Anolon Academy

Notes on Fruit

By Chef Philippa Sibley

Fresh fruits in season are probably my favourite ingredient, and I use them in both sweet and savoury dishes. In Melbourne, where I live, seasonality really does dictate quality. I find it quite romantic that many fruits are only available when they are in season – for me this evokes memories and associations. 

When the first cherries appear, I think of the coming summer and all the beautiful stone fruits I so enjoy using at Christmas time. Then come the blackberries, plums and figs in autumn. In winter, orchard fruits, quinces, apples and pears are in their prime as are all the citrus – mandarins, lemons, blood oranges and ruby grapefruits always feature on my menus in the colder months. 

Use your senses when choosing fruits. Smell strawberries and other berries – if they are fragrant they will inevitably taste wonderful. Check the bottom of the punnet, as often under ripe or squashed fruit will be stashed underneath the nice-looking fruit. It may come as a surprise to some, but strawberries are very good, if not at their best, in the winter months, especially those from Queensland. 

When choosing melons, feel for weight and firmness. Pineapples are ripe when they have a golden hue at the base and the leaves pluck out easily. 

When checking peaches and plums for ripeness, always press gently near where the stalk is, as you don’t want to bruise the fruit on its presentation side. 

Pears are tricky. I suggest buying firm, green, slightly under ripe pears and letting them ripen for several days at room temperature before using. 

Fruits are fragile ingredients, so treat them with care. Don’t leave some stone fruits all jumbled up in bags on top of each other as they will likely bruise or become damaged and this will affect their final presentation.