A Taste of Two Islands: Blackberry Jam and Lilikoi Custard

I was born in the land where palm trees sway, where the ocean feels like bath water, and the Goddess Laka set the thermostat to 27°C.  Anything hotter or colder would make the flowers unhappy.

Hawaii is the ultimate melting pot. Perhaps this is why its cuisine is so delicious or what the locals call ono. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, people from all over the world sailed to Hawaii’s sandy shores, each of them bringing the flavours of home.

Labourers were needed to work the sugarcane fields and pineapple plantations. Many came from Portugal, Puerto Rico, China, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines.  My paternal great-grandparents were among them.  My maternal family from Iowa came for different reasons.  Like the Blues brothers, they were on a mission from God.  Quite literally as my grandparents were Southern Baptist missionaries.

When my aunt and uncle lived in Hawaii Kai, they always had two things in their backyard–a stray ginger cat called Gus and an abundance of lilikoi. Lilikoi is what Hawaiians call passion fruit. They are red or yellow; the latter tend to be sharper and more acidic. You can add them to cream based desserts for a distinctly tropical note like I’ve done in this recipe here. 

Though I have long known that I enjoy eating lilikoi custard, it wasn’t until I moved to London that I realised how much I like it on buttermilk biscuits with blackberry jam. Bramble season in the UK is August through September. This is why I like to stock my freezer full of berries, so I can use them the whole year through.

Below are my recipes for lilikoi custard and a quick blackberry jam. Though the distance between Honolulu and London is 7,223 miles, I can bring their flavours closer together on a plate.

Ingredients for lilikoi custard:

300ml milk

100ml double cream

½ tsp vanilla bean paste

4 egg yolks

75 to 100g of caster sugar (depending on how sweet you like it and how tart your fruit is)

1 tbsp corn flour

3 to 4 lilikoi (3 fl oz. of juice and 2 tsp of processed seeds/pulp)

 

Method for the lilikoi custard:

First, put the lilkoi in a food processor and pulse. Strain the juice from the seeds. I like to do this with cheesecloth, but of course a fine mesh sieve will work.

In a saucepan, combine the cream and milk over a low heat. When small bubbles appear on the sides, remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until it looks like a fluffy paste.  Then incorporate the corn flour.  Whisk this mixture into the cream.  Add the passion fruit juice and 2 tsp of the seeds/pulp.

Place the saucepan back on a medium-low heat and continue whisking. When the custard thickens, remove it from the heat and set it aside. Once it has cooled a bit, cover it with plastic wrap. Make sure to press the clingfilm right against the custard, otherwise a skin will form. Put it in the refrigerator to chill completely. 

Lilikoi custard

Ingredients for quick blackberry jam:

300 g frozen blackberries

the juice of half a lemon and one small orange

120 g granulated sugar

 

Method for quick blackberry jam:

Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Warm them on low and stir until the sugar is all dissolved. When you can no longer feel any grains of sugar, turn up the heat. Bring the mixture to a boil. Allow it to simmer until reduced by half. You don’t want it too thick, just set enough that it won’t slide off your biscuit. When it is ready, pot the jam in a jar and allow it to cool to room temperature. Keep it in the refrigerator and use it within two weeks.

Quick blackberry jam

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The Perfect Summer Iced Tea

Clementine Jasmine Iced Tea

A few weeks back, some nice person at Random House sent my husband, Henry, a copy of The Vietnamese Market Cookbook by Van Tran and Anh Vu.  The recipes are simple and beautiful and I’ve already made more dishes out of this book than most of my cookbooks combined.  The flavors are elegant yet simple.  And none of their recipes take days to make.  One of my favorite recipes is on page 58.  It’s for Clementine Jasmine Iced Tea.  What with this world wide summer heat wave and all, I can’t stop brewing it.  I’ve adapted it a bit with more clementines and the addition of passion fruit.  It’s so refreshing and my favorite way to keep cool.  Other than having a splash war with my toddler, of course.

Ingredients:

2 quarts of boiling water

8 jasmine tea bags

2 tablespoons of sugar (I like Demerara)

the juice of 4 clementines

the contents of 4 passion fruit

a few sprigs of mint

a tray of ice

Method:

Brew your tea in a large glass pitcher.  Then remove the tea bags and stir in the sugar.  Once it’s cooled, add the juices and the mint.

Pour through a sieve before serving over ice.  This will eliminate passion fruit debris.

The Vietnamese Market Cookbook