Bananas and passionfruit

Two roadside stalls close to each other but with gulfs of difference. As if one were the basic, the other deluxe. The basic was where we stopped first, climbing sandy-limbed out of the car onto Clothiers Creek Road up the old highway end. Tumbles of small wrinkly passionfruit five for a dollar or larger, smoother ones three for a dollar. Bananas – Cavendish, Ladyfingers, straight and slender, fat and phallic, pale lime through to black-pocked gold – alongside them. The rusty honesty tin into whose slot we honestly dropped the correct change before bearing away armfuls of everything.

Then, almost at the next bend, a sign we thought said the Greek Stall: open shed, table and chairs out the front, two big blond dogs dozing, the glint of a quietly running stream. Intrigued as much by the ‘Greek’ as the rest we stopped the car again. This was almost a roadside cafe – fancy espresso machine in the corner and two bubbly women smiling at our arrival. Boxes stacked neatly bulged with eggplant and capsicum, zucchini and tomatoes, sweet potatoes and kipflers, onions and cucumbers. Silverbeet spilled like flowers out of a vase; gnarly pumpkins and exotic squash lolled between the displays. While I waited for my skinny latte and while the man I love selected ingredients for our evening meal I chatted to Karen who, despite her dark continental looks, assured me it was the Creek and not the Greek stall; that they had been open since August last year. Enchanted, we left with a box of local produce, inordinately proud of ourselves.

The pumpkin and the mushrooms and the cherry tomatoes and the silverbeet and the garlic and the basil all turned into a glorious pasta bake for our Sunday night supper – leaving my fruit bowl brimming over with the bananas and the passionfruit from our humbler roadside stall. The bananas are already becoming riper and sweeter and softer so will be absolutely perfect for the banana cheesecake I plan to bake this weekend, glazed with syrupy passionfruit.

That, however, will only account for two bananas and four passionfruit at the most, so I am obliged – although obligation barely enters as this is one of the most pleasurable aspects of cooking, the determining of a dish by the ingredients at hand – to cook more beautiful things. And so I thought about a passionfruit posset, possibly even going for overkill by serving it alongside the cheesecake. It is, after all, just passionfruit- scented cream, the flesh of five passionfruit scooped out into a sieve set over a bowl and pressed so the juice is extracted. Double cream – 450 grams – gently heated with 110 grams of caster sugar until the latter is dissolved, then bubbled on the boil for several minutes. Off the heat and the juice of a lemon, strained, stirred through along with the passionfruit juice – then all of that poured into six glasses. When it’s cooled it’s chilled for six hours before serving – garnished with reserved passionfruit seeds.

Then I will make individual, baby banana breads for breakfast and serve them with dollops of passionfruit butter made by whipping together softened cream cheese, icing sugar, lemon juice and passionfruit pulp plus juice. Or maybe banana and passionfruit muffins. A pavlova. A banana cake with passionfruit icing. A passionfruit cake with banana icing. Certainly the following syrup to mix with dry ginger ale or, better still, vodka for a summer’s-end cocktail, a little memory of a beachy Sunday and its fruitful drive home.

PASSIONFRUIT SYRUP

Combine the pulp from six large passionfruit with 1⁄2 cup lemon juice, 1⁄2 cup caster sugar and two cups water in a saucepan over high heat. Stir until sugar dissolves, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer on the lowest heat for 1–11⁄2 hours, or until rich and syrupy. Cool, strain, serve.

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