Fruit salads do not enjoy a good reputation, and perhaps deservedly so. At supermarkets and sandwich joints, what passes as a “fruit salad” is usually nothing more than some random pieces of fruit approaching use-by date diced and sealed in a plastic container. At restaurants, dietetic martyrs who with sad resignation skim through the dessert menu and then announce they will have a fruit salad, attract sympathetic looks and knowing nods.
Yet, it does not have to be this way; fruit salad, made right, can be a highly anticipated course in the dinner menu. The rules are few: balance tastes – sweetness with bitterness and acidity – vary textures and colours, and make sure to not forget a secret ingredient. That’s it.
The way I apply this formula typically involves a base consisting of three or four oranges, diced, two grapefruit, one yellow, one pink or red, again diced, but also with all the membrane removed. So far we have one type of texture – “cellular” – and a mostly acidic taste, with some bitterness contributed by the grapefruit. To balance the taste we need something sweet – grapes are not a bad choice. To vary the texture I add crunchy apple and firm but still creamy relative to other fruit, banana. You will need some more fruit for more colour variety, but the choice is yours; I would recommend strawberries, kiwi, perhaps mango, if you like it a bit sweeter – up to you.
Oh, did I mention the secret ingredient? All this balancing and varying is for naught if we forget to add that little bit of excitement to the mix. One tried and tested option is to take half a cup of raisins and douse in gin. Leave them for at least an hour, until the raisins start to blanch, then put the raisins together with the gin in the salad. The taste of gin will be barely noticeable, but will beautifully counterbalance any remaining sweetness. At this stage expect the bowl to contain quite a lot of juicy liquid – if it does not then perhaps the citrus has been too dry, but it can be remedied by adding some half a cup of fresh grapefuit juice. The salad can be served immediately, but best keep it chilled for an hour before serving.