One of the best pieces of advice I can give to aspiring foodies is to never be afraid to try new things. All your fears about anchovies, weird cheeses, Greek yoghurt, exotic fruits have got to go. Open your mind, because you could be missing out on a lot of yummy food.
Recently I was contacted on behalf of Papaya Australia, as were a number of other bloggers, to rethink papaya and pawpaw and to participate in a recipe challenge using the tag #aussiepapaya. They're looking for recipes that inspire families to give these often overlooked fruits a go and introduce them to their family table. I was a little hesitant because I had never eaten a papaya or pawpaw before, but heeding my advice about not being afraid of new food, I accepted and before long, a box of these ripe fruits arrived at my door.
My first question was which was pawpaw and which was papaya?
- Orangey red flesh
- Yellow-orange skin
- Sweet flavor
- Distinct yellow flesh
- Pale orange skin
- Rounder and larger than red papaya
- Less sweet than red papaya
Australian papaya and pawpaw are available year-round, but reach their peak in the months of May and September/October. They're low GI, full of vitamin C (so great for the winter months to try to combat colds!) and contain beta-carotene. They're not too sweet so they work well in both sweet and savory dishes. The taste is sort of tropicalish, and the texture is nearly the same as a mango.
Before long, I had my first recipe planned. I was going to make a pawpaw fruit leather.
So I sliced open the pawpaw, pureed it until it was velvety smooth, spread it on a baking sheet and placed it in the oven for a number of hours on a low setting. After all day of the oven being on, I realized, it was just wasn't working. Despite being very careful how thin or thick I spread the puree, the thickness was off and it was taking way too long for the middle to firm up. I tasted some of it, but no, I was not pleased. This is something I'd like to try again though, perhaps mix some mango in with it for a touch more sweetness.
A day or two later, I devised an attempt with the papaya. This one would include meringue and coconut cream.
And this tropical recipe worked out a real treat. All you need are meringue nests (which I bought at the store, but feel free to make your own), a can of coconut cream, a ripe papaya and shredded coconut. The recipe comes together super quickly and is perfect for a light dessert.
The only bit of preparation work this recipe needs is refrigerating the can of coconut cream overnight. Oh coconut cream, don't get me started. Do you know how many cans of coconut cream, and milk, I went through to get one that solidified in the refrigerator!? I once got a beautiful coconut whipped cream out of a can of coconut milk, but this time I had to switch to coconut cream, and after 5 cans of the stuff, finally got a good one. One shelf of my refrigerator contains the remnants of these 5 cans!
If you haven't made whipped coconut cream, or milk, yet, the first thing you need to know is that you have to chill the cans of full-fat coconut cream or milk in the refrigerator. The liquid will separate into coconut water (which you drain out and can save for making smoothies) and the thick creamy coconutty goodness that you'll need to scoop out and use to make your whipped cream. Not all brands of coconut cream or milk will separate. It's often a hit or miss deal, at least in my case.
Anyway, I sweetened my coconut cream with about 2-3 tablespoons of powdered sugar (use more or less to suit your own tastes) and about half a teaspoon of vanilla.
Once your coconut cream is whipped and sweetened, place some meringue nests on plates. Spoon some coconut cream on the nests. Drop a few cubes of red papaya on top. Sprinkle with shredded coconut. Done. You don't even need to tell anyone that your meringue nests were purchased from the grocery store (teehee!)!
Okay, I'm going to be honest here and say that the papaya and pawpaw were not the best things I've ever eaten. I wasn't very keen on the smell, either. However, bare with me, because despite this, I think these little meringue nests sweetened things up a bit and I do like this recipe. It's a little meringue nest straight from the tropics and a great, and super easy, way to introduce the red papaya to your family.
Have you tried pawpaw or papaya before? What's your favorite way to eat it?
Meringue Nests With Red Papaya and Whipped Coconut Cream
- 6 meringue nests either store-bought or homemade
- 1 400 ml can of full-fat coconut cream or coconut milk refrigerated overnight
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar or to taste
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 ripe Australian red papaya skin and seeds removed, flesh cubed
- Shredded coconut
- Just before serving, remove the chilled coconut cream or coconut milk from the refrigerator. Turn the can upside down and open it. Drain out all of the coconut water. Scoop out the solidified cream and place into the bowl of a stand mixer (or a medium bowl, in which case you can use a hand mixer). Whisk until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar to taste, and the vanilla extract. Whisk again to incorporate. More detailed instructions, as well as step-by-step photos, on this can be found at Oh She Glows.
- Place meringue nests on serving plates. Place a scoop or two of coconut cream into the nest (depending on how much of the cream you'd like and how big your nest is). Drop a few cubes of the red papaya on top of the cream, then sprinkle the papaya with shredded coconut. Serve immediately.