How would you describe the texture of fresh litchis? It’s probably closest to some traditional grape varieties, but this association might come from its very sweet taste as well. Considering the texture only, to my opinion litchis resemble prawns or scallops. Based on this line of thought, I replaced the prawns to litchis in a simple recipe I developed 2 years ago.
I slightly changed the preparation of the garnish too. First I skipped the butter and the milk in the salsify puree to get a purely vegan dish as final result. Because recently I learned that baked salsify is much more easy to handle and preserves a lot more of its flavor, I baked the salsify roots wrapped in aluminium foil in the oven. In the blood orange sauce this time I skipped the muscovado sugar to get a more tart result which balanced the sweetness of the litchis. The litchis were roasted in a very hot pan for a few seconds only. Prepared this way the cooked hot litchi preserved its texture similar to prawns and scallops. If litchis were just slightly less sweet, they could be applied in endless variations of appetizers or main courses. So, if you have a tip how to tell from a raw litchi its sweetness or ripeness, please share your knowledge as a comment below.
Roasted Litchi with Salsify Puree and Blood Orange Sauce
- 1 thick or 2 regular salsify (about 300g)
- 75 ml vegetable stock
- 4 drops cinnamon oil
- 1-2 drops chili oil
- 3 blood oranges
- 1 tsp dark soy sauce
- 8 fresh litchis
- freshly ground black pepper
- few drops of oil
For the salsify puree
Wash the salsify until all earth is removed. Wrap in aluminium foil and bake in the oven at 200°C / 390 F for 1 hour. After baking allow to chill to room temperature, unwrap and peel - carefully discarding any black spots. Blend the salsify into a fine puree and add as much vegetable stock as required to get a creamy texture. Season with salt, few drops of cinnamon oil and chili oil. Press through a fine sieve. Warm the puree over low heat before serving, stirring regularly.
For the blood orange sauce
Cut one blood orange in half. Remove the skin from the orange, no white parts should be left. Using a sharp knife cut fillets from the orange and cut each fillet into 2 or 3 small pieces. Reserve.
Juice the other half and the two blood oranges and strain the liquid. Cook over low heat until the juice gets syrupy. Season with dark soy sauce and reserve. Warm the sauce before serving, and add the fillet pieces.
For the litchi
Peel the litchis, cut in half and remove the kernels. Drain the litchi halves on kitchen paper.
Heat a pan until very hot, add a few drops of oil and roast the litchis shortly. Season with salt and pepper and toss the pan to brown the litchis on all sides. Transfer the litchis to a warm plate.
Put 2 tbsp salsify puree on warm plates and add 4 litchi halves on top. Pour over and around from the blood orange sauce.