Is the food we eat "Jet Lagged"? Have you ever doubted the logic in eating mandarins from Spain or cherries from California? Over the years imported produce has became more acceptable in seasons where the locally grown crops are unavailable. It is hard to ignore that for produce to travel so far for the reasons of yearlong abundance does have its environmental and nutritional downfalls.
Environmentally I often ask what additional pesticides and gasses are used make them more travel hardy. Nutritionally are they reduced by these interventions?
As individuals we can always be aware of how the season dictate our eating patterns. We also need to be mindful that extremities in seasons can cause scarcity.
Complaining about the cost of bananas and avocadoes after a cyclone is truly a first world problem. As city folk we tend to get into a pattern of thinking that we should always have everything as we wish. People have lost their connection with the seasons and how it dominates the availability of food. It is far better to enjoy food when it is at its best seasonally. By supporting our local farmers, we reduce the global foot print needed to export food and enjoy produce when it is truly in its flavoursome abundance.
Figs are a great example of a fruit that has only a very short season. Around Easter figs are always in abundance. Figs are typically difficult to harvest, the birds, and other native animals love them therefore they require extensive netting to protect fruiting trees. Figs are one of the fruits that truly resonates with my Mediterranean heritage. I remember my grandparents having fig trees on their farm and enjoying their seasonal bounty.
Figs are a wonderful source of fibre; however, they are high in fructose so those that are watching their blood sugars may need to limit their intake. A good trick is to balance their sweetness with a protein like cheese. Figs filled with ricotta and dusted with cinnamon may not spike blood sugars as much as figs on their own.
Gluten Free, refined sugar free
I made this cheesecake (in the photo above) to take to our friends for Greek Easter. This wonderful special occasion treat is a modified version of a classic baked cheesecake. I have given away the biscuit base for an alternative that is rich in vitamin E, magnesium and fibre. The filling is not as sweet and heavy as the traditional version. Using ricotta and quark boost the protein, making it not all so naughty. Note to portions as you should, this amazing cheesecake serves 12.
For the base:
¾ cup of raw or activated almonds
75 grams of melted organic butter
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup of brown rice flour
8 Medjool dates pitted
For the filling:
I cup of Organic quark (if you cannot find it, substitute for thick natural yoghurt and strain excess water)
500g of fresh ricotta, strained of excess water
1 teaspoon of vanilla paste
1 lemon zested and juiced
¼ cup raw honey or pure maple syrup
For the topping:
Depending on size 5 to eight ripe figs
1 orange juiced
1 tablespoon of pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste or extract
1 teaspoon of raw honey
For the base: add dates, almonds, and rice flour in a food processor and process until the mixture resembles crumbs. Add egg yolk and melted butter and process. Press the mixture into a 20cm springform tin that is lined with baking paper.
Bake for 30 minutes in a oven preheated to 150 degrees.
For the filling: add, ricotta, quark, raw honey or maple, vanilla lemon juice and zest in a food processor and process until smooth. Add one egg at a time and mix well with each egg addition. The mixture should be liquid in consistency.
Bake for one hour at 150 degrees. Leave in the oven with the door ajar for about an hour and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight to make sure it is set.
For the topping: slice figs in rounds and place in a bowl. In a small bowl: mix juice, pomegranate molasses, honey and vanilla. Pour over figs and allow to macerate for about an hour. Decorate the cheesecake with fig slices and spoon some of the syrup over the cheese cake.
Seasonal variations: to keep with the idea of seasonal eating figs will be out of season before you know it. So be creative and use fruit that is in season. Pears, passionfruit, macerated strawberries, blueberry compote or poached rhubarb would work equally well with this versatile cheesecake base.