: Dried persimmon slices + Persimmon, pumpkin seed & tahini-toasted muesli


Words and Images: Nicola Galloway

An underrated winter fruit provides an abundance of delicious uses.

As the seasons flow by, I notice distinct themes in my cooking. These can be related to specific cooking methods, such as more slow cooking of soups and stews as we head into winter. They are also led by the produce that is abundant and in season, which features regularly on the table.

At the moment it is persimmons. As I wander the neighbourhood and drive around town, I often spy the golden globes hanging in trees. I love that persimmon trees are deciduous, losing their leaves while the fruit is still on the tree. Once you know what they are, you start to spot them everywhere. Although, I do sometimes wonder if they are actually eaten or just left for the birds.

Persimmons are exotic fruit, unique and different to the everyday fruits available on supermarket shelves. Note: they come in two main varieties, fuyu which can be eaten firm (my all-time favourite fruit), and hachiya, which needs to be very soft to eat or it will make your mouth pucker with its astringency. Hachiya have a longer shape than fuyu and are less common, but it can be deceiving as fuyu also tastes astringent when not quite ripe. Look for fuyu that is deep orange in colour to ensure they are perfectly ripe.

Soft-fleshed hachiya can be used to make chutneys and jams, or simply scooped and eaten as is. In Japan and some other Asian countries, the area of the world they originate from, they are a delicacy and often dried whole. A time-consuming process, but if you have access to astringent hachiya persimmons it is a fun activity to peel and hang the whole fruit, then watch them air-dry over a number of weeks – a method used to preserve before dehydrators. This traditional Japanese preparation is called hoshigaki. There are descriptions available online, and I also share the technique I use in my latest cookbook, The Homemade Table.

A much quicker way to dry persimmon is to dehydrate slices of the firmer-fleshed fuyu. I like to slice them thinly on a mandoline then dry them in a dehydrator until wafer thin. They make a great snack for lunch boxes or chop and add to toasted muesli (see below). If you don’t have a dehydrator or just want to dry a small amount, this is the oven-drying method I use:

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Heat the oven to 50C fan bake – having the oven on fan is important to circulate the warm air evenly. Thinly slice 3-4 persimmons and arrange on two oven trays (lined if you like). Place into the oven and wedge the handle of a wooden spoon in the oven door to keep it slightly ajar. This replicates a dehydrator to keep the air circulating so the fruit dries evenly. Slices of persimmon will take about 4-6 hours to dry, depending on the thickness. Store in a glass jar and use within 1 month.

Persimmon, Pumpkin Seed & Tahini Toasted Muesli

You can mix up the ingredients to use what you have here. Use different seeds or chopped nuts, or almond or peanut butter instead of tahini if preferred. I like the subtle halva flavour from the combination of tahini and honey. If you don’t have dried persimmon, chopped dried apricots would also work well.

INGREDIENTS

3 cups (360g) wholegrain rolled oats
2 cups (160g) coconut flakes
1 cup (150g) pumpkin seeds
1 tsp ground ginger
50g butter or olive oil
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp tahini
pinch of salt
about ½ cup dried persimmon slices, roughly chopped

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 150C (fan 130C).

On a large oven tray combine the oats, coconut flakes, pumpkin seeds and ginger. Place the tray into the oven to warm while making the tahini caramel.

In a small saucepan combine the butter, honey, tahini and salt. Heat over a low heat until combined into a thin caramel-like sauce.

Remove the tray from the oven and pour over the caramel. Mix well to coat the dry ingredients evenly. Return to the oven for 10 minutes.

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After this time give the muesli a good mix then cook for a further 10-15 minutes until golden. You can leave it to cool in the oven to make it extra crispy, or cool on the bench mixing occasionally for even drying.

Once cooled, add the persimmon pieces. Mix to combine then tip into a large jar. Serve with fruit and yoghurt.

Store in the pantry and use within 1 month.


Nicola Galloway is an award-winning food writer, cookbook author and culinary tutor. Find more seasonal recipes on her website – www.homegrown-kitchen.co.nz

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