Lychees are everywhere at the moment. I always associate this wonderful little fruit with Christmas, I think because when I was younger they were always included in the obligatory fruit salad my mum made to follow Christmas dinner. They still have that hint of the exotic about them, perhaps because unlike a lot of other fruit, you can only get them at a certain time of the year. How perfect, that they start appearing just as your palate is bored of hearty winter stews and comforting flavours. Their sharp juiciness and hint of sweet perfume is just what you need on a gloomy January day, and, along with rhubarb, their colour can't help but cheer you up a little bit. Their texture is also immensely satisfying; despite them often being used for children in Halloween games to replicate eyeballs, I still love the smooth, slippery flesh with its translucent and sometimes slightly pink hue. The other day I spied a two-kilo box of lychees at the greengrocers' for £4. I can't resist fruit in a box; I think it's the sense of abundance and plenty that it carries with it. Perhaps that's why I love alphonso mangoes so much. There's something very satisfying about carting home a whole box of fruit, knowing that your vitamin supply is well and truly secured for the next week or so. Needless to say, I bought the box without hesitating.
However, even I - fruit addict that I am - cannot eat that many lychees without help. The problem with lychees is that they tend to go off quite quickly, and once one turns mouldy, the entire batch swiftly follows (as I found out to my dismay a few weeks ago). I did a quick google for lychee recipes, but there are surprisingly few, perhaps because it is a fruit that is pretty perfect raw and unadulterated. Also, those fiddly stones make cooking with them a bit of a faff.
I remember eating a delicious lychee sorbet at G&Ds ice cream café a couple of summers ago, and decided to replicate it. I wanted something that would capture the delicate perfume of the fruit without confusing it; a sorbet consisting of just water, lychees, sugar and a squeeze of lime juice seemed a good solution. However, I reckon an ice cream made with lychees and coconut milk would be amazing too - lychees have an affinity with both lime and coconut, probably because they grow in similar regions. I might have to try that at some point...perhaps I will go and get another box tomorrow.
Lychee sorbet recipe:
Peel 600g lychees and put them in a pan with 300ml water and 100g white sugar. Bring to the boil until the sugar has dissolved, and then turn off the heat and allow to cool. When cool, de-stone the lychees, add 2tbsp lime juice (or more, or less, to taste), and blitz the whole lot in a blender. Then just churn in an ice-cream maker to set, place in the freezer to firm up, and garnish with desiccated coconut and lime zest when ready to serve - and perhaps a few fresh lychees, if (like me) you're desperate to use them up.