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In Season For January – The Summery Bounty of the land and Briny Punch from the Sea

Prickly Pears: A curious fruit, fleshy with a flavour reminiscent of guava. The seed is nutty in flavour and crunchy in texture. Sliced they make a very attractive and delicious platter, served with wafer thin slices of prosciutto, or as a salad with buffalo mozzarella and rocket leaves, simply dressed with fruity olive oil and flakes of sea salt.

Lovely fresh plump mussels are available now and at the moment I tend favour the ones from the Saldana coast (most fishmongers seem to have a plentiful supply of mussels year round). Mussels should be alive when you buy them. They can be stored in the refrigerator, in a colander covered with a wet cloth with something underneath to catch the liquid. This allows them to breathe and drain; you can keep them like this for three to four days.

Gorgeous fresh sweetcorn can be found in the markets; always buy the corn which is still in the husk and which should look fresh and green, not yellowing or browning. Corn brings a burst of sweetness, a flash of colour and a satisfying crunch to just about any meal. I like simple steamed or boiled sweetcorn on the cob, served with salt flakes and butter; a nice accompaniment to roast chicken.

Also in season are:

FRUIT:

Apricots, avocados, bananas, berries, cherries, currants, lemons, lychees, mangoes, mangosteen, nectarines, oranges, passion fruit, peaches, pineapples, plums, rock melons.

VEGETABLES:

Beans, capsicum, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce, okra, onions, peas, radishes, squash, sweet corn, tomatoes, zucchini, zucchini flowers

SEAFOOD:

Abalone, lobster, mussels, school prawns, salmon, oysters, tuna

Recipe

Summery Corn, Basil & Lemon Thyme Soup

This delicious soup is a real treat. the Avocado garnish provides a lovely sweet sour salty contrast. This soup is makes a nice starter or is perfect as a light meal, and It can be served either hot or cold. Although I have used basil and thyme in this recipe you could also use fresh coriander with a bit of ginger and a pinch of chilli.

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Serves 6

Ingredients

30 ml butter

2 onions, diced

750 ml sweetcorn cut from the cob

1 ½ litres warm chicken stock

200 ml picked basil leaves, roughly chopped

20 ml roughly chopped lemon thyme leaves

Sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper to taste

Garnish

1 avocado chopped into small dice

1 small chilli finely diced

30 ml fish sauce

30 ml rice wine

100 ml olive oil

Method

Place the butter in a heated pan. When melted add the diced onion and soften until translucent.

Add the sweetcorn and warm stock. Bring up to the boil then simmer gently for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the herbs and blend. Season to taste.

Place all the garnish ingredients in a bowl, mix gently together to incorporate all the flavours. Spoon a small mound in the middle of each bowl of soup.

Serve soup hot or cold with some crisp toast or fresh bread.

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