To me, winter is well and truly here when these heavy golden orbs start dropping from heavily burdened branches onto soggy lawns throughout the country (well, in the subtropical North at least – do grapefruit survive frosts? I’m not sure.) A few years ago I wrote a piece about grapefruit for Taste magazine and discovered in my in-depth research (I didn’t study Arts for nothing) that what we call a grapefruit (a different citrus than what goes by that name elsewhere) was brought here - along with wallabies, gnu and even zebras.
‘Allegorical Triumph of Sir George’, 2001 painting by Hamish Foote.
Our grapefruit, initially known as ‘poorman’s orange’, is a hybrid of unknown origins. I love a good mystery!
Despite never having lived on a property boasting a grapefruit tree, the fruit, along with lemons and feijoas, has made it into my book of ‘fruit thou shalt not have to exchange money for’ – because when they’re in season, they are prolific; grapefruit is synonymous with glut. So an anonymous grapefruit donation the other day had me real happy. A few streets down, some kind person had bagged up surplus from what I can only imagine must be a very well-performing tree, and placed said bags on the roadside for eagle-eyed passersby such as me to hone in on.
I can’t go past juicing these babies, because there’s nothing better on a wintry morning that a long glass of tart, bitter grapefruit juice, but here’s a nice idea if you’re looking for more ways to use up the glut. The mint, and especially the coriander, in my garden are thriving in these cool climes, and I’m loving using them in SE Asian-inspired salads such as this. Grapefruit has a bitterness that does well when counteracted, as it is here, with spicy, sour and sweet – the foundation of all SE Asian cooking. I served this with a dish of whole baked salmon topped with tamarind onions and even more herbs.
Use your head for amounts depending on portion size you’re after
Extract the flesh from grapefruit wedges. You can do this the finicky way by peeling fruit, carefully removing membrane, or you can take a quicker route by slicing the fruit in half horizontally, slicing round each wedge and scooping the flesh out. That takes a wee while too – grapefruit are just a bit time-consuming like that. As you’re removing the flesh you can let all the juice dribble into the bowl with the flesh and squeeze any remaining juice from the spent skin into a small bowl to make the dressing.
To the grapefruit flesh, add one long shallot, very finely sliced into circles – break up into single circles as you add to the bowl.
Add a bunch of fresh herbs, roughly chopped. I’ve used mint and coriander, but Thai basil, Vietnamese mint or even regular basil would be nice too. I had a heap of spring onions in the salmon dish but had I not, they would be nice added to this salad, also.
To the small bowl in which you’ve collected extra grapefruit juice, add some fish sauce, grated palm sugar and red chilli flakes to taste. Naturally, you’re looking to achieve a good balance of sweet/sour/salty/spicy.
Pour dressing over salad and stir to combine. Serve as a side to all sort of dishes – of course it marries well with Thai curries, whole fish dishes and stir-fries, but it would also be great with barbecued or roasted meats and grilled fish.