A fruitful venture

[Recipe 1] KHOSHAF (DRIED FRUIT SALAD) with HONEYED NUTS
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[Recipe 2] ORANGE, MIXED FRUIT and CHIA MUFFINS

May I suggest an excellent Christmas gift idea, perhaps for your parents or in-laws? A food tour! The CAE has a fab list of culinary walks and tours, and I can’t wait to head off on a mushroom hunting expedition with my mum next year. The husband and I took my mother-in-law on a food tour of Sydney Road 12 years ago. It was surprisingly intriguing playing tourist on one of our favourite streets, and I learned the technique for making khoshaf from our guide.
Khoshaf is a traditional Middle Eastern dried fruit salad; made by soaking, rather than stewing, dried fruit in water overnight with fragrant rosewater and spices. I dished it up to my lovely lady friends for breakfast, on our recent holiday in Trentham. A country vacation is not complete without enamelware, and I was rapt to discover 2 classic enamel picnic plates among the unmatched crockery – see my first photo below.
I’m not a fan of overly sweet fruit for breakfast, so although authentic khoshaf includes sugar, I’ve found using a mixture of water and orange juice adds just enough sweetness. Khoshaf usually includes nuts too, but I omit these and serve the fruit with my honeyed nuts on the side instead. The plump fruit and crunchy nuts go beautifully with a dollop of Greek yogurt. Such a lip-smackingly healthy way to start the day!
I made another batch of khoshaf recently, determined to see if I could transform it into a second meal, and lo and behold it morphed into the most addictive Orange, mixed fruit and chia muffins. My boys loved these, and I’m both embarrassed and proud to say we ate the lot in one day. I’ve since made another batch, and placed them directly in the freezer.
I used my own go-to muffin recipe as the base. The 1½ cups of reserved dried fruit salad can be replaced with almost any fruit – see ingredients for my banana, coconut and lime muffins and carrot and sultana spice muffins in the recipe notes. I must say dried fruit salad is one of my most favourite muffin additions to date, and I may go and snaffle one from the freezer right now.

Khoshaf (dried fruit salad)[Recipe 1] Khoshaf (dried fruit salad) with honeyed nuts

Ingredients (makes approximately 4 cups):
150g (5¼ oz) dried apples, halved
200g (7 oz) dried apricots (or dried peaches, halved)
150g (5¼ oz) pitted prunes
2 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
1½ cups freshly-squeezed orange juice (from 2 large oranges)
cups water
1½ teaspoons rose water
Honeyed nuts, to serve
Greek yogurt, to serve

Place dried fruit, cinnamon and star anise in a bowl. Bring orange juice and water to the boil in a small saucepan. Pour over the dried fruits and spices. Fruit should be well-covered with liquid, so add more boiling water if necessary. Sprinkle with rosewater.
Stir lightly. Steep overnight in the fridge, covered.
Serve with Greek yogurt, scattered with honeyed nuts.

♦ Reserve 1½ cups of the dried fruit salad for the orange, mixed fruit and chia muffins.

  • Dried fruit salad will keep in the fridge for up to one week. Add a little more boiling water if it begins to need more liquid.
  • You can use any dried fruit for this dish; such as figs, medjool dates, pears or large raisins. This recipe is a great way to use up all those bits and pieces languishing in your pantry. You’ll need a total of 500g (approx. 1 lb).
  • If the idea of dried apricots marinating in a pool of sulphites isn’t appealing, you can use organic apricots – the colour won’t be as vivid but the flavour will be just as fabulous.
  • Rose water can be found at Middle Eastern grocery stores, such as Oasis or A1 Bakery. If you have roses in your garden, you can make your own. Leftover pure rosewater can be used as a natural face toner!

Orange, mixed fruit and chia muffinsOrange, mixed fruit, chia muffins

[Recipe 2] Orange, mixed fruit and chia muffins

Ingredients (makes 12):
2 cups (300g) self-raising (self-rising) flour
½ cup (50g) oat bran
3 tablespoons chia seeds

½ cup (100g) caster sugar
1 cup (250ml) buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
60 grams (2 oz/½ stick) butter, melted, slightly cooled
1½ cups reserved dried fruit salad, drained, roughly chopped
¼ cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons orange zest

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Combine flour, oat bran, chia seeds and sugar in a large bowl.
Lightly whisk buttermilk, egg and melted butter in a separate bowl. Add to the dry ingredients and mix lightly until just combined.
Add reserved dried fruit salad, orange juice and zest and fold together gently until just combined (a few floury lumps are perfectly fine). Don’t over-mix, or you’ll end up with tough muffins! Divide mixture among 12 lined muffin pans.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of a muffin. Allow to cool in tray for ten minutes, then turn onto racks to cool completely.

  • Muffins can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days – they remain surprisingly moist. If you’re frightened you may polish off the lot in one sitting, they can be frozen for up 2 months and thawed overnight in the fridge.
  • This muffin recipe is easy to vary:
    Banana, lime and coconut muffins: Replace the 1½ cups reserved dried fruit salad with 1 cup mashed banana (you’ll need 2 large very ripe bananas) and ½ cup shredded dried coconut. Replace the orange juice and zest with lime juice and lime zest. Sprinkle with extra shredded coconut.
    Carrot and sultana spice muffins: Add ½ teaspoon mixed spice and 1 teaspoon cinnamon to the dry ingredients. Replace the 1½ cups reserved dried fruit salad with 1 cup grated carrot (you’ll need 2 large carrots) and ½ cup sultanas.